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To begin with

Brenzel sat quietly, leg pressed up close to Hatty’s, feeling so settled to be near her friend again. She watched 3 stride up to the front table, acknowledge Tane, and look around at all those present. He rolled out and affixed a map to a board. “Thank you all for being here today. I know some have journeyed far. I know most of those present, with the exception of Meha. Greetings Meha, I am pleased that you have decided to join our team.

“Of course, nothing of what I am going to say can be repeated outside this room. Secrecy is one of our most potent weapons.”

All those present in the room either nodded or said yes. Brenzel nodded and looked over at Micron, who alone abstained from responding. I really don’t like him, she growled in her head, then turned back to watch 3.

The big angel pointed to the area above the equator on the map. “We are here at the port of Niflheim. We believe the Tech Wizard has constructed another portal machine somewhere in the south polar regions,” he continued, pointing to the bottom of the map. “Our mission is to find the Tech Wizard’s lair.”

Brenzel felt her stomach tighten.

3 stood up straight and began to pace slowly. “We believe that, using the missing stone of fire, the Tech Wizard has constructed another portal machine. For those who do not know what that is, a portal machine is a device that can allow instantaneous travel over great distances without the use of feathers or hats, even between realms. Our investigations have shown several stars going dark at times that coincide with each appearance of dragons on Hala.”

Brenzel looked at Hatty next to her, trying to imagine how terrifying seeing a dragon must have been. Hatty remained stoic and calm.

“Though many assumed the Tech Wizard had died at the end of the rebellion,” 3 continued, “the fact that a large dragon materialized in the midst of Alfheim a short while ago is undeniable proof otherwise.” He paused, looking across the room at the faces fixed on him. “Even if an apprentice has arisen, from what we know of his nature, the wizard would never have shared the secrets of his technology with that person. ”

Pointing to the map again, 3 said, “In addition, some sort of shield has been placed over the south pole of Hala that prevents Alethea from pinpointing where his lair is. Rather than destroying a large portion of Hala in an attempt to eradicate him, Alethea has appointed you to go in on the ground and find where he is. After that, measures will be taken by myself and other archangels to destroy him.”

Over the great dune sea

Brenzel began to wring her hands. Why me? I am no scout.

3 walked back to the map, bending over it to point. “I will escort you over the Dune Sea as far as the southern port. Then our contact will lead you from there.” Standing tall again, his eyes grew intense. “Let me be perfectly clear. Your mission is to locate and no more. Once you have accomplished this, report his whereabouts to me, and I and my brethren will mount a ground assault. The Tech Wizard is old and perhaps feeble – and certainly mentally deranged – but he is still formidable.”

Brenzel’s throat tightened.

3 looked around to gauge the comprehension of the room, then continued. “All of you have been selected specifically for distinct roles.” He turned toward Komae, who sat on her haunches next to Meha. “Komae, as the representative of the Halans, your bow and your tracking skills will serve the mission in the badlands; however, you will have to be incognito.” He nodded at Meha, “Meha, your ward, will help the team deal with any Hadites in the deeper south regions.” Turning to Micron, 3 took a deep breath. “Micron, on loan from Elysia, will help if we encounter any of the wizard’s tech along the way.

“Which brings me to the most important piece of this plan: Edenites.” He turned directly to Brenzel. “Brenzel, Derek, and Fallon have been asked here for a specific reason.” Looking at the three of them as if trying to decide something, he finally said, “The Tech Wizard is a mathematical seer, which means that given a finite number of variables, he can see the future with great precision. Immortals, who are not birthed in sin, over time follow certain patterns that can be predicted. In other words, if he still functions as we think he does and the team consisted only of Halans, or even Kumites and Hadites, he would anticipate your every move. We believe the dragon attack in Alfheim was meant for myself and Michael. Hatty was just unlucky enough to be present.”

Brenzel reached over and took Hatty’s hand, heart aching for the loss that might have been.

“What this means is that we need Edenite decisions that cannot be foreseen by the wizard’s calculations. Brenzel, Derek, and Fallon, together, will help make important choices during this mission.”

Brenzel raised her eyebrows.

“Your choices will be,” he tilted his head while looking at them, “imperfect, and therefore unknowable to the wizard through his powers of mathematical prognostication. This may may allow you to get close enough to find his lair.”

Any questions?

“That is our mission: Penetrate, locate, then leave. Any questions?”

Brenzel’s heart was beating fast. Everyone looked around at one another, as if trying to determine the right questions to ask.

Then Tane said, “How do you propose to get safe passage through the warring territories?”

Meha spoke up, timidly. “The only way is to obtain permission to cross each territory from each warlord. And they all hate each other. But, one or more will surely suspect we are spies and try to kill us. The ones nearest to cold regions are also rumored to eat their enemies.”

Brenzel caught Fallon’s wide eyes that looked at her with the same uncertainty and fear that Brenzel was feeling.

3 looked at Meha, then turned to Tane. “Our plan is to obtain a general dispensation from the High Priestess.”

Tane raised his eyebrows as if to say, “You are crazy,” but held his tongue, probably out of respect.

Micron, from the back, cleared his throat and spoke up. “With all respect, Great One,” he bowed his head in mock worship, “this plan is flawed. Surely it is a fool’s errand. The wizard will adjust for the Edenite variable and adopt a broad spectra approach that accounts for a greater margin of error.”

Looking nervous, pulling at his clothes with his four fingers, Micron continued, “I am of no practical use to anyone, I am old and feeble. I will not survive the harsh journey. Ha! I can barely hold any tools! I will just burden these brave people.” He waved his hand and bowed mockingly again.

Brenzel squinted her eyes, Yeah, you’re right, we don’t need you.

What’s a High Priestess?

Tane looked at the small man with eyes that could have turned him to ash.

3, unperturbed, simply said, “A technician will be provided, and you will advise. The decree has been given. Your usefulness is required.” He took two steps closer to Micron. “Know, Micron, that many have advocated against Dove’s leniency, especially Michael.” 3 paused as if he was letting those words sink in. Brenzel watched Micron’s face tighten.

“However,” 3 continued, “Her Majesty has granted that if you perform this task well, your debt to the six realms will be considered paid in full. There will be absolution. If not,” He looked intently into Micron’s wide eyes, “Well, let us hope it does not come to that.”

Looking around, 3 asked, “Any other comments?”

Brenzel raised her hand.

“Yes, Brenzel?”

“I’m just wondering, what’s a High Priestess?”


After all was settled, Brenzel said goodnight to Derek and Fallon as they retired to their room in the small hotel. Hatty, still on her arm, walked with Brenzel into her room. She squeezed her arm, saying once again, “I’m so happy to see you Brenzel. It’s been so long! I’ve told you all about what happened to me, but tell me about seeing your daughter! I can’t believe you got to see her, that is so wonderful!” She sat on the bed, patting it next to her. “Come, sit, tell me!”

“Yes. It was…” Brenzel sat on the bed. Words failed as she took a deep breath, looking down at her lap.

Hatty squeezed her arm, leaning her head against her. “I understand.”

Then Brenzel said, “It felt like tripping, Hatty. For so long I worried about if she was taken care of, the guilt of leaving her alone with the nuns, the not knowing. It haunted me, really. Now I know she is well cared for, rich even! Can you imagine?” She shook her head. “She’s a young woman with prospects. I didn’t expect that.

“She was beautiful, too. I just wanted to hug her, hold her for a moment.” Brenzel’s voice cracked. “I was so close, Hatty, so close…it was almost cruel to not be able to touch her – then I had to leave.” She wiped a tear from her cheek, then sat up straighter. “I held myself together for a while, but that night, I cried my eyes out so much, I had to find another pillow.” She looked down at her hands as she wrung them together. “I don’t know what to think now, Hatty. And…the way…”

Is there something wrong?

Hatty shifted to turn toward Brenzel, looking up at her. “What do you mean? Is there something wrong?”

“Well, I suppose she was just having a bad day,” Brenzel looked into Hatty’s eyes, “but she slapped a servant…hard. I mean, I am sure the lady did something terrible…she must have.”

Hatty was quiet for a moment, then sighed and took Brenzel’s arm again. “Brenzel, rich, privileged girls sometimes have trouble controlling themselves…I know my daughter did. She would mistreat the servants horribly. Of course never around me, but in private, and I’d hear about it later. I talked with her about it, and she gradually grew out of it. But it is really difficult to see them be like that.”

Brenzel exhaled sharply. “But you were really there! You got to help her through it, teach her what was right. I can’t ever do that.” She sighed. “She’s 17 and has never even seen me. For all she knows, I don’t care a thing about her – and never did.”

Hatty turned, taking Brenzel in her arms.

How I have missed you being with me, my friend, Brenzel thought, allowing herself to receive the comfort.

After a long, extended hug, Hatty looked up at Brenzel’s face. “We’re both tired, Brenzel, its been a big day. We should sleep, I am sure you will feel better in the morning.” Kissing her on the cheek, Hatty walked out the door.

Brenzel watched her walk across the hall and into her own room, marveling at the strength of such a small woman. Always a Pharaoh, she thought, as she got up and closed the door behind her. Leaning against the door, she looked at her room. It was comfortably appointed, with a feather bed and pillows, and sitting chair and table. What the…

A note

On the small table was an envelope she hadn’t noticed before. Quickly walking to it, she picked it up and saw the markings, “Brenzel.”

It was heavy, something was in it. What is this?

Ripping it open, she found a note and small key on a golden chain. The note read:

Dear Brenzel,

A traveling girl must have proper luggage.

Tip your hat, then slide your fingers around to the right side and tip again. When you want to put it away, reverse the process.



I believe in you

A thrill ran through her stomach as she follow his instructions. Making her hat appear, she tipped it on the side, and an upright trunk appeared on the floor before her. Brenzel gasped. It was about four feet tall and a little over two foot wide on either side. She reached over and felt the workmanship, her fingers running over the leather-like exterior and gleaming brass fittings and rivets. On the side, she inserted the key and it opened in an effortless swing, revealing a closet for clothes, a place below that for shoes, and drawers on the opposite side. “Oh my God!” She said out loud, pulling out the various compartments, nooks and crannies here and there, imagining all the things she could put in them. She put her hands to her mouth and giggled.

Up near the top, above the clothes section, there was a small slit above a drawer labeled ‘mail’. She pulled it out and saw another letter. What the. . . . Eagerly opening it, she read:

“I know I am a bit busy, but at least we can communicate by letter more often. Write to me and slip it in the slot above and I will reply as soon as I’m able.

By the way, there’s a place for your coffee on the right side, too…I know how important that is.

I believe in you, Brenzel,

With care,


She looked down, and indeed there was a special drawer marked ‘coffee.’ She pulled it out, seeing a mug. Lifting it, she felt warm, fuzzy feelings well up inside as she read what was painted on the porcelain: My favorite Hunter.”

Pandora by Paul Cassidy Orchestrations