Brief Description, in case you’re seeing this for the first time:
Ismene has given up her freedom to become wife to the future king of Taisce, all for the sake of her family. She never expected to find love within the castle walls. But when the corruption of esteemed leaders at court erupts into a full-blown coup, Ismene is forced to choose between forfeiting her duty at the expense of the prince’s life or die with him.
I have been strapped for time lately, and you’ve finally caught up to me in the writing of this tale! Here’s where we’re at so far.
And if you missed any of the previous chapters, here ya go:
Click the numbers if you missed any of the first ten chapters:
Chapter 11 Part 1
Othniel glanced over his shoulder at the guardsman who’d come for him and frowned. “I’ve been involved in the managing of guardsmen since I was twelve, but I don’t believe I know you.”
“No, Your Highness,” the man responded, his dark eyes forward and manner gruff.
Othniel looked again, slowing his pace to walk abreast of the knight whom he guessed to be in his late twenties. He’d been too distracted when on the wall to think twice about why he didn’t recognize this knight save the fact he wore Taisce colors with the royal crest on his tunic sleeve.
“What is your name? How long have you been in service to the king?” Othniel watched closely, suspicion putting him on high alert, but the man betrayed nothing.
“Jordel, Sire, and your father offered me a place among his knights just two days ago when I arrived with Lord Vladentine who’s come to join you in Fortnight.”
It was a reasonable answer and not unheard-of occurrence; several of Taisce’s guardsmen had been wandering knights on the verge of mercenary lives. Othniel’s father had a soft spot for men without roots. He had often proclaimed that when given what all men long for—purpose and a place to call home—their loyalty was stronger than the clearest diamond. Othniel privately believed that the pay received from a king didn’t hurt either.
“Welcome to Castle Taisce, Jordel. I look forward to getting to know you better.”
“Thank you, Sire,” Jordel said, giving Othniel a flash of a glance, which proved the only physical response the prince would receive from the stoic man.
“You say my father is in the mews?”
They’d almost arrived at the mews, bypassing the stables where the other young lords waited to begin the Fortnight seeking. The thought sent an unpleasant twinge across Othniel’s already tight shoulders. Part of him didn’t want to find Ismene tonight, to face her. Another part of him—the part whose pride smarted with rejection—wanted to find her and win the blasted prize, to watch her subjected to the servitude of the game’s outcome. That part of him was small in more ways than one, and Othniel immediately rejected the thought as soon as it entered his head. Nothing would stop him from the search and from winning, but he would not see Ismene humiliated. A lump formed in his throat at the prospect of not having her. He’d grown so used to the idea, it hurt to think of a future where she wasn’t his.
“What?” Othniel answered a little more forceful than he’d meant. He shook off his preoccupation in time to see they were stood outside the mews. Darkness enveloped them, but he thought he could see a small light within. “Thank you, Jordel.”
Othniel swung the door in and stepped through the entry, but before he even began to call after the king, night wraiths attacked him, tackling him to the ground in a scuffle of dark-clad arms and legs. Othniel cried out and fought back against his attackers, but there were too many.
He reached for his knife, sure that if he could just get to it he’d be able to free himself. “Jordel!” he yelled in the midst, but no one replied. Either Jordel had been taken down as well, or he was a part of this. Othniel could not tell.
A light flared from the rear of the mews and several of the birds squawked in protest. Othniel could now see what he was up against; three men had converged on him. Burley men dressed like Taisce’s guardsmen but all unrecognized by the prince. One pulled Othniel’s own knife from his belt and jabbed it to his neck while the other two wrestled him to his knees and gripped his arms. By quick count, four more men stood with weapons drawn.
“Father?” Othniel yelled, concern for the king’s whereabouts his primary concern.
“Save your breath. He’s not here.”
Kendric! Othniel would recognize that voice anywhere. “Where is my father?”
The man with the knife pressed the point into Othniel’s flesh, and a warm trickle of blood dripped down his neck as Kendric stepped into his line of sight.
“The dungeons. And alive, if that’s any consolation.”
Kendric sounded neither pleased nor displeased. Dispassionate came to Othniel’s mind, but it could not explain what was happening or why the lord’s son stood here with these traitorous men.
“What is the meaning of this?”
“Get him up off the floor, you bunch of ruffians. He’s a prince, not a dog,” Kendric said before giving his attention over to Othniel. Once the prince was on his feet, Kendric looked him in the eye, but he didn’t move from where he leaned against the nests. “Your father made a bad choice, and you allowed it without a word of protest. You dragged innocent people into the midst of it, and now the family you and your father rejected are ready to make you pay. Is that clear enough?”
“Not hardly.” Othniel split his attention among the man with the knife now pointed at his chest, the distance to the exit, and Kendric. Anger and fear caused him to vacillate between the urge to fight off his captors or spit in their faces. Maybe he would do both.
“Listen,” Kendric said after a heavy sigh, “this wasn’t my idea. I wanted no part in it.”
“That means nothing since you are here now, committing high treason.”
Othniel watched Kendric’s face and neither missed the slight flare of his nostrils nor the clenching of his jaw. Good. He’d struck a nerve.
“If you want to keep those you care for safe, you must give your word to come along without a fight. Simple enough if you are the sort of chivalrous man legend claims you to be.”
Othniel picked up on the sarcastic undertones, rankling his composure further. “Don’t you lay a hand to my father’s head, or—”
“Oh, it’s not your father I’d concern yourself over. Your wife, though . . . .” Kendric cringed ever so slightly at his own words.
“Ismene.” Othniel almost gasped at the realization. “Where is she? What have you done with her?” He renewed his struggled against the men holding him captive.
“Don’t,” Kendric said, warning hardening his voice.
Othniel stilled, realizing the futile effort would do Ismene no good.
“She’s safe enough . . . for the time being, but she is held as assurance.” Kendric paused and let it sink in. “Are you ready to come quietly?”
Othniel shook with rage. First, he’s attacked, then he finds his father at the mercy of who knew, and now to hear they also have Ismene. Blow after blow. Helpless and bereft of ideas, he had no inkling how deep this betrayal ran, and so he relented with the single nod of a defeated man.
“Good,” Kendric said with such sincere relief it startled Othniel at first, until he realized Kendric’s feelings for Ismene were genuine . . . feelings Othniel wished very much had never existed except for in this moment where there was any chance of convincing this rival to protect his wife no matter what else happened.
“Tie the prince’s hands behind his back, but make sure it’s not noticeable.”
Othniel gleaned what he could from this simple statement as well. Not everyone in the castle could know of this coup, and not everyone had yet chosen a side.
And since I can’t possibly make you wait another week for the rest of this chapter, click here to finish part 2 of Chapter 11!
How are you liking this so far? What is grabbing your attention? What would you like to see change? How do you think this is going to go?
I’ve so many questions! Thank you so much for reading. ❤ Salut!