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“What better way to do that than housing those that no longer have a home?” Loki asked.

“I cannot thank you enough for your hospitality,” I said, and turned to face Wendy. “But there is something that I wanted to talk to you about. You know that there is a great deal of unrest in Doldastam right now.”

The lightness fell away from Wendy, and she pursed her lips. “The loss of your King has had a tragic effect on the kingdom, and my sympathies go out to you.”

“I appreciate that, but I was hoping that perhaps you’d be willing to go beyond sympathies,” I said carefully, knowing that I may already be pushing my luck.

“I thought that Chancellor Bain already spoke to you and explained that while I am empathetic to the plight of your people, we are in no place to get involved with a possible civil war.” Wendy spoke with the air of a Queen giving a proclamation, but that was sort of what she was doing, so it made sense.

“I’m not advocating civil war,” I clarified. “The Kanin people are innocent bystanders. It’s only Mina Strinne that needs to be dealt with, and I have found new evidence that I thought you might find more compelling.”

Wendy exchanged a look with her husband, her expression unreadable. He shrugged one shoulder, then turned his attention to me.

“Go on,” Loki urged me.

“Do you know who Viktor Dålig is?” I asked.

“The Kanin have apprised us on him previously,” Wendy said. “We know of his attempts on the King Evert’s life in the past.”

“For years, he’s been considered the greatest threat to the Kanin kingdom,” I said, expanding on what she’d said. “I’ve just learned that Mina—Queen Mina of the Kanin—is actually Karmin Dålig, Viktor’s daughter.”

Wendy didn’t say anything for a moment. She simply stared off at the garden while I waited with bated breath for her response. Still staring off in the distance, Wendy asked, “Can you prove that?”

“Her sister lives in Iskyla and confirmed it,” I said. “If you were to send someone to do some digging, it would be easy to prove.”

“I believe you, and that is very disturbing.” Wendy finally faced me again. “But it does not change my stance.”

“But Mina has no right to the crown,” I insisted, barely able to keep my voice even. “She’s not the rightful monarch of the Kanin. That’s an offense to the entire troll kingdom.”

“That may be so, but how would you propose we get the crown from her?” Wendy asked me. “We can’t simply phone someone in Doldastam and ask her to surrender.”

“We send in a reconnaissance mission,” I said. “Konstantin and I are familiar with the palace and Doldastam at large. With as few as ten men, I think we could get in and kill Mina.”

Konstantin made a soft, guttural sound next to me, but I kept my eyes on Wendy, so I didn’t see his reaction.

“And if we are discovered?” Wendy pressed. “Either before or after the mission is completed, the results would be the same. The Kanin would declare war on us, rightfully so, since we’d just assassinated their Queen.

“And the war would not be with Mina, but with the actual Kanin people she’s commanding,” she went on. “The innocent people you want to protect.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, but we cannot do that.”

Dark clouds began to roll in overhead, blocking out the earlier sunshine and warmth. A breeze came up, stronger and cooler than before, as the garden fell into shadows.

Loki offered me an apologetic smile. “We’ve had four years of peace after a war that cost us many innocent lives—both of the Trylle and the Vittra. So as you can imagine, we’re reluctant to jump into another conflict so soon after that one, while our people and our kingdom are still recovering and rebuilding.”

“What about the people of Kanin? She’s trapping them and exploiting them. What will become of them?” I asked in desperation.

“If she’s as cruel as you say she is, they will have to form an uprising themselves,” Wendy said. “That’s their only hope of regaining their independence.”



This is not what the Queen meant,” Konstantin groaned. He stood beside me, the top few buttons of his dress shirt undone, glowering down at me with his arms crossed over his chest.

Unlike him, I’d changed out of my borrowed clothes the second we’d returned from lunch and put back on my ripped jeans and tank top. After I’d given Mia her dress and thanked her, I’d gone to Hanna’s room to start packing.

“I don’t understand.” Ulla sat on the bed next to my bag, with her knees folded underneath her, and looked from Konstantin to me. “What exactly did the Queen say?”

“She said that the people of Doldastam need to rise up against Mina, and I’m going to go back and get them started.” I stopped what I was doing to look around the room, which had gotten rather messy over the last day or so. “Just as soon as I find my passport.”

“You don’t need your passport because you’re not going back,” Konstantin said. “They will kill you on sight, Bryn!”

Liam toddled into the room, unfazed by the apparent tension, and crawled up onto the bed beside Ulla. He’d become just as fascinated by her unorthodox looks as he had been with mine, and when she pulled him onto her lap, he immediately began tugging on her dirty blond tangles of hair.