The next morning, George and Darlene were eating breakfast downstairs, wondering where their travelling companion was. Terry was running late, not surprisingly after the events of the previous evening. When Terry did come down, she was in a very silent mood. Attempts to get a conversation going were like starting an outboard motor without the choke. Finally, Terry took the initiative.
“I was wondering when you were going to tell me.”
“Tell you what?” George answered, puzzled.
“You know,” Terry replied cryptically.
“No, we don’t,” said Darlene.
Terry looked straight at Darlene and said, “What I was wondering about is when you were going to tell me that you are Ronald and Edward Amherst’s sister.” A look of horror came over the royals’ faces.
“We didn’t think you were ready for it,” George said.
“I wasn’t ready for the things he did to my family and country either,” Terry replied. A look of sheer anger entered her eyes. As with her brother, she wanted to say more, but the same restraint came over her now as then. Darlene wanted to say something too, but George quickly put his hand over his wife’s mouth. Terry stood up and said, “I have business to do today; have a good one.” And with that she turned, marched crisply to the door and walked out.
When she got to the portico entrance of the guesthouse, she stopped dead to see Pierre des Cieux standing next to the Dyane that she remembered Madeleine driving. “So now you know why only guests stay here,” he said. “Let me drive you to the Government House and make your journey a little easier.”
“It’s not that far, I can walk,” Terry said.
“Peasants walk, bourgeois drive, but kings and their royal counsellors have a chauffeur!” With that, Pierre opened the door to let her in. Terry realised that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, so she got in.
As he pulled out into the street, he said, “Your visitor last night is the Cultural Attaché for the Verecundan Embassy. He was bounty hunting—your brother has put a price on your head. The Alemarans have declared him persona non grata and will ship him on the next leaky tub going to Verecunda. The Foreign Ministry here will brief His Highness on this—he will have to procure letters from the Verecundans recognising your diplomatic immunity, and probably will do the same for himself and the Princess.”
“After breakfast, he may turn me in to them for the reward.”
“So you told them that you knew.”
“Remember what I told you yesterday—you must be a Christian about this.” By then they reached the Government House, where Pierre let Terry out. She was greeted by the Secretary to the President, and ushered into the Central Conference Room. Alemara was governed by a freely elected five-member council with a rotating presidency. The President for this year was Clark Garrison; his Foreign Minister was Allan Cavendish. Both they and the other three council members stood and greeted Terry, and they sat on one side of the large conference table and Terry on the other.
“I don’t like to start this way, but I think that we and our government owe you several apologies,” Garrison said. “Your reception yesterday wasn’t what it should have been.”
“Although there were other parties involved in that,” noted Cavendish with a sly grin. Terry suddenly realised what had happened. “And, of course, we had some serious fence mending to do with the Serelians.” This made Terry think of her own fence mending task.
“The incident last night was very bad too,” Garrison continued.
“I’m aware that it was a member of the Verecundan embassy staff,” Terry said. “How difficult was it to get him to confess?”
“More than we thought, but he eventually came around. I called the ambassador and threatened to expel her as well unless she ordered him to tell the truth,” Cavendish replied. “My people are briefing Prince George, so he can be working on your further stops.”
Once this was out of the way, Garrison launched into a long speech about the special relationship that Alemara had with Drahla, and Terry for her part thanked them for all the help they had been in the past. Much of the discussion between Terry and the Alemarans focused on specific items of mutual interest to the two countries, especially commercial ones. The conversation didn’t turn to Verecunda until well after lunch.
“Have you made any progress with solving your credit problems with the Verecundans?” Terry asked Garrison.
“None,” he said. “They—actually, it was your brother—came to us about a year ago with an ‘economic development package;’ part of the agreement would be debt forgiveness. By the time we figured out all of the debt they were talking about, we realised that we would end up in the hole. So we turned it down. Their treasury is so weak, they might impress, say, the Claudians, but they don’t impress us.”
The detail of the discussions with the Alemarans—important as it was to Drahla—took Terry’s mind off of her present dilemma with Darlene. The meetings ended about 1600, and she was driven back to the guesthouse by an Alemaran government car. As she travelled along the short route from Government House to guesthouse, she was struck once again by the level of activity around her—it certainly was more intense than Barlin, and even Serelia. When she got back to the guesthouse, George met her in the lobby.
“Did your meetings go well?” George asked.
“Very,” Terry responded. “How about yours? I understand you were meeting with the Vidamerans and Verecundans.”
“The Vidamerans, as usual, can’t give me a definite answer today, but I think we’re okay to go there. The Verecundans were a different story altogether. They claim it is impossible for them to issue the letters of immunity we’re asking for. They said that these were unnecessary. But after what we’ve seen, we can’t take the chance. So I threatened to recall our ambassador in Verecunda if they didn’t issue these letters of immunity for all three of us. They said they would consult with their government.”
“I appreciate your efforts on my behalf—especially after the way I behaved this morning.”
“There are a lot of difficult things yet to settle, aren’t there?” George asked.
Alemara is not a hardship post by any stretch of the imagination, but the expatriates that lived there—along with business people who worked all over the island—liked to get together regularly. So it was the custom for the various embassies in rotation to give a party each week. This week it was Aloxa’s turn, which was fortunate because they had the largest embassy of any of the countries, an old plantation style home with some land surrounding it. George, Terry and Darlene arrived there about 1900.
All three of them were impressed with both the guests and the venue—where they came from, it would have been the event of the season. The hospitality was excellent. George and Terry knew many of the people there. The one group of people who were avoiding them were the Verecundans; it was almost comical to see the “cat and mouse” game they played amongst the guests, the drink and the food.
Darlene had struck up a conversation with a middle-aged man, well dressed in a black suit.
“It is really true that Terry is a minister?” Darlene asked.
“She sure is,” the man replied, “I was the one who helped get her there.”
“How did you do that?”
“Well, about fifteen years ago, I was pastoring the Cresca church. There were two of our churches there, the East Cresca church and mine. We started to notice that there was a woman who came to town who was leading a prayer group, made up of people mostly from the Church of Serelia—yours—and the Methodist church. What got our interest was that we started hearing about people being saved, baptised in the Holy Spirit, and healed. So we asked around and found out that she was from the Avalon Retreat. Her group seemed to be doing pretty well, but we also heard that she was living pretty hard—she had to work for everything she had, since these prayer groups didn’t give much of an offering.
“We—the pastor at East Cresca and myself—decided to meet with this woman, who of course was Terry. She told us how she got saved—which got our attention—and how she got to be ministering in Cresca. Us two pastors looked at each other and then I started to ask her some questions.
“We first found out what kind of doctrine she was preaching. We found out that she believed in salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and pretty much everything we did. There were a few variations, but nothing we couldn’t deal with. We could tell by looking at her that she wasn’t a Jezebel, which was and is a big deal with a lot of our people. And finally we could tell that she had been living in poverty since she was in Cresca, something she obviously wasn’t used to. So my friend blurted out, ‘Since you believe like we do, why don’t you just join us? We can set you forth in the ministry, something they can’t. And our people are better at supporting their preachers than yours are.’
“I could tell that she was ambushed by this—I know I certainly was. But she surprised us both by saying she would pray about it. She visited both of our churches on two Sunday nights. Within a month she accepted our offer, I made her my youth pastor, we set her forth in the ministry, and she’s been one of us ever since.”
“How did she get to Barlin?” Darlene asked.
“We have had a lot of trouble getting a church started in Barlin,” he resumed, “so after she had spent about two years in Cresca, we asked her if she would go to Barlin and plant a church. She prayed about it and told us it was the call of God to go there, in spite of the fact that this was our third attempt to plant a church. She went up there and did real well—she’s not the biggest fireball in the pulpit, but her people loved her, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house the Sunday she resigned the pastorate to become Royal Counsellor.
“Are you still in the ministry?” Darlene wondered.
“I still have my license and preach every now and then, but I moved here before the war started—I decided that it was time to watch someone else do it. So now I own a trading company here in Alemara, and I can support a lot of work I couldn’t do any other way.”
As the evening went on, the three mixed and mingled with the guests. Terry found herself on a balcony in the back of the embassy, talking with a very dapper looking black man.
“This post evidently agrees with you,” Terry said.
“Very much,” the man replied, “I was the Aloxan ambassador to Vidamera before this, so this is a big improvement.”
“Didn’t you used to be at the embassy in Verecunda?”
“Unfortunately, I was our Commercial Attaché there. I spent most of my time getting our people out of jail for violating their idiotic rules. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep myself out of their prison. I don’t see how they expect anyone to make a living with them. It’s all take and no give with these people. Now they’re going around trying to get everyone to borrow money from them for ‘economic development.’ What do they know about economic development? His Majesty in Aloxa isn’t falling for this, but you never know about some of the rest of the people on this Island.”
“I’m not falling for it either,” Terry replied.
“That’s because you’ve been there too. When are you coming back to Aloxa?”
“I don’t know, really—the last trip was really great, though. I’d love to get back soon.”
“I was in Beran about three months ago, and they are still talking about the revival and teaching sessions you did. Perhaps you can get yourself appointed ambassador to Aloxa and do this all the time.”
“We don’t even have an ambassador here, but we should soon,” Terry responded. “We’ll get one to Aloxa as soon as we can—sounds like a good state visit, at least.”
The mingling and partying went on for a long time, but finally the energy to socialise ended before the desire, so about 2200 they left to return to the guesthouse. Terry had been a little cheerier during the evening then before, even with Darlene. As they were about to enter the guesthouse, she told the others, “I’m going down to the marina to enjoy the evening on the bay. I’ll be back in a little while.” With that she left and walked down to the marina.
George and Darlene went into the guesthouse, but George stopped his bride in the lobby. He held her hands and looked at her intently.
“Don’t ask me to do what I think you’re going to,” Darlene said, defensively.
“I’ve got to,” George replied. “I know this mission has gotten more complicated since it started, but it’ll never get anywhere if you and Terry don’t get along.”
“Your father shouldn’t have made me go,” Darlene said. “He knew what Ronald had done, and he knew she’d find out the connection. It’s almost like he tried to sabotage the whole thing.”
“It wouldn’t have looked right if you hadn’t gone,” George observed.
“But she hates me!” Darlene exclaimed.
“She doesn’t hate anybody,” George shot back.
“But she was their Chancellor, in our terms. She helped lead the rebellion.”
“Terry Marlowe is still, first and foremost, a Christian minister,” George said deliberately.
“How can she do both?” Darlene asked, puzzled. “We don’t allow that in Serelia. I thought she gave the ministry up to become Royal Counsellor.”
“I had a long talk with Norman Coleman in Intelligence before I went to Barlin,” George began. “As her pastor told you, she went there to start a church, which she did even though there were legal obstacles. Max set her up to be Henry’s secretary because her church didn’t pay her enough to support her. Henry was so happy with her work that he basically crowded out her pastorate; that’s why she quit. When the war started, he called her in and informed her that they were declaring independence—Norman doesn’t think Max even told her in advance, even though they had just married. After that he made her Royal Counsellor. Except for her idea that we’ve been Verecundan surrogates—and she’s pretty strong on that—she’s done everything for Drahla—including losing her husband and son—out of a sheer sense of duty. The whole time we were at war, she continued to conduct services, including a lot of funerals.”
“Kind of like the Canon’s brother Julian did,” Darlene said. She looked away, and then back to her husband. “I’ll try, dear,” she finally sighed. “I may be too much of an Amherst to succeed, but I’ll try.”
“Thank you,” George replied. They embraced and kissed for a long time. Darlene then took her leave and went down to the waterfront.
Terry had gone to the very end of the dock, and sat down, took her shoes off and let her feet hang over. The tide was mostly out. The waxing gibbous moon hung halfway up the sky, shining its light on the bay over from the western side of Alemara. It was a very pleasant evening to be out, if a little chilly because of the time of year. A few minutes later Terry heard a voice behind her.
“My husband tells me we need to talk.” She turned around and saw that it was Darlene. Her red hair complemented the planet Mars, now further up in the sky than the moon.
“Your husband is right,” Terry responded, and with that Darlene sat down with her, shedding her own footwear. But Terry went on. “Before you say anything, I want to apologise for the way I have been behaving since I made this discovery. I’ve spent my entire ministry telling people they wouldn’t inherit eternal life if they didn’t forgive, and look at me doing this way. I’m sorry I treated you and George like this.”
“I’m sorry the way things have turned out too,” Darlene replied. “We should have told you sooner. Pierre des Cieux seems to know everything about everybody, so we should have figured that he would be the one to verbalise what no one else would say.”
They sat in silence for a minute. Then Terry asked, “How long did you know George before you married him?”
A smile came over Darlene’s face. “I guess you would say that George and I are childhood sweethearts. We’ve known each other since we were literally children. I used to come to Winter Court and Summer Court—the latter was especially fun. We’d play on the beach outside of the palace. He’d build the most beautiful sand castles—he’s quite artistic, his brothers thought he was a sissy—and one day—I think we were about eleven—after building a very nice one, he told me that, someday, he’d build me a real one so we could live in it. George is the only man I ever wanted, and I know he feels the same way about me.
“When this became obvious to my family, however, things got complicated. My family was afraid that their autonomy would be diluted if I married into the royal family. My parents discouraged me from seeing George, which made the desire all the stronger. First they sent me to St. Anne’s Girls School north of Serelia”—
“My father wanted me to go there, but my mother vetoed the plan,” Terry interjected.
“—while he went here in Alemara. Sometimes they would leave me there with the sisters if they thought George was at home—the sisters were sweet but even they knew what was going on. Then they sent me to the mainland to university. George found out about that and somehow met me there—we almost eloped but I could not bring myself to do it. When my parents found out about this, they pulled me out of university and exiled me to our hunting lodge in the Claudian Islands, where they found a tutor to continue my education. My father and brothers would come there, and we would hunt and fish. My brothers had taught me how to do that when I was very young. But I was very sad, as I could not be with the man I loved.
“In the meanwhile the war with you people broke out; I was brought back to the family estate to help manage it while Ronald and Edward went to war.; after they were killed, I became its overseer. To complicate matters further, both of George’s brothers had been killed in fighting, which left him heir to the throne. Suddenly my parents were interested in me marrying into the royal family, since Ronald had married and had children before his death. But now the royal family played hard to get; they banned me from court and I couldn’t see George at all. But with the end of the war, and the fact that George’s brothers had died without heirs, the issue of his wife became urgent. King Adam wanted someone else, but George was adamant about marrying me, so after more hard negotiations—and my promise to basically disinherit myself—we were engaged and married.”
“And living happily ever after,” Terry added. Darlene paused for a bit.
“Well, I think I’m enjoying it more that he is” Darlene said. “After all, I am Ronald’s kid sister.” They both laughed at that. Then Darlene asked, “How did you meet Max?”
“Max came to Barlin about the same time as I did,” Terry said. “I came to plant the Barlin church.”
“I know—I talked with your friend at the party.”
“So you met Martin Lindell. Max came there as a mercenary to then Duke Henry to build a paramilitary security force—I think even then Henry was thinking about independence, along with a lot of other people. He was one of the church’s first members. We started out as friends, but then our relationship grew into something more. I was reluctant after my well-publicised career in Verecunda, and he had lost his first wife in childbirth, along with the child.”
“So what kind of a guy was he?”
“Max was a wonderful, gentle Christian man. He took his Christian walk very seriously and always treated me well. In Verecunda, we would have said that he treated me like a princess or a queen, but I’ve been around too much royalty out here.” Darlene chuckled at this remark. “He taught this city girl a lot—how to fish, hunt, fight, and in the end, how to truly love. But now he’s gone.
“When he got wind that your brother was launching an expedition in the area of his family to find him, I tried to talk him out of a direct assault. Both King Henry and I told him, ‘Why don’t you just lure him further and further into the swamp and then get him?’ But he said, ‘I’m not going to let him hunt me like a wild animal.’ What Max didn’t realise until it was too late is that your brother had put together a force about three times the size of what he expected.”
“After Max had almost taken our estate, Ronald became obsessed with the war in general,” Darlene continued. “One evening right after that battle, we were having a family gathering. Ronald and Eddie were having too much to drink; they got up and swore an oath in front of everyone that they would take back Drahla, ‘with or without the Drahlans.’ My mother cried for a week after that—she knew what they would do. In the end, if Ronald hadn’t wasted time doing what he did at Cresca, the Vidamerans and Alemarans wouldn’t have showed up in time to save you.”
“That is true,” Terry observed. They both sat in silence for a minute. Terry was leaning on the pile next to her. Darlene looked down and could see the concentric waves in the water from where Terry’s tears were falling. Then they were both crying.
Once this passed, they talked a little more, but then got up to leave and return to the guesthouse. As they were passing the yacht, the young man assigned to guard duty said, “Your Highness, Your Excellency, are you well?”
“We are very well, thank you,” Darlene responded.
“Have a good evening, then,” the man said.
“We shall,” Terry answered.