red sky dawning ~ chapter three

So, it’s that time again. Another chapter in my serial, Red Sky Dawning. I’ve got links if you’re just joining in now so you can get caught up. I hope you enjoy this next bit of Rylan and Aelwyn.

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Chapter Three


Though Aelwyn knew the word was meant to mock her—it didn’t seem to stop her treacherous heart from fluttering whenever the endearment left his mouth. That low, gravelly tone sending shivers along her spine. Pooling heat deep in her core until her thighs felt weakened.

Do you honestly think any man could ever want you?

His words echoed in her head, the truth settling like a fist in her stomach. No man had ever given her a second look, let alone attempted physical contact—the fact she was five years past the age of consent and still a virgin was testament to that. And she’d long ago resigned herself to a life of solitude. So why did the simple statement hurt to the point her magic flashed in tiny arcs across her skin?

Rylan’s gaze followed the flickers of gold, his brow drawing into a deep vee across his nose. He cocked his head to the side, his long hair falling across his face. He ignored the tousled strands, studying her as if there was something worth puzzling out. As if he could see beyond the mask she wore the rare times she ventured beyond her tower—the expression that dared any to mock her to her face.

Uncertainty flashed in his eyes followed by a hint of concern before both bled into the cocky warrior openly challenging her. He took a few steps forward, seemingly indifferent to the way Tarn matched his every move, the captain’s sword still at the ready. “If what you say is true, and my father has sealed my kingdom—”

“Of course, it’s true.” Aelwyn glared at the man. “I have no reason to lie…to risk everything to break wards and spells if I could merely stroll across the border.”

Her magic surged, a bright glow illuminating her skin before she reined it in, forcefully pulling it back. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to stop it from flickering along her flesh, drawn to the red hue of Rylan’s skin. She’d never felt so on edge, and the way their energy had blended—turning both into a warm orange—unnerved her. She’d heard stories of such occurrences, but they were legends better left buried in the past.

Rylan must have sensed her unrest. His magic pulsed then vanished, his hands fisting at his side as he seemed to push the power deeper inside him. He took a few slow breaths then crossed his arms, looking every inch the prince and warrior of lore. “You do realize what you’re asking of me is…treason. A crime punishable by death in my kingdom.”

She frowned, considering her response carefully. “Returning Aelrik will give both our kingdoms a chance at peace. Surely, that’s worth the risk.”

“Easy to say when you have everything to gain from this arrangement.”

She laughed at the absurdity of his statement. If he only knew the fate that awaited her. “And what is it you think I have to gain?”

He flashed her a devastating smile. “The love of your precious prince.”

“Trust me. Aelrik’s love won’t save me.” She glanced away. “Nothing can.”

“Then why give your life for him?”

“Because he’s the only one who can stop Cane from destroying every realm he can get his hands on. Cane thinks Aelrik is powerless. That will be Cane’s undoing.”

Rylan tapped a finger against his mouth. “Is that really why you’re doing all of this? To save your kingdom? Your people?”

Impatience clawed at her control, another flash of light filling the chamber. “Aelrik’s the only one who’s ever treated me as something other than a monster. For that, alone, I’d risk everything. Give anything.”

Rylan’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at Bearn and Tarn. “Including your life?”

“If that’s what it takes…”

“Then my price for helping you is just that. Once your prince has been returned, you’ll give me your life in return—to do with as I see fit. Imprisonment. Slavery…” He cocked his brow as he waved his hand, a parchment appearing above his palm, scribbled words shimmering atop the paper in an eerie red light. “Death.”

“No!” Bearn stepped forward, cupping her shoulder. “We don’t need his help that badly. We’ll find another way.”

Aelwyn grazed her fingers over his. “We need someone native to Ravendale to get through the barrier.”

“Not if we break the wards.”

Nausea rolled through her stomach. “If I break the wards—”

“Not you.” Bearn gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I understand the consequences if you perform the ritual. You can show me—”

“Death is death, Bearn. Whether by your hand or mine, the result will be the same. Besides, there’s no way even I could destroy the barrier and not have every being blessed with magic sense its demise. That much energy will be felt in all corners of this land and those beyond.”

Tarn stepped up beside her. “Aelrik will have my head if I allow you to do this. He suffered through too many punishments on your behalf to have you simply throw your life away.”

“You think I don’t know the price he’s paid in an attempt to save my honor? An honor that was never truly there. That’s why I’m doing this. If it weren’t for him, my fate would have been decided long ago.” She shook her head. “My life was forfeit the moment I broke Cane’s seal. You both know that. Returning Aelrik might save your lives. Nothing but death awaits my return, whether Aelrik lives or dies.”

“Aelrik would never allow anyone within the walls of Aldhaven Castle to harm you.” Tarn sneered at Rylan before glancing back at her. “I’m sorry, Princess. We’ll have to find another way.”

She tensed at his words, knowing her true identity would only strengthen Rylan’s resolve to have her bow to his condition.

“Princess?” Rylan’s voice held a hint of disbelief. “Aelrik is your brother?”

Tarn cursed under his breath, but she waved it off. It was only a matter of time before her identity would have been revealed.

She raised her chin, meeting Rylan’s stare. “I believe I suggested he wasn’t my lover.”

“You said he wasn’t your son.”

“And you jumped to conclusions.”

Color rose in Rylan’s cheeks, his magic sparking across his skin. “If you truly are Aern’s daughter, then why isn’t he here begging me to see the safe return of his son?”

“Because my father only listens to one voice. And it’s not mine.”

“I’m sure if you tried hard enough…”

“Trust me. Aern would rather die than listen to anything I had to say. He doesn’t see me as his daughter.”

“Then what are you?”

“A mistake he can’t undo.” She waved her hand in the air, ignoring the lingering haze of gold as her power flared again. “Enough. We’re running out of time. Every moment we spend bickering is another mile Merek’s men put between us and Aelrik. Once they cross the barrier, I won’t be able to sense him until we join him on the other side.” She took a step closer to Rylan, chin held high. She refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing her fear. “If my life is what you require to help me, then so be it. It’s yours.”

She waved at the parchment still shimmering above his head, only to gasp when he closed his fist, extinguishing the scroll before her name had been inscribed across the magical surface.

“Are you mad?” Rylan marched over to her, stopping a few scant inches from her face. “You’re a descendent to the throne. But even if you weren’t, you don’t bargain with your life.” His gaze raked the length of her. “What kind of fool agrees to sacrifice their life so readily?”

“A desperate one.” She scoffed. “It was your idea. Why suggest it if you weren’t going to accept my life as payment?”

“I didn’t expect you to say yes.” He carded his hand through his hair. “You should have countered my proposal. You are in a position to make demands.” He chuckled. “Did your tutors teach you nothing about negotiating?”

“I haven’t had any tutors. I told you. Princess is merely a term my father uses to show his benevolence to his subjects—proof that he cares for his poor child cursed by the gods. So if you think you can bargain my life for gain… You’ll have to consider another form of tribute because if you threaten to kill me my father would merely thank you for doing what he’s been unable to accomplish since the day I was born.” She bit back bitter tears, swallowing the lump rising in her throat. “If you won’t accept my life then what is your price?”

“You seem very sure I have one.”

“We all have one. You’ve seen the extent I’m willing to pay for the safe return of my brother. Surely there’s something I can give you to garner your cooperation.”

His gaze moved along her silhouette, a devilish smile capturing his lips. “As a matter of fact, there is one thing.”

She forced herself to hold his stare. “Name it.”


She gawked at him. “But…you just said you wouldn’t accept my life as compensation.”

He moved to her left as he raised his hand, drawing a single finger across her shoulder then down her arm. “Not your life, sweetness. You.”

Shivers followed his touch, goose bumps cascading along her flesh. Her breath hitched, her heart slamming hard against her ribs as he slowly walked around her, his finger never quite leaving her body.

She moistened her lips, wondering when the chamber had gotten so warm. “I…I don’t understand. How can you want me, but not my life?”

His breath feathered across her neck as his mouth brushed the shell of her ear. “Oh, I think you know.”

Tarn grabbed Rylan’s arm as the man stopped in front of her again, giving the prince a shove backwards. “Princess Aelwyn is not a camp whore for the taking. Show some respect.”

Rylan merely arched a brow. “I chose to spare her life. This seems like a satisfactory compromise.” He grinned at her. “You warm my bed for the duration of this quest, and I’ll see that your brother is returned to your dismal kingdom.”

Tarn took a step forward, his hand palmed on Rylan’s chest. “You’re nothing but a vile maggot—”

“Tarn.” Aelwyn snagged his arm. She motioned to her side.

“Princess…” His words died, a disgruntled huff echoing off the walls as he removed his hand, stepping back to her side.

She smiled her thanks, focusing on Rylan again. “I don’t understand. Didn’t you just question how any man could find me wanting?”

Rylan shrugged. “Chances are we’ll die long before we make it to the border of Ravendale. And after a century of being held inside this tomb, I intend to make the most of my last days.”

“Even if the woman is me?”

“You’re not like other women, I’ll grant you that.” He laughed. “You wear men’s breeches and look as if a strong breeze could blow you over, but…I’m not exactly in the position to be picky, am I?” His expression sobered. “Is there a problem? Do you lack the necessary parts to uphold your end of the bargain?”

Tarn brandished his sword. “Curb your tongue, or I’ll cut it out.”

“It’s all right, Tarn. How can I expect civility when my father sat upon his throne and allowed Cane to imprison Roan’s son?”

Tarn glanced at her. “You’re nothing like your father.”

“Yet, until a short time ago, you believed I was the evil that lurked within the castle walls.”

His jaw clenched, a weary sigh rasping free. “Aye. I did. The mistake of a foolish man who couldn’t see beyond the lies he’d been told. The fears of stories and legends. I promise you—I won’t be a fool again.”

She gave his shoulder a pat, doing her best not to flinch. Touching wasn’t an act she was accustomed to. “Change takes time.” She met Rylan’s amused gaze. “Fine. If my body is what it will take to get my brother back, then it’s yours. But make no mistake. This agreement is binding in both directions. Dishonor your end, and your life will be the one that’s forfeit.”

She motioned to his hand, her heart thrashing so fast she felt certain it would beat clear through her chest. Rylan narrowed his eyes, once again studying her before snapping his fingers—another parchment appearing above his palm. She stared at it, noting the wording inscribed on the paper—she’d give herself willingly in exchange for his…temporary allegiance.

A shiver trembled down her spine as she waved her hand, brandishing her mark upon the magical scroll. His appeared next before the paper spun inward, winking out in a flash of red light. A lump surfaced in her throat, this time refusing to be banished. She’d never so much as touched a man, and now…

She shoved aside her fears. She’d known breaking the wards and resurrecting the son of her father’s enemy would have consequences. None of which mattered if they didn’t escape the castle grounds unharmed. She drew a deep breath, ignoring the hint of male musk that seemed determined to weave through her senses. She was obviously more fatigued than she’d anticipated.

She turned to Tarn. “Cane is bound to be watching the main gate if he doesn’t have a legion of men waiting for us outside the passageway.”

“I have men loyal to me. I can get you both out.”

“While I have no doubts that you could, we can’t risk anyone recognizing Rylan for who and what he is.”

Rylan laughed. “And what’s that? A prisoner? A pawn?”

Tarn sneered at him, stepping forward until they were only a breath apart. “Try murderer. Butcher. Mad man.”

Aelwyn separated them when Rylan’s magic flared. “Tarn. You’re not helping.”

Tarn glared over her shoulder. “Have you forgotten the stories of his last battle? He massacred an entire battlement of men.”

“Your army struck first.” Rylan pressed against her back. “Killed women and children as they tried to flee the homes your soldiers set ablaze.”

“It matters not. That battle is long since over.” Aelwyn released her magic outwards, shoving both men back. “But Tarn’s right about one thing. No one has forgotten that day. It’s why your father erected that barrier in the first place. He knew there’d be retaliation for the grievous loss. And with his greatest weapon seemingly lost…” She sighed, turning to face Rylan. “Your identity must be kept secret until Aelrik has been returned and Cane’s lies have been exposed. Only then can you claim your rightful place in Ravendale and perhaps find a way to thwart more bloodshed.”

She waited until Rylan gave her a curt nod before spinning. “Rylan and I will escape through the north forest. I can alter the enchantment protecting one of the gates long enough for us to slip through without Cane being the wiser. You and Bearn can meet us at the foothills on the edge of the village. We’ll have to stay clear of the roads until we’re far enough away we won’t be easily recognized. Agreed?”

Tarn motioned to Rylan. “You trust him not to simply kill you?”

“I’ve channeled his magic.”

“He doesn’t need his magic to slay you, Aelwyn. You’re half his size. He could snap your neck as if it were kindling.”

She glanced at the man in question before giving Tarn a small smile. “I’ll be fine. We’ll wait until the moon has risen above the distant hills. If you’re not there by then—we’ll have to leave.”

Tarn slapped his fist across his heart. “You have my word, Princess. Until Aelrik is safely returned, no harm will befall you as long as I breathe.”

“Or I.” Bearn stepped up beside the captain.

She bowed her head, unsure how to reply. She’d never had anyone pledge allegiance to her, even if it was in order to save her brother. “You must both avoid Cane above all else.”

Tarn nodded. “We’ll stick to the ramparts. Avoid the keep. Cane won’t realize we’re missing until daybreak. But once he does…”

“He’ll send a legion of men after us. And alert every outpost between here and Ravendale.” Aelwyn sighed. “Are you certain—”

“We’re coming with you.” Tarn motioned to the doorway. “After you, Princess.”

She glanced at Rylan, more than aware he’d spent the time studying all three of them. His attempt to acquire Tarn’s sword had both impressed and unnerved her. She was acutely familiar with the stories of his power—his skill as a warrior—having read every tome every written by Aldhaven’s historians on the never-ending feud between the two kingdoms. But nothing compared to being in his presence. Feeling his magic strum through the air like a massive dragon taking a breath. Even several feet away she could sense the heat radiating off his skin as he strove to keep the energy buried. Controlled.

Rylan reminded her a bit of her brother. Determined. Confident. Quick to react. But there was something about the man—a sense of honor she hadn’t expected. She wasn’t sure why he’d changed his mind and chosen not to accept her life as payment. He had every reason to make her family suffer the way her father had made Roan. Deciding to bed her instead…

She frowned. Perhaps he thought deflowering her would result in humiliation. In being shunned from any chance at betrothal—at a life expected by those of royal blood. That lying with the enemy would forever label her as a traitor. Not that any of that mattered. She had no future beyond Aelrik’s return. Sleeping with the heir of Ravendale would bear no marker on that.

Aelwyn moved to the door, taking a deep breath as she eased it open, scanning the corridor. Her barrier still blocked the passageway, the golden threads easing some of the tension in her shoulders. At least there wasn’t a legion of soldiers standing beyond it, ready to wage war. After all she’d endured just breaking the wards—healing Rylan as best she could—she wasn’t certain she could have weathered the strain of hurting any of her father’s men, even in self-defense.

Her magic prickled along her skin as she stopped at the edge of the ward, waiting until all three men were in the tunnel behind her before placing her hand on the surface. The woven wall flared to life, filling the corridor with warm, golden light as it unraveled, each strand shimmering then winking out, leaving a crackle of static in the air.

She darted forward, checking for soldiers before slipping into the night, drawing a deep breath of cool, fresh air. Stars dotted the sky, the hint of moonlight shining off to the east.

Tarn stopped beside her, glancing at the open passageway. “It might be worth the risk to seal the corridor—buy us more time before Cane can confirm we’ve freed his prisoner.”

She nodded. “Cane will know I closed it, but…Bearn. Can you shield some of my energy? Cane might not question a surge of your magic.”

The older man laughed. “Nothing can shield the power you wield, but I’ll do what I can.”

Aelwyn looked at Rylan. “You’d best be on this side of Bearn’s ward.”

The Ravendale Prince merely stepped a few feet closer, looking as if he’d just as soon attack them as help. She shook her head, placing her palms on the rock, focusing her power into the stone—hoping to prevent it from spilling over into the air. The sides of the entrance shook, a loud screech thrumming around them as the structure shimmied then slammed together, effectively closing the tunnel.

“Dark hells.” Rylan shuffled over to her. “You can manipulate earth and air? How is that possible?”

She glanced at Bearn, sighing when he gave her a hardened look. “We need to leave before Cane sends some of his apprentices to investigate the disturbance.”

Rylan stood his ground. “What are you?”

She stared at him, noting the hint of concern in his eyes. “The price of your freedom.” She motioned to Bearn and Tarn. “If it’s too dangerous for you to meet us…”

Tarn chuckled. “We’ll be waiting for you, Aelwyn. Don’t be late.”

She gave the men a smile, watching them dart into the shadows near the inner walls of the keep before nudging Rylan. “The north forest is this way.”

He fell in behind her, his presence somewhat unnerving. For a large man, he moved remarkably silently, his steps hushed against the smattering of grass and dirt.

She paused at the mouth of a small pathway, glancing around before nodding at the winding trail. “This will take us to the outer walls of the castle grounds. There are a number of gates, each protected by wards. We’ll use the one farthest from the castle.”

She let her gaze drift the length of him. He was handsome, in a brutal way, his body more massive than any man she’d ever encountered. Bulging muscles flexed as he moved in closer, his shoulders obscuring the glow of the moon as it slivered above the horizon. Her magic warmed her skin, surging forth as if drawn to the slight red hue of his flesh.

His hands cupped her waist as he leaned in, his mouth brushing along her jaw. “Are you sure it was wise to send away your keepers? Tarn is right. You’re half my size.” He exhaled, the caress of air making her breath hitch. “And we both know you’d never call for help.”

She pursed her lips, confused by the shiver of excitement as the sound of his voice trembled through her. His fingers tightened slightly, slipping down to cup her hips.

Aelwyn swallowed, coughing at the dry rasp to her throat. “I’m not afraid of you.”

His mouth quirked into a smile against her cheek. “You should be.”

“I already offered you my life. If you simply wanted me dead, you’d have accepted.”

“For your sake, I hope you’re right.” He eased back. “It’d be wise if you showed more caution where your enemies are concerned…Princess.”

The glow on her skin increased. “And you’d be wise to remember I’m far from helpless.” She motioned to the pathway. “Are you coming, Rylan, or do you think you’ll fair better against my father’s regiment? Not to mention Cane and his men.”

Rylan grinned, slowly releasing her. “Lead the way…Aelwyn.”


And that’s all for this chapter. Please jump over to Jessica Jarman’s blog if you haven’t already and read the next installment of her amazing book, YOUR LIES. Just click on the banner below.

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2 Replies to “red sky dawning ~ chapter three”

  1. Love the characters and can’t wait for the next chapter. Wishing that one day you will publish this story!!

    1. Not that it was ever a secret but it will, indeed, be a published novel once it’s done. Mostly because I love this story too much and I know reading it a chapter at a time, twice a month isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But until then, it’s free.

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