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.”

“But when she married Oren, your dad thought they might have a child?” I asked.

“Right,” he nodded. “My father wanted nothing more than for me to be King. It didn’t matter that I had no urge to be King, or that Oren might live forever and I would never be King anyway.”

“Why did he want you to be King so badly?” I asked.

“He wanted power, more power,” Loki said. “He thought if I became King, we could rule the world or something. He never got specific about his plans, but he just wanted more.”

“So what happened?” I asked. “I heard he tried to defect back to Förening.”

“Yes, that was after everything went to hell,” Loki said. “My father came up with some plan to kill Sara. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I think he wanted to poison her. My mother found out about it, and she was…” He stopped and shook his head.

“My mother was kind,” Loki went on. “I’d been betrothed to Sara, so she’d become like a member of our family. My mother invited her for supper and treated her as a daughter. Even after Sara married Oren, my mother remained close to her.”

“And your father was going to kill her?” I asked.

“Yes, but my mother wouldn’t let him.” He chewed the inside of his cheek and stared straight ahead at the snow coming down. “So he killed her.”

“What?” I asked, thinking I’d misunderstood. “Sara’s alive.”

“No, my father killed my mother,” Loki said flatly. “He hit her in the head with a metal vase, over and over. I was hiding in the closet, and I saw the whole thing.”

“Oh my god,” I gasped. “I’m so sorry.”

“The King found out, and he didn’t really care that my father had murdered someone,” he said. “But then I told the King why my father killed her, about his plan to assassinate Sara.

“My father tried to make it back to the Trylle,” Loki continued. “He offered Elora trade secrets, anything she’d want to know. I’ve been told that she accepted, but he never made it there. Oren found him and executed him.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, unsure of what else to say.

“I’m not,” Loki said. “But I am lucky that the King didn’t kill me too. Sara took pity on me, and I moved into the palace with them.”

“The King and Queen raised you,” I said.

“They did,” he nodded. “Sara more so. The King’s never been that fond of me, although I don’t think he’s ever been that fond of anyone.”

Silence settled over us, and Loki seemed morose. Bringing up the death of his mother would have that effect.

What happened to him was horrible, not that I had a great childhood myself. I thought back to when he’d arrived in Förening, and I put my hand on the scar on his chest. I’d felt like he was a kindred spirit, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how alike we really were.

We both had a parent who hated us, and we were left orphaned at a young age. His father wanted him to be King, even though he didn’t want it, and my mother wanted me to be Queen, even though I didn’t want it. And we both shared a mixed bloodline of Trylle and Vittra. 

“Why aren’t you like me?”  I asked when I thought of it.


“Why aren’t you as powerful as me?” I asked. “We’re both Trylle and Vittra.”

“Well, for one thing, you’re the product of the most powerful Trylle and the most powerful Vittra,” Loki said. “I’m the product of a very powerful Vittra and a fairly weak Trylle. My father was a low-ranking Markis. He had hardly anything. I did get his ability to render people unconscious, though, but mine is much stronger than his ever was.”

“But you have more physical strength than I do,” I pointed out.

“Your father isn’t physically that strong,” Loki said. “Don’t get me wrong, he is very strong, especially by Trylle standards. But mostly he’s just… immortal.”

Just immortal,” I said. “That’s good. That’ll making killing him so much easier.”

“We can turn back,” Loki offered again.

“No, we can’t.” I shook my head.

The car hit a patch of ice and jerked to the side. Loki reached out, putting his hand on my arm to make sure I was safe, before straightening out the car.

“Sorry about that,” he said, keeping his hand on my arm.

“It’s okay.”

His hand felt warm on my bare skin, and I moved my arm so I could take his hand in mine. I don’t know why I did it exactly, but I felt better. It helped quiet my nerves and ease the tightening of my stomach.

I stared out the window, almost embarrassed to look over at him, but he said nothing about it. He just held my hand, and eventually, he started singing along with the radio again.

The snow had lessened by the time we reached the Vittra palace. It looked more like an old castle. I hadn’t really had a chance to look at it the last time I was here. The brick towers and spirals loomed against the overcast sky. Tall trees without any leaves filled the surrounding forest, and I almost expected there to be a moat to cross.

Loki pulled up in front of the massive wooden doors and turned off the car. I gaped at it and tried not to let my nerves get the best of me. I could do this.

“How do I find him?” I asked. “Where’s the King?”

“I’ll show you.” Loki opened his car door.

“What are you doing?” I asked as he got out.

“Taking you inside,” he said and slammed the door shut.

“You can’t go in there,” I said once I’d climbed out of the car. “The King could do something to you.”

“What kind of tour guide would I be if I didn’t show you all the sights myself?” he grinned at me, but it was weak.

“Loki, be serious.” I wouldn’t walk with him up the path so he turned back to face me. “The King will throw you in the dungeon again.”

“Maybe,” Loki agreed. “But I don’t think he will if you succeed in making a deal with him, and we’re both counting on you to make a deal.”

“I don’t like the idea of you going in there,” I said.

“Yeah, well, I don’t like you going in there either,” he shrugged. “So we’re even.”

Reluctantly, I nodded. I didn’t want to put him in danger, but he had a point. If Oren agreed with me, which is what I was counting on, I could get amnesty for Loki thrown in along with it. He would probably plan on recanting once I became Queen, but we wouldn’t make it that long.

Loki walked beside me up the pathway to the doors. I tried to open one, but it wouldn’t budge. Loki laughed a little and reached around me. He pulled it open like it was nothing, and then we stepped inside the Vittra palace.