The Prince of No One (Blood for Blood, #2) by K.L. Gee and Tom Wright by K.L. Gee and Tom Wright - Read Online

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Book 2 of the Blood for Blood trilogy.

Kara must sacrifice a part of herself to save her mother, but will her sacrifice be enough?

Hakon faces off against his father to show his worthiness, but King Arden may not give him the chance to prove himself…

Published: Moonlight Crew Publishing on
ISBN: 9781502223180
List price: $2.99
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The Prince of No One (Blood for Blood, #2) - K.L. Gee

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TWO

CHAPTER ONE

Hakon was busy looking at the stars. He couldn’t sleep. Hakon often looked up at the stars at night—trying to find the source of the power in him.

As he looked up, Hakon thought of his destiny. Ahead of him, in Atmen, was a culture so different from the one he had grown up with. Behind him, in the Desolate Forest, were the people that betrayed him. All around him, a war was raging.

The Alem were said to have cursed this land with their arrival, and yet Hakon, an Alem, felt like this earth was his. He wondered if his Alem family felt out of place, perhaps felt for a moment like they were far away from home. He didn’t feel that way. He could still hear the echo of The Drums in his bones.

While he felt he belonged to the earth, he always felt drawn to the sky. He wondered if he could zip as high as the stars if he could see them.

Hakon looked around, making sure everyone was still asleep, and then he looked up. He zipped high into the sky, trusting not on what he saw but on where he wanted to be. He flew upward, glancing around the earth around him. He looked up and went higher, until the wind was chilling him. He looked around as he started to fall, briefly—seeing the lights of a distant town and the deep ravines that separated the kingdoms from the Great Plains. These must be the river cities in the North, where the Su lived and traveled from to serve the Alem.

Thousands of people were within his sight. All could be taken by this war. The code bound them all in life and death. The Master would not allow any soul to be unavenged. One by one, death by death, they would start to spill blood.

He zipped back down, careful to do it quickly, before the power of his fall increased. Still he fell too fast, and he landed hard beside Kai and began rolling toward her horse. Her arm flew out, stopping him. She had a surprisingly strong grip.

You’re awake, Hakon said, recovering.

Now I am, she said with a smile. She sat up, leaning against her horse.

How did you get this horse, Kai? Hakon asked. Hakon had rarely seen anything like Maji. Then again, not many horses survived in the forest. A few days into their journey, Kai had trusted them enough to reveal that Maji had the special ability to zip. It explained Kai’s abilities to do so much without being able to see.

Maji was a gift from my parents, Kai said softly. Hakon was surprised to hear pain in her voice when she mentioned her parents. She was usually careful to show no emotion.

Your parents live in the cities?

No, Kai answered. They’re dead. Her voice had returned to steel. He watched her, waiting for any emotion to surface again. He felt strange to stare at her so—even though she was blind it seemed she could sense his eyes. She was of a small frame, but her bones were thicker than most. Perhaps it was the many layers of her outfit—all knots and pockets. Hakon noticed that she held herself like a warrior—a fighter.

Why are you here? Hakon asked. Be honest with me. You’re not helpless.

No, I am not, Kai answered truthfully. She smiled. As for why I’m here, do you believe in angel spirits, Hakon? The ones that guide us to our purposes? They are like our seconds in spirit, guarding us on the other side of death.

I know of the stories. Parents trick their children to obey. Listen to the spirit second, whispering in your ear, Hakon said.

Yes, Kai said. Well, perhaps a spirit guided me here, and I’m following its guidance.

Are the Su very religious?

Kai didn’t say anything for some time. Not really, she said finally.

Hakon let himself watch Kai entirely now. Kai was different from other women he had known. She seemed to carry a reserved strength, like a lounging tiger.

He watched the fire. Do you hate them, Kai? He meant the Alem. He looked north, wondering where the Su took part in all of this. He had been raised to hate them as well, the traitors. But rather than kill the Su, the earth people insulted them by ignoring their existence. They weren’t worth remembering. They were to be forgotten, as friends, as enemies, as a race.

Hate can be a dangerous emotion. Desperation is far more powerful, Kai said, adding, and so is fear.

I’ve heard that before.

Kai smiled. It’s a poem. I’m sure your religious orders quoted it often. The Alem quote it too.

Perhaps the Su were more like the Terra than Hakon had thought. Your guardian taught it to you then.

Kai shook her head. No guardians among the Su. We just like poetry and song. It is sometimes all that survives in a culture that is beaten down. As a traveler, I know a little of all the peoples.

Is that why the Su betrayed the Terra then? Desperation?

Kai shrugged. Who knows why they did what they did? But we’re still alive, aren’t we?

Is that what mattered in the end? Hakon wondered if Kai was defending the Su. But they betrayed their honor just to live, Hakon said.

Absolutely. We collect both shame and pride in our songs. Shame from broken promises but pride from our ability to survive. Kai seemed to stare at him through the rags that bound her eyes. So I ask you, prince of the Alem, what is the greater cowardice? Honor that kills us or the self–preservation that lets us live?

Hakon was disturbed by her question. At the same time, he felt a sudden kinship with the Su. They were torn by their past and their future as much as he was.

Are all the Su philosophers? Hakon said.

No, Kai smiled. Only the hermits. You could call them our guardians, if you wish. They live away from the cities. They know who they are, well, at least in their poetry. They do not hide as servants like the rest of the Su, Kai said.

Dawn had arrived while they spoke, spreading a soft blue light on their small company. Their talk had awoken the others. Suddenly Tadi was at Kai’s side, leaning over her. Kai, will you teach our sons to fight like you do? His wolfdog, Ziff, panted beside him.

Kai didn’t answer. She just stood up and began to prepare the camp for departure, not so gently shoving Ziff out of her way. Tadi slumped down, glancing at Hakon with a forlorn pout.

I wish we had known about your zipping horse sooner, Skeet said, getting to his feet. We might actually have moved faster.

I had to be sure I trusted you, Kai said.

"I thought you were trying to earn our trust? Skeet said. Kai just shrugged. Well, how far before we storm the city?"

Tadi took a few steps in the burgeoning dawn, grabbed a stone, and zipped up into the sky. "Kai, a canyon stretches ahead of us. There are a series of rivers, and in the distance I see a city full of lights.

Kai leaned against her horse, considering. We are here then. Atmen.

Hakon’s eyes tried to pierce ahead. But where is the citadel? The mighty city? There is only a thick of clouds ahead.

It must still be too dark. Wait for sunrise, Kai said.

As she spoke, the sky gradually became lighter. Hakon’s sharp eyes stretched, and he realized that what he thought had been clouds were actually mountains stretching into the sky, shrouded by a thick fog. A cloud passed, and Hakon gasped.

Behind the thick of the fog was a city built against the mountain, and rising above it was a magnificent castle—the royal Citadel of Atmen, the seat of power for all the Alem.

His home.

If we are on the other side of the cavern, it will take us another day to reach the citadel, Kai said. We can’t take the Alem bridges—we are too conspicuous. And I wouldn’t trust Maji to zip safely across the canyon. We must go around.

And then we just have to figure out how to get in, Skeet said.

They all faced west. Hakon waited for some snide remark from Skeet and Tadi, but no one could bring themselves to lighten the solemnity that weighed upon them now. Their mission, their enemy, and their future were all held inside that city.

Hakon waited for fear to arrest him, but it didn’t. All he felt was purpose. He secured his spear and other weapons and turned to his companions. Wordlessly, they began to walk west, the sunrise at their backs.

***

Skeet crouched high in a tree, overlooking the walls that bordered Atmen. Soldiers and guards strolled along the high walls, monitoring all those that passed inside the gates. That was just the first wall. Beyond that, there were several more gates, all stretching as wide as the eye could see. The closer to the citadel the gates were, the more shrouded they seemed to be. Surrounding the citadel was a large moat the size of a small lake. Skeet wanted to use his power to vanish inside the heart of the city, but without a clear view in his mind of where he was going, it was too dangerous to take the others along. He was a risk taker but not in unfamiliar territory.

Atmen was not only unfamiliar but apparently impenetrable.

Perhaps they could wait out the night and sneak in over the walls with Hakon zipping them through? But those were trained zippers and vanishers along the walls—they would be able to recognize someone with the power.

Well, I can get in easily enough, but I’m not sure how you boys will do, Kai said casually from below. She was sitting on her horse underneath the tree.

How? Skeet whispered. They were still a ways off from the gate, but Skeet was feeling strangely cautious. Hakon leaned forward from another branch, intent to hear Kai’s answer.

I’m a Su. I’m a blind little Su girl. We aren’t the enemy, remember? Kai smiled to herself. Granted, I’ll probably get kicked around on my way in, and there’s a chance they’ll steal Maji since I’m so helpless. But I won’t get killed.

Hakon frowned. I could steal some Alem’s clothing…

Tadi laughed. Not with that crown on your forehead, Hakon. You’re not a man of stealth.

They sat in silence. They had already exhausted their minds all morning with ideas on how to breach the wall and get inside the citadel. And then what? Skeet wondered. They were supposed to have an entire tribe of guardians and a chief to help them at this point. A sharp pain of anger stabbed at Skeet’s chest. He had lost everyone: his mother, father, sister, and brothers. Now it seemed they were at a hopeless point. If they didn’t have the power to get beyond a simple wall, how on earth did the Terra have any chance in winning back what they’d lost?

Skeet no longer held on to hope for things restored, not when he had lost everything. Now, all he wanted was vengeance. It drove him onward, even more than his belief in Hakon.

I have an idea, Tadi said beside him, so softly it sounded