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Leaving Tilda alone in her room made me feel bad, but I knew that Linnea would be calling on her for help in the very near future. Linnea was going to be running the kingdom in her husband’s absence, and Tilda knew quite a bit about keeping things in order.

I went up the winding staircase away from the bedrooms and up to the main floor. As I walked toward the main hall, I was surprised to see Konstantin hobbling from the other direction, with his own bag over his shoulder.

He’d showered and cleaned up, looking better than he had in a while. Last night, when he’d been brought in, he’d been pale and clammy, on the verge of death, and now he appeared as he always did. Except with a slight limp in his left leg.

“What are you doing?” I asked. He’d stopped, waiting for me to join him.

“I’m going to Doldastam.”

“But you need to rest,” I reminded him. “The medic told you to, and you’ve got a limp.”

He shrugged it off. “My leg is finishing healing. The limp will be gone in a day.”

“Konstantin.” I stopped walking, so he did too, and looked back at me.

“Do you really think I’m going to let anything prevent me from missing this fight?” he asked honestly.

“Fine.” I sighed. “At least promise me you’ll take it easy.”

He shook his head and started walking again. “Nope.”



With so many of us in our motley of shapes and sizes, we had to avoid main modes of travel, including the train, which was how we usually crossed the vast Canadian territory to get to Doldastam.

Fortunately, winter had come to an end for most of Manitoba, and that made it easier for us to go off-road. To get where we were going, in many places there were literally no roads. We’d be relying on Skojare maps, GPS, and four-wheel drive to get us through.

The Trylle had been kind enough to bring their transports to us, which were modified all-terrain army vehicles. The majority of us managed to fit in the backs of those, underneath the tarp covers, while the rest crammed into the Skojare’s small fleet of Jeep Wranglers.

In order for the humans not to spy us, we’d have to stay as far from their civilization and populated roads as we could. We’d brought along a few of the Skojare tower guards to help cloak us. And if humans did actually see us, like when we needed a pit stop to gas up, several of the Trylle with us could use persuasion, and make them forget that they’d seen anything at all.

Once we got close enough to Doldastam, we’d leave the convoy and march the rest of the way on foot, since all our vehicles would be loud and obvious. That way we could have an element of surprise. The tower guards’ cloaking ability worked well on humans, but it was much less effective on other trolls, especially when they were trying to hide such a large moving target.

I sat in the back of one of the transports, between Ridley and the back gate. The bench that ran on either side of the back was full of senior Skojare guards, and though they did their best to look confident, I could see their nerves showing through.

Konstantin had also chosen this transport, but instead of sitting on a bench, he lay on the floor, using his bag as a pillow. Some of the guards had complained, but Konstantin said he needed to stretch out his leg so it would heal faster, so they let it go.

Despite the bumps and jolts of the journey, Konstantin seemed to sleep through it, bouncing around undisturbed. It was a rough ride over rocky terrain, one that left me aching and sore whenever we stopped to stretch and take a bathroom break.

Through most of the ride, none of us really said anything. It was hard to hear over the sound of the vehicle, and there wasn’t much to say. Are you scared that the Omte will literally crush you? Oh, me too!

Ridley only spoke to me once, asking me if I wanted part of his lunch. Since his confession last night during the dance, we hadn’t really talked, other than discussions of war and what we needed to do. But I didn’t mind. There wasn’t time for anything else.

When we got back into the transport together after one of our stops, he put his hand on my leg, gently squeezing when we hit a large bump, and there was something more comforting in that than anything he could’ve said.

By nightfall, we’d made it about two-thirds of the way through our journey, and we stopped to camp out. Driving off-road during the day was difficult enough as it was, and we all needed a chance to rest before we arrived at Doldastam. We’d known that we’d have to camp out, so we’d packed well for it.

It was in the low twenties, which made for a very chilly campout, so we hurried to set up our tents. A girl from the Trylle had asked to share a tent with me, and I’d obliged. Other soldiers had gotten fires going, but we set up our tent near the outskirt of the campsite, since I’d rather get sleep than stay up all night talking around a fire.

While she finished setting up the tent—a small white one, made of thick canvas that helped to keep the cold out and the heat in—I went back to the trucks to get thick animals hides to keep out the iciness of the ground.

When I went over to the truck, Ridley was already there, working beside Finn, helping to pass out hides and sleeping bags. Five others were already in line, waiting for their sleeping gear, and as I joined them, Ridley looked up at me, the dim lights from a nearby fire playing off the darkness in his eyes.

“We already have sleeping bags,” I said as I reached the front.

“Hey, Finn, can you handle this?” Ridley asked, glancing back at the two people waiting behind me. “I wanted to talk to Bryn for a minute.”