Puke met Emilie in her Theatrium, a terrace framed with pillars strung with vines situated on a high expanse looking out over the Enchanted Forest mountains.
She was playing her ukelele and singing. Her brown eyes scanned the distance.
I stand in a field with both hands raised
I need to feel some love and catch some grace
“Forget Me Not, by Jetty Rae, may her voice live on,” said Puke.
Emilie stopped playing, turned and saw him. She smiled.
“Penguin Puke,” she said. “Are you ready?”
“I am, my princess.”
Puke did as he was told.
“I’ll need your real name,” Emilie said.
“Damian Prince,” Puke said without hesitation.
“Reverend Damian Prince, as I recall,” said Emilie.
“Yes, my princess.”
“Tell me about your previous life.”
“I was a preacher,” said Puke. “I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan and lived most of my life in Atlanta, Georgia. I was married with three children. When the Veil came, my wife had been dead for three years. My three children were off around the world. I don’t know what happened to them. I’ve accepted I never will. But this is what God wants. This is my life now, my eternity. I am here to be your servant and to bring about your dream of kingdom come.”
“And today, we begin that journey together,” said Emilie.
She conjured a sword. Puke’s Trial by Combat sword.
“Suitor known as Penguin Puke, you showed much bravery and much edginess in the face of mediocrity and conformity,” she said. “You have shown willingness to stand up for what is right even if it is to your detriment. Your people call you unreasonable, but I believe you may have it in you to save us all.”
She touched the flat of the blade to Puke’s left shoulder, then his right. Back and forth, with each word.
“First and last,” she said. “Light and dark. On and off. Open and closed. Asleep and awake. Zero and one.”
She took a step away, drew back, aimed, and shoved the sword into Puke’s chest. He was aware of an icy pressure driven through him. But he didn’t respawn. Nor did he keel over. He stayed on his knees.
He looked into Emilie’s eyes. She looked into his.
They held the position for a moment, Puke’s sword run through him, strangely cold, Emilie’s fist at the pommel. Seconds passed. Emilie withdrew the sword. There was no blood, the blade clean. Even Puke’s suit was intact. There was no wound, no pain. No sensation at all, other than a sudden jolt and that strange cold.
“Arise, Sir Pax the Unreasonable,” Eva said. “We are now bound together forever, in light and darkness.”
A small platinum X appeared on Puke’s suit lapel. The ritual was complete.
Sir Pax knew he should feel ecstatic at this, the absolute pinnacle of achievement. First Exclusive of the most famous Anodyne in the Palace, the first Diamond Anodyne.
“And as a token of our Allegiance,” said Emilie. She held out her hand, and a beautiful crystal spun in her palm. It was large, the width of a baseball.
Sir Pax accepted the crystal, gently closed his hand around it, fisted it away.
Emilie handed Sir Pax his sword back, pommel first. He stood up and sheathed it.
“My princess,” said Sir Pax.
“My Allegiant,” said Emilie.
“Now we sing.”
“What do we sing?”
“Whatever you want, my Allegiant.”
Sir Pax knew exactly what he wanted. A song about two young lovers in heavyspace.
I won’t bore you with the details, but the chorus of the song went,
She used to meet me on the Eastside
In the city where the sun don’t set
And every day you know that we ride
Through the backstreets in a blue Corvette
Baby, you know I just wanna leave tonight
We can go anywhere we want
Drive down to the coast, jump in the seat
Just take my hand and come with me, yeah
Sir Pax and Emilie Dawn danced on the terrace together and sang. The mountains glowed in sunset and the vines twisted around the pillars and their voices echoed into the distance.