Ascend / Page 20

Page 20


“Thank you, Marksinna,” I said, then turned my attention to the angry mob. “Who knows the most about the attack on Oslinna?”

“I do,” Thomas said, stepping forward from behind Aurora Kroner.

“Tell me everything you know,” I said.

“We’ve already gone over this,” Marksinna Laurent said before he could say anything. “We shouldn’t be rehashing the same things. We should be plotting our attack.”

“I am sorry to be wasting your time, but nobody is making any decisions until I know what’s going on,” I said. “This will all go much faster if you simply let Thomas tell me what happened.”

Laurent muttered something and looked away. When I was certain she was done, I turned back to Thomas and nodded for him to continue.

“Sometime late last night, the Vittra attacked Oslinna,” Thomas said. “It’s one of the Trylle’s larger compounds located in northern Michigan. Reports vary, but we believe it started around 10:30 p.m.”

“Are we certain it’s the Vittra?” I asked.

“Yes,” Thomas said. “The King wasn’t there, but a message was sent on his behalf.”

“And the message was?” I prompted him.

“‘This is only the beginning,’” Thomas said. Whispers filled the room, but I held up my hand to silence them.

“Do we know how many Vittra they had with them?” I asked.

“It’s hard to say concretely,” Thomas shook his head. “They’ve begun using hobgoblins in their battles, so we are assuming the numbers of actual Vittra are running low.”

“Ugly little creatures,” Laurent snorted at the mention of hobgoblins, and a few chuckled in response.

“So the hobgoblins comprise most of the Vittra army?” Tove asked dubiously. “How are they a threat? They’re small and weak.”

“They may be small, but they’re still Vittra,” Thomas said. “Physically, they have tremendous strength. They seem to be slow mentally and more susceptible to Trylle abilities than their human counterparts, but not that many of the Trylle in Oslinna even have abilities anymore.”

“These hobgoblins caused real damage to Oslinna then?” I asked.

“Yes,” Thomas said. “The town is completely devastated. We don’t have an exact figure of how many lives were lost, but we suspect the number to be at least two thousand, and they only had a population of three thousand to begin with.”

Someone gasped in the back, and even Willa made a sound, but I kept my face blank. Here, compassion would be a sign of weakness.

“Do we know what kind of casualties we caused on the Vittra army?” I asked.

“No, but I don’t think it was substantial,” Thomas said. “Possibly a hundred. Maybe more.”

“So they killed thousands of our people, and we killed maybe a hundred of them?” I asked. “How is this possible? How did this happen?”

“They were sleeping,” Thomas said. “It was an ambush during the night. They might have underestimated the hobgoblins. We had no idea exactly how strong they were until this attack.”

“What kind of strength are we talking about?” I asked. “Stronger than me? Stronger than Finn? What?”

“Strong enough to lift a house from its foundation,” Thomas said, and the room erupted in more nervous chatter.

“Quiet!” I snapped, but it took them longer to silence.

“We’re next,” Laurent said and stood up. “You heard the King’s threat. They are coming for us, and we’re completely exposed! We can’t stand up to that.”

“There’s no need for hysteria.” I shook my head. “We have the most powerful Trylle in the world, the most powerful of any creature on Earth. Marksinna, you can create fire. Tove and I can move anything. Willa can harness the wind. We have more than enough power here to defend ourselves.”

“What about those of us who can’t?” the Chancellor asked. “We’re defenseless against little monsters that can throw our homes!”

“We are not defenseless,” I said, and I looked over at Finn.

“We should call the trackers in,” Finn said, understanding my gaze. “We need the guards at home.”

As much as I hated to do it, we would have to. That left our changelings unprotected, and they were just kids. We had no idea what the Vittra did with them when they took them, but we had no choice. We couldn’t waste the manpower to possibly protect one child when we had the whole kingdom to worry about.

“Do it,” I said, and he nodded. “Until they get here, we need to figure out what to do about Oslinna.”

“Why would we do anything with Oslinna?” Laurent looked confused.

“They were just attacked,” I said, speaking as if I was talking to a small child. “We need to help them.”

“Help them?” the Chancellor asked. “We can barely help ourselves.”

“We don’t have the resources,” Aurora agreed.

“We have more resources than any other compound,” Tove said. “How can you even say that?”

“We need them for us,” Laurent said. “This is what I’ve been saying all along. We knew this day would come. Ever since that bastard Princess was born – ” She gestured to me.

“Marksinna!” Willa snapped. “She is your Princess. Remember who you’re speaking to.”

“How can I forget?” Laurent asked. “She’s the one that will get us all killed!”

“Enough!” I held up both my hands before everyone joined her. “This is what we are going to do. First, Thomas will call back all trackers. Every last one of them. When they return, we can work on establishing an army to defend ourselves, but that also means defending the other compounds.

“Second, we will send a team to Oslinna to assess the damage. While there, the team will help them clean up and also try to learn more about the Vittra so we can prevent further ambushes.

“Lastly, you will all learn to use whatever abilities you have. We are powerful. I am not going to waste a soldier or a guard defending people who can protect themselves.”

“You can’t expect us to fight in the war!” Laurent was appalled.

“I am not asking you to, although it would be nice if some of you who can fight would offer to,” I said.

“This is obscene,” Aurora said. “You can’t seriously mean for us to fight.”

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