Throne of deceit, p.1

Throne of Deceit, page 1

 part  #1 of  The Wicked Crown Series

 

Throne of Deceit
 


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Throne of Deceit


  Throne of Deceit

  The Wicked Crown Book One

  K.N. Lee

  Patchwork Press

  Copyright © 2018 by K.N. Lee

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

  For my darling soul sisters

  The Soul selects her own Society — Then — shuts the Door — To her divine Majority — Present no more —

  Emily Dickenson

  Contents

  World of Titania

  Prologue

  Part I

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Part II

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  An Exclusive Look at Waking the Dark

  An Exclusive Look at Awakened

  An Exclusive Look at Daughter of the Sea

  Did you find the Golden Egg?

  About the Author

  Also by K.N. Lee

  World of Titania

  Giran Empire

  Human Territory

  Hempstead

  Evyn’s Gate

  Kura

  Perth (Capital City)

  Larkath

  Myristown

  Arundell

  Human Territory

  Cape Run

  Tidelands

  Dyon

  Jin-Ah

  The Vale

  Elf territory

  Saldoria

  Athenia

  Halsford

  Brittonia

  Obscura

  Dark fairy territory

  Darth

  Mirrow

  Ines

  Port Midnight

  Solaris

  Ashen wasteland. Former land of the light fairies

  Prologue

  There was only darkness where he dwelled—darkness and the heavy groans of agony and despair.

  To be Master of the Dead was a heavy title to hold, but Drefen wore it proudly, like a crown.

  The world flourished and grew each century, but in the end, it always sent him fresh souls as a gift.

  From his throne of stone and embers, he sat and watched as the air before him wavered and crackled.

  Ocura Nevah walked into the cavern, strolling through the flickering image of the mortal world that played out before him.

  Dressed in all black, her gown clung to every ivory curve of her feminine frame. Long, red hair reached her waist, and midnight-blue eyes looked to him from under thick lashes.

  She was his mistress of death, but had the power to walk in the land of the living, the dead, and the spirit realm.

  Such a gift was unfair, but Drefen was patient. He’d planned his shift into the world of his children since the beginning of time. Mortals were all his. No matter what they did, the end was the same.

  “Master Drefen,” she called, stopping and holding out her arms. “I bring you great news.”

  Lifting a brow, he watched her, waiting.

  She cleared her throat, and tilted her head upward. “Great progress has been made in Giran. I have summoned the great wizards. Many have answered my call, and have sworn their allegiance to your cause.”

  “Ah,” he said, rolling his eyes as he leaned back in his throne. “I care nothing of wizards. They are of no use to me in life. But, in death, perhaps we can work together.”

  She nodded. “Of course,” she said, her voice lowering to a purr. “You didn’t let me finish.”

  With a grunt, he ushered her on, and took a sip from his goblet.

  “They are gathering mages from all over the realm, and in an act of sacrifice, they will offer their souls to you in exchange for dominion over the spirit world.”

  That changed things. He sat up and leaned forward, eyes narrowed. “It can’t truly be that simple.” Just imagining the power that many wizards could give him made his mouth salivate. He could stand amongst the mortals within no time.

  A grin came to her lips, and she revealed pristine, white teeth. “But, it is. Our ally is King Caden, the greatest wizard the realm has seen in centuries. He offers the souls of hundreds of mages to bring you power.”

  “And, what does he want in exchange for such gifts?”

  “Immortality.”

  There was silence.

  “I see,” he said. Immortality was something he would never give willingly. Death fueled him, and to even lose out on one soul made his thick, white brow twitch.

  “Master? What say you?”

  He looked to his left and saw only darkness. He looked to his right and saw light. In the light there was a shadowy figure, a constant reminder that he was a prisoner here just as much as the lost souls that called out to him for mercy.

  “I’ll give him what he wants.”

  “Brilliant,” she said, and with a flourish of her hands, she morphed and transformed into a black crow.

  Drefen stood, and watched as she flew upward through the cavern, and vanished into the dark.

  “So,” he said, talking to the shadowy figure who stepped backward, and away. “It truly begins.”

  Part I

  Chapter One

  BOOK #2 of the FANTASTIC GOLDEN EGG HUNT. Will you find the egg?

  The sound of hooves thundering down the main road rang in Elise’s ears.

  She jumped up from her spot on the ground. A summer breeze wafted through, sweeping ebony hair around her face as she peered downward.

  Sure enough, it was an armored messenger, astride a horse, with a red banner in his hand.

  Elise raced through the garden to the road at the end of the grounds of Devynshire Castle.

  Bright sunlight cascaded through the trees, highlighting every ebony wave as she bounded down the grassy, poppy-littered hill.

  “Elise,” Lady Devyn, shouted after her, shielding her eyes from her spot on the blanket sprawled across the grass. “Where are you going?”

  “The messenger!” Elise shouted to her mother. “He’s here.”

  As she glanced over her shoulder, she caught a glimpse of her mother’s smirk, as she waved her on.

  At eighteen, this would be her last year of seclusion from the world.

  Today, she just wanted to be a young lady, fuss over what elaborate gown she would wear, and try her charms on handsome suitors from all over the realm.

  Despite the fact that several eligible young men would be in attendance, her sights were set on only one—one very special prince.

  Practically giddy, she grinned to herself. To think, she might have her choice of husband in just a few short days.

  A giggle escaped her lips as she skidded to a stop, right before the messenger who leaped from his horse and gave her a bow with his head.

  “Good day, Harry,” Elise said with a slight curtsy.

  Harry cleared his throat. “Good day to you, my lady.”

  “Do you have something for me?” Elise’s eyes peered at his brown satchel, hoping to catch a letter or parcel with the crest of the kingdom of Arundell on it.

  “Hmmm,” Harry said, rummaging through his bag. “I don’t believe I saw anything for you today.”

  Shoulders slumping, Elise sucked her teeth. “Nonsense. You wo
uldn’t be here without a message,” she said, leaving the plush grass, to stand on the hard-packed dirt road that led through the forest and to town.

  “Aye, I have a message for your mother,” he said.

  “It can’t be!” Forgetting decorum, she stood right before Harry and dug her hands into the bag.

  Instead of scolding her, he chuckled. “All right! All right,” he said and pulled a cream-colored envelope with the Arundell seal of a golden lion.

  “You scoundrel!”

  Elise took the envelope, a smile spreading from ear-to-ear. He handed her another letter, and with a giggle, she ran back toward the castle.

  “You’re welcome,” Harry shouted after her with a laugh.

  Looking over her shoulder, Elise shouted back. “Thank you!” She gathered her skirts in her hand and quickened her speed.

  Smiling, her mother sat on her knees and ushered her back to their picnic.

  “What is it, dear?”

  Elise grinned, plopping back down onto their blanket and handing her mother the letters. One from Arundell, and another from the palace in Perth.

  She picked up Princess Polly, her pet pig, and held her in her arms as she watcher her mother open the letters.

  Her grandmother, Inora emerged from the castle to join their picnic.

  “Morning, Grandmama,” Elise said, and she nodded to her.

  “Good morning,” she said. “What is all of the fuss about?”

  Inora stood, towering over them, her hands clasped before her gray gown.

  Her auburn hair was worn in a bun with a black veil secured to it.

  “Just the best news ever,” Elise said as her mother held the seal up for Inora to see.

  “Prince Tolwin will be in attendance,” she said, and gave Elise a wink.

  Inora eyed the letter and nodded, though her mouth remained in a single line. “Is this what you truly want? A match with Prince Tolwin?”

  “What kind of question is that?” Elise asked. “Of course, I do. He’d be a perfect match.”

  “She is the king’s only daughter,” Mother said, lowering the letter. “It could unite the kingdoms.”

  Inora snorted, and lowered herself to sit with them. “That would be true if King Caden was a rational man, Seyena. Alas, he is not, and chances are that he will keep Elise imprisoned in this place until her death.”

  Shoulders slumping, Elise and her mother shared a look of worry. She’d only ever heard stories of her father. How when he came to see her as a baby, he didn’t hug, kiss, or hold her. It was said that he looked at Elise as if she were a monster. Perhaps that was why he kept her prisoner in her home.

  “Let’s pray that isn’t true,” Seyena said.

  “Didn’t Prince Tolwin just run off to fight in the Tidelands?” Inora asked.

  “What does that matter? It is the duty of a prince to act in service for his kingdom,” Elise pointed out as she kissed Princess Polly’s snout. She fed the pig a strawberry, and then popped one into her own mouth.

  “It is also the duty of a prince to marry whomever his father chooses. Do you think he would choose a bastard for his son?”

  That stung. All traces of a smile faded from Elise’s face. She stood, and frowned down at her grandmother.

  “Thank you,” she said, taking the letter, as tears stung the backs of her eyes. “For reminding me what I am; a bastard—someone not worth loving.”

  She turned to head toward the forest where her favorite place of solitude awaited. The Crystal River ran through the Hempstead countryside and all the way to Perth. It was the only place she felt safe, or at home, despite the stone walls that made up the castle she’d been forced to live in since she was born.

  “Elise,” Inora called after her. “That is not what I am reminding you of, dear. It couldn’t be further from the truth. You are loved, and you are more than a bastard. More than anything you have ever dreamed. When you see that, you will know the truth of your fate.”

  Ignoring her, Elise trudged away from the castle and to the grove where the falls frothed and pooled and glistened beneath what trails of sunlight shone through the ancient trees.

  Didn’t Inora understand that marriage was the only way she’d be free to truly live? She had to know that Elise craved a life of her own.

  Her father would never let her leave Devynshire Castle, unless it was by being bound to a man of great standing—one he could use as an ally. Of course, that wasn’t all she wanted out of life. But, Tolwin was the best option. He hadn’t been promised to any of the other eligible princesses in the realm, or anyone of great standing.

  She was the natural choice.

  Dark stones lined the river, and piled onto one another just before the white falls. She sat on the cool rocks with a sigh and kissed Princess Polly on the top of her fuzzy spotted, pink head. She brushed her hair back over her shoulder, and opened the letter.

  Just the fact that the prince agreed to come to her coming-out ball was a sign that things might be changing.

  Princess Polly snorted and Elise smiled down at her despite the tears on her cheeks.

  She brought the letter to her nose and sniffed the parchment, hoping for a brief whiff of his scent. There wasn’t any. His father had probably signed the letter.

  Once she read it through, she placed it onto the water and watched it float down the river.

  She rested her cheek on her bare knees and followed it as it curved and vanished around the bend.

  The sound of the forest sang to her, and as she hugged Princess Polly close to her chest, she prayed for an escape from her life in exile.

  Chapter Two

  The warmth of summer, and crisp air of fall rolled away as winter arrived.

  Soon, her coming out ball would arrive, and all would change. But, as her ball was important day, the winter solstice was of even greater importance, and brought excitement and promise to Elise’s world.

  While Princess Polly napped on a rug at her feet, Elise scrutinized her reflection in the faded mirror set on an iron frame.

  “When will my bosom fill out?” She stared at the small mounds that made up her breasts, and frowned.

  Mera grinned, and pulled her corset tighter.

  The boned fabric constricted her ribs and stomach until it was as tiny as possible. While she held her breath, Mera fastened the tiny buttons and tied the strings at her back.

  “Who needs a full bosom when they have a face as lovely as yours, my lady? You’re like a dream. No man will dare take his eyes off of yours.”

  Her mouth twisted as she turned to the side and placed her hands on her hips. She longed for full breasts like her mother’s, and curvaceous hips. As it stood, she was all angles with a slim frame, and flat belly.

  “At least your bottom is ample,” Mera added, giving her rear a slap.

  Elise gasped and spun around on her. Her shock faded as she gazed upon her ladies maid’s cheeky grin.

  They both burst into laughter.

  “You’re wicked,” she said, and giggled as she helped her put on her outer dress over her petticoats, and secured her sleeves.

  “Aye, my lady. That I am. Wicked and a bit ridiculous at times.”

  “You’re far from ridiculous,” Elise said. “You make me laugh.”

  “I am good at that,” she said, proudly.

  “I hate that you can’t join us for the winter solstice,” she said.

  Mera paused and wrapped an arm around her. She’d been her maid since she was a little girl, and though only seven years older, she was like a sister. “Aye, but you will be with your mother, and she will care for you.”

  It was true, and excitement did keep her from feeling too guilty for going to the city without her best friend in the world.

  She turned and gave Mera a kiss on the cheek. She was a pretty woman, with freckled olive-toned skin, and almond-shaped eyes the color of honey.

  “You will just have to tell me all about your trip when you return.”

&nbs
p; “I will,” Elise said, placing her hands on Mera’s shoulders. “I promise.”

  “Maybe you’ll catch the eye of a handsome lord,” she said, placing her hands on her hips as she stood back and looked her over.

  “That will do me no good. It just isn’t the way things are done.”

  “It’s how things are done where I come from,” she said, with a smirk.

  “Ah, I would love to see Evyn’s Gate one day.”

  “You will, young miss. I can see you strolling the city with your piglet in a basket and the wind in your hair.”

  She looked toward the open window, and closed her eyes as she felt for a breeze.

  It didn’t come, but she became aware of the chill in the air.

  “That would be lovely,” she said, softly.

  “I’ll fetch your gloves, and slippers. They’ve been drying by the fire.”

  Elise nodded, a bit embarrassed that she’d soiled them earlier that morning.

  “And, when I return, maybe I’ll tell you what I heard in town this morning.”

  Elise glanced over her shoulder, her curiosity thoroughly sparked. “Tell me now. I command it.”

  A laugh escaped Mera’s lips, and she shook her head. “My thoughts and secrets are my own, my lady. You can’t command them out of me.”

  Elise pouted.

  With a wink, Mera backed out of the room carrying a wicker basket of scraps of fabric. “Alas, I’ll give it up in exchange for your stories of the winter solstice festivities. So, don’t leave out any details.”

 
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