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Prologue

"I need you to do me a favor," Lady Gisela said.         She handed her eleven-year-old son, Keefe Sencen, a sealed envelope. "Deliver this to the woman with the green door. No one else." She handed Keefe something small and cobalt blue: a leaping crystal to the Forbidden Cities.         "Yes," Lady Gisela assured Keefe when his mouth fell open. "I need you to go right now."         Keefe's eyes glittered with excitement, glancing back at his mother. "Why?" He asked.         "Because I'm telling you to," Lady Gisela smoothly responded.          "Yeah, but why?"         The woman reached up to pinch the bridge of her nose. "Does Fitz question his father when Alden sends him off on their little errands?"         "I don't know, like I've told you a zillion times, Fitz doesn't tell me anything about that. But I'm pretty sure he knows where he's going and why he's going there."         "Yes, well, all you need to know is that the message you're holding needs to be delivered discreetly. And since no one's watching your registry feed, you can sneak away far easier than I can," Lady Gisela told Keefe.         "Tell me what's in the letter," Keefe insisted.         "You're not in a position to bargain," Lady Gisela warned.          "Funny, it sounds like you're the one who isn't in a position to bargain," Keefe countered.         "That kind of information is earned," Lady Gisela told him, then elaborated, saying, "And you can prove you're ready by delivering that message without any further argument." Keefe's attention snagged on the gleaming splotch of gold in the center of the envelope. It looked like wax or putty, and it was stamped with a symbol that looked like two crescents forming a loose circle around a glowing star. Keefe held the envelope that his mother gave him up into the light, squinting at it.         "You won't be able to read it," his mom told him. "Think of where you're going."         Keefe's eyebrows shot up. "It's in human?"         "There is no human language, honestly, what is Foxfire teaching you? Humans insist on dividing themselves into different groups, which I've always found strange. If they united, they'd likely have progressed much further as a species, but I suppose it's better for us that they haven't. And to answer your question: My letter isn't written in the Enlightened Language. So it would be pointless for you to open it."         "Then tell me what it says," Keefe demanded. "Or deliver it yourself."         She grabbed his shoulder. "Did I give you the impression that this was optional?"         "You didn't say it wasn't," Keefe cornered.         "It is not optional. You will do it," Lady Gisela replied, with a hint of annoyance in her expression.          "So then I ask you again: why? How will it benefit me?"         "Ever the diplomat, aren't you, Keefe?" Lady Gisela asked, a smirk beginning to form on her flawless features.         Keefe frowned and glowered at his mother. He wrenched his arm free of her grasp and began to stalk to the door. Almost as soon as he got there, the door that he'd been heading for banged shut in his face, as if Lady Gisela had closed it using telekinesis.          "Fine," she said through gritted teeth. "That crystal leaps to a city called London, near a house with a green door. The person who lives there might be useful, we'll see. That's why I need you to slide this letter through the metal slot on the door and then leave without being seen.  You should be gone less than five minutes, but I'll give you ten since you might have to slip down an alley before you can leap home. Don't speak to anyone, and if anyone tries to speak to you, just look confused. It shouldn't be hard since you won't understand a word they're saying. Understood?"         "I guess." Keefe unconfidently said.         Lady Gisela nodded as if that was enough to hear from her obstinate son.          Lady Gisela began to remove his cape. She examined the rest of Keefe's outfit. Keefe wore a black tunic and grey pants. The clothes weren't human by any means, but were at least boring enough to blend in.          "You're running out of time," she told him. "I need you to come back before your father returns from his errand." Keefe held the crystal up to the light. But instead of hopping into the reach of the blue beam, he just stared at it.         "I don't want to play this card," Gisela snapped. "But let's not forget that your father was ready to send you to Exillium after that stunt that you pulled last week. I talked him out of it. And I can change his mind again."         "Are you threatening me?" He asked.          "Not if you cooperate." Her smile was cold. Calculated. Leaving no doubt that she would make good on that threat.  Keefe closed his eyes and stepped into the light. The light gently swept him away, to a place he had never seen before.         The place was so sunny and bright, it almost blinded Keefe.          Keefe could smell the pollution in the air. he wrinkled his nose in disgust.          Humans. So cluttered that they couldn't even keep their trash under control.         Keefe looked around, his eyes adjusting to the sight around him. He had leaped to a garden, with many rows of neatly lined flowers. The lanes in between the flower gardens were filled with a few people. Not too many. That was good. Keefe could only hope that no one had seen him appear in mid-air, as it would have seemed to humans. Surrounding the garden stood a neighborhood. It was not messy, in fact, it was pristine. He sighed.         I'd better start looking for that green door mom told me about, Keefe mentally figured.         After two minutes of searching, Keefe found the house that he was looking for. He crawled on the concrete ground, low enough to slip the white envelope in the metal slot.           At once, Keefe scrambled up, hoisting himself up and off the ground. He brushed the dirt off his tunic, and mussed his hair up, making it somehow look even better than before. Keefe looked around, making sure that no one was near enough to see him leap away. When he assured that no one was watching, he leaped away. The only person Keefe didn't see was the woman who was watching from the safety of her home. But she saw Keefe. The last thing Keefe saw before he leapt to Candleshade was a pair of piercing blue eyes. 

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