- Crystal Kingdom
“Do you?” I asked softly.
He stepped away from the wall and moved toward me. With only inches between us, he stopped, and looked down at me in the way that made my heart beat erratically. He had this wonderful, dizzying way of making the whole world disappear for a few moments, so it was only me and him, and all the rest of my fears and worries fell away.
Ridley opened his mouth like he meant to say something, but I’ll never know exactly what it was, because the Queen’s office door opened, interrupting us, and Ridley quickly stepped back from me.
Chancellor Bain leaned out into the hallway, hanging onto the door as he did, and offered us an apologetic smile. “Sorry to keep you waiting. But the Queen is ready to see you now.”
“Thank you,” Ridley said. He glanced at me from the corner of his eye and straightened his shirt, then followed Bain into the office.
I took a second longer to collect myself. Thanks in part to my much fairer skin flushing so noticeably it was a bit harder for me to return to normal after moments like that with Ridley.
The Queen’s office was smaller than I’d expected. The entire exterior wall consisted of floor-to-ceiling windows, which helped it feel a bit larger than it actually was. Two of the three interior walls were all shelves filled to the brim with books.
A large oak desk sat in the center of the room. Along the edges, vines had been carved into it, but that was a reoccurring theme throughout the room, with vines carved into crown molding and the frames around the window.
On the wall across from the desk were two large paintings—one of the previous Queen Elora, Wendy’s mother, and the other was of Wendy, her husband, and an adorable boy of about three years old, presumably their son, Prince Oliver.
When I came into the room, Bain sat cross-legged in one of the leather chairs in front of the desk, while Ridley preferred to stand, leaving the other chair empty. Wendy was standing with her hands on the desk, leaning forward to look down at the papers spread over it.
“Can you close the door behind you?” she asked absently, still staring down at the papers before her.
I did as I was told, and when I came back to stand beside Ridley, I got a better look at what held her attention so raptly. It was a scroll, with a quartz paperweight placed at either end to keep it from rolling up. Still, a portion had flipped just enough for me to see the wax seal at the top—a rabbit pressed in white wax. The symbol of the Kanin.
Trolls weren’t completely prehistoric—they would call or send e-mail, even text. It was so much faster than airmail, even though that scroll had probably been overnighted to a local town by FedEx and retrieved by a Trylle messenger. But we used scrolls for formal business, like invitations, gratitude, proclamations, and declarations of war.
I waited, holding my breath, to find out which one of those it was, although with Mina, I feared I already knew the answer.
That Queen of yours has gone totally mad,” Wendy said finally.
“She’s no Queen of mine,” I replied without thinking, and Bain smiled in approval, causing his blue eyes to light up.
Wendy straightened, but kept her eyes fixed on the scroll. “This just arrived, so it isn’t what I’d invited you here to talk about. I only meant to ask you about your plans in Förening. But I know about your past relationship with the Skojare, so I’m sure you’d want to know.”
“Know what?” I asked, instantly fearing that something had happened to Linnea Biâelse, or perhaps her husband Mikko or grandmother Lisbet.
The Queen finally looked at us, her dark tawny eyes sad. “The Kanin have declared war on the Skojare.”
“What?” Ridley asked, sounding as shocked as I felt.
“Why would Mina do that?” I asked in disbelief. “She’d aligned herself with them to get their . . .”
And that’s when it hit me. Mina had not been working with the Skojare as a whole—she’d been working with specific people, like the now-dead Kennet Biâelse and the now-exiled head guard Bayle Lundeen.
She had no one to get her the sapphires anymore, so she would have to take them by force.
“It’s all here.” Wendy motioned to the scroll. “Assuming you can make sense of her nonsense.”
Ridley went over to read it for himself, but I sat back in the chair, feeling rather light-headed. Besides, it didn’t really matter what reasoning Mina gave. I knew the truth.
“She’s blaming Evert’s death on Kennet, even though Kennet died before Evert did,” Ridley said, surmising what he’d read. “She says Kennet had ‘empoisoned’ the wine he gifted them before he died, which is said to have killed Evert.”
“Since she’s accused me of killing Kennet, am I exonerated now?” I asked, not that I believed that that would actually happen. Mina would never let me go free.
“No, because you apparently killed Kennet in some sort of lover’s spat, and you’ve been corrupted by the ‘aberrations and unfettered debauchery’ of Storvatten.” Ridley stood up. “She keeps using all these abnormal words like that. I mean, they are words, but not ones that we actually use.”
“Her language is odd, even for a proclamation like this,” Wendy agreed.
“At the end, it says, when the Kanin are through, ‘the ground will be sanguinolent.’ ” Ridley shook his head. “I don’t even know what that means.”
“It means ‘tinged with blood,’ ” Bain supplied. “I looked it up.”