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Thankfully, a few of the Trylle like Tove and Elora were strong enough and smart enough to fight back. What they lacked in physical prowess, they made up for in overwhelming abilities.

But Tove was quick to point out that if all the Trylle had stood up and used what abilities they had—no matter how weak—or simply fought back with their fists, the Vittra would have hardly stood a chance. We should’ve won this without any deaths and hardly any injuries.

The Trylle royals had grown too complacent, to the point where they believed that defending themselves was beneath them. They’d become too focused on social class to realize that they needed to handle some things themselves, instead of leaving the trackers and mänks to do all the dirty work.

The ballroom looked even worse than it had when we’d left it. Someone had lit lanterns around the edges of the room, so we could at least see better than before.

Willa ran over when she saw me and threw her arms around me. I hugged her back, feeling tremendous relief that she was alive. Despite a few scrapes and bruises, she looked okay.

She then launched into an excited tale about how she had blown a few Vittra out of the ceiling, and I told her I was proud. I wanted to listen to her talk, but the destruction was too overwhelming.

When Elora saw us, she pulled Aurora from where she was helping a bleeding man. I noted with dark satisfaction that the Chancellor had a nasty cut on his forehead, and I hoped that Aurora couldn’t make time to fix him.

Elora didn’t look any worse for wear. If I hadn’t known, I never would’ve thought she’d been here when the fight was going on. Aurora, on the other hand, though she still looked beautiful and regal, did show signs of the battle. Her dress was torn, her hair was a mess, and there was blood all over her hands and arms, though I doubted most of it was hers.

“Princess.” Elora looked genuinely relieved when she walked over to us, delicately stepping over broken tables and a Vittra corpse. “I’m glad to see you’re all right. I was very worried about you.”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

She reached out and touched my cheek, but there was nothing affectionate about it. It was the way I would touch a strange animal that I’d been assured was safe though I didn’t really believe it.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done if something happened to you.” She smiled wanly at me, then dropped her hand and looked at Finn. “I’m sure a thank-you is in order for saving my daughter.”

“No need,” Finn replied rather curtly, and Elora gazed at him intently for a moment, saying something in his mind. Then she turned and walked away, apparently to deal with something far more pressing than her daughter.

Aurora squeezed Tove’s arms and looked at him warmly, making me feel a horrible pang at my own mother’s reaction. Aurora had seemed like an ice Queen too, but she could at least show signs of genuine happiness that her son hadn’t died.

The moment passed quickly, and she moved on to me. She tore the hole in my dress wider so she could put her hand on my wound, and I gritted my teeth at the pain. Finn tightened his arm around my shoulders, a warm tingling sensation passed over my side, and moments later the pain stopped.

“Good as new.” Aurora smiled tiredly at me.

She seemed to have aged since before she’d touched me, and I wondered how much all that healing took out of her. She started to step away, going back to help other people, and Finn leaned on me, clearly in pain.

“What about Finn?” I asked, and she looked back at me, startled. Apparently I had asked something wrong, and she didn’t know how to react.

“No, no, I’m fine.” Finn waved her off.

“Nonsense.” Tove clapped him on the back and nodded at his mother. “Finn saved the day. He deserves a little help. Aurora, wanna take care of him?” She looked uncertainly at her son, then nodded and walked over to Finn.

“Of course,” Aurora said.

She looked him over for wounds, trying to pinpoint what needed fixing. I glanced away from them, and I saw Rhys sitting on the edge of a table. He held a bloody cloth to his forehead and stared down at the floor.

“Rhys!” I shouted, and when he looked up and saw me, he smiled.

“Go see him,” Finn suggested. Aurora poked at something painful in his side and he winced. “She’s taking care of me.”

“I got him.” Tove took Finn’s arm, so he would be leaning on Tove instead of me.

I looked back at Finn, but he nodded at me to go, clearly trying not to let on how much pain Aurora was causing him.

I really didn’t want to leave Finn, but I felt like I should at least say hi to somebody who tried to save my life. Especially since Rhys had been the only person all night who had told me I looked beautiful without sounding really creepy about it.

“You’re alive!” Rhys grinned. He tried to stand up, but I gestured for him to sit back down. “I wasn’t sure what happened to you.” He looked past me at Finn, and his expression faltered. “I didn’t know Finn was back. If I had, I wouldn’t have worried.”

“I was worried about you.” I reached out and carefully touched his forehead. “You took quite the punch there.”

“Yeah, but I couldn’t get one in,” Rhys grumbled, looking down at the floor. “And I couldn’t stop him from taking you.”

“Yes, you did!” I insisted. “If you hadn’t been there, they would’ve hauled me off before anybody had a chance to do anything about it. You kind of saved the day.”

“Yeah?” His blue eyes were hopeful when he looked at me.

“Definitely.” I smiled back at him.

“You know, back in the day, when a guy saved a Princess’s life, she would reward him with a kiss,” Rhys commented.

His smile was light, but his eyes were serious. If Finn hadn’t been standing a few feet behind me, watching, I probably would’ve kissed him. But I didn’t want to do anything to spoil having Finn back, so I just shook my head and smiled.

“Maybe when I slay the dragon. Then I’ll get a kiss?”

“I promise,” I agreed. “Would you settle for a hug?”

“A hug from you is never settling.”

I leaned over and hugged him tightly. A woman sitting nearby looked aghast at the new Princess openly hugging a mänsklig. Things were really going to have to change when I was Queen.

After Aurora patched up Finn, she suggested we both get some rest. The room was still a disaster, but Tove insisted that he and his mother were taking care of everything. I wanted to protest and help more, but I was exhausted, so I didn’t put up a fight.

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