Ascend / Page 34

Page 34


Loki lifted up a heavy branch and moved it off of the path to the palace. It had been cobblestone, but many of the stones were missing, tossed about the lawn.

Tove and I approached the palace, trying to look both dignified and remorseful. The remorse part wasn’t that hard. Seeing that much damage was devastating.

Before we got to the palace, the door was thrown open. A girl not much older me than came out, her dark hair pulled up in a tangled mess, and smudges of dirt and ash covered her face and clothes. She was small, even shorter than I was, and she looked as though she might cry.

“Are you the Princess?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m the Princess from Förening,” I said, then gestured to Tove. “This is the Prince. We are here to help you.”

“Oh, thank god.” She burst into tears and actually ran toward me and hugged me. “I didn’t think anybody would come.”

“We’re here now.” I patted her head because I wasn’t sure what else to do and exchanged a look with Tove. “We’ll do everything we can for you.”

“Sorry.” She pulled herself away from me and wiped at her eyes. “I didn’t mean to do that. I’ve… There is much that needs to be done.” She shook her head. “My father would be angry at me for behaving this way. I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize,” I said. “You’ve been through so much.”

“No, I’m in charge now,” she said. “So I should act like it.”

“Kenna Tomas?” I asked, hoping I remembered her name correctly.

“Yes,” she smiled at that. “I’m Kenna, and with my parents dead, I’m now the Marksinna of Oslinna.”

“Do you have any survivors here?” I asked. “Any people who need medical treatment? We brought a healer.”

“Oh, yes!” Kenna nodded. “Come with me.”

As we followed her into the palace, Kenna explained what had happened. While they were sleeping, the hobgoblins had come in and started tearing the town apart. As far as she could tell, that was actually their main goal. People got hurt because the hobgoblins happened to be destroying homes with people in them, or throwing trees that would land on bystanders. It was like a tornado hitting a town in the middle of the night, without any sirens to give warning.

They had very few trackers here when the attack started, but they hadn’t lasted long. Kenna saw a tracker go up against a hobgoblin, and the hobgoblin snapped him in half. The hobgoblins retreated pretty quickly after the Markis and Marksinna started defending themselves.

In the Oslinna palace, a small ballroom had been turned into a makeshift care unit. Some of the more injured Trylle had left to go to nearby hospitals, but most of them would rather die than be treated by humans.

It was horrifying to see. Cots were set up all over for survivors, and most of them were bloody and battered. Mänsklig children with broken arms and dirty faces were crying as their host parents held them.

Aurora immediately went to work without any prompting from me, which was nice. Willa and I went around talking to the people and giving them water, helping them if we could.

Kenna took Tove, Duncan, Loki, and Matt outside to show them where the most work needed to be done, and I wanted to go out with them. I would be much more useful lifting heavy objects than Matt or Duncan, because I could move them with my mind.

But I felt like I needed to be inside with the people, at least for a little while. Most of them I couldn’t help, other than handing out bottled water, but I think some of them just wanted to talk, to know that somebody cared.

Their stories were heart-breaking. Wives had lost their husbands, children had lost their parents, and most trackers had lost everything. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. It felt wrong and selfish. I needed to be calm and assure them that we would fix this, that I would make everything better.

I stayed long enough to talk to every person in the room, but then I had to move on. I could be of more help to them outside than I could in here. Willa went with me for the same reasons, leaving Aurora alone to heal them as much as she could.

As we were leaving, Willa was tearing up. She had a small, dirty teddy bear clutched in her hands, and she wiped at her eyes.

“That was pretty rough in there,” I said, holding back my own tears.

“This little tracker boy gave me this.” She held up the bear. “His whole family died. His parents, his sister, even his dog. And he gave me this because I sang him a song.” She shook her head. “I didn’t want to take it. But he said it was his sister’s, and she’d want another girl to have it.”

I put my arm around her, giving her a half-hug as we walked down the hall toward the palace door.

“We have to do more for these people,” Willa said. “That little boy isn’t hurt, but if he was, Aurora wouldn’t heal him. She wouldn’t want to waste her energy on him.”

“I know,” I sighed. “It’s insane.”

“That’s got to change.” Willa stopped and pointed back to the ballroom. “Every one of those people in there has been through hell, and they all deserve help just as equally.”

“I know, and I’m trying to make it better,” I said. “When I’m going to all those meetings, this is what I’m trying do and why I want you to help me with them. I will change this, and I will make it better. But I need help.”

“Good.” She sniffled and played with the teddy bear. “I will start going to the meetings. I want to be a part of what it is you’re doing.”

“Thank you,” I said, feeling some small bit of relief in that. “But right now, the best way to help these people is to get this place cleaned up so they can go back to their homes.”

Willa nodded and walked with me again. Outside, I could see some improvement. Half of a roof had been on the lawn of the palace, but it was gone now, as well as the uprooted oak by the cars. I could hear the boys a few houses down arguing about what to do with the debris.

Matt suggested they make a pile in the road for now, and they could worry about moving it later. Loki started to argue against it, but Tove told him to just do it. They didn’t have time to waste arguing.

Willa and I joined them, and we all went to work. Loki, Tove, and I did most of the lifting, while Matt, Duncan, and Willa tried to clean things and straighten up the houses. Just moving the garbage out of the way wouldn’t solve their problems, but it was the first step in being able to go back and fix it up.


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