Princess For Hire
By: Jamie Grey | Other books by Jamie Grey
Published By: MuseItUp Publishing
ISBN # 9781926931456
Word Count: 5945
Available in: Epub, HTML, Adobe Acrobat, Mobipocket (.prc)
About the bookAfter winning his kingdom in a legendary poker game twenty years ago, Princess Mina’s father loses the kingdom just as easily. Now alone and penniless, Mina must rely on her sword to support them both.
When the princess-turned-mercenary is offered a contract to save a prince that will pay enough to keep her father laid up in luxury for yet another year, she and her business partner snap up the deal. Dragons and all.
But when she’s faced with a seedy mage and a prince who doesn’t want any woman to rescue him, Mina quickly learns the so-far-unseen dragon is the least of her worries.
An excerpt from the bookGalt and I reached the foothills of the Wintergrasp Mountains at noon, though the watery sunlight did nothing to warm my icy fingers. I blew on them to warm them as I slid from my horse to tether him to a tree. A gust of November wind tore through my cloak and tunic like I wore nothing at all. And by the look of the peaks above us, it was only going to get worse the higher we climbed.
Galt moaned as he saw our route, but we didn’t have a choice. I gritted my teeth as we started up the steep mountain face. My numb hands searched for holds to pull me up, as my feet slipped and slid on the loose scree. Between the freezing air, the exertion and the altitude, every breath felt like fire ripping through my lungs. Galt looked even worse for wear, his face red and mottled when he collapsed beside me on the first plateau.
For a while, all I could hear was my heart thudding in my ears. Then the rocky slope above us shifted as something moved further up the cliff. I bit back a curse at my stupidity and jumped to my feet as a low moan echoed down the mountain. I’d made yet another rookie mistake – never let your guard down on a job.
“Get out your sword, Galt,” I ordered, forcing my aching body upright. He groaned, not moving. I nudged him with the toe of my boot. “Now.”
Half a dozen monstrosities slithered down the hillside toward us. I stared in horror, fingers frozen on the hilt of my sword. Most of their flesh had been torn away in ragged strips, exposing gray muscle beneath. Partially eaten eyes bulged from their sockets. Then I got a whiff of the stench. I pressed a hand to my mouth as vomit burned my throat.
I couldn’t stop my sword from trembling in my hands as I gripped it tightly. While I’d heard of monsters like this in fairy tales, I’d never expected to see them in real life. I gritted my teeth trying not to let the frantic pounding of my heart distract me. I was a mercenary now; I’d better start acting like one.
The dead men moaned and creaked as they shuffled toward us, one at a time. I attacked the first one; my blade slicing cleanly through the decaying tendons of his neck. His head rolled away over the ledge, body collapsing instantly in a haze of decay. Before I could retch at the smell, the next one attacked, raising lifeless arms to grab at my clothes. I hefted my sword in broad, graceful strokes, moving between each ghoul, trying not to breathe as a cloud of noxious fumes met each slice of my blade.
It was strangely easy.
When I’d hacked the last ghoul to shreds, I stopped to survey my work, wrinkling my nose in disgust at the decapitated monsters. I shifted my eyes away from the oozing bodies, trying to breathe through my mouth. My heart pounded in my ears, though I slowly realized I’d never been in any real danger from the slow-moving monsters. But by the Maker, I was glad we’d stumbled upon them in broad daylight.
Galt stared at me in horror, still frozen to his spot on the ground. At least he’d managed to draw his sword. “What were they?” He raised a shaking hand to rub away the sheen of sweat on his brow.
“Test one.” I hoped test two was just as easy. The ghouls had been pitifully slow. Almost suspiciously so. “Let’s get moving. The stench is making me sick.”
After another tough climb we reached the next plateau an hour later. My leg muscles shook from pushing up the rock wall, my hands were shredded and raw. I cursed the mage with each step, and cursed King Randalf even more for sending us on this wild goose chase.
Once I carefully inspected the next horizontal shelf I collapsed, trying to catch my breath. A spindly tree rustled gently in the wind above us and I turned to find a softer spot on the rocky ledge. I screamed in shock. An elfin face with a long, pointed nose pushed itself out of the bark to watch us.
By the Maker, this job was going to be the death of me.
“You must answer my question before you pass,” said a sighing voice from the tree.
Test two. I glanced at Galt. “Are you going to be more help this time?”
He stuck out his tongue at me. I turned back to the tree, nerves licking along my spine. “Very well. What’s the question?”
It shook a branch at us in warning. “You have three tries. If you answer incorrectly, you will die.”
Galt moaned as he ran a hand through his hair. “I’m no good at riddles.”
“No kidding.” My heart sank. I wasn’t great at them either. I much preferred straightforward fighting to dancing around fancy words.
The tree’s branches shivered as it spoke. “A chest without hinges, key, or lid but inside golden treasures are hid. What am I?”
“That’s easy! Everyone knows that riddle.” A knowing smile curled Galt’s lips.
“I didn’t say it would be hard,” muttered the tree. “What is your answer?”
“You may pass.” With another creak, the tree went still and silent.
Galt winked at me, whistling as he swung his pack over his shoulder. I chewed my lip. This all seemed too easy. First the slow moving ghouls, now a child’s riddle? Something was wrong. Why was King Randalf paying me so much money to retrieve his son when anyone could do this? And why had all the previous princesses failed?