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On the balustrade

(Realm of Elysia)

As the sun set over Elysia, Bren sat on Dove’s balcony overlooking the Tree of Life and the Great Lake. Nibbling on one of the pastries Grace brought in earlier, she studied the vista before her. The sun set over the top of the Tree of Life, melting into the Crystal Sea, it’s reflection rising up to meet the descending orb as it disappeared from sight.

After the eight day celebration, she’d ridden up the mountain with the girls, passing under the waterfalls again. However, this time, curiously, she felt no fear. In fact, since eating the fruit, she sensed a definite change in her whole outlook on life. Bren felt rested, strong, and peaceful. Everything in her relaxed, like she didn’t feel afraid or anxious or worried about anything.

Standing, walking over to the balcony’s Balustrade, Bren caressed her mouth, and remembered kissing Desere goodbye. The look in her eyes, the feel of her lips as she pressed them against hers, the hug that showed how much they loved each other as their bellies met, all flooded her senses. She remembered watching her friend disappear into the mist with Phaelyn for the last time, happy that Desere was going back to Aukum. Bren’s eyes became misty as she relived this, but there were no tears of loss as she might have shed before, but simply an overwhelming joy for her friend’s happiness. In her heart, Bren knew it was not goodbye forever, but simply a pause in a relationship that would never end.

Everything’s different now

She remembered Hope and Felicity hugging her while she watched her friend leave with Phaelyn, as the mist shrouding the Mysteries vanished, leaving nothing behind except an empty field. Even that did not surprise her now, for Bren saw everything very differently since the Last Great Day.

Returning her focus to the amber vista before her, Bren felt Dove’s presence behind her and said, “Hello your majesty,” as Dove walked through the open door on the other side of the room. Turning, Bren saw the Blue Seraph, wings flowing as she walked, smiling at her. Hugging her, Dove led them both to the divan where they sat facing one another.

“Bren, I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to visit. How are you feeling after the Last Great Day?”

Looking into Dove’s big blue eyes, Bren said honestly, “I miss Joshua.”

He wants you to meet the Hat Master

Empathizing, Dove said, “I understand. He will be here soon, though. He wants to introduce you to the Hat Master.”

Brightening, Brenzel smiled, feeling a rush of excitement. Moving closer to the big Seraph, she nestled into her side as Dove put her arms around her. Bren said, “What’s happening to me? I don’t feel myself anymore. I’m not anxious about anything, and I feel wonderful all the time. I see things, too, things that are not there, like waking dreams.”

Caressing her, Dove said, “You’re beginning to drift through time. It’s something we think you’ll get used to. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell when you are. The best way I can describe it is like getting your sea legs.”

Bren remembered something Robyn said as she left her after the Story Forest.

“Dove, I felt you and the other Seraphs when I was looking down at the festival from a great distance. It is like you were all…everywhere.”

That cooing sound

Making a cooing sound, the elder seraph said, “I assure you that we are finite beings, not present everywhere. What you began to feel is our true selves.”

“I’m usually scared of heights, but being up there with all of you didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I felt free, like I was flying among the stars.”

“You’re changing, Dear,” Dove said, as she held her. “Your metamorphism has begun.”

“What does that mean?” Bren questioned.

“Well, to be honest, we’re not quite sure. In all the ancient books there is no record of a seraph being born – Libby checked. You’re the first one to change into an Apex Seraph.”

As they talked into the night, globes in the room began to glow, casting a warm, soft light on them both.

The burning ones

Dove, releasing Bren, beckoned an attendant waiting at the door, who brought over a cloth covered bundle. Taking it from the beautiful girl, the Blue Seraph thanked her as she left. Carefully, she unwrapped the package, revealing an ancient volume, made of what looked like leather, reinforced with elaborately engraved golden edges and a curious symbol in the upper middle of the front cover.

Opening the book somewhere in the middle. Dove said, “Libby took some gentle persuading, but she agreed to leave this book for you to look at. As the book opened, Bren saw it was illuminated with a fine gold leaf drawing of a Seraph surrounded by fire in the upper left hand corner of the right page.

Pointing to writing on the page, the Elder Seraph asked, “Can you read it?”

Bren looked at the page, trying to make out the script. The letters were of no English that she had ever seen; if fact, she had never seen anything like it at all. The symbols were more like pictures that moved and changed as if they were alive. As Bren looked deeper, the writing began to speak to her.

The first Seraph

Bren pointed to a place on the page saying, “Here it speaks of the first Seraph, saying something about precious stones and singing.”

Smiling, Dove said, “Yes, it speaks the bright and shining one, Beauty.” Closing the book and giving it to Bren, she said, “This book contains the history of the Seraphim, or the Burning Ones, which is our ancient name. It is written in the original language of our race and only we can hear the words. You are welcomed to read it if you’d like, it may make some things clearer to you, though other parts may be difficult to understand.

“Thank you,” Bren said, as she felt the gold reinforced biding, “I will take good care of it.”

Bren sat the book on her lap as Dove continued, “You see, Dear one, there are many different types of Seraphim. Most were spoken into existence by YHWH during the creation of the Seven Realms. But some, like myself and my sisters, were fashioned in the Stones of Fire well before that.

It suddenly struck Bren as she heard Dove’s words, how strange everything sounded. Bren thought, If I wasn’t sitting her with her, I would swear this was a fairy tale.

Bren focused again as Dove said, “Each of us emerged complete and perfect from the day we were created. Beauty was the first, and several eons after that, I, Wisdom was the second, and then my other sisters followed. We are Apex Seraphs, and we are the “Us” YHWH counsels and creates with.

“You are also an Apex Seraph, but unlike us, you were not created perfect, you are becoming perfect. You are, in a very real sense, the first of your kind.”

Feeling Dove’s heartbeat, Bren felt safe to consider such things, though she did not comprehend them fully. She knew in her heart, though, that Dove spoke truth.

It seems beyond me…but

Bren said, “Before the festival, it all seemed so beyond me, but after the dance, I’m starting to accept it more. Up there, I felt free with you and the others. I saw Elysia as one, it was so lovely. I felt like I was going through the front door into the outside world for the first time.”

Dove shifted her position and rearranged her wings as she leaned back, saying,

“In time, you will come into the fullness of your calling. Just know that there is room enough for everything, and you don’t have to be worried; everything will happen as it should. I will help lead and guide you. Everything will be fine Bren.”

Brenzel wondered in her heart if it would, but for now, Dove’s assurance was enough.

How far along is she?

(Vatican City, 1690)

Cardinal Jenkins eyed Tim cautiously. As the words, “How far along is she,” echoed in Tims heart and mind, it was as if the younger priests ears flattened and he growled like a animal ready to spring. Jenkins’ skin crawled as he struggled to maintain eye contact with the younger man of the cloth. Perhaps I’ve made him into too potent a weapon, the old man pondered.

Tim, struggling to regain composure, finally said, “You’ve been watching me?”

The old man, looking incredulous, said, “We watch everyone, especially those at the top.”

“It is nothing, its just a fling. Everyone does it. What are you so concerned about?” Tim said as nonchalantly as he could muster.

“Don’t insult my intelligence, boy, we both know what it is: It’s true love,” Jenkins said dismissively.

“I’m not your boy; I haven’t been for years.”

“Point taken,” Jenkins said as his features relaxed, thinking to himself, He’s not going to kill me. At least not yet.

A bite of the apple

Reaching for an apple from a nearby plate, Slim Jenkins cut it with a knife, offering a piece to Tim, which he reluctantly accepted.

After a few bites, Jenkins said, “What you have done with this foolish dalliance is jeopardize everything. You are fully aware that Beauty does not tolerate anyone from the order falling in love.”

“I don’t care, I am ready to die for her if it comes to that.”

Eyeing Tim as he chewed, the Cardinal said, “Yes, perhaps, but are you ready for her to die? I think not.”

Tim remained silent.

“No, it is impossible to fight her, and foolish to think you can,” the old man answered Tim’s thoughts.

Tim stared at him defiantly.

That’s an Order

“There is one way, and only one way forward.”

“What’s that?” Tim said.

The old priest and the young cardinal argued deep into the night, sometimes shouting, sometimes barely speaking.

In the early morning, Jenkins said, “It is the only way. And that’s an order.”

The finality of those words struck Tim in the heart in way he hadn’t expected. It was commonly known the name of their society was “The Order,” because once that word was invoked, you either obeyed or died.

Tim left the old man’s study, stomach churning, finally facing what he must do – break Fiammetta’s heart.