First Chapter of Crown's Shield.
I am so excited about this book that I wanted to share the first chapter with y'all! (Unedited)
Sage squeezed her eyes shut and reopened them, though it did nothing to change the scene before. Her mind was reeling, this couldn’t be happening. She couldn’t be seeing who she thought she was...She blinked a couple more times.
Damn. Still there.
Two royal figures stood before her, blue eyes staring, one in anger, and one in calculation. Her fingers went numb and a high-pitched ringing filled her ears.
They were here.
The princes of Aermia were actually here. In her family’s forge.
Sweat dripped down her spine.
How did they find her? No one had followed them as they made their way home from the festival last night, she had been sure of it. So how had they done it?
She jumped as she felt a touch on her arm. Anxious, her eyes jumped to the one touching her but she relaxed as she met the eyes of her father. It was only her papa.
His eyes narrowed at her. “Sage? Are you alright?”
She nodded slowly and gave him a weak smile, deliberately ignoring the two men boring holes into her head with their eyeballs. “What can I help you with papa?”
Her papa grinned. “Actually, I have someone I want you to meet.” He wrapped an arm around her and looked toward Sam. “Sage, I would like to introduce you to Samuel.”
For a beat, Sage simply stared at the spymaster before her father began again, “This is the Sam your brothers got into so much mischief with over the years.”
She jerked at his words. Him? Stars above, it couldn’t be true. Life wouldn’t be that cruel, would it?
“It was he who commissioned the dragon sword.”
Her gaze dropped to the sword in question. The great dragon broadsword she now held in her hands. Apparently, it could. Sage then glared at the sword, feeling oddly betrayed, as every foul word she’d ever learned ran through her mind. Of all the bad luck in the world. Why did nothing ever go as it was supposed to?
The spymaster cleared his throat, pulling her from thoughts. As she raised her eyes to his he arched a brow. “I’m happy to meet you at last. Zeke and Zeb have spoken of you so much that I almost feel like I know you already.”
Sage pulled in a breath and sent him a brittle smile. “I feel exactly the same way.”
Sam leaned forward, not breaking her gaze. “The sword’s perfect. I’ve never seen its equal. It’s truly a stunning weapon. How long was your apprenticeship?”
Sage hesitated. Sam knew her family, but she didn’t know what her brothers had divulged to the spymaster all these years and she had no desire to give him any more information.
Before she had a chance to reply her father spoke up.
“Actually, she never left my side, even as a little one.” Her papa squeezed her. “I used to call her my little shadow. Every time I stepped back, it seemed like it was onto littles toes. Her brothers had no interest in it, so much to the chagrin of her mother, I trained her instead. Now, here she is: the most talented swordsmith in all of Aermia.” Her father’s face beamed with pride.
“Indeed,” Sam remarked.
“Indeed,” Sage mumbled. More like unfortunate.
Sam smiled. “How fortunate it is to meet you in person.” His smiled widened. “Beauty and talent. I believe Colm and your brothers have been hiding you from me.”
“Damn straight,” her papa added.
Her eyes flickered to the crown prince’s and she registered the barely masked hostility there. It was time to go.
“Well, it was lovely meeting you.” She smiled at Sam. “And thank you for your compliments. I hope the sword serves you well, however, the forge doesn’t run itself so if you will excuse me.” As Sage turned away she tried to decide her next move. Should she run to the meadow? Or perhaps go find Rafe?
“I would like to commission a few pieces.” Sage spun around when the voice cracked through the air like whip. “I’ll be honest. Seeing my brother with such a beautiful blade has me a bit envious.”
The dark tone sent a shiver down her spine.
Despite her warning the princes of the plot to kill the king, they were still enemies. Their games weren’t over, it was just the beginning.
Sage cringed and turned toward him, clenching her hands in her skirt to keep them from trembling. Looking at him again she realized that, unfortunately, he was still one of the most beautiful men she had ever seen. Wavy blue-black hair,sapphire eyes framed with long dark lashes. The full mouth highlighted by strong cheekbones and a defined jaw. She couldn’t believe she had kissed that mouth just last night and, though it hadn’t been the worst thing to ever happen to her, it wasn’t really something she’d like to repeat.
He shifted and her eyes bounced up from his lips to his eyes. His eyes held no warmth. Sam smirked at his side and her impassive mask began to crack. Her emotions were all over the place. She needed to rein herself in. When her father clapped his hands together she about jumped out of her skin. She’d almost forgotten he was there.
“Well, I still have a little work to do, so I will let you two work out the details. But it was great seeing you, Sam. Stay for dinner?”
“I would love to but I’m afraid I’ve got to get back to work.”
“That’s too bad, son. Perhaps next time.”
She caught her father’s sleeve as he turned with a pleading look. “Papa do you think it wise to leave me here unchaperoned?” She kept her voice low.
He eyed her and then the two royals, patting her hand absently. “I will only be in the forge and can see you the whole time.” He turned his eyes on her. “So have no fear love.” Colm Blackwell raised his voice so that Sam could hear him. “I have known Samuel for many years. He would never do anything improper in my forge or make my daughter uncomfortable.” The words were friendly but also held a clear warning.
Sam dipped his head, smiling boyishly. “As you say, Master Blackwell. You know, I feel as if Sage is my sister already.”
Her papa acknowledged Sam with a quirk of his lips before moving back to his work bench. Sage stared after him, feeling like he’d just left her to drown in a river. He simply smiled encouragingly before turning away, whistling a lyrical tune as he departed.
Sage swallowed hard, locking her knees to stop their shaking. She wouldn’t let them detect the fear in her, so she gathered her courage. Grabbing paper and quill, she placed them on the counter before the two princes. The salty smell of sweat caught her nose. Her’s or theirs? She had no clue. Steeling herself she asked, “So what would you like?”
Silence followed her question though she refused to look up at them. She waited them out a bit but still they said nothing.
“My lords?” she prompted.
When each remained silent she forced her eyes from her paper eyebrows raised in a mute prompt. Sage found herself under intense scrutiny by both sets of calculating blue eyes. Her stomach clenched.
Suddenly the crown prince smiled fiercely, teeth gleaming. “I think I would like something similar to my brothers. The dragon seems brought to life, which I approve of, but I’d rather you leave off all those pearls and sapphires. Maybe substitute obsidian and black diamonds.”
Of course, he wants a black sword, she thought, it’ll match his black heart.
Sage mulled it over. It would be harder to get the obsidian and black diamonds but it was definitely doable. She grinned evilly as she thought of how much she could charge him. Her father may not have understood who he’d been dealing with but she most certainly did.
“It will take time to track down the stones you desire but we can do it. Of course, you will need to pay upfront; twelve gold marks.” Sage smirked when the crown prince’s eyes widened just a fraction.
His brother spoke up first. “Come now. I only paid three for mine. His stones can’t be that costly,” Sam gave her a lazy smile as he tried to bargain. “Surely you can give us a deal, I mean we’re practically family.”
“You are,” Sage pointed her pen at Sam, before stabbing it toward his brother. “He’s not. That’s my price so take it or leave it.”
Sam sniggered when the crown prince glowered at her before speaking. “I guess I’ll need to borrow some gold Brother.”
Pulling a bag from his waist Sam set the coins on the counter.
Sage merely smiled, attempting innocence. “Is there anything else you need?” She kept her tone sweet even as she felt giddy inside. Were she to be locked up today, her family would still be taken care of for a long time.
“As a matter of fact, I would.” Sam placed a dagger in front of her. “Something like this would suffice.”
As she caught sight of it the blood drained from her face. A rebellion blade. More specifically her rebellion blade. As her gaze snapped to Sam she caught him taking in her reaction with interest.
So then what now? Would he punish her family? The spymaster seemed to know she had created the dagger and had no doubt seen others like it on the other rebel’s. He now had proof she wasn’t only a spy but the rebellion’s weapon supplier to a point. She wouldn’t be going back to the dungeon. She would hang.
Her eyes darted to her papa, whistling away and working, oblivious to the danger she’d put them in, before returning to the two royals.
Carefully, she pushed the dagger back toward them. “I’m afraid that is an outdated design. Can I interest you in something else instead?”
She hoped they understood the translation: She didn’t work for the rebellion anymore.
Sam’s brow furrowed at her words before he cleared his expression. He plucked her dagger from the counter and slipped it back into the sheath at his waist. “Nope, I believe I have everything I need then. How about you, brother?”
She couldn’t help darting a glance toward the Crown Prince but her breath stuttered to a halt when she met his angry eyes. He leaned closer, feigning interest in a dagger on display, but Sage held her ground, refusing to be intimidated. She froze, however, when she felt his breath caress her temple.
“There is only one thing I require here and none of it was forged with metal. So far it has eluded me but I believe very soon it will be within my grasp.” He paused before continuing, “There is nowhere to run, Sage.”
Her eyes flew back to his. Seeing the determination on his face she knew she needed to leave. Now. She had planned on never seeing Rafe again but at this point she had no choice. This wasn’t just about her own safety anymore.
By then he’d withdrawn from her space, though he continued watching her intently. She smiled grimly and placed each hand on a displayed dagger. “Only over your dead body,” she hissed. He would never find her again and he would never hurt her family. Of that she would be certain.
Both men tensed at her threat and her smile turned deadly. At least they understood that danger was imminent.
“Papa,” she called, never taking her eyes from them. Sage heard as he hoisted himself up to stroll over to her. When he reached her she continued, “I find myself quite fatigued.” She then handed him the sheaf of paper with the crown prince’s specifications. “Would you mind finishing up?” Sage broke the staring contest she’d been entertaining with the two men so she could meet her papa’s worried green eyes.
“Oh love, I’m sorry. Do you need anything?”
A warm smile split her face as she felt the concern in her papa’s voice. “No, no. I’m sure it’s just too much dancing last night.” Kissing her papa’s whiskered cheek she spared the royals a last glance. “It was lovely meeting you, Sam.” She hoped to never see him again.
Sam smiled like he knew exactly what she was thinking, which ratcheted her anxiety up a notch. “We’ll be seeing you soon then.”
I hope y'all enjoyed that!
Lots of love,
Frost Kay <3