Ascend / Page 21

Page 21


“Yes, I can,” I said. “And frankly, I don’t give a damn what any of you think of this. This is our best hope to protect our kingdom.”

“Who do you propose goes on the team?” Garrett asked.

“People who can help,” I said. “I will go.”

“Princess, it’s unwise of you to leave Förening,” Finn said. “The embargo with the Vittra King states that he will not attack our people here. He says nothing for the ones outside of Förening.”

“You shouldn’t travel,” Willa agreed. “Not during a time of war.”

“Why not?” Laurent asked. “Let her go and get herself killed! It would save us all the headache! Not that I even think she would be killed. She’s probably working with them.”

“Marksinna Laurent,” Tove said, glaring at her. “The next time you speak out against the Princess I will have you banished from Förening on the grounds of treason, and we’ll see how well you do against the Vittra.”

“Treason?” Her eyes widened. “I’ve committed no such thing!”

“Under the Treason Act, Article XII, anyone who plots or imagines the death of our King or Queen or their eldest child and heir has committed treason,” Tove said. “And in a room full of witnesses, you just wished for the Princess’s death.”

“I…” Laurent started to defend herself, then gave up and simply stared down at her hands.

“Who will go on the team, then?” Aurora asked, returning to the topic.

“I would like volunteers,” I said. “A high-ranking official does need to go as my proxy, and I will order people if I must.”

“I’ll go,” Finn said. “My father can stay here and get the army ready. I can help lead a team into Oslinna.”

“I’ll go,” Markis Bain offered. “My sister lives there. I should help her.”

“Anyone else?” I asked, but I was met with blank stares. “A healer would be particularly useful now.”

“Marksinna Kroner?” Willa prompted when Aurora said nothing.

“I’m the Prince’s mother.” Aurora was aghast. “I can’t possibly go.” Tove gave her a hard look, so she floundered for an excuse. “The Chancellor! He has some healing powers.”

“Not as great as yours,” he said defensively. “I’m nothing compared to you.”

“You’re an elected official,” Aurora said. “These people voted for you. They deserve your help.”

“Why don’t you go, Chancellor?” Tove asked. “You can work as my liaison.”

“Do I have a choice?” the Chancellor asked, sounding defeated, and Tove answered him with a glare.

The meeting went on for a few minutes longer. Willa gave an impassioned speech about the importance of helping our brethren. A few people seemed moved by it, but nobody else volunteered until Willa pointed out that if we helped them, the people from Oslinna could come back here and fight for us. That got a couple more hands in the air.

In the end, we managed to assemble a team of ten, and that was about the most I could hope for. Everyone dispersed, resolving that the team would leave from the palace in two hours. After everyone else had gone, Tove, Willa, Duncan, and I lingered in the War Room.

“I think that went well.” Willa leaned back up against the desk.

“What if the Vittra start attacking other towns?” I asked. “What are we going to do?”

“There’s nothing more we can do,” Tove said. “Not right now. We need to get the trackers back. I’m sure that’s what the King’s plan was. To get all the trackers out after the changelings and leave us exposed.”

“And I had to send them out,” I sighed. “The Vittra were kidnapping children. I couldn’t let them.”

“You did the right thing,” Willa said. “And you’re doing the right thing now. You’re bringing the trackers back. You’re helping Oslinna.”

“Not enough.” I shook my head and stepped away from them. “I should be going there. I should be helping. If these hobgoblins are throwing houses, they’ll need people like me to move the rubble.”

“Princess, you’re a leader now,” Duncan said. “You need to stay here and give orders. Let other people do the work.”

“But that’s not how it should be!” I argued. “If I have the most power, I should do the most work.”

“Wendy, you are doing work,” Willa said. “They wanted to leave the people there to die in Oslinna without help. You need to stay here and organize. And if things are safe, maybe you can go out there and help clean up later, okay? The team needs to go out and investigate first.”

“I know.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “I’ve been trying so hard to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, but Oren is determined to bring it on no matter what I do.”

“That’s not your fault, though,” Willa said. “You can’t control what he does.”

“None of us can control our parents,” Tove said. “But at least I shut Laurent up.”

“That was nice,” Willa laughed.

“That was really nice,” Duncan agreed.

“Thank you for that,” I said, smiling despite myself. “Were you really going to banish her?”

“I don’t know,” Tove shrugged. “I just got sick of her always bitching about everything.”

“What are you going to do now?” Willa asked.

“Now?” I exhaled heavily when I realized what I had to do. “I have to go tell Elora about this.”

10. Aid

Elora wasn’t mad at me, but I hadn’t expected her to be. She’d already begun the process of entrusting me with the kingdom, which was overwhelming, but I’d never let that on. I asked for advice as infrequently as possible. I had to know how to do things on my own, and she accepted my decisions most of the time.

The news of the attack had upset her, and that’s what I had been afraid of. She wanted to get out of bed and go after Oren herself, but simply getting angry tired her out too much to sit up. She’d become so fragile, and it scared me to see her that way.

I left her in the care of Garrett, and I went to find Finn before he left. I wasn’t even sure how I felt about him leading the team. I had no right to stop him, and I knew that. I wouldn’t even ask it of him if I could.

Prev Next