The Wild Heir by Karina Halle, now you can read online.
“You fucked up!” Ottar says yet again.
Not exactly the thing you want to hear mere seconds before you’re about to fling yourself off a 3,200-foot cliff and free fall to the fjord below.
But in this case, as Ottar has spent the last five minutes drilling into my head what an idiot I am and how badly I’ve fucked up my life, hurling yourself off a cliff seems like the right thing to do. Maybe the only thing to do in this situation.
As I run toward the edge of Kjerag Mountain, I keep my eyes focused straight ahead at the fjord cutting through the valley like a blue knife, and let all thoughts, all worries, all self-awareness, melt away.
Those first few seconds of free fall are what I imagine being born is like. A terrifying rush as you’re propelled from the solid and steady world you know into the cold abyss. There’s nothing like it, leaving safety and life for what should be certain death.
Then you’re flying, arms out, weightless, a bird in the sky, an angel’s descent, a step beyond being human.
Then you’re falling.
Wind rushing against your face, pulling your skin back into a smile, rattling your helmet. There’s nothing to anything anymore, nothing but you and the wind and the greatest adrenaline rush you’ll ever know. Better than sex, even.
The timer goes off, interrupting the rush before my brain has started to blur together. I quickly reach into the chute to deploy it and I’m jerked back, the blast of the free fall reversing for a second as the parachute spreads and the easy descent begins.
Usually this part of the jump is where your heart starts to slow, where you realize where you are, what you’re doing—that you made it. You’re safe. As you float down to earth, you carry nothing inside you but awe, knowing that you’re just a tiny bright-colored parachute soaring toward a cerulean-blue fjord, eagles at eye level.
But there is no peace and tranquility today.
There is none of that sharp focus and clarity that always comes during a jump, where my scattered world seems to pause, just for one wonderful minute as I fall from the sky.
All I can focus on are Ottar’s words slicing through my head. I fucked up. And it’s not just his words either. It’s my sisters, it’s my parents, it’s the press. It’s the damn prime minister.
When you’re royalty and you do something stupid, everyone in the whole world, let alone the whole country, gets to weigh in on it.
And I’m the Crown Prince of Norway, heir to the throne, and my latest scandal just set the public image of our country back another hundred years.
No wonder it was easier to jump today than most days.
A scream pierces my thoughts and I look up, even though I can see nothing above me but the electric yellow of the chute. That was Ottar’s scream. This is only the second time the guy has BASE jumped, and for him, it’s one too many. Hell, no sane person would attempt this sport, but I have the nickname “Magnus the Mad” for a few good reasons.
The screaming seems to stop after a bit, which means Ottar probably pulled his chute, and now I have the ground to worry about.
Focus, fuckface, I tell myself, willing my brain to stop racing around and work before it’s too late. Everything is throwing me off. I grab the pulleys in front of me and steer myself toward the people standing on the small peninsula below me, hoping Ottar follows suit. His last landing was about as graceful as a cow being flung from a catapult.
There’s only a small patch of grass to land on—overshoot that and you’re going to smash into rock or the ice-cold waters of the fjord. Maybe it’s because my mind has been so liquid, but the grass is rushing up fast and I know that this is going to hurt like a mother.
My feet strike the ground and my legs immediately crumple, sending pain up my shins. I duck into a roll across the grass and then spring up just before my shoulder hits a slab of rock.