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Down The Mountain

(Realm of Elysia)

On the Mount of the Congregation, a mirror-like lake empties into a river, feeding waterfalls, which cascade in three one-thousand foot steps, to the plains below.

Six small horses, ponies really, stood ready as Bren approached her friends in the morning, outside the grounds of the sanctuary. Felicity brought a sturdy brown one to Bren, with a flowing blond mane, saying, “His name is Thunder, all you have to do is talk to him, he’ll do what you ask.”


Bren smiled at the bright-eyed animal hidden behind so much hair, and said, “Hello, Thunder.” As the five readied, Bren ran her hand gently over his equine face, scratched behind his ears, then checked the stomach strap that held the riding pad securely. So far so good, she thought. Bren then mounted and sat on the padded blanket atop Thunder, waiting for their journey to begin. As the others departed, she made a clicking sound with her tongue…click, click, click…nothing. Then she said, “Giddy up!”…still no movement. Then, “Go!”, nary a twitch. Finally, exasperated, she kicked the pony’s sides like she used to do when, Salty, her old plow horse refused to move.

At that, the small horse raise his head, turning towards her and, Bren could have sworn, glared at her while shaking his head. Not knowing what else to do, Bren said, “Please, Thunder, would you just follow the others?” Neighing, the little steed trotted up to the rest and followed dutifully thereafter.


The small group rode their sturdy mounts steadily away from Dove’s home, towards the edge of an escarpment. Looking back and around, Bren marveled at the sheer scale of everything in Elysia. The Sanctuary and surrounding buildings stood tall, taller than any church she’d every seen. The whole complex nestled into the side of the holy mountain, massive peaks rising behind them. To the right, towards the east, a river that issued from under the Sanctuaries threshold, flowed into an enormous lake, deep and clear, so vast it disappeared into the distance.

Always, its placid waters mirrored the mountains behind and blue sky above like a sea of glass. The six friends rode around the lake’s west shore, following the water line until they came to a lazy river, which flowed out of it only to dive headlong over the edge of the plateau. Bren, standing near the precipice, looked down at the misty plumes ending in small rainbows, marveling at their collective beauty.

Seven Days of Wonder

Riding down the mountain, she and the girls made their way slowly towards the festival, called “The Seven Days of Wonder”, due to begin that evening. Each of the girls, chattering like chipmunks, sang silly songs together as they descended the mountain with Bren in tow.

Robyn sang,

1st verse

Come one, come all, hear our master’s call

For you and me, it’s lovely as can be!

2nd verse

It’s here, it’s there, we’re going to see the fair!

Seven days, plus one, oh, it will be such fun!

After Robyn finished the first verse again and started on the second, Grace joined in, singing the first verse, going round and round, with the others joining in, until they all jumbled and tumbled together into riotous laughter.

Bren, never a fan of heights, nervously looked down the sheer cliff to her left. Thunder, oblivious to being mere feet from certain death, plodded along the winding trail unconcerned.

He must have been down and up this mountain hundreds of times, Bren reassured herself, holding tightly to his mane. In the air above, doves flew in pairs, as hundreds of butterflies, suddenly startled by their passage, burst into a cloud of color about them.

Into the Mist

Rounding a rocky outcrop, Brenzel heard and saw the great mass of water falling down, fine mist drifting everywhere. She gazed up at the mighty waters, plummeting downwards, then looked ahead again, just in time to realize their trail wound under those same raging waters.

Bren shouted out loud “You can’t be serious!” However, the roaring torrent above drowned out all her objections. Bren bent forward, hugging her horse tightly, as she entered into the mist, the waters blocking out most of the sunlight. Soon, though, she emerged with the others from the opposite side, alive but trembling, considerably less soaked than she anticipated. Back and forth, ever downwards, switchbacks led them under two more falls until finally, to Bren’s great relief, they reached level ground.

Towards Elysiandra

As the sun rose higher, they found and followed a cobblestone road, winding through fields and forests, passing by hamlets, which grew in frequency as they neared Elysiandra. In the distance, Bren looked and said, “I think I can see it!”

Hope, spying the citadel, replied, “Yes, that’s Elysiandra, but we aren’t going there right now, we going directly to the festival, which is in the Plain of Mamre.”

“How much further is it?”

“Not much further, about two of your ‘leagues’ I think. It is over that ridge to our right.”

Bren looked towards the horizon, noting where the road wound up into the green hills and the ridge Hope spoke of.

As they neared, others joined them, riding magnificent horses or comfortably on carriages, some even on wagons filled with food or gifts. Everyone waved and greeting them with smiles and merriment. The five laughed and blew kisses, saying “Hail! We love you!”

The Gate of Angels

Riding up the ridge, two enormous stone statues of angels with outstretched wings, touching each other, came into view. “That’s the angel gate, Bren,” Hope said.

“They’re beautiful,” Bren replied.

Passing between the statues, underneath where their wings touching above them, immediately the plain below spread out like a giant tablecloth full of fine dishes. Bren said, “Oh my word, I can’t see the end of it!” Indeed, the festival stretched beyond the horizon. “There must be tens of thousands of people here!” Bren exclaimed.

“At least!” Grace chimed in. “In fact, almost everyone from Elysiandra that can come has come!”

Cardinal visit

(Vatican City, 1689)

Maria, hearing the knock on the door, put her hand cautiously to the latch, asking, “Who calls?”

“It’s me,” Tim said. Maria, quickly opening the door, Tim backed through, checking if he’d be seen. All day, throughout his many meetings and duties, Tim only thought of how Fiammetta fared, rushing as soon as he could to her side. Looking at his maid, Tim asked breathlessly, “How is she, is she well?”

Smiling, Maria, replied, “Yes, come see for yourself.”

Heart pounding, lips dry, Tim stepped carefully into her room, seeing her sitting up, obviously weary, but smiling.

“Hello M’lord.” Fiammetta managed.

Tim, suddenly at a loss for words, just looked at her.

After a moment, patting her bed, Fiammetta said, “Come, sit Cardinal, I won’t bite.”

Tim, removing his cloak, sat in his red uniform.

Managing to speak, Tim asked, “Are you feeling better?”

“Yes.” Fiammetta said, taking his hand in hers. “Thank you, M’lord.”

“Please, call me Tim.”

“Thank you, Tim,” her eyes shining, looking directly into his.

Tim, strong as he was, felt himself tear up.

I knew you would come

Pulling his hand towards her, she placed it on her heart. “I knew you would come. I don’t know how, but I knew this in my heart as surely as I’ve ever known anything. So certain was I of it, nothing could shake my faith even as I felt myself slipping away with fever.”

Tim, absolutely convinced of her words, confirmed, “I know, Fiammetta, I couldn’t help but come to you, either. Night after night I fought what I thought was sin, until I despaired of my very salvation. Yet, being here with you now, seeing you, I know there’s nothing that could be more right in this world. I don’t understand it, but I even feel God is pleased with us.”


A young boy peered round the door jam, jet black, curly hair framing his large, inquisitive eyes.

Seeing her son, Fiammetta bid him to come as Tim made room for him on the bed. The child, seeing his chance, ran to hug his mother, burying his head in her embrace.

“This is Leonetto, my youngest, he’s 4. Gian Paolo, is 6.”

Tim reached out, patting the lad’s head, saying, “Bless you my son. Your mother is going to be all right.”

Maria came in with dinner for The Cardinal and Fiammetta and brought the boy out to eat with her.

Taking some stew, Fiammetta said, “I don’t mean to be impudent, but I cannot but speak what God has shown me.”

Tim, not knowing what to expect, said, “What is it, what does our Lord tell you?”

I am not worthy


Holding his hand, the earnest woman before him said, “I had a dream, or vision, or perhaps I was really there. I don’t know. But in my dream, I was dressed in a simple white linen gown, barefooted, and it was in the middle of mass. In my hands, I held a white dove, which cooed. It was like Saint Peter’s, and many people were there with me, each in white, too. All the men and women knelt praying, but I walked up the aisle towards Saint Peter’s Baldachin.

No one seemed to notice me. As I came to the altar I saw you, sitting at the right hand of the Pope. The strange thing is, it wasn’t Innocent XI. You recognized me, greeted me with a kiss and asked me to come sit with you. I refused, saying, “No, Father, I am not worthy,” but you insisted. I came and sat, but when I did, my dress changed from white, to the finest clothes I have ever seen.”

What is the meaning, Fiammetta?

Fiammetta’s face shone with a unearthly radiance as Tim thought to himself, “I’ve only seen such a look on cloistered nuns.”

“Do you know what it means?” Tim asked, caught up in the moment with her.

Looking down for a moment, then slowly up into his eyes, she said,

“Tim,” she said trembling, “I dare not say it…”

Then putting his hand to her flushed cheek, Tim said, looking into her searching eyes, “I know, my love, God wants you to be my wife.”