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Omeyan tech

“Look!” Komae said, pointing over to the airship’s stern as Brenzel watched. Fire arose from where they had just lifted off, three pairs of red eyes staring up at them. “I haven’t seen hellions since the invasion, I thought they all left or were destroyed.”

A shiver went down Brenzel’s spine as she wondered why they were back.

Still in her Seraph Hunter uniform, Brenzel saw Komae looking at the guns on her hips carefully.

“Those are Omeyan craft,” the mind-talker said out loud, “I’m glad you didn’t use them on Fey.”

Tipping her hat, Brenzel’s clothes changed back into Hammer Clan attire.

Then in her mind, Komae said, You had it set on max, you might want to adjust that.

Oh, Brenzel thought, can you show me how?

Commotion

Shouting came from midship, and Brenzel turned and walked toward a knot of men listening to a heated argument. Excusing her way through the ruffian crew, she saw the rotund captain’s face red and sweaty as he shouted, “But, good sir, fair trade is the law! We must have something of value for our efforts, else we’ll lose face!”

“There’s a greater good at stake here, Captain Nui,” Damian replied.

Surprised, the big man exclaimed, “You still believe in that great lie? Come, Commander, we’re better than that.”

Brenzel looked over at Damian, taking in his pained face. “Excuse me, please, captain… commander,” she said, as sweet as she knew how, to the two men in the middle of the crowd.

“I am Captain Nui,” the marauder said, looking with narrowed eyes at the tall blond, his eyes glancing down to her hip. He bowed, “Kind lady, I have not had the pleasure of your name yet?”

“I am called Brenzel,” she said, as she performed a perfect curtsy, head bowing slightly.

“Pleasure to have you on board. We’ve not seen anyone handle a hellion like that since the Battle of the Burnt Sea,” he said with admiration.

With a wry smile, Brenzel offered, “I hail from Eden.”

A murmuring sounded from the men in response.

“And I am glad to have been of some small assistance. Thank you so much for rescuing us from that awful place,” she finished.

It is beautiful?

Eyes widening, face filled with wonder, the round man asked sincerely, “Is Eden as beautiful as the prophesies tell us?”

“Uh, well. . ” Not wanting to disillusion them, Brenzel said, “Well, yes, there are places that are more beautiful than mere men can imagine. Lush, endless forests of trees, wide, lazy rivers, food in abundance. It is. . . .it is all you have been told, and more.”

The captain bowed his head, “May she grant us the land.”

“May she grant us Eden.” came the crew’s refrain as they bowed their heads as well.

Just then, an idea rose up within her and she held out her arms, “On Eden, one of our most important customs is called The Sacred Bond of Coffee.”

“Coffee?” the big man asked with interest, “what is it?”

Placing her hands, crossed, flat against her chest, she said with dramatic reverence, “It is a mystical drink from a land called Mokha, made from a magical bean grown in humble soil, that, when roasted and ground to perfection, is often shared among men with important matters to discuss and decide. When it’s aroma fills your senses,” she began strolling proudly in front of the men and their spell bound leader, “they awaken their greatest virtue, and all which seems impenetrable becomes crystal clear.” She pressed her forefingers to her thumbs, gesturing for effect. “In Eden, it gives strength from above,” she raised her eyes to the sky, “and grants good fortune to all who taste it. If you would be so kind,” she said, bowing slightly her hands sweeping outwards, “Captain Nui and Commander Damian, I would be happy to share this special brew of Eden with you in the morning and then, if you would so desire, you two can talk further about a fair trade.”

Looking at Damian, the captain said, “Do you wish this?”

Damian looked at Brenzel, eyebrows furrowed, then turned to the captain and nodded. “Yes, I would be honored to do so with you fine captain,” he pounded his chest once with his fist, bowing his head slightly.

Impressed, the captain laughed, throwing his arms wide, “Then let it be so. I will share this bond of. . .” he looked at Brenzel as if needing clarification.

“Coffee,” she said.

“This bond of coffee with you both in the morning, and,” he said, nodding to commander Damian and leaning in close, “then we shall discuss fair trade.”

Brenzel and Damian left the crowd of excited men laughing and talking among themselves.

When they reached the ship’s stern, Damian asked, “What did you just do?”

“I bought us time,” Brenzel replied under her breath.

***

Brenzel lay on the deck, looking up at the dreamy expanse of stars showing through the masts, ropes and sails of the airship. The constant, but low hum of the four levitron engines formed the background upon which a creak here and a squeak there of rigging sounded. It was a warm evening, a light breeze filling the sails above. Nothing looked familiar in the night sky except…yes, Pleiades! Seven sisters! It was the same constellation she knew from earth, her father had pointed it out to her many a time in the night sky above her humble home. Odd, why the same stars?

She’d have to find some place to open her trunk before coffee in the morning. She kept Joshua’s gift hidden, she just didn’t feel like sharing with anyone else yet. Putting her arms behind her head, she felt good looking up, like she was more in control, making decisions – good decisions. For so long, she’d felt like a solitary leaf on a river, being carried whither the water willed, but now…

She felt a presence, then a soft, downy feather in her hand. In the starlight, which on Hala was almost as bright as earth’s moonlight, she raised her hand and opened it. Wichapi. She wanted to see her, it had been some days, but she felt tired, exhausted by the day’s events.

Just for a little while. She made her way aft, finding a place between riggings where no one could see. She tipped her hat, then placed the feather.

***

Stepping onto prairie grass, Brenzel looked around. A few feet away she found her friend waiting, smiling.

Her wings retracting, Wichapi ran to Brenzel’s embrace, holding her tightly. “Welcome home, Brenzel.”

It was morning, Brenzel guessed by the sun on the teepees in the distance. “I’ve missed you, too,” she said.

“Come, I want to show you something,” the Lakota princess said, leading by her hand.

Brenzel tipped her hat away and took Wichapi’s hand.

As they approached her village, children came running out, crowding around the blond-haired stranger. However, no one else she saw even seemed to notice her presence.

“Come, sit with me,” Wichapi said, as she opened the flap on the teepee. Inside, they sat together like old times, around a small fire in the center, her friend’s high cheekbones highlighted by the warm light.

Brenzel sighed. Memories of happy times flooded her mind and heart.

Wichapi took out a long pouch from under a buffalo blanket, revealing her father’s peace pipe.

“Your father’s pipe!” Brenzel recognized it. “He gave it to you?”

Wichapi smiled and took out a small pouch of tobacco, pressing some in a small bowl. “I did not understand at first,” she said, “but I think I do now. Brenzel, I thought you were the White-Buffalo-Calf woman, but, as you said, you did not feel the same.” She puffed a couple of times on the pipe, then handed it to Brenzel.

Although she didn’t like tobacco, Brenzel had learned to take a couple of puffs out of respect for the chief and other elders of Wichapi’s tribe. “Who is it, then?” she asked, blowing out blue smoke.

Who is it ,then?

“I left my people, because I could not control my power with wisdom,” Wichapi explained. “For many winters, I lived alone on a mountain. There, I quieted my spirit, learning to control my rage. I became like still waters in the morning, my presence like the butterfly in summer. Finally, one day, I saw my brother coming to my lodge. I knew why he had come, for I had felt the spirit of my father come to me during the full moon, before he returned to the Great Spirit.

Brenzel listened, handing the pipe back to her black-haired friend. “I am sorry to hear that,” she said.

Her friend smiled, saying, “My father said, Daughter, there is the world we see with our eyes and there is the spirit world we see with our hearts. When we die, only our flesh dies, but our spirits remain forever. The voices of our ancestors speak to those who will listen, just as I will speak to you if your ears desire to hear me.

“I did hear him when he left, and I have heard his wisdom since, many times, when I was still enough in my heart to listen.

“When Chaska came to me and gave me this pipe, it was as if my father was there, too. Then I knew…I realized who I was.”

“You’re the White-Buffalo-Calf woman!” Brenzel exclaimed. “That makes much more sense.”

“I could not see it,” Wichapi said, her eyes wide, reflecting the firelight. “I left that mountain and journeyed to my people. Somehow, I came to my tribe long, long ago in their time of great need. I called the buffalo to them, taught them our sacred ceremonies, and gave them my father’s peace pipe. It is a circle Brenzel… we are the circle.”

Brenzel took another puff as she thought about what her friend said. Her mind spinning, but it did make sense. . . sort of. Handing the pipe back, she asked, “So, who made the pipe?”

They sat in silence for a long while, not speaking, as the children played outside.

***

After sleeping awhile in Wichapi’s teepee, Brenzel reappeared in the same place she left, on the airship in Hala. She held in her hand a small Lakota pottery bowl filled with raw honey. Wichapi was certainly getting better at transporting her, none of the jolts of her first translation.

Tipping her hat, Brenzel laid back down on the deck. She was troubled.

Wichapi had told her about Iris and posing as her maid. It felt intolerable to know that her daughter was now as close as single black feather. At least Wichapi was taking care of her, watching over her. Some small comfort.

Where have you been...came Komae’s words to her mind.

Uh…just couldn’t sleep…walked a bit around the ship. Instantly, Brenzel knew that wasn’t going to fool her. Um…please, you can’t tell anyone. Promise, Komae?

What have you been doing, Brenzel? Where did you go? came the terse reply.

Promise, Brenzel said again, this time forcefully.

Yes, I promise. Komae said after a moment.

Brenzel let her see.

By Alethea! There are two of you? Komae’s mind reeled.

You promised, Brenzel restated in her mind, growing concerned.

What are you two playing at? Komae asked. Do other”s know of this?

No, and they can’t. At least not yet. They don’t understand Wichapi like I do.

Brenzel turned around. A few feet away she saw the Halan crouched on the ships main sail jib, looking down at her through the darkness. Her features became one of surprise and concern.

By Alethea, there are forces at work here that I do not comprehend, Komae thought in her mind, with a “what have you done,” look.

Please, don’t tell anyone, Komae, I am not sure what they’ll do.

Brenzel could feel the Forest Warden’s shock as she stated, She controls a dragon, I’m not sure they could do anything.

The Pipe Loading Song

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