Tents and shop fronts lined every street for several square blocks. The morning markets were packed and walking around was challenging. Communicating in it was another story. A cacophony of angry haggling in different languages filled the air along with the smell of fresh baked sweets and smoked meats. Colorful tapestries adorned each shop trying to entice would-be customers. Each corner was home to people playing instruments for money and passerby’s dancing in the street. In such chaos it was hard for anything to stand out.
Halberad didn’t stand out. He collected the groceries and returned to the hideout. “I’m back,” he called.
“Be quiet,” said Garnet.
“Sorry. I got groceries. Mission complete.”
“Good. Congratulations on not screwing up shopping. You’re a nobody. I’m not surprised you fit in.”
“No offense, but you’re a long way from ‘Vivienne sent me on a secret mission.’”
“Look, she might as well have sent me on a mission.”
“Might as well have. Really?”
“Yeah,” said Luth. “Thanks to us, she’s going to get Morgaine back.”
“I don’t guess you have a plan for that, do you?”
“We’re going to sneak into the place, rescue Morgaine and Charbanian and return her to Vivienne.”
“Do you have any idea what you’re up against?”
Halberad paused. “You’re tone makes me think I don’t,” he said.
“Just so we’re on the same page,” said Garnet, “The palace is currently under a group shield. They have a minimum of sixty people on their side and two of Nordath’s most trusted generals. It’s a big deal. We’re not getting through with a Vit’fae specialist, probably not even with a group of specialists. We have to wait for the shield to be down. Until then, communication is completely cut off. Joan, Sosona, and your precious Morgaine, all on the inside.”
“Joan and Sosona are in there?”
“Oh man, that’s bad.”
“Yes. It’s bad. We were getting regular updates until the shield went up. Now your first issue is that the palace has massive walls. You either need to climb—”
“I can climb walls.”
“I can climb walls too,” said Shiner.
“The two of us together are probably taller than the wall,” said Halberad.
“All right, smart guy,” said Garnet. “Let’s say you successfully get over the wall, there are guard towers, but let’s say you get over the wall and don’t alert the guards. Now you have to deal with the shield. You’re not getting through that unless one of you happens to know the new god of Vit’fae.”
Halberad, Shiner and Luth shake their heads.
“Right,” said Garnet. “Let’s pretend that by some miracle you make it over the wall, past the guards and through the shield. Now you’re inside. Now you’re outnumbered twenty to one. There are going to be Titans all over the place. But we’ll pretend you overcome all of them. You still have to contend with two generals. All of that before you even get to see Morgaine. Now you have to go through all of that again to get her out.”
“Not all of it. If I kill people on the way, then they’re dead and I’m out free and clear.”
“Did you actually fight in this war, son?”
“Have you actually killed someone?”
“Of course I have.”
“What makes you think you can take down sixty?”
“I’ve got keeltose. I can fight.”
“Have you ever gone up against a mind-specialist?”
“All right. It sounds like we’re not ready to siege the palace. So that means we’re doing what we were doing before you got here. We’re going to have to lay low until we find an opportunity. Something has to break. They’re going to have to mess up, extend to far. They’re going to have to make a mistake before we can get your girl out.”
“We can lay low,” said Luth.
“Yeah,” said Halberad.
“All right. So you’ll stick to the rules. Everybody keeps the heads down; nobody brings friends back to the hideout. I don’t care how much you like your new friend, Shiner. No more friends.”
Morgaine and Charbanian sat with Sosona and Joan. They got into the palace under the pretense of protecting the Emperor’s daughter. Danielle would rule Alden one day and they needed her on their side. Emperor Hugo was part of the alliance during the war. He was under Titan control now. A Wisdom or Madness specialist was controlling him and the Titans had control of Alden.
At first they were afraid the Mad God himself was in charge, but he hadn’t been seen in months.
Ulysses was Zena’s oldest of her four sons. Eli, god of Peace and Orion, God of Hope helped the Alliance while Ulysses spent his time garnering favors from whoever was willing.
Zeus and Zena, in constant contest with one another, had their children at relatively the same time. Ulysses was born at the same time as Athena because Zeus heard Zena was pregnant and would not be out done. If she had an heir, he needed one as well. From there, it spiraled out into the other children. When Juliet was born, Eli was born a few days later. When Cupid was born, Aphrodite was born a few days later. When Cilla was born, Orion was right behind her.
It was a little known secret, but Joan and Athena were sisters, not through Zeus, but through their mother Blythe Green. She’d died early in the war. She was from Keelta and she was part of the reason Athena was so dedicated to fighting on behalf of the realm instead of being loyal to Olympus.
Joan sat between Morgaine and Sosona. Danielle had summoned them.
“Dad’s throwing me a birthday party,” she said. “It will be our first party since the end of the war.”
“Great,” said Morgaine. A party isn’t exactly what the three soldiers were prepared to handle.
Danielle flipped her hair. “I’m turning 16 so it’s kind of a big deal.”
“Of course,” said Joan.
“It’s going to be huge,” continued Danielle. “We’re inviting everyone we know across the realms.”
At that the three women looked at each other.
Joan put two fingers to her head and messaged Morgaine. Sounds like an excuse to have important people here.
Morgaine nodded. Yeah, she messaged back, I bet the Titans are behind this. If the Emperor is throwing a party, it’s to lure people here, not to celebrate.
Danielle rambled on about the party while Sosona joined in the conversation.
There are Titans in the palace and in the city, she said. They’ve got mind-specialists controlling the guards and the Emperor. The party is going to be a death-trap.
We have to get out of the shield and tell Vivienne, said Joan.
She’s busy, said Morgaine. We can handle this on our own.
They outnumber us twenty to one, are you mad?
Can you get Athena here? asked Sosona.
If I could, don’t you think I bloody well would have by now? snapped Joan.
If she could get Athena here, we wouldn’t be prisoners, said Morgaine.
“Hey,” said Danielle, waving a hand in front of their faces. “I know you’re brain-messaging each other. What are you talking about?”
“What to wear for the party,” answered Sosona, quickly.
“If you’d been listening, you’d know I already picked out what you’ll be wearing for the party.”
“Wonderful,” said Morgaine.
A human and a forest elf stood outside of the apartment building where the Ocean Team was hiding. Thomas, the human, knocked.
Inside, Garnet flinched. “Halberad, you get that.”
“We don’t know who it is and you blend, remember?”
“Aw man.” Halberad, despite his reluctance, opened the door.
“Hi,” said the elf.
“Who are you?” asked Halberad.
“I’m Ethelmore,” he answered, “and this is Thomas.” He lowered his voice. “Vivienne sent us.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Halberad.
“We were sent by Vivienne to assist in the rescue.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Is Garnet here?” asked Ethelmore.
Garnet, they’re talking about you, messaged Halberad.
They are? What do they want?
I don’t know. They said they were sent by Vivienne.
“You’re clearly brain-messaging someone,” said Ethelmore.
Garnet stepped forward. “Oh,” he said, “Ethelmore, Thomas, good to see you. Stand down, Halberad.” He nodded to the newcomers. “Thank you both for coming.”
“You’re welcome,” said Thomas. “We thought you could use some help.”
“Any help we can get is appreciated,” said Garnet. “How is Hobtrot? I haven’t seen her since the Battle of Elenron.”
“She’s all right,” answered Ethelmore. “We’ve seen better days.”
The elves had all seen better days. The Battle of the Elven Isles happened a few days after Nordath overthrew the Silver Skull Society. There was a rumor that Nordath heard a prophecy from the god of Order, and that was what led him to attack the elves so ferociously. Whatever it was, most of the elves died in the attack. The only safe place was the Menzorberon, home of the dark elves, and now it might be the last home they had.
 The energy used to create casts is called keeltose.
 A term used to refer to Wisdom and Madness specialists.
 Early in the war, after the Battle of the Elven Isles, the forest elves, royal elves, swamp elves, and dark elves fled to the main land. Nordath and his army pursued them. Garnet rallied a group of alliance soldiers and went to help defend them at The Battle of Elenron. Nordath walked away victorious.
 The ancient society was formed to protect the god powers. The Silver Skull Society helped train gods and even went so far as to determine who received a god power. Garnet is the last surviving member of the society.
 The gods of Order and Chaos will sometimes create prophecies. No one knows the validity of these prophesies, but some believe them blindly.