We got to the city just as the sun peaked in the sky. My body was all but humming with all the energy. After weeks of being starved of it, it was like a druggie OD’ing on its’ poison of choice. I had to make a concerted effort to keep my attention of what I was doing, because my nerves just wanted to run through the city, singing in utter delight at having the nourishment they needed again.
Hopefully I’d expend the excess energy tonight, if I had a job.
Walking through the bustling roads of the city, Thor stuck close to my side, making me smile. A group of very dangerous guards who knew about my magic? Easy. A market crowd in the city? Terrifying.
As we made our way towards the Red District though, the crowds started to thin out. It was still daylight, and this area of the city was packed only during the night.
Rounding the corner to our street, Thor broke off from me and ran to a group of his friends playing in the road. I tried to spot Finn’s head, but couldn’t see his red mop of hair. I frowned. Maybe he was scared of going out?
Shaking off the uneasiness, I pushed my front door open. I wanted to check if he was in here before going next door to check in with Freyja; and once I made sure Finn knew I was safe, I was planning on taking a long shower. I was starting to smell so ripe even I was having trouble being around myself.
Finn’s bed was unmade in the corner and I rolled my eyes. I had to pester him every day to make his bed, the boy was hopeless. Setting two of the knives down on my bedside table, I kept the other one in my pocket - a hazard of the trade; I never let myself go around unarmed. As I exited my house to go next door to Freyja’s, Thor came running up to, a look of panic on his face.
“I just went in there to tell Freyja we were back, and to see if Finn was okay; the boys said they hadn’t seen him in days, so I thought he might be ill. But the house is empty, Helga. Everything’s been overturned and there’s a note on Freyja’s bed in a language I can’t read.”
I pushed past him before he had finished speaking and ran into the house. It was a small as mine, two rooms - one was kitchen, bedroom and living room, and the other was the bathroom. I stopped dead on threshold, surveying the mess.
Thor was right - the furniture was upturned, and I knew right away that someone had been looking for something.
Or for someone.
I cursed and raced to Freyja’s bed. There, lying innocently on her flowery blanket, was an envelope. On it, in elaborate writing, someone had printed Hennes Kongelige Høyhet. I sat down on the bed heavily, all air leaving my lungs.
“What is it, Helga? Can you read it?”
I nodded silently, my eyes never leaving the envelope, as though it were a poisonous viper, poised to attack.
“What does it say?” he asked timidly.
I finally looked up, tearing my eyes away from the letter, and gazed at Thor. “We have to go. Pack a bag, we’re leaving, Thor.”
“But what about Freyja and Finn?”
“We’ll find them, but we have to leave. Now,” I told him, grabbing the letter and pushing him to his bed and the box he kept his clothes in. “Quick, pack light, just a few changes of clothes. I need to make some arrangements.”
I left him to it, ignoring his shouted question of “Are they okay?” and closed the door on my way out.
Gods. What a clusterfuck. I rubbed my temple with my hands. There was no way this was a coincidence. Freyja talking about me fighting the King, and now this letter…
I shook my head. I’d concentrate on that later. First, I needed to find somewhere safe to leave Thor while I went after my friend and my brother. Because no, they were not okay.
And, if this letter was any indication, I wouldn’t be okay either. I needed to read it, but couldn’t do that out in the open. One thing at a time, Helga, I scolded myself. Think! Who do you trust to take care of Thor?
My eyes opened and I crossed the road purposefully. The working girls were like a family, but Alice in particular had a soft spot for children. She had been a mother, once, but lost her baby before it had been born. I had to hope that that, and their sense of community would be enough to keep Thor safe. I couldn’t take him with me; I had a feeling this only ended one way for me, and I couldn’t take a child into that kind of mission.
After a quick conversation with her, telling her someone had kidnapped Freyja and Finn, Alice agreed to look after Thor while I went after them. She seemed nervous, but gave Thor a big smile when I called him over, and held him back when he realised what was going on.
“I want to go with you!” he wailed.
I smiled ruefully. “I know. Believe me, I know, Thor. But I don’t know where I’m going, and I don’t know…” I took a deep breath. “You’ll be safe here. Don’t go anywhere with anyone else unless it’s me or Freyja, do you understand me?”
He nodded, looking scared and I hugged him tightly.
“I’ll be back soon.”
I pulled away, and Alice stepped up, putting a hand on his shoulder. I shook my head. “No. But I do promise you that even if I don’t come back, your sister will.”
And with that, I turned and walked back down the street, towards the market area and out the city. The thick letter was clutched tightly in my left hand, and I glanced back down at it again, swallowing hard.
I climbed a tree just outside the city’s walls and settled back, away from prying eyes.
My hands shook as I turned the envelope over again to read the words printed there: Her Royal Highness