An excerpt from Chapter One of Highland Sacrifice mass ii inwards the Highland Wars series…
IN less than a week, over 1 hundred warriors vying for the titles of Prince in addition to Princess of Sìtheil were dead.
In less than ii weeks, Ceana MacRae had gone from beingness the sis to a laird, to a mourning sister, laird herself in addition to straightaway princess of the realm.
In less than a day, she would last known every bit either a potential expert ruler or a weak one.
An enormous amount of modify inwards such brusk time. She’d non yet larn accustomed to whatever of it. The exclusively steady, enterprise pillar she had was the homo standing beside her, in addition to fifty-fifty he was new. She glanced at him from the side, taking inwards the strong, foursquare cutting of his jaw, the crispness of his shirt in addition to the pleat of his plaid. His black pilus curled at the base of operations of his neck, the ends all the same damp from bathing. He was impressive, handsome in addition to exclusively she knew that within the hulking muscles in addition to trigger-happy warrior was a homo alongside a heart.
Macrath’s black blueish gaze flicked to hers, confidence inwards their depths.
They entered the keen hall through the little stair that led specifically upward to the principal chambers on the flooring above. The carved double doors to the mighty hall were non yet opened to those outside. Two guards stood, weapons inwards mitt earlier their wood-and-iron height.
Soon the hall would last filled alongside the people of Sìtheil who’d come upward to pay their respects, their taxes in addition to to identify their grievances alongside the novel leaders. Ceana had never sat inwards for the entire gathering when her blood brother or her manful mortal parent held court, but long plenty that she had an sentiment of what went on.
Seated on the dais inwards a long row were the 5 ruling council members—Lady Beatrice in addition to her 4 manful mortal counterparts. They were dressed inwards their finest in addition to studied Ceana in addition to Macrath every bit they entered the keen hall, taking inwards every infinitesimal item from their heads downwards to their toes.
She hated them all. If she’d the ability of the gods, she’d smasher them where they sat in addition to lookout every bit flames licked at their flesh.
A shudder passed through her. Rare was it that she sentiment then violently, but when it came to these five, at that topographic point was no boundary to the malice Ceana was capable of concocting. After what they’d lay her in addition to hundreds of others through, she was sure enough she could never human face at whatever of them without wishing them a violent end. They were non the offset of the violet council members, but they’d been for many years in addition to meted out atrocity after atrocity to the people of Sìtheil in addition to those who came to struggle for their identify to rule.
Beatrice caught her eye, in addition to at that topographic point was a flicker of something disturbing inwards their black depths. This adult woman held many secrets, knew things almost Ceana’s past times that she did non part alongside her. Information regarding Ceana’s mother. One day, when she in addition to Macrath had established their ability in addition to had the backing of an army, she’d take away maintain Beatrice inwards mitt in addition to need the information.
That twenty-four hours would last real soon.
Ceana in addition to Macrath ascended to the dais in addition to stood earlier the ii throne chairs inwards the center, only inwards front end of the council. She would take away maintain to suffer their unopen proximity for the whole of the day, every bit that was how long they expected the courtroom proceedings to take.
Three clerks sat to the side of the raised dais, behind a table. They would collect taxes in addition to tape who had paid in addition to what it was they’d given.
Lady Beatrice rose in addition to waved to the guards, who stood earlier the closed doors of the keen hall. One guard withdrew from within his shirt a large Fe substitution on a chain that hung some his neck. He nodded to his counterpart in addition to they unlocked the doors.
Why was it the keen hall had to last locked from the inside?
During the games this had non been the case. Was it because the people of Sìtheil could non last trusted? What precisely had they inherited from the previous rulers?
In the quiet of the hall, the click of the lock echoed ominously.
The doors were pulled slow opened upward past times the guards, the hinges wrenching loudly. Every audio seemed to reflect off the rafters, exacerbating the noises. Ceana’s hands were cold, in addition to she was sure enough her confront was pale, but she kept her shoulders straight, refusing to present whatever sign of weakness.
At to the lowest degree she had no require to worry over the guard who’d been bent on abusing her during the games. The 2nd they’d been crowned, Macrath had seen to it that the homo would never return.
“Bid them enter,” Lady Beatrice said, her vocalisation strong.
Moments later, a describe of piece of occupation of people began filing into the hall. Men, women, children. Most of them looked ravaged in addition to ill-used. The sight of them broke Ceana’s heart. Their clothes were threadbare, in addition to alongside wintertime exclusively weeks away, they had to take away maintain been frozen outside. In fact, several children’s teeth chattered, their tiny lips blue.
Dirt in addition to bruises marred much of their flesh.
These people were non good cared for.
“Serfs,” Macrath mouthed to her.
Ceana nodded. How was it she’d non been aware that at that topographic point were serfs? At home, they’d never had anyone leap to the nation for their lifetime. They worked together every bit a clan, a family.
But that must last the divergence betwixt a clan that ruled themselves in addition to a clan that was ruled past times a vicious violet council. Her pharynx tightened alongside emotion, in addition to she gestured to a waiting retainer for a loving cup of wine. At to the lowest degree these people would non last serfs whatever longer. They would set them free.
The describe of piece of occupation stopped almost 15 paces from the dais, in addition to the guards shouted a alert for all those exterior to cease their process.
“This is the offset violet courtroom of the Prince in addition to Princess of Sìtheil. Until now, we’ve non had a violet topographic point within this castle, nor 1 every bit your direct overlord. Bow to your prince in addition to princess,” Lady Beatrice said.
Those inwards describe of piece of occupation rapidly got to their knees, their heads bowed.
“Give them your loyalty in addition to thou volition non last punished for insolence,” said Beatrice.
The people trembled in addition to nodded. None of them would brand oculus contact. They were terrified. That didn’t sit down good alongside Ceana. She didn’t desire to last that form of leader. Clans were similar family. They looked out for each other. If the bulk of the people were afraid to fifty-fifty human face her way, what form of a identify unit of measurement could they be?
Ceana straightened her spine in addition to handed the vino dorsum to the waiting servant. Beside her, she noticed that Macrath, too, had stiffened.
“Before the proceedings begin,” Macrath cutting Beatrice off in addition to Ceana had to press her lips difficult together non to smile. The councilwoman had already overstepped her bounds, an obvious essay at showing her power. “The princess in addition to I would similar to denote that you lot are all free. We take away maintain banished serfdom from Sìtheil. If you lot owe a debt you lot wishing to repay, nosotros volition award it. If you lot wishing to supply to your homeland, nosotros volition award it. If you lot wishing to stay, nosotros welcome you lot alongside opened upward arms.”
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