So… the summer of 2019 wasn’t exactly the most productive for Rachel in terms of writing. In fact, she may have managed a whopping two chapters altogether (possibly less but we’re not looking that closely at it on purpose). However, with this being the first day of school for her two teenage boys, and with renewed dedication, let us dive back into OBAD and the Blood Descent Series.
You’ve already meet Prince Castiel so now we hope you’ll enjoy meeting King Riaan Anouk of Anolyn.
Chapter Five: The King
We traveled in a single file. I followed in Castiel’s footpath as Reese shadowed mine. I tried to remember the steps I had taken with my guard during the previous night’s escape, but we rounded a different corner and went the opposite direction.
My stomach growled loud enough to be heard. The prince’s head swiveled to eyeball me.
I only shrugged. “Your generous accommodations did not include breakfast, Your Highness.”
He rolled his eyes but refrained from commenting. Was that a glimpse of a smile?
The space opened into a large receiving hall. Carved wooden doors towered at each opposite side, but only one was opened. It poured into a throne room half the size of Eira’s, but even then, I turned a circle as I walked, secretly admiring the detailed tapestries and brightly colored flags that hung from walls and draped from ceilings. The ancient stone columns and planked floors echoed our steps. The atmosphere of the space was different. Warm, if possible. Even welcoming.
Confusion tugged at my mind. But where were all the people? The line of peasants seeking their king’s aide, and the sniveling upper elite watching with disdain?
Scrawling arches decorated the entries, and wooden beams raised the space high into lofty perfection. They all led to the far end of the hall where a magnificent throne, carved in ancient oak sat empty.
My gaze narrowed. Where was Anolyn’s great king? “What’s going—”
Footsteps sounded. A man entered wearing nothing but a pair of dirty pants and boots. Perspiration dripped from his lean form. He was only a couple of inches taller than me and skinny, but long muscles corded the length of him. With his skin tanned like a field worker and his black hair a mess, I assumed him to be a servant until he tossed the towel he used to mop his sweat to a nearby attendant. The attendant bowed deeply, taking his things without complaint, and held out a clean replacement, which was ignored.
The newcomer was followed by a precession of men in military attire, deep in conversation one with another. A woman trailed them, wearing a red gown that plunged in the front. Lustrous black hair flowed to her slender waist. When her black eyes met mine, one corner of her mouth tipped up.
“You’re late,” Castiel said. His words snapped.
The half-naked man peered over at us. Familiar blue eyes confirmed the shocking revelation. Castiel was the larger brother, but King Riaan Anouk was a force all his own to be reckoned with.
“Ah. Finally.” Turning to the line of officers, he waved them away. “Gentlemen, we’re done here.”
With a bow, they left the room, eyeballing me as they passed. I tried to ignore them the best I could; it wasn’t them that set me on edge.
Hard like the stone walls surrounding him, the king’s steel gaze watched me—weighed and measured me. Despite my carefully tucked emotions, worry trembled down my rigid spine.
“And what of this lady?” the woman asked, her voice soft. “Are we done?”
The king raised one brow to her question, but he didn’t remove his sight from mine. “For now.”
She curtsied low then left, smiling at Castiel as she passed.
Was she a mistress? News of any royal nuptials hadn’t reached the kingdom of Eira, and since he hadn’t introduced her, it was rude to ask.
I stared back at the king of Anolyn, unwilling to appear intimidated.
A faint smile turned his mouth upward, but there was nothing warm about it. “Do you see something you like?” he asked, his voice crackled and deep.
Castiel cleared his throat in annoyance, but the king ignored him.
I looked away, lifting careless brows, and said nothing. His chuckle heated my already enflamed cheeks.
Riaan smirked. “I think I embarrassed her, Brother.”
Castiel took the shirt from the servant and shoved it into his hands. “Your Majesty, may I present Lady Anna.”
The king gingerly took the garment but kept his eyes trained on me. “I shock you, don’t I, Lady Anna? But this is the first lesson you must learn about Anolyn: we all contribute to the prosperity of this great land. Everyone chips in, even the king.”
I didn’t care to know anything about his country or his ridiculous lessons. I didn’t plan on staying long enough to learn.
He peered over my shoulder to Castiel. “So, this little girl is the reason for all of the commotion within my home?”
“It would appear so.”
I cast my eyes to my hands folded neatly in front of me. If he wanted me to respond, he was choosing the wrong tactic.
The king signaled with a nod and the grand double doors slammed shut, leaving the three of us alone. He spun on his heel and crossed the room to his throne.
Castiel sighed and gestured me to follow. I tried to look anywhere but Riaan’s glistening back muscles, hating the improprieties of such an introduction. Johan would have never allowed his public to see him so disheveled as this king was. Even though I held no love for my uncle, disgust at such a foreign display tightened my features.
Riaan’s voice echoed along with his quick footsteps as he finally tugged his white shirt into place. “Let’s not pretend right now. I don’t have the patience today… or ever. Princess Ilianna, you’ve put me into an interesting situation.”
An answer slipped past stiff lips without my permission. “I didn’t put anyone in any situation. I only tried to leave.”
He threw himself into his seat and draped a leg over an armrest. He tipped his head to one side and at that moment I realized just how fresh this king must have been. Probably twenty-four, or -five… so young to be king already, but his father had died about five years before. Which meant he took the throne when he was around nineteen. This realization sent my mind spinning.
The king’s eyes swept the length of my gown. “As pretty as you are, I don’t see how you tricked one of my best soldiers into helping you escape. And Sameen, for that matter.” I waited for him to ask the question I could never answer, but he moved on without a breath to spare. “It wasn’t what we were expecting, but I guess you can’t prepare for everything.”
The muscles in my neck twitched. “What?”
His gaze narrowed; a curious expression wrinkled his features. “Her eyes are strangely distracting, aren’t they Castiel?”
My gaze snapped to the prince, who nodded. “Indeed.”
Riaan shook his head as if to rid an unpleasant thought. “Anyways, do you really think my brother happened to be where he was when he was?” He smiled; his white teeth flashed. “And just in time to save you? I’m so glad to see that my healer was able to work his magic.”
I shuddered at the word and cursed beneath my breath. The king and prince were even more stealthy that I gave them credit for. I refused to see the situation for what it was, out of what? Hope? Three months in prison had dulled my wits. “Idiot.”
“I take it you’re not speaking to me that way,” Riaan said. One brow tilted up, in amusement or annoyance I couldn’t tell. “As of right now, I’m more interested in the man that escaped only an hour after your release. My brother said you warned him beforehand that he was dangerous.”
His eyes narrowed. “Why even bother to warn us?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then what do you know?” When I didn’t answer he asked, “What’s his name?”
I shook my head, irritated at his questions, but more so at myself. Why was I protecting my uncle’s man? If I wanted to escape both this kingdom and Johan, I needed Lucan dead.
“His name is Lucan Osrick.”
The king’s voice remained forcefully calm. “The spy and assassin?”
Of course he would know the name. I bit the inside of my cheek. The metallic taste of my blood combined with my treachery to nauseate me. “Yes.”
“And you are not a spy, like him?” Riaan cleaned dirt from beneath his nails.
Dirt beneath a king’s nails. I stared out the window. “No.”
“Well, that’s nice to hear.” Derision dripped from his words.
“Brother.” Castiel took a step forward, warning him with a pointed look.
I glared at them both. “I am not a spy.”
Riaan sat up in one swift motion. “Then why was this Lucan here, if not aiding your efforts?”
I swallowed back the angry bile that rose into my throat. I smiled, my voice sickly sweet. “Worthy King, I will answer your questions, or at least the ones I can, on two conditions.”
Riaan gaped at his brother in surprise, then focused again on me. “Conditions? And you think you’re in a place to demand such things?”
“Do you want to know about this man? I can offer you more than just his name.”
His lips twitched. “I will hear your conditions.”
I straightened, my fingers clenched at my side. “Swear to get to Lucan before he gets to my uncle.”
The king’s smile stretched wide. “Done. Why was he here in our lands?”
I shrugged. “I can only assume he followed me when I left.”
“You ran away?” Castiel asked.
I only nodded.
I twisted toward the prince. The intensity waring in his stormy blue eyes intrigued me, but why did he look at me in such a way? I raised my chin. “Let’s just say that your king was not the only one who rejected my uncle’s proposal of a… union.”
And of course, remember, you can read more from this novel by clicking here and here. Of Blood and Deceit is now available for purchase on Amazon. Enjoy and don’t forget to review when you’re finished!