Instead of yelling at Tove, I walked away. I hated the way he seemed to know everything, but lacked the ability to articulate anything. I stretched my arms and rolled my neck, working out the tension. Duncan started to say something, but Tove shushed him.
Finn. When I was around Finn, what did I do differently? He made me crazy. He made my heart beat too fast and my stomach swirl, and it was hard to take my eyes off him. Whenever he was around, I’d hardly been able to think of anything.
And that was it. It was almost too simple.
When Finn was around, my focus had been on him. That restrained my energy somehow. If my conscious mind focused on something, the rest of my mind would pull itself in. Maybe my energy was going crazy now because I was trying not to think of Finn.
Finn wasn’t the key. But when he’d been around, I had let my mind focus. When he wasn’t, I tried not to think of anything, because everything reminded me of him. Everything scattered all over, latching on to anything it could.
I closed my eyes. Think of something. Focus on anything.
Finn came to my mind first, the way he always did, but I pushed him away. I could think of something else. The first thing I thought of after him was Loki, and that shocked me, so I discounted him instantly. I didn’t want to focus on him. Or anyone, for that matter.
I thought of the garden behind the palace. It was gorgeous, and I loved it. Elora had painted a beautiful picture of it, but it didn’t really do the place justice. I remembered the way the flowers smelled, and the way the grass felt cool on my bare feet. Butterflies had flown about, and I could hear the stream babbling past me.
“Try it now,” Tove suggested.
I turned to look at Duncan. He had his hands shoved in his pockets, and he gulped, as if he were afraid I might slap him. Keeping the image of the garden in my mind, I started repeating, Whistle “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It seemed mundane, but that was the point. I didn’t want to hurt him.
His face relaxed, his eyes went blank, and then he started whistling. Feeling pleased with myself, I looked over at Tove.
“Well?” I asked hopefully.
“I didn’t hear it.” Tove smiled. “Excellent work.”
I continued trying things out on Duncan the rest of the day. After the first few didn’t turn out painful, Duncan became more at ease with the whole thing. He was a terrific sport about it, considering I made him whistle, dance, clap, and do a whole number of silly things.
Tove went on to explain what had gone wrong with Rhys and his inability to sit. Apparently, the more focus and intensity I used when trying to persuade people, the more permanent the command would become.
Rhys was human, so his mind was already more malleable than a Trylle’s, and he was open to persuasion. I’d barely have to try to get it to work on him. I’d used far more energy than I needed to. I needed to learn to control the doses of my persuasion to match my target.
Of course, I could undo any command I made, like how I redirected Rhys from sitting to standing, and vice versa. But with unfocused energy, it was possible I could persuade people without even trying, the way I had gotten Duncan to move the chair.
I spent the rest of the day trying to restrain my energy, since it was potentially very dangerous. By the end of the day, I felt completely drained. It didn’t help matters that I hadn’t stopped for a lunch break, not that I felt like eating anyway.
Tove tried to assure me that eventually this would all be second nature, like breathing or blinking. But the way I felt right now, I didn’t believe him.
I walked Tove to the front door, then I headed up to my room for a shower and a nap. Duncan went down to his quarters, daring to leave me alone so he could get in a nap himself. Being the guinea pig had been tiring for him too.
On the way to my room, I got sidetracked.
“This is Queen Sybilla,” Willa was saying, pointing to a painting on the wall. Matt stood next to her, admiring the artwork as she explained it. “She’s one of the most revered monarchs. I think she ruled over the Long Winter War, which I guess is much worse than it sounds.”
“A long winter?” Matt smirked, and she laughed. It was a nice sound; I don’t think I’d heard her laugh that way before.
“I know. It’s silly.” She had her hair up in a ponytail, making her look more playful, and she smoothed out a flyaway hair. “To be honest, most of this stuff is rather silly.”
“Yeah, I can tell.” Matt smiled.
“Hey, guys,” I said tentatively, walking toward them.
“Oh, hey!” Willa smiled wider, and they both turned to face me.
As usual, she was dressed to the nines and looked stunning. Her top was low cut, and a diamond pendant rested just above her cleavage. She wore lots of jewelry—a charm bracelet, anklet, earrings, and rings—but that was all part of being Trylle. We had a fascination with trinkets. I wasn’t as bad as Willa, but I’d always had a penchant for rings.
“Where have you been?” Matt asked, but he didn’t sound concerned or angry. Merely curious.
“Training with Tove.” I shrugged, downplaying the event. I expected Willa to squeal and press me for details about him, but she didn’t register any excitement. “What are you guys doing?”
“I came to see if you wanted to do anything, and your brother was wandering around here like a lost puppy.” She laughed a little, and he shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck.
“I was not a lost puppy.” He grinned, but his cheeks reddened. “I had nothing to do here.”
“Right. So I thought I’d show him around.” Willa gestured to the halls. “I’ve been trying to explain your formidable ancestry.”
“I really don’t get it,” Matt said almost wearily.
“I don’t really either,” I admitted, and they both laughed.
“Are you hungry?” Matt asked, and I was pleased to see him returning to a subject that felt more normal. Like worrying if I’d eaten. “I was about to go downstairs and make supper for me and Rhys and that girl with a weird name.”
“Rhiannon?” Willa suggested.
“Yeah, that’s her.” Matt nodded.
“Oh, she’s real nice,” Willa said, and my jaw dropped.
Rhiannon was Willa’s mänsklig, meaning she was the girl that Willa had been switched at birth with. Rhiannon was friends with Rhys and incredibly sweet, but I’d never heard Willa talk about her that way.
“Are she and Rhys dating or something?” Matt asked, looking at Willa.