- Crystal Kingdom
“What?” I asked, and my voice sounded like a strange echo, bouncing off of everything.
Suddenly a hand gripped my ankle, yanking me underwater. I started to fight it, but I realized with some surprise that I could breathe easily in the clear water that surrounded me. Even though it should all be terrifying, I felt oddly relaxed.
Linnea floated up in front of me, and the way her platinum-blond curls floated around her head made her look ethereal. Under the water, her eyes somehow managed to look even more blue than normal, but a worried expression aged her youthful face.
“Bryn,” Linnea said again, and it sounded like she was speaking directly inside my head. “What’s happened? Where are you?”
“I don’t know where I am.” I looked around, as if there would be some kind of sign telling me the exact location of my underwater dream.
“Not here. This is a lysa.” Linnea took my hand, making me focus on her. “Everything is crazy in Storvatten. They say you killed Kennet.”
“I didn’t kill Kennet!” I shouted, then corrected myself. “I tried to save him, but I couldn’t. But he was behind everything, Linnea. He’s the reason Mikko was arrested.”
Her eyes widened and she gasped. “Kennet? But he loved Mikko!”
“It’s too much to explain now, but you have to believe me. Kennet was into some bad things, and you can’t trust the Kanin Queen either. She was working with him.”
“Who can I trust?” Linnea’s lip began to quiver. “Everything is falling apart here. My grandma is trying to run things, but the board of advisers is pushing her out. They won’t release Mikko, and they’re trying to bring Bayle Lundeen back, but they can’t find him anywhere.”
“Don’t let Bayle run anything!” I warned her. “If they find him, make them question him. He knows what Kennet was up to, so maybe he can help free Mikko.”
The water seemed to grow colder. It had been the whole time, but I began to feel the chill running deeper in me. And it was getting harder to breathe. Each breath I took seemed to be equal parts air and water, and I was starting to choke.
“Don’t trust the Kanin. Don’t accept any aid from them,” I told her as water filled my lungs. “Stray strong.”
Her expression hardened with resolve. “I won’t let anyone hurt me or Mikko anymore,” Linnea promised me. “And I will clear your name, Bryn!”
That was the last thing I heard her say before the dream collapsed on me, and I woke up in bed, gasping for breath.
With one hand I tousled my damp hair with a towel, and with the other I pulled back the drapes, allowing the blinding sun to spill into the dark room. When my eyes adjusted, I half expected to see Högdragen or maybe Viktor Dålig’s men outside, waiting to capture me.
But it was only an empty gravel parking lot on a relatively deserted highway. Being on the run made it awfully hard to not feel paranoid, especially when it turned out there was actually a conspiracy plotting against me.
“Anything exciting out there?” Konstantin’s voice rumbled from behind me, making me jump.
I let the shades close, and I turned back to see him standing in the bathroom doorway. His dark curls were wet, and he was wearing only a pair of jeans. Seeing him shirtless, I realized that he was more muscular than I’d originally imagined.
While the smooth definition of his torso was a pleasant sight, his deep olive skin was marred by scars running all over his chest and arms. Some of them were undoubtedly from the days when he partook in the brutal sport of the King’s Games, but some of them had probably been from more sinister actions with Viktor Dålig and his men.
On his chest¸ just above his heart, he had a black tattoo of a rabbit—the same tattoo many members of the Högdragen shared. They usually got it after they took their oath, and I was sure that Konstantin had been the same. He’d once been as young and determined as I had been, but somewhere along the line he’d taken a much darker turn.
“No, nothing.” I lowered my eyes and tossed my towel on the dresser next to the small television.
“You used all the hot water,” Konstantin grumbled absently as he picked his black T-shirt up off his bed. I peered over at him, watching as he pulled the shirt over his head, then quickly looked away once he’d gotten it on.
“Sorry. I guess I’m not used to sharing.”
“I doubt this place had much hot water anyway.” He looked over at me. “At least your hair’s looking better now.”
I tugged at a lock of my shoulder-length hair so I could get a better look at it. The faded gray had mostly washed out, and it was returning to its usual color again.
“So what’s the plan now?” Konstantin asked.
“I don’t know.” I leaned back against the dresser. “What’s your plan?”
“My plan was to find you, and I’ve found you.” He motioned in the air, making a checkmark with his hand. “Mission accomplished.”
“You didn’t have any idea what would happen after that?”
“Not really.” He sat on the bed across from me, leaning back so he propped himself up on his arms. “I didn’t know what would happen when I found you. But you’ve been on the run for some days now. Haven’t you had time to come up with your next move?”
“No.” I sighed. “I mean, I know what I want to do. I want to get back to Doldastam and avenge Kasper. I want to make sure my family and friends are safe, and I want to get the Queen out of there before she hurts anybody else, which probably means that I’d need to take on Viktor Dålig and his army along with the Kanin army.