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Where are we going?

(Realm of Elysia)

Bren said goodbye to Joshua, trying to hide her sinking heart. She’d felt so good in his presence, like her heart found rest. However, as she now said goodbye, it was gradually dawning on her that she was falling for a man who was always busy, with God knows what, and seldom available for her. At the beginning, when her heart was not interested, it didn’t matter. But now Brenzel felt a small aching in her chest as she glanced backwards at Traveler as they rode away.

Under the canopy of the forest, the two moved slowly away in silence for some time. Finally Bren broke the quiet by asking James, “Where are we going?’

“I thought we’d start by visiting the Bread Maker’s Apprentice.”


“Don’t you like bread? James asked.

“Yes, but I want to see more of Elysia, not someone kneading dough.”


Falling silent again, Bren turned her attention to Sapphire, a beautiful white mare fitted with a blue jeweled halter. Her mind wandered back to when she first tried to mount Sapphire, the tallest horse she’d ever ridden. Assisting her, Traveler had walked beside the big mare, sliding his hand along her neck and up behind her ear, scratching a little as she turned her head slightly towards him. Then, as Bren grabbed the horn of the saddle, she placed her left foot in his interlocking fingers and hoisted herself up, just managing to swing her right leg over the saddle. Then, as James waved goodbye, his horse, Gambit, began to walk away, with Sapphire and Bren in tow.

Coming back to the present, she sized up the horse James rode. Compared to Sapphy, the pet name Bren had christened her mare with, Gambit was a poor excuse of a horse. Short and scruffy, oddly like his rider, he seemed out of place in Elysia.

Bren commented, “Gambit isn’t from Elysia, is he?”

“Nope M’lady.”

“Don’t call me that, I want to be called Brenzel.”

Silent for a moment, James said, “I brought him with me from earth, we’ve been together for a long time. Sapphire and Gambit are mates – Divine Mates.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Brenzel snorted.

“Not at all. Sapphire won’t go anywhere without him. They are always together.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Looking across at Sapphire’s rider, he stated, “Believe what you want, it makes no difference. They’re inseparable.”

Sapphy, turn around

Bren, annoyed, suddenly commanded, “Sapphire, turn around, I want to go back to Traveler.”

The mare shook her head and made no move to change course.

“I’m Brenzel of Eden, and I order to you to go back now! I don’t want to go with James or his horse. Turn around!” Then, taking her mare’s blond mane in her hand, she tried to pull her neck sideways.

James just stared, as Gambit stopped.

“Turn around!” Bren shouted as she kicked the big horse hard in her belly.

At that, Sapphire reared up on her hind legs as she neighed loudly, Gambit and James looking on helplessly.

Bren tried to hold on, but Sapphire bucked until she bounced off, landing flat on her back.

Gasping, unable to catch her breath, Brenzel panicked. James jumped off his steed and ran over, trying to see if his young charge was hurt in any meaningful way.

Wheezing in a most horrific way, after a short time, air rushed back into Brenzel’s starving lungs. James, kneeling over her, said, “Be still for a moment, catch your breath.” Sputtering and red-faced, she struggled to sit up, refusing James’ outstretched hand.

Struggling to her feet, her foot caught the hem of her beautiful red dress, making a terrible ripping sound, she stood. Feeling foolish, Bren examined the damage, still angry.

Defiant to the end

James, looking at her as she brushed herself off and smooth her dress, asked, “Are you hurt Brenzel?”

“No, I’m fine,” she said defiantly.

Sapphire had moved over to Gambit and was nuzzling him as if she needed comfort.

Looking at the loving equine couple, the rumpled seraph said, “What does she see in him, he’s just an old plug?”

James, grimacing, cautioned, “Careful, Brenzel, they understand you.”

Realizing her meanness, and that James was right, she said, “I’m sorry, Gambit I don’t mean that, I’m having a really bad day,” as she started to cry softly.

Looking at her, alone and forlorn, Sapphire walk slowly over and stood by Bren, nuzzling her as if she felt her pain. Initially stiff, Brenzel relaxed and put her arm around her head.

James mounted Gambit again and, leaning forward close to his ear said, “Honestly, what does he see in her?”

Hell hath no fury

(Vatican City, 1690)

A piece of expensive Sicilian Maiolica flew by, barely missing his ear as it broke into shards on the wall behind him.

“You can’t be serious!” the pregnant Fiammetta cried as she threw another cup, hitting him in the elbow as he ducked. “After all I went through to wait for you! I hate you!” she yelled, looking for something else to throw.

“Fia, my love, please – calm down!” Tim begged, looking desperately for something to shield himself with, hoping that she was running out of dishes.

“No! I will not!” she hissed, “You’re mad if you think I’ll do that!”

The torrent of emotion flowing out of his Italian beauty was truly frightening. He whole body shaking with fury, out of control. All Tim could do was endure it.

The big monk, upon hearing her voice break slightly, Lowered his arm cautiously, hoping her anger was finally subsiding. It truly pained him to see his lover so disappointed in him. If there was any other way…


Everything had gone surprisingly well as he sat across the kitchen table from her earlier, telling her of what Cardinal Jenkins said, at least as much of the truth as he could tell her. However, Fiammetta’s face turned more and more stone-like and her eyes flashed with anger as he explained the only feasible solution. Then, she had erupted like Mount Vesuvius and had been raging for the last hour until nearly every throw-able object in the kitchen lay broken at the base of the wall behind him.

Now, she merely wept, hands holding herself up on the table, chest heaving. Murmuring, “No, no, no.”

Later that evening, Tim sat across from her again, as she looked at him defiantly. Feeling like a cad, he reached slowly over to touch her hand, which she withdrew.

Presently, she said, “You’re lying.”


“You haven’t told me everything; you’re not telling me the whole truth. Tell me now or we are through…forever.”

The whole truth

At her unexpected words, Tim felt a shiver run through his body. Yes, he realized, he did want to tell her everything, about what he really did, about the order, about Jenkins, even about Her Majesty. In fact, he longed to say it.

Slowly, Tim said, heart pounding, “You won’t believe me.”

“I don’t believe you now,” she said icily.

“I have just been trying to protect you, dearest. What I do is not… an acceptable vocation.”

“I’m not a child. I know what power means. Tell me now.”

Against years of conditioning, against his better judgment, Tim confessed everything into the wee hours of the morning, until the sun began to rise over the rooftops.

Fiammetta’s face alternated between disbelief, horror, and grudging understanding.

“That’s the whole truth, Fiammetta,” Tim finished, feeling like a old dish rag wrung out too many times.

Say something Fia…please

His love stared at him from across the table, fists clenching and unclenching, then relaxing.

Say something Fia, anything, Tim thought, feeling his whole life and heart hanging in the balance.

Looking down at the table, she put her hands together, in prayer. After some agonizing minutes, she looked up with puffy eyes full of dreadful resolve saying tersely, “God help me, I’ll do it. I have one question though. How will you convince him?”

Tim, beginning to realize the terrible price they both must pay, answered matter-of-factually, “I’ll have a talk with him.”

Morning Star

(Realm of Elysia)

As shadows lengthened and the sun sank in to the mountains, the road James and Bren followed climbed gradually into the hills. Bren, still sullen and sore, sat on Sapphire in silence behind Gambit. Around them, more and more signs of civilization appeared: Fields, ornate bridges, and small, yet beautifully designed houses, arose along the road.

Bren, rousing from her huff, said, “I’m sorry, Sapphy. I should not have kicked you, please forgive me.” After a moment, Bren sensed that the big mare relaxed, too, and did forgive her. Strangely, she even felt her sympathy and understanding. There were no words, of course, yet in Bren’s heart it was as if they each knew what the other felt. Sapphire, a divine mate, understood that her rider was forced to leave the one she loved, and that’s why she behaved badly.

Brightening, Bren asked, “What is this town?”

“Morning Star,” James replied. Pointing to the twin peaks in the distance He said, “The last visible star of the morning always appears between those two mountains.”

Bren though to herself, That is lovely

A well-lived in place

People who were out and about greeted them warmly, asking how they were and if their journey fared well. James would introduce himself and his charge, asking their names in return. Like the rest of the Elysians, they were all tall and pleasant on the eyes, but dressed simply. Bren looked around the square. It was lined with what appeared to be shops, with a fountain in the middle, singing the sound of a babbling brook as water splashed down three sets of terraces to the large round basin. Each house was made of large stone foundations, and cunning masonry that rose a few feet until the wooden structure began. Ornate doors lay slightly inset, with various round windows as needed. Their roofs seemed to be made of some sort of thin, flat stone, perhaps slate, the type Bren had seen on some of the nicely-built homes back where she had grown up. Chimneys, with curling smoke, gave the air a pleasant, home hearth smell, like a comfortable, well-lived in place.

James and Gambit slowed as they approached a large house with a small sign hanging above it’s door sporting a single loaf of bread.

“We’re here,” James declared.

Bren dismounted, running her hand up Sapphire’s neck, putting her cheek next to hers, saying, “Thank you for understanding.”

The bread maker’s apprentice

James knocked lightly at the door, then waited. They were an odd sight, Bren looked like royalty in her dress and cape, while James looked like an eccentric vagabond. Presently, the door opened to reveal a tall, smiling young man with a white bakers hat on his head saying, “Greetings, fine friends, may I interest you in a loaf of my finest braided crumb?”

The smell, wafting from inside, intoxicated Bren’s nostrils, making her salivate. She’d always loved the smell of fresh baked bread, but what her nose picked up now was beyond anything she’d ever experienced.

“This is Brenzel of Eden,” James said, “and I’m James. We’ve just come from Elysiandra, and we’d be delighted to sample some of your finest!”