“Sorry to interrupt the festivities,” Reid announced, speaking loudly and clearly. “The King sent me here to retrieve Bryn Aven.”
I glanced over at Ridley, as if he would have some insight as to what this was about, but he shook his head.
“I’m right here.” I stepped onto the dance floor so Reid could more easily see me.
“The King wants to see you immediately.”
“What’s this about?” Ridley asked, stepping up behind me, and Reid regarded him with derision. “I’m the Överste. If something’s going on, I should go.”
“The King didn’t say what it was concerning,” Reid said, showing Ridley a bit more respect. “He tasked me with returning with Bryn Aven.”
Ridley looked as if he wanted to say more, so I held up my hand to stop him. “It’s okay.”
I cast Tilda an apologetic smile, since any summons had intruded on her celebration, and she pursed her lips in worry as Reid escorted me away from the dance floor and toward the palace.
The walk to the palace had been cold. I’d put on boots out of necessity, but I hadn’t changed out of my light bridesmaid dress, and I’d only grabbed a violet cloak to keep out the chill. Since I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t want to waste any more time than I had to.
When we arrived at the palace, I slipped off my boots and cloak by the door. I expected Reid to lead me to the meeting room, but he took a different turn. Instead of going left toward the east wing of the palace where public affairs took place, he went right, taking me toward the private quarters.
“Where are we going?” I asked him.
“The King’s parlor,” Reid replied in a clipped tone, so I decided against pressing him further.
I’d only been in the private wing twice before, both for training purposes when I was still in tracker school, so it had been a while. Here the floors changed from cold, gray stone to pearlescent tile, purportedly brought in from Italy. Sheetrock covered the stone walls, painted ivory with faint silver flourishes to give it an added elegance. Instead of kerosene lamps, the halls were lit with bright dome lights.
Before we reached the room, I could hear Queen Mina. Her laughter carried through the closed door, and it sounded as if she’d affected the British accent again.
Reid knocked on the door and waited for us to be granted entrance, and I tried to figure out what exactly was happening. None of this made sense or was even remotely close to how things were usually done.
“Come in!” King Evert shouted, without checking to see who we were or what we wanted.
For his part, Reid continued to act as if it were business as usual. He opened the door for me then stood next to it inside the room and announced my arrival. But I barely registered it because I was too busy trying to make sense of the scene before me.
The King’s parlor was smaller than I’d expected. It only had room for a love seat, a sofa, and two sitting chairs—all of them high-backed tufted seats in a cream color. Above them hung a small but bright chandelier.
The walls were covered in wallpaper with alternating vertical bands of white and silver. On the wall opposite the door was a carved marble fireplace with a painting of Evert and Mina on their wedding day hanging it above it. To the left and pressed against the wall was an elegant bar made of mirrors with white baroque details.
The King lounged in the chair closest to the fireplace, one leg draped over the arm. The sleeves of his gray shirt were rolled up, and several buttons were undone. His black bangs hung over his forehead, and he had a highball glass in his hand, half full of a dark liquid.
Next to the fireplace, the Queen stood, still laughing as I entered the room. Her hair hung down in loose curls, and she wore a simple gown of pristine white. Even though she looked more relaxed than I usually saw her, she still wore gaudy diamond earrings, and the heavy necklace that lay on her collarbone was encrusted with sapphires. I presumed the wineglass on the mantel directly beside her to be hers.
But the big surprise was the man standing next to the bar, pouring himself another drink. His back was to me, but his broad shoulders and blond hair were unmistakable. His sharkskin jacket was discarded on the sofa, and the sleeves of his white dress shirt had been pushed up.
Prince Kennet seemed to be having some kind of weird party with Mina and Evert.
“Oh, Bryn!” Mina exclaimed when she saw me. “You look so lovely!”
Kennet turned around to look at me and smiled appreciatively, but I didn’t have time for that.
“Thank you, my Queen,” I replied politely. “I was called away from a wedding to—”
“Doesn’t she look lovely?” Mina asked Evert, interrupting me.
Evert narrowed his eyes, as if needing to get a better look at me, and I stood up straighter and repressed an irritated groan. “Yeah, yeah, she does,” he slurred.
“The Skojare good looks help with that,” Kennet said with a wink, making Mina erupt in laughter again.
“If you won’t be needing me for anything more, shall I wait in the hall, sire?” Reid asked, and I didn’t blame him.
The King and Queen were drunk, or at the very least buzzed, both of them bordering on obnoxious.
“Yes, of course.” Evert waved Reid off, and the guard bowed before exiting the room and closing the door behind him.
“Your Highness, you summoned me?” I asked, trying to find out what exactly I was doing there in the first place.
“That was all my idea, I’m afraid,” Kennet admitted. With drink in hand, he effortlessly climbed over the back of the love seat and sat down, extending his legs out on it.
“Oh yes, Prince Kennet came all the way here from Storvatten to thank us personally for our help in sorting out their troubles,” Mina explained, and as she spoke, her hand went absently to her lavish necklace. “He wanted to extend his gratitude and strengthen the friendship between our tribes.”
“As I understand it, the troubles are still being sorted out,” I said carefully. “Storvatten is in great turmoil without a leader.”
“That’s all been sorted out.” Evert waved his hand again, nearly spilling his drink as he did. “The Prince is the King.”
I shot a look at Kennet, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. When I’d left Storvatten, Lisbet had all but guaranteed that she would be appointed the ruler in Mikko’s absence. She had assured me that she would do everything in her power to get the position in order to ensure her and Linnea’s safety.