.            ★.        . blessfrey.me ..          ☆        .

Hello Traveler

The first punch knocked Van off his feet and hollering. He rolled to dodge the second and had his pistol prepped before he was on his feet. Chandra saw the glint of metal and froze. Even in self-defense, even with all of Van's boasting, that gun terrified her.

A second group of men surrounded Chandra within an instant. They were armed with knives. She dropped to the ground and prayed outloud for protection and forgiveness, so loudly and so intensely she missed the next few critical seconds.

Gunshots fired, and a tall, thin figure appeared from nowhere to behead the man who was closing in on Chandra. She looked up and Van was scanning the surroundings and overhanging trees. To her side, deeply lacerated thugs lay at the feet of a manila figure.

"You saved me."

She realized she was thanking the air.



"No, that man. He saved me. Cut down these people who attacked me."

"Are you okay?"

"Yes! I'm fine. He got rid of all of them before disappearing into the night like that."

"Thank God for angels. Please stay close and quiet."

Chandra took a section of Van's tunic in her hand and followed him closely, preoccupied all the while by the mysterious hero. She liked Van's description of him - an angel. Dark, beautiful, mysterious, invisible, good. Her guardian.

The sun never rises here, and there are few places safe to land, making this former prison planet a dangerous part of the pilgrimmage. Although prisoners are no longer sent here, the children and grandchildren of the most dangerous criminals in history linger here, preying on pilgrims and lost voyagers. With the rampant crime and decline of the Church, no one is willing to reform the planet and install basic infrastructure. Therefore, reaching the shrine is a half-a-day's journey from the landing site of ambushes and danger.

After staying low and listening for strangers, Van pushed onward, gun ready to shoot. He had made this pilgrimmage twice before, and he knows the way well enough, even in the anonymizing darkness. Just another quarter mile and they will arrive.

"Hello, traveller -"

The tall, manilla man stood in the field, motionless. Van and Chandra approached, intrigued by his presence in this secret place. The nearer they drew, the more clearly Chandra could see his long, handsome features. She immediately recognized her rescuer in his cool demeanor. As he turned toward them, relinquishing interest in his notebook, Chandra saw the spiny protrusions, smooth, brown, and venomous. She realized a second thing about him:

"--he's not human."

Van gave her an extinguishing side eye before studying the figure. His garb is worn leather, clearly the scars of battle. His face is solemn and honest, and he stands barefoot in accordance with the holiness of the site. He relaxed a degree, less convinced he had encountered a looter or bandit. He might even be able to help them.

The figure glanced over Van, aware of the pistol at his hip, and studied Chandra closely.


"Y-yes?" Chandra straightened up. The first time she heard his voice and the first time she spoke to him.

They held eye contact briefly, but Chandra could learn nothing from his unwavering almond-shaped eyes. The rush-colored cheeks, thin brown lips, interesting thorns and barbs, the sandy hair...she felt uncomfortable meeting the eye of such an exotic individual. His clothes were made of foreign leathers and suedes, dyed in natural shades. She stammered.

"We are on a Pilgrimmage. Are you here to honor Saint Rigel, Brother?"

"Yes," he returned his notebook to his pocket. "But I must be on my way. Be safe on your journey, Prophetess."

"Yes-s," Chandra parroted. "You, too."

He held contact with her before sharply breaking it and disappearing into the wilderness.

Van looked at Chandra quizzically.

"Interesting fellow. Not many take the pilgrimmage who aren't directly employed by the Church. There are still clingers-onto the faith, but they are few and easily intimidated by the danger and cost of the route. And he apparently takes it alone."

Chandra half-listened, a little bothered by the memory of his dark, clear eyes and smooth voice.

"What are you getting at, Van?"

"Nothing, girl," he yawned and motioned forward. "It's been a long day. Let's go ahead and pray."