Read Ashborne (The Ashborne Trilogy: Book 1) Online

Authors: Kat Lilynette

Tags: #coming of age, #princess, #teen, #sword sorcery

Ashborne (The Ashborne Trilogy: Book 1) (2 page)

BOOK: Ashborne (The Ashborne Trilogy: Book 1)
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Even though
Penelope
was
my
servant, I can’t remember the last time I seriously addressed her
as the Princess of Ashborne. I mean, despite the fact that she
waited on me hand and foot, to me, she was more friend than
servant.

I laid my head back and closed my
eyes, enjoying the warmth of the water.


You don't want to
choose?” Penelope asked curiously.

I knew how much Penelope enjoyed going
through my royal wardrobe and playing her little game of ‘Dress the
Princess.’ I figured I might as well let her have some fun.
Particularly since I had no interest in entertaining these ‘honored
guests.’


Nope. You can choose. You
always make me look beautiful.”

Penelope’s face lit up as she jumped
to her feet. “I'm going to make you look ravishing, tempting…
irresistible!”

Opening one eye, I glanced over at
her. “Don't go too crazy. I need to look like a princess,
remember?” My tone was playful, although I was half
serious.

Penelope had a habit of getting
carried away when dressing me. Always gushing over my ‘amazing
body,’ Penelope seemed to enjoy flaunting vicariously through me.
Left to her own devices, she'd have me greeting the Prince in
nothing but a see-through gown.


Bah! You leave it to me!
I know what princes want!” she touted, her blonde hair swaying from
side to side as she headed briskly for the door to the adjoining
room that contained a collection of dresses and gowns worth a small
kingdom in gold.

Such a funny girl.
I smiled and let the warmth of the water overtake
and relax me. If I had to spend the rest of my night entertaining
guests and enduring the company of my father, I was at least going
to enjoy my bath first.

 

Chapter Two

Dinner with Kings

 


Wow,” Penelope said in
awe, standing behind and gazing into the mirror at me. “You spend
so much time training and wearing boy clothes, I always forget how
gorgeous you can look. You really do look like a princess, ya
know?”

It wasn't often that I dressed this
way, but I had to hand it to her, she certainly knew how to
transform me into a breath-taking image of royalty. The violet gown
hugging my athletic frame in all the right places, the delicate
dark, curls in my hair bouncing with every movement, and my
gold-speckled brown eyes glistening as they stared back at me. Even
I was a little shocked at how well I cleaned up.


Thank you,” I
said.


Well, you better hurry up
and get down there. You don't want to be late.” She was right. My
father wouldn't find it amusing if I was late in front of royal
guests. “I'll have your bed ready for you before you
return.”

I continued staring into the mirror at
Penelope's handy-work. “No, Penelope. It's fine. You can go home.
It's getting late and I'm sure your father is waiting for
you.”


Are you sure,
Highness?”

I looked back and smiled at her. “It's
fine, I'm pretty sure I can make up my own bed. You go
ahead.”


All right. Well, you have
fun with the Prince. I'll be sure to throw out your bedsheets in
the morning!” she teased as she headed for the door.

My mouth dropped, hearing such a thing
come from her. Enjoying my surprised expression, she laughed her
way out of the room, quickly closing the door behind her before I
could come up with a retort.

I turned back to the mirror, running
my hands along the violet, silky fabric of this beautiful gown. I
liked the way it felt against my skin. It was smooth, soft and
sensual. Much different than the rough leather, mail and plate my
body had grown accustomed to over the years. It reminded me of the
life I would have had, had I been a normal princess; a life that
wasn't mine.

I left my chambers and
started down the castle's outer corridor, heading to the Royal
Banquet Hall that was a bit of a walk from here. My heels echoed
through the hallway as I walked, and the moonlight poured through
the glass-less corridor windows and illuminated the long pennants
that were hanging from the walls and blowing in the cool, night
air. They seemed to dance as I walked by, as if they were excited
to see me all dressed up. I’m glad
someone
thought I looked
pretty.

Truthfully, I wasn't looking forward
to the event ahead. I had never been one for the banquets and balls
of the nobles of Ashborne. I was more comfortable in the tavern
with Gentry and the rest of the knights than I was wearing a dress
like this, pretending to be a princess I just wasn't.

Ever since my accident, Gentry had
been more of a father to me than my own. The King only spoke to me
during occasions like this. It was something only for the benefit
of others. I played along, if only to avoid my father's temper.
Being the Ashborne puppet in front of guests would ensure that my
father would leave me alone and I could get back to my real life
with Gentry and the others.

Eventually, I arrived and stopped just
before the doors to the banquet hall. The guards on either side
began to reach for the handles.


Wait,” I
ordered.

They stopped, looking a bit
puzzled.

I needed to prepare myself before I
entered. Like putting on a mask, I needed to ready the grace and
manners of the Princess of Ashborne. As well as become mentally
prepared for the way I was sure my father was going to treat me. I
closed my eyes and took a deep, long breath. Exhaling slowly, I
opened my eyes and put on a beautiful, fake smile. I was
ready.


Please, open it,” I said
sweetly, not even bothering to hide the obvious facade I was
putting on.

The guards looked at each other. They
said nothing as they opened the doors, giving way to the immense
Royal Banquet Hall.


Ah! She's here!” My
father's voice filled the Hall.

I stood just inside the Hall's
entryway, a bit surprised that the room wasn't bustling with
people. I could see my father and two unfamiliar men standing at
the end of the long banquette table that stretched out before me.
They all turned and began walking in my direction.

The guards pushed the doors closed
behind me, causing a gust of wind to flow over my bare shoulders
and into my Penelope-approved cleavage. It reminding me of what I
was wearing, and I felt a little self-conscious as my father and
the two strangers approached.

Here we
go
, I thought as I began walking to meet
them.


Ah, the lovely Princess,
Amber Ashborne. What a sight to behold!” The older of the two
guests said as he opened his arms, ensuring he would be the first
of the three to greet me. His round, jolly face lit up by a warm
smile that even his dark, silver beard couldn't hide.

As we met near the center of the
banquet table, using both of his large paws, he excitedly raised my
hand to bestow a prickly kiss upon.


I haven't seen you since
you were crawling around on the floor and shittin' on yourself!” he
laughed heartily. “Just look at ya! You've got your mother's eyes!
Look at how beautiful you've become!”

I bowed my head in respect and spoke
graciously. “Thank you. Yes, it's been too long.”


Amber,” my father
interrupted and stepped forward, clearly annoyed by the gushing
over me, “this is the King of Benethil, Gillien Fildar, and his
son, Prince of Benethil, Alexander Fildar.”


We're honored to have you
both as our guests tonight,” I said.


Alexander, come have a
look,” My father gripped my hand tightly and signaled Alexander
closer.

Despite my father's age, he was still
surprisingly strong. His body still carried much of the strength
and muscle he earned from waging war in his younger years. As
Alexander stood in front of us, Father callously raised my
arm.


Turn around, Amber. Let
this boy have a look.”

I knew my father was going to do this,
yet it still made me angry. I felt like cattle being auctioned off
as I turned full circle. Alexander eyed me like a snake eyes its
prey, taking in every inch of my body as I turned back to face
him.

Alexander, who must have been nearly
twice my age, kissed the top of my hand while staring solely at my
breasts. “A pleasure to meet you, M'lady.” His respectful tone
certainly didn't match his demeanor.

Maybe it was his shifty eyes, his
black mustache and goatee, or the lustful expression on his face,
but I could tell right away that Alexander was not to be trusted.
Still, I smiled and nodded my head politely. That was my job
tonight.


What do you think? You
can marry this, right?” my father said, sounding like a street
merchant looking to unload his unwanted wares.

Alexander crossed his arms. He started
at my laced heels and slowly went all the way up to my eyes. He
looked at me, seemingly pleased with himself. “Hmm. I'm not sure.
Perhaps she could stay the night in my chambers to help me
decide.”

Ugh… swine. Lay one hand on
me and I don’t care who you are, I’ll break it off.


Hey! Knock it off!
Darius, leave those kids alone and let's eat! I'm starved!” Gillien
said as he headed back toward the end of the banquet table that was
already decorated with the finest meats, cheeses and fruits our
kingdom had to offer. He and my father must have had more history
than I knew, because there were only a few men who could address my
father by his first name without consequence.

He pulled out a chair near the head of
the table and gestured to me. “Amber, you come sit here. Let's get
to feastin' and drinkin'! It's been two whole days since I've had
some good wine!”


Oh? Will no one else be
joining us this evening?” I asked politely, taking my seat from
Gillien.


Heavens no, girl! I ain't
here to share my wine with the whole of Ashborne. We're here on
business.”

That was a relief. I wasn't looking to
stick around any longer than I had to. As everyone else found their
seats, I began to wonder what kind of business Gillien had with my
father. I knew from experience that the road from Benethil to
Ashborne was a week's ride along dangerous territory. For the King
himself to brave such a journey, something must be
wrong.


I figured this wasn't a
social visit,” my father said, stuffing some cheese into his mouth.
“What's this all about, Gillien?”

Gillien poured wine into an over-sized
goblet he must have brought from home. “Now, now! Let me get some
damn wine in me first. We've got plenty of time for that later. Let
me catch up with your fine daughter here. Amber, have some wine.”
He grinned and held his giant goblet out to me.

I chuckled. “No, thank you. That's too
much for me. Besides, I have to continue training our new recruits
tomorrow with Gentry.”

Gillien took a big gulp from his
goblet and let out a satisfied belch. “That's right. I hear you've
become quite the soldier. Stories 'round Benethil have people
callin' ya the Flame of the White Torch.”

He must be referring to the battles
I've lead, under my father's orders, over the past three years –
sieges of other kingdoms. Battles where the numbers were against
us. Battles we weren't supposed to win and where I'm sure my father
had sent us all to die.


Well, you know how
stories are, most of them exaggerate the truth.” I was really
hoping to discourage the idea of discussing the details behind
those stories. I wasn’t proud of what my father had ordered me to
do.


Oh rubbish! Come now,
ain't no need to be modest! Alex here has been pushin' back the
raiders that have been comin' at us from the mountains and he won't
shut up about it. Ain't that right?” Gillien looked beside him to
Alexander, who had been staring at me the entire time from across
the table.


Ain't that right?!”
Gillien repeated, hitting his son in the shoulder.


What? Yes, yes. That's
right,” Alexander finally turned his demeaning gaze away from me.
Just him looking at me made me feel dirty. “The raiders of the
Kalibor Mountains have been foolish enough to try and raid our
townspeople. Which is why we've come, Your Majesty.”

The table turned to my father, his
ornate crown glimmering in the torch light of the banquet hall. He
rose from his plate of food and brushed his shoulder-length gray
hair from his face, ready to hear the request that was about to be
made of him. There was nothing he loved more than being in a
position of power.


Continue,” my father said
as he leaned back in his chair, wine in hand.

Alexander looked all business as he
sat upright and addressed my father. “As Your Majesty knows,
Benethil lies just outside the territories known to be occupied by
warring groups of forest and mountain raiders. Normally, these two
just kill and steal from each other, and any outlying villages, but
lately, their attacks have been increasing against our walls. We
have plenty of men, but we'd like to request aid in the form of
weapons and supplies.”

BOOK: Ashborne (The Ashborne Trilogy: Book 1)
4.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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