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Feeling pushed

(Realm of Elysia)

“What do you mean, I’m the cure?” Bren asked, scowling, surf washing over her bare feet. “What are you saying? Everything depends on me? What’s that supposed to mean?” Bren said as she shifted her weight onto her right foot.

“Why does everyone expect so much of me? I’m nobody, nothing, do you hear me?! I’m a wench in a local pub, working for pennies a day and happy to get it. All this is more than I ever imagined…or wanted. Stop telling me things! Go away!” she said defiantly. Then with her hands and arms outstretched she screamed, “Go away!”

James thought, okay, this isn’t good.

Just then, the Hat Master noticed the water had suddenly receded, revealing far more of the beach than before. In fact the tide was retreating further and faster than he’d ever seen before. Looking back at his young charge, she continued to scowl at him with violet fire in her eyes.

“Why are you treating me like this?” She demanded again.

“Bren, stop,” James said with a worried look, as her eyes flashed violet fire again. “Calm down, you’re affecting everything!” Gambit and Sapphire whinnied nervously as a familiar voice in James’ heart spoke, “Higher ground… now!”

James looking out at the missing ocean, shouted, “Run!”

Full gallop

Bren, suddenly breaking free of her despair sensed danger, too, and followed James, mounting her horse as best she could, holding on for dear life as Sapphire ran at a full gallop, hooves barely touching the sand. Moving faster than she’d ever rode in her life, Brenzel’s mare barely kept up with the smaller Gambit. Shielding her eyes from the splashing water in front, Bren turned her head right and saw the ocean. There it was: A wall of violet-tinged water on the horizon, becoming larger by the second, heading straight at them. The roar was deafening. Heart racing, she looked up, gauging the distance to the hill, but it seemed too far.

What is going on? Nothing bad ever happens in Elysia, Bren thought as fear gripped her chest. The heavy breathing of Sapphire made her wonder how long her mare could last. James, in front of her on his short steed, commanded him to run faster as they reached the trail head.

The mountain of water rose higher and higher, threatening to swat them like flies, cresting as they galloped up the trail. Gambit abruptly broke to the right, careening up the embankment, climbing furiously. Sapphire, the larger horse, followed as best she could, with Bren clutching to her mane.

Jumping, hooves digging at the steep bank furiously, their horses finally mounted the small hill. Having crashed below, the rogue wave swirled inland, submerging everything in its path. James jumped off of Gambit, fear in his eyes, shouting.

Tip your hat!

“Bren, tip your hat!”

“What?” Bren asked above the din.

“TIP… YOUR… HAT!” as he pointed to his head.

Bren tipped it, making it appear.

“Focus on the water, tell it to stop!” James yelled at the top of his lungs, but Bren barely made out what he said.

“What?”

“Stop it now, or we’re all dead!”

Stop!

Bren, finally realizing what he meant, turned and yelled. “Stop!”

Instantly, the water quit rising. Then, in a matter of minutes, it receded off the beach and back into the ocean.

Bren, wide eyed, said out loud, “What the…”

The water sucked with it earth, wood, and rocks, leaving parts of the beach scraped bare. The wave’s power to destroy stunned Brenzel, for she’d never seen the like before. Looking below, the damage stopped barely 20 ft below where she stood. It was the first sign of destruction Brenzel had ever witnessed in Elysia.

Then turning to James and the horses, shaking with adrenaline, Bren said loudly, “What else can this thing do?”

James wiping the sweat from his temples, said angrily, “Bren, that thing is a weapon and its dangerous in the wrong hands. Get control of yourself or you’ll end up hurting someone!” Turning, sitting on the ground, catching his breath, he thought, Someone like me….

Surveying the beach, Brenzel said after a moment, “I’m sorry, did I do that? as she tipped her hat so it vanished again.

Frowning, James led the horses back up the ridge, hoping to locate the trail before nightfall. Riding up into the hills, with the young Seraph in tow, James fretted., She’s powerful, I’ll give her that. The old misgivings about placing “that hat” on her head resurfaced, causing him to wonder if Joshua’s decision was indeed sound. Again, he thought to himself, hope you know what you’re doing. If she goes bad, it’s going to be disaster all over again.

Before the altar

(Vatican City, 1690)

Marriage contracts negotiated, signed, and monies received, everything was set for the glorious day. Finally, Fiammetta would be wed, in front of family and friends, in a large cathedral. Everything looked perfect; in fact, according to those looking in from the outside, it was, she thought ruefully.

As the seamstresses fiddled and fidgeted with last minute alterations on her wedding dress, specially constructed to hide the tell-tale roundness of her belly, tears welled up in Fia’s eyes. Maria motioned the servants away, saying, “Please, give us some time.”

As the last one left, Fia broke down sobbing saying, “I can’t do this, I can’t, I just can’t!” as Maria cradled her on her left shoulder.

“There, there m’lady.”

“No, I can’t, it’s all wrong. It’s mocks everything I really want!”

How dare you!

Holding Fia back a little Maria looked directly in her eyes saying, “Fiammetta, look at me….” When Fiammetta kept sobbing, Maria said sternly, “Look..at..me!”

“Wha…what?” She said looking up into the sober face of the older woman. “How dare you…” she said incredulously.

“How dare YOU, Fiammetta,” Maria said without hesitation.

Looking away, Miss Piccalomini said nothing more.

Maria said, “You have a man that loves you, two children who adore you and one on the way, wealth beyond most people’s dreams. You’ll receive titles, lands, and Lord knows what else when all this is over. Be grateful, child, and do what you must for your man. He needs you to be strong.”

Fiammetta, sniffling, looked towards her servant again.

A sacrifice of true love

“Cardinal Lambert loves you like no man I’ve ever seen. I would do anything to have that. I lost my man years ago and I’ve worked my fingers to the bone ever since just to put food on the table and clothes on my children’s backs. Yes, Fia, this is a terrible price to pay, but at least your sacrifice is at the altar of true love.”

Fia began to say, “I’m sorry…” but Maria went on as she held the young high-born’s trembling hands.

“This is a long road you must travel, child. Today, is but the first step. Steel yourself, for Lord knows what the days ahead will bring. I know Timothy, though, he is a good man. Dry your tears and smile when you must and play the part for him. It is what he needs.”

Thinking back to the revelations from Tim at her kitchen table, she knew Maria spoke truth. Nodding, the bride to be wiped her face, admitting, “Yes, you’re right, Tim needs me now more than ever, and I do love him with all my heart.” Then, after another moment she composed herself, saying, “Call the girls back.”

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