This is going to get ugly.
Everyone is scattering, unsure of what to do, and I know this is all out of Ottar"s hands now. Even with his goggles covering up his eyes, I can tell they"re open wide, his mouth agape as he seems to freeze from terror.
I don"t even think. I start running toward him and leap up, crashing into him in the air while trying to wrap my arms around his thighs.
Somehow I manage to pull him down, like I"m plucking a big, fat, hairy bird out of the air, and then he"s crashing on top of me, squeezing the air out of my lungs as I smash into the ground.
"Oh my god, Your Highness!" he yells at me, and even though my mouth is full of grass, I"m already mumbling for him to shut up.
He rolls off me, and then I lie back, trying to catch my breath and hoping no one else heard his address.
"I am so sorry!" he goes on, patting my arms and thighs. "Are you alive""
Poor Ottar. He never wanted to do any of this shit with me. In the past, he was the guy waiting in the car, hovering on the sidelines. Then, with my father having some health issues this year, Ottar started actually going with me on my activities. If I wasn"t going to quit doing them, then at least Ottar would be there closer than ever, keeping an eye on me, making sure I was, well, alive.
But now it"s not just him making sure I"ll survive to be king, it"s to make sure I don"t run off into the woods and do something stupid. Or more stupid than jumping off a cliff. I have a bad reputation with my family as being slightly impulsive. Ever since I was a little kid, I"ve been blowing off the bodyguards and royal guards and escaping every chance I could get.
"I"m fine," I tell him, sitting up and looking around. The people are crowded together, watching us from a distance as if Ottar was a bomb dropped from the sky.
"You saved my life, sir," Ottar says, placing his meaty palm on my shoulder. "I don"t know how to repay you."
I eye his hand and then shrug it off me. "Well, you can start by dialing back your Samwise Gamgee."
"Of course, sir," he says, looking a little embarrassed. I think it"s more from nearly dying and me having to save him, rather than the Lord of the Rings nickname, because I swear he"s always two seconds away from calling me Mr. Frodo. "But again, I"m so sorry."
"Not your fault," I tell him. Not my fault either. "You could help me up though."
"Yes, sir," he says, grabbing my hands and hauling me to my feet. I can feel the crowd inspecting us even more now"probably because of the way Ottar is addressing me, like I"m someone"and I"m tempted to do yet another bow to play off two bad landings in a row.
But someone has their camera out, aiming it in our direction, and I can’t tell if it’s because they want to take a picture of the two fools who just landed or if they think I’m someone of importance.
I give the camera a tight smile and look down at Ottar, who is a good half a foot shorter than me. “We should probably get this stuff off and head to the boat.”
Down along the shore is a sleek, white speedboat with teak trim, the name Elskling written with flourish on the side. The man waiting patiently behind the wheel is Einar, one of my bodyguards and my getaway driver. Like Ottar, he’s always nearby, usually trailing me, because I’m trying to lose him. He used to be in the military though, so he’s a hard man to lose.
I hear the faint click of a few more cameras coming from the crowd but this time I don"t indulge them with a second glance. I quickly get my gear off and then as Ottar is still fumbling with the straps across his chest, help him too.
There"s a collective "oooh" from the bystanders and I crane my head back to the sky where the next jumpers are descending, three of them in a row. From this distance they look like brightly colored stars that have burned through the atmosphere.
Another click steals my attention.
Everyone is watching the jumpers except for two men.
Men with cameras aimed right at Ottar and I.
Men I should have recognized before but with all the commotion, my mind wasn"t able to focus.
You"re an idiot, Magnus.
"Hey, isn"t that""" Ottar asks, but he trails off as the two men turn around and start running toward one of the waiting boats.
"Shit," I swear, wondering how many photos they got.
It"s not that I was doing anything inappropriate, per se, but I had promised my family I would stay out of the paparazzi"s eye for the day, and well, those two fuckers are the bane of my princely existence. The whole reason I came out here was to avoid having my photo taken since usually the paparazzi don"t follow me all the way out to Kjerag.