Red (The True Reign Series)

By: Jennifer Anne Davis

(The True Reign Series, Book 2)





Mako

Revenge was so close that Mako could almost taste it. He would make Barjon pay for murdering his family and destroying Greenwood Island. However, Princess Amer was the key to everything and, right now, she stood on the gallows with a noose cinched around her neck.

Mako shifted in the tall, thick tree, his green and black tunic camouflaging his entire body. He remained perched among the leaves and branches fifty yards away from the gallows. There were only a few trees on the grounds, and he felt exposed. He would have preferred to be on the wall surrounding the castle, but had been unable to infiltrate the guards. He needed to be elevated to make the shot, and the trees were the next best thing. His legs ached from standing in the tree all night, but he didn’t dare stretch for fear of catching someone’s attention.

A soldier began tapping a single beat on a drum, the haunting sound echoing throughout the courtyard. Hundreds of people were crammed together in front of the gallows to watch Amer’s execution. On the castle’s balcony, Barjon was sitting on a royal-blue, high-backed chair. The curtain behind Barjon shifted, and Lennek strolled out and leaned against the railing. He smiled down at Amer with a smug expression on his face.

Mako’s hands itched to squeeze Lennek’s throat until the life drained out of him. He forced his temper in check. It was only a matter of time before Barjon and his sons would get what they deserved.

The clouds were growing thick and heavy as a storm moved in. Mako glanced back down at Amer. Her body shook from fear. He couldn’t believe how much she looked like her mother—the same blonde hair, blue eyes, and bone structure. Seventeen years ago, Mako swore to Queen Kayln that he would protect the princess, and he intended to keep that promise. Rage built inside of him. He had to stifle the memories of everything that transpired on that horrific day. He would not allow Amer to meet the same fate as her mother or his wife and baby daughter.

Scanning the courtyard, Mako searched for Darmik and immediately found him sitting atop a black horse surrounded by soldiers. Darmik had been tracking some of Mako’s men—had even fought and killed a few, so he had to assume Darmik was prepared for a rescue attempt. Yet, there weren’t as many soldiers positioned in the courtyard as he expected. Mako had a few of his own men down among the crowd, ready to move the people when necessary.

The drum beat wavered and ceased. An eerie silence descended over the courtyard. Mako steadied the longbow, sweat dripping down his forehead. Pulling back the stiff string, he nocked an arrow and waited for Lennek to give the command, signaling the execution. Timing was crucial.

The longbow had a heavy draw weight. Mako couldn’t hold the position much longer. He focused on Lennek, watching his body. Two of Mako’s men were hidden in other trees, each armed with a longbow. Jantek was twenty-five feet to the right, Donok thirty feet to the left. The plan was for Mako to take the first shot, Jantek to take the next immediately after, followed by Donok a second later. Mako would take a fourth shot if necessary.

Lennek raised his right arm and shouted, “Now!”

Mako forced himself to wait a fraction of a second before releasing the arrow. The rope around Amer couldn’t be too slack. The rope’s width, the time it would take for the arrow to travel to the target, and the wind speed were minute details that meant the difference between life and death.

He released the arrow. It was a beautiful shot, but he had no time to admire its delicate arch through the air.

Amer began to fall. Mako nocked another arrow.

His first arrow struck the rope, slicing it, but not all the way through. Jantek’s arrow sailed through the air and pierced it again; Donok’s arrow hit the rope right behind Jantek’s. Amer’s weight pulled the rope—it was about to go taunt, breaking her neck. Mako had already released a second arrow.

The rope severed.

Instead of Amer’s body dangling, she fell through the narrow opening, smacking her head against the wooden platform with a loud thump. She landed on the ground beneath the gallows, not moving. People in the courtyard screamed, thinking they were under attack. In the midst of the confusion, two of Mako’s men, dressed in stolen army uniforms, ran under the gallows and grabbed Amer.





Rema

Rema wanted the last thing she saw to be of something beautiful. Scanning the crowd of unfamiliar faces, she spotted Darmik dressed in his commander’s uniform off to the side of the courtyard atop Nightsky. He must not have ever loved her—their entire relationship had to have been some sort of game. Hurt and betrayal raged inside of her. Not wanting to die like this, Rema focused on his horse—the only connection to her home in this dreadful place. As if sensing her, Nightsky’s head turned toward Rema. She stared into his dark, knowledgeable eyes. Tears blurred her vision, but she couldn’t look away. Images of Uncle Kar and Aunt Maya filled her with a sense of peace.

Lennek yelled, “Now,” his voice echoing in the courtyard.

The floor beneath her feet moaned as it opened. There were several odd “whooshes” by Rema’s ear.

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