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Neither side of the war wanted to hurt innocent children. But with her out on the street, and ogres throwing people around, and people killing each other, it would be far too easy for her to be hurt in the chaos of it all.

Fortunately, the Abbotts didn’t live very far away from the palace. Unfortunately, that meant we wouldn’t be able to avoid the fighting on our way to her home.

“I’m gonna take you home,” I promised her. “But if I tell you to get down, you need to find the best hiding spot you can and hide, okay?”

She nodded, so I led her around the dorm, down the alleyway between the Högdragen facilities and the palace, and toward the main street. The worst of the fighting was concentrated half a mile down, where the hobgoblins had broken through the wall.

That didn’t mean others weren’t fighting down here, though. A Trylle soldier and a Högdragen were fighting each other rather brutally right on the street in front of us. The Högdragen was using a sword, but the Trylle had gotten a battle-ax, and they were mercilessly hacking at each other.

I pulled Naima behind me, trying to shield her with my body so she wouldn’t see the worst of it, and I pushed up my hood, hiding my blond hair. If they saw someone running across the street with a child, I would attract less attention if it wasn’t obvious that I was Skojare.

The Högdragen had knocked the Trylle to the ground, and it looked like he might be about ready to finish him off, so it seemed like a good time to make a break for it.

“Run,” I told Naima, and then I bolted across the street, still holding her hand.

I was hoping that we could make it across unnoticed, but behind us I heard the angry growl of an ogre. We turned sharply off the main road, running down the narrow cobblestone street toward the Abbotts’ house.

The heavy crunch of the ogre’s feet destroying the cobblestones as he ran behind us began to speed up, and I realized that there was no way Naima would be able to outrun him. I wasn’t sure if even I would be able to without her.

“Hide!” I shouted, and pulled her to the side, practically tossing her toward the thin gap between a couple houses. It was big enough for a normal adult troll to fit in, but an ogre would be unable to grab her.

With Naima safely out of the way, I drew my sword and turned back around to face the ogre charging toward me.



Grinning crookedly with his oversized mouth, the ogre slowed as he reached me, and I realized that it was Torun, who had so badly wanted to squash Konstantin and me when we came across him in the swamps outside Fulaträsk.

He was over eight feet tall, with arms like tree trunks. He was completely lopsided, with everything on his right side larger than that on his left. His right hand was much larger than his left, and he had it balled into a fist.

“Squash you now,” Torun grunted with an angry laugh.

“Last time you caught me without my sword,” I told him. “I won’t go down as easy as you think.”

Torun raised his right fist high above his head, and I waited until he started bringing it down toward me, to squash me. Then I lifted my sword and jabbed it straight through his wrist. He howled in pain and when he yanked his arm back, he took me with it.

I wrapped my legs around his arm, so when he tried to shake me off, I had a good grip, and I began twisting the sword, cutting through the tendons and bone. Ogres were bigger and stronger than regular trolls, but their bones broke just as easily as for the rest of us.

Realizing I wouldn’t let go, Torun grabbed me with his left hand and threw me aside. I crashed into a house, and fell into a pile of snow. The landing had been hard enough that it left me dazed and out of breath for a moment, but I stumbled to my feet as quickly as I could.

Torun’s massive hand was hanging on to his arm by a flap of skin and a few tendons. He cradled it with his good hand, crying out in pain, as blood poured out, soaking the street.

When he saw me getting up, he growled in rage, and I knew I had to finish him off quickly. He charged toward me, and I dove out of the way, so he crashed into the house and knocked himself off balance. The loss of blood seemed to be affecting him, and he stumbled backward.

My sword had fallen to the ground, and I grabbed it in a flash. I went up to his right side and stabbed between his ribs, straight into his enlarged ogre heart. Torun growled once more, and that was it. He slumped over and slid off my sword, onto the street.

I wiped the blood off my hand, then held it out to Naima. She hesitated before coming out, but she finally did, and we started running down the street.

We rounded the corner, Naima’s house finally in sight, and a small Omte guard came out of nowhere. He had jumped out from between two houses, and now he was charging at me. I pushed Naima behind me, using my body as a shield.

The Omte raised his sword at me, so I blocked it with my own. Since that move would only leave us at a standstill, with him pushing his blade toward me while I pushed back, I kicked him in the stomach, knocking him back.

Moving quickly, I stabbed him through the chest before he had a chance to block me. I pulled my sword free, and he fell to the ground.

That was when I looked down the street again, and I saw Rutger Abbott standing in the middle of the street. His sword was drawn, and he had the rigid stance of a Högdragen. His face was much harder than Kasper’s had ever been, but he had the same eyes as both Kasper and Naima.

I stepped out from in front of Naima and whispered, “Go to your dad.”

Rutger had to have seen enough to know that I had just killed an ally of the Kanin kingdom. He walked toward me with cold deliberate steps. When Naima ran to him, he hugged her, but kept his eyes on me.