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“But this doesn’t make any sense,” I said, trying to stop my hands from shaking. “Viktor Dålig is supposed to be the most wanted man. He already tried to kill the King.”

“Not according to the letter Mina sent this morning,” Bain said, and my eyes shot up. “She claims it’s all a massive frame job perpetrated by Konstantin Black and you.”

“What?” I shook my head. “No, that’s not true at all. I mean, Konstantin—” I didn’t know what to say about him, so I skipped over it. “I’ve only been trying to protect the kingdom! I would never do anything to hurt it!”

Bain held up his hand toward me. “Calm down. I didn’t say that I believed Queen Mina. I just told you what she’s saying.”

I rolled the posters back up, since I hated looking at them. “I’m sorry. It’s just . . . it’s not true.”

“Mina also said that she called off the war against Viktor Dålig,” Bain said. I could only gape at him, so he went on. “She says that it’s all smoke and mirrors put on by you and Konstantin, and that too many people have died. So she’s just keeping Doldastam on lockdown until you and Konstantin are brought to justice.”

“But . . .” I shook my head, not comprehending. “That doesn’t make sense.”

Konstantin and I had thought the plan was for Viktor Dålig and his army to attack Doldastam, and then Mina would come in and save the day, thus becoming an indispensable savior, so she wouldn’t be dethroned.

But if she was eliminating the threat of Viktor, then how would she become a necessary hero? And what was even the point of building up the Viktor threat in the first place? And why was she so insistent on keeping the town locked down?

“The behavior of the Kanin royalty is increasingly erratic,” Bain said. “So Wendy doesn’t plan to tell them that you’re here, and she’s agreed to grant you amnesty as long as you need it.”

That should have been a relief, but I barely even registered what Bain had said. My mind was racing to figure out what Mina was plotting, and what that would mean for everyone in Doldastam, along with myself and Konstantin.

“It’s not the royalty—it’s Mina,” I said, and I looked up at Bain, imploring him to understand and believe me. “Mina is behind all these crazy things. She killed King Evert.”

Bain took a step back. “We may not entirely trust the Kanin Queen right now, but that’s a harsh accusation. You can’t just go throwing that around.”

“I’m not trying to stir up trouble,” I persisted. “I’m saying that the people of Doldastam are trapped under the rule of an unfit and tyrannical ruler. They need help. You can help them. The Trylle have a great army.”

“Slow down, Bryn.” Bain shook his head. “Wendy granted you amnesty. That doesn’t mean she’s going to go to war based on your word.”

“It’s not just my word! You’ve seen what Mina is doing!”

“We’ve seen Mina acting in a paranoid fashion, but she’s also under a great deal of stress,” Bain allowed. “And even if she is acting in ways that you or I or even Queen Wendy would think were wrong, Mina is still the acting monarch of the largest kingdom, with the largest army, and the largest wealth behind it. She is well within her rights. Not only are we outmatched, but action is unwarranted.”

“What if I could prove it?” I asked, almost desperately. “If I could prove that Mina killed Evert, then she’s not the rightful ruler. Which means that Wendy—as a Queen and an upholder of the troll kingdom at large—would not only be within her rights to deal with Mina, she would be obligated to.”

Bain raised an eyebrow. “Can you prove it?”

“Not yet,” I admitted. “But I’ll figure out how.”



How well do you know Queen Wendy?” I asked Finn directly.

He’d been doing the dishes when I came into the house, but he leaned back against the counter, arms folded over his chest, to talk with me for a minute. Mia had been putting down the kids for a nap in the master bedroom, and she walked out just as I asked the question.

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and glanced over at his wife. “I know Wendy fairly well,” he said finally.

“What will it take to get her to declare war on the Kanin?” I asked.

Finn leaned away from me, his eyes wide with surprise. “What? I thought you were trying to help your kingdom, not destroy it.”

“I am trying,” I insisted. “The Kanin Queen, Mina, is the one who wants to destroy it, and I’m trying to figure out a way to get her out of power so she can’t do any more damage.”

Finn rubbed his temple. “You’re trying to overthrow your Queen. I can see why she charged with you treason.”

“I know how it sounds, but you have to believe me.” I looked from him to Mia, but she just stood with one hand pressed against her lower back, looking nervous about the entire conversation.

“It’s not that I don’t believe you—I’ve been at the briefings with the Queen and the Chancellor. I know there’s something sketchy going on in Doldastam,” he explained. “It’s just that I don’t really know what the Trylle can do about it.”

“You guys are so powerful! You can bring the hammer down on Mina!” I slammed my fist against my palm to demonstrate, and Mia held her finger up to her lips and motioned to the kids’ rooms behind her. “Sorry.”