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Authors: Michelle Howard

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Honor Bound

BOOK: Honor Bound
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Honor Bound

 

 

By Michelle Howard

 

 

 

 

Published
by Michelle Howard

 

 

Copyright
© 2014 by Michelle Howard

 

Edited
by: Laura Kingsley

Cover
Design by: www.estrellacoverart.com

 

 

License Notes

 

This eBook is
licensed for your personal enjoyment only. The eBook may not be re-sold or
given away to other people. If you would like to share this novel with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're
reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use
only, then please buy an additional copy for each recipient.

No part of this book
may be distributed in any format, in whole or in part without the express
written consent of the author.

Thank you for
respecting the author's hard work.

This is a work of
fiction and is not a reflection or representation of any person living or dead.
Any similarity is of pure coincidence.

 

 

 

Dedication

 

Honor Bound is dedicated to the most awesome woman I
know. Mom, thank you for gifting me with your love of romance and being a
staunch supporter in my desire to write.

 

Chapter 1

 

“The charge is
murder.”

The official red
robes of a council member swayed about Councilor Raiden’s ankles as he paced.
Vaan stood before the head of the Kaban Council, unable to believe the words he
heard. Raiden couldn’t be serious. The hasty proceedings taking place made a
mockery of the very penalty system Vaan had instituted.

He looked to his
side, relieved at the stoic expressions on the faces of his finest warriors.
Pride filled Vaan at the sight. His men would give no one the pleasure of
witnessing their emotions. Each of his Warlords stood straight and proud. Dark
heads tilted in arrogance, black leather clad legs braced wide, they appeared a
fearsome group. They’d been stripped of their weapons upon arrival but empty
chest harnesses meant nothing. A Warlord defined deadly even without a sword
gripped in hand.

“How do you plead,
Overlord Galip?”

His lip curled.
Vaan Galip did not plead for any man. “I claim innocence of the actions. My warriors
harmed no one and I stand behind them.” His voice rang loud and clear.

Grumbles arose
from the crowd which had gathered in the central hall of Vaan’s main compound.
Warriors and servants idled by, ignoring their tasks in lieu of viewing the
drama playing out before them. Vaan studied the expressions on their faces as
well. Some looked pleased, their eyes full of vengeance.
Ahal
it was the
way of some. Others looked confused and doubtful as if they too, could not
imagine the claims against Vaan.

The head of the
Council slowed his strides in front of Vaan but maintained the distance between
them. Vaan counted on Raiden for the rare moments of clarity from the council
but today no such sign existed. “Can you be certain of this claim?”

Vaan’s fists
clenched in the shackles they’d fastened on his wrists. His nostrils flared at
the insult the Councilor’s question implied. Vaan took a step forward,
separating himself from his warriors and drawing everyone’s attention. How far
would the Council and his uncle Dakar go and what purpose did it serve to place
murder at his door? “Do you doubt me?”

Councilor Raiden
shoved his hands in the pocket of his robes. “We but question the truth,
Overlord.”

Tension radiated
from Vaan’s men. Suppressed violence simmered in the air. They waited to follow
his lead, knowing the charges against them were frivolous at best. Anane
supported all nomadic tribes crossing their land with offers of food and water.
His Warlords knew Vaan would never send out an order for one of them to decimate
the entire village of innocent men, women and children. His Uncle and the
Council sought to ignite tempers.

When Raiden passed
a second time, Vaan’s gaze strayed to his uncle wearing similar robes yet
holding his silence. Vaan didn’t bother to hide his snarl. How dare they
question him? “I speak truth, Councilor Raiden. Ever have my actions been for
Kaban.” Another step placed Vaan directly in line with the path of Raiden’s
pacing. The muscles in Vaan’s arms flexed as he raised his bound hands. “I will
personally punish those found guilty.” Vaan turned to eye their nervous faces
after issuing the threat.

Councilor Raiden
jerked and paled. His infernal pacing came to an end. Shadows danced behind his
brown eyes as he sought Vaan’s uncle. Best they should fear him. All of them,
Vaan added as his gaze roamed over the men who made up the Kaban Council. The
five robed figures who sat on the Council were pompous fools and never more so
than now when they tried to lay claim to this atrocity at his feet.

Vaan kept Dakar in
his line of sight to witness his reaction as well. His uncle’s dark hair lay
neatly about his broad shoulders. No marks marred a face eerily similar to
Vaan’s. His shoulders appeared wide beneath the elaborate robes of a Council
member. Vaan sneered. Dakar shamed the family name by choosing to sit as a
member of the Council instead of defending Kaban with his sword. His uncle
blanched when he dared meet Vaan’s gaze.

“Let us waste no
more time,” Vaan declared. If they truly cared about bringing justice forth,
they’d let Vaan and his Warlords seek out the true offenders.

Councilor Raiden
firmed his shoulders and faced the small gathering. Those allowed in the hall
to watch shifted on restless feet. “We will drink to health and long life
before proceeding.”

To refuse would
make Vaan look inconsiderate. A smug smile spread across Dakar’s thin lips. It
pleased him to hear an excuse to delay. Vaan cared not for consideration but
bid his time. He gave Raiden a terse nod, releasing his consent.

One of the house
serving girls immediately came forward. She wore the blue and silver colors of
the Galip household. The ankle length dress hugged a curvy figure Vaan well
remembered. Neera removed the lid of the gold tray and extended her arms,
offering curved blue mugs bearing the stylized G of Vaan’s seal. Other servants
joined her with mug laden trays for the Councilors.

Vaan stood, legs
planted apart. Each Warlord waited on him for guidance. As their Overlord, they
made no moves without his approval. The Councilors, his uncle included, stared
awaiting his response. Fine. Vaan wanted to see this played out and then he
would reign terror on the perpetrators. “We drink,” Vaan agreed. “But the
matter will be resolved now.”

With their hands
tied in front of them, Neera carefully handed each of his Warlords the mugs of
hot wine. Vaan tossed his back in one swallow, his men following suit. Neera
quickly approached to collect the empty cups. When her blue eyes met Vaan’s,
they skittered away and the tray in her hands rattled. She made haste in her
escape.

A frown tugged at
Vaan’s lips. Neera and he ended their bed play mutually. She had no cause to
fear Vaan. He’d earned his reputation on the battlefield honestly but voiced no
complaints with his servants as long as they met his expectations. All knew of
the Overlord’s harsh dealings with those who displeased him but he ruled with
fairness when possible. His confusion with Neera’s reaction re-enforced his
rage. He did not make war on women and children. These claims were ridiculous.
Vaan renewed his vow to find the true culprits. Nothing else would take
priority.

“To Honor,” his
uncle cheered and finished his drink in one go as well.

The other
councilors sipped from their mugs, unused to hard drink. Huddled together in a
small group, they stood so close the hem of their robes brushed. Vaan rolled
his eyes at the visible display of their clannish ways. They appeared like
women hovering in a kitchen to share a moment of gossip.

Vaan had enough of
this farce. He straightened his shoulders and stared coldly at his uncle.
“Enough. You will present this proof you say you have and we will be done with
this matter.” Vaan suffered no love lost for his father’s brother. The man
believed his position on the Kaban Council made him invincible. For Dakar,
power truly had bloated his heart. If not for Vaan and his Warlords, the
Council would lose the prestige they loved to lord over everyone’s head, his
uncle included.

Dakar glared at
Vaan for the interruption before turning. He signaled one of the warriors Vaan
hadn’t notice entering the room. Vaan waited, knowing his face revealed none of
his inner emotions. Emotions which warned him to be leery of his uncle’s
machinations.

“Warlord Thenl,
speak before the assemblage and tell us your shame.”

Shame?
Vaan
clenched his hands tighter in the bonds. Muted anger throbbed in his chest. The
warrior, Thenl, entered the hall and stepped forward to the front of the
assemblage. His blond hair, rare among Kabanians, lay in a tangle about his
bare shoulders. The customary black leather leggings appeared stained and
soiled as if he had traveled quickly. Thenl recently achieved Warlord status
despite Vaan’s desire for the youth to train longer. Something about him was
not quite right. Instead, Vaan had trusted Argan’s judgment, his top Warlord
and moved the young man forward in the promotion. Thenl had been given a troop
of ten warriors. The smallest contingent possible Vaan could assign him without
causing insult to his newly gained status.

Vaan eyed the
youth closely. Thenl’s smile caused a tug of foreboding in Vaan’s gut. Thenl
swaggered forward. He nodded to Dakar and then looked over Vaan and the other
restrained Warlords. His blue eyes glowed with a malicious light and his mouth
curved in a cocky smile. The look reeked of superiority. Vaan controlled the
urge to roll his eyes at the posturing. A true Warlord had no need of such
displays.

Argan Vaan’s best
friend and longest appointed Warlord, staggered into his side. With his hands
restrained, Vaan could only brace his weight until his friend recovered. Argan
straightened, a flush staining his cheeks.

Vaan murmured low.
“Is all well?” His trusted commander was ever composed.

Argan shook his
dark head and blinked. “The wine.” He paused and cracked his neck to the side.
“Something was amiss with the wine, Overlord.”

Vaan’s eyes
narrowed. He turned his head slightly, observing his other Warlords. Strong
men. Men who fought fiercely in battle, yet glassy eyes stared back. A few
slumped their heads on their shoulders. Each of them looked seconds away from
collapse. Something was indeed amiss.

Vaan turned back
to face Thenl and his Uncle Dakar. Excitement glittered in their eyes. A
feverish light gave their gazes an evil tint. What was their end goal? Vaan
remembered his feelings of misgiving about the missive he’d received four days
past from the Council. The basic words demanded Vaan’s presence and that of his
fifteen. Typically, he would have burned the letter and not responded but it
promised answers about the destruction of Anane and he could not refuse the
opportunity to find out those answers.

It was up to Vaan
as Overlord to maintain the peace of the Kaban land and its borders. He’d
fought and battled for the right. What happened to Anane needed resolving, thus
he and his Warlords had traveled fast and far to Vaan’s home. The home he
rarely resided in due to his constant travel and battles. The home his Uncle
commandeered for this farce. A simple order and any of the warriors present
would raise arms to fight on Vaan’s behalf but he held back the words from his
tongue.

“I stand here to
speak truth and demand forgiveness,” Thenl started. “I am but a mere warrior
who follows orders.”

Vaan grunted.
Thenl’s past consisted of unfounded boast and challenging behavior that did not
support his claims of humility. Vaan waited to hear the words Thenl would spew
forth but he did not expect what the Warlord said next.

“Two weeks ago, I
accepted the Overlord’s command to be silent about Anane.” Thenl bowed his head
and his shoulders hunched forward. “I watched with reluctance as the Overlord
and his top Warlords destroyed the village.”

Vaan clenched his
teeth at the falsehood. Thenl’s announcement had those in the gathering gasping
and crying out. His people, his warriors subjected to this. Rage coiled in his
belly. Blood pounded at his temples.

“I am saddened to
hear this news. Why do you come forward now, Warlord?” Dakar made sure his eyes
connected with everyone. Were those tears in his stare?

Vaan couldn’t stop
a growl from escaping. Thenl was hapfe piss. His words nothing but lies. Vaan
had no cause to give such a command. Not only because such actions were wrong
but destroying entire encampments or villages created deep rooted feelings of
hatred among the people that could never be overcome. As Overlord, Vaan ruled
many and inspired loyalty in twice that number. He did not attain such a
position of power and rule by killing without reason.

“My actions did
not sit well on my heart. Thirty-five men, women and children slain.” Thenl’s
voice choked and a solitary tear rolled down his cheek.

“Lie,” Argan
snapped, unable to maintain his silence.

Thenl frowned and
waved his hand toward Vaan and the men by his side. “Hear me assembled
warriors. You are like blind shep following the Overlord’s command. I witnessed
with my eyes the destruction reeked by his top Warlords while the Overlord
stood by and laughed. I can hold my lips no more.”

Vaan narrowed his
eyes and listened as Thenl condemned him with words. The betrayal stung
sharply.

Dakar clapped
Thenl on the back. “Be at ease, warrior. My nephew’s control has ever been lax.
All have seen him under Fenal’s grip.”

Vaan forced the
breath in his chest to move in and out without constriction. He never struggled
with control outside of battle. Vaan admitted to falling under Fenal during a
skirmish. Many warriors suffered battle rage when their blood ran hot and Vaan
professed to be no different. But he did
not
order a raid on Anane and
he did
not
kill innocents. Vaan turned his head to see how his Warlords
accepted this false claim but the room spun around him.

Argan’s glazed
eyes widened in concern but Vaan’s vision wavered. Had their wine truly been
tampered with? Thenl and Dakar didn’t seem to suffer any ill-effects.

“The Council
members and I all spoke with Warlord Thenl and the warriors under his charge.
The claim is truth. How do you plead, I ask again, Overlord Vaan Galip?”

“Lie,” Vaan said
and swallowed thickly. His uncle’s visage blurred but Vaan spoke the next words
clearly over his nausea. “I and my Warlords did not destroy Anane.”

“Would you
remember if Fenal rode you hard?” Councilor Raiden questioned in a reasonable
tone. His head cocked to the side as he awaited a viable answer to explain.

Vaan stumbled back
a step. Two of his Warlord’s closed ranks around him. Vaan tried to shake his
vision clear. What was the question?
Fenal.
It was a fact that warriors
did not often recall their actions under the battle rage named for Vaan’s
ruthless ancestor Fenal Galip. Fenal had gone to battle against a contingent of
soldiers from Desani. With only his sword and his mount, a pure bred hapfe,
Fenal killed one hundred Desani men before the sun lowered it’s presence from
the sky.

BOOK: Honor Bound
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