Ascend / Page 25

Page 25


“Your people are spoiled,” Loki smirked. “You can’t convince them to do anything.”

“We’re spoiled?” Finn scoffed. “That would mean something if it weren’t coming from a brat Prince.”

“I don’t know how you find that so offensive.” Loki sat up straighter. “I’ve seen the way these people treat Wendy, and she’s their Princess. They’re insolent.”

“They don’t know her,” Finn said. “It takes time, and it doesn’t help that she spends so much of it with Vittra prisoners.”

“I’m not a prisoner.” Loki looked disgusted. “I’m here on my own.”

“I do not understand that.” Finn shook his head in disbelief.

“Finn, he asked for amnesty, and I granted it,” I said.

“But your motivations completely baffle me,” Finn said. “We’re fighting with the Vittra, and you let him stay without consequence.”

“It really pisses you off that she wants me around?” Loki asked with a sly smile, and Finn glared at him.

“I don’t –” I stopped myself and shook my head. “It doesn’t matter why Loki’s here, but he is here now. And his knowledge of the Vittra can help us.”

“I’ll tell you as much as I know, but I honestly don’t know that much that can help you, Princess,” Loki said. “If you want information about policies and procedures, I can help. But if I knew a way to stop the King, I would’ve done it myself.”

“Why?” Finn asked. “Why would you stop the King?”

“He’s a bastard.” Loki lowered his eyes and pulled at something on his shirt. “Beyond measure.”

“But hasn’t he always been one?” Finn asked. “Why did you defect now? Why here? There are other troll tribes and hundreds of cities that aren’t at war with your King.”

“But only the Trylle have Wendy.” Loki’s smile returned but his eyes were pained. “And how could I pass on that?”

“She is married, you know,” Finn said. “So it might be a good idea if you stopped trying to flirt with her. She’s not interested.”

“It’s up to her to decide who she’s interested in,” Loki said, with an edge to his voice. “And it’s not exactly like you’re following your own advice.”

“I am her tracker.” Finn sat up in bed, but this time I didn’t try to stop him. His eyes were burning. “It’s my job to protect her.”

“No, Duncan is her tracker.” Loki pointed to where Duncan stood in the doorway, staring wide-eyed at their confrontation. “And Wendy’s stronger than the both of you combined. You’re not protecting her. You’re protecting yourself because you’re a love sick ex-boyfriend.”

“You think you have everything figured out, but you don’t know anything,” Finn growled. “You are sneaky and manipulative, and if it were up to me I’d have you sent back to the Vittra in a flash.”

“But it’s not up to you, is it?” Loki tilted his head, taunting him. “Because you’re just a tracker. You can’t make decisions.”

“But I can!” I snapped. “And this conversation is over. Finn needs to rest, and you are not helping anything, Loki.”

“Sorry,” Loki said and rubbed his hands on his pants.

“Why don’t you go back to your room?” I asked Loki. “I’ll be over to talk to you in a minute.”

“Sure,” he nodded and got up. “Feel better, tracker.”

Finn grunted in response, and Loki and Duncan left. I wanted to reach out and touch Finn, comfort him in some way because I felt like he needed it. Maybe even I needed it. The thought of losing him had terrified me. He had nearly died.

I couldn’t let anybody else die over this. I had to do something.

“Get some sleep,” I told Finn, since I could think of nothing better to say to him. I got up, but he reached out and grabbed my wrist.

“Wendy, I don’t trust him,” he said, referring to Loki.

“I know. But I do.”

“Be careful,” Finn said simply and let go of me.

It was well after midnight, and the rest of the palace had fallen silent. Tomorrow would bring endless meetings, but for now, everyone had returned to their beds. The hall was dark, and I could see the warm glow from the lamp in Loki’s room.

He didn’t hear me in the hallway, so I stood outside, watching him. He was making his bed, and when he’d finished, he chewed his thumb and stared down at the bed. He shook his head and pulled back the blanket a bit, so it looked more unmade. Then he changed his mind and smoothed out the bedding again.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Nothing.” He looked startled for a second, then smiled and ran a hand through his hair. “Nothing. You wanted to talk? Why don’t you come in?”

“Were you just straightening up the room for me?” I asked.

“Well…” He ruffled his hair again. “Whenever I have a Princess stopping by, I try to make my room presentable.”

“I see.” I went into his room and shut the door behind me, which only delighted him.

“Why don’t you have a seat?” Loki gestured to his bed. “Make yourself comfortable.”

“I need to ask you a favor.”

“For you, anything,” he smiled.

“I want you to take me to the Vittra palace,” I said, and his smile fell away.

“Except that.”

“I feel horrible asking, because I know what Oren did to you, and I wouldn’t expect you to go inside or anything,” I said quickly. “I don’t know how to get there or how to get inside, but you could tell me and drop me at the door. I’d never put you in danger or risk your life.”

“But you expect me to risk yours?” Loki smirked and shook his head. “No way, Princess.”

“I can promise you your safety,” I said. “Once I am there, I doubt he’d even care about you. You don’t have to go anywhere near the palace even. Tell me how to get there.”

“Wendy, you’re not listening,” he said. “I’m not just worried about me. I won’t let you do that.”

“I’ll be fine,” I insisted. “He’s my father, and I’m strong enough to handle myself.”


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