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I put my hand on his arm and whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

His jaw was set, and his eyes were hard. Then he shook his head once. “We just need to get out of here.”

He turned and walked away. I wanted to right the stone and clean off the frozen blood, but we really didn’t have time. And what would it matter if we did? The damage had already been done.

When we reached the edge of the cemetery, Konstantin, Baltsar, and Finn were long gone. I knew that Finn would go after his family, but I had no idea what Konstantin and Baltsar might be up to. Crouching beside the hedges, Ridley whispered that we should split up—he’d go get his mom, while I got my parents.

It seemed like the safest bet to get us out of here the fastest, so he kissed me briefly on the lips, then turned and darted in the opposite direction, while I dashed across the icy cobblestone streets toward the town square.

I was just thinking about how nice it was that I had yet to see a guard when I caught sight of two massive Omte soldiers marching right in my direction. I ducked into a narrow gap between two houses, just barely big enough to fit my body in sideways, and I started sliding through. In the middle, it started feeling very tight on my ribs, and I had to hold my breath so I could squeeze by.

When I poked my head out on the other side, I saw a member of the Högdragen patrolling at the end of the block, only three doors down from my parents’ house. He kept going back and forth, walking the same beat. He’d disappear for about ten seconds, then he’d return.

I was not his commanding officer, but I knew for certain that he was supposed to be patrolling a larger area. But thanks to him being a lazy idiot, he was making it much harder for me to get to my parents’ house.

By my count, I had twenty seconds to run down to my parents’. Since I had no choice, I made a break for it, running on the ice much faster than I should. When I tried to stop, I almost slid past their cottage, and I actually had to grab on to the side of it. Just in the nick of time, I jumped into the gap between my parents’ house and their neighbor’s.

Above the kitchen sink was a useless window. Well, my mom had always called it useless because it only gave her a view of the neighbor’s wall. But today it was going to prove itself not useless as I jimmied it open and climbed inside.

I managed to squeeze in by grabbing on to the kitchen sink and pulling myself through. I’d been hoping for a more elegant landing, but I ended up tumbling headfirst onto the floor, knocking a few glasses down with me.

It was enough commotion to wake my parents, and the upstairs light clicked on. I’d just gotten to my feet by the time my dad came rushing down the stairs in his pajamas with his hair sticking up all over the place. He’d never been much for weapons, so he was wielding an antique Scandinavian sword that he’d gotten because of its historical value.

“I’m not afraid to kill you little punks,” Dad growled and flicked on the kitchen light.

“Dad, it’s me.” I pushed back my hood so he could actually get a look at me, and he nearly dropped his sword in shock.

“Oh, my, Bryn.” He just stood there staring at me for a moment, then he finally did drop the sword and ran over to me.

“Iver?” Mom called from upstairs. “Iver? Is everything okay?”

“Runa, get down here,” Dad said, while giving me such a bear hug, I thought he might actually break me. But I hugged him back just as tight.

“Iver?” Mom asked cautiously, but then she must’ve seen me, because I heard her gasp.

By the time she’d reached me, she was already crying, and I let go of my dad with one arm so I could pull her into the hug.

“Oh, Bryn, we weren’t sure if we’d ever see you again,” she said between sobs.

“I know, I know.” I finally pulled away from them. “I love you, and I missed you guys too. But we can talk about all that later. Right now we have to get out of here.”

Mom nodded, wiping at her eyes. “I’ve got my bag ready. We’ve been waiting for our chance to escape. Just let me put on real clothes.”



Getting out of my parents’ house had been much easier than getting in. I didn’t have a key, so I’d had to break in, but now we were safe to sneak out the back door.

Behind their house was a very small yard—a tiny strip of frozen grass separated by worn wooden fences. In the summer, my mom kept a garden there, and several of their neighbors kept chickens.

Most of the fences weren’t very high, which was fortunate, since my dad had trouble jumping them as it was. Dad had always been more of an intellectual, and Mom fared much better at athletics than him, so she had no problem leaping over the fences.

We went down through the yards until we found two houses that appeared to be the farthest apart. Some of the spaces between houses were mere inches, but this gap was several feet. It was still tight to get through, especially with my parents’ overstuffed rucksack, but it was much easier than the gap I’d used earlier.

From there, it was just a few mad dashes across the streets when guards weren’t looking and hiding behind whatever was available. I led my mom and dad through the cemetery, around all the headstones, and as we got closer to our exit, I could see that Finn had beaten us there.

He was helping ease his mother down through the open hole. There wasn’t a ladder down into the tunnel, so it was just a straight eight-foot drop to the bottom. He held Annali’s hands, slowly lowering her down to his father, who put his hands on her waist and set her carefully on the ground.