At 1:08 p.m. on the fifteenth of January in the year nineteen-hundred-ninety-nine, Evert Henrik Strinne took the oath of the King, with the acting-Chancellor Iver Aven officiating.
In the late 1990s, my father, Iver Aven, had been working his way up the political ladder, and eventually he worked underneath the Chancellor. When Berit Abbott had become ill with symptoms of meningitis, he’d had to take a step back from his duties to focus on his recuperation. That left my father to fill in as the Chancellor.
When King Evert had been sworn in, I had just turned four, so I have only vague memories of the time—mostly the dark colors of the funeral and the bright colors of the banners and flowers at the coronation. I had known that my father worked for his predecessor, Chancellor Berit, and I had heard that Dad had sworn in the King, but that fact had never seemed important.
In history class, that bit had always been glossed over—the King was sworn in by the Chancellor, blah blah blah, and since my father was acting under the umbrella of Berit Abbott’s authority, it was Berit who had signed the official document. My dad acting in the Chancellor’s absence was perhaps the most benign part of how Evert had become King, but now I realized it might hold extreme weight: it was the connection between Konstantin Black and Viktor Dålig.
Two days after Evert was crowned, Viktor Dålig had led a coup trying to overthrow Evert in an effort to get the “rightful” monarch—his daughter—on the throne. He’d killed four members of the Högdragen before being captured. Over the next week, a brief trial was held, with the King presiding. Viktor was convicted of treason, stripped of his title, and sentenced to be executed the following day.
In a move that many believed extreme, King Evert also stripped Viktor Dålig’s three young daughters of their titles and inheritance, and banished them from Doldastam and Kanin society. This enraged Viktor, leading him to swear vengeance on anyone who had anything to do with the verdict.
At the time, Evert had laughed it off, but during the night Viktor Dålig managed to escape from his cell, and he had been on the run for the past fifteen years.
My father had nothing to do with Viktor’s conviction, since it was King Evert’s decision and his alone. But Viktor had been in attendance at the coronation, as had everyone in Doldastam, when Evert was crowned. He had to have seen my father swearing him in, and with Berit Abbott’s illness, it was easy to believe that my dad had helped the council decide that Evert should be crowned over Viktor’s daughter.
This could finally be the explanation for Konstantin Black’s attempt on my dad’s life four years ago. It was just an extension of Viktor’s revenge.
The actual Chancellor at the time of Evert’s ascension to the throne, Berit Abbott, had succumbed to the damages of his disease, forcing him to step down in 2001 when my dad took over his job. Berit died not much longer after that. Time had already gotten its vengeance on Berit, so Konstantin had moved on to the next guilty party—my dad.
But why would Konstantin care? He’d been seventeen at the time of that whole mess, a tracker with aspirations of becoming a member of the Högdragen, but no affiliations with the royalty. By all accounts, he was a loyal servant of the kingdom, with no hints of rebellion or mutiny.
How would Viktor have recruited Konstantin to join him for his vengeance? And why wait so long to get started on it? When Konstantin had attempted to kill my dad, it was eleven years since Viktor declared vengeance on the King.
And what did any of this have to do with Konstantin going after the changelings? Perhaps he was attempting to be some kind of Pied Piper—taking all the children until he received his payment, which in this scenario I could only imagine would be the King’s head.
But that didn’t explain Viktor’s interest in the Skojare. They had nothing to do with the perceived slight against Viktor or his family, so they did nothing for his for retribution.
I could see connections that hadn’t been clear before, but there were still pieces missing, leaving me feeling more frustrated than ever. Surrounded by books and all the information of my people, I could find no answers.
The fire was now only embers, but I preferred the cold, hoping it would help keep me awake as I sat hunched over the old books. Eventually, though, my body collapsed with exhaustion. I don’t even remember falling asleep.
One moment I was reading, the lines of text blurring in the dim light, and the next I was dreaming nothing but white. Then, slowly, I saw a face begin to take shape, and eyelids fluttered open, revealing startling sapphire eyes.
Somehow, I knew it was Linnea, the missing Skojare Queen.
Her lips appeared, bright red from the lipstick she wore, and her face was fully visible, surrounded by a halo of platinum blond curls and backlit by a bright white light. And then, as if she were whispering right in my ear, I heard her.
Come find me.
As I approached the house where I’d grown up, I could see my mom shoveling snow off the front walk.
Her long blond waves of hair were falling free from their loose bun, and the cold had left a bit of rose on her fair cheeks. Mom was on the tall side, and while her beauty and lithe figure appeared deceptively delicate, she was athletic and strong, able to toss away shovels full of heavy, wet snow with ease.
“Bryn!” Mom smiled broadly at me. “I wasn’t expecting you today. I would’ve thought you had training today.”
“It’s Saturday, so we have a break,” I lied.
While preparing for war, there were no breaks. On Sundays, our training would be slightly more relaxed, but we never had a day off. I was skipping today—and probably tomorrow, and the day after that—but I didn’t plan on telling my mom that. At least not yet.
After I’d woken up in the library with a horrible crick in my neck, my dream had haunted me. It felt ethereal but all too real. I was positive it was a lysa, even though I’d never had one before. While lysas were more common among the Trylle, who had the strongest gift of psychokinesis, they weren’t unheard of in the Kanin, the Skojare, and even the Vittra.
A lysa is something between shared dreaming and astral projection. It’s the ability to psychically enter someone else’s thoughts through a vision, usually a dream. Unless the troll giving the lysa is very powerful, it’s usually brief, and in tribes like the Skojare who aren’t known for their psychic abilities, it only works in an emergency. Necessity and fear tend to strengthen telekinesis enough to enable a lysa.