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Army of Me

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Khutulun storms into her father’s ger, not bothering to kick the snow off her boots. “Yo, Dad!” she yells.

Her father, Kaidu, gets off his stool and comes over to her. “Ah, lassie, come to see your old man for the first time all week. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

She puts her gloved hands on her hips, cutting an intimidating figure. “I heard about the prince visiting from the west in five days’ time. For the nth time, I don’t need to get married! You’ve got heaps of sons to make heirs; you don’t need me.”

Kaidu rolls his eyes. “For Tengri’s sake, stop being such a teenager. Of course I don’t need you to continue the bloodline. We need alliances – that’s why you need to be married.”

Her dark eyes narrow, and she folds her strong arms across her chest. “Fine. You know the deal: I’ll marry the douchebag if he beats me in a wrestling match.”

Her father’s eyes narrow as well. “Fine. Just go easy on him, all right? Kete is a good match.”

“Nope,” she says. “And if I win, he has to give me 100 horses.”

“If you don’t give him a chance, I’ll literally ground you.”

Khutulun is about to protest when the double meaning of her father’s words kicks in. She sniggers.

“Stop laughing,” her father growls. “I mean it.”

“Soz. Did this prince send a selfie?”

Her father hands her a sketch that has clearly travelled a long way. The man in the drawing has long hair and looks more Persian than Mongol.

“Should I message him with your demands?”

Khutulun sighs and says, “Tell the hottie to bring 100 horses, cos he’s totes gonna lose.”

Her father fails to hide a smile. “You got it, K-Dog.”

The nickname makes her groan. “Ugh. Dad.”

He just laughs and pours himself some airag.

Wrinkling her nose, she turns on her heel and walks out of the ger, folding the prince’s picture and tucking it inside her deel. Although there is snow underfoot, she feels as if she is walking on air. If no prince has defeated her before, this one doesn’t stand a chance.