Home > The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2)(16)

The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2)(16)
Author: G.A. Aiken

Katla slapped her hand at the back of Julia’s neck and yanked her close, pressing her lips against the monk’s ear.

“Where is she?” Katla snarled.

* * *

They entered the Chamber of Valor, where many of the order’s major decisions, rulings, laws, and judgments were made.

“I know,” the master sergeant explained to the outsiders, “that you see all the weapons on these walls and think you’d like to handle them, but please understand that they are under the protection of ancient magicks. Touch them with the knowledge that you risk your very lives by doing so.”

Of course, as he spoke those words, the centaur siblings had already grabbed two weapons off the walls and were looking them over. Gemma immediately yanked the double-headed battle axe and skull-headed mace from their hands just as the monks faced their group. The master sergeant scowled at her.

“What are you doing?” he demanded.

Gemma glanced at the weapons she held. “Just remembering how these used to feel in my hands . . . that’s all.”

She would have put the weapons back herself but they were quickly snatched from her grip by low-level monks and returned to their places of honor.

“Hands off, traitor,” someone hissed at her.

“Only those without disgrace may touch these weapons,” the master sergeant reminded her. And then he suddenly pointed at her. “And that I do not miss, Brother Gemma!”


“That eye roll.”

“Thought you only did that with your sister . . . and me,” Quinn softly teased.

“Shut up,” she replied. But not harshly. She was glad, for once, of his humor. She needed it at the moment. They kept her from reacting harshly to such rudeness.

The monks moved around the chamber, getting into place.

“I thought all these weapons were bewitched or something,” Quinn remarked.

“They are. Which begs the question, why were you and your sister able to not only touch them but remove them from the wall and toy with them?”

He shrugged. “To most magicks, centaurs are considered animals.”


“Most magicks can’t harm animals because in the eyes of most gods, they are innocents. So while spells and curses might cause you great harm, they do nothing to us.”

“That makes sense.”

“And, of course, every god has its favorites. Turns out, centaurs are the favorites of most if not all gods.”

“How do you know that?”

“Look at us. We’re gorgeous.”

She glared at him. “Why do I bother talking to you at all?”

“I have no idea.”

* * *

Quinn glanced at his sister and then at the room they were in. She gave a short nod, understanding him. This Room of Pestilence or Chamber Pot of Desecration or whatever the monks called it did not merely have a few weapons on the walls. Keeley’s forge had a few weapons. This room, however . . .

The weapons not only covered the walls, they covered the ceiling as well. And all of them were usable. If necessary.

“Brother Gemma,” the master sergeant called out. “Come forward.”

It bothered Quinn that these monks who kept calling Gemma a traitor also insisted on calling her “Brother Gemma.” Especially when she wasn’t wearing her tunic. Quinn got the feeling they were doing that for a very specific reason and not a good one.

Gemma walked forward and Quinn motioned Samuel to his side.

“Tell me what’s going on, Samuel.”

“Tell you? Won’t you just get bored?”

The boy had a point. Most things bored Quinn and monk-based ceremonies would probably top the list if he’d been forced to go to any before.

“Fine. Go tell my sister then. Keep her apprised so nothing takes her off guard.”

Samuel patted his shoulder. “That does make more sense.”

Quinn glared at the hand on his shoulder and Samuel quickly removed it before turning to Laila and whispering to her.

Unable to make out what was being said, Quinn simply watched what was happening around him.

Gemma waited in front of a raised dais that the master sergeant stood upon. It took a moment to realize that she was positioned in the middle of the rune of their chosen god. Once again, something that Quinn felt wasn’t necessarily a good thing, but perhaps not bad either.

“So,” the master sergeant said, “tell us why you’ve decided to return here two years after abandoning our order.”

“It wasn’t abandonment, but that’s neither here nor there. There have been brutal attacks on monasteries, temples, and churches throughout the lands. We’re not sure who is behind the atrocities, but until we are, Queen Keeley of the Hill Lands is offering safe refuge for all religious orders.”

“And you expect us to trust you? A traitor?”

“I’m not a traitor, but in this instance, you don’t have to trust me. You can trust the queen.”

“Which queen? I’ve heard there are two.”

“Yes, but one comes with the son of the Old King attached.”

“And the other comes with the Amichais and a treacherous cow.”

Quinn glanced over at the wall. Saw a steel spear he liked the look of, that he could do a nice bit of damage with. Since it was starting to seem as if that would be necessary.

But he’d barely moved when the doors to the Alcove of Annihilation were flung open, startling everyone. Three monks—appearing as if they’d just stepped off a battlefield—stormed inside. They pushed past the monks attempting to stop them and crowded around Gemma.

“Wait—” was all Gemma got out before she was grabbed by the scruff of her chainmail and yanked back toward the doorway.

“Brother Katla!” the master sergeant yelled from his mighty dais.

“Back off!” was all one of the monks barked before absconding with Gemma.

Laila immediately went after Gemma, and the rest of their unit immediately went after Laila. The monks attempted to stop them, as well, but Farlan and Cadell easily shoved them aside so the rest of them could get through without much bother.

They didn’t have to go far. The foursome were standing right outside the doors. A dark-haired woman, a little taller than Gemma, threw out her arms. At first, Quinn thought it was an open challenge. But then she said, “So where have you been?”

“Before you start yelling—” Gemma began.

“I’m not yelling.”

“You have to let me explain, Katla.”

“I don’t have to do a gods-damn thing.” She gestured to Gemma. “She’s all yours, Kir.”

“Katla, no!” Gemma cried.

The big man quickly moved forward, wrapped his arms around Gemma, and lifted her off the ground while he . . . sobbed?

Quinn leaned around the large man so he could look Gemma in the eyes and mouthed, Is he crying?

Gemma stroked the big monk’s shoulders and soothed, “It’s okay, Kir. It’s okay.”

“But you just left!” the big monk openly sobbed. “You just left us!”

He is! Quinn continued, shocked. He’s sobbing!

Stop it! Gemma mouthed back.

But I love him. I love him, Gemma!

Quinn moved around so he could study the hugging monk. He was huge. Wide as a house. Quinn had hunted bears that were smaller. Had arm-wrestled dwarves that weren’t as wide. But those big blue needy eyes filled with copious tears utterly confused Quinn. As did the nasty scar across his neck that said this sobbing monk had almost lost his life at least once. When their eyes met, Quinn smiled at him.


The hugger scowled. “Who are you?”

“I’m Quinn. I’m traveling with Gemma. Part of her protection unit.”

“Brother Gemma needs no protection.”

“That’s very true. But she’s Princess Gemma now.”

“You’re a princess now?” the sobbing monk asked Gemma.

Gemma didn’t respond. She was too busy crawling onto the sobbing monk’s shoulder so she could get into what appeared to be a whispering fight with the female monk called Katla. Quinn couldn’t make out what they were saying to each other, but now Gemma was balancing herself on that massive shoulder so she could gesture at the female.

Unable to help himself, Quinn said to the monk, “You know what I’d like, Brother?”

“What’s that?”

Quinn threw his arms open. “A hug.”

The monk grinned and threw his own arms open, sending Gemma flipping off his shoulder to the ground as the two males happily embraced.

“Gods-dammit, Quinn!” Gemma exploded from the floor.

“What? I was getting a hug.”

“Look at this, Katla,” the monk said, turning to the female monk and lifting Quinn up a bit. “Amichai. I’ve always wanted to meet one of the Amichais!”

Brother Katla reached down and lifted Gemma to her feet by again grabbing the scruff of her chainmail shirt. Gemma slapped the hand away once she was standing.

“Get off! Get off! Get off!”

“Did it occur to you,” Brother Katla asked in a tone that brooked no disagreement, “to tell us what was going on and to ask us for help?”

“I couldn’t,” Gemma said. “I had to move if I was going to get home in time. As it was, I barely made it before my family was attacked by one of the Old King’s treacherous sons.”

“You couldn’t even get a message to us?”

“So you could what? Go with me?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what we would have done.”

“You’re a traitor too, then, Brother Katla?” the master sergeant asked from inside the doorway.

“Oh, shut up, Alesandro,” Katla shot back.

Confused, Quinn asked the tall female monk who’d walked in with the brother and sister, “Doesn’t Brother Katla report to the master sergeant?”

“No. As master sergeant he runs the day-to-day operations of the monastery, but Katla’s a major. She has control over an entire battalion. She outranks him. I’m Shona, by the way.”

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