Home > Master of Storms (Legends of the Storm #5)

Master of Storms (Legends of the Storm #5)
Author: Bec McMaster

Prologue

 

 

Then

Norway, 1870

 

“The prince is here!”

Princess Solveig of the Sadu clan looked up as her youngest sister burst through the doors to her bedchamber, squealing in delight.

Aslaug jumped on the bed and fell in a flurry of pink skirts and golden hair. “I saw him arrive with his guards. He was so handsome. So ridiculously handsome. And when he smiled, I swear half the ladies of the court fainted!”

Solveig rolled her eyes. “They should have had something to eat before he arrived then.”

“You have no romance in your soul,” Aslaug accused.

“I eat cynicism for breakfast, along with the crushed hearts of vapid suitors.” Dreki princesses, she was learning, could be dramatic, and someone had to keep them in line.

“No arguing.” Siv spoke up. As the middle sister, she was frequently caught between the two of them. “Not today. Father said we had to be on our best behavior with this foreign court of dreki nobles. We need an alliance with the Zini court if we’re going to be able to withstand the Zilittu clan in the north.”

Dreki were mythical creatures born of Fire and Air. They were smaller than the larger, lumbering cousins they shared a shape with—dragons—and far more powerful, with the ability to shift into mortal form and walk among humans.

But if there was one thing Solveig had learned over the years, it was that Tiamat, the goddess who had gifted them with life, had also gifted them with the lion’s share of arrogance.

And the Zilittu clan were the proudest and most ambitious of all.

“The Zilittu die like any other dreki,” Solveig said. “If father gives me full command of the warband, then I could ensure there are no more problems from the north faster than one can say ‘who’s a pretty little princeling?’ We don’t need an alliance with the Zini.”

“Who cares about alliances? There is a prince here!” Aslaug’s voice grew hot with emotion. “And he is the most beautiful male I have ever seen.” She cuddled a cushion to her chest. “Prince Marduk. Marduk. Is that not the most amazing name you’ve ever heard?”

“It sounds like something the cat spat on the rug.”

Aslaug threw the pillow at her. “He was named after an ancient Sumerian god. It’s a powerful name.”

Solveig tried to work her way through the mess of braid she was creating in Siv’s red hair. “Are we related to her? I swear she looks like Mother, but this is embarrassing. The princesses of the Sadu clan don’t squeal over foreign-born princes, and especially not one who comes to eat all our food and drink our wine.”

Aslaug rolled onto her stomach in the mess of furs. “Well, ha. For once I know something you don’t know.”

“Do tell.” Was it over? Or under? Solveig held up a handful of Siv’s red-gold hair.

“Under,” Siv said with a sigh. “You don’t have to do this.”

Solveig’s hands paused. “I want to do this.”

It was a lie.

She was terrible at braiding hair, but this was something their mother had always done for the younger girls for important occasions, and while Solveig didn’t give a damn about making a good first impression, she knew it was important to both Aslaug and Siv.

And if someone had to fill their mother’s shoes, then it was most likely going to have to be her.

“Are either of you listening to me? The prince is here and I have important news!”

“I heard you.” I just don’t care. Dreki princes were all alike. Arrogant, puffed-shirt peacocks who thought she ought to be grateful they noticed her. “This Marduk will sign the treaty and we shall practice our prettiest smiles; Father will offer him wine and fine meats, and then hopefully, he’ll be winging out of here within the week and that’s the last we shall—"

“Yes, well….” Aslaug looked smug. “That’s the bit you didn’t know. Apparently, the prince is not merely here for the treaty. Father has promised him the hand of one of his daughters as a means of wedding both clans together. Prince Marduk is going to mate with one of us!”

Several threads of hair winnowed through her fingers as Solveig lost control of the entire braid she was mangling. Mating? “Father promised what?”

He couldn’t have.

He wouldn’t have.

“Oh, I knew that would capture your attention! Prince Marduk has been offered the choice of one of Father’s three daughters.” Shoving to her feet, Aslaug spun in a little circle. “I’m going to mate with a prince!”

A fair assumption, but ice slithered down Solveig’s spine. “You’re sure Father said ‘the hand of one of his daughters’?”

“Certain.”

There was no reason to believe it wouldn’t be Aslaug. Her sister was stunningly, heart-stoppingly beautiful. And kind. And regal. Usually.

The color drained out of Siv’s face. “What was he thinking?”

Aslaug’s joy faded. “I know you don’t want to mate with him. Either of you. So I am more than happy to make such a sacrifice—”

“Hardly a sacrifice for you,” Solveig spluttered, but as she paced, she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Why did Father not offer you directly? He knows you’d be more than willing.”

Just as he knew that both she and Siv would not be.

Siv had been there with her when their mother was killed. She’d stayed there on that mountain and protected the queen’s body from predators all night while Solveig fetched help, even though she’d been but twelve. The court whispered that her broken heart had never healed, but Solveig knew her kind, shy sister suffered from nightmares and terrors. She needed to feel safe.

And home was safe.

What was their father thinking?

Clearly, he was not, she seethed.

As for herself, if this prince thought she was going to kiss his boots like some prospective bride aflutter at the hope of stealing his heart, he could think again.

“Apparently, Prince Marduk can be… contrary,” Aslaug replied. “He has to be made to think such an arrangement is his choice. Lead him by the halter, so to speak.”

Contrary. There were other ways to describe such a male. “So he is against the mating.”

“He is not against the mating,” Aslaug corrected. “He merely wishes to meet us all. I’m fairly certain I can lure him somewhere private and encourage his attention to focus on me.”

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