Chapter Eight: The Bell Tolls...

December 4, 2019

[Wren’s perspective]

Wren was the first to awake from the food induced coma that Perilon, Fenea, and he had succumbed to after their breakfast with the company of angels. It had simply been too much sensory overload for all of them. They had literally been starving, and the reality of their perilous situation had increasingly begun to sink in once they’d started getting past their hunger pangs. In a word – they were ‘fucked’ as crass as that word sounded to Wren’s own young sentiments – nothing could have been more true. However; ….  Angels!!!

Wren recounted the past forty-eight or so hours. Ryeton wasn’t just hit by any old severe storm. It felt more as if… he couldn’t quite place it.. almost as if Ryeton was targeted? The roiling, and boiling of that evil looking storm had approached from the East, not the West, where every storm he could recount as a babe had originated. Not only that, but the storm was unlike anything he’d ever witnessed. From what he recalled, it was an evil looking, ugly mix of ocher mixed in with a sooty gray. It seemed to be a dense mass of near intelligent clouds hiding something, but… what?

Wren felt, no…..knew everyone in the town had perished; they were likely the only survivors. He knew this by the wrenching feeling that had hit him like a sledgehammer in the gut when they’d first awoken after passing out. He began to recollect the details of the former day. That high-pitched,deafening, angry growling and howling! That low bass rumble and those constant booming sounds. The acrid smell in the air brought on by what was obviously fires. Fires that were consuming flesh, animal, and … he couldn’t even bear to think about the rest. He looked over at Perilon, and Fenea, brother and sister,he loved them dearly. They were his very best friends in the whole world of Hope! However; he knew he was on his own. He’d always known this about himself.As an only child, he had always felt like he’d had to be a little more self-reliant. He was envious that Perilon and Fenea had each other right now.Aside from them, he had no one left. Not a friend in the whole world.

“Are you always so dispirited young Wren?”

Wren shot a glance in the direction of the angel’s voice that he recognized as Ralph’s; quite startled from his bout of reverie and self-reflection, as he didn’t realize he was being observed. Wren looked down at the ground and softly said: “I’m going to miss them” obviously referring to his parents.

There was a short pause before the glowing white figure in front of Wren replied. He nodded, and glanced at Wren, and then toward the east where the sun had been rising for a few hours.

“You know Wren, I won’t mince words, you’re very insightful,and it’s ok to miss them, for now that is; just don’t forget to grieve.” “That is actually …. Good.” “I know it may not feel so now….but it really is… shall I say… right.”

Wren couldn’t help himself - his voice shaky, but he was able to respond. “Ralph…. Pardon my saying so…but I’m guessing…and.. and.. it seems easy for you to say… for you are an Angel.”

“My! You can be a bit of an impetuous one, can’t you?!”Ralph grinned in saying so. “My friend Wren, life as an Angel comes with its own set of responsibilities, hardships, joy, and yes, even immense sorrow.” “Do you really believe Ona would have it any other way?”  “Only he is perfect! Angel’s are not, and woe to the Angel that would believe otherwise!”

“Ona?” “Ona seems to have left us to our own demise…. Or …so my parents seem to have believed.”

“That’s not quite what is going on my young friend.” “Not all is as it seems….and that is as it should be.”

Wren glanced around looking for his friends, knowing that they’d likely be rising soon. What he saw both startled and embarrassed him immensely at first. The Angel’s, both male and female, were slowly starting to awake, stretching, yawning, moving, all had been sleeping nude, and it was a strangely natural, yet stunningly beautiful sight. He imagined that this must be what a ballet troupe stretching before a performance would appear like. He’d like to see a ballet some day based off of what his ma ma had told him. Then, what struck him as being more unusual was when they had started donning the impossibly white garb of various fashions, cuts and configurations it was almost as if they were hiding themselves from the world. Wren felt in that moment that what he was witnessing was akin to animals donning clothes! The act, and likely the reasons behind it felt downright unnatural! Wren was mesmerized at the statuesque perfection of the women, and men, shrouding and covering themselves; almost as if they were dimming their own inner-glow-lights. It was sad to observe. He couldn’t pull his eyes away, and then….

Ralph coughed…

Wren looked up at Ralph – “I’m sorry… I meant no disrespect.”  As if the Angel could read his mind, he spoke these words, but his lips didn’t move. “Wren, it’s normal for a human to have feelings, to admire, have emotions, anger, care, various passions, the love that you have.” “You have a hard road ahead of you my young friend.” “It will always serve you well to try your utmost to always remember compassion for your family, your friends, and most importantly as well as for yourself. These are of the utmost and paramount importance.” “We are not allowed to intervene to share more than that; believe me when I say we would if we could.” “It is time for your kind, like yourself, to learn, to choose.”“Choose well Wren!”

Ralph looked towards the fading sunrise on the horizon a moment.

“Awake - Gather!” He said to the Angels.

Immediately… the Angel’s, some of who were still slumbering,in the blink of an eye were all now fully garbed standing in a semi-circle standing around Wren, and his companions. Fenea, and Perilon, who were startled by the sudden voice that commanded their attention got the hint, and began to quickly don their outer garments.

Ralph nodded – the Angel’s surrounding them intuitively understood.

Again, in another blink of an eye, the most incredible breakfast spread was splayed out on the verdant lawn like knoll they had encamped for over a day. In short, nothing could compare to this meal, it was as if every meal was the best they’ve ever had, yet, every subsequent meal after they shared with the Angels, just always seemed to get slightly better.

           Like all good things in life, the meal seemed to end too soon. Wren and his friends had had their fill. They felt fully nourished, not just physically, but also emotionally, and spiritually full. Wren wasn’t sure he had ever felt so nourished, or so good? He couldn’t place the right words.

           In a snap, everything breakfast related vanished.

           Ralph spoke again.

           “It is time my young friends” “We will now take you to your next of kin, your uncle in Utropia.” Ralph almost seemed sad in saying this.

           Fenea, beginning to find more courage in her voice spoke up and said. “Ralph, we’ve spent more time with you in the past day or so than we have with our uncle. Can’t we stay with you instead?”

           “I’m sorry young Fenea – but that is not permitted.” “It as difficult for us to even spend the short time we did together.” “But…someday… in the future… we can spend as much time, you would like to with any,or all of us!” Ralph grinned.

           Fenea looked crestfallen.

           One of the blonde-haired female Angel’s approached Fenea and held out her elegant hand saying “Young Fenea – you are strong indeed!”“Please don’t be sad.” “All things are not as they seem.” “Would you like it ifI were to watch over you?”

           Fenea, not quite sure, or knowing how to respond,emphatically said - “Yes!”

           The female angel had an immense grin on her face as her piercing green eyes gazed down on Fenea.

           Ralph actually looked a little surprised, and said,“Anael, are you sure about this?”

           Anael shot a glance back at Ralph that made the hair on the back of Wren’s neck stand up; somehow knowing that what had just transpired between Anael and Fenea, along with Ralph’s question had a meaning of immense significance that was currently hidden from him.

           Ralph gazed skyward and said. “We have tarried too long, time for all of us to depart.” He looked at the children, first at Perilon, then at Fenea, and lastly at Wren.  “Children… we have enjoyed our stay with you!” “Fortuitous these brief moments have been, but we are no longer permitted to currently stay in your company.” “We will now take you Perilon and Fenea, to your next of kin in the city of Utropia.”

           Wren did some quick mental math “Pardon my saying so Ralph, but isn’t that a few months walk away?”

           Ralph grinned looking at Wren and said “Why Wren, it is merely a thought away!” “However; since we are really enjoying your company, we’re going to give you and your friends the fun and scenic tour!”

           Perilon, who had been mostly quiet up until this moment also found his voice, slightly quavering in reverence saying “Ralph Sir, we appreciate your assistance, and the hospitality more than you can possibly imagine!” “Is this really where we should be going? I know it was my uncle Bendt’s wish for me to deliver this package to our uncle David. However; we really don’t know much about him.” “This… Utropia.. where he lives… sounds very different from where we’ve grown up.” “Mom.. and Dad” Perilon’s voice cracked a little in saying even this. “….. didn’t speak much of uncle David.. or even Utropia for that matter.” “and from what we’ve heard … this Utropia city sounds a bit… I don’t know… different I guess in some ways.” Perilon was struggling with how to describe it.

           The Angel Ralph looked over at Perilon and simply said:“It’s dangerous indeed my young friend!” “However; this is where we’re taking you, this is where you need to go, and…most of all, in general, you will be alright.”

           Ralph looked up at the small host of Angels arrayed out in front of him. “It is time…..”

The Angel’s nodded.

           Ralph wryly smirked and said… “You know…. While we can’t interfere... that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with this.”

           Ralph walked up to Perilon

           Anael walked up to Fenea

           Another blonde-haired angel – who introduced himself to Wren as “Hariel, or, just call me Harry” said “I would kindly like to be your guide and transport – if you’ll allow?”

           All the children heard Harry say this, and understood that these angels intended to be their guides and nodded in accordance.

           With that… the ground slightly shook, the sky seemed a bit bluer, and the angels seemed to shimmer and glow a bit more brightly. The Angel’s each picked up the children in a bridal style carry position that allowed them to feel both comfortable, and safe. Wren was awed by the effortlessness in how Harry had picked him up; but, he knew and felt that there wasn’t a more likely safe to be in all of the world Hope in this moment.

           As the troupe (aka Charm) of Angels began to ascend, the angel’s carrying the children had brilliant white wings and feathers appear on their backs.

           One of the angel’s, a male that seemed a bit larger, and more muscled in stature looked over at the three carrying the children, and in a slightly booming voice said “So Ralph, looks like we’re going in low and slow” he smiled.

           Ralph responded by saying “Yeah Sam, not only should these children get the blessing of of us transporting them, but in this way they also get to see some of the sights along the way.” “Also; it’ll give the aristocracy,the courtiers, and influential audiences in Utropia a few seconds to wipe themselves before we alight upon their throne hall!”  Ralph had a wide grin on his face in saying this. He was obviously enjoying himself.

           Harry spoke “Hopefully it will also afford these children some more attention and respect than they’d likely receive otherwise.”

           The angel’s all nodded simultaneously as one.

           Wren noticed that they had ascended to an altitude that seemed impossible for even most, if any birds to attain. (Around ~15-20,000’ AGL)They did not struggle with thin air, get cold, or even feel the slightest buffet of wind aside from a slight breeze from time to time. They were also moving incredibly fast.

           Sam, as if he’d been reading Wren’s mind spoke aloud so his companions could also hear for their benefit – knowing that the other children were likely having similar thoughts and said: “Wren, we could have flown you all to Utropia quicker than you could finish the thought”. “However; this is more relaxing and enjoyable; and, where is the fun in moving around so hastily?”  He said with a slightly wry smirk on his face. Mountain ranges, Lakes, Rivers, blurred below them:  “Behold! The lands, the forests, the streams,and rivers – we are obviously in Thersia, but as you can see below, see that serpentine tan line we’re roughly following? Wren nodded “That is one of the famed Titan roads leading us towards Utropia. Those grouped squarish shapes – are the homes of a small town. See those specks that look like salt & pepper there along that hillside”?  Wren nodded again. “Those are a mixture of cattle and sheep.”

           Little Fenea spoke up excitedly pointing with her right arm in the direction north “I think I see what might be a flock of swans down there below us!”

           “You have a sharp eye Fenea, a sharp eye indeed!” said the angel Anael as her long golden tresses slowly floated behind her head between the shimmering, and barely visible wings.

           Fenea simply glowed at the compliment and never looked calmer, or more beautiful in all the years that Wren had known her. She would turn into a rare woman indeed. It would be interesting to see if fate would either bless, or curse her with any greater powers when she fully came into womanhood. (puberty)

           Sam interrupted Wren’s train of thought at that point, it almost seemed intentional by saying “….and below us young Wren is the town, or rather city of Cattleton. These are good landmarks to commit to memory.”

           Wren noticed that the speed of the ground below was becoming less of a blur, and that ever so slowly their company of angels was not only just slowing down, but also slowly descending. Literally, the entire trip, blur that it was, only lasted less than fifteen minutes; but they’d traveled several hundred miles!

           “We are getting close” Said Ralph.

           Sam looked at Wren “Young Wren, this vast body of water we’re flying over presently is the famed Aquasalt lake, and, as you may have heard, was the site where the Thersian’s had a decisive naval battle that vaulted them into their current position of power.” “… and yes Wren… we’ve slowed down significantly.” “We don’t want to completely upset the guests of the Utropian court!” He said; but, what Wren couldn’t quite make out was why Sam felt that that comment was so amusing. He would find out soon enough.

           The companion angel to Perilon, Ralph, spoke out loud enough for all of the children to hear; to afford an economy of communication.“Below you young Perilon, we have now passed over the Aquasalt, that city you see below on the water’s edge is Lakeside. Well known for its economy and trade; serving both the main city of Utropia which you will see shortly, as well as the city on the coast to the north called Seaside. The mountains we are passing to the north are known as the Tobacco Mountains; which, if I may say so, is some of the most awful tobacco in all of Hope!”  He laughed out loud in saying this.

           Anael just shook her head in disgust while simultaneously rolling her eyes. To the charge cradled in her arms she simply said “Fenea, the male species …. Um… well.. let’s just say can be a little challenged sometimes. Feel free to ignore them as you may.”

           Ralph looked over at Anael amused. “Anael! My dear…surely you jest! Are you trying to tell me you’ve actually had a good cigar from the foothills of the Tobacco mountains!?”

           Anael shot Ralph a sharp look…

           Ralph “OK… time to change the subject my friends!” “Hmm… Perilon.. do you see that bright shiny gold-ish blob looking thing coming up on the horizon?”

           Perilon could see what Ralph was referring to since they were closing in it rather rapidly; the shape had a bright shiny goldish hue to it. “Yes Ralph… I see it!”

           “Well my friends, that is our destination, what you see before you is the famed city of the Thersian empire – nothing less than Utropia itself!”

           Sam spoke up “Let’s fly in from the north and circle counter clockwise.” All the angels nodded in accordance.

           The gold colored walls and towers of Utropia were actually more of an amalgam of gold and brass in color thought Wren. From afar– the city was breathtakingly beautiful. While they were still approaching incredibly fast, approaching from the north side of the immense city of Utropia. The gates of Utropia were incredibly large, at least several hundred feet high thought Wren. (200m or ~650’) To his left he could also see the famous Solarium which incorporated the main court and Emperor’s throne room. As the troupe of Angel’s flew several thousand feet above the walls of the cit ybelow, they circled in counter clockwise and pointed out several features ofthe city as they did so.

           “We’re now flying over what is called Crystal Lake, and that smaller port city on the northern shores is known as Bargeston – essentially a tradesman’s paradise – IF you happen to be Thersian.”

           Below them were many tiny boats, barges, and a few man-of-war ships; all sporting sails of myriad colors, and from this distance they looked like toys floating upon the crystal-clear waters.

           In nearly the blink of an eye they were already about a third of the way in along the northern most walls of Utropia – Sam told Wren“what you see below to our left along those cut outs along the northern walls is an area known as “Spa Gardens of Delight – of Utropia.”

“Nothing delightful about them in my opinion.” Said Sam.

“Beyond that… do you see those nine successively large arena looking structures?” Wren nodded yes. “Those have several names. In Utropia – they are the nine Arenas of Valor. In other parts of the world they are known as the nine hells, or nine slave quarters to freedom. It appeared that Sam gritted his teeth when he finished describing what was below.

           The flight speed of the angels slowed down significantly;as if they were flying in for some sort of sight-seeing tour. Sam continued…

           “Now.. beyond those arena’s you’ll see an area that’s quite colorful, that my young Wren is the shopping district. Ah… and you see all those crazy looking magical lights?
           Wren pointed “you mean those red, and blue flashing magical lights?”

           “Why yes! That area for a few miles or so is lit up so by the lights of the Gambling Casino’s. Quite a wretched district to find oneself in - that one….. “ Sam’s voice trailed off.

           The female Angel’s voice known as Anael’s spoke “Now we’re coming up on a view that while sad, I think you still might like to see young Fenea, to the left… down there… do you see all those pen’s and super tall cages?”Fenea nodded. “That is the reputed and famed zoo of Utropia, and the entire Thersian Empire!” Anael said this with a touch of disdain in her tone.

           “Zoo?!” “You mean for Animals?”

           “No Fenea, there’s pretty much an exhibit for every conquered race, and creature that Thersia has occupied, or won a battle against. It’s a bit more of a … well… jail of sorts.”

           Fenea and the young kids could make out incredibly large cages, fenced off areas, and pens that housed nearly every fabled creature,beast, and nightmarish thing that their parents used to scare them about when they were misbehaving. They were getting close enough now both in altitude, and distance, that they could make out some of the shapes of the larger creatures.The poor creatures that they could identify from this height appeared to be a mix of Dinosaurs, possibly a few flying green Drakes, some giant Mastodon’s,Giants, Trolls, Swans, a Hydra!, maybe even a small Kraken! Creatures with tentacles, fur, horns, scales, and a myriad of other things and beasts that the children could only imagine the names of.

           As they continued to arc around the city.. they had traveled over two-thirds of the northern wall and were banking to the left.They could view a district that was very gray and brown in color, it looked to be an unhappy place indeed to abide. This time Ralph spoke up “That my children is the district belonging to the poor of money.” “Although…. Poor is a very relative term. I view this as the richest part of the city!!!” He grinned.

           “That however; is a sad and sorry place indeed!” Ralph indicated a large obsidian black needle shaped structure that looked as if itwas dripping. “That is the black prison spire of Utropia – shrouded from the world. A good place to avoid indeed!”

           They continued in their slow decline banking in to the Western end of the city now.  Utropia was perhaps fifteen miles long, as they banked a bit more sharply to their left,and now starting to head more easterly. Ralph pointed out the Grand Cathedral which sported many spires, flying buttresses, and beautifully appointed golden tipped domes. They could now also see the south-eastern side of Utropia’s world famous Zoo, and now that they were flying lower could discern even more crazy,and bizarre creatures that were held captive along the way.

           At that moment, the children and angels heard a loud succession of distant trumpet sounds rising up to greet them from below.

           “Ah… took them long enough!” Said Ralph

           Additional large structures came into view. “That my young Wren is the Museum of stolen art” Anael shot Sam a very hard and piercing look. “… ummmm… I mean Museum of Art.” Said Sam over correcting himself.

Truly, it was a beautiful building of multi-colored stone and glass as Wren filed this away & kept his thoughts to himself.

           “In the foreground is the Industrial complex” Anael gestured to the structures below. As the children peered more directly below them,they could see various warehouses and ugly contraptions being built. Many of which appeared to be for the purpose of waging war.

           The angels flight speed, and altitude continued to slowly diminish.

           “Now to the below left we see the Museum of Culture” This structure appeared to be a type of circular castle that was partitioned into four equal pieces. “All the key kingdoms maintain offices and homes away from home here.”

           “Next we can see the famed T.E.U., otherwise known as Thersian Empire University!” <Ha!> Laughed Sam out loud as if he couldn’t contain some sort of inside joke. Anael shot him yet another stern look that corrected Sam’s attitude a bit. As the children flew over the University, they could make out many buildings, trees, and pathways connecting all the structures collectively in a very manner of fact way.

           “This next building is the Grand Library of Thersia!”This establishment has many... many tomes that may be of use to you children someday. Never underestimate the power of books, large …or small!” Beyond the library, more towards the center you’ll see Fountain Park. That pathway you see there, the one lined with massive statues of people and so-called heroes that leads roughly west to east, that path leads towards the grand palace and Solarium where we’ll be shortly. That is our final destination!” “Below us….That large area constitutes the Halls of Remembrance.”  Wren noticed, that even from this great height, that there were several largish, more likely giant-ish sized statues,figures, and white colored monuments amongst countless white dots. He surmised that these were likely white tombstones.

           The angels continued to slowly descend in their soft bank to the left as they glided eastbound now. The palace structure and solarium where coming into view closer and closer. It consisted of an incredibly large dome of glass and metal that evoked part conservatory, and obviously part throne room. The entire area was hemmed in, and elevated by a structure of incredibly large cut stones – each the size of a large house that created a sort of inner keep and compound that not only would be about a mile and half long and mile wide, but also rose to an incredible base height of 500 feet above the ground.The remaining Solarium and adjoining towers were a mixture of the same white and green stones consisting of several towers, additional inner walls that rose to heights a thousand feet above the ground, the Solarium itself was at a height of fifteen-hundred feet. There was only one other tower that rose higher, and that was the famed “Lookout” tower which rose to a height of 2000 feet, which from the vantage they were flying in now was located to the right of the Solarium that they seemed to be angling towards.

           The Angels continued to slow down to an even lower flight speed, which seemed very intentional.

           Wren spoke up. “Sam, …. I’m not sure why, but I feel both a little scared, and …..I’m not sure what the right words are…”

           “My young friend Sam, I think the word that might best fit the way you feel right now is ‘apprehensive’. “That’s ok, natural, and yes,given where we’re taking you, and your friends that is the right way to be feeling.”“Nothing is safe in this world Wren….. never forget that.”

           Wren looked up into the Angels luminescent green colored eyes. Sam exuded confidence, strength, and safety. He quickly averted his gaze, feeling slightly embarrassed, and said. “Sam, you and the rest of the Angel’s feel pretty safe to me right about now.”

           Sam smiled a very wide grin, dimples showing. “Yes my young friend, that is very good.” “However; unlike Ona, Angels are not perfect.” “It is wise to heed these words.” Sam looked down at Wren who was looking towards the city and palace that they were descending upon. Wren sensed Sam’s gaze, and that combined with his inner sense of foreboding decided to say… “I’ll try to keep them safe Sam…. I really will.”  In hearing this… Sam bit both lips together,as if he wanted to say something but wasn’t permitted.

           The Angel’s continued to fly in a sort of soft arc as they descended; oddly, as if the angels were shielding the view as they were coming in. They were now just a few hundred feet from alighting onto some sort of beautiful grand terrace. The grounds were highlighted by incredible craftsmanship that combined the elements of Glass, Gold, Brass, White stonework, and a combination of green trees and vines. While Wren, and his friends didn’t have great frames of reference, they also were not complete country bumpkins in the sense that they didn’t understand that this was likely one of the most beautiful structures on all of Hope. While they didn’t see it, they felt it; this place exuded power and importance.

           Before they knew it, Wren could tell that they’d all landed. The children being let down gently to a white stone floor. The Angels were mostly crowded in front of them, with only a few behind, effectively blocking their view; almost as if the Angels felt that they needed to protect the children – but, from what?

           Wren couldn’t see it, but he and his friends heard the following.

           “Welcome!..... Welcome!.. Welcome long lost friends!” The voice sounded warm, yet perhaps a little bit … unconvincing? Wren and his friends fidgeted; they couldn’t see a thing. However; even though it was late morning, and they were in a grand throne room – what should have been darker was actually very illuminated. Not only did the Angels threw off a natural and warm glow of light from their bodies that made the shadows look… less dark, but the crystalline roof also let in vast amounts of natural light. The other-worldly soft glow from the Angels actually made the natural light seem a dimmer by comparison.

Wren looked over at Perilon and Fenea and whispered lowly,“I wish we could stay with the Angels! I feel much safer with them!”

           Perilon nodded in agreement, and said in a barely audible whisper “I know Wren, but… this is where they said we need to be.” and he lifted up the ill-timed package that was thrust into his arms, the one that contained that seemingly miraculous cloak that likely saved all of their lives and said “.. and… I promised I would deliver this.” Wren understood Perilon’s propensity to follow a wish, and especially a dying one at that.  

           The grand sounding voice that they’d just heard spoke again.

           “And what a great welcome this is my friends!” “Perhaps we should presume you knew that we were conducting a secret council?”

           Ralph spoke, and in a much more authoritative, yet still polite voice. “Yes, your eminency. We are quite aware, and... we will not, as you know, intervene in any way.”

           Wren was starting to get a little frustrated as he tried to sneak some glances around those impossibly clean white clothes and robes that blocked his vision; at least until a hand settled on his shoulder which calmed him while the Charm of Angels continued to surround the children arrayed at least four deep in front, three to the sides, and at least a couple deep tothe rear. Wren definitely came to the conclusion that the way in which the Angels were arrayed unequivocally meant that they were protecting the children from some sort of unseen danger. He took a mental note to pay close attention to whatever this threat, or threats might be.

           “To what marvelous honor do we owe your acquaintance - have you a name Angel?” Spoke the grand sounding voice again.

           Ralph spoke again. “Why yes your eminence. I am simply known as…  “Ralph”.

“We thank you for receiving us so unexpectedly, and beg pardon for our brief interruption in your proceedings. We will shortly be on our way, and are merely dropping off a few gifts and charges to thee that we humbly ask that you watch over.”

           “Why yes.. Yes! We love gifts! Your company, and spontaneous visit is uncannily fortuitous.” “We will be more than happy to look after, orcare for anything that you have brought, and deigned to bless us with.”

           Ralph nodded and said “These may come as unexpected surprises.” There was a brief pause…. “Step forward young Perilon, Fenea, andWren.”

The Charm of Angels fluidly parted, much like a curtain being drawn as they stepped to the sides allowing Wren, Perilon, & Fenea to see perhaps one of the largest spectacles on all of Hope in front of them. They were no less than standing in the grand throne room of the most powerful Empire in recent memory. The fantastical throne room of the Thersian Empire was integrated into the Solarium of the city of Utropia. From their vantage of being on the inside - it was fully a half mile in diameter. They were inside of an immense dome constructed of crystalline-glass that was supported by immense beams of intricate bronze, brass, and gold filigree that seemingly disappeared skyward in a sort of heart shaped cone. The sunlight radiated down upon a dais that was approximately a quarter mile in diameter (about ½ of the entire dome area) that had 3 tiers resembling a flattened cake-like shape, that eventually led up to the throne. The throne itself was situated directly under the center of the crystal dome; it was made of some sort of black obsidian that rose needle like as it spired towards the inner roof to heights that Wren could barely make out. Being on the inside of this dome had the intentional effect of making one feel extremely small and insignificant. There were so many details, carvings, statuary, birds and other things flying overhead, or hovering around them, that Wren could barely process the stimulus he was taking in. What stood out immediately and commanded attention though,was the colorful medley of people standing immediately in front of them. Wren mused, that based off of the kaleidoscope of beauty and clash of colors, that these power figures appeared to be some sort of an insane combination of eye-candy come to life directly from a candy store.

           Ralph made a broad sweeping gesture with his arms indicating the children.

“I present to you … Perilon.” Perilon stepped forward, not quite sure what to do, but stepped forward confidently.

           “Next I present to you his sister Fenea” Fenea stepped forward, a bit awkwardly & curtsied. Wren could tell by the way Fenea was acting, that of the children, she appeared extremely self-conscious and knowing her sensibilities was likely feeling under dressed for the occasion.  

           “Lastly... and not least… I present to you Perilon, &Fenea’s best friend... Wren.” Wren stepped forward a bit timidly; after noticing Fenea’s response, he also started to feel as if he was dressed in nothing short of discarded shop-rags.

           Wren could scarcely absorb what he was seeing. While he’d heard stories, and what he thought were likely fables of the court struck him;and he could tell by the expression on his friends faces as well that what stood before them was not only an array of the most beautiful people, and a few creatures, in front of them; but one could also feel to the bone what could only be described as raw power, these beings were forces of nature and beyond to be reckoned with. Wren felt that he and his friends would likely never witness the likes of which ever again. (He would be wrong on this account)

           The expressions and feelings that came out of the crowd of some sixty or more folk in front of them was varied as Wren sensed or saw a few quickly hushed gasps, or smirks that quickly faded.

           “Ah, my mistake!” Spoke Ralph with a slightly bemused look on his face.

           Instantly; the rags that adorned the children, the smudges, and grime evaporated, and Wren felt transformed from head to toe. When he looked down, he was dressed nearly as finely as the Angels were from what he could tell. He not only felt like a small prince, but was adorned as one as well. Wren’s face lit up with a smile, and he quickly looked over at Perilon and Fenea who were similarly garbed. He barely recognized them; and, was struck by not only how beautiful Fenea looked, but how proud he felt to have such a handsome friend as Perilon at his side.

           And that’s when the murmurs and whispers broke out amongst the audience in front of them.

           “What fine gifts indeed!” Spoke the loud commanding voice of the male standing closest to them – front and center. “Allow me to introduce myself, and a few of the notable guests before you.”

           “I am your High Emperor - Lyrid Calloon. This lovely and most beautiful lady to my left is none other than the High Empress herself –Shariann Calloon.

           Both the Emperor & High Empress were adorned in the most intricate & beautiful gold colored raiment; constructed seemingly by the best tailors, seamstresses, and artisans in the world. (Imagine an amalgam of Renaissance meets YSL, Dolce & Gabbana, & Chloe). Gaudy crowns encrusted with priceless gems and metals sat atop their heads. One gem alone was likely worth more than the entire town of Ryeton thought Wren. Wren’s immediate impression of the Emperor was “This is the High Emperor that I grew up idolizing?” The reality ended up being far more of a letdown than he’d expected. While he was a strikingly good-looking man (Cross between Clooney & Bill Clinton) This royal came off as being quite the blowhard; both pompous,and overly full of himself. While the Empress remained quiet, she exuded an air of cunning; which seemed at odds with her healthy young good looks and reddish gold hair. The Emperor wasted no time and continued to flourish.

           “On my right hand is our illustrious Earl - David Bendt”

           Wren shot a quick glance at Perilon and Fena. Uncle Bendt! They would not have recognized him immediately. There were only the faintest of family resemblances. David was decked out in similar rich golden threads that were not quite as impressive as the Emperor and Empresses; but he still struck an imposing, yet handsome air. Clearly, the golden finery indicated that you belonged to the Thersian Empire. The Emperor continued to drone on…

           “Going clockwise…now starting on my left..” “We have both royalty and representatives from the vast majority of Kingdoms, and..<slight pause> nations (Wren believed there was some small pang of jealousy; perhaps he felt these other independent nations should also belong tohis empire?) from the farthest reaches of Hope.”  Lyrid nodded towards his left.  

           “Representing the Isles of Seargar… “ Before Lyrid continued – Wren was awestruck by the sight and clothing of the golden haired beauty – who was dressed quite provocatively in a fashion that was unfamiliar to Wren and his friends; as one could quite literally see through most of her mint colored silk organza. (Liken the garb to Versace and Ellie Saab) “this is the Commandant Elodie Imaien – Steward of Seargar, and Overseer of the Isles of Ciscofar and Sargesal” Elodie made a graceful curtsy towards the children and Angels. She locked eyes on Ralph; but Ralph didn’t seem to take notice.

           “Next we have some impressive figures from the Luvaari Republics” (Which was currently in a strained armistice with the empire).“Starting with High King Oomfrey Stetter of the Luvaari Republics”. King Oomfrey was an incredibly handsome man in his mid 50’s. (Think Humphrey Bogart)who was dressed in an all-white classy outfit reminiscent of something between formal ball wear; but equally fitting for hunting in; and wearing the most beautiful tall brown boots, and belt. There was a simple silver crown atop his head with a large blue gem set in the center. Oomfrey made a slight nod towards the children & angels.

           “Seya Lophyra – Northern Empress of the Elven realms.”Who seemed to stand an inch too close to the High King Oomfrey thought Wren;but what did he know? Seya was a tall, imposing, and strikingly beautiful. Her Silvery white tresses done up in a Northern fashion that pulled her hair back from her angular features in one single, massive and thick braid that fell to nearly to her backside. She was dressed in a beautiful black dress that was high necked. (Mourning for her fallen husband; and in a fashion that would make Alexender McQueen proud). She also curtsied in a fashion similar to Elodie.

           Lyrid indicated towards a swarthy man of short stature next.

           “This is High King Granhammer – Lord of the NorthernDwarves”.  An incredibly gruff looking short man – not likely even 5’ greeted Wren’s eyes. He had Dark Brown Hair shot through with streaks of silver in his thick hair and beard. His Beard was immaculately brushed and thick reaching to his waist. His clothing was no less impeccable; but was also more reserved (Reminiscent of Ralph Lauren and/or Chanel); a sort of hunting outfit done up in thick greys and browns with golden threads as highlights.

           “Representing all of the shape shifters in Hope – we have none other than her eminence the High Queen – Ratalia”.  Another breathtaking beauty to Wren’s eyes.This woman was dressed in shades of yellow; with hints of black highlights (Evocative of Givenchy). Her hair was thick, glossy, and the color of light honey. She exuded what Wren could only describe as sex. The air itself almost seemed to hum in delight when she moved. Her gauzy robes, periodically concealing her body, seemed to flow around her; and that’s when Wren noticed that it wasn’t that she was 8’ tall – but rather of human & elven proportions yet hovering off the ground a few feet. She too exuded power not to be trifled with. Her luminescent lavender eyes locked on Wren, then Perilon, and then Fenea. She too did a type of curtsy – while suspended in the air.

           “Moving on from the representatives of Seargar, and Luvaari, we have an incredibly rare audience hearkening from Illoria.” Lyrid’s left-hand indicated the next two figures, who were garbed in a slightly strange attire of Black Lace, Leather, and finely spun wool's.

           “First we have Sinede – High Priestess to Pope Gorgal”

           Sinede sported a thick mound of very dark red hair –which in some lighting almost appeared nearly black. Also, incredibly beautiful, but appeared quite deadly with those piercing red eyes which seemed to nearly glow. Wren thought if she had been born as insect – she’d be a black widow.

           “Second we have Zhon – High Captain to Mortisme.” Zhon –was decked out in an elaborate strange suit, but cool looking, slightly tapering tall hat. He had striking features for an Illorian male, angular,tall, dark, and handsome. He was cleanly shaved, but his hair was an intermingling,or mottling, of black and white thick strands, finely combed. His eyes, were no less piercing, but of a sapphire blue in color.

           As if on cue, they bowed towards the children and angels in perfect unison. Both of their clothing – while provocative, and evocatively attired, seemed to perfectly compliment their personalities. (Imagine Victorian era mashups of Galliano, Dior, Mugler, and Westwood). Sinede’s clothing was quite revealing on top; being in vogue at the time for the occasion and the climate, while Zhon’s accentuated the power of his physique. Wren got the sense that while it would have been unnecessary; both parties of this power couple,if that’s what they were, appeared capable of taking down half this court if ever threatened.

           Lyrid continued to drone….

           “Alas, we were only able to get one token Dwarf rep from the north” “The veritable …. Charles Hammer –Thane of the Blondes in the Northern Great Wastes.”

           Wren had only heard rumors and tales of the fabled Berserkers of the North; and he wasn’t disappointed in what he saw. The Thane –Charles – seemed to be an enormous man – surely there must have been a hint of Giant’s blood in his veins? Charles surely towered to at least 7’ in Height or more; and must have weighed around 340 lbs. One could tell that there was pure muscle under the heavy clothing he wore; which seemed fashioned out of some super soft light grayed unidentifiable furry beast. He wore a large belt, with an enormous buckler sized belt buckle, and immense knee high dark brown leather boots (We would like this to Stella McCartney & Balenciaga collaborations with Viking fashions). His blonde visage appeared glacial for lack of a better description,eyes the color of a light blue glacial milk. These features were further accentuated by extremely thick blonde hair; tied back neatly into a pony tail;while his face was framed by a medium length blonde beard & thick mustache cut squarely. Once the Thane had been introduced – he let out a soft grunt and stomped his right foot on the ground. Which oddly didn’t make a noise, but could be felt through the rock floor to where the children & the Angels stood.

           The introductions continued. “Last, but not in the very least, are key representatives in the neighboring Fiefdoms of Thersia.” The Emperor’s hands now indicated towards those standing to his right.

           “Let’s begin with my esteemed Grand Duke, overseer of Ausland – Har-Sharsa.”

           This, Har-Sharsa, appeared to be a slightly overweight man, with an over eager smile. Piercing green eyes, more salt than pepper for his hair, but still strong in stature and health. He wore a fashionable suit constructed of wool and silk done in a pink champagne type of color; and a hat that Wren and his friends had never seen the likes of. (His clothing would have smacked of something between Maison Margiela and Marc Jacobs). Wren and his companions, while even from the country, and remote regions of the Thersian Empire, had heard the rumors of this Har-Sharsa. He was apparently the product of Human, and Valk parents. Risen beyond belief in the ranks and favor of the Emperor Lyrid; much like Perilon, & Fenea’s uncle Bendt. The Grand Duke concluded his introduction by tipping his hat towards the children, with a wide grin on his face, and perhaps too much eye-time being spent on Fenea. This made Wren squirm a little.

           “Next – allow me to introduce our own Dwarven contingent– the esteemed King Flinberd – Margrave of Central Thersia, and Watcher of the Wailing Mountains.” Before Wren even had time to soak in the Dwarves appearance, he had already dropped a heavily shod Iron cane to the floor – that rang throughout the immense hall; and had begun a slow bow towards the children and Angels. What Wren took notice of first was that this Dwarf, unlike King Granhammer’s hair, was actually a mix of blonde and red. This had a more dramatic effect given that the weave in his beard, and hair created a sort ofquilt like pattern. His features, like Granhammer’s were stern, gruff looking.They both looked like they’d been birthed by the stones themselves. His eyes nearly glowed a dark sapphire blue in color, or perhaps they actually did in the dark, it was hard to tell at this time of day. His clothing, while appearing quite utilitarian, was also elegant. (Carhart meets Fendi, and or Lagerfeld). King Granhammer completed his bow; and it seemed that the act itself was difficult, perhaps from an injury of some sort. Wren couldn’t tell.

           Emperor Lyrid continued to bellow. “As we near a close inour introductions, we have another esteemed, rare, and unusual guest from the far southern reaches of the Thersian Empire. None other than Vaisi – Empress of Serpentia!” Even Lyrid seemed impressed to have this particular guest amongst this vanity crowd. Wren had only heard passing stories of this Empress’ famed beauty; but again, in person, Vaisi far exceeded anything he would have expected. He felt like he would have to re-calibrate what he had been exposed to and the comeliness of the opposite sex. Wren drank in the dark beauty of Vaisi. She, very much like Elodie representing the Seargar Isles, exuded a sexiness without having to try. She had dark features, deep eye shadow accentuated blue gray eyes framed by dark lashes, and tastefully painted dark red lips. Her garment, or lack thereof, consisted of a gauzy organza of pastel light blue. Her body was tall, lithe, while also being simultaneously voluptuous; her full breasts could be seen straining against the fabric of her outfit. If that wasn’t enough to take Wren’s breath away, being a newcomer to his teens and still quite immature, he had trouble keeping his mouth from falling from his jaws. Even more so when he saw the incredible Blue, and Gold scaled serpent that draped itself around Vaisi’s body – slowly moving – as if it were perhaps protecting her barely clothed body. Vaisi’s mien appeared unconcerned with her lack of modesty. She graciously bowed before the Angel’s first, and then the Children second. Wren could tell she wanted to speak, and say something, but seemed to bite her tongue; most likely so Lyrid could finally conclude the introductions.

           “Last but not least” Droned Lyrid “We have the Magnificent, and Just - Deveyh Dawnsea – Empress of the Elves in Thersia, Queen of the Southern Elves!”

           While growing up, Wren had heard crazy stories of the civil wars waged between the northern and southern Elven factions in his history class. However; actually, seeing and meeting the High Queen of the Southern Elves; and Lesser Empress of the West was another matter. By this time in the round of introductions Wren had become overwhelmed. His senses saturated with the raw power & beauty that surrounded him. Deveyh Dawnsea, not only exuded a sense of power; but it seemed in stark contrast with her strikingly beautiful features – were the rumors true? She was more than a match amongst her peer group of fellow female & male power houses. She sported a rather large high bun of golden hair that glistened in the ambient light cast by the glass dome. Piercing eyes of the most beautiful corn-flower blue. Her clothing was intricate, light dove gray, with hints of white lacing and accents. The outfit was very sensuousness. (Think Late Renaissance meets Lanvin). The only acknowledgement she deigned to favor was a slight nod; mostly in the direction of the Angels with a slight bored glance towards the children.

           Never in Wren’s wildest imagination did he figure either his friends, or he, would ever -  One:meet an Angel, or Two: actually, meet even one persona from the high court of Thersia. Yet, arrayed in front of him and his friends was no less than the vast majority of the most powerful, and prominent figures in all of Hope.

           This concluded the introductions of those immediately present. However; this did not cover the colorful audience of figures that stood behind those that had just been introduced.

           There was but a moments worth of awkward silence……..

           Ralph spoke: “And yet….. we seem to be missing someone.”

“Oh?” spoke the emperor Llyrid – raising an eyebrow.

           Wren detected a hint of sarcasm in Emperor Llyrids response. Which in his mind seemed borderline dangerous given the raw power he sensed in the troop of Angels at hand.

           “Yes… he will be arriving…. Ralph cocked his head to the side slightly… and finished with:…”pretty much now.”

In a split second there was an odd and low sounding thunderous … BOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!

           All eyes were drawn to the open glass & intricate metal gates that were opened facing eastward. The same gate the Angel’s and kids had soared towards and alighted upon. Something……. Was hurtling, and smoking towards them, approaching rapidly, and getting larger.

           It happened so fast… that no one was barely able to reactor comprehend.

           The Angel’s merely turned towards the object…. As if it were expected.

The burning object,choked with smoke, barely cleared the stone parapet of the landing area; it appeared to be mostly spherical in shape observed Wren. It bounced a few times spraying sparks, and leaving a trail of smoke and scorch marks across the stone flooring towards the esteemed company of regality – that the object seemed to seek.

           The Angel’s seemed unconcerned, and perhaps it was their unconcerned countenance that may have artificially calmed all those who were present.

           The smoking sphere, as it got closer, became more apparent as it came into focus. The object was large. (Perhaps the size of an African Elephant). Its construction appeared to be a mix of unknown dull metal,stone, precious gems, and possibly even some wood. This object skidded recklessly in like this for perhaps nearly a quarter mile before it slid to a halt right before the troop of Angels. Almost as if it were late for an important date.

           Ralph glanced towards Llyrid who seemed speechless for the first time ever; and took the initiative to speak: “Let me introduce our final guest…. The esteemed King Vanilt – of Vasqueovia.”

           The alien object of metal, stone, gems, and such seemed to pulse and breathe heavily a few times, like lungs dying from smoke inhalation, and then….. all of sudden it fell to pieces…. Inside of it was a man adorned in metal plate mail, dressed for war; but the mail he was wearing seemed to be incredibly beaten up, tarnished, blood spattered & battered,and .. well… truth be told… spent.

A bell tolled three times in the far distance.

           Vanilt,a haunted looking man in perhaps his late 40’s sporting dark hair retreating from white, stood up and spoke: “The great enemy…. Is upon us once more. All is lost”

Trademark information:

Dec 04th, 2019

First (Web) Edition

Jhost (tm)Series, and The world called Hope is Copyright © 2017 and TM 2017 by Matt Ployhar. All content posted to page copyright©2017-present, and intellectual property of Ployhar.All Rights Reserved. No use or reproduction of characters or artwork permitted.This story & book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used inany manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Do not use, edit,re-upload, or redistribute any content in any way. Visitors may view content belonging to the author and nothing more. Any use in any way is strictly forbidden. All of these works are not public domain, never have been,and never will be. Do not use, re-upload, edit, etc. any text, image, or character. Artwork of Jhost uploaded to artist's portfolios share these rights and reservations. Any similarity between persons alive or dead is purely coincidental.

Online published in the United States of America

First Printing, 2019

Jhost™ is a primary character from my original fantasy fiction novel. Jhost is navigating his way in a world called Hope - he does not recollect. The story of Jhost has been around since 2003 and is only now being unveiled summer of 2017 to present; in an episodic release. 

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