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       Rogue, Prisoner, Princess, p.1

         Part #2 of Of Crowns and Glory series by Morgan Rice
 
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Rogue, Prisoner, Princess


  ROGUE, PRISONER, PRINCESS

  (OF CROWNS AND GLORY--BOOK 2)

  MORGAN RICE

  Morgan Rice

  Morgan Rice is the #1 bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the epic fantasy series THE SORCERER’S RING, comprising seventeen books; of the #1 bestselling series THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, comprising twelve books; of the #1 bestselling series THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic thriller comprising two books (and counting); of the epic fantasy series KINGS AND SORCERERS, comprising six books; and of the new epic fantasy series OF CROWNS AND GLORY. Morgan’s books are available in audio and print editions, and translations are available in over 25 languages.

  TURNED (Book #1 in the Vampire Journals), ARENA 1 (Book #1 of the Survival Trilogy), A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1 in the Sorcerer’s Ring) and RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Kings and Sorcerers—Book #1) are each available as a free download on Amazon!

  Morgan loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.morganricebooks.com to join the email list, receive a free book, receive free giveaways, download the free app, get the latest exclusive news, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and stay in touch!

  Select Acclaim for Morgan Rice

  “If you thought that there was no reason left for living after the end of THE SORCERER’S RING series, you were wrong. In RISE OF THE DRAGONS Morgan Rice has come up with what promises to be another brilliant series, immersing us in a fantasy of trolls and dragons, of valor, honor, courage, magic and faith in your destiny. Morgan has managed again to produce a strong set of characters that make us cheer for them on every page.…Recommended for the permanent library of all readers that love a well-written fantasy.”

  --Books and Movie Reviews

  Roberto Mattos

  “An action packed fantasy sure to please fans of Morgan Rice’s previous novels, along with fans of works such as THE INHERITANCE CYCLE by Christopher Paolini…. Fans of Young Adult Fiction will devour this latest work by Rice and beg for more.”

  --The Wanderer, A Literary Journal (regarding Rise of the Dragons)

  “A spirited fantasy that weaves elements of mystery and intrigue into its story line. A Quest of Heroes is all about the making of courage and about realizing a life purpose that leads to growth, maturity, and excellence….For those seeking meaty fantasy adventures, the protagonists, devices, and action provide a vigorous set of encounters that focus well on Thor's evolution from a dreamy child to a young adult facing impossible odds for survival….Only the beginning of what promises to be an epic young adult series.”

  --Midwest Book Review (D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer)

  “THE SORCERER’S RING has all the ingredients for an instant success: plots, counterplots, mystery, valiant knights, and blossoming relationships replete with broken hearts, deception and betrayal. It will keep you entertained for hours, and will satisfy all ages. Recommended for the permanent library of all fantasy readers.”

  --Books and Movie Reviews, Roberto Mattos

  “In this action-packed first book in the epic fantasy Sorcerer's Ring series (which is currently 14 books strong), Rice introduces readers to 14-year-old Thorgrin "Thor" McLeod, whose dream is to join the Silver Legion, the elite knights who serve the king…. Rice's writing is solid and the premise intriguing.”

  --Publishers Weekly

  Books by Morgan Rice

  THE WAY OF STEEL

  ONLY THE WORTHY (Book #1)

  OF CROWNS AND GLORY

  SLAVE, WARRIOR, QUEEN (Book #1)

  ROGUE, PRISONER, PRINCESS (Book #2)

  KINGS AND SORCERERS

  RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Book #1)

  RISE OF THE VALIANT (Book #2)

  THE WEIGHT OF HONOR (Book #3)

  A FORGE OF VALOR (Book #4)

  A REALM OF SHADOWS (Book #5)

  NIGHT OF THE BOLD (Book #6)

  THE SORCERER’S RING

  A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1)

  A MARCH OF KINGS (Book #2)

  A FATE OF DRAGONS (Book #3)

  A CRY OF HONOR (Book #4)

  A VOW OF GLORY (Book #5)

  A CHARGE OF VALOR (Book #6)

  A RITE OF SWORDS (Book #7)

  A GRANT OF ARMS (Book #8)

  A SKY OF SPELLS (Book #9)

  A SEA OF SHIELDS (Book #10)

  A REIGN OF STEEL (Book #11)

  A LAND OF FIRE (Book #12)

  A RULE OF QUEENS (Book #13)

  AN OATH OF BROTHERS (Book #14)

  A DREAM OF MORTALS (Book #15)

  A JOUST OF KNIGHTS (Book #16)

  THE GIFT OF BATTLE (Book #17)

  THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY

  ARENA ONE: SLAVERSUNNERS (Book #1)

  ARENA TWO (Book #2)

  ARENA THREE (Book #3)

  VAMPIRE, FALLEN

  BEFORE DAWN (Book #1)

  THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS

  TURNED (Book #1)

  LOVED (Book #2)

  BETRAYED (Book #3)

  DESTINED (Book #4)

  DESIRED (Book #5)

  BETROTHED (Book #6)

  VOWED (Book #7)

  FOUND (Book #8)

  RESURRECTED (Book #9)

  CRAVED (Book #10)

  FATED (Book #11)

  OBSESSED (Book #12)

  Download Morgan Rice books now!

  Listen to THE SORCERER’S RING series in audio book format!

  Now available on:

  Amazon

  Audible

  iTunes

  Want free books?

  Subscribe to Morgan Rice's email list and receive 4 free books, 3 free maps, 1 free app, 1 free game, 1 free graphic novel, and exclusive giveaways! To subscribe, visit: www.morganricebooks.com

  Copyright © 2016 by Morgan Rice. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Jacket image Copyright Kiselev Andrey Valerevich, used under license from Shutterstock.com.

  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

  CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

  CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

  CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

  CHAPTER THIRTY

  CHAPTER THIRTY ONE

  CHAPTER THIRTY TWO

  CHAPTER THIRTY
THREE

  CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

  CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE

  CHAPTER THIRTY SIX

  CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN

  CHAPTER ONE

  “Ceres! Ceres! Ceres!”

  Ceres could feel the chant of the crowd as clearly as her own thudding heartbeat. She raised her sword in acknowledgment, tightening her grip as she did, testing the leather. It didn’t matter to her that they’d probably only learned her name a few moments ago. It was enough that they knew it, and that it was reverberating through her, so that she could feel it almost as a physical force.

  Across the Stade, facing her, her opponent, the massive combatlord, paced the sands. Ceres swallowed at the sight of him, fear rising up in her, as much as she tried to suppress it. This, she knew, could very well be the last fight of her life.

  The combatlord paced like a caged lion, swinging his sword through the air in arcs that seemed to be designed to show off his bulging muscles. With his breastplate and visored helmet, he looked as if he could have been carved from stone. It was hard for Ceres to believe that he was just flesh and blood.

  Ceres closed her eyes and steeled herself.

  You can do this, she told herself. You may not win, but you must face him valiantly. If you are to die, you must die with honor.

  A trumpet blast rang in Ceres’s ears, rising up even over the baying of the crowd. It filled the arena, and suddenly, her opponent was charging.

  He was faster than she thought such a big man had any right to be, on her before she had a chance to react. It was all Ceres could do to dodge, kicking up dust as she got out of the warrior’s path.

  The combatlord swung his blade with two hands and Ceres ducked, feeling the rush of air as it passed. He hacked down like a butcher wielding a cleaver, and when she spun and blocked the stroke, the impact of metal on metal rang up her arms. She did not think it possible a warrior could be that strong.

  She circled away, her opponent following with a grim inevitability.

  Ceres heard her name mixed in with the cheers and boos of the crowd. She forced herself to stay focused; she kept her eyes fixed on her opponent and tried to remember her training, thinking through all the things that might happen next. She tried to slash, and then rolled her wrist to send her sword around the parry.

  But the combatlord merely grunted as her blade took a nick out of his forearm.

  He smiled as if he’d enjoyed it.

  “You’ll pay for that,” he warned. His accent was thick, from one of the far corners of the Empire.

  He was on her again, forcing her to parry and dodge, and she knew she couldn’t risk a head-on clash, not with someone this strong.

  Ceres felt the ground give way beneath her right foot, a sensation of emptiness there where there should have been firm support. She glanced down and saw sand pouring down into a pit below. For a moment, her foot hung over empty space, and she thrust out blindly with her sword as she struggled to keep her balance.

  The combatlord’s parry was almost contemptuous. For an instant, Ceres was sure she was going to die, because there was no way to fully stop the answering stroke. She felt the jarring impact of the blow against her blade. It only slowed it, though, as it slammed into her armor. Her breastplate pressed back into her flesh with bruising force, while at the spot where it ended, she felt pain flare white hot as the sword cut along her collarbone.

  She stumbled back and as she did, she saw more pits opening around the floor of the arena, like the mouths of hungry beasts. And then, desperate, she had an idea: maybe she could use them to her advantage.

  Ceres skirted around the edges of the pits, hoping to slow his approach.

  “Ceres!” Paulo called.

  She turned and her weapon-keeper threw a short spear in her direction. Its shaft thudded into her slick palm as she caught it, the wood feeling rough. The spear was shorter than might have been used in a real battle, but it was still long enough to thrust its leaf-shaped head across the pits.

  “I’ll take you a slice at a time,” the combatlord promised, edging his way around.

  With an opponent this strong, Ceres thought, her best hope was to try to wear him down. How long could someone that huge keep fighting? Already, Ceres could feel the burn of her own muscles, and the sweat that dripped down her face. How much worse would it be for the combatlord she faced?

  It was impossible to know for sure, but it had to be her best hope. So she dodged and she jabbed, using the length of the spear as best she could. She managed to slip through the massive warrior’s defenses, yet still, it only clattered off his armor.

  The combatlord kicked up dust towards Ceres’s eyes, but she turned away in time. She spun back and swept the spear low, toward his unprotected legs. He jumped clear of that sweep, but she managed to slice another wound along his forearm as she drew the spear back.

  Ceres jabbed low and high now, aiming for her opponent’s limbs. The big man parried and blocked, trying to find a way past the probing point, but Ceres kept it moving. She jabbed it in toward his face, hoping to at least distract him.

  The combatlord caught the spear. He grabbed it behind the head, yanking it forward as he stepped aside. Ceres had to let go, because she didn’t want to risk being pulled onto the big man’s sword. Her opponent snapped the spear across his knee as easily as he might have broken a twig.

  The crowd roared.

  Ceres felt a cold sweat up her back. For an instant, she had the image of the big man breaking her body as easily. She swallowed at the thought and readied her sword again.

  She grabbed the hilt with both hands as the next blows came, because it was the only way to absorb some of the power of the combatlord’s attacks. Even so, it was impossibly hard. Every blow felt like she was a bell being hit by a hammer. Every one sent shockwaves running through her arms.

  Already, Ceres could feel herself tiring under the assault. Every breath came ragged, feeling like she dragged it in by force. There was no question now of trying to counterattack, or do anything but step back and hope.

  And then it happened. Slowly, Ceres felt the power welling up inside her. It came with a warmth, like the first embers of a brush fire. It sat in the pit of her belly, waiting for her, and Ceres reached for it.

  Energy flooded through her. The world slowed, moving at a crawl, and she suddenly felt she had all the time in the world to parry the next attack.

  She had all the strength, too. She blocked it easily and then swung her sword around and slashed the combatlord’s arm in a blur of light and speed.

  “Ceres! Ceres!” the crowd roared.

  She saw the combatlord’s rage growing as the crowd’s chanting continued. She could understand why. They were meant to be chanting for him, proclaiming his victory, enjoying her death.

  He bellowed and charged forward. Ceres waited as long as she dared, forcing herself to stay still until he nearly reached her.

  Then she dropped. She felt the whisper of his blade passing over her head, then the rough sand as her knees touched down. She threw herself forward, swinging her sword around in an arc that slammed into the combatlord’s legs as he passed.

  He tumbled face first, his sword spilling from his hand.

  The crowd went wild.

  Ceres stood over him, looking at the awful ruin her sword had made of his legs. For a moment, she wondered if he might manage to stand even like that, but he collapsed back, turning to his back and lifting one hand as he begged for mercy. Ceres held back, looking around for the royals who would decide if the man in front of her lived or died. Either way, she resolved, she would not kill a helpless warrior.

  Another trumpet blast came.

  A roar followed it as the iron gates at the side of the arena opened, and the tone of it was enough to send a shiver through Ceres. In that moment, she felt like nothing more than prey, something to be hunted, something that had to run. She dared a glance up toward the royal enclosure, knowing this had to be deliberate. The fight had been over.
She’d won. That wasn’t good enough, though. They were going to kill her, she realized, one way or another. They would not let her leave the Stade alive.

  A creature lumbered in, larger than a human, covered in shaggy fur. Fangs stuck out from a bearlike face, while spiny protrusions stuck out along the creature’s back. Its feet held claws the length of daggers. Ceres didn’t know what it was, but she didn’t need to in order to know that it would be deadly.

  The bear-like creature sank to all fours and ran forward, while Ceres readied her sword.

  It reached the fallen combatlord first, and Ceres would have looked away if she’d dared. The man cried out as it pounced, but there was no way he could roll out of the way in time. Those giant paws smashed down, and Ceres heard the crunch of his breastplate giving way. The beast roared as it savaged her former opponent.

  When it looked up, its fangs were wet with blood. It looked at Ceres, bared its teeth, and charged.

  She barely managed to step aside in time, slashing with her sword as it passed. The creature gave a bellow of pain.

  Yet sheer momentum tore the blade from her hands, feeling as though it would tear her arm away if she didn’t let go. She watched with horror as her blade spun across the sand and into one of the pits.

  The beast continued to advance, and Ceres, frantic, glanced down at the spot where the two broken sections of spear lay on the sand. She dove for them, grabbing a section and rolling in one movement.

  As she rose to one knee, the creature was already charging. She couldn’t run, she told herself. This was her only chance.

  It slammed into her, the weight and speed of the thing lifting Ceres from her feet. There was no time to think, no time to be afraid. She thrust with the broken section of spear, striking with it again and again as the bear-beast’s paws closed in on her.

  Its strength was terrible, far too much to match. Ceres felt as though her ribs might burst with the pressure of it, the breastplate she wore creaking under the creature’s strength. She felt its claws raking at her back and legs, agony searing across her.

 
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