Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Brenzel watched as Fallon set up camp as effortlessly as one arranged pillows on a bed, her movements sure, economical, swift. By the time she’d returned with an armful of dry sticks from the forest floor, her young friend had a fire pit ready, a lean-to constructed out of branches and the tarp they carried, plus tinder for their fire ready. Very handy.

She watched the young woman bow down low, her face sideways to a little teepee of sticks, gently coaxing the small sparks from her flint into life as little wisps of smoke sprung from dry moss. Soon, water boiled and the aroma of coffee filled the air. Brenzel knew it was extravagant, but she always carried Omar’s coffee, from that little port city off the western coast of Yemen, with her wherever she went. She cherished his gift of the little Turkish handheld coffee grinder. Mmmm, I love coffee she thought, remembering her first her cups in the mess tent during the war.

Connoisseur of the brew

She’d become quiet a connoisseur of the brew in her travels as a Seraph Hunter. Though not as universal as tea, she enjoyed sampling a hot cup whenever she could. Bumming feathers from Dove, who indulged her passion, she got her beans from the very best source and enjoyed preparing them herself with the small grinder, which fit neatly in one of her pouches. It seemed silly, but that one constant of coffee kept her sane many times as she did her work.

Sipping her brew, she looked at Fallon, finally sitting down as she ate their small meal of soup and bread. “Are you alright?” Bren asked.

Fallon sat wrapped up in her Indian blanket. “I think so,” she said. Poking at the coals of their small fire, eyes staring into the orange flames, she added, “What happened scared me bad, Brenzel. I’ve never thought of killing myself before, even when things got bad after Ma and Pa passed. I honestly felt this thing inside me pushing me until I wanted to do it. If you hadn’t grabbed me…” she fell silent, the forest listening. “How do you fight someone who can make you feel that way without you even knowing it?”

Extra help

Smelling her cup, thinking back to those first hectic days with Doc, Brenzel sighed deeply. “You know, a good friend once told me that nothing we do as Seraph Hunters is possible by ourselves. She talked about having grace. I didn’t get what she meant then, but I think I’m understanding more now.”

“Grace?” Fallon asked, looking up.

“It seems like it’s extra help when you need it. From above, I mean.”

Fallon brightened, saying, “Pa was always goin’ on about the grace of God. He believed that the Good Lord was there when we needed Him.”

Brenzel reminisced about Elysia and the Seraphim, reassuring Fallon that were powerful people who were on their side. She saw her friend relax slightly, as she finished with, “We’ll get Derek back, Fallon. I’m sure it will all work out in the end.”

A snap of a twig caused Fallon to whirl around. Brenzel looked past her into the dark wood and stood up. “Who’s there?” She sure hoped it wasn’t a large animal.

Coffee break

From the shadows, a woman slowly emerged, disheveled, looking exhausted. Brenzel, sensing someone coming from the opposite direction behind her, turned with a start, only to see Komae, scowling at the fire. Startled, she said, “Komae, why’d you sneak up on us like that? We’re not criminals.”

Taking a breath, eyes narrowed, the Forest Warden said, “If you knew what having a fire in the forest means to my people, you wouldn’t be so quick to say that.” Then with a bit of sarcasm in her voice, “You’re not from around here and I’m too tired to care about the fire right now.” Then sniffing, Komae asked, “What’s that smell?” looking toward Brenzel’s cup still in hand.


“A drink? I’ve never smelled it’s like before. Is it from your world?”

“Yes, would you like to try it?” Brenzel offered, hoping to break the tension.

Seeing Komae was clearly interested, she offered the tall Halan her own cup. “Careful, it’s hot. Just blow on it like this,” she pursed her lips and blew across the rim.

Komae stared at the dark liquid, gingerly taking the cup. Sniffing it more than once, she sipped, then sipped again. Brown eyes became wide, then taking another, deeper drink, she exclaimed, “This is heaven! Is this from Eden? Where you come from?”

Brenzel nodded, smiling.

“I have never known such a wonderful taste. It’s bitter, but sweet to my body. I like this “coffee” of yours.”

Pleased, Brenzel leaned in a bit adding, “You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted cream and sugar in it…I don’t have any now, unfortunately, but someday, if I’m able, I’ll take you to a coffee house in al-Mukha, where this is from.”

Komae nodded, still sipping assiduously.


“Please, stay with us this evening.” Fallon motioned to the woman in from the shadows, adding, “Sit here. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

The woman approached the fire, hands out to the warmth. Brenzel looked at her short hair, normal rounded ears, and slightly almond eyes, dark and furtive. She’s not Halan.

Fallon handed the woman a slice of bread with a piece of cheese. Sniffing and tasting tentatively, she then quickly devoured them.

“Who is your friend?” Brenzel asked as Komae, who continued to relish her cup of coffee.

“I do not know her name, she is Hadite.”

“Hadite? Where do her people live?” Brenzel quizzed further.


Looking at the woman, sensing the tension between the two, Brenzel ask quietly, “Is she your prisoner?”

Komae stared at the woman a moment more. “No.”

The woman looked up, seeming surprised at the Forest Warden’s response.

Brenzel switched topics. “I’m glad you found us, Komae. I need your help. I must find Fey, talk to her face to face.”

Eyebrows raising, the Halan said, “That’s not possible. No one sees Fey.”

“Someone must have. Surely you must have seen her,” Brenzel reasoned out loud.

Komae shook her pointed ears. “No, never.”

Brenzel snorted. “Ugh. Well, can you at least just show me where she lives, what part of the City?”

Eyeing Brenzel, Komae took a deep breath. “Why tempt death twice? It’s a miracle she allowed you to leave the first time.”

Flashing back to the hanging man, Brenzel replied, “What do you mean?” hoping for greater understanding of an ugly truth which she already suspected.

“No one leaves Fey, Brenzel. In exchange for sharing their pain, all join themselves to her forever. It is a gift freely given that cannot be returned. Only death separates you from Fey.”

The full force of the hanging body at the entrance to the City of Fey hit hard, like a low blow to Bren’s mind. What have I gotten Derek into? Who is this Fey? Is she even a she? Then, a disturbing thought sprang, clawing at reason. Under the pleasant façade of Fey’s city, lurked a supernatural malevolence – was she even human?

That can’t be right!

Fallon, upset, interjected, “But that can’t be right, you’re here with us now. You left!”

Komae looked directly at Fallon. “I am Fey’s Forrest Warden. She permits me to come and go because I patrol the woodlands near her domain, where I found you. I am her eyes and ears in the greater world. Fey sensed your presence and sent me to find you.”

“So you can leave, if she permits?” Fallon asked.

“Yes, but I am the only one.”

Frustrated with the slow progress and the curt answers of the crazy elf lady, Brenzel shifted her weight and asked her in her mind, Would you rather mind talk?

If you wish, came a dry reply.

Are you able to see what happened to me in the last few days?

After a moment, Komae answered. Yes, I feel your pain over Derek’s choice, but you must understand there is nothing I can do. Once joined to Fey the bond cannot be broken.

Forgive me your Majesty

Looking deeper into Bren’s mind, suddenly Komae stood, abruptly backing away, wide eyes staring at her, as if she had slapped her pointy ears without warning or provocation.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she said out loud, trembling voice laced with fear.

Tell you what? Brenzel asked her in her mind.

Getting down on her knees, she spoke loudly as she bowed low, pleading, “Forgive me Your Majesty, I knew not who you were, I beg forgiveness for my impudence.”

Fallon looked at Brenzel, confusion on her face, as Brenzel looked back and shrugged. Then she turned to Komae and said out loud, “What?”

“You are a Seraph, I see it in your mind.”

Brenzel shook her head, Why do they always do that! She took a deep breath, then stood and walked over to Komae, laying her hand on her trembling back. “Please don’t be afraid, there’s no need to be.” When she didn’t budge, Brenzel stood up, sighed and shook her head. Pursing her lips, she thought, I don’t have time for this. In the most regal voice she could muster, she said, “Rise, Komae of Hala, faithful Forest Warden. Brenzel of Eden forgives you. You knew not to whom you spoke. You will not die.”

She saw Fallon out of the corner of her eye, her eyebrows raised. Looking at Komae, who was still bowing, Brenzel thought, Okay, maybe the die part was too much, but…ah, what the hell.

Finally, Komae slowly stood, eyes down.

Where is Fey?

Exasperated, Brenzel asked, “Will you at least take me to the city and show me where Fey lives?”

“She doesn’t live in the city, your majesty.” Komae answered, much more cooperative now.

“Why? It’s the city of Fey!” Fallon said, clearly flustered.

“All who dwell in the City of Fey, are Fey, but Fey herself lives in the forest at the entrance to the City.

“We passed her going into it?” Fallon questioned.

“Yes,” the warden nodded, “and leaving it, too.”

Brenzel sighed heavily, head tilting down to the left, lips pursed, nostrils flaring. Then she looked up at Komae, stating, “Just get us close and point in the right direction.”

“Yes, Your majesty.”