The Frozen Prince (The Beast Charmer #2) - Maxym M. Martineau


The Frozen Prince

50 Years Ago

The heavy beat of the approaching army’s drums echoed through my rib cage. My horse shifted beneath me with a nicker, and my grip on the reins tightened. Not for the first time, Rhyne’s forces had crossed the sea between our countries and landed on the flat edge of Penumbra Glades. Our armada had lost, and now the small town of Moeras was counting on me and my men to protect them. The people might have fled for safety, but their homes were here. Their lives were here.

And if I couldn’t save them, I didn’t deserve to call myself their prince.

“Ready yourselves!” I urged my mare forward, and her hooves churned through the soft muck of the marshy battlefield. Thick cattails battered her legs, and the harsh breeze carried the swampy stench of salt and earth. Flat and treeless, the expanse stretched before us, giving my troops full view of the amassing army. Glinting in the morning sun, their severe jade armor sent a chill running down my spine.

For years, that color had haunted my dreams. But no matter how many times I tried, no matter how many letters I sent in hopes of negotiating peace, the royal house of Rhyne would not listen. All they wanted was my head on a pike: a life for a life, a prince for a princess.

Amira. I pushed away the memory of her golden hair and gentle smile. War was no place to get lost in the past. I had other lives depending on me.

With a sharp click of my tongue, my horse leapt into a canter and made for the front line. Thousands of men and women clad in steel armor stared back at me, the griffin crest of Wilheim etched across their hearts. They stood at the ready, their backs ramrod straight and gazes locked forward, the white banners with their purple emblems snapping in the wind. We had no drums. We had no horns. We had no need to declare our presence. This was our home, and the quiet town at our backs was the only reminder we needed.

We would not lose.

As I came to a halt, one man broke rank and guided his stallion to my side. A scraggly beard crawled down his neck, and when he tipped his head in my direction, umber eyes locked with mine. He gripped my shoulder with a smile.

“Let’s get this over with. There’s an ale with my name on it waiting back at camp.” A laugh rumbled through his chest, cut short by a wet cough.

Dread stirred in my gut. “Thaleus?”

My general waved me off. “It’s nothing a little ale won’t fix. Best get on with this so I can wet my whistle.” Straightening, he pounded a closed fist to his chest a few times, seemingly loosening whatever had caught in his throat. The coughing died, but my unease didn’t.

This plague—or whatever it was—was just as skilled at killing my troops as Rhyne had proven to be, and if we didn’t get out of this gods-forsaken marsh soon, I wouldn’t have a kingdom left to defend.

Before I could say anything more, a low horn sounded from across the marsh. It picked up an octave right at the end before dying completely, signaling Rhyne’s attack. The ground rumbled from the sudden quake of hooves and feet, and thousands of jade soldiers crashed through the muddy banks toward our ranks.

Beside me, Thaleus took charge. “Archers!” His voice rang out loud and clear, and the tiniest sliver of relief settled my fear. We’d live to fight another battle together. We had to.

Archers raised their bows to the skies at his command, and Thaleus unsheathed his sword. “Nock!” His bellow was followed by the stretching of string and arrows clacking against wood. Shoulders tense, the archers held position without wavering. I turned my back to them and faced the oncoming threat. Tightened my grip on my sword.

“Steady,” Thaleus called. Blood rushed to my ears, carrying with it the frenzied beat of my heart. I took in a slow breath. Let it out. Repeated the action. Sounds dimmed, and all I could feel was the vibration of pounding feet. The time was here.

“Loose!” Thaleus’s order preceded a volley of arrows that blackened the sky. The sun winked out, and our world was cast into temporary shadow. The low whistle of wood and feathers sang through the air…until metal-tipped heads clanked against armor or sank into flesh, and the definitive sound of bodies hitting the Copyright 2016 - 2023