My Lady [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Shiloh Walker
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: In the darkest of nights, hope shines through. Pawn in her father's maniacal quest for power, Princess Nae Corda doesn't see any way of escaping her impending marriage to the leader of the Oonkaen. That is until a dark shadow enters her prison-like bedroom--and offers her hope. King Tyan will do anything to save his kingdom and the lives of his goblin people--even if it means flying into his enemy's land to steal away an elvish princess. Ty has plans for Princess Nae. What he didn't plan on was falling for her--heart, wing and soul. But in a world where war, dragons, lies and danger lurk everywhere, the future is uncertain at best. Warning: This title contains dragons, goblins and elves all behaving badly.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., Published: 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2011
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6 Reader Ratings:
First published in 2009
CONTROL: PUBLISHER="Samhain Publishing, Ltd." PUBURL=www.samhainpublishing.com
In the darkest of nights, hope shines through.
Pawn in her father's maniacal quest for power, Princess Nae Corda doesn't see any way of escaping her impending marriage to the leader of the Oonkaen. That is until a dark shadow enters her prison-like bedroom--and offers her hope.
King Tyan will do anything to save his kingdom and the lives of his goblin people--even if it means flying into his enemy's land to steal away an elvish princess. Ty has plans for Princess Nae. What he didn't plan on was falling for her--heart, wing and soul.
But in a world where war, dragons, lies and danger lurk everywhere, the future is uncertain at best.
Warning: This title contains dragons, goblins and elves all behaving badly.
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They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
Copyright (C) 2009 by Shiloh Walker
Edited by Heidi Moore
Cover by Anne Cain
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First Samhain Publishing, Ltd. electronic publication: April 2009
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And always for my family.
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Tyan looked up from the papers spread over the table in front of him and met his second's eyes levelly. "What?"
The goblin merely shook his head, his eyes expressionless. Shan's skin was as black as soot, black as his eyes. The only relief from the black lay in the sharp, glistening teeth that he revealed in battle, or the rare smile.
Tyan blew out a breath, flexing his wings restlessly. "Out with it, Shan."
"You send aid to Callum so easily. Have you already forgotten what he did in Dalsun? The elvish king isn't worthy of your help, my king. The Bruin Sidhe are not worthy. There is no honor left among them."
Deep inside, Tyan had to admit he felt much the same way. But he could not leave thousands upon thousands to be slaughtered. The Bruin Sidhe had long since stopped living as warriors--and without strong warriors at their backs, the encroaching Oonkaen would slaughter them. The Bruin Sidhe relied on magic and trickery, but when they were outnumbered ten to one, magic and trickery just weren't enough to even the odds.
The goblins had battled the Oonkaen before--they knew how to handle the slippery, devious bastards.
"I cannot leave them unprotected, Shan. It is not just the king and his pathetic guard. It's the families, the children, the women. They are the ones that will suffer if the Oonkaen breach the elves' defenses."
Shan never blinked. "You are much too soft, my lord."
Tyan spread his wings wide with a snap, irritated. "Soft. Only you would dare call me soft. And it is not soft to want to spare innocents from suffering."
"They are not our people."
Narrowing his eyes, Tyan said, "You forget who you speak with, Shan."
Shan's eyes flickered to Tyan's ears, the most noticeable sign that the goblin king wasn't wholly goblin. His mother had been a goblin, a svelte, powerful warrior lady with skin the color of ebony. But his father had been elvish. Born of the Fior Sidhe, not the Bruin, but still elvish.
Sidhe blood ran in his veins. Sidhe magic breathed within his soul and had from the first moment he drew breath. The pointed ears may be the most noticeable sign of his mixed ancestry, but it was far from the only. He was Sidhe every bit as much as he was goblin. Perhaps it was some deep-seated desire to protect the fellow Sidhe that drove his actions. Tyan couldn't be sure. All he knew was that try as he might, he couldn't see any other option before him. Leaving the Bruin Sidhe to be slaughtered was intolerable--and so very wrong.
"I meant no offense, my king." Shan dipped his head in deference and placed a hand upon his heart. "You do know that it is only out of concern for our people that I speak. In truth, concern for all the lands. If we align with the Bruin Sidhe, the Oonkaen will likely see it as a violation of the peace treaty we forged between our peoples. We do not wish to bring a new war upon our lands."
"No." Tyan threw down the goose quill and stood. Alone in his chambers, with only Shan present, he could let the restless anger inside him free. Allowing his wings to open, he paced. The leathery black wings fanned the air, just another sign of the restlessness within him.
Midnight black hair was pulled back from his face and secured with a leather thong at his nape. It left his features unframed, features that had too often made him the object of female sighs and male jokes when he had been younger.
He'd inherited the unworldly elfish beauty from his father, as well as the Sidhe magic. His eyes, the color of jade, had come from his mother, as had his soot-black hair. In addition to his rather poetic beauty, Tyan had been graced with long limbs, a lean build equally suited to taking to the skies or taking to the battlefield.
Graceful. Deadly. Enigmatic.
An altogether lovely package for a man, perhaps too lovely. Or rather, it had been before time and loss had placed their mark on him. Though his age had yet to carve even a single line on his face, it showed in his eyes, in the grim set of his mouth and the way he carried himself.
Absently, he reached up and tugged the thong from his hair, letting the dark strands fall free. Shoving a hand through it, Tyan worked to keep his temper under control. He would be questioned--he knew this. His sovereignty was not absolute. His soldiers were permitted to ask questions and it wasn't anything he'd ever discouraged, nor would he. The men and women that served him did so out of loyalty. Every last one of them would put their lives on the line to protect king and country. While some things weren't open for discussion, if he was going to lead his soldiers into a bloody battle, they could at least understand why.
"No. We do not wish a new war with the Oonkaen, Shan and well you know it. However, the treaty we signed also included certain mandates."
He paused by his desk, the haphazard piles of papers, books and scrolls. Unerringly, he selected one particular scroll and tossed it towards Shan.
Although he knew every last word written on it, he had read it often, especially of late. It was one of his copies of the Treaty of Saguin.
There, the bloodiest of battles had taken place. There, his people had almost faltered to the relentless invasion of the Oonkaen. Ofttimes, late at night, he'd lie in his chambers and wonder at the miracle. Though two centuries had passed since that bloody battle, since he'd lost both his mother and father to the blade, it lived in his memories, clear as crystal, fresh as newly-spilt blood.
"'There are to be no actions taken that could be perceived as a threat to the borders of either people'," he quoted. Sliding Shan a narrow glance and said, "I know not about you, but if the Oonkaen advance upon the elves and win, that will eventually put them at our borders. I consider that a threat."
Shan grimaced. "As do I. It's just..." The other man sighed and turned away, rubbing his hands over his face. The blood-red ruby on his left hand winked and flashed in the dim light, glowing with banked power. "The Bruin Sidhe, Tyan. They are not like your father's people. The Bruin Sidhe, they have no honor."
"It is their king that lacks honor. Callum, the bastard, doesn't know the meaning of the word." Tyan shook his head. He saw little choice. He'd looked at this from every imaginable angle, and each time he was left with the cold, hard, ugly truth. If the Oonkaen advanced upon the Bruin Sidhe, the Bruin Sidhe would fall. Perhaps not straight away. Perhaps they could hold out for a year, for ten, perhaps even half a century. But they would fall. Their numbers had grown too few and they'd grown complacent in their arrogance, convinced that the magic they used to protect their borders would never waver. Never falter.
It had been centuries since the Bruin Sidhe had faced the hardships of war and they'd forgotten much. Those who might have remembered had long since fallen to time. Full-blooded elves were a long-lived race, but they eventually did pass into the hereafter. Now, many of their warriors were untried in battle and both their bodies and blades had grown soft and weak.
Few of the Bruin Sidhe truly understood the power of the edged weapon. Few respected it. Already the Oonkaen had invaded two elvish villages along their shared borders and no survivors had been found. Either they'd all died under the blade or they'd been taken as slaves.
Tyan's sources told him that the elves spoke of erecting magical barriers or launching full-scale magic assaults on the invaders. Magic was all well and good, but there wasn't an endless supply. They'd burn themselves before the Oonkaen ran out of the fodder that made up their foot soldiers.
Elvish magic against Oonkaen might--it wasn't a war the Bruin Sidhe could win, not as their armies now stood. As the Oonkaen pressed in and slaughtered, the Bruin would be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of the Oonkaen armies. Though their powers were great, for every elvish warrior of magic, the Oonkaen had two hundred warriors of blood. They'd be cut down.
Their walls would fall and after the Oonkaen ransacked every last home, the cities would be burned to the ground. Their women would be taken and raped, their children made into slaves and concubines. Their magics would become perverted and tainted and then in a century or two, the threats to Tyan's lands would double. The Oonkaen and whatever perverse creature sprang from the mingled bloods of elf and Oonkaen would then press in on Tyan's lands. On his people.
He hadn't watched as his mother and father were cut down before him, he hadn't lost friend, family and follower just to sit back while the Oonkaen tried to sidestep the very edges of the treaty.
Guldric, the bastard, was no fool. Guldric, the Eruke--Oonkaen leader--had to know that the goblin people wouldn't take this sitting down. He knew Tyan, and knew the goblin king wouldn't allow this.
Scowling, he crossed the rooms and threw open the doors to the balcony. Stalking outside, he braced his hands on the balustrade and stared out over his city. It was a lovely city, the capitol city of Provais, home to the royal family of the goblin country, Aise.
His home--not just because he dwelled here, but because it owned him. Heart, wing and soul.
When he'd been young, before the war with the Oonkaen, his father had once taken him to Alseir, the capitol city of his homeland, Fyn, the lands of the Fior Sidhe. Land of dragon and elf.
Alseir, lovely, mysterious, had perched on a cliff just above a vast sea and of a morning, the sun would rise up over that sea and it was as though a thousand diamonds danced upon the waves. The water dragons would frolic in the surf while their larger cousins, the firedragons flew overhead, their scales glittering like jewels.
Lovely. Exotic. While the flightless water dragons thrived throughout the world, their larger, winged cousins were only found in Fyn.
Bred in the wild, the firedragons traveled in small groups called hosts. Each host had seven to nine adults, two males, the rest female. At any given time, each host would have two or three young. Once the dragons reached a certain age, they often left to form their own host.
But not all left to find a couple of mates and wingfriends. Some left to seek out a bond--the wingbond. A strange union of dragon and elf, the wingbond went deeper than friendship. His father had once said, "It's even more intimate than sharing a bed with your beloved, son. My dragon, he knows my every thought, my every weakness, my every strength, my every failing--and those failings are many. Yet he loves me as I am. We are one."
Tyan had the pleasure of meeting his share of unbonded dragons and he'd seen the speculation in his father's eyes upon each meeting. It wasn't unheard of for a dragon to find his wingbond from among the half-breed--on rare occasion, a dragon had even found his wingbond from one not of elvish descent. Rare, though. Very rare.
Yes, Alseir was lovely. Fyn was lovely. Exotic and entrancing. But not home.
No, his home had always been in the mountains and dales of Aise. A sprawling realm that stretched from the northern mountain range of Dakar to the far southern seas of Wium, it was home to the goblins. Insular, the people of Aise rarely left their lands, content to live within their borders, work their farms and mines, craft their weaponry and hone their fighting skills, spin their silks and wools. The few border cities were a gateway to the outside lands. Within the border cities, goblin goods were bartered and sold.
They were a warrior people and had been centuries untold. Though it had been two hundred years since war had moved upon their world, the goblins didn't allow their sword arms to weaken nor their bodies to soften. Perhaps in tribute to all the warriors that had come and died before them, or perhaps it was simply because goblinkind loved a good rout.
If the mark of the Fior Sidhe was their firedragons, then the mark of the goblins was the call of the warrior. Their blood was rich with it, their bodies strong, lean and quick. With an innate skill for battle, a way with weaponry, there were stories from outside their land that the goblins had been born of warrior gods.
More than any one physical trait, the goblinkind's warrior ways set them apart.
Physically, the goblins were an odd lot. Some families had the blood of the winged goblin running strong and most of their get were born with wings. Some bore physical resemblances similar to the humankind that dwelled in the lands of the far north, or the elvish peoples--pale or brown skinned, hair of black, blond or brown. Others, like Shan, were black as the night--not the deep brown of some of the human peoples, but truly black, black as pitch, black as onyx.
No, they weren't banded by so much a unique physical appearance. Something deeper joined them. A love of the land, a way with the blade, a quickness of foot and an eye for winning, that was what joined them.
And it was that that the Oonkaen wanted. It was why the arrogant bastards had tried a pincer invasion centuries past. They'd come in around the Bruin Sidhe's realm, from both north and south. The Bruin Sidhe had remained safe behind their magicked walls and done nothing as the lands next to their own were overrun with Oonkaen, the warriors cut down, mothers, children and elders slaughtered like pigs.
Memories flashed through his mind, the glint of sunlight on bloodied steel, the screams of the wounded lying in the battlefields, the soft cries of the dying. His mother, pressing her blade, Ice, into his hand and grabbing his tunic, whispering her last, desperate commands before succumbing to death.
They'd lost tens of thousands in the Battle of Sanguin. If their allies, the Fior Sidhe, his father's people hadn't come when they had, they would have fallen.
Instead, under the combined forces of the desperate goblins, the fiery Sidhe and the dragons they bred, the Oonkaen had been battled back.
More than a century and a half of peace had reigned through much of their world. It wasn't until five decades ago that anything of major importance had disrupted that peace--and this time, it had been the Bruin Sidhe that had been behind the blood bath.
Dalsun, a small, isolated realm tucked between Aise and Bruia's far southern borders, had damn near been wiped off the map, and in just under a week. Home to less than ten thousand, Dalsun was made up of farmers, music-makers and the occasional artisan. Theirs was a peaceful land and they had little understanding of war.
The Bruin Sidhe's king, Callum, had launched a rather impressive magical offensive that had killed nearly a thousand Dalsunian citizens. A tenth of their number, gone in the blink of an eye.
They'd sent for aid but by the time Tyan's men had arrived, it had been almost too late. Though minor skirmishes in the annals of history, the brief war between goblin might and elvish magic had spilled fresh blood on the ground and Tyan had to lead his people through war and protect a weaker country with the might of his armies.
It had ended abruptly when Shan had suggested a tactic that would stop Callum dead in his tracks. It had done just that, and to this day, Callum hadn't dared raise sword nor magic against Tyan or his allies.
Of course, if the old bastard had, he'd sorely regret it. The loss of an heir wasn't one they'd take likely. The king's youngest son had been taken--a young man, already out of childhood. The prince had been the key to stopping Callum before he could kill another innocent soul.
To this day, the elvish prince, Valin, lived in isolation in a tower in the most remote reaches of Aise. Guarded by a hand-selected retinue of warriors and wizards, the prince would not leave the land of the goblins. Powerful spells, spun of the combined magics of the Fior Sidhe and goblin, bound him to his tower and should he try to leave, the magic would kill him.
Even as he thought of the elvish prince, Tyan jerked his thoughts away. That particular elf had an extraordinarily strong gift with mind magics. Sometimes all it took was a thought to have the bloody voyeur trying to poke and prod at Tyan's innermost thoughts.
Callum had known better than to continue on his quest to conquer the peace-loving realm of Dalsun when the life of one of his sons hung in the balance. Not so much out of a love for the boy, perhaps, but because the men of the Bruin Sidhe didn't breed easily, particularly the royal bloodline, and he wouldn't risk the life of an heir.
Even if it meant that heir lived forever apart from his people. Even if it meant that heir would live and die in a foreign land--living a life of utter solitude, dying alone.
Alone, Tyan thought. In the end, they all died alone, did they not?
So many lives lost...
Tyan opened his eyes and stared out once more over the city. It was quiet and dark, although his sharp eyes could easily pick out the sentries posted within the palace lands. He stepped up, crouched on the balustrade, still gazing out over the city. The molded stone was no wider than his feet were long and as the wind gusted up, he swayed. Snapping his wings open, he stood. "I would not risk another war on Aise, not for anything, Shan. You know this."
"Yes. I know this." Shan leaped up to join Tyan, his broad, strong body steady despite the winds beating at them. Wingless, if he fell, he'd crash into the ground a hundred feet below and die. But Shan wouldn't fall. A faint smile curled the other goblin's mouth. "The Oonkaen are, of course, a common enemy. Our enemy every bit as much as the Bruin Sidhe's. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that rot."
He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. "As much as I hate to admit it, I believe you're taking the only road open to us. But it is still a hard road. A treacherous one."
Tyan smiled thinly. "Oh, I know that all too well."
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In her rooms, Rynae Corda, the only daughter of Callum Corda, the Bruin Sidhe's king, lay on her bed. Unable to sleep, she lay staring up at the ornate wood carvings all along the underside of her bed's canopy.
Though it was night, her eyes could easily make out even the finest detail. The carvings told a story. It was one she loved, one she remember from childhood, told to her time and again by her beloved nurse, Eda. She had been more of a mother than the woman who'd born Rynae. Her guide, her mentor, her friend.
She closed her eyes before the tears could fall.
There would be no more tears.
She would bury each and every vestige of emotion under a layer of ice. She would need it, because if she let herself feel anything, she would feel everything. And the fear of what lay before her was enough to choke her.
Eda had tried to help her escape.
Eda had paid with her life.
Nae would pay with her virgin's blood in six more months, and in guilt for the rest of her very long life.
"You have nothing to feel guilty over, beloved."
Nae tuned out the familiar sound of her brother's voice, although it was hard to do when he spoke within her mind.
He sighed and although hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles separated them, she heard the sad, resigned noise as easily as if he had stood next to her. Of course, he'd never once stood next to her--she'd never even met him outside these silent communications and the odd dream.
Only thirty-two, Nae had been born years after the bloody goblins had taken her brother captive. There had been times when her brother had been the only grounding force in her life, the only one who'd ever truly cared for her.
It was the royal blood in her veins, her bosom, hips and belly that made her so very valuable to her father. A royal whore, already sold off to the highest bidder. Nae squeezed her eyes tight and tried not to think about Guldric, tried not to think about what was coming.
"You sound resigned to your fate, Nae. But you cannot resign yourself to it--you cannot give in."
She rolled onto her back and sighed. "So very easy for you to say, brother mine. But you're not the one held captive in this gilded cage. The one ally I had is now dead, dead because she tried to help me. What else should I do but resign myself?"
"So you've changed your mind about being mated to the Eruke?"
Changed her mind? Nae shuddered and covered her face with her hands. No, she hadn't changed her mind. She'd rather slit her wrists with a dinner knife--except her father had already foreseen that possibility and her food was served to her cut down to pieces so small, even a small child could chew them with ease. She'd rather throw herself from her window and crash into the hard, unforgiving seas below, but he'd placed bars of iron, platinum and silver over her windows. The bars were done in a lovely, artistic swirl, and they very effectively kept her from taking that avenue as well.
"I do not wish you to escape by ending your life, beloved, so please, stop thinking about all the ways you'd like to end it," Valin said, his mind's voice harsh and cold.
"Even death is better than mating with that...that monster," she said, rolling onto her belly and pressing her face to her pillow. The Eruke truly was a monster, though his outward appearance was a bit deceptive. He was easy enough to look upon, she supposed. But she feared him. She feared the lust in his eyes when he looked upon her, the way he'd fondled her in front of her father as they discussed the marriage agreement, the way he'd pinched her nipples and then shoved her skirts up and pushed two thick, long fingers into her virgin's sheath to check for her hymen. He'd grunted in satisfaction and then warned her father, "She's to be just as tight the night we wed."
Her father had shown no emotion at the display. None. Not disgust, outrage, not even amusement. He couldn't have cared less to see his daughter treated so.
Perversely, Nae had taken to using her own fingers on her body far more often than she had before. Whether it would make a difference, she didn't know, though in truth, she doubted it would matter overmuch.
It wasn't the marriage bed she feared, not truly. It was just going to the marriage bed with him. He would hurt her. She saw the desire for pain in his eyes. Because he was so much larger than she, that pain would be even worse. He stood nearly two heads taller and Nae wasn't a petite woman. She was slender, but like many elves, she was tall, easily as tall as many mortal men. But Guldric was nearly twice as wide as she was, weighed twice as much, if not more. He had big, battle-hardened hands, the brutal strength one would expect to find in a barbarian king and absolutely nothing of kindness or compassion lived within him.
She knew. Because she could see within his heart. If he had any kind of soul, she would have seen within it as well. But he was soulless, and there was nothing there for her to see.
To see within the heart and soul, these were her gifts. To look within another and know their strengths, their weakness, their passions and their fears. It was that gift, perhaps, as much as her body that Guldric wanted.
He thought he'd use her as his pet seer by day and his broodmare by night. The Bruin Sidhe's men might not father children easily, but their women, it seemed, were very fertile. Particularly with seed from those outside their own kind.
"I cannot do this, Valin," she whispered and damn her weakness, those tears once more burned her eyes. She blinked them back, determined not to give her father another tear, determined not to give her future another tear. She might be the daughter of a corrupt, treacherous man, but her blood was royal. Her blood was elvish. Once upon a time, that had meant something grand.
"You are something grand, beloved. Do not despair. You'll have another chance, a chance to escape what our father would do. You must just be ready...and brave enough to take that chance."