"I can't believe your being a nerd saved my life."
It was the first thing Gemma said to Garrett the morning after Violet stabbed her in the side. Thanks to Garrett's never-ending hunger for how the universe and everything in it worked, he had the anatomic knowledge necessary to conclude Gemma had not been stabbed anywhere vital and was able to patch her up with the medical supplies a sympathetic guard gave them. Gemma's side hurt so badly she didn't want to move, but she would live all the same.
"Now if only we could get out of here," Garrett said, searching through the cell for the thousandth time. It really was impenetrable, even for someone like him. Dezi with his excellent eyesight could not see any cracks in the walls or foundation, and Gemma's problem-solving mind could not find a solution to this puzzle.
"I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise," Garrett mused, "all things considering. Migloritas have been hunted for over a decade. There's been plenty of time to build a cell to contain them."
"Yet there's still one thing every cell, no matter how indestructible, falls weak to," said a familiar red head as she entered the dungeon. Grinning, she held up something and added, "A key."
"Dynae!" Garrett exclaimed. Gemma, Dezi sitting next to her on the bottom bed, both smiled.
"I don't know who you are," Dezi said, "but you are my absolute favorite person right now. Ow!"
While Dezi rubbed the spot Gemma dug her elbow into, she simply asked the maid, "How did you get the key?"
"Even Migloritas aren't immune to sleeping powder," was all Dynae answered as she unlocked the cell. Opening the door, she added, "We need to move quickly lest we get caught."
"But why are you doing this?" Garrett questioned. "Why risk yourself for us?"
Dynae could barely look him in the eyes. "Just think of it as repaying the favor."
Both Garrett and Dezi had one of Gemma's arms over their shoulders as they helped her out of their prison. On the one hand, Gemma wanted to tell them off for treating her as some sort of fragile doll. On the other, she like the attention she received and wanted to enjoy it while she could.
"What's the plan?" she asked as she and the boys followed Dynae up the stairs.
"There's a merchant ship scheduled to leave Inonvouslee tonight," Dynae answered, searching as she lead the trio as to not accidentally bring them and herself to any guards. "With so many people thinking about the coronation, it should be nothing to sneak the three of you on as cargo and get you out of here before anyone gets any ideas that you left the country. It's risky, but better than staying here."
"Wait," Dezi said, "we can't just leave."
"You can if you want to live. Shhh." Dynae put a finger over her lips. Distant voices grew louder. Seeing a closet, Dynae ushered the others inside and gently closed the door. The four of them stood in silence as the guards – Migloritas, if the sounds of their voices were to be trusted to imply their age – walked past, oblivious.
When the coast was clear, the group snuck out of the closet and continued walking down the halls. "This way," Dynae soon said, taking them through another secret passageway.
It was after they left the dungeons and entered the sewers, Dynae promising Bonnet and Sophia would meet them at a rendezvous, that Dezi said, "I can't simply walk away from Inonvouslee. This is my country."
"You're a wanted criminal in your country," Dynae replied. "You killed the king."
"But I didn't kill my father."
"I believe you," Dynae assured, "but does the rest of the country believe the truth?"
Gemma noticed the frown Dezi wore on his face. Like it or not, Dynae was right. If only there was a solution to this problem, one as simple to the solution to any puzzle.
"I'm the prince," Dezi said, speaking with an authority Gemma had yet to hear him use. "I was born to be this country's king. All my life I have been taught to put the needs of the people above my own. There's no way I can leave all of that behind. I simply cannot let my country be ruled by a false king."
To that, Dynae had no response. It was Garrett who spoke. "If not run away, what do you plan on instead? You can't expect to just crash a coronation, can you?"
A mischievous grin grew onto Dezi's face. It was an expression Gemma liked to see. "I think I can," was all he said.
As she tied her short portion of hair into a bun, Maybel thought through everything again. She didn't just make a mistake. What she did was create problems upon problems, wrongs she will have to spend the rest of her life to right. That night would be the start. It would be the end if she failed.
Everything she had ever known was a lie. All she had ever been taught meant nothing. The only true thing in her life, her relationship with Gemma and Garrett, was built on the lies Maybel had told and later thrown away by her own shortsighted desires. Maybel helped destroy many good things, some of them the only good things she ever really had. Now was the time to try to fix what she broke, even if she knew she could never, ever truly make up for all the sins she had committed.
"Is that what you're wearing?" Kai asked as he entered her room unannounced.
"Don't enter without first knocking," was how Maybel answered as she glared at him through the mirror.
"You left the door unlocked."
"That's not an invitation to walk in as if this is your room."
"Can we please bring the attention back to your dress?" Kai waved his hand up and down the length of Maybel's dress. "It's the same one you wore when you first returned home, isn't it?"
Maybel ran her fingers down the red fabric. It was the one of the very dresses Gemma picked out, and Gemma chose it because she thought it brought out Maybel's red eye. An eye she now knew she inherited from the father whose name she didn't know just as she and Rosetta inherited the blue from their mother. An eye Seńor de Camilla never accepted and forced her to wear a contact to hide when she was still too little to understand why a red eye was bad. Now that she knew, Maybel never wanted to hide it ever again. Yet she still wore the contact as she prepared for the ceremony. It was the best way to keep up appearances.
"I like this dress," Maybel simply said, keeping her face neutral to betray nothing to Kai.
Frowning, Kai replied, "I don't think a dancing dress is the most appropriate for a coronation, don't you?"
"Let's not worry ourselves over a dress." Maybel approached Kai and linked her arm through his. Walking next to each other, she added, "After all, there are more important things to focus our concerns."
She didn't know it was possible for Kai to frown even more. "Saybel, what are you thinking?"
"Oh, nothing," Maybel practically sang. "Nothing at all."
"That's what you would say if you were making up some plan in your head."
Maybel didn't reply. She only smiled. It was with a sigh Kai told her, "I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"Probably not," Maybel said before she leaned close and whispered her plan in Kai's ear.
"So," Garrett said as he, Dezi, and Gemma sat on the roof of a building across from the palace and observed the incoming guests, "how do you plan for us to sneak in? I'm guessing the secret tunnels are no longer an option."
"Nope," Dezi confirmed.
"They'll be expecting that," Gemma added. She huffed in frustration. "There are at least three ways this can go wrong for every one plan I come up with. It doesn't help our enemies dealt with us before, too. They should know enough now to anticipate our potential actions, and since they have a smart girl like me, she should have come up with work arounds for the work arounds I come up with."
"Have you tried coming up with work arounds for her work arounds to your work arounds?" Dezi asked. He then frowned. "That question made more sense in my head than saying it aloud."
"No, it's a good question," Garrett said.
"And a great solution," Gemma answered. "However, I don't know these people well enough to calculate their actions. If you can learn everything you did about us, Dezi, then there's no reason to think they haven't done the same. They know us better than we know them. That alone gives us a crippling disadvantage here."
The silence stretched as everyone tried to come up with a solution for their predicament. Gemma sat on the ledge and bounced her leg up and down despite the shooting pain it sent through her midsection, impatient to solve this puzzle. Garrett, arms crossed, tapped his fingers against his forearm. It was Dezi who spoke first.
"Have you stopped to consider what they won't expect you to do?"
Both twins looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"I'm sorry," Dezi quickly apologized, face turning red. "That was a dumb question."
"No, it's perfect." Gemma turned her attention to her brother. "Y0u and Maybel always came up with the bulk of the plans while I worked out the smaller but still crucial details. The both of you know how the Night Ladrones plan our heists. Garrett, pretending we don't have waiting enemies, how would the Night Ladrones pull off this heist? How would we get in?"
"We would sneak in, of course," Garrett replied, frowning. "The fewer people who notice us, the better. It's what kept our identities from being well-known."
"But that's what our friends are expecting," Dezi pointed out.
"So," Gemma prompted, "what are they not expecting?"
The boys thought about it and frowned when they realized what Gemma was trying to tell them.
"I think that's worse," Garrett said. "Are you really considering we just announce ourselves and walk in as if the party has finally arrived?"
"Oh, come on, Garrett," Gemma snorted, "we are the party. Would you really expect anything less from us?" Her twin could only shake his head in response.
"Still," Dezi mused, "taking the front door is an advantage. While everyone who would be told to keep an eye out for us will focus their attention of servant tunnels and secret entrances, the front door will not likely have that same pressure on it."
"Exactly," Gemma replied. "Of course, we still need to be careful. We might retain the sneaking in part of the plan, but we need to know just how we plan to go about it in a way that surprises everybody."
Garrett rose an eyebrow. "Wait, I think I know where you're getting at."
"You're going to do this like you did the first time, are you?" Dezi asked.
"Of course we are," Gemma answered with a wink.