Members of the Högdragen were going around tacking up all these posters—some of them are WANTED ones for you (you made the Kanin’s Most Wanted list, that has to be kind of exciting, right?).

I wanted to tear them all down, but I didn’t think now was the best time to deal with the wrath of the King. There was this freak rainstorm yesterday anyway, and most of them are all destroyed and hanging in tatters. But my mom said she saw Högdragen replacing them already today.

There are Högdragen everywhere, and they’ll stop you for no reason and demand to know where you’re going and what you plan to do there. The guards have even grabbed random people off the street to bring in them in for questioning.

They brought your parents in, too, but I suppose that’s not random. Your father has been put on suspension from his job as the Chancellor, and your mother was fired from her job as a teacher. Your mother’s job wasn’t a direct order from the King, though. People in town started complaining that they couldn’t trust her with their children, given what happened with you.

At least your parents are free, though, and that’s more than I can say for Ridley. They brought him in for an “interrogation” the day after you left, and he hasn’t come out since. I’ve tried to ask about him, but nobody knows what’s happening.

They would tell us if they executed him . . . wouldn’t they? Another tracker was talking about how they used to have public executions of traitors in the town square. I think that’s what they’d do, if they decided to hang Ridley. So he must still be alive.

Östen Sundt has been promoted to working as the “acting” Överste, but they haven’t given him the official title yet, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign and it means that Ridley still has a chance to return to his position. To be truthful, though, I don’t think anything is a good sign anymore.

I’m just keeping my head down, training and doing what they tell me. I visit Tilda most nights, because I’m afraid to leave her sitting alone in her apartment. I’ve tried to sneak around to see Delilah. We only just officially became an item, and both of us are getting nervous about what would happen if we got caught. At least I still get to see her training.

The King and Queen have such a stranglehold on Doldastam now. It’s like they want to crush us before Viktor gets a chance to. I guess the King thinks that if he couldn’t trust you, he can’t trust anybody, and there is some truth to that. Except I know that he could trust you.

I know you didn’t do the things they said you did, but I wish I knew what happened. What did you do? And why did you do it?

Will I ever see you again?

I know you can’t answer these questions, at least not like this. But I do feel better talking to you, even if you can’t hear me. And hopefully someday, you’ll be able to read this.

Your friend (no matter what),




It wasn’t the worst place I’d ever stayed, but that was by a very, very, very small margin. The room smelled like dirty gym clothes and cigarettes, but the motel had met the requirements of small and secluded.

Konstantin had driven about an hour before finally spotting this sketchy-looking little motel off the edge of the highway. Based on the lack of cars in the lot, it appeared that we were the only ones here.

I tossed my duffel bag onto one of the two small beds in the room, and a plume of dust came out from the worn comforter. Konstantin had gone to the window and pulled the heavy drapes shut, casting the room in darkness.

“Sorry about that,” he said and turned on a bedside lamp.

“The room sucks, but I don’t care, because we’re here.” I had my arms crossed over my chest, and then I held out my hand to him, presenting him with the lock of hair. “Now you can tell me about this.”

“That was the deal, wasn’t it?” Konstantin grimaced before sitting back on the bed. “The long and short of it is that the Queen gave it to me.”

My heart skipped a beat. “You mean Linnea?”

“No.” He shook his head. “Mina. The Kanin Queen.”

The room suddenly felt as if it had pitched to the right. The whole world seemed to go out of focus for a moment as I tried to comprehend the full of implications of what Konstantin had just told me.

“Why?” I asked breathlessly. “Why would the woman I was sworn to serve and protect want to cause me harm?”

“She didn’t want to cause you harm . . . at first,” he corrected me. “After the whole incident where you made off with Linus Berling before I could stop you, Mina just wanted to keep tabs on you and keep you out of the way.”

“But why?” I pressed on. “Why was she involved with any of this?”

“The same reason as anyone else—she wants power.” He shrugged helplessly.

“Power?” I scoffed. “She already has the fucking crown in the most powerful kingdom in the troll world. What more does she want?”

“Mina’s power is contingent on Evert. He has the final say on everything, and if something happens to him, she’s shit out of luck. She’s under his thumb just as much as anyone else, and she hates it. She wanted to rule in her own right.”

I’d taken to pacing the room, processing everything Konstantin was telling me. “And how does she plan to do that? If Evert’s out of the way, they’ll just find a replacement . . .” As soon as I said that, it dawned on me. “That’s why you went after Linus Berling.”