Renegades Rising: Lyra
This is the third book in the Renegades Rising series. You do not need to read the previous books to enjoy this book. However, Lyra’s full ARC resolves in the final book.
Do you remember the mention of the Jacob incident? This book explains….
Excerpt: Unproofed / Unedited: Chapter 1: Jacob
Jacob stood at attention under the assault of the three leaders of Wagyu clan’s gaze. If looks could kill he’d be eviscerated on the floor with his bracelet returned to his clan. Even if the clan second’s wouldn’t have killed him, Grandin Wagyu, the clan leader’s cold, blue gaze would have disintegrated him. The dark-haired wiry frame leader vibrated with the force of his personality. There was no doubt who was in charge.
Jacob straightened his shoulders. This clan could still decide he was unworthy of joining the drove. Since joining the drove was the only way to become a sanctioned assassin, Jacob tried to work out his next move.
Clan Wagyu could send him back with shame for not only himself, but his family and whole clan. The Wagyu clan was not known for being kind.
Jacob struggled to keep his gaze in the respectful middle ground. Motion to his right set off his reflexes. Adrenyln pumped into his system making everything seem sharper. He rolled to the left toward the wall of the hut.
The air shifted and a sword cut through the space where he had been standing. The sword would have killed him.
Jacob rolled to his feet and stood in a half crouch. His dagger in hand, he was on his toes ready to pivot away. Only the thought of the drove kept him from running. What was the right thing to do? Had the clan meant to kill him and the whole call for a new drove was a trick?
If this were a real attack, he should flee and warn his family. The next building had an accessible roof and he could use that to escape. Once to the edge of the village, he’d have to cross the fields to the woods. If he made it to the woods, his odds of survival increased dramatically. As long as the local flora and fauna took no interest in him, he would be able to lose pursuers and make it home.
The man who had attacked him stood motionless with his sword drawn. Jacob could attack his attacker and show that he was stronger or a better fighter. Jacob might not be either of those things and more to the point if Jacob was or was not stronger didn’t matter.
This was a test. What was the clan leader looking for? Clan leader Wagyu didn’t look like the strongest of the clan. He was smaller than the rest, but the fearful looks the people in doorways gave him left no doubt that the smaller man was the leader. He ruled with an iron fist. Could that be the key?
Jacob bowed. “Clan leader, what are your wishes?”
Clan leader Wagyu nodded once. “Welcome to the drove.”
The tension Jacob had been carrying eased. Giddiness bubbled through his chest. He’d passed the test.
He sheathed his dagger and bowed in a more elaborate manner. “My honor.”
All three men walked away without another word. The people watching from windows and doorways faded away. What a strange village.
“This way to your room.” A small boy with wild, dark hair and startling blue eyes said.
The boy led him to a small hut and disappeared before Jacob could ask him questions.
Jacob dropped his bag on the bed. He needed to take stock of his new home. He’d be here for years training to be in the drove. There should be three or four other boys his age selected for this drove. Most clans had a meeting place to the north for new beginnings. He’d check there to see if the other boys were interested in meeting.
He strolled out of his room. The corners between the buildings had no people. That wasn’t true. There were people focused on a task. A person wove on a loom on the porch to his right. A solemn child led sheep through the lane. Even the bahhs seemed quieter. No one sang or laughed. The differences in the villages made him shiver. He would need to be careful until he understood.
He stifled a laugh. His idea to have a unified drove was probably not careful, but after his uncle’s stories it was what he wanted. If not for the skills of the assassins their planet would have nothing. Heck they might have starved being dependent on the things they had brought with them. Right now that power was throttled by the mistrust and antagonism between clans.
He passed more huts on his way to the north side of the village. Huts that seemed more like the husks of long dead creatures lined the street. Did people even live in them? No flower gardens or paintings decorated the lanes or walls.
Coming into the village he’d passed the village gardens for the poisons they needed, but there was nothing on the houses he walked by that seemed to feed the soul.
Jacob hoped the other first and seconds from the clans would be in the meeting spot. The other boys in the drove had to agree to his plan. He moved along the edge using the techniques that he’d been using since he was first aware of himself.
At the last building the farthest away one could get from the leader’s hut, a soft sound caught his attention. In the shadows by a tree a figure hunched.
Jacob stepped closer. He’d been silent, but the figure stiffened. Did they have training? He’d expected the blue eyes the clan was known for, but instead the deepest, darkest brown eyes stared up at him. He also didn’t expect her lost and unhappy expression framed by long dark hair to stab his heart. His chest ached for her. He wanted to wipe her tears and protect her from the world.
Her expression shuttered and she lifted her chin. “Who are you?”
He swallowed. The steel in her gaze and words stole his voice.
The girl wiped her eyes and then raked her gaze over him. Her gaze landed on the bracelet on his right wrist and the piece of cloth on his shoulder. “You would be Jacob. First son of the Limousin clan.”
He bowed a formal bow as if they were being truly introduced. “You have the advantage of me. I am not sure who you are.”
A smirk crossed her expression for just a moment. “Are you meeting the rest of the firsts…and seconds? I heard them in the woods.”
He bit his lip. She had a lot of information. What he was going to propose was not exactly allowed. The leaders hadn’t expressly forbidden such a thing, but creating a cohesive drove could be taken as trying to usurp the clan leaders. That was not his intent. She could go to the clan leader and tell hoping to gain favor. Clan leader Wagyu was not known as being a kind man. The best that was ever said was that he was scrupulously fair. Even though he knew he was being a fool, something about the expression on her face made him trust her. “Want to join us?”
Her eyes widened and mouth opened a moment in what had to be shock, and then she grinned. The bright wide smile was not anything he’d thought he would see on this solemn girl. “Yes.” Her voice slightly breathless.
Jacob held out his hand palm up as an invitation. After a visible flinch and hesitation, she wrapped her fingers around his hand. Something in his chest settled at the touch.
She led him down the slender path through the woods. The sound of rushing water grew louder. The place they were meeting must have a waterfall. Markers on the trees declared the edge of the clan’s territory.
Four boys he knew by sight stood around glaring at each other. Their body language was not the most friendly with crossed arms and scowls. None of the villagers had come to meet them.
The twins, Meeko and Yaholo Brahma stood on opposite sides of the clearing. They traded off scowling at each other when the other was not looking. Traditionally only one of the chief’s sons became a part of the drove–the group focused on studying to become assassins. The dark-haired boys didn’t look like twins with one being much larger than the other.
Rueshaw Simmental sat on a log with his feet in the water. He didn’t seem to be paying any attention. The Clan Simmental was known for their situational awareness, so he probably was. Their clan even had a side business of protection because of their uncanny awareness of their environment.
Last was Mishima Dexter. He stood to the side, seeming to hide in the background. The only reason he was here was that the Wagyu chief had no sons to join this drove. Since the Mishima’s clan was not the core four clans, they were not well regarded. Mishima must be something special if he was allowed entrance.
“Where is everyone?” Rueshaw asked. “Why is it just us and a girl from the village?”
“No one else will come.” the girl pursed her lips as if considering what else to say. “The clan leader decided you will make your own way.”
Jacob bit his lip. Was that a good or a bad thing that the clan leader did that. It meant that there would be no formal introductions and no set training. The drove would have to fend for itself.
He had heard much about the training that his uncle had gotten during the last drive. They had competed and ended the training hating each other. That hatred had caused much strife between the clans. If only the boys in the drove could form a true team, then they could have a much stronger group and take on bigger assignments. The clans had not been doing well. Which was part of why Rueshaw was here at all.
“I think it is in our best interest and the interest of our clans for us to become the best team of assassins the world has seen. We can bring back the glory days and make our clans proud.” He put his emphasis on the word team.
Meeko slow-clapped. “Very inspiring. Do you really think chief uptight will allow us to?”
“Don’t call him that.” Jacob had forgotten that the girl was still here.
“What are you going to do about it?” Meeko made a show of looking her up and down. He twisted his face into an exaggerated unimpressed-sneer.
The girl lifted her chin and glared at Meeko. “Kick your ass.”
All of the boys oooohed. Rue got out of the water.
Jacob bit his lip. It didn’t seem right that this little slip of a girl would fight Meeko. He was already big for his age. He didn’t want his host clan to kick him out for getting one of their own hurt the second day he was here. Especially if the drove was on its own to find training.
The girl looked right at Jacob. “I got this.”
And for some reason Jacob believed her. Jacob nodded. “Rules?”
“First one dumped in the creek loses.” Meeko stripped off his sword and laid it carefully next to a tree. The hilt had the red strip that meant he was an expert at the weapon. He seemed far too young to have that accomplishment.
The girl nodded and walked to the center of the clearing. The creek bubbled along the left side of the clearing.
Jacob stepped back and so did the other boys, forming a loose circle.
Meeko stalked forward and grabbed at the girl. She deftly dodged out of the way. She circled around Meeko, like a puppy baiting a bear. Meeko roared and charged her. She danced easily out of the way. The more she dodged, the angrier Meeko became.
“Stand still.” Meeko all but snarled.
The girl didn’t smirk at him, just dodged out of the way. Her gaze seemed to watch everything carefully as she danced around the clearing.
Meeko’s face got redder and redder. He started panting from the excursion. Sweat beaded from his forehead and tricked down his neck. He clenched his fists.
Jacob glanced around at the other boys. They all watched the fight intently. When the girl dodged out of the way. One or two boys grunted and nodded as if in approval.
The girl faced Meeko with the water behind her. “Is that all you got?” She taunted.
Meeko roared and rushed at her.
She dodged, but instead of dodging away, she landed up on his back. His momentum and her weight brought him down in the stream.
Before the girl got wet, she leapt from Meekos back and landed on the bank.
Jacob realized that this was a teachable moment. “How did she win the fight?” He pointed at Yaholo.
“She kept her cool,” Yaholo said.
“What else?” Jacob asked.
“It was a pleasure to watch her fight, she had amazing footwork and skill,” Rueshaw said.
Jacob nodded. “She let him wear himself out and then led him to be his own worst enemy.”
The girl looked at each of them in turn and then nodded. She offered her hand to Meeko.
Meeko still looked pissed, but he took her hand without comment and stood up next to her. If Meeko hadn’t his behavior would not bode well for creating a real drove.
“I think we all could benefit from training together.” Jacob clapped Meeko on the shoulder.
“Are you willing to show me your footwork?” Meeko directed his question at the girl.
“Yes.” She nodded toward the sword Meeko strapped back on. “If you are willing, I need more help with my sword work.”
Meeko nodded. “I’m willing to show anyone interested.”
This was good. They all had skills to offer.
“Lyra!” Clan leader Wagyu’s voice shouted.
The girl’s face went red and she ran toward the village. Lyra was the Wagyu chief’s daughter.
They were so dead.