The Herb Plot 11

by Zack

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© Copyright 2004 - Zack - Used by permission

Storycodes: MM/f; bondage; kidnap; slave; nc; XX

(story continues from )

The Star Fleet Series
The Herb Plot - Chapter 11
by Zack
The Herb Plot by Zack Chapter 11
The next morning the duty guard woke up Evol an hour before dawn.  He grumbled and cursed, then fumbled into his clothes and staggered out of his tiny cubicle.  This cubicle was another source of resentment.  Mawlop had exiled him from his bed last night after Evol had complained bitterly about his ill-treatment.  Evol made his way downstairs to the ground floor of the distillery and got a flask of the potion from the herbalist on duty.  He had to sign for it; Mawlop didn't want any of the potion to get into the wrong hands.

Evol walked toward the solo shed, cursing under his breath.  It was dark; clouds blocked the light from the moons.  He had not gone far when he tripped on a rock and fell sprawling.  The flask flew out of his hand and he heard it break.  "Sigur curse it!  Is everything going to go wrong?"  He felt around until he located the flask.  It was broken all right, and the potion had drained into the ground.  He put the pieces of the broken flask into his pouch.

What to do? Evol knew the herbalist would tell Mawlop if he tried to draw more of the potion, and he didn't want to hear the recriminations that would follow.  He stood up and brushed off his robe.  He muttered, "It doesn't matter.  Missing one dose won't have any effect on the zlit."  Then he went inside and climbed back into his empty bed.

The first time Erig realized she had missed a dose of the potion was when Alek arrived at dawn.  She could feel herself gaining some control over her body, but it was still very tentative.  Her body responded without hesitation to Alek's commands, and her arms were tied behind her back before she could muster any resistance.  She could only wait for a better chance.

Many times during the day Erig almost regretted the lack of the potion.  The work was exhausting, even though Alek was careful not drive the women as hard as he had yesterday.  Fortunately for Erig, she  was in good condition, and it was Kayla's endurance that set the pace for the team.  But this didn't ease the pain in Erig's arms.  Their cramped position produced discomfort, screaming pain, and finally blessed numbness as the day dragged on.

Finally the sun neared the horizon.  Alek returned Erig and Kayla to the shed and chained them to the floor.  Erig managed to stifle her cries as her abused arms came back to life.  Once again Alek supervised their meal, then left them alone, bolting the door on his way out.

Two hours later Evol appeared.  He held the flask to Erig's lips and commanded, "Drink this."  Her body responded, and took the potion into her mouth.  Evol stood up.  He was anxious to get out of this smelly shed and he didn't linger.  As soon as he turned away Erig's mind took control and spit it out.

Alek and the other guard priest arrived promptly at dawn.  But now Erig was back to normal.  She had again spit out the potion Evol had administered an hour earlier.  Now she had full control of her body, but not as much control over her rage.  This had been a frightening experience, and Erig didn't like to be frightened.

Alek unchained Erig's neck.  "Stand up."  She did so, and when he reached for her wrist she kneed him in the groin.  He doubled up in pain, and she delivered a two-handed blow to the back of his neck.  It snapped like a twig and he was dead when his body hit the floor.

The other priest looked up when he heard the blows.  He had just tied one of the women and was bent over unchaining the other.  He hurriedly stood and fumbled with his sword.  Erig was only a couple of strides away and she covered the distance before the sword was half clear of the scabbard.  Her first kick shattered the priest's knee, and as he fell her second kick fractured his skull.

The two women were momentarily shocked into silence, and then they started to speak at once.  Erig ordered, "Quiet!  If you want to be free of this island you must do as I say.  Can you do that?"

The woman chained to the floor replied, "To get off this island I'd obey Sigur himself."

Erig smiled.  "It won't be that bad.  What's your name?"


The other woman said, "I'm Susan.  Please untie me."

Erig quickly stripped the priests.  Each priest's belt had a pouch and a sabre in a black metal scabbard.  Erig pulled a sabre and checked its balance.  Not too bad.  It was sharp too, and Erig used it to cut off the leather bands on her arms and neck.   She stripped off the gray dress and put on a robe and a priest's broad-brimmed black felt hat.  She buckled on a belt. These priests didn't carry the bows that Erig had seen yesterday, but she planned to remedy that lack.

Erig unchained Zali and helped her stand up.  She was almost as tall as Erig, and Susan was much shorter.  Erig cut the leather bands off of Zali's arms and neck.  "Zali, you and I will dress as priests.  Put on a robe.  Put on the hat and belt, too."

She turned to Susan.  "I have a much harder task for you.  We have to free the other women, and to do that we have to be able to move around the island.  Zali and I can dress as priests, but you'll have to be hitched to the cart for a while.  Can you do that?"

"If I have to."

Erig asked Kayla, "How about you?  And what's your name?"

"Kayla, and I'll do anything you say."

"Good.  And my name is Pami."

Erig picked up the key that Alek dropped and unchained Kayla.  She doubled a cord and looped it around the D-ring on Kayla's right wrist.  "Sorry about this, but it won't be for too long." She ran the cord through the ring on Kayla's left elbow and tied the end to her neck ring.  When she finished tying Kayla's arms she buckled the harness around her waist.  "Zali, you harness Susan.  We've got to get moving."

Erig dragged the priests to the back of the shed.  She found that the priest with the fractured skull was still alive, and corrected the oversight with a blow to his throat.  She tried to cover the bodies with straw, but they weren't really concealed.  She shrugged.  Nobody came into the shed during the day anyway, and by sunset it wouldn't matter, one way or the other.

Once outside the shed Erig bolted the door and the four women walked toward the reservoir.  Erig had  Zali escort Susan and Kayla while she walked a short distance behind them.  They had almost reached the reservoir when they met a priest walking toward them.  Zali tried to act normally, but she was nervous and didn't quite pull it off.

The priest actually passed Zali before he realized something was wrong.  He turned and shouted, "Stop!  What's going on here?"

He never got an answer to his question, because Erig ran up behind him and stabbed him with her sabre.  He fell down, blood gushing from his mouth.  "Zali!  Go get a water cart and come back here.  Hurry!"  Erig scanned the area.  Fortunately, there wasn't anybody in sight.  She stripped the dead priest, adding his quiver to her belt.  She strung his bow and put it over her shoulder.

Zali returned with Susan and Kayla harnessed to a water cart.  Erig removed the barrel from the cart, folded up the body, and turned the barrel over to cover it.  "Zali, take the body to the cliff and dump it off.  Then come to the new herb plot.  You know where that is?"  Zali nodded, and the cart moved off.

Erig headed toward the herb plot.  She had noticed yesterday that several priests gathered to gossip while the eight or so crews worked.

The herb plot was on the south side of a low ridge.  When Erig got there four priests were standing together talking.  There wasn't any cover, so Erig didn't try to stalk them.  Holding her bow, she casually walked in their direction, looking down so the brim of her hat concealed her face.  One of the priests glanced at her, but took no notice.  When she was about thirty meters away she nocked an arrow and shot one priest in the back.  When he fell the others looked stupidly at his body, and Erig shot another.  Even then the two survivors couldn't seem to accept that another priest was killing them.  They dithered for a few more moments, trying to decide between stringing their bows or drawing their sabres.  Erig shot the one with the bow, then drew her own sabre and charged the remaining priest.

If the seminary had a course in swordsmanship this priest had skipped it.  Erig blocked his wild swing and stabbed him through the heart.  Once he was down she scanned the area.  There were a couple of priests about 200 meters away, but they were closely supervising two crews picking herbs.

Carin was working with her crew at the back of the plot.  She was struggling to dig with the clumsy wooden shovel and didn't realize anything unusual had happened until Petra gasped and stopped hoeing.  Carin looked up just as Erig stabbed the priest.  Petra said, "Now that's something I've always wanted to see.  Priests killing priests."

Carin took a closer look at Erig. "That's a woman!"

Erig said, "Everyone pretend to keep working, but listen carefully.  I'm going to try to take over this island, and I can use your help.  But if I fail it could be bad for my helpers.  Anyone who doesn't want to help sit down now."

Murmurs ran through the crowd.  These women had been brutalized for years, and many were afraid.  Then Petra spoke up, "You ever wished you was dead?  I know I have.  But now we can make the priests do the dyin'."  A few women still looked uncertain, but then they steadied when their crew mates didn't falter.

Erig smiled.  "Let's get organized.  Do any of you have skill with a bow?  Raise your hands."

Carin put up her hand.  Archery was the sport she had chosen when she was in college, and she found she had an aptitude for it.  Petra also put up a hand.  She wasn't very good with a bow, but her father had taught her the basics, and she had used one for hunting rabbits.  Four other women also raised their hands.

Erig cut the rope tethering Carin's crew together.  "Strip the priests and all you archers put on their robes and hats.  You others, if you don't have a bow now, you will soon enough."  She cut the tethers holding the other archers, then continued until all of the tethers had been cut.  "Keep the rope in place.  We're going priest hunting, and we don't want to alarm them.  Does anyone know how many there are?"

Petra answered, "There's ten or so in the field, and another twenty or thirty in the buildings."

While the four archers were changing into their robes Erig had some of the other women dig four shallow holes and cover the bodies with a thin layer of dirt.  When this was done she formed the women into a column of twos and marched them toward the herb harvesters.  The women dressed as priests walked with her at the front of the column, the bows in their hands and an arrow ready.

Erig said, "Watch me.  Don't shoot until I do.  You two take the priest on the left.  You aim for the one on the right."  She could have killed the priests herself, since there were only two of them, but she wanted the women to gain confidence.  If the priests ever rallied she might not be able to take them on alone.

The column walked steadily forward.  Erig watched the priests, who didn't notice the oncoming women until they were less than fifty meters away.  Finally a priest shouted, "What's all this?" and reached for his sabre.

Erig drew back her arrow and released it in one smooth motion, and a few seconds later the other three women also released their arrows.  Two of them missed, but Erig and Carin both hit and the two priests went down with arrows in their chests.  Erig said in Galactic, "Good shooting, Carin."

Carin was stunned.  "Who are you?"

"Pami, Star Fleet Survey Service."

"Oh, Blessed Goddess."  Carin looked at the sky.  "I suppose you're here in disguise because the First Directive won't let you land the shuttle."

"Not exactly.  There isn't a ship in orbit, and I can't call one.  We're going to have to rescue ourselves."  As soon as she regained control of her body Erig had looked for her communicator.  She had been disappointed but not really surprised to find it missing.

Jani had also heard the Galactic, and she hurried to Carin's side.  "You mean you actually have to take over the island?  But why?"

"Long story.  I'll tell you later, we have to get moving."

Erig shouted, "Listen, people!  My name is Pami.  We've made a good start, but it's not over yet."  She pointed at Petra. "What's your name?"


 "You take charge here, Petra.  Get the women moving toward the buildings.  Give the sabres to women who know how to use an axe; they work the same way.  Put them in the front to protect the archers.  Kill every priest you see, but I don't have to tell you that."

There was an answering growl from the women.  Petra said, "If we see Vartro, I get first go."

Erig said, "Carin and I will get the rest of the priests in the field and I'll meet you later.  Be careful.  Send somebody in a robe to scout ahead.  If you see a lot of priests stay back.  I want you free, not dead."  She didn't have any illusions about the result if the priests made a determined attack.  Rage could only do so much against training.  Fortunately, the priests seemed to be inept warriors.

Petra raised her bow, "Here comes a priest now, driving those solos."

"Don't shoot!  She's one of us."  Zali and the cart joined the group, and she immediately untied Kayla and Susan.  Erig asked, "Any trouble?"

"No, I saw a priest near the pump, but he didn't notice us.  I dumped the body."

Erig nodded.  "Good.  Go with the other women.  Get moving, Petra."

"I got it.  See you later."

"You know the island, Carin.  Where can we find more priests?"

Carin pointed north.  "There must be some in the pasture over that ridge."

Carin and Erig walked north.  As soon as they got over the ridge they saw a half-dozen crews spread out across the pasture.  "What are they doing?" Erig asked.

"Collecting dung.  That's one of the better jobs here."  Carin found that she could barely contain her rage, and she eagerly looked for priests to kill.

Two priests were standing with their backs to the women.  Erig whispered, "Get ready.  You take the one on the left.  As soon as they notice us, shoot."  Carin nodded and nocked an arrow.

They were less than ten meters away before a priest turned toward them, and Carin and Erig shot at the same time.  One of the priests screamed as an arrow took him in the stomach.  Erig rushed forward and decapitated him with her sabre, just as a priest who had been sitting behind a bush stood up and stared with shock.  But only for a moment.  He turned and ran.  Carin shot an arrow at him, but it missed as he vaulted over a wall and disappeared.

"I've got to rejoin Petra." Erig said,  "You free the women and bring them to the buildings."  She ran in the direction the priest had taken.

Carin took a priest's sabre and went over to the women, who were staring at her as though she were some sort of apparition.  She smiled to reassure them, then started to cut off collars.  She thought, 'I seem to enjoy killing priests.  This is strange; I've always considered myself a pacifist.'  She shook her head.  Time to sort all of this out later.

When Erig got to the buildings she found most of the women concealed behind the barracks.  Several were wounded.  Petra and the other women with bows faced the distillery, about fifty meters away across an open area.  Erig asked Petra, "What's the situation?"

"We killed a priest on the way here.  Another priest ran into the distillery.  A few tried to leave, but we drove them back with arrows.  Since then they've been shooting at us from the windows if we get too close."

Erig examined the building.  There were no windows on the ground floor, and the second floor windows were narrow.  The door was heavy wood, reinforced with iron straps, and an overhang was built out over it, doubtless with openings in the floor for pouring down boiling oil.  A frontal assault would be costly.  "Is that the only door?"

"Yep.  I put some women around the back side.  They'll let us know if anybody climbs out a window."

"Good thinking, Petra.  They might try to slip out if they have a rope or something.  Those windows are too high to jump from."  Erig pointed to the workroom.  "What about that building?"

"I don't know.  The guard priests live on the second floor.  There may be some of the night shift still in there."

"I better find out.  You stay here and watch the distillery."

"Right.  Rak, Jani, Gris!  You go with her."  All three carried sabres.

Erig didn't really want the women with her, but she decided not to argue.  They could help to search the building.  The workroom was equidistant from the distillery and the barracks, and Erig led the women on a route that would keep them out of sight of the distillery for as long as possible.  They crept up to a corner of the building and then made a dash for the door.  Luckily, it wasn't locked and the four women entered the workroom.  A few arrows were loosed at them, but they all went wide.

There wasn't anybody in the workroom.  Erig whispered, "Jani, you stay here and guard the door.  Lock it if you can.  Keep a good lookout.  Rak, what else is on this floor?"

"The kitchen is through that door.  Those stairs go up to the barracks."

"We'll check the kitchen first.  Follow me."

Erig entered the kitchen, sabre in her hand.  Three crews were working there, supervised by a priest.  Another priest was stirring a pot on a wood stove.  The guard priest gave a startled double take when he saw the women, then drew his sabre and attacked Erig.  She parried his cut, and aimed a counterstroke that the priest blocked.  Erig was impressed.  This was the first priest she had met that had any sword skill.  A few more blows were exchanged before she decapitated him.

Rak shouted, "Look out!"

Erig turned just in time to dodge a cleaver thrown at her head.  Rak and Gris charged the cook priest and hacked him down with a flurry of cuts.

Erig said, "The news doesn't seem to have spread this far.  I wonder if that's true for any priests upstairs. Rak, you and Gris cut the collars off these women and stay here with them until I get back."

Erig hurried to the stairs and silently climbed to the second floor.  She followed a chorus of snores to a barracks room that housed four sleeping priests.  She thought, 'The sporting thing to do would be to wake them and demand they surrender.  But why take a chance?'  She moved from man to man, slitting throats.

Erig checked out the other rooms.  Most were storerooms, but one was an arsenal, containing among other things several dozen bows and many baskets of arrows.  She called down to Rak to bring up the crews, and had them carry everything downstairs.  She asked, "Did you see anything, Jani?"

"No, everything is quiet outside."

"Good.  Get ready, everybody.  We're going to go back to the barracks, and we'll take those bows and arrows with us."  Erig waited until everyone was grouped around the door, then yelled, "Go!"

The women ran for the barracks, and all made it unharmed in spite of a flurry of belated arrows from the distillery.  Erig passed out the bows to every woman who wanted one and had Rak, Carin and the rest of the more experienced women show the novices the rudiments of archery.  While this was going on she moved to the edge of the barracks and shouted at the priests holed up in the distillery.  "Priests!  If you surrender now you won't be killed.  This is your last chance."

Mawlop answered, "It is you who must surrender, zlit.  There are forty of us here, all trained warriors, and more outside.  You cannot stand against us when we attack, and you cannot take this building from us.  And when word of this outrage reaches the temple Mavolo will bring an army if he has to.  If you surrender to me I promise you leniency."

Erig asked Petra, "Who is that?"

"That's Mawlop, a high priest.  You wouldn't do as he says, would you?  He'll torture all of us if he can."

Erig laughed, "I can recognize a bluff when I hear it.  Trained warriors, my ass.  Those priests wouldn't have a chance of winning a fight, but they could hurt or kill a lot of women if they were desperate enough.  And he's right about taking the building; we'd take a lot of losses trying to storm the place."  She thought a moment.  "Do we have any kind of flammable liquid?"

"You mean like lamp oil?"

"Yeah, something like that."

"There were flasks of it in one of storerooms over the workroom.  I'll get one."

"We need fire, too.  Can you bring a torch from the kitchen stove?"  Petra nodded and ran off.

While Petra was getting the oil, Erig ripped strips of cloth off the bottom of her robe and wrapped them around arrowheads.  She beckoned to Carin, "Get the women with bows lined up facing the distillery door.  Have them take a couple of practice shots at it.  The priests may try to rush us."

After some confusion Carin got the women lined up and they all shot an arrow or two at the door.  Most went wide, but they did cover the ground in front of the distillery.  There were priests with bows at the second story windows, but they didn't shoot.  Erig guessed they didn't have very many arrows left.

Petra returned with a large flask of oil and a burning stick.  Erig soaked the cloth around the head of an arrow and drew back her bow.  "Light it, Petra!"

Petra set the cloth on fire and Erig shot the arrow into the shingled roof of the distillery.  She shot four more arrows, and happily watched as the shingles started to burn.

"That will drive the priests out.  I suppose we should give them a chance to surrender, so don't shoot anybody who isn't carrying a weapon."  The growl of rage from the crowd made that outcome unlikely.

A short while later a dormer window opened and a priest crawled out onto the roof.  A bucket of water was handed out to him and he crept toward the nearest fire.  Erig took a shot at him, but her arrow just missed.  Carin shot, and the arrow took the priest in the thigh.  He slipped on the steep shingles and screamed as he slid down and off the roof.  Another priest looked out of the window, but he didn't try to climb out.  It was too late now anyway; the entire roof was blazing, with flames all along its length.  A thick column of black smoke rose into the air.

It wasn't long before smoke was coming out of the second story windows.  The priests who had been there were no longer visible.  Suddenly there was a loud bang as something volatile exploded.  Tongues of flame shot out of the windows.  Erig shouted, "That'll drive them out.  Ready with your bows!"

The door opened and priests scrambled to get out of the building.  The women hesitated until someone shouted, "There's Vartro!"  The shout was followed by a shower of arrows.  The priests hung back until another explosion sent a gout of flame down from the battlement overhanging the door.  With a cry of fear and desperation, the priests surged out of the door and charged the women.

Their cry was matched by a scream of rage from the women.  Arrows flew in both directions.  The women may not have been very good shots, but they had a massed target and they vastly outnumbered the priests.  In a few moments almost all of the priests were down.  Several reached Erig, and she quickly dispatched these.  Then it was the turn of the women with the sabres.  They swept forward, hacking and slashing at any priest that showed any signs of life.

The frenzy didn't last long.  Soon it was quiet, except for the roaring of the flames and the moans of wounded women.  Erig said, "Carin, you and Jani see to our wounded.  Petra, get rid of these bodies.  Throw them over the cliff."

Petra was swamped with volunteers.  Throwing priests off the cliff had vast appeal.  Soon the ground was clear and the water of the bay was peppered with bobbing corpses.

The fire was now so intense that everyone had to move away from the burning building.  Luckily, the wind had dropped and was blowing away from the other structures.  Erig moved to the battlement overlooking the beach.  She thought, 'Now what?  We control the island, but how do we get off it?  Hijacking a ship might be difficult, especially if the priests do send an army.'  She inspected the hoist and the ladder, trying to think of a way to capture a ship.

Carin joined her.  "We did what we could for the women who are hurt, but it wasn't much.  All we really could do was stop the bleeding."  She looked out to sea.  "How do we get back to Varnin?"

"That's what I'm trying to figure out.  We may have to build a boat."  Erig looked at the workroom.  "We could dismantle a building to get materials."

"That may be possible, but I would think it would be difficult to construct a seaworthy boat.  I don't suppose there are many tools here, for one thing."

"You're probably right.  But all we need is something that will float and support me.  It might be possible to reach the shore if I wait for favorable weather."  Erig knew this would be a risky expedient, and she didn't really want to talk about it now.  "I've read your journal entry.  Tell me what happened to you and Jani after you set out for the council meeting."

Carin related all that had happened to her and Jani since they left the warehouse that fateful night.  She hesitated, reluctant to talk about the rapes on the ship, then decided to tell Erig everything.

Erig felt the anger she always experienced when women were mistreated.  "I knew Captain Zalek was involved, because he sold your clothes.  I didn't know he also was directly responsible for your abduction.  Are you sure his men were looking for you and Jani in particular, and not just any women?"

"Yes, they were waiting for us.  One called Jani by name."

"How do you suppose the arch priest, what's his name, Mavolo, knew you had his secret?"

"Jani's client must have told him."

"Maybe."  Erig was silent, lost in thought.

Carin's cry brought her back.  "Look, there's a boat!"

Erig watched as a small boat entered the bay and approached the beach.  It was white, with a single mast.  The foredeck was covered with a canvas tarpaulin.  Even when it was still several hundred meters away she could recognize Reg.  She felt a surge of emotions, and was shocked to find tears running down her cheeks.  "That's my partner!  We're saved, Carin."  She waved to him until he saw her and waved back.  Then she ran to the rope ladder.

When Reg saw Erig he quickly launched the dinghy and rowed to the beach.  He was waiting for her when she stepped off the ladder.  They embraced and kissed.  "Oh, Pami!  I was afraid you were dead."

"I worried about you, too.  I was sure I sank the boat when I opened the hatch."

"Actually, that saved us.  Something in my sea bag exploded.  If the hatch cover hadn't been open it might have blown the boat apart.  We still had all we could do to save it, though.  By the time we plugged the hatch and pumped out all the water we'd been blown far downwind.  It's taken us until now to sail back."

"But why did you sail into the bay?  How did you know the priests weren't still in control?"

Reg laughed and pointed to the cloud of black smoke.  "I had planned to stay out to sea until dark and then climb the cliff, but when I saw the fire I figured you might be here causing trouble.  I was sure of it when I saw all the bodies in the water."

"I didn't kill them all, Reg.  The women here couldn't be stopped when they had a chance at revenge."  She kissed him again.  "Our mission is accomplished.  Carin and Jani are here, and they're both alive and well.  I'll bring them down to the beach.  It would be best if you don't go onto the island.  Men aren't very popular there."

Erig climbed back up the cliff.  A group of women had gathered on the battlement, Petra among them.  Erig addressed them. "I'm going back to Varnin with Carin and Jani.  The island is yours now, and I'd be careful about who I let onto it."

A woman in the crowd called out, "Why do those two get to leave the island now?  I want to go too."

Carin answered, "Jani and I have an urgent message for the queen so we've got to go back at once.  But I have money, and when I get to Varnin I'll hire a ship to transport anyone who wants to leave back there."

Petra said, "That's good of you.  But I for one don't plan to leave.  We can make a good life for ourselves here."  She turned to Erig.  "We owe it all to you."

"Not really.  You were the ones who got rid of the priests.  I just got it started."

* * *

The trip back to Varnin was long and tedious because the wind was unfavorable.  Erig felt queasy much of the time, but she never actually vomited, much to her relief.  All of the women slept as much as they could, while Reg and Rajek sailed the boat through the night, tacking repeatedly into the wind.

They anchored in the harbor about half an hour before dawn and Reg and the women immediately walked to Athel's warehouse.  Athel was awake and admitted them.  "Carin!  Jani!  I was afraid you were dead!"

"We could have been," Carin replied, "if it hadn't been for Pami.  And Reg."

"I'll go tell Hovat you're back."  Athel led the way to the conference room and unlocked the door, then continued back to Hovat's room.

Athel was back in a few minutes.  "Hovat will be along soon.  The queen was concerned when you missed the council meeting, Carin.  She had a guard captain looking for you.  He said the queen wanted to see you as soon as possible."

"We want to see her too.  Mavolo is plotting to poison her, and she's got to be warned at once."

"That's bad.  I hope this doesn't cause anything like another civil war."

"I wouldn't think so.  Mavolo hasn't got an army or any popular support.  The queen's guards should be able to arrest him and his accomplices without too much trouble."

"I'd go with you, but I have a business appointment soon.  I really should keep it, it'd be out of character if I didn't.  Why don't you go see the queen now, and we can all meet here when you get back?"  He opened the door.  "I wonder what's keeping Hovat?"

Erig said, "Carin, if the queen has as any questions about your rescue leave me out of the story.  Tell her the slave women revolted and took over the island.  Say you got back here on a fishing boat that happened to be passing."

"I'll do that.  We certainly don't want anyone to suspect off-world interference."  Carin and Jani left for the palace.

Reg said, "Isn't the communications equipment in the attic, Athel?  I need to call Star Fleet and report."

"That's right. Come with me and I'll unlock it for you."

As soon as the others left Erig went looking for Hovat.  She found him in his room, stuffing his belongings into a carpetbag.  He had shaved off his beard and was wearing a black robe.  "Going somewhere, Hovat?"

"Yes, I've decided to resign from the university and stay here.  Mavolo has ordained me a priest of Sigur, and I am going to take up the religious life."

 "Is the priesthood your reward, Hovat?  You were the one who told Mavolo that Carin and Jani knew about the plot and had to be stopped, didn't you?  There wasn't very much time to arrange for their abduction, so Mavolo had to know at once.  The only other person who could have told him in time was the priest who blabbed to Jani.  But why would he do that?  He would be admitting he violated sect doctrine."

"You're just guessing.  Anyway, Carin was going to violate the First Directive.  It was right to stop her."

"You also rigged the camera case's self-destruct so it would explode and sink our boat.  It was just luck that we weren't all killed."

"You can't prove a thing.  Anyway, these are local offenses, not the concern of the Amalgamation."

"You're wrong, Hovat.  The conspiracy to kidnap Carin and Jani and the attack on me and Reg are crimes under Amalgamation law."

"That doesn't matter.  I have decided to stay here and renounce my Amalgamation citizenship, so I am no longer under the jurisdiction of the Amalgamation courts."

"I could just turn you over to Queen Narona.  She's probably going to execute all of the other priests, and one more won't matter."

Hovat smirked.  "You could, but who knows what secrets I might be forced to tell under interrogation?  Besides, Narona won't dare move against Sigur.  She may eliminate Mavolo and a few of the high priests, but that will just leave room at the top for others."

"What makes you think you can just decide to live here?"

"The Amalgamation Charter gives everyone the right to move freely to any planet."

"That only applies to Amalgamation planets."

"An interesting point of law that the courts have not yet definitively decided.  You can file a suit and it may be settled in a decade or two.  I can wait.  But you won't have a chance in the courts.  I'm a well-known academic and you're just a trainee.  The Amalgamation authorities will believe my version of events, not that of some green recruit with a vivid imagination but no practical experience."

"What makes you think I'm a new trainee?"

"Well, Reg is in charge, and he ignored you..."

"Reg is the trainee, I'm Lieutenant Commander Pami Erig.  And understand this: For non-Amalgamation people and planets the Survey Service is the law.  And here I am the Survey Service.  Perhaps you want to reconsider your renunciation of citizenship?"

When Hovat heard Erig's name he blanched.  Her reputation for ruthless direct action was familiar to anyone who had any sort of contact with the Survey Service.  His desperate answer to her question was to stab at her with a knife he produced from his sleeve.  She easily blocked the clumsy thrust and her counterpunch hit Hovat's chest and ruptured his aorta.  He was dead in less than a minute.

Reg entered the room and found Erig crouched over Hovat's body.  "What happened to him?"

"Heart attack."

The End


When Carin and Jani informed Narona of the plot by Mavolo her reaction was swift and ruthless.  Her purge of Sigur's sect didn't stop with the high priests, she executed every priest she could catch.  The only priests she would have wanted to spare were the herb experts, but they had all died on the island.  The others were disposable.  She also confiscated all of the sect's property, except Sigurla.  Since most of the population feared and hated the priests the queen's actions met with general approval, and the few people who were faithful to Sigur soon fled the kingdom.

True to her word, Carin chartered a ship to bring the women on Sigurla back to Avorna.  But few wanted to return.  Led by Petra, most chose to stay on the island, where they formed a self-sufficient commune.  They grew their own food and continued to cultivate the special herbs.  Everyone was very happy.

Captain Zalek was still on his trading voyage when he heard that Carin and Jani had escaped from Sigurla.  He and his ship never returned to Avorna; he established his new base in the neighboring kingdom of Bartomy.  One day a few weeks later the ship was hired to deliver a small package.  Captain Zalek thought it foolish to charter the entire ship for this, but the stupid-looking woman who wanted it done paid well, and he never turned down money.  When the ship was only ten pasangs out from port it caught fire.  A fishing boat was close by, but by the time it reached the scene Crnath's Bounty had sunk with all hands.  The fishermen later said that the ship just seemed to explode into flame.

Jani returned to Zarn as soon as she could.  She arranged to receive neuro-psychological conditioning that desensitized her sexually in all situations except married monogamy.  Soon she was contracted to marry a man picked for her by her family.  While they were engaged her husband-to-be was very disappointed by her lifeless response to any sexual overture, even a chaste kiss.  Many times he came close to calling off the wedding, but family pressure prevented it.  On their wedding night he made a perfunctory advance, fully expecting a rejection.  But this was the one circumstance the conditioning allowed her to respond to, and the old Jani of the boundless sexual enthusiasm emerged.  The couple spent the next week in bed.

Carin stayed on in Avorna for several more years and became a close friend of Queen Narona.  She later rewrote her technical articles into a popular novel featuring the queen, and it became a best-seller, partly because it also featured a thinly disguised character based on Jani, Senator Alenda's niece.  This book gave her the money she needed to quit her job with the university and tour the Amalgamation.  Her travels led to other novels, and she was so busy that she never returned to Avorna.  She never knew that Narona gradually tightened her grip on the kingdom, until her rule became so tyrannical that people referred to the time of her uncle as the 'good old days.'  Finally, Narona suppressed all of the sects except for Mida's, and then transformed herself from the Arch-Priestess to the deity Herself.  Soon statues of Narona were everywhere, idols of Carin's idol.

Copyright © 2004 by Zack. All rights reserved.
I welcome your comments. E-mail me at [email protected] or [email protected]


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