Ice Kissed / Page 41

Page 41


Not that I was sure anything could be accomplished. Kasper and I had spent a large portion of yesterday trying to get Bayle to hand over papers to us, but he insisted that they needed to be locked up for safety before King Mikko’s trial.

Bayle refused to tell us much of anything, citing confidentiality. We tried to push it, but since we didn’t have much standing here, we didn’t get anywhere. When we tried to talk to Mikko, his barrister shut us down.

There wasn’t much more we could do for him, so Kasper suggested we go back to working on the mission we came here for in the first place—creating recommendations to help the palace guard function better. And that’s what we did, staying up late into the night to write a report about the changes we thought the guards could make so the royal family would be safer.

It did seem a little like a moot point, with the Skojare King locked up and their kingdom in a panic. Not to mention that Bayle Lundeen still had more power than he should—but for the moment, things were in too much chaos to add reorganizing the guard.

Whoever stepped up in the interim for King Mikko—most likely Linnea, Kennet, or Lisbet—could replace Bayle, and that was our number-one recommendation. The guard needed a complete overhaul, starting at the top. Once Bayle was gone and the trial was over, it would be good for the Skojare if they could get a fresh start with a properly functioning security system in place.

A timid knock at my door interrupted my not-sleeping, and I rolled over to check the alarm clock. It wasn’t even six in the morning yet, so I suspected that whoever was here wasn’t bearing good news.

I opened the door to find Linnea. The hood of her dressing robe was up, hiding her mass of curls, and her eyes were red rimmed. Her porcelain skin somehow seemed even paler than normal, and she sniffled as she stared up at me in desperation.

“Please, you have to help us,” Linnea said, almost sobbing already.

“Help who?” I asked.

“Mikko and me.” Linnea came in past me, wringing her embroidered handkerchief. “I saw him last night, and it was awful, but they would only let me stay for twenty minutes, and he can’t live like that, Bryn! He can’t!”

I closed the door and held out my hand. “Calm down. I know you’re upset, but everything will be okay.”

“How can you say that?” Linnea cried. “My husband is in the dungeon!”

“Getting hysterical won’t get him out any sooner.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She wiped at her eyes with the handkerchief, then she sat down on the bed. “I don’t even know how this can happen. How can the King be arrested?”

“The laws apply to the King and commoners alike,” I said, reciting what we were taught in school—but even then, everyone had known it wasn’t true.

“They say they’re doing it to protect me,” Linnea went on, ignoring my comment. “But why would I need protection from Mikko? He loves me!”

“They’re still investigating.” I tried to placate her.

Her lips trembled as she stared up at me from underneath the hood. “I don’t even know what’s happening in the kingdom. How can I trust Mikko will even get a fair trial? What if they find him guilty? What will become of him? And what will become of me?”

I shook my head sadly, wishing I had something better to give her. “I don’t know.”

“I just can’t believe this is all happening. I’m the Queen! I should have some say!” Linnea cried out in frustration.

“It’s isn’t fair,” I agreed.

For the most part, both Kanin and Skojare societies were patriarchies—women could only rule in extreme cases and for a short period of time, usually after their husband the King had died and before their son the Prince came of age. Other tribes were more socially progressive than ours, allowing women to rule in the absence of a male bloodline, but the Kanin especially were much more rooted in tradition than most.

Linnea’s power as Queen only came from her husband, or her son if she eventually had one while Mikko was King. If Mikko were to lose his crown, she would lose hers as well. With the King thrown in the dungeon, her power was locked up along with him.

“What’s going on?” Kasper threw open the door my room, his sword in hand.

His hair was disheveled from sleep, and he wore only a pair of pajama pants, revealing a tattoo of a rabbit above his heart. I knew that many of the Högdragen had that same tattoo, but I’d never seen Kasper’s before.

“Nothing.” I held up my hands to calm him. “Everything is fine.”

“I heard a noise,” he said, probably referring to Linnea’s yelling, and he looked around the room in bewilderment. “Why is the Queen here?”

“Am I even the Queen?” Linnea asked, growing more despondent by the second.

“She just needed someone to talk to,” I explained to Kasper, and he relaxed and lowered his sword.

“What I need is answers,” Linnea said.

“Your grandmother carries a great deal of weight in the kingdom,” I said. “You should be talking with her. I’m sure she knows more about what’s going to happen than I do.”

“She does,” Linnea agreed, but she didn’t sound too happy about it. “She’s on the committee to decide who should rule in the King’s absence, but she won’t listen to me. Whenever I say anything about Mikko, she just tells me to be patient and that the truth will come out.”

“That is very sound advice,” Kasper said.

Something must’ve occurred to Linnea, because she suddenly perked up, her eyes bright and excited. “But she’ll listen to you. She trusts the pair of you. If you talk to her about Mikko, she’ll have to listen to you.”

“My Queen, I think you’re being a bit a rash,” I explained carefully. “Marksinna Lisbet is far more likely to listen to you than she is to two guards from another kingdom. As the Queen and her blood, you possess far more clout than we ever could.”

“Nonsense.” Linnea jumped to her feet, undeterred. “Nana still thinks of me as a child. She respects your opinions. You must come with me to talk to her at once.”

“At once?” Kasper asked.

“Well, I’ll give you a moment to get dressed.” Linnea glanced over at his shirtless torso. “But as soon as you’re finished.”

I sincerely doubted that we could change the Marksinna’s mind, not to mention that I wasn’t convinced Mikko was innocent. Of course, I wasn’t convinced that he was guilty either.

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