The front door was open, and five steps led into a living room. Bayle was already inside when Kasper and I arrived, looking around the small space. The house was round, and everything inside it was visible from the front door—the living room, the kitchen, even the bedroom in the back corner where a crib sat next to a full-size bed.
“Cyrano had a family,” I realized, and guilt hit me like a sledgehammer.
“Neighbors said they left earlier today,” Bayle said, then motioned to discarded clothes on the bed and a pacifier on the dirt floor. “By the look of things, I’d say they went in a hurry.”
A picture hung on the living room wall of Cyrano with a lovely young wife and a small, pudgy baby with a blue ribbon in her hair. She was an adorable baby, but there seemed to be something off about her eyes, something I couldn’t place.
That wasn’t what struck me, though. It was that this man had a family, one I’d taken him away from.
“Bryn.” Kasper touched my arm, sensing my anguish. “You were protecting the King.”
“What was that?” Bayle asked, looking over at us.
“How old is the little girl?” I asked, not wanting to let Bayle in on my private feelings, and pointed to the picture.
“A little over a year, I think,” Bayle said. “Cyrano talked about her from time to time. Her name was Morgan, and I think she was diagnosed with some sort of disorder a few months ago.”
“Disorder?” I looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“I can’t remember what it was.” Bayle shook his head. “Something with her brain. She started having seizures, and she couldn’t crawl because she didn’t have any strength. And there was something with her eyes. They kept darting all around.”
“Salla disease,” Kasper said, filling in the name Bayle had forgotten.
Bayle nodded. “Yeah, that’s it.”
I’d heard of Salla disease before. It was some kind of genetic disorder that affected a small percentage of the troll population, but it wasn’t common enough that I knew much about it.
“My little sister Naima has it,” Kasper said, and his whole face softened when he mentioned her.
“What is it exactly?” I asked.
“It affects the nervous system, and it made it hard for Naima to talk or move, not to mention the seizures,” he said. “Fortunately, my parents caught it early with Naima, and they got the medics involved right away. With a combination of medication and their healing powers, along with a couple other things, they really helped her.”
Our medics had the ability to heal with psychokinetic powers, but they weren’t all powerful. They couldn’t undo death, and they couldn’t eliminate most diseases. They could take away some symptoms, but they couldn’t eradicate disease entirely.
“I mean, she’s not cured, and she never will be,” Kasper elaborated. “But Naima’s ten now, and she can talk, and she loves to dance.” He smiled. “She’s really happy, and that’s what counts.”
“I’m glad she’s okay now,” I said.
“Me too,” he agreed. “But the treatments my parents got for her cost a fortune. My dad had to get a second job to help cover them.”
“That’s terrible, but if the two of you are done talking about your families, do you wanna start looking around to see if we can find any clues about Cyrano?” Bayle asked, sounding awfully patronizing for someone who had hired Cyrano in the first place.
“Yes. Of course.” I saluted him, which made him scowl, and I started to look around the room.
In reality, there wasn’t much to investigate. The house was small and ordinary, and it didn’t appear that Cyrano had left behind a manifesto. But since Bayle had been condescending, I wasn’t going to leave a single stone unturned.
I lifted up the blankets on the bed, riffled through the baby’s toys in the toy box, and leafed through the few books on the shelf. None of them were too exciting—there were a few books on parenting and Salla disease, a dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged, and a book by Jordan Belfort.
While I dug around their living room, Bayle walked around not doing much of anything, and Kasper scoped out the kitchen. I was flipping through one of the books when I glanced over at the kitchen to see that Kasper had dropped to his knees and was reaching underneath the stout wood-burning stove.
“What are you doing?” I asked, setting aside the book to check it out.
“I thought I saw the light catch on something.” He squeezed himself against the stove, reaching all the way to the back, then he scooted back out.
“What is it?” I asked, and Bayle came to look over my shoulder.
Kasper sat back on his knees and opened his hand, revealing two blue stones each about the size of a marble but not quite as round. Their dark blue color sparkled as Kasper tilted his hand.
“Those are big sapphires,” I said.
Kasper looked up at me. “This has to mean something.”
“What is going on in my kingdom?” Marksinna Lisbet asked, and for the first time since I’d met her, she truly appeared her age.
Her golden hair fell in loose curls down to the middle of her back. Her satin dressing gown flowed around her, creating a half-circle of shimmering fabric on the marble floor of her chambers. She sat at her vanity, her makeup and jewels spread out on the table beside her.
The only jewelry she wore was the large sapphire wedding ring from her long-deceased husband, and even though it wasn’t yet six in the morning she’d already applied a coat of mauve lipstick.
“Nana, it’s not so bad,” Linnea said, attempting to comfort her. She sat on a plush chaise behind her grandmother, and based on her lack of makeup and loosely tied robe that revealed a lace-trimmed camisole underneath, I suspected she hadn’t been awake long either.
Lisbet had summoned Kasper and me very early this morning to have a private meeting in her chambers, with only her and her granddaughter. When we arrived, she apologized for the early hour, but said she thought it was the only way a meeting among us would go unnoticed.
“It’s not so bad?” Lisbet shot a look over her shoulder at Linnea and scoffed. “Just two weeks ago someone attempted to kidnap you, and last night your guard tried to murder your husband! How can you say it’s not so bad?”
“Well…” Linnea faltered for a moment, frowning. “Both Mikko and I are alive and well. So it can’t be that bad.”