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The Cold Stone Floor – again.

Coming to on the cold stone floor, Tane gingerly touched his jaw, then felt each of his teeth, yeah, one was loose. Don’t move to soon, he thought taking assessment of his bruised and battered ego and body. Laying there, groaning, for it even hurt to breath, the words of the Captain of the pirate ship burned deep: “Aye, we used to be something, weren’t we.” It wasn’t the humiliation of losing his cargo, not even the pain of losing his ship, but what seared his soul until it hurt, was the feeling that he was losing himself, like he’d misplaced Tane somewhere along the way.

He felt bad about drinking, that never went well and always disappointed Meandre. “You’re better than that, Tane. Everyone looks up to you,” she’d say every time he’d get drunk. It was a relatively new thing, too, a recent bad habit since the Burnt Sea. But, dammit, how much was one person supposed to take?

Rolling over carefully, it appeared someone had put him in a private cell. Still night, he scratched an itch on the side of his head – dried blood.

Some war hero

Some war hero, Tane thought, slowly scooting towards and managing to prop himself up against the wall. Meandre would give him the cold treatment for at least a week or two before he apologized and she forgave him – again. People would avoid talking about it, give him his privacy, but he knew they wondered what was happening to their commander. It was this “mission,” this hair-brained idea that Haders even mattered. Everyone knew they were the scum of Hades, the hated remnants of the enemies armies now marooned on Hala.

He felt a twinge of guilt for thinking that, but right now it felt good to be bad, to indulge in hate, wallow in wrath. After all these years, he could still remember the faces of those he’d held, dying in his arms, eyes glazing over, confused that their immortality was at an end. Though he knew they passed over to a better place, it didn’t seem to help his heart feel any better.

Strong of heart

This whole woodcutting mission was eating away at him, he knew that much for certain. Meandre helped a lot and he leaned on her more than he wanted to admit. Her strength was of a kind he admired; she was strong of heart. She believed in people and never wavered, and he needed that. She’ll be so disappointed in me, he thought, promising himself he’d do better.

I just wanted a fight, he admitted. He wasn’t that drunk, just angry. Angry at everything, but, honestly, mostly at himself. He knew he’d fight someone, even if he had to pick it. That big bruiser had just been unlucky enough to say the magic words. Ni almost dying had been the last straw. He knew he’d probably be reprimanded by one of Alethea’s people for using the elixir on his crew, but he didn’t give a damn anymore.

He heard steps outside his cell approaching quickly, then watched as the sheriff unlocked the cell door. “Come on, get up Tane, it’s time to go,” the law said.

That was quick.

Coming slowly out of the door, rubbing his neck, he saw Meandre, businesslike, handing over a small pouch and thanking the lawman. “Come on,” she said, “let’s go.”

Yup, I’m in trouble, she seemed really angry this time, more so than he’d expected.

“Look, I’m really sor-“

Ragged edge

“Stow it,” she said, ragged edge on her voice.

He shut up.

Okay, I get it, I messed up…he thought, but no need to be so mean about it, he stepped faster with his aching muscles, trying to keep up.

Coming out of the constable’s building, Meandre turned and slapped him, hard across the face, on the side with the loose tooth. She raised her hand again to take a second swipe, but he caught it, holding her back. “Hey, love, calm down!”

“I’m not calm, not by half, you bastard!”

“It was just a fight…come on,” he tried to smile with his stinging face.

“With half the damn port!” she retorted.

Tane felt concerned now, fearing that he’d really hurt Meandre’s feelings in some new way he didn’t understand. She usually was cold after he messed up, but the beating was new.

“What’s going on, just tell me,” Tane implored.

Lowing her arms, she grew silent, smoldering like one of those volcanoes on their home world of Aukum.

Finally she pushed him hard with both her hands and arms, “I hate needing you, Tane. I’ve put everything I have into you, my whole life, everything! You’re a curse! I love you but I can’t live without you! Then you go and do this crap. You promised! You stood in front of me and swore you would never fight like that again. You don’t get to do that! You’re “Tane” for God’s sake! They named the Battle of the Burnt Sea after you because you mean something to people, you big lout!” She took a deep breath and lowered her voice. “People look up to you and you just made a fool of yourself.”

I said I was sorry

“I…I said I was sorry…” He truly felt a bit more sorry than he did before.

Putting her forefinger into his chest, hard, seeming to know just where it hurt most, she looked into his eyes. “You don’t get to be sorry, you – do – better! Everyone needs you, Tane…” Her voice broke, then tears welled up in her eyes, “I need you.. . .when you climbed out of that wreak, you looked like that hero I fell in love with, my God what an entrance. Everyone in the crew felt it…they felt proud to be there! Like they were lucky to call you Captain. Then you just had to go and crap all over it because,” her finger pointed harder and harder, “You. Just. Had. To. Fight!”

Now he was sure of it, something else besides his bad behavior was eating at her.

Grabbing her, he hugged her while she beat on his sore back.

“Meandra, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. You’re right, Love, I’ll do better,” he promised. Thankfully, she began to soften a little in his arms.

Then, after a quiet moment she said, “He’s here.”

“What? Who?”

“That little worm,” she sneered.

“Who are you talking about?”

“The hat maker.”

“What? Micron?” Fury rose in his heart, “I’ll kill him,” Tane swore, “where is he!”

“You can’t, he’s protected. Two angels brought him.”

“Damn,” Tane said, imagining killing him anyway.



After Tane washed up and changed out of his bloodied clothes, he came to the door and knocked. He’d requested Meandre be present, but the angels declined. It opened and a large angel, sword by his side, said, “Welcome, please come in.” The messenger studied him for a moment though before moving out of the way. Tane was convinced that the smell of the fight must still be on him, or something.

Angels always unnerved him after seeing them fight first hand in the battle of the Burnt Sea. On first meeting they seemed so respectful, even placid, but on the field of battle they were holy terrors that made even the most hardened soldier cringe.

Over in the corner another angel stood next to a small man sitting on a stool. He was slightly hunched, a blue patterned turban wrapped around his head, thick glasses, his hands wringing as he stared down at the floor.

Despite the holy presence in the room, Tane’s heart burned with rage, a desire for vengeance boiling up inside him so strong he could taste it. The angel standing next to the sitting man, put up his hand, saying, “The Blue Seraph of Elysia, her Majesty Dove, sends her heartfelt greetings. Her Majesty expresses that she deeply appreciates your many years of service.” Tane bowed out of respect, but his eyes never left Micron.

The angel next to him, slightly taller than Tane, piercing blue eyes said, “We have brought the Hat Maker to Hala to assist you in your next mission.”

“What?” Tane said.

Find the Tech Wizard

Rolling out a parchment on the table before him, the heavenly courier placed a candle on one side, and some other items on the other corners, then motioned Tane to come forward.

The parchment featured a detailed map of the whole of planet Hala. The angel said, “You are here, in the port city of Niflheim. When completed, you will pilot your new airship and transport Micron and the rest of the team to the southern port Nastrom, currently occupied by Hadites. After that, you will accompany them to the southern regions of Helhiem to locate the Tech Wizard.”

“Tech Wizard? He’s dead!” Tane exclaimed, “He died at the battle of the Burnt Sea.”

Both angels looked at him, and the one explaining the map said, “Unfortunately, we have reason to believe the Wizard did not perish at the Battle of Tane. He may yet live and be creating dragons again. One appeared in Alfheim several months ago.”

Forgetting his hatred of Micron for a moment, Tane repeated, “Dragons?” a flicker of dread in his voice.

“Yes, a very large one. Fortunately, Michael was present and dispatched it.”

“Damn,” Tane said, then seeing the look on the angels face, quickly said, “sorry.”

“If successful, you will make a full report of his whereabouts to us.”

Any questions?

Straightening up, the angel said, “Any questions?”

“Why Micron? After what he did? I don’t trust him.”

“He’s the only one left that fully understands Dark Tech. You may have need of his expertise.”

“The Hadites will never allow us to pass.” Tane stated the obvious.

“We’ve already spoken to your contact at the southern port, he’s agreed to assist you.”

Angels talking to Haders? What in the hell is going on here? Tane thought

The angel standing by Micron placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, saying “You are in the presence of Gabriel, mind yourself, son of Aukum.”

Gabriel, nonplussed, continued, saying, “Commander Tane, there is a lot going on that we cannot yet reveal, but Dove requests your help. So does Alethea. The wizard has developed some type of shield, which prevents even Seraphim from approaching his location from above. You know how destructive dragons are, Alethea needs to know where he is so that she can mount an attack. However, she does not want to further damage large areas of her world indiscriminately – she desires to know precisely where he is.”

The soldier coming to himself, regretting his impertinence, now grasped the gravity of the situation and straightened up to attention. “Yes, sir, of course, sir, I’ll do whatever their Majesties require.”

Both nodded.

Tane shifted his weight uneasily, then asked, “One further question, if I may?”

“You may ask.”

“What shall I do with Micron when the mission’s done?”

Silent for a moment, eyes betraying no thoughts, Gabriel said, as if he’d received instructions from on high, “If he performs well, Her Majesty, Dove, will grant a full pardon. However, should he fail in this mission, it is decreed by the Six Sisters that you may do with him as you like.”

At that moment, Micron looked up, his wrinkled face displaying alarm and fear lining his eyes.

Fighting back a fiendish smile, Tane replied, “Thank you sir, thank you very much.”

There is a Hero in us – Epic Music Mix