The Prince's Bargain - K.M. Shea


Myth believed books were precious, so when the bottom book of the massive stack she’d been asked to take to the trade translators’ workshop started to slip, she considered flinging herself to the ground—back first—if the rest of the pile started to shift.

The muscles of her arm ached, and she had to hop for a few steps and support the books with a raised knee as she tried to fix her grip.

She was so distracted, she almost didn’t see the flustered Honor Guard.

He was Calnorian—a human. His stocky build and rounded ears made that obvious. But, in a building full of human and elven translators, he stuck out like a sore thumb with his standard issued sword and Honor Guard uniform. The awkward way he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet only underlined his discomfort.

If Myth had to hazard a guess, he needed help—he was clutching a worn piece of paper and watching the translators that bustled past with a hopeful expression.

No one stopped to help him. Too many translators with dark circles under their eyes passed him unseeingly. Others ran by, their schedules packed so tightly they had to sprint from one meeting to the next.

Myth hefted her stack of books a little higher and tipped them against her torso to steady them.

It’s going to take him an hour before he works up the courage to ask for help.

She pressed her lips together and considered the options. As an apprentice translator, she wasn’t supposed to do any kind of translation work without a senior translator or an instructor nearby. But maybe she could tell him where to go?

Myth, her grasp on her books still weakening, marched over to the guard and slapped on the polite smile she used whenever translating. “May I help you?” she asked in Calnoric, hoping the Elvish lilt to her words wasn’t noticeable.

As an elf, Myth’s accent was usually expressed by making words more musical than they should be. She’d been stubbornly trying to stamp the lilt out, aiming for perfect fluency, but sometimes it still curled around her words.

The Honor Guard drooped with relief and stopped fidgeting. “Yes, please!” He held out the paper. “My squad is supposed to be guarding several visiting elf nobles who wish to leave the palace and go see the market in Haven today. They don’t have a translator, though, and I’m rather bad with hand gestures, so we’ve been unable to make the arrangements of when they want to leave. I think they wrote down the details, but I need a translator to tell me what it says.”

It was a simple request—and the paper was in Elvish, and there was no chance Myth would misread her mother tongue. Perhaps it would be better to help the guard herself rather than bother another overworked translator.

She stared at the paper as she struggled to hold her books. “Maybe…could you unfold it please?”

“Oh! Of course!” He fumbled, unfolding the scrap of paper and holding it up to Myth’s face.

She adjusted the bottom book of the stack—which was digging into her stomach—as she read the note over. “They ask if it would be possible to meet you at the city gates in the third afternoon hour.”

“Really?” The guard flipped the note around and peered at it. “All of this for that one sentence, huh?”

Myth renewed her polite smile. “Elvish is a descriptive language.”

It was a pleasant way to describe the difference between Elvish and Calnoric.

In truth the two languages—much like the two countries—were so different, it was incredibly difficult to master the opposing language.

Calnoric was deep and guttural with thick words that Myth had to spit from her mouth, whereas Elvish was almost musical and relied a great deal on intonation mixed with its complex words.

It took translators years of schooling and diligence to learn everything required—which was partially why they were so few in number when one considered the strength of the relationship between Calnor and Lessa, the country of the elves.

The guard bowed to Myth. “Thank you so much for your help, Translator!”

“I’m afraid I’m a mere apprentice, but it was my honor to aid you.” Myth tried to bow in return, but stopped when one of her books almost slipped out of her arms.

The guard waved and trotted off, navigating around a trio of senior translators.

One of them belonged to Myth’s translation department, trade, marked out by the dark jacket and tidy but serviceable boots, breeches, and undershirt.

The other two were social translators, decked out in