“I’d like you to meet our friends from the Kanin,” Kennet told them, motioning to us. “These are two of their finest trackers, Ridley Dresden and Bryn Aven.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” the blue-eyed one said, leaning forward and shaking our hands.
“This is the Trylle Chancellor, Bain Ottesen,” Kennet gestured to Blue Eyes. “And this is Markis Tove Kroner, adviser to the Trylle Queen.”
“Pleasure to meet you both,” I said, bowing slightly to them, since they were both apparently my superiors.
The Trylle were peculiar, and growing more so since their new Queen had begun her reign four years ago. They sent white-collar advisers and Chancellors—high-ranking members of their society—while the Kanin had sent blue-collar trackers. Not only because it made sense for us to go, since Ridley and I knew more about going after missing people than an adviser would, but also because our Markis never would do something like this.
But maybe the Trylle just viewed the situation differently. They may have sent Bain and Tove more as figureheads to lend support rather than actual aid, while King Evert had sent Ridley and me because there was a real fear that something dangerous might be afoot.
“If we’re all here, maybe we should get into it, then?” Tove asked, tucking his hair behind his ears.
“Yes, I was saying before, we have the reports from the guards that night, and I have the layout for the palace, if that will help you.” Kennet stepped back and motioned to the papers on the table.
“So will we actually be able to interview the guards that searched for the Queen?” Ridley asked.
Kennet shook his head sadly. “The King thought the reports would be adequate enough.”
Tove stepped over to the table and started going through the papers until he found the report. I stood next to him, peering over his shoulder so I could read it. It was handwritten, and I couldn’t make out every word. But the general gist seemed to be that the guards had looked everywhere and found no trace of her.
“So the King was the last person to see her?” Tove asked as he reached the end of the report.
“Yes,” Kennet said. “They were in their chambers together getting ready for bed when she went for a swim.”
“Or at least that’s what he told you.” Tove looked up from the report, fixing his mossy green eyes sharply on Kennet.
Kennet met his gaze evenly and replied, “Yes. That is what he told me.”
“This must be a terrible hardship for the King,” Bain said, rushing to soften his companion’s veiled accusation. “How is he holding up?”
Tove set down the file and moved on to rummaging through the rest of the papers. I’d turned to face Kennet, wanting to see his reaction about his brother, but I kept half an eye on Tove.
“He’s very broken up about it,” Kennet said.
“Will we be able to speak with him again?” I asked. “I think it would be a great help to get more details from him directly.”
“Perhaps later on this evening.” Kennet appeared regretful. “But you saw him this morning. You know he’s in no condition to see anyone.”
“We understand,” I said. “But you will let us know when he’s feeling better?”
Kennet smiled easily. “Of course.”
“There’s at least a hundred rooms in here,” Tove announced. He stood hunched over the blueprints for the palace. “Are they all occupied? How many people live here?”
“Storvatten is a very small town, so many of the Markis and Marksinna are invited to live in the palace with us,” Kennet explained. “At the present time, there are seventy-eight royal members living here, not including servants.”
“There’s not enough time to interview them all,” Tove mumbled.
“On a related note, who exactly can we interview?” Ridley asked, doing his best not to sound harsh. “The King and the guards are off the table, which is disappointing, since they’re the closest thing we have to eyewitnesses.”
“The guards did interview Mikko that night, and it’s all in the report.” Kennet pointed to the discarded report on the table, which Bain picked up and began to leaf through. “The guards also interviewed everyone in the palace that night, and came up with nothing.”
“But we can’t interview them?” Ridley asked.
“The King thinks it would be unnecessary to bother them,” Kennet explained.
Ridley sighed and folded his arms over his chest. “I don’t mean to speak out of place, but with these limits, the King is greatly hampering our investigation. I’m not completely sure what you’re expecting us to do here.”
Kennet shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not really sure, either.”
“Is this the exit?” Tove tapped the blueprints on the bridge that led from the palace to the dry land. “This is the only way to get out of the palace, right? And it’s got guards at the end that we had to speak to before we could enter.”
“How could the Queen get by without the guards noticing her?” I asked, drawing the same conclusion as Tove.
“That is the only direct way,” Kennet allowed. “But there are doors all over that lead right out to the lake. If she walked out, or anyone walked out with her, the guards would’ve spotted her, and they made no mention of it in the reports.”
“But she could have swum away?” Bain asked.
Abruptly, Tove straightened up. “Can I have a moment alone to consult with the others?” he asked Kennet.
“Um, yeah, yes, of course.” He fumbled for a moment, then smiled at him. “Take all the time you need.”
Kennet took long, fast strides toward the door, his bare feet slapping on the cold marble tiles and echoing through the bubble. None of us said anything until he’d gone, leaving us in a somewhat strained silence.
“What are you thinking?” Bain set aside the file and looked up at Tove with a mixture of affection and concern.
“There seem to be three clear options.” Tove leaned back against the table and crossed one foot over the other. “One, someone kidnapped the Queen, somehow bypassing the guards and all the people in the palace. Two, she snuck out that night and decided to run away. Or three, which seems the most likely to me, is that the King killed her and disposed of her body somewhere nearby.”
“You can’t accuse the King,” Bain said quickly, while both Ridley and I stood in silence, processing what Tove had said.