Being a True Account of those Events
Later told in Fairy Tale Form
As the Legend of the Mahogany Trinrose,
Surrounding the earliest Recorded Use
Of the Drug known as Kerduvon
Outside of the House of Rathor.
..... Researched and Recorded by Mary Lou Mendum .....
Once upon a time the tiny Sime Territory of Marava was ruled by an honest if somewhat unobservant Queen. She passed many laws to help her people. If she did not always appoint people as idealistic as herself to enforce them, well, everybody knew that honesty and politics mix as well as oil and water -- a temporary union of convenience at best. While the Queen was well and strong even Imbra, the ambitious and powerful head of the Border Patrol, did not dare too much.
However, the Queen was not getting any younger, so it was with great rejoicing that the common citizens greeted the changeover of the Queen's only child, Jarindel. Not only did a legitimate heir lessen the probability of a bloody civil war when the present monarch died, but Princess Jarindel seemed to know which of the courtiers were most corrupt. There was hope that she would be a stronger ruler than her mother.
This worried Imbra, who had plans of persuading the Queen to appoint her next Secretary of the Pens. There was a lucrative profit to be made off the sale of the established children her Patrol caught running for the Territory border, as well as the usual bribes and graft. Having that money go into someone else's bank account distressed her. Even more important, with control over the Pens and the Border Patrol as her private army, she could become ruler of Marava in all but name.
Two years passed, and the old Secretary of the Pens began to talk of retiring to his estate. Knowing that time was running out, Imbra began to haunt the Court, hoping to ingratiate herself with the Queen. However, much to her annoyance (and much to the relief of Imbra's many rivals), the Queen seemed to have little interest in anything but tutoring her daughter in the finer points of statecraft. There were rumors that the Queen planned to abdicate soon, leaving the throne to Princess Jarindel. Imbra, well knowing that Jarindel would never willingly give her any more power than she already had, put her spies to work, seeking anything which could be used as a hold over the Princess.
Jarindel proved an adept, if unenthusiastic pupil. She excelled at all the tasks her mother set for her. In only one way did she give the Queen cause for distress. Despite having the pick of the nation's young noblemen, the Princess refused to bestow her favor on any of them. She attended all the formal affairs, chatted and danced politely and impartially with each, and left it at that.
"But, Jarindel," the Queen exclaimed in exasperation after one particularly uneventful picnic. "There must be some young man for whom you can feel a little affection. You must marry soon. What about young Dallermay? He has a considerable estate . . ."
"He won't for long, the way he gambles." Jarindel pointed out.
"True," the Queen sighed. "Offenbay's son is good looking, and he has such a husky voice . . ."
"I know," her daughter agreed. "It's a pity, isn't it that all he does with it is bore one to tears with his gossip."
"It's nearly two years since your changeover. You ought to be settling down with a husband to raise your children, not spending all your time walking in the gardens. It isn't healthy. She gave a worried frown. "Perhaps the Royal Physician should take a look at you."
"I'm perfectly all right, Mother," Jarindel said with the perennial, long-suffering patience of teenagers everywhere. "The garden is so beautiful this time of year that I hate to miss any of it. Besides, it's only been two years since my changeover. I have plenty of time to find a consort."
"Well, don't take too long. Marava will require a new heir. Besides, if you go without a lover too long, you could end up as crazy as your Aunt Anke, living in that forsaken corner of the wilderness, growing vegetables and trin bushes like a commoner."
"There's nothing wrong with Aunt Anke, Mother." Jarindel was fond of her aunt, and did not consider her mad for staying away from Court. Quite the opposite. "She just doesn't like courtiers." Like me, Jarindel added silently. "And her estate is hardly in the wilderness, even if it is near the border."
"Don't contradict your mother," the Queen said unhelpfully, and left quickly before Jarindel could display more of the annoying habit she had gotten into lately of mustering better arguments than her mother.
Jarindel had not been strictly accurate when she claimed that the garden interested her more than her suitors. What she meant was that it interested her more than her eligible suitors. Several years before her changeover she had struck up a secret friendship with Jarel, the gardener's son. In the years since then, it had become much more than a simple friendship.
Jarel was the only person besides her aunt that Jarindel had ever been able to talk to. She could tell him about the parts of her life that she hated - - the endless restrictions that were inflicted upon her in the name of ceremony, the obsequious courtiers who professed undying friendship and loyalty while they failed to keep the contempt and hatred from their nagers, never being able to trust anyone to keep a confidence or overlook a weakness. For Jarel's family, the worst event of the year was the arrival of the tax collector, not an assassination attempt masterminded by a supposed friend.
Jarindel knew that her mother would not approve of the match. Neither would the numerous noble houses which were hoping that one of their sons would catch her eye, and with it half the throne. However, legally she was an adult, and if she insisted, there was nothing anyone could do about it. She planned to marry Jarel as soon as he changed over. Meanwhile, they met as often as Jarindel could slip away without being seen.
One day, Jarel was not waiting in the shady glade where they usually met. Although Jarindel waited for over an hour, there was no sign of him. She left at last, telling herself that he was probably sick, although he had been perfectly healthy the day before. She dismissed the feeling of foreboding that nagged at her as turnover day jitters.
A few days later, when Jarel still had not appeared, Jarindel began to worry in earnest. Even if he were sick, Jarel would have managed to smuggle a message to her through one of the other gardeners. It was almost as if he had vanished. The tedium of Court life, which she found difficult under the best of circumstance, now seemed almost unendurable. She stayed to herself as much as possible.
Jarindel's preoccupation did not escape notice, even by the Queen. A week after Jarel's disappearance, Jarindel received a summons. She found her mother seated in formal state, with the highest-ranking of the nobility surrounding her. As usual, the Queen seemed unable to zlin the suppressed jealousy, resentment, and greed underlying the carefully bland ambient nager. She looked up from the document she was skimming and smiled at her daughter. "There you are, Jarindel. I haven't seen you around much lately. We missed you at yesterday's concert. You're not coming down with anything, are you?"
The greed in the ambient nager heightened as the courtiers considered how they could use the heir's sickness to improve their situations. Jarindel was close enough to need to find it quite irritating. "No, mother," she hastened to assure the Queen. "I'm all right. I just didn't feel like company last night." She hadn't been able to stomach the thought of spending hours being polite to men she didn't care about when the one she did care about was missing.
"You haven't been feeling like company for some time."
What a time for her to notice. "It's nothing, really."
"Far from it," the Queen insisted. "If you're not feeling up to snuff, it is a matter of greatest concern to everyone here. I have talked to the Royal Physician, and he has a suggestion." She signalled that worthy individual to rise.
"According to her Majesty," he began, nervously stroking his beard with a dorsal tentacle, "your Highness has been depressed, irritable, and uninterested in the company of the . . ." he coughed, trying to mask his embarrassment ". . . fine young gentlemen at the parties you have attended."
So that's it, Jarindel thought, hiding her anger at the tactlessness of her mother. The queen could at least have dismissed the court before bringing up the subject of her daughter's love life, or lack of it.
"Now, there's nothing to be alarmed about," the doctor continued with a smile that Jarindel assumed was meant to be reassuring. "I understand that it is your habit to take your kills from the Pen?"
Warily, Jarindel nodded.
"It's quite commendable to show such economy, I'm sure, but the Gens that the Pen provides can hardly give a good kill to a young woman of your Highness's . . . discrimination." Irritably, Jarindel wondered if there were any way to wipe the ingratiating smile off the man's face. "I am sure you will be feeling much better once you have had a Choice Kill."
"Yes," the Queen interrupted eagerly. "So you see, Jarindel, it's long past time for you to have a really good kill. It will do wonders for you."
Jarindel was unconvinced. She had attended a party once, at her mother's insistence, where the chief entertainment had been the slow torture of three young Gens caught running for the border. Their nagers had indeed been far stronger and more responsive than she was used to, but she had had nightmares for weeks afterwards. Choice Gens nagers were too much like real peoples' for her peace of mind. She knew that that was supposed to be part of the thrill of killing them, but she didn't want to kill a Gen which could talk to her and make her feel guilty for killing it. Not to mention the fact that she knew it would not help her problem.
"I don't require a fancy Gen," she protested. "Most people live off the Pens all their lives and are none the worse for it."
"They aren't heir to the throne. Now don't argue." Annoyance tinged the Queen's nager.
"But mother," Jarindel tried once more, "I'd prefer something from the Pen, truly. You know how I hate going out in crowds, with all the security measures. Especially when I'm close to need."
"Now don't you worry about finding yourself a Gen, Jarindel," the Queen said, wreathed in smiles. "When dear Imbra," (that worthy woman smirked and nodded, enjoying the envy the others failed to conceal at the Queen's show of favor) "heard you ought to have a Choice Kill, she undertook to find one for you. Now, take the rest of the week off. After a little vacation and a good kill, you'll be feeling yourself again."
Jarindel sighed, resigning herself to the inevitable as the Queen directed that the Gen be brought in. At least she would have a week free of royal obligations. Perhaps she could find out what happened to Jarel. A Choice Kill couldn't be all that different from what she was used to.
The Gen that was led in a few minutes later would certainly have brought a tidy profit on the auction block. Jarindel wondered why Imbra was willing to give it away. It was a male, dressed in a yawel dyed the royal cornflower blue. A barbed collar around its neck ensured that it would not fight its handlers. Jarindel guessed that it must have established recently, because its field was still increasing, but the Gen's nager was already much stronger than she was used to. She felt her laterals becoming moist in response, though she had almost a week before she hit hard need. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad kill after all. There was something tantalizingly familiar about that nager, a texture she knew she ought to recognize. She took a closer look at the Gen's face and froze.
It was Jarel.
For a moment she couldn't think clearly. Even in all the frantic worrying she had done since he disappeared, she had never let herself consider the possibility that Jarel had established. And now her mother expected her to kill him! Worst horror of all was that some primitive, Sime part of her wanted to do it, wanted to feel his pain and terror as he died to prolong her life.
She forced herself away from the thought. Gen or not, she could never live with herself if she killed Jarel, or stood by while some other Sime did. She could never marry him -- no, it now -- but for her own peace of mind, she would have to see that he could live out his life in safety. She owed him that much and more.
The Queen's voice broke her train of thought. "Isn't it splendid, Jarindel? I'm so glad I could get it for you. This will be a kill you'll want to remember the rest of your life."
Privately, Jarindel disagreed. Somehow, she managed to thank her mother properly, and direct that Jarel be held in the palace's holding Pen until she was ready for him. She even kept her voice from shaking, though she was never quite sure afterwards how she managed it. Then she took leave of the court and fled to her quarters precipitously, to mourn for the future that could never be, and plan for the future that was.
She spent most of the night pacing the floor, augmenting slightly as she tried to find a way out of the trap. She discarded one wild plan after another, unable to find a way to smuggle Jarel out of the holding area and all the way to the border without discovery. With that ripe a nager, every Sime for miles would know he was there.
Towards dawn she stopped short, struck by the realization that she had forgotten the obvious. Jarel was her property now; presented before the whole court. No one could object to her traveling with her own Gen, and her aunt's estate was conveniently close to the border. Anke would help her get Jarel to safety; she knew what they had meant to one another. Then she could pick up a kill at the nearest Pen, and be back before any inconvenient questions were asked.
It didn't take long to arrange for horses and supplies. She left a letter for her mother on her desk, explaining that she decided to visit her aunt and not to worry. It wouldn't satisfy the Queen -- there would be a stiff lecture on the dangers of unescorted travel at the very least -- but time was of the essence. She couldn't wait for permission, and she didn't dare try to travel with a group of Guardsmen. They would have no trouble zlinning her feelings for Jarel, and they were all loyal to Imbra. Changing quickly into worn, unremarkable riding clothes, she put those of her jewels that would not be missed into a bag. Jarel could use them to buy his way into Gen society. She threw a few changes of underwear on top to hide them, and headed for the stable.
The palace staff was efficient. Jarel was waiting for her, his spiked collar chained to the pommel of his saddle. Summoning all her acting experience, Jarindel ignored him as she mounted her own mare. Taking the lead to his horse, she headed for the main road.
Two hours later, when the sun had peeked over the horizon, they had left the city behind and were riding through deserted back roads towards Anke's estate and the border. The day was crisp and cool for midsummer, and Jarindel could zlin no curiosity in the nagers of the few fellow travelers they met. When she was sure that they had gotten away cleanly, Jarindel stopped the horses and turned at last to greet Jarel.
He met her gaze levelly, just as he had always done. She zlinned him, checking for signs of the abuse common in holding pens. He was tired and hungry, and his neck was sore where the barbed collar had rubbed, but there were no serious injuries that would slow them down. His health was reflected in his nager, and once again she fought down temptation.
Unaccountably shy, she smiled tentatively and said, "Good morning. I'm sorry to get you up so early, but I figured there was a better chance of getting away without an escort this way."
Jarel raised an eyebrow quizzically. "No apology required; I couldn't sleep much anyway. Where are we going?"
"The border, of course. Where else?"
"No!" His alarm jolted through her. "Look, Jarindel, you know as well as I do that it's against the law to help a Gen across the border. I don't want to get you convicted for treason. Even your mother couldn't stop them from executing you if the Border Patrol caught you red-handed."
"I don't intend to get caught," Jarindel said, trying to calm him down. She hoped she sounded more confident than she felt. The Border Patrol was very efficient; even though most of the Gens they caught had to be turned over to the Pens, the small percentage that Imbra diverted to the black market allowed her to live in luxury.
"Jarindel, it isn't worth it. They'll be waiting for us!" His alarm increased, threatening to overcome what little the past night had left of her self control.
"Stop it, Jarel," she said through clenched teeth, "Calm down. You're hurting me." She drew a shaky breath as his fear turned to contrition. "That's better. Look, why don't we have some breakfast?"
As Jarel consumed an enormous meal, Jarindel explained her plan, sipping tea to keep him company. "So you see," she ended, "as long as you wear those tags, they can't stop us. We'll be safe until we reach my aunt's farm. From there it's only a few miles to the border, and you'll be free. The Border Patrol won't suspect anything."
"But that's just it," Jarel persisted. "You're under suspicion already. In fact, Imbra has tightened security all along the border. You'll be arrested the moment they think they have a case."
"Wait a moment." Jarindel said, an awful suspicion dawning. "What's this about Imbra?"
"I think you'd better hear the whole story," Jarel said, sipping his tea. "When my father told me I'd established, and I had to leave at once so I could get away before I was high field, I couldn't leave without saying goodby to you. So I hid in the palace garden."
"You were an idiot to take the risk."
"At the time it seemed like a good idea. Anyway, I'd no sooner gotten well away from the gate when I ran smack into the guards who were supposed to be watching it. How come a detachment of the Border Patrol guards the palace?"
"It gives Imbra a place to park the incompetents she doesn't want to fire for some reason. Go on." Jarindel said.
"Well, they took me to the guardhouse, and they were just about to throw dice for the pleasure of killing me, when who should came along but Imbra. She said that she had special plans for me and would send them another Gen. They didn't like that at all. When we got to her quarters, she called for an aide -- I didn't catch his name. Pumpkin-orange hair, and a scar on one hand. He was wearing a purple cloak; it clashed horribly."
"It sounds like Tannel, her chief spy. The man has no taste."
"Obviously," Jarel agreed. "Imbra asked him if I was the one he had seen with you, and when he said yes, she said that this was the opportunity she had been waiting for. She gave orders that the border was to be tightened, and all her troops were to be given your description. Then they locked me in the cellar of her house until yesterday. You know the rest." He made no attempt to hide his worry. "Jarindel, I think Imbra wants to have you executed for treason."
"I'm sure she'd love to, but I doubt she will," Jarindel reassured him. "She probably intends to arrange for witnesses to watch me release you at the border, so she can blackmail me into doing whatever she wants. If I'm not on the throne, she's at the mercy of whoever is. At least I know now why she was willing to give you away, instead of selling you on the black market."
"I hope you have better sense than to play right into her hands."
"We're safe enough until we reach my aunt's estate. I'm sure Anke will have suggestions on what to do then. Come on, we'd best catch the horses. We've got a long way to go."
It took them four days to reach the border by the back roads, much longer than Jarindel anticipated. Jarel was unaccustomed to riding, and he lacked Sime endurance, though he tried not to slow them down. To make matters worse, the weather turned hot, making it difficult to travel during the middle of the day. As Jarindel felt her need sharpening by the hour, Jarel became harder and harder to ignore. Paradoxically, it was the very closeness between them that made his nager so attractive. It was only by promising herself that she could collect a kill from the Pen in the morning that she was able to turn off the main road to town when they reached the overgrown track that led to Anke's farm.
Ramon, Anke's aging stablehand and general all-purpose handyman met them at the stable. "Thank goodness you made it here safely," he said broadcasting relief. "The Border Patrol has been searching for you."
"Me?" Jarindel asked, not hiding her worry. "Why?"
"I think Anke would rather tell you herself." He took the reins of her horse as she dismounted. "She's looking over the trin field at the moment. Would you like me to take care of your Gen?"
"That won't be necessary," Jarindel said quickly. "He'll come with me." Now that they were off the road, the chain and collar were no longer required. As soon as Jarel had dismounted she released him, discarding the restraints with distaste as she pocketed his tags.
They found Anke inspecting a field of newly transplanted trin seedlings, turning back the leaves to look for the telltale signs of insect damage. She gave Jarindel a bright smile as they approached, pausing to rinse off the dirt from her hands and tentacles and dry them on her colorful blouse before giving her niece a hug.
"It's good to see you again. I was afraid the Border Patrol would find you. No one zlinned you turning in here, did they?"
"I don't think so," Jarindel replied. "Why are they trying to arrest me?"
"Treason, of course," Anke answered. "You mean you haven't heard the news?"
"What news? I've been camping out for four days now."
"That's probably the only reason you got this far. Jarindel, a messenger reached town yesterday. Your mother has had a stroke; the doctors say she probably won't be able to kill again. In your absence, Imbra has had herself appointed temporary head of the government. Her first act was to issue a warrant for your arrest for treason -- helping a Gen to the border. Unless you have good proof to the contrary, chances are you'll be convicted."
"That proof is going to be a little hard to supply," Jarindel said. At Anke's questioning glance, she elaborated. "Aunt Anke, I'd like you to meet Jarel." She gestured to the Gen, who had been listening quietly.
"Dear me," Anke said. "This does complicate matters, doesn't it? Why don't we go inside and talk it over?"
Over steaming cups of Anke's excellent home-grown trin tea, the discussion continued.
"One thing is certain," Jarindel said. "It won't be easy to get to the border."
"Impossible, rather," Anke corrected. "Half the Border Patrol is in town, hoping to get the reward money Imbra put up. I caught a troop of them searching my back pasture only yesterday. I think I managed to convince them that it is still against the law in this country to go snooping through private property without a search warrant, but it won't take them long to get one. You should be safe for another few days here, as long as no one from town sees you."
"I can't stay out of sight," Jarindel objected, "Whether or not it's possible to get to the border, I've got to get to the Pen by tomorrow at absolute latest. The only Gen around here is Jarel, and I'm not taking any chances."
Anke shook her head. "I'm sure they thought of that. They'll be watching the Pen. They may have even told the local Gendealers that you aren't entitled to another Gen this month."
"I could sneak over the Border and get myself a Wild Gen," Jarindel suggested. "Then Jarel could stay here until the fuss dies down."
"No good," Anke said. "Unlicensed raiding is also treason. One capital charge will do as well as another."
"What if I just escaped tonight?" Jarel suggested. "They can't convict you for that. You said it isn't far to the border -- I could make it by myself."
"On a moonless night, and the area swarming with patrols? I haven't come this far just to hand you back to Imbra." Jarindel retorted.
They stared at their tea a moment in silence. "I think I might have an answer for you," Anke said. "You won't like it, but it just might work. It's worth discussing, anyway."
"I don't think I want to hear this," Jarindel murmured apprehensively.
"You faith is touching." Anke sat back, cradling her tea mug in her hands and tentacles contemplatively, as if unsure where to begin. "Last winter I had a guest for a few weeks, a gypsy I had known for years. "Feodor is a healer, or whatever the Gypsy equivalent is. Somehow we got talking on the subject of Gen shortages -- you know how hard it is to keep the Pens supplied in bad weather. I made some remark to the effect that it was too bad no one has ever found a way to stretch a Gen to supply more than one kill. Then he asked me if I'd ever heard of mahogany trinroses."
"Mahogany trinroses?" Jarel asked skeptically. "I've never heard of such a thing, and I thought I knew most of the existing varieties."
"According to Feo, they are only grown in a remote valley on the other side of Gen Territory. The Gypsies cultivate them, and extract an oil from the flowers. When a Sime and Gen both take the oil before a kill, the Gen survives."
"That's impossible," Jarel stated flatly.
"As far as I could zlin, he wasn't lying," Anke said. "Feo said in the valley, they don't even bother with a Pen. The Simes just keep using their own Gens, so they don't require new ones."
"That's all well and good," Jarindel interrupted impatiently, "but a Gypsy myth won't banish need. Especially if it is in some far-off valley."
"But it isn't." Anke got up to rummage in her medicine trunk. "He said he had a feeling that one day I would have a use for it -- you know how mysterious Gypsies love to be. And he gave me -- Ah, here it is." From the depths of the trunk she withdrew a small glass bottle containing a pale yellow, viscous liquid.
"Wait just a minute," Jarindel demanded. "You aren't suggesting what I think you are, are you?"
"Yes, I am," Anke told her firmly. "You need a kill now, and the only Gen you have access to is Jarel."
"It's out of the question," Jarindel said, bracing herself against Jarel's fear as he finally realized just what was being proposed. "I haven't come this far just to risk throwing it all away now."
"Look," said Jarel, courage overcoming some of the fear. "I don't like the idea any more than you do, but if it can give us a little more time . . ."
"I said no."
They argued back and forth for another hour, but nobody could come up with a better idea. At last, Jarindel reluctantly agreed to try Feo's drug. Jarel applauded her decision, but he couldn't hide his trepidation. Neither could she. It was all she could do to keep herself from turning and running when Anke showed them into the insulated killroom. It was too easy to imagine that she might be coming out alone.
Anke was the only calm one. She might have been passing out tea at a picnic as she handed them each a small glass with half of the oil. "Drink it down," she said, sounding disgustingly cheerful.
Jarel sniffed his cautiously, made a face, and gulped it down. "I hope it works better than it tastes," he remarked.
Jarindel finished hers and agreed, "I've tasted better."
Anke urged them towards the well-padded lounge and then left, taking the dirty glasses with her.
Jarindel sat down, suddenly tired as the strain of the past week caught up with her. She shouldn't have been able to sleep so far into need, but she must have dropped off, because she suddenly found herself dreaming.
She seemed to be standing in a darkened clearing surrounded by dense forest. A strong breeze whipped her hair into her face, and blew dark clouds across the sky, intermittently blocking the light of the full moon. Around her, scarecrow figures held a wild orgy, beating chained Gens and reveling in the pain. They were Freeband Raiders, she thought, until she zlinned them more closely and recognized them.
They were the people she knew from Court. Her mother's ladies-in-waiting were rubbing salt in the whip slashes on their Gen's back. Two of her erstwhile suitors each held the arms of another Gen, using him as a living rope in a game of tug-of-war. She zlinned the cartilage and tendons giving way. Gaffion, the troubadour, was playing the shiltpron, magnifying the delicious pain. She was drunk on it, enjoying it as if she had never been able to before, lost in the wonder of being Sime.
Then her mother was beside her, shoving a Gen into her arms, while Imbra handed her a long whip. "Beat it!" they both urged, and she wanted to, wanted to wallow in the fear and pain that would give her new life, but the Gen had Jarel's face and eyes, his familiar nager that she had loved so long, and she couldn't.
In cries of outrage, she broke the whip into small pieces and flung them to the ground. The howls of the crowd became the howl of the wind as a huge gust picked her up and swirled her away into darkness.
The killroom swam slowly into focus around her. She was sitting on the lounge, Jarel curled beside her. He smiled at her, relieved, as she opened her eyes. "Are you all right?" he asked. "Your aunt might have warned us about the hallucinations that stuff causes."
"She probably didn't want to scare us off."
"Probably." He gazed at her wistfully. "Don't you think it's about time we found out if it worked?"
Jarindel suddenly remembered why they were there. Jarel's nager was a brilliant contrast to her own emptiness, a pulsing which drew her even without a fear-stimulus. She wanted him; had since her mother gave him to her. Still, she held herself back. "What if it doesn't work, and I kill you?"
"Why, then you'll have proof positive that you're not a traitor," he quipped.
"So am I. Look, if I have to be killed by a Sime, I'd rather it were you than some wealthy court hanger-on with perverted tastes. If I die, you'll just have to live enough for both of us."
There was nothing Jarindel could say to that, so she didn't try to say anything. Instead, she took the hands he offered, wrapping her handling tentacles around his cool Gen arms. There was no more fear in his nager, only a sense of rightness that calmed her, too, giving her a sudden hope that their mad experiment just might work. With a slightly renewed confidence, she slid her now-dripping laterals into place on his arms and pressed her lips to his, letting the selyn flow begin.
For a moment everything seemed to be going well, but then she felt Jarel start as he suddenly began to feel her draw. Uncertainty shivered through him, savagely fueling her need. Fighting the urge to increase the selyn flow and strip the Gen of the life she needed, regardless of the consequences, Jarindel managed to hold steady long enough for Jarel to get used to the new sensation. To her surprise and delight, he began to respond with enjoyment. Pleasure grew in her as the selyn poured into her starved nerves, magnified by the Gen's similar feeling, peaking as she reached satisfaction.
Jarindel drifted effortlessly down to hypoconsciousness. She hadn't felt so well and contented since before her changeover, when she had had entire afternoons to just sit and watch the flowers grow with Jarel. At the thought of him her eyes flew open and she stared, unable to believe that he was still alive.
He grinned at her. "I think it worked."
"Apparently," Jarindel replied. Realizing that her handling tentacles were still loosely gripping his arms, she released him and stood to stretch.
Jarel looked down at his arms, running a finger along the sensitized skin where her laterals had rested. "You know, if that's what a killing feels like, no wonder Simes like it so much."
"It wasn't like any kill I've had before," Jarindel observed. "Mother was right -- Choice Kills are better."
"I wouldn't exactly mind a repetition myself," Jarel admitted.
"You'll have to wait until next month."
"It's a date," Jarel agreed enthusiastically. "But don't you think it's time we rejoined your aunt? She's probably worried sick by now."
"Anke never doubts her own medicines. But I agree. We have a lot of planning to do."
They found Anke in the kitchen, setting out a light supper of soup and bread. "Ahh, there you are," she said. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd fallen asleep."
"I told you so," Jarindel told Jarel. He shrugged.
"Told him what?" Anke asked.
"That you weren't worried," Jarindel explained.
"Not about your kill, no," Anke said, "but what to do next, definitely yes."
"We can't stay here," Jarindel stated, sipping at her soup. She was hungrier than she had been in years.
"No, I'm afraid you can't stay." Anke sighed and cut herself a piece of cheese to go with her bread. "You'd be welcome, of course, but neither of you would be safe once Imbra gets a search warrant down here. I give her until tomorrow."
"I'll have to face her sometime. Marava is far too small a country to hide in for long. Why not get it over with?"
"If you face her, my girl, next week there will be a quiet execution, and you will never be heard from again. Our friend Imbra is after the throne, or have you forgotten?"
"As far as I'm concerned, she can have it."
A distant rumble caught their attention. "Don't tell me we have rain to worry about on top of everything else," Jarel groaned.
"It was clear a few minutes ago," Anke said, going to the window. "And it still is. Hear the alarm bell? It's not thunder, it's artillery! The Wild Gens are attacking the town!"
"That's perfect," Jarel said excitedly. At their shocked looks he explained, "That means no patrols watching this house or the border tonight -- they'll all be fighting. We can escape easily."
Jarindel could have kicked herself for overlooking such an obvious fact. Anke looked at her sympathetically, saying, "I didn't think of it either. Now: where will you go? You don't want to find yourself in the exact same situation you just got out of."
Jarindel opened her mouth to answer and paused. "You know," she said at last, "I can't think of any place in the whole country where I couldn't be found." She stared at the remains of her meal hopelessly.
Jarel's derision shocked her out of her dejection. "There are other Sime Territories, you know. Or have you forgotten your geography?"
"Leave Marava?" The thought had never occurred to her.
"Of course, he said. "We can find someplace where no one will know who you are, where we can live out own lives without anyone bothering us."
"And just how do you propose to get through Gen Territory?" Anke's voice was chill. "Or have you forgotten that Wild Gens shoot Simes on sight?"
"If I drive a wagon, she can hide in back. As long as we avoid towns, we should be all right." He turned to Jarindel. "Who just said she wanted out of politics? This is your chance to be free."
"Free," she repeated wistfully. "No more tedious Court sessions and boring State dinners." She smiled suddenly, caught in the possibilities. "You don't know how good that sounds!"
Jarel laughed at her enthusiasm. "Maybe we'll find the valley where they grow the mahogany trinroses."
"Maybe we will," Jarindel agreed.
"I can see I'm outvoted," Anke conceded. "You're going to go whether I agree or not. So, if you'll go and hitch the horses to the red wagon, I'll pack some things for you to take along."
"Oh, Aunt Anke," Jarindel said through sudden tears. "I'm going to miss you. And Mother . . ." She choked, unable to continue.
"I'll miss you, too," Anke said, giving her a quick embrace. "Try to write if you can. Now, hurry. The Wild Gens won't stay forever, you know."
When a troop of the Border Patrol arrived the next day, search warrant in hand, they found no one but Anke and Ramon. In the following weeks, despite the most intensive search that could be mounted, the missing Princess Jarindel could not be found. Imbra was furious; she hated loose ends. However, she quickly occupied herself consolidating her position. With the backing of her business associates among the Gendealers, she declared herself Regent and then Queen when the old Queen died without regaining consciousness.
New laws were passed, officially to stabilize the economy, which had suffered from the coup. Claiming that the price of a Choice Kill was far too much for the average citizen to afford, Imbra levied heavy taxes with which she lined the pockets of her cronies. The official theory was that if the dealers were rich enough, they would not have to charge as much and prices would drop. This 'supply side' economic theory so angered the good citizens of Marava that peasants and nobility united in a bloody revolt. The nobility and some of the more powerful lobbying groups then met to elect a new royal family. They spent so long debating points of order and orders of precedence that it took them three years to get down to business. This cheered everyone, because it meant that no taxes could be collected. The result was that Marava enjoyed a period of the most remarkable prosperity in its history.
A year after the old Queen's death, Anke received a letter from Jarindel through the good services of one of her Gypsy friends. She never told anyone what it said, but I like to think that they found the valley of the mahogany trinroses, and so may you, if you like.
See other Mary Lou Mendum titles in Rimon's Library.
This Page Was Last Updated by JL 01/19/01 09:40 AM EST (USA)
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