Page 48

“If it’s as you wish, Princess.” Loki bowed before turning his back to me and walking to his bed.

The guard returned, giving me a deeper bow than Loki had, and I smiled at him before hurrying down the hall. I’d wanted to talk to Loki a bit more, although I wasn’t sure that it would’ve accomplished anything. Because the guard was my subordinate, I could’ve pushed the issue, but I didn’t want it going around the palace that I was spending time with Loki. As it was, I had taken a risk that I shouldn’t have.

“Sorry,” Duncan said when I reached him. “I tried to stall him, but he was afraid of getting in trouble or something. Which is silly, because you’re the Princess and his boss, but—”

“It’s fine, Duncan.” I smiled and brushed him off. “You did a good job.”

“Thanks.” He paused for a moment, looking startled by my minuscule bit of praise.

“Do you know where I can find Elora?” I asked and kept walking.

“Um, I believe she’s in meetings all day.” Duncan checked his watch as he fell into step next to me. “She should be with the Chancellor right now, going over the security precautions in case Loki isn’t a solitary incident.”

I wasn’t completely sure why Loki had come here, but I didn’t think it was to hurt me or the people of Förening. He’d seemed upset in Ondarike that Kyra had gotten violent with me, and he hadn’t even really hurt any of the guards when they captured him here in the palace. If Kyra or other Vittra had come with him, they’d almost certainly fight harder and probably attack me in the process.

Had Loki come here to protect me? Was this his way of letting me escape from the Vittra again?

“I’m pretty sure Loki is an isolated threat, and he’s not even really a threat,” I said. “I don’t think the Vittra have the numbers to launch a counterattack.”

“Is that what he told you?”

I nodded. “In so many words, yes.”

“And you trust him?” Duncan asked. His tone carried no hint of sarcasm or irritation, and I had a feeling that he trusted my instincts. If I approved of Loki, then Duncan would too.

“I do.” I furrowed my brow, a little surprised to find that I meant it. “I think he helped me escape in Ondarike.”

“I understand.” He nodded, my reasoning enough for him.

“I need to talk to Elora. Alone,” I said as we reached the stairs. “Does she have an opening in her schedule?”

“I’m really not sure,” Duncan said. When I started climbing the stairs, Duncan fell a step behind, following me up. “I’d have to check with her adviser, but if you really need to speak to her, I can stress the importance so she can squeeze something in.”

“I really need to speak with her,” I said. “If you talk to her or her adviser, and she doesn’t have time to fit me in, find out any time that she’s alone. I’ll corner her in the bathroom if I have to.”

“All right.” Duncan nodded. “Do you want to me to run and do that now?”

“That would be fantastic. Thank you.”

“No problem.” He smiled broadly, always so happy to be of service, and dashed back the way we’d come to find Elora.

I continued back to my room to think. Between the kidnapping, my parentage, Tove’s training, and now my attempts to save Loki, my head was spinning. Not to mention that my own people were so eager to throw me under the bus at the defense meeting yesterday.

I wondered if this was the place for me. I really didn’t care to rule a kingdom, so in a way, it didn’t matter what crown I ended up wearing. Sure, Oren seemed evil, but Elora wasn’t far off from that herself.

If I left with the Vittra, they would leave the Trylle alone. Maybe that would be the best move I could ever make as Princess.

“Wendy!” Matt shouted, drawing me from my thoughts. I’d been passing his room on the way to my own, and he had his door open.

“Matt,” I replied lamely as he rushed out of his room to meet me. He was in such a hurry that he carried the book he’d been reading with him. “Sorry I haven’t seen you much lately. I’ve been busy around here.”

“No, I understand,” he said, but I wasn’t sure he did. He held the book to his chest and crossed his arms in front of it. “How are you? Is everything still okay? Nobody’s really telling me anything, and with the attack the other day—”

“It wasn’t an attack.” I shook my head. “It’s just Loki, and he’s—”

“Is that the guy that kidnapped you?” Matt asked, his voice hard.

“Yeah, but…” I tried to think of some excuse to rationalize a kidnapping, but I knew Matt wouldn’t buy any of it, so I stopped. “He’s only one guy. He can’t do that much. They have him locked up, and everything’s fine. It’s safe.”

“How is it safe if there’s still people breaking in?” Matt countered. “The reason we’re staying here is because it’s the best place for you, but if they can’t keep you safe—”

“It’s safe,” I insisted, cutting him off. “This place is crawling with guards. We’re better off here than we would be out in the real world.”

I didn’t know if that was true exactly, but I didn’t want Matt going off to find out for himself. Oren knew how protective I was over Matt now, and he was definitely the type of guy who would use that against me if he had the chance. Matt’s best bet was staying here, under the watchful eye of the Trylle.