Ascend / Page 27

Page 27


“This might be my only chance to save them,” I said thickly.

“I can’t talk you out of this?” he whispered, his eyes searching mine.

“No.”

He swallowed and brushed back a hair from my forehead. His hand lingered on my face, and I let it. His eyes were strangely sad, and I wanted to ask him what was wrong, but I didn’t want to speak.

“I want you to remember this,” he said, his voice low and husky.

“What?” I asked.

“You want me to kiss you.”

“I don’t,” I lied.

“You do. And I want you to remember that.”

“Why?”

“Because.” Without further explanation, he turned away from me. “If you want to do this, hurry and put some clothes on. You don’t want to see the King in your pajamas.”

12. Rendezvous

Loki liked alternative country, and the satellite radio in the Cadillac had been playing Neil Young, Ryan Adams, the Raconteurs, and Bob Dylan since we left Förening. He sang along with it sometimes, in an off key-way that was strangely endearing.

It was still dark out, and snow was falling around us, but Loki didn’t seem to mind. The car slid in a few places, but he always corrected it. I’d put my makeup on in the car, and he’d managed to keep it steady enough so I didn’t poke myself in the eye with liner.

Loki had teased me about the makeup and my choice of clothing. It was a long, dark violet gown, covered in lace and diamonds with a black velvet cloak over it. I’d chosen it because I knew reverence would go a long way with Oren.

After they’d kidnapped me, Sara wouldn’t let me see him without wearing a gown. Respect was important to him, and making sure I looked nice when I saw him would show him that.

I’d actually been lucky that I’d been able to find something this nice to wear. Most of my clothes had been moved from my old room into the Queen’s chambers that I shared with Tove, but some had been left behind. I’d gone to my old room to get dressed because I didn’t want to see Tove and tell him what I was doing.

After I had changed, I went to Duncan’s room. He’d freaked out when I told him what my plans were, and I knew he’d run to tell Tove as soon as I’d gone, if he didn’t before I left. I’d used persuasion to get him to hold off until after eight a.m. That way we’d be almost to the Vittra before anybody found out.

Since I was the Princess, I had access to everything. I’d gone to the garage and taken the keys to a black Cadillac. We’d left Förening without anybody else seeing us, except for the guard at the gates. I used persuasion on him to keep him from alerting anyone, and we were on the road.

“You can sleep,” Loki said as I stared out the window at the snow falling around us. “I will get us there.”

“I know, but I’m fine.” Even though I hadn’t really slept last night, I wasn’t tired. My nerves had me on edge.

“We can always turn back,” he reminded me, not for the first time.

“I know.”

“I thought I would offer,” he said, sounding disappointed. He sat in silence for a minute before singing along to the radio.

“Your father was Trylle, wasn’t he?” I asked, cutting off his singing.

“My father was born in Förening,” Loki answered carefully. “But he was more closely related to a snake than Trylle or Vittra.”

“You’re being metaphorical, right?” I asked. “Your father wasn’t literally a reptile?”

“No,” Loki laughed a little. “He wasn’t an actual snake.”

“How did he end up with the Vittra?” I asked. “Did he leave for your mom?”

“No.” He shook his head. “He was the Chancellor in Förening, and he met your father when Oren came around courting your grandparents for Elora’s hand in marriage.”

“I didn’t realize your father was a high-ranking official,” I said.

“That he was,” Loki nodded. “In arranging the marriage, my father had to work with Oren a lot, and Oren’s lust for power appealed to him. Evil attracts evil, apparently.”

“So he left to join the Vittra?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” he said. “The plan at the time was to unite the kingdoms. Oren would rule both of them, once your mother was Queen. This was before she’d even come back to Förening, but they had already begun working on it. As Chancellor, my father was sent as an ambassador for the Trylle to the Vittra kingdom. That’s how he met my mother.”

“I thought you said he didn’t leave for her,” I said.

“He didn’t. She was a means to an end. He married her so he’d have a reason to leave, not the other way around,” Loki said.

“So he didn’t love her?” I asked.

“No, he couldn’t stand her,” he said. “She was beautiful.” He paused, thinking of her. “But I don’t think he even cared. She was a powerful Marksinna. My father wanted power, and she had it.

“For a time, he was both the Trylle Chancellor and a Vittra Prince,” he went on. “I’m not technically a Prince, and neither was he, but since we have the title as the highest-ranking Markis, they refer to us that way.”

“Your father committed treason, didn’t he?” I asked.

“Do you know?” Loki glanced over at me. “Did they tell you what my father did?”

“Elora said that your father told Oren where my grandmother and mother were hiding,” I said. “Because of that, Oren found them and killed my grandmother.”

“He did,” Loki said. “He did more than that, actually. He tried to tell Oren where you were, but he was never able to find out.

“And because he did that, he became Oren’s right-hand man,” Loki continued with a bitter smile. “He got everything he ever wanted, and you think that would make him happy, but no.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“When I was nine, Oren married Sara, and my father was furious,” Loki said. “There was a chance they might produce a healthy child, and my father didn’t want that. Without a child, I was the only viable heir to the throne.”

“But Sara can’t have kids?” I asked.

“We didn’t know that at the time,” Loki explained. “She has some Trylle blood in her, two generations back, and that’s how she has the ability to heal. But the Vittra blood must have thinned out the Trylle in her too much, because she’s been unable to have kids.”


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