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Everyone was up early the next morning, sitting in one of the Palace’s many meeting rooms. Amneris, her Court and Lvaane took up their usual spots around the oblong table. Ema and Xix found their own places next to them. Tara and Liam, through a link to Terpola, appeared as holograms in the final two seats.

“Okay,” Amneris said, “everyone is here. Time to get down to business.” She clapped her hands together. “And because I have no fucking clue what’s going on, I’m gonna let Leo take it from here.”

Leo sent her a withering glare. “The first thing we need to do is make sure everyone is on the same page.” He turned to the others. “Not too long ago, a woman named Nephthys broken into a chamber beneath the Castle in Crita and freed Aurelia, one of the Frozen Warriors from ancient Terpolite times. Shortly after, they and members of the Rebellion attacked the Academy and kidnapped Hathor. They took her to Apep but we managed to rescue here soon after. That’s also where we found Xix and Ema. By now, I believe it would be safe to assume our enemies are no longer on Apep. Have I missed anything?”

“Do you know why Aurelia was freed?” Ema asked. “Or why the Academy was attacked?”

“Pretty sure the attack was to get at Queenie,” Jay said, pointing at Amneris.

She nodded. “It worked. I’m pissed!”

Hathor raised her hand shily. “I think I can answer that first question.”

Everyone turned to her.

“Really?” Ema asked.

“I guess you could say I played dead for a while after I woke up,” Hathor said.

Amneris grinned. “That’s my girl!”

“Thanks.” Hathor smiled. “Nephthys said something about needing Aurelia to lead her to some sort of ultimate power. It sounded like she was looking for a way to end the world or something.”

“The Warrior’s power!” Tara jumped to her feet. “Be right back!” Her hologram vanished.

“No idea what that was about.” Liam turned to Leo. “There is something you missed. We had a break in. Crita’s main library was raided a few months ago. We didn’t think anything of it at the time, but we finally compiled a list of stolen books. All of them have some reference to the Frozen Ones and the reign of Acheron, the first Dark King.”

Jay pulled out his phone. “Keep going, ignore me.”

Nikki said, “So, it would be safe to assume this entire situation has something to do with the Frozen Ones?”

“It definitely would be!” Tara’s hologram reappeared. “You said Nephthys wanted to end the world?”

“I said it sounded like she wants to,” Hathor corrected.

“According to the stories,” Tara said, “who we now know as the ‘Frozen Ones’ were the best warriors chosen by the first Naka’Idis, a man named Acheron. He entrusted the warriors with the secret of some massive power source but no one ever found out what it was. There were some records in the process of being translated, but they were destroyed when someone destroyed Ilsbrook.”

All eyes turned on Amneris.

She closed her own with a stubborn huff. “For the last time, I was having a bad day.”

Tara continued, “Scroll fragments were recovered from the body of scholars before the area turned into the Wastelands—”

“I’m sorry, okay! Well, I’m not sorry because they totally had it coming, but—” Colt placed a hand over Amneris’ mouth. She sent him an angry glare.

“The fragments were badly burnt so only so much could be recovered. That’s how we know the secret was some sort of energy source.” Tara scrolled through her tablet’s screen. “Unfortunately, because of the horrid state they were discovered in—” Another pointed glare at Amneris— “That’s all anyone was able to find out. If Nephthys is trying to end the world, maybe that’s a way she can do it.”

“I’d bet it’s safe to say she’s definitely after something from that age.” Jay pointed at his phone. “Some kids were hiding in the Academy Library during the attack. Apparently, some of the soldiers raided the history section. A lot of that stuff is about the Time of the Ancients.”

“That can’t be a coincidence,” Dan said. “Were there also books on mythology taken?”

Jay shrugged. “We haven’t gotten down to missing items yet. We’re still working on missing people.”

“What about the scroll?” Carmin asked.

“Nothing we don’t already know,” Leo said. A snap of his figures brought the scroll to his hand. “Though there are a few lines even Amns and Lvaane can’t translate.”

Xix eyed the scroll with a thoughtful frown. “Might I have a look?” Leo, reluctantly, handed it over. Xix unrolled it and begun reading as the conversation continued.

Colt sat forward. “Assuming Nephthys did not realise Hathor was faking, we now know the reason for her awakening Aurelia.”

“But why her in particular?” Zoe rested her elbows on the table. “From what Tara’s told us previously, and from what Amneris saw in the Chamber there are tens of warriors at least, yet she went after Aurelia. Why?”

Ema asked, “What do we actually know about Aurelia?”

“Nothing at all,” Tara admitted. “We know about the Frozen Ones as a group, but not the people as individuals.”

“History problems,” Jay said with a nod. “Can’t always be avoided.”

Amneris grimaced. “There . . . might be someone who knows about her.” She sighed. “This is a terrible idea, but hey.” Amneris crooked her finger at one of the guards. “Be a dear and have someone bring Kek up, please.”

Leo gawked. “What the fuck could you want from him?”

“Uh, he knows more about the Frozen Ones than even the Database?”


Amneris fixed him with a stern glare. “Just trust me.”

Xix spoke up before anyone else could disagree. “This scroll . . . Was it found on a pillar?”

“It was,” Amneris said.

“Do you have a picture?”

Amneris pulled up the picture on a holloscreen in the centre of the table.

Xix frowned at it. “Assuming this is the original . . .”

Ema nudged her friend’s arm. “You’re making your ‘oh shit’ face.”

“What? Oh.” She forced a smile. “I’m probably reading it wrong.”

“Nope,” came a familiar voice from the doorway. “You’re reading it right.”

Everyone turned to face Kek.

Flanked by two guards, he lowered himself into a mocking bow. “My favourite Queen has asked for my assistance. I see your new Terpolite friends are useless.” He turned to Colt. “The Forgotten King! I see you still haven’t told your identity to the others.”

Jay raised his hand. “Yeah, still waiting for that explanation.”

“What are you talking about?” Hathor asked.

“Not now,” Amneris muttered. Jay shrugged awkwardly.

Kek ignored the exchange, eyes continuing around the table until they came to land on Xix. “And the daughter of the great Enliatu Acheron, descendent of Archeron himself. A pleasure to finally make your proper acquaintance.”

Xix gave him a sour look. “I am unable to say the same to you. How do you know what I have read?”

Kek swaggered further into the room. Amneris waved a hand to stop the guards from coming after him. Kek rested his hands on the table, leaning closer to the image. He grinned, turned away, then fell back to sit on one of the other chairs against the wall of the room.

“I know because I took the liberty of learning the language,” he answered, toying with the armbands around his wrists keeping his power at bay. “I imagine that’s how you know it.”

“The language is only passed through the lineage of the First Dark King. It is not public access.” Xix’s eyes narrowed as she demanded, “How could you possibly know it?”

“Stole a book.” Kek sat up. “So, we agree the language is the version of the Old Language used by the Terpolites during the Time of the Ancients?”


“What does it say?” Zoe asked.

“The writings speak of something called ‘The Trials of the Ancients’ which are to be held in the ‘City of the Wave, destroyed by God’s might’,” Xix said, translating as she went. “Should the Trials be passed, a vision will be transmitted from the ‘Vessel of Time’ to someone called ‘the Eternal’.”

“So that’s why they took me,” Hathor murmured.

Xix continued, “The power of ‘the Weapon’ will be passed on to someone deemed worthy, either Naiu or Naka’Idis, and that person may do as they please with the power.”

“This doesn’t make sense,” Carmin said. “Amns is Naiu’Idis and there is no Naka’Idis. Without either, how could Nephthys get the power?”

“There are other translations,” Kek called, hands resting lazily on the back of his head. “Some say a chosen warrior of either Balance Keeper is able to hold the power.”

“Aurelia!” Kayla exclaimed. “She must be the chosen! That must be why Nephthys woke her!”

Colt eyed Kek. “What else do you know?”

He snorted dismissively. “Why the fuck would I tell you?”

Colt sat forward with a strangely dark smile, lacing his fingers together. “Because should Nephthys gain that power, she will use it to destroy Creation or shape it into her image. At the very least, she would turn it into a Hellscape. Last I checked, you were part of Creation.”

Kek blinked, then blinked again. He pointed a finger a Colt. “Yeah. Right. Fair point.” He jumped to his feet and dragged his chair toward the table, squeezing between Liam’s hologram and Dan. “The power of the Weapon is the secret power the Frozen Ones guarded. As they are Terpolite warriors Archeron deemed worthy, only the power of Naka can be used to open the door.”

Xix looked down.

Amneris watched her closely. “Only Naka’s power can be used to enter the city?”

“Yup,” Kek answered, popping the ‘p’.

Her gaze remained on Xix. “You may have to—”

“I don’t want it,” the woman said with a shake of the head.

“There’s no one else we know of.”

“I refuse.”

“You probably don’t have a choice with this, Xix,” Amneris said firmly. “If we want to get into the city and stop Nephthys, you will have to—”

“No!” The Terpolite slammed her hands on the table and shot to her feet. “I will not do it and you cannot make me!” Xix shoved her chair out of the way and stormed toward the open door. The guards stepped in front of her. “Let me pass!”

“Let her,” Amneris said with strange quietness. The guards moved aside. Xix ran from the room. Amneris tugged her hair in through. “Car, if it’s not too much trouble—”

“Sure.” Carmin grunted as she stood. “I’ll be back.”

Lvaane eyed Amneris as Carmin left the room. “We need to have a serious discussion about your people skills.”

“Whatever, we can do that later.” Amneris tossed her hair over a shoulder. “What we should be focusing on right now is finding worlds that existed at the time this—” she pointed at the pillar— “was written.”

Nikki said, “You know that doesn’t exactly narrow it down, right?”

“I know, I know, but we have to start somewhere. Assuming Xix . . .” She trailed off with a shake of the head. “I’m sure we’ll find a way round without her.”

Kek laughed loudly. “Fuck no. You need that power.” He grinned. “Or are you planning on visiting Naiu and asking her for help.”

“I never told you that—”

“Common sense, Baby Girl.” He tapped the side of his head. “I know shit.”

Amneris bristled. “Yes, and said shit is the only reason you’re alive.”

Jay said, “At least figuring out the location won’t be too hard.”

“Agreed,” Amneris said at the same time as Colt asked, “It is?”

“The ‘City of the Wave, destroyed by God’s might’? Seriously?” Jay gave Colt a surprised look. “Dude, have you never heard of Atlantis?”

“Honey, that doesn’t narrow it down,” Ema said in a sing-song voice. “Many universes have versions of Atlantis that existed at the time of Acheron. There are also a lot of versions around today. It’ll take a miracle to figure out the exact spot.”

“Miracle, huh?” Amneris pushed herself to her feet. “Meeting over.”

“Where are you going?” Colt asked.

Amneris smiled. “To see if I can get some divine intervention.”

As she made her way down the hallway, Amneris quickly found herself walking alongside Hathor. “Why did Kek call Colt ‘The Forgotten King’?” the girl asked.

“Because he’s an idiot who can’t keep his mouth shut,” Amneris muttered.

Hathor grabbed her arm, forcing her to stop. “Why did Kek call Colt by my father’s title?”


“And what did Jay want an explanation about?”


“And what did Kek mean about Colt not ‘explaining his identity’?”

“It’s a little—”

“Is Colt my father?”

Amneris could feel her face burning. “It’s a bit more complicated than that, Hathy.”

Hathor crossed her arms. “Then explain it.”

There it was, the conversation Amneris had been dreading for the last three years. And, of course, her mind had gone completely blank about how to explain it. How was she supposed to explain it? Hell, Amneris still didn’t get how it happened.

“Well?” Hathor demanded.

Amneris sighed. Might as well get it over with. “The soul of my husband, your father, was raised by Tara three years ago. She forced it into Colt’s recently soulless body. Assar became the soul inhabitant, no pun intended, tracked me down, and joined our side against Tara and the Terpolites. The rest you know.”

“And how long, exactly, have you known about the whole soul switch deal?”

Amneris grimaced, pressing her fingers together. “Since we were trapped on the Dreamscape.”

A moment of silence. Then.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!” Hathor ran her hands through her hair. “You didn’t think to mention this? You didn’t once think that maybe it was important to tell your daughter that her father was alive?”

“We thought it would be weird—”

“Weird,” Hathor deadpanned. “WEIRD? What’s weird is hiding something like that from me! Were you ever going to say anything?” When no answer came, Hathor’s anger only grew. “Thanks for nothing!” She shoved past Amneris, stomping down the hallway.

Amneris watched her until she was out of site, then turned to where the others were watching. Her power sparked around her. “It’s not like any of you said anything either.”

“Any of . . .” Ema waved her hands. “Wait, how many people know? Show of hands.”

Slowly, awkwardly, Leo, Dan and Jay raised their hands. Behind them, Kek’s hand shot up with obvious enthusiasm. Lvaane then raised his own hand. After all of them, Kayla made a so-so motion.

Ema raised her own hand to her head in obvious disappointment.

“Carmin knew, too,” Dan said quietly.

“Of course she did,” Amneris muttered, walking away.

“Aren’t you going after her?” Nikki called.

“Busy. I’ll do it later.”