Page 63

“My family is there too,” Finn reminded me, his eyes pained. “I know how great the risk is. But it’s our only chance to stop the Queen and her armies before she destroys another kingdom. And once she’s done with the Skojare, there’s no telling who she’ll go after next.”

“We go to them,” Baltsar agreed, sounding resigned to the idea. “We take the fight to Doldastam. We still might not win. They still outnumber us, and they’re still much stronger. But if we lose, we give everyone in Storvatten a chance to escape. It’s our best plan to avoid innocent casualties.”

“You’re suggesting we abandon the palace?” Mikko asked in his low rumble.

“I am suggesting that if we lose, yes, everyone behind in Storvatten fills their pockets with sapphires and disappears into the lake,” Baltsar said. “It’s the only advantage we have, that the other tribes can’t follow us into the water.”

“Konstantin and I know Doldastam and the palace inside out,” Ridley said, referring to the fact that as a member of the Högdragen and Överste respectively they had been privy to all the plans and designs of the city. They knew it better than even Tilda and me.

He turned around to face the room. “Do we really have a chance of beating them? I don’t know. But if we do, Finn is right. Our best shot is taking Doldastam before they come for Storvatten.”

Mikko surveyed the room, waiting for dissenting opinions, but even I just lowered my eyes. It wasn’t a perfect plan, and I wasn’t sure that we wouldn’t all end up dead anyway.

But it was still our best chance at defeating Mina, even if it meant risking the lives of the people I cared about most. The greater good of peace within the five kingdoms outweighed my own personal feelings.

“That settles it, then,” Mikko said. “Since they’ll be coming for us soon, we don’t have time to waste. We leave at dawn for Doldastam.”



With my bag slung over my shoulder, I closed the door to my guestroom in the Storvatten palace for the last time. It had a strange finality to it. I didn’t know if I’d ever come here again or if the palace would even be standing in a couple weeks.

I started walking down the hall and paused when I reached Tilda’s room. She sat on her bed, her legs crossed underneath her, and stared down at her belly as she rubbed it. Her wavy chestnut hair hung around her like a curtain.

I knocked on the open door, and she looked up at me with a sad smile.

“You’re leaving already?”

I nodded. “It’s time. Ridley’s already upstairs.”

Her smile became more pained, her full lips pressing into thin lines. I sat my bag on the floor and went over to sit on the bed beside her.

“I wish I was going with you,” she said, almost desperately.

“I know. But the battlefield is no place for a pregnant woman, even one as badass as you.”

“I know it’s the right thing. I know that for the baby, this is where I need to be.” She nodded, as if to convince herself. “But this is my war too. I should be with you, fighting alongside you.”

“You’ve already helped so much. Everything you’ve done with the Skojare army, they’re better because of you.”

“It’s just hard.” She rubbed her stomach. “I think the baby wants to go too. He’s been kicking a lot.” Then she looked over at me. “Wanna feel?”

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to, but I let Tilda take my hand and place it on her stomach. At first I didn’t feel anything, then there was a sudden, soft pushing sensation on the palm of my hand.

“Did you feel that?” Tilda asked, sounding excited.

“Yeah, that’s crazy.” I let my hand linger for a moment, feeling another, stronger kick, and then I took my hand back.

“Did I tell you that I found out that it’s a boy?” she asked, smiling wider now.

“No, you didn’t. A boy?” I smiled. “That’ll be great.”

“I didn’t find out the gender until after Kasper . . .” Her smile remained but her eyes were misty. “I mean, we could’ve. But we were waiting until after we were married. It’s silly, but we wanted it to be like a wedding gift to ourselves.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know. It seemed like a fun idea at the time, but since we didn’t know if it would be a boy or a girl, we didn’t really talk about names yet. Not in earnest.”

“Have you been thinking about anything now?” I asked.

“Älskade Kasper Abbott,” Tilda said. “Älskade means ‘loved,’ and I want this baby to know that he’s loved more than anything.”

I smiled. “It sounds perfect.”

“Thanks.” She smiled and blinked back tears. “Anyway, I’ve probably held you up long enough. You should get going before they leave without you.”

I leaned over and hugged her tightly. The two of us had never been much for hugging, but we both lingered in this one. Eventually I pulled away and stood up. I grabbed my bag off the floor and offered her a small wave before heading out.

“Bryn,” she said, stopping me at the door. “In case I don’t see you again, I just wanted you to know that you’ve been a really great friend, and I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said, rather awkwardly, since neither of us was usually very sentimental. “And take care of yourself.”