“You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Mina told him. “I haven’t heard anything yet that would make me want to summon the King.”
“In order to stage the kidnapping of Queen Linnea Biâelse three weeks ago, Prince Kennet enlisted the help of Viktor Dålig and Konstantin Black,” I explained. “As a result, we believe that Prince Kennet may be funding Viktor Dålig and Konstantin Black’s terrorist activities.”
“Terrorist?” Mina nearly scoffed at the idea, totally overlooking the part where I connected Kennet to Konstantin. “Is that what you’re calling them these days?”
With war preparations fully underway, I was floored by the Queen’s response, but I pressed on. “They have used violence and fear by attacking our changelings, presumably to gain some sort of control over the Kanin, so yes, I would say that that’s an accurate descriptor,” I replied, matching her icy tone.
“Well, then, what’s your great evidence that Kennet is connected to Konstantin? How did they meet each other?” Mina snapped. “These are high claims you’re making, so what do you have to back them up?”
“We don’t know how they met each other yet,” I admitted. “But we know that Konstantin Black warned Queen Linnea of a plot against her, presumably because he and Viktor Dålig were hired to hurt her in some way. Possibly even kidnap or kill her.”
“That proves that Konstantin was involved, but we already knew that. What more do you have to place blame on Kennet?” Mina persisted.
“He had the means to enlist Viktor and Konstantin’s help,” Kasper said. “He had access to all the same things as King Mikko, but unlike the King, the Prince had a motive—he wanted the crown. So he framed his brother to get it.”
Mina pursed her lips and inhaled deeply through her nose. “You’re sure of this?”
I nodded. “I know he did it. And if you were to interrogate him, I think he’d eventually reveal his connection to Konstantin Black and Viktor Dålig.”
“All right then. If you’re sure.” Mina looked past me to where Elliot stood by the door and motioned to him. “Let the Prince in.”
“What?” I exchanged a looked with Kasper.
Kasper swallowed, trying to hide his nerves. “This is highly unorthodox.”
I’d expected the King to interrogate Kennet himself, most likely with the help of the Högdragen. With that kind of pressure, I thought Kennet had a good chance of caving and confessing what he knew.
But with just Kasper and me accusing him, I couldn’t imagine why he’d be honest in front of Mina.
“The Prince and I happened to be having lunch together when Elliot got me, and being the gentlemen that he is, the Prince offered to walk me down here,” Mina explained. “And now it turns out be very fortuitous.”
“Your Highness, with all due respect, I think we should talk this over with the King first,” I said.
But it was already too late. Elliot had opened the doors, and Kennet entered the room with his usual swagger and walked over to join the Queen.
“What’s all this?” Kennet asked, surveying Kasper’s and my grave expressions.
“If you’re going to accuse a man of something, you must be prepared to let him defend himself.” Mina looked at me when she spoke, and her grey eyes were hard as stone.
“Accuse me of what?” Kennet appeared unnerved for a moment—his smile faltering and his eyes darting over to me—but he quickly hid it under his usual arrogance.
I met his gaze and kept my voice even. “I think you were behind everything that happened in Storvatten. You pulled all the strings to frame your brother and get his crown.”
Kennet laughed, and I wasn’t sure what exactly I’d expected his reaction to be, but he honestly didn’t seem upset. His laugh wasn’t one of nerves but his usual carefree booming one, like he genuinely found this whole scenario amusing.
“Bryn, you have made a terrible mistake.” He scratched his temple and smiled sadly at me. “I didn’t pull any strings.”
“You’re say you’re not responsible for what happened in Storvatten?” Mina asked Kennet, but kept her eyes on me.
Kennet shook his head. “No, of course not.”
“Now we find ourselves in a terrible predicament,” Mina said. “You, Bryn Aven and Kasper Abbot, stand before me accusing an allied Prince of heinous crimes without any evidence to back it up.”
“We do—” I began, but the Queen silenced me.
“He denies them all, and as a Prince, I will believe him over the unfounded word of two lowly guards,” Mina went on, and I clenched my jaw to keep from yelling at her. “But had I believed you, your claims could have easily led to a war with a peaceful friend.”
I lowered my eyes and swallowed hard.
“Ultimately, that would’ve led to the deaths of many innocent people—both Kanin and Skojare,” Mina said. “Do you know what that means, Bryn? You attempted to cause the deaths of your own people and to hurt the King.”
“That’s not at all what I meant,” I insisted desperately. “I was trying to defend the King and the kingdom.”
“It’s too late.” Mina shook her head and attempted to affect a look of sadness, but it fell flat given her cold expression. “The damage is already done. And so you must be punished.”
“Punished?” I shook my head, not understanding.
“Yes, both of you, actually.” She looked between Kasper and me. “You both attempted to commit treason.”
“Treason?” I shouted.
“My Queen, there has been a terrible misunderstanding,” Kasper said, hurrying to defend himself.
“Elliot, arrest these two and take them to the dungeon until they can stand trial,” Queen Mina commanded.
“This wasn’t Kasper’s idea. It’s not his fault,” I tried to argue for him.
“Elliot, now!” Mina raised her voice, and he hurried to comply.
Members of the Högdragen had a pair of iron shackles on the back of their belts in case they needed to restrain someone, and Elliot pulled them out now. He walked over to his friend, giving Kasper an apologetic look before locking the cuff around his wrist.
Then Elliot moved on to me, meaning to lock the other cuff around my wrist, but I pulled away.
“Your Highness, please, you have to listen to me,” I persisted.