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“Yeah, but I don’t know how many guards there are, or how dangerous they might be.” My thoughts flashed back to Finn and how he hadn’t been at my house during the attack. I shivered involuntarily and shook my head.

“Let’s just get out of here, okay? There’s no way to know what we’re up against, so let’s deal with it as it comes. Anything’s better than sitting around waiting for them to figure out what they want to do with us. Because when they do decide, I have a feeling it won’t be good.”

Matt didn’t look convinced, but I doubted anything could’ve convinced him. This whole thing had turned into a giant horrible mess, all because I hadn’t wanted to stay in Förening and be a stupid Princess.

If I had, none of this would’ve happened. Matt and Rhys would be at their respective homes, safe and sound, and Finn would be … well, I didn’t know where he’d be, but it had to be better than where he was now.

With that thought burning in my mind, I pounded on the door, knocking as loudly as I could. My fist hurt from how hard I hit, but I didn’t care.



“What?” a deep, craggy voice asked, and a slot slid open in the middle of the door.

I bent over to peer through, and I saw the hobgoblin that had come in with Loki. His eyes were buried under bushy eyebrows, and I wasn’t sure if I had a good enough view to persuade him. Or if it even worked on actual trolls. They appeared to be an entirely different species.

“Ludlow, is it?” I asked, remembering the name Loki had shouted when sending for help.

“Don’t try to sweet-talk me, Princess.” The hobgoblin coughed, retching up phlegm and spitting it on the ground. He wiped his face on the back of his sleeve before turning back to me. “I’ve turned down far prettier girls than you before.”

“I need to go to the bathroom.” I dropped any pretense of being friendly. I had a feeling that honesty and cynicism would go further with him.

“So go. You don’t have to ask me for permission.” Ludlow laughed, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound.

“There’s no bathroom in here. I’m not gonna squat on the ground,” I said, genuinely disgusted by the idea.

“Then hold it.” Ludlow started to shut the slot, but I put my hand out, blocking it.

“Can’t you get a guard or something to take me to the bathroom?” I asked.

“I am the guard,” Ludlow snapped, sounding huffy.

“Oh, really?” I smirked at him, realizing this might be far easier than I thought.

“Don’t underestimate me, Princess,” Ludlow growled. “I eat girls like you for breakfast.”

“So you’re a cannibal?” I wrinkled my nose.

“Ludlow, are you harassing the poor girl?” came a voice from behind Ludlow. He moved to the side, and through the slot I saw Loki swaggering toward us.

“She’s harassing me,” Ludlow complained.

“Yes, talking to a beautiful Princess—what a rough lot you have in life,” Loki said dryly, and Matt snorted behind me.

Ludlow muttered something, but Loki held up his hand, silencing him. Then he was too close to the door for me to see his face. The slot was at Ludlow’s eye level, which came up to Loki’s waist.

“What seems to be the problem?” Loki asked.

“I need to go to the bathroom.” I leaned in closer to the slot, peering up at him. I wanted to catch his eyes, but they remained out of my vision.

“And I told her to go inside the cell,” Ludlow said with pride.

“Oh, come, now. She’s not a common mänks. We can’t leave her in squalor!” Loki chastised the troll. “Open the door. Let her out.”

“But sir, I’m not to let her out until the King calls for her.” Ludlow looked up at him nervously.

“You think the King would want her treated this way?” Loki asked, and the hobgoblin wrung his hands. “You can explain to the Majesty that this is all my fault, if it comes to it.”

Ludlow nodded reluctantly. He slid the slot shut, and I let him this time. I stood up and listened to the sounds of the bolts and locks clicking and turning.

“I don’t like this,” Matt said in a low voice.

“We don’t have much of a choice,” I whispered. “I got us into this, and I’ll get us out.”

The door opened a bit, and I stood back, expecting it to open farther. I thought Loki would step in, I would use persuasion, and we would be off. But he and Ludlow remained hidden outside.

“Well?” Ludlow asked. “I’m not holding this door open all day.”

Ludlow had left the door open a few inches, giving me barely enough room to slide my body through. I squeezed my way out, and as soon as I had, Ludlow slammed the door shut. I stared down at him, already busying himself with locking it up.

“The bathroom is this way,” Loki said.

He gestured down the hall, which was made of the same dank bricks as the cell I’d been in. The floors were dirt, and torches on the wall lit the way.

“Thanks.” I smiled at Loki and caught his eyes easily. They were really quite beautiful, a dark golden color, but I pushed that thought from my mind.

Concentrating as hard as I could, I started chanting silently, Let them go. Let us go. Open the cell and let us go. It took a few seconds before I saw any response, but the one I got wasn’t at all what I was expecting.