Terry insisted that she go see her mother alone, over Darlene’s objections. They were able to get another of those infamous Ministry of the Environment Yugos, this one even in poorer running condition—and with less fuel—than the last one. It was all Terry could do to coax the car down to the port and for yet another trip across the Dahlia Bridge.
She reached the Collinan checkpoint on the other side; they were expecting her and let her pass. She turned left on Ocean Avenue and went towards the Point proper.
Point Collina was still a quiet place, as it had been when she grew up there, but, as she saw the last time she came through, the years of exile and confiscations made it a weedier place. Many of the houses were grown up, and a number of the expensive retail shops were gone, but the place still had a pastiche of elegance, enough to thumb its nose at the last thirty pseudoegalitarian years. Less than a kilometre from the point, she turned left and rolled to a stop in front of what was an old estate home but was now the Lighthouse Cove Nursing Facility.
She entered the foyer, her heart nearly beating in her throat. There was a nurse’s station on the right; she asked the nurse, a pleasant looking black lady, where Eleanor Marlowe was. The nurse pointed towards the back. Terry gingerly walked to the back, where the woman she pointed out was in a wheelchair.
“Mother,” Terry said. There was no movement. The woman’s head was slumped down; she was neat but not elegant by any standard. Terry tried to get a response by gently moving her shoulder, but there was little, only a little shifting about.
“Haven’t you seen anyone with a stroke?” a man to her right asked, gruffly. She turned to a man in a wheelchair.
“Uncle Ernie,” Terry said, expectantly.
“Don’t ‘Uncle Ernie’ me, young lady,” he shot back angrily, “You’re the cause of this.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You walked out on her twenty years ago. She never got over it. Two years ago, your brother was out of town on state business when she had the stroke. It took them a long time to find her. By that time the damage was done. If you had stayed here like you were supposed to, she’d be well. The only reason she’s still alive is because Richard didn’t have anyone else, and now he’s gone.”
“You obviously don’t remember—”
“I don’t need to remember anything. You walked out on your family; you walked out on your country. You’re a disgrace. I don’t even see why you bothered to come here. I didn’t like a lot of what happened here, but I wasn’t going to go out into the swamp and serve some stupid king and get involved in some stupid religion like you have. This is my country, no matter how bad things get. Now look what else you’ve done—you’ve brought a bunch of spooks with you, who are running around town tearing the place up. Is this your idea of an improvement? It’s not mine. I hope I never see you again!”
Terry once again was fighting back tears, but she leaned over, hugged and kissed her mother the best she could, told her, “I love you,” and turned to leave. As she reached the nurse’s station again, she turned to the nurse and said, “I guess I should apologise for my relatives’ unenlightened racial attitudes.”
“They never forget race,” the nurse replied. “They forget their names, they forget their families, they forget everything, but they never forget race.” Then the nurse said, “Is that your mother?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Are you the Sister Terry who preached in Beran a little while back?”
“Hallelujah, sister!” the nurse exclaimed. “Your tapes were a blessing to us. We used to listen to them at night when the police weren’t around. We liked them better than our government preachers on Sunday. Have you preached in Beran lately?”
“Last Sunday,” Terry replied. “We had many healings and salvations.”
“I’ll get the tapes from those. Are you going to be here a while?”
“Probably not,” she said reluctantly. “I must get back to Drahla and my duties there.”
“At the church?”
“Some—but I’m not the pastor there. My main responsibility is to be Royal Counsellor to the King of Drahla. I’m here with the Aloxans.”
The nurse thought a second. “Thank you for bringing them. It’s not been good here in a long time. We can pray again now like we should.”
“We certainly can, can’t we,” Terry said, a smile coming back to her face.
“Don’t worry; we’ll take good care of your momma while you’re gone.” She cast a glance at Ernie. “We’ll take care of him, too.” They hugged and Terry walked slowly out of the home, taking one last glance at her mother on the way out.
It was only a couple of blocks from the home to the Point Collina Park, which was right on the Point and included the lighthouse. When Terry was growing up, she enjoyed coming to the park, so she walked up there. The Ministry of the Environment had let the park return to a more “natural” state than it had been in the past, but it was still a beautiful place with the palm trees, sea grapes and the vista of both Verecunda and the ocean at the same time.
Terry sat down on a bench facing the ocean, a bench she had come to many times growing up. She was so numbed by yet another emotional trauma that she just sat and stared at the horizon.
“You don’t look like a conqueror, do you?” a voice asked from behind. She turned around and found it was Pierre. “May I join you?” he asked.
“Please,” she said. He sat down beside her. “How did you get here? And how did you know I was here?”
“To answer the second question, your father told me you always came here when things went badly. He came up here often to cheer you up from things like ‘A hundred years are soon gone, so why despair? / Yet immortal fame is not easy to attain!’”
“You would remember that,” Terry sourly said.
“For the first question, I rode with Alemaran intelligence—I wanted to see what was going on. I ran into Prince George and he told me what you were doing this morning. He also told me about Richard. You saw your mother?”
“I did. It wasn’t good. She’s a vegetable now. She doesn’t know anything or me. My Uncle Ernie got mad at me too—he lives there with her.” She stopped talking and started to cry again.
“You are sad”—
“—because all whom I loved are gone.” She buried her face in her hands.
“Prince George also told me about your reaction to Richard’s death. It is difficult to go through life with a heart that is easily broken. But that is the heart that God has given you, Terry. If we want to know the ‘power of his resurrection’, we must ‘share in his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death.’ Even in this flat place, we must go up the two mountains: Olives, the mountain of agony, and Calvary, the mountain of death. Then, we can share eternity with Him.” Pierre paused for a minute, then turned and asked Terry, “Do you remember your wedding day?”
“Of course,” Terry answered, “it was the happiest day of my life, except for meeting Jesus Himself.”
“You weren’t married very long, were you?”
“Consider it—let’s assume that you and Max led a ‘normal’ life, which is difficult to conceive on this Island. How long would you have been together?”
“Forty years, perhaps,” Terry said after thinking a bit.
“And then you probably would have stood over Max’s grave, sobbing the same kinds of tears you have shed these last couple of days. After that, David and whatever other children you had would have stood over yours, assuming they got that far, crying as they committed you to the earth from whence your body came.
“No matter how long these relationships last, they are only temporary, and compared to eternity they are nothing. Sooner or later all of them end in the pain of death. The only thing that will solve this problem will be your final wedding.”
“Final wedding? What are you talking about?”
“Every time a man and a woman are joined in matrimony, it is a dress rehearsal—a type, as Raymond would say—of the final wedding between the Bride—the Church—and the Groom—Jesus Christ. At that time the Bride will come and be joined with her Groom, who never dies and who is always faithful. All of those who have taken the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ in this life will be that Bride; then and only then will our relationships never be broken and we will experience the love of God—the only true love—to the fullest extent. Now many of us have talked about this truth, but the difference between us and you is that you have the privilege of knowing how it feels to be a bride.”
Terry’s countenance lightened at the thought. “You’re right.” They spoke of other things for a bit.
Pierre then said, “There is one thing that I want to thank you for.”
“The way you reached out to the Princess Darlene.”
“Sometimes I’m surprised at how that turned out.”
“You shouldn’t be—you will practice what you preach when you are reminded of it enough,” Pierre said. They chuckled over that. “Just after they were married, her mother came to Alemara on a shopping trip and we had lunch together. She told me things about her.”
“In some ways, she has lived an isolated life. She is the baby of her family, so they expected her to stay closer to home. They were so obsessed about her relationship with George that they made her a virtual prisoner for long periods of time. After her brothers were killed, her responsibilities to her family increased. Her mother told me she has never had a real friend other than her husband. And of course, as you have found out, she is more like her father and brothers than anyone hoped, and after their misfortune everyone was afraid of what she might do.”
“‘…man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
“Now the whole Island will know what a few of us have known for a long time, that she is a descendant, and probably the best positioned one, of the last King of Beran. That puts a heavy burden on her. You need each other. Be there…well, I must go, I don’t want to be left here myself.” They embraced and Pierre walked away. Terry sat down and stared once again at the ocean. She didn’t know how long, but when she turned to see Pierre walk away he had vanished.
She got up and walked around to see the ocean side, but it wasn’t long before she heard a voice to her right calling her name. It was Andy Dell. “I’d heard you were out here, but I had trouble tracking you down.”
“I’d been to see my mother—she’s not doing well.”
“I discovered that,” Andy said. “I was hoping you’d join us for lunch at the Yacht Club—we’ve kind of ‘set up shop’ there until we can get a proper government building. We’re making this place our capital.”
“I’d be delighted,” Terry said, and they went over to Andy’s Jeep and went on to the club, which wasn’t very far.
The place had all kinds of memories for Terry, but the sadder ones vanished as she entered the building. Some of the staff remembered her, and it was almost a homecoming for her. They went to the dining room where they were met by a couple of Andy’s aides.
They spoke of many things, about the war, about Collina’s declaration of independence and Andy’s status as Provisional President, about the end of the Sacred Band and events in town. Andy explained that Richard had set up an elaborate trust for his mother’s care—on the mainland, needless to say—that would ultimately devolve to the home when both of them were gone. He said there were only five people there, but he planned to add some disabled Collinan veterans, as they had the resources to care for them.
“I heard you met with King Leslie yesterday,” Terry said.
“I did—he was over here to help George get his yacht back.”
“Will the yacht be OK?”
“Government impoundment never did anything any good—although I’ll probably live to regret making that statement—but with a few minor repairs he can get it to Alemara and dry dock. The Aloxans are working on it—I sent one of my people to help them.”
“Do you think that the Aloxans will let you keep the Point?”
Andy laughed. “Leslie, that cagey old bird, he wouldn’t commit to that when he met, but I’ve known him long enough to think that he’s not going to try to get it back.”
“You really want my honest opinion?”
“He’s hedging his bets now. Why do you think he split up administration of Verecunda and Uranus? He’s afraid he’s going to have to cough up one or both sooner or later. He’s biting off a lot in this deal.”
“My cousin Patty told me that their ‘friends’ on the mainland will rescue them.”
“With all due respect to you, your cousin’s an idiot. What they do have a lot of on the mainland is creditors, and that’s the part everyone’s worried about, including us. We’ve got to deal with a lot of people over here whose property was seized during the last twenty years who want it back. I’m not sure how we’re going to handle it, but I’d rather be here than in Desmond’s place, where he has cash debts. If he tries to repudiate the national debt, he’s going to have a mess on his hands.”
They turned to other political matters. The meal was winding up when Andy said, “You’re originally from here, aren’t you?”
“I am,” Terry replied. “Our house was a few blocks from here.”
“When things settle down, you need to come back and stay a while. You’ve had a hard life. You need a break.”
“Collina was the ‘pearl of the Island’ for a hundred and fifty years, and the number one objective of this government is to make it that again, both for the tourists and for us who live here.”
“Hear, hear,” the table resounded, and they drank a toast to it. They got up and were leaving the yacht club when one of Andy’s men came up and said, “There’s a lady who claims she knows you, Ms. Marlowe, and wants to see you pretty bad.”
He didn’t need to make further introduction, Terry could hear the woman screaming from across the street, “Terry, Terry,” and then see her running to meet them. It was Cathy Arnold, who looked bedraggled. They hugged. Cat was frantic. “I’m so glad to see you…they found out about my dinner with you, and I had to flee in the middle of the night. I walked across the Dahlia Bridge and hid in abandoned homes, stealing food when I could. They would have killed me if they had found me. Please take me with you…please, I’m not safe here, even if I stay on the Point, they’ll get me when I go into town. They blame me for all this…please, take me with you, I don’t have anything or anyone left here.” Cat tugged on Terry’s arm like she had done with her own mother when she was little.
Terry was reluctant; she had been through enough. But she remembered so long ago, when another woman begged a fleeing Catholic priest to help her leave Verecunda behind. “All right, you can come with me to Drahla. But you must promise me you will hear out how and why I went there.”
“I promise—thank you, Terry,” Cat said, and embraced Terry again.
“So you’re the young lady that spilled the beans on their deal with the Claudians,” Andy said to Cat.
“Yes, I am.”
He turned to Terry. “When you come back here, bring her and we’ll give her a medal—that took a lot of guts.”
“I was just telling Terry what they were telling everyone else on the Island.”
“Terry is the one person they didn’t want to know,” Andy observed. Andy had one of his cars take Terry and Cat back to town and the hotel.
Cat was duly introduced to everyone, but George, now outnumbered three to one, was feeling like this trip was becoming a hen party. But they had more important things to worry about as the evening approached and the last act of the drama was about to unfold.
The Golden Light ceremony dated back to Beran; they used it as a final memorial to all of their prominent people, including their kings. After Beran’s collapse, the ceremony fell out of favour in some parts of the Island, but was preserved in its original form in Claudia (which also perpetuated Beran’s religious traditions) and Serelia (where it was forced on a reluctant Christian church by the ruling families.) In Verecunda, the rise of the Druids gave it new life; and they used it for prominent people also. The last performance of the ceremony was for Lillith Connolly’s predecessor; after that, the Ministry of the Environment outlawed the ceremony as harmful to both the air and the water. With their authority broken, the Druids were free to honour Richard Marlowe with it.
It took place at the end of the Boudicca Pier. The pier was dominated by the warehouse, made up of two large metal buildings that butted into each other. The warehouse extended to about twenty-five metres shy of the end of the pier; beyond it was an open space a little wider than it was deep. They set up the same platform they used to greet the trio just last week up against the end of the building, which meant that their backs were against the wall and not open to attack from the rear. Just after sunset the dignitaries were escorted to the platform for Richard’s final voyage. It was a moonless night; only Mars amongst the wandering starts looked down at the ceremony. The platform faced south; on the left were the foreigners, Leslie, Desmond, the trio, Cat, and others from Aloxa. On the right were the Verecundans, including President Connolly, some congressional leaders and judges, and her cabinet, the last except for those cabinet members in the ceremony and the three that had already committed suicide, including the Minister of the Environment. Everywhere around the platform were the Aloxan troops; Leslie was taking no chances.
Richard’s funeral boat was already tied up at the end of the pier; a white sheet covered his body. In the southeast corner of the pier there was a mast with floodlights; these were lit as the dignitaries and Aloxan security personnel came in. Suddenly the lights went out, and the ceremony itself began when the Druid priests marched in with the musicians in a rhythmic march, bearing torches and singing as they entered. They came in two lines, filing through the two roughly parallel gaps between the warehouse and the slips. When those at the front of the lines reached the end of the pier, they stopped, and the two lines faced each other. The line on the left began its song; their song was that of the sea gods, which were calling Richard’s body back to the sea, from whence life came. The line of the right took up the response song, representing Richard himself and those spirits who guided Richard in this life. They went on antiphonally like this for about fifteen minutes. When they stopped, three Aloxan shamans appeared from behind the platform and greeted Terry; they asked her to come and pay her final respects, and to place the evergreen spray.
Terry was only half surprised at the appearance of the Aloxans. When the Druids had greeted them on arrival, she felt under attack in spiritual warfare. Now, although a reluctant participant in a pagan ceremony, she knew in her spirit that they were saying farewell to more than just Richard. So she stepped off of the platform and, followed by the Aloxans, walked slowly up to the funeral boat. Her walk was slow and deliberate; she showed no emotion as she walked up to the end of the pier and her brother’s floating pyre.
The attendants had deftly removed the sheet to reveal Richard’s body lying on top of the boat and bonfire stack. One of the shamans handed her the evergreen spray, a spray of pine branches tied together with a white ribbon and with a white orchid for a bow. Terry had to crouch down to get close enough to the boat, which was below dock level, but her efforts paid off; she released the spray, which landed softly on his chest. She stood up straight, looked at her brother one more time, bowed, then turned about and returned to the platform in the same way she came.
Seamus Gallen, the chief Druid priest, came forth and gave one final chanted prayer. As with all of the songs for the ceremony, it was in Gaelic; Beran had always used Latin. Once Gallen stepped aside, the attendants cut the lines that tied the boat to the dock, took gaffs and positioned themselves to shove the boat off. At the same time two Druid priestesses, who had been stationed on the end of each line, took their torches and threw them at the boat while the attendants shoved the boat away from the pier with the gaffs.
The waste oil they had drenched the boat with did the trick; the boat nearly exploded into flame. Those on the platform had no trouble seeing the flames even when the boat was near the dock. As it went further into the water, they could see the flames rising, its light shining on their faces.
The burning boat brought back too many memories for Darlene; she was overcome with grief, and embracing her husband she buried herself in him, sobbing. George was also in tears, partially for his wife, partially because his two brothers had also been sent off in this way. As she had done all along, Terry showed no emotion except now for the tears that rolled down her face.
With the ship aflame, the Druids sang their farewell chorus, which only added to the sadness of the scene, and then processed inland as they had come. As the flames consumed the ship, the platform dismissed itself and everyone returned in silence to whatever dwelling was theirs at the time.
Across the lake, Andy Dell and some of his men decided to watch the ceremony with Eleanor Marlowe and Ernie. The Verecundans still had a radio station operating, so they broadcast the ceremony on radio; they could both hear and see the proceedings, albeit at a distance, from the back yard of the home. Ernie was as overcome with grief as Darlene, but Andy thought he saw a tear coming from Eleanor’s eye.