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) (5 page)

BOOK: Ashborne (The Ashborne Trilogy: Book 1)
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As I laid there
helplessly, I knew what was about to happen, and all I could think
was,
Please, don't leave me alive after
this. Just kill me.

The Raider stepped in between my bare
thighs. He stood upright, staring down at me, salivating, slowly
undoing his pants. I tried not to think about what he was about to
do to me. I just prayed that after they were done, that I would be
dead and that they would mistake Gentry for dead as well, sparing
his life. I closed my eyes just as he was about to pull down his
pants, trying to go somewhere else in my mind, but then, I heard
that sound again.

A quick, sharp wisping in the air and
a large arrow to the chest launched the Kaliborian standing from in
between my legs and into the air. The man pinning my arms released
me and tried to run, but he didn't make it more than a couple steps
before I saw his arrow-impaled body crash lifelessly to the
ground.

My head pounded. I struggled to focus
and comprehend what was happening. I used what little strength I
had left to roll over on my stomach. With blood still dripping from
my nose, I looked around, desperately trying to see who my savior
was. Maybe the Gods hadn’t given up on me after all.

Is it reinforcements from
Ashborne? From Benethil?

With my vision steadily losing focus,
all I could see were two men emerging from the forest - one
brunette and one blonde. Their dark, forest-colored cloaks fanned
out behind them as they ran toward me. I knew right away, if they
were coming from that forest and wearing cloaks like that, they
weren't here to save me. Even with my blurry vision, there was no
mistaking their attire. They were Shadowbark Raiders. I was like
wild prey being stolen from one predator by another.

In one last attempt at an escape, I
tried desperately to pull my battered body along with my arms, my
pulled-down pants catching in the gravel beneath me. My eye lids
grew heavier and heavier, and my vision started to go black as the
intense pounding in my head continued.

Don't you dare, you bitch!
Don't you dare pass out!

The two men were approaching quickly,
and I could hear their boots crunching along the gravel-ridden
road, but none of it mattered. Everything just went black as my
arms gave out and I collapsed back to the earth.

I no longer had the strength to hold
my eyes open, and I could no longer move. My exhausted, beaten body
had given up. I groaned as I tried desperately to force and retain
consciousness, but it was all in vain. As the two men came up to
me, the last thing I heard was a voice say, “Yes, I know who it is,
and I'm not leaving her here. Give me your cloak.”

 

Chapter Five

Emoren

 

It was quiet. The gentle sounds of the
campfire and crickets outside were calling me from my sleep. As I
opened my eyes, I laid there, staring at the ceiling of a large
tent that was dimly illuminated by the few candles scattered about
the interior. My head hurt for some reason, and I didn't know where
I was.

I lifted my groggy head to take in my
surroundings. I was wearing a white cloth shirt and gray cloth
cut-off trousers that seemed to be a size or two too big for me.
There was an empty bed made up a few feet beside the one I was
laying in, and my injured calf was neatly wrapped in bandages and
propped up atop a large stack of folded blankets.

Why is my legged
wrapped?
I wondered as I laid my head back
down. Suddenly it all came flooding back to me at once: the journey
to Benethil, the battle at the pass, the Kaliborians, and
Gentry.


Gentry!” I yelled as I
quickly shot up, causing the blankets beneath my leg to tumble off
the wooden, branch-framed bed. My sudden movement was greeted by a
searing intensity that shot straight up my injured leg and sent me
reeling back in pain.


Easy,” an unfamiliar
voice said from inside the tent, “you're still not well enough to
walk around yet.”

Realizing I wasn't alone and hearing a
strange man’s voice, I froze. Slowly, I lifted my head to look past
the foot of the bed I was laying in. With the folded blankets no
longer blocking my view, I could see the back of a man as he rose
from a chair at a small table near the entrance of the large
tent.

His chair was draped with a dark,
forest-colored cloak and his dirty-blonde hair was gently
reflecting the soft candlelight that was lighting up the room. He
gently closed and placed a old-looking, brown book on the table
before turning to me.

Using my elbows, I propped myself up
apprehensively and stared at him as he slowly walked over and took
a seat on the bed beside mine. I could tell from the strong,
knight-like build that was giving shape to his large, white shirt,
that in my current condition, he could easily overpower me. Friend
or foe, I was at this man's mercy.

He sat there for a moment, looking
down and gently brushing some dirt from his wood-colored leather
pants. To my surprise, he only seemed to be a few years older than
myself. And judging by the shirt he was wearing, I must be wearing
his clothes.


You're lucky to be alive,
you know?” he said softly, finally looking up at me and brushing
his dirty-blonde bangs aside to reveal a set of stormy-blue eyes.
He leaned forward a bit, placing his elbows atop his knees,
preparing for the barrage of questions he knew was
coming.

I laid there for a moment, propped up
and motionless, staring at my new captor. “Who are you? Where's
Gentry?”


I'm not sure who Gentry
is, but if you're referring to the men that were with you, we only
found one that was still alive. An older man.”


Yes! Him! Where is he?!
What happened to him!? Tell me!” I demanded.

The blonde stranger held up his hand,
signaling me to calm down and that he would answer my questions.
“We could only carry one of you. We patched your friend's head and
hid him in the brush before bringing you here. When we went back
for him, he was already gone.”

He's alive. Thank
God.
I collapsed back to the bed in a wave
of relief. After the hell we had been through, Gentry had survived.
I laid there for a moment, smiling at the news, but my brief moment
of happiness was cut short as I noticed my captor lean over and
begin to reach for me. I quickly propped up on my hands, pushing
myself back in fear as the memory of what those Kaliborians almost
did to me was reignited by this man's advance.

He froze at my reaction. I could tell
by the expression on his face that he felt sorry for me, and for
what I had been through.


I'm not going to hurt
you.” He voice was soft as he spoke and stood frozen just before me
with his arm still extended in mid-air.

He looked me straight in the eyes as
he stood frozen in time, as if he was dealing with a wounded animal
and waiting for permission to proceed. I gazed into his stormy-blue
eyes. I didn't see the lust or maliciousness that I had grown used
to seeing in the men of my battle-ridden world. In fact, I saw the
opposite. His eyes seemed to swirl with kindness and concern.
Despite my situation, there was a calm about this mysterious blonde
that seemed to put me at ease.

I slowly laid myself back down while
watching him closely. My body language was still apprehensive, but
it gave him permission to proceed. He gently took my chin in his
hand and tilted my head to the side, inspecting my bruised
cheek.


That's good. It's healing
nicely.” Despite the situation, the genuine smile he flashed seemed
nothing short of inviting.

He stood up and began gathering the
blankets I had knocked to the floor, calmly folding and stacking
them on the foot of my bed. The tense uneasiness in my body began
to fade as I watched him. He wasn't going to hurt me. His body
language, his eyes, his voice, everything about him seemed to tell
me I was safe with him.


Who are you?” I finally
asked.

He gently put his hands under my knee
and the heel of my foot. His touch was unusually soft and warm
against my bare skin, much different than what I expected of
someone who lived in these woods.


My name is Emoren,” he
said as he carefully propped my injured leg back atop the stack of
blankets.


You're a Shadowbark
Raider?” I asked, still not taking my cautious eyes off
him.


That's right,” he replied
as he proceeded to check the bandages around my calf.


Why am I still alive?
What are you going to do with me?”

He stopped and turned to look at me,
his fair-skinned face smiling sympathetically at my obvious
distrusting nature. “You must be hungry. You've been sleeping for
almost two days. Try not to move around too much. I'll bring you
something to eat,” he said before he turned and exited the large
tent.

He was right. I didn't notice it until
he said that, but my stomach was aching. I laid there in bed,
waiting impatiently, trying to figure out why I was still alive and
what his intentions where for me. The Shadowbark were a mysterious
people. I didn’t really know much about them, except for their
unmistakable forest-like attire. Living deep in this unforgiving
forest, they weren't ruled by any kingdom, and they weren't allies
of anyone. Even though I was alive, I still wasn't sure if I was
saved.

As I continued pondering the
situation, I noticed that I was unconsciously twirling something on
my right ring finger. Raising my hand in front of my face, I saw a
bright green ring. Made up of thousands of tiny strands of grass
woven and braided together, it seemed to glow ever so gently. It
was an intricate piece of work, and it was beautiful. Even among
all the royalty of Everrathe, I've never seen anything like
it.


Do you like it?” Emoren
smiled as he entered the tent carrying a flask of water and a large
bowl of stew that filled the room with a delicious
aroma.


It's beautiful,” I
admitted, still entranced by the ring's soft glow. “Did you make
it?”


Yes, while you were
sleeping. It's made from a very rare fern that only grows deep
within this forest. After what you went through, I thought it might
cheer you up,” he said as he walked over and set the food down on
the cot beside me.

I didn't know what to say. This gift
of compassion upon my finger only seemed to further the impression
he was already giving me – that I was safe with him and that he was
concerned for me. Puzzled and touched by the sweet gesture, I
watched him as he went around the tent, gathering up his cloak and
pillows before presenting them to my bedside.


Here, lean up,” he
said.

I winced in pain as I slowly leaned
myself forward. I looked down at the bandages wrapping my calf as
he began stacking the bundle behind me. I wondered how long it
would be before I was able to walk again, and how if it wasn't for
Emoren, I would be dead right now, or worse. God only knows what
would have become of me had he not come along when he did. Thinking
about it all, my heart began to swell with gratitude toward this
mysterious, blonde savior. I owed him my life.


Emoren, I-” I must have
turned around to thank him just as he had finished my makeshift
support, because we both froze in surprise as our eyes met, his
face only a hands-length from my own.

He was an undeniably attractive man. I
don’t know why, but a surge of anxiety and excitement filled me as
I got lost for a moment, swimming in his stormy-blue eyes and
picturesque features. It was as if my eyes were drawn to him and I
had no say in the matter. His surprised expression turned to a
smile as he placed a hand along my back and shoulder and eased me
onto the rest he had just made.

You’re staring! What the
hell is wrong with me?
I thought as I
snapped myself back to reality and quickly looked down toward my
feet.


You were saying?” he
asked.

He handed me the bowl and water before
taking a seat on the cot-like bed beside mine. Inside the large
bowl was some type of brown, potato stew and it tasted even better
than it smelled. I must have been hungrier than I thought, because
if only for a moment, as I indulged myself, I completely forgot
about the awkward moment that had just occurred, the pain in my
leg, and the fact that I was at the mercy of a Shadowbark Raider I
barely knew.


There's more if you'd
like,” he chuckled, seemingly pleased that I was enjoying it as
much as I was as I shoveled it into my mouth like a man. I didn’t
care; I was starved.

I finished my meal and smiled, a
little embarrassed at my own gluttonous behavior. Full and content,
I laid my head back in bed while resting the empty bowl and flask
in my lap.


Thank you,” I said,
smiling and turning my head toward him.


I'm glad you like my
cooking.”


No, I mean, thank you for
saving me. And Gentry. For everything.” I said as I began to get
lost in his eyes again.

He just smiled back at me.


But, I don't understand,
if you're a raider, why save me?”

BOOK: Ashborne (The Ashborne Trilogy: Book 1)
7.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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