After Marksinna Lisbet had told us our time was done, Kasper and I had spent the better part of the day perfecting our extensive list of recommendations. I wanted to be certain I wasn’t leaving Linnea defenseless, and when I handed the list to Lisbet, I reiterated that they could call upon us should they need anything again.
My goodbyes with Linnea had been short and bittersweet. She didn’t say much, instead preferring to sit with her head down and mumble her gratitude. I thought that would be it, but when I turned to go she lunged at me and hugged me fiercely as she cried against my shoulder.
“You mustn’t forget about me, Bryn,” she said between sobs.
I wasn’t sure what to do, so I awkwardly patted her back and said, “Of course I won’t.”
“And you will come back, right?” She let go of me and wiped her eyes, trying to collect herself again. “If I need you?”
“Of course. I will always be here if you need me. I won’t let anything bad befall either you or the King,” I promised her, although I had no idea how I’d be able to keep that promise from Doldastam.
Linnea smiled at me with tears streaming down her cheeks. I didn’t want to leave her like that, but Kasper insisted it was time to go. We’d been ordered to move on, so there was nothing more we could do there, and I left Linnea in the hands of her grandmother.
The Storvatten palace was in chaos, with people running this way and that down the halls. The meeting with Marksinna Lisbet, Prince Kennet, and an advisory board had been deadlocked most of the morning, and they had adjourned without reaching a decision on who would be King, in part because none of them agreed how long the King would be absent.
Usually, a footman would have carried our bags to and from our rooms when we arrived and departed, but today either the footmen were busy caring for arriving Skojare officials from other towns, or someone was too busy to instruct them. Either way, Kasper and I were left to tend to our luggage ourselves.
I didn’t mind, except that the halls were inordinately crowded, making it harder to get by.
“We shouldn’t be leaving,” I muttered to Kasper as we made our way through the labyrinth the halls had become.
“This all comes with the Högdragen territory—you do what you’re told as long as you’re told to do it, and then you move on,” he replied simply.
We managed to make it to the door in once piece with all our possessions. I paused, looking back at the icy palace around us.
“Do you think Linnea and Mikko will be all right?” I asked.
“I think that with Lisbet in charge, things will be safer here than they have been in a very long time,” Kasper said.
He was right. We had begun to make changes to the guard, but Lisbet would be the one to finish them. Besides, Linnea could always reach me in a lysa, and I would come the second she called for me, if she did.
I had opened the front door to the palace when Kennet came running out to stop us, pushing through everyone bustling around the main hall.
“You were really gonna leave without saying anything?” Kennet asked, out of breath because he’d literally jogged over to us.
“You have a lot on your plate today,” I said. “I wasn’t even sure where you were, and I didn’t think you’d have the time.”
“I always have time for you, Bryn,” Kennet assured me with a smile.
Kasper stood awkwardly next to us and cleared his throat loudly. I wasn’t sure if it was to remind me that he was there, or to emphasize that openly flirting with the Prince was frowned upon. But it didn’t matter. I planned on keeping things brief.
“Thank you for making time for me while I was here, Prince.”
“It has truly been my pleasure.” Kennet stared down at me, his eyes that brilliant blue that I’d thought only existed in movies, and a wry smile played on his lips. “Until we meet again.”
And that’s how I’d left Storvatten—feeling an odd mixture of pride and uncertainty. I had done the job I had been tasked with, and I had done it to the best of my ability. But leaving the palace while it was still so unstable didn’t exactly make me happy.
It was midday on Tuesday when we drove through the walls that surrounded Doldastam. The gate was locked, and the two Högdragen manning it were incredibly thorough in checking our IDs and credentials. I was honestly a little surprised they didn’t search the SUV at the rate they were going.
After my time in Storvatten and the long drive back, all I really wanted to do was put on something comfortable, go brush Bloom, and then maybe curl up in bed with a good book and lose myself for a while.
Of course, there wasn’t time for that. At least not right away. Kasper and I had just completed a mission, which meant that we had to debrief King Evert.
Because of the added security, Elliot Väan—a Högdragen guard—met us at the door instead of a footman. He and Kasper worked together a lot, and they were good friends. As Elliot led us down to the meeting room, he and Kasper made small talk, and I tried to adjust to being back home.
The Kanin palace definitely seemed darker after the glass walls and frosty wallpaper in Storvatten. Here the stone surrounded us, lit by kerosene lamps. Though there were elegant touches, with jewels and antiques in every corner, there was definitely something much more medieval about the Kanin palace.
As we got closer to the meeting room, Kasper asked Elliot, “How have things been while we’ve been gone?”
Elliot shook his head. “Things are not going well.”
“How so?” Kasper asked, and I turned toward them, my interest piqued.
“It’s too much to tell you right now.” Elliot gestured toward the doors to the meeting room. “The King may fill you in anyway, and he should be here shortly.”
I wished he would’ve said more, but meeting with the King took priority over small talk with a guard. As I went over to the table to take a seat, Kasper cleared his throat.
I looked back at him, standing tall with his hands folded behind his back. “What?”
“A member of the Högdragen stands.”
“But we’re having a meeting with the King. I always sit.”
Kasper stared straight ahead. “A member of the Högdragen stands.”
“Are you saying I should stand?”
“I’m not in a position to give you orders.”
I rolled my eyes. “We’ve just spent a week working together. If you think I’m doing something wrong, tell me.”