Ruined (Ruined, #1)(3)
Written By: Amy Tintera
It was completely dark now, and Damian’s figure disappeared quickly, the clomping of hooves echoing through the night.
She turned back to Aren, who was pulling his collar away from his scarred neck. Aren had barely escaped the burning Ruina castle alive, and much of his upper body told the story. They also hid the story of his Ruined magic, as the fire had burned away all traces of his Ruined marks. His marks had been beautiful—white against his dark skin, the thin lines twisting together and creating spirals all over his arms and back and chest.
“Ready?” he asked quietly.
She grasped for her necklace and rubbed her thumb over the silver O. No. She’d been planning this for almost a year, but she’d never be ready.
“We should be able to make it to the Lera border by morning,” Aren said as he walked to the carriage and climbed up. He gestured behind him. “Do you want to ride in the carriage like a real Vallos princess?”
Em headed for one of the horses. “Not yet. I’ll ride a bit ahead and scout the area. I’ll get in when we approach the Lera border.” She swung one leg over the horse and settled onto the saddle. She glanced over at Aren to see her friend watching her, his head cocked to one side. “What?”
“Your mother would be proud, Em.” He bowed his head slightly at the mention of their dead queen.
“I hope so.” The words came out as a whisper. She was certain her mother would be furious that Em had allowed her younger, powerful sister to be taken by the Lera king. Em was supposed to protect Olivia, and she’d failed.
But she would make it right. She would save her sister, and kill the man who had taken her and murdered their mother.
Make people fear you, Emelina. Her mother’s words echoed in her head. Stop worrying about what you don’t have and start focusing on what you do. Make people tremble when they hear your name. Fear is your power.
Wenda Flores had never known the days when the Ruined were feared for their powers and revered as gods, but she longed for those days. She wanted nothing more than to make the humans bow down in terror.
Em lifted her head, fixing her gaze straight ahead.
No one feared Emelina Flores, the useless daughter of the most powerful queen Ruina had ever known.
But they would.
CAS LEANED BACK, barely avoiding the sword aimed for his neck as he spun away from his opponent. His foot caught on a rock and he stumbled, throwing his arms out to keep from falling on his face.
His opponent’s sword poked his chest. That was unfortunate.
“Dead.” Galo grinned as he withdrew the dull blade. “Feeling tired, Your Highness?”
Cas took a step back, running a hand through his hair. The sun beat down on them in the castle gardens, and his hair was damp with sweat. “I am a bit tired. It must be from winning the first four times.”
The guard spread his arms wide. He was still breathing heavily from the fight. “I like to lull you into a false sense of security first. Then I really start trying.”
Cas laughed, transferring his sword to his left hand to roll up the sleeves of his white shirt. His jacket lay on the ground, covered in dirt they’d kicked around while sparring. His mother wasn’t going to be pleased.
“Let’s go again,” he said, lifting his sword.
“Perhaps you should rest a moment.” Galo placed his palms on his thighs, letting his sword dangle from his fingers. He let out a long breath. “You look exhausted.”
“Yes. It’s me who looks exhausted.”
Galo straightened, glancing back at the castle. The white stone building loomed large next to them, casting a shadow across the gardens. Arched windows lined the rear of the castle, and a maid stuck her head out of one on the second floor, giving a rug a quick pound against the wall.
“Maybe we should stop.” Galo gestured at the dusty jacket on the ground. “You’re going to smell like dirt and sweat when your new bride arrives.”
Cas dropped the sword on top of his jacket, messing it up further. “She’s been traveling for days. I’m sure she’ll smell as well. We’ll be even.”
“How very considerate of you, Your Highness.”
Galo only called Cas “Your Highness” when he was making fun of him. Cas shot him a mildly amused look. Galo was two years older than him, and in his three years on the guard had become more of a friend than someone who should call him by his formal title.
“Did you hear that Olso warriors are coming to visit after the wedding?” Cas asked.
“I didn’t hear that,” Galo said, pushing a hand through his dark hair. “Why?”
“Negotiations. They have some issues with a treaty that gave Lera control of their main port after the last war. But I think my father agreed to the visit so he could show off.”
“Show off what, exactly?”
“After I’m married, Lera will control Vallos as well as Ruina.” Cas laughed. “It is impressive. He can’t stop bragging that he’s leaving me with two more kingdoms than his father left him. Of course, one of them is Ruina. That one isn’t really something to brag about.”
“Not unless you’re a fan of dead crops and gray skies.”
“I asked him if I could visit Ruina, see the mines, but . . .” Cas shrugged. “Maybe it’s still too dangerous.”