Ascend / Page 24

Page 24

“I don’t need to lie down,” Finn insisted as Duncan and I helped him sit on his bed. “I’m fine.” He winced when I bumped his arm, and I sighed.

“Finn, you are not fine,” I said. “You need to rest.”

“No, I need to figure out how to stop those damned hobgoblins,” Finn said. “They’re going to come after us all eventually. We need to find a way to beat them.”

“We will,” I said, even though I wasn’t sure that was true. “But we aren’t going to do anything right now. It can wait until the morning, when you’ve slept some.”

“Wendy.” He looked up at me, his eyes stormier than normal. “You didn’t see them. You don’t know what they’re like.”

“No, I don’t,” I admitted, and the tone of his voice made my stomach twist up. “But you can tell me all about it. Tomorrow.”

“Let me at least talk to Loki,” Finn said, almost desperately.

“Loki?” I asked. “Why would you want to talk to him?”

“He has to know how to handle these things,” Finn said. “There’s got to be some secret to defeating them, and if anyone knows it, it would be a Vittra Markis.”

“He’s probably sleeping –”

“Then wake him up, Wendy!” Finn yelled, and I flinched. “People are dying!”

“Fine.” I twisted my ring around my finger and relented. “If you promise to lie down, I’ll let Loki talk to you. But once he’s done, you have to rest until tomorrow. Is that clear?”

“Fine,” Finn said, but I had a feeling he’d agree to anything if I got Loki.

“Duncan?” I looked back to where he waited in the doorway. “Can you get Loki? Tell him I asked for him.”

Duncan left me alone with Finn. I motioned for Finn to lie back. He sighed but did it anyway. I sat next to him, and he stared at the ceiling, looking annoyed. His shirt was torn and bloody, and tentatively, I reached out to a cut on his arm.

“Don’t,” he said firmly.

“Sorry.” I dropped my hand. “And I’m sorry about what happened. I should’ve gone with you.”

“Don’t be stupid. If you’d gone with us, you’d only have gotten yourself killed.”

“I’m a stronger fighter than you are, Finn.”

“I’m not going to argue with you,” he said, his eyes still staring straight up. “You don’t even need to be here. I’m fine. I can talk to Loki alone.”

“No, I’m not leaving you alone with him.” I shook my head. “Not when you’re weak.”

“You think he’d hurt me?” Finn asked.

“No, I think he knows how to push your buttons. And I don’t want you getting all riled up.”

Finn scoffed. I hated how strained things had become between Finn and me, but I didn’t know how to fix it. I wasn’t even sure it could be fixed. We sat in silence until Duncan came back with Loki.

“This is not at all what I had in mind when the Princess summoned me in the middle of the night,” Loki sighed and stood in the door to Finn’s room. His light hair stood up all over, and he had red marks on his face from sleeping.

“Thank you for getting up,” I said. “Did Duncan tell you what happened?”

“Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be here,” Loki grumbled.

“The team we sent out to help Oslinna was attacked by hobgoblins,” I said. “Some of our people were killed.”

“You’re lucky not all of them were killed,” Loki said.

“Good men died tonight,” Finn growled and tried to sit up in bed, but I put my hand on his chest and pushed him back. “They fought to protect the people here! To protect the Princess! I would think that was something that mattered to you!”

“That wasn’t a slam against the lives you lost,” Loki said, managing to sound apologetic and irritated at the same time. “The hobgoblins are hard to beat. And from what I heard about Oslinna, it’s astonishing to me that any of you lived.”

“We caught them by surprise.” Finn settled back down in bed again.

“That does help,” Loki said. “The hobgoblins may be strong, but they’re stupid.”

“How do we defeat them?” Finn asked.

“I don’t know,” Loki shrugged. “I’ve never tried defeating them.”

“You must know how it’s done,” Finn insisted. “There must be a way.”

“Maybe there is,” Loki admitted. “But I have never tried defeating them.” He shrugged again. “I’ve never even fought beside them. The King usually doesn’t let hobgoblins leave the grounds. He’s afraid that humans will catch on to what we are if they see them.”

“Why is he letting them out now?” Finn asked.

“You know why he is,” Loki sighed and sat down in a chair in the corner of Finn’s room. “The King’s fixated on the Princess. He’ll do anything to get her.”

“How do we stop that?” Finn looked over at him.

“I don’t know,” Loki said.

“What if we can’t stop him?” I asked.

“We’ll find a way,” Finn assured me, but he wouldn’t look at me when he said it.

“The hobgoblins aren’t very bright,” Loki added quickly. “And they’re helpless against abilities. Any power you have works twice as well on them as it does on humans.”

“What do you mean?” Finn asked.

“Like persuasion or any of Wendy’s abilities.” Loki gestured to me. “It works on them like that.” He snapped his fingers to demonstrate. “That’s why I was in charge of guarding her at the Vittra palace. She could’ve convinced the hobgoblins to do anything for her.”

“So the Markises and Marksinnas, they can defeat the hobgoblins?” Finn asked. “But I can’t?”

“Not in hand to hand combat, I wouldn’t think.” Loki shook his head.

“We’re not going to get a Markis or Marksinna to fight in the war,” I said. “Especially not when a Markis was killed tonight, along with the Chancellor. They’ll be too afraid.”

“We can convince them,” Finn said. “If it’s the only way we can stop them, they’ll have to do it.”

“It’s not the only way,” I said, but both Loki and Finn ignored me.

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