Chairs littered the rest of the room, most of them mismatched because they’d been pulled from other rooms to fill the space. Our mothers commanded the meetings, so Tove and I were always the first people in attendance. It worked to our advantage, and we hid in the back.
The usual twenty or so attendees were here: Garrett Strom, Willa’s father and my mother’s possible boyfriend; the Chancellor, a pasty, overweight man who stared at me in a way that made my skin crawl; Noah Kroner, Tove’s ever-silent father; and a few other Markis, Marksinna, and trackers.
Soon the room started filling up more than normal. People I’d never seen before filtered in, including a lot more trackers. None of the trackers took a seat, because that would have been impolite with limited seating. Duncan stood behind me, despite the fact that I told him to sit down three times.
Willa burst in a few minutes before the meeting was set to start, and she pushed her way through the crowded room. Her bracelets jangled as she stepped over a tracker, smiling brightly at me before flopping into the chair next to mine.
“Sorry I’m late.” Willa readjusted her skirt, pulling it down so it hit her knees. She brushed her hair from her eyes and smiled at us. “Did I miss anything?”
“Nothing’s happened yet,” I said.
“There are a lot of people here, aren’t there?” Willa glanced around the room. Her father looked at us, and she waved at him.
“Sure are,” I agreed.
The chair directly in front of me was empty, so Tove slid it back and forth with his abilities.
Crowds tended to overwhelm him. It was too much noise inside his head. When he drained some of his power by moving objects, it weakened his capacity to hear things and helped silence the static.
“Is it really a big deal, then?” Willa asked me and lowered her voice. “I heard you knew the Vittra that they caught.”
“I don’t know him.” I shifted in my chair. “I saw him when I was with the Vittra. It’s not a big deal.”
“Did you subdue him?” Willa asked, looking up at Duncan.
She was asking him directly, and not asking me if my tracker had done something. She—Willa—was treating people with basic human dignity, and it freaked me out.
Duncan puffed up with pride, then seemed to remember that I’d defended Loki. His expression shifted to shame, and he lowered his eyes. “I saw him knock another guard out, and I called for backup. That was all.”
“How come he didn’t knock you out?” I asked.
I hadn’t had a chance to talk to Duncan much since yesterday. I’d been wondering how they’d been able to capture Loki, when he could’ve rendered them unconscious with a single look.
“He didn’t think he had to.” Duncan looked proud again, and I let him. “My appearance deceived him, and the other guards tackled him.”
“What was he doing when you found him?” Willa asked.
“I couldn’t tell exactly.” Duncan shook his head. “I think he was peeking through a window.”
“He was probably looking for Wendy,” Tove said offhandedly, and the chair in front of me slid so far back, it almost hit my shins. “Sorry.”
“Careful,” I said, pulling my legs up to be safe.
I wrapped my arms around my knees, and Elora glared at me. I didn’t move, and I heard Elora’s voice in my head: That is not how a Princess sits. I was wearing pants, so I decided to ignore her, and I looked over at Tove.
“Why do you think he was looking for me?” I asked. Loki had let me go once. I didn’t know why he’d tried to get me now.
“He wants you,” Tove said simply.
“You are the Princess,” Willa pointed out, as if I’d forgotten. “On the subject of which, do you want to have a girls’ night tonight?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I feel like I haven’t seen you much lately, and I thought it’d be fun if we did our nails and watched movies,” Willa said. “You’ve been under so much stress lately, you need to kick back.”
“It would help your training if you shut off your mind sometimes,” Tove said.
“That sounds really great, Willa, but I was thinking of seeing if Matt wanted to do something,” I said. “This all has to be so confusing, and I haven’t been able to spend much time with him.”
“Oh, Matt’s busy.” Willa readjusted the clasp on her bracelet. “He’s doing something with Rhys tonight. Some brother bonding thing, I guess.”
I watched Tove move the chair back and forth, and I tried not to feel anything about what Willa said. Matt and Rhys needed to spend time together, and I had been busy a lot. It was good for them. It was good for me.
Somebody sat down in the chair in front of me, and Tove let out a dramatic sigh. Elora glared at him, but his own mother didn’t. That had never made sense to me either.
Aurora was always looking down on Elora and me, but Tove acted out way more than I did. Tove did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. I at least tried to have some decorum.
“It is really packed,” Willa said again as more Trylle filed in.
It was down to standing room only, so even some of the Markis and Marksinna didn’t get chairs. Elora cleared her throat, preparing to start the meeting, when two more trackers snuck into the room.
I could barely see them as they came in, but I recognized them instantly. Finn and his father, Thomas. They found a spot at the edge of the room. Finn crossed his arms over his chest and Thomas leaned on the bookcase behind him.
“Good. They’re calling out the big guns,” Tove whispered.
“What?” I pulled my gaze away from Finn.
“Finn and Thomas.” Tove nodded at them. “They’re the best. No offense, Duncan.”
“None taken,” Duncan said, and I think he meant it.
“We need to get this meeting under way,” Elora said loudly, to be heard over the buzz of the crowd.
It took a minute, but the room fell silent. Elora’s eyes traveled over the audience, purposely keeping them off Thomas, the same way Finn kept his eyes off me.
“Thank you,” Aurora said with a saccharine smile and stepped closer to my mother.
“As you all know, we’ve had an intruder in the palace,” Elora said calmly. “Thanks to our alarm system and the quick thinking of our trackers, he was caught before he could do any damage.”
“Is it true that it’s the Markis Staad?” Marksinna Laris asked. She was a nervous Trylle who once made a comment about how she loved that I let my hair go untamed, and how she’d never be brave enough to do something that unrefined.