“Honored? I’m seriously ticked off. What you should have done was never set foot in here.”

He blinked at her, his head tilted as he tried to process what she had just said. “Ticked off?” He started to laugh. “One day, I will have to travel to your lands, so that I may learn to understand the way you speak.”

“Over my dead body.” Mina grumbled. Seriously, she was at the end of her rope.

Teague laughed even harder and shook his head. “I have to say that I will miss you and your brazen way of speaking.” He moved toward the shadows and she heard his parting words. “Unless you can defeat an ogre?”

Chapter 24

Sleep hadn’t come easy, and Mina was awakened by a knock on the door. Her mind immediately rushed back to Teague’s challenge. Slay an Ogre? He had to be joking, right? The Fates couldn’t possibly make the girls fight for their lives. That was a lot to ask of someone who wasn’t guaranteed a throne.

Maybe Teague was just being a jerk and trying to throw her.

A small brownie opened her door and came in carrying a stack of clothes which she placed on Mina’s bed. Her skin was darker than Mei’s, and her eyes were golden amber in color. But oh, she made Mina miss the wisdom of her brownie-friend.

“Please put these on and meet up with the other girls in the main hall.” Her voice was soft and unassuming, and she left as quietly as she came.

Mina lifted the slippers and saw a long sleeved dress of deep blue with no frills, ruffles, or lace. She wondered once again if she was the only one to be given clothes. Were the others going through their trunks and trunks of gowns and wearing their prettiest pieces?

Feeling a sense of unease, she discarded the silk slippers and put on her own glass ones. The diamonds hadn’t moved since she last checked and tears filled her eyes. What if the shoes were truly, absolutely broken? Would she be stuck here forever? She furiously wiped the tears away and stood up to see herself in the mirror. Her eyes had worry rings and her nose looked a little red from crying. Picking up a comb from the table, she quickly brushed out her hair, letting the curls from last night wave around her shoulders. She looked wild and free, but she felt anything but. Mina held her breath and puffed out her cheeks, making a face at herself in the mirror. At least the color of the dress complemented her skin tones and made her eyes stand out. She needed to pull herself together. “You can do this, Mina. You’re a Grimm. You can handle this. Everyone is counting on you to be smart and figure this out.”


After her mini pep talk, she opened her door and headed to the main hall. Sure enough, the other eight girls were already there, minus Ferah, Fushia and Silene. They all happened to be wearing similar slim dresses in varying colors. Of course, the others had done their hair up in in extravagant coifs, ringlets, and braids. Ever, again keeping to herself at the edge of the crowd, looked stunning in a long black dress.

Annalora’s face was still swollen, but her makeup decently covered most of the discolored bruise. As soon as she saw Mina enter the hall, she turned her back. Which was fine with Mina. Just seeing Annalora’s face put a bounce in Mina’s step as she made her way to stand next to Dinah. The tension in the room was at an all-time high as the girls feigned small talk while they watched the doors. A few laughs tittered to unnatural pitches as the girls’ nerves ran amok.

“What do you think the test will be today?” Mina asked Dinah absently.

Dinah yawned and rubbed her back. “I’m not sure, but I hope we’re done soon. There was a lump in my mattress, and I could barely sleep last night. I think I’m bruised.”

“Maybe there was a pea under your mattress,” Mina said, amused.

“Oh don’t be silly, Elle. Why would there be food under a mattress in the royal palace? It had to have been a rock.”

“Why would a rock be under the mattress? In fact, I’d think it was more likely for food to be under the mattress than a rock.”

“Fine—pea, rock, or elephant. It was awful. You wouldn’t want to switch rooms tonight, would you?”

“If I make it past the next round, I would do anything to help.” Mina agreed easily, knowing she probably wouldn’t be here after the next test. “So, have the betrothal tests always been this grueling?”

Dinah raised an eyebrow at Mina. “Do you really not know?”

Mina shook her head. “I’ve lived a very sheltered life.”

She wasn’t sure if the nymph bought her excuse, but the tall girl explained. “Well, depending on whether the heir is male or female, the choosing ceremony varies. If it’s a female then the princes of lesser kingdoms and first-born sons are tested on wit, honesty, and bravery. In the past they’ve been sent on quests to fight a dragon, steal a golden fleece, or travel to the ends of the known world. But the princess test is always kept a secret. I’m not altogether sure why, but it is always conducted within the palace. Usually the youngest and prettiest daughters—and other princesses—are the candidates. There was a rumor that Queen Maeve was selected because she spun straw into gold.”

That didn’t sound so bad, but it still seemed out of Mina’s expertise. Teague’s warning came back to her. “You don’t think they’d make us do anything dangerous, do you?”

Dinah shrugged her shoulders. “Who knows? But I’m not expecting it to be as easy as yesterday.” Her words only confirmed Mina’s fears. “By the way, I’m glad you brought Annalora down a peg. I’d just be careful around her. She’s got it out for you.”

She turned to face the door when King Lucian entered alone.

“Greetings, princesses and ladies. Day two of our quests will commence shortly. One at a time, you will proceed through the double doors into the library. On the other side is your test.”

Dinah let out a sigh of relief and Mina had to agree. A test in a library didn’t sound too bad. Did that mean Teague lied to her?

King Lucian wiped his brow and pointed to Tawny to enter first. Tawny smiled and stepped away from Annalora to head through the doors.

They closed behind her, and then the girls waited. Each one of them strained to hear, trying to gather a clue as to what was transpiring on the other side.

There were a few seconds of utter silence.

And then the terrified screams began.

“You can’t be serious.” Annalora turned to confront the king. “Is she being tortured? I didn’t come all this way to be killed.”

Most of the girls looked equally confused, while Ever remained thoughtful. Dinah seemed tense but steady. Neither of them appeared to know what was going on the other side of the door.

Estellya spoke up, “Maybe that’s not Tawny’s voice. Maybe that’s part of the test, to distinguish her real cry from fake?”

Mina was confident enough to answer. “No, I’m pretty sure those screams are not part of the test.”

Sephora turned on her. “How do you know?”

Well, she sure wasn’t going to explain to the others that Teague had snuck into her room to warn her. “I just have a gut feeling.”

More screams followed. Sephora covered her ears and tried to call the king’s bluff. “I think this is our test. Her screams are fake.”

King Lucian shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry to tell you, you’re incorrect. Those screams are very re—”

Most Popular