- Crystal Kingdom
“I’m fine,” I said but my words sounded hollow. He put his hand on my arm to steady me, and I wanted to push it away, but I didn’t have the strength.
“Have her sit down and get her a glass of water,” Mia said, taking Hanna’s hand.
Finn took my duffel bag from me, and I didn’t even try to fight it. He led me over to the kitchen table and pulled out a chair for me. I sat with my head in my hands and let him fuss over me until the weakness finally began to subside.
When I looked up, Finn was standing over me with a worried crease in his brow, and Mia was sitting at the table beside me. I hadn’t even heard her come back out.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I don’t know what that was about.”
“No need to be sorry.” Mia reached out, touching my forehead gently. “You’re cool and clammy. Are you feeling sick at all?”
I shook my head. “No. I’ve just had a very long week.”
Mia leaned on the table, studying me the same way her son had before. “When was the last time you’ve eaten?”
It wasn’t until she mentioned it that I realized I hadn’t in a very long time. While I’d been on the road, I’d hardly been able to find anything that sat with my sensitive troll stomach, and when I’d been with the Omte, they hadn’t been much on feeding us.
“It’s been a while,” I admitted sheepishly.
“I’ll make you something.” Mia pushed back the chair to get up.
“No, you shouldn’t be waiting on me,” I said, glancing over at her belly.
She smiled and waved me off as she stood. “Nonsense. I’ve still got another month left with this one, and I can’t just spend it sitting around.” She rubbed her stomach. “I’ve got things to do.”
“Do you need any help?” Finn asked.
“No, you sit down and talk to Bryn,” Mia said as she began bustling about the kitchen.
Finn sat across from me. When I’d had my head down, either he or Mia had poured a cup of tea for me. He leaned across the table and nudged it closer to me.
“You should drink something.”
“Thank you.” I took a long sip, and the warmth of the drink felt amazing.
Finn’s home, like many troll homes, was built sort of like a rabbit burrow—with most of it underground in the bluffs. This kept it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, which was nice on days like today when outside temperatures had risen into the seventies.
In a lot of ways, Finn’s house was similar to Ridley’s house back in Doldastam, except since it was a bit warmer here, they got to have more earthy features, like dirt floors and bushes growing around the doorway.
Remembering Ridley, and the times I’d spent in his house with him usually sitting beside a crackling fire talking about work, only made me feel worse. My stomach clenched and my heart throbbed painfully in my chest. I missed him terribly, and I wanted only to wrap my arms around him.
“You look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders,” Finn commented.
“I kind of feel that way,” I said honestly. “I’ve made too many mistakes, and too many people are paying for them.”
“I’ve had to learn a hard lesson, and I think you might need to, too.” Finn leaned back in his chair. “Everything can’t be your fault. You’re not that powerful. The whole world isn’t in your control.”
I swallowed hard and stared down at my tea. “I know that.”
“But it still feels like you should be able to prevent every disaster and protect everyone you care about from any pain?” Finn asked, and I nodded. “But you can’t, so sometimes you need to trust that people can take care of themselves.”
I thought of Kasper, and how he’d died trying to take care of himself. And Ridley, and how I didn’t know what the Queen had done to him after I left. And Tilda, and how she was dealing with so much now. And Linnea, and how she was alone in Storvatten, trying to fight for her life and her husband’s. And Konstantin, and how if Viktor or his men found him, things would end very badly for him.
I shook my head. “I can’t turn my back on them, Finn. If I can help them, I have to.”
“I’m not saying you should stand by and watch people suffer,” Finn clarified. “But you can’t save everyone. You can only do as much as you can, and then you need to move on.”
“But . . .” It was hard to speak around the lump in my throat. “Kasper died.”
“Did you kill him?” Finn asked me directly.
“Then it’s not your fault.”
“But I could’ve done more.” I looked up at him. “I should’ve done more.”
Finn leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “Bryn, if you could have done more, you would have. That means you did everything you could.”
I couldn’t argue that, so I lowered my eyes again.
“From what I gather by what Ember’s told me, and what you told the Queen, you’ve been trying to fight a massive enemy on your own,” Finn said. “You’ve been taking on far too much for one person, and I think you should get some rest for a while.”
“I can’t,” I insisted. “Not when people I care about might be in danger.”
“You’re no help to anyone if you’re falling apart.”
“That’s the worst thing about Finn,” Mia said, smiling at me as she set a heaping bowl of vegetable soup in front of me. “He’s usually right.”