Ascend / Page 26

Page 26


“You have no idea what you’re up against,” Loki laughed darkly. “No. This is completely ludicrous. I’m not even going to entertain the idea.”

“Loki, listen to me. Finn almost died tonight –”

“Your boyfriend gets hurt, and suicide becomes the only viable option?” Loki asked.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” I corrected him.

“Fine. Ex-boyfriend,” he said. “That doesn’t make this better. And as much as I hate to admit it, Finn was right. We can find a way around this. I know I didn’t help very much tonight, but I’m sure, if given time, I can come up with something.”

“But we don’t have time, Loki!” I took a deep breath and ran my fingers through my hair. “I’m not saying that I’ll offer myself to Oren as a peace treaty, but I have to talk to him at least. I have to do something to postpone the war a little longer. We need more time to get an army ready. And he’s out there killing our people now.”

“So you want me to take you to the Vittra palace so you can have a little meeting with the King?” Loki asked. “While you’re in there, I’ll wait outside, and after the meeting is done, you’ll come out, and we’ll drive back here? Is that the plan?”

“Not exactly, but sorta,” I said.

“Wendy!” Loki sounded exasperated. “Why would he let you go? He is doing all of this for you. Once he has you there in the palace, why would he ever let you leave?”

“He can’t stop me, for one thing,” I said. “I can defend myself against him and the hobgoblins and anything else he might have. I can’t fight an entire war on my own and defend every person in the entire kingdom all at once. But if I’m alone, I can take care of myself.”

“Even if that’s true, it’s still too great a risk,” Loki said. “If you try to leave, he could kill you. Not just hold you hostage. Not just threaten you. Actually murder you. He would rather do that than see you return here.”

“No, not yet.” I shook my head. “Someday, yes, that’s true. But he wants me to be Queen. That’s why he agreed to the embargo. He wanted to ensure that I would be the Trylle Queen.”

“He wants both kingdoms,” he said quietly. “You’re going to give him what he wants?”

“Yes,” I nodded. “I will agree to rule alongside him over both the Trylle and the Vittra if he stops the bloodshed until I am crowned Queen.”

“He won’t rule ‘beside’ you. He’ll take it from you.”

“I know, but I would never let him rule anyway,” I said. “I don’t plan to follow through with it.”

Loki whistled and shook his head. “If you went back on your deal, he would destroy everything. And I do mean everything that you have ever cared about.”

“I won’t go back on it,” I said. “It will never get to that point. I’m only buying us time to build up the army, and then we’ll attack the Vittra, take them down, and I will kill Oren.”

“You’ll kill him?” He raised any eyebrow. “Do you even know how to kill him?”

“No. Not yet,” I admitted. “That’s why I haven’t killed him. But I will.”

“I don’t even know if he can be killed,” Loki said.

“Everyone can be killed.”

“Many, many people have tried,” he said. “And they’ve all failed.”

“Yes, but none of those people have his blood pumping through their veins,” I said. “I think I’m the only one strong enough to do it.”

“What if you can’t?” Loki asked. “What if you do all this, and you can’t find a way to stop him?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I will have to find a way. He’s going to keep coming until he has me. I would gladly hand myself over to him if I thought that would be enough, but I’m not sure that it is anymore.”

Loki stared down at the floor, his golden eyes wide as he thought it through. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but he didn’t look happy.

“So, will you take me?” I asked.

“No.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Princess. I can’t.”

“Fine.” I took a deep breath. “I’ll find someone who can.”

“Who?” Loki asked. “Who else would possibly take you?”

“I’ll find the way on my own,” I said.

Tove and a few other trackers probably knew how to get to the Vittra palace, but they didn’t know the intricacies of it like Loki did. But if I had to, I could take a map from the War Room.

I turned to reach for the door handle, but Loki stopped me before I could. He grabbed my wrist and stood right in front of me.

“You can’t go by yourself,” he said.

“Yes, I can.” I tried to pull my wrist from his grip. “Let go of me.”

“No, Wendy, I won’t let you do this,” Loki said.

“You can’t stop me.”

“I’m much stronger than you.”

I tried to shove him out of my way, but it was like pushing on concrete. He pressed me back against his bedroom wall and put an arm on either side of me. His body didn’t touch me, but it was so close I couldn’t move away.

“You may be physically stronger than me, but I can have you on the floor writhing in pain in minutes. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to.”

“You don’t have to,” Loki said emphatically. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do. I will do whatever it takes to save lives,” I said. “I have to do this. If you can’t, that’s fine. But get out of my way.”

He bit his lip and shook his head, but he didn’t move away from me.

“It’s the middle of the night, and you want to run away with me,” Loki said. “What will you tell your husband?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Loki raised an eyebrow. “The Princess goes missing without any word? That would be total pandemonium.”

“I’ll have Duncan tell them in the morning where I’ve gone,” I said. “That’ll buy us a few hours to get there before somebody comes after us.”

“If the King doesn’t let you leave, he’ll kill the rescue party that they send,” Loki pointed out. “That would be Finn, Tove, Duncan, maybe even Willa. You’re willing to risk them on this?”


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