Chapter 1

A People

It's said a people usually get the kind of government they deserve. In a democracy this is so, in a system of inherited authority this isn't always so. Since the beginning of time human societies have tried various methods for selecting those who'll lead and control the society. Those that work for a society continue to exist, those that don't work for the society vanish when that society changes the selection process or the society ceases to exist. Sometimes they cease to exist when the society ceases to exist, usually due to outside influences. The best that can be said for any form of government is: "It suited the people of that society at that time."

A country is the collective sum of its people and its lands over time. A culture is the collective sum of its people and their actions over time. A society is the collective sum of a country and its culture at a specific point or period in time, as influenced by its past. Cultures and societies change as the people change, due to internal or external influences. Hunter-gatherer societies change when the people in them take up wild farming. They change again when they take up cultivated farming, and again each time the society becomes more complex. External influences like war will cause changes, as will internal conflicts like rebellion or a change of religion.

One can tell a lot about a society by its myths, legends, heroes, anti-heroes, traditions, and mores. A good understanding of them can tell you about the society's expectations of an individual and what they regard as proper or ethical behaviour within the society.

Being a warrior is different to be being a fighter or a soldier, it's an attitude, a way of life, a way of approaching life and certain types of problems or issues.

A warrior society doesn't mean all its members are warriors, only that they applaud and honour warriors while expecting members of the society to behave within their accepted warrior code all, or most, of the time. Many members of warrior societies don't ever have to live the life of a warrior, whilst others may only need to be warriors for short periods, often at the end of their lives; usually shortened by that need.

During the twentieth century the honouring of warriors, by most nations around the world, decreased dramatically as the years passed. There were brief periods where warriors were once again honoured while those nations were involved in major military conflicts. But soon faded again after the end of the conflict.

How does a warrior society with over two thousand years of history honouring warriors, and was led by pragmatic warrior kings (most of the time) deal with the many changes required of it by the international community in the decades following World War Two? Many countries faced this challenge at that time, while also dealing with internal and external conflicts as well as the influences brought about by the war and its end. Most of the countries had major changes to their societies and government structures. Each met the various challenges in their own way, each unique to their society and culture.

But more important is: How do the people and the new generations deal with these times that are at variance with their heritage and traditions? Do they change a lot, or do they adhere to the old, or do they build new traditions along the lines of the principles of the old ones?

Prologue

The Amir (pronounced a-mear) Clan has ruled Berant since the sixth century AD / CE. For over a thousand years they're the premier clan in the Amiri tribe (pronounced a-mear-e) and the largest tribe in the country. The crown goes to the eldest male of the senior Amir line, usually the King's eldest son, unless an Amir Clan Council rules that person ineligible, a very rare event. If the King has no sons, then it goes to his eldest living nephew. If no living males can be found from the descendants of the last three generations the same process is applied to the king"s daughters, nieces, and cousins, with their husband becoming king. This process then goes back another generation at a time until one can be found or all descendants for the last ten generations are dead.

Berant becomes a French Colony in the late eighteenth century by an agreement with the King, he wants to avoid a losing war. Spears and arrows weren't much good against firearms and cannon. The King sees this and negotiates the best result for his people. The country is hardly affected by this since they have no publicly known natural resources of any value. Nothing worth the effort of an organised removal. It's untouched in the Great War and the Japanese occupation in World War Two is little more than a minor inconvenience for most. The French are invited to not return after the Japanese and Allies go, leaving behind more than enough modern weapons to keep the French out of the country. Berant isn't worth the cost of conquering in the mid-twentieth century. The same happens with their neighbours in Dareed and Shukra. Dareed and Shukra did have some natural resources worth taking, but most were removed by the French prior to World War Two.

The ruler of Berant from 1922 to 1st January 1946 is King Marshad, a wastrel. His father thought it a good idea to send him to Europe for his education, in the hopes this let him fit in better with the French Colonial Government and deal with them a lot better than he does. However, schooling in Paris from ten years of age has him attending school there at the start of the twentieth century. Instead of learning how to work hard he learns how to party hard and enjoy life to its fullest. He's only interested in having fun. The country is lucky his younger brothers are trained at home under the tribal laws, and they do the real running and administration of the country.

The only good thing that can be said about King Marshad is: he's a lot better than the rebel generals who killed him and introduced a 'democratic' government (of the type that never has a public vote, that is) in January 1946. The difference is marginal, but he didn't arbitrarily kill people in large groups. No formal laws are ever passed by the rebels.

When the generals attack the palace the princes fight a fierce battle with the rebels to cover the escape of four princesses; the King's two daughters and his two nieces, the daughters of the princes. The princes and the Palace Guard give their lives for their country's future. Proving all the country's warriors aren't dead.

Treason and Rebellion

At 7:30 a.m. on New Year's Day 1946 a meeting is taking place in the Berana Royal Palace between Prince Nurshal, Prince Pardey, Queen Kara, and Colonel Chektar (the commander of the Palace Guard). The Colonel says, "It's confirmed, the army is in open revolt and marching on the palace. We haven't got a hope of stopping them from taking over control of the country."

Sighing, Queen Kara says, "How long can we hold them here in the palace, fighting? We want to inflict very heavy casualties on them, but more importantly, to buy a lot of time, too."

The Colonel replies, "An hour, possibly two, three if we're very lucky. What good is that?"

Prince Nurshal responds, "The longer we hold them here, the longer it is before they start looking for the children. We must send them away, at once! Have Captain Chesway report to me in Princess Mara's rooms, wearing civilian clothes and very well armed." The Colonel nods, and departs - running fast.

Queen Kara says, "We must tell everyone who can't fight to flee, and have the rest prepare for the battle. We must buy the children all the time we can. We make Stand, here in the palace!" The others nod. They all leave, heading in different directions at a run. None bother to tell the King, because he's still in a drunken stupor - as is usual for him.

In Princess Mara's rooms Prince Nurshal finds the four girls in the middle of discussing what to wear today. He says, "Quick, dress in clothes to go hunting in the forest, and wear good boots. Load your packs with similar changes. You've only got a few minutes to leave the palace." They glance at his expression, and depart to do what he says.

Five minutes later the girls are back, dressed for a jungle hike with packs on their backs. Captain Robert Chesway and Queen Kara arrive at the same time. She hands the captain a pack to carry on his back, saying, "Food, water, and some important things for Mara. Keep them safe, Captain, the Sound of Battle goes with you." He nods, because the knowledge of the Sound tells him how dire things are. Turning, she hurries away. They've no time for goodbyes, not if some are to live.

Prince Nurshal asks, "Captain, your river boat, it'll carry five with ease, yes?" The captain nods, "Take the girls, head for the coast. Don't stop for anyone. Don't trust anyone. Get the girls out of the country. They must live, to see the country reborn." The shocked girls are near to tears, but they hold them - for now. The captain nods, and collects the girls by eye while he turns to head for the rear entrance. They all run down the hall to the sound of the prince's, "Good luck, God bless, goodbye." He turns and heads to his room to dress for the battle to come. They must keep the rebels busy for as long as possible. Today the Amir stand and fight for the future of their people and their country.

They exit by the palace rear entrance, five amongst over a hundred palace staff and servants who don't know how to fight, so they're being sent away with all the staff children, to save their lives. A few blocks away they reach the Captain's home. He opens the garage and drives his ex US Army Jeep out. The girls get in and he drives off through the back streets, heading for the edge of the city. While he drives he says a prayer of thanks for his wife's decision, last week, to take their children to be with her parents for the traditional clan New Year celebrations. They're away in the mountains and safe from all this trouble.

Forty-five minutes later they stop at a small village just north of the city. This is where the captain keeps his fishing boat, it's an ex US Navy Patrol Boat: small, seaworthy, and very fast. Stopping the Jeep he sends Princess Lena to knock on the door of the house while he leads the rest to the boat shed. Opening the shed he's quick to check the boat, and the tank is full, then loads all the spare filled fuel containers onto the boat.

Princess Lena returns with the owner of the house and shed. The captain says, "Morning, cousin. Take my Jeep, refill it, and head for the hills with your family. The army's gone mad and is hunting Falcons."

His cousin gulps, "Thank you, can you take Tara with you as well?" The captain nods. If he takes his cousin's eldest daughter the rest of his family will fit in the Jeep; also, she can help with the boat. It's big enough to carry eight or nine adults, so six will be no trouble. The man turns and runs for the house. Lena passes her pack into the boat and goes with him. By the time all is ready at the boat Lena and Tara are back with a backpack and two boxes full of food and drinks. They climb aboard. Captain Chesway is careful in backing the boat out of the shed. While he does so he glances around, and sees his cousin driving off with his family. The neighbours are loading their families in their cars too. The word is spreading fast. He wishes all of them luck in reaching safety away from the city and the fighting to come.

On the River

The captain tells all the girls to get into the small cabin of the boat. He wants them out of sight. At full speed he heads down the river for the sea. He hopes to stay ahead of any search. He knows they'll search to the east and south first, because the Amiri tribal lands are to the east and south, despite the bulk of the army being south and west of the city. By using the river to go north and east they hope to gain extra hours, and a clear path to safety. The news of rebellion will fly faster than the wind and people will soon choke the roads while they try to escape to safety ahead of the fighting. The army will block the roads and search them first, because they don't think in regards of transport by water at all, since all of their training is land based.

Mara has the short wave radio on listening to reports. They're not good. 11:30 a.m. finds them well along the river and the radio operator in the city declares all the royalist forces in the city have been defeated. A warning goes out to all army units to watch out for fleeing members of the Royal Family because they haven't accounted for them all yet. The Palace Guards are dead, so are the few members of the army who fought with them. The king, queen, all seven princes, and their wives are confirmed dead. The boat is heavy with grief. All have lost family.

In the early afternoon he stops near the river mouth to refill the fuel tanks from the cans. Fifteen minutes later they're on their way again. Exiting the river he heads north towards Shukra. They won't be able to stay there, but he knows where he can get help from friends there. Help to go to Australia and to get to more useful friends there.

At 5:00 p.m. he pulls into a cove in an islet about three hundred metres off the coast. Mooring up against some large overhanging trees before he fills the tank with the last of the fuel he has. They've about six hours" worth of fuel left and he hopes it'll see them past the border. Hearing an aircraft they look up through the trees, and get a glimpse of a plane flying slowly south down the coast. Seems the generals may be checking the coastal waters for boats. He decides to wait until dark to leave. They sit around the boat and break out some food to eat.

It's full dark at 7:00 p.m. so he starts the motor, heads out, and goes seaward around the islet to head north by compass bearing. This far out from the coast his motor shouldn't be heard and they shouldn't run into any patrolling boats, because Berant doesn't have a navy it doesn't have many boats. Running with no lights on, at an economical speed to get further range and make less noise, they sail into the dark night like a shadow. The cloud cover blocking the moonlight is helpful in hiding them from any eyes in the night.

Around 10:00 p.m. they see the lights of one of the few small coastal patrols boat making its slow way south along the coast about halfway between them and the coast. He has one of the girls watch it while he continues north. At 12:45 a.m. he figures he's into Shukra waters, but not sure. However, he has no choice because he must refuel soon. A little later he sees the lights of a medium sized port on the coast ahead. Angling west he heads towards the port with the lights guiding him in.

It's 1:30 a.m. the morning after they started when they pull up to a dock in a medium sized port. Warning the girls to keep watch he gets out and goes to find out where they are. Ten minutes later he finds a shop and a newspaper banner. He's shocked to learn they're still in Berant; very near the border, but on the dangerous side. He's standing there looking at the news headlines when a police officer walks up.

In a soft voice, the policeman says, "Two piers north of your boat is a fuel station. The owner forgot to lock it up tonight. If he's not careful someone may steal a boat load of fuel. Anything left in the bucket near the fuel station will stay there until he finds it in the morning." As a man walks towards them from the other end of the harbour he speaks aloud, "Now don't take too long in getting you off to where you belong, Pierre." The policeman walks off towards the other man, and engages him in conversation while walking off in another direction.

Smiling, the captain returns to the boat and hops in to quietly move it north two piers. Finding the fuel station he fills the tank and all the empty fuel cans. Noting how much it costs he counts out the money, and adds a 10% tip for late service. He puts it inside an empty can and places it in the bucket. He notices the bucket has quite a few late night donations in it. They're not the only ones getting out by boat tonight.

When they head out of the harbour he tells the girls, "We're still in Berant. A few more hours to go. It seems there's a few people who don't mind helping escapees, as long as they can avoid getting caught at it."

Shukra, In and Out

Thinking the generals will keep an eye on all Shukra ports just north of the border they keep heading up the coast until they're almost out of fuel again. At 2:00 p.m. the next day they pull into a small port some hours north of the border, about the centre of the lower Shukra coast. Refuelling again, and paying with US dollars, they continue to head north. At 5:00 p.m. Captain Chesway pulls into a small Shukra fishing port that also does some tourist business for people diving on the many old shipwrecks just up the coast.

After docking he goes ashore to seek an old friend. He finds his old friend from school and they discuss the situation. The friend had come up here for a short term job just after finishing school. He met a girl and married her. He now works in his father-in-law's business. The captain makes a deal with a cousin of his friend's wife.

In exchange for the patrol boat, a very handy addition to the diving business, the Berant group is given an unlisted flight to Queensland, Australia. The plane, a Catalina flying boat, is going over to pick up a group of divers in a few days. Instead of going empty it's taking them out of Shukra, with no record of their arrival or departure here.

The sea plane makes an unscheduled landing in the quiet waters of a secluded cove of northern Queensland, where they're met by another of his friend's cousins-in-law with a boat. The plane departs to arrive in Brisbane on time. The boat takes them down the coast to its home port of Townsville, where the six travellers catch a plane for Brisbane and connect to another for Sydney. All the useful contacts they've got are businessmen in Sydney or Melbourne.

The girls find it hard to believe. Five days ago they woke up in their own beds in Berant, and now they're in Sydney, Australia, as refugees and illegal immigrants. It's been a stressful five days, but they appear to be ahead of the generals' killers; for the moment. The only advantages they've got in this are the lack of photos of them, because few were ever taken of the very photo-shy girls, and their location is unknown - for now. They can't afford to go into complete hiding because they'll soon have to make a public appearance to denounce the generals and their actions while declaring their existence and the continued existence of the legal Berant Royal Government through them.


Back in Berant

On the morning of the rebellion some of the staff leaving the palace recognise the four princesses also leaving. They mention the escaping princesses to others with them. They all mention the escapees to the family and friends they hide out with, they tell others. Very soon the whole country knows a palace guard got the four princesses out of the blood bath in time and they're safe. This news is fast to spread across the country. The knowledge strengthens the people and gives them courage, as all isn't lost. There's reason to hope, Falcons live. They fly away to grow strong, and return when old enough and strong enough to fight the rebels. The Falcons and the country will rise again - one day.

Australia's Sons

In Sydney Captain Chesway makes contact with an Australian he met while fighting against the Japanese, Corporal Barry Newly. He wants to get some local protective help before doing anything else. It takes most of their first day in Sydney to track Newly down. They arrive at his friend's business just on closing time. They walk into the shop and a bell on the door jingles when Chesway opens the door. He sees Newly bending over a counter while studying some paper work. Without looking up, Newly asks, "How may I help you?"

A grinning Chesway says, "I'd like a half dozen blue orchids, four tanks, a well done porterhouse steak, and an ice cold beer. Remember that order, mate?"

Newly's head whips up. Smiling, he jumps over the counter, saying, "Cheesy, what're you doing here?"

An older man enters from the shop's back room, asking, "What the hell sort of order's that?"

Barry says, "Father, this is Robert 'Cheesy' Chesway, you've heard me talk of him. One day we were talking while waiting for another enemy attack, and we decided there were four things that, for a soldier in the islands, were in the realm of fantasy. Air support, tank support, a decent steak, and a cold beer. A major miracle may see one fulfilled, but all four made it an order impossible to fill." They all laugh.

Princess Mara says, "Cheesy, I like that name." Chesway spins around and glares at her. She grins back at him.

They end up going back to the Newly house for dinner. On learning they've no accommodation arrangements made they're invited to stay the night. Barry and Robert talk late into the night. Robert tells how his party is being hunted, but not why, and how he needs some quality local protective help. Barry offers to put him in contact with some.

The next day Barry makes a few phone calls. Ringing home at 10:00 a.m. he tells Robert to be in a particular milk bar by 1:00 p.m. with his party. Some people will talk to him about helping to protect them.

Just a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. the group enters a milk bar in the suburb of Burwood. They see Barry sitting at a large table with two men. They go over and sit down at the table. When they all sit down another patron looks them over. He pulls something out of his pocket and looks at it. He stands, and goes to leave. One of the men with Barry sees this. When the man leaving passes their table the man with Barry grabs the man's wrist, and looks up, asking, "OK, Diddler, what's up?"

The man gulps, and pulls a copy of a photo of Chesway out of his pocket, saying, "There's a big reward for anyone who can say where this man is, and the four girls with him."

The man lets him go, saying, "You never saw them or me. Not if you want to stay alive." Diddler nods, and leaves. The other man with Barry shakes his head no, stands, and leaves. The first man sits there looking at Mara for a few minutes, before saying, "OK, Barry, you and Mister Photogenic better get lost in one direction while we go another in a few minutes. We'll wait long enough not to be immediately associated with you." He turns to the girls, "I hope you've got everything you need in those bags?" The girls nod.

Chesway hands over the bag he has, "This is theirs as well, and they need to speak to someone in your government sometime in the next few weeks." The man nods, and takes the bag. Barry and Robert leave the milk bar; Barry to go back to work, Robert to the Berant Consulate.

A few minutes later the other man Barry had contacted returns with ten rough looking men. One man and five young women are sure to be easy meat for eleven roughs.

In the mirror of the bar the remaining man sees them enter. To the girls he says, "Escape out the back." Coming out of his seat fast he spins and throws a knife. The man who'd betrayed them is surprised by his speed, and doesn't move quick enough to avoid receiving the thrown knife through his right eye. He dies in the doorway. The front man reaches for the defender, only to be picked up and slammed onto a table on his back, breaking his spine in four places. He lies there, dying from a broken neck. The second attacker grunts when a combat knife in the defender's hand slices through his ribs and into his heart, falling backwards while his chest goes red with blood. Three other men go straight for the girls, thinking their mates will deal with the man.

The first one is unlucky enough to reach Mara. Using the built-in seat for leverage she jumps up high and kicks him under the chin. The snap of his neck breaking is heard across the room while he's thrown back. She lands where he'd been and punches the next man in the throat with a rigid hand. He falls to the floor, gurgling his life away through a crushed throat and a ruptured artery filling his lungs with blood. Lena lets the last of this trio have a butter knife in the eye. Screaming, he staggers back, to be struck on the side of the neck by Mara. He falls with his neck broken at the second vertebrae. She knows they can't afford to leave any of them alive.

Mara turns from her little action, to see the man with them leap into the middle of the remaining group of five men. Grabbing one he tosses him against the nearest wall. A sickening crunch like thud is heard, and the man slides down the wall while he leaves a blood trail where the back of his head is crushed from hitting the wall. The man punches an attacker hard in the balls, the attacker staggers back and he bends over while holding his balls and moaning. Lena steps forward and punches the back of the attacker's neck where it joins the skull; he falls, dying due to a crushed spine.

A flashing combat knife slides into the next attacker's right chest as it slices through his rib cage and into his lungs, cutting them to pieces. Groaning, he staggers back and falls down, dying while his lungs fill up with his blood to drown him in it. One attacker turns and flees for the door. A quick arm movement and the combat knife is buried to the hilt high in his back, severing his spine - he drops to the floor. The last man has a gun in his hand. Moving as fast as a striking cobra the defender has the gun hand trapped in his own large hand. He breaks the man's arm when he turns the gun hand inwards and upwards. With the barrel jammed under the attacker's jaw and against the throat, he pulls the trigger. One shot. It blows the back of the man's head over the wall.

Dropping the corpse the defending man steps over the body and draws his knives out of the two men in the doorway. He makes sure they're both dead by giving their heads a quick twist to break their necks. He does the same for the man with the cut-up lung. All eleven attackers are dead. He uses a handkerchief to clean the handle of the butter knife thrown by Lena because he wants no evidence traceable to them left behind.

Turning to the owner, he says, "Sorry about the mess, George, I hope you don't mind if I don't hang around to clean it up."

Walking into the back area of the shop, the owner says, "What mess, I see no mess. I'm busy in the back of my shop. I'll be out soon to see if I have any customers." He vanishes through the doorway.

Smiling, the man leads the girls down the side passage and out the back of the shop. They go through the yard and into a lane, heading away from there at a moderate jog.

Elsewhere in Sydney

An hour later, outside the Berant Consulate, when Captain Chesway arrives there four men try to kidnap him just outside the gates. A fight ensues. The attackers are killed and he's fatally wounded. Staggering to the consulate he shows his Palace ID, and is let in.

They give him first aid. He knows he's dying and their first aid won't be any use. Grabbing the coat of a consulate staff member he knows he lifts himself up, and says, "Tell my family what happened. Tell them I completed my mission. The Falcons fly free, they're safe. The Falcons fly free." The news is a shocking surprise for the staff because he can only mean he's brought members of the Royal Family safely to Australia and some live. The falcon is the symbol of the Berant Royal Family and they're referred to as The Falcons. The staff rejoice at the news. The consul rings the Berant Ambassador to tell him, while others ring friends and family. Falcons live and are free in Australia, all hope is not lost. A few minutes after making his statement Captain Chesway dies, he dies happy to have served his people and his country. He dies the way he lived: a warrior true to his word.

The search for the missing princesses heats up because the generals' killers now know they're in Australia. But so do the royalists. Both sides have agents out looking for them. Nobody can find them because they've vanished again. Hundreds of agents cover Sydney while they search for the princesses.

This news of the living Royal Family members in Australia seeps back to the Berant population and increases their hopes for the future, once they live through the bloody present.

Quick Mover

After leaving the milk bar the man leads the girls through several short lanes to Burwood Park, and crosses it at the end furthest from the main road. Stopping at a nearby girls' school he knocks on the front door, and when it's opened he asks to speak to one of the staff. They're shown in. He talks to a staff member, and makes a few phone calls.

Twenty minutes later one of the staff members is handing the girls school uniforms. The man asks them to get changed, but doesn't leave the room. Mara clears her throat. He stares at her, saying, "Lady, get used to it. From now on none of you leave my sight for any reason, unless I say so. Get changed, now!" His order is so commanding they're undoing the buttons of their blouses before they realise it. They're quick to strip and change into the school uniforms, blushing the whole time. Their bags are placed in suitcases addressed to Mount Victoria Railway Station, and put aside to be shipped out later. The one bag Mara insists they take he carries on his back as if it's his own. They clean their faces of all make up and do their hair the way the school requires all the students to do their hair. They now look like five senior schoolgirls.

School doesn't operate at this time of year, but this school has some students on a year round live-in basis. Mid-afternoon a teacher leads a group of twenty-five schoolgirls to Burwood Railway Station: they're going into the city to watch a play. Twenty-five students get on the train, amongst the other passengers getting on is a rather rough looking individual who followed the girls down the road. A number of very interested people are looking at everyone getting on the trains. The group of schoolgirls is allowed on unchallenged.

At Redfern Station five of the schoolgirls get off the train and duck into a staff room, followed by the rough looking man. Inside the staff room a young woman hands them clothes to get changed into. Mara opens her mouth, and the man says, "Get changed." Embarrassed, they do as told.

The young woman smiles, when she says, "You must be really enjoying this. Five lovely girls getting undressed on your command."

Grinning, he nods, "Yeah, it's great, but getting them to into my bed may be another matter. I don't think anyone trying to rape them will get up with their balls intact. They know how to fight, and fight well."

Mara looks up, "You can be sure of that! But things may be a lot different for you, much more so than you realise. You've absolutely no idea what you've got yourself into now!" He gives her a very pensive look while he ponders on this statement, and wonders what it holds for the future, since it clearly means something to her and the other girls.

With them dressed in smudged work clothes the young woman does their hair differently. She also packs the school uniforms into a suitcase and takes it to the luggage section to be shipped back to the school. The man changes while the young woman is taking the bag to the luggage section. Mara and the girls take the opportunity to try and embarrass him by taking a good look at his body while he changes; he has many scars on his body. He upsets them because he doesn't blush.

Several minutes later a large number of factory workers arrives on the station, all heading home for the day. A man and six young factory workers leave the staff room and catch the train for Bankstown. From the Bankstown railway station they walk several blocks to a house. They stop to get some hot fish and chips along the way.

Arriving at the house they're greeted by a man. He says to the man leading them, "I should've known you'd be responsible for my dinner being late." Noticing the aroma of the food, "Well, at least you've been good enough to bring it with you. And who are all these extras?"

He laughs, "I've decided to go on the road with my own harem, this is it, so far." They all laugh.

Mara says, "There's more truth in that than you realise." He turns and stares at her. She smiles, and winks at him.

They sit down to eat, but the pile of food is huge. This is explained a few minutes later when a knock on the door is followed by the entry of seven other men. They all nod at everyone as they sit down and start eating. One places a bag of cold beer on the table. Bottles are opened, glasses handed out, and filled with cold beer to have with the food.

After the meal one newcomers asks, "OK, Rocky, what's the deal?"

Looking up, the man says, "Protection detail. Someone's paying a big reward to find these girls and turn them into hamburger. I fancy this lady here," pointing at Mara, "and don't want anything bad to happen to them. I don't know why they're being chased, yet, but will soon." He turns to Mara, "I'm Edward 'Rocky' Rochester, and this bunch of out-of-work misfits are part of what used to be my platoon during the war. Barry said you needed to hire some bodyguards, we're it. As you know, I'm good, they're better."

A smiling Mara responds, "We're from Berant, some generals have rebelled and they want us dead because we can make life very difficult for them. Protecting us is going to be hard." The men all grin while they nod. "I've some valuable gems to sell. I'll pay well once I can sell them." Turning to Ed, "As for you! Your comment about a harem is true! We're products of our culture and will follow our cultural training regardless of where we are. Can you comprehend that point? Regardless of the laws here we'll act as per the laws of our culture, no matter what?" He nods his understanding, "Good. Because in our culture it's a very bad thing for a woman to be naked in front of a man for any reason, with a few exceptions. And the same applies to the man just as much as the woman. By commanding us to get changed in your presence you've set off those cultural triggers, and reinforced them when you changed in front of us." She stops for a drink while he looks at her, "In our culture it's accepted a woman will be naked in front of a man, or the reverse, if one is a doctor and the other is their patient; or they're married; or they're betrothed and soon to be married; or he's raping her, then other things come into play; or she's a whore. They're no other possible situations, that's it. At our level of society the embarrassment and shame of being seen as whores requires us to kill ourselves in a very messy way." She stops and looks at him while he gulps. "None of us are married or betrothed, you aren't a doctor, you didn't try to rape us. So it comes down to this, do you regards us as whores?"

Gulping hard, Ed replies, "No I don't, and never did!"

She nods, "I didn't think so! The way you looked at us would've been different, if you did. Are you a warrior and are you known as one? I ask, since you fought well today." The others look questions at them.

One of the other men chimes in, "Boy, is he a warrior! As to how well known, only in certain circles. He has a few medals for bravery, but the details aren't made public for security reasons. He's known as a very good warrior to a select few. He withstood five days interrogation by the Kempeitai." The woman who lead them there, and her husband, are shocked by this, and it's obvious they didn't know this information.

Mara smiles, "Good! Because there's one very special variant on the above. Before I get to that, in our country a man may have as many wives as he wishes. Our wedding ceremonies are either very grand for the rich or very simple. We care about the validity of our laws and ceremonies, not if other countries recognise them, understand?"

Ed smiles, "I think so. What you're saying is if we marry according to one of your simple ceremonies you'll see it as binding, regardless of what our laws say, correct?"

She nods, "Yes, exactly! Because of what's happened today we must kill ourselves by lunchtime tomorrow. But there's an ancient way out of this for us. The question is, are you man enough for it?"

He nods, "I believe so, speak about it and we'll see. I didn't save you all to let you kill yourselves!"

She grins, "The Warrior's Rite." The rest of the girls gasp; this hasn't been called upon for over two hundred years, but it'll resolve the situation. The other girls giggle. "When a warrior of note has fought for, or is about to fight for, an unmarried woman he may exercise the Warrior's Rite and take her as wife without any further ceremony. He commands the woman to do something, if she refuses to obey his order she's rejecting him. If she obeys the order she's accepting him as her warrior. Once he gives her the first order and she obeys it, by the next dawn he must consummate the marriage. So, simply, we must kill ourselves tomorrow, unless you marry us and take us all as your warrior wives by dawn."

Ed's jaw hits the floor, figuratively, while the rest of the Australians present are laughing hard at his stunned expression, and the girls are all blushing. He looks at them, one at a time; each smiles and lowers her eyes. He can tell they like this idea. Gulping hard, he says, "Give me a drink of water; I need to stay sober to deal with this. For once I've gotten in well over my head." Their hosts laugh, very hard and loud.

Handing him a glass of water, the woman who brought them from Redfern, asks, "Well, brother, how come you were in the hands of the Kempeitai and we've not been told?"

He looks up, "Security, secret operation, some of the intelligence was wrong. I knew we had to hold out for a week and we'd be right, because the rest of the unit would be in to rescue us. So I did. Simple, end of story. Leave it there."

She nods her head, while she thinks, Yeah, simple, five days of being tortured by the Imperial Japanese Secret Police. The guys that made the Nazi Gestapo look like beginners in the torture stakes. Secret operation, hell, he must've been in Z Force. No wonder he had nightmares for so long after coming home. More than a year of him waking up in the dark and screaming into the night. Hell, this whole lot must be Z Force. She looks up at them. They're all looking at her. She nods, and says nothing. They smile back. They know she'll keep quiet; they're not ashamed of what they did, but don't want it public knowledge either; and much of it's still top secret.

Suddenly she starts to giggle. Calming down, she says, "Well, brother, your favourite fantasy comes true. Five lovely ladies and all eager to share your bed every night. You may have a short life, but I'm sure you'll die happy." Her husband laughs, so do the rest in the room.

Smiling at the girls, Ed says, "Mum's going to kill me when she hears about this. She'll be glad I'm married and settled down, but five wives. She'll go right off." More laughter. Turning to his sister, "Just tell her I'm getting married in a quick and simple ceremony, don't tell her how many wives, please." She nods. To one man, he says, "You've got the vehicles, weapons, and everything else we need." The man nods. "Well, in that case, I better call it an early night because it looks like being a long one for me." They laugh when he stands and faces the girls, "Come with me." They all smile while they obediently stand and follow him out of the room to the bedroom assigned to them for the night.

Moving Right Along

At breakfast the next morning it's clear he was man enough to suit the ladies, because all the ladies have bright smiles.

Mara says, "My Warrior, I don't know what you've planned, but it's very important I get to speak to one of your senior government officials, and very soon. My sister wives need not be at the appearance, but they must be kept safe."

Ed nods, "From what Mister Photogenic said I figured we'd need to visit the government. That's why the boys and the vehicles. We're off to Canberra today." She smiles in answer. After a nice breakfast they load up in a car and small bus to drive off down the road. At Liverpool they stop for Ed to talk to a jeweller he knows.

The Jeweller, Harry, examines one of the smaller cut diamonds Mara has, saying, "I can't pay you what this is worth because I don't have enough cash on hand. Will you trust me to sell this on and give you the rest later, if I give you five thousand pounds now? Once I've sold it on I can give you the other seven or eight thousand pounds it's worth." Ed is surprised at the value. He knows he can trust the man, so he agrees. Several minutes later he's walking out of his friend's bank with five thousand pounds in his pocket.

Back at the vehicles he checks if anyone has any immediate financial worries. Two do, the rent for the house they share with their mother and younger siblings is past due. Ringing up the landlords he makes arrangements to pay the rent up to date and a few weeks in advance. The others would like some cash sent to their families as well. In the end arrangements are made, through the Liverpool branches of the various banks, to have money put into the bank accounts of their families and each man receives a one hundred pounds advance against wages. Ed writes it all down in a pocket notebook he has.

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Story tagged with:
War / Military / Royalty /