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breakfast

Day Two

(Realm of Elysia)

The booth, which sheltered Bren and Hope, spiraled round like the inside of a giant seashell. Its walls, made of thick reed mats, were woven with patterns of animals, plants, and people. The whole structure, about 12 yards round, curled up and inwards, meeting at a large wooden pole that supported it. Bren and Hope spent their night nestled together in a soft feather bed near the tail end of that spiral, falling fast asleep, weary with the days’ adventures.

In the morning, people stirring, muffled voices, and birds singing in nearby trees announced a new day, causing Bren to stir slightly beneath her covers. Rolling over, Hope flopped her arm across her belly.

“Hope…

Hope…”

Gently removing her, Bren slipped out of bed. The thick mat on the floor, made out the same type of woven reed, gave slightly as she stood. Stiff from the previous day’s ride, she began stretching. “Ouch!” she said, feeling the remnants of sitting on Thunder in her thighs. Gingerly, she bent low with her palms flat on her calves, trying to loosen the tension in her back and legs.

Stretching

“What are you doing?” Hope asked from the bed as Bren groaned, bending lower. Slowly, trying to relax her back muscles, her head neared the floor between her legs.

“Stretching.”

“Why?”

“I’m sore from riding.”

“Why?”

“My muscles hurt, dear. I’m loosening them.”

“Can I try?”

“Sure, come here and stand with your feet apart like mine.”

Hope rolled out of bed and stood next to her.

Beginning again, Bren said, “Slowly bend down as far as you can, like this. Don’t worry if you can’t bend all the way, it takes practice.”

Hope, bending slowly, gracefully, went lower and lower until her head touched the floor.

Looking back from between her feet, she said, “How’s this?”

Eyebrows raised, Bren said, “That’s. . .um. . .very good for a beginner.”

“Is that it?”

“Yes. That’s called stretching.”

“Amazing! I can’t wait to show everyone.”

Sitting back down on the bed, Bren rolled her eyes and smiled, asking, “What’s for breakfast?”

The weather’s always fine in Elysia

Bad weather, as Bren now knew, was never a concern for Elysians. It seemed to either rain… or not, sun shine… or not, blow…or not, depending on what was happening. Today was not different.

Stepping into the morning rays, warmth kissed Bren’s bared shoulders softly. She wore one of Fabulous’ more revealing creations. Cut smartly, it’s light, white fabric moved and shimmered with her, ending just above her knees. The bodice, crisscrossing her breasts, left a patch of stomach bared a little above her belly button. Midway down her shoulder blades a revealing lattice of thin straps grew smaller as they approach the small of her back. Though Bren would never have worn such a revealing dress in her previous life, here in Elysia it was modest compared to what many wore. Besides, she just felt like being free.

A breakfast of strawberries and Cream

Sitting down to breakfast with a cup of steaming hot brew that tasted like an ideal marriage of coffee and chocolate, Bren waited as Hope fetched their morning meal.

Looking at people, mainly couples, holding hands and walking together among the food stalls, Bren sighed at the thought of such young love. Everyone seemed happy and content, kissing often, loving one another without a care in the world.

Laying two colorful dishes down, Bren’s young friend said, “This is a special cream from cows that live only in the highlands of Longrain. You probably recognize the strawberries and the rest. Try it.”

Tasting a spoonful, the smooth creaminess highlighted by fresh fruit offset the crunchy parts, making the whole a perfect combination. The dish literally felt like morning, giving Brenzel the overwhelming sense that a good day lay ahead.

“You know, Hope, nothing is ever unpleasant here. I mean, it probably seems normal, but where I come from, you might find something this good only once in a long while. I keep expecting not to like something here, but it never happens,” Bren said.

Hope, finishing the last of her breakfast as she held up and slurped the remnants of her bowl, said, “I can’t imagine it not being like this. I guess because everything always is. From what you’ve said, Eden seems a lot different.”

Snow on the mountains

(Lakota Tribe, Montana Territory, 1877)

The leaves on the trees, fluttering to the ground, foretold the approach of winter. On the mountains, the first snows could be seen. Everyone in the village worked to gather and preserve food for the coming cold months. Men hunted, women caught and cured fish, while children collected nuts and berries.

Fortunately, though some were injured, none had died in the stampede. Everyone worked together, helping repair the damaged tepees. A religious hush fell over the Lakotans, for all believed the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, had intervened on their behalf, stopping the stampeding herd in its tracks.

Chaska, in full buckskin, felt his stomach churn as he sat in back of the big teepee while the elders discussed the buffalo stampede.

Chief Running Bear, his father, spoke after much discussion. “In many moons, and in the stories of our people, no stampede has ever threatened our village.”

Standing Crow answered, “It is bad medicine. It is good to leave this place.”

All fell silent for awhile, then Running Bear spoke again. “Wakan Tanka spared us great sorrow. It is good to listen to His voice. We will leave this place before the next full moon.”

As the elders and the others got up to leave, Running Bear signaled Chaska to stay, motioning him near.

Wichapi?

The fire, in the middle of the circle, crackled. The light from the flame danced across the chief’s features, his dark eyes seemingly gazing far beyond where they sat.

After a long while, Running Bear said, “Wichapi?”

“She is better, evil dreams have gone.”

Another pause.

“When?”

“After the stampede.”

“My son, why is your heart heavy?” Chaska remained silent. Continuing, the old man said, “Your mother told me your sister was different, that the Great Spirit moved her in strange ways. She was not yet three winters old.”

Chaska looked up studying his father words.

“I watched, trying to understand, but she seemed like any other.”

Bear cubs

“One morning, your sister went missing. Though many men and women searched everywhere for a day and night, we could not find her anywhere. We feared a wild animal had taken her. Then the next morning, she walked into camp, unharmed.

“We asked where she went. She said, I was playing with bears.‘”

Chaska looked away.

Looking directly at his only son, Running Bear said, “I feel in my heart you know what I am talking about. Tell me, did Wichapi stop the Buffalo?”

Chaska, finally facing his father, said, “She not only stopped it, father, but Wichapi called them all in the first place.”

You look Fabulous!

(Realm of Elysia)

Leaving the food area, Hope and Bren made their way into the festival proper. As they went, both men and women greeted them, saying to Bren, “You look fabulous, is that an original?”

Bren, flattered, replied, “Yes, she made it for me.”

Hope knew everyone by first name, asking them personal questions as if they were all childhood friends. Bren, after observing this all morning, asked, “How do you know so many people? I haven’t seen anyone that you don’t know.”

Hope, looking towards the gaming area, said absently, “We’re all friends here. Come, dear,” she said as she took Bren’s hand, “Archery is starting. This is a treat you won’t want to miss.”

Walking into the the tournament area, Brenzel saw men and women lined up before targets painted with yellow bullseyes. Each archer, wearing different clothes, readied their arrow. One young man, near Bren, dressed in little more than a loin cloth, drew his bow string taut as his back muscles and arms rippled.

Apollo’s twin brother

Bren said to Hope, “Good god, he looks like Apollo’s twin brother!” Snap, he let his arrow fly. Though the target was at least 50 yards away, his shaft found it’s home, as far a Bren could see, in the exact center. Next a woman in a loose fitting white tunic stepped up and readied her bow. She was a stunning fair-haired woman, with only her breasts and loins covered by a fabric that shimmered golden in the sunlight. Behind her back, a quiver held her arrows. She held an inlaid bow with beautiful patterns of something like ivory. It was longer than she was tall, curving back at the ends.

As she readied, between her and the target, men placed two swinging rods, weighted on their bottom end where they pivoted. On top end of each shaft, two small rings sat, no more than a inch wide. One man pulled the first rod one way, while the other pulled the second the opposite. Then both men let go, allowing the ringed shafts to swing back and forth like pendulums, rings lining up for split second as they swung.

Trick shot

The 20’ish looking woman drew back, waiting patiently for the precise moment, and released. Her arrow shot through both rings at the precise moment they aligned, then lodged deep into the bullseye beside the first man’s shaft. Mouth dropping, Brenzel said, “That’s impossible!”

Robyn, walking up next to them said, “I do love archery so. In my opinion, it’s the most refined of sports.”

Taking her hand, Hope asked,”How have you been, dear?”

“Just wonderful, I’ve caught up with so many. Radcliff has build a new wind racer. He wants to take me out after the festival.”

“That’s great!” Hope said, “But you know your long hair and wind don’t get along.”

“I’ll just tie it up.”

Greeting old and new friends

“Who’d you stay with last night?” Hope asked her friend.

“Loraine and her friend Gabija. We went dancing, then ate supper at the food fair. Talked all night, didn’t get a wink of sleep.”

Bren, still admiring the Greek god of a man before her, said, “Look at his arms! He seems so strong – and his back!”

Robyn, putting her arm around Bren’s waist and leaning towards her ear said, “If you want, I’ll introduce you to him. His name is Fransin. He’s very nice.”

Bren, still staring said, “Yes, that would be lovely.”

Pastries from Grace

They all stood, watching the competition for the next hour, as each contestant tried to outdo the other with impossible shots. Robyn gave them a small box of colorful pastries Grace had sent for them, which they all sampled eagerly.

Walking up to Fransin after the competition, Robyn said, “Hi dear, it’s good to see you!”

Fransin hugged and kissed Bren’s friend on the mouth warmly. “What a treat! I’ve missed you too.”

Turning to Bren, Robyn said, “This is my friend, Brenzel. She’s from Eden, it’s her first time at the Festival.”

Smiling, he hugged and kissed Bren, too, saying afterwards, “It’s so nice to meet you, Brenzel. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone from Eden before. Welcome to Elysia.”

Bren, shaken by the familiarity and the kiss, said, “Thank you. I…I loved your archery.”

“Thanks, would you like to see my bow? I made it myself.”

Looking at his arms and chest, Bren said, “Of course, that would be lovely.”

Drawn

Handing it to her, Bren thought it finely crafted. Having shot a time or two herself, she held out the longbow and pulled back on the string. Finding it would not budge more than an inch, she pulled it back harder, it giving just slightly more.

Looking at Fransin, Brenzel said, “I can’t hardly budge it. How do you manage?”

“Just lots of practice,” he said, pulling the bow back to its maximum draw, muscles rippling again.

Do you have need?

Looking at Bren as he held the bow taut, he asked Robyn, “Is your friend alright? Her face is turning red.”

“Oh, she’s okay, it’s just blushing. Edenites do that sometimes, Manu told me all about it.”

Letting his bow relax, the handsome young archer turned to Bren and asked politely, “Do you have need?”

SEOIB.