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Chapter no 22

This Woven Kingdom (This Woven Kingdom, 1)

WAS HE GOING MAD? KAMRAN wondered.

Who on earth would be pounding at his door—at this hour? He’d have known, surely, if the palace were under siege, would he not? Surely there’d have been more madness, more commotion? He’d seen nothing amiss from his window, through which he’d been staring just moments ago.

Still, Kamran hastily dressed himself, and was tugging on his boots when the pounding grew suddenly louder. He knew it an indulgence, but he drew his sword belt around his waist anyway, for it was a habit so fully embedded it could not be spared even then.

The prince finally went to the door, having hardly opened it before he went suddenly blind. Someone had thrown a sack over his head while another grabbed his arms, twisting them painfully behind his back.

Kamran cried out, shock and confusion rendering him briefly paralyzed before he remembered himself and knocked his head back hard enough to break the nose of the monstrous figure restraining him. The man roared with anger but did not loosen his hold quite enough, and worse: the second assailant swiftly tightened the hood around Kamran’s neck, choking him.

The prince gasped for breath and promptly tasted leather; someone had shoved a stone into his mouth from the outside of the hood, lashing it in place with a strip of material now being tied around his skull. Kamran tried to shout, to spit it out, but managed only muffled sounds of protest. He threw his body around instead, thrashing as best he could, but both men held him securely, one torturing his arms into an unnatural position while the other bound the prince’s hands together.

It soon became obvious that these men had been ordered only to kidnap, not to murder, for if they’d been ordered to kill the prince they’d certainly have done so by now.

Here, Kamran had the advantage.

They needed to keep him alive—but to Kamran, his life was worth little, and he was more than willing to lose it in any struggle for his freedom.

What’s more, he’d been spoiling for a fight.

All day the prince had been containing his rage, trying to fight back the storm in his chest. This was a relief, then.

He would unleash it now.

Kamran struck out with his foot, kicking backward between the assailant’s legs as hard as he could manage. The man cried out, finally

loosening his grip just enough to give Kamran an inch of leverage, which the prince then used to full advantage, decking the second man with the weight of his shoulder, then his knee. With mere seconds to spare he succeeded in getting his wrists free from their unfinished bindings, but Kamran was still blind as he moved; striking out with unseeing blows, not caring where his fists landed, or how many ribs he broke.

When he’d finally knocked back both men enough to spare himself the moments necessary to tear off his hood, Kamran promptly drew his sword, blinking against the sudden light, drawing in lungfuls of air.

He moved toward his two attackers with all possible calm, appraising them as he went. One large, one average. Both crouched, breathing hard, and bleeding heavily from their mouths and noses.

The larger of the two lunged at the prince without warning and Kamran pivoted gracefully, leveraging the man’s own weight to flip the sod over his shoulder and onto the floor. The assailant landed with a resounding crack on his back, knocking not merely the air from his lungs but possibly the vertebrae from his spine.

Kamran then tensed his fingers around the hilt of his sword and advanced upon the second brute, who glanced nervously at the supine figure of his much-larger comrade before meeting the prince’s eyes.

“Please, sire,” the man said, holding up both hands, “we wish ye no harm; we was only doing as we was told—”

Kamran grabbed the man by the scruff of his neck, pressing the point of his blade against the other’s throat until he drew blood. The man whimpered.

“Who sent you here?” Kamran said angrily. “What do you want from me?”

The lout shook his head; Kamran dug the blade a bit deeper. The man squeezed his eyes shut. “Please, sire, we—”

Who sent you?” Kamran cried. “I did.”

Kamran dropped the man at once, drawing away as suddenly as if he’d been set aflame. The assailant slumped to the floor and the prince turned slowly around, astonishment reducing his motor functions near to nothing. A drop of blood dripped from his sword, landed on his boot.

Kamran met his grandfather’s eyes.

“You will join me directly,” the king said, “as we have a great deal to discuss.”

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