Home > The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2)(6)

The Princess Knight (The Scarred Earth Saga #2)(6)
Author: G.A. Aiken

“Just making sure it’s clear. You humans are . . . strange.” She looked Gemma over. “You all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“You want some ale? I’m sure there’s ale somewhere around here.”

Gemma gritted her teeth. “I do not need ale. And the pacifist monks abstain.”

“Seriously?”

“From ale and sex and violence. They avoid anything that might make one’s cock hard.”

“Ah. I see. Well . . . we’ll be home soon enough.” She patted Gemma on the shoulder and walked off.

Gemma briefly thought about screaming and tearing the walls of this pacifist house down around her ears but she would never disrespect another god’s house of worship, whether she worshipped that god or not. Instead, she went on her search.

She searched and she searched. For nearly an hour. But she found nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. From what she could tell, the intruders had taken all the gold, all the silver, anything that might be worth something as any good thief or thieves would.

“I knew this was a waste of time.”

She started toward the closest exit but stopped abruptly.

Gemma went over everything in her head one more time. Everything she’d seen or not seen during the time she’d been inside the monastery. That’s when she knew what she’d missed. How blind she’d been.

“Fuck,” she barked before she took off running. “Fuck!”

* * *

The graves had been dug and the troops were carefully laying the bodies of the brutalized brothers into the dirt while Keeley, Quinn, the Amichais, and the last remaining monk looked on.

That’s when Gemma appeared out of nowhere, jumping in front of the easily startled monk.

“I need to talk to you,” she said, grabbing him by the sleeve of his bright yellow robes and beginning to lead him off until Keeley pulled him away.

“What are you doing?” Keeley demanded.

“I need to talk to him.”

Keeley, taller than her sister, leaned down a bit. “Can’t this wait? We’re burying his dead.”

“This is important,” Gemma replied.

“So’s this.”

“Back off.”

“You back off!”

“What is going on?” Laila barked.

“I need to speak—”

“And I said it can wait.”

“You can just ask,” the monk said softly.

And Keeley actually looked as if she wanted to wring her younger sister’s neck.

“The artifacts of the monastery,” Gemma asked, “where are they?”

Staring at Gemma, the monk blinked. Once, twice. “We . . . we have no artifacts, my lady.” And they all knew the monk was lying.

Gemma had no patience these days for poorly told lies, and she rolled her eyes in exasperation. Keeley, however, tried her ridiculous honesty.

“Brother, you can tell my sister anything.”

“Keeley, stop.”

“She’s one of you,” Keeley explained.

“One of us?” the monk asked.

“Keeley, stop talking.”

“Aye! She’s a monk from the Order of Righteous Valor.”

The monk began to blink more. Actually, he blinked ten or twelve times in a row before he stumbled back, slamming into Caid.

“You . . . you’re a . . . a . . . war monk?”

“Brother, please . . .” Gemma raised her hands, palms out. “Before you panic—”

“War Monk!” he screamed hysterically before running away.

Gemma briefly closed her eyes before turning on her sister. “Why did you say anything?”

“Why do you belong to an organization that terrifies people?”

Fair question.

A fair question that Gemma didn’t bother to answer. Instead, she ran after the monk.

“Well, don’t chase after—”

When her sister ignored her, Keeley threw up her hands and charged after Gemma.

The Amichais looked at each other. Keeley was queen. Gemma was eldest sister to the queen. A princess. There were at least three units of soldiers burying bodies that could chase the monk from here all the way back to the Amichais’ mountain home. And yet . . .

Laila and Caid focused on Quinn.

“Oh, come on!” he argued. “Why do I have to do it?”

“I don’t feel like running,” Laila replied.

“I don’t want to,” Caid growled.

“And you know what will happen once they catch up to each other. And that poor monk will die of a heart attack once he sees what those two can do to each other. We’ll never find out the answer to Gemma’s questions. So go,” Laila ordered, gesturing with both hands.

“Fuck.” He shifted to his natural form and took off after the sisters.

It wasn’t hard to find them. The monk’s yellow robes were as bright as the two suns. Gemma was nearly on him when Keeley tackled her from behind, the pair going down hard.

Quinn kept going, reaching the hysterical monk and grabbing him from behind. By the time he had the man under control, he was back to two legs so that when they were facing each other, the monk wouldn’t be any more frightened.

“Breathe,” he ordered the poor man. “Just breathe.”

“She’s a—”

“Yes. She is. But she won’t hurt you. I promise. On my life and the life of my people. Understand?”

The monk gawked at him for a long moment, but finally nodded.

“Now, she’s going to ask you questions, you’ll answer them . . . yes? You’ll help?”

“I will.”

“Good. Now . . .” Quinn looked over his shoulder; shook his head. “Give me a moment.”

He released the monk and returned to the sisters, grabbing them by the collars of their blood-encrusted chainmail shirts and pulling them to their feet. He yanked them apart and shook them for good measure.

“Stop it! You’re scaring the feeble monk!”

“I told you not to say anything!” Gemma felt the need to remind her sister, yet again.

“I still don’t understand why you’re part of a group that sends terror into anyone who even hears the words ‘war monk.’ As soon as they’re said, people piss themselves and run. Does that not concern you?”

“No! It does not concern me. Because our reputation was earned—”

“On the backs of dead babies?”

The slap across the queen’s face rang out through the land like the warning of a town bell; Quinn could actually feel it in his back teeth.

The women were at each other once more and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to attempt to separate them again. He didn’t want to risk important parts of his body. It was the monk who decided to intervene. Not with words or pleas, but a burst of bright energy that sent both females spiraling in opposite directions until they landed facedown in the dirt, gasping for breath, eyes wide in startled panic.

“My brothers are dead!” the monk nearly screamed. “And you two royals attack each other like feckless harpies!” Tears began to stream down his face but they seemed more from despair and frustration than fear. “Both of you, stop it!”

He looked away and wiped his tears with the sleeve of his yellow robe. “Now ask me your question, War Monk.”

Panting hard, but not from her fight with her sister, Gemma got to her feet. She brushed off her knees and asked, “Where did your order keep your artifacts? Your true artifacts.”

The pacifist monk studied her hard before replying, “There are several locations in the monastery—”

“I could be wrong, Brother, but I’m almost positive they’re not there anymore.”

“What?”

When Gemma took a step forward, the monk took a step back, so she stopped.

“I think whoever attacked your monastery tortured your elders because they wanted your artifacts. Not your gold. Not your silver. They wanted your power.”

“How powerful could pacifist monks be?” Quinn asked.

“Well,” Gemma grudgingly admitted, glancing down at the dirt and scrapes she’d gotten from her tumble across the ground, “consider the power we just experienced from this monk, who I’m guessing worked in the”—her gaze locked on him and the monk quickly looked away—“stables? He probably managed to survive by hiding in the tunnels that are built under all monastery stables, and he does smell of horse and sheep shit. So he’s not an elder. Nor is he important enough or powerful enough to work in the library. But he was still able to toss us across this field like kittens.” She nodded. “We need to get back to the monastery and find out if the artifacts are still there.”

“And if they are?” the monk asked.

“They’re yours,” Keeley said, also standing now. “We’re not going to take what belongs to your monastery, Brother. We’re just trying to help.”

He nodded and began walking back toward his monastery and the others. The sisters followed and Quinn brought up the rear. As they walked, he noticed the sisters begin to jostle each other. Then the slapping began. When they took hold of each other, he leaned down and reminded them, “Don’t think for a moment that I won’t drag both of you back there, by your ankles, in front of your entire army. Because if you’re wondering . . . yes, I am that big a dick.”

“We are aware,” Gemma muttered.

“Great!” he cheered, slapping them both on the backs. “I was worried you didn’t know what my father truly loves about me!”

CHAPTER 2

The bodies were buried while the suns were still in the sky, but the monk was not there. He was inside the monastery with Keeley, whom he seemed to trust, and Gemma, whom he didn’t trust at all.

While they watched, he went to every space within the walls that had, at one time, held the order’s artifacts. None of them remained. Not one.

Unable to bear the weight of such loss, he sat down on the first bench he came to in the kitchens and didn’t move. Gemma didn’t sit beside him. She knew he wouldn’t like that. So Keeley did.

   
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