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hat master

A gaggle of dainty feet

(Realm of Elysia)

The top of the mountain glowed with the expectation of sunrise. Birds sounded sweetly as they rose from their sleep, smelling the perfumed, morning air wafting up from the flower garden below. Above Bren as she slept, flew seven Seraphim (not angels as she’d first assumed) depicted on the vaulted ceiling high above her bed.

The five sprites, on a mission of some importance, made their way hurriedly down the corridor that led to Bren’s chamber.

“What’s that awful sound?!” Felicity exclaimed as she rounded the corner.

“I don’t know! It sounds like a wild animal!” Robyn said as she hid behind Hope.

Mercy, eyes wide and wondering, looked around at the others, saying, “I’ve never heard anything like it!”

Manu, pleased that she knew something the others did not, said, “Oh, that’s just Bren, it’s called ‘snoring’. Dove says people from Eden do it sometimes in their sleep.”

“Does it hurt? It sounds dreadful!” Hope said, putting her hands over her ears.

“No, it’s not dangerous, it just sounds like it.” Manu said authoritatively.

“Oh, okay,” the others said in relieved unison.

The sound of Brenzel sawing logs reverberated off the curved ceiling, echoing across the great chamber, growing louder as the gaggle of dainty feet made their way toward her bedside. Suddenly, Manu pounced, jumping on top of Bren, startling her from a very deep sleep.

“Wake up! Wake up!”

Looking up into the smiling face of her excited little friend, Bren moaned, “Manu, it’s too early.”

There’s going to be a celebration!

Undeterred, Manu said as the others cheered her on, “Did you know that it is almost time for the yearly celebration? It is eight days of wonderful! We have so much to do and so much to make! You need a new dress, a hair do, and -oh, jewelry! We are going to make you look fabulous! There’s no time to lose!”

“That sounds nice…” Bren said, and promptly turned over and began snoring again.

Banner days

Indeed, all the city below buzzed with excitement. Banners of all colors and sizes fluttered over the streets, speaking of poets, singers, and every other variety of artist imaginable. For a magnificent seven days, with a further eighth great day, they would share their talents for all the people to enjoy.

Luminaries from the four corners of the realm made their way into the great city of Elysiandra. Of special note, there was Mooca the bard, renowned teller of legendary tales, also Jiselle, an artist who paints visions of things yesterday, today, and tomorrow, jugglers, horse riding companies, bakers of heavenly breads and pastries, culinary masters from the four corners of the realm creating their most delectable dishes. All who knew renown in any art, craft, or skill descended upon the holy city in a cornucopia of delights.

Singing revelation

However, the most important and anticipated event was the presence of their covering Seraph on the last day of the feast. On that day, the eighth great day, Dove sang the morning and evening revelation, setting the tone and direction for the year to come. Also, her attendants brought fruit from the Tree of Life in abundance, provided freely for each and every one who wished to partake.

Indeed, Elysia was one of the few creations that retained their original Tree of Life. Grown from the seed planted by God Himself during the genesis of the Blue Seraph’s realm, it grew and flourished on the Mount of the Congregation ever since. Towering almost 200 feet tall, it stood on the sides of the north as a beacon of blessing, glowing spectacularly in the morning and evening light.

The river of life

Like a mighty oak, it grew at the head waters of the River of Life, which issued out from under the threshold of Dove’s Sanctuary. The pristine waters emptied in to a crystal clear lake, which perfectly reflected the Sanctuary and the mountains behind it. Then the living waters flowed out, cascading thousands of feet in multiple fairy-tale-like waterfalls. They ran down the Sides of the North until they merged into a majestic river flowing through the city below. Everything the waters kissed grew in abundance.

To be certain, the healing leaves from the eternal tree were available anytime, but presenting the fruit during the yearly celebration afforded Elysian’s the opportunity to thank YHWH with one heart and one soul.

In the cool of the day

Traveler, uncharacteristically, for the last week spent his mornings after breakfast with Bren, walking and chatting with her about anything that came to their minds. While Bren used to think him a light fellow, she began to see a different side of Joshua, a depth of character, which made him more than just a handsome face.

“Do you like horses?” Traveler asked as they strolled.

“Why, yes, I do. . . but all we ever had was a old plow horse. His name was salty.” Bren shared.

“Why Salty?” Traveler asked.

“I don’t know, but my father grew up near the sea, maybe that’s why. He had a very singular personality for a horse, steady and sure, but given to stubbornness if you didn’t treat him right.”

“Your horse had standards?” Traveler teased.

Smiling at the memory, Brenzel looked at Traveler, thinking, “I feel so good when he’s around, why is that? It’s as if there’s nothing else in the world but this beautiful moment.”

“He liked apples,” Bren said, forcing herself back into the conversation. “Whenever possible, at the end of a hard day’s plow, after his hay and oats, we’d always give him an apple. I think he lived for those apples,” Bren smiled.

Perion

“I like horses, too,” the young man beside her remarked. “I’ve one, you know. His name is Perion. I think he might like you – at least I hope he would. He is a very particular horse you know, opinionated really.”

Bren smiled, “Perhaps like his owner?”

“Ah, you think me opinionated? Traveled said, surprised.

“Well, you do seem to believe you’re always right.”

“You wound me M’lady,” Joshua protested. Then, grinning broadly, he said, “I assure you, I’m the most humble man I know!”

Bren snorted as she unconsciously flipped her hair around behind her back, tilting her head slightly, gaze meeting his directly. As their eyes met, she felt as if he could see into her soul. To protect herself, she wanted to look away, fearing what he might see, but the rightness in her belly overcame her insecurities. She had to admit she trusted him more than she ever thought she could trust anyone.

“However,” he went on, “I think you may be mistaking my faith for self-assuredness. I do a lot of things that many believe are impossible. The truth is, I just have faith in my God and believe it will happen, and, as they say, things tend to work out.”

Thinking back to when he said, “It all works out in the end,” Bren agreed, “Yes, you have a lot of faith, Joshua, and I’m glad you do.” Her voice softening into a rich contralto, she said sincerely, “I want to have that kind of faith someday too.

Joshua studied her for a moment, then said, “All things are possible, Bren, you just have to believe in what God says – and trust yourself.”

Green grass

Continuing in silence for a while, Bren studied the lush grass upon which their bare feet walked. Unlike earth, the grass here was always green and seemed to grow no further than a pleasant height for walking. The cool green softness of the tender blades caressed her bare feet, making Bren feel relaxed. Above her, the canopies of large trees offered shade to both man and beast alike.

Finally, Traveler said, “Bren, next week, the day before the festival, I would like you to meet someone. After that, I must be away for some time, but while I am gone, he will escort you around to see more of Elysia. Have you heard about the coming celebration? That would be an excellent place to begin.”

Feeling both elated at the prospect of seeing more of Elysia and disappointment at missing their morning walks, Bren said, “Yes, I would love that, thank you!” Hesitating a bit, she added softly, “But I’ll miss our walks together. Please come back soon.”

Joshua, smiling at Bren assured her, “Of course. As soon as I can make time.”

Feeling her presence

(Vatican City, 1687)

Since the arrival of her majesty, Vatican City felt different. Everything and everyone seemed tense and irritable. Members of The Order, having experienced her presence, spoke little. Tim guessed that they were nursing their wounds, just as he was.

Cardinal Jenkins seemed different, though. Tim hadn’t ever thought of him as a man of flesh and blood, but rather as an impenetrable pillar of duty, wholly given over to the service of his Mistress. What the ancient priest shared during confessional caused Tim to consider him in a whole different light. Tim, for his part, did precisely as his confessor suggested: He tried to forget that awful night and count himself fortunate for having escaped the worst parts of it.

It is not good that a man should burn

However, the burning in his loins, ignited by the Introitus, wouldn’t go away. Something awakened in him and it drove him to distraction. He now looked at women in a different way, like he saw them for the first time. Their curves, the lilt of their voices, the way they walked all made him aware of feelings he though he’d conquered long ago.

Tim found himself intrigued by one woman in particular, whom he felt drawn to in a breathtaking way. Tim saw her one day at the market, a highborn lady in a long red cloak, golden locks falling as a waterfall across her bosom. Instantly taken in by her charms, he stared unabashedly, and, to his surprise, she met his gaze and held it, too. Was it mistaken recognition? Was she looking at someone past him? Tim wondered, for he dared not believe she was honestly feeling the way he felt.

More than a feeling

Truly, it was much more than a natural feeling. Tim felt bowled over in his spirit, disarmed, and completely vulnerable at the same time. He desired nothing more than to be near her, speak to her, and hear her sweet voice answer. Not knowing how long he looked, he noticed that she smiled, then, looking down and away, melted into the crowd.

After that morning, his desire only intensified exponentially. Her look, her eyes, her form occupied his mind nearly every moment of the day. Tim found himself looking forward to the daily shopping, hoping to see her for a precious moment or two. She seemed to brighten every time their eyes met, or so he wanted to believe. By asking around discreetly, he found she was a widow, her husband having died over a year ago now, trying to raise two young boys on her own.

Time Vault

(Realm of Elysia)

James walked briskly around the northern shore of the placid lake, his form mirrored as he went, the Sanctuary, mountain, and sky, his backdrop. Coming to the stairs, he lightly ascended the fifteen or so steps, until he meet the sentinel at the top who said, sheathing his weapon, “Welcome back sir.”

James said, in passing, “Hello Adrian.”

Reaching the time vault, a complicated mass of interlocking mechanisms securing a large, round swinging door, he placed his fingers deftly on the first dial. Right…click, click, click,…left…click, click, right…left, and then pulling the brass handle down, clunk. Then the second and third dials, clunk, clunk. When the last tumbler fell into place, the massive bolts holding the door withdrew, permitting the whole assembly to open silently.

Entering, he closed the door behind him, with seven massive bolts clunking into place. Turning again, James walked down the long hall, illuminated by oil lamps placed above at intervals on either side. On his left and to his right, rested three tiers of handmade hats of all shapes and sizes, mostly leather, causing the entire time vault to smell like a haberdashery.

Hat Master

Coming to the midpoint and his work bench, he grabbed a pair of white gloves, carefully pulling them over his fingers. Reaching into his pocket, he removed a small ornate golden box, setting it on the bench. Turning, he made his way towards the back of the long vault, coming at last to an equally ornate, larger golden box set on a marble pedestal, the door monogrammed with a large B.

Reaching for the latch, he hesitated, fingers trembling. Withdrawing his hand, the hat master sat for awhile on a nearby stool, staring down at the floor. Finally, slowly rising, James reached out a second time, undoing the latch, opening two leaves, revealing a magnificent hat. Carefully lifting it from it’s perch, he carried it back to the bench, placing it gingerly upon a hat stand.

Carefully now…

Removing his spectacles, the Hat Master fitted a jeweler’s monocle in one eye, then carefully inserted a small, thin tool into the side of the leather topper’s intricate timepiece. Click, the side of the watch on its band opened slightly. Lifting the lid of the small box, he carefully removed a single red stone and ever so gently placed it into the mechanism, causing the gears to produce a faint ticking sound. Taking a deep breath, he closed the side of the timepiece until it snapped back into place.

Wiping beads of perspiration from his brow, James leaned against the bench. “It’s ready,” he thought, as he carefully set the Seraph Hunter hat in its carrying case. Replacing his glasses, James removed the gloves from his hands, setting and smoothing them neatly on the bench.

Taking the hat box by it’s handle, James turned, and strode towards the Time Vault’s door, reaching for the latch release mechanism on the wall. As he stepped into the morning sun, squinting, the Hat Master said out loud, “Brother, I sure hope you know what you’re doing.”

SEOIB.