“What are you talking about?” I momentarily forgot my anger.
“Your mother is so powerful.” Tove sounded almost awed by it. “Probably not as much as you, and maybe not as much as me, but it’s in her blood, crackling like electricity. I feel her walking through a room, and she’s almost magnetized. But the rest of them . . .” He shook his head.
“You mean the other Trylle?” I clarified, since Tove insisted on being so cryptic.
“We used to move the earth.” He sounded wistful, and his whole demeanor had changed. He was no longer pacing or looking around, and I realized that moving the chandelier really had done something to him.
“Are you speaking literally or metaphorically?” I asked.
“Literally. We could make mountains, stop rivers.” He moved his arms dramatically, as if he could do those things now. “We created everything around us! We were magic!”
“Aren’t we still magic?” I asked, surprised by the passion in his voice.
“Not the way we were before. Once the humans created their own magic with technology, the dependence switched. They had all the power and the money, and we started to depend on them to raise our children,” he scoffed. “Changelings stopped coming back, when they realized we didn’t have that much to offer them anymore.”
“We came back,” I pointed out emptily.
“Your gardener, who makes the flowers bloom, she’s a Marksinna!” Tove pointed to the back of the house where the garden lay. “A gardener! I’m not one for class, but when one of the most powerful members of your population is the gardener, you know it’s a problem.”
“Well . . . why is she a gardener, then?” I asked.
“Because. Nobody else can do it.” He looked at me, his green eyes burning with something. “Nobody can do anything anymore.”
“You can. I can,” I said, hoping to alleviate whatever distressed him.
“I know.” He sighed and lowered his eyes. “Everyone’s just gotten too fixated on the human system of monarchy. With designer dresses and expensive jewels.” His lip curled with disgust. “Our obsession with riches has always been our downfall.”
“Yeah.” I nodded. “But your mother seems to be the worst with it.”
“I know.” Tove raised his eyebrows with weary acceptance. Something softened, and he looked almost apologetically at me. “I’m not against humans. It sounds like I am, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t know. It sounds like you’re passionate,” I said.
When I’d first met him, I’d mistaken his inattention as boredom and arrogance. But I was starting to think his abilities had something to do with it, giving him a kind of power-related ADD. Behind that, he had a fearless honesty that few Trylle seemed to possess.
“Maybe.” He smiled and lowered his eyes, looking slightly embarrassed.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“How do you know so much about the past? You talked about the way things were like you were there, like you saw it happen. Or like you’re a major history buff or something.”
“My mother is keen on me studying, in case I ever get a chance for the throne,” Tove said, but the idea seemed to tire him. I doubted he was any more excited about the prospect of ruling than I was. Aurora’s scheming for the crown must be entirely her idea.
“What’d you see when you looked at the chandelier?” Tove asked, bringing me back to his reason for being here.
“I don’t know.” I shook my head. I wanted to answer honestly, but I didn’t know how to. “I saw . . . a painting.”
“Some people see the future.” He stared up at the chandelier, the light twinkling above us. “And some people see the past.” He paused, thinking. “In the end, they’re not all that different. You can’t prevent either of them.”
“How profound,” I said, and he laughed.
“I haven’t helped you at all, have I?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted.
“You’re too much for one afternoon, I’m afraid,” Tove said.
“How do you mean?” I asked, but he just shook his head.
“I know you have a lot to go over, and you don’t need me wasting your time. I don’t know that I can help you much right now.” He walked toward the door.
“Hey, wait,” I said, and he stopped. “You said that normally they don’t want us tapping into our abilities until after the christening. But Finn wanted you to help prepare me now. What for? Is something going on?”
“Finn’s a protector. It’s his job to worry,” Tove explained, and my heart twisted. I hated it when people pointed out that I was just part of Finn’s job. “He needs to know that in any event, you’ll be taken care of. Whether he’s there or not.”
“Why wouldn’t he be there?” I asked, feeling fear ripple through me.
“I don’t know.” Tove shrugged. “But when something really matters to you, you make sure it’s safe.”
With that, Tove turned and walked out of the house. I was grateful for his help, though I wasn’t even sure what he’d done. Other than confuse me more. And now I felt a new sense of dread settling over me.
I had no idea what was going on with Finn, and my thoughts insisted on going back to the painting I’d seen in Elora’s secret room. I had been reaching off the balcony, looking horrified. Tove’s words echoed through my mind, sending a chill down my spine.
You can’t prevent the future.
I looked up at the chandelier. I’d been too terrified to even try to move it, thinking it would collapse and I’d bring Elora’s painting into life. But I hadn’t, and nothing terrible had come to pass.
Had I changed the future? Or was the worst still to come?
On Friday, with the party only twenty-four hours away, Elora felt the need to check on my progress, not that I blamed her. Her plan was a dress rehearsal for dinner, testing my ability to converse and eat, apparently.
She didn’t want a massive audience to witness my possible failure, so she just invited Garrett, Willa, and Rhiannon over to join her, Finn, Rhys, and me. It was the biggest group she could assemble without risk of embarrassment. Since I had already met these people, I didn’t feel all that nervous, even though Elora informed me beforehand that I needed to act the same way I would tomorrow night.