Kings Rising (The Captive Prince Trilogy)

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9780425273999: Kings Rising (The Captive Prince Trilogy)

The stunning conslusion of worldwide phenomenon—from the boldly original author of Captive Prince and Prince’s Gambit.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.
 
On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor's forces are massing. In the north, the Regent's armies are mobilising for war. Damen's only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.
 
Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen’s identity—can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

C. S. Pacat is the author of the Captive Prince trilogy. Born in Australia and educated at the University of Melbourne, she has since lived in a number of different cities, including Tokyo and Perugia. She currently resides and works in Melbourne.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

KINGS RISING

C. S. Pacat is the author of the Captive Prince trilogy. She has lived in a number of different cities including Tokyo and Perugia. She is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, and was born in Melbourne, where she currently lives and writes.

About the Author

Also in The Captive Prince trilogy

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Map

Characters

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

Acknowledgements

CHARACTERS

CHAPTER ONE

‘DAMIANOS.’

Damen stood at the base of the dais steps as his name spread in tones of shock and disbelief over the courtyard. Nikandros knelt before him, his army knelt before him. It was like coming home, until his name, rippling outwards over the ranks of the gathered Akielon soldiers, hit the Veretian commoners thronging the edges of the space, where it changed.

The shock was different, a doubled shock, a rippling impact now, of anger, of alarm. Damen heard the first voice in outcry, a swell of violence, a new word now in the mouths of the crowd.

‘Prince-killer.’

A hiss of a rock, thrown. Nikandros came up off his knees, drawing his sword. Damen flung out a hand in a motion for halt, stopping Nikandros instantly, his sword showing a half-foot of Akielon steel.

He could see the confusion on Nikandros’s face, as the courtyard around them began to disintegrate. ‘Damianos?’

‘Order your men to hold,’ said Damen, even as the sharp sound of steel closer by had him turning fast.

A Veretian soldier in a grey helmet had drawn his sword, and was staring at Damen as though he faced his worst nightmare. It was Huet; Damen recognised the white face under the helmet. Huet was holding his sword out before him the way Jord had held the knife: between two shaking hands.

‘Damianos?’ said Huet.

‘Hold!’ Damen ordered again, shouting to be heard over the crowd, over the new, hoarse cry in Akielon, ‘Treason!’ It was death to draw a blade on a member of the Akielon royal family.

He was still keeping Nikandros back with the gesture of his outflung hand, but he could feel every sinew in Nikandros strain in the effort to hold himself in place.

There were wild shouts now, the thin perimeter breaking down as the crowd swelled with the panicked urge to run. To stampede and get out of the way of the Akielon army. Or to swarm over it. He saw Guymar scan the courtyard, the tense fear in his eyes clear. Soldiers could see what a peasant mob could not: that the Akielon force inside the walls—inside the walls—outnumbered the skeletal Veretian garrison fifteen to one.

Another sword was drawn alongside Huet’s, a horrified Veretian soldier. Anger and disbelief showed in the faces of some of the Veretian guard; in others there was fear, looking to one another desperately for guidance.

And in the first spilling breach in the perimeter, the spiralling frenzy of the crowd, the Veretian guards no longer fully under his control—Damen saw how completely he had underestimated the effect of his identity on the men and women of this fort.

Damianos, prince-killer.

His mind, used to battlefield decisions, took in the sweep of the courtyard, and made the commander’s choice: to minimise losses, to limit bloodshed and chaos, and to secure Ravenel. The Veretian guards were beyond his orders, and the Veretian people . . . if these bitter, furious emotions could be soothed among the Veretian people, he was not the one to soothe them.

There was only one way to stop what was about to happen, and that was to contain it; to lock it down, to secure this place once and for all.

Damen said to Nikandros, ‘Take the fort.’

*   *   *

Damen swept along the passage, flanked by six Akielon guards. Akielon voices rang in the halls and red Akielon flags flew over Ravenel. Akielon soldiers on either side of the doorway drew their heels together as he passed.

Ravenel had now changed allegiance twice in as many days. This time it had happened swiftly; Damen knew exactly how to subdue this fort. The skeleton Veretian force had quickly buckled in the courtyard, and Damen had ordered their two senior soldiers, Guymar and Jord, brought to him, stripped of armour and under guard.

As Damen entered the small antechamber, the Akielon guards took hold of their two prisoners and thrust them roughly to the ground. ‘Kneel,’ the guard commanded in mangled Veretian. Jord sprawled.

‘No. Let them stand.’ Damen gave the order in Akielon.

Instant obedience.

It was Guymar who shrugged the treatment off and regained his feet first. Jord, who had known Damen for months, was more circumspect, rising slowly. Guymar met Damen’s eyes. He spoke in Veretian, giving no sign that he had understood Akielon.

‘So it’s true. You are Damianos of Akielos.’

‘It’s true.’

Guymar purposefully spat, and for his trouble was backhanded hard across the face with a mailed fist by the Akielon soldier.

Damen let it happen, aware of what would have happened if a man had spat on the ground in front of his father.

‘Are you here to put us to the sword?’

Guymar’s words were spoken as his eyes returned to Damen. Damen’s gaze passed over him, then over Jord. He saw the grime on their faces, their drawn, tight expressions. Jord had been the Captain of the Prince’s Guard. He knew Guymar less well: Guymar had been a commander in Touars’s army before he’d defected to Laurent’s side. But both men had been ranked officers. It was why he had ordered them brought here.

‘I want you to fight with me,’ said Damen. ‘Akielos is here to stand by your side.’

Guymar let out a shaky breath. ‘Fight with you? You will use our cooperation to take the fort.’

‘I already have the fort,’ said Damen. He said it calmly. ‘You know the manner of man we face in the Regent,’ said Damen. ‘Your men have a choice. They can remain prisoners at Ravenel, or they can ride with me to Charcy, and show the Regent we stand together.’

‘We don’t stand together,’ said Guymar. ‘You betrayed our Prince.’ And then, as though he almost couldn’t bear to say it, ‘You had him—’

‘Take him out,’ said Damen, cutting it off. He dismissed the Akielon guards, too, and they filed out until the antechamber was deserted, except for the one man he allowed to stay.

In Jord’s face was none of the mistrust or fear that had been stamped so clearly on the faces of the other Veretians, but a weary search for understanding.

Damen said, ‘I made him a promise.’

‘And when he learns who you are?’ said Jord. ‘When he learns that he is facing Damianos on the field?’

‘Then he and I meet each other for the first time,’ said Damen. ‘That was also a promise.’

*   *   *

When it was done, he found himself pausing, his hand on the doorframe to catch his breath. He thought of his name, spreading through Ravenel, across the province, to its target. He had a sense of holding on, as though if he just held the fort, held these men together long enough to reach Charcy, then what followed—

He couldn’t think about what followed, all he could do was keep to his promise. He pushed open the door and walked into the small hall.

Nikandros turned when Damen entered, and their eyes met. Before Damen could speak, Nikandros went to one knee; not spontaneously as he had done in the courtyard, but deliberately, bending his head.

‘The fort is yours,’ Nikandros said. ‘My King.’

King.

The ghost of his father seemed to prickle over his skin. It was his father’s title, but his father no longer sat on the throne at Ios. Looking at the bowed head of his friend, Damen realised it for the first time. He was no longer the young prince who had roamed the palace halls with Nikandros after a day spent wrestling together on the sawdust. There was no Prince Damianos. The self that he had been striving to return to was gone.

To gain everything and lose everything in the space of a moment. That is the fate of all princes destined for the throne. Laurent had said that.

Damen took in Nikandros’s familiar, classically Akielon features, his dark hair and brows, his olive face and straight Akielon nose. As children, they had run barefoot together through the palace. When he’d imagined a return to Akielos, he’d imagined greeting Nikandros, embracing him, heedless of the armour, like digging in his fingers and feeling in his fist the earth of his home.

Instead, Nikandros knelt in an enemy fort, his sparse Akielon armour incongruous in the Veretian setting, and Damen felt the gulf of distance that separated them.

‘Rise,’ said Damen. ‘Old friend.’

He wanted to say so much. He felt it welling up inside him, a hundred moments when he had forced back the doubt that he would ever see Akielos, the high cliffs, the opaline sea, and the faces, like this one, of those that he called friend.

‘I thought you dead,’ said Nikandros. ‘I have mourned your passing. I lit the ekthanos and made the long walk at dawn when I thought you gone.’ Nikandros spoke still partly in wonder as he rose. ‘Damianos, what happened to you?’

Damen thought of the soldiers bursting into his rooms, of being lashed down in the slave baths, of the dark, muffled journey by ship to Vere. He thought of being confined, his face painted, his body drugged and displayed. He thought of opening his eyes in the Veretian palace, and what had happened to him there.

‘You were right about Kastor,’ Damen said.

It was all he said.

‘I watched him crowned at the Kingsmeet,’ said Nikandros. His eyes were dark. ‘He stood on the Kingstone and said, “This twin tragedy has taught us that all things are possible.”’

It sounded like Kastor. It sounded like Jokaste. Damen thought of how it would have been in Akielos, the kyroi gathered among the ancient stones of the Kingsmeet, Kastor enthroned with Jokaste beside him, her hair immaculate and her swollen belly swathed, slaves fanning the air in the still heat.

He said to Nikandros, ‘Tell me.’

He heard it. He heard all of it. He heard of his own body, wrapped and taken in the processional through the acropolis, then interred beside his father. He heard Kastor’s claim that he had been killed by his own guard. He heard of his guard, killed in turn, like his childhood trainer Haemon, like his squires, like his slaves. Nikandros spoke of the confusion and slaughter throughout the palace, and in its wake, Kastor’s swordsmen taking control, claiming wherever they were challenged that they were containing the bloodshed, not causing it.

He remembered the sound of bells at dusk. Theomedes is dead. All hail Kastor.

Nikandros said, ‘There’s more.’

Nikandros hesitated for a moment, searching Damen’s face. Then he pulled a letter from his leather breastplate. It was battered, and by far the worse for its method of conveyance, but when Damen took it and unfolded it, he saw why Nikandros had kept it close.

To the Kyros of Delpha, Nikandros, from Laurent, Prince of Vere.

Damen felt the hairs rise over his body. The letter was old. The writing was old. Laurent must have sent the letter from Arles. Damen thought of him, alone, politically cornered, sitting at his desk to begin writing. He remembered Laurent’s limpid voice. Do you think I’d get on well with Nikandros of Delpha?

It made tactical sense, in a horrifying way, for Laurent to have made an alliance with Nikandros. Laurent had always been capable of a kind of ruthless pragmatism. He was able to put emotion aside and do what he had to do to win, with a perfect and nauseating ability to ignore all human feeling.

In return for aid from Nikandros, the letter said, Laurent would offer proof that Kastor had colluded with the Regent to kill King Theomedes of Akielos. It was the same information that Laurent had flung at him last night. You poor dumb brute. Kastor killed the King, then took the city with my uncle’s troops.

‘There were questions,’ said Nikandros, ‘but for every question Kastor had an answer. He was the King’s son. And you were dead. There was no one left to rally behind,’ Nikandros said. ‘Meniados of Sicyon was the first to swear his loyalty. And beyond that—’

Damen said, ‘The south belongs to Kastor.’

He knew what he faced. He had never supposed to hear that the story of his brother’s treachery was a mistake: to hear that Kastor was overjoyed by the news that he lived, and welcomed his return.

Nikandros said, ‘The north is loyal.’

‘And if I call on you to fight?’

‘Then we fight,’ said Nikandros. ‘Together.’

The straightforward ease of it left him without words. He had forgotten what home felt like. He had forgotten trust, loyalty, kinship. Friends.

Nikandros drew something from a fold in his clothing, and pressed it into Damen’s hand.

‘This is yours. I have kept it . . . A foolish token. I knew it was treason. I wanted to remember you by it.’ A crooked half-smile. ‘Your friend is a fool and courts treason for a keepsake.’

Damen opened his hand.

The curl of mane, the arc of a tail—Nikandros had given him the golden lion pin worn by the King. Theomedes had passed it on to Damen on his seventeenth birthday to mark him as heir. Damen remembered his father fixing it to his shoulder. Nikandros must have risked execution to find it, to take it and to carry it with him.

‘You are too quick to pledge yourself to me.’ He felt the hard, bright edges of the pin in his fist.

‘You are my King,’ said Nikandros.

He saw it reflected back at him in Nikandros’s eyes, as he had seen it in the eyes of the men. He felt it, in the different way Nikandros behaved towards him.

King.

The pin was his now, and soon the bannermen would come and pledge to him as King, and nothing would be the way it was before. To gain everything and lose everything in the space of a moment. That is the fate of all princes destined for the throne.

He clasped Nikandros’s shoulder, the wordless touch all he would allow himself.

‘You look like a wall tapestry.’ Nikandros plucked at Damen’s sleeve, amused by red velvet, fastenings of garnet, and small, exquisitely sewn rows of ruching. And then he went still.

‘Damen,’ said Nikandros, in a strange voice. Damen looked down. And saw.

His sleeve had slipped, revealing a cuff of heavy gold.

Nikandros tried to move back, as though burned or stung, but Damen clasped his arm, preventing the retreat. He could see it, splitting Nikandros’s brain, the unthinkable.

His heart pounding, he tried to stop it, to salvage it. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Kastor made me a slave. Laurent freed me. He gave ...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The stunning conslusion of worldwide phenomenon--from the boldly original author of Captive Prince and Prince s Gambit. His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill. On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent s armies are mobilising for war. Damen s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers. Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen s identity--can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780425273999

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The stunning conslusion of worldwide phenomenon--from the boldly original author of Captive Prince and Prince s Gambit. His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill. On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor s forces are massing. In the north, the Regent s armies are mobilising for war. Damen s only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers. Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen s identity--can it stand against the Regents final, deadly play for the throne?. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780425273999

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