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Finally I spotted Linnea, dragging a medic by the hand as she ran in her own sparkly blue gown. She was way at the other end of the hall from me, rushing toward the south wing of the palace, but I could just see her platinum curls bouncing, so I followed them.

I managed to get to the room just after Linnea and the medic had arrived, and I stood in the doorway. It was a small room on the main floor, with a window that showed the stars reflecting on the lake outside. Two twin beds were in the room, but Linnea and the medic were blocking my view so I could only see the legs of the occupants.

And blood. Blood stained the white sheets and left a mess on the floor.

Ridley was already at work caring for the men before Linnea arrived. He’d taken off his white jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, and his forearms were stained red.

The medic started to take over, and Linnea tried to tell the wounded that everything would be alright.

“Dammit!” Konstantin growled, and I breathed in deeply for the first time.

“I know it hurts, but you need to let him do this if you want him to fix you,” Linnea told him, her voice verging between comforting and scolding.

“I don’t want him to fix me!” Konstantin shouted back.

“You saved my life,” Linnea persisted. “I won’t just let you die.”

Ridley had been helping the medic tear back Konstantin’s shirt so he could get to the worst of it—a horrible gaping wound in his abdomen. He’d assisted enough so that the medic could get his hands on Konstantin, pressing painfully against the gash in order to heal it with psychokinesis.

As soon as the medic got his hands on him, Konstantin started fighting it, trying to push them off. Linnea screamed when he threw his hand out, and she jumped back from him.

“Leave it be!” Konstantin commanded. “Just let me die.”

“We need you,” Ridley said, trying to hold Konstantin’s arms down before he hurt himself or someone else. “Just let us help you.”

I pushed past Linnea to get to his side, and when Konstantin saw me, out of surprise he stopped fighting. His eyes widened, and he grimaced. His hair was damp with sweat, and blood was splattered on his cheeks.

Since he’d relaxed some, I leaned on the bed beside him, taking his bloodstained hand in mine.

“Let them help,” I said softly, imploring him.

He looked away from me, staring up at the ceiling. He gritted his teeth and breathed in angrily through his nose. That was as close to consent as we would get, so I looked to the medic and nodded.

The medic put his hands back on Konstantin, and he groaned loudly through his teeth. His hand squeezed mine to the point of being painful, but I just let him. It took a few moments, but eventually he began to relax.

I looked down, and the medic was panting as he took his hands off Konstantin. The wound was healed, and other than a fresh scar under the thick layer of drying blood, his abdomen looked completely normal.

The medic began to tell Konstantin to take it easy, and if there were other minor injuries in different areas, they would take more time to heal because he’d focused all his energy on the abdominal wound.

Linnea thanked the medic for his help and took him out to the hallway. Konstantin let go of my hand, so I straightened back up. In the bed across from Konstantin, a white sheet stained red had been pulled up over the man’s head. The other guy who had come in with Konstantin hadn’t made it.

“I hate to do it at a time like this,” Ridley said. He stood on the opposite side of the bed, looking down at Konstantin. “But I have to find out about the attack. We need to so we can prepare ourselves.”

“It was just a couple scouts,” Konstantin said. “There were only two of them. We killed one pretty quickly, after he took out one of the guys I was walking with, but the second guy—he put up quite a fight.” He grimaced at the memory.

“Did they say anything?” Ridley asked.

Konstantin nodded. “Yeah. I finally got my sword to his throat, and then he was quite chatty because he thought I’d spare his life. He said that Viktor sent them down to see how well armed the Skojare were. He said that Viktor is waiting to hear back from the scouts before sending troops.”

Ridley folded his arms over his chest. “With them being dead, it ought to buy us a few days.”

“That’s the good news,” Konstantin said. “The bad news is that both of the scouts were Omte, and not just any Omte. These were trained soldiers, which is why they did such a number on us.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” I shook my head. “I thought Viktor had just been picking up random trolls that had defected from other tribes, like Bent Stum.”

“So did I,” Konstantin replied wearily. “But we were wrong. The scout told me as much. Viktor and Mina have the Omte working for them now.”

“Shit,” Ridley whispered. “I need to go find the King and Baltsar to tell them this. It changes everything.”

He walked around the bed, heading toward the door, but he paused and reached out, touching my arm gently. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “I’m fine.”

Ridley lingered like he wanted to say more, or maybe even finish that kiss we’d barely started in the ballroom. But now wasn’t the time or place, and he knew it. He glanced back at Konstantin, then let go of my arm and left.

Konstantin closed his eyes and groaned. “You should’ve just let me die. They shouldn’t have wasted their resources and the medic’s energy on me, not when there’s going to be many other soldiers that deserve it more.”