Home > The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2)(14)

The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2)(14)
Author: G.A. Aiken

They walked their horses through the town until they reached the inner gates. Then they mounted, rode over the bridge, and turned east. But they’d only gotten a few leagues before they were forced to stop.

“You must be kidding me!” Gemma exploded, glaring at the centaur standing across from her. He was in his natural form but without antlers or fangs. Just his ol’ horsey self. Annoying her!

“Did you think I was going to let you ride into this danger alone?” he asked. He was doing that thing with his eyes when he attempted to look sincere. But they both knew he was never sincere.

Samuel raised his hand. “I’m here.”

Quinn glanced at her onetime squire before refocusing on Gemma.

“You and I have grown so close over the years.”

“It’s been two years and, no, we haven’t. And is all this necessary?” she asked, gesturing to the others.

Quinn looked at his sister, her cousin Keran, Cadell, Farlan, and—to Gemma’s horror—Ainsley.

“They insisted.”

“No, we didn’t,” Cadell corrected. “But you threw us out of bed—”

“And told us to move our asses,” Farlan finished. “It was rude.”

Keran shrugged. “I had nothing better to do.”

“I did insist,” Ainsley said. “Told them if they tried to leave without me, I would scream the bloody house down until Keeley was wide awake.”

“I didn’t insist,” Laila added. “It was simply understood.”

“Nothing I can do to get rid of any of you . . . is there?” Gemma asked.

The small group looked at Ainsley. She didn’t bother to smirk. “Just keep in mind that Da has always praised my ability to call the hogs. The loudest hog caller in all the valleys, he used to say. Like to test me, Sister?”


They didn’t take a break until the suns came up, when they paused by a stream to water the horses.

While everyone was busy stretching and eating their first meal, Gemma grabbed Quinn by his ear and yanked him a few feet away.

“Ow! Ow! Ow! Release me, evil woman!”

“Why are you really here?” she demanded once he’d slapped her hand away.

“I thought you wouldn’t want to face death alone.”

“I’d prefer none of my friends to face death.”

“Awwww. Are we friends?”

“No. I didn’t mean you.”


Gemma began to pace. “None of you should be here.”

“I’m not sure why you’re here. You seem pretty convinced they’re going to kill you.”

“I never said such a thing.”

“You didn’t have to, Gemma. I know the price you paid to side against them two years ago.”

“They’re still my brothers. And I will protect them as I would my own family.”

“They’re all war monks. How much protection could they need?”

“All the monks and priests I sent those messengers to were powerful in their own right and they were destroyed. Everyone has weaknesses, if one is willing to exploit them. I won’t risk my brothers. I will make them the same offer that every other religious sect is getting from my sister.”

“And will they accept?”

She could only shrug. “I really don’t know.”

“So they may accept . . . or they may draw and quarter you.”

“Pretty much. Which is something I’d prefer my baby sister not to see.”

“Ainsley . . . I’m honestly not sure it would bother her one way or the other.”

They turned and watched Ainsley pet her horse, pressing her forehead against his snout.

“Does Beatrix like animals?” Quinn asked.

“Not at all.”

“Then that makes me feel better. Horses are a very good judge of character.” Quinn looked down at Gemma. “Speaking of your sisters . . . how do you think Keeley will handle all this?”

And all Gemma could do was let out a rough, “Heh,” in reply.

* * *

The large wood table the family ate from every day in the main hall hit the wall and shattered into pieces. The guards looked at the parents for guidance on how they should deal with the situation but they both shook their heads. And when the uncle started to go toward his niece, the father quickly grabbed him by his long hair and yanked him back. The younger siblings watched from the safety of the second-floor stairs.

Mary’s family had been surprised when she’d come home one day and said she was going to take a job as head cook with the new queen. They thought, at first, she meant with Queen Beatrix. The money was good among those royals, but Mary didn’t want to get anywhere near that family. She’d worked for royals all her life and they were a sad group of fucks. But when the butcher had told her about this job, she couldn’t resist. A blacksmith who’d become a queen . . . if nothing else, it would be interesting. And gods love the light! She’d been right.

Just watching that beast of a woman standing there, raging about her missing sister, big shoulders heaving, big thighs trembling. Queen Keeley wanted to tear the whole place apart. But Mary didn’t worry. Unlike those born royal, this one wouldn’t take it out on the human beings that surrounded her. She wouldn’t slap a serving girl or kill a coachman simply because she could. She wouldn’t beat her horse or kick a dog. Gods, the last thing she’d do was kick a dog. Instead . . . she broke a table. Then, when she realized that wasn’t enough to vent her rage, she turned to her mother and said, “Mum?”

“Forge is hot and ready. Go . . . just go.”

And off the queen went. To the forge that the queen’s mother ran. It was the queen’s mother who manufactured all the armor and weapons that the soldiers got. And Mary heard nothing but compliments from mean, hardened men who thought women were good for nothing but fucking and cleaning. Word was . . . the queen was even better than her mum at controlling fire and steel.

The uncle started to follow but the queen’s mother stepped in front of him and said, “If you mention that goddamn axe, Archie—”

“She owes me an axe. And since she’s going to the forge anyway. . .”

“Not a word.”


“Not. A. Word.”

“I better get me axe out of all this drama.”

“Do not ask my daughter for that bloody axe, old man, if you want to keep your hair. Because I’ll rip it from your head.”

The big uncle grinned at her. “You sexy minx, Emma-luv. You always know how to—”

“Archie!” bellowed Angus, his brother—and the woman’s husband.

See? Entertaining as fuck.

* * *

They rode hard for three days. Only taking short breaks during the day to eat and let their horses rest, and to sleep a few hours at night before moving on.

When they were about a league away from the monastery, Quinn and the other Amichais shifted to human and mounted their horses. His large war horse grunted at his weight and he patted the stallion on the neck. “Sorry, my friend. This shouldn’t be for too long, though.”

Once they were about a mile away, riding along a tree-covered path, Quinn noticed that Ainsley and her horse were no longer with them. He was about to say something to Gemma when arrows rained down from the skies. None hit them directly but, instead, encircled them on all sides.

The horses reared up yet didn’t panic, holding their positions. But all the long arrows surrounding them forced them into a tight circle that would make wiping them out quite easy.

“Hold, good Brothers!” Gemma called out to the trees. “I come with important news from Queen Keeley of the Hill Lands!”

“Brother Gemma?” a voice asked.

“Aye, brothers. It is I. Gemma.”

They suddenly appeared, as if the trees themselves had moved out of their way.

“Traitor!” one snarled, pointing a damning finger. But another monk quickly pushed down his arm.

“Have you lost your wits, Brother?” the monk asked. “This is good Brother Gemma.”

“She has betrayed us all!”

“She is still a brother and until the grand master makes such an accusation, you will treat her with the same respect we all deserve.”

The angry monk sneered at Gemma in contempt, but said nothing more.

“Thank you, Brother Richard,” Gemma said with a slight bow of her head.

Brother Richard winked in return and smiled before motioning to the other monks. They moved forward, pulling arrows from the ground. Gemma dismounted from her horse and the rest of them followed her lead.

“Amichais?” the monk questioned, staring specifically up at Quinn. He didn’t know why. Quinn hadn’t said anything. And he always felt that he was pleasant looking. Unlike his brother. Or even Cadell and Farlan.

“They are part of the queen’s council,” Gemma replied.

“The Amichais are part of your queen’s council?”

“My queen’s council? She is the queen of us all, Brother Richard. And she has many on her council to offer her wise guidance. Is that an issue for you?”

“It’s not for me to say. But if there is a problem, I’m sure we’ll all hear of it.”

“We should proceed, Brother Richard,” another monk called out.

The monks surrounded them, and they walked the rest of the way to the monastery.

Unlike the pacifists’ monastery, the home of the Order of Righteous Valor was not what Quinn would call . . . welcoming. It wasn’t a house of worship. It wasn’t a place of sanctuary for those in need. If anything . . . it was a fortress.

A closed fortress. The gates locked tight. There were armed monks on the ramparts. And armed monks on horseback patrolling the surrounding forest.

The drawbridge was lowered and the gates behind it opened. They crossed over the moat. Quinn glanced down. Something was in the water below but he couldn’t see what. And he honestly didn’t want to know.

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