Welcome to Grimm Academy, where the students are fairy tale characters and they're trying to avoid their prophecies - including Princess Briar, heir presumptive to a powerful kingdom - who wants to change her father's mind. Read on for an excerpt!
Copyright 2020 Laura Greenwood
"May I sit here?" a male voice asks.
I open my eyes and look up at the tall boy standing in front of me. Except that boy doesn't do him justice. He's on the cusp of manhood, with dark curly hair, and kind eyes.
"Of course," I say, a little flustered. Why haven't I prepared myself for situations like this? There's no way of avoiding them with all the shared space at the academy. But I'm used to being the only person my age around. The nobles bring their children to Court sometimes, but they never want to spend any time with me. I suspect they're all a little intimidated by the title and what it means to be a princess.
"I haven't seen you around, are you new?" he asks.
I nod. "I started a few days ago."
"And they've got you in Totting's politics class already?" He raises an eyebrow. "Are you some kind of crown princess or something?" he jokes.
"In all but name," I mutter under my breath. "What makes you think it's Totting's class?" I say louder, though I suspect he heard my first remark from the amused look on his face.
"I recognise the book." He unhooks the catch on his bag and then digs out a copy of the same book. "My sister recommended Totting's course to me."
"Does she hate you?" I tease.
"Possibly. My belief is she resents the change in our laws that mean she'll inherit because she's the firstborn, and my maleness doesn't come into it."
"Why would she be angry about that?" I blurt without meaning to.
He shrugs. "She gets all the responsibility of running the Duchy, and none of the fun, whereas I get the wealth, the prestige, and none of the problems." He grins impishly, almost as if it's part of some grand plan he has.
"It sounds perfect to me."
"Ah, definitely a crown princess."
"You don't even know I'm a princess," I point out, a smile coming to my face. I'm enjoying talking with him, even if I'm not about to admit it to anyone.
"I do now," he counters. "But I could tell before. You're sitting way too straight to be used to relaxing in the gardens..."
"I relax all the time," I protest weakly. Because he has a point, and I know it. I'm used to working as hard as I can to prove to Father I have what it takes. If I had a brother, he probably wouldn't have to do half as much as I did for a higher level of approval.
"I'll believe it when I see it. But my guess is that you're used to doing things the way other people think is proper, and now you're in a place where that's not always the case and you don't know what to do with yourself."
"If you think I'm so proper, then why haven't you introduced yourself?" I question.
"I did wonder how long it would take you to bring that up." He seems more amused than anything else.
"Are you going to tell me?" I prompt, trying not to let his amusement catch onto me too. I'm not sure what it is about him, but he's easy to talk to and is putting me at ease, something I haven't experienced much of.
He jumps to his feet and gives me an elaborate bow. "I'm at your command, Your Highness. You may call me Lord Walter."
"I thought titles were frowned upon here," I ask.
He chuckles and sits back down. "I wouldn't say frowned upon, but they like to encourage us not to use them so people don't feel inferior to one another. I don't think it works."
"Why not?" I've never thought about titles in that way, but now he's mentioned it, I find it impossible not to.
"Because the people who would lord their titles over others, forgive the pun, will do it anyway. Take the Princes for example..."
"You know about them?" My interest is piqued. Though that may be from having previously been reading from such a boring book. The hint of a potential scandal is much more interesting than that.
"Everyone knows about them," he counters. "They make sure everyone knows they run the academy, even though they don't." His distaste drips from every word.
"I've met their kind before," I say. "There are a few men like it at Court. They're always a nightmare when you have to get them to do anything, even if it’s their duty."
"Thankfully, most of us at the academy aren't like that."
"Most of you?" I raise an eyebrow. Either he thinks very highly of himself, or he's right. I'm not sure which of the two seems more likely at this point.
"I'd like to think I'm among the number, yes. Or am I giving off the wrong impression?" He cocks his head to the side in a gesture that reminds me of Mother's dogs back home.
I find myself smiling at him. This isn't proper, or how I should be dealing with the conversation. But I can't help it. The way Walter is talking to me is somehow connecting with me on a level I've never experienced before. It takes me another moment to realise why that is. He's treating me like a person. To him, I'm not a princess, or a noble. I'm nothing more than a girl taking the same class as he is.
"You're giving off a great impression," I answer honestly.
"Then will you do the honour of telling me your name?"
"Oh." The sound slips out before I can think about it.
"Oh?" he prompts.
"I thought you knew it," I admit sheepishly.
"I'm good, but I'm not that good," he jokes.
"I'm sorry. You said I was royal and I thought it meant you knew who I was."
I shrug. "I guess it depends what kingdom you're from." Perhaps I should be insulted that he doesn't know me from descriptions or rumours, but I'm not. "I'm Briar." This time, it feels right to leave my title off.
"Oh no, that's not a good sound," I say hastily. What have I done? I don't think there are bad things said about me.
"Nothing bad. It just makes sense now. You're the heir to the most powerful kingdom there is."
I snort. "It's not the most powerful, we only want people to think that," I admit. "And I'm only the heir presumptive. I'm not allowed to inherit without a husband."
He wrinkles up his nose. "What kind of archaic rule is that?"
I warm to him a little more. Anyone who sees my predicament for what it is can spend more time with me as far as I'm concerned.
"One I'm trying to get Father to change," I admit. "He said if I came here and didn't kick up a fuss, then he'd consider changing it. So, here I am." I throw my hands in the air.
"Ah, the whole bargaining-with-the-parents thing, I think a lot of people here do that."
A fantasy fairy tale academy series (non-bully) following different fairy tale characters as they try and avoid becoming a part of their own story. Each book can be read on its own. Part of the Grimm World.