Page 53

There are still good people here, and they need someone like me to help them when it comes time to fight. I don’t know when that will happen, but I feel it’s gotta happen soon. I don’t know how much more we can take of this.

Every day things get worse. Yesterday, Omte guards started appearing around town. You know how huge the Omte can get—all of them are over six foot, some over seven, with big heads and muscles bulging out everywhere. Apparently, where they’re from is incredibly warm, and they’re having a hard time handling the cold, so they’re all bulked in winter jackets and hats and scarves even though it reached the forties.

Even with their ridiculous gear, it doesn’t make them any less intimidating. They stomp around the cobblestones like they own the damn place. I’ve actually seen children cry at the sight of them.

Queen Mina held another meeting in the town square after they’d arrived. She stood on the balcony of the clock tower, still wearing all black, including this odd birdcage veil over her eyes. The Omte had arrived unannounced, and by the time she called the meeting, everyone was on edge and scared.

In her grandiose way, with lots of arm gestures and her fake British accent that annoys you so much, Mina explained that the Omte had come here to help protect us. We have so many enemies we needed a stronger guard.

(Though she didn’t specify who any of these enemies were, and she hasn’t mentioned the name Viktor Dålig in quite some time—apparently he’s no longer a threat? Just you and Konstantin Black. And now the Skojare, apparently, but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

She assured everyone that the Omte are here for our protection. Your mom and dad were at the back of the crowd, and I saw the nervous glances they exchanged with each other. I wanted to look as uncomfortable as they did, but since I’m part of the army, I had to put on my best smile and pretend like I thought this was totally brilliant and not complete insanity.

When the King died, Mina wouldn’t even allow Kanins from other towns to come and mourn him. But now she’ll open the gates to complete strangers from another tribe, a tribe we’ve had very little contact with over the past century?

Obviously something bad is going on, but I haven’t been able to figure out what yet. It’s hard when there’s so few people I can talk to about this anymore. If I’m being honest, part of the reason I’m writing you this letter is just so I can sort it all out for myself. In your absence, you’ve become my sounding board.

After explaining the presence of the Omte, Queen Mina went on to announce that she discovered the culprit behind King Evert’s murder—Kennet Biâelse. When the crowd cheered, I actually cheered along with them, because I thought finally you’d be cleared.

But, no. She actually raised the accusations, claiming that you were a coconspirator with Kennet. You actually helped him with the poison or some nonsense like that.

Then she concluded that the Skojare could no longer be trusted. You’d betrayed us because of your Skojare blood, and all Skojare are inherently evil.

It was at that point that your parents quickly and quietly made their exit. Unfortunately, they don’t live that far from the town square, so I’m sure they could still hear all the vile things Mina was saying about the Skojare.

Later, after everything had died down, I brought a casserole over to them. My mom had made it for them with root vegetables, since she knows that the market has been refusing service to them. Your parents have mostly been subsisting on treats from Juni’s bakery and the kindness of strangers.

Your mom was in the bath when I arrived, and your dad answered the door. He says that your mom spends most of the time soaking now. His temples looked grayer than they were the last time I saw him, but otherwise he looked okay. He says he’s just been reading and trying to keep his head down.

They rarely leave the house, and they keep their thick drapes pulled at all hours since they caught some kids trying to peek in a few days ago.

When your mom came out of the bath, she hugged me and told me how happy she was to see me. I told them that you’re safe, hiding in Förening, and she started to cry. Your dad teared up too, and he spent the next five minutes thanking me for helping you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people look as relieved as they did then.

They’ll need to escape soon, but with the Omte guard around now, it will be even harder than before. Fortunately, the Queen doesn’t seem to have noticed that Tilda has escaped yet. Tilda’s parents are covering for her, saying she’s on bed rest with the baby, anytime anybody asks about her. I think her parents and I are the only ones that really know where she is.

As soon as I see a break in the defenses, I think I’ll get my parents and your parents out of here. It’s getting too dangerous. The Queen already turned on the Skojare. It won’t be much longer before she singles my family out for being Trylle. We’ve always had the advantage of blending in better than you and your mom did, but nobody really blends in in Doldastam anymore.

Everyone is suspect.

I shouldn’t even be writing these letters to you. If the wrong person reads this, I could end up in the dungeon, just for telling the truth about what’s going on around here. To be safe, I’m even writing this in the wee hours of the morning, before the sun comes up. But you can never be too safe in Doldastam anymore.

I think this will be the last letter I write you. I have too much to do here. I can’t risk getting caught over something silly like this. Besides, I’m not even sure if you’ll ever be able to read these.