- Crystal Kingdom
Yesterday, after we’d gotten back from the meeting with Wendy and Bain where they explained that the Kanin had declared war on the Skojare, we all sat down and talked about what we were going to do. I had already made up my mind that I was going to Storvatten, and Konstantin quickly volunteered to go with me.
Ridley had slowly warmed to the idea. Even though he wanted to do everything he could to avoid getting captured by the Kanin, he knew that the Skojare needed us, and despite his misgivings, he wasn’t about to stand by and do nothing.
I’d wanted Tilda to stay behind in Förening, where she’d be safer, but she insisted on coming with us. She wanted to do something to help stop the people who were indirectly responsible for Kasper’s death. And as of late, she’d been working as a captain in the Kanin army, helping train the soldiers. She would be an excellent asset for the Skojare in helping them get their troops in shape.
So we’d headed out to Storvatten that morning with a light drizzle following us everywhere we went. It soon became apparent that the eight-hour drive from Förening to Storvatten was going to be even longer than normal, thanks to the frequent pit stops needed by Tilda.
We weren’t even halfway through the trip, and we were on our third break. We were on a relatively empty stretch of highway, so Ridley pulled over and Tilda ran out into the thick brush of the ditch.
I got out with Tilda every time, just in case she might need me. I doubted that she would, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving a pregnant woman alone like that. While she ran through the ditch, I got out and waited next to the car.
“I told you this would be a long drive,” Konstantin said, climbing out of the backseat.
“Why are you getting out?” I asked.
“I need to stretch my legs.” He paced alongside the SUV, unmindful of the fact that the drizzle was getting heavier.
Beyond the ditch was a cold gray fog. We’d been taking back roads to avoid suspicion, and it had been a while since we’d crossed paths with another car. It felt still and eerie on the side of the road, and I was looking forward to getting to our destination.
I shivered and pulled my hooded sweatshirt more tightly around me.
Suddenly Konstantin tensed up, looking around like a hunting dog that’s found its prey. I was about to ask him what was wrong when he said, “We’re not alone.”
And then Tilda screamed.
Tilda stood on the other side of the ditch, with brush between us, and her eyes were wide and frantic as she pointed toward us. “Behind you!”
Before I had a chance to look, Konstantin pushed me out of the way, knocking me to the ground, and he lunged at what appeared to be nothing—just empty space. But when Konstantin’s fist collided loudly with his opponent’s bare flesh, I saw the mirage-like shimmer of his skin. The chameleon coloring of the stark landscape around us changing to the tanned tones of Kanin skin.
“Get my daggers out of my bag!” Konstantin commanded.
As I scrambled from the ground, the guy Konstantin was fighting had finally shifted back to normal, and I realized that it was Drake Vagn. He’d once been a tracker in Doldastam, but he was more than ten years older than me, so I didn’t really know him.
But I do remember the big fit he’d thrown when he’d been forced to retire six years ago. He’d eventually left Doldastam and the entire Kanin kingdom over it, and it had not been on good terms.
“You thought you could switch teams, eh?” Drake asked Konstantin, smirking as he punched him in the face.
Then came the loud sound of crunching metal, and the SUV lurched to the side, slamming into me and knocking me down. I lay perpendicular with the vehicle, squishing down in the mud as much as I could. For a brief second, the vehicle was actually over me—the metal entrails of it mere inches above my face. I’d turned my head to the side, watching as the tires skidded to a stop in the ditch beside me.
As quickly as I could, I crawled out from underneath toward the back of the SUV, and I got to my feet. Peering around, I discovered why it had suddenly lurched to the side.
A massive beast of a man was standing next to the driver’s door, which had been severely dented in, causing the window to crack into a million pieces. That explained why Ridley hadn’t gotten out yet—the angry hulk had punched in the door, momentarily trapping him inside.
Based on the hulk’s size alone, I guessed he was Omte. He could easily push in the shattered window and grab Ridley, but he seemed to prefer glaring down at him, smiling like a shark. His dark hair went down his back in a thick ponytail, and he was shirtless, displaying a series of thick tribal tattoos that covered his torso.
Konstantin and Drake had moved their fight to the road, matching each other blow-for-blow, and I registered the insults they were hurling at each other just enough to put together that they’d both been working together for Viktor before Konstantin had defected.
I opened the hatchback and saw that Ridley was crawling across the seats with the aim of getting out of the back passenger door. I grabbed Konstantin’s worn leather satchel and hurriedly started digging through it.
Everywhere he went, Konstantin carried two long, sharp daggers. They had been his gift when he’d become the Queen’s personal guard, and they were made with the highest-quality metal with ornate ivory carvings in the handle. They were beautiful, but most importantly, they were deadly.
I just caught sight of one of the blades in the bag when I felt a huge hand crushing me around my waist. I tried to hang on to the bag, but suddenly I was sailing backward, and I lost my grip. The bag tumbled to the ground, and I heard the daggers clattering against the pavement.