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sunset

Utterly alone

As the sun set and shadows lengthened in the mountain meadow, Bren felt numb. It was not that Chapi was mean, though she was. It was not that Bren wasn’t heartbroken, though that was certainly the case. Something more, something deeper, like a grieving of her spirit. Try as she might, she couldn’t bring herself to hate Chapi. Though her mind said her friend was probably evil, her heart felt something completely different.

Watching the last rays of evening turning into brilliant reds, a presence fell around her. Looking around, the young hunter sat on a fallen tree, utterly alone.

An unexpected change

Suddenly, her buckskin dress changed into dark tanned leather pants and she felt the hat resting on her head. Opening her right hand, their lay a blue feather. “No! you can’t take me now!” Bren said, panicking as she jumped up. “No! you don’t understand, Chapi has good in her, I know it! I can save her! Don’t do this!” Bren yelled at the darkness quickly gathering around her.

Unbelievable!

A lonesome owl hooted in the distant trees as Brenzel shouted at the air. “I’m not ready to go! I do not want to leave her! Please, I beg you, give me more time!” No one answered. “Unbelievable! First you bring me here and I fall in love, now you take me away at the worst possible time. What are you playing at? I am not a puppet!” Bren screamed furiously. Then, beginning to sob, she said, “Please, Traveler, don’t take me away from Chapi, my heart is already broken, I can’t bear anymore pain!” Still nothing.

Falling silent, listening to the stillness of the night, Bren sat still for a moment, then eyes flashing defiantly, she shouted, “I quit!” letting the feather fall from her hand. It floated down slowly, seesawing back and forth, until it burst into a thousand points of blue light that dissipated into the air. Eyes flashing red, Brenzel took her hat off and, with one great effort, flung it away. It landed, rolling a little, coming to rest on the meadow grass. Turning, she walked away furiously, into the gathering shadows.

Into the woods

As she walked, darkness seemed to draw closer. Her heart felt like stone in her chest as her feet waded through tall grass. She didn’t know which way she walked, but she didn’t care. Without Chapi, there was nothing worth living for, and her fate, be it death by beast or exposure, mattered little.

The air, cooling rapidly, caused her to cough. Her body felt heavy and her muscles ached. Anger drove her onward, propelling her feet to the edge of the clearing and then deep into the forest. Face contorted with grief, Brenzel screamed at the stars, “You drove me to do this, no one can do what you ask! I can’t love someone this much and lose them again!” Then, sobbing, “I’ve lost everyone I truly loved, my mother, my husband and daughter, and now Chapi! You’re horrible!” she wailed. “I hate my life, I hate this place! I hate you!” she shrieked and, finding a branch on the forest floor, beat an unsuspecting tree trunk over and over until the branch splintered in her hands.

Winded, Bren’s chest hurt more and more, until she found herself leaning on the battered trunk, wheezing. “What is happening to me,” Bren wondered. Coughing uncontrollably, she felt lightheaded as her whole body ached. Finally, Brenzel fell to the forest floor, groaning until she passed out.

Disappointed

The next morning, the sun rose and birds sang. A pair of dapper shoes stepped lightly among the dew-laden grass until they came upon a hat lying where it fell the night before. A grim man, picking it up carefully, wiping it off with his sleeve as he stood. Looking around at the vast empty meadow, he turned and walked off, carrying the bonnet under his right arm. “It wasn’t totally unexpected,” he thought, yet he couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Straw and stone

Slowing Bren opened her eyes to straw and stone. Her body racked with pain, she felt the coldness of the filthy floor. Stench immediately flooded her nostrils, making her gaunt body gag. Gone were the Seraph Hunter clothes, replaced by the blood stained dress, now little more than filthy rags, in which she’d been arrested days before at the inn.

Slowly realizing where she was, Bren let out a slow, pitiful moan as she began to weep. “No…no….nooooo!” she said as her body trembled and shook, sobbing uncontrollably.

Recriminations

Several hours later, Bren sat hunched by the grey wall below the only small window in her cell. The crown’s prisoner drowned in waves of recrimination, self pity, and excruciating loss. Her hands tied and swollen, hair tangled and matted, all spoke of one undeniable truth: Bren was back in the dungeon exactly where she was before Traveler offered her the hat.

For a brief moment, after she realized the horror of it all, she wondered if it had all been a dream. Maybe she never left the cell and it was all part of a delirious break with reality. Yet, sick as she was, that thought passed quickly for she knew in her heart that everything had been very real, especially Wichapi.

Traveler? Is that you?

Presently, she heard footsteps as the hallway outside her cell grew lighter. “Traveler, is that you?” she called out hopefully. As the light grew brighter, Bren’s heart sank low as the guard, followed by a priest stood outside her cell. Bren, looking at them both, said nothing, for the end had come.

“It is time,” the big man said unlocking the door as his key ring jostled. Bren, too weak to stand on her own, steadied herself on the strong arm of the prison’s emissary. The priest, head bowed, face obscured by his hood, walked slowly beside her, saying nothing. Bren, glancing at him furtively thought to herself, “He’s not much of a priest, he doesn’t even carry a crucifix.

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