Warrior's Prisoner by Lietha Wards - Read Online
Warrior's Prisoner
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In a time before written records were kept, on a world similar to ours, there were four kingdoms in a land with two suns. Eons of fueding and warfare had made some disciplined and others bitter.
One kingdom, the Gierrer, were centered amid three others and natural selection made them strong and large able to defend their lands and people from the Esbiorn to the north.
Princess Runa of the Esbiorn had heard horror stories of the Gierrer and when her father gave her hand in unity to another warring kingdom the only way to her intended was through the Gierrer lands, her father's brutal enemy.
They were captured and and she caught the interest of the largest fiercest man she'd ever seen. To save her sister and her mother she pledged loyalty.
Her life started to unravel and she discovered that not everything was as it seemed.

note; sexual content and some graphic scenes

Published: Lietha Wards on
ISBN: 9781476274690
List price: $3.69
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Warrior's Prisoner - Lietha Wards

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Ear-splitting battle cries mixed with loud crashes of metal on metal as sword and armor met repeatedly, drowning out the screams of the dying.

Urthraine, King of the Gierrer, was no less than arrogantly impressed with the way his sons fought that day. During the conflict, he had glimpsed the young men’s power and skills through the throng of warriors, despite his own engagements. Now, after half a day of fighting, their opponents dwindled and the battle was theirs. As a result, he could take some time to admire his offspring more closely. From what he saw, he had every reason to be proud.

Suddenly distracted, he deflected a sword blade and slew the man with a cut of his own. He took another moment to watch his sons, who stood side by side about a hundred feet off.

The dying man at his feet took a final breath, but he paid him no heed. He’d been raised with death. It was not foreign to him. It was the way of the Gierrer. Dust stirred, hovered over the carnage, and mixed with the sweat pouring off the combatants, making friend and foe nearly indistinguishable, except for Bothvar, his eldest son. The lad was visible not only because of his incredible height and physique, but also because of his ferocious battle roar and a fighting style that set him apart despite his young age. He was a force to reckon with, and he was only sixteen.

Suddenly, Bothvar’s helmet was knocked off by an unguarded blade. Instead of worrying, Urthraine found himself grinning at the fierce expression his son wore. The man who’d knocked off Bothvar’s helmet stepped back, and his hesitation caused his death.

Bothvar lunged forward without pause and skewered the man in the chest before turning and taking another opponent in one smooth movement arching his broadsword over his head. It was artful and skilled, and Urthraine swelled with pride. Bothvar was fearless, and he would take on those that were twice his size without faltering.

Watching them now, Urthraine knew that both of his sons would grow into the characteristic Gierrer size. The signs were evident. They were tall, lean, and powerfully built, and another decade of fighting would add the muscular bulk that was common to their race.

Grunewald, his other son, was barely fifteen seasons old, but he was not far from Bothvar in either height or skill. Against his better judgement, Urthraine had allowed his younger son to engage in battle as well. The youth was eager to prove his worth to his father, so Urthraine allowed him to participate despite his misgivings. This did not happen without some precautions on his part.

Unknown to either of his sons, he had made sure that several of his most experienced warriors flanked them during the battle. They would not be impressed if they knew that their father had protected them. It was not so much for Bothvar, however, but more for Grunewald. Bothvar had been allowed on the battlefield since he was fifteen seasons old, although tradition stated the men had to be sixteen. Urthraine had known Bothvar was a capable fighter, and now he knew Grunewald was as well.

Although it was expected that a Gierrer king would raise his sons to be the most powerful and cunning among the Gierrer, it still would pain him to lose either child. He had lost his wife through the birth of his daughter, and damned if he would lose any more of his family, even if it was a great honor to die in battle.

Urthraine engaged in combat again, but he managed swift glimpses in his sons’ direction between opponents. They still fought side by side. It was obvious that Bothvar had the greater skill and protected Grunewald as well. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so overprotective; by the looks of it, his sons had things under control without the help of his warriors. It was then that he knew the gods had gifted him with strong and magnificent sons.

Bothvar was a politician already, logical and even tempered. However, one only needed to look into his eyes to see the unmistakable character of his birthright; he was highly intelligent and a born leader. Urthraine’s warriors already followed Bothvar’s commands. This was a right that had to be earned, for the Gierrer would not follow just any man, even if he was of royal blood. Skill in battle and intelligence had to be proven, and Bothvar had done just that since he was fifteen.

Taking on two opponents, sometimes even three, in battle, he dispatched them fearlessly with the skill of a fighter who had seen twenty years of warfare. It brought the Gierrer to their knees before him. Just as their true future king should do, Bothvar stood with his chin raised above the kneeling warriors, who crossed their arms over their chests and bowed their heads. He was humbled by their allegiance, and proud of his ability to assert his birthright.

Urthraine swelled with insurmountable pride in witness of that day. It was unheard of for a Gierrer to command such respect at so young an age. Urthraine himself had been in his eighteenth year when they knelt before him, and that considered legendary.

Unlike Bothvar save for intelligence, Grunewald had the temper of a speared bathar. When others fought with such passion and rage, it distracted them and they ended up getting killed—but not Grunewald. It intensified his skill, and it awed Urthraine’s warriors to see such a young boy demonstrate such talent. He was much like his father in that regard, and Urthraine had trained him to manage and use his temper as an advantage.

The king found himself smiling, despite the scent of death around him.

Both of his sons had inherited his impressive traits in one way or another, yet they were close as brothers could be despite their differences. They had a bond so strong that not even death would break it. His heart swelled in his chest as he watched them.

Not long after that, most of the enemy ran for the trees, and those who stayed to fight were quickly killed. Urthraine removed the blade of his sword from the midsection of a man who’d fallen to the ground still alive. He stood over him for a moment, expressionless and unaffected, before driving his sword into the man’s heart, taking his life without another thought.

Turning, he saw his sons approach, stepping over the dead. His eyes went to his oldest child. The fallout of Bothvar losing his helmet was evident. A long, deep gash marked the side of Bothvar’s handsome face, but the young man seemed not to notice as a grin splayed across his features at their victory. Blood spilled off his jaw and onto his armor in a steady drip, creating a crimson stream down his breastplate. The numbing wasn’t unusual. When the Gierrer were in the throes of battle, pain went unnoticed. They were raised to accept this from their first breath.

You are bleeding, boy, Urthraine stated calmly, with an expression to match, not wanting to show his alarm at the size of the wound that had just barely missed his son’s eye. Gierrer were supposed to be strong. Wounds were a tribute to their prowess in battle and were looked upon as an honor. He was proud of the way Bothvar handled himself, for the smile on his son’s face must certainly hurt with that wound, but he did not show any sign of pain.

Bothvar reached up and felt the gash, and still grinning, replied to his unspoken concern. Only a flesh wound, father.

Urthraine laughed. That does not look painless. I think I could fit my hand in there. I’m sure you weep like a woman inside. His son's answer was a shrug and a widening grin to his father’s teasing.

Grunewald spoke up. My brother has no feelings, father, have you not noticed? Women fall at his feet, and he barely notices a simper from them. They cling to him like he is the son of a god, and he does not spare them more than a glance. Already he has more than a dozen women pledging their oaths to him.

It is because they know my talents as a lover. I have no equal, he boasted, causing Grunewald to snort with laughter and Urthraine to chuckle.

Such words for one so young! When you open your heart to a woman some day, you will eat them, Urthraine offered with a wise look.

Bothvar scoffed and shook his handsome head. No, father, I have no short supply of women in my bed now, why would I want to open my heart?

Urthraine bellowed with laughter at his son’s arrogant statement, heedless of the carcasses and coppery scent of blood around him. Son, you will realize that we have no choice on that matter. The gods made sure that there is a woman for each one of us that we would pledge our undying love and devotion to. Your mother was mine, and because of her, I will never love another. You will rue those words when a female opens your heart and stirs those emotions. Each Gierrer here who has taken a mate has spoken those very words that you have said, and every Gierrer who has opened his heart has been made a fool of for saying as much. Your warrior heart rules you now, Bothvar. Do not speak so confidently of that which you know nothing.

The statement caused Bothvar to stop grinning, clench his jaw, and purse his lips. He did not understand love and devotion beyond the act of sexual gratification. Being a legendary warrior at such a young age gave him his pick of the most beautiful Gierrer women for his bed mates. He rarely ever slept alone, and rarely slept with the same woman. He could not imagine being devoted to one woman. However, he also knew his father held great wisdom, and his advice was always sincere. Aye, father, I hear you.

His eyes glinting with emotion, Urthraine nodded at his son’s acknowledgement and placed his hands on his son’s strong, armor-clad shoulders. It is a proud day for me to finally fight side by side with both of my sons. His eyes focused on Bothvar. Go to the Therar and have him fix the crater on your face, son. As with everything else you do, your first battle scar will be impressive. He grinned as he complimented him.

Bothvar smiled at his father’s tribute and slapped his brother on the shoulder. Father, Grunewald has proven himself too, has he not?

Aye. His eyes fixed on his younger son, who beamed at his approval. You fight like a man twice your age. Now, enough of our bragging! Grunewald, you need to have your leg looked at. He indicated the trickle of blood making a path down his leg from a gash in his thigh. It looks like you have no feeling either.

Grunewald looked down at the wound in surprise as Bothvar chuckled.

You were saying? Bothvar teased.

Grunewald looked at him and shrugged. He had barely felt the slash when it happened, and thought his opponent had simply grazed him. It must be the bloodlust we get during battle. I did not feel it.


In the northern kingdom of Esbiorn, a land that adjoined that of the Gierrer, a young girl bore witness to a terrible act. Tears threatened to fall from her azure eyes as she endured the horror. The whip’s snap echoed in the throne room, cutting into her thoughts and making her flinch, but it was the slap across flesh that made her scream.

She had tried to be strong, and knew of the consequences if she was not, but this was beyond horrifying. She had been brave until she saw the blood.

Her mother had endured five lashes already, and because of the existing scar tissue, her back had not bled until now. Her father stretched and pulled his arm back for another blow, and when she went to scream again to tell him to stop, her brother covered her mouth with his hand. He was standing a few feet to her right, unyielding and impassive, just as a true Esbiorn male should be. She did not notice he’d moved until his hand slapped over her mouth. Her eyes flew wide at the unexpected touch as he whispered harshly in her ear.

Do you wish for our mother to hear your anguish, Runa? Stay silent! And as quickly as he’d seized her, he released her.

Runa knew why that was so. Her father would not approve of Erlend’s warning, or of him even touching her, and he would most likely punish their mother more if he noticed. He would blame her for any affection the siblings showed each other. Public displays of emotion were forbidden. She was very grateful that he had not noticed her outburst, and she suppressed a shudder at the thought of the punishment she’d endure if he had heard her.

When five more lashes had sliced her mother’s back, she visibly shook, but remained silent. I will stay strong for her, she thought, and flinched as the whip whistled through the air before it struck her mother’s back again.

Her mother was strong and brave. With each slicing blow, she released a scream but did not fall. Maybe it had something to do with the two men of her father’s personal guard who held her wrists, stretching her tautly between them. Regardless, her mother was tough. Watching the entire shocking scene, Runa knew there wasn’t any way she would remain standing if it were her.

This wasn’t the first time her mother had been punished, but this was the first time her father insisted that his children witness it. She did not know why her father whipped her mother, or why he made them watch, but the charge must have something to do with her protesting one of his actions or decisions. Esbiorn women were not allowed to question men on any subject.

Runa looked up at her brother. His expression, as usual, was unreadable. He was seven summers older than her, but already demonstrated the qualities of a true Esbiorn man. He was unemotional and withdrawn, and he always held his chin at an arrogant angle. As if he felt her gaze on him, his eyes suddenly flicked to her. She saw a hint of anguish in them before they clouded over and he returned his gaze to the horrific sight before them. It was the only time Runa could remember seeing him display an emotion. It was so brief, she wondered if she had imagined it.

When her father finally ordered his soldiers to release her mother, she stood on her own feet for a moment, visibly trembling, then she collapsed. By some miracle, she found the strength to push herself up shakily by her arms. Bits of her gown were shredded off her back along with her flesh, and Runa was thankful she couldn’t see her mother’s face. It would break her heart.

Runa then watched her father coil the whip up in his hand and walk around in front of her mother. He crouched down and said something in his low, commanding voice, and she slowly and silently nodded. Then he straightened and told his men to take her to his chambers, where she would learn the rest of her lesson on obeying him.

He is cruel, thought Runa, very cruel. She hated him. She always had, now more than ever. Her mother was beautiful, and he’d scarred her. He would never touch her face, though, because Esbiorn women were renowned for their beauty; the more beautiful a woman was, the more pride a man had. Thus, he would not disfigure her, but the rest of her body was damaged. It was a sign that she had disobeyed him more than once. Runa had never been whipped, but then again, she was not yet promised to a man. When a male was chosen for her, she could be treated in such a way if she disobeyed him. For now, it was up to her father to punish her when she disobeyed. Thus far, she had given him no cause.

She watched helplessly as the guards unceremoniously dragged her mother from the room. To her horror, her father’s pale, frightening eyes then fixed on her. She swiftly pulled her gaze away, looking at his hand and the object clutched in it. He repeatedly squeezed the whip that had torn open her mother’s back as he began walking towards her. Every terrified part of her body wanted to run away from him, but she knew what would happen if she did, and she stood strong. His walk was arrogant and controlled—intimidating. It was the walk that reinforced his title. The King of the Esbiorn.

Her eyes went to his feet, still avoiding his gaze. She realized as he approached her that Erlend had probably been subjected to this constantly; it was no wonder that he was steeled against a reaction, even though she was not.

Runa, her father said.

She bowed her head further and kept her gaze averted, looking down her own slippered feet. Esbiorn women were not allowed to stare directly at any man, but this time, her father made her do it. He reached down and tilted her chin so she was staring directly at him. His icy blue stare could frighten a seasoned warrior, and she knew he could feel her tremble under his grip.

Now you see, my daughter, what happens when a woman disobeys her mate? You are eleven summers now and need to understand what will happen if you disobey. Runa heard leather creak as her father squeezed and released the whip in his grasp, almost as a forewarning. Then she heard Erlend shift his stance, and she wondered if what her father said to her bothered him. Regardless, that would be erased from him when he became a man. All Esbiorn men were stealthy warriors, and they militantly conditioned themselves to be that way.

Do you have any questions? he asked her. This will be the only time you can ask them.

She did her best not to show her fear when he spoke, but she was certain he knew it was there. No—Yes, she finally found enough nerve to speak. It was a rare opportunity to ask her father questions.

Good. Ask me.

His voice made her shiver because it was so cold—calm. How could anyone not let what happened affect them? How could he possibly do that to another person, especially to her mother? She made sure she chose her words carefully. What did Mother do to make you angry? She saw his face darken in rage for a moment, but then he gave her an unemotional smile.

He caressed her cheek. My beautiful Runa. That is a good question.

Erlend cleared his throat, but their father did not seem to notice the sound. She knew her brother disapproved of her asking such a question, because their father was very unpredictable and might lash out, even though he’d told her to ask. However, she’d made sure to word it so all blame was on their mother, not on their father.

She might only be eleven, but she had learned fast. She had carefully phrased her question. It would displease her father if she asked why he’d beaten and mutilated her beautiful mother. She wanted to blurt that out, but she knew her father and his temper, and now she knew the full consequences of raising his ire.

Your mother tried to tell me how to treat one of my slaves. She was misguided in thinking she could tell me what to do. So you see, Runa, you must learn your place. I would be saddened to think that your mate would need to ruin your flawless flesh, like your mother made me do to her.

Made you do to her? Runa wanted to shout at him. He’d chosen to do that, not her mother, but she did not want to be the one stretched between the guards with her back opened up like a butchered animal. She steeled herself to respond. Of course, Father. I understand. Her voice shook, but he either did not hear or did not care. He gave her a smile of approval before turning and walking away, still clutching the whip in his fist.

Runa waited until he left the chamber before she turned to Erlend. What did Mother tell Father to do with the slave? Erlend would not strike her for speaking so boldly to him—she was sure of it.

Some things you do not need to know, Runa, he said quietly without looking at her. He was watching the massive doorway as the throne room emptied of people.

Erlend, is our mother so terrible? She saw him clench his jaw, but it wasn’t until the chamber had emptied completely that he finally turned and spoke to her. She knew why. Even though the room was huge and their voices were low, there was still a chance of them being overheard.

Erlend stared down at his beautiful sister. She looked so innocent and naïve—she was as yet undamaged. He thought about not telling her anything, but would keeping the truth from her help to protect her? No, it wouldn’t. He took a deep breath and released it while she waited. His eyes met hers, and she quickly averted her gaze, standing with her head bowed as their ways commanded.

Taking a final look around the room to make sure they were alone, he spoke in a low, serious tone that would not carry across the large room. He raped a slave no older than you, and our mother tried to prevent it. In his rage, he killed the girl, and you just witnessed what he did with our mother. Runa's eyes shot up to meet his. Erlend watched horror fill their vibrant blue depths before tears began to fall from them.

Runa, you must never disobey him. Do you understand? I can only protect you for so long before our father notices it. And when he does, he will not touch me. He will go after you. So now you understand the ways of our people fully. Do not provoke him or any other Esbiorn man. Do your lessons, listen to the elders, and never, ever ask father questions like that again.

An Esbiorn man like you? she asked before she could stop herself, and instantly regretted it. His eyes clouded over with anger. Then he reached down and grabbed her elbow, causing her to flinch. Although he did not apply pressure to cause her to do so, the touch itself had startled her. Men did not touch women in public, except to discipline them.

Ignoring her reaction, he pulled her from the throne room and into a vacant hall, pushing her back against the wall to make her face him. Then he quickly glanced down both sides of the corridor before he leaned towards her. If she could have backed away through the stone, she would have done so, just to get away from his piercing gaze. She was trembling so much it was a task keeping her legs from buckling. Then he spoke, and it changed everything.

"Do not fear me, Runa. Don’t ever fear me. He pointed a determined finger in her direction. When she relaxed a little, he spoke in the same low voice that demonstrated an impeccable control beyond his years. Know this. I will never lay a hand on you or on our sister. I will kill anyone who does. His expression became very serious. Listen carefully, Runa, because for your safety, I will never repeat this. You must not forget my words."

She nodded slowly. In that moment, she realized that his anger wasn’t directed at her. She had thought Erlend would beat her for her insolence, but instead, he only wanted privacy so he could explain himself.

I do not feel the same way towards women as our father does, nor do I believe in ancient traditions that will end up destroying our race. Do not mistake my indifference towards our mother’s situation as agreement with what our father did to her. If it were in my power, I would have stopped him. She knows this and was brave for both of us. You need to understand what happened here today so it will not happen to you, and you must pass it on to our sister. I do not think I could keep quiet if it was you or her up there, and I struggle to think what the consequences would be if I acted against our father now to protect you both. There is more at stake than me giving my life for one woman. There will come a time when I will be the ruler of this land, and changes will come in its wake. You must stay strong until then.

Runa was looking down at her feet again. His words were shocking. Erlend was an Esbiorn male. They were expected to follow in their fathers' footsteps, yet he’d just admitted to treason. Her father would kill him if he ever heard him speak like this. She was almost too terrified to breathe after his confession, worried that the walls had ears.


Aye, Erlend, I heard every word, she responded softly. Her brother had never explained himself to her before, and she’d always thought of him as their father’s son. She knew that growing older changed everything, and when her father asserted control over people, it was expected. Would Erlend remain true to them, or would he finally see some validation in their father’s harsh laws and ancient ways? Regardless, she would cherish his words, because it was the first time she could remember him admitting that he cared about any of them. She also knew it would be the last.

Then she recalled the whipping of their mother and Erlend’s barely visible reaction. She realized during that horrific display that he really cared for their mother, but she wouldn’t have seen it in his eyes if he had not looked at her. Up until then, he had seemed unaffected by their father’s actions.

Erlend stood straight and stared down at her.