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Authors: Emily Ann Ward

Tags: #fantasy, #young adult, #epic fantasy, #fantasy romance, #high fantasy, #ya fantasy, #young adult fantasy, #emily ann ward, #the protectors

Promising Hope

BOOK: Promising Hope
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Promising Hope

Book Two of The Protectors

By Emily Ann Ward

 

Copyright 2012 by Emily Ward

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading
this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your
use only, then please return to an ebook retailer and purchase your
own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this
author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are
used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons,
living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

 

The Protectors Series:

Book One: Promising Light

Book Two: Promising Hope

Book Three: Promising Power (Upcoming)

 

The Protectors Prequels

Shifting Light

Fire and Light

The End of Light

 

Also by Emily Ann Ward:

Passages (Seven Short Stories)

Beyond Home (Three Short Stories)

Finding Fiona

 

 

 

To my sisters, who I feel marked to protect.

 

 

Chapter
One

 

The last time Grace had made this journey, she’d been
kidnapped. Sitting in the prince’s carriage, she watched the trees
pass them. The foliage was changing, becoming less green. The air
was less humid with each day.

Grace thought back to when she and the prince had
first traveled to Nyad more than five weeks ago. Before the shape
changers told her she could break the curse on their family. Before
she decided to help them. Before she killed a man who was trying to
take her back home. Before she traveled into Mumbar Jungle, found
the ancient texts, and broke the curse that had killed Avialie
children in the womb for ten years.

She hated to think of any of that. Instead, she
dwelled on the smiles and quiet conversations she and William
exchanged. She remembered when he first told her to call him
William instead of ‘Your Highness.’ She remembered when he asked
for her courtship.

Despite her best efforts, thoughts of Dar colored her
memories. She couldn’t believe she’d felt so strongly for him, and
she couldn’t tell if she still did. Whenever they stopped on the
road for a break, she watched the guards pull Dar off of his horse.
He wore Mahri chains and the same bloody clothes from when they’d
left the jungle four days ago. She couldn’t help watching him for a
few moments. She felt so drawn to him, but then thoughts of William
would encompass her mind, and she would turn away to find the
prince.

On the third day of their travels, they set out from
Ridgefield, due to arrive in Renaul that night. It’d been weeks
since Grace had been home. Her stomach lurched just thinking about
it. She’d have to deal with rumors about her supposed kidnapping.
She’d have to part from William to go to her family’s manor. She
shuddered.

At a midday break, William joined her in the
carriage, and her father left to ride with another. She smiled at
William warmly. His dark blonde hair fell around his forehead. She
briefly wondered what their children might look like. Fair-haired,
to be sure, but would they have his blue eyes or her brown
ones?

“How are you feeling?” William asked.

“Good, now that you’re here.” She paused. “Although…
I’m a bit nervous about going home.”

“Are you? Why?”

Grace played with a ribbon on her dress. “I don’t
want to face the gossip. I also…” She stared at her lap. “I don’t
want to go my family’s manor. I want to stay with you.” She
ventured to look at him, trying to keep her face clear of
unease.

“Actually…” William reached out to still her
twitching fingers. “Your father and I think you might be safest if
you stay at the palace.”

“Oh, William, that would be wonderful,” she said
breathlessly. She paused. “But what do you mean? You don’t think
I’d be safe at home?”

“Not from the Avialies. I’m not sure what they’re
going to do next.” He gazed out of the carriage’s open window,
biting his lip.

“They got what they wanted from me, didn’t they?” she
asked. “I broke the curse.”

“So you say.”

Grace frowned. “I did. I don’t know why you don’t
believe me.” She was fairly sure Kilar and Tisha didn’t believe
her, either, though they did believe her when she said Sierra had
the ancient texts. Grace tried not to think of what would happen to
Sierra if they would find her. She only wanted to please
William—Sierra would have to take care of herself.

William looked at her, his brow furrowed. “Holding
hands with another Avialie doesn’t seem to be enough to break a
curse like that.”

“Sierra isn’t an Avialie. I told you, the two of us
were marked to protect them.” She shook her head. “And we did it,
and it’s over now. They shouldn’t want me anymore.”

William said nothing at first. The silence stretched
on, and Grace fiddled with her ribbon again, wondering what she
could say to make him happy. He’d been so hesitant with her since
they’d been reunited. She wanted to make things right, and she
couldn’t count the number of times she’d apologized. She’d do it
again, but last night at dinner, he’d told her that she apologized
so much he was beginning to think she was only saying it because
she thought it was what he wanted hear.

“How can you have changed so much from that day in
Aron?” he asked. “How can you be fighting for them one second and
not care the next?” He leaned forward, setting one of his elbows on
his knee. “If you’re trying to be a spy, you’re being much too
obvious.”

Grace gasped. “How can you think that? William, I
told you… I care about you.” She would have told him she loved him
if her father hadn’t warned her against it, saying she’d seem
desperate. “And I’m—” She cut off the apology before she said it.
“I’m finished with the Avialies.” Even as she said it, she thought
of Dar. She hesitated before continuing, “But Dar…”

“But Dar,” William scoffed. He leaned back. “That’s
what our courtship has been about since day one.
But
Dar
.”

“I just don’t want him to be hurt,” Grace said.

“He’s broken the law.”

“How? I told you he didn’t kidnap me.”

“He assisted in Sierra and Evan’s escape from
Rahuda,” William said.

Grace sighed. Did she want to argue with him about
how Sierra and Evan had been unjustly arrested? Was upsetting him
worth it? “I know. I’m concerned for his safety, though, especially
with Tisha and Kilar.”

“Let’s talk of anything but Dar. You can’t do a thing
for him right now.”

She nodded, glancing out the window. “Do you remember
our trip to Nyad? When this all started?”

“Yes, of course.”

She launched into conversation about the trip,
avoiding Dar or the Avialies or any other unpleasant topic. She
talked about the circus – but not Sierra – and Governor Peter’s
family and his unique manor. Nagging at the back of her mind,
however, was Dar’s fate.

 

* * *

 

Dar gazed up at the palace, wondering what awaited
him. Kilar had questioned him for hours the day after they captured
him in the jungle. Dar knew Grace would probably give them all the
information they wanted, but it still felt wrong answering the
questions. He lied, but Kilar knew when he wasn’t telling the truth
and would wave to Kris the Thieran.

He stopped lying after three of those tortures,
hoping and praying that Sierra and the others knew that they would
be exposed by Grace and Dar.

Dar had little idea what had happened to the others,
and every moment that passed without new information was agonizing.
The Protectors were careful not to discuss anything in front of
him. All that he knew was they hadn’t found Sierra or the ancient
texts yet. Dar guessed that the elders from Jolen had come to the
aid of the Haltar Avialies and taken them in.

If only Dar and Grace had escaped with them. If only
Dar hadn’t been stabbed, or Grace had let him go.

Dar had been chained for days, and his arms were sore
from little use. The Mahri manacle on him was sucking his energy,
but he knew he should get used to it. He thought of his cousin
Evan. How had he survived two whole years of captivity with the
Protectors?

When they reached the palace gates, the party went to
the stables. Tisha pulled Dar off his horse. Dar stumbled, and
Tisha motioned to Kris. The massive man approached, and Dar’s
muscles tensed as he remembered the pain from the interrogation.
The Thieran hadn’t touched him the whole journey, so Dar forced
himself to relax as Kris came to stand next to him. He crossed
large, hairy arms over his broad chest, his gaze fixed on Dar.

The prince and Grace stepped out of their carriage.
Grace’s gaze found Dar, and for a moment, it seemed like there was
no love potion. Her mouth fell open a bit, and she took half a step
towards him, her brow knitting in worry. Then she stopped and
looked over her shoulder at the prince, and Dar lost her again.

Grace turned away and touched William’s arm softly, a
look of longing on her face. Dar bit down on his tongue. It was a
like a fresh wound every time she looked at him like that. At
first, William rebuffed everything she did, but Dar could see the
prince was growing used to Grace’s new behavior. Now, he held his
arm out for Grace and escorted her to the front doors.

Tisha and Kilar spoke for a moment, and Tisha
followed the prince and the General. Kilar motioned for Kris and
Dar to follow him. Dar’s legs were stiff at first, then he came to
appreciate the exercise after a long day of riding. The granite
palace stretched over their heads, casting them in shadow as they
walked around the building. They passed through a moss-covered gate
and Kilar led them to a set of doors in the back of the palace.

The doors opened to a staircase leading down. As they
descended, the warmth left the air, and they entered a low, long
corridor that felt more like a tunnel. Kilar knocked on the third
door on the left and opened it without waiting for a response.

Inside, three men played cards at a table. They
looked up at the open door. Two seemed uninterested, returning to
their game.

The third sighed and stood up. Dar saw the sword in
his belt and noted his gnarled nose and muscular shoulders. “Yes,
Kilar?” the man asked.

“I’ve got a worker for you,” Kilar said. He turned to
Dar and pulled a key from his pocket. For a moment Dar thought
Kilar might actually take off the manacles, but he only unhooked
the chain. Dar stretched his shoulders, wincing at the pain. “These
manacles stay on, same as Vin.”

Dar’s heart leapt.
Vin?

“Yes, sir,” the man with the gnarled nose said.

“He’s very violent and he’s not to ever be alone with
himself, Vin, or Vin’s wife,” Kilar said. “They’ve been convicted
of the same crimes, and I don’t want them conspiring.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I want him far from court and the nobles.” Kilar
turned to Dar and lowered his voice. “One wrong thing, and I’ll
throw you in a cell where you belong. And I don’t care what Lady
Grace has taken or whose daughter she is; I’ll kill her if I have
to.”

Dar’s teeth clenched at the threat. If anyone in the
castle touched Grace, they wouldn’t last long. Dar gave Kilar a
curt nod, rubbing his upper arms.

Kilar flicked his head at Kris, and he and the
Thieran left. Dar and the man with the gnarled nose both breathed
with relief.

“What’s your name?” the guard asked.

“Dar.”

“I’m Jon. This is Bailey and Mex.” The two card
players grunted. “You may think you’re lucky you’re not in the
dungeons, but we’re short on men, and you’ll do any work we need
you to. Don’t cause any trouble. If you do, you’ll end up back with
Kilar.”

“Is Vin working in the castle?” Dar asked.

“Yeah, but you won’t be seeing him much. You heard
Kilar!” Jon said. He looked at the other men, obviously the one in
charge. “I’ll be back. I’m going to get him some decent
clothes.”

Dar glanced down at his bloody, dirty clothes. He
probably smelled like a pigsty. Jon and the others were in plain
brown slacks and white tunics with the royal emblem.

Jon motioned for Dar to follow him down the corridor.
“These are the servants’ quarters for males. Since you’re a
prisoner, you’ll be staying in here.” He walked through the last
door on the right. It was a smelly room with a collection of cots
and rucksacks. “There’s a guard by the door all night, so don’t try
anything funny. You can have this cot.” Jon pointed at a cot in the
corner. “It was Khan’s, but he died last week. I’ll get you a
uniform, too. You look like hell.” He hesitated. “It’s pretty late,
too. You should probably just clean up and wait for dinner. We can
start you tomorrow.”

BOOK: Promising Hope
3.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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