Read Moon Rise (Twilight Shifters Book 2) Online

Authors: Kate Danley

Tags: #shifters, #young adult, #epic fantasy, #epic, #shapeshifters, #fantasy, #coming of age, #archery, #swords, #werewolf, #sword

Moon Rise (Twilight Shifters Book 2)

BOOK: Moon Rise (Twilight Shifters Book 2)
12.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Moon Rise

by Kate Danley

Table of Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter  Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Coming August 2015

Dedication

To Laurie Blumberg

who has healed more dogs than a magical berry bush

Be the first to hear about new books and exclusive giveaways by signing up for the Kate Danley newsletter at
http://www.katedanley.com/subscribe.html

––––––––

MOON RISE. Copyright ©2015 by Kate Danley.  All rights reserved.

First Printing - Cover Design by Lou Harper

Chapter One

A
ein clenched and unclenched her fist, trying to ignore the shooting pain radiating up her arm.  Over three months had passed since the attack on the Haidra castle.  Her broken bones were mended.  The bite marks Queen Gisla left when she tore through Aein's skin were now stiff scars.  But, much like the rest of the kingdom, Aein wondered if the wounds from that day would ever completely heal.

"Everything all right there, Aein?" asked Lars, lifting his visor and dropping his sword to his side.

The sounds of a melee filled the training yard as the soldiers around them continued to spar.  This was the first time she felt strong enough to suit up.  To prepare for battle, the guard practiced in full armor, learning how to take a fall and get back up in heavy plate.  All Aein could think was how grateful she was for the chill of winter.  Otherwise, she was fairly certain she would have rusted her entire suit solid with her sweat.  The disciplined Haidra guard was quite different than the ragtag army of the Arnkell stronghold.

Aein swung her arm in a wide, gentle circle, trying to undo the cramp.  "Old war wounds," she smiled grimly.

Lars removed his helmet and came over to examine her.  His tall, gangly frame blocked out the sun, making his red hair glow like a halo.

"Did I strike too hard?" he asked with concern.

He took her wrist in his palm as if she were made of eggshell instead of flesh, and turned it this way and that, examining it for any signs that something tore.

She knew she was fine, but let him continue his examination.  Lars had been so good to her.  He seemed to view her recovery as some sort of personal mission.  He was the one who got her up and walking, he was the one who first put a weapon back in her hand.  He yelled at the healers when he felt they weren't doing enough, and otherwise teased her and cajoled her and kept her from slipping into despair. 

"It's nothing," Aein protested.  "Lord Arnkell will not stop to see if I am feeling up to it if he decides to invade again."

Lars let her go.  The mention of their former lord's name cast a shadow and Aein wished she could take the words back.  The truth rang too loudly to be drowned out by her joke.

Lord Arnkell survived the fight which killed Haidra's king.  He retreated to his stronghold and Queen Gisla, deep in grief for her father, let him go. 

Aein did not know how Lord Arnkell managed to cobble together enough staff to run his fortress, much less the soldiers needed to protect it from invading forces.  In the past, the slightest whiff of weakness caused the surrounding strongholds to transform into jackals, ready to snap the spine of an injured land.  Aein was surprised that, after the official funeral of state and coronation, Queen Gisla had not taken advantage of the moment to claim the Arnkell stronghold.  But, Aein thought with a sigh, she hadn't.  The queen was strong and intelligent, but Aein could not understand her reasoning.  Perhaps it was because she had been forced onto an early throne and was still not sure what to do with her power.  Perhaps it was because she was a werewolf and didn't know if her people would follow her.  Her transformations were whispered and gossiped about, and Aein had to admit that no matter how much she loved her new queen, Gisla's hold on the crown was weak. 

This unrest was why Aein rarely saw Finn anymore, the brave commander who saved her life more times than she could count.  Every night, when the queen shifted into her wolf form, Finn took her place on the throne.  He was the only man powerful enough to keep the kingdom under control until the sun rose again. 

During the day, he watched.  His shaggy, black body was often hidden in the shadows, catching every scent and word.  Nothing escaped him.  A high ranking lord was the first to learn Finn was not some mindless beast.  A treasonous comment made in front of the werewolf resulted in the man being stripped of his titles and land.  It would have cost him his head, but some on the court felt his views on a bewitched ruler were not entirely incorrect.

The other werewolves living at the castle inserted themselves into Queen Gisla's private guard.  They lived their lives as humans as best they could, but when the sun set or rose in the sky, they took their place in Queen Gisla's pack. 

Finn continued to lead the day wolves, but Queen Gisla replaced Lars as the alpha of the night.  There were whispers that this was why Lars became so involved with Aein's recovery - Aein's affection for Lars earned him respect from the pack.  All the wolves would lay down their lives for her knowing she freed them from their wildness with her berries.  But perhaps, Aein thought as Lars put his helmet back on to pick up where they left off, he helped her because he cared.

But before they could cross swords again, a familiar wolf with a silver scar running across his face trotted towards them.

"I wonder why Finn's here..." mused Aein.

Lars looked over his shoulder and spotted their approaching commander.  "Perhaps a social call?"

"You know it is not."

"A man can dream."

The wolf came to a stop and stood before them, fixing Aein with his steady gaze.

"Finn?" she enquired with polite deference, trying hard to preserve the ridiculous formality required of their positions.  They had been through too much for the charade to make sense, but order and hierarchy ruled in the guard.  The close familiarity they developed saving Queen Gisla had faded into duty.  "Can I help you with something?"

The wolf barked and dashed off.  Then he came running back again, indicating they should follow.

"Well, that answers that question," sighed Aein.  She walked over to the weapons shed and tossed her practice sword down.

"Think of it as the break you were hoping for," said Lars, draping his heavy, soaked arm across her shoulders. 

Grimacing, Aein wiggled her way out from beneath him.  He laughed and shook his head, his sweat flying everywhere.

"Give me an invading horde!  You are disgusting!" she said, wiping herself off.

"Careful, Aein," said Lars.  "You may get your wish."

Finn, unamused, barked at them again, urging them to hurry.  With a glance, they quickened their pace. 

As they followed Finn into the keep, Aein could not help but feel bad for him.  He took human form at night when most of the castle was asleep.  At least Aein had Lars to lean on.  Finn's lifelong friendship with Queen Gisla was gone, reduced to a few short moments when the light intersected at dusk and dawn.  It was a miserable existence.  Everyone clung to the hope that as soon as the berry bush bore fruit, the nightmare would be over.

They walked up the stone stairs and into the formal petition room.  The throne where Queen Gisla normally sat was empty.  Finn led them to a door in the far corner and barked at the guard.  The guard pulled the wrought-iron ring and opened it, admitting them into the second petition room.  This was a smaller room, but even more grand.  The ceiling was painted bright blue with golden stars, a pattern matched in the fabric draping the walls.  A recently completed portrait of the fallen king hung opposite of the throne.  But Finn did not pause.  He continued on to a third door.

Aein gulped.  So there
was
an urgent matter.  She glanced at Lars as she attempted to tidy her appearance.  He was trying to flatten his red hair.  It was a hopeless cause.

This door was guarded by two soldiers.  They did not acknowledge Aein and Lars's approach, they just pulled open the heavy carved door.

It was Queen Gisla's private audience chamber.  She used it when something actually needed to be done.  This throne sat on the floor rather than a dais.  It was made for comfort rather than to impress.  The discussions in this room often went on for hours.

Queen Gisla waited for them.  She wore a gown of white.  Her ebony hair was swept up and rolled on either side of her head, her golden crown perched atop.  Her neckline was open, and a great red ruby sat against her dark, brown skin.

Aein and Lars fell to one knee and did not lift their eyes until she bid them. 

"Arise," she said, motioning with her hand.  Finn trotted to Queen Gisla and settled himself at her feet.  Aein and Lars stood at attention waiting for the queen to speak.

After a long pause, she said, "There is a matter of great importance which I need you to attend." Her shockingly blue eyes scanned them for any sign of hesitation or betrayal.  Though they had sworn themselves to her, they were once members of the enemy's stronghold, a fact no one in the Haidra household forgot.  She gripped the arms of her wooden throne.  "The entire fate of my kingdom lies upon the blossoming of a bush in Lord Arnkell's territory.  As you may or may not be aware, part of our oath when we take our throne is to swear that we will maintain a guard along the border at all times.  During the war, Aein and Lars, you were not at your post."

Her words held no accusation, but that did not temper the bite.  Aein lowered her eyes and swallowed, feeling like, despite everything, they should have found a way to stay. 

"I ordered four members of my guard to the border the day after the battle, to not only protect the bush, but to protect us from any creatures which might try to come through."  Queen Gisla sighed and a shadow crossed her face.  "Three weeks to the swamp from here, a month at their post, and then three weeks to return.  Their replacements were sent and the first deployment should have returned weeks ago.  They did not.  There has been no word from the other guards.  Nothing.  And so you see my problem.  It may be that Lord Arnkell did not think well of my people patrolling his territory.  But it may be that something has come through."  Queen Gisla fixed her sight on Lars and Aein.  "I need you to go to the Arnkell swamp.  You are of the Arnkell land.  If it is an issue of territory, you may know the guards your old lord sent.  If it is something else, I need to know that, too.  Heed my command, though.  The border must be held.  If all is lost and you must choose, hold the post."

A chill ran up Aein’s spine.  Other than to gather the harvest to end the werewolves' shift, she never wanted to set foot in the swamp again.  A small, strangled sound came from Lars.  It was so soft, only Aein heard it.  Whatever her fears, Lars had suffered more.  He served three tours in the past year, well beyond the safe threshold.  He had been trapped there for months, holding the border by himself.  He had been driven to the brink of madness.  Aein hated to think what might happen if he was sent back. 

"The fog will play tricks on our minds," warned Aein.  Lars did not add his voice to Aein's words.  He just stood there, arms clenched at his side, eyes fixated into space.

"I know," said Queen Gisla, running her hand over Finn's fur, as if needing to soothe herself.  Finn gave a bark, as if urging her to keep steadfast in her decision.  Queen Gisla turned back to Aein and Lars.  "I would not ask, except the need is so great."

It was cold comfort that the queen understood the enormity of her request.  She was making it all the same.  Aein and Lars fell again to their knees in acceptance of their duty.  There was no other choice.  They were her soldiers.  They were hers to command as she saw fit.

"Stealth shall be your friend," Queen Gisla instructed.  "We must not alert Lord Arnkell to your movements.  It could be seen as an act of war, and the peace we have is tenuous at best.  Prepare yourselves to leave tomorrow at first light.  Tell no one of your mission.  If there is a possibility that the bush has been lost, we shall have civil war.  The only reason I am able to maintain my throne is the promise of my cure in the spring.  I will not be allowed to remain queen if they believe otherwise."

Her dire prediction quelled Aein's reservations.  Her duty, as guard, was to the people and the Haidra kingdom could not afford more unrest, especially only three months after the damage Lord Arnkell caused.  They were still repairing the fortress walls from where the catapult bombarded it.  They were still filling in the tunnels he had dug.  Not to mention the cost of human life.  The price was too high already. 

BOOK: Moon Rise (Twilight Shifters Book 2)
12.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Women in Dark Times by Jacqueline Rose
I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
Bryant & May and the Secret Santa by Christopher Fowler
What Money Can Buy by Katie Cramer
Genie and Paul by Natasha Soobramanien
The Minority Council by Kate Griffin
Pleasure Bound by Opal Carew
Damaged Souls (Broken Man) by Scott, Christopher
Donnybrook: A Novel by Bill, Frank