- Crystal Kingdom
“I told you back in Storvatten, when I was in the dungeon. I didn’t want to get any more blood on my hands. That’s why I warned Linnea. I wanted to make things right.” He shifted in the seat. “And as you can imagine, that didn’t exactly sit well with Viktor. I’d been on his shit list ever since I convinced him not to kill you.”
“Thank you for that, by the way,” I told him softly.
“You weren’t supposed to get hurt.” He glanced over at me, his eyes pained for a moment. “You weren’t supposed to be down there.”
While Linnea had still been missing in Storvatten, I had snuck down to the dungeon where Konstantin was being held to find out what he knew. I was desperate to find Linnea. But instead I’d interrupted Viktor helping Konstantin make his escape.
To prevent me from stopping them or telling anyone, Viktor had bashed my head against a wall repeatedly. Viktor had wanted me dead, but I’d suspected that Konstantin had intervened to save my life.
Still, I had a gash under my hairline to show for it. It had required six stiches, though it was nearly healed. The worst part of the injury was the vision in my right eye would get wonky sometimes, especially if I hit my head or somebody punched me.
“So why did Viktor finally kick you out?” I asked, changing the subject.
He shook his head. “Viktor didn’t. Besides, he doesn’t kick anyone out. Once you’ve served your purpose, you’re dead.” He shot me a sidelong glance. “You remember what happened to Bent Stum.”
“You left, then?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’d finally had enough of it.” He breathed deeply. “Viktor doesn’t care about anything but revenge. A lot of innocents are gonna die. And I couldn’t be a part of it anymore, and I didn’t know how to stop it.”
I swallowed hard and sank lower in the seat. Konstantin hadn’t really said anything that I didn’t already know, but hearing it aloud didn’t make it any easier to take.
Even if I were back in Doldastam, I wasn’t sure how much I could do to help, but at least I would be able to fight alongside my friends—Ridley, Tilda, Ember—to protect the town filled with people I cared about.
Now I was trapped so far away from them. They were up against the worst thing ever to hit Doldastam, and I was powerless to help them.
May 13, 2014
I’m not totally sure why I’m even writing this. I don’t know how you’ll get it, and if you do get it, I don’t know if you’ll even care. Hell, it might even be treason trying to talk to you. But I can’t help it. It just feels strange not being able to talk to you about everything—especially with everything that’s going on.
I just realized that I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again. I want to believe that I will, but the whole world feels like it’s been turned upside down.
Kasper’s funeral was yesterday. I kept expecting to turn around and see you there, coming in late, but you never did.
I don’t know where to start with the funeral. Tilda has been trying so hard to hold it all together. I don’t know how she’s done as well as she has. It was almost creepy being around her. She was like a statue. She hardly ever cried. She’d just talk about the practical things that needed to be done.
Yesterday, she finally broke down. It was the first time she’d seen Kasper since he died. All fixed up in his Högdragen uniform, lying motionless in the coffin. The first thing she said when she saw him was, “He’d be so upset about his hair. It’s not quite perfect.”
And then she started sobbing uncontrollably. She basically collapsed, so her sister and I practically had to carry her back to her seat. To see Tilda like that . . .
The most heartbreaking part was probably Kasper’s little sister Naima. She just cried and cried, and her mom kept trying to comfort her. But it’s all so surreal and insane. There’s no comfort in that.
The King and Queen came to give a eulogy, and it was all so bizarre. The King seemed so out of place. He kept sweating, and his face was all red, like he had a terrible windburn. The Queen kept doting on Tilda, almost pushing Tilda’s own mother out of the way so the Queen could be the one to comfort her. When the King went up to give his speech, he mentioned a few things about Kasper—how great he was, how he died protecting his kingdom, and other generalities.
But it all seemed memorized, and he stumbled over the words a lot. Right after that, the King switched into this war propaganda speech. It was so gross and tactless. He started going on and on about how we can’t let Viktor Dålig do this to our people, and we can’t trust anyone because Viktor can get to anyone.
Then he started saying that they would stop at nothing until you were captured, and that’s when Tilda stood up and said that she didn’t think that this was the time or place to discuss these things.
The King finally shut up after that, but I’m almost surprised he let her talk back. He’s cracked down on everything since you’ve been gone. It reminds me of that book I had to read for an English class at a human school when I was tracking a changeling. 1984, I think. Everywhere you go, the King is watching, and he won’t let you forget it.
There are even posters hanging up all around town saying just that. It’s this weird black and white image of his face, but somehow his eyes are always following you, and it’s super disturbing. Above it says, THE KING IS WATCHING, and below it says, TRAITORS OF THE KINGDOM WILL BE CAPTURED,” with the Kanin symbol stamped over it.