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Viktor sat on the throne in the center of the room, watching it all as if we were putting on a performance solely for his entertainment, and then I realized sourly that we were. He had staged this all with the expectation of trapping Konstantin or me here, and he’d lucked out by getting both of us.

Above, I heard the cage rattle, and I glanced up to see the bird had taken flight, as Ridley started swinging the cage. He used his body weight to rock it, and I could see the anchor straining in the brick wall.

The cage had been meant to hold doves, which Mina released during special ceremonies. It hadn’t been built to withstand the kind of tension Ridley was putting on it.

“Bryn!” Konstantin shouted, trying to direct my attention back to the fight.

I turned to see a soldier charging at me. I kicked him in the stomach, sending him flying back into the wall, and he dropped his sword to the floor. I ran at him and before he could get to his feet, and I stabbed him through.

Looking around the room, I realized that it was full of dead bodies, and Viktor’s expression had turned to an angry scowl. We’d killed all but three of his men, and Konstantin was dealing with two of them.

The third ran at me, and I lunged at him, driving my sword through his stomach. Then Ridley shouted a warning, and before I could even think, his cage clattered to the floor mere inches from me.

I ducked out of the way just in time. I narrowly avoided getting crushed by the metal enclosure, but I dropped my sword in the commotion. The cage bounced over the bodies and crashed into the wall.

I ran over to help Ridley open the door, but as I did, his face blanched with horror.

“Bryn, watch out!” he shouted, and I whirled around just in time to see Viktor behind me, carrying a bloody sword.



I felt the sharp point of the blade tear my clothes and pierce the tender flesh of the left side of my abdomen, just above my hip. I staggered back, my eyes scanning the floor for a nearby sword. Konstantin was busy on the other side of the room, finishing off the last of the men, so he couldn’t toss me a weapon.

Viktor sneered at me, and I spotted my sword—the handle red with blood, lying a few feet to my left, directly beside the birdcage. But before I could make a play for it, Ridley kicked open the door to the cage. He climbed out and stepped toward Viktor, blocking Viktor’s access to me.

“Enough games,” Viktor growled at him. “It’s time to finish this.”

He lunged at Ridley, but Ridley dodged to the side and grabbed Viktor’s arm. He twisted his wrist back, and even after Viktor dropped the sword, Ridley kept twisting until the bones in his hand and wrist finally made a loud cracking sound.

Viktor was bigger than Ridley, but he was also older and out of practice. And I knew that Ridley wouldn’t let him get the best of him again.

Viktor let out a loud pained groan, and Ridley let go of him, allowing Viktor to stand up.

“I thought you were going to finish this, old man,” Ridley growled at him as Viktor staggered back away from Ridley.

“There’s still time,” Viktor assured him with a sick smile.

Ridley moved toward him and kicked his feet out from under him, and Viktor fell back onto the bodies of his fallen men. He lay at an awkward angle, with his back curved up over the bodies and his head on the cold stone floor.

Ridley jumped on top of Viktor and grabbed him by his greasy hair, and he slammed his head into the floor three times. He wasn’t dead—not yet anyway—but he wasn’t really moving either.

“That was for Bryn,” Ridley said as he got to his feet.

The scar that ran along my temple seemed to throb in sympathy, the one that Viktor had given me when he had bashed my head into a stone wall.

Konstantin had killed the last two men, and he stood on the other side of the room, catching his breath. With Viktor incapacitated, Ridley turned his attention to me.

“Are you okay?” he asked, his eyes darting down to where my blood was staining my shirt.

“Yeah, it’s just a flesh wound.” But it did hurt far worse than I was willing to let on. Then I motioned to him. His shirt was unbuttoned in the front, revealing dark bruises all over his body. “Are you okay?”

“Hey, hey,” Konstantin said, interrupting us.

When we looked over at him, he tossed his sword to Ridley, who caught it easily. I turned back to see that Viktor Dålig had gotten up and was stumbling toward us. Blood streamed down the side of his face, but he’d picked up a sword and managed to wield it with his shaky left hand, the one that Ridley hadn’t broken.

Ridley stepped away from me and walked toward Viktor. Viktor tried to lunge at him, and Ridley countered by easily knocking the sword from him. Viktor stood before Ridley, with his head high, and began to laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Ridley asked.

“I should’ve killed you the second Helge brought you in,” Viktor said through his laughter. “I could’ve split you in two, just like I did your idiot father.”

And that was the last thing Viktor ever said, because Ridley stabbed him in the stomach. Viktor stumbled back and collapsed onto the throne. He let out a few more raspy breaths before expiring.

“And that was for my dad,” Ridley said.

“He would be proud of you,” I said, trying to comfort Ridley.

He turned back to face me, and I stood up as straight as I could, with my hand pressed against the wound Viktor had given me. Ridley’s eyes were dark, and he put his hand gently on my face.