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“And what if he’d brought Torun up?” Konstantin turned to look at me. “What then? We’ll somehow bring down Viktor’s army after we’ve been torn limb from limb?”

“I don’t know!” I stopped pacing and let my shoulders sag. “Why did Helge do that?”

“Because he was right.” He walked over to me with his clothes in hand. “This isn’t the Omte’s fight—it’s the Kanin’s. They have no reason to risk their people for somebody else’s fight.”

“But—” I started to protest.

“It’s just how it is, Bryn. We’ll have to come up with something else.” He put a hand on my shoulder to comfort me. “We’ll figure it out, though.”

“How?” I asked him plaintively.

“I don’t know. We will, though,” he assured me. “But first, I’m showering.”

He left me alone in the main room and went into the bathroom. As soon as I heard the water running, I swore loudly, and then flopped back on one of the two beds. I closed my eyes and tried to think about where we could go from here.

If we went to the Vittra or the Trylle, they would just hold us captive until the Kanin could come retrieve us for a trial. They were close allies, and since the Kanin had the largest army, they wanted to keep the alliances.

The Skojare were out of the question. With everything so crazy there, they wouldn’t be able to help us at all, even if they wanted to.

There might be other expatriate trolls we could team up with, but it wasn’t like I could post an ad on craigslist saying, “Troll seeking other trolls to combat evil troll army.”

I opened my eyes when something occurred to me. How had Bent Stum gotten mixed up with Konstantin and Viktor? Bodil had made Bent sound like he was rebellious, but I doubted he wanted to attack the Kanin. At least not without an incentive from somebody else.

So how did Viktor enlist him?

That would be something I’d have to have a discussion about with Konstantin when he got out of the shower, but all my plans were interrupted when his duffel bag began ringing.

At first I thought it might be my phone, and my heart skipped a beat. But then I realized it was coming from his things, so I got up to check it out. His cell was sitting right on top of his bag, and the screen said BLOCKED CALLER, but I hadn’t really expected any different for someone like Konstantin.

I glanced over at the bathroom, where the shower had just turned off. It would be easy to knock on the door and hand Konstantin the phone. But we were friends now, and allies. There shouldn’t be secrets between us anyway.

With that justification in mind, I answered the phone and grunted hello in as deep a voice as I could muster.

“It’s done,” came the gravelly reply.

Before I could say anything, the bathroom door opened, and Konstantin came out wearing only a towel around his waist. When he saw me holding his phone up to my ear, he rushed over and snatched it from me.

“Hello?” he said, casting an uneasy glare at me. “Sorry. I have bad reception here.” He paused. “Okay. Thanks for letting me know.”

And that was it. He hung up the phone and turned his attention to me. “What the hell were you thinking, Bryn? You could’ve gotten us both killed!”

“Why?” I demanded. “And who was that? What’s done?” He turned away, so I grabbed his shoulder, forcing him to look at me.

“It was Viktor,” Konstantin said, exhaling deeply. “Evert Strinne is dead.”



May 16, 2014


The King is dead.

Even writing the words, it still feels so unreal. King Evert Strinne is dead.

They announced it yesterday. He died in the early hours, just after dawn. The Queen says he was murdered, and everyone is in a panic.

This is the first moment I’ve had to sit and collect my thoughts about all of this, and I just have no idea what to think.

Murmurs around town are saying poison. Linus Berling told me his father had heard the King’s lips were stained black from it. They’d been slipping it in his drink for over a week, and it finally took hold.

That explains how out of sorts the King seemed at Kasper’s funeral. But that just leads to a much bigger, darker question—who exactly are “they”? The Queen says that we have a mole in our midst, but she’ll root them out.

“We must be on guard always.” That’s what she said when she announced his death, perched on the balcony of the clock tower in the town square. Speaking to us all between tears while we all stared up at her anxiously, wondering what the fate of our kingdom will be.

And how can we be on guard any more than we already are? The Högdragen are everywhere, but they’re not making us feel any safer. In fact, with them always watching, I feel even more vulnerable.

What if I accidentally do something and they think I’m the mole now?

In training today, I heard a few rumblings of your name, that you might somehow be behind all of this. I was quick to tell them to shut the hell up. You weren’t even here. It’s not even possible. And I know you would never do anything like this anyway.

The whole town is running scared, though. We’re all eyeing up our neighbors. Are they the enemy? Do they know who poisoned the King?

Delilah came over last night. She didn’t even care if anyone saw her. She was scared, and she needed to feel safe. So she came to me.

I held her in my arms for a long time, telling her that it would all be okay, when I wasn’t so sure that it would be anymore. But she looks at me with those eyes of hers. (And those eyes, Bryn—they’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen, dark chocolate and so big, I could get lost in them for days, and I wish I could, I wish I could just hold her and look at her, but there isn’t time for that.) Everything is so royally fucked right now.