“Fine. I’ll find them myself.”
I felt confident he wouldn’t stop me, although I didn’t know why he wouldn’t. If Oren found out that he was even indulging my plans for escape, I’m sure it wouldn’t bode well for him.
When I brushed past him, walking down the corridor to where I thought the main hall was, he followed me. I tried to walk quickly, but he matched my pace with ease.
“You think it’s this way, do you?” Loki asked, a teasing lilt in his voice.
“Don’t try to confuse me. I know my directions. I don’t get lost,” I lied. I got lost a lot. “Isn’t that a Trylle affinity or something?”
“I don’t know. I’m not Trylle,” he replied. “And neither are you.”
“I’m half Trylle,” I said defensively.
Why was I defending it? I didn’t even want to be Trylle, or Vittra, or anything. Plain ordinary human had suited me just fine my whole life. Now that I found myself in this ethnic quagmire, I felt strangely protective of the Trylle and Förening. Apparently, I cared more than I thought I did.
“You’re rather feisty for a Princess,” Loki remarked, watching me as I walked purposefully down the hallway.
“How many Princesses have you met?” I countered.
“None.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “I suppose I thought you’d be more like Sara. She isn’t feisty at all.”
“Sara’s not my mother,” I said.
When we reached the main hall, I wanted to jump up and down, but it didn’t seem appropriate. Besides, I’d only found the doorway to the dungeon. I still had to actually rescue Matt and Rhys.
“Now what?” Loki asked, pausing in the center of the hall.
“I go down and get them.” I pointed to the large doors leading down to the basement.
“No, I don’t very much care for that idea.” He shook his head.
“Of course you don’t. You don’t want me to get them out,” I said. My heart beat rapidly, and I wondered exactly how far Loki would let me take this.
“That’s not why. It just doesn’t seem very interesting.” He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater, revealing his tanned forearms. “In fact, I’m rather bored with the whole thing. Why don’t we do something else?”
“No, I’m getting them out,” I said. “I won’t let you keep us prisoner here.”
He laughed darkly at that and shook his head.
“Why is that funny?” I demanded, crossing my arms over my chest.
“You say that as if I’m the one holding you captive.” He’d glanced away from me, but when he looked back, he smiled bitterly and his eyes were sad. “This is Ondarike. We’re all prisoners here.”
“You expect me to believe that you’re being held against your will?” I raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You’re roaming around the castle freely.”
“As are you.” He turned away from me then. “Not all prisons have bars. You should know that better than anyone, Princess.”
“So you’re not the King’s head henchman?” I asked.
“I didn’t say that either.” Loki shrugged, apparently tiring of the conversation. “I’m saying that since I can’t help you with your friends, we ought to find something else to do.”
“I’m not doing anything else until I get them,” I insisted.
“But you haven’t heard what I’d like to do instead.” His expression changed from morose to playful, and there was something in his eyes that made me feel funny.
Not bad, and not the same as when he made me pass out. It wasn’t a magic Vittra power or anything. It was just a look that made me feel sort of … fluttery inside.
Before I had time to analyze what I felt or what he meant, a loud banging at the main doors interrupted us. The hall where we stood contained two sets of doors—the ones leading to the lower level, and the massive ones leading outside. These dwarfed the ones in the King’s and Queen’s chambers.
The banging came again, making me jump, and Loki moved in front of me. Was he protecting me? Or hiding me?
The doors flew open, and joy surged through me.
Tove had blown the doors open with his abilities, and he stood on the other side of them, looking astonishingly badass. Tove was a rather foxy and very powerful Trylle I’d known in Förening. His quirky, antisocial personality had endeared him to me, but he was also the last person I’d expected to see here. His abilities did allow him to move objects with his mind, though, so he was a very powerful ally to have.
Then I caught sight of who he had with him. Duncan and Finn stood behind him, letting him throw open the doors while they waited to rush in. As soon as I saw Finn, my heart wanted to explode.
I’d been so afraid he had been hurt or I might never see him again, and there he was.
“Finn! You’re okay!” I rushed past Loki and ran to Finn.
I threw my arms around him, and for a brief second he hugged me. The strength of his embrace let me know how worried he had been about me. But almost as soon as I felt it, he cut it short, and pushed me away.
“Wendy, we have to get out of here,” Finn said, as if I’d suggested that we vacation here.
“Matt and Rhys are here. We have to get them first.”
I turned to start telling Finn about the dungeon, and I saw that Tove had Loki pinned up high on the wall. Tove stood several feet back, holding his hand out at Loki, and Loki hung suspended in the air, his face grimacing in pain.
“No, Tove! Don’t hurt him!” I yelled.
Tove glanced at me but didn’t question my command. He lowered Loki to the floor and released him, leaving Loki gasping for breath. Loki held his side, bending over.
Tove wasn’t a violent guy by nature, but after the horrible battle he’d had with the Vittra a few days ago, I didn’t blame him for being a little preemptive.
“Let’s get you out of here,” Duncan said, grabbing my arm as if he meant to drag me out. I glared at him, and he instantly dropped his hand. “Sorry, Princess. But we need to hurry.”
“I’m not leaving without Matt and Rhys,” I reiterated, and turned to Loki. “Will you help me get them?”
His eyes met mine, and his cocky demeanor had completely disappeared. He looked conflicted and pained, and I knew it wasn’t just from Tove hurting him. A few moments ago, he’d seemed to understand what I was going through, but he’d felt unable to help. Now he had a chance, an excuse, and I hoped he would take it.