I wasn’t sure if this was the right thing. But it was the only thing I could think to do. I had to find out who Konstantin was working for and what had really happened to Linnea. Until I had that information, this would never feel over to me.
Ridley had been right, though, and getting the keys from the guards had been comically easy. The station was completely unmanned, and the keys were sitting on the desk. I grabbed them quickly, then hurried down to the dungeon.
As I walked slowly through the tunnel, I reminded myself that the keys were only a decoy. I would promise Konstantin that I would set him free if he divulged the truth to me. But I would never let him go free again. I couldn’t.
As I approached the dungeon, the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up. The door to Konstantin’s cell was wide open, and as my heart thudded in my chest, I feared I’d come too late. Somebody had already taken care of him.
Then he emerged from the shadows. He stepped out slowly, deliberately, with his eyes locked on me. But my eyes went down to the sword in his hand, the long blade battle-worn but sharp.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Konstantin said when he saw me, and he wore the same expression he had when he’d raised his sword on my father.
“I came to set you free.” I raised the keys to show him, and he flinched like he’d been punched.
“Run,” he whispered. “Run, white rabbit, as fast and far as you can.”
“Not until you tell me what’s going on.” I stood tall despite my fear.
“This has gone on long enough,” a voice grumbled behind me, and I whirled around.
He’d been standing in the shadows, along the wall of the tunnel by the mouth of the dungeon. He wore all black, helping him blend in, and his skin had shifted color, completely matching the stones around him. But now as it shifted back, it was like watching a mirage come to life.
Then I realized that not quite everything had changed color. The scar that ran across his face from just above his left eye down to his right cheek, that had stayed a dull red. His black hair was greasy and landed just below his shoulders, and his beard was more unruly than I’d seen in pictures.
But I knew exactly who he was. I saw his face glaring down on me every time I stepped into Ridley’s office. It was Viktor Dålig—the most wanted man of all the Kanin.
“Finish her!” Viktor commanded, and that was enough to snap my senses into motion.
With the keys still in my fist, I swung at Viktor. But he was too fast, and he grabbed my arm, bending it back. He grabbed my ponytail, yanking my head back. I kicked him, but he was unfazed, and then Viktor slammed my head into the stone wall.
The first time, I felt it. A blind searing pain that blotted out everything. Somewhere in the background, I thought I heard Konstantin yell out. But the second time Viktor slammed my skull into the stone, the world fell away, and I collapsed into darkness.
I shoved my clothes roughly into my duffel bag, and Ridley knocked on the open door to my bedroom.
“How are you holding up?” he asked when I didn’t reply.
“I’ve been better.”
My right temple had a scabbed-over gash and a dark purple bruise, but the worst of it was under my hair, where I’d needed six stiches. Viktor had meant business, and the medic that had fixed me said I was lucky that he hadn’t actually smashed my skull in.
Twelve hours later, I had a killer headache, and the vision in my right eye still didn’t seem quite right. Whenever I looked to the left, I could see a blinding white spot out of the corner of my eye.
“If it hurts, they can give you something for the pain.” Ridley leaned forward, inspecting my injuries. He reached out tentatively to brush back my hair from the wound, but I pulled away before he could, so he dropped his hand and straightened up.
“I’m okay. I just want to get out of here and get home.”
“Well, I’m all packed up. We can head out whenever you’re ready.”
My jeans were blocking the zipper, so I pushed my clothes down deeper and continued my fight to get my bag zipped. “I’m just about done.”
“You know, you shouldn’t blame yourself for what happened,” Ridley said. “You went down to reason with Konstantin, who was in a cell. You had no reason to think he could break out and attack you. If they had any kind of security here, they could’ve stopped him. But they think he went through one of the doors out into the lake, and he has to be long gone by now.”
In the morning, Ridley had come to my room to see how I was doing, and when I wasn’t there he’d gone down to the dungeon, where he’d found me unconscious and bleeding on the floor. When I first awoke, I remembered nothing of the attack. I only knew that Ridley was holding me in his arms, his eyes filled with fear and affection.
But as the morning had gone on, my memories had been slowly coming back. A hazy blur of the dungeon. Konstantin telling me to run. Viktor Dålig emerging from the shadows. Then the blinding pain.
I knew I would tell Ridley about seeing Viktor, but I wanted to wait until I was certain that Viktor was involved. Everything felt too hazy and blurry, and I wasn’t even sure I could trust my memories.
Viktor had killed Ridley’s father, and he’d been on the run for years. I’d had the chance to stop him, but I’d let him get away, and I couldn’t tell Ridley about it unless I was sure it was true.
“If don’t blame myself, then who should I blame?” I asked, sounding much harsher than I meant.
“Konstantin,” he said simply, and I let out a deep breath that I didn’t even realize I’d been holding.
“Ah, good.” Lisbet smiled, entering my room without knocking, and Ridley and I stood at attention. “I’m glad to see you’re both here. How is your head doing?”
“Better, Marksinna,” I told her politely.
“Good.” She walked around my bed, the long train of her gown filling up the floor as she went over to the window. Her gills fluttered lightly, and she glanced down at the bed. “What are you doing? Are you packing your things?”
“Yes, Marksinna,” Ridley said. “Bent is dead, and Konstantin is gone.”
“You weren’t invited here to find Bent or Konstantin,” Lisbet said. “You’re here to find my granddaughter, and I don’t see her anywhere.”
Ridley exchanged a look with me, but I lowered my eyes. I didn’t agree with the conclusion that Ridley and the Trylle had come to, but I had been outvoted. As soon as I’d been well enough this morning, Ridley had informed me that the Trylle were moving on, and so would we, and that had been the end of the discussion.