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Happy for 3, but…

Brenzel looked at her hands, flipping them over, feeling uncomfortable as everyone knelt in her presence. She excused herself and went to the opposite side of the ship to be alone. The power, she thought, when she was finally alone. She’d felt the power flow through her as the green sparks flowed around and through her. Not since Charlie had prayed for his governess to be healed had she seen or felt the green sparks. But that was so long ago. . . .what happened here was still unnerving. Of course, she was happy for 3, but…

Looking out over the bow of the ship, the ground seemed much closer now. It looked more than barren to her eyes, it looked and felt…dead.

3 had told her, despite her protest, that this was her destiny, to heal…everything. It was the word, “everything,” that bothered her so much. How can I possibly heal ‘everything’? People thought she was something special, but she didn’t feel that way. She seemed to have a destiny that she was being dragged towards, whether she wanted it or not.

Turning, she saw the crew had raised all the sails. There was a breeze now, and canvas billowed, catching the wind like drying laundry on a clothes line. She looked over the side again, the ground was only a couple hundred feet below them now.

That feeling of wanting to jump was there again. I just want to be free…

***

3 stood looking at the ground, too, when Brenzel walked up. She stood a few feet away, wondering what he was thinking, seeing the intensity of his face. He must miss Hatty, Brenzel thought, thinking back to her friend’s tearful goodbye to her lover before she left with Libby and Dove. What must he be thinking now after a brush with death?

“Thank you,” came the words from the big archangel as he turn to face her.

Brenzel looked at him, shrugged a little, and said, “You’re welcome, but it didn’t feel like I did anything.”

“I understand,” 3 said, nodding. “Most people think that angels are powerful, but truly we are merely conduits for the Most High. We can do nothing by ourselves. It’s really all Him. I think it is the same with you. But thank you anyway, I feel better.”

He left the railing, saying, “Come, sit with me a moment, we need to talk.”

Brenzel didn’t like the seriousness of his tone, it made her feel apprehensive.

Clearing some ropes, 3 sat on a large box. Brenzel lifted herself up on the box, too; her feet couldn’t touch the deck. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts like wool and so she just sat quietly, swinging her legs, waiting, watching the bigger dunes slide by, thinking they must be close to landing now. Tane was shouting orders to the crew who ran around securing this, trimming that, like a well-oiled machine.

Sighing, crossing his arms, then putting them palms down on his knees, 3 began, “How are you feeling?”

“Okay, I think. Well, kind of nervous to tell the truth.”

You are becoming a seraph

“Your powers are growing, Brenzel,” he said, studying her intently. “You are becoming a young seraph. I know you aren’t comfortable with it yet, but no one who is called to greatness is ever really ready. Men and women are never sure of themselves before they are tested. They become the heroes we admire within the crucible of conflict. I’ve seen it many times.”

Gulping, Brenzel said nothing.

“I was there when a certain master left his servant. I watched him go. His master’s symbol of divine power fell from the sky and lay on the ground at his servant’s feet. It took some time, but the young man picked it up and put it on his shoulders. Up until that time, he had just been a servant, fetching water, making meals, doing small things. It all came down to that young man deciding to pick up a sheep skin and accept his destiny.”

Looking down at the deck, 3 said, “I must leave, Brenzel. I am endangering the mission and everyone in it.”

Brenzel’s heart beat faster, palms sweating. She turned to look at him. “What?”

“The Tech Wizard is a mathematical seer, like me. We think alike and therefore he knows the probabilities of what I will do. . .very well.”

Don’t leave us

“No, 3, don’t leave us…we need you,” Brenzel pleaded, shaking her head.

Taking her hand in his, the big angel looked into her eyes, “I saw what you did today. It’s time for you to take your mantel, Brenzel. This mission is very important, vital to Hala and all the other realms. The Tech Wizard is much more of a threat than people understand.”

Brenzel panicked, “But. . . but I can’t even manage myself, 3!”

“No one likes the heat, Brenzel,” he said, “but it makes us who we are. I must go or this mission is doomed. I want you to lead it. No matter what anyone else says, you make the decisions. That will blind the Tech Wizard. It is the only way to succeed.”

Standing, 3 pulled her up, saying, “you can do this.” With that final word he shot up, the wind of his wings blowing her hair back.

***

Shocked and unable to think, Brenzel heard Tane shout, “Steady yourselves!” as the crew looked ahead at a mountain of a sand dune.

The keel of the ship hit the high sand ridge, grazing it’s crest, creating a big V furrow as it slowed to a stop, resting in a cradle of sorts. The front of the boat stuck out over the mountain of sand, the slope of which plunged at least a hundred feet to the bottom.

“Okay, everyone, get some clothes, water and food,” Tane shouted. “We are going to make for the other side.”

Feeling the tension of the ship’s crew and passengers, Brenzel went down to her cabin and did as Tane commanded. Making a bundle of her clothes, she remembered! Tipping her hat visible, then the side, the trunk appeared. She put her clothes in it and some food, but decided to carry her water, lest it spill. She opened the letter drawer, hoping, but nothing.

As she came up the stairs, she found Tane standing between two of the crew, holding one at bay while shouting at another. Meandre watched, hand on the hilt of her sword. “Stow it,” Tane groused, “or I’ll put you both down myself. Get your head right, Ni, pay attention to what’s going on.”

Brenzel rounded up Fallon and Meha, making sure they were ready to go. She saw Derek hauling the surly Micron up the stairs, complaining all the way. Derek wasn’t putting up with any tomfoolery, and she hoped the small, turban-headed man had enough sense to just be quiet.

First, Derek lowered Micron by a rope tied around his chest, then one by one all the crew members and passengers climbed down a rope ladder until their feel hit the soft sand. At least the sun had set and the air was cooling.

Tane, the last one down, turned and said, “We’ll head south toward the port. Near as I can figure, we’re still a hundred miles out. There is at least twenty miles of The Null. We have to get through it as fast as possible.”

Head west young Seraph

Before she knew what she was doing, Brenzel said, “No, we will head west.”

Tane, looking at her, brow furrowed, “That’s crazy! We head south, it is the only way to clear The Null in time.”

“Look, Tane,” Brenzel said, “3’s left us and he’s not coming back. That means we can’t know what’s ahead. He left me in charge. Like you say, I’m a Seraph.” She paused, not liking the way that sounded. “I feel we need to go right. Trust me, Captain,” she said with as much humility and respect and she could show, “I mean no disrespect to you or your crew.” She hoped he would hear the sincerity in her voice.

Emotions played out over Tane’s face of rage, surprise, then finally, decision. As he began to go west, he passed by Brenzel, “hope you know what you’re doing. Else you’ve just killed us all.”

***

In single line, everyone slipped and slid down the steep sand slope, Brenzel in the lead. The air felt cold, but at least at the bottom the dune was still. Tane fell back, bringing up the back of the line, poking and prodding Micron to get him to move. The turbaned man complained excessively.

The Null pulled at Brenzel’s mind, but she could resist it’s effect since reuniting with Wichapi. The others didn’t seem to be able to.

In Hala, the stars shone so bright, it was like having a full moon. The ground, bathed in their silver light, looked eerie and sterile. What a mess.

Behind her, down the line, she heard what sounded like like Meha crying. There was an occasional cross word between the others, too, but most were holding it together.

Brenzel felt a leading, like an invisible line that she was following. She could veer from it, if she tried, but when she allowed herself to just walk the way that felt best, she came right back to it. It threaded them through the bottom of the large dunes looming on either side. She couldn’t explain her course…it just felt right.

Walking throughout the night, the silence grew oppressive and long. The line Brenzel followed abruptly turned up the great sand hill on the left. A feeling that she was lost pressed upon her mind and emotions. Perhaps Tane was right and she had just gotten them all killed, slowly going mad within The Null, if they didn’t die of thirst first. Were the others thinking that, too, as they all struggled up the dune with her? Did they think she was going crazy? Maybe they wanted to follow Tane and leave her all alone to face her own lingering demise.

Using her arms, as well as her legs, to help her crest the dune, in the starlight she saw a plain open up before her. This was the last sand dune as far as she could see. “A least there’s that,” she said, catching her breath.

Conserve your water

Slipping down the other side, her feet found solid ground again, strewn with boulders here and there. At least the walking was going to be easier. Brenzel turned and watched the others coming down as best they could. She could tell that Fallon and Meha were struggling. Derek helped them down the sand hill, but looked very distressed. Komae, silent the whole time, didn’t seem winded at all. The crew, though glum, stood over by Tane as they waited for everyone to arrive.

“We’ll rest here until first light, then we will move on,” Brenzel said to no one in particular.

“Conserve your water,” Tane commanded everyone.

Brenzel walked over to Derek, “Are you okay?”

“I’s okays, I’s seen worse.”

She went over to Fallon who was sitting with Meha. She was waving her arms, batting something away from her head. “Fallon? You okay?” Brenzel asked.

Clearly irritated, Fallon said, “These damned flies, they’re everywhere!”

In the dim light Brenzel looked hard but couldn’t see anything. Meha rocked beside Fallon, holding her knees, eyes closed tightly.

They’re beginning to go mad, Komae said in her mind. You must feel it.

Brenzel turned, looking over in the direction of the Halan.

Can you help them? Brenzel thought back, not bothering to be annoyed at the mind talker’s sudden intrusion.

I am…they’re all slipping, except you. You should have everyone give you their weapons.

Surely it won’t come to that, Brenzel thought, but part of her knew it would, and soon.

***

The first glow of morning in the desert seemed lackluster. Brenzel hadn’t slept more than a couple of hours at most. It wasn’t a good sleep, either. Bad dreams, ones she couldn’t remember, left a terrible feeling of impending doom lingering just at the edges of her mind. Stiff, she sat up and looked around. Everyone was silent, apparently asleep, expect for Komae who stood like a silent sentry among all the prostrate bodies.

Brenzel stood, too, straightening her clothes, looking off to the distance, again feeling that line pulling her forward. Komae didn’t flinch as she approached, but the face of the tall Forest Warden was straining. She said in a low voice, “You should go…now.”

“What do you mean? Why?” Brenzel asked, not understanding her tone.

“I’m keeping them asleep, they’re all quite mad, their minds have been undone by The Null. I won’t be able to restrain them if they wake.”

Looking around Brenzel thought, that can’t be true.

“I’ve taken all their weapons, they are over there, beyond the rocks,” she pointed to a pile of stones some distance out in the plateau.

“Go now,” Komae urged.

This can’t be it, this can’t be the end! Brenzel thought. Why lead her this way if there wasn’t a way out for them…had she been wrong? Deceived by The Null?

Rumble

In the far distance a low rumble sounded over the plain. Brenzel looked across the flat expanse and in the morning light she saw a column of dust. “Do you hear that?” Brenzel asked, looking over at Komae, who was trembling now.

Brenzel walked a few steps toward it, the rumbling growing louder until she could see something on the horizon. A glint of flash of light here and there. It was moving fast.

In a few minutes it came up upon them: Four large moving wagons, reminding Brenzel of the types of self-propelled machines back in the war with Sam. But these were much, much bigger. The machines each sat upon six enormous wheels, each standing twice her height as they rolled over the ground. The four vehicles hissed, white smoke shooting out their sides, making a squealing sound as they came to a standstill. The whirling became muffled.

Then the side of each of the monsters opened like a clam, one part extending down to the ground as the other reached for the sky. Out of the one nearest, a big man, covered in some sort of gear, walked down the steps, followed by at least a dozen others descending along with him, more pouring from open doors in the other wagons. All of them wore similar gear. They carried what looked to be some type of guns, almost like the ones Brenzel carried on her seraph hunter uniform.

As a group they walked up to Brenzel, the first man signaling with a move of his hand to the right and left as the soldiers – at least that is what they looked like to her – went to each of the still sleeping members of their party. One pointed his gun at Brenzel. Their leader, looking at the Halan’s ears, pointed his gun at Komae’s head, powering it up, small lights flashing rhythmically on it, a high whining sound raising in pitch as the lights cycled faster and fast. Komae didn’t move, but kept staring off into the distance.

I need to tip my hat, Brenzel thought, not knowing if she could do it fast enough…perhaps if she ducked and rolled.

Suddenly, the big man lowered his weapon, flipping a switch that turned it off.

Release them

He looked at Brenzel, reaching over and moved her hair inspecting her ears. Humph, he grunted, then turned back to Komae, his gruff voice commanding, “Release them.”

All of sudden chaos reigned as her companions woke up screaming and yelling like mad men and women. The soldiers quickly subdued all but Tane and Derek, who fought like banshees until Tane was dropped by the butt of one of the soldier’s guns and Derek was tackled by five soldiers at once, grunting and swearing.

Brenzel decided to bide her time.

Komae, released from the strain, collapsed on the ground, shaking.

The man who had pointed his gun at her took his knife out of a sheath on his hip, putting it to her throat.

“No!” Brenzel yelled.

She was sure the razor sharp knife was about to slice through her friend’s wind pipe, but instead, he reached down and grabbed something from under her tunic, ripping it up, jerking her toward him as he did. She rubbed the nasty mark the rope had left on her neck. He looked at the arrowhead in his hand for a moment as if transfixed.

Shoving it into a vest pocket he turned and looked at Brenzel, “You and your people are now prisoners of the Half Clan. Any resistance and I will shoot,” he pointed to Komae on the ground, “her first.” Sneering at the Halan, he said, “I know what she is, but we have mind shields.”

Turning again to Brenzel, he mused, “But, what… are you?”

Looking at his goggled face, peppered beard and age lines, she said, “I am Brenzel of Eden.”

Mad world perform by 2WEI, Tomme Profitt, Fleurie

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