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A Fortress Against The Sea

Brenzel’s surprise and bewilderment gave way to pain as a coughing fit racked her gaunt body. Everything in her hurt, making her feel weak and frail. The man, still smiling, but with some concern in his eyes now, offered her the hat.

Dirty fingers slid over soft leather as Brenzel touched the beautifully made bonnet. Curiously, something like glass eyes set in bronze formed an object wrapped around it. A blue feather, almost incandescent, graced its side, stuck securely in its hatband. Suddenly, Brenzel fumbled and the headpiece tumbled towards the dirt floor, only to be caught just in time by her gentlemanly visitor.

I’m not supposed to do this…

“I’m not supposed to do this,” the visitor murmured as he gently placed the hat on her head, “but given the circumstances, I think a little grace is in order, so… just this once.”

Hat in place, a warm wave of well-being flowed through Bren’s body. Like waking up from a terrible nightmare, Brenzel, shaking violently, instantly revived. In one massive gulp, air rushed into her healed lungs, and a lightness filled her entire frame. “It’s…it’s gone! I don’t feel pain anymore!” Bren stood up. Then, in utter amazement, jaw slacking, her eyes met her raised hands, unbound for the first time in days and completely normal. “What the…?”

In the twinkling of an eye

Then, in a twinkling of an eye, everything moved sideways. Instantaneously, Bren traveled without effort faster than she ever thought possible. Roads, buildings, and entire landscapes slid by at a furious rate, yet she didn’t feel like she was going anywhere. No, she wasn’t moving at all, but it was the world that moved around her. Then, as suddenly as it began, everything stopped.

White Cliffs of Dover

The smell of salt permeated the air as a gentle breeze caressed her cheek. Bright sunlight, not seen for at least a week, made her eyes water as she squinted. Well-being filled her and she felt strong and able again. Clothes, like none she had ever worn, adorned her body. Instead of a dress, leather trousers of a man graced her form. Strange didn’t begin to describe how Brenzel felt, yet somehow, in some other-worldly way, everything seemed absolutely normal.

“Where am I?” Bren breathlessly asked the man standing beside her.

“Here and there,” the stranger quipped.

“What do you mean?” Bren said as her mind failed to catch up.

Here and there

“Well, technically, you are in a dungeon waiting to be executed, but…” he continued, “your essence, the real you, is here with me.” Continuing, the handsome young man said, “There is really no time to explain, but as we needed to talk and your cell was, shall we say, dismal, I brought you here.”

Brenzel turned, gazing over the ocean, seeing great white cliffs jut out of the beach like a giant fortress against the sea. Green grass ended abruptly in a precipitous drop to the rocky shoreline below.

The stranger carried on saying “Here’s the deal.”

“What deal?”

“The one that saves your life,” the man said impatiently.

There are a few rules

“There are a few rules you have to follow. One, always wear your hat. The hat signifies your acceptance of our agreement. Two, always place the feather in your cap whenever it appears. And three, you can never visit anyone from your past – ever. Other than that, everything else is pretty much just ‘learn as you go.’ Do you accept?” asked the odd man, piercing brown eyes surveying her intently.

“I already said yes,” Brenzel said, a bit defiantly.

“Then it’s settled!”

“Take the feather, place it in your hat, and bon voyage!” the pleased man said as he placed a blue feather in the palm of her hand.

A feather in her cap

Taking the feather, Brenzel began placing it in her hat, when her eye caught the glint of something metallic in the sky. As she watched in amazement, a line of white clouds grew behind the object as if drawn by an artist’s brush. Turning again to ask her odd companion what it was, he was nowhere to be found!

Fascinated, Brenzel dutifully placed the feather in her cap as the world frantically slid past her again.