“We can come back for them,” Finn said.
Nobody had rushed to the hall yet to investigate the commotion, but it was only a matter of time before someone did. And I knew it would serve us well not to tangle with Oren.
“No. We can’t leave. If we do, he’ll kill them.” I kept my eyes on Loki, pleading with him. “Loki, please.”
“Princess…” Loki let his voice trail off.
“Tell the King we overpowered you. Blame it all on us,” I said. “He never needs to know you helped us.”
Loki didn’t answer immediately, and that was too long for Finn. He left my side and went over to Loki, grabbing his arm roughly.
“Where are they?” Finn demanded, but Loki didn’t respond.
Knowing we had to hurry, I ran toward the dungeon and everyone followed, Finn dragging Loki along with us. “This way,” I said with anxious fervor.
I threw open the basement door and almost tumbled down the stairs in my hurry, but Finn caught my arm before I fell. Duncan actually did trip, thanks to his shoelaces, and I rolled my eyes as I waited for him to catch up.
“What the heck is that?” Duncan asked when he saw the hobgoblin guarding Matt and Rhys’s cell. It wasn’t Ludlow, but a hobgoblin just like him.
They all stopped short at the sight of him. The shocked reaction of Duncan, Finn, and Tove pleased me. Apparently I wasn’t the only one unfamiliar with this particular type of Vittra. I wasn’t sure if that meant Oren was very good at keeping secrets or if Elora was, but I had a feeling it was probably both.
“Never mind him.” I walked over to the door, pushing the troll out of my way easily.
He didn’t put up much of a fight. At the sight of the four of us, with Loki as a hostage, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He started to take off, but Tove stopped him, pinning him against a wall and preventing him from alarming anyone.
“This is pretty weak security,” Duncan said. He watched the hobgoblin wiggle against the wall, while I went over to unlock the door.
“We didn’t really expect anyone to break in,” Loki said. He enunciated his words more than he needed to, as if he were in pain or talking to a small child, but he made no attempt to free himself from Finn’s grip.
“Well, that was pretty stupid.” Duncan laughed. “I mean, she’s the Princess. It’s not rocket science that we’d come after her.”
“No, I suppose not,” Loki said tightly.
“I don’t understand this!” I said after futilely twisting at things that did nothing. It had to be the most labyrinthine system of locks I’d ever encountered. I looked to Loki. “Can you do this?”
He sighed, and Finn jerked on his arm. Both Loki and I glared at him, but Finn only acknowledged mine.
“Just help her,” Finn said, reluctantly releasing him.
Wordlessly, Loki went over to the door and began unlocking it. I watched him, and I still didn’t completely understand what he did. The bolts clicked loudly, and I could hear Rhys shouting something from inside the cell. Finn kept his eyes on Loki, watching for a wrong move, and Duncan looked around, commenting on the dankness of the dungeon.
As soon as the door opened, Matt and Rhys shot out, nearly knocking over Loki in the process. Rhys hugged me in his enthusiasm, and while I couldn’t see the angry look I’m sure Finn gave him over that, I could see the way Matt glared at Finn.
This whole situation could become an awful mess, but we didn’t have time for it.
“You had something to do with this, didn’t you?” Matt asked, his eyes locked on Finn.
“Matt, knock it off,” I said, untangling myself from Rhys’s hug. “He’s here to rescue us, and we have to get out of here. So shut up, and let’s go.”
“Somebody has to come after us soon, right?” Duncan asked, bewildered by the lack of a counterattack.
“Let’s just get out of here,” Matt said, taking the cue.
Tove released the hobgoblin pinned to the wall, and the guys all rushed ahead, leading our escape from the dungeon.
I paused, looking back at Loki. He stood in front of the cell door, looking weirdly forlorn. His earlier bravado had completely disappeared, and his golden eyes settled on me.
“Wait a few minutes to tell Oren we’re gone, okay?” I asked.
“As you wish,” Loki said simply. Something in the way he looked at me stirred up that fluttery feeling I’d had upstairs.
“Thank you for letting us go,” I said, but he didn’t say anything to that. After hearing what he’d said earlier, I considered asking him to come with us. In fact, I almost did, but then Finn jarred me from the idea.
“Wendy!” Finn snapped.
I ran to catch up, then Finn took my hand. That small touch felt strong and safe, and sent warm tingles running through me. As we raced up the stairs, holding his hand almost made me forget that he’d hurt me or that we were escaping from an enemy prison.
The cold night air hit me when we ran outside. Duncan led the way, stumbling through the dark with Rhys at his heels. Both Tove and Matt kept stopping to make sure that Finn and I were coming, with Matt’s gaze particularly wary.
The ground felt icy, and branches and rocks stung my bare feet. Whenever I slowed down, Finn squeezed my hand, and that spurred me on. The air smelled of winter, like ice and pines, and I heard an owl hooting in the distance.
I glanced behind me once, but since the palace had no windows to light it up, I could hardly make out its dark shape looming behind us.
Finn’s silver Cadillac waited for us at the edge of the trees. The moon filtered through the branches, glinting on the car, and I quickened my pace. I didn’t have the stamina to run all the way to Förening, and I had become a little afraid I might have to.
When we reached the car, Duncan had already jumped in back, and Matt stood next to the open car door, waiting for me to get there. Rhys stood next to him, but he was far more anxious, shifting his weight from one leg to the other.
“Get in the car! Let’s go!” Finn commanded, looking at them like they were idiots. Tove was the only one who complied, climbing in the front passenger’s side.
“Wendy,” Rhys said. “I can’t sit down.”
“What?” Finn looked irritated, his eyes bouncing between Rhys and me.
“I used my persuasion on him, and I got him stuck—” I tried to explain lamely, but Finn cut me off.
“Just tell him to get in the damn car,” Finn said. I didn’t understand, so he elaborated. “Use the persuasion. Make him sit in the car. We’ll sort it out when we get home.”