The Lady of Toryn Anthology (Lady of Toryn trilogy)

The

Lady of Toryn

Anthology

by Charity
Santiago

charitysantiago.blogspot.com

edited by Amy
Stace Knoll and JaNae Zwan

Copyright © 2013 by Charity Santiago. All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without
written permission from the author. Please do your part to discourage piracy,
and purchase only authorized editions.

RETURN

Book 1 in the
Lady of Toryn trilogy

Prologue

For thousands of years, mystical beings known as
Angels protected the Free Lands of Kresmir, offering their wisdom and guidance
to the mortals who shared their world. Under the direction of the ethereal
race, Kresmir blossomed. Besides sharing their knowledge of how to conserve
Kresmir’s energy rather than squandering its resources, the Angels taught the
mortals how to harness Kresmir’s natural magic in precious gems known as
stanes
. Kresmir was changed forever with
this discovery.

The rise of Lord Angelo and his Spartan assassins,
however, was a sudden and unexpected blow to the Angels, and to the people
under their tutelage. Lord Angelo’s origins remained a mystery, but one thing
was clear- his cruelty was unmatched in the once-peaceful Free Lands. After overthrowing
the eastern continent and orchestrating a brutal attack on the Angels’ Heavenly
City, Lord Angelo moved quickly towards world domination, even overthrowing the
monarchy of the western continent, Toryn, and placing its people under
tyrannical rule.

Lord Angelo’s reign lasted nearly two decades, marked
firstly by the genocide of the Angels, and secondly by the crippling drain on
the planet’s resources to expand Lord Angelo’s superhuman army, helmed by the
Division of Enhanced Military Operations Nano-engineering. The genetically
enhanced, magic-wielding DEMON army was virtually unstoppable.

As Lord Angelo’s power plants continued to sap energy
from a wounded Kresmir and its dying sun, a DEMON soldier named Skye Damien
joined forces with Restlyn Li, the adopted daughter of the Lord of Toryn.
Together, Skye, Restlyn and their ragtag group of insurgents challenged Lord
Angelo and ultimately defeated him, overthrowing the dictator and establishing
an elected president over the newly-formed Free Lands Democracy.

After saving the world, their mission complete, the
rebels scattered. Among their ranks was fifteen-year old Ashlyn Li, Elder Heir
of Toryn and Restlyn’s adoptive sister. Overwhelmed by her newfound celebrity,
and feeling ill-prepared to assume Ladyship of her kingdom, Ashlyn retreated
into seclusion. For three years she traversed the Free Lands, avoiding all
mention of her former life and trying to make some sense of her conflicted
feelings towards her birthright as Lady of Toryn.

Chapter
One

In the Rain

Ashlyn’s hand tightened
on the reins as a bolt of lightning slashed across the sky, briefly
illuminating the plains around her. Her horse, Suki, whinnied and danced
sideways nervously.

Ashlyn kept her head
down, rainwater running off the hood of her cloak. A few droplets tickled her
nose. The brief flash of light had confirmed her suspicions- she was surrounded
by perhaps a dozen shadowy figures, with three of them blocking her path
towards the nearby city of Storim. The figures were dressed in black and
advancing slowly, counting on the darkness to conceal their movements.

At least this ambush
was being conducted by humans instead of dogs. The two attacks that had driven
Ashlyn into hiding seven months ago had taken place in the mountains of Landi.
She’d walked away from both battles…barely…with the flesh of her right arm shredded
to ribbons after the first one, and the twisting labyrinth of Landi’s canyons
providing an escape route during the second attack.

The first attack could
have been coincidence, but as she fled the second ambush just a few weeks
later, Ashlyn had glimpsed a man standing atop a jagged cliff, watching her.
His lean form had been silhouetted against the rising moon behind him, and a
huge dog had stood beside him, the moonlight gleaming off its silver fur.

The dog had strongly
resembled a wolf, but Ashlyn knew how impossible that was. Wolves were close to
extinction in Kresmir, and any that remained certainly had better things to do
than band together with a human to attack a lone traveler. The mysterious man
had sent his trained dogs after her, Ashlyn was certain, but she didn’t know
why.

Clutching the reins in
one hand, Ashlyn moved her other hand inside her cloak, drawing a small bo
shuriken from the pouch on her belt. She preferred her sword or her larger hira
shuriken, but both were strapped to her back, beneath her cloak, and there was
no way to reach for them inconspicuously.

The thunder rumbled
around her, and Ashlyn held her breath, waiting for the next flash of
lightning. When it came, she saw with some alarm that her attackers were even
closer than she expected- mere strides away.

Her heart pounding,
Ashlyn flung the first shuriken at one of the three figures in front of her,
and was reaching back into her pouch for another before the first reached its
mark. As she spurred Suki, the first shuriken landed with a distinct
thunk,
and the man cried out. Suki
leaped forward, colliding with a second attacker, and Ashlyn threw the second
bo shuriken before pulling a knife from its sheath on her thigh. She crouched
low over Suki’s neck and stabbed blindly in the darkness, aiming for whatever
she could get, but the knife sliced only air.

One of her assailants
caught hold of Ashlyn’s cloak, yanking backwards and nearly choking her. At
that same moment, Suki whinnied in fear and reared up, and Ashlyn realized that
there would be no outrunning this attack.

Kicking her feet out of
the stirrups, she vaulted backwards, executing a flip before landing on the
slippery grass. Ashlyn spun furiously, collecting her cloak in one hand to drag
her attacker closer. She could barely make out his silhouette, black on black
in the thick onslaught of rain. She dropped to one knee, quickly unlatching the
throat clasp on her cloak to free herself, and stabbed the man in the leg. He
went down.

With the cloak gone,
Ashlyn yanked the hira shuriken off her back, barely getting a chance to wrap
her fingers around the weapon before she was tackled from behind. She hit the
ground hard, slipping and sliding on the wet grass. There was a sharp stab of
pain in her right side, and she gasped, her cry cut short as her assailant
hooked an arm around her throat.

Suddenly fire flared up
around her, flames billowing and hissing in the rain, and Ashlyn panicked,
realizing that her opponents were equipped with stanes.

Ignoring the agonizing
pain in her side, she rolled over onto her back and struggled furiously to
loosen her attacker’s grip around her neck, but he only clung more fiercely.
Ashlyn’s eyes began to water. She shifted her grip on the shuriken and brought
it down behind her, stabbing the man with the pronged spikes of the weapon as
he lay between her and the ground.

He cried out and
released her immediately. Ashlyn leaped to her feet, whirling and slicing down
at his throat before ducking underneath a punch from another black-clad figure.
She danced backwards and drew her sword, sheathing the shuriken on her back in
the same smooth movement. There was a crackling behind her, the telltale sounds
of a
fire
stane sputtering to life,
and Ashlyn tensed, mentally cataloguing her collection of stanes and trying to
figure out how best to retaliate. She turned, throwing up an arm as she
prepared to cast a spell to defend herself.

What she saw stopped
her cold.

Drake Lockhart stood
before her, his long coat skimming the grass. His eyes flashed red in the
semi-darkness, the reflection of the firelight dancing wildly in their crimson
depths.

Before Ashlyn could
find her voice, Drake flung his arm out and cast the magic, sending a ball of
fire roaring towards the man who had attacked her. The man screamed as he was
instantly consumed in flames, and crumpled to the ground.

Ashlyn was still
dumbfounded at seeing Drake for the first time in over a year, and as she
swayed dizzily, she tried to think of what she should say to the enigmatic
vampire.
Nice to see you, Drake. You look
as young as ever.
Although she knew he’d been almost thirty years old when
he was turned more than two decades ago, his face was as youthful as ever,
untouched by time. He didn’t look much older than Ashlyn.

The body of the last
attacker landed at her feet in a heap, and Skye Damien emerged from the
darkness. Around him, the writhing flames died down, eventually dissipating
until the only illumination was the faint glow of red from the stane in Skye’s
wristband.

 
“Boy, am I glad to see you,” Ashlyn said,
wincing as she sank to her knees in the wet grass. She touched her hand to the
wound in her side and looked down. In the faint light it came away covered in a
dark liquid.

“Hang on,” Skye said,
kneeling beside her and putting an arm around her shoulders to stop her from
swaying. “Is it deep?”

She was so light-headed
that she knew she must have already lost a significant amount of blood. “I
think so.”

“Let’s get you to
Storim. We can heal you there.” Skye put his arm around Ashlyn and stood,
pulling her up with him. She bit back a groan at the pain that came with the
movement.

Drake approached her
then, leading Suki by the reins. “Can you mount up?” he asked Ashlyn, holding
out a hand to her. Ashlyn nodded and took his hand, climbing slowly to her
feet. With some effort she managed to get her foot in the stirrup and hopped
once before pulling herself up. In spite of the pain in her side, she was
acutely aware of Drake’s hands on her hip and her leg as he helped her settle
into the saddle.

 
“How did you know I was here?” she asked,
trying to stay focused as Drake began leading the horse.

“We didn’t,” Skye said
from beside her. “We’ve been tracking the ninjas who attacked you.”

“Ninjas?” she repeated
drowsily, hunching forward and wrapping her arms around herself. “Those weren’t
Toryn ninjas.”

“They were,” Drake
said. He glanced back at her as they reached the top of the hill and the lights
of Storim washed over them. “They were trying to kill you.”

“I can’t argue that,”
she admitted, and bit her lip. “Why would Toryn ninjas want to kill me?”

Drake didn’t respond.

Suki’s hooves clicked
on the cobblestones at the outskirts of the city, and soon they were walking
through the town square, where Ashlyn slid down onto the ground, standing
unsteadily.

Skye caught her. With
his hands on her shoulders, he turned her towards the tavern on the far corner
of the square.

“My horse,” she
protested, looking over her shoulder.

“Drake is taking care
of it.”

Even in her semi-dazed
state, Ashlyn knew that Skye was acting strangely. It had been more than three
years since they’d seen each other, and he hadn’t bothered to greet her or ask
about her father. She kept silent, wanting only to get her wound healed as
quickly as possible. She knew where they were going- Restlyn Place, the tavern
that Ashlyn’s adopted sister had started after their adventures three years
ago. Ashlyn had only been in the tavern once, about a year after Lord Angelo’s
defeat, but before she’d found Restlyn, a thief had swiped her oversized bo shuriken
and she’d tried to chase him down. The little brat had somehow managed to lose
her in the grasslands, and two years later, Ashlyn was
still
peeved about losing her favorite shuriken.

The sight that greeted
her when Skye opened the door to Restlyn Place was unexpected, if a little
nostalgic, and Ashlyn stepped uncertainly through the doorway, one hand pressed
to her side, the other one keeping a firm grip on Skye’s arm.

Six pairs of eyes
stared at her in obvious shock, and Ashlyn cracked a smile, a little unsure as
to why her friends were gathered in Storim. They were all seated around a
circular table in the center of the room, except for the wolf, Aik, who was
sprawled across the top of the bar, staring at her with unnerving yellow eyes.

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