“ ‘Mina’ was my dad’s pet name for Karmin,” Kate said. “She was the only one he gave a pet name to, but she was the oldest and his favorite.” She let out an embittered sigh. “As soon as we got here, she started going by Mina Arvinge, trying to separate herself from the bad reputation our real name had garnered.”
After Viktor had attempted to kill the King fifteen years ago, he’d been sentenced to death, but many felt that the harshest punishment had been saved for his three girls. Since the whole attack had been based on the fact that he felt that his oldest daughter, Karmin aka Mina, was the rightful heir to the throne, King Evert believed that his kids should be punished severely, even though they were only children.
All three of Viktor’s daughters were stripped of the titles, their inheritance, and banished from the kingdom. Karmin was oldest, and she was only ten at the time. With their mother dead and their father on the run from the law, she had been left in charge of her younger sisters.
“After we were exiled, we had nowhere to go,” Kate said. “We’d never been changelings. We’d lived our whole lives in Doldastam, and unlike trackers, who are trained in the human world, we knew nothing about it.
“Before we were sent away, the Chancellor brought us a bag of clothes and some money,” she went on. “He told us to go to Iskyla. He said its people hardly ever followed the rules of the kingdom and no one here would even know who we were. And he was right.”
The Chancellor at the time had fallen ill, which meant that my dad was working in his place. My dad had been the one to help the girls and send them somewhere safe. Years later, even knowing that he’d tried to help them, Mina would still send Konstantin to kill him in revenge for not crowning her Queen.
“Our father stayed away for a long time, and honestly, that’s just as well,” Kate said. “I wished he’d never come back.”
Ulla leaned forward, resting her arms on the table. “Why? I would love it if my father visited, even once.”
“Your father probably isn’t completely obsessed with revenge,” Kate countered. “To be fair, Mina was already preoccupied with it before he showed up. But once he came here around six or seven years ago, her preoccupation turned into her solitary drive. They talked only about how they would make everyone pay.”
“How were they planning to make everyone pay?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” Kate shook her head. “I tried not to pay attention. My sister Krista and I never cared that much for it. Dad tried to get us to join, but Krista eventually fell in love and moved to Edmonton with her boyfriend. I stayed here, but I spent as much time outside and away from them as I could.
“The only plan I ever really knew about was when Mina came to me and said she was going to a ball where she would make the King fall in love with her. It seemed ludicrous. I thought for sure Evert would recognize her, but she insisted that she’d only been ten the last time he saw her and now she was a woman of twenty.
“Not to mention that fact that Evert is our second cousin.” She wrinkled her nose. “I know royals do that all the time to keep the bloodlines pure, but it’s still always seemed so gross to me.”
“But Evert didn’t recognize her, and he did fall in love with her,” I said.
Kate snorted. “Much to my surprise. She came back once after the engagement, and she tried to promise me riches and glory. I told her that I didn’t want any of it, and I asked her to let it go. Vengeance never brings people happiness or peace. I said, ‘What kind of life is it to be married to your nemesis?’
“Mina looked at me, with her eyes cold and hard, and she said, ‘It will be my finest achievement, and I pity you that you’ll never understand that.’” Kate grimaced. “And that was the last thing she’s ever said to me.”
“Did you know Evert was murdered last week?” I asked.
Kate lowered her eyes. “No. I’m surprised it took this long, but I guess Mina’s plans are finally under way.”
“Do you have any idea what she might do next?” I asked.
“Not anything specific,” she said, looking at me with stormy gray eyes. “But honestly, I don’t think she’ll be happy until everything is suksraungiksuk.”
I shook my head and didn’t even attempt to repeat the word she’d used. “What’s that mean?”
“There’s not a literal translation in English,” Ulla explained. “But it means ‘destroyed’ or ‘finished.’ ”
“More like obliterated,” Kate said.
I awoke just after the sun started to rise, which meant that it was only four in the morning. After sleeping fitfully all night with my usual nightmares, I was happy for the reprieve that being awake provided.
We’d left Kate’s hut not long after she’d confessed that Mina was her sister. Before we’d gone, I’d asked her why she’d been so open in telling us everything, and Kate had simply shrugged and said, “Why wouldn’t I? Mina’s never been much of a sister to me, and I have no reason to keep her secrets.”
Ulla had been very excited about everything we’d found out, even though she didn’t understand the implications of much of it. Growing up so isolated, she now fancied herself embroiled in plots of treason and espionage.
It had taken quite a bit of convincing for me to get her out of my room last night, telling her that I needed to get to bed early. But really, I just needed a chance to process it all for myself.