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Red dawn

(Alfheim, Sanctuary City of the Realm of Hala)

In the dawn of Hala’s second sunrise, the Librarian’s ship glided down past snow-laced peaks and through wispy clouds to dock at the same bridge from which they left.

The bridge, made of stones fitted together so precisely the lines between were all but invisible, linked the north and south parts of Alethea’s city. Built over two millennia ago, the flute-like columns, which supported the enormous bridge, rose from deep within the bedrock below. Three spans tied the Sanctuary City of Hala together, over a 1200 foot ravine. At the bottom, the River of Life flowed crystal clear, cascading down the Mountain of God, watering the plains below.

The Great Bridge of Alfheim

In the rebellion, the time of original sin, a great deal of the sanctuary city was severely damaged or destroyed. One of the only structures that survived unscathed was the Great Bridge of Alfheim, which became a symbol of the continuity and endurance of Alethea’s people.

Stepping out from the seamless vessel onto the ancient stone, the three friends watched as it ascended back into heaven from which it came.

Hala forma

Like two old frat boys reliving their glory days, 3 and Michael carried on about their experiences in the Great Rebellion as they walked the bridge. Hatty, on the other hand, followed more slowly, falling behind, lost in a maze of her own recollections.

It had been so long ago. The Librarian called up such distant memories by giving her a copy of the book her mother used to read to her? Ahmose, her mother, a tall, graceful woman, was little Hatshepsut’s world. Kind, generous and full of compassion, the queen lavished attention on her inquisitive daughter. Every evening the 9-year-old princess demanded her favorite story, “The Red Slippers,” no matter what else her mother offered. Always, in Hatshepsut’s mind, she was the heroine of the story, rising from obscurity to become a favored one through goodness of character.

“The things she said…” Hatty just giggled.

Blunderbuss

blunderbus

Suddenly, Michael remarked, “Do you smell that?” sniffing the air.

3, smelling the foul stench of rotten eggs, yelled, “Dragon!” Wheeling around, he shouted, “Hatty, watch out, there’s a dragon some….”

“What?” she shouted back, as air pushed passed her in gusts from beats of great, bat-like wings. The infernal beast, rising like some dark phoenix, opened its mouth, readying a blast of hellfire. Hatty, looking deep into the demon’s throat, instinctively lifted her blunderbuss, squeezing the trigger hard. BOOM! Smoke from the barrel shot out, shooting a large caliber lead ball which tore through the beast’s tongue, lodging deep in it’s gullet.

Shrieking in pain, spewing a stream of molten spittle and blood, the dragon’s blast veered right and down, missing Hatty, but taking out the north span of the bridge entirely. Swaying violently, the remaining bridge whipsawed back and forth, knocking Hatty over against the stone railing, hitting the back of her head so hard she lost consciousness.

Michael, passing up 3, reached Hatty first, covering her limp body to protect her from the unholy behemoth. The dragon, rising again, tried to clamber up the remnants of the shattered span, rubble crumbling and giving way as it did. 3, gathering up his lover, lurched towards the south city wall in great bounds, Michael protecting their retreat. Hellfire, melting everything it touched, spewed towards them as they dashed for safety.

Hatty!

3 yelled to Michael, “You got this?” Michael, righteous anger rising perceptively in his features, yelled back, “Oh, I’ve got this!” as he turned and walked back onto the the remnants of the bridge to face the monster.

“Hatty!” 3 said as he felt the blood on the back of her head. “Oh God no! Hatty! ” Alethea and her attendants rushing to their side, two women tried desperately to get 3 to stand back far enough so the Seraph could minister. Laying her palm on her forehead, then on her stomach, Alethea’s eyes fluttered briefly and closed.

Turning to 3, she commanded, “Pick her up and follow me.” As they hurried down the passageway, suddenly the building’s foundations shook, Michael having dispatched the dragon with one mighty blow from his ancient sword, nicknamed “Righteousness.”

You look awful

(Lakota Tribe, Montana Territory, 1876)

Bren lay awake somewhere past midnight, having hardly slept at all. Finally putting two and two together, she reassessed everything that had gone on in the last months between her and Chapi. Far from being the innocent victim of circumstance, another, more sinister face of the young Indian maiden began to emerge.

In the morning, Wichapi, yawning, stretched as she woke, turning over to look at Brenzel. “You look awful, are you not feeling well?” Chapi asked.

Bren, exhausted, feigned that she didn’t sleep well, and wanted to rest more that morning. Looking concerned, Chapi felt Bren’s brow and then kissed her forehead, saying “I hope you will be okay. I will check in on you later.”

I feel you, brother

(Alfheim, Realm of Hala)

Michael approached 3, sitting on a chair near where Hatty lay as the healers worked. Laying his hand on his bowed shoulder, he said, “I’m sorry 3, I feel you, brother. Hatty’s a fighter, she’ll pull through.”

3, tears on his face said, “It’s my fault, Michael, I didn’t see this coming at all. It’s my fault.

Michael, pained, said, “3, no one could have seen this. This level of darkness hasn’t happened since original sin.”

Looking up at his friend, 3 replied, “I wish I had made her stay.”

Michael, looking rueful, said, “Yes, I wish we both had listened.”

Truth was, Michael knew that nothing he could say would comfort his worried friend right now. The connection between 3 and Hatty was utterly unique in all the seven realms, for no immortal had been joined with a mortal in over 6000 years. Their love was as deep and broad as an ocean. Michael didn’t know how 3 would cope if Hatty passed away.

Song of Alethea

Althea sang softly to Hatty as she lay unconscious on the billowy bed, calling to her soul and spirit. In all her long existence, even during the great darkness, Hala’s Seraph had scarcely been shocked more than she was right now. Things had been getting better for hundreds of years. Sure, there had been a few leftover dragons, small ones, in the waste lands, but they were all hunted down and dispatched nearly a millennia ago.

Now a true monster from hell had materialize in the midst of Alfheim itself, no one sensing it until it was too late for poor Hatty. Feeling 3’s heart break and throb with pain, her spirit was troubled for them both. This was an attack, a blatant, premeditated attack, and upon a defenseless human, not even an immortal.

Hatty’s near death

Hatty’s lover neither ate, drank, nor slept for three days, refusing to move from her side. Hatty, strong as she was, was fading even with the very best of Hala’s healers ministering to her. Alethea, worried about them both, imagined how difficult it was for 3 to be joined to a mortal. Against all odds, she mused, they loved each other as equals.

Making a decision, the Seraph of Hala walked over to 3, calling him aside. Reluctantly, 3 stood and moved over to a nearby divan. Taking his hands in hers, looking into his eyes, Alethea said, “3, Hatty’s near death, her wound is too severe for her to survive even with our healing ways.” As if turning to stone, only his eyes told of his deep anguish. “Go to her, my friend. Stay with her. I will be back shortly,” the tall woman pledged.

Getting up, moving slowly, 3 took his U-shaped chair, placing it by the head of Hatty’s bed as he sat heavily upon it. Taking one of her small hands gently in his, he managed a faint smile, saying, “Hi my love, I’m right here.” Then 3 began to speak of how they met, how they encouraged one another in those first days of heady love, of Egypt, of Rome, and the earthquake. 3 professed, “I love you Hatshepsut, please don’t leave me,” as he began to weep softly.

Wha…what do you mean?

Lost in his sorrow, 3 didn’t notice Alethea return with her heavenly entourage. She stood there, regal and silent, heart breaking for her friend and his earthly companion. Giving 3 time to come to himself, she said gently, “3…3….”

Tear-streaked face looking around and eyes angling up, 3 said, “What is it?’

There is nothing more our healers can do, so I offer the only thing we have that might help.

“Wha…what do you mean?” 3 felt bewildered at the sound of hope in her voice. Alethea looked down at a crystal bowl, filled with an amber liquid. “What is that?” 3 asked?

It is nectar from the fruit of our tree of life. We offer it for your friend, that she might live again.”

SEOIB.