The award-winning, critically acclaimed epic fantasy series from author Joni Parker.
2019 Book Excellence Award (Noble Magic)
2018 Book Excellence Award finalist (Gossamer)
2017 John E. Weaver Excellent Reads Award winner for YA: Fantasy (Spell Breaker)
2017 Book Excellence Award finalist (The Blue Witch)
2017 International Book Award finalist (The Blue Witch)
2016 Book Excellence Award finalist (Spell Breaker)
2020 Book Excellence Award Finalist (Curse of the Sea)
My name is Joni Parker and I was born in Chicago, Illinois. When I was 8, my family moved to Japan so my Dad could join the PGA (Professional Golf Association). He attained his dream and we stayed there for over four years before we returned to the States to live in Phoenix, Arizona. My dad worked as a pro at a small golf course, but my parents divorced shortly thereafter. I attended Camelback High School and went on to college. Rather than complete a degree program at Arizona State University, I opted for a tour in the Navy. Upon completion of a three year stint, I got married and returned to college, attaining a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and an MBA in finance. After a short period of employment as an accountant at Gulf Power Company, I went back in the Navy this time as an Officer. I stuck it out for nineteen more years and retired as a Commander. My husband and I spent a few years living in our motorhome, criss-crossing the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, my husband passed away, so I went back to work, this time for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. After seven years, I retired for a second time to devote my time to writing. I now live in Tucson, Arizona with my sister.
In addition to writing, I enjoy swimming, listening to audiobooks on long drives across country, my daily walks, and taking classes on writing.
Trapped on an island, shipwrecked time travelers struggle first to survive and then–to escape. Elves, Dwarves and mortals mingle in a world filled with pirates, political intrigue and magic. Their fates rest in the hands of one young woman, the orphan Lady Alexin. Part Elf and a descendant of a Titan ancestor, she trained as a warrior, to avenge her parents' deaths, unaware that only she has the power to save them all.
The noonday sun made the walls of the city of Riesa sparkle as if diamonds were embedded in the solid granite walls. They protected the inhabitants from tidal waves and seaborne attacks along the southeastern coast of Seaward Isle. Riesa looked like a nice place to live, filled with streets and houses and large city buildings. I didn’t know how many people lived here, but it was my new home.
I was born on this island thirteen years ago, but this was my first trip to Riesa, the city of the Scinthians. Four years ago, a Scinthian Scout adopted me, and during that time, we’d traveled across the island several times on foot. It was a relief to be here, but was it really going to be my home? Not based on my last four years when we wandered from here to there and back again. Not even based on my time before I met the Scout when my parents were murdered, and our home was destroyed. After that, I lived at the all-boy’s Sword Academy in Nyla, the only girl among them. I had yet to find any place I called home.
My Scinthian mother, Scout Nora, was a tall, blond woman with a muscular build. She carried a sword and could hunt with a bow. She intrigued me the first time I saw her, but the circumstances of my adoption were questionable. The headmistress of the Sword Academy and I didn’t get along very well because I was part Elf. She thought I was a freak with these tufts of blue hair in my ears, marking me as a Water Elf. She treated me horribly, so when the Scout offered to adopt me, she gave me up for one gold coin.
The Scout led me into the wild where I met our traveling companion, the Dwarf Sarina. We were the same height, even though I was only nine. Sarina wouldn’t tell me how old she was, but she was much older than me. Over the years, I’d grown considerably, and she now had trouble reaching my shoulder. I enjoyed her company once I got used to her sense of humor.
On the first day we met, she called me the Black Elf because I had black hair, even though I didn’t have pointed ears. What marked me as an Elf were the tufts of blue hair in my ears. I hated the nickname. Later, I found out it had another meaning—there was an arrest warrant for an Elf who dealt in dark magic. His name was Mellen, and he was the Black Elf.
The three of us stood on the ridge overlooking the city. We’d just finished our trek across the island to get here in time for my Presentation Ceremony. I wasn’t sure what that was, but all Scinthian children had to do it when we turned thirteen. Lucky me.
As Scout Nora stood next to me, she recounted the Scinthian arrival on this shore for the umpteenth time. Fortunately, she didn’t notice when I rolled my eyes as I listened to the story again.
“Over a thousand years ago, our ships were tossed and turned by those storms, and we barely made it to shore,” Scout Nora said. “The Dwarves came to help us and carried the injured to shore from our ships. We settled here, and they helped us build this city.”
“Aye,” Sarina said. “I remember it well.”
“You do?” I stared at her. This was the first time Sarina had ever said that. “Scout Nora said it was almost a thousand years ago.” Maybe I could catch the Dwarf in a lie. I’d tried many times before, but had never succeeded.
Sarina chuckled. “I’m well over twelve hundred years old, lass.”
“You are?” My eyebrows rose in shock. She was definitely older than I was. Maybe she was joking, but she wasn’t smiling. Instead, she had this dreamy look on her face, like she remembered that day.
I had trouble imagining anyone over thirty who could still be alive. Twelve hundred years old was ancient. How could she be so energetic? “Scout Nora, how old are you?”
“Old enough.” She grimaced. “I told you before, it’s not polite to ask a woman’s age, Alex. Let’s go.” She turned to the right and led us down the ridge over a worn path.
Since their arrival on the island, the Scinthians had sent scouts out to search the island for Mother Gaia’s grandson, the Titan. I didn’t know who Mother Gaia was, but I vaguely remembered a class in the Sword Academy about myths and legends. She was some goddess in ancient times who ruled the Earth with her husband. The problem seemed to come about when they had children, and their children had children. It ended up in the War of the Titans, and somehow, Seaward Isle had a minor role in it. The problem for the Scinthians was no one knew the grandson’s name or what he looked like. They’d been searching the island for centuries, to no avail. Essentially, they were looking for a ghost.
Undoubtedly, the Titan arrived on this island the same way as everyone else did. His ship must have crashed into the barrier rocks, and anyone who survived waded to shore. No one understood why all the ships ended up here, nor why most of them came from Earth. That’s just what happened. One day, someone a lot smarter than me will figure it out.
As I stepped down the ridge, I took in a breath of fresh air and gazed up at the clear blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud above me. Birds chirped in the trees as if they didn’t have a care in the world. But it was a different story out at sea where a line of black storm clouds crossed the horizon. No one could get through the line of unrelenting storms surrounding the island, so no one could go for help. We were all trapped here.
As I watched lightning flash in the dark clouds, a ship with a triangular sail popped out of the rain clouds. The purple sail was on a large three-masted ship called a corsair, a pirate ship. Five two-masted ships called frigates followed behind it, and smaller coaster ships with a single mast came up behind them. A chill ran down my spine, and a feeling of dread gripped me as the fleet of pirate ships headed in our direction.
Pirates were the scourge of the island. If it weren’t for them, Seaward Isle would be a peaceful, lovely place to live. But the pirates brought with them all the crimes of humanity, and no one could stop them. Not even the Kings of the island or the Elves.
“Scout Nora, pirate ships!” I gasped and ran up behind her as I pointed out to sea.
“What?” She was near-sighted and stared blankly. “Where?”
“Out by the storms.”
“Only a Black Elf can see that far.” Sarina squinted as she looked out to sea.
“Sarina, I asked you not to call me that,” I said.
“Why not? It’s true. You have black hair, and you’re an Elf. That’s good enough for me.” She grinned. She still thought it was funny and knew it would get me riled up. It did.
“Are you sure the sails are triangular?” Scout Nora asked.
“I’m positive,” I said. “And they’re purple.”
She sighed. “How long before they get here?”
“Two hours. Three at the most.” I was guessing. It all depended on the wind and currents. The pirate ships were fast and cut through the sea like butter. But if the prevailing wind pushed against them, it would take longer. I looked at the trees and saw the wind was coming in from the sea, not in our favor.
“Mother of Earth!” Scout Nora ran down the ridge to the city gates to inform the guards.
Sarina held me back. “How many ships?”
I looked back out at the horizon. “One corsair, five frigates, and ten… no, twelve coasters.”
“How many men can they carry?”
“Corsairs can carry up to thirty, not including the crew. The frigates twenty each and the coasters about ten. So that’s about two hundred and fifty.” I added them up in my head. I think that was about right. The numbers for each ship had come from my days sitting in a classroom at the Sword Academy.
“Blastfire!” Sarina shook her fist as her eyes narrowed.
“How many Scinthians are in the army?” I asked.
“Officially, a thousand, but most of them are Scouts. They may not even be here.” She grimaced. “Tell the Scout I’ll notify the Dwarves.” She took off running to the ridge north of the city and disappeared into a cave. The Dwarves had entrances to their mine inside these caves on the north and south sides of the city. Sarina had planned to come with us and use the southern entrance, but the sighting of pirates had changed her mind.
When I caught up to Scout Nora, she pulled me inside the gate. I told her about Sarina, and she nodded. She’d already told the guards, and they had sent one guard to the top of the wall to confirm my sighting. They sent another to the command post to raise the alarm. As we headed away from the gate, the guards closed it, using large wooden beams to brace it shut.
In Book Two of the Seaward Isle Saga, young Alex takes on her new role as a Tracker, an elite soldier of the King's Army. After Alex goes undercover in the market in Agana to gather intelligence, she encounters the pirate spy known only as the Horseman at the tent of the renowned fortunetellers, the Witches of Winden. When she returns to her command and reports the incident to her superiors, she's assigned her first Tracker mission–find and kill the Horseman or die trying. Without any clues as to his real identity, she pieces together his trail, which leads her deep into the pirate stronghold. There, she must go it alone, confronting danger and intrigue around every corner.
“Hey, sweetheart, how’d you like to make some money?” A man with a toothy grin and stringy hair leaned into my face. His breath smelled like stale beer, so I turned my head away. “It’s easy work,” he said. “Men will pay good money for you.”
“No, I have enough money.” I raised my hand to stop his advances and looked away, only to stare at the back of the head of the man in front of me.
“Come on, love.” The man stroked my hair. “I’ll treat you real nice, not like those other blokes. I’ll get you a new dress instead of these rags.” He grabbed my chin and turned my face toward him. “You’ll clean up nicely. Black hair, blue eyes. Looks good. You’re a little tall, but you’ll be lying down most of the time.” He laughed.
“Get away from me!” I swatted his hand away and rubbed my chin, trying to erase his touch. Although it was true I was wearing rags, it was part of my disguise. I’d bought the clothes from a rag merchant because no one needed to know I was a soldier from the Nyla Army Garrison. My commander sent me here to find out the status of Pashamon, the evil brother of King Agamon. He ruled the land of Pashkina, south of the Jade Desert. He openly welcomed pirates and threatened our safety up north in Nyla.
The man grabbed my arm once more, and this time, he pulled me out of line. “Come on. Let’s go, girl.”
“Let me go!” My voice was louder and angrier this time. I twisted out of his grasp and pulled my arm away. I didn’t want to cause a commotion or attract attention, but this man was darn right persistent.
“You heard her, man. Leave her be.” The man in front of me turned around and pushed him away as he raised his fist.
The first man raised his hands and staggered away. “All right, you can have her. If you change your mind, girl…”
“Get lost!” He waved a fist. “Beat it!” Then he turned to me. “Don’t pay him no mind, girl. He’s a drunk. He’ll make you turn tricks and leave you with nothing.”
“Thanks for your help.” I got back in line. My cheeks were already warm from the sun, but now they felt like hot coals.
“What brings you here, anyway? I ain’t never seen an Elf get their fortune read,” the man asked me. Now that I could see his face, he was pleasant-looking, not handsome, but not ugly either. The sun had tanned his face brown, with wrinkles around his eyes. He must have spent hours out in the sun like a fisherman. He called me an Elf out of ignorance. I was only part Elf. The other half of me was mortal.
“I want to see how they do it. I heard they were good.” And I needed a place where I could hear people talking without looking conspicuous. Dozens of people had gathered here, waiting for the witches to read their fortunes. The tent was in the middle of the market on the docks of Agana.
“I don’t know how they do it either, but they did a reading for me a few months back, and it all came true. I had the largest catch of fish ever recorded here in Agana. So, I wanted to get another one,” the fisherman said.
“They’re the famous Witches of Winden.” The middle-aged woman behind me joined our conversation. “I heard they just came back from Pashkina. Did you hear what happened?”
“No, what happened?” I kept a blank face as I turned to her, hoping she had the information I was looking for.
“Monsters invaded it.” The frightened woman covered her mouth.
“Not monsters—trolls and goblins,” the fisherman said. “Get your facts straight, woman.”
“It’s the same thing. They burned the place down.” The woman waved her fingers in the air as if they resembled flames.
“Them creatures don’t use fire,” the man said. “The soldiers used fire to drive them away, but it didn’t stop them.” He grimaced. “This is how rumors get started.” He groaned.
“Pashamon brought one of them to the palace here.” The woman pointed at the large, white building not far away. “It’s in the dungeon.”
“There?” I pointed to the White Palace where the King of Agana lived. Why would anyone bring a creature here? That didn’t make any sense to me. But then again, nothing this woman was saying made much sense.
“No, Pashamon couldn’t do that because he’s dead,” the fisherman said. “And there’s nothing in this dungeon because there ain’t no dungeon. I know because I helped build the place. Don’t you know nothing, woman? The King’s soldiers brought Pashamon’s body here yesterday. It was in two pieces, I heard. They’re going to have a funeral for him next week.”
The woman placed her hands on her hips. “Aw, they’ll just build Pashkina back and them pirates’ll be crawling all over the place again.”
“Not this time. The King’s declared it a dangerous creature zone. If the pirates want it, they’ll have to build it, and that won’t happen. They’re lazy bums.”
I was listening to this conversation closely. If Pashamon was really dead, the city of Pashkina could no longer be a pirate haven, and it wouldn’t be a threat to Nyla. My boss and foster father, Colonel Penser, could safely close the Outpost, the remote border station monitoring pirate activity to the south. I was the training officer there, and I’d like nothing more than to close it down. So would its commander, my Scinthian friend, Mala. This was good news, but I needed some corroboration.
Just then, some movement in the tent drew my attention. An old woman in a patchworked robe came out and leaned on her cane. She gazed at us in the line with one good eye; her bad eye was covered with a white film.
“Have your fortune read here. Meet Eclipse, Daughter of the Moon, who can peer into your future. Only one brassie will uncover your true potential.” The old witch tapped her cane on the wooden deck to draw more attention. She wore a hood over a mop of graying brown hair, surrounding a pale and wrinkled face.
The fisherman stepped forward and handed the witch a brassie. She took him into the tent and sat him at a table where a younger woman shuffled cards. The cards she used were regular playing cards, nothing special.
“That’s Aqua, Lady of the Rain, out there in front, and there’s Eclipse inside.” The woman behind me pointed to the young witch in the tent. “Eclipse is the Daughter of the Moon and the best fortuneteller in the world.”
The older witch, Aqua, returned to the front of the tent, so I handed her a brassie and asked, “How can you see into the future?”
“You’ll see. Eclipse can read your future with the cards.” Her high-pitched voice seemed to sing her answer a bit off-key. The old woman made me wait until the fisherman left the tent. He grinned and gave me a thumbs-up as he came out. Then Aqua sat me down at the table. Eclipse smiled with her large brown eyes. Her brown hair was curly and short. Her robe was also made of patches like the other witch.
I smiled back. “How can you tell the future?” I folded my hands on the table.
“I use these cards.”
“They look like regular playing cards. Aren’t you supposed to use some fancy cards for this?”
“You mean Tarot cards? I lost them when I went through the storm on the way to this island, but these work just as well.” Eclipse shuffled the deck and spread them in a line across the table. “Let’s begin. Pick a card.”
I drew the Ace of Clubs.
Eclipse raised her eyebrows, but otherwise, showed no reaction. “Put it down on the table.” She dealt four cards around it, face down. “The first card you drew tells me who you are. You’ve drawn a club that may be used for hunting, so you’re a hunter and a searcher. Since the card is an ace, you travel alone. You’re quite unique. Do you see?”
I looked down at my clothes. “You can tell that much from my clothes, can’t you?”
Eclipse continued on. “This card positioned above the Ace represents your career.” She turned it over. “It’s the five of Diamonds. That means you won’t have a traditional occupation since it’s an odd number, but you’ll become wealthy from your work.” She paused, looking at me with a bit of skepticism. “Are you an Elf? I’ve never had one come to me before.”
“I think I know why.” I propped my chin on my hand. So far, she didn’t impress me. What she’d said could apply to almost everyone on the island except the part about wealth. Very few people were wealthy here.
Eclipse turned over the next card. “This card is nearest to your heart and represents your love life and possibly, marriage.” It was the Jack of Spades. She frowned and shook her head. “You’ll experience great difficulty with love.”
“How do you know that?” I frowned. From all I knew about love at the ripe old age of fifteen, everyone had experienced difficulty with love. Who hasn’t?
“This card represents heartbreak.” She tapped her finger on it. “The spade is an upside-down black heart, and the Jack represents men. You must be cautious with your choice of men, but it also tells me you’ve already experienced problems in the past.” She gave me a wry grin.
“Does this include all men, even my brother?”
Well, she hit the mark there. My half-brother Beren never liked me, although he seemed to be getting over it.
“This next card tells me about your health.” Eclipse turned over a ten of Hearts. “This card means you’ll be healthy, and you’ll have more lives than a cat.”
“Cats have nine lives.” I shook my head. “How can I have more than that?”
Eclipse pressed on, not showing any concern. “This card is your future. The Jack of Diamonds.” She paused as she glanced back and forth between the jacks.
“So, what does it mean?” I waited for her to go on impatiently.
“It means you’ll find the man you’re searching for, which is the Jack, then become wealthy in the process—that’s the diamond, but there’ll be a lot of turmoil doing so.”
“Turmoil? What kind of turmoil?”
“Any kind. Two Jacks in the same circle mean turmoil, maybe fighting. It’s not a good sign and may involve two men pulling you in opposite directions.” Eclipse put her fingers on the two opposing Jacks. “It may even be a love triangle. I can’t tell for sure. Just be cautious.”
I furrowed my brow. A tangled omen. This reading was a waste of a good brassie.
BLOOD MISSION puts the fate of kings and the safety of the inhabitants of Seaward Isle in the hands of a teenaged half-elf warrior, Lady Alexin. When the lives of Prince Darin and Lord Odin are threatened by the rogue Elf Mellen in a plot to kill them both and take over Seaward Isle, Alex trained as a tracker, is charged with her most dangerous mission yet–a Blood Mission. She will have to use her skills to hunt Mellen down and kill him, or die in the attempt. With dark magic, the power of the Shadows and a wizard on his side, will Alex survive her mission long enough to discover her own true destiny? The plot grows more complex when Mellen attempts a coup, and Alex discovers that he is kidnapping shipwreck survivors to enlist them as pirates, even as she is courted by a handsome Colonel, greedy for her inheritance. Will Alex be able to harness her own powers and free the inhabitants of Seaward Isle?
I’ve had nightmares all my life. Some were based on reality, but others were pure fiction, like the one where a dragon was chasing me. But I’d never had anything like this before. For the last week, I’d woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
Every. Damned. Night.
The pirate spy, known as the Horseman, was lying in his bed with a dagger sticking out of his stomach. When I pulled the covers back, his cold, dead body was soaked in blood. At this point, the smell usually woke me up, but this time, he sat up and pointed his finger at me.
“It wasn’t me!” I flung my hands in the air. It really wasn’t me—I didn’t kill the man, but I did see his dead body just as I described. This time, he turned his hand so his palm was facing up and fingers outstretched as if he was asking me for my help.
I was jolted awake when someone touched my shoulder. It was Colonel Penser, my foster father, checking up on me.
“It’s all right, Alex. You were having a bad dream.” He rubbed my shoulder—his voice soothed me. “You’re all right.”
I inhaled deeply as I sat up. “Thanks.” I rubbed my forehead, wiping sweat off my brow.
“I’ve heard it helps to talk about your nightmares,” he said. “What’s yours about?”
At first, I hesitated, but maybe he was right. He was right about a lot of things. “I was dreaming about finding the Horseman’s body in his bed, but this time, he sat up and pointed his finger at me.”
“Is that why you said you didn’t do it?”
“Yes. And then he turned his hand like this.” I demonstrated by turning my right hand so my palm faced up. “Like he was asking me for help.” I winced. “I’m not sure what that means.”
“You’ll figure it out after you think on it for a bit.”
“Yeah, maybe. Sorry, I woke you up, Colonel.”
“How about some breakfast? You haven’t been eating well since you’ve been back.”
“Yeah, I’m starving.” I hadn’t been sleeping well either.
After breakfast, I joined the Colonel at the Nyla Army Garrison, where I could meet up with my tracker trainer, Major Jonnbo. As we were training, a soldier came to find me to tell me the Governor wanted to see me. When I went to the Governor’s house, he enveloped me in a warm embrace. Since I was still considered a minor at age 15, I was his ward, and Colonel Penser and his wife were my foster parents. I loved them all.
He handed me a scroll. “This came for you late yesterday.” It was a royal invitation from the King of Northeast Forest to attend the funeral of Ambassador Hodges at the end of the month. Notably, the King had used my formal name and title, Lady Alexin of the Court of Northeast Forest, to let me know this wasn’t an invitation I could decline.
“This is really awkward,” I said to the Governor.
“I know. I feel the same way.” Governor Tyrone exhaled as he sat down. He had gotten a similar invitation a few weeks ago. “I was the one who assigned you the mission to kill the Horseman.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t know it was Ambassador Hodges when you assigned it to me.”
“And you didn’t either. I never should have done it.”
“But it was the right thing to do at the time. Besides, I didn’t kill him. He was already dead when I got there.”
“You’ll need a black dress for the funeral. I’m having a new robe made. Do you need some money?”
“No, I’ve got enough.” I had plenty of money left from my journey to Riverton. “I guess I’d better ask Mistress Penser for help make a new dress.”
Besides the Governor and myself, we had an entourage of ten soldiers, not to mention four packhorses. Our journey from Nyla took us five days, and the weather had turned cold. The first snowfall of the season had arrived in the form of large flakes.
When we rode into the walled city of Verity, mourning banners lined the cobblestone streets and flapped in the breeze. The homes had candles lit in the windows and had black wreaths on the doors. We stopped at the stables and dismounted. Our soldiers took our valises to the palace gate, where they were taken inside. As we were shown in, more people began arriving for the funeral. They were dressed in their finest mourning clothes, all in black. The mood was somber.
The Governor and I were shown to our chambers, where we changed clothes. I carefully shook out my black velvet dress, hoping the stitches wouldn’t tear apart. It had been a real rush job, but I only had to wear it for one day. The velvet was heavy and warm. I was sweating as soon as I put it on.
I tapped on the Governor’s door, and he took my arm as we headed into the reception room to greet the King and his family and express our remorse. Talk about awkward. We had discussed what to do on the way here, but actually seeing the family was another matter. After we greeted them, we moved as far away as we could without actually leaving the premises.
We endured the ceremony and the reception following. But the Governor wouldn’t let me leave until the next morning. If he had to be here until then, then so did I. He also offered to take my dress back to Nyla when he left, so I agreed.
The next morning, the Governor left with his entourage of soldiers, while I rode to the Scinthian encampment south of the city to resume my duties as their training officer.
Over the past few years, the Scinthian women had been training with the mortal army of Northeast Forest because a pirate attack had decimated their army. The women were descendants from a race of female warriors called the Amazons, and were from a land called Scythia in the mortal world. Their adopted land on Seaward Isle was known as Scinthia, in honor of their homeland. Years ago, a Scinthian Scout had adopted me before the pirates killed her and left me an orphan for the second time. My birth parents were murdered when I was four. The Scinthians returned me to the village of Nyla where I was adopted once more, this time by Lord Governor Tyrone as my benefactor, with Colonel Penser and his wife as my foster parents.
But here, the Forest Army had no room for the Scinthians in the barracks, so they lived in the caverns embedded in the hills south of the city. None of them seemed to mind, and they welcomed me back warmly. In no time, I caught up on the latest gossip and spent the evening with them, singing and dancing around a campfire. When I went to bed, I fell asleep quickly, feeling safe among my friends.
During the night, I woke up when I heard voices. I sat up, wondering if it was part of a nightmare, but I hadn’t been dreaming. Maybe, the girls were having an all-nighter. But the voices sounded male. Then I realized I was listening to Elfspeak, the Elf version of telepathy.
A few years ago, I’d discovered I could hear other Elves when they used Elfspeak. It’d started after I had spoken to a dragon, making me wonder what else he could have done to me. I listened to the voices until I heard a familiar one. The Elf Mellen. Not only could I hear him, but I could also see his face as he spoke.
“What’s the problem?” Mellen asked. “Why the delay? Must I remind you we have a Blood Mission to complete? The Prince still lives.”
“Lord Odin is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. We’ll kill them both and the guards, then we’ll get you out,” someone said in reply.
My eyes popped open when the conversation ended, and the faces disappeared. I didn’t know who the accomplice was, and I didn’t hear a name, but he had blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. Unfortunately, that description fit most of the Elves on Seaward Isle. From what I could deduce from the conversation, this Elf was someone familiar with the goings-on at Prince Darin’s fortress. An insider. And what in the hell was a Blood Mission?
Prince Darin was my cousin and the leader of the Water Elves on the island, and he reported to Lord Odin. They were the most powerful Elves on the island. So I could understand why they were targets. But who was Mellen’s accomplice? I didn’t recognize him.
I didn’t have time to waste and closed my eyes to Elfspeak to my cousin. Although I’d listened to Elfspeak many times, this was the only second time I’d used it to communicate. I closed my eyes and visualized Prince Darin’s face. That was the easy part. He was the most handsome Elf I’d ever met. Too bad he was my cousin.
I focused on his face and said, “Prince Darin, this is Alex, your cousin. May I speak?” It was proper to ask for permission to speak first, so I was following protocol.
But he didn’t reply, so I tried again. Once again, nothing. Why wasn’t he answering me? Was I too late? Should I contact someone else?
I tried to contact Lord Odin, but it had been so long since I’d seen him, I couldn’t recall what he looked like, other than his blond hair, blue eyes, and pointed ears.
Dammit! I had to do something. I couldn’t get back to sleep, anyway, so I got up. If I left now, I should be at my cousin’s fortress in Southport by noon tomorrow. I could only hope that Lord Odin wouldn’t get there too early in the morning.
I changed my clothes and scribbled a note for Major Nita, the leader of the Scinthian women, and left it on her desk. I ran through the cavern, stopping once in the kitchen area to pick up something to eat—a leftover apple turnover. Then I rode out.
As I crossed over the bridge into Riverton, the gray skies changed from a light snowfall to a torrent of rain and snow mix. My horse, Tattoo, didn’t appreciate being pushed so hard in these conditions. He was cold and drenched and muddy, but so was I. Whenever we get there, I’ll give him some apples to make up. I urged him on, but since it was still dark out, I knew I had time. The plot was to take place tomorrow, but according to the clock tower in Riverton, it was already tomorrow.
I rode through the city of Riverton and turned left for Southport. The eastern sky was turning light underneath the rain clouds, but the rain continued to pour down.
My cousin Prince Darin had just completed building his fortress along the coast, and it dominated the area. It must have been fifty feet high, made of solid blocks of gray granite. Round balls of stone stood along the top of the wall as if they could roll off and crush anybody below. Maybe that was part of the defense system. Even the windows were rounded. For now, the fortress stood alone, but in a few years, buildings and houses would fill the area as people sought safety near the Elf prince.
As I rode up to the fortress gate, the Elf guard held up his hand. “Halt! What’s your business here?”
“My name is Lady Alexin, and I’m Prince Darin’s cousin. I need to see him immediately.” I hoped he believed me. I was hardly dressed like a Lady, even though that’s how I identified myself. Under my dripping wet cloak, I wore my brown uniform of a Northeast Forest soldier.
Wait here.” He pointed at me, then called another guard forward. He closed his eyes for a moment to Elfspeak. When he opened them, he nodded at me as if he’d received confirmation of my identity. “His Highness said for you to go in. Dismount and leave your horse here. We’ll take care of him.” He sent the second guard to take my horse.
I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing the guard must have talked to my cousin. He was still alive. I slid off the saddle and landed in a puddle of water. My back and legs were stiff from riding for so long, so it took me a moment to straighten up.
“Has Lord Odin arrived yet?” I asked as I adjusted my rucksack on my back.
“His lordship arrived this morning and went to the King’s palace,” the guard said and pointed to his left. “Go to that door.”
The front door of the fortress was another hundred feet away. I sprinted through another cloudburst and knocked on the door. A woman servant opened the door and handed me a dry towel as I dripped water onto the floor.
“Welcome, Lady Alexin.” The woman saluted me in an Elf manner with her right hand over her chest and curtsied. Like so much with the Elves, it was proper protocol.
“Thank you. Your name, please?” I asked her.
“Eskin. May I take your weapons?”
“How’s Prince Darin?” I handed her my sword and Elfin Blade.
“Fine, my lady. He’ll be here shortly.” Eskin left, taking my weapons to the armory. Since she acted as if nothing was wrong, I felt relieved. The Prince was fine, so I must have gotten here in time to foil the plot, whatever it entailed. All I really knew was Prince Darin and Lord Odin were supposed to die today. I didn’t know how, but I assumed they would be together.
I dried off with a towel and took off my rucksack, quickly turning it inside out to find some dry clothes. I listened for footsteps and heard nothing. So, I quickly stripped off my wet clothes and put on some dry ones—a matching set to the clothes I was wearing—a pair of brown britches with a white shirt and brown jacket, the uniform worn by soldiers from the Kingdom of Northeast Forest, stationed in Nyla. Since I didn’t bring another pair of boots, I put on a pair of dry socks and set my wet boots by the fire with my clothes.
As I combed my hair out, Prince Darin stepped in. I smiled with relief. He really was alive. I greeted him with an Elf salute and curtsied deeply, a proper greeting when meeting royalty. I felt as though my mission to stop the bloodshed had already been a success.
“Thank goodness, you’re all right.” I was so relieved to see him, so I stood up.
“Of course I am. What are you doing here?” He folded his arms across his chest.
“I came to tell you…” I paused because he had an angry expression on his face, even before I said anything. How did he know what I was going to say? Or did he hate me? Did I do something wrong and not know it?
“Go on.” He tapped his foot impatiently.
Maybe I was overthinking this, so I told him. “I overheard some Elfspeak, last night.” I held up my hands. “I know you don’t like it, but please listen. The Elf Mellen was talking to someone on your staff about freeing the prisoners from the dungeon. They were going to kill you and Lord Odin first and then the guards. After that, they would release the prisoners.”
“The Elf Mellen is locked inside my prison. I would know if he was planning something.”
“Being in prison won’t stop him from trying something.” I didn’t know how else to convince him.
He held his arms out to the side. “Well, I’m still alive, so that was obviously a lie.”
“Or it hasn’t happened yet. It was supposed to happen when Lord Odin got here, and I understand he arrived this morning, but he’s at the palace.”
He gritted his teeth. “I thought I told you not to listen to our Elfspeak. It’s is an invasion of our privacy. I don’t like it.” He clenched his fist.
“I know, and you did tell me. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I was sleeping and woke up when I heard them. I thought it was important. When I tried to contact you in Elfspeak, you didn’t answer, so I got worried.”
“I’ve been busy.” He stared away from me, reluctant to believe me, but his anger seemed to ease. Then he exhaled slowly. “Very well. I’ll double the guards.” He placed two fingers on his forehead as he used Elfspeak. When he finished, he glared at me. “Did you hear what I just said?”
“No, Prince Darin. I wasn’t listening,” I lied. I did listen, but I didn’t want to piss him off again.
“I notified General Tarsin,” he said. “He’s on the way. Anything else?”
I thought for a moment. “Could you arrange a meeting for me with my Elf grandmother? I don’t remember ever meeting her.” I’d been postponing this meeting for as long as I could. After my parents died, I always thought my grandmother could have come for me, but she never did. I figured she just didn’t care.
“Lady Lestin? Of course, I’ll do that in the morning.” He had me sit on the sofa as he sat in a chair opposite me. He looked away, lost in his thoughts.
I couldn’t read minds, only Elfspeak, so I sat quietly. I bit my lip and slid my hands under my knees, wondering what I could say to him without pissing him off. The weather? I looked out the window as rain pelted against the glass. Anything I said would sound obvious—I didn’t want to sound stupid, either.
When a modern day reporter is stranded on the mysterious Seaward Isle, she begins an investigation into its location, its history and mythic origins even as she and her husband struggle to make their way in this strange, uncharted world. A prequel to the Seaward Isle Saga.
Have you ever played the Island Game? You know the one: if you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you bring? Some of my friends came up with deep philosophical answers, like the Bible, but others were more whimsical, like mine. I wanted to take my blow dryer. They laughed at me. Imagine that.
“There’s no electricity, Olivia,” they said.
“I don’t care. Look at my hair,” I replied.
It didn’t matter. It was just for a laugh. None of us would ever be stranded. At least, that’s what I used to think.
I was born and raised in San Diego, California, a typical Millennial, and graduated from UCLA with a degree in journalism. I moved to the Big Apple for my job and decided early on to freelance, doing my own investigations and submitting them to news outlets. Soon after, I met John Richards, my architect husband, and we got married six months later. He was just starting out after graduating from Columbia University and had landed a junior architect position at a large firm in the city. Our jobs paid well, and we thought we were set until we ended up here on Seaward Isle.
John and I had rented a forty-foot yacht in the Mediterranean, one of those yacht-ations. It was a great deal, and we were having a blast. John was an experienced seaman, and I was his apprentice, but we were doing fine. Until one day, this storm appeared out of nowhere. We rode it out below deck, clinging to each other, but when the yacht crashed and took on water, we scrambled for safety, ending up on the shores of Seaward Isle. The place wasn’t on our charts, nor was it on any John had ever seen. Truth was, we didn’t know where we were.
We waded ashore and met a woman who lived in a hut near the beach. Becky was a middle-aged woman with curly red hair and bright green eyes. She wore a dumpy flowered dress with an apron on top. She had us sit down on the sand and handed us some towels to dry off.
“Thanks.” I lay down on the warm sand, catching my breath. The warmth comforted me after the shock of cold water from the ocean that had left me shivering.
Three men came over and handed us some cups of water. We gulped it down, as if we were dying of thirst. After they wrapped us in blankets, I huddled next to John.
“Welcome to Seaward Isle,” Becky said.
“Where?” John looked at her. “There weren’t any islands near us on the map.”
“That’s because it’s not on any map. You’re not where you think you are.”
“We’re not in the Med?” John asked, now uncertain.
“I wish we were. This island is in a place called Eledon, and there are Elves here. But even they haven’t been able to get off this island. More water?” Becky poured more water into our cups. She acted as if this island was nothing to be concerned about.
The cup I was holding was a ceramic mug with a rainbow on it. “Is this cup from Hawaii?”
“I guess. I found it among the debris from another shipwreck.” Becky checked me over for injuries. “You’ve got a cut here and some bruises, but I think you’ll be okay.” She checked John and nodded. “Why don’t you come up to the house and relax?”
“Can I get back to the ship and pick up a few things?” John pointed to the ship as it hung precariously on a rock. The forty-foot sailboat had an enormous hole in the fiberglass hull; it was propped up against some rocks and partly underwater. The mast was broken, and what was left of the sail flapped in the breeze.
“We can take you out in our rowboat,” one man said.
“Thanks. Name’s John.” He shook his hand.
“Sure, it is,” the first man said with a chuckle. “I’m Wallace, and this is Gorman and Turnin.”
“Where are you guys from? You look like cowboys with ten-gallon hats and all.”
“We’re prospectors. Part of the Yukon Gold Rush of 1892.”
“Hi, I’m Olivia.” I shook hands with the three men. “What do you mean Yukon Gold Rush?”
“We were on our way there on a ferryboat, but this storm came up out of the blue, and we ended up here.”
“Really?” Should I believe them? They did look like cowboys, but not the kind in movies. They looked like real ones.
John and the three men pushed the rowboat into the water and went out to the remains of our yacht, while Becky and I went into the hut she called home. The walls were made of stone, with a wood floor and a thatched roof. Inside, the two-room hut couldn’t have been over four hundred square feet. The larger room was the kitchen with a wood stove, a table with six mismatched chairs, and a mattress on the floor. The second room had a bed with a dresser. On the floor were stacks of old clothes, blankets, and an assortment of items recovered on the beach, including shells, but also some old laptops, cell phones, and other electronic gear.
“Does any of this stuff work?” I picked up a phone.
“No,” Becky said. “It’s useless, but we keep hoping for someone to show up who knows how to fix them.” She pulled me over to the table. “I have everyone who comes here sign my guest book.”
The old blue logbook had faded to white and had worn corners and some water-damage. Inside was a list of names dating back ten years.
“You’ve been here this long?” I asked.
“Actually, before that. I started it a year after I got here. It took me that long to figure this place out.”
I picked up a ball-point pen and clicked it.
“Found that pen last week on the beach. It still works,” Becky said.
“Let’s see, it was July 4th, 2011.” I closed my eyes to check the calendar in my brain.
“It’s July fourth, all right, but the correct year is 995. That’s the date we use on this island. It’s counting from the date the Elves were stranded here.”
I held up my hand. “You’re serious about these Elves. I thought you were kidding. There’s no such thing as Elves.”
“Well, tell that to them. Hey, they’re good-looking fellas. Not too many Elf women around, but a lot of men.”
“What else do we need to know about this place?”
“You’re in the Kingdom of Agana right now. To the north of us is the Kingdom of Northeast Forest, and to the west, the Kingdom of Southport. Almost everybody here speaks English, or as it’s called the common tongue. The Elves don’t know what England is.”
“There’s a lot of Brits here. They were on a bunch of sailing ships that crash-landed on the beach a long time ago.” She paused. “Oh, and you won’t find any speedboats, only sailing ships, and no cars or buses, only horses with wagons.”
“How did we step back in time?” I shook my head as I finished filling out the book with our names and place of origin. As I leafed back through the pages, I found people from all different times and places. I rubbed my forehead, trying to take it all in.
“The boys are on their way back.” Becky looked out the window. “Looks like your ship is gone. That’s what happens to all the shipwrecks. They get swept out into deeper water. You’ll never find it again.”
I ran to the window and looked at the rock where the ship had been, but it was gone. She was right. “I thought maybe we could salvage the ship and sail it back out.”
“I wouldn’t suggest that. Look farther out to sea.” She pointed to a line of black clouds on the horizon. “You’ll never get past those storms.”
“But when the weather clears…”
“That’s the problem. It never does. Those storms remain around the island all the time. We’re trapped here.”
“Oh, my God.” I covered my mouth.
A few minutes later, John came in, carrying a black plastic bag dripping with water. “This is all I could get before the ship went under.” He dropped it on the floor and showed me all of our electronic gear and my blow dryer. I had to laugh when he showed it to me. I tossed it in the corner with all the other junk.
But not all of it was useless. We had placed our brand-new cell phone in a waterproof case, so when I touched the screen, it turned on. There were two bars.
“It works.” I dialed my mom’s number and heard it ringing. But she didn’t answer, of course, and the call went to voicemail. “Hi, Mom. This is Olivia. John and I were in a boating accident, and we ended up on this island. It’s called—” The phone cut off. I looked down at the screen. No bars. “Wait a minute, you worked just a minute ago,” I said to the phone.
“You’re the first one I’ve ever seen make any sort of contact.” Becky sighed. “I’ve got some soup cooking. Why don’t you all sit down and relax for a while?”
“Can we sit on the beach?” I pushed John to the door. I needed to talk to him in private.
We went outside and stared at the ocean. Waves crashed against the rocks, and we could feel the spray on our faces.
“Did those men tell you about this place, John?” I asked him.
“Yeah, it’s not good, Olivia. Let me see your phone.”
I handed it to him, and he tried calling even though there weren’t any bars. He leaned his head back and sighed when his face was splattered with ocean spray from a gigantic wave. Lightning cracked over our heads; thunder rolled across the sky, and the heavens opened up with rain.
John pulled me toward the hut, but we stopped when something crashed against the rocks. Another ship. This time, a large white cabin cruiser smashed against the rocks and broke into pieces. Debris flew all over the place, some landing close by. We covered our heads and ducked. As we stared out to sea, Becky and the three men ran out of the hut and stood next to us. As quickly as it started, the storm stopped. Seconds later, the damaged cabin cruiser sank underwater. No one got out.
John headed over to the rowboat. “Come on. We have to get the survivors.”
But Wallace grabbed his arm and shook his head. “When they go down like that, there ain’t no survivors, John. We won’t even get close to the wreckage. The current’s too strong.” He took off his hat and placed it over his heart. “God rest their souls.” His two friends also took off their hats and bent their heads.
Becky said a prayer and crossed herself.
As the four of them headed back to the hut, John and I stared out to sea a moment longer, hoping they were wrong. But within minutes, nothing was left. The ocean sucked everything underwater. Disappointed, I looked down at my phone. It had three bars, so I punched in 9-1-1 and heard it ring.
A woman’s voice said, “911. How may I help you?”
“Oh, my God!” The call had connected. “Yes, 911. My husband and I were in a shipwreck. Can you send help?” I clutched my hand into a fist.
“Where was your ship located?”
“In the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Italy.”
“I’m sorry, but this is Little Rock, Arkansas. You’ll have to call Italian authorities.”
“Can you do that?”
No response, only silence. No bars. Cut off again.
John looked up at the sky and down at my phone. “It seems like whenever there’s a shipwreck, we can get a signal for a bit.”
“But what good will that do? We can’t even tell them where we are.”
“You’re right. We need more information. I’ll turn the phone off to save the battery. Let’s go back inside.”
I stared at the beach for a little longer, hoping someone would surface in the water, but no one did. John pulled on my arm, and we headed back inside.
Lady Alexin (Alex) may be the only one with the magical ability to control the storms that surround the island. She’s called upon by Lord Odin, the Leader of the Elves, to prove her worth and save the island from the relentless tempests. But the arrival of Zenon, the Crow-beast, proves him to be a formidable foe. With her magical powers at risk and the fate of Seaward Isle hanging in the balance, Alex must fight to protect her home. Will Alex's courage and determination be enough to save Seaward Isle?
The fate of Seaward Isle and all its inhabitants weighed heavily on my mind as I trudged up the stairs at my cousin’s fortress in Southport. My thoughts wavered between doubt and fear—doubt I could achieve what was being asked of me and fearful of the consequences should I succeed. This morning, Lord Odin wanted to test my magical powers to see if they were strong enough to stop the storms around the island. But I’d never been trained in magic. I was a soldier—had been from the age of four. And I was only part Elf; the other half of me was mortal. What did I know about magic? Nothing much, only that it worked. And what if it did work? Did I want to leave the place where I had been born and raised? I didn’t know what lay beyond the storms.
My brown leather boots scraped against the stone steps leading up to the roof—I straightened my brown uniform as I reached the top of the landing. Once there, the bright sunlight forced me to shield my eyes from the glare as a brisk breeze caught my long, black hair and swirled it around my head. I should have tied it into a tail.
Across the roof stood my cousin, Prince Darin of the Water Elves. He was blond and tall and extremely handsome, like so many of the male Elves on this island. He wore a uniform of blue, the color of water, with shiny black boots. I knew he had magical powers because I had seen him cast a spell on these storms before, but he confessed all he could do was move them around. For centuries, the storms around the island never relented, never changed, and never went away. In order for anyone to leave Seaward Isle, the storms had to be stopped. If he couldn’t do it, what chance did I have?
Lord Odin, the leader of the Elves on the island, stood next to him in his silken robes. He looked and acted like an aristocrat and was a member of the Council of Elders, whatever that was, as well as being the leader of the Tree Elf clan. He also had magical powers; I’d seen him levitate guards who had been poisoned, and he cured them with a potion. I helped him, but I couldn’t do anything like that on my own.
For the past few days, the two Elves had been encouraging me to make this attempt to break the spell around the island. I agreed to try, but I wasn’t optimistic. No one had ever stopped these storms before. And I knew nothing about breaking spells.
I stopped and saluted by placing my right hand over my chest and curtsying, an appropriate greeting for the two most powerful Elves on the island.
“Good morning, Lord Odin… Prince Darin.” I smiled at them. My cousin returned with a nod and a smile. Gosh, he was such a handsome guy. Sometimes, I wish he wasn’t my cousin.
“Good morning, Alex.” Lord Odin smiled—his long blond hair shone in the sun, and his blue eyes twinkled. “I’m glad you decided to take on this important mission.”
“Yes, my lord. I’ll try, but I don’t think this is going to work.”
“Of course, it will. Think positive.” He put his arm around my shoulders. “Sit over here by the turret. You’ll have the best view of the storms.”
“Thanks.” I squinted in the sunshine and sat in a wooden chair at the base of the turret, staring out to sea. I really liked Lord Odin. He was considered to be the best healer on the island and had been a family friend for so long he even delivered me when I was born.
My relationship with Prince Darin had improved since I had told him about the plot against him and Lord Odin. At first, he didn’t believe me, but he takes me more seriously now. He seems more like an older brother than my prince.
The Prince’s fortress was built to impress with enormous granite blocks and stood fifty feet high. The view on the roof was excellent except for the gigantic round boulders of granite interspersed around the roof, part of the defense system for the fortress. If anyone attacked from below, the boulders could be rolled off to crush the attackers.
Lord Odin came over and took my arm. “This morning, Prince Darin and I took the liberty of bringing the storms in closer to shore.” He pointed to the line of dark clouds less than a mile away, where thunder rumbled as if in warning.
I grimaced. “If you can move them around, why can’t you stop them? That’s what you want me to do, isn’t it?”
“I can’t, and neither can Prince Darin. We’ve tried many times.”
“What makes you think I can?”
“I know you can. I have the utmost confidence in you.”
Although I was grateful for the vote of confidence, I wasn’t so sure and turned pale, with beads of sweat forming on my upper lip. I was the last one on this island to be tested. The last hope. If I didn’t break the spell, everyone would remain stranded here for the rest of eternity. Not good.
For a thousand years, Elves, Dwarves, and mortals from different lands and times in history were stranded on this island because of these storms. Now, the storms were so close I could see them as never before. Sweeping winds churned the black clouds into a boiling rage that were pierced by long fingers of lightning, as sheets of rain fell into the turbulent sea below. It was a terrifyingly beautiful sight.
“You may begin, Alex.” Lord Odin stepped aside.
I hesitated, flinching as lightning flashed nearby. After a few seconds, I looked over at Lord Odin. “What am I supposed to do? Tell it to stop?” I’d never made up a spell before, so I didn’t know where to begin. Did it have to rhyme? I was an awful poet.
Lord Odin raised his eyebrows. “Yes, well… let me help you. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Relax. Inhale and exhale.” He breathed in and out. “Now, imagine yourself flying through the storms… see the dark clouds… feel the rain as it falls… watch the waves roll by.”
As he spoke, I closed my eyes, holding my arms out to the side as I visualized his words—my body tingled, as if raindrops pelted against my skin. Playfully, I swished my hands to increase the size of the waves, and they grew upon command.
Lord Odin gasped, so I opened my eyes and glimpsed a ship’s white sail, tossed high on the waves as it crashed against the barrier rocks.
“Oh, no! Stop!” I leapt to my feet and bolted past him, running down the stairs.
“Alex, there’s nothing you can do!” Lord Odin said as I ran away.
At the front gate, I rushed past two guards, nearly knocking them over. I careened to the left and sprinted to the beach, a block away. I swiped at my hair to keep it out of my face as my heart pounded. The ship was being destroyed because of me. Guilt caused my eyes to be filled with tears that ran down my face. Once on the beach, I slid to a stop, yanked off my boots, and ran into the water.
A heavy-set man, knee-deep in water, pointed out to sea. “Someone’s in trouble out there.”
“I see him.” My heart sank—it was another failed attempt to escape Seaward Isle, and it was all my fault. All I could do now is to help them back to shore.
“I’ll get the ghost patrol, Miss Elf.” The man left the water, shivering as he did.
The ghost patrol was the nickname for the Southport Coastal Police unit designated to help shipwreck victims. At least one shipwreck occurred each week, sometimes more, but more dead bodies than live ones washed up on the sand. It was a gruesome job, but somebody had to do it.
As I swam, I raised my head and spotted a child waving frantically from the ship, screaming for help. I choked on a mouthful of water and coughed as the cries grew more desperate. I couldn’t bear to listen anymore, so I put my head down and swam harder.
When I reached the ship, I pushed the broken mast aside and climbed aboard, finding the bodies of a man and a woman with two children. I pressed my lips together and knew they were dead without touching them—their glow of golden energy was gone. The left side of the ship was badly damaged, but I made my way to the bow where I found the only survivor—a young boy; I guessed he was seven. His dark hair dripped with water, and his thin body was bloodied and bruised. He burst into tears when he saw me.
He ran into my arms and held me, so I rubbed his back to comfort him. “I am so sorry.” I sobbed, knowing he was an orphan, just like I was, and I did it to him. “Are you hurt?” I pushed him back to examine him.
“Mi papa say time to go to America. He say we see nana there and become rich, but we no make it.”
My jaw dropped. I’d heard of America—my foster father came from there. “But you can’t get to America from here. What’s your name?”
“Carlitos… we come from Havana.” He held up his arm with a rope tied tightly around it, so he wouldn’t get washed overboard.
I wiped my face with my hands. “Carlitos, my name is Alex. Will you let me help you?”
He nodded as he sobbed.
I slid my assassin’s knife from my wrist cuff and flicked it open. Carlitos gasped and opened his eyes wide. I stopped to reassure him. “I won’t hurt you.” Then I cut the rope around his wrist and tried to remove it, but he cried out and squirmed away.
“No, it hurts.” He backed up, but I grabbed him and brought him closer to me.
“Stay still and don’t look.” As he looked away, I snatched the rope off his arm, but it opened up a deep wound on his wrist. Carlitos winced, but didn’t cry out and looked down at his arm as blood oozed out.
I clamped my hand over the gaping wound. “Don’t look.”
He turned his head away, and his tears fell as his body shook.
I closed my eyes. “Heal,” I said in Elfspeak, a form of telepathy used by Elves. This way, I could use my blue light to heal someone with no one hearing me. I rarely used this ability to heal, but Lord Odin said I should use it more often to help people. I could also use the same light to kill someone, but he said I could only use that in emergencies. Besides, I didn’t understand this light. I didn’t know why I had it, or how it came out of my hands, or even how it worked. When I opened my eyes, a faint blue light glowed under my hand, healing the wound without leaving a scar.
Carlitos peeked when I raised my hand. “You fix me.” He smiled a little.
His wan smile brought some joy to my heart. “Don’t tell anyone. It’s our secret.” I put my finger to my lips.
“Fix them.” He waved at the bodies. “Fix them!”
“No, I’m so sorry, Carlitos. It’s too late. Their energy is gone.”
Carlitos put his hands together and fell to his knees. “Please… you must.”
“No, I told you I can’t. Their energy is gone.” I folded up my blade and slid it into my wrist cuff, once again out of sight. The little boy wailed, cradling his mother’s face in his hands. I didn’t know what else to do and looked away, glancing toward shore. “Help is coming.” I was relieved to see the ghost patrol assembling on the beach, easing my anxiety.
A dozen men hauled out their rescue equipment—a rowboat, long ropes, towels, and blankets—our crippled ship drifted closer to shore, now about a hundred yards out. Two men rowed out to us and tied a long rope to the bow. They climbed aboard, shaking their heads at the bodies. After checking on me and the little boy, they signaled to the men on the beach, and they dragged the broken ship to shore.
I wrapped Carlitos in a blanket and sat beside him, wrapped in another one. We were like two peas in a pod; both wet from the sea, and both orphans.
Once beached on the sand, a man stepped up with his arms outstretched. “Give him to me, Miss Elf. He’ll be all right. This happens all the time.” He bit his lip when he saw the bodies. “I almost ended up like them. This island is nothing but a trap. At first, you’re so desperate to leave you’d try anything. But there’s nothing you can do. It’s not so bad here once you get used to it. We’ve got food, water, and shelter.
What else do we need? We’re all going to die one day. I guess I’ll die here.”
“What’s going to happen to him?” I glanced at the boy.
“Don’t worry about this fine lad. We’ll find him a suitable home.” He placed his large hand on the little boy’s shoulder. “What’s your name, son?”
“Name’s Sam. You’re in excellent hands.” He patted his shoulder. “Now, Miss Elf, don’t go swimming out there the next time. We’ll take care of it.”
“All right. Thanks.” I helped Carlitos out of the ship, but Sam continued to stare at me until I blushed. “Is something wrong?”
“Well, you look like an Elf; you got blue eyes like them, and you even got that blue hair in your ears like their kids, but your hair’s black and your ears aren’t pointed. How come?”
“My father was a mortal.” Self-consciously, I tugged my hair over my ears to hide the blue hair. No one accepted me as a mortal or an Elf. I was neither, yet both at the same time.
Sam raised his eyebrows. “A half-breed, are you? Come on, lad. Stop shaking. Are you hurt, son?”
“She fix me, but she scary.” Carlitos eyed me warily.
Sam grimaced. “Used some Elf magic on you, did she?”
I sensed a wariness from Sam as he pulled Carlitos away as if he didn’t like Elves. It was all too common among the mortals on the island.
Carlitos showed him his arm. “Arm cut here, but now nothing.”
I groaned. So much for a secret. But it wasn’t Elf magic. I didn’t know a single Elf who could shoot a blue light from his hands or heal anyone with it. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who could do it besides me. I climbed out of the ship, as the other men placed the bodies in the wagon.
Once the crew left, I plopped down on the beach near my boots and sat quietly, placing my hands on top of my head and feeling tears on my cheeks. Why did I do that? A few minutes later, my cousin Prince Darin sat down next to me.
“It’s all right, Alex.” He placed his warm hand on my shoulder.
“No, it isn’t. Four people are dead, and there’s another orphan on Seaward Isle, thanks to me.”
“What are you talking about?”
I sighed. “I did what Lord Odin told to do, and when I waved my hand, the waves grew bigger. Then a ship crashed into the barrier rocks, and the only survivor was a little boy.” I covered my face and shook my head.
“Hold on a minute. You made the waves grow bigger?” He poked my shoulder.
I sniffled. “Yes.”
“Then you can do it.” He raised his eyebrows.
“Control the storms.” He shook my arm. “Alex, you can do it. You must stop them the next time.” He clenched his fist.
I looked at him and then out to sea. “I don’t think so.”
He exhaled sharply. “You have to try again.”
“Really?” I wasn’t so sure I wanted to, but I glanced down at the beach and saw another ship preparing for an escape attempt while the men of the ghost patrol were trying to discourage them.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I don’t understand how it happens. I’m really confused.”
“I don’t care if you don’t understand it.” He scooted closer to me. “You must do it again, so we can all escape from this… prison. Do it for them, if for no one else.” He pointed to the damaged ship. “At least do it for that little boy.” He paused. “You’re the only one who can, Alex.” He rubbed my shoulder. “You must try again… please.”
I forced a tight smile. “All right… for you… and him.”
He smiled. “That’s better. Get back to the house and clean up. Lord Odin is in the parlor waiting for you.” He stood up, brushing sand off his uniform and helped me to my feet. We returned to the fortress in silence.
Alex and her friends from Seaward Isle have sought refuge in the village of Glastonbury near Avalon under the reign of King Arthur. Her plans to live in peace are dashed when she’s accused of being the Blue Witch and the King sentences her to death. Her only hope of survival is Tap, a Pixie Elf from Eledon, who has been sent to arrest her and take her back to Eledon. But to save her friends in Glastonbury, Alex embarks on a quest to find the Holy Grail to gain a pardon and save her family from King Arthur.
With a glint in his eyes, the bread merchant smiled smugly at me as I handed him two copper coins. I forget what they were called, but he charged me twice as much as the woman next to me for a simple loaf of bread. My stomach churned with anger as I glared back. He was charging me double, because I was an islander, not a villager like the others.
He shoved me away, making me stumble, only to hear laughter from everyone around me. My cheeks burned, but I didn’t know the local language well enough to curse at him. So, I marched away, stuffing the bread in my basket as I pulled the hood of my cloak over my head to hide my red face. I was determined never to buy bread from him again, but I didn’t have a choice. The last time I tried to make bread it was so heavy I could use it as a doorstop. Even the birds wouldn’t eat it.
At that moment, bugles blared from the town gate, announcing the arrival of someone important. The sound was deafening and echoed off the village walls, standing twenty feet tall, made of stone. Horses clopped on the cobblestones as a group of soldiers arrived. I didn’t know who these people were or why they were coming here, but they were on their way to see King Arthur. The soldiers wore uniforms in colors to match the banners they carried. In this case, the colors were black, red, and gold.
As the crowd surged to make way, their momentum pushed me across the cobblestone street and two men squished me against a stone wall with their backs. They smelled like sweat and dung, and God only knows what else. A young soldier led the column in. He barely looked old enough to shave and carried a banner with the image of a red hawk encased in yellow flames. Behind him were four more soldiers with similar banners, followed by an old man in black metal armor with a long sword in a black scabbard by his side. The man tucked his white hair under a black leather helmet with red and black feathers. Trailing after him were another twenty fully armed soldiers. The men stared ahead, grim and determined, as if they were going to war. Were they?
I hadn’t heard about any wars brewing, but I had yet to learn all I needed to know about living in the mortal world at Glastonbury village on the Isle of Avalon. A few months ago, I had joined several hundred other mortals who had migrated from Seaward Isle, the Elf island in Eledon. Strangely, we became known as the islanders, even though Avalon itself was once an island, but it was no longer surrounded by water and marshes, only trees and green fields.
Since we moved here last month, we were too busy surviving to keep up on the latest news. The weather had turned cold, and it rained a lot. We were miserable and hungry, but the villagers didn’t share anything with us. Still, the King had accepted us in return for our soldiers. Although he was willing to help us, the local villagers weren’t convinced.
As the military formation moved forward, the horse under the old man reared up on its hind legs and bumped into the bread merchant’s cart, knocking it over. The merchant scrambled after his bread, and the crowd surge around him, further panicking the old man’s horse. I lost sight of the bread merchant, but heard the confusion as women screamed; men shouted and horses whinnied. The old man’s soldiers moved in, shielding their leader from the angry mob, and drew swords to regain control. The crowd backed away.
I was out of harm’s way, but still pinned against the wall, certain the bread merchant had been severely injured in the melee. I could push my way through and help him. Perhaps I could even save his life, but I hesitated. Should I help a man who’d cheated me so he could cheat others? Or should I help him anyway, out of the goodness of my heart? Did I have any goodness in my heart for these people? A couple of men carried away the merchant, who screamed out in pain. He was still alive. A wave of guilt washed over me as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I decided the goodness in my heart left when I came through the entry point a few months ago. At least I had none for him or these villagers. Even if I had tried to help, they would have pushed me away.
This fiasco could have been avoided altogether if I had made the bread myself. But I wanted some decent bread for the special meal I was making for my half-brother Beren and his wife Lila, my best friend, to celebrate their new baby. The thought of my nephew growing up here made me cringe. The land was beautiful, filled with rolling hills and tall forests, but the people were anything but. They treated us with contempt. I regretted my decision to come here.
As my thoughts returned to the scene, the bread merchant was no longer in sight, and his cart had been wheeled away. The old man in the center of the formation rode by, facing forward, unconcerned about the commotion around him. Who was he? Maybe a knight on his way to pledge his loyalty to King Arthur.
Following the soldiers was a procession of monks from the local abbey. The monk in front carried a large wooden cross, and at the end was Brother Trekant, an islander like me. I pushed through the crowd and tapped him on his arm. He kept on walking.
“Good day, Brother Trekant. Who was that man?” I marched beside him, keeping pace.
“The Duke of Leadbury—he’s on a mission of great importance.” He spoke in a low tone, barely above a whisper.
“Is he going to war?”
“No, no, child. Nothing like that. The King is sending his knights on a special quest to search for the Holy Grail, a relic of our religion. He has done this before, but thus far, no one has yet to find it.”
“What is it?”
“Several hundred years ago, Joseph of Arimathea arrived on our shores, bringing the Holy Grail with him to keep it safe from marauders. The Holy Grail is the cup that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, drank from at the Last Supper, and Joseph of Arimathea used it to catch the blood and sweat of Jesus when he was crucified on the cross. Joseph also brought a spear, used by a Roman guard, to pierce Jesus’ side while on the cross. According to legend, the spear drips tears into the cup, and if you drink it, it will bring you eternal life. The castle and its guards had protected the objects for years, but invaders from the north destroyed the castle, and the items were lost. King Arthur has promised substantial rewards to any knight who finds them. Now, pardon me, but I must return to the abbey.” He trotted to catch up with his group.
I understood little about religion here, but I picked up on the idea this relic was important to the people. What if I found it? His mention of a Roman spear brought up an old memory—I’d seen one in my distant past, but I wasn’t sure when or where. All I knew was the spear wasn’t here. I would have thanked the monk, but he was already gone.
I pulled my cloak tighter around my shoulders and glanced at the busy market—normal business operations had resumed. The vegetables I needed for my special supper were available, so I went home with rambling thoughts of the injured bread merchant, a Roman spear, and the quest for the Holy Grail.
I lived in a house with my half-brother Beren and his wife. The house was two blocks from the market and part of his salary as the junior swordmaster at the local academy. Made of stone and wood, it was roomy enough for us, but it was old and needed repairs. I slept in the loft in the attic while my brother, his wife, and baby shared another room below me.
It had taken years for my brother and me to even acknowledge each other’s existence. He hated the fact I was part Elf and wanted nothing to do with me. I hated him for not being a better brother. As we grew up, our views softened. We were closer now than ever been before. My brother reminded me a lot of my father, or as I remembered him. He was handsome with a straight nose, firm lips, dark brown hair, and brown eyes. His wife, Lila, was a Scinthian, and was part Elf. Maybe that’s why he changed his views about me. She was a beautiful blond-haired blue-eyed blond with skin like porcelain, unlike me with my black hair. But we felt like we were sisters. I was nine when a Scinthian Scout by the name of Nora adopted me, so we shared a common heritage.
As I headed to the door, footsteps rushed up behind me. I turned around in alarm, thinking it was a villager, but it was only Sam, an islander. We weren’t friendly, but we exchanged silent greetings, and he followed me into the house.
Thirty islander men had squeezed into the small space that was our dining and living area. Three months ago, our migration from Eledon had begun, and it ended when I showed up at the end of the month. Almost all the islanders had lived in the mortal world at one time during their lives, but had been stranded on Seaward Isle because of persistent and heavy storms. Once the storms ended, everyone could leave. The Elves returned to Eledon, their home, and had created a special entry portal for the rest of us to return to the mortal world. Although I was part mortal, I had never lived in the mortal world. I’d been born on Seaward Isle, the daughter of a mortal father and a Titan/Water Elf mother. They were both killed when I was four. My brother and his wife were also born on the island.
In front of the fireplace stood Lord Ellsworth, the former King of Northeast Forest on Seaward Isle. He wore a brown cloak over his rustic britches and white shirt. His hair hung loosely down to his shoulders. My half-brother Beren stood next to him, as the host for this meeting. The islander men still respected Lord Ellsworth as our leader, even though his kingdom had been destroyed and was currently underwater. All eyes in the room stared at me when I rushed in.
“Sorry, I’m late.” I blushed and made my way to the kitchen to set down the groceries. It wasn’t much, just the bread, some turnips and carrots, but enough for the coney stew I planned to make with the rabbit I’d trapped in the forest.
Lord Ellsworth cleared his throat. “Let’s continue. Jeffrey, isn’t there something you can do about the merchants in the market? We can’t afford to feed our families at these prices.” He directed his comment to his younger brother, standing nearby. Jeffrey was the King’s second youngest brother out of four still alive. He had been the first one to come through the entry point and had established an excellent rapport with King Arthur.
I stepped out of the kitchen, holding the loaf of bread in my hand. “I agree with you, Lord Ellsworth. The bread merchant charged me double for this bread. It’s ridiculous.” I waved the loaf in the air, still upset over the transaction, yet wondering if the bread merchant had survived.
“Thank you, Alex.” Lord Ellsworth didn’t seem to appreciate my comment, even though it applied to the discussion.
Jeffrey stepped forward. He looked handsome in the captain’s uniform of the local guard; he wore a metal breastplate emblazoned with the King’s emblem, a red dragon with wings over a leather skirt that only reached to his knees. “My soldiers can’t stay in the market all day. When we’re there, everything’s fine, but as soon as we leave, the merchants raise their prices.” He shrugged. “Even the King can’t control everything.”
“He can control our pay.” Sam voiced his opinion from the rear of the room. When we lived on Seaward Isle, he had been a police officer, but not under the rule of Lord Ellsworth. He was now employed as a common soldier in King Arthur’s guard. The word, common, applied to him. He was no taller than any of the other men, with scraggly brown hair and sunken brown eyes. Ever since I’d been here, he seemed to take a dislike to me, even though I had done nothing to antagonize him.
Jeffrey shook his head. “I know the pay isn’t much, but it’s the same as the other soldiers, Sam. We have to live with it.”
Lord Ellsworth added, “Did you tell him about the beatings? Yesterday, they nearly beat one of our lads to death. That makes five in the last two weeks.” He held up his hand to emphasize the number five.
“Yes, and he encouraged me to step up patrols.”
“Jeffrey, there must be something you can do. You’re the only one who can influence King Arthur.”
“I’m not a colonel anymore, Ellsworth. I’m only a captain and a junior one at that. I can only do so much.”
Sam folded his arms across his chest. “Those fucking Elves knew this would happen. They sent us here on purpose.”
“It wasn’t the Elves’ fault, Sam,” I said. “They didn’t know anything about the mortal world.” I found myself in the unusual position of defending the Elves. Actually, I was defending Lord Odin, my Elf friend, who had arranged our entry into the mortal world with the help of the Elfin Council of Elders and their guides, the Mentors.
Sam sighed heavily and looked away, shaking his head. “Damn fucking Elf,” he said under his breath.
My temper flared. “I heard that!” I stepped out of the kitchen. Was that why he didn’t like me? Because I was part Elf?
Sam stepped forward; his fists clenched. “So what? What are you going to do about it?” He shook his fist at me.
“Stop!” Lord Ellsworth held his hands out to keep us separated. “We’ll have none of this in here. We need some positive ideas, not arguments.”
“Lord Ellsworth, I do have a suggestion,” I said, as I raised my hand. “We can find the Holy Grail. Brother Trekant said that’s why all these soldiers have been coming to town. I’ve seen at least five formations this past month.”
“No one’s been able to find it for years, Alex,” Lord Ellsworth said. “What makes you think we can?”
“Brother Trekant said this man by the name of Joseph brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury to keep it safe. It should be somewhere close by.”
“They’ve already scoured the area, Alex.” Jeffrey smirked at me. “We’d have better luck finding the Blue Witch.”
“What does the King want with this witch?” Lord Ellsworth asked.
“He doesn’t—he wants her dead. She’s been helping the Blue People.”
Despite the chilly response to my suggestion, I continued, “I was told whoever finds the Holy Grail will receive a substantial reward from the King. If we find it, we can ask for our own land and put Lord Ellsworth back in charge.”
There was a smattering of applause, but at the back of the room, Sam groaned. “Stupid bitch!” He said it loud enough so everyone could hear him, including me. I was about to say something when Lord Ellsworth intervened.
“Thank you, Alex.” Lord Ellsworth smiled at me. “But we need to think of more practical ideas. Gentlemen, think about it. We’ll meet at my house next week.”
I bit my lip as my cheeks turned crimson. My idea wasn’t practical? After the men left, I slammed a pot on the stove to prepare supper.
Jeffrey came into the kitchen and leaned against the wall. “Alex, what makes you think we can find this thing when no one else can?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It was just an idea.” My jaw clenched tightly.
“I don’t suppose you know where it is.” He chuckled as he folded his arms across his chest.
I shrugged again. “Maybe.” I focused on washing the vegetables in the sink.
He straightened. “What? Where is it?” He pulled on my arm.
“I said maybe.”
“Then how do you know?”
“I remember seeing an old spear once, and it seemed out of place. It didn’t look anything like the ones the Elves made or even the ones used by mortals on the island. Based on what I’ve seen here in Glastonbury, it looked like a Roman spear. I just don’t remember where I saw it.” I set the veggies on a cutting board and got a knife from the drawer.
“I thought this Grail was some type of cup, like a wineglass.”
“It is, but Brother Trekant said there was also a Roman spear with it. It was used to kill Jesus when he was on the cross.”
“What do you know about him?”
“Not much. I learned about him at the Sword Academy when I was growing up. He died for our sins, you know.”
“Not mine.” Jeffrey put his arms around me from behind and snuggled his face into my neck. He pulled my hair back to nibble on my ear, sending goosebumps down my back. I gritted my teeth to focus on peeling a turnip.
“How about joining me for a picnic tomorrow?” he whispered in my ear.
I chuckled. “So, you can get secrets out of me?”
“Of course. Meet me at the stables at noon. I’ll bring lunch.” He breathed into my ear, sending another wave of goosebumps down my spine.
“Deal. I’ll be there.”
Jeffrey laughed as he left. He could cajole a secret out of any woman, and I was no exception. Recovery of the Holy Grail wouldn’t just benefit his brother Ellsworth, but Jeffrey as well. And my memory was better than anyone else around. Now, all I had to do was remember where I had seen that spear.
A daring rescue mission awaits Alex when her grandmother and Lady Opaline, a Gossamer Elf on the Council of Elders, are kidnapped by rebel Elves. When the only clue is Lady Opaline’s carriage found near an abandoned coal mine far to the north, Alex follows her instincts and embarks on a journey to search for the hostages. But what she discovers is more than she bargained for, and not everyone is keen on her rescue mission. Alex must use her courage and wit to outsmart her adversaries and save the day.
My eyes opened when I heard a tap on my bedroom window. “I’m up,” I said as I jumped out of bed. It was my morning wake-up call from Edgar, my brother-in-law. He lived on the next street over and used a device called an alarm clock to wake up every morning at zero-dark-thirty. A couple of months ago, I had asked to join his elite group of soldiers to improve my fitness and fighting skills. Ever since I had been selected to be the Keeper of the Keys for the Elves, my life had been in jeopardy. I needed to be ready for any challenges coming my way. Since I was the first woman and the youngest person ever selected, some Elves had tried to take advantage of me. I couldn’t let that continue.
Training with these soldiers had been my idea. Edgar had been a member of the U.S. Navy SEALs, an elite fighting unit in the mortal world. He was celebrating his promotion to chief petty officer when his fishing boat was caught in a storm and ended up here on Seaward Isle. His story was similar to most people on this island. I was one of the few who had been born here.
I tiptoed through my foster parent’s house, trying not to wake them up, but Colonel Penser was a light sleeper. “Alex?” he asked.
“Sorry, Colonel,” I said as I crept past his bedroom door.
“Just checking,” he said and went back to sleep.
Once outside, I jogged over to the horse pens near the Garrison where twenty men were jogging in place, waiting for me. These men, the most elite soldiers stationed here, worked hard to keep their skills honed. They pushed me without regard for my gender or status or race. I was the only woman in the group, part Elf and part mortal—a half-breed. The Elves didn’t like it, and I was shunned by most of Elf society, but the mortals didn’t like it either. This group of men didn’t care, so long as I worked hard.
When I jogged up to the group, Edgar threw a backpack at my face. “You snooze; you lose,” he said and trotted to the head of the formation, leaving me as the rear guard. The backpack seemed to weigh a ton and was filled with canteens of water and snacks for our morning run—a five-mile trek up the side of the ridge east of the village. I strained every part of my body to keep up, no matter how many times I’d done it before. It was even harder wearing the backpack.
When I reached the top of the ridge, the other soldiers were strolling around casually with their hands on their hips, catching their breaths, waiting for me. I’d fallen behind, dodging rocks and boulders, straining in soft patches of soil, clawing my way up with the backpack on. The run had been hard and fast and followed a new route.
“Ooo-rah!” I said as I joined them. I fist-bumped the other men, part of the muster routine. As I set the pack down, I handed out the canteens and listened to their sarcastic remarks.
“Lead in your boots?” one asked me with a grin.
“More like lead in her ass,” another said, making everyone chuckle.
The comments rolled off my back. I drank some water and handed off the canteen. As I munched on an apple, I strolled to the edge of the ridge, where I took in a view that was like no other. To the south were the hills around the city of Agana, where my half-brother lived, and beyond that were the Wayward Seas. The water seemed so calm now since the storms around the island were gone. There hadn’t been a single shipwreck in over a year. As I caught my breath, I witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen with brilliant shades of orange highlighting the darkened clouds—it seemed to mark the beginning of something new, but I had no idea what it could be.
Then a piece of gossamer drifted across my face, making me shiver with disgust as I swiped it away with my hand. A spider was at the end of it somewhere. Spiders gave me the creeps.
My attention was drawn to a dark object moving north on the water, so I leaned forward, hands on my knees. To my Elf eyes, the object magnified, and I made out its shape and read the lettering on the ship. It was the ship Crustacean, my Elf cousin’s flagship.
“The Elves are back!” I said to the others.
The last time we had seen an Elf ship was three months ago. When they didn’t come back, we wondered if they had changed their minds about helping us, but the local fishermen noted the white rings in the sky marking the entry points were missing. No entry points meant no Elf ships, which meant no supplies. We were out of everything, but we weren’t desperate… yet.
Within minutes, I was alone as the men scrambled back to the Garrison. The Elf ship would be bringing us supplies, giving us plenty of work to do. Last week, Colonel Penser had announced the warehouses were empty—we needed everything. He sent us out to hunt and fish and gather whatever stores we could find. As part of the cadre, I always came back with something—a deer, some rabbits, and even bags of nuts. So, we were surviving.
As I drained the remaining canteens of water, I placed the empties in the backpack. As soon as the Elf ship unloaded its cargo, I’d be returning to Eledon, where my Elf grandmother lived. Thanks to the problem with the entry points, I was late for my appointment with her. I slipped the backpack on and joined the free-for-all down the ridge.
When I arrived at the Garrison, I found my foster father, Colonel Penser, and my friend, Takura, a Japanese scientist in a heated debate. The two men were faced off on the docks near the warehouse. I was concerned they could be throwing punches at each other if the situation continued much longer. Colonel Penser was the taller of the two men; at six-foot, two hundred pounds, he was a former U.S. Army Ranger. Takura was five-foot-six with his shoes on and probably weighed one hundred forty pounds. He was giving up a lot in size, but he was smart enough to know better than to challenge my foster father even though he could. With a black belt in karate, Takura had proven his ability to fight when some young punks tried to break into the warehouse.
“I told you it was only temporary!” Colonel Penser said as he shook his fist. “We need this warehouse!” His face turned crimson as he stomped his foot. “Now, get your ass in gear.”
Takura held up his hands. “Please, Colonel. We are on verge of important break-through. Very important. Please!” He bowed deeply at the waist; his hands pressed together in a sign of respect, but the Colonel shook his head. He could be a stubborn old man.
I was depending on Takura and his scientist buddies to help me figure out why this island had separated from the rest of Eledon. The old maps illustrated it clearly as part of the Elf world, but it had separated over a thousand years ago. As the Keeper of the Keys, I was supposed to fix it, but I had no clue how to do that. I needed help… desperately.
So, I smiled sweetly at my foster father. “Good morning, Colonel. Can I help?” I always called my foster father by his rank and loved to mimic his Texas drawl. I batted my eyes at him to maintain an innocent look. And I was betting the Colonel or Takura wouldn’t hit me. I wanted to resolve this peacefully.
“Alex, explain to Takura here we need this warehouse for all the supplies the Elves are delivering.” He pointed to the sacks piling up on the dock. “And we need it now.”
When I turned to Takura, his fists were clenched, but he said nothing. Then I thought of a solution. “What if we delivered the supplies directly to each household instead of storing them and then issuing them? Everyone needs everything at this point. It would save time and space.”
Colonel Penser gritted his teeth. “That would be a damned good idea if I wasn’t so pissed off.”
“Please, Colonel. Takura’s just trying to help me solve the problem with the island. I’m supposed to fix it, but I don’t know how. We have plenty of wagons, don’t we?”
“You know damned well we do. Oh, all right. I get the message.”
I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him on the cheek. Despite his gruffness, he could be a real teddy bear. As the Colonel strode away barking new orders, I turned to Takura and gave him a thumbs-up. He relaxed and smiled at me.
“We’ve updated the computer simulation, Alex. Come see.” Takura waved me inside, where a bank of jury-rigged computers sat on some tables in the warehouse. All these computers had been salvaged from old shipwrecks and refurbished by the scientists. Takura typed in a few commands, and an animated video simulation played on a computer monitor.
“Approximately twelve thousand years ago,” a male computerized voice said, “an advanced civilization called the Mentors created Eledon for the Elves and Dwarves when they were forced to leave Earth. Eledon was built on a flat surface inside of a globe and was large enough to accommodate the entire population with four continents and a large island surrounded by oceans inside of a bubble-like shell. The atmosphere is like Earth, complete with a sun, the moon, and stars overhead.
“The Mentors created a wormhole to transport the Elf ships to Eledon and used these bubbles to protect them through the Ancient Passage. The bubbles appear clear and surround a vessel whenever it travels through a wormhole, but no one knows what they’re made of. All was well in Eledon until a thousand years ago, when a major structural defect occurred—the large island separated from the rest of Eledon. To keep it connected, the Mentors encased the island in a bubble and used a series of wormholes to keep it attached.
“The construction and composition of the bubble and the wormholes are unknown. Our research vessel sailed as close to the edge as possible, only to be turned away by strong winds and sea currents. A thick band of dense fog obstructed our view. The entry points to the wormholes are just as difficult to study, since we can only observe them from below. A drone would help, but there are no parts available.
Questions remain: How can the Mentors create wormholes? What kind of technology is required? We know wormholes are shortcuts through space with an impact on time, so Seaward Isle and Eledon may be light years from Earth. In addition, recent studies indicate the wormholes aren’t permanently affixed to the island and frequently detach, striking the Earth’s surface randomly. As a result, hundreds of people on ships, airplanes, and other vessels were left stranded here. We believe, however, if all the entry points detach simultaneously, the Earth’s gravity could pull the island through the Ancient Passage, followed by the rest of Eledon, destroying the Earth. The results would be catastrophic.”
After the first showing, I watched it again. The idea of using a research ship made me smile, since it was actually Rangor’s barge; I had to bribe the old man to take the scientists out. Unfortunately, the simulation didn’t tell me how to return Seaward Isle to the rest of Eledon. I sighed heavily as I went to fill the canteens for tomorrow’s run, even though I was leaving in the morning.
In an epic battle between good and evil, Alex is the last hope of Eledon, a world threatened with destruction. Tasked with the seemingly impossible as the Keeper of Eledon's Keys, she must find a way to restore the entry points to Seaward Isle or see its inhabitants face certain destruction, while battling the Octagon of Wizards. But first, she must uncover the mysteries of some legendary diamond eggs and discover the true power hidden within her. With the fate of Eledon hanging in the balance, Alex must save her people, but will she be able to face the Octagon and unlock her true power in time?
For some unknown reason, Lord Ashur, the leader of the Council of Elders, selected me to be the executor of Lady Opaline’s estate. I had no attachment to the woman, and in fact, I hated her when she was alive because she had orchestrated the kidnapping of my grandmother and tried to have me killed. And I didn’t get anything out of doing this job, not even an executor’s fee.
Was he taking advantage of me? Just because I was seventeen and the first woman selected to be the Keeper of the Keys, it didn’t mean I was expendable. I mean, really. I never asked for the job as the Keeper, but I sort of liked it. Still, that’s no excuse. At least not in my book. Maybe in his. Ugh!
Over the last few months, I had tried to close out her estate several times, but something would always come up. I was really getting fed up with all these delays. Had the Council screened her better when she first came, a lot of this could have been avoided. She never should have been accepted as a member of the Council, but she was for over a thousand years, and not one of them knew who she really was.
My investigation revealed the woman was a fraud—she claimed to be from a noble family, but she wasn’t. She was born to a worker family, but her parents were killed during the Thousand Year War, and as result, she and her brother Cypress became rebels. Her brother joined forces with the Marsh Elf Sawgrass, a criminal turned politician, but Lady Opaline had other plans. She intended to destroy the Council of Elders from the inside as a member. Besides her role as a rebel, she was a thief, stealing property and jewelry and even clothing, claiming it as her own. No one questioned her until I came along.
The latest issue about her estate came from her cottage north of the city of Meridian. I say cottage loosely, because it was a five-story mansion in the middle of nowhere. Several weeks ago, I had spent days cleaning out the house. I had a deal with a merchant in Meridian to ship the furniture to him for him to sell, with all the proceeds going to the Council after he took his cut. The rest of her belongings had been crated and sent to a warehouse, so I knew the house was empty.
At least that’s what I thought until the Caretaker of the estate reported intruders on the property. He was certain they were intent on stealing something. My suggestion was to let the intruders into the house and let them find what they wanted. The Council could send a squad of guards there to arrest them when they came out, and we could find out what it was they wanted. But no… my idea wasn’t good enough.
Lord Ashur ordered me to go there and find out who these intruders were and what they wanted. I couldn’t even take a squad of Council guards with me because they were needed for security around the Council building. The members were concerned about the increase in activity by the rebellious Red Elves, although most of it was now past. The rebel leaders, including Lady Opaline, were dead.
None of my protests made any difference, so I was on my own, leaving me to wonder about my safety and the sanity of Lord Ashur. After all, he was over ten thousand years old—something had to give by that age. Our conversation still burned in my ears.
“Keeper, the Caretaker reports there have been intruders on Lady Opaline’s property,” Lord Ashur said. “You will return there and get rid of them. The Council is responsible for the property until it’s sold.” Lord Ashur stared down at me, making me feel small. He didn’t need to press the issue—the Fire Elf stood over nine feet tall, three feet taller than me. Even when he was seated, he was taller than me. I’d never met anyone taller. And yes, I was intimidated.
“My lord, if there are intruders, shouldn’t the Council send a squad of guards instead of me?” I had asked politely and even bowed my head to show him respect.
“I will decide who to send, Keeper! And you are the one I’m sending.” He pointed at me.
“At least let me take a few Council guards with me.”
“They’re needed here. Be on your way.” He frowned at me and pointed to the door.
All right, already. So, I left. But I was polite, because that’s what women do when we are left without a choice. We politely accept our fate until it’s too late. Maybe then I’ll get some help. If I’m alive.
Once I stepped outside the chamber door, I clenched my fists and shouted, “Unbelievable!” as I stomped my foot. As I picked up my weapons from the guard at the front desk, he asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t answer him. I was too angry, so I left without looking back, marching to the Council stables, stewing about my orders.
So, what if there were intruders? I walked away, raising my hands in the air as I argued with myself. Lady Opaline’s house was empty. What could they steal? Everything was gone. The intruders must have been the most misguided lot of thieves in Eledon.
To make matters worse, the Council’s stablemaster would only allow me to take Haze. She was a lovely and reliable horse, but not one for battle. If I did encounter intruders, I wanted a horse to help me with quick maneuvers and a fast getaway. Any horse, but Haze.
I sighed in resignation. I must do what I must do, even with improper tools.
As I rode north on the coast road, I stared off to my left toward Seaward Isle, the island where I was born. Just thinking about it calmed me down, and I was missing it a lot right now. If I was there, I wouldn’t have to put up with this bullshit. But I couldn’t get there from here. Few people could. Over a thousand years ago, the island had dropped out of sight from the rest of Eledon and remained that way. The only way to get there was through an entry point. Our guides, the Mentors, had used wormholes to keep the island attached to the rest of Eledon, so it was still there, but it wasn’t easily accessible, nor was it visible. For now, the only way to get there was by ship, and the ship’s captain had to say a spell to travel through the entry point. So far, no one fixed the problem with Seaward Isle. Not the Elves nor our guides, the Mentors. But everyone thought I should fix it since I was the Keeper of the Keys. I had no clue what to do.
Since being appointed the executor of Lady Opaline’s estate, I’d had little time to devote to the problem of Seaward Isle. I’d been involved in more legal matters than I cared to think about, and I’ve had to clean up her estate in six different locations. No one should have more than one house to live in at a time. She had six—her apartment in the Council building, a house in Meridian, the ‘cottage’ in the north, a seaside villa in Southcoast, and two that were damaged but still needed to be taken care of in Turmalin and Cardoon. Hopefully, that was all.
This job had consumed all of my free time. Whenever my life slowed down a little, I would devote more time and attention to fixing Seaward Isle. I hadn’t heard of any more problems with the entry points nor anything from my half-brother Beren, who lived on the island, so I could only hope that all was well.
By the time I reached the gate at the sprawling country estate, my anger had cooled. I reined in my horse and took a few deep breaths. In front of me, the elaborate wrought-iron fencing was attached to stone pillars and spelled out Silk Nest in a web of black metal. The name raised the thought of spiders, and a chill ran up my spine. I didn’t like them before, but now, I hated them. Lady Opaline had unleashed her pet spider to kill me and almost succeeded.
The spider’s name was Onix and was as large as a horse, standing ten feet tall when it reared up. I shivered at the thought, even though I killed it. We were engaged in a ferocious battle during a lunar eclipse, and it’d been so dark I could barely make out the location of the spider. But my blue light shot out from the palm of my hand and didn’t miss. I killed it with one shot. Although I’d been warned by the Council not to use my blue light without permission, I felt it was a matter of life-and-death and expressed no regrets when asked. The Council exonerated me.
As I passed through the gate, an enormous mansion stood before me, built of brick and stone, standing five stories high. There must have been a hundred rooms inside. Thankfully, only part of the building had been furnished, or I would have been here for a year. What I didn’t understand was why such a large mansion was built way out here. No one would ever see it.
I shook my head as my horse Haze plodded up to the barn. I pulled her to a stop when I heard the Caretaker’s voice from inside.
“Get back! I’m warning you.” He was shouting at someone inside the barn—I couldn’t see anyone yet.
I leapt off my horse and tied Haze to a bush, then raced to the side of a cart, standing next to the barn door. I eased up to the corner of the barn and peeked inside as my heart pounded, and my breathing became shallow. The estate Caretaker was holding off five male Elves with a gigantic pitchfork. The tines were over a foot long with sharp, deadly-looking points. I wouldn’t want to get skewered by that thing.
These Elves must be the intruders the Caretaker had reported. They were younger and fitter than him and wore red scarves, marking them as Red Elves, rebels to the Council and our way of life. They held swords which looked small compared to the pitchfork, but just as sharp.
Dammit! I clenched my fist when I realized I had left my bow and arrow sleeve on my horse. As I turned around to retrieve them, the Elves moved in, and I heard the Caretaker’s pitchfork clang against a blade. A young child screamed, making me freeze in my tracks. I’d forgotten the Caretaker had children, and they must be in the barn with him. They should have stayed in their living quarters.
As I glanced around the corner, the Caretaker’s son, Riv, grabbed another pitchfork and stood beside his father. But he was no match for these rebels, either. Riv was only fourteen years old, if I remembered correctly. Two more children were in the arms of the Caretaker’s wife, the little girl who’d screamed and a baby who wailed. I didn’t have time to get my bow since the entire family was in danger. I edged closer, still out of sight of the rebels. As I prepared to attack, I took a deep breath and drew my sword.
“I’m warning you!” The Caretaker shoved the pitchfork at the closest rebel, who jumped out of the way. “Stay away from my family!”
“Hold on, old hand,” the Red Elf said. “All we want are Lady Opaline’s papers.” He held out his hand as if that would stop those tines from skewering him. “Then we’ll leave you alone.” He paused. “Just tell us where they are.”
I hesitated. What papers? I knitted my brow to review the inventory in my head. There weren’t any papers. As I recalled, it had seemed strange there weren’t any because this woman had forged more documents than anyone I had ever heard of.
The Caretaker jabbed his pitchfork at them, forcing them back. “I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about. The Council’s Keeper of the Keys removed everything from the house months ago. Now get out of here!” The Caretaker blocked the charge of a rebel while his son poked at another. The intruders were losing their patience and were closing in.
I sprinted around the corner, yelling at the top of my lungs to attract attention and create a diversion. I swung my sword wildly and cut one of the Red Elves across his stomach, spilling his guts onto the ground. Then I spun and severely injured another across the shoulder. While the Caretaker and his son fended off the other two, I attacked again and dug my sword deep into the stomach of another intruder. The remaining two ran off and jumped on their horses. I turned back to the Caretaker as he gored the body of a dead Elf with his pitchfork, splattering blood everywhere.
The Caretaker’s brutality had taken me by surprise—I placed my hand on his shoulder to stop him. “Caretaker, stop… he’s dead.” Bitter bile rose in my throat, and I swallowed hard, holding my vomit down. I wiped the edge of my blade on my cloak and sheathed it. “Are you hurt, Caretaker?”
“No… oh, it’s you. You’re back.” He gasped—his eyes opened wide. “It’s Lady Lestin’s granddaughter, Lady Alexin… the Keeper of the Keys! Kneel, we must kneel!” His family knelt, even his little blond-haired daughter with her tear-stained face. My heart melted.
“No, no. Please stand up and tell me what happened.” I motioned for them to rise, but they remained kneeling, clasping their hands in front of them as if they were begging for their lives. Although kneeling was a proper gesture when greeting a member of the Council of Elders such as myself, it made me feel uncomfortable. As the Keeper, I was only a staff member.
“I reported these troublemakers to Lord Ashur like you told me to,” the Caretaker said. “But they broke into the house. I told them not to go in, but they pushed me down and kicked the door open. When they came out, they threatened to kill us if I didn’t tell them where Lady Opaline hid her papers. I know nothing about these papers they’re looking for. I worked outside most of the time and so did my son, Rivulus. My wife cooked and cleaned the house for her ladyship when she was here, but we didn’t go in the house otherwise. We don’t know where she hid any papers.”
“I believe you. When I was here last, I didn’t see any papers either, but I’ll look again.” I placed my hands on my hips. “Were there only five of them?” My eyes darted to the left, following the rebels’ last trail. “They probably went to get help. Can you lock the gate?”
“With what? The lady never gave me a key for it.” He held out his hands.
“I can’t use magic, Keeper. I’m only the Caretaker.”
“But you’re an Elf.”
“I guess you’re too young to know, Keeper. Only nobles are allowed to use magic.”
“Seriously?” I paused. Another new rule I knew nothing about. How could magic be the exclusive territory of the noble class? I’d seen workers use magic before. Why couldn’t he? But now was not the time to argue with him, since the intruders would be back soon.
“All right. Let me try, and then I’ll be in the house looking for these papers. In the meantime, you and your family should leave. You won’t be safe here. Is there someplace close by where you can go for a while?” I asked.
“Yes, we can go to my mother’s house in the hills.” He pointed away.
“Pack your things quickly.” I wiped my sweaty hands on my britches. “We don’t have much time before they’ll be back with reinforcements.”
The Caretaker nodded. “Keeper, we’ll clean up out here and pack our things in the cart. Rivulus, take care of the Keeper’s horse.” He nodded to his son and gathered his wife and small children, herding them into their quarters.
When the powerful wizard Ecstasy abandons Alex in London, England after helping her return a hundred mortal sailors home, she must find another way back to her world. Desperately trying to convince the mortal authorities of her story, they don't buy her tale of being an Elf and deem her dangerous and delusional. With no other choice, Alex must escape and fend for herself in a strange new world.
NATO Exercise Hunter Dawn 2031
July 16-25, 2031
Hunter Dawn 2031 was the largest maritime exercise conducted by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in years, with more than a hundred ships, a dozen submarines, and two hundred aircraft from twenty different nations. Selected to command the exercise was Vice Admiral Sir Malcolm Teller, British Royal Navy. It’d been years since a British commander was selected, so Admiral Teller couldn’t believe it when he was selected for this honor. Several members of the British Parliament had pressed for more influence in NATO, and his assignment had been the result. At fifty-one, Teller was the youngest three-star Admiral in the British fleet, with nearly thirty years of service, and the only man of color holding that rank.
With contained excitement, the Admiral stood on the bridge of the aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R. Ford CVN-78, as he watched a jet take off—the sound was so loud he felt it deep in his core. It rumbled and roared like a caged beast. Unbelievable… and the precision! All the sailors and aircraft moved around the flight deck in a magical dance. He grinned under the blue ball cap of the USS Ford, given to him by the crew upon his arrival. He wore his flame-retardant Action
Working Dress uniform of the Royal Navy with blue trousers, a blue shirt, and a jacket to keep the chill off. The air conditioning in the ship’s bridge worked effectively.
Before the launch of the next jet, the carrier’s captain stepped up to the Admiral and leaned close to his ear. “I need to show you something in the CIC, Admiral.” Captain John Delacruz had been the Commanding Officer of the carrier for over a year and in the Navy for over twenty years. He wore his khaki working uniform with his ship’s blue ball cap.
“What’s wrong?” the Admiral asked.
“Follow me, please.” He led the Admiral from the bridge to a locked door for the Command Information Center, known to the sailors as the CIC, the heart of naval operations at sea. Access was strictly limited, even to the crew. The Captain entered the security code on the pad, bent his head down, and stepped through the watertight door. The Admiral wasn’t as tall, but he bent his head just the same. He’d been on enough ships over his career to have old scars on his forehead from these low doorways. The Captain led him over to a radar screen.
“Admiral, Chief Petty Officer Lawson will explain the situation.”
The Chief wore a pressed khaki uniform and stood at attention as he touched a screen to replay the latest radar images. “Yes, Captain. Admiral Teller, sir, about fifteen minutes ago at zero-nine-thirty hours, we detected a squall line of thunderstorms, heading for the rear of the formation. Our radio operators notified the five ships at the rear, and they acknowledged. Once the squall line passed, we attempted to resume radio contact, but there’s been no response. We can’t locate them by radar, either. They’ve disappeared, Admiral… all five ships.”
The Admiral grabbed hold of his chest as if he had trouble catching his breath. “Have you verified it?”
“I contacted our submarine, USS Casa Grande, to check it out. So far, nothing… no contact.” The Chief pointed to the radar screen as a bead of sweat trickled down his face. “They should be here, but there’s nothing. It’s like they vanished.” He replayed the images on the radar screen once more.
Admiral Teller touched his forehead, uncertain if he had understood the man correctly. “Five ships missing? There must be an oil slick or some other debris.”
“There’s nothing, Admiral.”
“How else can we confirm it?”
Captain Delacruz intervened. “With your permission, Admiral, we can suspend flight ops and send our helos over the scene to look for debris. They’re already in the air on plane guard duty.”
“Do it.” Admiral Teller took a deep breath, but already had a sinking feeling in his gut. He ran his hand over his head as guilt washed over him like a tidal wave. He had changed part of the exercise and had ordered the five ships to the rear in a maneuver to surprise the ‘enemy.’ This failure would be blamed on him, and he could be court-martialed or even forced to retire. It would mark the end of his glorious thirty-year career.
Oh. My. God.
Chapter 1: Curse of the Sea
The fogbank loomed like an impenetrable barrier, blotting out the moon, stars, and any vestiges of the early morning sun. The seas, which had been choppy, calmed. On the wooden Elf ship, Kite, the crew was tense, not knowing what lay ahead as the ship sliced through the gray walls of mist into an eerie silence. The Kite was the smallest and most maneuverable warship in the Water Elf fleet, called a coaster. The Elves made it of Arethus wood for maximum strength, with a single mast and a crew of ten, all skilled seamen, blond, good-looking, and formidable warriors, who were trained in clandestine operations.
I stood on the bow as the primary lookout; moisture condensed on my face and dripped off my chin, and my hair was soaked. Cold drops trickled down my back giving me the shivers. Even though I wasn’t part of the crew, I’d proven my vision was better than theirs under these circumstances. I’d used the ship several times in my capacity as the Keeper of the Keys for the Council of Elders, so I knew the crew well. I was also the first woman to hold the position of Keeper and the youngest at eighteen.
The crew taunted Crestan, the ship’s captain, about his close relationship with me. He didn’t deny it, but cautioned them about teasing me. The sword I wore at my side and the Elfin Blade strapped to my right thigh weren’t for decoration. I could be dangerous if provoked.
Nervously, I pulled on my long hair and squeezed the water out of it, while unintentionally revealing the blue tufts in my ears, marking me as a young Water Elf. But I was of mixed race—my ears were rounded like a mortal from my father’s side of the family, and my eyesight was exceptional, combining qualities of both an Elf and a Titan from my mother’s side. After wiping my face, I grimaced through the discomfort of wet hair, wet skin, and wet clothes, narrowing my eyes to pierce through the murkiness.
The fog was so thick it enveloped my head like a death shroud, and waving at it only made it close in tighter around my face. I didn’t fear death; maybe I was too young and naïve to worry about it, but it sent another shiver down my spine. I had trouble catching my breath, and my hands felt clammy and cold.
From behind, my grandfather, Lord Odin of the Tree Elves, chanted a spell to lift the fog—his voice was clear and strong. Last year, he had married my grandmother, Lady Lestin of the Water Elves, and became my grandfather. His chant comforted me, so I breathed easier and returned my gaze to the sea to search for Seaward Isle, but all I could see was more fog: the curse of the sea.
I hoped the fog would burn off soon and glanced to the east, where the horizon brightened with the rising of the sun. Maybe a few more hours.
According to our Mentors, the Elf guides, the fog indicated the process of restoring the island to the grid was working. Eledon was built on top of a flat grid inside of a globe somewhere in space away from Earth. The Mentors built it for the Elves when we were forced to leave Earth about twelve thousand years ago, but no one knew exactly where we were.
A thousand years ago, a weakness in the grid resulted in a major problem—Seaward Isle, the largest island in Eledon, fell out of the grid. In order to keep it attached to Eledon, the Mentors wrapped it in a bubble of some type and attached it using wormholes. The wormholes created another problem when one or more of them detached from the island’s bubble and struck the Earth and other planets randomly. Hundreds of ships were picked up by the wormholes and crashed onto the island, leaving survivors stranded here; my mortal family was no exception. I was born on Seaward Isle.
After my selection as the Keeper, I discovered the reason for the weakness. Five diamonds powering the golden grid had been stolen, so when I recovered them and returned them to the grid, power was restored, and the process to return Seaward Isle to its rightful place had begun. But the process was taking a long time, and no one could get to the island because of the fog. I agonized over the island’s fate, hoping the people living there survived because I hadn’t warned them in advance. I would have if I had known what was going to happen, but I didn’t know. It had never happened before.
As I stared into the fog, my stomach tightened. I fixed this all right. Yeah, right! Look at all this fog. My face flushed hot with guilt as I glanced back to the bridge, looking for my grandfather, with his long, blond hair. He was a senior member of the Council of Elders and had suggested this exploratory voyage to the island, with Crestan’s help.
“See anything yet, Alex?” my grandfather asked through his cupped hands.
“Nothing. It should be here. Are you sure you used the right spell?” I heard his affirmative response and turned around. Seconds later, a faint image emerged through the fog—a wooden ship sat dead in the water. “Ship ahead!” I whirled around. “Crestan, turn now!”
Crestan squinted and waved his hand to the left. “Turn port, forty-five degrees.”
“Port, forty-five degrees,” came the confirmation from the boatswain at the wheel, which spun like a top, so fast the spindles were a blur.
“We’re clear.” Crestan breathed a sigh of relief, but shook his head. “A Rock Elf ship.”
When he closed his eyes, I knew he was reporting it to Prince Darin in Elfspeak, a form of Elvish telepathic communication. The Prince was my cousin, in charge of the Water Elf fleet, the largest in Eledon. He was intensely interested in Rock Elf movements near the island and not without reason. They wanted to take it over. A thousand years ago, they had abandoned it when it became unstable and threatened to fall away from the rest of Eledon, but now, they wanted it back
since I had fixed the problems with the grid.
I wanted to say no, but it wasn’t up to me. It was up to the Mentors and the Council of Elders, where my grandfather worked. He had also lived on the island, so I could sway his vote in my favor. In addition, Lord Root, the Pixie Elf representative, had also lived on the island—he was a friend of my father, so he would vote to keep the Rock Elves off the island as well. But there were ten others, who believed the Rock Elves should return.
As I stared into the fog, I made out another shape. It was a darker shade of gray than the fog—another ship. “There’s another one. It’s huge!” I stood on my tiptoes and extended my hands as high as I could, but my arms weren’t long enough.
“Where?” Crestan asked.
“Ahead of us. Can’t you see it?” I pointed up. The top of the large, gray mass blended into the mist, but its straight lines gave away its presence. A klaxon blared above our heads as a warning.
Crestan gasped as he heard the klaxon and detected the gray hulk simultaneously. “Right full rudder!” He ran to the wheel to help his boatswain spin it faster. We narrowly missed the ship, but it was so close I could reach out and touch the hull. It was made of metal, not wood. Painted on the side in large black letters was the name HMS Camelot.
“HMS Camelot?” I furrowed my brow. “King Arthur didn’t have ships like that.” Several years ago, I had lived in Glastonbury under the rule of King Arthur and had even met the man. His ships were made of wood, like ours. I had no desire to live under his rule and left some time ago. So, whose ship was this?
My grandfather came up to me. “What kind of ship is this? It’s made of metal. What’s it doing here?”
“I don’t know, but Camelot was the name of King Arthur’s castle. He had wooden ships in his fleet.” I shook my head. “How did a Rock Elf ship get here? The wooden one we passed.” I pointed behind us.
“I’ve already notified Prince Darin,” Crestan said.
“Do they have a lot of them?”
“At least a hundred. Lord Boulder increased their fleet before he died, but none of their ships were built with Arethus wood.” Crestan bowed to my grandfather because the Tree Elves had supplied the special wood. Arethus wood was considered the best wood for shipbuilding, because it was so strong and didn’t shrink or break, because it never died, but the Tree Elves, meaning my grandfather, controlled the supply. Slowly, the Kite cleared the bow of the Camelot, and we found a flotilla of small rubber boats with mortal men and women in blue jumpsuits with orange life vests, picking others up out of the water. I leaned over the bow with my face and hair still dripping wet as I surveyed the scene below us.
Crestan came alongside them. “All stop! Throw out the sea anchor. Begin rescue operations.”
I pinched my nose. “It smells like gasoline.” Years ago, I’d witnessed another shipwreck near Seaward Isle with a similar smell. The pungent odor irritated my breathing. Even my grandfather covered his nose and mouth with the edge of his cloak.
The crew ignored the smell and focused their efforts on rescuing as many as they could. It was the law of the sea—sailors always helped others in distress, except in battle, but sometimes even then. They lowered a rope ladder and dropped their only lifeboat into the water. As survivors came aboard, I handed out towels and blankets and gave them water while my grandfather checked them for injuries.
To my surprise, the sailors spoke the common tongue, the language spoken on Seaward Isle. I approached a middle-aged man with dark hair, graying at the temples. He wore a wet blue uniform with multiple gold stripes on his shoulders, obviously an officer.
“My name’s Alex. Are you in charge?” I asked.
“Yes, I am.”
“You’re bleeding.” I pointed to his forehead. “We can take a look at you.”
“Just a scratch.” He dabbed it with his fingers. “Thank you for your assistance. You said your name was Alex, correct? My name is Captain William Jonas, British Royal Navy. I’m the Commanding Officer of the HMS Camelot. We were participating in NATO Exercise Hunter Dawn 2031. Where are we?”
“You’re off the coast of Seaward Isle. We’re not exactly sure how you got here. This wasn’t supposed to happen… anymore.” I cast a concerned glance at my grandfather. “This is my grandfather, Lord Odin—he’s the Tree Elf representative on the Council of Elders.”
Captain Jonas extended his hand. “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” He paused and stared at him. “Did you say Tree Elf?” He laughed. “Marvelous job of makeup. Your ears are even pointed.”
“But I am a Tree Elf, Captain,” my grandfather said.
The Captain’s smile vanished as he stared; his jaw dropped. “How did you get here?”
“The correct question is, how did you get here? This is Eledon, and we live here. We came on the Elf ship, Kite, and this is the ship’s captain, Crestan. You’ll notice his ears are also pointed because we’re Elves. Unfortunately, the crew doesn’t speak the common tongue as my granddaughter and I do.”
Upon hearing his name, Crestan saluted Captain Jonas in Elf fashion with his right hand over his chest and a slight bow.
“Honored to meet a fellow seaman.” Captain Jonas returned a crisp salute to the brow, palm out, British-style. He swallowed hard. “The common tongue? You mean English?”
“Yes, it’s spoken on Seaward Isle. My granddaughter and I lived on this island for many years, but Crestan and his crew did not. The island was populated by mortals who’d been shipwrecked here, just as you are. But we haven’t had any shipwrecks in over a year. And we just repaired the Elf grid, so this would never happen again.”
“Apparently, it did. So, what do we do now?”
“Let’s get you and your crew to shore and figure this out.” Lord Odin turned away. “Take us to shore, Crestan,” he said in Elf.
Crestan waved two fingers over his head, followed by other verbal commands to his crew.
“Turn to,” Captain Jonas said. “At least that’s the same.” The nautical signal with two fingers told the crew to begin ship operations, which they did. They pulled up the sea anchor and raised the sail to catch a breeze.
Once moving, Crestan used a pink conch shell to send out a distress call. It was a long wail, followed by two short blasts, notifying anyone within earshot of the accident scene. The ship sailed ahead, throwing lines over the side to tow the rubber boats behind it.
I pointed to the right—the fog was lifting. “Grandfather, there are more gray ships over there.”
Captain Jonas nodded. “Yes, four more ships from the countries of the United States, France, Canada, and Germany, with over seven hundred sailors, including ours. How deep is the water here? And where are you taking us?”
“I don’t know how deep it is, but the city of Agana is just ahead.” I pointed forward. The city had been badly damaged by quakes, but the survivors had made a lot of repairs. The docks were fully functional again.
“Agana on the island of Guam?” Captain Jonas asked. “Why that’s impossible! That’s in the Pacific Ocean, and we were in the Atlantic.”
“No, Captain. This isn’t the same Agana. I’m not sure where the name of this city came from, but… you’re not in the mortal world anymore,” I said.
“What do you mean, we’re not in the mortal world?”
“You’re in Eledon, the world of the Elves.”
“Impossible!” He stared at me. “How did we get here?” His eyebrows raised high.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to explain.” I held my hands out to him.
My grandfather rested his hand on the Captain’s shoulder. “Eledon was created by our Mentors, our guides, when we were sent away from Earth nearly twelve thousand years ago. Our journey took us through a wormhole, so we’re probably quite a distance from Earth.”
Captain Jonas turned pale and touched his forehead. “This isn’t possible.”
“I’m afraid it is,” my grandfather said.
“How do we get back… to Earth?”
“I’ll ask our Mentors for help. They can make an entry point to the mortal world, but it can take some time. Meanwhile, we need to take care of you and your crew.”
“How am I going to explain this to them?” The Captain muttered; his eyes wide and jaw slackened. He shook his head slowly. “Surely, this must be a mistake.”
Alex has no choice but to accept a life in exile, living in a world full of gods and goddesses, where the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Vice Admiral Teller and his wife help her transition, but she soon finds out that she's become a pawn in a battle between Olympian gods. Hades, god of the Underworld, wants her dead because she has Titan blood, a lingering reminder of the War of the Titans. But she also carries the mark of his brother, Poseidon, god of the Sea, who vowed to protect all Water Elf children, carrying his mark—the tufts of blue hair in her ears. Will she survive?
A lifetime in exile? All I had wanted to do was go home… to my Elf grandparents… to my job as the Keeper of the Keys… not to London, where I was going. My heart ached as I sat in the black government limousine as it left Portsmouth Naval Base in Southern England. I felt the separation from home even more acutely than I did two weeks ago when I was told I couldn’t go home. On that night, Lord Fissure of the Rock Elves threatened to kill my grandfather if I returned, so I stayed here. I’ll get my revenge—I didn’t know when or how, but one day, I will make it happen. Lord Fissure said I would stay here until I died, but I couldn’t let that happen. I was only eighteen and didn’t look forward to spending the rest of my life here. I didn’t belong. I swiped a tear away before anyone else saw it.
I was seated facing the back of the limo, and across the way was Vice Admiral Sir Malcolm Teller of the British Royal Navy, my new friend and benefactor. He was one of the kindest men I had ever met, but he was also a target, just because he was a black man. A white supremacist group, known as the 23rd Infantry, wanted to kill him for his skin color. I’d never heard of such a thing, so I helped Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Tyler track down and capture the assassin, Nathan Jones.
The Admiral shuffled the pages of his newspaper as he chuckled to himself. He read the newspaper every day and encouraged me to do the same. I didn’t have the patience or enough understanding of the mortal world, but I often perused the headlines before I put it down.
I first met the Admiral shortly after I arrived in London. I was returning a hundred NATO sailors who had been stranded when their ships crashed near Seaward Isle in Eledon. An errant wormhole had sucked their ships to our lands, and left them shipwrecked. I used another ship, owned by the Wizard Ecstasy, to bring them back to London, but it could only carry a hundred at a time. The Admiral welcomed us, but left others in charge. When I told them my story, they thought I was delusional and potentially violent, so they wanted to send me to a clinic for a mental evaluation.
I escaped and found the only remaining portal back to Eledon was in Glastonbury, hundreds of miles from London. By the time I got there, the police had caught up to me. I was shot trying to run to the portal and could have died, but they flew me in a helicopter to London for surgery. After I gained some strength, I healed myself. Ha! That surprised them as well as myself. When I was released, the police arrested me and sent me to prison.
The Admiral told me he was shocked when he found out, but by then, it was too late. He couldn’t do anything about it. He was the only one who understood I was the key to getting the rest of the sailors back, and he talked to everyone to get me released, but everyone else thought I belonged in prison. He didn’t find a sympathetic ear until he talked to the Prime Minister of his country. Thank the stars!
To my surprise, prison wasn’t all that bad—I’d been in worse ones before. They housed me with hundreds of women, many of whom were friendly, once I got to know them, but I got a few bruises along the way. Prison was like a crash course in understanding the mortal world, and I learned a lot, both good and bad. Even though I couldn’t leave prison whenever I wanted, I didn’t have any place to go.
At the hearing for my case, the Admiral appeared once more. Before the judge decided on whether my case should go forward to trial, the Admiral barged into the courtroom and told them that the Prime Minister, whoever he was, had agreed to dismiss all the charges. Just like that. My hero.
But it left me with another problem. Although I was free, I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t use the portal in Glastonbury anymore, since Lord Fissure probably had it watched. And my friend, the Wizard Ecstasy, disappeared in the middle of the night, and no one could find him. Admiral Teller came to my rescue yet again. I had gotten a secret message from a friend in Eledon about a new portal for the remaining NATO sailors that would appear at the fall solstice on the
Portsmouth Naval Base in southern England. I didn’t know where that was, so I asked the Admiral. After he listened to my story, he even took me there.
Fortunately, the sailors appeared as scheduled, but so did a few other surprises like Lord Fissure of the Rock Elves, who refused to let me return to Eledon. There was also the unexpected return of all the mortals who had been previously stranded in Eledon. There must have been several thousand people, including men, women, and children. The Rock Elves had forced them to march across Seaward Isle to the portal, twenty to thirty miles away, depending on where they lived.
The third surprise was the return of the five NATO warships—I’m not sure how the Mentors, our Elf guides, did that, but they fell from the sky into the harbor at Portsmouth.
The Admiral took charge of everything, delaying his return to London for two weeks. I didn’t mind because it gave me time to work with the Royal Marines. I became friends with Captain Shauna O’Leary, and she included me in all their training activities. I loved it. Especially the combat training. The marines showed me how to use an assault rifle and how to be a part of a team. I felt accepted, so I thought about joining. But I wanted to wait a while, in case I could go home again. I didn’t have high hopes about Lord Fissure changing his mind, but there was always a chance.
Life in exile. I dreaded the thought.
Seated next to the Admiral was Captain William Jonas, a brilliant officer in the Royal Navy, who always looked at me with suspicion. He was one of the seven hundred sailors stranded on Eledon and blamed me for the entire incident. Although he was a handsome white man, he could also be stubborn, mean, and arrogant. It took everything he had to follow the Admiral’s orders to be nice to me. As he worked on his laptop, he grimaced and ran his hand through his short black hair, and his dark eyes narrowed as he stared at the screen. He was completing a report about the repairs needed for the HMS Camelot, the ship he commanded when it landed in Eledon. I wondered if he wanted to go back to that ship after they fixed it. Maybe.
On the seat next to me was Leftenant Nelson, the Admiral’s aide-de-camp. He had flaming red hair and light blue eyes and wasn’t much older than me. But he kept his distance—we had yet to have a decent conversation. I didn’t know what his job entailed, but he spent a good deal of his time playing video games on his mobile phone.
With nothing else to do but gaze out the window, I watched the vehicles on the motorway. We didn’t have cars and trucks in Eledon; we rode horses and pulled carts, and none of them moved this fast. The roadway was larger than anything I had ever seen with six lanes going in each direction. Although we’d taken this road to Portsmouth several weeks ago, I had slept the whole way. And it had been raining.
I heard an unusual noise from above, and looked out the sunroof. A helicopter was flying overhead. Although I had seen dozens of them at Portsmouth, I had first learned about this aircraft when I was at home on Seaward Isle in Eledon.
A dozen Japanese scientists, who were stranded on the island, wanted to use some computers from the old shipwrecks to investigate the island. They wanted to know why Seaward Isle was separated from the rest of Eledon and needed computers to figure it out. It also helped me out since it was my job to return the island to Eledon. I hoped they would tell me how. Anyway, they found a computer with a video game on it called Flight Encounters. One encounter involved learning to fly a helicopter, and after several tries, I scored an expert rating.
The helo flying over us looked similar to the one in the game with a reinforced metal cockpit with large front windows—I could see the pilot and co-pilot clearly, but didn’t see any markings on it. What was it doing here? It wasn’t part of the motorcade. Over the past few days, the Royal Marines had told me about using them in combat. I’d also seen many of their training films, and they let me sit inside one when it was parked. The cockpit looked like the one in the video game, and I was sure I could fly it with some practice.
But this helo was flying way too close, well below five-hundred-feet, the lowest level allowed for flight operations. Then it dropped even lower, and I thought it was going to land on the highway, but it hovered over us, matching our speed. The pilots smiled and waved at me, so I waved back. Friendly, I thought, at first. But my experience with the video game and my instincts told me something wasn’t right. What were these men up to? The hairs on the back of my neck rose as I thought of the worst-case scenario. The helo was going to attack us, as I had seen in the Marines’ training films. Then I dismissed the thought because there were too many cars around, which would have resulted in too much collateral damage.
Just to be sure, I nudged Leftenant Nelson—he raised his chin, but his eyes remained fixed on the screen of his mobile. His thumbs were frantically pushing the buttons on his video game.
“Wait.” The young officer stared intensely at the small screen, but the car crashed, and the game ended. “Damn it!” He shook his fist and gritted his teeth. “I can’t get past this level. What in the bloody hell do you want?” He pulled his ear buds out and faced me; his eyes narrowed—his anger still prevailing.
“Sorry, but why is that helicopter flying so low?” I pointed up. Since being here in the mortal world, I had learned life could be dangerous here.
“It’s just a traffic helicopter, looking for accidents on the highway.” He waved his hand at it without looking.
“Don’t you use helos with glass cockpits for that? And why are those men wearing sunglasses? It’s cloudy out.”
“They’re pilots—they think it makes them look cool.” He rolled his eyes and went back to his game.
“Good.” I was relieved. My instincts were wrong, so there was no need to worry. This was completely normal. But was it? Ever since that night I was supposed to return home to Eledon, but couldn’t, I wasn’t sure what normal was and what wasn’t. I relived the scene in my head for the umpteenth time this morning. I hated Lord Fissure.
The presence of this helo raised the prospect of a new scenario. It was remotely possible the white supremacist group, the 23rd Infantry, was making another attempt to kill Admiral Teller. I had already foiled their last one.
The Admiral burst out laughing and smiled at me over the top of the newspaper. He had become a dear friend and had even promised to help me find a way home. But how? He knew nothing about the Elf world. Were there more entry points somewhere I didn’t know about? No. I was stranded here. The correct term was exiled. I never thought the term would apply to me, but it did.
Forever—unless I can figure something out. Maybe. Hopefully.
So, what do I do in exile? If anything, I felt an urgent need to get back to Eledon to protect my grandfather from those Rock Elves, especially Lord Fissure. But there weren’t any more entry points, although I knew a way home. The Wizard Ecstasy had a ship that could take me back, but no one could find him. And there had to be an incentive for him. I knew what would entice him—Shinjan’s vault. I didn’t know where it was, but neither did he. All I knew was my wand could open it. I had changed the wand into a green stone and had it mounted on a necklace. It was easier than carrying a stick around with me. Where did I put it?
The idea of being in exile left me feeling lost and confused, so the Admiral offered to let me stay with him and his wife in London. With no other option, I agreed.
Leftenant Nelson tapped me on the arm. “Hey, Alex. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that. You didn’t know about the traffic helo. Sorry.”
“It’s all right. Sorry, I bothered you.” I wasn’t really sorry, but thought it was the polite thing to say. He was usually polite.
The helicopter rose higher over us, pacing the limo’s speed on the highway. I stared at it curiously and noticed the metal pods on the sides were like the ones used to fire rockets in combat. Why use a combat helo for traffic?
Without warning, the limo veered off the road and exited onto a two-lane country road. I grabbed hold of the handle near the window and sat up straight, looking for an answer. My eyes widened, and my pulse quickened as I looked around for an answer. I saw nothing unusual—there weren’t any accidents nearby and even the helo was gone.
“What’s going on, Captain?” Admiral Teller dropped the newspaper onto his lap.
“I’ll find out, Admiral.” He pressed a button on a speaker near his head. “Petty Officer Thomas, where are we going?”
“Following the security car in front, Captain. They said there’s an accident ahead on the motorway.”
Captain Jonas glanced at the traffic and checked his mobile phone. “Thomas, there aren’t any accidents reported. Call the security car and get them back on the motorway. We have an appointment at the Ministry this morning.”
But the limo continued along the country road.
Thomas, the driver, reported back. “Captain, no reply from the security car.”
The Captain wrinkled his brow and checked his phone again. “Try again.” He craned his neck to look at the traffic flowing smoothly on the motorway.
When I caught his eye, he shook his head and held up his hand as if to tell me not to worry. But if he was concerned, so was I. The sound of the chopper drew closer once more. I looked out the sunroof and saw the pilots grinning at me. This time, not in a friendly way. Alarm bells went off in my head, so I waved my hand to catch the Captain’s attention.
“I thought the chopper was supposed to watch traffic on the motorway.” I looked at the Captain, who was also peering out the sunroof; his jaws were clenched tightly, and his eyes focused on the chopper.
“I don’t like this.” Captain Jonas pressed the speaker button. “Thomas, get us out of here!”
“I can’t, sir. We’re boxed in. Another security car came up behind us.”
Captain Jonas looked out the back window. With his brow furrowed, he turned to Nelson. “Leftenant, send out a distress message immediately!” He sat forward to assess the scene out the windows. As our limo pulled out around to pass, the security cars kept us boxed in.
Nelson’s thumbs flew over the screen of his mobile phone, sending out a text message.
I felt helpless, and I could tell the men didn’t know what to do either. I turned around in my seat to see our driver’s face in the rearview mirror. His eyes were so wide I could see white around his pupils as he clutched the steering wheel and looked into the mirrors.
The Admiral reached over and touched the Captain’s arm. “Take evasive action.”
Captain Jonas pushed the speaker button. “Thomas, take evasive action. Turn left up ahead.” He turned to the Admiral. “Fasten your seat belt, Admiral. Leftenant, call for help again.”
The Admiral put on his seatbelt, as I tightened mine.
This time, the Leftenant called someone and said, “This is Leftenant Nelson, Vice Admiral Teller’s Aide. Code Red. I repeat, Code Red. Send help to our location ASAP.”
I didn’t know how anyone would know our location, but I hoped someone would find us soon.
Thomas, the driver, slammed on the brakes and turned the limo to the left. Good thing I had my seat belt on as I slid across the leather seat. The long vehicle barely made the sharp turn and skidded sideways before it straightened. Then Thomas stepped on the gas, speeding up until he jammed on the brakes again and nearly ran into the chopper as it touched down in front of us.
“Whoa!” I broke into a sweat. How do we get out of this? I looked at the Admiral, who looked at the Captain. No one had any answers.
Then the Captain shouted, “Turn right!” He pointed to a smaller road.
Thomas pivoted the limo down a road which became a dirt path, leading into a pasture where black-and-white cows munched on grass. The limo broke through a barbed wire fence and drove into the field. I gripped the handle as I bounced in the seat. Shit! This was not going well.
“Damn it!” The Captain grimaced. “Turn around! Get us out of here!” His eyes grew large as the chopper followed us into the field. “Send another message, Nelson!” He pulled the Admiral away from the window as Nelson made another distress call.
“Jonas, this car is armored,” the Admiral said. “We’re safer in here than out there.” He pointed out the window, sounding remarkably calm, considering the situation.
“Thomas, get us out of here!” Jonas waved his hand forward.
“I can’t, sir! I’ve lost control!” The steering wheel spun wildly under the driver’s hands as the limo fishtailed across the grass.
When the limo rocked to the right, I got a clear view of the chopper as its nose tilted down. “It’s aiming at us!” I pointed out the back window, recalling a scenario in the Marines’ training film, where the helos had fired rockets and shot bullets at the enemy in a war zone, not in the English countryside.
The pilots fired two rockets from the pods on the helo; both streamed white smoke and exploded behind us, kicking up mounds of dirt and lifting the rear end off the ground. I nearly hit the roof, even with my seat belt on. Gunfire strafed the back window, shattering the glass, but somehow, it remained intact.
I held on to the strap as the limo sped through the field, barely missing a cow. Seconds later, the limo ran into a stone wall and came to an abrupt stop. The airbags deployed around us, jolting me back into my seat. We sat in stunned silence.
“The chopper’s coming around for another crack at us, Captain.” Leftenant Nelson grabbed the door handle.
“Get out of here!” The Admiral unbuckled his seat belt and led the way out the door, followed by the rest of us, as we hunkered down behind a stone wall near a stand of trees.
Just as we ducked behind the wall, the chopper sent two more rockets at the car, exploding the rear of the vehicle. Then it opened fire with machine guns. Despite the armor plating and bulletproof glass, the limo was severely damaged—it hissed and steamed like an injured dragon.
I huddled beside Nelson as bullets pounded against the wall. I’d never felt anything so powerful and wondered if the stones were strong enough to protect us. It brought back memories of the time when I was shot, but somehow, it didn’t seem the same. Maybe because I had lost consciousness. And my recent training with the Marines had been under controlled situations, so it wasn’t the same either. My throat tightened as my fear rose. Sweat dripped off my forehead and ran down the sides of my face.
We were teetering on the edge of death.
Alex adjusts to a new life in the mortal world, but her life changes when she discovers evidence of Elves where there shouldn’t be. She finds a Governor’s chain, a necklace worn by one in Eledon, and even Elf women sold as slaves. She must report this to the Elf’s Council of Elders, but she would jeopardize her grandfather's life by returning home. Her investigation also uncovers a sinister plot by Hades, god of the Underworld, to steal Elfin gold and replenish his coffers. With time running out, Alex must risk everything to save her people and her home.
I had to learn to live with my fate. I was exiled from Eledon, from my Elf grandparents, from my job as the Keeper of the Keys for the Council of Elders, and from my friends—both Elf and mortal. London was nice, but it wasn’t home. How long was I going to be here? I certainly didn’t know, but I felt hopeful my life will work out, and I’ll find a purpose for all this. But to survive anywhere, I had to get a job. I had already been rejected in my normal line of work as a soldier. The Royal Marines had turned down my application, and as a Keeper, there weren’t any magical keys of Earth to hold. So, I got a job as a fashion model with my friend, Suzette.
Suzette and I celebrated my first full week of work by going to supper at the local pub, and then she planned to show me what it was like to be young and single, living in London. On Monday, I had signed a one-year contract to work as a model at Eclectic Designs, the fashion studio owned by Andrew Miller, where my friend Suzette worked as a fashion designer. She was the only child of Vice Admiral Sir Malcolm Teller and his wife Millie, and had studied art at the prestigious Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. For the last two years, she had worked as a fashion designer for Andrew. Her clothes were creative and lively, filled with color and unusual fabrics, catering to the working-class woman, and very different from the clothes we wore in Eledon. I liked them—they were easy to care for and ready to wear.
Her job was to design ten dresses every quarter with a fashion show for buyers in the twelfth week. It didn’t sound complicated, but my first week showed it was going to be a grueling schedule. Not only did she have to design the clothes, but she also had to find the right fabrics, then coordinate with the dressmakers to have a prototype made, and arrange the suppliers to accessorize them. My job was to help her conceptualize her designs and keep track of them, but also to model her clothes for the buyers who would come to the show, and for anyone else, including photographers. Unlike Suzette, I had no formal training in the field. At home in Eledon, I was the least fashion-savvy person around, so I had a lot to learn.
When I first moved to London, I was living with Suzette’s parents, Vice Admiral Sir Malcolm Teller and his wife Millie. The Admiral had helped me when I first arrived, and when I was forced into exile, he helped me again by giving me a place to live. But the British press caught wind of it and spread rumors about me having an affair with the Admiral, right under wife’s nose. I didn’t know why it was anybody’s business, but they stalked the neighborhood on the hunt for juicy tidbits. They even followed me when I jogged to Hyde Park for exercise at five in the morning and published a piece about a secret rendezvous I had with the Admiral. False! But when Christmas came around, even the press went on holiday, so it was a perfect time for me to move into Suzette’s flat.
Once we finished eating, Suzette took me down the street to a disco nightclub called the Factory. I didn’t know if it had ever been a real factory, but the place looked like a warehouse from the outside with colorful neon signs. I’d never been to one before—we didn’t have them in Eledon, so this was an unfamiliar experience for me. Suzette had received an invitation from her former model, Miranda, who had returned from Paris with her fiancé for the holidays. I didn’t want to go, if for no other reason than Miranda had left Suzette in a lurch months ago. It was days before the quarterly fashion show when she left, and Suzette was desperate to find a model to fill in. Luckily, I fit into all the clothes and only fell once during the show. After that, I thought my modeling career was over, but when I was turned down by the Royal Marines, I needed a job, and Suzette still needed a model. As the saying goes, it was a win-win situation.
The wind was icy when we arrived at the disco; my face seemed frozen as three men stopped us at the front door, checking names off a list. At first, I stepped back when one man approached us because he looked a lot like Nathan Jones, the assassin for the 23rd Infantry, a white supremacist group who had targeted Suzette’s father, the Admiral, for death. I had helped in his capture and arrest before the Admiral was harmed. The man wore black clothes, and he was tall and brawny and bald, but unlike Jones, he smiled. Jones never smiled.
Suzette leaned closer to me when she saw my expression. “Don’t worry, Alex. These men are called bouncers. They’ll bounce anyone out of the club who misbehaves.”
“Thanks for letting me know.” I nodded and took a deep breath, feeling more relaxed. I was finding the English language to be more challenging that I thought it would be. I grew up speaking it on Seaward Isle, but there were local accents and slang words I had never heard of before. Sometimes, Suzette was more than just a friend and co-worker and flatmate; she was also a translator.
It took all three bouncers to find Suzette’s name on the guest list. No one said they were bright. Anyway, we finally got inside and stopped at the edge of the dancefloor, amazed at the sights and sounds. The music was loud, and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people dancing to the same musical heartbeat.
I leaned closer to Suzette’s ear and shouted over the music, “I thought you said this party was for close friends of Miranda. There must be thousands of people here.” Miranda must have invited the entire city of London.
Suzette grinned at me. “Oh, you know how it is, love. One person invites another and another. The next thing you know, you have this. Come on! We can put our coats away over there and join the fun.” She snapped her fingers over her head as she danced to the coatroom.
We found an empty locker for our purses and hung our coats up on a rack. Suzette gave me the key to the locker, and she headed out to the dancefloor, snapping her fingers and wriggling her hips to the music.
I followed behind, but I didn’t know what to do. We didn’t have any dances like this in Eledon, so I copied her. I never could snap my fingers, but I tried anyway and wriggled my hips like Suzette did. I felt silly, but everyone else was doing it, too. Besides, it was so dark inside, no one noticed us. I could barely see Suzette who was dancing next to me. Soon, the music’s beat sucked us into the same musical organism that had taken over the dancefloor.
As I danced in the dark, I forgot about being exiled to the mortal world for a few moments until some lights flashed in my eyes. Then the memory of that night came flooding back to me, bringing back some tears. Suzette’s father, the Admiral, had helped me get to Portsmouth Royal Naval Base where the mortal sailors previously under his command, were to be returned. As I stood in front of the portal, I recalled how happy I felt seeing the bright, shining archway in the meadow. Once the sailors came through, I could return home. But the sailors were held back by Lord Fissure of the Rock Elves. He had the nerve to tell me I couldn’t use the portal, and if I tried, he would kill my Elf grandfather, Lord Odin. I swiped my tears away and clenched my fist. One day…
Abruptly, the lighting changed. When I glanced at Suzette, her blue hair stood out like a glowing lamp, and my white blouse had changed to purple. I didn’t even want to think about the blue hair that grew in my ears. Were they glowing, too?
The blue hair was a distinctive marking carried by every Water Elf child, male or female, and it grew in our ears. The Sky Lord and god of the Sea, Poseidon, bestowed it upon us after a Water Elf warrior saved his wife and her consorts from a dangerous sea creature. If we needed help, all we had to do was call on him. Apparently, he never told the Water Elves what it was for, because no one at home knew. Only after I was exiled here did I find out about it, and I was the first and only Water Elf to have ever called on him. His brother Hades, the Sky Lord and god of the Underworld wanted to kill me because I had Titan blood, a lingering issue from the War of the Titans. I’ve had to call on Poseidon three times already.
Since I didn’t understand what happened to the lighting, I turned to ask Suzette, but she was gone. Although she was older than me, she was petite and weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, while I was six feet tall and weighed close to a hundred-fifty pounds. I had more of a chance if anyone attacked us, especially with my combat training. I had proven my skills during the standoff against the white supremacists of the 23rd Infantry—they had kidnapped me to lure her father, the Admiral, into a death trap because he was a black man. Even though those men had been captured or killed, I knew there could be others.
As I looked over the crowd, I spotted Suzette’s vibrant blue hair glowing across the dancefloor—her paisley shirt and painted jeans also glowed brilliantly under the light. How did she get all the way over there? I breathed a sigh of relief and headed over, dancing along the way. All I could think about was moving to the rhythm of the beat. I was among thousands of people I didn’t know, dancing to music I never heard before, and living in a world I didn’t understand. I looked over the crowd for Suzette’s blue hair and saw it to my left. As I made my way toward her, I was amazed at the number of people here—I didn’t know anyone could have so many friends. The place literally oozed with people, and the music was so loud my heart beat to the music.
But I also found it soothing. I was feeling pretty good about myself since I started work. My symptoms of depression and anxiety had eased considerably, and I no longer felt lonely, a side effect of a life in exile. I even wrote in a journal every night to document my progress. Suzette told me a journal had helped her, so I thought I’d try it even though I was hesitant. I didn’t want to put down anything that could land me in jail. I’d already been there once, and that was enough.
Without warning, a male dancer came up to me. He was young and tall and thin; his white skin was sunburned on his cheeks and nose. He was cute, so I smiled at him, but I was ready to move on. The mirrored disco lights flashed, showing off his light-colored eyes—blue or green or gray, I wasn’t sure, and he winked at me. His blond hair was cut close to his scalp—the cut was often called high and tight by the soldiers at the Nyla Army Garrison in Eledon where I’d been trained as a soldier, but the top of his hair was long and fell around his ears. Was he really a soldier? My foster sister’s husband, Edgar, was a professional soldier, a former member of the U.S. Navy SEAL Team, and he referred to civilians who dressed like soldiers as ‘wannabes.’ He never called me that; he called me a lifer, a soldier dedicated to the military life forever. It was true.
As I danced, the male dancer focused on my body as if he could see through my clothes. His stare made me feel uncomfortable, so I danced around him toward Suzette’s last location. He jumped in front of me and grabbed my waist, rubbing the crotch of his pants against my hips as his eyes closed; his arousal intensified. His public display disgusted me, so I backed away, but he persisted and followed me. Not only did this guy ‘wannabe’ a soldier, but he also wanted to be a sexual object. It reminded me of a movie I saw with Suzette called “Magic Mike,” which featured male dancers. I chuckled to myself as I made up a nickname for this guy: ‘Wannabe Willy.’
“Back off!” I shouted and resumed my journey to meet up with Suzette.
But Wannabe Willy came up from behind and wrapped his arms around me. He rubbed his crotch against my buttocks and shouted in my ear, “Hey, baby doll, I like tall girls. You turn me on.”
That was the last thing I wanted to do. I squirmed out of his hold as he slid a card down the front of my blouse. “Call me, baby doll. We can have a private party.”
I stiff-armed him in the chest, forcing him away. “I said to back off, and I meant it!”
He laughed and danced closer as he wriggled his tongue and licked his lips. Since he wasn’t getting the message, I kneed him in the balls. He bent over, covering his private parts with his hands, and his eyes opened wide.
“I said to back off!” My jaw clenched tightly as I stood with my hands on my hips. “Leave me alone!”
He hobbled away and disappeared into the crowd. He got the message. Finally.
My anger simmered as I clenched my fist. If I was home in Eledon, all I had to do was tell my Elfin cousin Prince Darin, and he would have sent him to the Mounds prison for rehabilitation. But my cousin wasn’t here, and I wasn’t in Eledon… unfortunately. If Wannabe Willy ever came back, I’d have to deal with him on my own. But I wasn’t in the mood for a fight, although I could take him down if I wanted to.
Soon, the rhythmic beat of the music calmed me down. To my relief, no one seemed to have noticed my situation with Wannabe Willy, so I resumed my trek across the dance floor. I finally tracked down Suzette and concluded she wasn’t in any danger after all.
So, I resumed dancing, copying moves from others around me. None of them were doing the same thing, so I improvised. Just as I got into my groove (a new word for me), the overhead lights flicked on, and a deep, male voice came over the speakers, “Time for a break. Be back in ten. We’ll keep the music going… down low.” He lowered his voice to say the last two words. It sounded cool, a word I’d incorporated into my growing vocabulary, and it had nothing to do with the temperature.
Suzette continued dancing to the subdued music as she headed to the bar. She picked up two drinks, holding one for me as she sipped the other. She laughed as I danced my way over to her.
“Thanks.” I took a sip, but it was so sweet my lips puckered. “What’s this?”
“It’s called a Zephyr.”
It was blue and sweet and cold. Too sweet for me. I slid it onto the bar as Suzette headed to the women’s restroom.
Suzette waved me on. “Come on. I just saw Miranda go inside. Let’s wish her a happy birthday.” She danced past the girls, standing in line for the toilets. Near the sinks, a group of women huddled together, talking and laughing. They were all beautiful black women, current and former models at Eclectic Designs, who eyed me with suspicion and excluded me from their circle. But they accepted Suzette, even though she wasn’t a model. She was too short for the runway, but all the models loved her designs. I thought Suzette was as attractive as any of them, even with her blue hair. She had no blemishes on her soft brown skin, which was the same color and texture as her mother’s, and she had her father’s dark brown eyes.
Meanwhile, Miranda stood in the middle of the huddle, showing off a beautiful diamond necklace. It sparkled brilliantly in the light as the girls oo’d and ah’d. Miranda was the model I had replaced—she was shorter and thinner than I was with beautiful dark skin, even darker than Suzette’s. Her brown eyes were wide with lashes thickly covered with mascara and sparkling eyeliner. She draped a mane of frizzy blond hair over her shoulders, and she had a delicate grace that reminded me of my grandmother.
If only I could be so elegant… I felt a twinge of envy. I stood over the sink and glared at my reflection in the mirror. My face glistened with sweat, and wisps of my black hair clung to my neck. I blotted my face and neck dry with a paper towel, but my flowered shirt had wet blotches under my armpits, and my legs were sweating inside my blue jeans—even my feet were sweaty. The whites around my blue eyes were bloodshot, irritated by the poor ventilation inside the building, and the blue hair in my ears stood out like beacons. How elegant is that? I pulled my hair down to cover my ears.
I went to stand behind the circle of women, close to Suzette, when Miranda turned around, and I got a clear view of the necklace she was holding.
My jaw dropped. It was a Governor’s Chain, made by the Elves. A dozen enormous diamonds were connected by a gold chain with a piece of honeyed amber and a pendant, displaying an emblem of sparkling diamonds set on a golden plate. I’d seen the Elfin governors wear them at a meeting a few years ago; each one had a unique insect inside the piece of amber.
How did it get here? Was this a call from home?
Thousands of years ago, Eledon was created for the Elves by their Mentors when they were forced to leave Earth. At least, that’s how the legend goes. In return, the Elves must pay them a tribute in gold, known as the Golden Harvest, every four thousand years. The Elfin Council of Elders appoints Lady Alexin (Alex) Dumwalt, the Keeper of the Keys, to manage the next payment, due 244 years from now. That is, until the Mentors show up unexpectedly and demand immediate payment of the Epsilon Account. Since the Harvest has never been called that, Alex suspects foul play and uncovers a sinister plot by the Star Elves, a rival clan from the Constellations, who want to steal the gold. To make matters worse, they're willing to do anything to succeed to include murder. Can Alex stop them and save the Elfin gold before it’s too late?
It worked! The emergency contact system I had set up with the help of my Elf grandfather really worked. With this system, I could leave the magical Keys of Eledon with my grandfather, just in case something disastrous happened, like a flood or a quake. My grandfather had been the Keeper of the Keys before me, so he could fill in as needed, but if there was something he couldn’t handle, he’d sent Lord Hillen for me.
Lord Hillen had been in London recently to investigate the presence of Elf slaves in the mortal world and had posed as my Uncle James. If he needed to contact me, his lordship would use the portal and call me on a pay phone on the street corner outside of Hyde Park. We rehearsed it several times to make sure it worked. Unfortunately, when he called for real, I was the middle of a fashion show in Paris.
A few months ago, I signed a five-year contract to work as a fashion model for the Echelon Modeling Agency owned and operated by Andrew Miller. The next day, my exile to the mortal world ended, and I was allowed to return to Eledon. But since I had signed a contract, I felt obligated to finish it, so I asked for and received permission from the Elfin Council of Elders to do so. Five years meant nothing to the Elves.
My mobile phone rang when I returned backstage to change into my next outfit. I should have let it go to voicemail, but the caller ID said it was Mrs. MacDougall, the dog walker from Hyde Park in London. Why would she be calling me? Then I recalled how much Lord Hillen had liked the woman, so I answered it.
“Mrs. MacDougall? This is Alex. You’re on speaker.” I needed my hands free to touch up my makeup.
“Oh, Alex. How wonderful! I just wanted to let you know your Uncle James is here, and he asked me to call you.”
“What ‘s wrong?”
“Alex? Alex, are you there?” Uncle James/Lord Hillen shouted loud enough to be heard over the music. Everyone shushed me.
“Sorry.” I turned off the speaker and put the phone to my ear. “Yes, Uncle James. I’m here. You don’t have to shout. Is everything all right?” I was concerned about my grandparents. They weren’t old by Elf standards; they were considered middle-aged even though my grandfather was thirty-five hundred years old, and my grandmother was about fifteen hundred years old, give or take a thousand years.
“Lord Ashur must speak to you immediately,” he said. “It’s about the Epsilon Account.” I paused. “What Epsilon Account?” I’d never heard of it although I knew it was the fifth letter in the ancient Greek alphabet. But the Elves had never used Greek letters for anything. Still, I was relieved to hear it wasn’t about my grandparents.
“We don’t know what it is,” he said.
“Okay, so why is this an emergency?”
“Because Lord Ashur said so.”
“Oh.” Lord Ashur was the Elfin leader of the Council of Elders, and I should drop whatever I was doing and rush home, but I couldn’t right now. “I can meet you in Hyde Park by eleven tonight.” I had memorized the Eurostar train schedule from Paris, so I knew what time it got to
London. Once I got there, I would have to transfer to a local train for Hyde Park. “Can you wait with Mrs. MacDougall?”
“Oh… my pleasure,” he said, as he ended the call.
I knew he liked her, so I was sure he’d be happy to spend more time with her. I rushed off to make my next entrance and slipped the phone in my pocket without thinking. As I strutted down the runway, my mobile went off again. It was making too much noise to ignore, so I took it out to turn it off. It was Mrs. MacDougall again, so I swiped it and answered it as if it was part of the show. Uncle James/Lord Hillen came on the line, saying he forgot to tell me my grandparents were fine.
“Thank you so much,” I said, as I hung up. But instead of putting it away, I continued talking as if I was in the middle of a business deal. “But you don’t understand. I want two million, not one.” I rolled my eyes at the audience. “No deal!” I touched the screen, shook my head, and waved my mobile in the air.
The audience laughed, and cameras flashed all over the place. So, I turned my back to the audience and took a selfie. The show’s narrator, Philippe, grimaced at me and waved me off the stage. I strolled by him and waved my mobile to thunderous applause.
It was never my intent to become a fashion model, but after I was exiled here, I needed to earn a living. Modeling didn’t require a special skill except to walk in high heels. At the time, I was staying with Vice Admiral Sir Malcolm Teller and his wife in London because I had no place else to live. Their daughter, Suzette, was a fashion designer and asked me to be her model because hers had quit unexpectedly. I did fine in my first show, but my heart wasn’t in it. I’d been trained as a soldier, so I applied to join the Royal Marines. When they rejected my application, I went back to work as a model.
After several more dress changes, I ended the show wearing a spectacular wedding dress. My boss, Étienne, had specialized in them at one time in his career, and this dress was exceptional. It was made of embossed white silk with kimono-type sleeves, with a definite Japanese flair, but with an off-the-shoulder look. The train was at least twenty feet long, and the veil was to die for. I’d get married in that dress except I didn’t want to get married. Maybe one day. After all, that’s what fantasies are made of.
When the show ended, Philippe, the narrator, stormed backstage and chewed me out for taking a phone on the runway and violating the model’s code of silence. It wasn’t the first time he did this. The man hated me from the moment we met. He spoke so rapidly in French I couldn’t understand what he said except for those few words that crossed over to English, like ‘idiot’ and ‘mobile phone.’ I didn’t know why the French language was a such problem for me. I was fluent in four other languages—English, Scinthian (ancient Greek), Dwarf (Droogan), and Elf. Maybe it was a self-defense mechanism, so I wouldn’t understand all the nasty things Philippe said to me.
His tirade lasted for ten minutes. By the time he was done, everyone else had left, and we were the only ones backstage. He stalked away and left me to find my way to the mandatory after-show party at our boss’s house.
The party was for everyone who had been involved with the show. I had a glass of wine and some light snacks, waiting for the man of the hour to arrive. When Étienne came in, everyone applauded—the show was the smash hit of fashion week—everyone was talking about his new fashion line called Echelon. He had hired me to represent his line exclusively through Andrew’s modeling agency in London. The two of them had been buddies for years, even attending the same fashion school together in Paris.
To launch the Echelon line, we began a world tour in Beijing, several weeks ago. From there, we flew to Tokyo and on to the United States—Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago. I had walked the runway in New York City during their fashion week at the beginning of this month, then to London for the show the week after. Now in Paris. The tour was winding down, but I still had days of photoshoots coming up.
Étienne was a shy man in his thirties—he had a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. He was as tall as I was, but thinner—he looked frail and wore black horned-rimmed glasses with thick lenses. Being in the spotlight didn’t suit him, but he didn’t reject it, either. He knew it was necessary to have an audience for his clothes. So, he smiled a lot, and let other people do the talking, especially his new partner, Philippe Girard, the narrator for the show. I went up to him. “Étienne, I’m so sorry about my phone during the show. I had an emergency phone call, so I put it in my pocket. I didn’t have time to turn it off.” I reached out to touch his arm, but pulled back when I remembered he didn’t like being touched.
He cracked a big smile, but stared at the ceiling. “Don’t worry, ma chéri (my darling). It was the most fun, and all the reviews are talking about it. It was good. Bon travail (good job).”
“Merci.” One of the few French words I had mastered. “Philippe was very upset with me. I’m not sure, but I think he threatened to fire me.” Maybe, maybe not. If he didn’t say it, he wanted to.
“No worries, Alex. You are my star.” He smiled widely.
I felt better already. “My uncle was calling me about a family emergency. I need to go home and find out what it’s about, and then I’ll let you know if I can make the photoshoots.”
“Ah, je comprends (I understand). We can make arrangements.” He smiled.
“I need to leave tonight. I’ll let you know.” I loved working for this man—he was so kind.
“Va bien. A bientot (Good. See you later).” He waved.
I caught a taxi to my hotel to pack up and just made the Eurostar from Paris to London. The train was so smooth I fell asleep and woke only when I heard the announcement for the St. Pancras International Train Terminal in London.
I called Mrs. MacDougall’s mobile. “Mrs. MacDougall? This is Alex again. Is Uncle James there?”
“Yes, he is. Hold on.” She handed him the phone. “It’s Alex. Don’t tell her where we are,” she said to him, not realizing I could hear her. Why should I care? Lord Hillen was over six thousand years old. Mrs. MacDougall wasn’t anywhere near his age, but looked just as old. I couldn’t imagine them in bed together, but maybe… the thought made me smile.
“There you are,” Lord Hillen said. “Where are you?”
“My train is pulling into London, but I need to transfer to a local train. I’ll be at Hyde Park by eleven.”
“We’ll meet you there. About eleven, you say?”
“Yes. I’ll be there.” I clicked off the phone and put it in my pocket as I pressed my lips together. They were lovers.
When I arrived at the park, I called Mrs. MacDougall again. She was at the back entrance to the park while I was at the front. From a distance, I could see her white hair and her Burberry raincoat in the street lights, while Uncle James/Lord Hillen wore his favorite kilt. He even liked to wear it to Council meetings in Eledon. His long, white hair was pulled back in a man-bun, his favorite hairstyle.
Mrs. MacDougall’s little dog was at her feet. The tiny dog was a breed called Papillon (the French word for butterfly), and his name was Inspector Riley. He had pure white fur, dotted with black and brown spots and long tendrils of black hair trailing from his ears. So cute. He barked when he saw me and tap danced when I bent down to pet him. He jumped into my arms and greeted me with a lick on my face.
“Why, thank you, Inspector Riley.” I held him as he licked my face once more. Then I greeted Lord Hillen. “Uncle James, how good to see you!” I kissed him on the cheek.
“Good to see you, too, Alex,” he said.
“Mrs. MacDougall, I can’t thank you enough for helping my uncle,” I said.
“It was no problem at all.” She blushed as I placed the dog down, and she adjusted the leash.
“I should take Inspector Riley home.”
“I’ll walk you there, Henrietta,” Uncle James said.
“Oh, no need. It’s not far.” She held up her hand.
But it was dark and late at night; I didn’t want her walking home alone either. “We’ll both walk you home.”
“If you insist.”
As we strolled away from the park, we talked about her latest book. She wrote mysteries and had set her current project at a fashion show. She’d only been to one, so she asked me a myriad of questions. I answered most of them, and by then, we were at her flat. It was only a few blocks from the park, with a bright blue door. She went in and waved at Uncle James through the window.
As we headed back to the park, I asked him, “So, Lord Hillen, what is this Epsilon Account?”
“We think it has to do with the Golden Harvest, but we aren’t sure. The Mentors started calling it that a few days ago. Lord Ashur wants you to investigate it, Keeper.” Instead of using my name, he addressed me by my title. I was the Keeper of the Keys for the Elves, the first woman to hold that position and the youngest ever. Before I left, the Council put me in charge of the Golden Harvest, which was to take place in the Elf year 12,000, over two-hundred years from now. Once every four thousand years, we paid a tribute in gold to our Mentors for allowing us to stay in Eledon. This will be the third Harvest since we arrived. What was the problem? We had over two hundred years to get ready.
“In addition,” he said, “Lady Sitana, the Star Elf representative, has taken a sudden interest in it; she wanted to know how much gold we had set aside for the Harvest. The Chamber Elf has solicited all the parties involved, except the Dwarves.”
“I agree it’s a little early, but it’s good to know where we stand.”
“All I know is that Lord Ashur wants to talk to you about it.”
“All right, but why is this an emergency?”
“Because Lord Ashur said so.”
“Oh.” I sighed and checked my calendar on my phone. Tomorrow at noon, I had a photoshoot in Paris, which meant I had to leave on the early train from London. “I don’t see how I can help him.”
“He’s waiting for you.”
“Right now? Oh, man! Why didn’t you tell me?” I felt super guilty about making him wait.
“All right. I’ll see what’s going on.”
“Good.” He stared at me. “Now?”
We strolled down a gravel path to the bushes where the portal would appear. I made sure no one was watching and said the spell. A glowing white arch appeared, and we stepped through it to Eledon.