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Once I did, everything Konstantin and Kate had said fit together perfectly, creating this portrait of a diabolical, unstoppable madwoman. Both Mina and Viktor had been incredibly patient, waiting years for their plan to come to fruition.

And now that it had, I was certain that Mina would do everything in her power to make sure that nothing got in her way. You don’t plan something for a decade and let it all fall apart at the end.

I needed to get back to Förening. I thought I finally would have evidence to convince Queen Wendy that the Trylle needed to depose Mina. Assuming, of course, that Wendy believed me, since Kate wasn’t about to leave Iskyla to testify.

I packed my bag and opened my room door to find Ulla on the landing just outside my room. She’d changed clothes from last night, and she was asleep, using her own bag as a pillow and her coat as a blanket.

When she heard the door open, she sat up with a start. “Finally. You’re up.”

“Finally?” I asked. “What are you doing?”

“I was waiting for you.” She stood up and stretched. “I’m coming with.”

“You can’t come with. You heard what I told you last night. It’s too dangerous.”

“I know, but I can help,” Ulla insisted. “And besides that, nobody wants me here. I have no reason to say.”

“You may not have a reason, but I do. I can’t afford to take you back with me. I have barely enough money to charter a plane and get back home myself,” I explained.

“I’ve got money. I’ve saved up every dime and nickel I’ve ever made.” Ulla reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a surprisingly thick wad of cash. “I can pay my own way, and help you out.”

I sighed. “How old are you?”

“Fourteen and a half.” She stood up straighter, as if that would make her seem older. She was already taller than me, with slightly broader shoulders, probably thanks to her Omte genes. “I’m mature and strong for my age, though. I can help you.”

I was about to tell her no, but the desperate, heartbroken look on her face finally made me cave. With everything that Ulla and Kate had told me about what it was like to grow up here, I didn’t think it would be good for anybody.

“Fine, but if you slow me down, I’m leaving you behind,” I said, which was more of an empty threat than I wanted to admit.

Ulla almost squealed with delight, but I silenced her and then walked past her and headed down the stairs. Taking her with didn’t seem that bad, since I was just headed back to the Trylle. Ulla should be safe with the Trylle, and they could help her find a place in this world.

It wasn’t until we’d taken the snowmobile to the nearest town that I realized that Ulla had never been outside of Iskyla before. She was amazed and entranced by every little thing, and I had to constantly remind her that we were traveling incognito and that she needed to stop making a scene.

Surprisingly, she handled the plane better than I did. Somehow the ride managed to be even more turbulent than it had been last time, and the pilot told me it was thanks to an incoming freak blizzard.

Our landing was twice as rough this time, but at least we made it alive. The pilot was right about the storm, though. A brutal wind was coming from the north, bringing with it heavy snow. Ulla suggested we get a hotel for the night and head out in the morning, but I suspected that she just wanted a chance to see more of the city.

I, on the other hand, didn’t want to waste any time. I had information that I needed to get to the Trylle as soon as possible. Everyone in Doldastam was depending on it, whether they knew it or not.

So, despite travel advisories telling me not to, I rented an SUV and headed south. For her part, Ulla actually didn’t seem to mind the storm or the slow going. I think she would’ve been thrilled by just about anything I did, though.

The first hour or so into the drive went okay. I barely went above thirty, but we were moving. And then we weren’t. We hit a snowdrift so large, the SUV just couldn’t get through it. We were stuck.

“Don’t worry. I got it,” Ulla said. She’d taken off her kamiks while I was driving, but now she slipped them back on, along with her heavy gloves.

“What do you mean, you got it?” I asked, but she was already opening the car door and hopping out into the snow. “Ulla!”

I wasn’t about to let her disappear into the snowstorm, so I jumped out after her. She’d gone around to the back of the SUV, and she’d put on what reminded me of old flight goggles. They were strapped on underneath the earflaps of her hat, and while they were comical-looking, they probably worked well at keeping the snow from stinging her eyes.

“What are you doing?” she asked me, like I was the one who had leapt out of the vehicle without explanation. “Is the SUV in neutral?”

“No. It’s in park. Why? What are you doing?”

“I’m gonna get us unstuck.” She flexed her arms.

It sounded ridiculous, but she did have Omte blood. She may not have been the size of the ogre Torun I’d seen in Fulaträsk, but she should have some of his strength.

“Be careful,” I told her, but I left her to it.

I got back in the vehicle and put it in neutral. I adjusted the rearview mirror so I could watch. Her head bent down as she pushed on the back, and the SUV jerked forward a bit.

Then nothing happened at all for a few seconds, and suddenly it lurched forward, going straight through the snowdrift. Snow flew up around the vehicle, and it skidded to a stop on a clearer stretch of highway on the other side of the drift.