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Examining his conscience

(Vatican, 1687)

Tim sat trembling in his pew, looking up a the cross bearing his Savior. It had been 11 days since the midnight assembly and he felt unclean, unfit for his calling, defiled, dirty. Waiting to give confession, his conscience, whipping him mercilessly, screamed how unworthy he was, how cravenly carnal and base he’d become. A worm could not be lower.

Since the Introitus, the nightmares never ceased. Night after sleepless night, Tim tossed and turned, lusting in his dreams for that which he could not possibly have. He hadn’t slept well since.

Was he a coward? Could he have saved the brother who met his death next to him? Yes, he had attempted to pull the monks robe, but, admitting the awful truth to himself, he only tried half-heartedly, fearing more for his own life.

Tim remembered cringing on the floor, fighting to keep from joining that doomed man. Shortly after the bewitched fool stood and turned, Tim heard the terrified scream and the sickening thud of what Tim later realized was his head, hitting the marble floor.

What happened later

Yet, for all the physical terror of Her grand entrance, it was what happened next that sickened him the most.

As Her Majesty descended the curved steps which led into the underground necropolis, Her luminescence faded from view. When the last of Her shone, the old, blind priest stood and announced,

“She is with us, all rise and worship her beauty!” With that, driven mad with passion, the surviving monks descended upon one another in a firestorm of debauchery.

Confessional

The small wooden door slid open suddenly. Tim said, “Bless me, father for I have sinned, it has been 11 days since my last confession.

“Father…”

“Go on my son…”

“I…I can’t say it…” Tim said, wringing his hands.

“God is merciful my son…”

Cardinal Jenkins remained stone faced as he waited patiently for Tim to confess.

“I confess I am full of lust, Father. After Her Majesty descended underground , everyone stood and…”

“Yes, my son, go on…”

“Father, everyone descended upon one another in a manner I cannot bring myself to say even in here, performing such acts on each that would make even Sodom and Gomorrah blush.”

In the shadow of St. Longinus

“How did you sin?” the father asked.

“I rubbed my body raw with the hair shirt and crawled to the grotto of St. Longinus, hiding in the back as far as I could squeeze. No one noticed me, for they all were too busy with every lewd act known to man’s carnal mind in the great hall.”

“So… you did not participate?”

“No, Father, not in body, but in my mind I wanted to. My flesh burned with overwhelming desire, and I wanted to do everything I witnessed. I craved to satisfy myself with flesh, any flesh. I’m so dirty, Father, I’m so ashamed, I am not worthy to serve Christ any longer. I am lower than a worm.”

Tim finished, weeping uncontrollably, a torrent of tears and moans pouring out of him.

Finally, after some time, Tim regained some control, confessing, “I know God is merciful, Father, but He rained fire down on Sodom and Gomorrah, how can He do less to me? Is there even a penance for someone as reprobate as I?”

The old priest turned to Tim, his dark eyes glistening in the dim light, saying, “For your penance, say 10 Hail Marys and 5 Our Fathers.”

Surely you mock me!

“What?” Tim said in stunned disbelief. “Surely you mock me, Father!” Tim cried. “Please, I beg of you, do not toy with me in such a way! I am a sinner, if I performed my rosary every day, all day, until I die, that would not be enough to atone for my sins!”

In the darkness of the confessional, the Cardinal answered, “I was barely 23 years old and a new priest when I experienced my first Introitus. Like you, nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced as She passed by. An old priest gave me the shirt you wore, and it saved me from participating, just as it did you. Unfortunately, I did not hide as well as you did.”

Tim, shocked, said nothing.

The Cardinal, speaking in excruciating detail, told everything that befell him at the hands of his fellow priests during his first Introitus. Halfway through his confession, Tim forgot about his own pain and wept for the man. The old priest concluded with, “Though I hated those who abused me for many years, I finally came to realize that those who misused me were in the grip of an unseen power, too great to resist.”

“You are a good priest, Tim Lambert, better than most. Forget this ever happened and forgive yourself, because God certainly has. You survived, and that is all anyone who meets Beauty may rejoice in.”

Bren, we have something to share with you

(Realm of Elysia – Date Unknown)

Bren sat from Traveler, with Dove to her side, thinking of how strange it all looked, yet marveling at how perfectly normal it felt to be drinking tea with them. The Elder Seraph, poised and refined, poured her a cup for her, as if they had been friends forever. Traveler, sitting back relaxing, smiled, looking at them both with satisfaction.

“What do you think of Elysia?” Traveler asked, as Brenzel set her cup down.

“It’s marvelous! I didn’t know such a place like this existed. Everything’s so clean, people are so friendly, and no one ever seems hurried or stressed.”

Dove nodded in agreement.

Aberdeen’s lovely this time of year

“I like it, too,” the Time Keeper Extraordinaire agreed. “I particularly like the blue sky, it reminds me of Earth.”

“Is that where you’re from?” Bren asked.

“Kind of, I have many homes. I stay here with Dove when I visit. Actually, I have a lovely place in Aberdeen, Scotland, that overlooks the sea. I think you might like it.”

“I’d love to see it, that would be wonderful!” Bren agreed.

Looking over at their guest, Dove said, “We have a few things to share with you, Bren, which we hope will help you understand what is going on.”

You’re part of something much bigger

“First of all, Brenzel,” Dove said, “you are part of something much bigger than you realize. Many, many years ago there was a Great Rebellion, which threatened to destroy Elysia and the other realms like it.”

“There are more places like this?” Bren questioned?

“Yes, Brenzel, there are eight, but one has been nearly destroyed. Earth, the one that you come from, is one of the seven realms that survived, we call it ‘Eden’,” Dove said.

“Amazing!” Bren exclaimed.

Traveler told her more about the other realms which, he explained, are actually separate creations, and how the war ravaged some more than others.

Finishing, he said, “Elysia, where you are now, and Tian and Aukum were the least affected. Omey, Zulu, Eden, and Hala were badly damaged. Hades, the dominion of Beauty, is a wasteland.”

“Who is Beauty?” Bren asked.

“She is the is the original, and most powerful Seraph, the first of our kind,” Dove intoned.

In fact, when I was created in the stones of fire, she is the first person I saw when I emerged. Unfortunately, she rebelled against the Most High, YHWH, and instigated the Great Rebellion.”

Who is YHWH?

YHWH?

“You know Him as the God of the Old Testament,” Traveler explained.

Remembering some of her grandmothers bible lessons, Bren said, “Oh, okay.”

Traveler, leaning forward, said, “The truth is, Brenzel, the reason you are here and why you find yourself in the middle of so many things, is that you are a Seraph.”

Eyes widening, shock taking hold, Brenzel thought to herself, “what the…!

Bren stood, backing away as her chair almost falling over, saying, “No, I am just a country girl! I’m nobody, why me? It can’t be me. I am not a Seraph, Dove is a Seraph, she perfect – I am nothing like her,” Bren protested, all her short comings flashing before her eyes in rapidly.

Dove and Traveler looked at each other knowingly, and Traveler asked, “Please, Bren, sit down. Let us explain.”

You may not see yourself that way now, but in time, if you fulfill your destiny, you will take your place beside her and her sisters at the Great Council.”

Bren just looked at them alternating from unbelief to fear, then back to unbelief as she positioned her chair and sat.

The prophecy

Traveler soldiered on.

“There is a prophecy in the book of Abel which reads,

‘Beauty from old sees a final blow,

Seven days shall pass until the prophecy unfolds.

A Seraph in season, in time shall recur.

From one shall be two as seen in a mirror”

Pausing for a moment, Traveler said, “Brenzel, we believe that Abel’s prophecy speaks of you.”

Dumbfounded, Brenzel sat quietly, not knowing what to say.

Bren, you can still save Chapi

“Well,” Dove interjected, “more specifically, you and Wichapi.”

Bren, feeling overwhelmed by their revelation, said, “My friend Chapi? What does she have to do with all this?”

“She is a Seraph also, but she is sliding towards evil. The truth is, Bren, we believe you are twins – two halves of the same Seraph.”

“What does that mean? How is she my twin? I don’t even have a sister!”

“It’s complicated, I’ll admit, and we’re still trying to understand it too. Frankly, we had a different interpretation of this prophecy for many years before we found both of you.”

A glimmer of hope

Bren felt a pain in her chest. She missed her Lakota friend fiercely, thinking about her often. They both parted with such anger at each other, but Bren felt as connected to her now as she ever did. Dove felt emotions play across her young friend’s face, from longing to sorrow to a glimmer of hope as she realized that Wichapi could still be saved.

On into the evening, Traveler and Dove spoke to Bren about their plan and how she was a vital part of it. Brenzel, trying to go with the flow, did her best to keep up, but it all sounded beyond her.

Finishing up, Traveler said, “To sum up, Bren: We need you to help us help Wichapi choose good. We want you to help us save her. If she chooses good, you and her can be with each other forever, and the seven realms will be safe. If she sides with evil, with the fallen Seraph Beauty, not only will she be lost for eternity, but there will most likely be war again in the seven realms, and the level of death and destruction will be worse than before.”

What if…

Feeling her heart beating fast, panicking Brenzel said, “What if I fail?”

“Failure is not an option, Bren, you must succeed, and I will do everything possible to help you do so.” Traveler said.

“Yes Bren, I will be with you, too. All my sisters and I will support you,” Dove reassured.

Panicking, Bren blurted, “Can I say no? What if I don’t want to do this?”

Traveler, leaning back in his chair and putting his fingers together, said, “You have free will, Bren, no one will force you to do anything.”

Grasping at straws, Bren said, “What do you think I should do? What do you want me to do, Joshua?”

Leaning forward, offering his hand to to Bren, he said, “I want you to help me end this infernal conflict and defeat Evil once and for all.”

SEOIB.