The adrenaline rush from seeing Finn had left me wide awake, but I was looking forward to curling up in bed, even if I wouldn’t be able to sleep.
I settled into my bed, trying futilely to forget about Finn. Within minutes, I heard a loud banging downstairs. Matt let out a yell, but it was cut short, leaving the house in total silence.
I jumped and ran to my bedroom door. With shaking hands, I opened it, hoping that Finn had tried to sneak back in and had a misunderstanding with Matt.
Then I heard Rhys screaming.
Rhys suddenly went silent. I barely took a step out of my room when I heard footsteps pounding up the stairs, and before I could react, she was there.
Kyra, a Vittra tracker I had dealt with before, appeared at the top of the landing. Her dark hair was in a pixie cut, and she wore a long black leather jacket. She hung on to the railing, crouching down. As soon as she saw me, she sneered, showing more teeth than any human would.
I rushed toward her, hoping for the element of surprise, but I was out of luck.
She dodged before I got close and sent a swift kick into my abdomen. I stumbled backward, gripping my stomach dramatically, and when she came at me again, I punched her in the face.
Unfazed, Kyra lunged at me and returned the blow much harder. When I fell down, she stood over me, smiling, with blood dripping from her nose.
I scrambled to my feet, and she grabbed my hair, yanking me up. I kicked at her as she lifted me, and she rewarded my moxie by kicking me in the side so hard I cried out. Kyra laughed at that and kicked me again.
This time I saw white and everything faded out for a moment. My hearing got wonky, and I barely hung on to consciousness.
“Stop!” a strong voice shouted.
When I blinked open my swollen eyes, I saw a man running up the stairs toward Kyra. He was tall, and beneath his black sweater he was well muscled. Kyra dropped me to the floor when he reached the top of the stairs.
“It’s not like I can really hurt her, Loki,” Kyra said, her voice bordering on whining.
I tried to get to my feet again, even though I felt dizzy, and she kicked me down.
“Knock it off,” he snapped at her. She grimaced and took a step back.
He stood in front of me, towering above me, and then knelt down. I could scramble away from him, but I wouldn’t get far. He cocked his head, looking at me curiously.
“So you’re what all the fuss is about,” he mused.
He reached forward, taking my face in his hands. Not painfully, but he was forcing me to look at him. His caramel eyes fixed on mine. I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t.
This strange fog settled over me, and as terrified as I was, I felt my body relaxing, losing its ability to fight. My eyelids were too heavy to keep open, and, unable to stop it, I fell asleep.
I was dreaming of water. But anything more specific than that I couldn’t remember. My body felt cold, like it should be shivering but wasn’t. My cheeks were warm, though, resting against something soft.
“You’re telling me that she’s a Princess?” Matt asked, his voice a deep rumble above me. My head lay against his leg, and the more I woke up, the more I realized how terrible my body felt.
“It’s not that hard to believe, really,” Rhys said. His voice came from somewhere on the other side of the room. “Once you get all the Trylle stuff, the Princess part is pretty easy to take.”
“I’m not sure what to believe anymore,” Matt admitted.
I opened my eyes with a struggle. My lids felt unnaturally heavy, and my left eye was swollen from where Kyra had punched me. The room swayed, and I blinked it into focus.
When my vision finally cleared, I still didn’t understand what I was seeing. The floor appeared to be dirt, and the walls were brown and gray stones, looking damp and weathered. It reminded me of an old cellar … or a dungeon.
Rhys paced the other side of the room, fresh bruises on his face. I tried to sit up, but my entire body hurt and my head felt woozy.
“Hey, take it easy,” Matt said, putting his hand on my shoulder, but I didn’t listen.
I pushed myself up until I was sitting, which took a lot more effort than it normally required. I grimaced and leaned against the wall next to him.
“You’re awake!” Rhys grinned. He was probably the only person in the world who could look happy in this situation.
“How are you feeling?” Matt asked. For his part, he didn’t have any visible bruises, but he was a better fighter than Rhys and me.
“Great.” I had to lie through gritted teeth because it hurt to breathe. Based on the intense shooting pain in my diaphragm, I guessed I had a cracked rib, but I didn’t want to worry Matt. “What’s going on? Where are we?”
“I was hoping you could shed some light on that,” Matt said.
“I already told him, but he won’t believe me,” Rhys said.
“Where are we, then?” I asked Rhys, and Matt scoffed.
“I’m not sure exactly.” Rhys shook his head. “I think we’re in the Vittra palace in Ondarike.”
“Ondarike?” I asked.
“The Vittra capital,” Rhys explained. “But I don’t know exactly how far it is from Förening.”
“I figured as much,” I said, sighing. “I recognized the Vittra who attacked the house. Kyra went after me before.”
“What?” Matt’s eyes were wide and disbelieving. “These people went after you before?”
“Yeah, that’s why I had to leave.” I closed my eyes because it hurt too much to keep them open. The world wanted to spin out from under me.
“Told you,” Rhys said to Matt. “I’m not lying about this stuff. After what happened, you would think you’d cut me a little slack.”
“Rhys isn’t lying,” I said, wincing. It was getting harder to breathe, and I had to take very shallow breaths, which only made me more light-headed. “He knows more about all of this than I do. I wasn’t there very long.”
“Why are these Vittra people coming after you?” Matt asked. “Why do they want you?”
I shook my head, unwilling to risk the pain of speaking.
“I don’t know,” Rhys answered when I didn’t. “I’ve never seen them go after anyone this way before. Then again, she’s the first Princess I’ve been around, and they’ve foretold of her for a while.”
I’d wanted to know what they were foretelling, but everyone gave me vague responses, so all I knew was that I’d be powerful someday. But I didn’t feel very powerful, especially right now. It hurt too much to speak, and I was locked up in a dungeon.