A challenge is issued by Commander Baocat. All of the cadets at his military academy are entered against their will. The stakes are high, and while Axel and Mutt are determined to win, they're also determined to stay together through it all. Can their friendship overcome the stress of trying to win a life-changing award?
Meanwhile, princess Alcina steals away with Roan, her guard and friend, to spy on the very academy that Axel and Mutt occupy. The fate of the realm is in their hands. But why?
Alcina scooted off onto the sidewalk, cradling her arm and letting the stranger finish off the rest of the dogs.
They came at him, jumping, whining, snapping. But his sword was too quick. In graceful strikes the rest of the dogs fell beside the rest of their pack, unmoving as pools of blood began to pool around them, filling in the cracks in the cobblestone street.
The boys, who were standing yards away, stood speechless like statues, having not moved through the entire ordeal. The strange man took a few steps towards them, and they backed away, and then ran quickly out of sight.
When they were gone, the man turned to Alcina. He sheathed his bloody sword and jogged over to where she leaned against the corner of a closed shop.
“These dogs have a nasty bite. You need to see an apothecary immediately if you don’t want infection. Who knows where their mouths have been,” he said in a deep voice, looming over her. He was so tall. Alcina glared at him, a sudden sense of pride enfolding in her chest. “You didn’t have to do that. I could have saved myself,” my my; she was such a horrific liar.
The man knelt, and now she could see his face.
He was raising an eyebrow at her, quite the inquisitive look on his face. He had slightly tanned skin, a straight nose, a small scar here or there, early morning stubble that gave him an even more battered-appearance, short, military-cut dark hair and deep brown eyes. Completely unfamiliar. It was only then, though, that Alcina recognized he wore the badge of the king’s guard.
“You!” she gasped with realization. “You’ve been following me the entire morning! W-where did you-?”
“From the barn,” he answered matter of factly, “I heard someone coming, but I knew no other guards were on duty, so something was suspicious. I hid in an empty stall until you left. You have quite the conversations with your horse.’
Alcina’s cheeks flushed. She’d always had a bad habit about talking to animals. She didn’t even realize she was having a full-on conversation with (horse). “Who are you, anyways?”
“Roan Syphard, at your service ma’am,” he took a respectful bow, crossing his arm in front of his chest. “Now, please, we need to get you to an apothecary before any infections set it.”
But Alcina only shrugged and pushed herself to her feet, still holding her arm tenderly. The bleeding had slowed to a small trickle down her forearm. “I can’t go back to the castle looking like this. My parents would kill me.”
Roan turned over his shoulder, a frustrating look crossing over his face. “You really want to stay out here after what just happened?”
“Rather than face my father the night after a banquet? Yes,” Alcina rolled her eyes. “Now, just find my horse –she couldn’t have gone far- and direct me to the nearest apothecary. I’ll be fine.”
Although his brow was still pinned down over his dark eyes in frustration, a strange new laugh erupted from Roan’s throat. His hand brushed against the hilt of his sword instinctively. “You think I’m letting you go off by yourself? I’m accompanying you until you’re back inside the castle close, your Highness. I’m a guard, you know. That’s what we do.”
Alcina brushed a few strands of muddy hair away from her face that had been previously plastered to her forehead with blood. There really was no getting rid of this guy. Obviously, he’d saved her life and she was now in his forever debt.
“There’s no other deal we can make?” she grunted.
Roan shook his head. “No. The apothecary is on Mystwik Avenue. Right this way,” he stepped back and gestured with his arm in the opposite direction the boys had run off in. That was a good start.
Still glaring, Alcina pushed back him and strutted down the street.