Halberad peeked around the corner of the alleyway and scanned the street. The city, Alden, was still under the control of the Titans. Halberad fought against them in the war, though somewhat reluctantly. The white cat that followed him stayed close to his boots. Her name was Luth and she was a raiamon.
He’d never been much of a soldier. Morgaine, on the other hand, was born a soldier. She was the reason he was there. She was the reason he went to war in the first place. Now she was somewhere in Alden and Halberad was going to find her.
There were some people from the war who were easily recognizable. Morgaine was one of them. If she was in Titan-controlled territory, it was likely she was there as a prisoner.
Halberad attempted to stroll casually down the street. He was heading toward the palace, which he suspected was the epicenter of Titan activity.
He made it to the wall without trouble, but he couldn’t get closer than that. On the other side of the wall was a deshtue shield. He took a deep breath and looked around to see if anyone was watching. He was in the clear. He made a vit’fae cast and molded the light pink substance into a knife. He began to scale the wall.
“Hey,” shouted someone.
Halberad immediately jumped from the wall. “Hey,” he said.
A palace guard was running toward him. “What are you doing?”
Halberad made the knife dissipate. “Nothing,” he answered.
The guard had his hand out, he was getting ready to cast.
“Hang on,” said Halberad. “I can explain.”
The guard paused and Halberad broke into a sprint. He heard footsteps behind him. He darted down a dark side street and slammed into something hairy and very, very big.
The big thing grabbed him and pulled him around another corner. It kicked down a door and pushed Halberad inside. It picked up the door and braced it back in place. They heard footsteps run past.
Halberad couldn’t see what saved him; he could just see two glittering eyes in the darkness of their new safe haven. They breathed in silence and waited until it was safe to leave. The big thing spoke first.
“You’re safe,” said the thing.
“Thanks man,” said Halberad.
“Shiner,” said the thing. “Who are you?”
“I’m Halberad, son of Iron-Eye.”
On the subject of their friendship Ulysses would say, “I have never seen two people like them. They are either a mistake of nature or a tantalizing hint to the profound riddle of existence.”
Shiner set the door on the ground and they peered into the street.
“Looks clear,” said Shiner. He stepped out into the light and Halberad could see him more clearly.
Shiner was a gigantic wolf-like creature.
“Wow,” said Halberad.
“I get that a lot,” said Shiner.
“I fought with Vivienne during the Great War,” said Halberad.
“Oh, you’re Alliance,” said Shiner.
“Yeah. Are you?” asked Halberad.
“Yeah,” answered Shiner. “Sorry, I kind of thought you might be the other guys.”
“No, I’m on you’re side.”
“That’s great. Did Vivienne send you?”
“Um, not so much,” said Halberad.
“Oh,” said Shiner, “were you discharged?”
“Was it an honorable discharge?”
“Oh,” said Shiner, lowing his voice, “so it was a dishonorable discharge.”
“No,” said Halberad, emphatically. “I’m still with the Alliance.”
“Oh.” Shiner’s eyes widened. “Are you on a solo mission?”
Halberad paused for a moment.
“Yes,” said Luth.
Halberad shot her a look.
“Wow,” said Shiner.
“Well,” said Halberad, “I have a very important mission.”
“Can you tell me what it is?”
“No. Unfortunately I cannot share that information. It’s classified.”
“You should come back with me.”
“Come back where?” asked Halberad.
“To my camp. We’re Alliance too.”
Halberad agreed and followed Shiner through the bustling city streets. They traded war stories and tried their best to act casual, despite the fact that Shiner was an eight-foot tall wolfman. Finally they reached the outskirts of town. Shiner led him to an abandoned apartment building and rapped on the door in a distinct pattern.
The door creaked open slowly. To Halberad’s surprise an enormous dragon stood in the entryway. He stood ten feet tall with massive wings draped at his back. Halberad recognized him immediately.
“Shiner,” said Garnet, “who the hell is this?”
“This is Halberad and Luth,” answered Shiner. “Vivienne sent them here on a solo mission.”
Garnet looked unimpressed. He rubbed his forehead. “Why don’t you come in so I don’t have to yell at you in the street.”
“Halberad, Luth,” said Shiner, “welcome to the Ocean Team.”
They looked at the small gathering in the lobby of the building. The Ocean Team was comprised of Garnet, his two sons (Quest and Whirlpool), and another dragon named Randal. They weren’t much but they were all Garnet had. Quest was still very young. He was a god, so he aged faster than a normal person would. The only people who knew he was a god were his father and brother. Garnet was still keeping it secret. If the Titans found out about him, they’d kill him.
“This is not a team,” said Luth.
“This is all we’ve got,” said Garnet.
“I’m just saying, this is not a team,” she repeated. “This is some dragons and a wolfman.”
“I’m a farresdane,” said Shiner.
“Shiner,” said Garnet, “where did you find these guys?”
“They were running from the guards.”
“Ah,” said Garnet, “were you, Halberad son of Iron-Eye?”
“A little,” answered Halberad.
“Care to tell us why?”
Halberad sighed. “It’s our mission to get into the palace and rescue Morgaine.”
“Who gave you that mission?”
“Really?” Garnet raised his brow in suspicion.
“So if I were to contact Vivienne, she would corroborate your story?”
“So if I brain-message Vivienne right now, she will tell me she sent Halberad, son of Iron-Eye and Luth, his raiamon, on a secret mission to break into the palace?”
“If she’s receiving brain-messages, yes, she will.” Halberad folded his arms over his chest. He wasn’t there on a secret mission. He was there of his own free will, but Garnet didn’t need to know that.
Garnet put a finger to his temple. Vivienne, he messaged, are you busy?
Just the usual, she answered. We’re tracking down bad guys.
Great. Did you send a guy named Halberad on a secret mission here in Alden?
Oh yes. Do you know a Halberad?
Yeah, I know a Halberad.
Son of Iron-Eye?
Raiamon named Luth?
Ok, so we’re talking about the same guy.
Yes. I’m so sorry. Is he there bothering you?
Yeah, but I’ve got it under control. I just wanted to make sure he’s a real person.
He’s real, unfortunately.
All right, I guess we’ll stay out of his way and not interfere with his mission.
He doesn’t have a mission.
Oh, so he was lying.
Yes, he was.
Do you want me to send him back your way? What do you want me to do with him?
Um, what did he say his mission was? asked Vivienne.
He said he was supposed to break into the palace, answered Garnet.
Rago Kon, he’s there for Morgaine.
Morgaine? Your Morgaine?
Yes, my Morgaine. He’s a lovesick puppy. I don’t know what to do with him.
Huh, I just thought of something.
You know what to do with him?
I do. Thanks for verifying him.
Anytime. Send him back if he gets annoying.
Will do. With that, Garnet ended the brain-message. “All right, Halberad,” he said, “your story less than half checks out.”
“But it almost half checks out,” said Halberad.
“That’s a glass half full, Garnet,” said Shiner.
“No, it’s not,” said Garnet. “It’s not half full. There are four drops of water in this glass.” He scratched the scales under his chin. “So you’re a real person.”
“Of course I’m a real person,” said Halberad.
“Are you the one who was attacked by Nordath’s demon?” asked Garnet.
Halberad nodded. He and Morgaine were only 16 when the attack happened. They were both orphans of the war. Vivienne had raised Morgaine at the temple of water and Iron-Eye had raised Halberad. The two of them were preparing to escape; to leave the army and leave their adopted parents, get married and start a life far away from the war. The demon caught them and they killed it but it came at a great cost. Morgaine and Halberad almost died, but at the last minute they each gained a raiamon. Morgaine gained Charbanian and Halberad gained Luth. After the attack Vivienne and Iron-eye separated them. After that, Morgaine didn’t speak to Halberad. She joined the war and left him. That was two years ago. Since then, Halberad had only heard stories about her. He’d tried brain-messaging her, but she never responded.
“You guys killed that thing, right?” asked Garnet.
“Yeah,” answered Halberad.
“Nice work.” Garnet cleared his throat. “So, Vivienne confirmed your identity. She did not say you’re on a mission. She said you’re a lovesick boy trying to get after Morgaine.”
“No,” said Luth quickly.
“So you’re not in love with Morgaine?”
“Obviously we love Morgaine.” Halberad shrugged. “I’m a romantic.”
“Oh great, you’re a romantic. Hear that guys? We’ve got a romantic. The Alliance is saved.” Garnet snorted. “We’ll just walk up to the Titans and tell them we’ve got a romantic and they’ll head for the hills.”
“Come on,” said Halberad. “Don’t you need somebody who can blend in and fade into a crowd? That’s me. I’m your guy.”
“You know,” said Randal, “I hate to advocate for this guy you clearly don’t like, but we do need someone who can buy groceries.”
“Hang on,” said Halberad.
Garnet nodded to himself. “We do need someone to do that.”
“No, I don’t want to be the grocery boy.”
“Well we obviously can’t send Shiner out to do it,” said Garnet. “And none of the rest of us can go.” Garnet, whether he liked it or not, had become legend. He and Vivienne were known throughout the three realms. They were both from Keelta (the largest of the realms), but they gained the attention of Zeus and Zena during the war.
Both Zeus and Zena contributed gods to the alliance, if only from a distance. Neither of them wanted to get too close to Nordath for fear of losing their own power.
“Why not?” asked Halberad. “Shiner came back with me.”
“Right.” Garnet turned to Shiner. “But did you come back with groceries?”
“No,” answered Shiner, “but I found a secret agent.”
“No. You found some guy. You found some guy who happens to know Vivienne.”
“But I do know Vivienne,” said Halberad.
Garnet thought for a moment. “All right,” he said finally, “I hope you didn’t have any responsibilities outside of this room before because you’re joining us now.”
“Welcome to the Ocean Team.”
“Now we’re all wanted by the guards,” said Shiner.
“Dammit,” said Garnet.
“I don’t think they’d recognize me again, though,” said Halberad.
“Did they get a good look at your face?”
“I don’t think so. I was running pretty fast.”
“In broad daylight?” Garnet shook his head. “I don’t know if we can chance that. We know at least some number of the Titans are mind-specialists. At least that’s our working theory. We think that’s how they’re controlling Emperor Hugo.”
“But Garnet,” said Shiner, “he’s the best chance we’ve got at going out in the streets.”
“If I stay away from the palace, I can still be helpful.”
“All right,” said Garnet. “How about a test run then. Since Shiner failed to get anything we needed from the market, that job now falls to you.”
“I can do that,” said Halberad.
“Let’s give it a test run now,” said Garnet. “Go out to the market, get supplies, and come back without leading the Titans to us.”
 When someone has a near-death experience they have the potential to gain a raiamon. Some say it’s a sign of a second chance at life.
 God of Chaos.
 Some people believe the three realms parallel each other and by that reasoning, everyone has a parallel person who matches them.
 Shiner is a creature known as a Farresdane.
 When someone sends a telepathic message to another person, it’s called brain-messaging. This is cast learned when someone masters Wisdom or Madness. A person of any age, with any amount of keeltose, can learn to brain-message.
 Invoking the name of Rago Kon is a demonstrative expression. Rago Kon was the first known god.
 A creature created by the god of weakness. It had no soul and no magic. At the time, Weakness was allied with Nordath and created the monster to help win the war. The plan was to create an army, but the plan failed when the monster proved easier to kill than expected.