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Golden grain morning

(Realm of Elysia)

The field of wheat, not far from harvest, felt uncomfortable to navigate, stalks brushing against his belly. Still, it contained many grains that made for a quick breakfast on the go, which fit his Rundsey sense of urgency. Now the morning of the second day of his calling, the Plain of Miriam and the Great Grounds of the Feast came into view from between the angels. Still at least a half day’s journey for his small feet, the great sorrow he felt drove him onward.

A horse drawn carriage full of Elysians moved slowly on the road as the Rundsey began to cross. The horse, snorting, stopped the carriage to the surprise of the driver, refusing to move. Trotting on all fours, he looked up into the steed’s grey underbelly, as he hurried to the other side.

The travelers, trying to figure out why they stopped, spied the small animal, exclaiming, “Rundsey! Look, it’s a Rundsey!”

Hand off

At breakfast, Grace exchanged places with Manu, who, as usual, had difficulty leaving Bren’s side. In fact, Bren’s snuggle-bug stayed with them until noon, only then bidding adieu.

Kissing Bren and Grace, Manu said, “Love you, dear, have a good time, I’m going to meet up with Robyn and shop some more.”

Feeling genuinely sorry to part with her, Bren asked, “Do you have to go?”

Manu, uncharacteristically, replied, “You and Grace go have a ball, everything will be okay,” letting her hand slip from Bren’s.

Grace, the tallest of the five, waved goodbye. Taking hold of Brenzel, she led her through the maze of people in the main promenade. Nearly as tall as Brenzel, Grace had wide, kind eyes, with long, straight blond hair to the middle of her back. She wore a generous smile and had a kind word for everyone she met.

“How are you liking the festival, Bren?” she asked, as they walked towards the artist’s area.

“It’s wonderful, but kind of overwhelming. There’s nothing like it at home. Seven days of wonder, that’s exactly what it is,” she observed.

“I never get tired of it myself, there’s always something new. I went to the Mysteries yesterday, and it was amazing. It’s never been here before, it’s the first time.”

You smell good

“What’s it like?’ Brenzel asked as they perused a booth with different perfumes and soaps.

Grace spritzed a jasmine and vanilla scent on her wrist, smelling it, then holding it up for Bren to do the same. “I like it,” Bren said.

“Well, it’s the entourage of all the other Seraphs. There are people from Aukum, Omey, Hala, Zulu, and Tian here.”

Bren thought back to tea and meeting the sisters of Dove. She wasn’t quite sure why they were called the six sisters. Obviously they didn’t look anything alike. She assumed it was because they were all Seraphs.

“Can you tell me more about the Seraphs? Manu’s so sure I’m one, but I just don’t see it. I can’t imagine I’m like them at all.”

Thanking a lovely man for the blue bottle of the golden perfume, Grace replied, “You’re partially right, you’re not like them. You were born, not created.”

“What does that mean?” Bren asked, as she received some cherries, saying thank you.

That’s what Seraphs are made of

“The Seraphs, all of them, were created by God from the stones of fire. There is this place, very near to the center of everything, where YHWH’s power dwells. The stones, which contain the essence of His Creative Spirit, are what the Seraphs are made of.”

“I’m not like that.” Bren said, finishing some grapes she had asked for as they passed a fruit stall.

“Well, yes and no.” Grace said, saying hi and hugging a friend.

“You are a Seraph, but unlike them, you were born. That’s never happened before. You have their nature, but you are growing into their gifts. Frankly, no one knows what that looks like,” she concluded.

Emotions, some of which she couldn’t discern, sloshed around her mind and heart, causing her to feel trapped. Why are you so uptight? she asked herself, Nothing’s wrong, I’m in Elysia for God’s sake! Get a grip!

Under the gaze of Christ

(Vatican City, 1689)

Tim sat in his formal chambers at his ornate desk. Baroque in every sense of the word, Cardinal Lambert didn’t like it much. Behind him on the ceiling, a fresco of Christ read in Latin, Ego Tas Sum Et Via Vita Veri, which translated means, I am the way, the truth, and the life.

Irritated, taking the letter out of it’s envelope again, Tim thought, This is a fine kettle of fish. Reading it over for a third time, it seemed that there was nothing else he could do. Though The Order routinely robbed and extorted everyone else, pilfering from it’s own coffers wasn’t tolerated. This Ricardo, a impudent acolyte in Spain, had done just that.

To his assistant, Tim said, “Send him in.”

A tall, well-dressed gentleman entered, and stood.

“Please, take a seat.”

Looking over the man before him, Tim didn’t like what he saw. His first impression was of a hollow person, a golem of a man, but then again, assassins were not know for their conviviality. Dark hair, a scar on his left cheek, no doubt from an uncooperative victim, completed his look of an unsavory customer.

Stretching forth his hand, Tim waited. The man, reaching into the vest, took out a pouch, then delivered it to Tim.

The Cardinal, taking his time, surveyed the documents thoroughly, raising his eyebrows imperceptibly at one point.


“It says here your name is Lot.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Lot what?”

“Just Lot, sir.”

“No family name?”

“I was an orphan.”

“I see.” Folding the papers neatly, the Cardinal inserted them again, handing them back to the man before him.

“You come highly recommended from our Spanish office. They note that you are efficient with a blade. How many judgments?”

“Seventeen, Father.”

“Your papers says you have a nickname: Skinner.” Raising his eyebrows, Tim said, “A bit flamboyant, don’t you think?”

“It’s what others call me, sir, not my choice.”

Not feeling like letting it go, Tim pressed: “Why do they call you that?”

Stone faced, Lot said, “It was because of a special request. If you desire, I can go into some detail.”

Dropping his line of inquiry with a wave of his hand, Tim got back on topic.

I would like to make a statement

“We have a situation in Madrid with a Father Ricardo Florini. He embezzled a substantial sum from The Order. I want to make a statement. Something public.”

“His family?”

“No, just him, but let it be a statement.”


“Within a fortnight.”

“Yes, Cardinal.”

“That is all.”

Losing himself

As the tall man left, Tim felt dejected. He had just ordered a man killed, by what means he did not know or care. That was left up to the dark imagination of The Order’s assassin, but he knew it would be gruesome and public. How many times had he ordered the same? As he sat and thought he realized he’d lost count; or didn’t care to keep track of those he’d passed judgment on. To be sure, many were members of The Order, moral reprobates, dregs that humanity was better off without – but who was he to judge? He felt dirty today, like he’d lost too much of himself.

And then there was Fiammetta. She was a woman of the world, she understood what power meant in Rome. Yet, somehow she managed to remain pure. Tim realized early on that he wanted to protect that purity at all costs. There were places he could never invite her in and he wanted it to stay that way. She, for her part, never asked, taking only the pieces of his heart and soul he could give.

I’m not a monster

These transgressions, necessary to keep up appearances in The Order, nevertheless gnawed at him. Looking back and up and the fresco, Tim wondered, How much can I give and still remain saved? He told himself that the enemies of God he crossed out with the stroke of a pen were like those in Jericho, brambles to the fire. He tried to mitigate circumstances when they warranted it, like today with the man’s family. The assassin would have, without compassion, slit everyone’s throat. I’m not a monster, Tim concluded.

Working against her Majesty was clearly necessary. But how much evil was permissible to use in the fight against evil? How many people must I execute to fight it until I, in the end, become as evil as the one I oppose? he mused.

Everything was getting lost. Nothing seemed clear anymore. That is, except Fiammetta and the boys. That, at least, was worth fighting for.

The Painter

(Realm of Elysia)

Bren sat before the artist, a young dark-haired woman with brown eyes. She was simply referred to as “the painter.” Grace spoke of her with some awe, stating that she was nothing short of amazing. She painted people in a way that revealed their true hearts; what they really desired. Simply put, Grace said, her artwork revealed the person’s inner self.

Bren thought with some trepidation, And that’s a good thing?

“What is your name?” she asked.

“Brenzel, ma’am.”

“What do you seek?”

“Would you please paint me a picture?”

“Of course, I would be delighted. You’re not Elysian, are you?

“No, I am from Earth – I mean, Eden.”

“Highly unusual.” Her large, dark eyes surveyed Bren closely, like she saw right through her. “You must understand, I paint what others do not see.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ve been told that.”

Let’s have a look at you

Standing, she came close, asking Bren to stretch her hands out, palms up, saying “Let’s take a look at you…”

Studying them for a moment, she moved behind her, feeling her shoulders, then coming around she put her hand on Bren’s heart, closing her eyes.

Sitting back down, she she began to paint.

After a little more than an hour, Bren walked away deeply shakened. Holding the small rectangular portrait Bren thought, She’s a prophetic painter, but she couldn’t possibly know…

Heart pounding, as a flow of thoughts coursed through her, Bren felt a hand on her shoulder.

Turning, she heard, “Hi, I’m Desere, I saw you at the dance last night.”

Looking into her eyes, Bren remembered the connection between them the night before.

Do you have need?

“Are you okay, my friend, Do you have need?”

Bren blurted, “I don’t know if I do. I don’t know anything anymore.”

Putting her arm around Bren’s shaking shoulders, she said, “Grace, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to spend some time with your friend this evening.”

A look of grave concern came over Grace’s face as she simply nodded and kissed Bren on the cheek saying, “It’s okay Bren. Everything will be okay.”

Coming to her booth, Desere made Bren comfortable saying, “I’ll be back in a little, dear. Just rest, I’ll bring something to eat and drink, I won’t be long.” Bren, smiling weakly, nodded, sitting on the feather bed, holding the portrait.


As she departed, Brenzel unwrapped the portrait and looked at it.

Desere, barely a 100 yards from her door, whipped around in surprise. In the gathering twilight, a blood curdling scream rose to a shrill crescendo, coming from the direction of her booth.