THE BANISHED PRINCE: Sneak Peek
Below is a sneak peek of The Banished Prince, a YA Fantasy Series that I'm working on set in the world of THE SIX THRONES! Let me know what you think by commenting below or sharing!
"There are two things you must know about me. First, I am afraid of the dark. And second, I have never once felt remorse for any life I've taken." Two Princes. Brothers. Twins. One was banished for an unspeakable crime. The other is soon to be crowned King.
Chapter 1 – Thal
The smell of blood hung heavy in the air. Twelve soldiers had entered the forest with dreams of glory. Only one would leave with his life. No, not soldiers—criminals. My brother had stopped sending his own men to hunt me a long time ago.
Black, smoky tendrils slid up my arms, wrapping around my neck, caressing my skin. My entire body shook and burned with restraint as darkness swarmed around me. The small amount of control I held onto threatened to slip—it would tear me apart if it did. I could barely breathe. My vision sparked. Blinking I silently pleaded with myself to hold on a little longer.
I’d kept it under control for over a hundred years—the darkness—and I’d only ever use a whisper of my abilities to avoid something like this happening. But tonight, it had awoken once again—which meant I would soon have to repay my debts. The Witch would visit me again and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The dead bodies that lay before me stained the white snow crimson. The scent of death lingered and mixed with the winter pine and damp soil. A soft breeze rustled the trees, the only sound now that the fight was over. The small dark clearing had gone still in the night—silent.
The last of the soldiers knelt before me, a young fae boy who looked no more than fifteen years old, barely a man and clad in the forest green and deep red uniform of the Royal Guard. He was the only one I’d managed to spare. The blood in my veins seethed as I kept a leash firm around the darkness trying to seek out the boy, even now. The others had not been so lucky.
“Please, Thal—my Prince,” the boy pleaded.
The darkness stirred inside me as fear dripping from his voice. “Do not beg,” I growled, my voice harsher than usual.
My body screamed for me to finish him. Begged for it. I kept my fingers wrapped tightly around the hilt of my sword as I took a step back. My gaze glanced up, to the moon barely visible through the densely packed foliage, but the small ribbon of light afforded me enough control to release a staggered breath.
My Lynx, Nyte, paced near my feet. His sharp teeth and claws dripped with blood. The driver of the carriage I’d been travelling in still hid behind it, trembling so loud I could hear his teeth chattering. If I let the darkness take full control the old man would be dead within seconds—Nyte would make sure of it.
Sensing my focus slipping, the darkness stirred inside my skull. “We want to play,” it crooned. The young boy covered his face as he felt the shift in my powers, he looked ready to bolt, but that would have been a mistake, that would have only delighted the darkness further.
“Don’t. Move.” I ordered, my body aching as if it was being ripped apart while I struggled to hold on, to remain present. The boy stilled.
Silence, I screamed at the voices, gritting my jaw so tight it ached. Sweat beaded between my shoulder blades.
A single lamp sat at my feet. The glow from the flame dim, but the dark shadows began to snake back inside me—receding from the light when I reached down and picked it up. The young boy glanced up at me through trembling fingers. His eyes widened as the light fell on my face. I didn’t need a mirror to know my eyes were black as coals.
“You know who I am?” I asked, a deadly calm sweeping through me.
The boy nodded. “Yes…yes sir.”
“And still, you felt it wise to fight me?” I tilted my head, the darkness delighting in my words. The urge for death lingered. “Did my brother not tell you what had happened to the others he’d sent after me?”
The boy’s head dropped; his gaze focused on the ground as he wrapped his arms around himself.
“You are nothing but a tool in a game you didn’t even know you were playing. You will return home, and give my brother a message, just as the other lucky few before you have, and then you will just…disappear.” I waved my hand and the tendrils of black smoke flickered, then vanished in my palm. Every dark fiber inside me swelled, and this time…it wasn’t just the darkness.
There were two truths about me no one knew. Tonight, I had faced them both.
The first truth was that I was afraid of the dark. Not a dimly lit room, or the moments before the sun disappeared and the stars took its place in the sky. I feared the all-consuming black when the darkness inside of me came alive. One hundred years in the Prison of Solus had done that to me—penance for my crimes.
My second truth was that I’d never felt remorse for any life I’d taken. Not one. Each death was for a purpose—to save my own life or those I loved—and I refused to regret any of them. I would kill as many as necessary to avoid the destiny fate tried to hand me. I bargained with a Witch to avoid what I knew was inevitable, and now it was time for fate to take my life. I deserved the title of the Banished Prince for what I’d done.
I took a deep breath, trying to steady my beating heart and force the darkness back further. “Leave me alone!” I cried. The boy shrank further down, unsure who I was speaking to.
A shrill laughter scraped in my skull. “We just want to have a little fun,” a chorus of voices, ancient and shrill, screamed in my head.
This trip was supposed to be quick. I hadn’t hesitated to leave the village when I’d found out about the two lowlifes threatening Margo and her husband—their son apparently owed some thugs money. And when I'd killed them hours ago, barely lifting a finger to do so, I hadn’t cared about either one of them.
“Just a simple job,” Margo had told me. “I’ll have a steaming bowl of stew waiting for you when you return.”
Margo hadn’t exactly lied about the job, butchering a few Fae scum was easy enough, but tracking them down in this half-broken, old carriage with Father Time at the reins had been a mistake. I was usually more prepared than this, but I’d been cocky and thought I’d be home sooner. The carriage got stuck, for the third time, and my brothers’ men who were following us had jumped at the opportunity. They hadn’t realized I’d been struggling to contain the darkness that had suddenly awoken after years of remaining silent. It had always been there, a part of me and my powers, but until now I’d managed to stay in control. The fight these men had been looking for ended quickly with their own slaughter.
I let out a breath, watching it fog in the frigid winter air. A chill ran down my spine as the darkness slid back into my body. At my feet, Nyte paused before the darkness pulled away from him too and he settled beside me.
“Tell my brother to stop sending fresh, untrained men to kill me. If he wants me dead, he can do it himself. I tire of having to clean up his mess,” I said.
The young boy nodded, not daring meet my gaze.
I moved on shaky legs, taking the lamp with me, and stalked towards the carriage where the old man hid, trembling and pale.
I slid my sword into its sheath on my back and shook out my hand. At the front of the carriage, the brown and black mare’s ears were folded back. Its eyes darted to the side as I approached, and it stomped a hoof into the mud. I took the reins and pulled; the carriage rocked free with a sucking sound as the wheel was released from the thick mud. The horse whinnied and pulled the cart the rest of the way onto solid ground.
“Let’s get on with it then,” I ordered the old man.
The young boy hadn’t moved. I opened the carriage door and Nyte hopped in. His eyes, which had been coal black like mine, were back to a sharp yellow, as I was sure mine were. The connection we both held with the darkness severed—for now. But it stirred at the sight inside, at the dim interior. It was too dark, too soon to risk, even with the lamp still clutched in my hand, so I closed the door and swung myself up onto the front seat beside the old man who was just settling in at the reins.
“Sir?” he asked, brow knitted.
“Just go,” I ordered, kicking my foot up on the edge.
The carriage rocked into motion. I leaned back and let my gaze focus on the moonlight and the lamp beside me. My heart pounded against my ribcage as if it might come out of my chest, and the edge of my vision began to blur. The darkness could come back at any moment, and there would be no stopping it. The old man beside me; the citizens not far from here who feared yet respected me; all of them would be destroyed, and there would be nothing I could do to stop it.
“We are a part of you; we can help you,” sang the darkness in my head.
My throat was so dry it was difficult to swallow. It was an effort to keep the darkness at bay until finally we neared the village of Willowmore, my home for the past hundred years. The lights flickered from streetlamps and shop windows as we approached, and I didn’t dare breathe until we were under them.
Too close. That was too close.
I thanked the Gods for the clear sky tonight, for had it been any other it would have been so much worse.
“That darkness…” the old man said, finally finding the courage to speak as we trounced through the cobblestone streets. “What was that?”
“Did you not believe the stories told about me?” I eyed the old man, his face twisted in disgust. My lip curled. “I am the Banished Prince. Now you see how I got the title, why the others are wise enough to fear me, as should you.”
The old man’s fingers tightened on the reins, and he returned his focus back to the quaint village before us. Shops lined the roads, the sound of song and cheer filtering out of open windows. Farther into the center of the village was a wide square with a fountain and the statue of a gold eagle atop it. A symbol of freedom among the lower realms. More buildings spread out past the main fountain, and that meant more lights along with it. My heart had stopped pounding, and with every second we drew closer to my home, it settled even more.
If the citizens knew, if anyone of these people knew what was hiding deep within me, they’d leave this place and never come back.
When the carriage stopped before Margo’s Bar, where the room I rented was located, I finally relaxed. I hopped down from the driver’s seat, opening the carriage door for Nyte before I tossed the old man two silver coins for his service, and a third to get the nearly broken wheel fixed. The back door entrance I took creaked as it opened, and I walked up the narrow stairs into my brightly lit room where I could finally feel safe. Safe from the dark, safe from my demons—and safe from myself.
But the Witch was coming, she would demand payment soon, and there was nothing I could do to stop her.