Sharon’s note: I got this idea from a discussion in the chat of an AutoCrit video. The line was “He said I’d gotten stronger. I agreed, so I punched him in the face.” I wanted to build on that idea, so here it is. Warning: Author took an idea and ran with it.
Something they never mention about world changing fantastical adventures is how much you hurt afterwards. I’d spent the last month training with my brand new magical sword, but no amount of hacking at dummies and sparing partners can prepare you for an hour long slog through a goblin horde. And then there was the smell. My arms burned and I reeked of blood. And other things. Best not to think about the other things.
Everyone was checking out the Goblin Kings treasure, and I just wanted to sit down. I couldn’t even sit on the recently vacated throne because Prince Come-With-Me-To-Save-My-Kingdom had planted his royal butt on it. He wasn’t covered in goblin guts. Why wasn’t he covered in goblin guts? And where had he been during that entire fight? I didn’t remember seeing him. Oh, well. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to sit down.
I plopped down on a convenient piece of floor a little ways away from everyone else and dropped my sword next to me. It desperately wanted cleaning, but I figured it could wait. It wasn’t like I had to worry about keeping it in pristine shape. I was a waitress from Austin. I didn’t need a magic sword. Assuming I decided to go back. Did I have to go back? There wasn’t any particular reason I needed to. I didn’t have any family to speak of. I didn’t have any close friends. Work had probably replaced me the day after I disappeared into Prince Fancy-Pant’s portal. No one had ever said anything about me having to go home.
I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes. It had been a rough couple of months. Even with everything that had happened, I still couldn’t justify to myself why I’d followed the man who looked like a renaissance fair runaway through the glowing portal in my bedroom. The best I could come up with was ‘because he’d told me to’. He’d called me the chosen one. I’d never been chosen for anything before. I’d never really mattered before. God, that me was a long ways away.
Since I’d been the girl who’d had no direction and just done whatever anyone said to do, I’d jumped into a magic land, ridden a flying horse, accidentally killed a wizard, journeyed across said land to an undead elven sword smith, faced a legendary test of fear and self-realization, won the right to wield a magic sword, spent a month training with an epic hero to learn to use the magic sword, carved my way through a goblin army, and slain their evil king.
I almost felt bad about the wizard, but he was the one who tried to make me his ‘prophesy bride’. What he meant by that, I would never know, but I gained a talking horse out of the ordeal. Horus hadn’t been able to follow me into the tunnels, but had promised to be waiting outside. I don’t know what I would have done without Horus. The horse was wise beyond belief and had helped talk me through a lot of my issues. Reynard, my instructor, was also somewhere around. Despite his insistence that it was his time, he had not perished in the push to the throne room. He was another reason I was still alive. Even with a magic sword that enhanced my skills and prowess, a girl needed a little training.
“His highness would like to speak to you.” I opened my eyes to see Illia standing before me. Her slight old form was bowed, whether from exhaustion or respect, I couldn’t tell. It had been a long day for her too and, though most of this was the old seer’s fault, I couldn’t be mad at her. She made the prophesy, but she didn’t choose what it said. Besides, things hadn’t turned out all bad. In some ways, this was better. I’d had a purpose. An identity. Now that the prophesy was fulfilled, I wasn’t sure what to do, but I felt more optimistic about the future than I had in a long time.
With a groan and various popping noises, I used the wall to get up. When I bent over to pick up my sword, my back screamed at me and I groaned. Illia didn’t say anything, but she stared at me with a disapproving eyebrow raised. She was always saying that the young had no room to complain, and it was a kindness on her part that she wasn’t mocking me. Either that or she was too tiered.
The prince was still sitting on the throne, directing his people to remove the treasure. Always one to keep his eye on financials, was Prince East. He was handsome and clever, and when He’d showed up in my apartment, I’d been duly impressed. After all, he had whisked me away to a world of fantasy, so we were bound to fall in love, right? Yeah, that didn’t happen. East was elitist, vain, overbearing, sexist, and just really unpleasant. It had taken me a depressingly long time to realize it, but he didn’t care for me. Even after that sank through my thick skull, it took going through my trial of self-realization and confronting why all my relationships, romantic or otherwise, had failed to understand that I didn’t want him.
The prince grinned at me from his brand-new throne, all pleased like he had just defeated an army to claim it. I tapped the flat of my sword on my leg, a habit I’d picked up from my tutor, and waited for him to tell me what he wanted. East stood, arrogantly sauntered over, and put his hand on my shoulders.
“Ah, Annabella!” He grinned widely.
I sighed and hopelessly tried one more time. “It’s Annabelle. There’s an ‘e’ not an ‘a’ at the end. I’ve been telling you that for two months. Please, please get it right just once.”
“Right. Right. Sorry.” His mouth scrunched to one side. He didn’t like being corrected. Screw him. “Were you hurt during the battle? Do you need to see the healer?”
My eyebrows shot up. That was unexpected. “No. I’m fine. The magic sword did its job. Um, thanks for asking.”
“Excellent!” He turned on his heel and stalked back to the throne. “As soon as the wagons are loaded with my spoils, we’ll return home.”
I swallowed hard, ignoring the bit about his spoils in favor of what I was actually concerned about. “What about me? Do I have to go home?”
East frowned. “What are you talking about? You’re coming back to the palace with me.”
I breathed out. “I thought you were going to send me back.”
“Why would you think that?” He laughed, and I narrowed my eyes at him. “It’s not possible.”
“What?” I stepped forward, hand clenching around the sword in my hand. “You said, when you dragged me into this, that you would get me home when this was done.”
He shrugged. “I needed you to come with me. Do you want to go back?”
“I don’t know, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that you lied to me.” I clenched my teeth to keep from yelling.
“Well, it’s moot now, so you’ll need to get over it.” He waved his hand, like he was shooing a fly.
“Now go clean up. I want to leave as soon as possible. These tunnels stink.”
“And what am I supposed to do when we get back to your palace?” Did this idiot not get that I was holding a sword? We were about four feet apart and none of the soldiers were particularly close. I could lop his head off and no one could stop me.
“You’ll take your place as my champion. You earned it, after all. I’ll have to get married to a woman of my station, but I, uh, wouldn’t mind giving you another position by my side as well.” He stopped watching people shovel gold around to leer at me. “I know you’ve harbored a passion for me since we met. While I didn’t return the feeling initially, you’ve grown so much stronger, Annabella, and I find that . . . Attractive.”
I couldn’t breathe. The world was narrowing in my absolute rage. How dare he? No. No. I knew who I was, and him being an complete moron didn’t change anything. I took one deep breath, then another. He was right about one thing. I was so much stronger than I used to be. Pasting the biggest smile on my face that I could, I took two steps forward, and Prince Can’t-Read-The-Room looked so damn smug.
I swung my arm and my fist smashed into his face. East’s head jerked backwards and cracked into the back of the throne. My knuckles stung, but my heart was soaring. Before anyone could stop me, I turned on my heel and stalked away. I grabbed a couple of handfuls of gold and gems on my way out and shoved them in my pockets.
As I dodged into the tunnel I thought would lead me out, Reynard and Illia joined me. My instructor grinned at me. “So, what are your plans, girl?”
“You think I have any idea?” God, I was already tiered, and everything hurt. Hustling back through the tunnels, stepping over goblin bodies while figuring out what to do now that I had committed basically treason was something akin to torture.
“We could start a mercenary band,” Illia said around panting, but I didn’t slow down for her.
Reynard nodded. “That would work. We could recruit a few of the stray goblins that survived the battle.”
I nearly stumbled over a goblin corpse as my head snapped to look at him. “You think they’d join with us after this?”
He shrugged. “They followed the Goblin King, and I heard he killed his own people all the time.”
“Fine. Fine!” We emerged from the tunnels into blinding daylight. I went to find my magic talking horse while I held my magic sword, so I could find some goblins to join a mercenary company, so I could make a living in my new magical world. It was absurd, but a smile crept onto my face. Absurd, but exhilarating. Stupid me, I was looking forward to it.