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Let it snow

Scattered flakes of snow began to fall as they stood at the fitting station dock. Brenzel loved the feeling of the cool flakes landing on her face. It had been so long since she’d seen the white flakes fall from the sky; it made her miss home.

The constable walked down the line, inspecting their attire. Meha was told to retie the laces of her shoes, face red with embarrassment.

The constable approached Komae, who stood next to Meha, and looked her up and down several times. “Perfect, impressive,” he said, with a hint of admiration in his voice.

Everyone else passed without incident, and as they boarded their carriage, Damian stopped Komae. “You look good today,” he said, “natural style. I’ve never heard a border inspector say that to anyone before. Well done.”

Despite her best efforts to restrain, the tall Halan smiled.

After they were all seated in the carriage, Damian took his walking stick and tapped the cabin roof. The hissing sound began as their carriage, slow and sure, made it’s way through the crowded border crossing.

So far, the journey was pleasant enough, though the road was crowded, slowing them down to a crawl at junctions. Damian informed them that they would all have to attend Purity at the next city’s temple tomorrow. It was mandatory when you traveled through a guild’s territory. As near as Brenzel could figure, it was like going to a church service. She hadn’t liked church on earth and didn’t imagine it’d be a good experience here, either.

Different types of humble buildings passed by as they progressed, nothing as grand she had seen at Steam City, though. There did seem to be a lot of shops where men built things out of metal. Again, women carried water on their heads in jars, like she’d seen in the Outers.

One thing or another

As she watched the odd buildings pass by, Brenzel’s thoughts drifted. Now Iris was in trouble? Someone wanted to kill her? Why? If it’s not one thing, it’s another, she thought, wringing her hands. Wichapi had to leave so quickly, there was no time for her to explain. Brenzel had to admit that simply seeing Iris only whetted her appetite; it didn’t do anything to suppress her need to be with her. Wichapi was angry at her now, too, wanting her to come right away. Brenzel had told her no. ****comment about how she will make herself feel better about Iris*** Patience had never been her friend’s strong suit. At least these clothes are more comfortable, she thought, as she stretched her legs out.

Brenzel looked at the group in the carriage’s cabin. Derek and Fallon seemed to be getting on well, chatting as usual. Meha sat quietly, looking out the window. Micron sat with his eyes closed, seemingly resting, but Brenzel knew better, he listened…always. She’d caught him several time staring at her, not at her body, but her head where her seraph hunter hat sat. She didn’t like him at all. All he did was complain. He wasn’t helpful, he just sat around dejected like he was doing now.

Brenzel looked back out the window, watching the world pass by. “Who’s that?” she asked, pointing to someone outside.

Acolyte

A woman, scantily dressed, bare leg showing under a fur-lined coat, walked along the side of the road, her head wreathed with red feather. Damian looked out the window, then hit the roof of the carriage, making it stop. He hurried out the door and around the wheels until Brenzel saw him bowing before the woman, who stood listening.

“What he’s doin?” Derek asked.

“Maybe he’s asking for direction,” Fallon mused.

Meha’s eyes widened as she watched Damian and the woman, then she turned around and sat a little closer to Fallon.

“I’ve seen similar dress on Elysia,” Brenzel muttered out loud as she remembered, “but never here. Meha, do you know who that is?”

“I don’t know her name,” Meha replied, frowning, “but she’s an acolyte, a temple worker. They serve the High Priestess.”

Brenzel noted clear dislike in Meha’s voice. “Is that bad?” she asked.

Shrugging her shoulders, Meha replied matter-of-factly, “Depends on what side of the whip you’re on.”

“Huh?”

***

Damian looked pleased as he sat back inside the carriage next to the lady in red. She seemed to be studying everyone, as if trying to catalogue what she thought about each, before moving on to the next. Her face was that of a classic, though aging, beauty, heavy with makeup and red lip rouge, dark eye liner with a red line drawn horizontal midway on her eyelids when she blinked. Between her nostrils a small metal hoop hung, making Brenzel imagine a misplaced earring. Her jet black hair fell over her fur lined cloak, with a big streak of red – Brenzel felt sure it was dyed.

Everyone was silent, jostling a little as their carriage went on.

It was hard not to look. Her breasts were pushed up by a short corset that left her midriff showing, a red jeweled pendant chain hanging from her belly button. Long, slender legs were bared in some sort of semi-transparent stockings, with a little more than a patch of fabric covered what was in between. She wasn’t the least ashamed of showing skin, but in a different way than Brenzel remembered the people of Dove’s realm. The Elysians simply didn’t care, but she…she wore next to nothing with pride.

“You there,” the woman spoke toward Brenzel, “where do you hail from?”

“Lincolnshire, m’lady,” Brenzel said, her voice curt.

Damian looked at Brenzel as if to encourage her to be nice, making a little movement with his fingers in a downward motion.

“I mean your home world. You’re not native to Hala.”

Eden

“Eden,” Brenzel answered, looking directly into the woman’s brown eyes without flinching. She made a point to keep eye contact with her, for the red lady’s open legs were bothering her.

Tapping her finger on her leg, the woman said, “I am called Velarant, what is your name?”

“Brenzel.”

The woman looked her over, making Brenzel feel like a goat in the market. She seemed to focus on her legs, hips, breasts, then face.

Velarant’s eyes rolled up in her head for a moment, making her look possessed. Brenzel shivered. When they rolled back down, she stated, “You and Commander Damian will be guests at the table of the High Priestess tomorrow after the Day of Purity. Your attire will be provided.”

From the red lady’s demeanor, the invite was not a request. Brenzel glanced at Damian, who flashed her a nervous smile, nodding.

“Thank you M’lady, I am. . . . honored.” Brenzel said.

The woman made no show of emotion, but simply went on to study the others sitting in the cabin.

She’s strange, Brenzel thought.

Komae, who had been silent in her mind, as well as her mouth, commented in Brenzel’s head, We’ll talk later.

Brenzel looked back out the window. Attire will be provided? she thought. Her stomach tightened. She’d just gotten herself into something, but what?

Venus by Shocking Blue performed by Prime Orchestra

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