“And then once all that is done, I want to go to Storvatten and make sure Mikko is freed and that he and Linnea are safe, and then I need to make sure they get a good, honest guard in place.”

Konstantin let out a long whistle. “That’s an impressive list you got there, white rabbit.”

“I know. I just have no idea where to get started.” I ran my hand through my hair. “And I don’t know how I can possibly take on all of that by myself.”

“Hey, you’re not by yourself.” Konstantin stood up and stepped closer to me. “I’m with you now. Remember?”

I stared up into his eyes, desperate to believe him. Not just because I was faced with an insurmountable task and I needed his help. But because there was something about him, something that still made me slightly breathless. It was almost as if nothing had changed since I was a kid.

I had trusted and believed in him then, and now I wanted nothing more than to feel that way again.

“I’m glad that you’re with me, I truly am,” I admitted. “But there’s still only two of us, and we’re enemies of the state. No one will believe us, and we can’t defeat an army by ourselves.”

Konstantin took a step back, considering this for a moment. “Maybe we don’t have to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean . . . Bent Stum.”

“Bent Stum is dead,” I reminded him.

He snapped his fingers. “Exactly! Bent was killed by Kennet Biâelse, who was working on orders from Mina.”

I shrugged, since Konstantin hadn’t told me anything I didn’t already know. “So? How does that help us?”

“Bent Stum is Omte,” he said, grinning.

“The Omte?” I shook my head. “They’re unreasonable and grumpy and, quite frankly, they’re kinda stupid.”

“Trust me, I know. I spent months working with Bent.” Konstantin frowned. “Bent was murdered, and that sucks, but he was awful to deal with. It was like working with the Hulk, if the Hulk was dumber and angrier.”

“And you want to go to them for help?” I laughed darkly.

“Look, I get that it’s not ideal. But the Omte already kinda hate the other tribes. They’ve always been jealous of them, because everyone else is richer, smarter, and more attractive. But the Omte are so much stronger. Their physical strength is unparalleled by any other tribe, even the Vittra.”

“And you think they would help us over Bent? I thought the Omte Queen didn’t care about him,” I said, remembering what Ridley had said when he’d first been investigating Bent Stum after the Linus Berling incident.

“It doesn’t matter.” Konstantin shook his head. “The Omte are overly emotional and quick to anger. And now one of their people was killed in some kind of conspiracy between the Skojare and the Kanin? They’ll be all over that.”

“But I don’t want the Omte to destroy the Kanin or the Skojare,” I pointed out.

“I’ve heard the royals are smarter and more reasonable than the average Omte civilian. Maybe if we get a meeting with the Omte Queen, we can gauge how rational she seems, and we can go from there,” Konstantin suggested.

I chewed the inside of my cheek, still not completely sold on Konstantin’s idea. It wasn’t an awful idea, but with a tribe as unpredictable as the Omte, I wasn’t too keen on getting involved.

“Besides, their capital isn’t even that far away,” Konstantin added. “I think it’s only a day’s drive from here.”

Unlike most of the troll tribes that preferred to make their homes in the colder temperatures of the north, the Omte had just kept moving south before eventually settling in the swamps of southern Louisiana. It was as if they’d done everything they could to distance themselves from the other tribes.

“All right.” I relented finally. “What have we got to lose? Let’s go see the Omte Queen.”



As the Mustang lurched along the gravel road, I leaned over into the backseat. Konstantin hit a bump, and I bounced up, hitting my head on the ceiling.

“Hey, what are you doing?” he asked.

I’d been reaching back to grab my duffel bag, but his bag was sitting beside mine, unzipped, and a flash of metal caught my eyes. Resting right on top of the clothes were two daggers, and I reached in and picked one up.

“What do you have these for?” I narrowed my eyes at him and held up the dagger for him to see. “These are the Kanin daggers you were given when you became the Queen’s guard.”

It had been a large ceremony in the palace. I’d been standing as near to the front as I could get, on my tiptoes to get a glimpse of it. They were beautiful daggers, with long sharp blades and ornately carved handles of silver and ivory.

“They’re for protection,” he replied gruffly. “And they’re the only things I still have from being a Högdragen, so I’d like it if you stopped playing with them and put them back.”

“Yeah, sure. Sorry.” I leaned back over the seat and put his dagger safely back in his bag, then grabbed my own duffel before sitting back down. “I was just getting my own bag anyway.”

“What for?”

“I don’t trust that you know where you’re going, and I’m hoping there might be something in here that could help,” I replied as I unzipped the bag.

“I already told you. I’ve been to Fulaträsk before,” Konstantin said, sounding indignant. “I went with Mina on a peace-keeping mission years ago, and I never forget how to get anywhere.”