Iron Rose Bleeding

Chapter 18

Anne Azel

To: Inga, Lisa, and Susan, thanks for your help.

The Anne Azel's World web site is now found at

Note To The Reader: All the information used in this story about trends and concerns on our planet is current and accurate data. In the next fifty years, our world will change completely.

These are the events as we know them.

We recorded them factually and objectively.

And now we report them to you.

Haichen looked at Tap with worried eyes. "Tap, the Malasha has not been used in years. It is something belonging to our ancient history. The Council..."

"The Council will have no choice. Whether it has been used or not, it is there in our laws and can be evoked," Tap mumbled as she sorted through documentation.

Haichen stood her ground. "Certainly Torgga Appala Punra will object and he has supreme control over the Council."

"My brother's weakness is his arrogance. Remember that, Haichen, if I should not be around. He will agree to the Malasha because not to would be to show weakness. He thinks he is all powerful and can easily defeat me."

Haichen did not choose her words carefully as she normally would. There was no time for subtlety. "Torgga Appala Punra is all powerful. Would we not have a better chance force against force?"

Tap stopped sorting through material and straightened to look Haichen straight in the eye. "War, Haichen, is a fickle, diseased lover. Whatever the risk, and I do acknowledge that they are high, all out war must be a last resort. We can not win such a war. All we could hope for is to die honourably."

Haichen dropped her eyes and stared at the floor moodily. The truth was slowly being accepted by her conscience; they were all most likely to die. "Yes, Tap."

Tap nodded her approval then turned as Ian walked in. " Ian, if I do not return, you and Haichen will use a small force to hold on while the others run. Tell them to spread out as far and wide as they can. Survival will depend on each individual's own cunning and strength. If I die, we cease to exist as a people and each of you must look out for yourselves."

"Yes, Tap," Ian responded, watching her put things neatly away before she left the room.

Ian looked at Haichen with curious, intense eyes. "What is she up to?"

"She means to ask the Council for the right for a Malasha."

"What?! That is nonsense. Surely, Toggra Appala Punra would not agree."

Haichen sighed and looked at Ian. "She feels he will. All balances now on a knife edge. We must be prepared. Toggra will declare war on us all and our only chance of survival will be to run," Haichen responded, using the familiar form of Tap's brother's name. She saw the shock on Ian's face and ignored it. There was no point in showing respect to the enemy. They had to change their mind set.

"What is this nonsense?!" roared Torgga, turning to glare at his official as if the man was personally responsible for the turn of events.

The man cringed in fear and responded to the question carefully. "Our spy tells us she means to ask for the right for a Malasha when she meets with the Council."

"I'll destroy her and send her parts scattering through the universe. My sister has got arrogant and ignorant living among those animals," Torgga fumed.

The official licked his lips nervously and thought carefully before he answered. "Torgga Tap, your sister is well liked by the people. She is also well seasoned in combat and a hero of the Plaideanian Wars. She is, of course, not of your ability, but a dangerous foe never-the-less."

Torgga looked at the official with disdain. "I am not without combat experience. I trained under the great Taz Appala Punra, not my sister. Her training was only what her rank deserved. She learned her skill from our field marshals and honed them in combat against lesser species. She might fight well for a soldier but I am well aware that it is the art and skill of a weapons master that will triumph."

"Yes, of course Torgga Tap. But as you noted yourself, she lost her sense of culture in living in a lesser dimension and mixing with these animals. Can you trust her to fight strictly by the rules of the Malasha? I fear not. Perhaps if you would allow me to put in place some... safeguards." The official smiled at this, knowing he had handled Torgga Tap's arrogant attitude well.

Torgga returned the smile, his lips thin and cruel. "Yes, this would be wise. Tay Appala Punra is not to be trusted. I can easily defeat her if the Council supports her in this nonsense but it would be smart to have a secret force on hand should I need it if my sister uses treachery. Go."

The official bowed and left the room.

Torgga felt a presence disturb the fiber of the dimension and Kaysolna appeared. Torgga turned to face him. "You have analyzed the data?"

"Yes, Torgga Appala Punra."

"Any weakness in these primates that my sister studies?"

Kaysolna snorted. "So many as to make them unworthy of our attention. This is not a planet of any importance to us and not worth fighting for. Why Tay Appala Punra would rebel for such a useless rock makes no sense."

Torgga frowned and looked out the window. "My sister never does anything without good reason. That planet is important. Somehow it holds the key to our problems. We must learn what Tay Appala Punra has discovered among these primates."

Torgga's eyes shifted and focused on his commanding officer. "Our spy has sent word that my sister will request the right of a Malasha."

Shock followed closely by worry showed on Kaysolna's face. "This is not good news. Will the Council support such a mad request? Should we... talk to a few members to make sure that they see things our way?"

"Not to agree would be to show weakness. I will not only agree to this madness but encourage the Council to support the request. I will do so with the confidence of knowing that my sister has sealed her fate."

Kaysolna frowned. "Tay Appala Punra is an outstanding warrior."

Torgga stepped forward and grabbed the sleeve of Kaysolna's jacket, pulling him close and hissing in his ear. "You under estimate my abilities. I am not so stupid as to let my sister put herself in a position where she can win. Forewarned is to be prepared. I do not mean to let my sister pick the time or place for battle. I will. And you, Kaysona, will be waiting to ensure a victory."

Kaysona smiled cruelly and considered the implication of what Torgga Tap had said. "The people might suspect a trap if the Malasha time and location suddenly switches."

Torgga chuckled and letting go of Kaysona's jacket he went to pour himself a drink from the ornate nectar jar that sat on the table. "Of course there will be a trap. One of my officials is working right now to set one up. He will be exposed, of course, as Tay Appala Punra's spy and accomplice and eliminated." Torgga turned to look at Kaysona and took a sip of the bitter nectar before going on. "I will triumph despite Tay's treachery. You will see to that."

It was Kaysona's turn to laugh. What Torgga Appala Punra lacked in military leadership he made up for in cunning.

In Southern Norway, 80 percent of all the rivers and lakes are dying or are already dead. The smog layer over Beijing can be so dense that the city itself can not be seen from satellites. The longest recorded drought was in Arica, Chile. They had no rain for fourteen years. In one year, Cherrapunji India received 2646 cm of rain. 7098 different varieties of apples existed in the Americas in the early 1800s. Today, the genic pool has shrunk to 977 varieties. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2075 there will be more than 153 million cases of skin cancer worldwide. Courtney woke with a start, heart pounding, and fought to push the stream of depressing facts from her mind. The future was not just hers now but the inheritance of her child.

She lay very still on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Her activity was inside as she tried to make sense of all that had happened to her in such a very short time. It seemed like madness and perhaps it was. But she could only deal with her perceptions and her perceptions told her that she was in love and carrying the child of an alien being in a world that was rushing headlong into crisis. What new world would she bring her child into? Could her daughter be happy caught between two alien realities? Was she betraying the human race by her actions?

Humans had not been responsible caretakers of planet Earth. Now the planet was balanced on the brink of an environmental crisis that would plunge the planet into years of economic and social chaos. It would be a slow, depressing decent into the new dark ages. Could an alliance with Tap's people prevent the inevitable? Or would they be selling out their humanity for a quick fix to their problems?

Was Tap right that Courtney's initial reaction had been rooted in racial intolerance? She didn't think so. Even after all the unforgivable deceptions and controlling by Tap, Courtney had to admit that a part of her still loved Tap. No, her anger stemmed from the same resentment that so many non-European peoples had felt in the years of exploration. Now she could understand both emotionally and intellectually why it was better to be poor than to be under foreign rule. She hated the thought of the yoke of colonialism that might fall on the human race if they tried to make an alliance with these alien beings. Look what Tap had already done to her.

Tears dripped slowly from the corners of her eyes and stained trails down her cheeks. She had lain here for hours going over and over things. The bottom line was the daughter she now carried bound her future to that of Tap and her race. She would not support any alliance with Earth nor would she actively undermine it unless it became clear that Tap was planning a take over. She would try to make a life somehow in Tap's world and remain a neutral observer in order to protect her child's humanity. She smiled bitterly at this decision. A neutral observer, the very thing that she had lectured Tap that it was wrong to be.

A bell chimed far off in the distance. Haichen walked in. "Courtney Hunter, please, I must ask you to come with me. Tap has instructed that you be kept safe at all costs."

Courtney smiled with sad cynicism. She had no doubt that Tap's concern was for their unborn child not her. "What is that bell?"Courtney asked as she got up to follow Haichen.

Haichen strove to look calm and unconcerned and failed miserably. "It is the tolling of war."

May the Ancient Ones give you wisdom.

May your heart strike fear in your enemies.

May your soul lead you to honour and mercy.

"I thank you, Guardians," Tap murmured, and felt herself suddenly alone as the life force of her people swayed to accept back the souls of the three who watch.

Once again Tap strove to find an inner peace. In only a short time, she must go before the Council. She needed to gather her focus. The future of her people who had willingly followed her into exile depended on her skills. Yet, she could not find the calmness that she sought. Her mind came always back to Courtney Hunter and the child she carried.

She had objectively observed the institution of marriage as it was practised in different cultures on planet Earth. She had been both moved and appalled by the forms it could take. Good marriages, loving marriages, had a magical depth of happiness that was the golden ring that all reached for on the merry-go-round of life. It was a rare reward though and to fall short of the goal could lead at the very least to boredom and, at the worst, to violence and fear.

Tap had hoped...but no, she too had reached and failed. Courtney Hunter was revolted to be carrying her child and contemptuous of Tap's love. To her surprise, Tap felt tears prick her eyes and a hard lump of emotion wedge in her throat. She fought to pull herself together. She would need all her focus to face her brother in combat and to fail condemned her people to death.

"Tay?" Tap turned in surprise at the sound of her name spoken. Only her brother would dare to use the familiar form of her name without House name or title. Courtney stood across the room, looking pale but determined. "That is your real name isn't it, not Tap?" she asked softly.

Tap swallowed hard and blinked back the tears. She did not wish to appear weak before Courtney. "Tay is my given name. It is used only by my family. Tay Appala Punra is my titled name. It is the formal way to address me. Tap is an abbreviation of my family's House. It is acceptable to call my brother or myself by this title as some of your royalty are addressed as Your Highness. Taylor Alexandria Punga is an earth name I took that matched my title and name."

Courtney's hands were balled at her sides as she listened to the response. She stood rigidly. "So I should address you as Tay Appala Punra?"

There was a time for pride and a time to recognize that being humble also reflects a personal strength. This was a valuable lesson that Tap had finally learned from her time on Earth. She walked over to Courtney and looked down into those remarkable forest, green eyes. "You have my permission to call me Tay. Although, I hope in private that some day you might wish again to call me darling."

Hesitantly, Courtney reached out to Tap. A second later, she was wrapped in the taller woman's arm's. "Courtney Hunter, I love you. I wish that we could be I wish that you would help me raise Tamma Appala Punra as our daughter. I will honour your wishes on this matter though, no matter how painful it would be for me to lose our child. I was wrong to assume that you would wish to carry my child. I was wrong not to talk to you about my wishes and needs. I....I am sorry."

Courtney pulled back and looked at Tap with a raised eyebrow. "Tamma Appala Punra?" she questioned, trying to capture the same lyrical quality to the name as Tap had used.

Tap blushed deeply. "If the name is suitable to you. It is a family name,"she added as way of explanation.

Courtney got a combative twinkle in her eye. "And in English, Terry Alice Punga after my parents."

Tap smiled in relief. Courtney was going to give Tap and their child a chance. "Agreed."

Courtney snuggled closer to Tap. "Tell me about this war."

Chapter 19

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