06 Shukra War
In May, 2011 nineteen year old Gerry Mannheim nears the end of the first semester of his second year at the Amarayah University. For most of the semester he’s been courting a student, Nancy Kumara of the Shuken Clan in Shukra. She knows he’s already married, she’s even met three of his wives (two are fellow students) and some of his children. In recent weeks his wives have proven he’s very rich, and he meets the Berant legal requirements to have another wife. Because of this she’s knows it’s a serious courtship. She loves him and is very receptive to his courtship, she was before this. However, she’s uncertain about raising the issue of marriage with her father. Although her father always said she should marry for love, they belong to a prestigious family in Shukra, and most would expect her to be a first wife, not a junior wife. She’s afraid some people may think she shames her father, regardless of how much she loves him or how rich he is. Mid-year exams start next week, followed by a trip home, and she’ll talk to her father then.
It’s 11:15 a.m. on Friday morning when Nancy’s only class for today ends. She’s on her way to have lunch with Gerry. They have many classes together, but not this one. He’s promised to take her out on his boat for the weekend, and they’ll spend a lot of time studying for the exams. He’s often invited her, but this is the first time she’s accepted. Some of his wives and children will be with them, too. She’s looking forward to spending the time with them all. His family is large and friendly, just like hers is. Being with them is just like being at home with her siblings, an aspect of a future life with Gerry she likes a great deal.
He’s waiting at the front gate with Meara, his first wife. He doesn’t look happy and one of his work assistants is with them. Smiling, she walks up to him. When they hug a greeting she can easily tell he’s got something upsetting on his mind. He’s too tense, and she can feel it in his muscles.
Stepping back Gerry gives a weak smile, and says, “I’m sorry, Nancy, but some very important business has arisen. I have to go and deal with it. If you don’t mind, Meara will take you to the residence. You can stay in my room. I’ll get back as soon as I can, but I won’t be able to get back until early tomorrow.”
Seeing the concerned looks on their faces Nancy knows they’re not happy with this change to their plans. She smiles, and says, “Go, it’ll give us a chance to talk girl-talk. But you owe me, mister, you owe me big time.” Smiling, he nods yes. After turning around he runs to a nearby convertible, and jumps in, closely followed by his assistant. The car speeds off.
Meara smiles, “I’ve booked us into The Landing’s Field for lunch, let’s go.” Nancy is surprised, because The Landing’s Field is the place to eat in Carmel; most of the staff are war heroes and it’s the best food in the country. Normally you have to book months in advance; space at short notice is unheard of. She wonders how Meara managed this minor miracle. They walk through Carmel, window shopping while they walk to the restaurant.
The nearly 60 year old town of Carmel is primarily a luxury tourist resort, while the university is only a few years old. Having a university at a resort like Carmel is unusual, but it’s proven a brilliant economic move. Some students are from rich families, and they spend their spare time using the resort facilities, paying well for their pleasures. The majority of the students are from poorer families, and they live in cheap campus housing. They do part-time and casual work at the resort hotels, shops, etc. This helps provide casual staff for the town’s businesses, and they get to know the students while giving the students extra income to live on. Beneficial for all involved.
Entering The Landing’s Field at 11:50 a.m. they’re greeted by Harry, the owner. He shows them to a large table while saying, “Meara, my dear, so good to see you again. You don’t visit us often enough. Here’s your regular table.” Nancy is very surprised, because a regular table here is almost unheard of too. At the table are several women. Nancy knows a few, members of Gerry’s family, and guesses the others are too. With a huge grin Harry says, “So many lovely ladies at one table. Naturally you’ll want the Dom Pérignon!” Meara smiles, and nods yes. He hands them all menus, and leaves to organise the glasses and wine.
Nancy says to Meara, “I thought your long standing political problem with France stopped you from being able to import and sell French wines! How come Harry has Dom Pérignon available, and why isn’t it on the Wine List?”
A grinning Vicky (another of Gerry’s wives) says, “Because we can’t import it or sell it doesn’t mean we can’t go to France and buy it. A few years ago Gerry went to France and bought enough Dom Pérignon, Bollinger, and other quality wines to fill a medium sized cargo plane. Most of it’s stored at Far View, but a good supply is kept here for our use during meals. Since it’s ours, and we pay Harry to store it in the cool room, it’s not on the Wine List, but available; and all without breaching any of the French impositions.”
Nancy simply stares wide-eyed, and says, “Oh.” There’s still a lot to learn about Gerry and his family. She asks, “Where’s Gerry gone? I was really looking forward to this weekend together.”
With a weak smile Vicky says, “He’s was too. But he’s gone to have an urgent meeting with the King of Shukra.” Nancy’s head pops up, and she looks concerned. “One of Gerry’s jobs is to analyse information for the Royal Intelligence Service. Late yesterday something came up, and he’s gone to explain the analysis to the King of Shukra. Later today is the only time the King has free to talk face to face.”
A voice at Nancy’s shoulder, says, “Gerry does some analysis work for RIS, ha! That’s like saying I sometimes use a stove.” Nancy turns to look up at the speaker.
Vicky smiles while saying, “Nancy Kumara, meet Jessica Tandar, the best chef in the world. By the way, it’s a good idea to stay on her good side. Not only can getting her angry affect your food, but she’s a well-trained soldier, and one of the only two people alive to hold the Golden Claymore. Very few have ever been issued to people while they’re still alive. She’s also one of the two people to ever be awarded both the Golden Claymore and the Claymore.”
A grinning Jessica says, “Speaking of such limited distinguished company, I was expecting my running mate to be here. I need to speak to him about something I heard. With him in Shukra who do I speak to about needy kids in trouble?” Nancy is shocked again, because Jessica is saying Gerry holds the Golden Claymore and Claymore. He never said anything about either of them, or any other awards, despite him mentioning serving in the Royal Guards.
Noticing her expression Meara says, “OK, Nancy, I’ll explain in a moment.” Turning to Jessica she says, “I handle the lost kitten reports and rescues. Vicky handles the troubled family issues. Isobelle handles the collection of intelligence issues. Which is it?”
Jessica says, “Well, I best take Isobelle aside to talk to her first, then we’ll need to get you involved, Meara. They’re lost kittens with some interesting intelligence information.” Isobelle stands, and they walk off together to talk in the kitchen; it’s a more secure location than the open restaurant, because all the kitchen staff are retired Guards.
Meara says, “Nancy, amongst everything else Gerry is a serving Guards officer. He’s been downgraded from combat duties due to injuries received while on duty, although that doesn’t stop him from getting involved in combat, if he can. His injuries include artificial bone inserts. I’m sure you’ve seen his left arm surgery.” Nancy nods yes, Meara continues, “He’s been awarded the Golden Claymore, the Claymore, Valour Cross, and Silver Star. Only person to ever receive all three of our top awards, because few manage two while still alive. Our Gerry is a very complex and unusual person.” Nancy nods in agreement.
Meara adds, “You attend Amarayah University and you pass Amarayah’s statue every day. Did you ever stop to read the plaque about her?” Nancy shakes her head no.
Meara says, “You should stop and read it. The university has two sister campuses, Sunara University in Amarant, and Greta University in Dareena. Amarayah was only five years old. Sunara was Amarayah’s cousin and best friend, five years older and simple with a mental level of six years. Greta was her aunt, and a pilot in the Fishers. All three died in the fighting on the Day of Blood. They’re listed on the memorial at Amarant. The list has many members of Gerry’s family, including his father, General Gerald Mannheim, Golden Claymore; Greta Mannheim, Golden Claymore, and Gerald’s daughter; Amarayah Mannheim, Gerald’s granddaughter; and most of Gerald’s other children. Only one son lives, and he still mourns the death of his first born child.”
Nancy catches her breath. With wide-eyes she stares while Meara says, “Yes, the university is named after Gerry’s daughter. He created the company, and built the universities in their honour. Also, we need the universities to train our people properly. He thought to build it here so the students can get casual work at the resort businesses. The exact placement of the other two campuses were decided by economic growth support too. I’m sure you’ve noticed how much time he spends with the special students at Sunny Hall, Sunara’s nickname was Sunny and he cared for her a lot. He took over as her de facto father after her father died when she was four years old.”
Isobelle returns, and takes her seat. Harry arrives with the wine, and takes their orders. Nancy has a lot to think about. Gerry is a lot more complex, a lot deeper, a lot more loving, and a lot more lovable than she realised. The talk turns to more general things. She sits, and thinks about these aspects of Gerry she just learned. He’d said nothing about these matters, but, then, he’s not the type to casually talk about them, either. After lunch they go up to Far View to settle Nancy into Gerry’s room, and to spend time playing with the young children in the shallow swimming pool. After dinner Nancy studies in the residence library with some other family members who attend the university.
When she goes to bed that night Nancy spends a long time running her hand over his bed cover of mountain lion furs. She luxuriates in the feel, and again wonders how come he has it. The Shukra laws on the lions are the same as Berant’s, and she knows he must have killed them in self-defence, but she’s not heard the story. She hopes to hear it soon, because it should be an interesting one, to say the least.
At 2:30 p.m. of the same day a fast private plane out of the new Carmel Airport in Berant lands at Shukra International Airport just outside Shumeer, the capital city of Shukra. Five people get off, and the plane moves to a servicing area. The passengers head for the customs office to have their passports checked while their bags are inspected. Leaving the customs office they’re met by a small man from a local travel company specialising in holidays and tours for rich people. He leads them to his mini-bus, they climb in, and drive away.
In the bus are a woman and six children. Gerry looks at his contact, and is handed a written report. He’s fast to read it, and is disturbed by the information. He asks the woman, “You have recordings?” She nods yes. “You want us to take all the children to sanctuary?” Again, she nods, “OK, but you come as well. Don’t worry, we’ll get you all out alive.” She nods again. Turning to the travel agent he asks, “Did my other party group arrive OK, and have they been shown to their various locations?” The agent smiles, and nods yes. Yesterday, when he saw the need to make this visit, Gerry sent a company of 1st Claymore on ahead to provide security for the visit; whenever it would be made. They arrived by commercial transport, and were armed after arrival. An ace in the hole, if needed. They’re covering his travels in Shumeer.
Arriving at the tour agent’s offices they depart by a hidden exit to travel to the Berant Embassy. Gerry and the woman change into body armour, and special cloaks. The ambassador is ready to go, so they soon leave in the official vehicle. The woman’s children stay at the embassy.
The Shukra Royal Palace
At 3:20 p.m. they arrive at the Royal Palace for a 3:30 p.m. meeting with King Ahdeed of Shukra. They’re shown into his presence at 3:29 p.m. Ambassador Shambai and two guests wearing hooded cloaks with the guest’s faces invisible in the hoods. The security devices scan them, and pass them as unarmed.
King Ahdeed asks, while he walks to the group, “Well, Ambassador Shambai, what’s so important it needs to disrupt my schedule?”
Shambai gives a weak smile while saying, “I don’t know, Your Highness. I was instructed by King Harold, personally, to arrange this meeting as soon as I could, and to bring the gentleman on my left to you. He has all the information.” They both turn to look at Gerry.
From deep within the cloak Gerry asks, “Your Highness, are you satisfied we’re unarmed?”
Surprised at the question he nods, “Yes, but to make you happy, we’ll check again.” Two technicians approach, and rescan the visitors, passing them as unarmed.
A grim Gerry says, “Please warn your guards not to react, and to keep the scanners on.” King Ahdeed does as asked. Gerry says, “Friend, extend your hand, please.” The second figure pushes her hand out through the folds of the cloak. In it is a pistol sitting on her open palm. The sensors don’t react. Gerry says, “Your Highness, please accept this small gift as a token of our good intentions toward you. This pistol is made of non-metallic materials, even the bullets, and it’s lethal at close range.”
King Ahdeed approaches, and takes the weapon. He checks it, and says, “Weapon’s testing, don’t react.” He aims it at a chair across the room, and fires. The chair back shatters with the impact of the round. Yes, it’s fully operational and dangerous, very dangerous; lethally so at close range. He puts it away in his pocket while he thanks Gerry for the gift.
Gerry says, “I’m here today as the direct representative of King Harold and Berant, I mean you well and no harm, but I must ask you to dismiss your guards before I can tell you what I must pass on. Also, Ambassador Shambai must wait outside, because he isn’t cleared for what I must tell you.”
King Ahdeed is very surprised. He thinks a moment, and motions his guards to leave, they’re not happy. Two guards in a very different uniform to the rest start to object. Gerry says, “The Dragon’s Teeth may stay, because we both know they’ll not talk.” All three look at him in surprise, because he has an uncommon knowledge of the King’s personal guards.
The ambassador leaves, too. Gerry says, “Please have someone man the weapons sensor.” One of the two remaining guards does so. Gerry opens his cloak, and swings it behind his shoulders while keeping the hood on. This reveals his Berant Royal Guards uniform and weapons. The sensor unit sets off several alarms. The cloak jams the sensors somehow. Because Gerry is making no fast motion toward weapons the guards remain on alert, but they don’t react. “With your permission, Your Highness, I wish to show you my sword.” The King nods, and Gerry draws his sword. Holding the sword on open palms he approaches the King so he may read the words engraved on it, because he knows the King can read the old tongue.
King Ahdeed reads the inscription, ‘The Honour of the Amir is the people.’ He realises this is the Amir Honour Blade to be worn only by their greatest warrior until his death. King Ahdeed wears the Shukri Honour Blade. Like the Amir one, it was made nearly eleven hundred years ago as part of a special set of twenty-five swords. Made by a master sword maker on the orders of the Great King. Whoever this person is he’s very important, because he’s representing his King and his clan. The display of the sword like this is only done to authenticate clan position. King Ahdeed says, “Speak, Great Warrior of the Amir.” The guards’ eyes go wide while Gerry puts the sword back in its sheath.
Gerry says, “Your Highness, I’ve two missions here today, while I discharge the one with yourself can one of your people ask the Clan Father of the Shuken Clan to visit, so I may speak with him.” King Ahdeed nods, so one of the guards walks to a phone, and makes a call.
With a serious expression Gerry continues, “Berant has reason to fear the workings of a group called U MAMA. We’ve many people who spy on them. One of my duties is to analyse what they’re doing so we can counter their activities. Of late they’ve been preparing for a major invasion in the region, but no preparations are within Berant. We weren’t able to find out where they’re heading until yesterday. We now know where, and we’ve learned there’s nothing we can do to stop the invasion or to stop it from achieving its primary target. The best we can do is to warn you of the attack, warn you of some of the traitors within your army, and to offer your family and people sanctuary.” King Ahdeed is shocked. Gerry opens his shoulder bag to remove several computer discs and many documents. Handing them to the King he says, “Here are copies of the critical evidence. Also, my friend here is a witness to some meetings by top level traitors.”
The woman puts her hood back. The King recognises her, the sister and house keeper of the commander of the city’s army forces. She says, “Your Highness, my brother has been meeting with many officers, and others, for several months. Only in the last few days have I been able to listen in on any of their meetings. They plan rebellion, and are sure of success because of massive support from overseas. I know of several top generals, and many middle level officers, who are part of this. Last night they complained they can’t penetrate the Dragon’s Teeth, and they’ve lost many people trying. Nor the company commanded by Prince Mashir. They do have someone senior to him in his regiment in their conspiracy, and plan for him to execute the prince. I don’t know when they plan to strike, but last night they said they were moving into the final days of preparation. I have here recordings of three meetings.” She holds out three recording tapes.
King Ahdeed accepts the tapes while he says, “Warrior of the Amir, how can you be sure that they’ll win? Surely this knowledge will allow me to counter them.”
“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but it won’t. The only armed troops in Shumeer loyal to you are the Dragon’s Teeth. If they all make a stand they’ll die with you, so will many of the citizens. Once a pitched battle develops, here at the palace, the citizens will flock to your aide, and die. They have neither the training or the weapons to do anything else. Our best strategists and tacticians have reviewed the situation, and they offer no help. If you make a determined stand many citizens will die, and the city will be destroyed. However, you can save many of your people, and your family, by dying quickly.” The King and the guards are shocked.
King Ahdeed notices the ribbons on the young man’s chest, and says, “Speak to me warrior, any man who can earn the Golden Claymore, Claymore, and Valour Cross is no coward and he won’t support a coward’s stance.”
Gerry nods, “Your Highness, when they attack you must make a stand here in the palace, even though it can’t withstand an attack by modern weapons. Keep only the Eye Teeth with you, and make the enemy pay a high blood price. Those Teeth outside the palace must be ordered into hiding. The other Teeth in the palace must be sent away with the palace staff and their families to protect them when they leave Shumeer to go into hiding. Your son must immediately be sent on an anti-brigand patrol into the mountains with his whole company. You’re sending your son to show the people you’re very serious about their protection. That’ll justify sending him so far away from his normal patrol area. Send as many of your family and children to Berant as you can, I’ll protect all those that can reach me. You’ve not yet assigned The Light to anyone; do so, now! Most of the rebels are here, in or near Shumeer. A few days after they take power the evidence of their foreign backing will show, and the people will be angry. Then is the time for the Princess of Light to step forward to call the Teeth out of hiding to counter attack from strength. Also, if she or one of your adult children asks me for help, I’ll provide it. So will King Harold and Clan Amir. We owe the Shukri a blood debt, we’ll repay it. The key parts are to get the family and Teeth out so they can regroup; make a stand to cover their departure, but don’t stand long enough to involve too many of the nearby citizens.”
King Ahdeed nods, “I don’t like to hear what you say. But if the analysis is valid it does sound like the best thing to do for my people. I’ll study these, and make my decisions. Now, as to knowing my family, come with me and meet them. I’d like you to take some of the palace children away with you tonight. The ones too young to run later, but too old to be easily carried.” Gerry nods agreement. King Ahdeed stands to leave the room, and Gerry follows him into the private apartments.
With his hood still covering his face Gerry is introduced to the young princes and princesses in the palace. Opening the sleeve of his left arm he displays the surgery while saying, “Security requires I don’t show you my face at this moment, so remember these scars so you can recognise me. If you ever seek sanctuary in Berant seek out any member of the Royal Guards, and say, ‘I claim sanctuary from the Protector.’ They’ll bring you to me.” King Ahdeed turns to look at Gerry, because he knows the Protector is the mysterious Prince Edward. He nods, because this shows they’re serious about doing what they can.
Returning to the palace reception room they find a man waiting for them. King Ahdeed introduces him as Mardrik, the Shuken Clan Father.
Permission and Piping
Gerry smiles while he extends his right hand with a silver ring showing, and says, “Shuken, Amir greets you in friendship. I’ve a request for your help.” Both Ahdeed and Mardrik note the fancy silver ring, only a Clan Father may wear such a silver ring. This man is very young for such a responsibility.
Mardrik says, “Welcome Amir, Shuken greets you in friendship. How may we help our cousins, the Amir.”
Gerry replies, “One of our young men, a good warrior and an astute businessman, wishes to take another wife. The young lady is one of your clan daughters. She’s receptive to his courtship, but refuses to give him her father’s name. She’s concerned her father will think it below her to be a junior wife and not a first wife. I know the young man’s first wife wishes her to take on the role of chief wife, but she can’t raise this with her yet, not until the family has been spoken to. We know she’s of the Shuken Clan. Would you please speak with her father, and seek his thoughts on this. The young man loves her, is wealthy, and comes from a good family. He’ll treat her well, and look after her properly. The young woman’s name is Nancy Kumara.” Both men look up at her name.
Mardrik looks at King Ahdeed, and says, “Your Highness, you know this young woman’s father well. What do you think he would say on this matter?”
King Ahdeed says, “Amir, I notice you’ve not given the traditional evaluation of one of your clan sons, is this because the young man is yourself?” Grinning shyly, and blushing, Gerry nods yes. Both men laugh out loud at his embarrassment, while the blush extends to his neck and hands. He continues, “You may not be allowed to speak highly of him, but I can. I’ll recommend your courtship to her father, and recommend he approves. I know him much better than the Clan Father does.”
They shake hands, and Gerry is preparing to leave when over a dozen small children are brought into the room. King Ahdeed says, “Please take these palace young ones with you, as discussed.”
Gerry nods yes. Squatting down he looks at the foremost child; they’re all aged between three and seven. Watching the seven year old girl closely he smiles, and asks “Are you the leader of this group?” She looks around at the other children, turns back toward him with a serious expression, and nods yes. “Good, then I’ll expect you to help me see to their care and comfort on this journey. Do you know if they each have their most prized possession with them?” She gives another nod. “Well, Commander, we must get your troops on the move.” Standing up he looks at the King, “I have to brief the Ambassador on some things, then I’ll leave for Berant. I’ll take all I can. If you wish to send any more now, send them to me at the embassy by nine thirty p.m. tonight. One of my private transport planes arrives later tonight, and we’ll leave on it. I’m also beefing up security at the Berant Embassy, and we’ll provide sanctuary to any who ask it. I suggest you spread the word where it’s needed.” Turning, he holds out his hand, the girl takes it, and they leave the room, followed by the other children.
In the hallway the ambassador and the woman join their party. Luckily the ambassadorial vehicle is a stretch limousine. Even so, it’s crowded and a tight fit. They return to the Berant Embassy in time for a 6:00 p.m. dinner. Soon after dinner some more children arrive, along with a request to take them as well.
After dinner, and some meetings, Gerry leaves for the airport at 10:00 p.m. G Company of the 1st Claymore will return to the embassy after seeing them safely on their way. The Guards will provide extra security for the embassy, giving them two companies of Claymore instead of the usual one. Their supplies have also been enlarged, because the plane Gerry is leaving on brought a big shipment of weapons, ammunition, bottled water, food, and bedding for the embassy. The plane departs at 11:00 p.m.
Gerry and his entourage of children land at Carmel Airport at 3:30 a.m. He’s met by Meara, and some of the clan women. After dinner he’d phoned Meara from the embassy. Some of the children wake up while they’re carried to the buses, others sleep through the shift. By 4:15 a.m. all of the children are asleep in comfortable beds. Far View has some large nursery bedrooms with plenty of spare beds. With the hundreds of children already in the clan residence the extra twenty-three children Gerry brought from Shukra won’t be noticed. He makes arrangements for extra security to be assigned to all the children. No point in taking any chances.
Going to his bedroom Gerry undresses to climb into bed and cuddle up to Nancy. She snuggles back into him without waking.