On the eve of Jaime’s coronation, the dragon crown is missing—leading everyone to believe that Jaime’s reign will be cursed if she goes through with the ceremony. To find the thief, Jaime turns to Krag, who “disappears” and pretends to be guilty of stealing the dragon crown and its legendary diamonds. Meanwhile, fingers are pointing to Chase, Jaime’s father and reluctant regent. With behind-the-scenes sleuthing by Andry, her best friend, and the older mage, Brana, Krag leads the team in their investigation. No matter where they search, someone is tailing the detectives and eavesdropping on them—making them all look over their shoulders time and again but finding no one there. Frustrated with too many questions and too few answers, Krag’s only hope is to shadow the shadow.
“Now what on earth is wrong?” Hanna grumbled from behind the door, shaking the knob again before giving the wood a hard kick. “It was fine this morning. There’s no humidity in the air, and no summer-time dampness now that it’s mid-winter, though we are near Maris Waters. But still, why it should stick—”
While Hanna continued to mutter, I grabbed the book, winked myself out of visibility in a heartbeat, and removed the chair from beneath the knob, a mere heartbeat before Andry’s mother slammed the door open, nearly flattening me against the wall.
“Well now, how odd.”
“It’s an old building.” Reni’s voice drifted into the room from behind Hanna’s slender figure. “Maybe it just needs some oil.”
“Maybe it just needs a good swift kick every now and then,” Hanna said dryly, giving the door an extra thump for good measure and studying it from top to bottom. “I don’t know what the problem is, but I’ll ask Davies to have a look tomorrow before we open, if we ever have some peace and quiet in this place. Though I guess I shouldn’t complain about having so many customers, should I?” Hanna waved my sister into the neat room, and I held my breath as Andry’s mother unlocked the chest. “There you go, child. Go on. The scarf is buried in here somewhere, probably in the middle of those light cotton clothes. I’ll have to knit you another as soon as I can find the time. You’re growing too fast for even my nimble fingers to catch up. In fact, you’ll soon be as tall as—”
When the older woman turned away, Reni touched her arm. “I miss Krag, too,” she said. “And Chase.” When Hanna’s eyes filled with tears, Reni reached up to hug her. “They’ll be home soon.”
“Yes, they will,” Hanna whispered, her voice growing louder and more confident as she repeated the words. “Yes, they will. So we must be strong for them, love, and not get sick. You wrap that scarf tight around your neck to keep out the drafts, and remember to shut the door behind you. No reason to let nosey customers think they have a right to snoop inside our private rooms. All right?”
“Yes.” When Reni stepped away, her smile was sad as Hanna disappeared from the room, boots clattering on the stairs as she rushed back to the madhouse downstairs to tend bar. Sighing, the child fumbled through the chest of clothes until she found what she was looking for and pulled out the light wool scarf. Wrapping it around her thin neck, she turned back toward the door, but something caught her attention, stopping her cold. Blue eyes studied the quilt for a long tense moment, carelessly mussed as it was from my body, and most likely still warm. Reni bent to touch the bed, and I held my breath again as the girl’s eyes grew thoughtful. Angry at my lapse, no more reliable than Andry had been with her shielding, it was all I could do to stand rigidly in place as Reni softly called my name.
I bit my tongue to keep from speaking her name in turn, my fingers bunched in a fist so tight, I knew I’d find bruises later.
Cradling the ends of the wool scarf in her fingers, Reni scrutinized the neat bedroom once more. “Krag,” she whispered, “if you’re still here, please listen. I don’t think you’re guilty. You can’t be. I know you’d never do anything to hurt us, especially not me or Chase or Andry. So please hurry home. I miss you terribly. And Krag—” Reni took a deep breath, her eyes welling with tears. “Don’t forget I love you.”
The minute Reni fled the room, as though she knew I wouldn’t be able to contain myself, I sagged against the wall, sick at heart.