Konstantin smirked at me, but before he could say anything more, Bent came soaring through the trees and landed on the pavement behind the car, skidding roughly on his stomach. He groaned loudly, but he didn’t move.
Tove came charging through the woods behind him. He leapt on Bent’s back and, using a heavy leather strap like what I’d used, he hurriedly tied up Bent’s wrists. We had heavy chains and shackles that we used in jail cells, but for quick handcuffing, the leather straps were easier to carry and use.
“He put up quite a fight.” Tove stood up, wiping sweat from his brow with the back of his arm. “But I think he’s done now.”
“Where is she?” King Mikko shouted, and his deep voice boomed through everything like a terrifying thunder. Tove actually covered his ears, and I didn’t blame him.
He stood at the end of the table, and Lisbet was beside him, rubbing his back and trying to calm him. Prince Kennet sat near him, his hands folded in front of his face. The gills underneath his jawline flared violently with each breath he took.
Ridley, Tove, Bain, and I sat farther down the table, all of us cowering slightly under the King’s visible rage. His hands were balled into fists, and his jaw clenched tightly as he glared at us with icy blue eyes.
“They won’t say,” I said quietly, since it appeared that nobody else would speak up. “We’ve put them in the dungeon, and right now Konstantin is refusing to say anything without immunity.”
“Immunity?” Mikko scoffed. “He probably killed her! Why would I give him immunity?”
“My King, Linnea may yet be alive,” Lisbet reasoned. “We must do what we need to in order to find her.”
“Bent Stum is strong but he’s not very bright,” Tove said. “I broke him down some so I could subdue him enough to get him here. I don’t think he’ll hold out for much longer. The Omte aren’t known for their willpower or their loyalty.”
“You think he’ll tell us where my Queen is?” Mikko asked.
Tove sighed, reluctant to promise anything, and he turned to Ridley and me for help.
“The Omte are stubborn,” Ridley said, choosing his words with care. “And Bent seems to fit the mold.”
“Can you get him to talk or not?” Mikko began to raise his voice, and Tove flinched.
“We’ll do our best, but we can’t make any guarantees,” Ridley said.
“All I want is to find my wife, and to see the men that took her hanged,” Mikko growled. “I brought you here to help, and now you’re telling me you’re not sure if there’s anything that can be done?”
“No, no, we’re not saying that.” Bain held up his hands.
“Find her, so I can punish the men that hurt her, or there will be hell to pay!” Mikko shouted, and he slammed his fist down on the table so hard, the wood cracked.
Lisbet started to say something to him, but he ignored her and stalked out of the room. We all sat quietly for a few moments after his outburst, then Kennet sighed and pushed out his chair.
“I’ll go check on my brother,” he said, and made his exit.
“The King is just very worried,” Lisbet said, making excuses for Mikko’s anger. “We all are.”
“That’s understandable,” Bain said.
Lisbet took a deep breath, making the large sapphires on her necklace rise and fall heavily, and she folded her hands neatly over her stomach. Her eyes were fixed on the water behind the glass dome around us. The afternoon sun was bright above us, making the water appear clearer than it had this morning.
A small fish swam close to the glass; then, out of the darkness, a large muskie attacked it. Its razor-sharp teeth sank through the prey, leaving the faintest trace of blood in the water, before it disappeared back into the depths of the lake to eat its meal.
“I know that while you are in our kingdom you are supposed to follow the law of our King,” Lisbet said at length. “He has made his wishes very clear—he doesn’t want anyone to offer Konstantin or Bent anything that would allow them to go unpunished for their crimes.
“While I share his sentiment, justice is a secondary concern for me,” Lisbet continued and turned her gaze upon us. “Linnea’s return is my only priority. I want you to do anything and everything you need to do to get them to tell you where she is. Do whatever it takes to bring my granddaughter back to me.”
With her direct instructions, Lisbet smiled thinly at us, and then left us alone to discuss our course of action. Bain was reluctant to go against the King’s orders, but we all agreed that if we could find Linnea, he’d probably overlook our transgression.
But since Bain was hesitant, Ridley and I offered to talk to Konstantin and Bent first. We could do kind of a good cop/bad cop thing, with Ridley and me both playing the good cop and then Tove taking over as the bad cop, since he’d already taken his toll on Bent.
The King’s guards had attempted to interrogate Konstantin and Bent, but their guard wasn’t quite the same as that of other tribes. The Skojare were small, isolated, and quiet. They had no changelings or trackers, and they rarely interacted with others. That left them with an underdeveloped and somewhat lazy and inadequate guard, since they had no need for anything better.
Now, with a genuine crisis on their hands, the guard had rather wisely turned the investigation over to Ridley, Tove, Bain, and me, since we had far more experience handling criminals than they did.
Despite their low level of crime, the Skojare had a superior dungeon. It was actually buried beneath the bottom of the lake, so escape would require breaking through concrete, then digging through ten feet of earth before swimming up through the lake. A rusted spiral staircase led down to a small, dank tunnel that connected the palace to the dungeon.
Water dripped down through cracks in the tunnel, and most of the stones were slick with water and mold. The path was lit with dim lanterns, just like the dungeon itself. It was a rather small place, with only four cells shut with heavy iron bars.
Konstantin sat on the floor with his back against the bars and his head slumped forward. After I’d captured him, I’d given him the black T-shirt and jeans from the car to put on so he wouldn’t have to stay here naked, and the bars left rusty lines on his shirt.
Across from his was Bent’s cell. Bent was covered by a sheet, lying on the plank of wood that served as a bed. These were bare cells, with stone walls and metal toilets in each corner.