Unyielding (The Ashborne Trilogy Book 2)

BOOK: Unyielding (The Ashborne Trilogy Book 2)
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Unyielding

Book two of the Ashborne Trilogy

By Kat Lilynette

Dedication

 

To Amber and Laura - treasured friends.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

 

Prologue

 


You
will
continue your recompense. You
will
be of use to me. And you
will
marry Alexander,” my father said as my eyes began to fill with tears. “If you choose to disobey me, in any way, the price for defying the King of Ashborne won't be paid with your life, but with his.”

After hearing my father’s words and watching the royal guards approach Emoren, I ran as fast as my legs would carry me. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there, I just knew I had to reach him. As I ran, the courtyard had never seemed more far away, and I became more frightened for Emoren with every passing moment.

After a few moments that felt like hours, I finally reached the courtyard. My heart shattered as I saw Emoren being taken into custody. Before I could run up to help him, I was restrained from behind by two of my father’s men.


Emoren!” I struggled and reached out to him in desperation, but I couldn’t break free. I turned, bringing my knee to groin of one of the guards. He doubled over in pain as I again tried to pull away toward Emoren. Within moments, Emoren, who was wisely cooperating, was taken from my sight. I was too distraught to see the guard I had just attacked draw his fist back in unbridled anger.


Do that and I promise your life will end right here!” Gentry yelled as he ran up to us.

The guards released me, and I collapsed to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. “They took him! Gentry, they took him!”

He scooped me up in his arms as I screamed and trembled, unable to fathom what my father might do to Emoren, now that he knew everything. “Come on. Let’s get you out of here before this gets any worse.”

He quickly carried me to his chambers and set me down on his bed. “Amber, why was he taken away? What’s going on?”

I couldn’t speak; all I could do was lie there and weep. I knew Gentry couldn’t help me this time. Gentry had seen me at my lowest moments, but never had he seen me like this. There’s nothing my father wouldn’t do to get what he wanted. I was terrified - terrified for Emoren. What kind of danger had I foolishly put him in?

Gentry had no idea what was going on, but he realized right away that something awful had taken place and that I was in no condition to explain it to him. As I continued to cry violently, he quickly began preparing something at the night table beside the bed. I knew what it was without having to see him make it. The overpowering, leaf-like stench was unmistakable. It was the same tonic we’d give mortally wounded soldiers to ease their passing - a sleeping tonic.

He leaned me up with his arm. “Amber, drink this, it will help you calm down.”

I lashed out in anger as I wailed, knocking the drink from his hand. Confused and shocked, he stared at me with concern for a moment before preparing another round.

He sat me up again, wrapping his arm tightly around my shoulders to prevent me from knocking this one away. “Amber, you can’t help anyone like this. Please, drink this tonic.”

I coughed as I tried to choke the thick liquid down in between my forceful sobs. Once finished, I threw the vial to the floor, taking a small amount of pleasure in hearing it shatter into a thousand pieces. Gentry held me tightly as I cried and beat on his chest.

“Shh… Just rest. We’ll figure this out.”

I could feel the tonic take hold immediately, and I began to become tired. My wails had been reduced to soft whimpers and my arms became too weak to punch any longer. Gentry gently laid me on the bed and covered me with a blanket before rising to leave the room.

“Gentry…” I whimpered. “They took him…”


I know. Just try to rest.”


I’ll… I’ll kill them…” I whispered as my consciousness drifted away from me.

Aftermath

 

When I woke, the guilt and worry wasted no time in seizing control of my heart. It felt as if all the life had been sucked from my body, and I was sore from the violent crying I had done. I lay there, trying to piece the events back together in my mind, and as I relived Emoren being taken away, I couldn’t help but start crying again.

“Oh, God. What have I done?” I said as I curled into a ball on the bed.

Emoren’s only crime was that he cared for me, and now, because of me, he was in danger. It was all my fault. Gentry, who must have heard me begin to cry again, entered the room quietly and took a seat behind me.

“Amber… it’s time you tell me what’s going on.”

I calmed my tears and rolled over. Gentry’s face was filled with anxiety and concern. He had no idea of what I had gotten myself into. I sat up, leaned back against the wall, and began telling Gentry everything. As I stared at and played with the glowing fern ring I had never removed from my finger, I told him about Emoren saving my life, about him nursing me back to health, about Shadowbark, and about my father’s threat. I didn’t need to tell him that I was in love with Emoren, because my actions had already made that perfectly clear.

“Oh, Amber…” Gentry said as he tried to process everything I had just unloaded upon him.

Even though I knew it wasn’t in his power, I stared at him expectantly, praying he would offer me some kind of miracle - some ray of hope. I could tell that he was struggling with everything I had just told him. Not because of my love for Emoren, but because I was being forced to marry Alexander.

“Gentry, what am I going to do?”

He sat there motionless, too distraught to respond; my story had rocked him to the core. Gentry knew going against my father would mean risking his life, and as I studied his expression, it became clear to me that this was something I would need to do alone. I couldn’t let Gentry, the only father I’d ever known, get involved in this. No, I didn’t want him involved - at all. I wasn’t going to let anyone else get hurt because of me.

“No. Never mind.” I began to fill with an angry resolve toward my father and the situation he had put us all in. “I’ll handle this on my own.”


I’ll try and talk with your father, but I doubt it will do much good. Whatever you decide, Amber… I’ll support you.”

Looking into his eyes, I could tell that I wasn’t the only one who was hurting because of this. I tried to console Gentry by giving him a warm, daughterly embrace. “Thank you, but I don’t want you involved in this, Gentry. I couldn’t stand it if you were taken away too. Please, just leave this to me. I’ll figure something out.”

He forced a worried, sympathetic smile to the surface before getting up to leave. “I have duties to attend to. I’ll be back in a little while. Please, stay… We’ll figure something out.”

I smiled and nodded at him even though I had no intentions of staying put. In spite of feeling like I was beginning to lose my mind and suffocating under endless waves of depression, anger, sadness, and guilt, I knew I had work to do. I had to save the man I loved; somehow, I had to save Emoren. Once I was certain that Gentry had gone, I hurried off to my chambers so that I could change clothes and begin looking for him.

# # #

Now wearing my normal, leather attire, I walked quickly along the castle’s outer corridor. I was still having a great deal of trouble controlling my emotions, and I felt an immense amount of guilt over Emoren’s situation. Just thinking about it caused the demons from my past to begin wreaking havoc inside my heart. My mother, the knights of the White Torch, so many people had already lost their lives because of me, and I wasn’t about to let Emoren or anyone else be added to that list.

I had no idea what my father had done with Emoren, nor did I know what I was going to do when I found him, but I was going to find him. I could only assume he was being held in the dungeons, so that’s where I was headed first. I continued along outside and made my way toward the rear of the castle. I approached the imposing-looking hallway that would lead me to the dungeons, a place I had only ventured into once before as a young girl.

As I walked along the descending hallway, the sunlight grew fainter and fainter, as if it refused to shine on such a forsaken place. I glided my hand along the cool, stone wall as I continued walking toward the darkness. It felt as though I was walking straight into my own heart; a dark place where the only light inside was Emoren.

As I rounded the corner of the darkened hallway, the black was gradually replaced by torch light. I could see the cell doors lining either side of a large circular room that spread out before me. Made up of only the stone and steel of the cells it housed, the dungeon seemed smaller than the vast, scary room I remembered as a child. But, then again, I guess it was never really that large to begin with. Ashborne never had much need for a dungeon, since my father wasn’t the type of man to keep prisoners alive.

There were a handful of my father’s royal guard seated at a table in the center of the room and talking amongst themselves. I began to peer through a few of the cell doors before being noticed.

“Hey! Who’s there!” a guard yelled as the group stood and drew their swords.

I instinctively reached to draw my sword, and a tremor of fear passed through me as I realized that I had forgotten it. Even if I found Emoren inside one of these cells, there would be no way I could fight these men. Unarmed and unwavering in my pursuit, I marched defiantly out of the shadows and stood before the group.

“Oh, Your Highness. My apologies. I didn’t know it was you. What-”


Where is he?!”

“’
He?,’ Your Highness?”


Don’t play dumb with me! Where is he?!”

The group sheathed their swords as the guard continued talking to me. “Um- I’m sorry, Your Highness, but we’re on guard duty every day, and aside from a couple thieves that were brought a few days ago, you’re the first visitor we’ve had in weeks.”

I stood there, eying him. “Show me,” I demanded.


Help yourself.” He pointed to the far cells on the left side of the room and took his seat again.

I inched over carefully, never taking my eyes off the group of guards seated at the table. With everything that had happened, I didn’t trust anyone. I wasn’t about to show my back to these men. I looked inside the cells, one by one, but none of them contained my lover. All I found was an older man and woman together in one of the cells. They looked dirty and starved as they stared up at me from the ground.

“Why are you in here?” I asked.

The guard interrupted before the woman could respond. “They were caught stealing food from the merchants in Trader’s Square. They’ll stand trial tomorrow, not that it will matter much.”

“I didn’t ask you,” I replied.

I looked at the poor old woman, who seemed to be the age I imagined my mother would be if she were still alive. Her eyes were filled with hunger and shame. No matter how badly I needed to find Emoren, I wasn’t about to leave this pair here and add two more people to my already overburdened conscience.

“What’s your name?” I asked her.


A- Abigail.”

I knelt down along side the caged door and smiled at them. “Well, Abigail, today’s your most fortunate day.” I stood up slowly before turning around and scowling at the table of guards behind me. “Open it.”

“Your Highness, we caught them in the act. They’re thieves.”


Now!”

He stood up defiantly, seemingly pissed-off by my cavalier attitude. “I don’t take orders from
you
!”


You do today! Or would you rather I tell the husband my father has arranged for me that you and your men raped me while I was down here. How well do you think you’ll fare after my father’s wedding is canceled because the ravaged bride he was offering was rejected?”

The guard stood there, his mouth agape from the shock of what I had just said. Realizing they weren’t going to win this confrontation, the other men pushed him from behind to break him from his shocked trance. Within minutes, the poor couple was walking along side me through the hallway and out of the dungeons.

The old lady turned to me as we reached the hallway’s exit. “Th- Thank you, Your Highness. How can we ever repay you?” she said, bowing her head and griping my hand tightly.


Yes, we’re forever in your debt, Your Highness,” her husband added.

I pulled my hand free and used it to remove two gold coins that were sown inside the hem of my pants. It was a small amount of money I always kept, in case I found myself stranded in an unfamiliar place.

I took her hand and wrapped her fingers around them. “Don’t get caught stealing again. Next time, I won’t be here to save you. Now go before anyone sees you.”


Yes, Your Highness. Thank you, Your Highness!” she said as she quickly began to leave, pulling her husband behind her.

After they had gone, I stood there for a few moments, staring out toward the ocean that lay behind the castle, my dark hair blowing in the ocean breeze. With Emoren no where to be found inside the Ashborne dungeon, I feared what my father may have done with him. I knew that if I wanted to find him, I was going to have to face the one man I never wanted to see again… I was going to have to see my father.

# # #

As I marched toward the throne room, my heart raced with anxiety, and with every minute that passed, my concern for Emoren grew stronger. I should have known better than to let him come to Ashborne with me. Anyone who gets close to me gets hurt. It was because of my own selfish desires and the foolish belief that I could find happiness that Emoren was locked away, and I hated myself for it. I’ve known for years what my father was like, and I blamed myself for allowing Emoren to become a victim of his unwavering malice toward me.

The closer I got to the throne room, the more my guilt was replaced with determination and anger. I didn’t care what I would have to do, whether it be marry Alexander or kill my own father, I wasn’t going to let Emoren be punished because of me. Even if it cost me my own life, I would ensure that he would be freed. Armed with this love-fueled resolve, I flung open the throne room doors and stormed into the room.

I was quickly blocked by the increased presence of my father’s royal guard. He sat on the throne with a small army lining the room. It was clear that he feared what I might do to him, being forced into the unfamiliar situation he had created. As evil as the man was, he certainly wasn’t a fool. Even if I had come here with the means or will to kill him, he had already planned against it. Seeing his increased security made me realize that any opportunity I may have had to exact retribution was already lost.

“I trust you’ve come to tell me that you’ve agreed to the marriage proposal?” he said.

I tried to steady the rage that was fighting feverishly to escape from me. “What have you done with him?”

“You disappoint me, Amber. I had thought you were much wiser than this.”


Tell me where he is!”

My father ignored my demands as he began to walk casually about the room. “Your engagement has already been announced. Alexander will be returning in less than two weeks for the private ceremony and to consummate your marriage.”

“I’ll kill him before he ever lays a hand on me.” And I meant it.


Yes, well, your unwillingness to cooperate suggests that you still don’t fully grasp the situation.” He signaled a pair of guards over to escort me. “These men will take you to see your friend from Saberfell. You may visit that boy as much as you like. Perhaps seeing the situation that you’ve put him in will bring you to your senses.”

“’
That I’ve put him in!?’ You did this, you bastard! I hope you burn in Hell!” Although my words blamed him, my ever-abused and twisted mind still believed this to be all my fault.

My father’s face began to fill with anger at the tongue I had lost control over. He spoke loudly, addressing all the guard who were present. “She’s to be confined to the castle grounds and is to have escort for the remainder of her time in Ashborne. Should she try anything foolish, you are permitted to do whatever is necessary to detain her. Am I understood?!”

“Yes, Sire!” they said in unison.

Even though he was only addressing a small fraction of his guard, it would be mere hours before every soldier in Ashborne was aware of his orders. With those words, the Royal Guard, as well as the White Torch I had helped trained, were now my captors, and my home was now my prison. And as the guards began escorting me from the room, I realized that I was now just as much a prisoner as Emoren.

BOOK: Unyielding (The Ashborne Trilogy Book 2)
8.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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