“Probably, but you’ll never get close enough to him to do that.” He put his other hand on his hip and stared down at me. “Is that your plan? To decapitate the King?”
“Do you have a better plan?” I countered.
“No, but…” he sighed. “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work. You can’t get close enough to him. He’s strong and smart.”
“No, you can’t get close enough to him,” I clarified. “You don’t have the same abilities as I do.”
“I know that, but I can’t knock him out,” Loki said. “His mind is impenetrable. Even your mother couldn’t use her powers on him.” His eyes softened when he mentioned my mother. “I’m sorry about that by the way.”
“No, don’t be.” I shook my head and lowered my eyes. “That’s not your fault.”
“I wanted to see you, but I knew you’d have your hands full,” Loki said, his voice quiet. “I thought you’d rather I be here, helping the Trylle.”
“You’re right,” I nodded.
“But I still feel like a dick,” he said. I could feel him studying me, his eyes all over me, but I didn’t lift my head. “How are you doing with all this?”
“I don’t have time to think about it.” I shook my head again, clearing it of any thoughts of Elora, and looked up at him. “I need to find out how to stop Oren.”
“That’s a noble goal,” Loki said. “Cutting of his head would probably do it, or running him through with a sword. It’s never been a matter of killing him. It’s getting close enough to do it.”
“Well, I can do it,” I insisted. “I can find a way. I have tiger blood, so I’m strong.”
“Tiger blood?” Loki arched an eyebrow. “What are you going on about, Wendy?”
“Nothing. Never mind.” I smiled thinly at him. “I can stop Oren. And that’s what matters, right?”
“How?” he asked.
“Don’t worry about it.” I took a step back, walking away from him. “You concentrate on getting them ready. I’ll deal with Oren.”
“Wendy,” Loki sighed.
I hurried back to the library where Duncan and Matt were still waiting. I didn’t let Matt know of my idea, because he would only disapprove. The last few days felt epic and long, and I told Matt to get some rest. We could pick things up in the morning.
I did need to rest myself. One thing I had learned from Tove was that my powers weakened and got more uncontrollable if I was overly tired. I’d been so completely exhausted lately that I wouldn’t stand a chance against Oren.
Everything was so simple it was almost infuriating. Everyone had made it sound so difficult to kill Oren, but it would be the same as killing any other Vittra. I thought I’d need a magic spell or something. But all I had to do was get close to him.
I knew Loki was right, and it would be easier said than done. Physically, Oren was still much stronger than me, he healed quickly, and his mind was virtually immune to my abilities. When he had interrupted my wedding, I’d tried to throw him back against the wall, and I’d only ruffled his hair.
Stopping him would be difficult, but it would be possible.
But I’d need my abilities to be up to full strength, which meant that I needed to rest. It felt lazy going to bed when so much was happening in the palace, but I didn’t have a choice.
I went upstairs to go to my room, and I heard Willa rallying the displaced Trylle from Oslinna. She’d gathered them in one of the larger bedrooms and told them how they could make a difference, how they could avenge their loved ones.
I paused outside the door, listening for a moment. She really was a brilliant orator. Something in the way she spoke always sounded seductive. It was hard saying no to Willa.
Willa was doing well with them on her own, so I continued down to my room. A rustling sound came from inside my chambers, so cautiously I pushed open the door. I poked my head in, and by the dim light of the bedside lamp I saw Garrett rummaging through my nightstand drawer.
“Garrett?” I asked, stepping inside the room.
“Princess.” He immediately stopped what he was doing and stepped away from my nightstand. His cheeks reddened, and he lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go through your things. I was looking for a necklace I gave Elora. I couldn’t find it in her new room, and I thought it might have gotten left in here.”
“I can help you look,” I offered. “I haven’t seen any necklaces, but I haven’t been searching for any, either. What did it look like?”
“It was a black onyx stone with diamonds and silver wrapped around it.” He gestured to his own chest at about the spot a necklace would hang. “She used to wear it all the time, and I thought it would be good for…” He stopped, choking up for a second. “I thought she’d like to be buried with it.”
“I’m sure she would,” I said.
He sniffled and shielded his eyes with his hand. I had no idea what to do. I stayed frozen in place, watching Garrett as he struggled not to cry.
“I’m sorry.” He wiped his eyes and shook his head. “You don’t need to deal with me being like this.”
“No, it’s okay,” I said. I took a step closer to him, but I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t move forward any further. I twisted my wedding ring and tried to think of something comforting to say. “I know how much you cared for my mother.”
“I did.” He nodded and sniffled again, but he seemed to have stopped crying. “I really did care about her. Elora was a very complicated woman, but she was a good woman. She knew she had to be Queen first, and everything else came after.”
“She told me she regretted that,” I said quietly. “She said she wished she’d made different choices and put the people she cared about first.”
“She meant you.” Garrett smiled at me, and it was both sorrowful and loving. “She loved you so much, Wendy. Not a day went by that she didn’t think about you or talk about you. Before you came back, when you were still a child, she’d sit in her parlor and paint you. She’d focus all her energy on you, just so she could see you.”
“She used to paint me?” I asked, surprised.
“You didn’t know?” Garrett asked.
“No,” I shook my head. “She never mentioned it.”