“What the hell are you doing slacking around back here?” Axel asked bursting into a dimly lit room, wherein Zero was slouched over a table.
“I’ve been getting reports,” Zero said. “And making preparations based on them. Why?”
“A messenger from Choltin showed up,” Axel answered. “There’s some kind of magic at work causing it to snow non-stop. Their only hint is an ice sculpture that’s being protected by some kind of shield so it can’t be touched or damaged. They want you to go over there and see if you can dispel the enchantment.”
“It’s a bad time,” Zero said. “I just received a message from Lilly. She and Velvet are on the way back with Axra and some people called Twila and Lysara.”
“Axra is tired of traveling already?” Axel asked.
“Far from it,” Zero said. “I guess they’re going to drop some things off, get new supplies and stay for a few days before going to the Great Library.”
“I think this crap needs explaining,” Axel stated.
“We can ask when they arrive,” Zero said. “The message was not particularly detailed. I’ve sent a… scout ahead to the city gates. She’ll start transmitting an image once they arrive.”
“You wanna send Rachel home?” Axel asked.
“No,” Zero stated. “The plan should still be salvageable. We just have to find some excuse for their visit that distances Axra from her identity. Perhaps we could…”
His train of thought was interrupted by a glowing circular image appearing before them. Axra was walking beside a purple-haired half elf they’d never seen before and Lilly. A second half-elf was walking behind them. Velvet was in the rear being pulled by his dogs. The two kings observed an exchange among the group.
“This is going to be awesome!” Lysara exclaimed “I bet we’re treated like royalty.”
“Well we are guests of the princess,” Twila said. “It wouldn’t be surprising.”
“Hey, what are the guest rooms like?” Lysara asked. “We aren’t going to be crowded into the same one, are we?”
“You don’t have to come,” Axra said. “You can stay in town and give one of your little performances. It’s not like you were even invited,”
“Axra!” Twila cried.
“Our daughter is in love,” Axel said.
“What?” Zero inquired.
“It’s obvious,” Axel stated. “Look at the way she’s treating that green-haired girl. It has to be love! I’ll go make some preparations while you watch your little screen.”
“Here we are,” Axra stated. “My home.”
“It’s not as huge as I imagined,” Lysara said.
“It has more than enough room,” Axra declared. “If you don’t like it I’ll pay for you to stay at an Inn.”
“Ladies, please,” Twila said. “Let’s not squabble.”
“I’m just gonna relax at the barracks,” Velvet said. “Just get me when the visit’s over.”
He gave some instructions to his dogs and they carried him away. The palace guards let the rest in and they found themselves before Axel and Zero.
Axra looked from one to the other before hugging them both simultaneously. “I missed you both equally,” she said.
“There, there,” Zero said. “We missed you too.”
“It’s good to have you back even if it’s just a short visit,” Axel agreed. “Who are your friends?”
“Oh, let me introduce you,” Axra said. She took Twila’s hand and gently led her forward. “This is Twila Magia.”
“Magia?” Zero asked.
“Good to meet you,” Axel said. “And your other friend?”
“Oh, that’s just Lysara,” Axra stated.
Lysara curtsied behind them.
“So good to meet you, Lysara!” Axel declared, taking her hand. “We’ve prepared a room for you right next to Axra’s. If you need anything, just let her know.”
“Oh, yeah, thanks,” Lysara said.
“Don’t be so shy, My Dear,” Axel said. “There’s no need for formalities. Come, let me show you around the castle.”
He quickly led Lysara away.
“Well, I hope you’ll both enjoy your stay,” Zero said. He turned to Lilly. “You, get back to the barracks. I don’t want to see you again until you’re summoned.”
“Oh… I… Yes… of course,” Lilly said. “I’ll.. just go.”
“Belay that order!” Axra cried. She caught up to Lilly and brought her back, her arm around Lilly’s shoulders. “She’s my friend too and I want to see her treated with the same courtesy as everyone else.”
“Axra,” Zero said. “She’s a servant. There’s no need to…”
“If she isn’t welcome here than neither am I!” Axra declared.
“I see,” Zero said. “My apologies, Lilly. As my daughter’s friend, you’re welcome within the palace. Please, make yourself at home and forgive my rudeness. I’ll have a room prepared for you.”
Zero let Axra show Twila and Lilly around. He wandered back to his workshop muttering the name “Magia” to himself. Eventually, Axel found him.
“What are you doing now?” Axel asked. “It’s almost time for supper.”
“I was looking over some old journals,” Zero said. “Doesn’t the name ‘Magia’ ring a bell to you?”
“Uhhh,” Axel muttered. “Should it?”
“Remember when we worked for Zenas?” Zero asked. “One of her other men was named Abraham Magia.”
“Did I know him?” Axel asked.
“His son tried to stop us from reaching Zeus’ Gauntlet,” Zero explained. “He and his son fought, resulting in his death.”
“Still doesn’t ring a bell,” Axel stated.
“You used to call him Bumbles,” Zero said.
“Oh, right,” Axel said. “I remember now. Good old Bumbles, always making a mess of his assignments. So, why is that important?”
“Because Abraham’s wife had two sons,” Zero said. “One of them happens to be Elaine Silverstar’s lover.”
“You’re right!” Axel declared. “We’re going to have to be careful. That Twila girl could be an assassin.”
“I very much doubt that,” Zero said. “She was mentioned in one of Lilly’s letters before even I knew about your scuffle with him. Still, it gives us a unique opportunity.”
“What do you have planned?” Axel asked.
“We’re going to use that girl to make peace with the dark elves for us,” Zero stated. “That way you can go back to hunting the Hestial League without the threat of a war holding you back or the dark elves getting in your way.”