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Barakiel (ba-ra-kee-el) is Covalent, a race of ancient beings from another dimension who keep the elemental forces of Creation and Destruction in Balance. Without these aliens, the elemental forces would crush everything into oblivion. The Covalent sit at the still center of everything that exists.
While The Passion Season is a love story set partly in an alien world and partly in contemporary Philadelphia, Barakiel has been around a long time. The rulers of his world exiled him to Earth centuries ago, after his father rebelled against the Covalent Council. He has lived in many places and times. What follows is a story from his past. This is a stand-alone story, not an excerpt, though you can find excerpts elsewhere on my website. Enjoy!
Darkness spread between the velvet green hills of Nagasaki as the sun disappeared into the sea. Barakiel walked towards Dejima Island. He was late for a meeting with some merchants, but he didn’t care. He would savor his walk. This was his favorite time of day, when the lanterns grew brighter against the fading light.
The merchants didn’t like him anyway. He was pretending to be a Dutch trader like them, but since the Shōgunate had barred most foreigners from entering Japan, the community had become insular. Because no one had known him in Holland, they suspected he was not who he claimed to be.
Lucky for me they like my money just fine.
Barakiel paid his coins to be ferried across the channel. The small boat rode low in the water and the ferryman grimaced at him, as he did every single time they made the brief trip.
“Don’t worry, Junichi. My size has not sunk us yet.”
Junichi waved happily when Barakiel jumped out of the craft onto the strip of tumble-down brothels at the edge of Dejima, the foreigners’ enclave. The hawkers mostly gaped at him from their crooked door frames. A few were brave enough to shout, “Come in, honorable sir. We have new girls. Virgins!” Barakiel glared at them and they disappeared into the shadows of their foul establishments.
“No, Otōsan. Please. Please don’t sell me, Otōsan!” The girl was twelve or thirteen. She was putting up an admirable fight, her long black hair whipping as she tried to wrench herself from her father’s grip. “I can clean,” she screeched. “I will work hard. Harder than my brothers. No!”
They were dressed in the short robes of the hinin, Japanese who worked cleaning filth from the streets. They were untouchables. Outcasts.
“I’m sorry, Hanako,” her father said. “You fetched a good price. I’ve already been paid and spent the money.” He continued to drag her toward a string of leering men at the entrance to the most popular brothel on the strip.
Barakiel considered offering the men a huge sum of money for the girl, but they would think he had purchased her for a vile purpose. He couldn’t bear it.
Besides, to smash them will be much more fun.
In a bound, he caught up to the girl and her father. “Let her go,” he said, his deep voice booming over the channel and down narrows alleys between dark wooden shacks.
The father snapped his head up at the sound, took one look at Barakiel and ran away. The girl lay on the ground, evidently stunned. The gang of men by the brothel approached, shouting.
“You there, foreign devil. Stay away from our property! Get out of here.”
“This girl is no one’s property.”
“You don’t know who you’re tangling with, devil.” One of the men ran into the brothel. He emerged a moment later with two flush-faced samurai. Barakiel snorted.
They think a couple of drunk ronin will handle me?
The girl took her feet and was sensible enough to get behind him. He grinned at her then turned to meet the ronin, who rushed him with their katana drawn. With a burst of speed, he evaded their thrusting blades to swing to the side. He punched one in the side of the head, knocking him unconscious, into his drunk companion. They both fell to the ground. Barakiel picked up their swords, brandishing one in each hand. The still-conscious ronin scrambled out from under his friend and stumbled off.
By this time, the gang of men from the brothel had armed themselves with sticks, shovels and bricks. They kept their distance and threw their bricks at Barakiel, who swatted them away. He dropped the swords, not wanting to tempt his bloodlust. He walked toward them.
I will do this slowly. It will be more fun if they can see me coming.
When one man swung a shovel at him, Barakiel grabbed the shaft and yanked it free. He discarded the shovel then twirled, disarming them all with pinpointed blows to their hands. They looked at each other, bewildered. Barakiel spun the other way, striking with his hands and feet until every one of the men had fallen to a heap on the ground, groaning and cursing.
He turned to find the girl staring at him, holding the two katana.
“Are you planning to run me through?” he asked.
“No, sir,” she said. “But these are valuable.”
Barakiel chuckled. “Yes, they are. Now, girl, I suspect you cannot go home,” he continued. “Where would you like to go?”
“I don’t have anywhere to go.”
A few of the men managed to rise. Barakiel glanced at them. They hustled into the brothel. “Follow me,” he said to the girl. They went to the dock and climbed into a small craft. Barakiel snapped the line and shoved off. The boat went skittering across the channel until it banged into the mainland dock. Barakiel steadied the craft with his hand while the girl jumped ashore. He followed her, then swept her and her swords into his arms and barreled out of the city so fast she screamed.
When they had reached a quiet road leading south through the hills, he set her down. She was crying. She fell down and looked up at him, her lower lip quivering. “What was that?” she asked. “How did you do that?”
“Nevermind,” he said. “How would you like to live at a Buddhist monastery? The monks value compassion. I’m sure they will take you in. You can earn your keep. You can cook and clean for them.”
“Monks?” she said. “I like them. They are so peaceful.”
“Good. That settles it. We will reach the monastery in a few days. Unless you want me to go fast.”
“No, please. I was scared.”
He glanced at her fondly. They walked along in the faint starlight, listening to the chirps of small animals in the trees.
“Sir,” the girl said after some time. “May I ask you a question?”
“How could I refuse when you asked me so politely?”
“Are you kami?”
Barakiel laughed so uproariously that the girl jumped back and fell into the brush at the side of the road. Kami were the spirits and forces of nature worshipped in Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan.
“No, I am not kami,” he said, helping her up. He tilted his head, squinting down at her. He had to leave Japan, as much as he loved its people and its aesthetic. Now that the Shōgunate had restricted foreigners to a small island in Nagasaki, he was far too conspicuous.
Why not tell a human the truth for once?
A thrill surged through him as he spoke. “You see the stars?” He gestured toward the sky. She nodded, her dark eyes big and round. “I come from a land behind the stars. My world is not far, but you cannot see it, like when the hills are hidden in mist.”
The girl opened her mouth, gazed up at the sky, closed her mouth, then looked back at Barakiel.
“You are kami,” she announced. “You are golden like the sun. Amaterasu-ōmikami must have made you.”
For all I know their goddess of the sun is a Covalent who came here once, more than happy to be thought a god.
“Very well, Hanako.”
She beamed and took his hand and they walked on through the soft night.