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It smells like home

(Egypt 1459 B.C.)

I hate prisons, Brenzel thought to herself, as her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room, recognizing the iron bars that formed the door of the cell. Her Seraph Hunter attire was replace by a comfortable cotton sheath dress that ran to her ankles. Then the odors around her assaulted her heightened sense of smell full force. Oh my Lord, what is that?!, she thought while holding her nose tightly, looking around for it’s source. Suddenly it dawned on her, It smells like home! Back in Elysia, nothing stank much, except maybe herself between baths. Loosening the grip on her nose, she breathed in tentatively, as a multitude of different odors, some faint, some pungent, revealed themselves. Dust, manure, a faint, sweet scent of some kind of flower, fish from a market outside, and bodily odors coming from the direction of the iron door filled her nostrils.

A high narrow window allowed a shaft of light to filter down, which by it’s position on the dusty floor, told her it was probably late morning. Her cell was spacious and relatively clean. Some sort of bedding lay spread on a two-foot high stone bench built out of the wall, with pictures and symbols chiseled into the stone above it. After looking at it for a moment, she saw that it read, “His harvest is blessed, His provision is plentiful, Ammon is over all.” Two clay pots sat near the opposite wall, which upon inspection, Bren found that one was filled with fresh water while the other was a chamber pot.

Just checking

In translation a little earlier, from Elysia, Brenzel rose up into a cloud and then back down to earth, feeling little of the disorientation she remembered before. As she descended swiftly, she watched the world fly by at lightning speed. There was a stretch of, what Bren assumed to be desert, then she saw a long river, lush with vast expanses of greenery on either side, until finally she came to a sudden rest here. The most amazing thing about it, to her at least, was feeling comforted by the familiarity of it all.

Bren tipped her hat, feeling the leather-like band on her head, thinking to herself, at least there’s that. Plus, surprisingly, for the first time, her whole Hunter garb appeared, too. That’s different, she thought. Unholstering one of the guns, Brenzel examined it carefully. She’d heard about, but had never seen, a black powder pistol up close, only hearing stories of duels between men whose honor had been besmirched. However, this seemed both like the stories, and different than she’d imagined. The trigger moved with modest pressure, but she dared not squeeze it too hard inside the stone-walled room.

The handle seemed fashioned of some type of wood, the barrel of it being of a grey, smooth metal. About a foot long and several pounds heavy, the pistol had a middle mechanism that rotated slightly. The whole of the weapon, except the cylindrical barrel, was exquisitely engraved with fancy scroll work.

Old habits

“Careful where you point that thing, it could hurt someone,” a familiar voice sounded from behind her.

Almost jumping out of her skin, Bren whirled around exclaiming, “Joshua!” Holstering her firearm, she said, “I hate when you do that!” while simultaneously throwing her arms around him, hugging him tightly, almost causing his hat to fall off.

Grinning, he said, “Old habits die hard, I guess. My younger brother always hated it when I surprised him too, but,” he winked, “it was great fun! Appreciating her outfit, Joshua asked, “How’s my favorite Hunter doing?” Looking around, he also quipped, “What is it with you and dungeons?”

Bren, grinning from ear to ear, hardly heard what he said, as she gazed into his eyes and remarked softly, “I was hoping you would come see me before I left Elysia.”

Dusting off the bedding with his handkerchief, Traveler said, smiling, “Pressing matters, Dear, but I really wanted to be there. Have you ever heard the saying, ‘making time?’ Well, if one makes too much it, it tends to put off the things they really want. You have to live the time you create, and when you do that a lot, it really drags on. I know it’s small consolation, but please believe me when I say, I really wanted to come see you.”

Not sure about his explanation, for his reasoning always seemed to lack specificity, Bren said, “I’m glad you’re here now.”

“Me too,” the Time Keeper Extraordinaire said.

Use only when necessary

“Come, sit with me a bit,” he said, extending his hand to her. “This mission is very important. Saving this particular Seraph has consequences that reach far into the future of, well, everyone. Bren, it is important that you keep a clear head. You wear a very powerful hat, but only use it as God leads. Dove was able to set things right at the beach, but in this fallen world, any damage you cause is permanent. I know in your heart you don’t want to do evil, but when your emotions get the best of you, the hat activates anyway.

Joshua’s admonition was unexpected, but not unkind. The fact that he didn’t seem to blame Bren, caused her to admire him even more. She loved watching his eyes and his well-trimmed beard looking manly and attractive as he spoke.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed

Adjusting her position, moving one of the gun’s barrels wedged slightly under her thigh, Brenzel confided, “I’m truly sorry, Joshua, I feel so overwhelmed sometimes, like I am out of my depth. I mean, learning that everyone was thousands of years old, well except for James, was difficult. I felt bad that people – especially you – didn’t think I could handle knowing the truth.”

Looking concerned, Joshua reached over and held Bren’s other hand, too, as a slight tingle ran down her lower back.

“I know a lot has been put on you quickly, and I am sorry for that. If there was any other way, we would have certainly considered it. The fact is, Bren, there is so much to tell that one has to experience it, not just be told. That may seem contrary to reason, but in our experience, learning too much, too soon, can be very overwhelming. Even after you’d been in Elysia for months, realizing the truth was difficult.”

Bren had to admit to herself that Joshua was right.

Unintended consequences

Continuing Joshua said, “As I told you at the beginning, Seraph Hunting is kind of ‘learn as you go.’ I could have told you everything, but nothing I could have said would have prepared you for what came next. Besides, Hunters can’t know anything about their assignments, because knowledge of what they must do runs the risk of compromising what they will do. It has to be a walk of faith, particularly when you move back and forth through the fabric of time. Be careful, for even little things done for the best reasons can have ripple effects that cause unintended consequences. Knowing the future doesn’t mean we should change the past.”

Taking in what Traveler said, Brenzel felt different objections arise, then dissipate inside her. It was easy to feel safe and secure in his presence, but on her own, facing the unknown, what he said didn’t seem so simple.

Just a little more time

Joshua, taking his magnificent pocket watch out, glanced at it, as Bren said, “Joshua, don’t go yet. Just a little more time, please?”

Looking into Bren’s hopeful eyes, he chuckled as he clicked the winding stem, “Okay, for you,” he said, grinning. Outside the small window, all sound stopped abruptly as all the world stilled.

How long she and Joshua talked Bren did not know. She shared about her adventures and even misadventures in Elysia, eventually laughing with him about Morning Star. Bren marveled at his compassion and patience, not to mention his sense of humor. It reminded her of the day they talked in Lakota Land, both laughing hysterically at her new Lakota name Weasel Bear. Sitting there with him, feeling his warmth and sincerity, Bren wanted to stay with him forever.

Finally, Bren asked the question burning in her heart, “How old are you?” expecting the worst.

Joshua said, matter-of-factly, “Thirty-three.”

Bren, immensely relieved, confided, “I’m 25.”

Please, just one more question

Sensing he needed to go, Bren asked, “Can I ask you one more question? Promise me you’ll tell me the truth?”

Studying her open expression, Joshua said, “Yes, if I possibly can, I will.

After a moment’s pause, Brenzel asked in all sincerity, “Why me?”

Joshua, considering his replied, said, “Truthfully in my heart, Brenzel, I chose you because I believe in you. Others don’t see your worth as clearly as I do, but you are extraordinary. You also have an innate sense of justice and righteousness. The first time I saw you, I knew this about you. Bren, you might not believe in yourself yet, but I do.” With a little squeeze of both hands, he finished with, “I have faith in you, I know you will make the right choice in the end.”

The young Hunter, heart swelling with adoration, lost in his eyes, believed every word her mentor said, no matter how fantastical it seemed. By the time she came back to earth, the sounds outside had started again, drifting into their small room where they sat facing one another. Bren asked, knowingly, “You have to go, don’t you?” as Joshua nodded. She stood with him, saying, “Please, hug me again before you leave.”

The well-dressed young man obligingly gave the best hug she’d ever felt.

Em Hotep!

Then, leaning forward, he whispered in her ear, “Better change, someone’s coming.”

Indeed, Brenzel heard footsteps approaching from down the hall as she tipped back into her cotton sheath dress. She felt Joshua leave as a man approached, saying, “Em hotep!” (be at peace)

The jovial man standing on the other side of the bars, seemed pleased. Smiling, with a missing front tooth, he added, “Em heset net Imon!” (may you be favored by Ammon!)

Bren replied, “Dewa-netjer” which she knew meant something like, ‘You are welcome,’ or ‘thank god’

“Good, you speak our tongue!” (late or new kingdom Egyptian) he said, making a few markings on a small clay tablet he held in his right hand. “I am called Kontar. Where did you learn our language? By your looks, you’re obviously not from around here. Probably from north of Great Sea, I’d guess, but you speak like someone born in the lower kingdom!”

“I’m just very good with languages; its a gift,” Bren said dryly with perfect inflection.

Off to market

Sizing her up like he was picking a out choice melon, he asked, “Do you speak any Nubian?”

“Yes, I can speak Nubian,” Bren said in perfect Nubian.

Scowling momentarily, the rotund man said absently, marking his tablet again, “Nubians are vile creatures, but speaking the tongue of Kush is useful, nevertheless.”

Then abruptly beaming again, Kontar said, “Wonderful! I must send word to my very best clients! You’ll certainly fetch a much higher price at the market!”

“Market?” Bren inquired in Egyptian, “What Market?”

The jolly man said with pride, “You’ll be sold to the highest bidder this afternoon at the best slave market in Karnak!”