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Aeson tightly holds Gwen’s hand as they turn to face his father, the Archaeon Imperator Romhutat Kassiopei, who publicly acknowledges Gwen as the Imperial Bride and Consort before the Assembly. Knowing he needs to explain his actions to Gwen as soon as possible, Aeson invokes his Bridegroom Privilege so he and Gwen may leave the Assembly early and be alone.

Upon entering his private quarters in the palace, Aeson allows Gwen to vent her anger and confusion about what just took place. He first apologizes to her for not asking her permission first, and then explains his reasons – primarily to keep her safe from the nefarious actions his father planned for her. Gwen listens carefully and begins sifting through her emotions until clarity returns. Aeson then declares his love for her by stating “You matter to me” and adds that he is in love with her and has been for a very long time. He then formally asks her to marry him and spend her life with him. Gwen accepts and professes her love for him. Overjoyed, Aeson tightly embraces and kisses Gwen, then tells her that his name and everything else now belong to her.

Aeson takes Gwen on a tour of his personal quarters, which he adds are now her quarters as well. Gwen is amazed at the various rooms – libraries, bedroom suites, sitting rooms, bathrooms, a dojo complete with an indoor swimming pool, and the master bedroom. Aeson admits the master bedroom is not one of his favorites with its oversized king-sized bed and takes Gwen through the quarters to his personal bedroom suite - a smaller suite with a modest king-sized bed with adjoining walk-in closet and bathroom on one side and a workroom on the other. He then leads her through the adjoining workroom to a smaller bedroom suite, which he tells her belongs to her. Aeson chuckles at her reaction to having her own bedroom and adds that he, as the Imperial Crown Prince, must adhere to a strict code of personal conduct that includes abstinence until he and his Bride are properly wed. Before retiring for the night, Aeson leads Gwen to the balcony off the ante-chamber to gaze upon the night sky as he watches her reactions to the colorful stars, the three moons, and the black hole, Ae-Leiterra, the place where Aeson died. As they gaze at each other and the night sky, Aeson informs Gwen that as his Bride and Consort that she is now a Citizen of Atlantis with certain rights and privileges and therefore does not have to participate in the Games of the Atlantis Grail and that her parents and brother will be rescued and brought to Atlantis on the ark-ship that remains in Earth’s orbit.

After a restful night’s sleep, Gwen is awakened by the bright glare of the sun shining through the star-shaped window in her bedroom. After rising and drawing the drapes closed, Gwen notices her bags from Earth and after a quick shower, empties the bags on her bed, then dresses in comfortable old clothes. Gwen quietly ventures into the adjoining workroom and notices Aeson’s bedroom door is closed. The two aides, Anu Vei and Gennio Rukkat, soon arrive to begin their workday and speculating on Aeson’s choice of Imperial Bride. They do not believe Gwen when she tells them she is the Imperial Bride and Consort and are shocked when Aeson confirms it, but accept it and bow before Gwen to show her due respect.

Gwen accompanies Aeson to his parents’ quarters in the Palace for Eos Bread (Atlantean version of Earth Breakfast) and to formally meet Aeson’s father. Gwen’s interaction with the Imperator is not pleasant as he belittles and degrades not only Gwen, but Aeson as well. Gwen shows an amazing ability to restrain herself then does something unprecedented, which gives the Imperator pause and causes Aeson to worry. Gwen also meets Aeson’s mother, Devora Kassiopei, the Archaeona Imperatris, and his younger sister Manala, the Imperial Princess. During the meal, Imperial Princess Manala shows Gwen the rising gardens – those same gardens once known on Earth as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. After the Imperatris formally requests a date for the Imperial Wedding, the Imperator states he will make his announcement at the Court Assembly Honoring the Bride tomorrow evening, then leaves.

Manala follows Aeson and Gwen back to their quarters so she can spend time getting to know her new sister. Upon arrival, Aeson and Gwen talk privately as he expresses concerns regarding her newfound ability and cautions her to be careful. Aeson asks Gwen to provide him with the names of her friends so he can arrange for them to visit along with her siblings when the fleet disembarks tomorrow and then leaves to attend to other duties.

Consul Suval Denu soon arrives with a retinue of servants to formally take her measurements for the Imperial Book of Fashion, an ancient scroll that contains the measurements of every Imperial Bride for millennia. While Gwen is being measured, Manala begins channel surfing on the television until she finds an interview between Fleet Commander Manakteon Resoi and Desher Keigeri (father of Oalla Keigeri), the Chief Commentator of the Helios-Ra Imperial Poseidon Network (HRIPN). After her measurements are duly recorded and fabrics chosen for her new wardrobe, Gwen asks Consul Denu for a private word and asks him if he knew Aeson’s plans for claiming her as his Bride. The Consul confesses that he was aware of their mutual feelings for one another and was most pleased as to the outcome. Relieved and her curiosity satisfied, Gwen thanks him as he leaves to attend to matters on her behalf.

Gwen joins Manala in the workroom and they channel surf until a news commentary featuring Gwen appears. Gwen is horrified at the picture, her old high school yearbook picture which is most unflattering, and the commentary which speculates on just who she is. Needing an escape, Manala accompanies Gwen for a walk in the Palace Gardens. As they are walking, they meet a group of young noble ladies, among whom are Lady Tirinea (Tiri) Fuorai, Lady Hathora Sekru, Lady Zua Kainaat, and Lady Irana Nokut. A small levitating object near Lady Irana piques Gwen’s interest and Manala explains it is a quantum containment cage containing a baby Pegasus, a quantum trans-dimensional creature.

Upon returning to Aeson’s workroom, Gwen asks Manala general questions about the young noble ladies they just met. Manala explains that their father favored Lady Tiri, but Aeson showed no real interest in any of them. However, he did like a girl when he was in Fleet Cadet School, Elikara Vekahat (Xelio’s cousin), who later died.

After a long nap, Gwen awakens and joins Aeson and his mother in the workroom as servants prepare the dea meal. Gwen observes the mutual love between mother and son as the Imperatris gets to know her new daughter. After spending a few moments together, the Imperatris tells Aeson that Gwen will be a true and worthy consort to him and she is pleased with his choice. Soon after their meal the Imperatris leaves, assuring Gwen they will have the opportunity to spend more time together. Alone at last, Aeson and Gwen quickly realize the intensity of their feelings for one another and reluctantly spend the evening quietly talking before retiring early to their separate bedrooms.

Stacks of elegant boxes containing portions of her new wardrobe greet Gwen as she awakens the next morning. Aranit Liwei, Gwen’s new palace personal maid, enters Gwen’s bedroom to begin putting away her new clothes, laying out three choices of attire, and cleaning the bedroom while Gwen showers. Ignoring Gwen’s protests, Aranit dries and styles her hair and applies her face art after Gwen dresses in the comfortable Earth style clothing she chose. At the sound of familiar, yet loud, voices, Gwen finds her sister, Gracie, in the adjoining workroom arguing with the two Imperial Aides about why their friend, Blayne Dubois, is being detained by security downstairs. Gwen’s brother, Gordie, soon arrives and informs everyone that a fancy looking girl vouched for Blayne and his hoverboard and they should arrive shortly.

Needing to explain her new situation quickly and privately, Gwen takes her siblings into her bedroom, dismisses Aranit, and closes the door. At first, Gordie and Gracie are confused and concerned about this sudden news of Gwen’s engagement to Aeson. However, their doubts quickly dissipate when they discover they will soon be reunited with their parents and brother, thanks to Aeson. Blayne soon arrives with Manala, followed by Dawn Williams, Hasmik Tigranian, and Chiyoko Sato. They each express their happiness and offer their congratulations. Laronda Aimes arrives a few moments later, explains her ordeal in getting there, then embraces and congratulates Gwen, stating that, as a believer in fairy tales, she knew something like this would happen – Gwen and her Prince Charming being together.

When Aeson enters the workroom everyone immediately acknowledges him with bows or salutes. Gordie is the first to approach Aeson and introduces himself as Gwen’s brother. Gwen then introduces her sister, Gracie. Aeson briefly pauses as he looks at Gracie, then smiles and introduces her to his sister, Manala, stating they are two of a kind. Gwen then formally introduces Aeson to each of her friends. Noticing Aeson appearing overwhelmed, Gwen leads him away from everyone and takes him into her bedroom. Aeson admits he was a bit overwhelmed by everyone being there, expresses his pleasure that things worked out, and admits that her happiness and safety are his top priority.

Consul Denu soon arrives with a retinue of servants carrying more items of her new wardrobe, including her formal dress for the Imperial Court Assembly this evening. While the guys enjoy eos bread in the workroom, the girls watch Gwen be fitted in her dress as Consul Denu explains Gwen’s role in this evening’s Event, after which the girls join the guys to eat.

The increased gravity soon takes a toll on the new arrivals, so Aeson arranges for them to stay in palace apartments. Gwen requests permission for her siblings to attend the Event and Aeson grants it, making the necessary arrangements. After a short nap, Gwen and Gracie are prepared for their court appearance by palace servants. Consul Denu and Kem soon arrive so Kem can do their hair and face art. Aeson, wearing a deep crimson red velvet suit with a heavy gold collar and the Lesser Uraeus suspended on a fine chain on his forehead, tells Gwen she is more than beautiful in her deep crimson red dress with several gold mesh layers over it. Aeson presents Gwen with a bridal gift from his mother – a beautiful gold choker necklace with a deep violet pendant. As he places the necklace around her neck, he tells her his mother received the same necklace as a bridal gift from his late grandmother.

As Aeson and Gwen pause in the ante-chamber of the Pharikoneon, they see familiar faces in the crowd. Oalla Keigeri, standing next to her father, and Keruvat Ruo formally greets the Imperial Couple, adding “together at last.” Xelio Vekahat soon joins them and congratulates the couple. As the Pharikoneon Chamber is opened, Gwen and Aeson are taken to a hidden chamber to await their formal entrance. At the proper time, Gwen enters the chamber and begins the long walk down the red path to the dais where the Imperial Family awaits.

Seated on a backless golden bench beside Aeson, Gwen soon becomes bored at the ritualized court proceedings as she awaits the formal announcements regarding their wedding and gifts. The Imperator declares the Ninth day of Red Amrevet as the date of the Imperial Wedding and awards Aeson the Golden Bay of Poseidon as his wedding gift. In an unprecedented action, the Imperator also bestows a gift for his new daughter – granting her wish to enter and compete in the Games of the Atlantis Grail. Although horrified, Gwen graciously accepts this gift as she cannot refuse an Imperial Gift, even though it is no longer her desire and equates to a death sentence. When the formal portion of the Imperial Court Assembly concludes, Aeson takes Gwen back to their quarters and tells her he will do whatever it takes to have his father retract this gift. Realizing that Aeson cannot succeed, Gwen calmly lies and tells him that somehow she feels she is supposed to do this and continues to put up a brave front after their siblings arrive until she is alone, where she quietly cries herself to sleep.

The next morning Aeson leaves to talk to his father. Upon returning, he privately tells Gwen that he failed her. Overcome with emotion at seeing her beloved so overwrought with pain, Gwen continues to put up a brave front, telling him she is not giving up hope and somehow she can survive this. Amazed at her calm resolve, Aeson tells her that he believes in her and will do everything in his power to help her.

To help her understand what she is up against, Gennio and Anu explain the rules of the Games of the Atlantis Grail. The Games begin on Green Mar-Yan 9 with an Opening Ceremony, last four weeks or stages and each stage is based on one of the Four Cornerstones of Atlantida – Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow, and ends at Noon on Green Mar-Yan 26. Contenders must remain within the designated Game Zone during the entire Stage as they complete the Challenges and Ordeals, earning Atlantis Grail Points. Of the 5,000 Contenders who enter The Games, only ten, one from each Category, are declared Champions. The Ten Categories are: Warrior and Athlete (Red), Scientist and Technician (Blue), Entertainer and Animal Handler (Green), Inventor and Artist (Yellow), and Vocalist and Entrepreneur (White).

As they settle down to eos bread, a visitor arrives – Cadet Logan Sangre. After congratulating Gwen on her engagement, Logan informs Aeson of a situation involving an Earth Union (EU) prisoner, Gabriella (Brie) Walton, who proposes to enter The Games and protect Gwen in return for a third option beyond execution or life imprisonment. After reviewing her file, Aeson agrees to her terms, instructs Logan on the specifics, and Logan leaves.

A morning of brainstorming ideas and learning more about the specific rules of The Games is interrupted when Aeson calls Gwen to his bedroom, where his mother is waiting. The Imperatris pulls Gwen into a loving embrace, apologizes for the actions of her husband and begs Gwen’s forgiveness in being unable to intercede on her behalf. When Aeson tells his mother he plans to take Gwen away to privately train her, the Imperatris suggests they leave immediately and cautions Aeson to keep Gwen safe.

After packing an overnight bag, Aeson takes Gwen to his residence at Phoinios Heights by hovercar. During the drive, Gwen is amazed at all the sights, including the Atlantis Grail Monument. They are met at the door by Thebet Obwai, steward of the estate, who welcomes Gwen, gives her a quick tour of the home, and makes the necessary arrangements for their stay. Later, during dea meal, Aeson describes Gwen’s training regimen for the next 35 days.

Gwen awakens early the next morning and begins training with Aeson. After exhaustive training sessions with Aeson, a light meal and short nap, Gwen meets the first of her Games Strategists, Tiago Guu, a former Champion and popular media personality, who provides Gwen with insightful advice. Aeson and Gwen spend a quiet evening alone and retire early to get ready for another day.

Aeson rouses Gwen very early the next morning to begin her training sessions with four familiar Astra Daimon – Oalla Keigeri, Keruvat Ruo, Xelio Vekahat, and Erita Qwas. Xelio, Erita, and Oalla take turns with weapons training – with a twist. Upon completing their sessions, they retire to another room for a late eos bread, where Gwen learns that Oalla and Keruvat are promised to one another and have been a couple since they were children in Fleet School. Arrangements are made for future training sessions and Gwen continues training with Aeson throughout the afternoon.

As they relax prior to dea meal, Gwen notices Aeson appears distressed and appeals to him to share his concerns. He tells Gwen that he must attend an Imperial Executive Council (IEC) meeting in the morning, and, after dismissing the servants preparing and servicing their meal, begins the tale of Ancient Atlantis and the mysterious adversary responsible for the asteroid headed towards Earth.

Aeson tells Gwen that as far back as 12,000 Earth years ago Atlantis was a highly advanced and thriving civilization that dominated the planet for millennia. However, they were also corrupt and took advantage of their less powerful neighbors by experimenting on them and destroying their natural ecosystems with radiation and other poisons, only to use their advanced technology to restore it and often repeating this cycle. During this time, a sentient extraterrestrial adversary appeared and demanded certain changes be made or “They” would destroy them. The Ancient Atlanteans, realizing they could not defeat “Them,” built ark-ships and prepared to abandon the planet, taking the Imperial Family, High Ranking Noble Families, and others deemed necessary for society. Leaving everyone else behind, they boarded their space ships and after witnessing the asteroid collision with Earth from space, left to start anew on another planet. Even after all this time, the Atlanteans remain vigilant to signs of “Them.”

Gwen listens with rapt attention, asking questions for clarity as Aeson provides details of this old and current alien threat to not only Earth, but Atlantis as well. Aeson also tells Gwen that the Earth World Leaders were informed about this alien threat and chose not to inform the general public, in much the same way as the general public of Atlantis is not aware of the threat to their own planet. Aeson adds that he can finally share this burden with her because she is his chosen life mate, but she is not to share the information with anyone – not even her family or closest friends. In an effort to calm her, Aeson tries to compel her to calmly finish their meal. With a sly smile, Gwen admits to Aeson that his Compelling Power Voice does not work on her and never has. Aeson then shares another secret with Gwen – one cannot compel people one loves, and yes, even when they were on the ship, he loved her and feared he could not successfully compel her.

After their meal, Aeson and Gwen retire to their favorite living room. As they cuddle and talk Gwen admits that she is a virgin and voices her assumption that he is as well. Aeson withdraws slightly and admits that he is not a virgin; most likely has several children, and then explains the circumstances.

Aeson describes his participation in an ancient ritual that all Kassiopei men must perform at least annually upon reaching the age of 16. This ritual, known as the Imperial Rite of Sacrifice, is designed to infuse the genetically “pure” Kassiopei DNA into the general public, thereby enhancing and preserving the human race. Aeson describes the history of the ritual which includes how long it has been performed, the age in which the Kassiopei male participates, and the duration of this participation. He also goes into detail regarding his experience in his first time going through the ritual, including being blindfolded so he couldn’t see and having his hands bound to the bed posts so he couldn’t touch the woman with whom he was forcibly being physically intimate. Aeson adds that after the ritual the woman, her husband, and children must leave Poseidon, never to return during their lifetimes, and live in a distant province. The children born as a result of the ritual are never told of their true parentage.

Gwen is overcome with emotion – primarily at Aeson’s forced participation – and asks several questions. Aeson confirms that these children could have the Imperial Kassiopei traits such as the fine “kohl” outline around the eyelids and the golden hair, as well as other traits such as his Logos Power Voice, enhanced physical endurance, strength, health, longevity, and extra resistance to harmful environmental factors, but there is no guarantee that any or all of those traits are inherited from this ritual. Aeson adds that the Logos Power Voice is not so unique as Gwen also has it with her separately evolved Earth genes.

Due to the exceptional virility of the Kassiopei males, Aeson confirms that if they were to become physically intimate, even just once, that she would get pregnant and that is just not acceptable at this time, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to maintain his control when he is near her. He also tells her that when she does become pregnant, shortly after conception she must participate in a special ritual in order for their children to display all the Kassiopei traits.

Aeson is gone when Gwen awakens the next morning. Gwen describes Erita as a no-nonsense instructor as they practice with various pieces of body armor and shields. After about two hours of intense one-on-one training, Gracie, Laronda, Gordie, and Anu appear to introduce her to her next Games Strategists. Gavreel and Krui are guards at the Poseidon Central Correctional Facility (PCCF) who are also reformed criminals. They teach Gwen about illusion and projecting a certain image in order to survive as well as a little trick. Anu soon takes Gavreel and Krui to work and the others remain to hang out until Aeson returns from his meeting at the palace.

When Aeson returns, Gwen notices how tired he looks. Although invited to stay for dea meal, Gracie declines on behalf of her brother and Laronda so Aeson arranges for someone to take them back to their apartments at the palace. Gwen tells Aeson she expects to hear every detail of his meeting, but first they will just sit and relax for a few minutes. As they are sitting, Gwen tells Aeson that she needs him to be close to her, therefore they must practice control while kissing very slowly and softly. As they are kissing, Anu walks in on them and becomes visibly agitated and appears highly embarrassed. Anu leaves to attend to other assigned duties after Aeson verbally reprimands him for his behavior. In an effort to help Gwen understand why Aeson allows some of Anu’s insubordinate and rude behavior, Aeson tells Gwen about a very young Anu.

Aeson smiles and laughs often as he tells the tale of first meeting Anu and his family in their small village of Nifa on the western coastline of Imperial Atlantida. He and his family were very poor, uneducated, dressed in rags, and lived in a one-room shack. Something about Anu caused Aeson to want to help him, so he ensured he had a good education by arranging for remedial courses to catch up in general education, then Cadet School training in the evenings while working during the day as an Imperial Aide. Aeson also gave the Vei family a new hut with solid walls, a year’s supply of food and other necessities for the village. Aeson adds that although Anu can be crude and sometimes go too far, he does manage to make Aeson laugh at unexpected times. As Gwen listens she begins to understand a little more about Anu and about Aeson as a young, innocent boy.

On a more serious topic, Aeson tells Gwen about the IEC meeting, in which council members not only talked about Earth and the pending asteroid impact, but their suspicions about an attack on Atlantis at the same time. Aeson also explains the various entities involved – Star Pilot Corps (SPC) – a global force consisting of the best pilots from all nations of the planet and of which he is the Commander; Science and Technology Agency (STA) Director Rovat Bennu – an old-school Imperial loyalist; Lord Arao Hetepheret and Dame Tammuz Akten – members of the reform faction who insisted on recruiting and training the best of the Earth Cadets for the SPC and full disclosure to the general public; Council Member Takhat, ACA Director Hijep Tiofon, and First Priest Shirahtet (cronies of his father’s) who disagreed and wanted to continue to withhold information; intermediate faction members Lady Ishtar Sitamun, who wants selected Earth Cadets informed then sworn to silence as they train, Lord Asiwet, who wants the public told a watered-down version, and Council Member Amasis, who opposed the Earth mission from the beginning and only wants Atlantean forces deployed.

Aeson continues with various proposals such as Council Member Gobu who wants improvements in their monitoring and alien surveillance; Lord Hetepheret and Dame Tammuz’s suggestion of complying with the alien demands – of which Aeson’s father, the Imperator, strongly disagrees; Lady Iela Nastasen’s insistence that they evacuate Atlantis and search for a new colony planet; ACA Director Hijep Tiofon who feels the need to return to Earth before the asteroid hits to pick up more people and resources – a plan which Aeson states is unrealistic. And finally, Aeson said several Council Members, including himself, who believe the battle should be fought here, on Atlantis, with the combined existing resources of both Earth and Atlantis.

Gwen listens with rapt attention as she tries to keep the people and ideas straight in her mind then asks about the status of her family’s rescue. Aeson tells her he ordered Nefir Mekei, ACA Agent in charge of Earth ground operations, to bring them to the ark-ship several days ago. Aeson then assures her that her family is under his protection, that they are okay, and Nefir has sworn to him, not only as a Fleet Officer, but as his Astra Daimon brother, that he will personally take care of it, adding that Nefir has personally talked to her father.

The days from that point forward begin to speed up and blur together as Gwen’s training regimen becomes routine. Xelio (with his swords), Oalla (with her nets and cords), and Erita (with her shields and body armor) rotate every morning. Then Aeson takes over with weights, extensive target practice, running laps around the estate, and swimming in the afternoons with voice lessons during breaks. And finally, various expert trainers visit in the late afternoons.

Running daily errands for Aeson, Anu and Gennio often bring Gwen’s siblings and/or friends by for brief visits who report on their various activities to help support Gwen. Most of these activities are Games related such as visiting various venues where Pre-Games Trials are being held and potential Game Zone sites, listening to public opinion gossip, and merchandising. Dawn and Blayne tell Gwen about their meeting with an Arbiter, Tamira Bedut, who specializes in personal rights and citizenship cases.

Aeson’s mother and sister visit often as well. Devora’s loving presence seems to ground Gwen as she gently reminds her just how important she is to everyone – especially Aeson. Manala’s visits, with or without Khemji, although welcome are often stressful as she tells Gwen about various gambling activities, Palace gossip, and the continuing presence of Lady Tiri in the Palace gardens.

At Aeson’s encouragement, Gwen decides to formally announce her category choice during her interview on Tiago’s show, Grail Games Daily, on Green Mar-Yan 7, just two days before the Games of the Atlantis Grail Commencement Ceremony. Gwen is nervous as she arrives at the backstage entrance at the Nebetareon with Aeson and their guards. The Nebetareon is part of the large complex that includes sports arenas, stadiums, theaters, exhibit halls, and other buildings that surround the Atlantis Grail Monument. Aeson remains backstage as Gwen enters the stage and is greeted by Tiago for the interview. Gwen is extremely disappointed in herself as she rambles through the interview, answering both the rehearsed questions and the four audience questions – one of which throws her for a loop. At the close of the interview Gwen announces she will be entering the Games of the Atlantis Grail as a Vocalist. Aeson embraces Gwen after the interview, telling her she was wonderful, and takes her home.

Family and friends await them as they return home at Phoinios Heights for a post interview party. Several of them watch various broadcasts that include highlights from her interview, commentaries from other contenders, and a soap opera parody featuring Aeson and Gwen. Suddenly the television screen goes blank and a face wearing a golden mask against a black background appears on all video feeds. A computer-modulated voice identifies itself as the Rim of the Grail and provides some rather disturbing statements about the Imperial Kassiopei. However, the speech goes on to state the Rim supports the Earth Bride Gwen Lark as she is forced to enter The Games of The Atlantis Grail. After the broadcast is over, Aeson makes a few calls and assures Gwen he is taking care of the situation. Soon the party is over and everyone leaves Aeson and Gwen to spend a quiet evening alone.

Green Mar-Yan 8 is a quiet day for Gwen as she spends the day quietly strolling through the garden, looking at the city from the balcony, and just enjoying time with Aeson. As evening approaches, Gwen suddenly realizes that she may never see Aeson again and in a desperate plea asks Aeson to share her bed. Aeson picks her up and carries her to bed, tucks her in, and lies next to her. As he holds her tightly, he assures her that she is not going to die, she is never alone, and he is always with her. Gwen, comforted by his warm, loving presence, drifts off into a dreamless sleep.

Aeson gently awakens Gwen on Green Mar-Yan 9 as the pale light of dawn is seeping through a slit in the curtain. Gwen dresses in her official uniform, complete with new sports shoes and one-of-a-kind orichalcum shoelaces, picks up her gear bag (personally equipped and packed by Aeson) and her crystal Pegasus figurine, and meets Aeson in their favorite living room for eos bread. Aeson tells Gwen her family and friends, with the exception of his sister, will meet them at the stadium. Gwen and Aeson arrive at the stadium along with the other contenders and Gwen officially checks in. She is soon greeted by her family and friends who offer encouragement and last-minute advice. Oalla tells her to do what she has to do and come back a Champion; Xelio tells her to run fast; Keruvat tells her she can do it for Kass and all of them. Blayne very calmly tells her she is going to be fine with her big mouth and that he believes in her.

At the Contenders Only Entrance, Aeson takes Gwen in a warm and loving embrace, kisses her and tells her she is everything – his hope – and to remember who she is, how strong she is, and how needed she is. Telling him that she loves him, she reaches into her pocket and gives him the tiny crystal Pegasus, proclaiming it as her Love Gift to him. Aeson reaches with his right hand, unties the black armband around his left sleeve, folds it carefully into a square, and hands it to Gwen with the explanation that it is his most precious possession, his greatest honor, and although she cannot legally wear it, she can keep it with her always. However, he adds, this is a temporary gift and she must personally return it to him after The Games.

Gwen follows the other contenders to an auditorium with clearly marked sections for each category. After everyone is seated, an official appears to read the official rules and program schedule for the day. The Sacred Invocation sounds during Noon Ghost Time. Gwen realizes this sound, which permeates everything, is coming from The Atlantis Grail. As the Sacred Invocation ends, the contenders rise and enter the Atlantis Grail Stadium, marching around the perimeter as the nano-cameras come to life featuring various popular contenders, including herself. As the Contenders form ranks based on their categories, the Games Theme Song plays and the Priest of the Grail greets them with the familiar “The Games are Forever!”

The crowd grows silent as the video screen focuses on the Archaeon Imperator, Romhutat Kassiopei. The Imperator performs a spectacular display of Logos Voice skills, including one which Gwen recognizes as the initiation of a personal quantum field boundary. After this demonstration, the ten Champions from the previous year arrive to read the Atlantis Grail (AG) Points Structure for this year’s event. After the Champions leave, the Contenders are led to their private cells to spend the night and to prepare themselves for Stage One.

After a stressful night, Gwen is awakened early on Green Mar-Yan 10. She quickly eats and dons her uniform, including the custom-made viatoios body armor worn discreetly underneath the official uniform, pull her hair into a tight ponytail, inserts the special sun-shade contact lenses in her eyes, and organizes her gear bag, placing various weapons in hidden pockets on her uniform and outer pockets of her bag. Gwen pauses to reflect as she touches her left breast pocket that contains a folded length of black silk, then enters the arena through the now open cell door along with the other contenders as they are given the official rules and challenges of this Stage, inspired by the Red Cornerstone – Passion, Aggression, Anger, Force.

And the Games begins. Within minutes of entering the Game Zone, Gwen makes her first alliances – a young Green Animal Handler named Zaap Guvai and an older Blue Scientist named Chihar Agwath. A Yellow Inventor, Larahat Sei, soon joins the group and they find temporary shelter. Brie Walton, wearing the White Entrepreneur uniform, arrives, battles and kills Larahat, who was slowly poisoning them with an invisible gas. As Gwen and the others quickly recover their temporary shelter slowly becomes a crematorium. Gwen, as the group Vocalist, unsuccessfully tries several voice commands until she successfully neutralizes the orichalcum in the walls, allowing the team to escape. As the four-member Team Lark maneuvers through the arena, the crown cheers as Blue Scientist Sarpanit Latao retrieves the Red Grail.

A young Green Entertainer, Kokayi Jeet, soon joins Team Lark as he and several other Contenders flee Blue Technician, Oshaharat Feveh, whose hive of miniature drones target and kill anyone within close proximity. As Gwen begins to sing the sequence to override the drones, a new Taboo Rule is announced – no singing voice commands or power voices allowed for the duration of this Stage. In an attempt to escape the drones, Team Lark investigates the nearest Safe Base, and Gwen convinces its sole occupant, Blue Technician Lolu Eetatu, to allow them to share the space and combine their resources. The temporary peace does not last long, as Gwen soon learns the audience has declared her as their Top Choice for Favorite Kill. Just before Midnight Ghost Time, the surveillance screens and big screens are interrupted by the same golden mask and harsh words for the Imperator and Imperial Crown Prince. Just before the feed is disconnected, the speaker gives words of encouragement to Gwen, stating The Rim stands with her, and she must not be allowed to die and take all hope with her.

In the morning of Day Two, Red Athlete Deneb Gratu and his team begin dismantling the scaffolding of the safe base, demanding Gwen give herself over to him so he can claim her AG Points, which continue to climb. After a moment of complete clarity in which Gwen sees the casualties and fallout her death would bring to everyone and everything, Gwen, against protests from Brie who tries to discourage her, decides to sacrifice herself to save the others. As she approaches Deneb, he grants her permission to self-disqualify to save her life, which she denies. Deneb begins to choke her, then releases her as he watches her AG Points continue to rise, stating he will kill her later and takes her to his own team’s Safe Base.

Gwen describes Deneb’s ten-person team as mainly thugs who defer to his popularity and assumed power and control. Each time Deneb proclaims his desire to eliminate his Earth Princess, something happens to grant her temporary reprieve. Deneb takes Gwen with him as his team hunts for Team Latao and the Red Grail. Somehow Gwen manages to retrieve the item and gives it to Deneb, who then kills Sarpanit Latao. Deneb grants Gwen a final reprieve and she becomes an unwilling member of Team Gratu when her AG Points rapidly decline as another Contender becomes the Favorite Kill.

Day Three forces Gwen to use her creative thinking skills as she devises and executes a plan to deactivate the out-of-control drones after their master falls to this death in a freak accident. Upon successful elimination of the deadly drones, the audience responds with applause and cheers for Gwen – her first positive reaction from the crowd. Red Warrior Hedj Kukkait and his team force open the door to the Safe Base, knock out and kidnap Gwen, and take her to their base. Gwen awakens to find herself alone with the Red Warrior, who instructs her to lie still as he slowly moves his hand over her face. Gwen soon realizes that Hedj is associated with The Rim by his ring. He apologizes for hitting her so hard, but explains it was necessary to keep her safe and that he gave his word to do just that until the end of Stage One. For the first time since The Games began, Gwen feels safe and drifts off to sleep after drinking some water and eating a meal bar.

Day Four finds Gwen feeling a bit better. Gwen observes that Team Kukkait appears to be more professional as they decide on their course of action for this final day of Stage One. Early evening brings new problems as they soon discover the team led by Green Entertainer Tiamat “Thalassa” Irtiu is burning poisonous xavu moss directly below the central air vents that lead to all Safe Bases. Hedj shares his gas mask with Gwen since hers was stolen by someone in Team Gratu. Gwen takes out and uses the black armband as a barrier over her mouth and nose when it is Hedj’s turn. Midnight Ghost Time arrives and Gwen staggers to the door, opening it and briefly stepping outside to take a much-needed breath of fresh air before going back inside to pull Hedj out to the walkway. The last thing Gwen hears before passing out is the crowd cheering her name. Gwen wakes up in Aeson’s arms as they travel home via medical transport where she is treated for her injuries, disrobed, bathed and put to bed to sleep for a few hours.

The next morning, Green Mar-Yan 14, Aeson gently awakens Gwen so she can get ready. Although she only had about four hours sleep, she feels well rested and meets Aeson downstairs after a quick shower and donning her clean body armor and uniform. Thebet Obwai and the estate servants stand ready at the main entrance to see her off. Gwen eats her eos bread in the hovercar on the way to the Game Zone for Stage Two.

When they arrive at the designated coordinates somewhere along the Golden Bay of Poseidon facing the Djetalan Ocean, Aeson gives Gwen a quick rundown of the new or replaced equipment in her gear bag, quickly embraces and kisses her goodbye, and begs her to be careful, stay strong, and to come back to him. As Gwen stands on the beach and looks around, a glass wall starts rising from the ground to form a barrier for the Game Zone as the Games Official announces the start of Stage Two, inspired by the Blue Quadrant – Leadership, Control, Reason, Analysis, and one Taboo Rule: Firearm weapons of the Blue Quadrant are forbidden. Something vaguely familiar then appears in the sky and slowly descends into the Game Zone – the Great Pyramid of Giza from Earth.

As Gwen goes into a diatribe regarding the use of this ancient cultural artifact, she hears a familiar voice telling her to shut up – Brie Walton, followed by Chihar Agwath, Zaap Guvai, and Kokayi Jeet. As they exchange pleasantries the stones of the Great Pyramid begin to separate to become the Game Zone for Stage Two. Team Lark enters the Game Zone with seconds to spare and begin the arduous requirement of climbing the blocks of stones. Realizing she will soon become too tired to physically climb for four straight days, Gwen comes up with several ideas – one of which becomes quite embarrassing, before discovering their gear bags can handle the weight of one person.

As the five-member Team Lark is climbing stones, Lolu Eetatu asks Gwen to rejoin the team. The other four members are opposed to the idea due to Lolu’s behavior during Stage One, but Gwen decides to give the girl a second chance at redemption and she is allowed to rejoin Team Lark. As Team Lark investigates the interior of the pyramid, three more Contenders ask to join them – Red Athlete Tuar Momet, Red Warrior Avaneh Lehatut, and Yellow Inventor Kateb Nuletat. Gwen asks Kateb why he wanted to join her team instead of Team Gratu, his former team, and he explains that he knows she is an honorable and worthy leader and Deneb Gratu is crude and dishonorable. When Gwen realizes that she indeed has a team and that she is the leader, she sets a few ground rules – display basic human decency, cooperation, and honesty. Team Lark now has nine members – one from each category except one.

Team Lark establishes a routine, moving from stone to stone until they find a Safe Base deep inside the pyramid and trying to avoid conflict with other contenders as much as possible. Conflict arises as they are retrieving their first meal and water rations. Gwen manages to send several contenders over the wall and out of the Game Zone on the hovering platforms used to hold their rations. As Team Lark begins to move back inside the pyramid, they hear a strange vocal sound coming from somewhere near the top of the pyramid – the Plural Voice – a rarely used and extremely difficult voice technique, led by Team Irtiu’s Vocalist, Fawzi Boto, with two other team members. Gwen studied the voice technique with Aeson, but he refused to allow her to practice it because he was unsure of the unintended side effects of two Logos Voices using this technique.

The Plural Voice Chorus begins re-keying and setting aural blocks on everything in sight – hovering ration platforms and contender’s gear bags. Gwen realizes that she and only she can stop the potential carnage this chorus can create and focuses her mind, energy, and intent, feeling the quantum-level power building inside her, and using her Logos Voice breaks the aural block and re-keys everything to her. In an act of compassion, Gwen commands the platforms back to the pyramid so the contenders can safely disembark by jumping on the nearest stone. Satisfied, Gwen calmly uses her gear bag to float to her teammates on an upper stone and to their Safe Base.

Day Two brings a torrential downpour of rain. Chihar explains that the rain is created by an artificial weather funnel, most likely created just for them. When Gwen uses her special shoelaces to rig a shelter from the rain, Brie laughingly comments, “Let me guess, this is why they call you Shoelace Girl.” Gwen encourages the team to take advantage of the rain and, after Chihar checks the water for potability, they set out containers to collect the rainwater. Gwen discovers one of the challenges of this stage quite by accident. After using the voice command to increase the temperature on the nearby stones, some of the symbols required to unlock the grail appear.

Day Three begins by Team Lark watching Blue Technician Ujaste Naat’s team unsuccessfully attempt to retrieve the blue grail. A later scan of the surveillance screen reveals the entire Team Naat lying on the ground below the pyramid – dead. Day Three also brings strange audio and visual hallucinations. Gwen sees and hears Ancient Egyptian deities – Horus, Anubis, Sobek, Khnum, Bastet, Khepri, Thoth, Hathor, Osiris, Isis, Set, and Ra – and her brothers Gordie and George. Other members of Team Lark also experience hallucinations, but their experiences appear different as they tend to argue with or actively ignore their hallucination. Gwen later sees and speaks with her parents. Her dad offers words of encouragement, whereas the interaction with her mom is quite different. Gwen can not only see and hear her mother, but feel her touch as she rests her head on her mom’s shoulder. Margot tells Gwen that she loves her very much and is so proud of her before disappearing.

After viewing the Blue Grail at the summit of the pyramid, Gwen is left alone with one of her team members, who attempts to betray her. At this opportune time, Gwen sees a vision of Aeson and takes out his (now hers) black armband to hold for emotional support. The team member admits she is a hired assassin, but cannot obey her orders because Gwen shares a hero’s honor with the Prince, and instead offers her life to Gwen. Gwen refuses to kill her, so the assassin, in a manner to save her honor, kills herself by floating away from the pyramid on her gear bag, then lets go and plummets to her death. Gwen informs the rest of the team upon their return and they retreat to the interior for the evening, during which several team members experience temporary physical reactions to the hallucinogenic – severe pain, blindness, loss of feeling, and extreme nausea.

Day Four brings new challenges as the elusive Yellow Artist Rurim Kiv successfully retrieves the Blue Grail. The pyramid begins to rotate, slowly at first and gradually picking up speed as afternoon becomes evening. The stones reform into their original configuration at the beginning of Thirteenth Hour Khe. Contenders cling to the sides of the pyramid as it continues to rotate – faster and faster until Midnight Ghost Time, marking the end of Stage Two. Within moments of stepping onto the sands beneath the pyramid, Aeson approaches, embraces her, then carries her to his waiting hovercar to go home.

Gwen awakens on Green Mar-Yan 18 in her own bed at Phoinois Heights with Aeson watching her from a chair by her bed. She has an IV line that contains medication and nutrients to rehydrate her and flush out the strong hallucinogenic the contenders were exposed to. Due to the hallucinogenic, Aeson added that he asked everyone to stay away so she could fully recover in the short time she has to be at home.

Never one to listen to unreasonable demands, Oalla soon arrives to check on and congratulate Gwen, as well as tattle on Aeson by informing her that he has not slept or eaten properly in the eight days she has been competing in The Games. Knowing he cannot argue with these two women, Aeson goes to his bedroom and soon falls asleep. Hearing the loud snores of total exhaustion, Oalla sits with Gwen and tells her a story of the re-re-xut bugs. Gwen falls back asleep and when she awakens, Oalla is gone and Aeson is back on duty watching her from his chair. They spend the rest of the day quietly enjoying each other’s company.

Gwen awakens on Green Mar-Yan 19 to the overpowering fragrance of flowers and as she looks around her bedroom, flowers are everywhere. Aeson, standing nearby, explains that he thought it would be a nice way to wake her up and promised that next year she would receive all her lovely flowers from family, friends, and admirers on Flower Day instead of the day after. Gwen quickly showers, dresses, and eats a quick eos bread before leaving with Aeson for the Game Zone of Stage Three.

Stage Three is commonly known as the Ordeals Stage due to the Green Cornerstone of Endurance, Patience, Resistance, and Strength. The Game Zone resembles a bulls-eye with a circular central land mass that contains the Green Grail and ten concentric water rings separated by a land ring. Unlike the other Stages, no meals or water will be delivered, only Yellow Quadrant Weapons, voice commands, and hand-to-hand combat may be used against other Contenders, and daily tasks must be completed.

After completing their daily tasks through each water zone, Teams Gratu and Irtiu form a temporary alliance to eliminate the other teams, including Team Lark. Gwen uses the Incendiary Voice Command several times to her advantage, heating the uniforms of attacking Contenders and forcing them to nearby water rings.

On Day Four, Thalassa retrieves the Green Grail, which causes the land rings to rotate – slowly at first and gaining speed as the day progresses. Day Four also brings major injuries to two members of Team Lark and to Gwen. Breaking the Taboo Rule, the Entrepreneur of Team Irtiu shoots Gwen point blank with a gun, disqualifying himself and rendering Gwen’s voice useless as it causes her to lose her voice. Gwen then faces Thalassa in hand-to-hand combat and manages to imprison Thalassa in her razor net. Instead of killing her and taking the Green Grail, Gwen leaves her imprisoned in the net and ties her shoes together with her shoelaces – a trademark of Shoelace Girl.

Just as she feels all is lost, Hedj Kukkait offers a truce – as repayment for saving his life in Stage One – and instructs his Vocalist, Sofia Veforoi, to voice key Gwen’s bag and the harnesses of her injured team members as they fly throughout the Game Zone until Midnight Ghost Time arrives and the end of Stage Three. Aeson arrives in the Game Zone as quickly as possible and whisks Gwen away for much needed medical treatment and rest at home.

Gwen is well rested and has her voice back as she prepares to leave the estate with Aeson for Benben Island, the Game Zone for Stage Four. Team Lark is now down to seven members – one of the injured team members removed from active status, assumedly due to the severity of his injuries. Stage Four embodies the Yellow Quadrant Cornerstone – Creativity, Originality, Curiosity, Inspiration – and an unusual Taboo Rule – NO weapons for the first three days on the island. Their task during the first three days is to retrieve and tame a Pegasus – a trans-dimensional shape-shifting quantum chimera recognized in Ancient Earth mythology as a winged horse in order to ride it in a triathlon race on Day Four.

The first two days are uneventful as the 274 remaining Contenders try to figure out how to safely release the pegasei from their containment orbs while restraining them so they can change form. Many pegasei are inadvertently released, disappearing in colorful lights, disqualifying those Contenders. On Day Three, Green Animal Handler Leetana Chipuo is the first Contender to capture and begin training a Pegasus. Soon the remaining Contenders copy her technique and begin training their own pegasei. The shapes and colors of the various forms are as different as the Contenders themselves.

Gwen, however, has a very different experience with her Pegasus as she discovers it is a sentient being capable of communicating with humans. Arion, the name she gives her Pegasus, tells Gwen that his species was brought to her space-time reality from the spatial location of Earth and, due to the dangers posed by most humans, are very selective with whom they choose to communicate, and they chose Gwen because of the nature of the situation and the nature of her. Gwen also realizes that she can also hear and talk to not only Arion, but ALL the pegasei. The contenders practice riding their pegasei in the various forms to prepare themselves for the triathlon race on Day Four.

The weapons restriction is lifted for the remaining 147 Contenders as they begin the Triathlon Race. Various sea creatures swim the ocean along the race course, while various Contenders fire projectile weapons intended to eliminate the competition. As they reach the beach for the second stage, one of Gwen’s teammates is injured and another one is killed. Heartbroken, Gwen loses her will to continue for a short time. However, another teammate arrives and encourages her to go on. Unfortunately, Arion transformed into the classic Pegasus form and now Gwen must decide on a new third form. Gwen and Arion quickly gain speed as he flies to the next leg of the race and Gwen decides on a cheetah – the fastest land animal on Earth.

During the race, two celebrity Contenders die – one falls off during the flight portion and the other is killed by a member of Team Lark as retribution for a fellow teammate. Arion, the cheetah, picks up speed and soon Gwen is well ahead of the other Contenders. The audience acknowledges her by calling “Gwen Lark! Gwen Lark! Shoe-lace girl! Shoe-lace girl! Im-pe-ra-tis! Im-pe-ra-tis!” Although Gwen is surprised, Arion is not. Gwen retrieves the Yellow Grail, winning the race and Stage Four.

Before boarding the shuttle that will take the Contenders back to the Stadion for the Final Ceremony, Gwen releases Arion, who thanks her and reminds her that he is always near. Gwen is soon joined by other Contenders who also finish the race. Of the 53 Contenders who finished the race, 39 are honorably dismissed after arriving at the Stadion. Seven Contenders are immediately declared Champions and their uniforms glow. The remaining seven, including Gwen, are runners-up and must compete in a final tie-breaker as determined by the Category Judges.

Three Contenders compete in the Vocalist Category. Fawzi Boto and Sofia Veferoi perform outstanding classical Atlanteo arias. Gwen, knowing her singing skills are no match for these professional performers, decides to use her Logos Voice and does something amazing, yet terrifying. After being declared the winner by the Imperator, Aeson rushes to her side and tries to take her away. As they stand on the arena floor, Aeson tells Gwen she just uncovered an ancient secret about the Atlantis Grail that even he did not know about and adds that he recently discovered even more information about that asteroid headed towards Earth. He also reassures her that together they can handle anything.

DISCLAIMER

This synopsis is my interpretation of the book, WIN by Vera Nazarian. It is NOT fan fiction and does not include all the wonderful details that make the story so enjoyable. If you enjoyed this summary, I suggest you read the entire book. Thank you. Nancy