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“No.” Tove tossed the orange up in the air as we started walking away from Elora’s study. “I’m staying here now, and I thought I should check up on you.”

“Oh, right.” I’d forgotten that Tove would be living here for a while, helping to ensure the palace was safe. “Why should you check up on me?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “You just seem…”

“Is my aura off-colored today?” I asked, giving him a sidelong glance.

“Yeah, actually.” He nodded. “Lately it’s been a sickly brown, almost a sulfur-yellow.”

“I don’t know what color sulfur is, and even if I did, I don’t know what that means,” I said. “You talk of auras, but you never explain them.”

“Yours is usually orange.” He held the fruit up as if to illustrate, then began tossing it from hand to hand. “It’s inspiring and compassionate. You get a purple halo when you’re around people you care about. That’s a protective and loving aura.”

“Okay?” I raised an eyebrow.

“At the meeting yesterday, when you stood up and you were fighting for something you believed in, your aura glowed gold.” Tove stopped walking, lost in thought. “It was dazzling.”

“What does gold mean?” I asked.

“I don’t know exactly.” He shook his head. “I’ve never seen it quite like that. Your mother’s tends to be gray tinged with red, but when she’s in full Queen mode, she gets flecks of gold.”

“So gold means … what? I’m a leader?” I asked skeptically.

“Maybe.” He shrugged again and started walking.

Tove walked downstairs, and even though I’d wanted solitude, I went with him. He proceeded to explain all he knew about auras and what each color meant.

The purpose of an aura still eluded me. Tove said it gave him clarity into another person’s character and that person’s intentions. Sometimes if the aura was really powerful, he could feel it. Yesterday at the meeting, mine had felt warm, like basking in the summer sun.

He stopped at the sitting room and flopped down in a chair by the fireplace. He began peeling the orange and tossing its skin into the unlit hearth. I sat on the couch nearest him and stared out the window.

Autumn was beginning to give way to an early winter, and heavy sleet beat down outside. As it fell against the glass, it sounded like it was raining pennies.

“How much do you know about the Vittra?” I asked.

“Hmm?” Tove took a bite of the orange, and he glanced at me, wiping the juice from his chin.

I rephrased the question. “Do you know much about the Vittra?”

“Some.” He held out an orange slice to me. “Want some?”

“No, thanks.” I shook my head. “How much is ‘some’?”

“I meant like a slice or two, but you can have the rest if you really want.” He extended the orange to me, but I politely waved him off.

“No, I meant tell me what you know about the Vittra,” I said.

“That’s too vague.” Tove took another bite, then grimaced and tossed the remainder of it into the fireplace. He rubbed his hands on his pants, drying the juice from them, and looked about the room.

He seemed distracted today, and I wondered if the palace was too much for him. Too many people with too many thoughts trapped in one space. He normally only visited for a few hours at a time.

“Do you know why the Vittra and the Trylle are fighting?” I asked.

“No.” He shook his head. “I think it’s about a girl, though.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Isn’t it always?” He sighed and got up. He went over to the mantel and pushed around the few ivory and wood figurines that rested on it. Sometimes he used his fingers, sometimes he used his mind to move them. “I heard once that Helen of Troy was Trylle.”

“I thought Helen of Troy was a myth,” I said.

“And so are trolls.” He picked up a figurine depicting an ivory swan intertwined with wooden ivy, and he touched it delicately, as if afraid of damaging the intricate design. “Who’s to say what’s real or not?”

“Then, what? Troy and Vittra are the same thing? Or what are you saying here?”

“I don’t know.” Tove shrugged and put the figurine back on the mantel. “I don’t put much stock in Greek mythology.”

“Great.” I leaned on the couch. “What do you know?”

“I know that their King is your father.” He paced the room, looking around at everything while looking at nothing. “And he’s ruthless, so he won’t stop until he gets you.”

“You knew he was my father?” I asked, gaping at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It wasn’t my place.” He looked out the window at the sleet. He went right up to it and pressed his palm to the glass, so it left a steamy print from the warmth of his skin.

“You should’ve told me,” I insisted.

“They won’t kill him,” Tove said absently. He leaned forward, breathing on the glass and fogging it up.

“Who?” I asked.

“Loki. The Markis.” He traced a design in the fog, then rubbed it away with his elbow.

“Elora says she’s going to try to—”

“No, they can’t kill him,” Tove assured me and turned to face me. “Your mother is the only one powerful enough to hold him, aside from me and you.”