“He’s the head guard, and this is all happening on his watch. Either he’s involved, or he’s too incompetent to stop it.”
Linnea exhaled deeply and rested her chin on her hand. “Rune trusted Bayle and appointed him, and both Mikko and Kennet are loyal to him and seem to trust him. Their father was a terrifying man, and even after his death neither of the boys wants to defy him. But…” She chewed the inside of her cheek, pondering the situation. “You’re right, and I know you’re right.”
“I know it’s tough for the King to go against what he believes his father’s wishes were, but the guard needs an overhaul to keep you all safe,” I said. “Whether your husband is comfortable with it or not, he needs to start taking control of his guards. If he wants to keep you safe, the King needs to be in charge.”
Linnea nodded. “He needs to hear it from you though.”
“What?” I asked.
I’d gone into this luncheon thinking that Mikko might be the one behind everything, or at the very least a participant in Konstantin’s plot. But Linnea had just turned that theory on its head, and now she wanted me to go to Mikko and tell the King he needed to get rid of his top guard.
“You’re an expert on these matters, and you’re right.” Linnea pushed back her chair and stood up. “We should go now. He’s down in his office. It’s the perfect time for you to go tell him what you think.”
“We should set up a meeting with Kasper, maybe even your grandmother and the Prince,” I suggested, since I felt unprepared to present my case to the King—especially considering I didn’t completely know what my case was.
“We’ll have a proper meeting later.” Linnea waved it off. “Let’s go.”
The Queen had given me an order, so I had to obey. As we walked downstairs toward the King’s office, Linnea chattered the whole way, although I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not entirely sure what about. My mind was focused on trying to figure out what exactly I would say to the King, and how I should phrase everything.
Linnea pushed open the door to her husband’s office without knocking. I was still lost in thought, but Linnea’s scream pulled me into the moment instantly.
Mikko’s desk faced the water, so his back was to the door. He was hunched over his desk, hard at work on something, so he didn’t see the man standing behind him with a sword raised above his head, about to strike and cut off the King’s head.
Training kicked in, and I didn’t have to think—my body just sprang into motion. I ran at the man, knocking him to the ground and grabbing his wrist. I slammed it into the floor, forcing him to drop the sword.
He tried to crawl toward it, and the satin of his uniform made it easier for him to slip out from underneath me. But I knelt on his back, pressing my knees into his kidneys as I pinned him in place.
With one swift move, he tilted to the side and thrust his elbow up, hitting me squarely in the chin. It was just enough to throw me off balance, and he scrambled out from under me. He grabbed the sword, but I was already on my feet when he jumped up and pointed it at me.
There was a split second of shock when I realized who it was—Cyrano Moen, Linnea’s personal guard.
Cyrano tried to run at me. I dodged to the side, avoiding the blade of the sword, then I grabbed his arm. I turned him around, bending his arm at a painful angle, and he let out a yelp. If I applied more pressure, I would break his arm, and that caused him to release his sword again.
I took it from him this time, letting him go so he fell on the ground. Cyrano lay before me, panting, and I hoped this meant the fight was over. In the background, I heard Linnea crying and demanding to know why he would do this.
But he didn’t answer. Instead, he reached for the spare dagger in his boot.
“Drop it,” I commanded, and his hard blue eyes were locked on mine. He had to know I meant it, but there was a determined mania in his gaze that I didn’t understand.
He slowly got up, still holding the dagger, so I repeated, “Drop it.”
“Cyrano!” Mikko’s voice boomed from somewhere behind me. “Do as she says!”
“I’d like her to make me,” Cyrano snarled, and then he lunged at me.
In my days of training as a tracker, I had run a sword through hundreds of dummies. They were built to have the same feel as a troll, so we’d know how much resistance a body would give and how much force we’d need to get the sword through.
Still, I can’t explain how different it felt, or even what the difference was, when I pushed the blade straight through Cyrano. It was easier than I expected—the flesh gave way, and when the bell of the sword handle pressed against his stomach, I felt the warmth of his blood as it spilled over.
The only light came from a desk lamp, casting too much of the room in shadows. Everything seemed to have an eerie, yellow hue to it, thanks to the way the light played off the reflective glass and the water outside.
We had turned, so the window was behind me, and the light bounced onto Cyrano’s face. It cast a shadow across his mouth and body, but his eyes were wide and I could see the yellow dancing in them, like fiery waves.
His eyes stayed locked on me still, filled with that strange mania. Not until the final seconds, when I was lowering him back to the ground and pulling the sword out of him, did the frenzied look finally give way. A glassy peace seemed to come over him, and he was dead.
Linnea ran over to Cyrano’s body, pounding on his chest and screaming, demanding why he’d want to hurt her husband. She’d never been anything but kind to him. How could he betray her like this?
Her words eventually seemed to fade away, becoming a distant foggy sound, like something from a dream. Mikko came over and pulled her off.
I don’t remember letting go of the sword, but I remember the sound it made, clattering against the floor. I didn’t move or speak until Bayle Lundeen came in, asking me questions.
I answered them as directly and simply as I could, but the words felt detached from me, as if they were coming from someone else. It was my voice, it was the truth about what I’d done, but it wasn’t me.
Nobody told me that I was acting strangely or that I didn’t seem present, so I must’ve been performing normally. I have no idea how long I talked to Bayle and King Mikko. It might have been minutes. It might have been an hour.
Eventually, Kasper came and took me back to my room. He suggested I shower, since I had Cyrano’s blood all over me, and then he headed back upstairs, promising to help with the investigation.