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

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

“I’m assuming you wanted to see me?”

Busy writing on a parchment, he told her to wait by gesturing with a flick of his hand. Gemma went across the room to the small statues standing on one of the many bookshelves and picked up a representation of the war god Morthwyl that one of the monks had created out of stone. Although they respected and called to many war gods in their prayers, it was Morthwyl who was their main deity. It was his name they called when they rode into battle. It was his table they hoped to feast at when they died a death of honor and blood.

“Stop playing with that.”

Gemma put the war god she’d been using to attack another war god back in its place on the shelf. “Sorry.”

“I saw the seer today.”

“The pretty blond one? Or the old hag? Or the one with the twelve kids? Or the one who said she ate her twin while still in her mother’s womb? Or the one who controls fire?”

“No. Gary the sorcerer.”

“Ohhh. Yes, of course.”

“He has some terrifying information about the future of our brotherhood. Some of which, not surprisingly, involves Brother Sprenger.”

“But Sprenger started it.”

The grand master stopped writing and looked up from his parchment. “Sprenger started what?”

Gemma blinked. “Nothing.”



In this room, when they were alone . . . she could call the grand master “Joshua.” He’d been her mentor since the beginning. Before he’d become grand master. The one who’d guided her through all the tough times, had been there when she wasn’t sure she could make it through. But mentor and mentee didn’t really describe their relationship; it was deeper even than that. Did that mean she took Joshua for granted? No. She would not ask him for anything she didn’t think she deserved. Nor would she ask him to fight for her over something as ridiculous as rank. They didn’t waste their relationship on horseshit. It was too important to both of them.

“So what did the seer want to tell you?”

He motioned to the chair across from his desk and Gemma dropped into it.

“The Old King will die soon.”



“But I guess that means one of his idiot sons will replace him?”

That’s when Joshua stared at her for a long moment.

“What?” she asked when he didn’t reply.

“The seer actually sees a different ruler.”

“Oooh. Interesting. Someone we can fight for? Or someone we’re going to have to kill? I’ll be honest . . . I’m not sure which I hope for. Both sound intriguing.”

“I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. Because the ruler he sees, Gemma . . . is your sister.”

Truly confused, she could only ask, “Sister? Which sister? I have a lot of sisters. And brothers and cousins and aunts, uncles—”


She gazed at her mentor for longer than she meant to. She gazed and gazed until it happened all at once. The laughter exploded out of her so hard that she ended up on the floor, rolling around in her blood-covered tunic and chainmail, barely able to stop herself from pissing on it as well. It went on for ages, Gemma unable to stop herself, even as tears streamed down her face and her laughter turned into desperate coughs and struggling for air.

But, eventually, she noticed that Joshua did not join in with her laughter. Unlike most of the brotherhood, Joshua did enjoy a good laugh from time to time. So when he didn’t this time, she forced herself back into the chair and asked while she wiped her tears and gave a few remaining chuckles, “You are kidding, aren’t you?”

When he did not reply with a very strong, “Of course I am!” Gemma’s laughter died in her throat, along with a bit of her soul.

“Beatrix can’t be queen,” she argued. “She’s a child.”

“To be queen or king, she just has to be out of the womb.”

“She has no training.”

“To be a royal? She could be a head in a jar and still be an effective royal.”

“But I hate her.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that fact will come into play.”

“It should. It should be the most important thing in the universe.”

“You know we’re monks, yes? Humility and all that.”

“We’re not just monks,” she reminded him. “We’re war monks. There’s no humility. There’s swords and blood and, if we’re lucky, very good ale. So what do you want me to do about my sister? Have my parents send her to a nunnery, which I have been suggesting since shortly after her birth?”

Once more, Joshua simply gazed at her without speaking.

“What is that look on your face? Why do you just keep staring at me like that? What aren’t you telling me?”

“This isn’t about your sister being inadequate to lead, Gemma. In fact, the seer seems to think Beatrix will be more than ready to lead as queen.”

“Oh.” She shrugged. “Fine. Then what’s the problem?”

“There is concern about what your sister will do once she’s in power.”

“Because she’s a woman?” There had never been a woman who’d led these lands as queen. Only kings born into certain bloodlines or men willing to take the crown.

“No. Because she might be missing a soul.”

Gemma frowned. “Literally . . . or figuratively?”

“Either or both. It’s unclear at this point. But the brotherhood is not willing to take the risk.”

Sitting up straight in her chair, Gemma asked, “Exactly what does that mean?”

He rested his arms on his desk. “Plans are already in motion.”

“Plans? What plans?”

“To kill your sister.”

“You’re going to kill my sister?”

“It’s not my preferred choice, but I don’t make these kinds of decisions alone. And you know that.”

“The elders. They’ve decided to kill a child.”

“She’s of age, Gemma. And it’s what we do.”

“You don’t know my family. They won’t let this happen.”

“That’s why you need to leave. Now. Go home. Save your family.”

“But Thomassin? Bartholemew? Brín? They all agreed to this as well?”

“It was decided it would be easier to send you home on your own to get to your sister than to try to stop the rest of the elders here. They would just go around us. At least this way, with your help, your sister will have a chance of being saved.”

“But the elders were just trying to—”

“Advance your rank?”

“Yes.” She lifted her hands but quickly dropped them. Sighed. “But Sprenger stopped them.”

Joshua laughed. “He’s such an idiot. If he knew why they were advancing your rank, he would have let it go through. The plan was for you to be sent out on a mission with your fancy new rank. And while you were gone—”

“A separate unit would go kill my sister.”

“Unfortunate but accurate. But I’m not going to let that happen. Any of it. Go save your sister. Put her in hiding. When it all blows over, she can either be queen or go back to her normal boring life with both of you hating each other.”

“But if I do this . . . won’t I be betraying the brotherhood?”

“You’ll be leaving on my orders. They’ll know that . . . eventually.”

“Oh, that makes me feel so much better.”

Joshua chuckled. “What have I always told you, spoiled child?”

“We have to play this smart,” she said in a high-pitched voice that always made him laugh.

“Now go. Your squire is waiting with your horses by the hidden tunnel in the stables. You can get out that way.”

“Samuel can’t come. That isn’t fair to him.”

“Gemma, he hates it here. He’d rather risk his life with you than stay here in safety.”

“I’m going back to the family farm, Joshua,” she said, standing. “I doubt there will be much danger as long as my dad’s pigs don’t get out of the sty again and chase the children.”


Two years later...

Gemma Smythe raised her shield against the sword battering against it, again and again. When the blows weakened, she swung the shield wide. The soldier attacking her was thrown off, and Gemma moved in, slamming her sword into his side. She yanked it out, and thrust again, this time into his bowels. She tore him open and let his insides spill out before kicking him in the chest to send him spinning away.

Another attacking soldier slipped in his friend’s entrails and went down. Gemma finished him off quickly, removing his head. Then she used that head to distract the soldier behind him by kicking it into his face. She turned away once her own men swarmed the soldier and took him down.

Gemma wiped blood from her eyes and evaluated the battle going on around her.

Annoyed when she didn’t see what she wanted, Gemma bellowed, “Find the duke and his wife! If they’re here, get them!”

The soldiers she led ran off to do her bidding but the Amichai, now loyal to Keeley, suddenly surrounded her, their war kilts, weapons, and themselves covered in the blood and gore of the enemy.

She studied the group surrounding her before calmly asking the one standing right next to her, “What the fuck are you doing?”

That smile. That smile she loathed with such venom flashed. “Protecting you, my princess.”

“Call me that one more time . . .” she warned through gritted teeth, causing his smile to grow. She forced herself to calm down. “You should be protecting Keeley. Not me.”

“But she sent us to you, my lady. She’s quite concerned with your safety and we are here to serve and protect. We wouldn’t want her sister struck down at such a young age, now would we?”

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