- Crystal Kingdom
“In addition, Queen Wendy and King Loki persuaded Queen Sara Elsing of the Vittra to join in the fight,” Ludlow added in his low, craggy voice. “Queen Sara has sent a third of her army to join your fight.”
Mikko appeared too stunned to speak for a moment, but finally he managed to say, “I am forever grateful for your offers, but I am not sure that I can ever repay your kingdoms. We are not in a position to indebt ourselves so greatly to such powerful kingdoms.”
“We are not asking for anything in return,” Finn told him. “We are simply here to help you as you may need us.”
“We are here to serve, King Mikko,” Ludlow said, and he bowed before him. Finn followed suit, as did the troops on the dock—all of them bowing before the Skojare King.
We need to celebrate!” Linnea declared. “We’re not all going to die, and if that doesn’t call for a celebration, then I don’t know what does!”
It was hard to argue with that logic, so I didn’t even try, and neither did Mikko.
Since the Trylle and the Vittra had pledged their allegiance and a chunk of their soldiers to us yesterday, we had spent the entire time trying to combine our armies. It required more effort because each of the tribes had such different strengths.
Many of the Trylle had powers of psychokinesis, meaning they could move things with their minds or even start fires. Since the soldiers present were all lower-ranking trackers and civilians (and stronger abilities went along with the more powerful bloodlines of the royals), they weren’t very powerful, but they had did have some psychokinesis.
The Vittra were physically stronger than almost any other tribe, possibly barring the Omte. Despite their smaller stature, hobgoblins were easily as strong as ogres, if not stronger. And while Vittra trolls were generally more attractive and smarter than the Omte, they could be just as quick-tempered and aggressive.
The Skojare could breathe underwater, which wasn’t very useful for this fight. They were also the least skilled in combat, and the other two tribes were often frustrated by their inability to properly defend themselves.
More than once during training I saw a Vittra soldier throw a Skojare guard across the room in irritation. Ridley, Finn, and Ludlow were doing their best to keep order and get everyone working together, but it was no easy task.
It was during our training in the afternoon that Linnea came into the ballroom, excited about the cause for celebration. She insisted that everyone needed a morale-booster and a fun way to bond, and the way to do that was with a party in the ballroom.
With that, she tossed everyone out, telling us to go practice outside where the Trylle and the Vittra had set up camp in Storvatten. I spent the rest of the day out in the warm spring rain, teaching Skojare new maneuvers and fighting in the mud.
After a hard day of training, I walked down to my guestroom to wash off all the dirt in a warm shower. I’d almost made it to my room when Linnea came rushing down the hall toward me, carrying three garment bags in her arms.
“Bryn!” she called to me, nearly tripping on her long satin dressing gown in her hurry. When I turned to face her, she realized how filthy I was, and she slowed down. “I was going to hand these off to you, but you’ll get muck all over the bags. I’ll just put them on your bed while you go shower.”
“Why are you bringing me garment bags?” I asked.
“For the party.” Linnea gave me a look like I was an idiot and brushed past me as she went into my room. “I know you weren’t able to pack your finer clothes with you, so I grabbed a few gowns that I thought you might like and would fit you.”
“That’s very kind of you, but I hadn’t planned on going to the party,” I said as I walked more slowly into my room.
“Don’t be ridiculous, of course you are.” Linnea kept her back to me as she carefully laid out the bags on the bed. “You’re integral to everything that’s happening here, and you need to be here to mingle and get people to trust each other.”
She unzipped each of the bags, pulling out the gowns a bit so I could see them. I’d owned some nice dresses in my life, but none as fabulous as these.
One was a rich navy-blue fabric that looked like liquid when it moved, and with a slit so high, I would be worried that my panties would show. Another was snow-white satin with diamond and lace embellishments creating an ornate illusion neckline. And the last was pale aquamarine, embroidered with flowing designs and sapphires, and a bit of tulle under the length filled out the skirt.
“And besides,” Linnea went on as I stood, transfixed by the lavishness of the gowns, “you’ve earned it. You’ve been working so hard lately. You deserve a night to let your hair down.”
I nodded slowly. “Okay. I’ll go to the party.”
She clapped her hands together. “I would hug you, but I don’t want to get covered in mud. Now hurry and get ready.”
In the end, it wasn’t the logic of her arguments that won me over—although she had been right. It was simply the sight of the dresses. Something in the troll blood made it hard to deny luxury, which was why we all had such a penchant for gems and jewelry.
But also, a part of me just really wanted to wear a gown that was made for a Queen.
I showered quickly but thoroughly—there was no way I was ruining one of Linnea’s dresses. Then I hurried back to try them all on and pick one.
While I’d been showering, Linnea had sent down a masquerade mask and a pair of pale sapphire earrings. The silver mask was gorgeous and delicate, its ornate flourishes encrusted with diamonds. Attached was a note that read, “Wear me.”