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This is fun! Brenzel thought, as she looked out the window on top of the vehicle. The transport was massive, so the view allowed her to see in all directions as they rumbled along the dirt road, plume of dust rising as they went. Damian, the commander, had offered her a seat in the top cabin. He wasn’t half bad actually, gruff at times, but he seemed respected by his people.

Outside, the barren land gave way to hovels that became more numerous as they progressed. On the sides of the road, women carried big jars on their heads, balancing them effortlessly. They were dressed simply, many wrapped in what appeared to be a long cloth, sandals on their feet.

Just for water?

As they bumped along, Brenzel held on to a rectangular handle, fastened between where the windows met. “Why do the women carry pots on their heads?” she asked the driver.

Not turning his gaze from the road ahead, the driver answered, “They’re going for water. There’s a clan well about three miles up ahead where they buy it.”

Three miles? Just for water?

Brenzel looked more closely at the women now, some appeared old and unwell. However, she didn’t see children anywhere. So strange, she thought, children on earth are so common.

“Which clan is this?” she inquired further.

After a moment, shifting down as he turned the big machine left, he man replied, “These are Outers, the outcasts, they have no clan. You get on the wrong side of the law, or a priestess, you end up here.”

“What’s your name?” she asked. “Mine’s Brenzel.”

“Gragort,” came the reply.

Up ahead, she could see a large structure behind a gate of some sort, a lot of people standing outside it. As they slowed, approaching, people parted, and they drove through the gate as sentries swung it open. Embedded on top of the gate and, indeed all around the outer walls, were sharp looking spikes pointing straight up. Nasty, Brenzel observed. Inside the compound, the other three transports were already parked, local people unloading wood. Apparently, they had just gotten there.

Stopping, the man in the driver’s seat flipped a lever and that hissing sound she always heard when they stopped, occurred again. Pulling a lever toward him, making a click, click, click, he flipped a few more switches until all the rumbling stopped. Standing, he motioned with his hand to the door, indicating Brenzel to go first.


Brenzel found Fallon, Derek, and Meha about to leave the transport, so she followed them out. Standing with them beneath the hot sun, they all watched the unloading of the bundles of wood. Men and women stood in a long line, handing the bundles to one another.

Brenzel looked over to another transport, as a piece of the ship’s wheel was carried down the back ramp, “Those pieces look like parts of the ship!” Brenzel exclaimed, as a piece of what looked like a ship’s steering wheel was unloaded. *****find out how and when Brenzel, Fallon, and Derek learned about Tane’s ship *****

“Damn shame I’s reckons. Haders must be chop’n it up for woods.” Derek remarked.

Brenzel felt sorry for Tane, he’d been so proud of his new ship.

A woman approached them, asking them to come inside, out of the heat. It is hot, Brenzel thought. Ever since leaving the north, every place she’d been just got hotter.

Meha followed Fallon closely as Derek walked beside them both. A massive door slid in one piece to the side, disappearing into a red earth-color wall, perhaps two feet thick. Inside, the air felt at least 10 degrees cooler, but the smell from the people was much worse. Many Haders stood in line, while some sat on the stone floor, waiting for something, or so it seemed to Brenzel.


She looked around and saw Komae seated at one of the tables, across from Micron. She wore, just like him, a blue turban on her head, making her look like his sister. That’s funny! Brenzel smiled.

“Hello, Micron,” Brenzel said, walking over to them, smiling, “I see your sister’s with you today.”

The small man in spectacles just glared at her.

She looked at Komae, who seemed more relaxed now than the last time they were together. “Sorry for the sister comment,” Brenzel said, moving her hand to her own head, “it’s just the matching turbans. I couldn’t resist it.” She noted how well the turban hid Komae’s elf-like ears. It wasn’t really much of a disguise, though, Komae’s features being markedly different than anyone around the hall, yet no one seemed to notice nor care.

“Did Tane mention what we’re going to do next?” Brenzel asked, pulling up a chair and sitting down beside her forest friend.

Komae took some cups and a pitcher of water, offering some to Brenzel, then to Micron. “Well,” she said, “Tane said after a days’ rest, we’ll head to Steam City, get outfitted for the trek.” She paused, then leaned toward Brenzel. “By the way, you might want to avoid the captain for a bit, he’s…grumpy. Pretty upset about his ship.”

I can imagine, Brenzel thought.


Brenzel sat a long time, even after her friends left, observing the people filing in and out of the sliding door, watching their faces, their mannerisms. Men kept to right side, while women kept to the other. Only female attendants spoke to the women and vice versa. Separation between the sexes seemed odd, but not forced, just the way things were done south of the Burnt Sea. Everyone seem subdued, whether they were just like that, or weary, or depressed, she couldn’t tell. The whole place had a feeling of reaching the end of a road.

After the youthful faces of the Halans and before that, all the Elysians, seeing people haggard and stressed was quite shocking. She had assumed that only people from earth aged and got sick. Brenzel noted there wasn’t a lot of talking, either, except for whatever was necessary, from what conversations she could overhear. Some limped, others were carried in by friends. Overall, it was a sober scene. Some seemed old, some did not, though all appeared at least in their thirties. One by one each disappeared into the back of the building, escorted by a male or female soldier.

The healers

Brenzel flagged a woman walking past and asked her, “What is everyone doing? “

Though in a rush, the woman stopped. “They’re here to see the healers.” Then she continued on her way. This what Tane was talking about.

Suddenly she noticed a murmur of excitement that ran through the crowd as those present began looking toward the door. Then, after a moment it slid back, revealing Damian, who walked in, looking around, goggles and military helmet off. His face, like leather, supported a long, but trimmed beard, peppered with gray. His head was balding on top – something else she had never seen outside of Eden. His gait into the room was sure, and he stood looking around, back straight. People came forward, touching him, saying thank you and bless you. He nodded, patting their shoulders. To see the people respond with such gratitude made her feel differently about Haders in general.

Of course, they still smelled, but somehow that just didn’t matter as much anymore.