Page 23

Finn walked with slow measured steps, and there was a rigidity to him that would make the Högdragen envious. His dark hair was smoothed back, and his mahogany eyes reminded me of Ember’s, though hers were even darker.

“Bryn,” he said, without any hint as to whether he was happy or upset to see me. He kept his expression and voice completely neutral.

“Thank you for meeting me like this,” I said. “I’d heard that Ember had talked to you, and you’d agreed to help me.”

“I did.” He motioned for me come inside, so I grabbed my bag and walked through the gates into Förening. “How are you? Did you get here all right?”

“Yeah, I got here okay. I’m as fine as I can be.”

“Good.” Finn started walking ahead, so I followed alongside him. “Are you ready to see the Queen? I’ve told her about your arrival, and she’s anxious to meet with you.”

I wouldn’t have minded a few minutes to gather my thoughts and get cleaned up. Especially since I was wearing jeans with holes in the knees, a tank top that showed my black bra strap, and my hair was just pulled back in a pony-tail. But I also knew better than to keep royalty waiting.

“I can meet the Queen now.”

“Good.” Finn smiled for a moment. “She’s a fair Queen, and there’s no reason for you to worry.”

“Thanks.” I smiled back at him. “I’ll try not to.”

The roads inside Förening were even more winding than the ones that led to it, and it sort of felt like we were walking in circles until we finally reached the palace. Unlike many of the other troll palaces, which were designed more like castles, the Trylle palace was an opulent mansion.

Long vines grew over the three-story structure, nearly masking the bright white exterior, and the back was made entirely of windows. It sat perched on the edge of a bluff, with the back of the palace supported by beams overgrown with vines. It appeared as if it might fall off the edge and plummet into the river many feet below, but the Trylle had enough magic that I knew that would never happen.

Finn opened the grand front door, and I’d expected a footman to greet us, but the Trylle apparently had a much more help-yourself kind of operation. Inside the main hall, the floors were marble, and from the front door I could see straight through the house to the breathtaking view through the windowed back wall.

As Finn led me through the palace, I was once again reminded of the gated community in northern California and the mansions I’d seen there. The chandeliers on the ceiling, the velvet jade runner that lined the corridor, even the furnishings—it was all lavish but it was all so modern. Other than the paintings on the wall, which appeared to be of former Kings and Queens.

Finally we reached the throne room, where I’d be meeting with the Queen. Finn pushed open two massive doors with vines carved into them. I’d been here once before, when I’d visited Förening as part of a field trip in tracker school and had been given a tour of the palace. But the beauty of the throne room would never cease to impress me.

It was a circular room, with rounded walls, and the one behind the throne was made of floor-to-ceiling glass, to take in more of that stunning view. In all honesty, it felt more like an atrium with a domed skylight stretching high above. Vines grew over the ornate silver and gold designs etched on the walls, making this room feel much closer to nature than anything we had in Doldastam.

The throne sat in the center of the room, covered with lush emerald velvet, and I could’ve sworn that when I’d been here last, the throne had been red. It was made of platinum that swirled into latticing with bright emeralds laid into it.

Queen Wendy Staad sat in the throne, wearing a long flowing gown. The fabric was a deep evergreen, nearly black, but there was something iridescent about it, so when she moved, it would shimmer and change color.

Her dark brown curls were arranged perfectly, with one bright silver lock in the front. She appeared young, even though she was actually a few years older than me, but she had a severity about her when she smiled at me.

On either side of her there was a smaller chair fashioned in the same way as her throne. To her left was Bain Ottesen, the Trylle Chancellor I had met before in Storvatten. He was a rather slight young man with dark hair and features, so only his bright blue eyes gave away his partial Skojare heritage.

To her right was the King, Loki Staad. He sat rather casually for a King, tilting to one side and resting on his elbow, and he grinned when I entered the room. His hair was lighter than most Trylle’s, and it was slightly disheveled.

“My Queen.” Finn bowed slightly as he entered the room, so I followed suit. “This is Bryn Aven of the Kanin. I told you about her.”

I stepped forward and bowed again. “Thank you for taking time to meet with me.”

“You’ve come here asking for our aid.” The Queen folded her hands over her lap, and raised her chin slightly as she looked down at me. “Tell me exactly why we should do that, given that you’ve been charged with treason by one of our greatest allies.”



May 18, 2014


I wanted to be the one to call you, but Ridley wouldn’t let me. He said it’s too dangerous, and even though I know it’s true, I still wish I’d been able to actually talk to you.

Maybe I can soon though. If the Trylle give you amnesty. But they have to, right? Finn promised he’d help you. I know Queen Wendy has gotten stricter over the past few years. (Finn says that the battle with the Vittra changed something in her.) But you need help, and she has to see that. She has to be fair.