Dedication to my sister friend Cindy who has travelled with me for many spirals of the helix, shoring me up and telling me the truth about myself; my first teacher in the concept of trust.

Special Thanks to Ryan and Robb who loved me to the courage for possible.

Book 1: Silver Journeys



Silver Cusp

by Dava Gamble


Is your sweet brow creased with sorrow

If so You must come hither and take Heart

On this mystic Cusp of a New Tomorrow

Lords & Ladies soon resume each rightful part

.Cernunnos Poetry

Chapter 1

Laura Ravencouer sat curled up on her favorite rocking chair, one made by her dear friend Luther and given to her and Amanda on a Wintersday past. When she first returned to the cabin, Amanda placed the chair by the window facing the ocean so that Laura could watch and take solace. Since she first came to the northwest coast, the ocean had drawn her in, giving her courage and a sense of continuance. It was coming to the late autumn of the year, time when the ocean started the yearly tantrums of cleansing before the next calming welcome of Mother once again. For weeks, Laura had found great difficulty in sitting before the fire and would not alone. Where she had once loved the flames, after the battles she only saw heart-wrenching grief; only time had healed her enough to allow her take warmth and more peace in front of the hearth. She heard Luther moving about in the workshop of the cabin and then the greenhouse. She was rarely alone at the cabin even now. When Amanda first brought her home, she was near breaking, fearing for her own sanity if left alone. Amanda did not leave her for weeks; when Amanda needed to travel to the former Carriere base each day, others had stayed with her until she was no longer afraid of the horrors in her mind. Luther McBane was a dear friend, a very ancient priest sent to care for his high priestess and her mate. Laura and Amanda hired him as a caretaker years before when they first chose to make the cabin their permanent home. Laura and Lydia Stenns taught Luther to fly helicopters initially to assist with his work at the cabin but in reality directed by their ancients. Amanda and Lydia quickly taught him how to fly bombing flights as one of the six pilots from the West that assisted the Resistance in the battles to defeat The Decision and Olc. Amanda told her that when the former military shot two Resistance helicopters out of the sky, Luther was on that installation and bombing before even Lydia or Amanda could catch up to him. He was the most loving and gentle man, one of many talents with a great sense of humor. When Laura came home he held her, weeping with promises that he would never let harm come to her young life again and she believed him.

She had been at the Northwestern Command Post where she lived and worked as Commander Laura Ravencouer before, during, and after the battles. Laura was the ancient high priestess sent to earth once again to help her beloved earthlings survive another attempt to end their world by Olc. They achieved victory with her leadership as well as other ancients but the visions she had seen with each battle and the faces of all those who had died became a burden to her soul that almost broke her. She had seen much death, destruction, had not known of the true fate of her beloved Amanda. Before the battles but after Laura remained with the Resistance fighters, Laura believed Amanda to be dead, again as directed by the ancients. There were silver chains wrapped around her heart by her ancients to keep her protected from feeling the hell she lived through in those years. All those who she had loved the most, her father Tom, her mother Thea, her grandfather Elgin, her friend and lover Lindsay, all died before the ancients directed Lydia, Barbara, and Amanda to rescue Laura from succumbing from a broken heart. The grandfather Noshi told her that she would understand when she was ready which she did.

The former Colonel Amanda Bennett (retired) was now the Commander-In-Chief of the new Armed Forces of the new settlement. Amanda planned and brilliantly led six pilots from the West through each bombing mission aiding the fighters of the Resistance in the battles for their survival. Central Command was now at the former Carriere Base, one formerly commanded by Lydia Stenns, now Lieutenant General Lydia Stenns. The ancients directed the Resistance to leave that former military base free of attack. It was small originally but was growing quickly. Amanda and Laura could fly each day as needed to the base with return to the peaceful sanctuary of their cabin on the mountainside. Charles Smithson was a friend of Lydia , Amanda, and Laura when he was still a Lieutenant Colonel at the former military command post where Laura met Amanda. He retired before the battles began, moving with his wife Eleanor to a small fishing village near Carriere called Eaglesdown. When Amanda chose to support the Resistance, she contacted Charlie and he was at the base the following morning. He too flew in all the missions with the six pilots from the West. He was Dean of Studies for the former military and was asked to assume the role of organizing training for new recruits to which he was happy to agree. He was commissioned to the position of Colonel, happily serving again with Amanda Bennett. Laura resigned as commander of the Resistance on the day she was found by Amanda and immediately rejoined the new Armed Forces with commission to the position of Lieutenant General. That was the only proviso that Amanda placed with Declan McDaniels and Ross Shipman when she agreed to take the position of Commander-in-Chief. Sean Taylor had been in charge of the Northeastern Command Post for the Resistance; Amanda asked him to take a commission with the new Armed Forces, an opportunity of which he was very proud. He was given command of Community Support, one where the Armed Forces staff hoped to help survivors in their fledgling communities with self-policing. He was a very gifted pilot; Charlie had already spoken to him about supporting instructors if needed. Sean was happy to agree.

Laura ' s ancients promised her that she would not leave her beloved Amanda again before she returned once more to the spiral of the helix. The high priestess Lohrissa mated with Amanda just months before Laura had been directed to start the battles. She had known she would leave and the ancients had protected her heart by silver chains but even that could not assuage the pain of not being with her lover. Amanda had known that Laura had lived but did not know that she wanted her back in her life; after the battles had eyes almost permanently clouded by sadness with no will to live her life in the new world. When she learned that the only thing Laura wanted was her, there was no further decision to be made; she had gone to Laura to take her home as she had requested.

In the first few weeks after Laura returned home, Luther and Jeannie provided meals until Laura ventured to the kitchen to find that healing muse once more. Laura only sat before the fire if in Amanda ' s arms for the first weeks; Amanda understood exactly why. Lydia Stenns was an ancient priestess, a magic woman who had walked on earth many times in the past with Lohrissa. She explained to all her friends that Laura had been burdened with visions of the death of everyone who had died in the battles; no human could withstand those visions for long. Lydia cast daily spells to her ancient priestess until time took the memories to less acute. Amanda ' s love was so great that she could feel some of the pain with her lover although not the horror. Amanda asked Laura if she wanted to share the same bed with Amanda or if she wished to sleep alone until more of her soul ' s strength returned to which Laura replied that she never wanted to Amanda ' s arms again in her current lifetime. Amanda held her lover every night for weeks with no certainty that she should anticipate the return of passion but she would love the sweet woman for the rest of her days even if it never returned. She did not have to be concerned.

Lydia told Amanda about Dr. Lindsay Reynolds as they travelled back to the command post to rescue Laura. Lydia spoke of the love the women had for each other; she didn ' t deny that they had been lovers for a time. She reminded Amanda that Laura was young, alone, scared, and needed the arms of another woman. She also reminded Amanda that she had a former lover in her life which was a blessing. She explained that Lindsay was the raven-haired beauty in Laura ' s painting, now at Carriere. Because of Lindsay, women now could bear children again. Lindsay was an ancient, Laura saw her at Naofa when she had almost died from anaphylaxis. She and her infant daughter died just days before they found Laura which was the catalyst that would have driven Laura to her death by a broken spirit. Before they touched down at the Northwestern Command Post, Amanda was weeping as she shared some of Laura's heartache.

As Laura lay in Amanda ' s arms night after night, she talked about her life over the years when she had not been with Amanda. She spoke about the great friends she made who she would love forever. Many were ancients who had been sent to help their brothers and sisters find their truth of survival. She talked about becoming very adept at hot-wiring ignitions, saying that Barbara would have been proud of her. She recounted about finding her mother, of the great honor of knowing her as a woman and an ancient. Amanda was brought to tears as Laura told her of walking with Lohrissa to Thea ' s pyre to ignite the flames, seeing her mother and father walk hand in hand back to the helix. After several weeks, Laura sat at the foot of the bed one night and told Amanda about Lindsay. She explained that like Laura, Lindsay had previously met the love of her life who died along with the child she was carrying, a child that Candace and Lindsay loved and hoped to raise. Laura continued that theirs was not a romantic love, both had known the true loves of their loves and gave down thanks for that. They were very honest with each other, both understanding theirs was a physical love, one to take them from fear, longing, and urgency. She told Amanda that she had almost attacked Lindsay when they had first met at the health care facility. For many months that had saddened her as she did not understand, surprised she was capable of that reaction. Laura and Lindsay had talked about that, apologizing for the hurt they had both caused on that initial meeting when Lindsay told Laura that although she had used a Colonel, causing her to commit suicide, there was no fear the great commander would ever get that kind of reaction in Lindsay. Amanda took her hand as she continued. She said she did love the woman and would not lie about that. She was proud of Lindsay, awed at her bravery when she chose pregnancy knowing that there were no data about how that pregnancy would proceed in light of the drug to reverse the vaccination. Laura wept as she told Amanda that she had not returned in time to see Lindsay before she died at childbirth and then she could not stay to honor her at the pyre. That was the last hurt she was able to bear. Amanda wept with Laura as she gathered her in loving arms until sleep found them both.

For weeks, Laura did not return to her commission as Lieutenant General. The new Armed Forces were in their infancy so there was still not a need for rapid escalation. Laura herself had written plans and secured supplies in the event of a needed defense of the remaining southern wall. There were no skirmishes among the survivors as they had all seen more than enough death and violence. As such, Laura stayed at home in the cabin with daily company of one of her friends, most of the time Luther. She found her muse in the kitchen; as time passed she looked forward to her time there as well as with the greenhouse and preservation of food. Luther had not destroyed her easels, knowing that when she was ready to paint once again she would ask for them. He did not remove any of the paintings Laura created for the walls at the cabin prior to the battles; she often looked at the one of hope above the mantle. She told Luther that image had sustained her on many trips back from death and destruction as had his words. He simply hugged his friend.

Amanda flew to the base three days a week but was always home for four days over every weekend. Three weeks after Amanda returned to work; Laura decided to make braided loaves, her first since she returned home to the cabin. Luther and Mary brought Dungeness crabs that morning and Laura found some wine for dinner. She also found some brandy with two pewter goblets. She was humming in the kitchen as Luther stopped by to say goodbye; he beamed when he saw the wine and the brandy. He hugged his priestess, saying he would not be back in the early morning as Amanda would be home and very likely occupied. Laura found skin tight jeans, a lace camisole, and the ubiquitous four inch heels. She had lived her life in baggy pants and shirts since her return home; she giggled as she braided her hair after which she applied makeup and perfume. She set out many pillar candles and poured wine as she anticipated Amanda ' s arrival in minutes. The General parked her vehicle, walked to the deck, and then the doorway of their home. Laura walked from the kitchen, took her coat and case, wrapping her arms about her lover, kissing her long, hard, and full on the lips. Amanda ' s knees nearly buckled; when she recovered Laura handed her a glass of wine and led her to the fire. Teddy and Primrose, the bear members of the household, were dressed in satin and lace which was a sign of the night to follow. Laura found music which played softly in the background. The skies had opened to a drenching rain as the cabin darkened quickly. Laura set an elegant table, inviting her lover to dinner of steamed crabs, salad from the greenhouse, and homemade braided loaf. After dinner, Laura led her lover to the shower with each woman emerging wearing lace and satin. Lace trimmed linens and warmed duvets were already placed on the bed when Amanda emerged from her shower. Laura lit pillar candles, poured brandy, and led her lover to sultry Latin beats. Laura took Amanda ' s hand, telling her to hold tight and hold fast as Lohrissa would love her mate this night. Amanda did hear her own cries of joy throughout the night and those of Laura ' s. Lydia was back at the ranch and in Barbara ' s arms; both women wept as they heard the joy from their ancient high priestess and her mate. Luther McBane stood on the dock at his home in the pouring rain and wept tears of absolute joy. Their beloved Laura was finally home.

The rain continued to fall the following morning and Amanda rose in darkness to make a pot of coffee. She dressed Teddy and Primrose in warm robes and set them rocking on the hearth. She looked at her beautiful lover still sleeping and once again wept. She did not know if they would ever find the place they knew before they had been separated. That place was now deeper, more real, exquisitely precious now, to remain so for all their days to eternity. She brought warming stones back to the bed, and then crawled back in to take Laura in her arms; as she did Laura started a dance of urgent passion once again. When they could both speak again, she giggled that they did have some time to make up. Amanda remarked that they apparently had not forgotten much; they were both certain they heard all the bears cheer. They choose to have cups of coffee in bed that morning, starting to talk about their future. It was six weeks until Wintersday; Laura asked if they could expect Lydia and Barbara at the cabin this year. Amanda replied that she would send an email when Luther arrived later that day. Amanda and Laura had held fast to the idea that they would not have computers at the cabin; if either were needed emergently they could contact the base and a messenger could fly although nothing urgent was anticipated. They did decide to invite their friends as soon as they possibly could. Amanda had spent recent Wintersdays with them at the ranch. She had not returned to the cabin since Bella had crashed; only doing so when she brought Laura home.

Laura then mentioned that she would return to work at the base, asking if there was a work space available for her. Amanda laughed, stating it was the first one renovated. Laura still did not really understand her true reputation, every survivor on the northern continent saw her as the ultimate heroine. To her, she fought beside her brothers, her sisters; they all achieved victory. Declan chose dress uniforms for the new Armed Forces but they were only worn for official duties. Amanda asked for simple working uniforms, those of white shirts with insignia depicting rank with black trousers or skirts. Amanda agreed to combat boots for work and black heels for dress uniforms for women She did not see the need for anything beyond that as she believed that clothes did not make the person, with no intention of ever entering into the idea of control every again. She told Laura that she would return on the next second weekday with her dress uniform and her work clothes.

Both women finally climbed out of bed to morning routines easily remembered. Amanda mentioned that in two weeks, Frida and Ross Shipman were coming to the base along with engineers who had perfected rechargeable batteries to replace fuel for small and moderate sized helicopters. All overland vehicles were now using batteries rechargeable by wind and solar power only. There were few supplies of fossil fuels, those needing to be kept for travel or defense if necessary. Amanda was hopeful that they eventually could rely only on renewable energy. She wondered if Laura would like to invite Ross and Frida to the old inn for dinner after their meeting. Laura agreed that would be lovely. She had not seen Ross or Frida since she had left the Northwestern Command Post although Amanda was in close contact, speaking always about Laura's progressing wellbeing. Laura insisted that other than Lydia and Barbara she did not want to entertain anyone from the new government at their home, Amanda readily agreed.

Over the time that the women were absent from their home, Luther supervised the building of ten more wind towers with many more solar panels as well as batteries. As such, the cabin, the Dawson home, and the McBane home were using only batteries with that energy. There was still electricity available because the town of Carriere had not been attacked but almost everyone now was living off the grid; those who had not were being taught. The base was now using only wind and solar powered energy for buildings and vehicles.

Amanda wisely converted certificates before the battles began and was still considered a very wealthy woman. Declan McDaniels was the interim leader of the new settlements with a view to a freely elected government within a few years. He sold renewal resources to the new settlements in Europe who had few resources of their own. That money was used to renew resources at home and to pay survivors who needed it. Amanda still paid Luther, Mary, Harry, and Jeannie as they continued to maintain their cabin and the mountain. Harry was still earning funds doing his usual small engine repair; both households were very adept at conservation and preservation as all had to be. The new Armed Forces were organized well under Amanda ' s leadership; Charles Smithson developed skeleton curricula for new recruits who would be hired within the year.

Luther arrived in midafternoon to see Laura dancing with her recipes and Amanda taking photographs. He had tears of rejoicing in his eyes as his priestesses were home again at the cabin and the future was assured. Amanda asked him if he had his computer with him, he confirmed that as he carried it with him always. She borrowed it for a few minutes, contacted Lydia who answered immediately with some concern, then with joy, and a few raucous remarks. There were obviously no secrets among priestesses. Amanda replied with some discretion, and then asked if she and Barbara would consider joining them for Wintersday at the cabin this year. There was an instant OF COURSE! Plans were made. Lydia said she would be back at the base on the fourth weekday of the coming week. Amanda did not tell her that Laura would join them then. She said goodbye and signed off.

Luther stayed only long enough to change batteries and to fill the wood box for the night. Amanda told him that engineers along with Ross and Frida Shipman were planning a visit to the base to discuss alternate power for small and medium sized helicopters in two weeks, inviting Luther to attend. He readily agreed as this was one of his ongoing projects.

Laura asked Amanda to grill steaks that Lydia had gifted them from the ranch. The snows would fall soon so they would not have the treat of the grill until Barbara worked her magic with anything bovine. Laura set dough for cinnamon buns for morning after which she harvested some vegetables for dinner and for the freezer. She was back in her element again, very grateful that the years away with the battles had not erased her memory or her love of the kitchen. She again set an elegant table for them, deciding that she would do that often now as she had missed that, having taken meals in a steel hut for years.

When Jeannie and Luther moved Amanda ' s personal effects from the former Air Base they had also removed Laura ' s which were all stored at the cabin. Luther did not unpack them but Laura knew they were there with plans to start to unpack her clothing as she would need them. There was still reliable shopping in the town of Carriere but there could no longer be the extravagance of their former lives although Amanda could still afford such. Laura was now keenly aware of the need not to waste anything or take clothing away from those who might need it more. She had uniforms for work and many clothes at the cabin already stored there from their previous stay there as well as all those that had been moved from the former base. She knew she still wished to indulge her lover from time to time but a simple life with Amanda was more than she ever could want.

With dinner and night routines finished, Laura led Amanda once again to the shower this time for play, then passion. She was no longer a child but had the body of a very fit twenty old thanks to the slowed aging effect of the vaccine. Amanda still had an absolutely beautiful body of a thirty-five year old woman kept very fit with activity at the base with return to life at the cabin. They knew that they would age eventually but very slowly; in the meantime they planned to enjoy each other every day if possible. Laura asked her lover to dance in the firelight until passion overtook them with journeys to their ancients and the multiverse once again. There was no need now to keep Lohrissa on the helix all the time; she had made it very clear to her ancients that she would often return to her mate joyfully. Amanda offered absolutely no protest. Before they fell asleep, Laura asked if they could go to Eaglesdown the next day, with tears Amanda gladly agreed. Her sweet woman was back; never to would she never leave again.

After coffee and cinnamon buns, both women dressed for a very cool day before leaving for the small fishing hamlet. Judith cried as both women entered the diner while all those inside the diner stood to honor Laura. She blushed, thanking them as they found their usual table. She hoped that people would just eventually understand that they all won the victory. Judith brought chowder and biscuits, Laura declared they were even better than she remembered. She did ask if they could purchase some for their freezer. Judith replied she had plenty, stating they would be ready when they returned from the Smithers store. Laura had no trepidation now about entering the store once owned by her elderly friends. Their death was far behind her now; they were together forever on the helix to greet Laura and Amanda when they went home to visit them there. The store was much the same as both women remembered. They purchased many items of warm clothing for Wintersday gifts for Lydia and Barbara as well as for themselves. They left after a visit with the Smithers children; after retrieving Judith ' s chowder they returned to the warmth of their home. Both women still marveled that they no longer needed to return to a restrictive military base after only four days as was their routine before the battles; both also understood that a huge price had been paid for that privilege.

The sun finally chose to appear the following morning and Amanda suggested that they take a thermos of coffee to the beach as the snows and winds would soon stop them for the winter months. Laura never had to be convinced to visit the ocean and perhaps now had an even greater love for it. It soothed her soul while recovering and still drew her down to strength each day. Laura remembered back to the day of her only real quarrel with Amanda many years ago, one where Amanda was upset that Laura planned to meet Declan and Ross. Laura ran to the beach that day and now thought of how superfluous that exercise had been. It was indeed merciful that neither woman had real conscious understanding at the time of what that meeting precluded.

When they returned home and over a second pot of coffee in front of the fire, Laura talked about Sanctuary and wanting to know how her friends there were. Amanda suggested that she could ask Ross when he visited. She also suggested that perhaps once the spring returned they could plan a trip to visit as well as to learn a firsthand understanding from an Armed Forces perspective. Amanda said softly that she wanted to know those people who sustained Laura during the hard years of her life. Laura hoped that someday they could also visit Amelia and Sterling as well. On her first arrival back to the cabin, Laura could not think of these people but now she needed to know of their wellbeing. She admitted that her ancients were guiding her to healing; with a wonderfully wicked grin said that the nightly return of Lohrissa probably did not hurt. Jeannie and Harry stopped for a short visit in the later afternoon. Jeannie said they just missed their friends, needing to see them. Laura ran to hug Harry, the first since she had returned home. She looked to Harry as her adopted father on earth, often telling him so. He had tears in his eyes as she hugged him, quietly welcoming her home. Jeannie glowed as she saw the soft aura around both women, understanding immediately that love and magic had returned to the cabin in the mountains. Amanda and Laura excitedly told them that Lydia and Barbara would join them for Wintersday; there would be no restriction on the number of days they could stay. Amanda grinned, quipping that she was the boss lady and they could stay as long as the boss lady said they could. Jeannie and Harry were also very excited with plans for transforming the cabin once again for Wintersday magic. As well, they planned their New Year ' s feast as everyone agreed that this year they truly had a reason to celebrate. Luther also came to the cabin briefly and they asked him to ask Mary as well if they could also join them. He knew that Lydia and Barbara would be here for Wintersday; he already made plans for transforming the cabin to magic.

After night routines and showers, Amanda returned from the pantry with the old Chinese checkers board followed by a tournament played in bed to laughter and insults. Primrose and Teddy actually rejoiced that the human insanity had returned to their home, as such all was right with their world. Laura rose, took the board and marbles to the island in the kitchen, then returned to her lover with arms aching once more. They did indeed have many months to make up.

Amanda returned from the base on the second weekday with uniforms for Lieutenant General Ravencouer including new combat boots. Amanda did not tell anyone at the base that Laura was returning to work the following day. She did invite the Lieutenant General to lunch off base to which Laura accepted graciously. Both women retired early as they needed to be in the air by 0800 hours the following morning.

After the General landed her helicopter, two officers stepped to the tarmac. The ground crew snapped to attention as Laura returned the salute, sighing as she would now have to resign herself to that. Amanda replied that it was really a formality; she had only asked for it as she was returning to work. The base was much the same as Laura remembered it with a huge expansion still being built. The offices were in the same building but had been enlarged and renovated. All the senior officers, Amanda, Laura , Lydia , and Charlie, had offices on the second floor overlooking the tarmacs. Charlie was in his office intent on his work when Amanda stood in his doorway and barked Attention to which Charlie was on his feet in seconds. Amanda saluted and before setting Charlie at ease she stepped aside to have Laura salute Charlie. He could not keep his composure as tears rolled down his cheeks. He had not seen Laura in years, only knowing of her through daily reports from Amanda. She ran to him, hugged him; with her own tears she thanked him for every flight and every bomb. General Bennett cleared her throat, suggesting that perhaps they cease the weep fest, and get back to work to which both officers grinned. Amanda then took Laura down the hall to her new office, across the hall from Lydia and next to Amanda. There was no support staff with no money for such; they all did they own office chores and would in the future. Amanda was all about business and cost consciousness. Laura was given duties to include further appointment and location of new bases through the northern continent as new settlements were built. Sean Taylor was not on base all the time as much of his work was in the field but Laura s work would include much input from him and she welcomed the chance to work with him again. When Amanda returned to her office, Laura smiled as once she had wondered if she and Amanda had worked together previously as they were now as well as loving each other to distraction.

At 1130 hours, Amanda knocked on Laura ' s door and asked if she was ready for lunch. Both women were drop dead gorgeous in uniforms, combat boots, and leather jackets. Laura wore minimal makeup, pearl earrings, and only her labrys which she had never removed. They walked to their vehicle, smiling as heads turned. They drove into Carriere to the bar for lunch. Sally was behind the bar, doing a double take before she ran to hug both her friends weeping. Amanda told her to get a grip and bring some coffee. Sally heard rumors that Laura was now a Lieutenant General but had not seen her in uniform or at work previously. Over lunch, Amanda talked to Laura about giving Barbara a commission, one of Lieutenant Colonel. She would only have to attend the base occasionally and could continue her classes at the ranch. She spoke briefly to Lydia and Charlie about the suggestion and now wanted to know Laura ' s input. Laura asked if Amanda thought that Barbara might agree as she had been retired for years. Amanda replied she thought that maybe Lydia might have some influence over her. She said that the woman was brilliant and one of the best pilots she had ever known. She could not be paid for a commission but so far none of them were so that would not likely be an issue. She wanted her to be recognized for a huge contribution. They had given a commission to a former civilian and Barbara Maclippe deserved at least that much honor. She returned to the base fairly often to visit Lydia , any business she needed to do at the base could be done then. Otherwise, business could be conducted by satellite link as it had been. Over coffee, Laura asked Amanda who had breached the communications system for the Resistance. Amanda replied it was Lydia and Barbara, done from the ranch. She said that in case Laura had not remembered, Lydia Stenns hated to be shut down anywhere. Laura smiled, then stating that she would be eternally grateful for that attitude. Laura said she had absolutely no objection and would fully support the General ' s decision. As they left, Sally asked if perhaps they could expect a night of hell raising over Wintersday. Laura replied she would take that into consideration.

Both officers returned to the cabin by 1630 hours. Luther had changed linens, done laundry, tidied the cabin, filled the wood box, and put dinner in the slow cooker. He was just leaving as they arrived and they both hugged him in thanks. He asked how their day went to which Laura said it was wonderful to be back at work again, this time with a real bathroom and nobody trying to bomb her. He smiled his blessings and said goodbye. Laura grabbed a shower before dinner and then set her usual elegant table. She was tired but it felt wonderful to be tired from work once again. She was excited to see Lydia the following day as it had been many months since she had seen her friend; she had been very tired and broken at that time. Amanda had her shower as Laura tidied after dinner and pressed clothing for work tomorrow. She placed warmed stones with duvets on the bed as Amanda emerged in a silk nightshirt. When she climbed into bed, Laura handed Amanda her hairbrush, asking her to untangle nearly dried curls. This was one of Amanda ' s most favorite tasks as she loved the silken locks, now showing more silver gray streaks making them even more beautiful. Laura said that when they visited Sanctuary to meet Chief Stephan Redhawk she would see where Laura ' s curls came from. Stephan was her father ' s younger cousin and there was a very strong family resemblance including salt and pepper hair. Kisses and touches led to kisses and touches with gentle passion before an early night hour claimed two tired Armed Forces officers.

Once again the next day, they were in the air by 0800 hours. Laura wore her skirt, white shirt, combat boots, leather jacket, silver ear loops, hair upswept and held with a simple silver clip. She was absolutely ravishing as was the General and both women would need to practice great discipline at work not to close the door to an office to get naked. They expected that Lydia would be in her office by the time they arrived having noticed her aircraft on the tarmac upon landing. Once again, Amanda went to her doorway, barked Attention to which Lydia snapped to her feet, and returned the salute. Amanda stepped aside so that Laura could return the salute. Lydia did keep her composure but barely until Amanda set her at ease. Immediately, she ran to hug Laura; she then closed the door behind her, kissing her long and hard full on the lips. She did not even consider an apology for the break in decorum. She promised that it would not happen again but she was so happy to see Laura and she was every bit of drop dead gorgeous as usual. Amanda just shook her head and told them both to get to work. Charlie Smithson asked to meet with Laura by mid-morning. Declan McDaniels and Ross Shipman had recommended two young women to teach skydiving, women who apparently had taught Resistance fighters at Sanctuary. He wanted to know if Laura knew them and if so she would recommend them. She did know them, stating they were both excellent instructors. Charlie had spoken already to Lydia already about perhaps conducting those classes at the ranch as it would be more convenient for the instructors and there was space to teach there as well as for lodging for students. There were many recruits who had been taught as had pilots so the classes sizes were anticipated to be small. He asked if Laura wanted to look at the curriculum and she declined. She explained that she has initially written it for the instructors; they followed what she had taught years before. Charlie said it would not likely get much better than that. He made the proposal to the General.

The base did not have an officers' mess and would not. Amanda had always thought the whole concept of segregating officers from other staff was pretentious and she would have none of that on her watch. There was a large open room where staff could dine; Amanda , Lydia , Charlie, and Laura joined other staff at a large round table to enjoy conversation with very good food. Everyone returned to offices and work; before Laura knew it they were back in the air and flying home. She thoroughly enjoyed yet another day at work. Lydia planned to stay at the base for the weekend and Charlie planned to work on the fifth weekday as well. Amanda and Laura did not plan a return to the base until the following second weekday.

When they returned home, once again Luther had carried out the daily chores. Luther planned to return on the second weekend day to change batteries, recharged from solar panels at the cabin; with that he left for his own home. The lovers dined and then took wine to the hearth. The flames still brought memories of destruction to Laura but she was finally more able to keep those visions as only memories, not always as current horrors. She had not talked much about that to Amanda as she did not need to. Amanda had been on the bombing raids and had seen the same destruction. The difference in experience was that she did not have visions of every soul who died. The priestess Lohrissa remembered every battle, every soul returned to the helix, every destruction, every rape of Mother. All holy ones carried their own memories as all ancients were the sum total of all their experiences. Laura Ravencouer ' s mind, her capacity to love, her strength, were all given to her at birth when her soul had been given up by the priestess in preparation for the journey she was destined to take. Every soul given up by the ancients had an enormous capacity for growth but the earthlings who carried it almost never fulfilled that full destiny; as such souls returned as many times as needed to achieve fulfillment.

Both women were tired from days of work, travel, and chose an early night. A brief warm shower led each to the other ' s arms and peaceful dreams. Amanda kissed morning into her lover as the night gave way to the dawn with Lohrissa ' s urgent reply. Over cups of coffee and with her head resting on Laura ' s breast, Amanda spoke of how blessed they were despite all the hell they had been taken to over the years of the battles, stating that she never stopped loving Laura even in the times when she was certain she would never see her again. In the hours after each battle, she would listen to the memory of Commander Ravencouer ' s voice barking orders, passionately leading her fighters to deny evil and choose life. Amanda told Laura she knew that time was past but she would always remember that strength and how proud she was to be her friend. Laura kissed her with a soft reminder that she had been taught very well by women who loved her always. She said she had heard Amanda ' s voice and Lydia ' s voice in her ears during the last battles, pushing her to what she had been taught. She told Amanda that she was certain that Lydia has spoken using Thea ' s voice at Sanctuary when she was so weary and almost broken by all the death she had witnessed. She had heard Luther ' s quiet gentle voice encouraging her to remember the love, to keep that in her focus always and forever. She agreed that they were very blessed indeed.

After breakfast, Laura started the task of opening stored cartons of her clothing. She wandered to the pantry and then beyond in the wood storage shed at the back of the building. She asked Amanda if they could partition a section of the wood storage area behind the fireplace for permanent clothing storage as the current wardrobes and chests would not contain all their clothing now kept permanently at the cabin. It would rob Luther of some feet of workshop but there was room at the far end of the structure to add to if he required room. Amanda agreed that it was becoming necessary. She didn ' t think that it would pose problems for Luther either in terms of construction or space. With that, Laura started the task of sorting and storing clothing taken from the base years earlier.

Both women talked about the excitement of the upcoming Wintersday and New Year ' s celebration with their friends. They would have to take turns covering the base over that work time with Charlie but did not anticipate that would be an issue for anyone. They were not far now from the base with still only a very small personnel contingent needing support. Both women agreed that they would need to take shopping trips now in the town of Carriere ; as much as Amanda disliked the exercise immensely this year would be filled with more magic than they had ever known. They chose a first weekday two weeks hence for their first shopping date including lunch at the bar. When Laura had stored clothing in the space left available, she then found her special dance in the kitchen. There was constant food to be preserved and frozen now with the greenhouse. Luther and Mary raised fowl to share it with their friends. Most food was now grown by the three homes on the coast and shared as was the practice now for all survivors of the battles. Lydia and Barbara were very generous with sharing of meat raised at the ranch and in return their friends on the coast shared harvests from the ocean. Laura spent the rest of her day preparing food for the freezer and baking, dancing with that muse as Amanda took photographs, interrupting her often for kisses with hugs. By nightfall, Mother had sent her first snowflakes from the skies; for the first time in many years Laura gave down thanks for the peace of winter with a request to her ancients that all her brothers and sisters would be kept safely until the warm spring rains readied a rested Mother to life's abundance again.

Amanda had found yarn and needles, lost now with her peace which caused Laura to kiss her through misted eyes. There was an almost tangible magic once again in their cabin home in the mountains. In the late afternoon, Laura found the antique pine box at the back of the hearth, sitting on the floor to look at her old tin toys. She loved them and would always but the child might never emerge again. She silently gave down thanks for having experienced that in her life, albeit later than most. Amanda gave her childhood memories to keep when they first met years earlier. Laura was raised from the age of five by elderly academic grandparents. Although she was loved and given the best that life could offer, she did not know the play of childhood. Until her first winter at the cabin she had never celebrated Wintersday. The old tin toys had been rescued from the Smithers ' General Store; they were as treasured to Laura as were all the jewels she owned. Amanda watched her as she took the toys from the chest and held them all close to her. There were not words necessary as both women understood the other with respect of the memories' private journeys. Amanda knew that the magic child had left and would not return but she had deep abiding memories to sustain her of when that child first emerged. Laura placed the toys and chest back to their resting place, then took Amanda ' s hand and led her to the skin rug where she seduced her handsome General. While still holding Amanda some time later Laura looked to the flames, seeing a smiling Lindsay briefly which brought tears to her eyes but also the blessings from one who she had loved and who had loved her in return. She whispered a return of those blessings as did Amanda. Laura knew that she and Lindsay would find each other again on the helix or perhaps as earthlings in another time.

Luther did return on the second weekend day; both women spoke to him about building a clothing storage space behind the fireplace into the wood storage area. He said that could be done easily; he expected that he and Harry would have no problems completing the project quickly. He asked if his friends wanted to see preliminary plans before they embarked on the project, both reassured him that they knew he would design exactly what they needed. Knowing Luther, it would be done expertly. They did tell him that if he needed more workshop space that he could expand the wood storage shed beyond the current walls and he said he might consider that in the future. He had been thinking of expanding the greenhouse space in the coming spring so that could possibly work for that time frame. He did reassure them that they would discuss all those plans in great detail over the winter months.

Amanda and Laura discussed inviting Charlie and Eleanor Smithson to the New Year ' s feast with Amanda stating that she would fully accept if Laura chose not to have any others in their home. Laura was delighted with the prospect. Charlie had become part of their family, knowing everyone from the years of the battles. He had already agreed to work for that part of the Wintersday holiday but could fly from the base and return to his home as he normally would at the end of his work day. Laura stated she wanted to invite him personally; Amanda kissed her agreement.

Chapter 2

The routines of their work life settled. Ross and Frida Shipman and the engineers were invited to stay at the base and return the following day but all declined. Amanda arranged for an early dinner at the Inn following their meeting. She requested that all her officers wear dress uniforms for the meeting out of respect for their guests and themselves. Luther McBane flew Huguette, still the cleanest aircraft on the northern continent, to the Carriere base to meet his friends. General Amanda Bennett and Lieutenant General Laura Ravencouer greeted the Raptor as it landed on the tarmac. They did not linger but when inside Ross hugged his dear friend Laura, remarking that she looked wonderful, much happier and healthier than when they had last parted company. Amanda introduced Colonel Charles Smithson and Luther McBane, stating that both were pilots joining the others as the six pilots from the West in the battles. Ross offered his most sincere everlasting thanks. The meeting brought very positive news for the use of renewable energy rechargeable batteries for fuel cells for small and medium sized helicopters. The young engineers and Ross stated that they had been using them routinely now on the plains; ranchers and farmers were very happy with the results. There was ongoing development to include those suitable for the Raptors but everyone agreed that it would not be long until all helicopters could be flown without the use of fossil fuel. Amanda asked if they were available for sale, if so she wanted to purchase enough for the helicopter at the cabin and eventually for Amo Te that was still at the ranch awaiting construction of a landing pad for fuel in between the ranch and the base. One of the young engineers stated that one fuel cell could likely be sufficient to fly that small helicopter to the base but he would make absolutely certain before he advised to do so. Ross stated that Amanda should contact Declan ' s office for plans to purchase the battery powered cells. At the end of their meeting, Lydia invited the young engineers to join her and Colonel Smithson for dinner at the base. They planned to meet Ross and Frida back on the tarmac at 1900 hours for their return to the ranch and then to the command post.

Over dinner, Laura asked about all her friends at Sanctuary and the plans for the new settlements. Ross reported that Lou and Niki were still at Sanctuary but were planning to move to a settlement in the East in the fall. The plans for recycling of all materials and careful harvesting of new materials from Mother were still ongoing. Amanda stated that they planned to visit the former command posts and Sanctuary in the spring as she had not seen them and wanted a sense of them from an Armed Forces perspective. She also said that she had a great personal interest in meeting all those who had sustained and nurtured the love of her life. With missing a beat and to a very broad grin from Laura, Ross responded with Roger that . Amanda ' s eyes grew large as she finally knew who was screaming that at the top of his lungs on the day of the final victory. Frida quipped that he said it often in his sleep. Ross and Frida met the young engineers ready to return to the ranch for fuel and then on to their homes. Laura and Amanda departed soon thereafter; on the way home Laura stated she was very glad to see Ross again. She admitted she had been uncertain as to how she would react but it was only with gratitude and peace. Both women gave down thanks for her continued healing.

It was late when they lovers returned home to a clean cabin with a blazing fire. Luther was indeed a gift; he told Laura before the battles he was a very old ancient who had been honored to care for his priestess for many spirals of the helix and would do so whenever called upon. For all his gentle ways, he would go to battle repeatedly as he had in the past to protect Lohrissa and all their beloved earthlings which made him ever dearer in the hearts of his friends. Laura was removing her dress uniform; as Amanda smiled telling her she was by far the most beautiful officer in any Armed Forces on the planet to which Laura asked how many did she really know. Amanda lovingly muttered that she had been spending entirely too much time already with Lydia Stenns.

Cold and wet weather kept both women indoors for both weekend days. Chores and routines as well as the welcome interruption of passion filled the hours. On the second weekend day, Laura was perched on a stool by the kitchen island making shopping lists, giggling as she realized that she had not been shopping in years and she was actually looking forward to it. Declan made sure that Amanda took all Laura ' s converted certificates from the Northwestern Command Post on the day that she had taken Laura home. Although not wealthy, Laura Ravencouer was certainly financially self-sufficient. She was anticipating finding perfect gifts for her friends and for her lover. She had sad, wistful memories of the designer Karina, her dear friend who had died at the hand of Tony Downs. Karina had always found the most perfect gifts for Amanda but after the hell they had lived through in the past few years Laura also understood that the gift of each to the other for eternity was the greatest gift either could give or receive. With her shopping lists almost complete, she then wandered to the storage shed, retrieved an easel, and brought it to the window where she had painted in the past. She brought the stool from the kitchen and placed it at her usual perch. Back in the pantry, she rummaged until she found a canvas and paints, some still packed from new orders just before she had left for the battles. In the late afternoon light, Laura sat to prepare her first canvas in many years; when she looked up Amanda was photographing through tears. Both women went to each other as Lohrissa took Amanda to the shower and pinnacles that only she could bring. Much later, very hungry women ate a simple dinner in front of the fire, clothed in warm nightshirts, moccasins, and auras of the priestess.

Laura landed an Armed Forces helicopter on the tarmac by 1000 hours on the first weekday morning. She and Amanda walked to a waiting vehicle, and then left for the town of Carriere . Both women agreed to shop separately for the morning hours and to meet for lunch at the bar. Laura found a jeweler, a shop selling wool, a clothing shop, and ordered gifts to be wrapped for Wintersday with arrangements for pickup by Luther at a later date. She was approaching the bar as Amanda greeted her with a kiss. In their new world, there were no politics of exclusion and none other would be tolerated. Too many lives had been lost to ever consider those restrictions. As they entered the bar, Samantha Morgan, the architect who designed renovations on their home years before, spied them and leaped up to greet them. She knew that Amanda was now the Commander-in-Chief but did not know of Laura ' s commission. She humbly thanked both women for the sacrifices they had made and both were very gracious in acceptance. She invited them to join her and Carrie for lunch but Amanda declined, stating honestly that she had spent years without her lover and was now selfishly taking as much time alone with her as she could.

Amanda and Laura returned to the base by 1500 hours and were in the air flying to the cabin shortly thereafter. Laura had declined an opportunity to a foray in the grocery store, stating that Luther or Jeannie could have that pleasure. She just wanted to be alone with Amanda and to hold her in arms for a very long time. They dined early and soaked in a bubble bath, still an almost decadent luxury to Laura who had only been able to take showers, lukewarm at best, for most of her years at the command post with only very sporadic baths at Sanctuary. Lips found lips often and touches finding touches followed before cooling water and warming ardor took the lovers to their bed.

The next three work days followed without event. Laura invited Charles and Eleanor Smithson to join them at their home for their annual New Year ' s feast; after discussion with his wife, Charlie was very happy to accept. He said they were very much looking forward to joining them, seeing where his friends were able to finally live in love and peace.

Lydia returned to the ranch on the fourth weekday with plans to return to the base later in the week. She worked through weekends in order to take five days off at a time. Amanda emailed Declan to formally offer Barbara Maclippe a commission as Lieutenant Colonel. She asked Lydia to use whatever means available to her to convince her lover to agree; with a decidedly wicked grin she told her friend that she had personal experience with Lydia ' s persuasive talents. Lydia Stenns had been Amanda Bennett's first lover years previously; they had remained very dear friends long after they chose only friendship over lovership. When Lydia chided that the General ' s directive to the Lieutenant General was not entirely professional, the General replied that she usually got what she wanted or needed, not being above using whatever means at her disposal to insure the outcome.

Luther and Harry had the frame erected for the new clothes storage area by the end of the fourth weekday. Both women looked forward to four days alone without any pressing demands save for chores, muses, and passion. Mother sent a light dusting of snow on several days; soon she would allow winter and its rest to descend on her face. Amanda asked Laura if she wanted to return to Eaglesdown for lunch and shopping for Wintersday while the weather held; as usual Laura was always delighted to have a date with her lover. The first weekend day was cloudy but with relatively quiescent winds so the lovers arrived for Judith ' s chowder by noon. Laura hoped that Judith had soup to sell which she did. After lunch, Amanda bought prawns for dinner and they prowled through the general store purchasing clothing, wool, boots, candy, and bright paper for wrapping gifts for Wintersday. Both women were back and occupied by their muses by midafternoon. Luther charged batteries, did chores, and filled the wood box while they were out. Other than dinner there were few chores. By evening snowflakes were falling, cloaking the cabin in silence as passion found the lovers once more.

A story from the ancients found its way to Laura ' s canvas on the first weekday. Amanda took dozens of photographs as she watched her lover transform to the place where she heard and saw the story. A vista of mountains clothed in shades of green with meadows of prairie blooms were the background for earthlings dancing, held from below by auras and from above by ravens. There was only joy in this painting, no longer any of the dark foreboding of several paintings in the past before the battles. Laura finished it with a very faint wash of silver, leaving it to dry. Luther hung all the paintings from Amanda ' s former suite but all Laura ' s were in storage at the base. In time Amanda would ask her if she chose to keep them, suspecting that she would not. They would be kept for future viewing in a gallery of some design, if for no other reason than as a reminder to all earthlings of their near fate. Laura decided that this would be given to Lydia and Barbara for their home at the ranch.

Lists for supplies for the Wintersday celebration were written, including the indulgence of champagne for this very special celebration; when finished Luther, Jeannie, and Mary planned shopping forays into Carriere. Luther and Laura also planned a day of making candy which they all happily anticipated.

Amanda printed and mounted photographs for the cabin and for gifts. Everyone was anticipating the magic of the upcoming Wintersday, now only three weeks away. Lydia and Barbara decided to arrive five days before Wintersday and stay until three days after New Year's first day. All officers had worked out a schedule to attend the base for the weekdays and the most senior pilot would assume temporary command for the weekend days, understanding that the all officers were only less than thirty minutes away at any given time.

Lydia and Barbara would celebrate their twentieth anniversary together at Wintersday. As Laura and Amanda had exchanged labryses on Wintersday they also chose to celebrate their time together on that day; this year they would be together eight years. They talked at length about Laura ' s lovership with Lindsay, mutually choosing to honor that but to not consider it as a breach to their relationship. In no way had it been a replacement for the love that Laura had held deep in her soul for Amanda but rather a need for comfort when hell was falling around them. Amanda reassured Laura that she was glad that she had found arms to hold her to take away some of the hurt and the fear. She had not taken a lover as she did not want one but she had the support of all her friends at the coast as well as from Lydia and Barbara which had sustained her. She often told Laura with whispers of love that the sweetest words she had ever heard twice in her life were Take Me Home.

By the end of the following week, Luther and Harry had finished the new storage area for clothing. Laura finally unpacked all her clothing taken from her quarters at the former base. That process took Laura back to a time of her innocence and then through the horrors that robbed her of that. She had few words while she journeyed; Amanda watched, holding her when she knew it was needed. Both women knew that only time would dull the edges of Laura ' s hurt; they wondered at the amount of strength in the young life present on earth. Amanda did tell Laura that all her paintings from the old base were stored at Carriere and would stay there until she chose their fate.

While at work during the next week, Amanda received an email from Declan McDaniels stating that Barbara Maclippe had agreed to the commission of Lieutenant Colonel in the new Armed Forces. Lydia had returned to the base but did not speak of Barbara ' s decision. Amanda went to her doorway and grinned to which Lydia replied that they all knew she was good, very good indeed. With every sincerity, Amanda expressed gratitude that Barbara would now be recognized for not only her huge contribution in their support of victory but that her skills as a pilot and a master mechanic would also be honored. Sheepishly, Lydia admitted that she had ordered her uniforms before she had finally agreed. When she arrived for the Wintersday break, there would be a quiet ceremony at the base to give her commission officially.

Even though the base was now officially called the Central Command Base of the Armed Forces, it would always be the Carriere Base to the officers who worked there. Lydia had taken the tasks of supervising the expansion of the base; the first phase almost done with plans to start the second phase in the spring. There were survivors who had expressed interest in serving in the new Armed Forces; Amanda and Charlie anticipated that new recruits could be hired and trained in the summer and fall. There were plans to eventually establish training centers closer to more populated areas in the east and west but everyone also agreed that settlements and homes for survivors was to take first priority. Laura suggested that when buildings erected to house communication networks community policing centers could also be set up using the same facilities. It had been decided even before victory that the new Armed Forces would serve the survivors as their first and continuing missions with less focus on defense. The southern wall remained with no plans for its destruction until such time as conflicts in the southern continent had been resolved. Sterling Carland was still struggling with establishing contacts with any Espionage networks for the southern Resistance; until the survivors knew the extent of fighting there would be no consideration of any offensive.

Amanda and Laura worked through the last weekend before Wintersday in anticipation of Barbara ' s arrival from the ranch on the first weekday of the Wintersday week. There was a brief ceremony to officially commission Lieutenant Colonel Barbara Maclippe. When she arrived in the dining room, General Amanda Bennett and Lieutenant General Ravencouer caught their breaths as a very handsome woman of great countenance snapped to attention to salute her commander, her peers, including her lover Lydia . General Bennett congratulated her, thanking her for her huge contributions in the past and what they knew would continue in the future. By midday, all four friends were ready to depart for the cabin leaving Colonel Smithson at the base. Two helicopters arrived at the landing pad on the mountainside; Luther and Harry met all occupants with two vehicles. Luther carried luggage to the cabin, he and Harry returned to bring extra cartons and supplies. Mary and Jeannie were waiting at the cabin with coffee and champagne to celebrate Barbara ' s new commission. Even Harry finally had to admit that the senior command of the new Armed Forces were all strikingly beautiful, very capable women. Jeannie snapped random photographs as Lydia quipped that it was almost hard to resist a uniform as it was to resist a Stetson. It was Harry ' s turn to shake his head. After the brief celebration, the friends at the coast departed for their homes. All uniforms were exchanged for jeans, t-shirts, and moccasins. Both Lydia and Barbara remarked more than once about how wonderful it was to be at the cabin again with all their friends for Wintersday, no-one more than Laura could agree. Charlie agreed to work for the remainder of this day and the following day and then again on Wintersday ' s Eve. Lydia agreed to work one day that week as did Amanda, leaving Barbara and Laura to do their dances in the kitchen and to spend time making up for years of sisterhood lost.

During the afternoon and evening, Laura was constantly close to tears with happiness as the magic and love of the four priestesses filled the cabin on the mountainside. She had always given down thanks for that love and magic but after the huge price they had all paid she was almost overwhelmed with the magnitude. Amanda held her often and kissed her more as she understood this day ' s journey of her lover. There were shimmering auras circling both of them which caused even the usually toughened Lydia to have misted eyes on more than one occasion. After dinner and with wine in front of the fire, Amanda asked Lydia and Barbara if they would like to join them in the early fifth month of the coming year on a trip to Sanctuary, to meet Laura ' s friends there as well as to get a firsthand understanding of survival there. Both women immediately accepted; Amanda then declared that would be the last time any of them spoke of work for the remaining days of celebration of Wintersday at the cabin. She did tell them that Charles and Eleanor Smithson had accepted an invitation to join all the friends for the New Year ' s feast to which Lydia expressed her delight. She said they would see a side of Charlie that was not visible in uniform, saying also that Eleanor was extremely witty and very bright. Before they retired for the night, they decided on a day in the week after Wintersday for some very definite ruckus raising at the bar as it was very much overdue. Lydia then smiled, said that the Lieutenant Colonel needed taming by the Lieutenant General, and asked that they be excused to their bedroom for the night. Both Amanda and Laura beamed their blessings; passion led the priestesses to the ancients and the multiverse in the cabin in the twelfth month of the New Year.

Friends joined each other later in the following morning. Barbara and Laura found the dance of the kitchen after lunch as Amanda took photographs. Lydia quietly remarked that although it did not seem possible Laura Ravencouer was even more beautiful than ever. She said she had been very frightened for the young woman when they found her at the Northwestern Command Post although she did not indicate that at the time. Amanda said she completely understood as she had to fight tears for days when they first returned to the cabin and Laura struggled beyond catatonia. Amanda was usually remiss to talk about her intimate life with Laura but she did tell her friend Lydia that on the day that Laura met her at the door with the skin tight jeans and the wine her knees buckled out of joy with unadulterated desire. From that first kiss, she knew Laura was back and would stay with them always now. Even telling Lydia many weeks afterwards still caused Amanda to shed tears to which Lydia responded with a hug.

All four friends talked about the expansion of the greenhouse at the cabin. Laura talked about sharing of food with Harry and Jeannie as well as Luther and Mary. She stated she gave down thanks because their lives were so much easier than some survivors who were starting to rebuild their settlements. Lydia reminded her that it was a struggle they had chosen over death and they would likely rejoice in that every day on earth. She also reminded Laura that she, perhaps above all others, knew the price all of them had been prepared to pay for the right to survive and live their lives as they chose.

Lydia and Amanda took command on separate days. Barbara and Laura spent days in the kitchen or before the fire taking back the time they had lost as sister friends. Barbara knew of Lindsay, her journey as an earthling, and then her return to the ancients with her daughter. Laura spoke of how she had loved her friend and how she always would. She said that Amanda appeared to understand to which Barbara replied that Amanda and Lydia still loved each other and always would. She gently told her sister friend that there was always enough room in women to love deeply forever and that was what made women entirely precious. Both women spent hours cooking and talking; Lydia and Amanda both knew that there was healing taking place from Barbara ' s soul which they did not interrupt. Amanda took photographs that were able to capture the great love between the two sister friends. On the evening of the fourth weekday Luther and Harry brought spruce trees and boughs, promising that everyone would return in the following mid-morning to transform the cabin to Wintersday magic. By the following afternoon, a large spruce tree occupied the space beside the fireplace and small trees were placed on the kitchen island, both bathrooms, and the guest room. Laura had found her very lacy linens from her quarters at the former air base. She and Jeannie transformed the guest room for a celebration of a very special anniversary. The bears Anna and Versarie wore satin and lace that matched that laid out for their humans. There were flowers on the side chests and en suite as well as champagne in the small refrigerator. Hundreds of tiny white lights and crystals adorned all trees and boughs. Luther brought pots of paper whites and Wintersday cacti from the greenhouse. Laura stood at the window gazing at their handiwork. Amanda knew she has feeling sadness for those who had lost their lives and would not celebrate. Lohrissa and Noshi gently chided her that all souls would celebrate at dawn with the advent of the new sun bringing life to all earthlings. They told Laura that the time of sadness and grieving was gone. She could fill her soul only with love and hope. They allowed Laura to see Lindsay holding her child Candace. As well. Laura saw Tom and Thea, her beloved earth parents, dancing in each other arms; all and at once she was filled with peace and joy. As she returned to reality and Amanda ' s arms, there were shimmering about them and all ancients gave down thanks. Before Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary left with Wintersday blessings, they were gifted by both Amanda and Laura.

The cabin was cloaked in darkness late in the afternoon hours as a very tired sun gave up his used domain. As was her custom now, Laura set an elegant table and the priestesses dined enjoying each other ' s company. After dinner, Amanda ran a scented bath for her friends as Laura made preparations for Wintersday breakfast. When done, Amanda asked her to join her on the rug before the hearth and she spoke of the first time they had met on the rug before the fire some eight years ago. Laura said it seemed lifetimes past and Amanda agreed but also stated that she was very glad that Laura agreed to join her at the cabin that first weekend. With that she took Laura ' s hand and once again Laura did not withdraw it. Barbara and Lydia found them cuddled before the flames, softly said goodnight, and left for their own very special Wintersday celebration. Amanda turned out the tree and mantle lights and then led her lover to the shower. Lovers gently undressed each other and then found quiet passion in the warm water. Mother Moon was in her full girth and cast shadows through the windows of the cabin. Lohrissa took her lover in her arms and both danced spirals in the moonlight before taking Amanda to the pinnacles yet and again with the music of voiced love ringing in the mountains.

Wintersday dawned bright with the proud arrival of a new born sun. Amanda and Laura rose to set out a breakfast feast for their friends and themselves. After brief morning chores, Amanda took coffee to the window and beckoned Laura to join her to greet the day. As they looked up, there were ravens circling in the skies about the ocean and the cabin. Both women gave down thanks to the ancients as the sun tipped black wings with gold. Laura told Amanda that even in the days of the battles she had seen the ravens on Wintersday. Amanda whispered they had come to her as well. They returned to the rocker before the fire after dressing Teddy and Primrose and setting them rocking on the hearth. Before Barbara and Lydia joined them, Amanda went to the chest holding her clothing and returned with two small boxes. She took Laura ' s hand and placed the ring she had given her many years ago on the fourth finger of her left hand and then placed a matching on her own left fourth finger. Laura had taken the ring from her finger the day she had left to meet Tony Downs and when she did not return Amanda had removed hers as well. Laura had always assumed those rings were lost. Circles of ice and fire with diamonds and rubies wrapped each finger signifying eternity. Amanda whispered that she would never remove her ring again and Laura offered the same promise. Lydia cleared her throat to interrupt a very passionate kiss and embrace.

All four priestesses wished each other Wintersday blessings and happy anniversary. Laura was convinced that she had never seen Lydia or Barbara look as beautiful as they did this special Wintersday morning, both glowing with the love of twenty years together. They too had chosen far less extravagance in light of the infantile economy in the new settlements, choosing not to exchange jewelry to mark the day. Laura poured champagne and invited her priestesses to join her for a morning feast. Barbara first noticed Laura ' s ring on her finger once again and just smiled with hugs for her sister friend. She turned and took Amanda ' s left hand, smiling as she hugged the priestess. Barbara thought to herself that no evil in the multiverse could ever conquer a loving heart given to a loving heart.

Gifts were exchanged and enjoyed. Amanda had given gift notices to both Lydia and Barbara that there were batteries to replace the use of fossil fuel for all their aircraft at the ranch. They used wind and solar power for years before Amanda met Lydia and these batteries would now mean that they could abandon the constant hunt for fuel. She told them that she had ordered the same for the helicopter at the cabin. Amanda then asked Laura to grab her coat and boots she had a gift outside at the Dawson home. Laura could not imagine what that could be. All four women jumped in the overland vehicle and headed down the mountain road. As they rounded the last corner and the landing pad came into view, Laura started shouting, laughing, and crying all at the same time. The other women had a hard time hold back their own tears. Almost before the vehicle had come to a full stop, Laura was out and running to the landing pad, yelling Amo Te!" The small helicopter had been given to her years before by Amanda and all her friends on the coast as a birth anniversary gift. Laura had not flown her in many years as she flew Raptor ' s during and after the battles. She had never really forgotten her but did not think of her often. Up until a few weeks previously, she could not fly beyond the ranch as she could not hold enough fuel to fly to Carriere or the cabin. With the new use of batteries to replace fuel, she had more than enough power to fly home. On Wintersday Eve, Ross and Frida flew separate crafts to the base and then returned home in one. Luther and Jeannie flew to the Carriere base and returned home with Amo Te early on Wintersday morning. Luther, Mary, Harry, and Jeannie were waiting to greet Laura, beaming with her reaction. She hugged all her friends and then asked Jeannie if Amo Te could stay at that landing pad as Huguette and the Armed Forces craft were on the tarmac on the mountainside. No-one had any objections. As before when Laura first met Amo Te, Lohrissa emerged with her shimmering white aura as she kissed Amanda. There was magic indeed on the mountain that Wintersday.

Once back at the cabin, Laura returned from the pantry with one more gift wrapped in brightly colored paper, addressed to Lydia and Barbara. Lydia wept openly as she opened Laura ' s painting. No-one had ventured even a guess if Laura would take up brushes again; to see the hope and joy on the canvas was the most precious Wintersday and anniversary gift. Laura simply smiled, stating she was happy they approved. Laura then returned to the dance in the kitchen. Amanda joined her to take photographs, to interrupt her with kisses, and nuzzles at her very lovely neck. Amanda also took many photographs of Lydia and Barbara as they held each cuddled on the sofa before the fire. Laura hummed and sang softly to herself as she set a very elegant table; Amanda thought that next to the sounds of love being offered down to the ancients and up to the multiverse the sound of her lover singing was the most beautiful sound on the planet. She excused herself to take a shower in order to dry and tame her curls. Lydia gathered her lover in her arms, and then led her to the guest room for more anniversary celebrations in the midafternoon. Most agreeably, Amanda took advantage of a beautiful lover in the shower to join her for their own anniversary celebration. As Mother Moon decorated a twilight sky with her bright cradle, Laura emerged dressed for dinner in the black dress, four inch heels and her hair held in her obsidian and diamond clip. Amanda caught her breath; Wintersday dinner could have been late save for very hungry house guests. The other priestesses joined her for champagne, then a feast to celebrate the love they shared and the life they had chosen.

The following morning, Laura invited Amanda to join her for a flight in Amo Te. Laura asked Luther if there were any special considerations now with a battery replacing fuel to which he replied the only stipulation was that the cells needed charging for which he would be responsible. Laura flew Amo Te out of the ocean and Amanda took her to the place where she had jumped before abandoning Bella. She told Laura that it was her careful instruction for landing that allowed Amanda to fall to the ocean without broken bones. She wore a GPS device, Luther and Harry found her quickly, took her aboard Yule, and then back to the dock. Laura smiled at the wisdom of their ancients who had directed Amanda and Laura to gift Luther and Mary with a special Wintersday gift years before with which they had purchased a new boat and named her Yule. Lydia and Barbara had given Luther and Mary a GPS the following summer with only Lydia knowing the real plan. Amanda told Laura that Lydia had been harsh, brutal, and demanding just days after Laura had left, telling Amanda that she was AWOL, that they needed to fight back, and that they would. It was Lydia ' s direction from the ancients to fake Amanda ' s suicide which then allowed her to plan, teach, and direct the six pilots from the West to support the Resistance on all their raids. Lydia stole every bomb, every missile available to her from the former military, and trained a squadron of bomber pilots to assist with the final battles. Amanda smiled when she told Laura that the ocean was beyond cold and she could not feel her legs by the time Luther hauled into the boat. When they returned to the dock, Harry had to carry her to Luther ' s house so she could be warmed. At that point, Amanda insisted that she would not return to the cabin. As such, Barbara flew her to the ranch; between the base and the ranch Amanda lived her life for the time that she and Laura were separated. Before she departed, Luther promised that he would keep their home ready for their return as the ancient scribe knew that would be reality when the battles were won. Amanda talked about how she and Lydia taught both Luther and Jeannie to fly the large bombing helicopters. She smiled when she told Laura that they both were brilliant pilots. Laura and Lydia had trained Luther well and he took to the large crafts as if he had been flying them all his life. When they landed back at the ranch after each raid, Luther and Jeannie paced the tarmac and cursed. With every raid, all became more determined to assist with victory; all the pilots told Amanda that they would do it repeatedly in a heartbeat if needed. On their return to the landing pad, Laura asked how Harry had adjusted to his wife being a bomber pilot and with a gentle smile Amanda replied that he was given no choice but acceptance. After landing, Luther greeted them and told them both that he would move Amo Te to the small hanger for protection. On the drive home, Amanda laughed, telling Laura that Luther would move Amo Te after he washed the craft.

When they returned to the cabin, they stood on the deck arms wrapped around the other as they watched the ocean ' s tantrum. Amanda kissed Laura long, hard, telling her that she loved her more than she ever thought humanly possible. After returning the kiss, Laura said she was a priestess and the ancients loved more than any earthlings. She often wondered if they should let that secret out among earthlings not yet returned to the ancients, perhaps an incentive of sorts. Both women tossed back heads and roared laughing. Barbara and Lydia had been watching and when their friends entered the cabin they asked to be let in on the joke. With cups of mulled cider, Laura told her friends that Amanda had told her of the days following her leaving; she then took Lydia ' s hands, pulled her to her feet, gathered her in her arms, and kissed her long and hard full on the mouth, thanking her for pushing Amanda to choosing life. Lydia just smiled her response; for once there were no smart remarks crossing her lips.

Laura and Barbara took command at the base for the first two weekdays thereby allowing Charlie to have an extended weekend with his family. Charlie agreed to work the following three days. Before leaving early on the first weekday morning, Laura stated loudly to Barbara and any other ears within listening distance that she would tell Lydia and Amanda to behave themselves but it would be a waste of breath and energy. Barbara agreed, telling them both to enjoy the day and the company. Both officers did not take on many strenuous duties, spending a great deal of their days in the staff dining room chatting with others who remained on base. Both women talked about a possible visit to the ranch for the Ostermonat weekend as they had done in the past with a discussion with their lovers when they returned to the cabin.

Everyone slept late on the third weekday as they planned a late night of ruckus raising at the bar. Possibly every gay woman in Carriere was anticipating seeing Laura in her mischief mode. Amanda knew that the youngster would not return but instead a full grown woman would join them. Laura had not given a clue to what she had chosen for attire and but she giggled often to herself that she had a few years of hell raising to make up. Amanda had not seen half of the clothing that Laura owned; she wanted to create a surprise. In midafternoon, after showering and loving Amanda, she claimed the bathroom, locking the door. All would just have to wait. She tamed the curls and tied them at her crown but let them flow down her back and breasts. She chose a very short black skirt, matching halter, six inch heels, diamond and obsidian earrings and ankle bracelet, with the come hither makeup. She giggled as she decided that she cleaned up fairly well and was able to return to hell raising mode, a transition that gave her much relief. She opened the bathroom door and emerged. Lydia and Amanda nearly fainted as Barbara let out a lecherous howl. Laura strode directly to her lover, quietly stating that she was back. Amanda emphatically stated that she was not back, she was better. Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary all arrived as nobody wanted to miss seeing their beloved Laura in hell raising mode. Luther roared laughing, Mary applauded, Harry was speechless and blushing, Jeannie took photographs. Laura grabbed boots to get to the helicopter, her leather jacket, and the priestesses were off to Carriere.

The ground crew did forget to salute as Lieutenant General Ravencouer descended from the cockpit and walked to the waiting vehicle using the six inch heels to her best advantage. Amanda made reservations for dinner; Sally knew the table they wanted, one with a good view. Lydia and Barbara entered first followed by Amanda and Laura. Every woman in the bar knew that Laura Ravencouer led them all to victory and were not certain of the woman she had become. As soon as she stepped into the room, there was a hush broken only with Sally whistling and shouting. Laura smiled; asking her if this was suitable; Sally just shook her head. She might be a heroine but tonight she was every bit of drop dead gorgeous and knew how to use that. Before they had reached their table, Samantha Morgan walked to Laura, asked for pardon in decorum, and kissed the beauty long and hard full on the lips. Everyone in the bar applauded including Laura. Lydia quipped that perhaps the Armed Forces could raise some funds for salaries and equipment by just opening a kissing booth. Amanda glowered, stating the boss lady she would never agree to that idea. After dinner, the bar was entirely full even before the music started. Laura had a look of definite mischief shining from hazel eyes as she strode to the bar to ask for a soda after the now infamous lean over the bar as far as womanly possible. Again, there was silence save for suppressed laughter at her table. She then turned, blew a kiss to the crowd, taking every advantage of the magic of six inch heels. She got a standing ovation at her table followed by a kiss from her lover that could have started outright seduction. There were many women from the base at the bar that night; each smiled as they saw their senior officers out and playing. Laura and Barbara danced, ending with their trademark kiss full on the mouth. They did not have a chance to return to the table before Lydia and Amanda joined them as seduction got underway in earnest. Many women just shook their heads and then applauded. There was magic happening that night at the bar and everyone rejoiced. On their return to the cabin, Amanda told Laura that the bar was where she had her first date with Lydia as did Barbara; both women agreed that she has still every bit as beautiful as she was then. There was silence from the rear seat of the helicopter; Amanda informed. Laura she did not really want to know what was going on back there. Laura asked if Amanda thought maybe she should flog it around a couple of times before landing to which Lydia replied that the guest room was much more spacious and comfortable than the back seating of a Armed Forces helicopter. Luther had banked a fire and warmed duvets before each fireplace. All four friends thanked each other for yet another evening of fine ruckus raising after which Lydia said she needed to continue what got started at Carriere, took Barbara ' s hand, and they both disappeared behind the guest room door.

Amanda gathered Laura in her arms, whispering that she had not thought she would ever dance or play with her again. As such, the magic of this night was very special. Laura replied that the horrors of the past would stay with them always but she had chosen to give the evil no more power. She also told Amanda that all the magic and the play had led her to want her lover more than she had ever known. Lohrissa slowly undressed her lover. In a low growl asked for teasing and teasing she got. Songs and sounds of women loving women rang within the walls of the cabin and were given down to smiling ancients and all beings in the multiverse. Laura fell asleep in Amanda ' s arms as the first light of dawn found the night sky.

Lydia and Barbara set out breakfast after picking up a trail of clothing from the hallway to the common room. They had made their own trail the night before, simply smiling with their added chores. Barbara covered her friends with duvets as Lydia started a pot of coffee, complaining loudly about being a houseguest, having to do chores, and make breakfast. Both Amanda and Laura had been awake as their friends entered the room but chose to continue to bask in the afterglow. Very quietly, Laura asked Amanda if she needed to go shut Lydia up to which Amanda replied with a smile that she was very certain that was exactly her friend ' s motivation. With a nuzzle to Amanda ' s neck, she whispered that she would return. Laura then arose, still every bit of drop dead gorgeous, naked with love tangled curls, walked to Lydia, pulled her to her feet, gathered her in her arms close enough to feel skin on some skin, kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth, and then barked Shut up! as any good Lieutenant General should. Amanda welcomed her back to bed with tears from laughter rolling down her cheeks. Barbara howled; when Lydia recovered she said that the command thing looked entirely too good on that woman who was very definitely no longer a kid. Amanda and Laura showered while Barbara changed linens. They did thank their friends for breakfast and coffee. Lydia grinned, hugged them both, and said that she might be forced to repeat that if it meant another kiss. The woman gave incorrigible an entirely new definition and they all loved her for it.

The friends whiled away the remainder of the day with a card tournament and laugher. They decided that if the weather cooperated they would travel to Eaglesdown the following day for lunch and exploration of the Smithers ' store. Jeannie offered to fly to Carriere to shop and return with any supplies they might need. Laura continued to have silent times when she fought with the horrors during which Amanda held her, each time glowing with her silver aura. The ancient Lydia continued to cast spells but less often now to give the ancient high priestess peace.

The following day, the newborn sun shone brightly with the innocence of youth. By midday, the priestesses were enjoying Judith ' s chowder. Barbara asked if she could purchase some to take the ranch; Judith was happy to comply. Amanda ordered prawns for dinner before they started exploration of the general store. Barbara purchased all the soap to remove grease that was in stock, stating she would purchase more as they could stock the shelves. Laura kept returning to a sewing machine, new but an older model, which was at the back of the store. She knew that both Mary and Jeannie sewed extensively, made many of their own clothes as well as for Luther and Harry. She was undecided but though perhaps that at some point in the future she wanted to learn the skill herself. Amanda saw her linger, making mental note to arrange for a purchase as an Amo Te gift. Lydia and Barbara shared remaining preserving containers with Laura and the Smithers promised to order more as they could. By 1500 hours, all women were back at the cabin before the fire. Laura wandered to the kitchen to the dance there. Barbara joined her but only until Lydia came up behind her, nuzzled her neck, and murmured lecherous thoughts out loud which caused Barbara to blush slightly after which both women returned to the guest room. Laura shrugged, grinning at Amanda as she continued to prepare food for the New Year ' s feast in two days ' time.

Everyone rose late on New Year ' s Eve anticipating that they would wait for the midnight hour. Barbara and Laura spent hours in the kitchen, laughing, talking food and engines. Barbara had been persuaded to work her magic with a roast for the New Year ' s feast. Everyone looked forward to celebrating with their friends including Charlie and Eleanor Smithson. He was a true gentleman who Laura had always seen in only in the light of dean and then co-worker. She looked forward to getting know him and his wife as friends. She and Barbara had prepared fondue for their evening celebration; by midafternoon all preparations were done. Laura excused herself to a shower in order to tame the curls. Amanda asked if she needed help to which Laura replied that would be a good thought. In the shower, Laura cried as she told Amanda that one year previously she had been with Lindsay as she so joyfully celebrated her pregnancy. Amanda held her, quietly asking if Laura had looked forward to raising the child to which Laura quickly replied that she had not planned that. She was happy for Lindsay although she knew the outcome which made the celebration even more bittersweet. She gave thanks to the ancients for Lindsay ' s sacrifice as many children would be born this coming spring to survivors who chose safe reversal of the sterility-inducing vaccine given by The Decision. Laura said she was just having a sentimental memory. She told Amanda to always cherish every single moment with Lydia as she finally understood that kind of love; Amanda reassured that she always had and always would. Laura retreated to the clothing storage room to dress for dinner. She found many items that Amanda had never seen; always looking forward to showing her. She had clipped her hair with Anna Marie ' s sapphire clip, emerging wearing a calf length blue silk sheath and clear six inch heels. Amanda looked up from her camera and caught her breath as Laura looked ravishing in blue. Soft music played as twilight fell. Laura took her lover in her arms and they danced, each basked in auras. Lydia and Barbara joined them from the guest room, stopped by the sight of the priestesses dancing. Laura invited her friends to dine in front of the fire after which all women danced the New Year in accompanied by champagne and kisses. Laura grasped Amanda ' s hand and pointed gently to Lydia and Barbara now basked in their own auras of shimmering gold. The early New Year ' s morning in the cabin on the mountainside on the coast was blessed indeed with the magic of the ancients and the multiverse.

The next morning Laura ' s eyes held definite mischief as she hummed in the kitchen, preparing a huge breakfast tray complete with champagne, orange juice, and roses from the greenhouse. She asked Amanda to change linens and then join her as it was her turn to make some noise to wake Lydia . Amanda laughed out loud, joined her lover as they walked to the hallway, and knocked loudly on the guest room door before brazen entering. Amanda took the tray from Laura ' s hands to allow her to stand very close to still sleeping Lydia . In her very best Lieutenant General tone and countenance she barked Attention! Amanda almost dropped the tray from laughter as both an obviously not sleeping Lydia and Barbara leapt out of bed, standing very erect, sober, and beautifully naked. Just holding enough composure to put them at ease, Laura then clapped and laughed until no sound came forth. She handed her friends robes and then the breakfast tray as Amanda returned with two more cups of coffee, Teddy, and Primrose. Four women and four bears greeted each other with hugs and blessings for the new year.

After breakfast and morning chores, four women tidied the cabin in preparation of their guests. Lydia and Barbara set a huge log on the fire pit on the deck the night before; in the morning the coals were hot and ready for Barbara ' s magic with all things bovine. Amanda helped Laura set her most elegant table to date. By midafternoon all dinner preparations were ready to be placed on the island buffet. They had told their guests that dress would be informal as usual but all the priestesses showered and dressed for the evening. Laura laughed when she found a calf length black skirt that she had when still helping Elgin host dinner parties when she was still an adolescent before meeting Amanda. She was slightly vain when she learned it still fit and still looked good on her tall frame. She found a black lace camisole and four inch heels to complete the ensemble. Her only jewelry consisted of diamond and obsidian earrings and her labrys. She laughed and clapped when all three of her friends emerged wearing skirts or dresses, deciding out loud that they all cleaned up well indeed. The cabin was aglow with gold, silver, and shimmering white auras with thanks being offered down to the ancients and up to the multiverse. Charlie and Eleanor flew to the landing pad at Jeannie ' s and Harry ' s home; all six friends arrived just as Mother Moon showed her half face above the fir trees. Amanda welcomed everyone, graciously accepting gifts of wine and champagne from Charlie and Eleanor who were charmed as they entered the cabin. Lydia poured wine or champagne for everyone; Laura and Amanda offered to give Charlie and Eleanor a tour of their home. They were both awed by the hand carved bed that Luther had given the priestesses for a past Wintersday. Laura explained that they had done extensive renovations prior to the battles and now had a comfortable home that allowed them to remain self-sufficient. Luther gave them a tour of his workshop and his beloved greenhouse; soon Charlie and Luther were deep in conversation about plantings. Eleanor quipped that there were very few things Charlie loved more than his plants, that done with eyes shining with love and a slightly wicked grin. Laura and Amanda loved the woman already. Barbara finished putting food on the buffet and Amanda invited their guests to dine. After dinner and the flamed cherries for and by Harry, everyone gathered in front of the fire for more wine and Amanda ' s coffee. Luther and Charlie moved furniture to enlarge an area ready for dancing. Charlie handed Amanda music for the player, then took Lydia ' s arm and led her in a very elegant waltz. She grinned as this was the side of Charles Smithson that very few people saw. Luther then asked Laura to join him for another waltz and their feet barely touched the floor. Within minutes everyone including Harry was dancing, the greatest surprise of the evening was the Harry Dawson was a very elegant dancer indeed. When couples found each other, there was the very definite soft glow of gold, silver, and shimmering white auras. Jeannie and Luther had tears in their eyes as each understood the magic in the cabin that night. Amanda gazed at the most beautiful woman on the planet who looked as happy as she had ever seen her, as if some of the hurt got put to rest permanently by the love of her friends on the coast. Midnight brought goodbyes and blessings. Jeannie and Mary promised to return with their partners not early in the following day to remove the Wintersday decorations for another year. All four friends tidied before bed, thanking each other for a very special Wintersday celebration; one that they knew would play out for many more years to come.

Laura climbed into a warmed bed and the arms of her lover. She was still aglow with Lohrissa ' s presence and brighter lovelights than ever before as did her mate Amanda. Laura smiled as they heard the soft cries of the love of other priestesses in the cabin, stating that was the most beautiful music to be heard to which Amanda invited her to make their own.

Mid-morning found everyone awake and chores done. Barbara was scheduled to share command at the base with Charlie in order to finalize plans for the upcoming curriculum. Lydia planned to take command on the second weekday as Barbara would return to the ranch that day. Charlie then planned almost two weeks away from the base to enjoy visits from his children who had moved to hamlets on the northwest coast when he and Eleanor retired to Eaglesdown before the battles. Harry, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary arrived before midday and the cabin was transformed again past the decorations of Wintersday but the magic found there would always remain. Before he left, Amanda asked to meet with Luther on the first weekend day to discuss plans for enlarging the greenhouse, workshop, and perhaps another project which sparked Laura ' s interest. Luther and Mary brought large amounts of frozen fish to send home to the ranch with Barbara on the morning of her departure, as a trade for the meat she brought from the ranch when she arrived on the coast.

After their departure and lunch, Lydia and Barbara excused themselves for alone time as soon they would be separated and sleeping many kilometers apart. Laura found her corner of the couch and Amanda stretched out with her head in her lover ' s lap. Amanda spoke of an idea she had for renovation of their home yet again. She wanted to erect a loft above the front half of the cabin to house their bed, a small three piece bathroom and adjoining dressing room/closet, a skylight above their bed, a deck beside their sleeping space, and a studio for Laura. She proposed raised two story windows above the current first floor windows and doors. She suggested a large door to access the deck from their bedroom. She knew that they would share their home now often with Lydia and Barbara; she selfishly wanted her own private space for loving Laura when she desired. With the design of a loft, they could still see the fireplace from their bed as was always Laura ' s wish. They needed storage space and the area where they slept now could be converted to storage easily. She envisioned a stairway at the far wall from the hallway without much loss of space. She knew that there were still craftsmen who could expand the post and beam design so as to not lose the integrity of design; if Laura agreed they could hire Samantha Morgan to oversee the work once again. Laura was quiet for a few moments and then asked if they could afford to do that. Amanda smiled, kissed her, stating that she still was a very wealthy woman and wanted to share with those she loved. As they intended a trip to visit Sanctuary in the spring, they could have the renovations done at that time and if needed they could also stay at the base. She was quite sure Luther would agree but wanted to talk to him about harvesting logs from the mountain to use in the construction has had been done in the original building. She was certain that they had more than enough generated power to accommodate a larger space and plumbing but again she wanted to confirm with Luther. After a few moments of silent thought, Laura gathered Amanda in her arms, kissed her, told her she loved her beyond what she had understood possible, and said she would happily share the new home with her lover.

Before Lydia and Barbara joined them for a dinner of leftovers, Amanda also told Laura that she had asked Jeannie to take charge of preparation of uniforms on a weekly basis. Amanda had offered her more money but Jeannie had refused, stating that she was extremely well paid, blessed, and would gladly take on the task at the cabin for one day a week. Amanda said that they needed time to just enjoy each other without the never ending task of cleaning uniforms and Laura had to agree. Laura suggested that perhaps Jeannie could also help with some of the preparation of Lydia ' s uniforms; Amanda was certain that could be arranged.

Lydia and Barbara joined them as twilight settled in. Amanda and Laura told them of their plans to expand their home to which their friends were delighted. Amanda also told Lydia that Jeannie would prepare her uniforms for her while at the base which would allow her more time with the love of her life when she did return to the ranch. After dinner, Barbara prepared her own uniform for her command the following day. Everyone was tired, needing the arms of their lovers, and the friends wished each night blessings early.

Lydia and Barbara were awake early with breakfast prepared as Laura and Amanda rose to join them. Amanda took photographs of Lieutenant Colonel Barbara Maclippe as she left to her first day of command at the Carriere base. After morning chores, Amanda and Laura helped Lydia pack all their gifts in cartons to take the ranch helicopter the following morning. For the remainder of the day, Laura found her muses in the kitchen and prepared a canvas, partly to allow Amanda and Lydia time to share with each other. She had never been jealous of the love they shared but until Lindsay had been a part of her life she didn ' t really comprehend that love as she did now. Barbara returned to the cabin by 1600 hours to the waiting arms of her lover, the Lieutenant General. Jeannie brought Dungeness crabs earlier that day for their dinner; everyone enjoyed good food and great friendship in front of the fire. Amanda offered a soaking bubble bath to her friends and ran one for them early in the evening in preparation for their last night together. Laura gazed at the galaxies as Amanda told her that by summer she could gaze from their bed if she chose. Their friends emerged from the bathroom, wishing their friends goodnight, found their continued journeys of love in the guest room. Laura took Amanda to the shower and passion found them as it usually did. Laura whispered that she wanted a date with her lover the following afternoon after they chased Luther out of the workshop and into Carriere for supplies; Amanda was happy to accept as she usually did.

Jeannie flew Lydia to take command at Carriere by 0800 hours the following morning. Luther arrived to help Barbara load cartons in the ranch helicopter. She needed to make a fuel stop at the base but it would be the last as Declan had arranged for new fuel cells to be delivered for her arrival at the ranch. Amanda and Laura hugged and kissed their friend goodbye, telling her they would see her for Ostermonat at the ranch. Slightly more than an hour after she departed, both Laura and Amanda looked to the skies to see their friend tip the tail of the ranch helicopter as thank you. Laura thought to herself that someday she would learn how to do that.

There was a long list of supplies needed for the cabin and Laura handed the list to Luther with a note enclosed to take his time. He just smiled his blessings. He knew that Laura still fought the horrors almost every day but she was strong enough and loved enough now to withstand what only time would soften. Amanda changed linens on both beds, also tidying the cabin as Laura was talking to Luther. When they heard Huguette flying over the cabin, Amanda took Laura to the shower and slowly undressed her lover before trembling hands undressed her. The priestess in Amanda found Lohrissa and spoke her own ancient name of Aine. She drew down to magic and took the most ancient priestess to her own pinnacles, each one more demanding, each one bringing more joy, each one causing cries to the ancients and the multiverse. While carrying Laura to their bed, Amanda whispered to hold fast as Aine would meet Lohrissa at her very core; the priestesses traveled to white heat and naught. Earth time later, both women returned to reality with wonder. Laura and Amanda had not known of Aine until this day; they did not know that Lohrissa could be matched. There was great celebration among the ancients with the spiraling of the helix.

Both women took soothing showers once more and Amanda made a pot of coffee as Luther returned with supplies. Laura offered to help him bring them to the cabin to which he replied that her beloved Aine needed her more than he needed help and to go to her. She looked only briefly with surprise at her old ancient priest, her friend, and then returned to Amanda ' s arms on the couch. Luther left his priestesses to their home at dusk; after a light dinner both women found solace and love in each other ' s arms.

Chapter 3

The officers were in the air by 0800 hours the following morning and the routine of work returned to their lives. Sean and Declan both emailed that with the arrival of early spring six settlements would have communications established in buildings completed before the snows. Settlers who had been trained by Drew and Annique McDaniels would live at the settlements, working to continue communications with other settlements and with the command posts. Sean said he personally knew former Resistance cell leaders who had been chosen to help develop the new settlements and he suggested that these leaders be given simple security training by the new Armed Forces. He looked to his senior officers for input regarding dispute settlement and any policing that might be necessary. Sean planned to be at the Carriere base in the first week of the second month of the new year if the weather on the plains cooperated. Amanda directed him to fly to the ranch and leave his aircraft for installation of new battery cells as sent by Declan. He could take one of the already readied helicopters at the ranch and fly to the base. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe was already adept at making the mechanical transitions in small and medium sized helicopters. Sean knew of Amo Te; he was told that a young engineer had done the necessary transition and Ross had flown the small helicopter to Carriere from the ranch with no problem. Over the next months, Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe planned instruction for anyone who wanted to know of the mechanics necessary for the transition. Sean replied that he knew of the research but had not yet known of the final results and was very excited as the new engineering would make a huge difference in the lives of established ranches as well as all new settlements. Amanda replied that it was only a matter of time before the large aircraft would be ready for transition as well.

Laura replied to Sean and Declan that she would develop guidelines for security and policing for their perusal by email with her hopes that final plans could be made when Sean returned to Carriere. She told them that Colonel Smithson was on annual leave for the next two weeks but when he returned she would ask for his input about a simple curriculum for teaching the former Resistance fighters. All senior officers agreed, insisting that anyone who worked in the capacity of the Armed Forces staff would be taught, would enlist, and absolutely would be required to follow the laws as set down so far. They got no argument from either Sean or Declan as both had lived through the hell of rogue enforcement of unfair laws. General Bennett asked Lieutenant General Ravencouer to devise a simple reporting system for accountability that would be made public to every survivor; part of the communication and security mandate of each new settlement. The General arranged for a meeting on the third weekday of the following week to exchange information about the progress of the project.

Lydia took command alone for the fifth weekday, both weekend days, and the following first weekday. Laura and Amanda slept late on their first day away from the base and were consuming their first pot of coffee as Luther arrived. Laura wanted to busy herself with food preparation and freezing of any vegetables harvested from the greenhouse. She had not baked in a week and laughed at her withdrawal. As such, many of her hours were spent dancing in the kitchen much to Amanda ' s delight. Amanda did what few chores Luther had not completed. She did help him bring in wood to the enclosure, stating that the General could not get soft and needed the physical exercise. He laughed and acquiesced. Luther said he would arrive at 1100 hours the following morning for their meeting and then left the priestesses to enjoy each other ' s company alone. Winter quiet and everlasting love found the night peace at the cabin.

Amanda loved morning into Laura early on the first weekend day. Neither really wanted to leave the other ' s arms but hunger and a meeting with Luther coaxed them to showers, breakfast, and coffee before the fire. Laura brought the easel to the window in anticipation of a story coming to the canvas she had prepared days earlier. Luther arrived for their late morning meeting. Amanda told him of their wish to expand the cabin to include a second story loft and studio, small bathroom, dressing room/closet, and private deck. She asked his opinion about existing plumbing to include a three piece en suite on the second floor. She wanted to know if he thought it possible to harvest logs to continue the post and beam construction and of his possible contacts with local artisans who could complete that. Both women heartily agreed to at least doubling the greenhouse space as well as the purchase of another energy efficient freezer. Amanda told Luther that they would like to hire his services to oversee the renovations as he did with the last set. Luther McBane was a very gifted craftsman with extensive knowledge of construction as well as his beloved mountain and the resources therein. He had been born to the coast and knew several people accomplished in post and beam construction as it was a craft passed from one generation to the next. He said he was delighted with the plan and understood the reasons for it completely. Laura explained that they hoped to meet with Samantha Morgan as soon they had spoken with him and learned of his decision to help. Both women told Luther that they planned a trip to the former command posts and then to Sanctuary in the fifth month of the new year as part of an Armed Forces initiative; it was hoped that the construction could be started then. If their home became inhabitable for a time, they could live at the base and visit the ranch as that invitation was always open. Luther rose and hugged his friends, telling them he was so happy that they were permanently home for many years to come. He said he would be delighted to continue to work in their home as he loved it almost as much as they did. At the conclusion of their meeting, Laura insisted that Luther join them for lunch before he set to his tasks for the day. Laura told them that as she unpacked she found the small rocker from her old quarters along with Thea ' s old dolls. She asked Luther to refinish it as she had chosen to take it with the dolls to Sanctuary to be kept as a long-lasting memory of her mother and the chief who had led her people to peaceful survival in the North. Luther only nodded his agreement as tears choked his words.

Afternoon found Amanda ' s wool with needles and Laura ' s paints with brushes. For the first time since the battles, a story of the plains was told, one of log homesteads in the foreground and fading to the background. Her beloved earthlings walked across the canvas, elders, young men, pregnant women, babies, small children running about, the return of grasslands and clear streams, and arising from the bottom of the canvas the back of a raven haired beauty ' s head with arms outstretched to hold the entire vista. The top of the canvas bore the flight of ravens in the sky wings tipped with shimmering white and silver. Amanda had long abandoned her knitting to find her camera with an attempt to capture the ascent of the message from the ancients to the cabin and the canvas. Laura now understood that Lindsay knew of the wellbeing of all of them, constantly sending her blessings to all the children born of her sacrifice. For a brief passage of earth time, Laura saw Lindsay and Candace walking with and loving their children, those who had stayed with the ancients before their ascent to earth. Laura ' s time for grieving was over. She turned to speak to Amanda to tell her of her vision as Amanda whispered that she had seen them too. Amanda asked if this painting could stay at the cabin; Laura agreed. She quickly prepared another canvas as another story was asking to be told, perhaps in the morrow.

The late afternoon brought first quiet snow and then the oceans ' tantrum blowing great sheets of flakes almost obliterating the sky. Luther arrived before the dinner hour to let his friends know that the base at Carriere had sent blizzard warnings to the inhabitants of the coast. He and Jeannie moved both the Armed Forces helicopter and Huguette to the hanger at the mountain landing pad. He warned his friends that he and Harry would arrive by at least mid-morning the following day to shovel and plow with expectations to return several times during the days until the storm had stopped. Both women knew they were safely out of harm ' s way. Laura told Luther she would watch the temperature in the greenhouse with addition of a second heater if needed. He already placed one there anticipating a need over the winter months. Both women helped him bring in wood to the enclosure before he set a fire in the fireplace in the guest room with a request that the door be kept open to help with warming the entire cabin space. Both wood boxes were filled and fires banked. Amanda served dinner this time in front of the fire as the winds howled among the fir trees on the mountainside. After dinner, the lovers had a long soaking bath and dressed in warm night shirts. Laura made one more trip before bed to the greenhouse to switch on a second heater. Amanda asked Laura if she was concerned as in the past blizzards had frightened her. Laura held her lover, saying that after years of bombing and the battles there was not too much now that frightened her but she loved Amanda for that concern. She did say that she wanted to lay in Amanda ' s arms for hours that night and give down repeated blessings to their ancients for the happiness they had been gifted. Amanda replied only with a kiss and a hand to lead her to a warmed bed.

Before dawn, Laura rose and banked both fires once more and brought new warming stones to the bed. She went to the guest room to retrieve the handmade quilt that Mrs. Smithers had given them as a housewarming present years before. She placed that on the warming rack before the fire before she returned to Amanda ' s arms. At day ' s light, Amanda woke Laura as she expected Harry and Luther soon after for snow removal and replenishing of wood. As Amanda did morning chores and made coffee, Laura set out a huge breakfast on the kitchen island in anticipation of everyone needing warmth and nourishment. There were many centimeters of snow on the ground and still an almost blinding storm. Harry, Luther, Jeannie, and Mary arrived shortly thereafter. Everyone worked with shovels and then brought wood to the enclosure. Luther plowed the driveway and the mountain road to the landing pad as well as clearing the pad for eventual take-off as needed. Harry joined him to use a snow removal machine kept at the hanger. The four women shoveled a pathway from the vehicles and the deck. When the men returned, Laura insisted that they all join them for food and warm coffee; nobody argued. After rest and food, their friends departed stating that they would return again before dinner once more. With that, Laura insisted that she would feed them once again and again nobody argued. The freezer was raided with pots of stew placed on the stove and in the slow cooker to warm. Amanda helped with clearing and cleaning as Laura set dough for bread before making fruit and oatmeal sweets for their dinner with their friends. She took to the task with ease such that Amanda interrupted her several times to hug and kiss her, telling her how much she loved her. Laura smiled, telling her lover she was very much aware of that. The day remained dense grey with swirling snow; as such the canvas had to wait for the story and better quality of light. Laura kissed her lover, thanking her for the wisdom of choosing warm clothing at the Smithers store in the past autumn. Other than brief visits to supervise the progress of dinner in the kitchen, Laura sat curled up on the sofa before the fire, listening to music and watching the love of her eternity create works of art with wool and needles.

Their friends did return in late afternoon and the morning snow chores were repeated. Amanda kept vigilance with the fireplaces and both women kept the wood boxes filled. When all the tasks were completed, both Amanda and Laura insisted that their friends join them in front of a warm fire for rest and dinner. Before leaving, Luther did report that the Carriere base anticipated the storm would blow itself out by morning. He stated they would return by the following mid-morning to repeat snow chores. Amanda and Laura both thanked everyone for their help as they departed to the warm respite of their own homes. After night routines and banking of fires, Amanda invited her lover to the shower. Within minutes Lohrissa and Aine greeted each other and no storm sent from Mother could interrupt the celebration of joy sent to the ancients. Earth time later, as she lay in Laura ' s arms Amanda spoke of her continued amazement at her journey, how she had travelled in eight years from being a hardened, frightened, embittered woman who had built what she thought were impenetrable walls around her soul to a woman now walking with a priestess in her own body and loving the most ancient high priestess in Laura ' s. Laura replied with loving strokes of curls, shoulders, and breasts, stating that one upon a time they had talked that loving women was easy enough to leave the brain ready for the harder work. Both women then giggled once again, unanimously agreeing that it was still too much fun.

Amanda woke before dawn to tend to fires and to make coffee. The cabin was cool as both women had chosen not to use batteries for extra heat in light of the storm. She brought warmed bears back to her sleeping lover along with a steaming cup of coffee and a warmed robe. Laura woke to kisses and touches leading to kisses and touches. Both women wanted to lay in each other ' s arms as usual but coffee was cooling and their friends would arrive for snow chores by mid-morning. As such, Laura rose to prepare breakfast for her friends as Amanda finished other morning routines. The full light of day brought no more flakes falling from a now quiescent Mother ' s sky. Both women were out shoveling when Harry and Luther arrived to finish the snow clearing at the cabin and then at the landing pad. Luther said he would move the Armed Forces craft later on that day in preparation for both women flying to work at the base the following morning. More wood filled the enclosure and both wood boxes. Luther decided that the guest room fireplace could be left to burn out. The temperatures were still very cold but the wind of the ocean ' s tantrum had settled. Once again, Laura insisted that both Harry and Luther take nourishment with them before they departed after a morning ' s strenuous work. By early afternoon, Laura was perched at the island with a cup of coffee, lost in thought and concentration as she wrote a draft of a proposal for a reporting system of accountability that could be used in all new settlements, one where the security sector the new Armed Forces would be accountable and all settlers would have an easy avenue if there were perceived faults in their performance. When Amanda asked what she was doing, Laura told her that the General at the base expected at least a draft prepared for a meeting with officers on the third weekday and she had every intention of being well prepared for that. Amanda briefly considered chiding her about work on her away time but then thought better of it as it would be ignored. She did give down thanks, however, that the Laura Ravencouer who she had first met, that woman with a brilliant mind and determined ethic, was back and working with her once again. Amanda did state out loud that she was likely the luckiest General in known history as she was surrounded by only brilliant minds with attitudes made of steel.

Both officers were at the base by 0830 hours the following day and after a brief meeting with Lydia , all were working by 0900 hours. Ground crews were still digging out after the storm as directed by Lieutenant General Stenns. Laura finalized her draft for a reporting system that was simple and could be expanded as the number of settlements grew. She was acutely aware of the need to always respect the people they had been chosen to serve. She would not have agreed to her commission if there was any doubt otherwise. She understood the need for laws and enforcement of them but only in the event that they had been clearly broken. She also understood that the survivors of the horrors imposed by the former rulers would not make laws that would harm them or future generations. As she drew down to her ancients, she knew that there would be times again in Mother's future when she would be called to help again as her beloved earthlings lost sight of what was the real truth in their lives. She had been called to lead them; she would in every capacity available to her as would all the ancients. Both Lydia and Amanda knocked on her door to invite her join them for lunch; she smiled at how quickly the morning had passed and how much she enjoyed a work life once again. Over lunch, Lydia confirmed that she would work through the weekend days once again and then return to the ranch on the following fourth weekday to return in time for duty on the following third week day. This would be the pattern for her command. Charlie Smithson had agreed to take command when she was at the ranch and both General Bennett and Lieutenant General Ravencouer were happy to accept longer work days on three days each week in order to take four days away from the base every week. When Laura had first returned home broken, Amanda had made it very clear to Ross and Declan as well as her officers that this would be the only pattern that would she would accept if she was to continue her command. Everyone readily agreed. On return to their offices, Laura started outlines for the next settlements needing security details with data that Lieutenant Colonel Taylor provided. Ross and Drew had confirmed that the Communications network was now established with easy expansion available as the settlements grew. Drew McDaniels, Sean Taylor, and Charlie Smithson continued the development of a curriculum wherein Armed Forces personnel could also be schooled in the use of the Communications network established at all the new settlements.

All three officers met on the morning of the third weekday for briefing on the progress of the details for the Armed Forces contingent for each new settlement and the mandate set down. Laura presented her proposal for accountability and after discussion with General Bennett and Lieutenant General Stenns, it was decided to forward the proposal on to Lieutenant Colonel Taylor prior to a formal meeting in the first week of the second month of the new year at the Carriere base with all officers and if possible with Declan McDaniels.

General Bennett arranged for conversion of all medium sized helicopters to battery cells to replace fossil fuel. Instructions at the Carriere base would be carried out by Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe when she returned to meet with Sean Taylor. Ross Shipman indicated that the data for conversion of the large aircraft was forthcoming after final test flights had been done by the engineers.

Amanda and Laura had made arrangements to meet Samantha Morgan for dinner at the bar on the fourth weekday after work. In her email request, Amanda indicated that they were looking to make further renovations to their home; they were hopeful that Samantha could design and oversee the project. At the end of their dinner, Samantha was excited, very happy to work with her clients again. Amanda explained that Luther McBane was contacting artisans to conduct the post and beam construction as well as loggers to select and harvest logs from the mountainside. Samantha confirmed she would be very happy to work with Luther again as she had very much enjoyed her previous project with him. Amanda and Laura returned to the base and after retrieving Lydia ' s uniforms they were in the air and returning home for the next four days.

Luther had left a warm fire blazing, their home cleaned and welcoming. He left a note stating he wished to report on the progress of the renovation project on the fifth weekday afternoon. Both women were tired and after a brief shower sleep found them both early. Amanda woke early the following morning, after replacing warming stones she returned to the arms of her lover. Both women laughed out loud about their absolute lust and desire for each other repeatedly with only brief satiety before hunger once again. Finally, Laura did ask Amanda to make some coffee as she started morning chores. The coffee was made and the chores were done but play and passion started once again as both women attempted to have only planned brief showers. Laura stated that if this kept up they would have to return to bed to attempt rest; both women knew that would be very dangerous if any of their planned activities were to take place for the remainder of the day. Two famished women ate a late breakfast and drank coffee before the fire. As was her usual weekly routine now, Laura escaped to the kitchen for hours that day to prepare food for the weekend and the following weekdays. Amanda sorted and mounted photographs from the Wintersday ' s celebrations, after which she found needles with wool once again.

Luther arrived in early afternoon to report on the progress of log harvest and post and beam artisans. He had tentatively hired a family with three generations of artisans from a hamlet just beyond Eaglesdown who he felt were the best in the area. That particular family had also worked on the original cabin although all those artisans had since died. The most senior member knew Samantha Morgan, her work, stating he could work well with her. His three sons and three granddaughters had built several homes in the hamlets beyond Carriere. Luther said he would be glad to set up an interview with Amanda and Laura if they wished to meet this family but he reiterated that he felt this was the best choice of craftspeople the area had to offer. Both women reassured him that they respected his choice, happy to hire this family. As part of his discussion with the artisans he inquired about the amount of logs necessary and dimensions. The artisan stated that without seeing specific plans he could not give a detailed estimate but he was very sure it could be kept the very minimum. Luther suggested that there was a dense tract of forest just beyond the landing pad which could be harvested without loss of the integrity of that part of the forest. Again, both Amanda and Laura replied they would leave that decision to him once he knew the specific amount. They told him they had met with Samantha Morgan who would have preliminary drawings in a week. They also reiterated that she looked forward to working with Luther again as she had very much enjoyed their prior project. Amanda and Laura invited Luther to join them on the upcoming fourth weekday when they would meet with Samantha Morgan again and he readily agreed. They talked about the ongoing plans and renovations to enlarge the greenhouse and Luther expected them to be completed by the end of the fourth month of the new year before the larger renovations to the cabin began. They could expect delivery of a second freezer after the completion of the greenhouse. With the meeting over, Luther excused himself to his work in the shop at the back of the cabin while Laura returned to the kitchen. As the sun was setting, Luther returned to say goodbye, stating that unless he was needed he planned to spend the next two days with the love of his life; both women gave their blessings with smiles.

Laura chose to set an elegant table for their dinner after which they took wine to the rug before the fire. Amanda asked Laura if she would like to have a date the following evening at the cabin. She thought that perhaps cheeseburgers, crisps, and champagne followed by an evening of dancing and wherever that would lead might be fun; Laura happily accepted. She giggled that she still enjoyed dressing for dates although it was not until she decided to seduce a certain Colonel that she even entertained the idea of dressing on purpose to please another human being. She asked Amanda if she thought that was juvenile to which Amanda replied that she dressed for dates, Lydia and Barbara dressed for dates, all the gay women at the bar in Carriere dressed for dates or those they hoped to have in the future. She said she saw it as another way of loving, of wanting to please another woman, and as Lydia would surely say it also was a much more secure means to the end one always wanted. There were giggles following that statement interrupted by the beginning of those very means. For reasons only known to lovers, both women did not find the shower or a warmed bed for many hours as neither could leave the other ' s kisses and touches on the rug before the hearth.

The first weekend day dawned with a sun full of young life and sprinkling diamonds on Mother ' s ermine coat. Laura rose, tucking the duvets around her lovely sleeping Amanda. She banked the fire, made coffee, prepared breakfast for both, found the satin and lace from their former boudoir shots with Jeannie, took a quick shower, braided her curls, and prepared a breakfast tray for both of them. Amanda stirred as Laura crawled back into the bed, looking breathtakingly beautiful. She started a gentle kissing welcome to the day into Amanda who growled, then took her lover quickly to passion. As they were eating their breakfast, still very much unclothed, Laura stated there was obviously not much need for the satin and lace. Amanda smiled while she confessed that she had watched Laura get dressed before getting back into bed and only feigned sleep for as long as she needed. Laura was silent as she took food away from her lover, stating that it was time again for tease lessons, and tease she did until Amanda begged loudly. When they were finally recovered and drinking a new pot of coffee before the fire, Amanda nuzzled her lovely neck, telling Laura that she should know that Lydia would be very proud, very proud indeed.

This entire day was about their date at the cabin. Laura prepared potatoes for crisps, burgers for the indoor grill, and set dough for buns. Amanda found the linens with lace for the bed. Amanda also found champagne for chilling and chose their favorite music to play the entire day. After lunch and a nap on the couch before the fire, Amanda then busied herself with the iron in the pantry, telling Laura not to look as she wanted to surprise her for their date. Laura finished the crisps and baked buns while Amanda was in the pantry. She then asked Amanda if she would grill the prepared burgers just before they ate while Laura was dressing for their date. Both women enjoyed a long warm soaking bubble bath after which Laura tamed her curls into a chignon held with her diamond and obsidian clip. As Amanda was grilling burgers, Laura emerged from the bathroom wearing black tights, a sheer tuxedo shirt with only lovely skin beneath and black four inch heels. She gasped as Amanda turned to her wearing a very short black skirt, a white on white striped shirt, and her own four inch heels. Amanda had finally conquered her own come-hither makeup, looking absolutely ravishing. Laura walked to her slowly, whispering that it was just as well that dinner was ready as if it was not it would never be.

Dinner was enjoyed an elegantly set table and then champagne consumed by the fire. Night routines were carried out together as neither woman wanted to be beyond reach of the other. With only the light of the fire, the lovers danced to the jazz played for Laura ' s initiation to loving a woman. There was sporadic laughter as both women whispered reminiscences of dates in the past which served only to intensify the excitement of this night. Although the battles were over with a new life for earthlings in the northern continent was underway, both Amanda and Laura remembered the acute loss of each other during the time of war; as such there was still a great need to hold to each other with the love they shared. By dances ' ends, Lohrissa and Aine found only the love of priestesses until the advent of a new day ' s dawn.

Both women slept late into the next morning; after brief showers and morning chores, they agreed that a date on one of their days off was a very good idea. Laura then wanted to know what all the other times together had been called to which Amanda replied only with a kiss, long, hard, and full on the lips. The following day dawned bright and cold; Amanda and Laura took a walk on the mountainside road to find quiet sustained respite among the firs. Both were asleep early on the first weekday evening in anticipation of the upcoming work week and meeting with Samantha on the fourth weekday after work. Laura made reservations for dinner with Samantha and Luther at a small dining room in Carriere as neither Luther nor the bar was ready for each other in any lifetime soon.

Colonel Smithson returned to the base after a wonderful visit with his children and grandchildren. As soon as they were settled in their offices on the second weekday morning, he brought Laura one purple iris and Amanda one yellow rose, both grown in his greenhouse, both given as a special thank you from he and Eleanor for the best New Year ' s celebration they had in years. Laura quickly replied that she hoped it would be one of many to enjoy in the future. He then conferred with Amanda, giving his approval for the draft Laura wrote for the meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Taylor. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe also sent her comments and approval. Amanda forwarded the draft to Sean Taylor, Ross Shipman, and Declan McDaniels.

Laura proposed to the senior officers that they consider approaching Archie Granger for consultation as security measures became expanded with the ongoing settlements. Archie was a master counterfeiter and forger who had done very convincing work for the Resistance with fake identifications and bank notes. It was unlikely that Archie would become a member of the new Armed Forces as age and disability would prohibit it but it would be the only option to employ him for consultation. Indeed it would be only sensible to have his talents working for them and not against them. In her weekly meeting with all her officers at the base and by email, General Bennett asked for discussion, opinions and if approved she would make the recommendation to Declan McDaniels. Although it was an ongoing and permanent practice for all the senior officers, there was also discussion about the mandatory carrying of personal firearms for all members of the Armed Forces. In the infancy of freedom, the horrors of the battles were still vivid in the memories of all survivors. However, as was human nature, as time evolved and insecurities tried for footholds, there was always the possibility of violence. The absolute mandate of the new Armed Forces was to support settlers as they reclaimed their world but part of that support had to include protection if needed. There were fledgling laws, mostly derived from plain common sense; adherence was the only defense against anarchy and ultimate loss of freedom. General Amanda Bennett was adamant that would not happen on her watch.

Amelia and Sterling Carland emailed Ross Shipman, Drew McDaniels, and Declan McDaniels about several rumors coming from the former European Resistance. There had been several sightings of a man matching the description of the former General Anthony Downs. His death as part of the Resistance battles had never been confirmed and his whereabouts had been lost to follow-up after he had been removed from command by The Decision. If he was alive, he faced charges of murder and rape, both substantiated in writing and with the help of both the Intelligence and Espionage departments. These were still unsubstantiated rumors; both Amelia and Sterling looked for advice on how to proceed with any further investigations. There was an immediate and unanimous reply to proceed; if found he would be brought back to the northern continent to face justice for his crimes, both personal and as the most senior member of the former military. It was decided not to inform others until they had confirmation of his whereabouts. Andrew McDaniels specifically asked that if he was alive, he wanted to be the one to retrieve his sorry ass. Drew loved women, all women, and any crimes against any of them Drew took personally.

Declan McDaniels approved funding to proceed with the second phase of the expansion of the Central Command base, known forever as Carriere. General Bennett and Lieutenant General Stenns sent a detailed proposal including plans before the Wintersday break with hopeful initiation in the spring upon approval. Civilian workers had been hired for phase one and would continue their employ with more workers needed for the second phase, again upon approval. Both senior officers were very familiar with need for cost consciousness and absolutely impeccable record keeping; both had years of experience commanding former military bases and without their expertise then those bases would not have been the best run for the former rulers.

Lydia left early on the fourth weekday morning to return to the ranch and Barbara ' s arms. She planned return on the third weekday the following week. Barbara planned attendance at the meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Taylor and Declan McDaniels in the first week of the second month of the new year. Amanda asked that Colonel Smithson take command for the weekend days following that meeting as she invited Lydia and Barbara to celebrate Candlemas at the cabin. She agreed to work on his first scheduled weekend to work in the second month of the new year and he was happy with the arrangement. Luther flew Huguette to the Carriere base in the afternoon of the fourth weekday and took a base vehicle to complete his errands. He arranged to meet Amanda, Laura, and Samantha for discussion of t plans for the renovations. Laura joined him as she had shopping she wished to complete without Amanda ' s presence. She told the General she would make up the hours when she worked with her to replace Charlie Smithson ' s weekend work.

Luther drove Laura to the art supply store and then he departed for groceries. Laura purchased a large roll of canvas as well as new paints. She decided to ask Luther to make stretcher bars and to stretch canvas so she could have the size of paintings she wished. She was planning a huge one for the new bedroom in the loft. She finished her purchases with several more brushes. She notified the shop that Luther would retrieve her purchases later on that day. Laura then found her new favorite dress shop to purchase very alluring lingerie for herself and her three friends to celebrate Candlemas. Her final stop was at the jeweler where she purchased a silver ankle bracelet with a ruby at the center of a small heart, again as a gift to her lover for their first Candlemas celebration together in years. Luther met Laura just as she was leaving the jewelry shop, excused himself as he said he had to run in to make a purchase which Laura assumed was for the love of his life. On his return, they drove to the meeting with Amanda and Samantha.

Samantha Morgan completed detailed drawings of the changes planned to the cabin including more solar panels much to Luther ' s delight. He and Samantha exchanged information about the family of artisans who could to the post and beam construction. She knew of the family, confirming that to her knowledge they were the finest artisans known to the area. She gave Luther a set of drawings to take to the senior artisan in order to calculate the number of logs needed. Both Amanda and Laura were very excited when they saw their dreams on paper. At the end of the meeting, plans were made to proceed. As Samantha took the hands of her friends, a silver engraved labrys shone from her neckline. Laura caught it in her fingers, as she did Samantha explained she had courage to wear it again as did Carrie, now that there were no more politics of exclusion or torture of lovers, no matter their sex. For a very brief moment, the room shone with silver and shimmering white auras to which Luther beamed.

Luther retrieved Laura ' s purchases at the art supply store and clothing shop, returning to the cabin before Laura and Amanda arrived. He had a blazing fire to greet them as well as a clean home. Jeannie had prepared all uniforms earlier in the week; as such there were few necessary chores for either woman over the next four days. Both were tired from a long day and the excitement of their meeting with Samantha. Luther did state he would return the following day for work in the workshop and to start to build stretcher bars for Laura ' s paintings. A soothing shower and warmed sheets led both lovers to sleep easily not long after their arrival home.

Mother had allowed the full brunt of winter to her land with more snow and very cold temperatures. The snow accumulation over the next four days was not great but the ocean ' s tantrum of wind blew it often in all directions at the same time. Laura placed a second heater back in the greenhouse as Amanda started a fire in the guest room fireplace, to warm that wall and to allow heat throughout the entire cabin. Both women filled the wood boxes and carried in wood to the enclosure before Luther arrived for his day. He and Laura studied the drawings and measurements that Samantha had provided to determine the size required for stretcher bars for a huge painting for the lovers ' new sleep space. He spoke to his friends about his plans to contact the artisans, the Fletcher family, with a plan to meet and calculate the amount of logs needed for harvest. He could then arrange for loggers to cut trees and drag them out before the spring thaw. He proposed that a work space be created near the landing pad on the mountainside to facilitate work on the logs as well as delivery of materials. There was a clearing across the road which would lend itself to that work space easily.

Laura danced her way through food preparation in the kitchen for the remainder of the day. She asked Amanda for a date for the following evening who kissed her replied. Before Luther left for the day, he and Amanda brought in more wood to the enclosure. There were many batteries ready if necessary. He did not anticipate a great accumulation of snow over the next two days, stating he would return on the second weekend day afternoon to clear snow as needed; he planned to plow the mountainside road, the landing pads, and the driveway at the cabin. Amanda smiled and hugged their dear friend as he knew that his priestesses needed to be alone. After dinner, the lovers met in the shower and a slow burning passion took them to the ancients and the multiverse early in the evening. Both giggled at their need and desire to render the other breathless. They both had found passion with other women in their lives; those experiences were precious memories not to ever be forgotten or dismissed but the passion that continued to take them to each other and then beyond was an entire dynamic unto itself. Laura murmured that she wondered if she would ever not be amazed by that to which Amanda replied that that would never be her intention. When the night ' s journeys had been travelled, the lovers fell asleep with arms wrapped about each other while all four bears silently rejoiced.

The grey sky and swirling snow shrouded the cabin after dawn which allowed for the peace of lying in later in the following morning. Both women filled wood boxes and changed batteries for power as needed. The temperature in the greenhouse was constant. It was distasteful enough outside that both women decided that there was more than enough wood in the enclosure and as such they would not venture outside to retrieve more. Laura had chosen a roast the day before for the dinner. She set dough for braided loaves and cinnamon buns for the remaining days away from the base as well as for the freezer. She decided she would take some to Charlie when they returned to work as he had only heard about the infamous sweets; she thought maybe he would enjoy them. She also put a ginger cake in the oven and prepared pecan pies for the freezer, a treat for the Candlemas celebration with their friends. She sang softly as she danced in the kitchen and in anticipation of her date that day. She looked up to see Amanda taking many photographs, smiling with just ever so much lust in her eyes. Laura slowly removed her clothing and led her lover to the rug before the fire, the date had begun.

Recovery occurred just before the cake needed rescuing. Dinner was then put in the oven, both lovers found a bubble bath with mischief therein. Both women dressed in jeans and Amanda ' s handmade sweaters for their dinner set again at an elegant table. After dinner and the inertia of digestion, both women filled wood boxes and as Laura finished the night routines and checked the greenhouse temperatures Amanda banked both fires for the night. The ocean ' s tantrums of wind were blowing themselves out with only occasional swirls of snow. Laura poured goblets of brandy and invited Amanda to dance in the firelight. Both women were overcome with tenderness and tears as the dance then invited Lohrissa and Aine to return from the helix yet again. Time taught the priestesses to journey to pinnacles again. Earth hours later, both lovers held each other as they wept tears of unabashed joy, giving down thanks for the other and continuing to travel with wonder.

The remaining days at the cabin were lived in quiet peace. Luther returned to remove snow in the afternoon of the second weekend day. He decided to let the fire die down in the guest room as the winds had subsided both the cabin and greenhouse temperatures were steady and comfortable. All three ancients brought wood to the enclosure after some protest from Luther, both women telling him that they had desk jobs now with need for the exercise, both grinning broadly. The following day, he built the stretcher bars for a huge painting and then found the extra support easel Laura had used years before for the painting of hope. This new painting would be even larger. On the fifth weekend, Laura planned to help him stretch and fasten canvas in advance of a story being told, one already known by the artist.

Laura did take a pan of cinnamon buns to Charlie Smithson the next day, just after they landed at the Carriere base. He was delighted, stating that he would use every bit of discipline taught to him for years by the General to have some to take home to Eleanor. Laura told him to exercise that discipline as she would tell Eleanor otherwise; she teased him and said that he really would not want to suffer the repercussions of any discretion with the buns. He laughed out loud and wholeheartedly agreed. Lydia returned to the base early in the morning of the third weekday with greetings from Barbara. Both women were excited about joining their friends at the cabin for the Candlemas weekend. She made a special point of thanking Charlie Smithson covering her command that weekend.

Declan notified Amanda that both he and Drew would join the senior officers to discuss the upcoming Communications and Security details with the new settlements planned for the spring. He ended his message by saying that both he and his brother were looking forward to seeing them all again, to meeting Colonel Smithson, and he hoped they could also meet Luther McBane and Jeannie Dawson as they wanted to express lifelong thanks to both of them. Lydia suggested that they arrange a dinner at the base to include all staff who wished to attend and to extend invitations to Luther and Mary McBane, Harry and Jeannie Dawson. Everyone was in agreement and Lydia agreed to make the arrangements and to extend the formal invitations.

Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe reported that the conversion to batteries was in full force now at the ranch. She planned to report to the base two days prior to the meeting with the senior officers with Declan and Drew McDaniels; a day of teaching had been booked with the aircraft mechanics at the base. She had arranged for transportation of batteries with Declan, stating they could expect the shipment by the end of the current week. Amanda smiled to herself with some self-congratulation on her choice of commissioning this senior officer. She knew that if she could score a perfect mark on a very challenging examination, live with Lydia Stenns for twenty years, run a large successful horse and cattle ranch, she could certainly handle the challenges of a new Armed Forces. She was right, she could indeed.

Two tired women returned to their home in the late afternoon of the fourth weekday. They had chosen a compressed work week but it did leave them tired by the end of it. Luther had left them a blazing fire, a clean home, and dinner in the slow cooker as Laura had requested early that morning. He notified them that he would return by mid-morning the following day as he had news on the harvest of logs, the tentative date for starting the construction, and to get Laura ' s assistance with stretching her canvas. Both Laura and Amanda had quick showers and donned sleep shirts before settling before the fire for their dinner. Neither wanted coffee but they did want cuddling on the couch with silence and occasional kisses. There were few night chores; both were tucked into a warmed bed by early evening, fast asleep in each other ' s arms shortly thereafter.

Laura kissed morning into her lover and then passion overtook them once again. As much as they wanted to remain in bed for the rest of the day, they knew Luther would arrive by mid-morning. They arose and morning routines were carried out. Laura set dough and was settled in the rocker with Amanda before the fire as Luther greeted them. He joined them for coffee and reported that he had met with the Fletcher family who had looked at the plans. Within days they had notified Luther about the number of trees that would be required. Luther had then arranged with local workers to gather equipment with plans to initiate the log harvest the following week. Luther would supervise as well as building the frame for the greenhouse expansion with Harry. The Fletcher family said that if there were no interruptions in planning or the harvest, the new addition could be started by the fourth week of the fourth month of the new year. Luther had not agreed firmly to that date as he wanted to confirm with his friends. Both said that would be a perfect time as they had planned to visit the former command posts during that week and then fly north to Sanctuary for another week. They planned to return to the coast by the end of the first week of the fifth month of the new year and if necessary they could stay at the base until their home was habitable again. Luther stated that once the frame was erected with walls and roof completed they would be able to live in the cabin, albeit in a bit of a mess most likely. The guest room would not be affected and they could use that as their sleeping quarters if necessary. Before Luther returned to the workshop, Amanda returned from her briefcase and handed him twenty-five thousand dollars, she said as partial payment for his work overseeing the new addition. He immediately protested and quite firmly refused until she told him, as she had in the past, that if he did not take it she would simply find someone else to do the work; they both knew his shoes were very hard to fill. She also warned him to use the money for him and Mary, to treat the love of his life if he felt the need. He blushed, stating that he might just do that. He and Laura then retreated to the work shop to stretch and fasten canvas to stretcher bars resulting in a huge canvas on which to tell the story of the artist. Amanda asked Luther to retrieve the latest weather report as if the weather cooperated she would like to take her date to lunch the following day in Eaglesdown with the ubiquitous adventure in the general store. Luther returned minutes later and stated that the Carriere base had reported at least forty-eight hours of clear skies with very cold temperatures. Amanda asked Laura if she would like to start their date in Eaglesdown the following day to which Laura replied with a kiss leaving Luther beaming.

With baking done and ranch steaks thawed for dinner, Amanda settled into the couch with needles and Laura joined her with her sketch pad. She pulled many albums of photographs and used some as guides for her sketches. Amanda was very curious but did not peek and would wait until she was invited to see the creation of her lover. Luther said goodbye in late afternoon, stating he would return in the morrow while his friends were in Eaglesdown. He warned them not to do chores or lug wood as he would be more than insulted if they did. On his departure, Laura put her sketch pad away, took the needles from Amanda ' s hands, and invited her to the shower before dinner. She stated this was a pre-date date to which Amanda giggled, pronouncing her officially as incorrigible as Lydia Stenns. Laura could not have been more proud. Amanda did manage to grill steaks for dinner and both women ate dinner before completing very brief night chores. Laura murmured that she was still suffering from the lust of a woman in her twenties and only felt it fair to warn her older lover. Amanda teased the woman as only an older lover could, leading to begging cries from Laura with no immediate response to them. At one point, Amanda asked with a grin if there would be any more remarks about an older lover; Laura promised there would be none but only as her voice would allow.

The drive along the coast to Eaglesdown the following morning revealed Mother ' s vistas with a still very angry ocean spitting spray against the rock cliffs and firs covered with snow. A more vigorous sun threw diamond sparkles in the ocean spray. Laura had always loved this drive but since her time away and the battles, Mother ' s every vista thrilled her. As usual Judith was very happy to see them and happily agreed to provide more chowder for their freezer. After lunch, Amanda purchased prawns for dinner before the adventure in the general store began. Laura found bolts of fabric for rugs to braid and again lingered by the sewing machine at the rear of the store. There was a new shipment of yarn and although Amanda would have liked all she only purchased some so as to share with other knitters in the hamlet. The owners did tell her that they would be receiving shipments in the near future from a cooperative of ranchers supplying hand spun and dyed wool. They would be happy to set some aside for her if she wished. She was delighted with both the idea and the offer, stating she would purchase as much as they had available when she returned. They also told her that there was a new cooperative of weavers about to start shipments of fabric which they expected to receive by spring. Both women smiled as they saw the photograph of the Smithers elders near the cash, this time without tears. The news of the cooperatives reaffirmed why they all had fought, now to reclaim their lives and their futures. There were paper sacks of hard candies along with their purchases, prawns for dinner, and containers of chowder that made their way to the waiting vehicle and then to their home on the mountainside.

Luther was still busy in the work shop when the women arrived home. He had charged batteries using the wind towers near the cabin. There were many more towers near the landing pad on the mountainside and that was the source of power for the batteries for the vehicles and now the helicopters. While Laura stored their purchases, Amanda went to chat with Luther in the workshop. She asked him to purchase the sewing machine at the Smithers store as a studio warming gift for Laura. He beamed, stating he would build her a sewing center for the studio space; Mary and Jeannie would be great sources for consultation on the project. He said he would drive to Eaglesdown and along with a date for lunch with the love of his life he would purchase the sewing machine just to make sure no one else found it, and then store it at their home until the studio was ready. Shortly thereafter, Luther told his friends goodbye, stating he would return on the first weekday as he was having a date with Mary on the second weekend day. Both women found comfortable ends of the couch, Amanda with needles and Laura with her sketch pad. Amanda spoke again about the wonderful news of the cooperatives starting on the ranches and outposts. She was sure that Declan already knew but she said she would still speak to it when they met in the upcoming week. She gently took Laura ' s hand, thanking her again for her sacrifice and her leadership to insure victory for their beloved earthlings. Laura replied that she was just grateful for those pilots from the West, their brilliant leadership, and their instruction. Both women decided to shower before dinner in preparation of their continuing date that evening. Laura harvested greens from the greenhouse and Amanda stated she would cook the prawns for their dinner. After their showers and before dressing, Laura set an elegant table for dining while Amanda steamed prawns and opened a bottle of wine. Second glasses of wine met the women in front of the fire. Laura suggested this might be a fine time to start those nude photographs Amanda was always talking about and then handed Amanda her camera. Laura slowly removed her clothing as Amanda took photographs, after which she took the camera from her hands and slowly removed Amanda ' s clothing. Laura then took photographs of her beautiful lover in front of the fire before the camera permanently left both women ' s hands. Teddy and Primrose were oblivious as once the humans ' date started so did theirs. Passion found two priestesses and four bears in the cabin on the mountainside that night.

After a lazy breakfast and two pots of coffee the next morning, Amanda completed morning chores as Laura retreated to the kitchen. She wanted to prepare as much food as possible for the upcoming week and especially for the weekend they planned to share with Lydia and Barbara to celebrate Candlemas. Lydia had agreed to take command on the first weekday following the weekend and then return to the cabin overnight before Barbara planned to return to the ranch. There were sweets and savories prepared for the freezer. Laura wanted as much time to spend with Amanda and their friends as possible. Barbara ' s arrival at the Carriere base was scheduled for the afternoon of the upcoming first weekday so that instructions for mechanics at the base could be carried out the following day. One of Amanda ' s first tasks as General at the base was to arrange for renovation of the staff quarters to include a suite for Lieutenant General Stenns and Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe so that they could be as comfortable as possible away from the ranch. None of the officers were taking any salaries; Amanda reasoned that at least basic comforts could be given in exchange for service.

Chapter 4

Amanda and Laura returned to the Carriere base by 0800 hours on the second weekday. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe greeted them as she prepared for a day ' s instructions with the mechanics at the base. All helicopters at the Carriere base save for the large Raptors could be fitted with energy cells and batteries to replace the need for fossil fuel. Barbara had remarked that the task was remarkably easy; she was quite certain she and the staff she would teach could have over half converted by the end of the second day. Lydia glowed with pride now at the countenance and leadership of the Lieutenant Colonel, one she had met and fallen in love with at the Carriere base over twenty years ago. Once Barbara left for her day of teaching and getting her hands dirty, Lydia reported that Luther, Mary, Harry, and Jeannie would attend the dinner on the evening of the fourth weekday after the meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Taylor, Declan McDaniels, and Drew McDaniels. All of the pilots who flew in the bombing squadron for the last battles with The Decision still remained at the base; Lydia has personally invited them all to attend. Two of them had returned to their former occupations as chefs; she was sure there would be some raised eyebrows when she introduced them to Sean, Declan, and Drew. Amanda had arranged quarters for the guests on the base to be readied with strict orders to take every measure to insure the comfort of Declan and Drew. Lieutenant Colonel Taylor had his own quarters already assigned for his visits to the base.

Sean Taylor arrived at the Carriere base in the afternoon of the third weekday. He had not seen Laura since her mother had died and was more than delighted to see his friend once again. After the formality of salutes, he hugged Laura, telling her she was more beautiful than ever. He continued he was so glad that she had found her home again with Amanda. Over dinner with all the senior officers that evening, Sean announced that both he and Olivia had taken the drug to reverse the vaccine and if all remained well they would welcome their first child in the ninth month of the new year. There were tears in every eye including Colonel Smithson ' s. Barbara quipped that the needles would fly once again but with great pleasure. He did say that Olivia had moved back to the family ranch as he was in the field often; she did not want to be alone now or after their child arrived. Amanda said that it would be to a priority to have personnel trained to assist Sean so that he could have more time with his family; Charlie just grinned and said that he would get on that immediately after the weekend.

Dress uniforms were in order for the meeting. Laura chose to wear the black skirt and heels as part of her uniform as did Lydia . There could be no argument that the female contingent of the senior command could turn heads and they did that morning. All six senior officers were on the tarmac as Drew McDaniels landed the Peregrine, still his favorite craft to fly. Declan McDaniels stepped down from the craft, clad in a McDaniels tartan kilt but with combat boots and a suit jacket. He had a great affinity for his highland ancestry; he led brothers to battle himself in the Battle of Glencoe. He was one of only a few ancients who had recall of past battles, memories to spur him on and scare the hell out of him all at the same time. Andrew McDaniels joined his brother. He did not embrace his highland ancestry to the degree of his brother, greeting the officers clad in a suit and tie. Laura thought that Lou would be very proud of her sons. As both men approached, out of respect and greeting Amanda barked Attention." After a salute Declan asked her to put her senior officers at ease. He said they were indeed at the base for business but not for importance. She then suggested that they all return to the building as it was indeed cold on the tarmac and nobody argued. Once inside, Declan introduced Drew to General Amanda Bennett, Lieutenant General Lydia Stenns, and Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe. Amanda then introduced Declan and Drew to Colonel Charles Smithson. Both men expressed heartfelt thanks to everyone for their support in defeating The Decision, thereby insuring survival for all people on the northern continent. Drew also stated that it was indeed an honor to meet the women who crackled the code to breach his Communications network. With the formalities completed, both men then walked to Laura and both hugged her. Declan had tears in his eyes as he told her how happy he was to see her again and how absolutely beautiful she looked. She replied that she was home now and in love with the most wonderful woman on the planet to which Amanda blushed but just slightly. Lydia cleared her throat loudly enough to be noticed; immediately both men understood the dynamic great love these women all had for each other.

The officers, Declan, and Drew were soon lost in the details of their meeting, taking a break only for lunch which Lydia had delivered to the meeting room. By 1600 hours, details for Security and Communications at the new settlements had been established. Colonel Smithson and Drew McDaniels planned ongoing email conferring regarding the curriculum needed for basic Communications training. At the end of the meeting, General Bennett offered an escort to take Declan and Drew to their quarters with a suggestion to meet at the dining room at 1730 hours.

Before her officers left for the dining room, she congratulated and thanked them for making their new Armed Forces look and perform as well as it could. She said she knew she could be difficult but at the moment she was a very proud humbled Commander-In-Chief. She closed by saying that none of them should ever forget that their only mandate was to serve those who had won their freedom. She then dismissed her officers, inviting them to join her for libations in the staff dining room. They arrived just as Declan and Drew joined them and as they stepped through the door a senior officer barked Attention and a very full dining room was on its feet with pride. Amanda immediately put everyone at ease and then led Sean, Declan, and Drew to meet Luther McBane, Jeannie Dawson, and their spouses. All three men expressed lifelong gratitude for their support and bravery in support of all living things on the northern continent. He said everyone had fought to their last effort but that it was only with the support of those magic six pilots from the West. Both Sean and Drew said that they were in absolute awe of the precision and accuracy. Luther quietly remarked that General Bennett and Lieutenant General Stenns were task mistresses to which Amanda told them the story of Luther being on the ground-to-air crew that shot two helicopters out of the air long before either she or Lydia could catch up to him. Luther grinned, stating they had annoyed him. Drew loved this quiet man and laughed out loud. Amanda also told them about Jeannie and Luther returning from each mission to Lydia ' s and Barbara ' s ranch, pacing the tarmac and cursing. Declan then thanked both Mary McBane and Harry Dawson for sharing their spouses in the face of so much danger. Harry answered that he honestly did not know he had a choice. Lieutenant General Stenns then joined them and introduced them to all the members of the bomber squadron, stating that she was enormously proud of each one of them. She did say there were still two members for them to meet and she returned minutes later with two chefs interrupted in their preparations for dinner. The men had widened eyes to which Lydia replied that they must know that bravery and love for their fellow human beings did not have to wear a military uniform. The chefs were offered the same heartfelt thank you that all their brothers and sisters had been given. Soon thereafter General Bennett invited everyone to enjoy dinner.

At the end of the dinner Luther, Mary, Harry, and Jeannie thanked the General for their invitation, and then thanked the people who had taken care of their beloved Laura while she was away from them. Luther told Amanda that he would ready the cabin for their arrival later in the evening. The staff from the base returned to duties and their quarters. It had been a long day and both Declan and Drew thanked everyone for a very productive enjoyable visit. Lydia and Barbara walked ahead with Laura to ready the helicopters for flight back to the cabin. Just before they parted company, both Declan and Drew took Amanda aside. Declan said she knew neither of them stood much on ceremony; as such they wanted to thank her for taking care of their beloved Laura. Both said that if it were not for that young woman, they would not have a world to live in and that they had both feared for her life before she returned home. Amanda said she had feared too as they all had but that the ancient priestess had promised them that Laura would survive which she did. Amanda departed saying that ancients allowing they would meet again at the command posts at the end of the fourth month of the new year. As she walked to her Laura, both Declan and Drew saw the faint silver aura about her, finally understanding the truth about General Amanda Bennett.

Jeannie met Lydia and Barbara at the small landing pad and drove them to the cabin just as Amanda and Laura were arriving. Everyone was tired from a long day; after brief hugs and kisses, everyone found their lover ' s arms and sleep.

Amanda arose the next morning, made coffee, and then brought steaming cups back to bed. She kissed morning into Laura and both women enjoyed their first cup while chatting about the previous day. Laura said she was very happy to see Sean, Declan, and Drew again. She laughed that she had once been their boss and now she was much more comfortable just being their peer. Amanda told her that they all loved her very much; as much as she wanted it they would never really see her as a peer but more as their priestess and definitely a heroine. She confided that both Declan and Drew had taken her aside, thanking her for taking care of their beloved Laura. Laura took the cup from her hand, with kisses and touches repeated their sentiment. Before they could stop the affection, Lydia strode by the bed and told not to let them stop what was going on. Laura replied that although Lydia was reportedly very good nothing could stop Laura when she put her mind to something. As Lydia and Barbara helped themselves to coffee, Amanda and Laura rose, showered quickly, and dressed for the day. Over a second cup of coffee, Laura told Lydia that Amanda had pronounced her as incorrigible as Lydia Stenns, something to which Laura expressed great pride. Everyone was laughing when Luther entered the kitchen to greet his friends. He wanted to thank everyone once again for the dinner and introductions the night before. He had work he wanted to complete in the workshop and hoped that he would not interrupt any plans they had for the day.

Amanda and Laura showed their friends the drawings for the renovations to their home, and then reported Luther ' s news about the Fletcher family of artisans and the harvest of logs that was already underway. Lydia suggested that they borrow a Raptor from the base when the logs needed to be moved from the work field to the cabin. She stated that there were a few people among their group who were quite proficient in their maneuvers. Amanda asked Luther to join them for a discussion; he was delighted, saving that it would save hours of over ground transportation and many hours of labor. Laura was suddenly sober and asked Lydia if she did hear her voice at the end of the second last battle; Lydia hugged her dear friend, admitting it was her. She knew she should have been quiet but she was very proud of her former student. She grinned, recounting she caught hell from Amanda for opening her big mouth. In midafternoon, Jeannie and Harry dropped off Dungeness crabs for dinner, knowing it was a treat for Barbara and Lydia . They also wanted to thank the officers for their invitation and the opportunity to meeting Sean, Declan, and Drew. Amanda told Jeannie about Sean ' s announcement of a new baby; Jeannie said she would tell Mary and they would start a layette. Lydia said that she and Amanda would be knitting; once again Barbara just shook her head and grinned. She said she expected new baby animals every spring and she never once felt the need to knit anything so she could not understand why when human women were pregnant everyone felt the need to knit. Laura was drawn down to her ancients and to her memories of Lindsay ' s sacrifice. Amanda hugged her and kissed her brow. Jeannie did not know yet of Lindsay; in time Laura would share that with her dear friend, a time when the memories were less acutely painful. Lydia resisted the urge to cast a healing spell on Laura as she knew her young friend was now strong enough to withstand the pain when it came to her. Amanda and Laura showed their friends the drawing of the addition to the cabin; Harry was beaming like a very proud father, a role he had taken to now and quite easily. Harry retreated to the workshop to chat with Luther for a few minutes as Laura retrieved greens to send home with Jeannie in return for the crabs. As they were leaving, Amanda thanked Jeannie once again for the excellent preparations of all the uniforms. In midafternoon, Barbara took Lydia ' s hand to lead her to the guest room, stating that the Lieutenant General needed taming and she was just the woman for the job. Laura stayed rocking with her lover, taking the comfort of her Amanda ' s arms and lips. She did not talk of her hurt but she did not have to. Amanda always felt it coming to her soul as well. She asked Laura if she knew that the magic woman, the priestess Lemanychia, had cast spells on her daily for some of her time away and when she was so close to breaking. Laura said she was aware of a force within. There was magic indeed in the cabin on the mountainside at the coast.

Amanda and Laura moved to the couch and both napped, Amanda ' s head resting in Laura ' s lap. They were awakened by Lydia and Barbara preparing a pot of mulled cider for the fireplace trammel. Luther filled both wood boxes and banked both fires before he wished all the priestesses his blessings for Candlemas and said goodbye. There was a much greater peace and joy about Laura than any had seen since her return home and everyone offered down thanks. Laura grinned, telling them both that now their friend Amanda was probably at risk this night. Lydia howled, agreeing that this dear woman had finally reached an adult level of incorrigible and it was just the best to see. Amanda steamed the crabs for dinner served at an elegant table with good wine and great company. There were few night chores and Laura offered her friends a bubble bath which they happily accepted. She did tell them that the morrow was the celebration of Candlemas and they should plan for an all-day date with the loves of their lives as she would. She suggested they dress for dinner and dancing; all were agreeable. While her friends were bathing, Laura baked a savory tart for breakfast and asked Amanda to choose wine for the Candlemas feast. When the kitchen chores were complete, Laura took Amanda by the hand and led her to gaze at the galaxies on this very cold clear night in the mountains. She could still be taken to tears when she realized how much she loved Amanda and how it just continued to grow day by day. As she stood at the window with her arms around her priestess, Thea and Tom came to her to give her Candlemas blessings and to honor their most ancient high priestess. When she looked up, Amanda whispered that they had come to her as well. Both women turned to see Lydia and Barbara glowing with love; before they said goodnight they told Laura that they too had been blessed by the ancients. Laura went to the bathroom, lit many pillar candles, and then returned to take Amanda ' s hand to take her to the shower. There was no longer any timidity whatsoever as Laura slowly undressed her lover and then asked to be undressed in return. There was no call for teasing but instead long, passionate journeys to pinnacles once and again. Amanda whispered that she could be placed at this kind of risk at any time for the rest or her days on earth to which Laura replied that it had already been arranged. On climbing into a warmed bed, Laura giggled, announcing this was another pre-date date, and that Lydia Stenns would be proud.

Candlemas morning dawned clear, bright, and very cold. Amanda banked the fire, made coffee, while Laura checked temperatures in the greenhouse and began warming a special breakfast in celebration. Both women completed morning chores and took cups of coffee before the fire. Laura handed Amanda her hair brush and asked her to tame the curls if she could. She told Amanda that there were many times during the battles that she considered cutting the curls as taming them was a challenge with lukewarm showers at best. Amanda kissed her neck, telling Laura that she would love her bald if that were to be the case but that she was very glad the curls were still intact; brushing those silken locks was one of Amanda ' s most favorite tasks. Laura then took the brush from Amanda ' s hands to take her in loving arms. She told Amanda that the date was officially started as she kissed and touched her sweet woman to moans. As Lydia walked by them, she suggested that perhaps they should just get a room. Laura sighed, whispered to Amanda that incorrigibility did have its down side, and that the date would continue later.

All the priestesses enjoyed a breakfast feast and coffee before the fire. Laura returned from the dressing room with gifts wrapped for her friends, those of satin and lace of no real structural integrity but those who would surely please a woman in love. Both Lydia and Barbara laughed out loud and then asked Amanda if she would take photographs of them modeling their gifts to which Amanda agreed with a grin, stating that the divine Laura was not the only woman present capable of incorrigible. Lydia quietly lovingly said she could personally attest to that. Although the day was cold, the ocean ' s temperament was quiescent; as such Amanda asked if everyone would agree to a visit to the shore. Laura jumped up with a shining smile, stating that she would make hot chocolate for thermos bottles, and they all could have a beach date.

Everyone returned to the cabin after their beach date, cold but exhilarated by breathtaking vistas and fresh air. After lunch, Amanda took photographs of very scantily clad Lydia and Barbara with a promise to have the photographs printed by their return to the base. Laura did not join them for the shoot as she was finishing the preparations for dinner and setting a table for lovers. Amanda left her friends alone to their own devices and returned to join Laura in the kitchen. She did show Laura the photographs who just shook her head, admitting their friends were two extremely beautiful women. When the preparations for dinner were complete, both women retreated to the shower for their own continuation of the day of dating. Before getting dressed for the evening, Amanda handed Laura a small wrapped gift box and Laura laughed as she found her own to give to Amanda. Both contained silver ankle bracelets each with a tiny heart and a ruby at its center. Now Laura knew why Luther had returned to the jeweler when he had picked her up in Carriere that day. Mutual words of thanking accompanied radiant smiles with long loving hugs. Both women then dressed for the evening, Laura in the black lace dress she had worn to the bar on their last ruckus raising before the battles and Amanda in her very short black skirt and a white lace camisole. Both women chose only lovely priestess skin beneath. Their new ankle bracelets looked beautiful above four inch heels. They were standing at the window watching the sunset over the ocean as Laura giggled and wondered what the enlisted staff at the Carriere base would think if they would see their senior officers now. Amanda replied that from the look of the bar at the past Wintersday, many of the women would be celebrating their own Candlemas and not alone. Barbara heard the last comment, stating very firmly that those enlisted women had to be the best for getting excitement started which got her neck and then lips firmly kissed by Lydia . Barbara graciously offered to grill steaks for their Candlemas feast as the woman could do magic with all foods bovine. Laura continued to be thrilled as she watched her friends together, amazed by the love they had for each other, and how beautiful they looked in that love. She asked Amanda if she thought that they would like that when they had been together for twenty years. Lydia turned to tell them they both looked like that now.

After dinner with wine before the fire, Laura asked all of them when they knew that they would be women loving women. Lydia and Barbara said they had both always known they were gay, neither ever having male lovers. Amanda said she knew as soon as Lydia Stenns first kissed her, smiling at her friend. Laura said she did not ever really think about it and had planned only to seduce Amanda in order to blackmail her. She laughed as she said she was a very young, innocent eighteen year old at the time. She had brief sexual encounters with young men when she was at university but never could see what all the excitement was about. She beamed at Amanda as she said that all that changed on the rug before the hearth on her first night at the cabin. She said that the connection she had with the love of her life felt like coming home; she then knew she would love women for the rest of her days which she had. Laura then remarked that they had only had one serious disagreement and it seemed that everyone knew about that. She was still very young and did not understand Amanda ' s reaction to a decision she had made independently. She had talked to Barbara about it and the priestess Lemanychia had laid down hell on Amanda for hurting her. She squeezed Amanda ' s hand, quietly stating it all seemed so trivial now. Amanda kissed her in return, saying that hurt has many different faces and she was still sorry. Lydia then volunteered that she and Barbara had experienced several disagreements in the past although none for the past several years. She smiled, saying that Barbara was a very smart woman and usually right when she made her choices. Lydia then stated that everyone knew how much Lydia hated to be wrong about anything. They all giggled including Barbara who had lovelights shining as she looked at her lover. She concluded that when one puts two smart, strong women on opposite sides of an opinion there was always be hell to pay. She did say, though, that as their lives together had evolved and with the battles and near destruction of Mother they now understood that keeping another person happy and safe was their most important mandate.

With that, Laura found music for dancing as wood boxes got filled and fires got banked. Amanda lit many pillar candles, only flame light bathed the priestesses as they danced together in slow but assured seduction on this celebration of love and passion for Candlemas. The following morning, Laura and Amanda brought breakfast in bed to their friends, leaving them to enjoy it and each other as did they. By late morning chores had been done, dinner prepared and in the slow cooker. Amanda printed and mounted the photographs taken the previous day and wrapped them with her blessings for Candlemas. She did plan to frame two for the en suite in the guest room as she knew that it was not faze Luther and Harry would just have to live with it if he looked. Barbara and Laura retreated to the kitchen where they were lost in a conversation about aircraft mechanics. Laura then asked Barbara how she tipped the tail of a helicopter as she wanted to learn how herself. Barbara smiled and very quietly told her it was very easy but she must never tell either Lydia or Amanda or anyone else for that matter as it would give them a definite edge which she liked. Laura stifled a giggle and agreed. After Barbara ' s instructions, Laura grabbed Barbara ' s hand, threw on her coat and boots as Barbara did the same. Both women were laughing out loud as they ran to the waiting vehicle, telling their lovers to stand on the deck and watch. Amanda had suspicions about what about to happen. Minutes later, the ranch helicopter flew out over the ocean and on the return the pilot tipped the tail in greeting to the women watching on the deck. A few minutes later the Armed Forces helicopter repeated the exercise and Amanda said she knew that was not Barbara acting as pilot. The aircraft flew out to the ocean one more time just as Barbara returned in the vehicle grinning. On return, the helicopter tail tipped as Barbara applauded and returned to the landing pad to retrieve her sister friend. Lydia smiled, shook her head, and said now there would be no living with either one of them but they would continue out of great sacrifice; both Amanda and Lydia were still laughing when Barbara and Laura returned to the cabin.

Before dinner, Laura stood at the window lost in thought and hurt. Amanda knew to hold her and help her to walk to the other side of the pain; this time was no different. Laura said softly that the tail tip reminded her of all the lives lost including those she had taken. Amanda reminded her of Noshi ' s words, also telling her that all her actions, all their actions, meant that settlers could have cooperatives, Sean and Olivia Taylor could have children. She said that all human bodies die but as they both knew many returned to the helix to spiral through eternity. Barbara held Lydia as Briallen held Lemanychia, telling her lover that Laura could walk through the pain; they both knew it was necessary if she was to heal. After dinner and wine before the fire, all women chose an early night. Lydia was scheduled to take command the following day; Barbara decided to join her at the base so as to check on the progress of conversion of the small and medium sized helicopters to the new batteries. Lydia quipped that Barbara would use any excuse to get her hands dirty with engine grease which got answered with a kiss full on the lips. Both women decided that they would stay at the base the first weekday night so that Barbara could leave early on the second weekday morning to return to the ranch. Plans were confirmed for Amanda and Laura to visit the ranch for the Ostermonat weekend, Lydia told them to get ready for a lovely surprise.

Everyone was awake before the sun the following morning; after breakfast, hugs, and kisses goodbye, Amanda drove both women to the ranch helicopter. Luther arrived for his day of work and greeted his friends. He said that he and Harry would work on the frame for the new greenhouse for part of the day; he then planned to check the harvest of logs underway up the mountainside. Amanda told Luther to go ahead with his work with Harry as she would do the morning chores including laundry. He started to protest and received a look telling him there was no use in the expense of energy. Laura smiled as told him he should know better than to argue with the General.

Morning chores were completed and food prepared for the week. Luther and Harry worked on the greenhouse extension framing in the workshop after which Harry departed, Luther said goodbye to go to the log harvest. He said he would return the following day to start his weekday routines in the cabin. Before he left, he noticed the ankle bracelets and shyly told his friends that he had given the love his life a necklace with the same heart and ruby. Mary told him that those magic women at the cabin were a wonderful influence on him; they all laughed. Amanda had a wee sweater on the needles for Sean and Olivia ' s baby; Laura sat watching her lover lost with her muse. Not a day had gone by but that Laura did not give down thanks for Amanda, for her return to her home, for the healing taking place in her soul, and for the eternity of love she knew to be hers. Amanda put down her needles, gathered Laura in her arms, thanking her for a wonderful Candlemas celebration, the happiest of her life to date. Then with great determination, she tried to love the secret of the tail tip from her lover but to no avail. Laura, too, liked having that edge and always would. She did congratulate Amanda, however, on a valiant effort. Both women enjoyed a light dinner and then an early night as the work week started the following morning.

Both officers were in their officers at the base by 0830 hours the following morning. Barbara left at 0600 hours and Lydia expected confirmation of her arrival at the ranch by shortly after 0900 hours. Colonel Smithson met with Amanda in mid-morning with a draft proposal to promote senior non-commissioned staff at the base to assist Deputy Colonel Taylor in the months ahead. He believed that a permanent curriculum was necessary as there would be more positions necessary as the number and size of the new settlements increased. Amanda asked that he provide both Lieutenant General Stenns and Lieutenant General Ravencouer with copies of the draft for their consideration and comments. She also asked that he send email copies to Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe and Lieutenant Colonel Taylor. A meeting was scheduled to discuss the draft, make decisions, and start implementation for the following third weekday. Charlie had copies on the desks of both Lieutenant General Stenns and Lieutenant General Ravencouer after lunch, and then emailed copies to Lieutenant Colonels Taylor and Maclippe. He was back in his element working with a commanding officer who expected excellence and got it. Lydia had service records and her comments available to Amanda , Lydia , Laura, and Charlie by first thing the following morning. There were four new settlements with Communication and Security centers ready for inhabitants in the spring with four more planned for the Autumn. Drew McDaniels had forwarded his recommendations for settlers to assume positions covering both and he and Charlie were finalizing curriculum details. Laura had been asked to review the settlers and she approved all for Security. Drew had assured the Armed Forces senior officers and Declan McDaniels that all those recommended had full knowledge of both software, hardware, and any technical issues regarding Communications. The proposal for training for Security had been approved at the meeting with all senior officers, Declan McDaniels, and Andrew McDaniels. Laura expected to teach that class in the third and fourth months of the new year. She asked for contact addresses in order to send material they would need to study prior to the classes. Lydia arranged for housing for the eight trainees for six weeks. All eight settlers would enlist and become Armed Forces personnel. She too was back in her element, preparing to teach, working for a commanding officer who, like her, expected excellence and got it. She asked Amanda for space in an empty hanger for classes and physical training which was arranged after a phone call.

By the end of the fourth weekday, all projects were well underway. Amanda walked the hallway, glanced in at her senior officers all working, all excelling in their elements, giving down thanks to her ancients for her own happiness both at work and home. She smiled and without false pride thought she had finally become the General she had always known she could be. Lydia planned to take command all weekend. Laura and Amanda returned to their home in late afternoon of the fourth weekday, tired but with the satisfaction of work well done with the purpose of serving their beloved earthlings. Luther had left a blazing fire, a very clean cabin, and dinner in the slow cooker as Laura had requested. The priestesses were home in their mountainside cabin at the coast.

The next four days followed quiet routines. Laura asked Luther to purchase new rechargeable battery packs for her laptop which she had unpacked some weeks ago. She curled up in a corner of the couch on the first weekend afternoon as Amanda was busy with her needles. Amanda raised her eyebrows in question; Laura replied it was time to look again and delete her past. There were many emails she did delete but she was directed to keep some and she did. She wanted to write to Lou who she had not talked to since the day of Lindsay ' s death. She wanted to know of her wellbeing although Declan and Drew had both told her she was well, still very much in love, and still kicking ass so all was well in her world. She wanted to tell Lou that she was very much in love herself and back home at the cabin with Amanda. Both her sons and Ross had kept her apprised of Laura ' s recovery as there would be no peace if they did not. However, she wanted to re-establish the friendship that meant so much to her mother as well as to her. She wrote a long email detailing her life now and told Lou that she would meet Amanda, her dear friends and priestesses as they planned to visit Sanctuary in the first week of the fifth month of the new year. Laura asked Amanda for the drives of the cabin photographs so she could send Lou images of her home among the firs on the mountainside. She then saved the letter to a flash drive with plans to send to Sanctuary when she returned to the base the following week. When she returned the laptop the cupboard, she returned to the couch and her lover. She then quietly asked if the painting of the raven haired beauty was still at the base and if so retrieved easily. Amanda said it was and asked why. Laura replied that she wanted to take the painting to Sanctuary. She wanted the painting to hang in the health care facility there as a permanent reminder of its founder and the sacrifice Lindsay made. There were no tears with Laura ' s statement, only a quiet resolve. She also reminded Amanda that she would take Thea ' s small rocker and her dolls as she wanted her family in the north to keep them as a reminder of the wonderful woman who led them to survival. Amanda was the woman with the tears. She was amazed at the strength of this young woman who had looked hell right in the face for years and had almost broken. She was back, more beautiful inside and outside than Amanda ever thought possible.

Both women rested for the rest of the weekend as they were scheduled to take command the following weekend to cover Charlie ' s usual weekend to work while Lydia returned to the ranch. As they planned to work for ten days without a break, they chose to work few hours each day and even fewer on the weekend days. Laura welcomed the chance to organize the hanger where she would teach for six weeks. She also wanted to start her own personal exercise program in the gym at the base in order to prepare to test those new recruits. She smiled as she remembered teaching cadets years before and how physically unfit they always were when she first started training them. She did not anticipate that her new enlisted personnel would be unfit by any means. They were all survivors and had all fought in most of the battles so she was concerned that she would be fit enough to test them. She teased Amanda saying that she would need to be kept in shape over the next few weekends in order to teach new enlisted personnel. Amanda said she was happy to comply, anything to help her fellow senior officers. Laura told Amanda that perhaps they could do some skydiving at Sanctuary as it was the best place for that with breathtaking pristine vistas. Amanda had never been farther north than the ranch and was very much looking forward to the trip.

Both women worked well and together for the next ten days. The senior officers met on the third weekday and finalized the decision to promote personnel to the position of Captain in order to assist Lieutenant Colonel Taylor in his work with Security for the new settlements. General Bennett sent an email to Declan McDaniels, more as a formality, with their decision and choice of personnel to promote to which he immediately responded with his approval. There would be funds to pay these new officers. It was decided that Lieutenant General Stenns would teach the Communications portion of the curriculum and Lieutenant General Ravencouer would teach the Security portion with plans to start the classes the second week of the fifth month of the new year. Andrew McDaniels emailed his absolute approval of the choice of Lydia to teach Communications as she had readily breached the Communications network he had worked hard to develop for the fledgling Resistance. General Bennett continued plans to develop a teaching staff as the need grew. She did not want her senior officers to always have to assume full time teaching duties on top of all other work she planned for them. Amanda and Laura left the base on the first weekend day they worked to have lunch in the bar. Both women were in uniform and Sally still declared they were both drop dead gorgeous. Two of the woman who would be promoted to Captain very soon were at the bar for lunch and both snapped to attention before Amanda smiled, put them at ease, telling them they were at play, not at work, and rules did not apply in the bar. General Amanda Bennett was quickly becoming beloved by all those she commanded. Both Laura and Amanda had great respect for the uniform and the commission; as such, there was little affection save for smiles and lovelights shining from four eyes which were impossible to hide.

Laura inspected the classroom space in the hanger that she would be using. She also started a training program at the small gym at the base and hoped to have some time each week to continue that training. On the following second weekday, General Bennett asked to meet with the eight enlisted personnel to offer them promotion to the position of Captain with the task of assisting Lieutenant Colonel Taylor in the field for Security and Communications for the new settlements. Four men and four women were surprised with pleasure and alacrity to accept. All were pilots who would be sent to the ranch for Basic Mechanics training with Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe in the third and fourth months of the new year with a plan to start their training with Lieutenant Generals Stenns and Ravencouer in the second week of the fifth month of the new year. General Bennett told them that she was very proud to promote them as they had all fought to survive and they had come highly recommended by their former commander. She told them to be prepared for an official ceremony on the following second weekday when Lieutenant General Stenns has returned to the base. She then shook their hands and welcomed them to the command. Lieutenant General Ravencouer and Colonel Smithson also offered congratulations. After the new officers had left and Charlie had returned to his office, Laura quietly told Amanda that if she was not careful she would get herself a reputation of being a beloved General. Amanda grinned, replying that would only be the case until someone stepped out of line and they would see the real woman. Laura said she could never hold a candle to white flames, burned tarmac, and to hush.

Lydia returned to the base by 0800 hours on the third weekday and was happy with the news of the upcoming promotions. She brought back greetings and love from Barbara with thanks for a wonderful weekend for Candlemas. Amanda and Laura left the base after lunch on the fourth weekend day with plans to return on the following second weekend day. Before she left, she reminded her senior officers to choose dress uniforms for the promotion ceremony with an invitation extended to the entire base personnel to join them after lunch on the second weekend day if they chose.

Luther was still at the cabin when Amanda and Laura returned to the cabin in the early afternoon. Both women were tired, choosing a shower and naps. Luther came to wish them goodbye but found them curled up on the couch and so left a note stating he would return in the morning. Amanda woke first and went to the kitchen to prepare bowls of Judith ' s chowder and Laura ' s braided loaf. As Amanda was bringing dinner to the table before the fire, Laura rose and gathered her in her arms, telling her that the date would start that night. Of course, Amanda had no objections but did tell her that Luther would return in the morning and so they had to stay clothed for that period of time at least. Reluctantly, but with hunger, both women dined before the fire but shortly thereafter both women were naked on the rug before the hearth. Each of previous ten nights had been taken up with sleep in preparation for yet another day ' s work; now neither woman thought she could ever get enough of the other. Cool night air and a less exuberant fire forced the lovers to rise, bank the fire, ready their bed, and escape to passion once again in the shower. Teasing and play would take their roles before the end of their time off together but for this night Aine and Lohrissa needed the journeys to pinnacles again. Hours later and only after voices had recovered, Amanda asked Laura how they ever managed those weeks at the former base when they lived across the hall from each other and did not kiss or touch each other. Laura crawled into yet again wanting arms whispering that they had spent years apart and they now had the task of making up for that. Somewhere when the night decided to become dawn, the lovers dressed in night shirts before finding sleep with the hopes that Luther would have the good sense to start work a bit later that morning.

Luther arrived at his usual time for work, quietly banked the fire, and made a pot of coffee as the priestesses slept. He took a cup back to the workshop and shortly thereafter Amanda awoke, dressed quickly, and started breakfast. Laura woke when she heard Amanda up and about. She went to rise from bed as Amanda brought her robe, telling her that Luther had banked the fire, made coffee, and was in the workshop. Laura blushed slightly but then decided that he was a grown man and he had made the bed for them so he must have had some ideas about what happened in it. Laura did dress quickly and both women did morning chores before sitting at the island for a morning meal. Laura was making a shopping list when Luther joined them again for a second cup of coffee. He told them that they both were fetchingly beautiful this morning and to always stay in love as it looked very good on both of them. Both women just smiled their replies. He reported that all the logs had been harvested and had been moved to the work field for preparation until the renovations would begin. He also told his friends that the frame for the greenhouse expansion was ready and the extra glass had been ordered. He and Mary had lists of new varieties of plants they wanted to plant, many at Barbara ' s suggestion. He had workers hired to start with the construction which he anticipated could be complete by the time the cabin renovations started, that being the end of the fourth month of the new year.

Laura spent most of the remainder of the fifth weekday in the kitchen as was her usual routine. She asked Luther to travel to Eaglesdown if the weather permitted to retrieve as much of Judith ' s chowder as she would sell to them as she wanted some share with friends at the ranch for the upcoming Ostermonat weekend. Luther also told her that he would make sure there was frozen fish for them to take with them as well. Luther finished work in the workshop by early afternoon and before saying goodbye he told his friends he would not return to the cabin until the upcoming first weekday. As he was leaving, Jeannie arrived with crabs for their dinner before she took Amo Te to Carriere to shop. Laura always enjoyed her muse in the kitchen but she also wanted to sit with her lover to enjoy the quiet alone time with her. She had asked Amanda to print the photographs they had recently taken of each other nude and with those she curled up on the couch with her sketch pad. She was lost in her images of the painting she planned for their bedroom in the new loft when Amanda took the sketch pad from her hand and then gathered her in her arms. She whispered that her teasing techniques had lacked practice as of late; as such, she felt it her sisterly duty to make sure those skills got caught up to date. At sunset, Amanda was laughing out loud as she walked about the cabin picking up clothing, telling Laura that they surely did know to make a mess and make it fun. The remaining weekend hours were filled with making up for the passion they had to deny themselves for the call of duty. Luther did return to work on the first weekday. Laura told him she wanted to bring in wood to the enclosure as she needed to get her body in shape for her upcoming training at the base and it was too cold to run. Amanda quipped that she was doing her very best to aid in the physical conditioning to which Laura grinned and blushed.

Both women returned to duty at the base early on the second weekday. After the midday meal, eight enlisted personnel were formally promoted to the rank of Captain with sincere thanks and congratulations from everyone in attendance. There were emailed congratulations and thanks from Declan McDaniels, Lieutenant Colonels Maclippe and Taylor. General Bennett told them to prepare for basic Mechanics training with Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe at the end of the third month and for first two weeks of the fourth month of the new year with residence at the ranch in the northeast plain. Plans were finalized for the eight settlers to report to the Carriere base just prior to the Ostermonat weekend in preparation for their training to start on the following third weekday with Lieutenant General Ravencouer. Colonel Smithson completed the formalities of enlistment. All of them already knew the former Commander Ravencouer. For an hour at the end of each day at the base, Laura went to the gym for physical conditioning prior to her return to the cabin with the love of her life. She was happy that her level of fitness had returned quickly and with little discomfort; she smiled and made a mental note to thank the General.

Both priestesses enjoyed their time alone together for their days away from the base and were very much looking forward the visit to the ranch at the fifth upcoming weekday. Lou had replied to Laura ' s email with news of Sanctuary, of her beloved Niki, of their plans to move to one of the new eastern settlements perhaps in the autumn, and most of all her great delight that she would see her again and meet all of the priestesses who cared for them all. Amanda could see Laura ' s growing excitement about her trip north which gave her no end of pleasure. Laura found her usual muse in the kitchen for her time away from the base and prepared treats to take to the ranch. Luther had been able to secure many containers of Judith ' s chowder, stating he would have them and the fish ready for their early morning flight northeast.

The following work days were filled with preparation for classes, new construction underway for the second phase of the expansion of the Carriere base, and the ongoing preparation to support the new settlements. On the fourth weekday, Amanda and Laura left the base earlier than usual to return to the cabin in preparation of meeting Lydia for a 0600 hour flight to the ranch. On that morning, Luther arrived at the cabin at 0530 hours to help pack the frozen food in coolers, thermos bottles of coffee, a case of champagne, personal luggage, and two pots of Ostermonat lilies for his priestesses at the ranch. He met Lydia ' s aircraft, helped load the helicopter before he hugged his friends, telling them to thoroughly enjoy their time away. Laura had never flown with Lydia as a pilot and quickly understood why she was considered one of the best in the new Armed Forces. She was very much all business when she was flying, conversing but first and foremost a pilot in command of a heavy machine in the air. Laura asked her where she had learned to fly; Lydia replied that her father had taught her at the ranch at the age of ten earth years. She entered the former military at the age of sixteen years and by the age of twenty she had been promoted to the rank of Captain. Her first love was flight and teaching others how to fly aircraft. She had chosen to remain at the rank of Captain as if she had been promoted further she would not be able to continue to teach. Her former commanding officer, General Anthony Downs, could not find anyone to take command of the small air base on the northwest coast and therefore asked Captain Stenns if she would take command to which she agreed. She continued to teach young officers, that is how she met the gorgeous Amanda Bennett. Laura asked Lydia who had taught her to be a military pilot and she smiled as she told her it was Charlie Smithson. Laura ' s eyes grew wide with surprise; both Lydia and Amanda remarked that there was probably still no-one better. Amanda then told Laura that Charles Smithson was a brilliant pilot and young officer, headed to a position of senior command when Anthony Downs arrived on the scene. Charlie and Eleanor were still dating at the time and in his true, most base fashion Anthony Downs had raped Eleanor when she refused his advances. Charlie found him and beat him to within an inch of his life; the only thing that kept him from court martial was his agreement to accept a teaching position in the cadet training program. Since he was sickened with the leadership of choice he accepted. Laura was very quiet as she recalled her last night with Tony Downs, still harboring a sense of foreboding about the man. Lydia asked Laura if she remembered the pilot who flew the rolls with precision in the last battles. Laura said they all did and all were in awe. Amanda said that was Charlie Smithson at his best. Amanda held Laura as she walked another journey through her pain to light at the other side.

Lydia landed at the landing pad by 0915 hours to be greeted with a long hard kiss full on the mouth by Barbara who then also greeted her friends with their own kisses. Laura spotted Jackson and ran to hug him. He blushed but was obviously very pleased to see both Amanda and Laura again. He took cartons and luggage in his vehicle, Barbara drove her lover and her friends to the main house. Laura beamed with some tears as she entered the foyer of her friends ' home. The silver chains the ancients had wrapped around her heart after she left Amanda and during the battles did not allow her have memories of the ranch or those who lived there. A flood of loving memories filled Laura ' s soul as she stood taking it all in. Jackson entered the foyer from the workshop holding the hand a little boy of three earth years. He spotted Laura and ran to her yelling her name, wanting to be picked up and held. Laura was sobbing and could almost not speak to Spero, the child whose birth had introduced Lohrissa once again to her beloved earthlings. Jennie then joined them carrying a beautiful baby girl, about six earth months old. Spero took Laura ' s hand, walked her to his sister, telling Laura her name was Karina Lynne. He very seriously explained to Laura that Lynne was his real grandmother ' s name and Karina was for a very special woman who everybody loved. Lohrissa emerged with a shimmering white and jewel toned aura as she took the child in her arms to bless her. Neither Spero nor Karina were at all frightened, both wanting to be held by the most ancient priestess. Spero then took Laura ' s hand and led her and his little sister to the couch to sit down beside them. He told them that Just Lydia and Just Barbara told him about their friends Amanda and Laura who were coming to visit for the weekend. He told Just Lydia that he remembered Amanda but he could not remember Laura. But he said he loved her and the lady inside her. Everyone was weeping which seemed to confuse Spero; he kept asking Laura if she was okay and if she needed a drink or a kiss or something. She said a kiss would do just fine. Jennie came to take Karina from Laura and to apologize for her very talkative son. She told Spero that Laura and Amanda were tried and needed to have a rest so they would come back to visit them later. Papa Jackson took Spero ' s hand and asked him to join him to look after the new foals.

When the priestesses were composed enough to speak, Lydia said that was their surprise. Amanda knew that Jennie was pregnant before they came to take Laura home but did not tell her as she was not sure if the hurt about Lindsay ' s baby would be too great at the time. Lohrissa was still present; Laura glowed with magic and joy. Barbara made a pot of coffee while Lydia stored the frozen food from the cooler. Laura laughed about Spero being so chatty. Barbara said there as some days when she was sure he must wear his vocal cords to almost shreds; however, she did say he was an adorable child who had stolen all their hearts. Laura asked about his use of Just Lydia and Just Barbara. Lydia laughed, stating that when he was just learning who they were in his life Jennie had referred to them as Grandma Lydia and Grandma Barbara. Lydia said that it was a well-known fact that they were both entirely too young and too pretty to be grandmothers; she has said to Jennie that is could be just Lydia and just Barbara. From that day forward, they bore those monikers.

Laura snuggled into Amanda ' s shoulder on the couch before the fire as Barbara handed them both cups of coffee. Lydia told both woman how very wonderful it was to have them in their home again. She said that Amanda had lived in the guest cabin from the time Bella crashed until the day they went to take Laura home. Their friends had stayed at the ranch before and after each of the battles before they returned to the coast. Barbara added that their friends who worked with them at the ranch had gone above and beyond with their kindness, resourcefulness, and very long hours of hard work to support the Resistance. She laughed that they used to think that Jennie and Clara usually made enough food to feed an air base; when the need arose they did. Laura said that perhaps after lunch they could walk to the staff house so she could offer her personal thanks for caring for all of them. Amanda then grinned and suggested that she was feeling rather lonesome for her old haunt; she thought perhaps she needed to take Laura back to the guest cabin just for old time's sake. Lydia sent them off with blessings with a reminder that lunch was at 1300 hours.

Laura did remember the guest cabin. Jackson banked a warm fire. The open plain and mountains still drew breathtaking vistas. Amanda showed Laura the renovated shower, now with its own reclining bench. Laura sat in the rocker by the fire and told Amanda that she felt like thousands of lifetimes had passed since they were here last together. Amanda drew her to her feet, holding her tight, telling her that lifetimes had passed but there were futures waiting including their own. She asked Laura if she remembered the day when they first came to the ranch and she had found out about Lydia . She asked her if she remembered being told that for the rest of their days they would be at least as much in love as they were that day. Laura smiled, replying she did remember followed by kisses and touches leading to kisses and touches. She whispered that measure of being in love was nothing to where they were now. Amanda murmured or to where they would be.

They were almost late for lunch but Lydia and Barbara would not expected anything different. They had just spent two weeks wanting each other; therefore they did not mind being left alone. Everyone at the ranch always knew to leave the lovers alone on the day Lydia returned from the base. Amanda and Laura entered the main house just as their friends were descending from the loft. Barbara placed a pot of Clara ' s soup on the stove early that morning; lunch was served quickly without effort. After lunch, all four women walked to the stables and then to staff house as Laura personally thanked everyone who had worked hard to support all fighters from the Resistance. The reply was always the same, stating that they all fought to survive. Jackson showed Laura and Amanda the beautiful chestnut mare that they had gifted him four years previously. He proudly showed them all the horses they had reared at the ranch since their last visit. He then showed them the guest quarters at the staff house, rooms that would be occupied tomorrow night and then for the next four weeks for basic Mechanics teaching. On the walk back to the main house, Lydia mentioned that some friends would be joining them for dinner and dancing the following evening, it was hoped that Amanda and Laura would join them. Both women had brought clothes to dance and get seduced so they invitation was readily accepted. Every woman wanted the arms of her lover and as such after another cup of coffee at the main house, the couples departed to meet for dinner at 1800 hours. In the shower, Amanda whispered that she had met Lohrissa at the ranch at Spero ' s birth and then mated with her at the celebration of Laura ' s birth anniversary. She remembered being awed and humbled by that experience that now she welcomed. Being back at the ranch made her realize yet again how much she had missed the woman she was holding. Every day they were apart she knew that she could fly a helicopter one hour to the east and find Laura but the ancients knew that was not to be. Laura had tried to explain to Amanda that she had very little emotional recollection during her time away. She only led her beloved earthlings to victory with little energy for anything else. Laura told Amanda that she still harbored feelings of foreboding as if there were unfinished issues that needed resolution before she could only look forward. She then kissed her lover long hard and full on the mouth, stepping out of the shower to dress for their dinner.

Barbara was grilling steaks when Amanda and Laura returned to the main house. Everyone realized they were famished and very much enjoyed a ranch-sized meal. After dinner, Laura stood at the large window beside the fireplace to gaze at the plain and snowcapped mountains tipped with the silver of Mother Moon. Lohrissa had not returned to the helix; Aine was walking with her. Both women glowed in auras silver and shimmering white, so much in love and oblivious to the world around them as they held each other. Barbara stated that she hated to break the moment but she did have brandy before the fire but as usual no nudity was necessary. Laura replied that she would comply with the house rules but did not know what the issue really was. It was not like they had not seen her naked a few times to which Lydia quipped that that was a hardship indeed.

The following morning they conducted a small bit of business with a tour of the hangers and the facilities where Barbara would teach. Laura stated that she was very sure all the new enlisted personnel she would teach for the Security details at the new settlements were very adept at mechanics. They had all lived at outposts during the battles; many were born to ranch families. With business done, everyone returned to the staff house to visit with Jennie, cuddle with Karina, and play with Spero. Amanda took dozens of photographs with Laura sitting on the floor playing with both children and laughing. Spero took Amanda ' s hand to ask her why she was taking so many pictures. Amanda hugged him and said it was because she wanted to remember what Spero, Karina, and Laura looked like after they went home. Spero looked the woman like she had two heads, reminding Amanda very seriously that she lived with Laura so she really wouldn ' t need to remember. Jennie corrected him for being bold but Amanda said the child was right. Because Karina needed to eat and sleep, Jennie excused herself to attend to that. She asked Spero to put his toys away and Laura helped him. Before, the women left for the main house, Spero hugged Just Lydia and Just Barbara, telling them he loved them as always. On the walk back, Amanda told her dear friend that she may be too young and too pretty to be a grandmother but it still looked very good on both them; they clearly loved both children.

After a very light lunch in recognition of a huge meal for their celebration with friends, Laura finished making bagels, teaching Barbara and Lydia . Once they had baked, Amanda and Laura returned to the guest cabin for showers, rest, and more passion. Lydia expected their friends to arrive by 1700 hours; they planned to serve a dinner buffet for 1830 hours. Laura asked if she could help to which Barbara replied that Jennie and Clara had it well under control and they knew better than to interfere with those women. Laura and Amanda showered quickly as Laura needed to have dry curls to tame into a chignon. She sat before the fire hoping for some of the heat to add in that process. Very soon thereafter kisses and touches led to kisses and touches and the state of the curls became secondary in interest. Laura chose the sheer tuxedo shirt, skin tight jeans, and six inch heels with her curls in a chignon and the come hither makeup. Amanda emerged from the bathroom with her very short and very tight black skirt, a lace camisole with only lovely priestess skin underneath, four inch heels, and her own come hither make up. Laura groaned, telling her that they might be late for dinner to which Amanda laughed and told her to quite stealing her lines. They grabbed leather jackets and hurried through cold night air to the main house. Inside, outrageous gay women were making the merriment that only they could make. When Lydia spotted her priestesses she howled which stopped conversation; all eyes were directed to two drop dead gorgeous women. She kept it up until Laura walked over her to her, took her in her arms, kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth, and then not demurely told her to shut up. There was momentary silence and then every woman in the room started howling. Laura was almost breathless with laughter; when she could talk she said she would try her hardest to shut them all up before the end of the evening. Amanda and Laura were delighted to see Samantha Morgan and her lover Carrie as well as Sally and four of the new Captains from Carriere who had arrived early to celebrate before they started classes. One of them, Captain Debra Baxter, said that she just could not salute two women who she really just wanted to kiss long, hard, and full on the mouth. Amanda hid a grin, telling her that her attitude would likely get her everywhere. Laura made her way through the crowd to hug Sally and then kiss her long, hard, full on the mouth. She just howled laughing after she came up for air. Laura had great affection for the woman, knowing that they lives would be encircled as their futures unfolded. Jennie and Clara served the hot food on the buffet. Jackson had come to the kitchen in the event that they needed help; he leaned on the counter grinning as he watched all these beautiful, very strong loving women enjoy their freedom, celebrating the coming of new life in the spring of the new year. Amanda marveled at the changes in Laura now as she was a confident full grown woman who knew of her beauty, her intelligence, her strength, her compassion, and took all of that on the road with ease. She chided herself when she realized the price she had paid in order to understand those parts of herself. Laura had been working her way through chatting and shutting up her friends but when dinner was announced she quickly returned to Amanda ' s side with her own kiss long, hard, and full on the mouth. Debra and her partner Patricia asked Barbara if they could just arrange for a permanent transfer to the ranch if the food was this good. Barbara replied they could always ask the General but not to hold out much hope, pointing out that she was beautiful but could be a challenge at times. She looked up to be faced with a look from Amanda and then a grin. When dinner was complete Jennie, Clara, and Jackson cleared and moved a portable bar to near the window. After much whistling, Laura acquiesced to the learning over the bar routine to audible groans and roaring laughter from Jackson . He had to admit these women were indeed wicked and wonderful. As was tradition now, the first dance found Laura leading the beautiful Barbara in a slow sultry rumba with a kiss leaving them both breathless at the end of the music. Shortly thereafter all the women were dancing, enjoying each other. Some were taking notes on the fine art of dancing and seduction as taught by Laura, Amanda , Lydia , Barbara, Samantha, Carrie, Debra, and Patricia. By evening ' s end, Laura did manage to shut up every woman once and Amanda several times. She particularly enjoyed shutting up the new captains, after asking the General if it was appropriate. The General asked if they were beautiful, female, fun, and if so then they needed shutting up. Declan McDaniels was entirely right when he made the statement that this was no longer this man ' s army. By midnight, all had retired to their rooms with an invitation to breakfast at 1000 hours the following morning. Sally planned to fly her passengers back to the Carriere base at noon the following day. Laura did not know that Sally was a retired air command pilot who had served at the Carriere base. She met her lover Melissa in the previous military and both had opened the bar at Carriere upon their retirement. Melissa had died as a result of a vehicle accident several years ago, leaving Sally widowed and alone. Laura stroked Amanda ' s blonde locks as she lay in her arms and listened to the story about Sally and Melissa. She said she could honestly relate to the hurt the woman carried now. She wondered if there had not been a new lover in her life and Amanda supposed that the right woman had not found her journey with Sally to which Laura simply replied Yet."

Only slightly subdued women enjoyed a huge breakfast and good company before Sally prepared to fly back to Carriere. After their departure, Lydia , Barbara, Amanda, and Laura took short trail ride in the warming spring sunshine. Some of the mountains in the distance showed scars from former clear cutting, a practice that Laura hoped her beloved earthlings had eliminated. She knew that harvest of wood for building was ongoing and would need to be increased but she also knew that Declan McDaniels and Ross Shipman had organized crews to plant trees to compensate for those harvested. She also knew that as much as possible, all material possible was being salvaged after the battles and plans made for their use. All the buildings at the ranch except for the hangers were made from logs harvested from the mountains close to the ranch and Lydia ' s family had insisted that every tree be replaced with a new one. The same held true for the wood used for fuel; Lydia and Barbara paid the young adults at the ranch to plant new trees each summer and fall. Amanda and Laura told their friends about the new cooperatives selling wool and fabric. Amanda also remarked that she wanted to establish supplies of food and goods for the base from local growers and producers in and around Carriere. Everyone agreed that the sun, the fresh air, too much food, and not nearly enough sleep the night before could be best remedied by a nap and as such the priestesses returned to the main house and guest cabin for naps with plans to meet for dinner at 1830 hours.

Over dinner, Laura spoke of Sanctuary and how she was looking forward to being there again and introducing the priestesses to her friends who had nurtured her during the battles. She told them of taking Thea ' s small rocker and dolls as well as the painting of the raven-haired beauty to be kept permanently at Sanctuary as a reminder of their beloved chief, her beloved Lindsay, and the huge sacrifices of both women. She talked about Justine Carland and how much they would like the brilliant, permanently irascible woman. Declan mentioned at their last meeting that he had approached her to work on setting up an education system for the new settlements and also about becoming the president of the first university of the new settlements. She agreed to consider his offer; Laura opined she hoped Justine would accept as they would not find any better. Amanda then spoke of hopefully skydiving at Sanctuary as the vistas were allegedly breathtaking, especially with the tundra coming alive with a riot of new growth. Immediately, both Lydia and Barbara offered to pilot for those adventures. After dinner before the fire and with brandy and coffee, Laura quietly spoke of how wonderful it was to be back at the ranch. She said she had not been able to remember her time or those who she loved there for the years of the battles and, as with all her new or remembered experiences from her past, she had been somewhat apprehensive about returning in the face of the hurt she knew she would feel. Amanda kissed her brow as she continued, telling them that she was learning to walk through the pain and come to the other side with a greater sense of victory and peace with each of those small journeys. Barbara broke the silence by telling Laura that they were amazed, overwhelmed by her strength and courage as they had all feared for her life when they had taken her home from the Northwestern Command Post less than one year ago. She smiled, stating for all her outward beauty and ethereal countenance she was one very strong, brilliant woman who they all loved as a friend and as their ancient high priestess. Barbara hoped that as Laura had more time on earth she would be able to look to her ancients to remember that Lohrissa had walked many times in the past on many spheres with the priestesses, with Lughe, and with Curran. Laura was only briefly confused at the mention of that name and then quietly said Charlie." A short time later, Laura looked at Amanda with a definite look of wanting, kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth, murmuring to her to shut up. She took Amanda to her feet, led her to the foyer, handed her a coat and hat, and then grinned to Barbara to agree that indeed there was nothing much better than a Stetson. With that, they all said goodnight.

Earth hours later, Laura found her voice yet again asking Amanda if she thought that perhaps her lust and unabashed need to find passion as often as womanly possible was perhaps an illness of sorts or an affliction. Amanda stopped nuzzling breasts and neck telling her lover that if it was she wanted to continue to be that afflicted with hopes they would never recover. She then returned to the very pleasant business at hand.

Chapter 5

Lydia decided to fly back to the coast late in the afternoon of the first weekday. There were brand new recruits to start classes on the third weekday. There was little doubt that there would be compliance issues or lack of at least minimal physical fitness. Lieutenant General Ravencouer had provided all the written material of the basic laws decided upon for the new settlements, most of it plain common sense. Amanda asked Lydia to put the fear of a priestess into them as only she could regarding their primary obligations and the absolute necessity for ultimate loyalty to the survivors they all chosen to serve. While they were at Carriere, the strictest decorum would be followed with all senior ranks only as a reminder that they were first and foremost Armed Forces personnel; they would act accordingly or leave.

Despite long hours of no sleep in lovers ' arms resulting in less sleep, all four women met for coffee and a ranch breakfast early the following morning. Amanda emailed Luther to expect them back to the coast by 1900 hours. As they planned departure by 1530 hours, luggage and coolers full of ranch beef were readied. Laura said that she wanted to visit Spero and Karina once more before they left as did Just Lydia. On their walk to the staff house, Lydia asked Laura is she had considered having children of her own; the response was immediate and emphatic. She said she loved being in the company of children but she did not want to bear or raise her own. She believed that children needed parents in their lives daily and Laura could never guarantee her course. There was enough decided conviction in her voice to remind Lydia not to raise the subject again. They did have a busy hilarious play with Spero who had captured Laura ' s heart from his first smile. He climbed into Lydia ' s lap as he understood now that she was going back to work for some more days. Before they said goodbye, he asked Laura to pick him up again for a kiss and a hug. Once again, he told her that he loved her and the lady inside her. He hoped they would come back to visit him and his little sister soon. Laura promised she would try. She asked him if he drew pictures and he said that he did; Just Barbara had taught him to read and write already. Laura asked him to draw pictures for her and to write her stories to send to her when either Just Lydia or Just Barbara visited Laura and Amanda. He shone with excitement about the idea; a new lifelong friendship was born.

It seemed that Lohrissa could not resist the children and she remained with Laura for the entire trip back to the coast. Luther met Amanda and Laura with a blazing fire, a spotless home, and a light meal ready for them. After a quick meal and shower, both lovers were in bed and asleep less than two hours after their arrival home. Both women were at the base by 0830 hours the following morning. Laura did not have a class that day but she wanted to observe Lieutenant General Stenns ' introduction and lecture. Lydia was the ultimate professional officer as Laura knew she could be. All the new recruits recognized Laura and she knew most of them. She had been their beloved commander but now she was their senior officer and instructor who insisted on excellence with strict adherence to the decorum set down by the Commander-in-Chief as taught by Lieutenant General Stenns. She addressed them briefly, stating that classes were scheduled for 0900 hours the following day and that she had every expectation that they had made themselves very familiar with the written information that had been forwarded to them previously. At the end of the class, Colonel Smithson barked Attention ; all eight recruits were on their feet in seconds with crisp salutes to their senior command. Laura taught for half days for the following two weekdays and told the recruits to be prepared to physical fitness testing on the morning of the fifth weekday. Laura planned to fly to the base by herself on the fifth weekday to test the fitness of the new recruits but Amanda decided to join her to observe the test and then take the love of her life out to lunch for a pre-date date before they returned home for the remaining days away. Laura asked Lydia to grade the recruits as Laura would do the actual testing. At precisely 0900 hours, Lieutenant General Ravencouer led the recruits in calisthenics, a two mile run on the tarmac, more calisthenics, participation in an obstacle course, and then a cool down session of aerobic exercises. Not one of the recruits showed any difficulty whatsoever in performing the test and Laura congratulated them all. She told them to prepare for a test at 0900 hours in the upcoming second weekend day. The recruits were dismissed. Laura then discussed the test results with Lydia who was very impressed with both the recruits and their teacher; all passed with high marks. Laura then went to the shower and emerged in tight jeans, her favorite bronze sweater, boots, with curls tamed in a braid; then met her lover and Lydia in the staff dining room. A sergeant in the dining room barked Attention as Laura entered the room; she immediately put them all at ease including the General and her friend. The personnel at Carriere were slowly becoming accustomed to seeing their senior officers in civilian attire. Lydia had never been able to have that luxury with the old regime; the changes were still new and somewhat disconcerting for some of the older members of the new Armed Forces. General Bennett made it very clear that she expected perfection or as close to it as they could achieve but she also let them know she respected them all and their prior efforts to defeat evil. It was her personal mandate to see the human beings behind all the uniforms first and foremost.

The lovers drove to Carriere to start the date at the bar and by early afternoon were in the air on their way home. Amanda told Laura that the recruits were amazing in the test that morning to which Laura replied that she was not at all surprised. She said that they all had endured many hardships during the times of the battles, stating quietly said that they had all fought with her. She said that it was very much a privilege to work with them again. When they returned home, Luther had a blazing fire and a clean home awaiting them. He was still in the workshop when they arrived and he joined them for a few moments before the fire with a cup of coffee. He said that he and Harry planned to start erecting the frame for the greenhouse expansion the following week if the weather cooperated. They had not had their annual ice fogs yet this new spring; he expected them before the end of the next week if Mother kept her usual calendar. Laura had not lived through ice fogs yet and was not entirely sure she wanted to. Amanda told her that they would be grounded either at the cabin or at the base during the worst of them. She prepared Laura earlier to have uniforms and sleepwear at the base in the event of inclement weather preventing flight. Amanda was a fearless pilot but not a foolish one, not willing to risk flying with ice on aircraft. Laura chose homemade soup and a salad for their evening meal as they had a large meal at the bar, one they both enjoyed immensely. The women who cooked there had expertise in excellent cheeseburgers and fries. By the time Luther was ready to depart, it was pouring rain. He filled the wood box to fuel the warm fire, negating the bone penetrating dampness outside. Amanda repeated that this was her least favorite time of year. After dinner, Laura said that the date would need to be delayed for a few hours in the morrow as she needed to cook but they could always start the real date this evening to make up for that. As soon she stopped talking she found herself naked on the rug before the hearth.

Both women slept late the following morning as the day was very grey with continued rain. The temperatures were not freezing but the air was cool and damp which led to a blazing fire before which the lovers ate breakfast and drank coffee. Laura retreated to the kitchen while Amanda did morning chores and then made a second pot of coffee. By early afternoon, all the food necessary for the following week ' s dinners had been prepared or was in the slow cooker. Laura baked several braided loaves and made pans of cinnamon buns as a breakfast treat for the following two days. As if Mother had heard Luther ' s predictions, a thick dense frozen fog started to roll in across the ocean, creeping up the mountainside. In less than an hour, the vehicle in the driveway was no longer visible with every surface outside the cabin covered with ice. Amanda managed to retrieve more logs and brought them to the enclosure while she could still see the wood pile outside the workshop. There was plenty of wood and many batteries with stored energy. There was no longer pouring rain but just clouds cloaking the mountainside. Mother had taken the coast captive including the Carriere base. Lydia had spent over twenty years and could go into ice fog mode in her sleep. Many of the personnel had been at Carriere for a long time; Amanda was not concerned about the base or the earthlings stationed there. She held Laura in her arms before the window, telling her the good news was that absolutely no-one was going to venture out on any roads until the fog dissipated; as such, they were alone. Before dinner, there was another trail of clothing that needed to be picked up and two beautiful women playing in the shower, oblivious to any weather. Teddy and Primrose both really liked ice fogs, with or without humans, as it was just so easy to ignore the outside world in them.

Amanda helped Laura put containers of stew and savory tarts in the freezer after dinner. Both women donned robes over satin and lace as the air in the wood enclosure was cool and the wood box needed filling. Laura ran quickly to check temperatures in the greenhouse, changed the battery there, and increased the heat slightly. With the night chores done, Amanda found some of her favorite music and lit only a few pillar candles. She found the goblets, the brandy, and asked her drop dead gorgeous mistress to dance. For hours, she would not let Laura undress her and she refused to allow her lover to get naked. There were still several of Lydia ' s lessons to teach Laura and Amanda had chosen to teach one lesson at a time so that her lover understood them well before the next one. She had to admit, however, that the woman was a quick study indeed. Only after banking the fire for the second time, did satin and lace find the floor and sheets welcomed lovers well underway to their journeys to the ancients and the multiverse.

Morning found the cabin still cloaked in fog and ice. Laura woke before Amanda, banked the fire, made coffee, checked the greenhouse, and returned to her lover ' s arms. Amanda grinned as she saw the wonderful look of mischievous lust flashing in gorgeous hazel eyes. Laura informed her lover that today ' s lesson would be about lips with frequent examinations. Amanda was led to the shower even before a first cup of coffee and the first lesson about lips was given. Due to cool dampness and hunger, the wood box got filled in record time. Laura poured cups of coffee laced with brandy and warmed cinnamon buns for their breakfast, took her lover ' s hand, led her to the island in the kitchen, and the second lesson about lips was underway. When Amanda started to laugh, Laura instructed her to pay attention as there would be a test with the repercussions of failure nasty indeed. Later before the fire, Amanda stated with the utmost sincerity that it was a blessing that Harry could not drive today and surprise them with a visit as the man would lose his mind permanently if he walked into the cabin on this second weekend day morning. After Amanda made a second pot of coffee to be kept warm on the hearth, Laura took her hand telling her that there was a scheduled test on lesson one about lips about to take place in the shower. Amanda was only too happy to show her teacher she had paid attention. The second test took place once again on the kitchen island with the teacher congratulating her student on excellent results. Both women finished morning chores and then enjoyed a second cup of coffee cuddled under warmed throws before the fire. Amanda covered Teddy and Primrose with their own warmed blanket and set them rocking on the hearth. Lesson three about lips was given in the pantry and lesson four in the kitchen. The instructor decided that there would be a second test on lesson one in the shower after which tests on lesson three and four were conducted, again completed with excellent results.

Morning chores were finally finished just before lunch in front of the fire. The sun tried valiantly to send beams of light and warmth through frozen water particles with some very slow but definite results. Amanda thought that perhaps by the morrow the fog would lift completely, then a day of ridding necessary surfaces of thick ice would begin. She told Laura not to expect return to the base before the third upcoming weekday. If the fog did lift they would need to insure that the aircraft and was completely clear before attempting flight; the tarmac surfaces at Carriere would also need to be cleared. Laura smiled and said that she did not mind an extra day at home with the General to which Amanda replied that the present day was the only day they could count on being alone. Laura informed her student that the lessons on lips should and would be expedited. Before dinner of fondue before the fire, Laura declared that there were no more lessons she needed to teach her student about lips, warning that she could expect a comprehensive examination before either teacher or student would find sleep that night. Later that night, while holding her mistress at the end of the first combined examination and before at least the second Amanda whispered to Laura that she knew she had hired the right teacher years ago.

The following morning, the sun was victorious over the fog and Mother glistened on every surface with frozen water. Both women prepared a huge breakfast, some of which would be kept warm as both expected Luther and Harry before midday. Amanda managed to get beyond the door of the enclosure to test air temperature and saw the first signs of melting in the warmer sun. She and Laura filled the wood box, and then carried sand and salt to the front door and deck to start the process of digging out once again. Luther and Harry arrived in late morning after a slow ascent with sand and sand. By that time, Amanda had been able to break ice from the deck; both she and Laura started the process of clearing a path to the driveway with more salt and sand. It was wet work and Laura finally understood why it was Amanda ' s least favorite time of the year. Both women had cleared a safe pathway to the outside wood stores and were bringing logs into the enclosure when both men greeted them. After work with axes and shovels that cleared the front pathway and driveway, Laura insisted that every return to the cabin for dry warmth, coffee, and nourishment. After resting, Luther and Harry set out to reach the landing pad on the mountainside and then begin the arduous task of de-icing. Both women insisted on helping to start the process which would not be entirely complete until the next day. Luther contacted Lydia at the base and all was well there. She replied that she did not expect the General or the Lieutenant General until the third weekday that week as work was still underway to clear the tarmac surfaces. She anticipated that completion by the end of the second weekday. Amanda made another pot of coffee and Laura warmed soup, both for thermoses to take the landing pad for nourishment. Both women left for the landing pad with Laura learning to drive on ice and sand covered mountainside roads. The tarmac had been cleared when they arrived and both the Armed Forces helicopter and Huguette had their first de-icing bath before being taken back to the hanger until the next day. Laura once again insisted that everyone take nourishment and coffee in a somewhat warmed hanger before the women carefully returned to the cabin, salted, sanded the driveway, walkways, and deck.

Amanda ran a hot soaking bath for both women to help soothe tired muscles and warm them after banking the fire. Luther and Harry planned to return the following day to further clear ice and snow from the cabin, the tarmac, and ready the helicopters for flight on the morning of the third weekday. The day ' s work had tired both women who chose an early night of sleep with no lessons conducted.

The following morning, Mother firmly proved that she had taken victory over the wrath of winter with warm temperatures and the first earth smell of spring. Both women cleared all snow and ice from the deck and the driveway before Luther and Harry arrived. Luther told them that there would be no need to return to the mountainside tarmac as he and Harry could easily complete readying the aircraft for flight. He told his friends he would return to his usual work the following day. He asked Amanda for a date to borrow a Raptor from the base to move logs to the cabin in preparation for the Fletcher family and the renovations on their home. She told him that when he was ready to do that work, he could travel to Carriere, sign out an aircraft as he still had access from the time of the battles, and get the logs moved. Only for a moment, did Laura question Luther ' s ability to maneuver the large aircraft, then realizing he had been a bomber pilot as good as any she had trained.

Both Amanda and Laura decided to work for the following three weekdays to compensate for a day lost due to the ice fog. Laura taught her classes and was very impressed that her recruits had taken on independent study as a group on the day she was not able to get to the base. On the fifth weekday, all recruits readily passed the first test before ongoing studies in the laws and security protocols. Lydia had chosen to stay at the base until they departed for the former command posts and Sanctuary in the last week of the fourth month of the new year. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe scheduled a visit to the base, for some business and much pleasure. Colonel Smithson had readily agreed to take command for the two weeks the senior officers would be away.

Amanda and Laura started to confer with Luther about what needed to be packed in view of the upcoming renovations. He had already made plans to disassemble their bed and furniture for eventual move to the new loft. He said that new glass had been ordered for extension of the windows as well as the new skylights for the bedroom and studio space. He was particularly excited as he had found recycled lumber for flooring in the loft, close to the same planks used on the main floor of the cabin. The remaining time away at the cabin followed routine and passion as usual.

Classes and ongoing planning work kept all senior officers busy at the Carriere base for the following two weeks. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe returned to the base for four days on the end of the second week, reporting on the progress of the new captains who she expected to all pass their examinations with high marks before their return to the base at the end of the third week of the fourth month of the new year. She brought many pictures and stories for Laura from Spero much to her delight and she had many to return to him with Barbara. Amanda and Laura met with all artisans from the Fletcher family as they planned for the new loft. Luther and Harry had the new greenhouse expansion completed; Luther and Mary had new plantings nurtured. There were still patches of snow on the ground and among the firs but spring flowers and green grass were rising forth as if to dance with Mother at the returning of life.

The new recruits were given their final examination for Security procedures and laws, graded by Colonel Smithson the following morning. He reported to General Bennett ' s office to confer with her and within one-half hour, both Lieutenant Generals Ravencouer and Stenns were summoned to Amanda ' s office. Amanda had already emailed Declan and Andrew McDaniels, Lieutenant Colonels Taylor and Maclippe. Both Charlie and Amanda bore very sober faces when they Laura and Lydia joined them. Amanda handed both women papers and after just seconds both women had very bright, broad smiles. All the recruits had passed their examinations with no errors. Amanda rose, congratulated everyone, and then saluted her senior officers. She arranged to meet with the recruits in the classroom and all senior officers accompanied her. Colonel Smithson barked Attention as they entered the hanger classroom. General Bennett put all at ease and then with her own bright, broad smile told them all of their examination results after which she handed them certificates with letters of congratulations. She told them that transportation back to their families was arranged over the following two days. Laura then spoke of her pride once again in all of them; those she knew from the battles who she knew would lead well into the future.

Amanda and Laura did not report to the base on the fifth weekday, having stayed at the cabin to finish packing for their two weeks away. The cabin was being readied quickly for the renovations. Luther had refinished Thea ' s doll rocker; Jeannie and Mary had repaired and cleaned doll clothes before all went into cartons to take to Sanctuary. Amanda had asked that the painting of the raven haired beauty be carefully crated for its journey to Sanctuary as well. They said their goodbye to Luther and were in the air by 0700 hours on the first weekend day. Lydia was waiting on the tarmac and the ground crew helped store her gear and luggage in the aircraft. Colonel Smithson also joined them, giving his blessings and best wishes for a safe, happy journey. Before departure, Lohrissa appeared briefly and quietly returned Curran ' s blessings with a smile from both Laura and Charlie. Amanda flew the helicopter to the ranch where they would stay overnight before leaving for the Northeastern Command Post to meet Lieutenant Colonel Taylor. He had asked that they meet with him and his personnel first so that he could return to the base to give Colonel Smithson a few days away from the base. Barbara met the helicopter and the love of her life before midday. Jackson set to changing the batteries for the planned flight to the former Northeastern Command Post the following day. Jennie and Clara had a huge ranch lunch ready for hungry and tired women. Amanda had asked that uniforms be worn for their visits as they were conducting Armed Forces business. It was also understood that once the initial meeting was done at Sanctuary, uniforms would not be needed. Lydia and Barbara obviously needed time alone; Laura and Amanda returned to the guest cabin. Jackson already told Spero that Laura was working and she would visit with him when she came back to the ranch after her work was done. He had grown with Just Lydia and Just Barbara leaving for work and then returning to him so he was perfectly accepting of his Papa ' s news. Laura was not certain of the arrangements for quarters for her or the officers at the Northeastern Command Post. It had been many months since she had been there and even then she rarely stayed beyond several hours. She was not apprehensive about the visit but knew that there would be several walks through pain over the next few days as did Amanda.

Chapter 6

Rested women were in the air by 0830 hours the following morning. Laura was the pilot as she was very familiar with the coordinates for landing. At 1100 hours on the second weekend day, General Bennett, Lieutenant Generals Stenns and Ravencouer, and Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe disembarked from their aircraft to a very crisp salute by Lieutenant Colonel Taylor. Several people went to descend to one knee before Lohrissa quickly and silently told them that the time was gone. Amanda put Sean at ease quickly and told him they were all delighted to see him again in his haunts. He smiled, tuning to take the hand of a pregnant Olivia to introduce to his friends. Laura hugged her, telling her she was very happy to see her again under very much happier circumstances than the last time they had met. Crew members approached to carry kit bags to which Amanda responded that it was no longer this man ' s army and they could retrieve their own bags which they did. Sean showed them to two private rooms, recently enclosed and pristine. There were no secrets now among them; everyone who was interested knew that Lydia and Barbara were lovers as were Amanda and Laura. Sean introduced his fellow officers to most of the personnel at the command post and everyone was invited to dine in a very much improved dining room from that which Laura remembered. She remarked about it and Sean grinned, saying there had been no living with his wife until they made the changes. All the officers insisted that they dine among the personnel as they did at the Carriere base and lively conversation ensued. Sean did mention that all the food they were eating had been grown at the command post including the beef. Olivia quipped that one can take the man out of the ranch but one can never take the ranch out of the man. Both Lydia and Barbara heartily concurred. After lunch, Sean led his fellow officers on a tour of the entire command post, leaving the hangers to the last. Barbara almost jumped out of her skin when she spied the old transport plane, still very much in flying condition. Sean smiled as he asked her if she would like to take a small flight with him as his copilot. She was donning a flight suit before he had a chance to ask the others if they would like to join them. It seemed like only minutes later Sean was flying the behemoth out over the prairie with Barbara expertly copiloting. Amanda watched the view but also held Laura ' s hand as she walked through one of many journeys through pain to the other side. Sean flew to ranches close to the command post and then over the last labor camp, now abandoned and skeletonized due to removal of all usable building materials. He landed on one of the ranch tarmacs, switched places with Barbara, and told her to enjoy herself. She beamed for the entire flight back to the command post, stating given a couple more hours she would be able to tip the wings. She then proudly told Sean that Lieutenant General Ravencouer could now tip a helicopter tail to which Sean just shook his head.

After landing the aircraft, he invited his friends to take some down time before a planned dinner at 1800 hours. On their way back to their quarters, Amanda asked Laura if she was journeying well; Laura just smiled her response. She said it was actually very nice to return now in peace with only goodwill to extend with no orders to bark or fear to assuage. Their quarters were very clean and serviceable; everyone tucked in for brief refreshing naps. Just before dinner, Alex Taylor, Drew and Annique McDaniels arrived as a pleasant surprise for Laura who had not seen Alex since before the last battle. Introductions were made and funny stories told over wine before dinner. Drew and Annique both congratulated Laura on the huge success of the first class of new recruits. He said that he would discuss plans for the next phase of settlements at the meeting planned for the following morning. Laura once again offered her heartfelt thanks as did all the others. General Bennett made a special point of greeting and thanking all those who had prepared the delicious food served to them, telling them if any of them ever considered a change of location she knew of an Armed Forces base that could always use more good cooks. Everyone laughed as Sean told her firmly to quit pulling rank with attempts to steal the staff.

Everyone was tired, full, and needed rest in anticipation of another busy day on the morrow. There was one shower that needed to be shared between four women who readily chose to shower as couples, both agreeing it was a hardship but necessary in the line of duty. Laura then climbed into Amanda ' s arms before sleep, telling her that she was happy that the day had gone well and that the General had approved of the work of the former command post. Amanda kissed her gently, whispering Well done Commander Ravencouer, well done .

All the officers met with Drew and Annique McDaniels over breakfast the following morning. They had outlined the roll-out plans for new settlements including location for the next twelve months. They had personnel in mind for the new Communications centers which would also include a Security detail; when they had confirmation they would then alert Declan as well as General Bennett for the next classes of new recruits. General Bennett updated everyone on the plans to have the new captains trained, ready to assist Sean by the end of the sixth month of the new year. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe reported that they had all successfully completed the Basic Mechanics training. Drew smiled, stating that it was doubtful that they would need to teach any of the recruits he recommended in the near future about mechanics; most of them were raised on ranches, having repaired aircraft repeatedly during the battles. Sean readily agreed. General Bennett thanked everyone once again at the end of their meeting. After retrieving their luggage, Amanda flew her passengers to the Northwestern Command Post. Laura was very quiet as the post came into view. Barbara took her hand as she walked with her through her next journey through pain to the other side. Declan McDaniels and Ross Shipman were on the tarmac awaiting their friends. Again, there was some hesitation as Laura descended from the aircraft to which Lohrissa silently told her earthlings that the time had passed. The women retrieved their gear and Ross showed them to newly renovated guest quarters. This command post served as the official meeting place until new leaders could be elected; as such, it had been expanded to accommodate guests. Laura leaned forward to quietly ask Declan if they had more hot water; he grinned as he pointed out banks of solar panels on the roofs. Ross then invited his friends to lunch in the staff dining room, again much improved since Laura ate there last. After eating, Declan and Ross gave the officers a complete tour of the command post leaving the renovated jail to last. Everyone had recognized that there was the necessity to restrict certain people as they had always been. The three young men who Laura and Lohrissa had disciplined after bombing of the former Carriere base as well as the hamlet of Eaglesdown were still at the command post although no longer incarcerated. All three had been skydivers for several missions during the battles. Laura greeted them, thanking them for their bravery and help. She also introduced them to Lydia , telling them this was one of the earthlings they had hurt before they understood the real meaning of hero. Each man humbly apologized to Lydia and again to Laura. Lydia accepted their apology, reminding them to always remember her face if they ever considered harm to a fellow being again. When they left, Ross completely broke with protocol to take Laura ' s hand as he walked with her to her former office and quarters. She was very silent as they entered the room, now filled with sunlight from many windows along the back wall and with a door leading to a greenhouse. There was no sign of her former quarters; the room now held facilities for communication and office cubicles for personnel. He invited all four women to join him at a large found table before one of the windows. Declan returned quickly with coffee and a bottle of brandy which tweaked Amanda ' s curiosity. He had asked both Charlie Smithson and Luther McBane to join them by satellite link; then Amanda knew there was potentially ominous news forthcoming.

Declan McDaniels believed in brevity and opened their meeting with the news that Anthony Downs had been found alive in the European City . He was on a freighter under guard being transported to the northeastern archipelago where Sterling Carland would insure his captivity until Drew McDaniels met them to fly him back to the newly renovated jail at the Northwestern Command Post. He recounted that he had been spotted by former Resistance fighters who were now part of the new Armed Forces Security detail in the European city. When his identify was confirmed, the interim rulers in the European city contacted Declan and together with Ross, Drew, and Lou they had immediately agreed to his extradition to be court-martialed and stand trial for murder and rape. There were judges and lawyers who survived the labor camps, the battles, all prepared to conduct as fair a trial as possible. All four women, Luther, and Charlie were all silent for moments. All four priestesses rose as did Lughe and Curran with full auras shining. Lohrissa found Laura ' s earth voice, gave her blessings, her approval to proceed with closure for her beloved earthlings and for those this innocent remnant from Olc had been responsible for hurting and returning to the helix. The ancients withdrew leaving very quiet earthlings in their stead. Ross poured shots of brandy, giving one to each woman at the table. Declan continued by stating they had retrieved military records infiltrated initially by Amelia and Sterling Carland as well as Andrew and Annique McDaniels. There was written proof of atrocities planned and carried out by the former military led by the former General Anthony Downs. Laura had forwarded her last email from Karina before she died as a result of rape and beating by Anthony Downs. Declan was then silent as Laura took Amanda ' s hand; her lover and friend was fighting hard to contain tears from falling on ashen cheeks. After a few moments, Amanda Bennett quietly agreed to testify against the man who had raped her repeatedly when she was fifteen earth years of age. There were records of the alleged rape of Eleanor Smithson. Charles said he would talk to her but already knew that his very strong wife would also testify against the monster. Declan said the first order of business would be his court martial; General Bennett with her senior officers would conduct those proceedings at a temporary Armed Forces base to be established at the Northwestern Command Post.

Laura asked to be excused for a few minutes as she retreated to the tarmac. When she looked up there were circles of ravens flying above her with a clear vision from Noshi, Thea, and Tom, telling her that the great hurt was almost over and then she could live in peaceful happiness with her beloved Aine. She then returned to ask if she would be tried for harming the former general. Ross said there was no proof that she had done that; if Anthony Downs attempted to suggest that it would be his word against that of the former commander of the Resistance, one who at under twenty-five earth years of age had led a ragtag band of fighters to freedom with a bit of help from her friends. Lydia asked how they had found him. Ross explained that Sterling Carland was like a dog with a bone in that if he knew even of the smallest detail he would pursue an issue until it was resolved. He had many friends and connections in the former Resistance in the European city; they helped him find the man suspected of being Anthony Downs. They learned that he had been smuggled to the former elite compound of The Decision and then to avoid further scandal he had been further smuggled to counterparts in the former European city. He had been attempting to raise an army of supporters once again which had been his downfall as few of the survivors in the new European city were interested in any sort of autocratic nonsense again. Declan explained that Drew specifically asked to retrieve the man once he was on the northern continent again, stating that Drew loved all women and if one of them was hurt then he took that personally. Ross assured everyone that Anthony Downs would not be harmed whatsoever but he could also guarantee it would not be a pleasant trip for the former general. Amanda asked when the proceedings would take place; Declan estimated in the eighth month of the new year. He asked that a more senior officer at the Carriere base be trained to take command for a few days as Sean would likely be awaiting a new child then and Colonel Smithson ' s attendance would be required at the court martial. He was not certain of the dates yet for rape and murder trial. Barbara spoke for the first time, stating that it was her most sincere priestess and earthling wish that whatever punishment was decided upon if he was found guilty that it would not include death. She said it made no sense to punish a crime of death by death. She believed that none had the right to take the life of another, no matter the circumstances. She continued that surely they had finally learned that. Declan stated that they would adopt the penalties as set down by the elected leaders prior to The Decision which did not include death as a punishment. Declan closed this meeting with an apology for the timing of the news and the hopes that it would not affect their time with them or at Sanctuary. Lydia stated that it was a shock but it also meant justice, closure; those could never be negative concepts. Ross invited his friends to dinner in the staff dining room at 1800 hours, stating that it was an informal dinner; to his mind uniforms were not necessary although that was absolutely the choice of General Bennett. The women left the meeting room; once outside Laura took Amanda ' s hand as they returned to their quarters. When Laura closed the door to their room, she gathered Amanda in her arms to hold her through racking sobs. She led her to a warm shower and then to the bed where she continued to hold her, telling her that the hurt was almost over. Laura admitted she could not really understand the depth of the harm but she did also say that she knew about hurt. She knew that the process for healing was the same as was closure; they were close now to both. She told Amanda that when she had taken time away from the meeting Noshi, Thea, and Tom had promised her that the time of hurting was almost over, that she would then walked in peace and joy with her beloved Aine. Amanda fell asleep wrapped in Laura ' s arms, a healing sleep of peace as directed in a spell cast by their beloved Lemanychia.

Lydia and Barbara met Amanda and Laura, all women dressed in jeans and sweaters. They walked to the dining room to be greeted by Ross and Frida Shipman. Declan and Emme McDaniels. Laura was delighted to see Emme again and introduced her to her friends as they sat down for dinner. As they were parting company for the night, Frida invited everyone to dine with them the following evening. Once back in their quarters, Laura took Amanda to the shower once again this time for outright seduction. When they returned to their bed and heard soft cries of love offered down to the ancients from the room next door, Amanda said it was probably just as well that they were the only guests in residence at the moment as it might just become a bit louder in the building. Laura smiled, saying it was still the most beautiful music and with that started their own. At dawn the following morning, Laura rose and walked to the edge of the tarmac as she done many times when she lived at the command post during the battles. She found only peace and gave down thanks for blessings and guidance. When she returned to her room to shower and dress for the day, Amanda was awake and dressing. She asked where she had gone; Laura told her of her many walks to the edge of the tarmac when she thought she could not bear more. Now she only found peace with a promise of happiness. She took her lover ' s face in loving hands and kissed thank you into her, thank you for loving her, thank you for never forgetting the love they had shared, thank you for coming to find her and take her home. Amanda smiled through tears, kissing peace and happiness into the love of her life. After breakfast, the senior officers met with Declan and Ross regarding plans for the new settlements as well as for the elections for leaders hopefully within the year. Laura asked Declan if he planned to stand for election; he replied that he was undecided as yet although if one spoke to Lou it was a given. Laura smiled as she knew how very convincing Louiza Shipman could be. After the meeting and an early lunch in the staff dining room, Ross flew his friends to the Taylor ranch explaining that this was the last northern outpost when the wall still stood. He knew that none of the women needed to know about self-sufficient ranchers but he did want them to meet this remarkable family as well as Archie and Lily Granger. He said that they had recruited Archie to work with his friend Drew in an attempt to set in place methods of deterring counterfeiters and forgers. Archie provided all of the Resistance fighters with false identification as well as providing financial institutions with counterfeit bank certificates to deposit in the accounts of The Decision that were in fact worthless. Archie said several times that he felt that was his crowning work to date. Amanda questioned the wisdom of hiring a former criminal to which Ross replied they already had hired a couple, mainly both Declan and Andrew McDaniels. Ross also said with a very broad grin that it was at least rumored that the former Commander Ravencouer was very adept at hot-wiring any ignition and apparently that had been taught to her by one Barbara Maclippe so perhaps the term criminal was all in the interpretation. Laura had to fight to hold back a snicker after which Amanda acquiesced that she stood corrected. The tour of the ranch was enjoyed by everyone, guests and ranchers together. Laura greeted Archie who she had not seen in many months, telling him he looked well and happy. She introduced him to Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara. She asked if he and Lily had made plans to return to a settlement to which he replied they were considering one in the east at a later date. They both felt that the Taylor ranch was their home; they were very much a part of the family there. At 1600 hours, Ross chose to return to the command post as he said Frida would need some help preparing for dinner. Amanda said she hoped they had not gone to a large amount of trouble to entertain them. Ross replied that it had been years since Frida had new guests and of course she had gone to trouble. That was what Frida loved and at which she excelled. Everyone showered, changed into casual clothing, and met Declan on the tarmac for the short drive to Ross ' and Frida ' s home. Emme and Frida had set tables on the patio at the back of their homes looking out to the vast expanse of prairie. Both women were not natives to the grasslands but loved their homes there; it would take serious convincing to get them to leave there now. Everyone enjoyed a huge feast of food all grown by Emme and Frida. Both Amanda and Lydia asked for lists of plants that they had grown for both personal use as well as for the new greenhouses being erected at the Carriere base. After a very pleasant evening of good homemade wine and great conversation, Declan returned his guests to the command post.

The following day, the women planned to fly to Sanctuary after breakfast. Laura was excited now to see her friends as well as apprehensive about facing all the emotions she was sure she would feel. Amanda took her hand to reassure her that they would walk through the hurt together and get to the other side. The helicopter was in the air by 1000 hours with an expected time of arrival at 1330 hours. As they flew farther north, her friends became silent as they took in the vistas only Mother could paint. Laura smiled as she remembered her first flight to Sanctuary and the awe she knew they were feeling now. Amanda gasped as Sanctuary came into view. None of the women understood the settlement was as extensive as it was. It had grown even since Laura had been there just under a year ago. When they landed the craft and disembarked every resident was on the tarmac on bended knee including Stephan and Tess Redhawk. Lohrissa appeared in full aura to give blessings to all, and then returned to the helix. Stephan had chosen traditional attire to greet his visitors. Laura hugged him and Tess with tears in her eyes before she introduced them to General Amanda Bennett, Lieutenant General Lydia Stenns, and Lieutenant Colonel Barbara Maclippe. Then, Laura spotted Lou and Niki coming towards her; she ran to both of them sobbing. Lou hugged her, kissed her, telling her no uncertain terms to quit bawling to which Laura stopped crying, immediately laughing out loud. Niki hugged Laura as she told her that not a whole lot had changed. Amanda had stayed steps behind; Lou told Laura to stop being rude, to introduce her to her friends, and most of all the love of her life. Laura held out a hand to Amanda, drew her to her side, and introduced General Amanda Bennett to Louiza Shipman and Niki Cee. Lou had a radiant smile as she beckoned for Amanda to come closer for a hug, thanking her for loving the living daylights into this young woman as it looked just wonderful on both of them. Amanda then greeted Niki with great affection. Laura asked Lydia and Barbara to join them, introducing her friends to Lou and Niki. Lou said with the most sincerity but with a wonderfully wicked grin that she was happy to see that Laura had found some women to keep her on the not so straight and narrow. Amanda already loved the woman. Laura then mentioned that none of her friends should ever wonder again where Declan or Drew got the attitudes as it was clearly genetic. The crowd had started to disperse after which the women returned to the helicopter to retrieve their bags and the gifts Laura had brought to leave at Sanctuary. Stephan and Tess helped carry the cartons to the quarters assigned to the guests. Someone had very kindly moved Laura ' s quarters to another part of the building so that she would not have to be reminded constantly of Lindsay. The women were given new rooms on the second floor of an expanded living space. When they returned, Laura quietly gave Thea ' s rocker and dolls to Sanctuary as tribute to her mother and their former chief. Stephan said they would be treasured always as he placed them on the hearth in the common room so that everyone could enjoy them and remember. Stephan then asked Laura and her friends if they would like to see the newly expanded health care and teaching facility. He led them to a corridor and through a door to a lovely open room with a new fireplace with comfortable seating. He introduced them to Dr. Ray Dobson who was now the director of the facility, in charge of ongoing training for new physicians. He knew who Laura was and was very humbled in her presence. Laura introduced him to Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara. With tears in her eyes, Laura gave them the painting of the raven haired beauty, asking that it be kept at the health care facility as a tribute to Dr. Lindsay Reynolds. Stephan then told Laura that the new facility had been renamed the Lindsay Reynolds Centre of Hope which caused Laura to sob and brought tears to every other eye. Amanda stepped forward to wrap her arms about Laura to quiet her. They toured the facility which housed not only standard care but also native and natural healing practices of which both Stephan and Tess were very proud. When they returned to the common area, Justine Carland stepped forward to greet Laura once again. She grinned as she said that she still didn ' t think she was all that special but she was very glad to see her nonetheless. Laura laughed out loud, stating she could now understand that really not much had changed. She introduced Justine to General Amanda Bennett, Lieutenant General Lydia Stenns, and Lieutenant Colonel Barbara Maclippe, telling them at this brilliant young woman was the first born of Amelia and Sterling Carland. Justine was brazenly beautiful with tattoos, piercings, and an attitude to match. As she walked away, Lydia wanted to know who that gorgeous woman really was. Laura told her to relax, to back off, that she was not gay to which Lydia replied "Yet." Barbara sighed, shook her head, as Amanda told Lydia to behave, they were on business. Stephan finished the tour of the main compound, explaining that over the coming days he would take them to other compounds and farther afield if they chose. Everyone was very much in agreement. He did say that on the following day they had planned a celebration of life and ancients at the pyre; he hoped that his guests would join them. Again, everyone was in agreement. Laura finally went to her mother ' s former suite, now housing for female medics. She stood in the doorway, feeling only love and peace as both Thea and Tom came all the priestesses with their blessings. When Laura turned, Meda slowly walked to greet her and then ran to her for a huge hug. Laura introduced Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara, explaining that Meda was an ancient who had cared for her mother from the time she had arrived at Sanctuary as a young girl. Meda then told Laura that even though the ancients had told her that she must remain silent she had always known Amanda was alive and that they would return to each other when the time was deemed right. Laura smiled as she replied that she was very happy that Meda had been right. She asked if Laura would attend the celebration of life at the pyre the following evening. When Laura said she looked forward to it, Meda told her to come to see her before they left as she had a small surprise for her. Stephan explained that the dining routine was much the same as it had been when Laura had visited previously, inviting their guests to make themselves very much at home at Sanctuary. Laura thanked both Stephan and Tess stating she was sure they would very much enjoy their stay at her second home; then asked to be excused for a small rest before dinner as it had been a rather long day.

When Amanda and Laura were alone after a change of clothing and a shower, Amanda held her lover, confirming that Sanctuary was another magic place just as the cabin on the mountainside was. There was hope here, well founded and preserved. Laura explained that Noshi with her parents planted seeds first of survival and then hope many years ago. She said that when she was so tired and weary of spirit she would return to the North and leave again filled up, ready to continue the right for freedom. Laura left her curls loose after her shower and Amanda said she now fully understood her heritage as Stephan Redhawk bore a very strong resemblance to his cousin. She did say, however, that Laura was definitely prettier. Since the official portion of their visit was over, Amanda agreed to no uniforms for the remainder of their days in the north. They met Lydia and Barbara in the hallway; all women descended to the common area and dining room for dinner. There were several long tables set out with huge amounts of food on a sideboard buffet. Laura and her friends chose their food and then joined women at one of the tables. There was initial shyness but Laura recognized one of the women carpenters; soon there was lively conversation with all women at the table. After dinner, Laura invited her friends to take a small walk on the tundra as the night sky was greater here than anywhere Laura had seen, even at the ranch. Laura walked hand in hand with Amanda who was still awed by the sheer raw beauty of Mother surrounding them. They stopped to gaze at the millions of galaxies in the multiverse with arms wrapped around each other ' s waists. Laura clearly saw Tom and Thea who were smiling as their beautiful child was home in the North, happy at last. Lydia and Barbara were also quietly awed by the night sky as they all returned to the compound and their rooms. Aine and Lohrissa found passion with pinnacles as Mother Moon shone her blessings on the magic of Sanctuary.

The following morning Niki and Marla brought breakfast trays of coffee, fruit grown in the greenhouse, and morning cakes to both Laura and Amanda along with their friends across the hall. Laura had warned them that was tradition at Sanctuary and to not be alarmed if someone just walked into their room without invitation. She also explained that they need not be too worried about states of dress, lack of it, or states of passion as Niki was Lou ' s lover and was not easily fazed. When they returned to the common area, Stephan greeted them to ask if they would like to join him to ride by horseback to the homes of the northern families. He understood they all rode with an invitation to take mounts at any time they chose during their stay with them. Within a half hour they were all riding over the tundra just wakening from winter with a riot of early blooms. He described the celebration at the pyre was an ancient rite of Bealtaine, one that celebrated mating and love among earthlings. He explained the custom of the stag, the maiden, and the dance around fires. For the last few years, they had combined a celebration of the ancients at the pyre with the fire of Bealtaine. Laura smiled with loving eyes at Amanda as this was her birth anniversary; the first one Laura had celebrated with her since going home. At tonight ' s ceremony, she would pledge her love once again to her mate, to the ancients, and to her family. The ride revealed breathtaking vistas before Stephan ' s extended family welcomed the priestesses and their beloved Thea ' s daughter. They stayed to dine with their new friends before leaving to return to the compound. Stephan asked if Laura still remembered how to get to the river and the hunting grounds to which she answered they would visit both places before they returned to the coast. Laura explained the rites of Bealtaine to her friends on the ride back to the compound, stating they would be invited to renew their commitments to their mates if they chose. She giggled as she said that the original earthlings used to have orgies as part of the celebration but that custom had been lost fortunately. Laura asked Stephan for the loan of a small airplane as they wanted to skydive; he agreed stating that he could see no good reason why grown people would jump out of moving aircraft unless absolutely necessary. The sun and fresh air had their usual effects on Laura who took Amanda to the shower for passion in the afternoon. Laura asked that they dine early as she had to meet Meda before the celebration at the pyre. They returned to the dining area among the first women gathered. Laura left her friends, stating she would return as quickly as she could after which they would all travel to the pyre at sundown. Laura met with Meda who asked that she wear her mother ' s native attire for the celebration; Laura was happy to comply. Meda braided the curls into two braids adorned with beads and quills. She helped Laura don a calf-length dress made of soft dear skins, ornately beaded and fringed. She was given Thea ' s earrings, beaded bracelets, and wore handmade moccasins on her feet. Meda showed Laura her image; she was amazed at how she had transformed to her native heritage. She walked down the hall to the common room to find her friends who gasped when they saw her. They were used to Laura and her ruckus outfits but they had never seen her look as beautiful as she did that night. Stephan arrived to escort the priestesses to the celebration, he himself proudly wearing native attire. It was past dusk by the time they arrived to see many earthlings wearing their native attire in celebration. Stephan quieted the crowd, speaking of a very special celebration of the ancients on this day of love and commitment. He told them that they were joined by four holy ones this night, one of whom was Lohrissa, the most ancient high priestess. He then introduced Aine, Lemanychia, and Briallen. He handed Laura a torch, asking that she and her sisters light the pyre to honor the ancients and the ancestors. As she took the torch, Lohrissa emerged in full aura as did all the other priestesses in gold and silver auras. All floated above the ground as they circled the pyre and Laura lit the fire. There was absolute silence as all the priestesses sang the chant of honor to those who had joined the ancients, spiraling forever on the helix. Noshi, Thea, Tom, and Lindsay holding her daughter came to the vision in the flame to take blessings from their beloved Lohrissa. The priestesses left entirely save for Lohrissa who continued to walk in Laura with a shimmering white aura. Stephan invited the maiden and the stag to dance the celebration of mating and commitment which was done to drumming and chanting by several musicians. At the end of the dance, Stephan invited his family and friends to go to the fire, to recommit their love and devotion to their mates, led first by Stephan and Tess. Many couples advanced to the pyre, promised their commitment and love to each other and to the ancients. Laura and Amanda joined hands; as they did both glowed with silver and shimmering white auras as they pledged their love to each and to the ancients. Barbara and Lydia also joined hands with auras of gold and rededicated themselves to the other and to the ancients. Following the rededication ceremony there was much singing, dancing, visiting and enjoyment of refreshments. Laura and her friends were thoroughly enjoying the celebration when she looked up and took Amanda ' s hand as she pointed skyward to breathtaking aurora borealis, dancing in multiple colors across a darkened background. Lydia saw them looking up and then grabbed Barbara ' s hand as they all gasped at the beauty Mother had shown them this night. Laura turned from the crowd to see perfect sliver circles of stars shining in the multiverse; with tears she knew that Lindsay had sent them with her blessing with joy for Laura ' s happiness. Amanda stood beside her in amazement as Laura just whispered Lindsay." Amanda immediately understood and gave down thanks. Stephan found them, asking if they wished to return to the compound. After saying goodnight to as many people as possible the women returned to their rooms and each lover ' s arms. Once behind the door to their room, Amanda stood at arm ' s length and stared at her lover, more beautiful than she had ever seen her. Laura explained that this was her mother ' s dress and jewelry. Meda had asked her for the second time to wear it at the pyre, the first time being when they honored Thea on her return to her beloved Tom and the ancients. As she undressed she told Amanda that although she had a late childhood she now had a family who loved her, honored her, and she was truly blessed. Thea ' s clothing and adornments were carefully removed and set aside to give back to Meda in the following morning. Both women embraced in the light of Mother Moon thanking each other for the rededication of their lives to each other once again. Laura gave Amanda a small box wrapped with silver paper with blessings for her birth anniversary. Inside the box were earrings of tiny silver feathers with jewel tones. Laura wanted to gift her lover with a remembrance of her their visit to Sanctuary together. She explained that in Tom ' s culture, feathers symbolized a link to the skies, to the multiverse, and the wearer ' s increased magic to transcend their earthly forms to connect to their ancients. Laura also explained that because of their rededication at the pyre Amanda was now part of the northern family as Laura ' s forever mate. The magic that was Sanctuary claimed the lovers as they journeyed once again to the ancients and the multiverse.

The following morning, Barbara visited the barns, exchanging information on animal husbandry with new friends in the stables. She was particularly interested in nutrition and naturopathic veterinary medicine as they had adopted that philosophy many years previously at the ranch. There were many common elements shared between the ranch and Sanctuary but also some new ideas from both. Lydia and Amanda toured the greenhouses with Tess and spoke of the plans to take the new base at Carriere as close to self-sufficient as possible with supplements from local growers. Tess showed them the new apiary that had been started just over three years previously. She said that they grew beets and were attempting to develop strains of cane for sugar but their main source for cooking as well as medicine was honey. Laura joined them as Stephan led them to a mill powered by water from the waterfalls inside the cave. This water power was used to produce food sources from grains and also to convert logs to lumbar for new buildings as well to send south to their brothers and sisters rebuilding their settlements. After lunch, they took mounts to the second compound closer to the forests where logs were harvested and trees replanted. Laura had known of the original operation set down by Declan, Ross, and Thea. She marveled at the simplicity of the plan and how well it worked. There was a permanent crew of loggers who worked at harvesting each winter and planting each summer. Settlers from the south came north to be taught stewardship of the land and the most efficient way to harvest logs for their new homes. The forests surrounding Sanctuary were still being harvested to supply logs for the new settlements but less so now as survivors in the south had learned how to produce their own building supplies. Laura felt her mother with her throughout the entire tour, smiling as she remembered that they had anticipated resistance originally from Thea but got complete cooperation instead. On their return, Stephan pointed out Aiwok, the traditional home for the chief and his family. Stephan explained that Thea and Tom had their own Aiwok at the original settlement but that Tom had returned to the ancients before the move to the cave and now extended compounds at Sanctuary. The first building erected by the family once they had settled at the cave was a small home for Thea that was now part of the huge main complex. He said with obvious respect and much pride that because of Noshi, Tom, and Thea, their northern family had grown from a handful of destitute starving earthlings to a viable, hugely successful community in just over twenty years. He quietly reminded his new friends to never doubt the power of the human spirit when encouraged to expand and shine. The four friends dined with Lou and Niki that early evening after which Lou sat before the fire to tell the story of early Sanctuary to fascinated listeners including the four priestesses. Lou was a wonderful orator, clearly enjoying the exchange of energy between herself and those who heard her words. Amanda remarked many times after their first visit to the North that there was no doubt now about where Declan and Drew learned compassion with their decided disdain for dishonesty either direct or by omission. She also saw the similarities between Louiza and her younger brother Ross Shipman, each holding the same philosophies, absolute resolve, and love for their fellow earthlings but with slightly different approaches.

As Amanda lay in Laura ' s arms that night, she talked of her continued amazement of her journey in this life on earth. She said that her world changed the first day she looked up from her desk to see the ravishing child standing in her office at the former air command base. She kissed Laura, continuing that she could not breathe for a second or two; Laura said she noticed. They both knew of Laura ' s original plan to seduce the Colonel and then leave but the ancients had a much different plan for both of them. Laura asked her when Amanda fell in love with her to which she replied probably from two minutes after she first laid eyes on her but she finally admitted it to herself the night Laura joined her for dinner in the officers mess at the former base, wearing that deadly little black dress and the more than deadly four inch heels. Laura laughed saying she saw the smile with maybe just a glimmer of lust in the former Colonel ' s eyes. Amanda asked Laura when she fell in love with Amanda. Laura smiled in return, stating it was when Amanda first kissed her and held her before the fire. She fought it as she did not want it to be part of the plan but by the morning after their first night of passion at the cabin she knew that there was no turning back. She said that the love had just grown daily from each touch and each kiss that day; she was definitely ready to have it grow further if Amanda was willing. Only kisses and touches were the reply.

The following morning, Amanda, Laura , Lydia , and Barbara travelled to the hanger and tarmac to ready themselves for a skydiving. Sara, one of the original instructors at Sanctuary, drove an all-terrain vehicle to retrieve Laura and Amanda from the jump site to travel back to the tarmac for continued jumps. Barbara spotted an old, small, but very reliable Eagle craft and was beyond excited to get it in the air. Laura and Amanda packed parachutes after careful inspection. Laura asked Barbara to fly out to the hunting grounds and then to the old settlement on the shore of the river. Her friends were again silent as they were in awe of the breathtaking beauty of Mother. Amanda remarked that for once she was grateful for the choice to erect the northern wall of the former cities as that somewhat misguided maneuver preserved the beauty of Mother where much of the land south of that wall had not been left intact. Barbara climbed to the correct altitude. Laura and Amanda prepared to jump. Lydia gave them a five minute warning and then barked the command to jump at the appropriate coordinates. Both lovers held hands as they fell through the air, seeing pristine untouched land. Laura had not jumped at Sanctuary previously; she was as overwhelmed as Amanda. Sara was waiting as they landed faultlessly, each with tears in their eyes with gratitude for what they had just been given. Sara simply smiled knowingly; then asked them if they wanted to repeat that. Lydia piloted the second flight to slightly different coordinates and again the skydivers were awed by the beauty of the magic of Sanctuary. Amanda knew it to be impossible but she did say she could probably do that every day for the rest of her life with no complaint. When the women returned to the compound, they all joined Lou and Niki for lunch as well as the enjoyment of loving women ' s company. They had one more full day before their planned return to the ranch overnight and then return to the coast. Lou and Niki talked about the plans for their move to a new eastern settlement in the autumn. Niki was finishing training as a certified medic and midwife to share skills and services with new settlers. The instructors all remarked that for the most part she could have taught them rather than the reverse but she insisted on training and formal certification. Laura took her hands to tell her that Lindsay would be immensely proud of her as they all were. Niki and Lou had been working with Declan to set plans for routine training as medics and midwives at Sanctuary as the settlements grew. Stephan and Tess had both asked Lou to stay with her work as a chronicler of the story of Sanctuary until Meda ' s granddaughter, Katy, had completed her studies with Lou to continue the work. Lou laughed long and hard as she told Laura about the emails she had received from her sons and her brother just after she became Niki ' s lover. Every man had stated unequivocally that the commander had laid down her particular version of hell about their insensitivity and refusal to acknowledge that their mother and sister was a woman first with her own need of the arms of a lover the same as they all did. Laura told Lou it was probably the silliest conversation she had in her entire career as commander of the Resistance; she still was amazed at how those otherwise wonderfully compassionate men could have just missed that realization completely. Lou agreed, replying that she loved those men in her life, her sons had been conceived by conventional means at the time but there was a definite reason why she chose only women lovers now. They all agreed, with affection; it was both the easiest and hardest relationship any could choose.

Laura spent the following morning hours touring the new health care facility and conferred at length with the instructors teaching the medics for the new settlements. Amanda joined her and asked that as the new Armed Forces grew they would need help to teach medics. It only made sense that those personnel could be trained at the facilities at Sanctuary. She said with affection in her voice that she now understood that it was probable that every new recruit should spend two weeks in the magic of the North as part of their basic training. It was the place of greatest hope for all of them. Dr. Dobson heartily agreed, humbly stating that he was just a young man out to make decent money before the battles; his imprisonment with the blessings of the ancients sent him to Sanctuary to finish his medical training with Dr. Lindsay Reynolds, Tess Redhawk, and Niki Cee. When they were leaving, he took Laura ' s hands, apologizing to her as he had not talked to her after Lindsay ' s death. He had been one of the physicians in attendance, among those who could not save her life or the life of her daughter. He had no courage in the face of that death or Laura ' s hurt. He said that Lindsay kept repeating to everyone present to make sure Laura knew that she was loved; he finally had the courage to tell her. Laura could not speak as Amanda held her, weeping with Ray Dobson. When Laura could speak again, she told him that she knew; she had seen Lindsay, Candace, and their children on the helix. They had been blessed on Bealtaine with her shining face in the flames and the gift of the silver circles of stars in the galaxies. She told him that Sanctuary was blessed have him as a physician and teacher. With that, she hugged him and then left the Lindsay Reynolds Centre of Hope. The four women spent the remaining hours in the company of their new friends. Amanda was already making plans to return next spring for the anniversaries of their births. Suddenly, Laura realized that this day was the twenty-seventh anniversary of her birth and laughed out loud at herself. Amanda arranged for a special surprise with a bit of help from friends. She took Laura to a hanger in late afternoon where they boarded a helicopter already loaded with dinner. Amanda flew to coordinates near the river close to a grove of trees. The lovers ate dinner on a blanket and then found wild passion in the wilderness. Amanda then asked for Laura ' s left hand where she placed an engraved platinum band to be worn with the platinum circle of diamonds and rubies. There was an inscription on the inside that said Amo Te . Amanda said that she had promised her life to Laura many years ago, rededicated herself on Bealtaine; the new ring was a symbol of forever love. It was completely dark when the lovers returned to the compound to find Lydia , Barbara, Lou, and Justine playing poker. When the game broke up, Justine rose, took Lydia to her feet, kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth, and with a grin said Never." Barbara, Amanda, and Laura howled with laughter as did Lydia when she came up for air. Laura showed her friends her new ring as both she and Amanda glowed with lovelights shining. Everyone then returned to their rooms as they planned a noon flight back to the ranch the following day.

Stephan sent a message to his new friends that he wanted to meet with them in the common room before they departed. Lou arranged for an early lunch for the women prior to their departure. Stephan, Tess, Meda, and many new other new friends gathered with gifts for all four women. Meda, her daughters, and her granddaughters made deer skin jackets with intricate beading and quill work for each women. Stephan also handed Laura a package containing Thea ' s dress, adornments, and jewelry. He said that his ancients had asked him to pass them along to the daughter priestess. He continued that they hoped that she would wear it for many celebrations at Sanctuary in the future as they all were now very much part of their family and their hearts. Laura went to Lou, her dearest friend, her mentor, with thanks for their visit and when tears started once again Lou told her quit bawling but this time as Lou did not want to start herself. Laura reassured them they would return to Sanctuary and hoped that when they did Lou and Niki would as well. The women carried luggage and gifts to the helicopter and Laura prepared to fly back to the ranch.

All four women stood to wave farewell to the magic at Sanctuary; as they did all the northerners were down on one bended knee including Stephan. With auras of gold, silver, shimmering white, and jewel tones, the priestesses sent blessings to every soul. Within minutes, they were in the air flying southeast. Several minutes later, Barbara thanked Laura for her gift of introduction to another magic place on earth to which Laura just beamed her response. The helicopters landed at the ranch at 1600 hours to be met by Jackson and Spero who was beyond excited to see Just Lydia, Just Barbara, his new friend Amanda, and most of all Laura and the lady living inside her. Everyone was tired but not too tired to play with Spero as his mother heated and served dinner to his friends. Amanda sent a quick email to Charlie and Luther to tell them both that they would return to the coast the following day. Lydia planned to take command on her arrival to allow Charlie to take several days away from the base to spend with Eleanor. Luther sent a quick response that their home was disrupted but suitable for them to return to although they would be sleeping in the guest room for a few nights. By early evening, Barbara had led Lydia to the loft for time together before she left her alone for several days. Amanda and Laura returned to the guest cabin, both tired but looking forward to returning to the cabin the following day no matter the state of disruption. In the shower before bed, Laura fretted that she was growing somewhat concerned as she only had three more years of the twenty year old lust remaining. Amanda murmured in between kisses and touches that she only had to wait for the advent of the forty year old lust. As much as it was needed, sleep had to wait for journeys once again.

Amanda, Laura, and Lydia were in the air and headed to the coast by 1000 hours the following day. By early afternoon, they landed at the landing pad on the mountainside to be met by Luther who helped with luggage and cartons. He smiled at the radiance of his priestesses, knowing that despite the news of Anthony Downs arrival there had been respite and celebration in the north. As they boarded the vehicle he tried to prepare his friends for a mess at their home that he had tried his best to contain. When their home came into view, both women gasped at the new structure. By the time there were out of the vehicle and walking to the deck both women had bright smiles, were laughing out loud, clapping. The roof line and skylights were perfect and the only material missing were the remainder of round top windows which Luther said would be installed as soon as they were ready. They entered the cabin to be met by the Fletcher family of artisans. Support posts had not interrupted the integrity of the old living space with only one large post near the existing doorway. A wide staircase had been designed with the use of two more support posts as well as support posts at the island in the kitchen and at the outside kitchen wall. The outside wall posts had been removed carefully and replaced with much larger logs to take the load and with no loss of integrity to the structure. There were beautiful huge hand-hewn fir beams taking the load across the full width of the cabin. Mr. Fletcher stated that he expected the floor to be completed by the end of the week after which the inside walls could be completed for the en suite bathroom. Luther expected the plumbing to be functional within seven days. Laura and Amanda both thanked all the Fletcher family artisans as they were both astounded with the quality of work and the changes to their home. Luther helped his friends carry luggage to the guest room where he had readied the en suite for their return. The women unpacked after showing Luther their new jackets and Thea ' s ceremonial dress, adornments and jewelry. Laura also showed him her new ring as both women spoke of the rededication ceremony at the pyre. Over coffee, Laura and Amanda told Luther about the Lindsay Reynolds Centre of Hope. Amanda spoke of the magic of the North. Luther smiled, stating he knew as he lived there in another lifetime. With knowing glances, both Amanda and Laura knew they would insure that Luther and Mary would travel there in this lifetime if only for a visit. He showed his priestesses the newly expanded greenhouse with the riot of new growth. He also showed them the new freezer for their home. The Fletcher family departed leaving a clean workplace; Luther planned his departure shortly thereafter. He had stew in the slow cooker, a braided loaf thawed from the freezer, and his homemade cookies in the refrigerator. As he was leaving, he hugged his friends, telling them that they had been missed, and that he was glad they were home again.

After an early night, both women arrived at the Carriere base by 0830 the following morning. Lydia was already in the classroom teaching the basics of Communications to the new captains. Laura ' s classes would be taught in the afternoons. Charlie and Eleanor Smithson met with Amanda unexpectedly before noon. Eleanor wanted to personally tell Amanda that she would testify against Anthony Downs with no fear but only in the name of justice for those who would never testify. Amanda thanked her, confirming she felt exactly the same way. Amanda was not certain but understood from Declan that his court martial would occur before the trial for rape and murder. Laura glanced up from her work on class preparation to see Charlie and Eleanor walking hand in hand to their small helicopter. As she did, Amanda came to her office to ask her to join her and Lydia for lunch before Laura ' s class afterwards; over lunch Amanda spoke of Eleanor ' s decision that matched her own.

Their weekly meeting the following day, Amanda asked Lydia who she would recommend to take command for the time of the court martial and without hesitation Lydia said that their best choice would be a senior pilot who had taken command for her many times over her years at the former military base. She continued that Serena Lorimer was more than capable, very bright, and not a bit afraid to make a decision if necessary. Amanda contacted Serena immediately, requesting that they meet with Amanda and Lydia that afternoon. It was the decision among the senior officers not to disclose the reason for their absence until official notice of a trial. Serena readily agreed to take command when needed; she was pleased to have been recommended.

Laura ' s classes continued in the afternoons of her days at the base. Her students were well prepared with their knowledge of the present laws. Amanda and Laura invited Lydia and Barbara to join them for a week at the cabin in the first week of the seventh month of the new year. Each woman would take one day of command at the base and Charlie agreed to cover weekends as would be his usual routine. They also made tentative plans to have a barbeque with all their friends at the coast on the first weekend with the request that Eleanor and Charlie join them.

The renovations at the cabin were close to completion. The floors were finished, the walls and plumbing completed. Luther stated that the windows were ready for installation but unfortunately his priestesses would need to spend one right at the base while the windows were removed and then replaced. Both women thought that a small price to pay for what would be a beautiful new home for them. Since they had to be at the base on the following fifth weekday, they both chose to work with the idea that Charlie could take an extra day for this weekend with the love of his life; he did not object whatsoever. Both Lydia and Laura had two more weeks left on their curricula for the new captains after which Charlie would conduct the final examination. The workers had already arrived as Laura and Amanda prepared to leave for the base with a planned return later in the afternoon the following day. Laura and Lydia switched class times for the fifth weekday to allow Amanda and Laura to return to the cabin by 1530 hours. Both women were tired and lost in conversation when they drove into the driveway at the cabin; then looked at their finished home. Both windows had been replaced and topped with stained glassed rounded tops. The rounded top near the studio space showed ravens above yellow roses, purple irises, silver and white labryses. Laura sobbed as she looked the center top, showing the painting of hope in miniature. Amanda remained speechless with her own tears. Luther finally stepped out to the deck beaming as both women ran to him for huge hugs. Laura finally found her voice to ask who made the windows to which he bowed his head, shrugged, and blushed. He said he had been working on them since he first knew of the renovations; a gift from all their friends at the coast. Harry, Jeannie, Mary arrived in one vehicle followed by Lydia , Barbara, Samantha, and Carrie in a second vehicle. Luther invited his priestesses into their renovated cabin. Their bed was now at an angle in the second floor loft looking down at the fireplace. Amanda took her lover ' s hand as they ascended the stairs to inspect their new bedroom, en suite, dressing room, and private deck. She then led Laura down the hallway to the new studio space, complete with a fully stocked sewing center and the sewing machine from the Smithers store. There were storage closets for canvases and easels. Laura folded Amanda into her arms and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth which was heartily applauded by all their friends watching from below. Barbara already had the grill ready, Samantha and Carrie filled champagne flutes while Jeannie and Mary put out a huge buffet. Amanda and Laura joined their friends, hugging each one. Jeannie told her friends to partake of the champagne as she would stay sober to fly them back to the Carriere base. Carrie had never been to the cabin and had only seen photographs that Samantha had taken. Laura took her arm to tour her through their beautiful home. She said her lover was a very talented woman; Carrie readily agreed with her own wicked grin. Harry and Luther set tables on the deck; people served themselves from the buffet and then dined out of doors. Amanda asked Barbara about her luggage. Both friends said they were not staying the night but would return to the base. This night was for Amanda and Laura. Luther explained that there were still storage cabinets to be built under the new staircase and the wall of the former sleeping space but he wanted to confer with his priestesses before that was finalized. Carrie raised her eyebrows as Luther said the word priestesses . She was a very young soul returned from the helix as was Samantha; neither knew yet of priestesses but Samantha surmised that perhaps they were among royalty. As their friends were readying to leave, Amanda asked to speak to them all. She said through tears that she was truly blessed in her life, with a breathtakingly beautiful lover who just happened to be the most ancient high priestess, dearest friends some of whom happened to be priests and priestesses, and the love of all the ancients. With that, Aine ' s silver aura emerged, as did the gold auras of Lemanychia and Briallen and Lughe ' s garnet aura. Both Samantha and Carrie gasped as Laura smiled with Lohrissa in full auras blessing all her beloved earthlings and the ancients spiraling on the helix. Laura and Amanda walked their friends to waiting vehicles. Luther said he would return in the late following morning to tidy after the gathering. He hugged his friends and welcomed them home. There was a fire in the fireplace to take the chill from the night air and for coffee in the morning. Amanda took Laura by the hand and led her up the stairs to their new shower. Passion was immediate and intense leading both lovers to laughter, them more passion. They emerged from the shower, stepped out to the deck and a chaise found passion once again. Laura laughed that they had not even been near the bed yet; she wondered if they would ever leave the second floor in the current lifetime. Amanda murmured that she really didn ' t care and took her gorgeous lover in her arms once again. Bodies full of wanting finally found their bed but not sheets before passion claimed the lovers again. Laura rose and quickly descended stairs to grab two flutes, a fifth of champagne, and returned to their bedroom. Luther found the former rocker and placed it in the corner of their new room. Laura poured champagne for two, sat in the rocker and asked her lover to join her. She told Amanda to enjoy her wine as she was kissed and touched with a gentle rocking. When Amanda tried to return the affection, Laura told her once again to just enjoy the wine. She said she was about to prove that champagne in a rocker could take on an entirely new definition. Only moans from Amanda allowed release of the flute and steps to the bed. Brief periods of sleep were interrupted by movement and desire leading to cries of joy ringing in the mountains on the coast. Soft sunlight through the skylight woke the lovers who only wanted each other ' s arms. Laura laughed, stating she was now certain they would never leave the second floor in their lifetimes. Amanda told her to stay in bed while she made coffee as wanted to see what she could see of Laura from the first floor. Laura grinned and removed all sheets for the best possible view. In a very few minutes, Amanda was laughing as she stated that Lydia would be very disappointed as she would no longer to see naked women in their bed if she rose first. Laura dressed and joined Amanda before the fire for coffee stating that it was now a rather moot point as they had been caught on several mornings; it no longer fazed any of them. After breakfast, Laura joined Amanda on the sofa, crawling into her arms, resting her head on a shoulder while she unbuttoned Amanda ' s shirt to caress priestess skin and breasts. Amanda grinned, asking if Laura really had not had enough to which Laura kissed her lover long, hard, and full on the mouth. With his wonderful sensitivity, Luther drove into the driveway honking the horn. Amanda buttoned her shirt, telling her lover to put that thought on hold. Amanda started morning chores including changing linens on the bed. Jeannie, Mary, and Luther greeted morning to their friends. Jeannie just smiled as she saw lovelights still shining and gently nodded her head. In very little time, the kitchen was tidied and dishes returned to cupboards. Mary brought some Dungeness crabs caught earlier that morning on a fishing date with the love of her life. Luther and Amanda were lost in conversation about storage under the stair case and along the back wall. She asked about a work surface for printing her photographs and Luther quickly designed a drop down portion of a storage cupboard which could hold all her equipment when not in use. Laura had retreated to her new studio, asking Mary and Jeannie to join her to inspect her new sewing center. They both laughed as they told her they had designed it and Luther had built it. They purchased all the basics to start her sewing lessons when she was ready. Laura hugged them, stating that as much as she wanted to start now she was very busy with teaching at the base. As well, she and Amanda needed to prepare to be away from the cabin for days in the eighth month of the new year. Mary commented that Luther told them about Anthony Downs. Both women always thought that sewing was winter work when Mother was less cooperative with outside work and pleasure. Laura had tears in her eyes when she told both her dear friends how much she loved her newly renovated home. She then showed them her mother ' s ceremonial dress, adornments, and jewelry. She also showed them their new jackets and spoke of the rededication at the pyre. Finally, she showed them her new engraved platinum band with the inscription of Amo Te. Both women marveled at the hand work on both the dress and the jackets. Jeannie and Mary both hugged Laura when they saw the ring; then descended the stairs to hug Amanda. Jeannie said she honestly had never seen a love like theirs but then again they were both priestesses and that was to be expected. Amanda caught Laura ' s knowing smile, reminding herself to ask her lover about that when they were alone again. Luther changed batteries for hot water; then harvested some greens for dinner. By early afternoon, the friends wished each other goodbye. Luther said he would return on the first weekday. When Laura was certain the car was no longer in the driveway, she grabbed Amanda ' s hand, inviting her to the sofa. She then unbuttoned Amanda ' s shirt to revisit where they got interrupted. Amanda laughed out loud but not for long as absolute desire overtook both women; passion found them on the rug before the hearth. Teddy and Primrose shook their heads but were secretly proud of them for finding out finally about the joys of a rocking chair. Laura finally admitted that might just be enough for a little while as she dressed and ascended to her studio. She placed both easels to hold the huge canvas that had been stretched some weeks previously. The light from both the skylight and the window was perfect; Laura knew she would spend many hours with her brushes. She prepared the canvas and left it to dry. She then took clothing still in luggage in the guest room and carried it to their new bedroom. Luther had designed a huge walk-in closet beside the en suite bathroom with plenty of room for both women ' s clothing. Amanda joined her to help to move clothing.

Dinner preparation was shared by both women after which they dined at the table for the first time in weeks. Both women took wine to the deck to watch a glorious sunset over the ocean. Amanda asked Laura about the knowing smile when Jeannie talked about the love they had for each other. Laura replied that she knew that in the future Jeannie would know personally about the joys of having a woman lover, leaving the subject at that. Amanda nuzzled her lover ' s neck and breasts, murmuring that she hoped that was the case for her dear friend she too deserved their kind of happiness. In between gasps, Laura then inquired as to who now could not get enough as Amanda once again directed the tempo of their passion. When the evening air cooled naked bodies, both women returned to inside the cabin. Amanda banked a small fire to quell the morning dampness and took her lover ' s hand as they ascended to the loft. The earth hour was still early but both women chose showers and then each other ' s arms in their bed. Amanda laughed out loud as she talked of now being forty-two earth years of age and not only more in love than she thought possible but most definitely more in lust than should be humanly possible. Laura started a slow trail of kisses from Amanda ' s head to her toes and stated that in reality because of the vaccine her body as likely only about thirty-five earth years of age, that she was a very powerful ancient priestess living in a human body, and she had a lover who wanted her more every day so that could explain her condition. Amanda politely replied that she appreciated the reasoning and then very impolitely suggested to her mistress what she wanted to happen and when.

Laura left a sleeping lover on the following spring morning in the cabin. She moved the music player to the kitchen as she danced her way through food preparation for the day and the following week. Laura prepared loaves for baking as well as fresh cinnamon buns for her lover ' s breakfast. Mother had finally embraced spring and early summer, loving calm into the ocean. Laura stood on the deck with coffee after she started a fire in the pit in preparation of a roast for dinner, lost in the simple joy of the vista before her. Noshi came her quietly and lovingly. He blessed her as his priestess on earth. He reassured her that Laura ' s journey was unfolding as it should. The grandfather promised that Lohrissa and Aine would travel together for eternity now, on earth and when they returned to the helix to which Laura gave down her thanks. When she returned to the kitchen and the weekend morning music, Amanda was descending the stairs, radiant with lovelights shining. Laura poured her a cup of coffee and brought her freshly baked buns, one of Amanda ' s most favorite morning meals. The morning kitchen work was close to complete after which Laura hoped to start the painting on the huge canvas in the studio.

The dance of two beautiful naked women found the canvas for most of the remainder of the sunlit day. Laura used the photographs that they had taken of each other previously as reference. Amanda took photographs of her lover in her new studio bathed in light from the window and the skylight. She resisted the temptation, as always, to see the story emerging from the priestess. She had hundreds of photographs to sort from their trip to the ranch, to the command posts, and to Sanctuary. As the sunset claimed the light for another day, Laura joined her mistress on the deck for dinner. Amanda asked her to accompany her to the beach to watch twilight claim the day and only after air too cold for comfort descended on them did they return to the cabin, the shower, and each other ' s arms.

Luther was in the workshop when Amanda rose to make coffee and start breakfast. She brought coffee to her lover and they both greeted the morning on the deck outside their bedroom. There was an east wind brewing a coming storm; indeed before midday the skies let forth with a drenching rain. Both women helped Luther place more barrels to catch water for those days when the deck boxes and flower gardens would need moisture. Since the light was not conducive to working at the canvas, Laura found the muse of the kitchen, baking for the freezer. Lydia ' s and Barbara ' s visit was upcoming in two weeks; the weather in that month of the new year was often too warm to warrant hot oven temperatures. As well, she set an elegant table and chose wine for a date with her mistress that evening. When Amanda saw the table, she smiled as she went to the shower to ready herself to dress for dinner and dancing at Laura ' s suggestion. Luther had not yet left for his home; each woman showered alone to reduce any added chance of mischief with each other. Luther joined Laura to wish her good afternoon, and then departed after which Laura had her own shower. Night fell early in the rainy sky as the lovers dined, danced to fire light and candle light. Each reluctantly gave in to sleep as the work week would dawn early the next day.

Chapter 7

Lydia and Laura taught the final week of classes before the next week ' s examinations for the new captains. Andrew McDaniels confirmed his approval of the examination for Communications; Lieutenant Colonel Taylor previously approved the standards for Security. Declan McDaniels sent a communiqu é that Anthony Downs was now in custody supervised by Sterling Carland and previous Resistance fighters at the northeastern archipelago. Andrew McDaniels planned transfer of the prisoner in the first week of the seventh month of the new year. Declan requested permission from the Commander-in-Chief to transfer personnel from the pending new settlements to guard duty at the former Northwestern Command Post. He also notified General Bennett that a new temporary Armed Forces base would be established at the former Northwestern Command Post in preparation for the court martial trial which had been set for the second week of the eighth month of the new year. The base would officially be known as Armed Forces Temporary Base 2 but was already the Ravencouer Base. Several judges and lawyers volunteered to proceed at the criminal trials; Anthony Bennett would have representation if he chose. Declan respectfully requested that General Bennett conduct the court martial. At the weekly meeting of senior officers the following week, Amanda set plans for the court martial, asking Colonel Smithson to assist her in researching what material was available to refresh her memory. She responded to Declan that she and her senior officers would be ready to proceed on the day he chose. She also approved the transfer of Security personnel to the temporary base, offering more personnel if necessary to be transferred from the Central Command Base. She commented that she did expect that the prisoner would be treated fairly and without injury. In the afternoon of the fourth weekend, Amanda asked all the new captains to report to the classroom where she congratulated all on excellent examination results, handing them certificates and personal letters of commendation. She thanked both her Lieutenant Generals and Colonel Smithson for their excellent preparation, development of new curricula, and exceptional dedication to the continued mandate of serving those who were rebuilding their world. Barbara notified Lydia that she was en route to the cabin and would meet her sweet woman there. As Amanda, Lydia, and Laura strode across the tarmac to the helicopter, each regal in uniform, Captain Debra Baxter watched, whistling softly to herself as her lover, Captain Patricia Langley, told her to back off with a smile and a whip-cracking motion.

Barbara landed the ranch helicopter at the landing pad at Jeannie ' s and Harry ' s home; Jeannie drove her to meet Luther at the cabin. Amanda landed the Armed Forces helicopter at the mountainside tarmac and all three women rode to the cabin. Barbara was off the deck and in Lydia ' s arms almost before Amanda had stopped the vehicle. After several minutes of hugging, kissing, being lost to time, Barbara hugged and kissed hello to both Amanda and Laura, then hugged Luther as well. Luther brought fresh fish for their dinner; other than grilling Barbara had prepared dinner. The day was very warm; Lydia , Amanda, and Laura had quick showers before dinner, now dressed in shorts and cool shirts. Amanda and Laura chose to shower alone once again so as to avoid delaying dinner for their hungry friends. Laura poured wine as Amanda grilled sea bass for their dinner on the deck. As twilight gave way to the light show from the galaxies, Lydia very lovingly stated that she could no longer resist the love of her life and excused them both for the night. Laura was busy kissing her lover ' s neck and breasts while admitting that moon and fresh air had the exact same effect on her as the sun and fresh air after which she led her mistress to the deck at the loft.

An early morning shower found Amanda and Laura playing before passion. Coffee and a buffet breakfast were readied as Luther arrived from a morning shopping expedition in Carriere for supplies needed for the first weekend evening barbeque for all their friends. Both women offered him breakfast and coffee but he chose only coffee before returning to the workshop and greenhouse. Laura retreated to the studio to finish the painting she had started the weekend before, having asked Luther to join her to discuss framing and hanging of the finished story. He was speechless for moments, after which he took measurements, told Laura he could quickly construct an oak frame, and hang the painting in the finished bedroom. Lydia and Barbara finally emerged from the guest room by mid-morning, rested and radiantly in love. Amanda made a second pot of coffee and was coming to meet Laura as she left the studio space to find cooler clothing for a day that promised to be very warm. Everyone agreed to a trip to Eaglesdown for lunch on the wharf and shopping trip at the Smithers store. Laura emerged from the dressing room in her short denim skirt and a cotton sleeveless T-shirt, with curls tied up in a ponytail. Amanda groaned as she saw her and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Laura then took Amanda ' s hand, leading her to the studio to show her the painting, one of the two of them, standing naked and wrapped in each other ' s arms with a faint wash of silver and shimmering white. Amanda was silent for several moments with eyes brimming with tears. She whispered Amo Te . Lydia was ascending the staircase followed by Barbara, prepared to be brazen until she saw the lovers standing together gazing at the painting and then each other. Laura spotted them, beckoning to them to join them to see the painting. Both Lydia and Barbara only smiled blessings as they gazed at their two beautiful friends ' love played on out on canvas.

Before midday, four friends walked through the door at Judith ' s diner at Eaglesdown to order chowder to take home and crab rolls to take to the wharf for their lunch. The fishermen returning from a morning ' s work stopped in their tracks as four drop dead gorgeous women walked along the wharf to benches where they could sit, eat, and watch the surf. They all knew who the women were; one older man quipped that the Armed Forces was a far sight better than he had ever known it to be. Amanda smiled. After lunch, Amanda ordered prawns for dinner after which a shopping adventure was carried out in the general store. Laura found pads of colored paper, crayons, markers, story books, and purchased them all to send home to Spero for his continued letter writing and storytelling. She also found some books on basic sewing techniques, purchasing them for reading when she could. Amanda and Lydia purchased every skein of wool supplied by the new cooperative. Barbara spent a long time coveting a collection of antique tools, much older than her, but the quality of workmanship was outstanding. She was a very practical woman who could not justify in herself spending money on items not necessary to living. Lydia quietly asked Ruthann Smithers to put those aside as she paid for them stating that Luther McBane or Jeannie Dawson would pick them up. Ruthann replied that she would be happy to take them to her mother ' s house when she visited next. Lydia was surprised for only a moment as Ruthann explained the Harry and Jeannie were her parents. Amanda gave in to her sweet tooth purchasing locally made hard candy before they returned to retrieve the prawns and containers of Judith ' s chowder. Midafternoon found four women in bikinis enjoying the very warm sun and ocean breezes on the deck at the cabin. Amanda was busy with her camera as was Laura. Before Luther left for the day, he took several photographs of all four beautiful priestesses for the photo wall inside the cabin. He said he would return on the morrow late in the morning to frame and hang the new painting; he looked forward to the barbeque with all his friends the following evening. Lydia and Barbara wandered off to the guest room allegedly to change clothing but really because overwhelming desire was calling their names. Laura and Amanda did change their clothing before preparing dinner, enjoying wine on the deck when Lydia and Barbara joined them again. After dinner, Lydia remarked that she did not know that Ruthann Smithers was Jeannie ' s daughter. Laura was surprised as well as Amanda spoke of both Ruthann and Jacob Dawson. Laura had never heard Harry or Jeannie speak the names of their children; Jeannie had only referred to them as babies and children growing up. Amanda explained that Harry was estranged from both his children; Jeannie saw them only without their father. Jacob lived Carriere and was a very gifted cabinet maker. He had lived with his lover and partner, Peter Bond, for many years. The news of Jacob ' s sexual orientation with choice of a life partner devastated Harry who reacted badly to the news. Jacob ' s younger sister, Ruthann, had tried to intervene by explaining to her father that Peter loved her brother and Jacob loved Peter in return. She admonished her father because he refused to recognize that love was love. Harry became very angry at his daughter for defending her brothers; he had not been involved in either of their lives for the last many years. Barbara spoke to the fact that Harry seemed to have accepted their choice to love a same sex partner but Amanda explained that even that had been a struggle for Harry; the only deciding factor was that they were women. Lydia talked of how some men could not face their own potential to love another of the same sex, finding complete repulsion for those who did choose that honesty for their lives. Amanda continued that it been a source of great hurt for Jeannie over the years as she loved her children, their partners, and missed them gathering in their home. Laura had remained quiet through much of the conversation, again realizing that the tolerance they had all fought to secure must be maintained. She felt some slight anger as Harry was perhaps one of very few fathers who had not lost a child to death at the hands of The Decision; he should celebrate the lives and loves of his offspring. Jeannie was an ancient but Harry was an earthling who did not know yet of the peace of the helix. She drew down to bless them both now, in their futures on earth and on the helix. Amanda joined Laura at the rail of the deck, drawing her close with an arm of love around her waist. She gently told Laura that they needed to love Harry more as he did not know peace. Laura then whispered an invitation for a date on the upper deck which was met with a wicked grin. Lydia saw the exchange, saying she and the love her life would just leave them to it and said goodnight.

Later as she lay in Amanda ' s arms, Laura talked of Harry and Jeannie. She said she wanted to go to Harry, to tell him what being orphaned felt like, to tell him that his fear constantly broke the hearts of those people who loved him most. Amanda was silent as Laura ranted about Jeannie ' s hurt. As was Laura ' s very earthling reaction to anger and hurt, tears fell. She left the warmth of the bed and went to the deck to find peace with the ocean and the galaxies. Amanda brought her a robe with two arms to hold and love her. She said that she had always believed that Jeannie was meant to care for Harry as he was not strong and not wise; after understanding that Jeannie was from the helix it was confirmed in her mind. She suggested that Laura had been blessed by being surrounded by mostly strong, wise people in her life, save perhaps for Anna Marie but that was a relationship of childhood. She also suggested that although they had fought for every life to be spared and guided, those who needed them the most were those who were not yet from the helix and were the most vulnerable for fear and targeting by Olc. She told Laura that Jeannie had lived the greater part of the time she fought in the battles at the ranch or the Carriere base as Harry could not bear to see her leave with fear she would not return. He had reacted badly when Jeannie fold him she was going to pilot a bomber as she had the skill and there was a need. Luther intervened to quell Harry ' s tantrum and to insure Jeannie ' s safely. When victory was guaranteed Jeannie was quite reluctant to return to the coast as she still feared Harry ' s wrath, uncertain about her real need to continue the marriage. In the end, she chose the routine of her life as it was over uncertainty. Laura was silent but Amanda knew that her lover could see into their friends ' futures. Laura was shivering with cold in the night air; Amanda took her to the shower for warm water, warmer passion, and healing of the hurt.

Lydia and Barbara were in the kitchen and making coffee when Laura and Amanda awoke the following morning. Lydia was saying loudly that she was very disappointed that she could not see the bed in its new location and would surely miss having to cover up lovely naked bodies. Laura muttered something about water balloons but spoke loudly enough to make certain that her friends could hear, mentioning she would very much miss having to shut up a certain Lieutenant General. Barbara replied that was the real reason for her lover ' s dismay. Amanda was not entirely ready to leave her lover, held her and kissed near trouble into the woman before they both laughed and ran to the shower. A few minutes later, Lydia was hammering on the bathroom door, yelling that they knew what they were doing and when they got over unadulterated lust coffee was ready for them. Laura made louder noises about water balloons before kissing her lover one more time, wrapping herself and her mistress in robes and joining Lydia , Barbara, and coffee cups on the upper deck. Before they left the deck, Luther arrived to frame and hang the new painting. Lydia and Barbara left their friends to getting dressed and started morning chores. Laura braided her hair; found shorts and a halter top to survive another hot day with some necessary work in the kitchen. Amanda and Lydia cleaned the deck and arranged tables for dinner later that day. Jeannie arrived with fresh prawns and oysters caught that morning at Eaglesdown. Laura excused herself to help Luther hang the new painting on the far wall of their new bedroom, visible from the floor below. Jeannie caught her breath when she saw it with eyes misted. Amanda hugged her dear friend as Jeannie whispered that she could never know that kind of love. Amanda smiled as she knew there was a day when she would.

A relaxed tempo directed the remainder of the day with preparations for the barbeque with their friends. Barbara and Laura spent hours finishing food preparation, talking about aircraft mechanics, and giggling with the talk of sisters. Many times, Amanda gave down thanks for the relationship both women had with each other; today was no different. Amanda always suspected that Laura was slightly intimidated by Lydia as a person and also by the fact that Lydia had been Amanda ' s first woman lover. There was no jealousy with that intimidation but Lydia Stenns was a very strong personality, very comfortable in her own skin most of the time. There was no fear in the woman, in her actions, her words, or her temper when raised. It was a given that Barbara Maclippe was an exceptionally strong woman herself, she had known and loved Lydia for more than twenty years. However, Barbara was a gentler woman unless she was pushed to anger and then everyone, including Lydia , stood back. Amanda readily understood why Laura felt safe with and loved Barbara as a sister friend. Occasionally throughout their enjoyment of the kitchen, both Barbara and Laura found their lovers for hugs and kisses.

Their guests were expected by about 1700 hours that afternoon. Barbara readied the grill and the beef with which she and Lydia would work their usual magic. Laura showered and changed to greet her guests in an ankle length cotton dress, one she had found when she unpacked all her clothing kept at the former air base. She kept her hair braided as it was cool and Amanda loved it that way. Whenever Amanda saw her lover dressed in new clothing to her eyes, she was always breathless for moments at the priestess ' s beauty. Amanda herself was radiant in matching short skirt, sleeveless shirt, and her birth anniversary earrings. Lydia reacted with her usual howl when she saw both her friends, remarking that Amanda was still drop dead gorgeous for an older woman. Without speaking, Amanda walked to her former lover, took her in her arms, touched still familiar pleasure producing places, to kiss her long, hard, and full on the mouth. When Lydia finally found her voice once more she recanted the comment about an older woman. Laura questioned out loud if the woman would ever learn to which Barbara replied that there was no reason why Lydia would choose that for obvious reasons. Jeannie, Harry, Charlie, and Eleanor arrived shortly thereafter followed immediately by Luther and Mary. Amanda set a small table on the deck to act as a bar with an invitation to their friends to help themselves to wine, spirits, and beer. Barbara and Laura set out appetizers along with the wonderful assortment of vegetables donated by Charlie and Eleanor, proudly grown in their greenhouse and garden. Lydia took Charles and Eleanor into the cabin to show them the newest painting by the very talented other Lieutenant General. Both had noticed and admired all the artwork when they joined their friends at the last New Year ' s feast but did not realize the Laura was the artist. Lydia also told them that Amanda was the photographer as she took them to the guest room to show them the large photograph of the priestess dancing. Charles had tears in his eyes and was silent for several minutes as he gazed at the print. Barbara quietly admitted they had the same reaction when they first saw it. When they returned to the deck, they sought out Laura to tell her that if she ever chose to sell her paintings they wanted first choice of any of them. Laura blushed slightly as she thanked them but stated that she did not sell the stories told to her for the canvases. She did remind herself, however, that she would find a story to tell them for their home. Luther and Mary were also admiring the new painting as Harry joined then, curious by now about all the fuss. He only stayed briefly and then walked through the enclosure to the back of the cabin. Laura watched the reaction and went to talk to him when Amanda took her arm, suggesting they leave Harry to his own battles for the moment. He did return in several minutes and no further mention was made.

All friends enjoyed fine food, libations, and very fine company for hours. Jeannie and Mary insisted, as usual, that they share in the clearing and cleaning before they left their friends for the night. Charlie and Eleanor thanked Amanda and Laura for another lovely evening at their home to which both women replied that they were certain it would now be an annual celebration. Laura saw Amanda hugging Jeannie for a long time, knowing that hurt was being shared and hopefully assuaged. By 2300 hours, both couples were playing in respective showers with a promise of passion, and then cries of love offered down to the ancients and up to the multiverse. Laura woke first the following morning, made coffee and a breakfast tray for her friends. Amanda was just descending the stairs when Laura carried a morning meal to her friends, after a polite knock of recognition on the guest room door. On return to the kitchen, she put breakfast on a tray for Amanda and herself with an invitation to her lover to join her on the deck to greet a beautiful summer morning. Amanda was unusually quiet; after a few minutes Laura took a coffee cup from her hands, taking her to her feet to be wrapped in loving arms. Finally, Amanda spoke of her conversation with Jeannie the previous evening. Her dear friend had initially tried to apologize for Harry ' s behavior when he saw the new painting to which Amanda told her that she would never apologize again to them for Harry ' s choices. The reaction was in light of news that Jacob and Peter had been accepted as parents of two orphaned children; they were preparing their home and their lives to make way for happy changes. Jeannie had known for some time that they had applied but had not mentioned it to Harry as she anticipated his reaction. Harry had been at the wharf in Eaglesdown when Ruthann ' s brother-in-law very innocently congratulated the new soon-to-be grandfather. Of course, Harry had no idea what he was talking about and asked Ruthann who had little patience with her father in light of his behavior around her mother. She told him that her mother was going to happily be a new grandmother; she was going to be an aunt. She said that Jacob and Peter were readying their lives for a brother and sister who needed parents to love them. Jeannie had told Amanda that Harry returned home to scream at her for hours before he left for many more. Jeannie wanted to be happy for her son, for his lover, and she was thrilled that there would be children in their lives again but still would have to visit them away from her home with Harry. She said she suspected that the painting of two women very obviously madly in love with each other only served to rub salt in Harry ' s open wound. Laura asked Amanda if she feared for Jeannie ' s safety to which Amanda replied that she was not as she knew that Jeannie could take Harry to the ground if he became physically violent but she also said that the verbal and emotional abuse was every bit as damaging. Laura wanted to know what they needed to do; Amanda replied that the only thing they could do for now is support Jeannie as she made her own choices. Laura quietly said that she really thought that the hundreds of thousands of earthlings who had died had learned at least tolerance but apparently not entirely. On a happier note, Amanda said that Peter ' s father, the lawyer who Laura had met at the inn the night of the deeding of their home to her, was a significantly wealthy man still who was absolutely delighted that his only child was making him a grandfather and had set up trust funds for both children. Amanda had known Jacob from a young child; she was genuinely happy for him and his lover. Laura suggested that perhaps they could meet with them and their new family once everyone had settled in. Amanda replied that she would really like that.

Lydia and Barbara finally emerged from the guest room with lovelights shining as well as special thanks for breakfast in bed. There were no plans for the day and everyone decided to go to the lake for an afternoon swim as they day was indeed very warm despite ocean breezes. Two afternoon hours were filled with beautiful women playing and cooling off in the mountain lake waters before all returned due to the calling of sun and fresh air. No-one was exceptionally hungry; leftovers were devoured at twilight in cooled air on the deck. Lydia and Barbara retired early, partly due to desire and partly due to Barbara ' s next day command at the base.

Lydia greeted her hostesses with breakfast in bed the next morning. Barbara was already in flight to the base. By late morning, Lydia was laughing at her restless state. She said she was not used to being away from the base without Barbara; she would have to get her head around another Armed Forces type in the family once again. The day was too warm for yarn and needles and Lydia found herself at loss of muses to fill the hours until her sweet woman returned to the cabin. Amanda teased her gently, asking how she coped with weeks apart from Barbara to which Lydia replied that she just spent her time missing her. Amanda was quiet for a few moments, softly stating that she remembered the ache and would rest of the days on earth. Laura spent her day on the deck in the tiniest of bikinis with her sketch book after declaring the kitchen was entirely too hot for a day such as this. Barbara flew the Armed Forces helicopter low over the cabin and tipped hello with the tail before she landed on the mountainside tarmac to the arms of her lover. Amanda had to admit that she was very handsome in her uniform and even more so when being held by the woman she loved. Barbara wanted a shower before dinner and Lydia went to join her in case she needed help. Laura poured wine for everyone as Amanda readied sea bass for the grill. Laura decided to cover the bikini for dinner as Amanda seemed to be constantly distracted when within twenty feet of her lover and everyone was hungry for fish. Before Luther left for the day, he banked a small fire to take the chill from the next morning air and for coals for coffee. He reassured Laura that he would change the cells for the Armed Forces helicopter before he returned home as she was taking command at the base the following day. After an early night shower, she laid in Amanda ' s arms on the chaise on the upper deck, stating that she felt rather foolish but she was a bit apprehensive about her first day taking command alone at the base. Amanda reminded her that she led an entire army of untrained fighters for more than two years in a fight for their lives so she probably could keep the peace at the base for nine hours. She asked Amanda what she had planned for the next day to which Amanda replied she was going to concentrate solely on missing her lover which just the answer Laura needed.

Laura arrived at the Carriere base the following day at 0830 hours and before going to her office she went to the staff dining room for coffee. Captain Debra Baxter and Captain Patricia Langley invited her to join them and she did briefly. They told her that they had requested assignment together at the new eastern settlements as well as the Northeastern Command Post to relieve Lieutenant Colonel Taylor as needed; the request had been granted. Laura replied that she hoped that they would return to Carriere to the Ostermonat celebration at the ranch which was becoming an annual affair. Laura then returned to her office and worked on developing further curricula for the new Security forces as well as criteria for choosing eventual instructors. At her lunch break, she drove into Carriere to the jeweler to order a platinum engraved band to match her own. The jeweler returned from the back room with a ring already fashioned. He said that when General Bennett ordered the ring that Laura wore she decided to make a matching one as if her instincts were correct Lieutenant General Ravencouer would be needing it. Laura smiled, asking to have it wrapped while she waited. Laura ' s afternoon hours passed too slowly to her mind before she left an hour early to return to Amanda ' s arms. She too flew low over the cabin and tipped hello with the tail before landing the helicopter at the mountainside tarmac just as rain drops started to fall from the sky. She ran from the vehicle to the cabin. Amanda pretended to look at a non-existent watch, remarking that the Lieutenant General was home early to which Laura reported that she was the boss lady that day and she said she could come home early. The dinner plans got changed to indoors as within thirty minutes Mother was having a small tantrum with thunder, lightning, helped by aggravating ocean winds. Laura went for a shower after work joined by Amanda in case she needed help. Amanda did not want to let her out of her arms long enough to get clean stating that she had a miserable ache all too familiar. Passion found its way after which Laura was finally able to finish showering. The winds and rain had cooled the air which made the cabin interior was comfortable for conversation after dinner. Lydia was taking command on the following day which meant she and Barbara found a ready excuse to retire to the guest room early. Amanda banked a small fire to take the dampness from the morning air. Laura found two flutes, a fifth of champagne, and then kissed an invitation into her lover. Amanda had a wonderfully wicked grin as she followed Laura up the stairs to the loft. The night was dark with rain and clouds although Mother ' s tantrum of thunder and lightning had almost dissipated. Laura lit pillars and then invited Amanda for a rocking chair date before kisses and touches led to kisses and touches and almost delirium on Amanda ' s part. After temporary satiety, Laura led her lover to their bed to hand her a small boxed tied with a silver ribbon. After Amanda opened the box, Laura took the engraved platinum ring with the inscription Amo Te and placed it on the fourth finger of her forever lover ' s left hand. Laura whispered the same promise they had made to each other at the pyre on Bealtaine. She told Amanda there were no earth words to describe how much she was loved and would be for eternity. She thanked her for coming to her life and keeping her in her heart when they were apart. Lohrissa took Aine to her and for hours they journeyed to the helix and to the multiverse.

Grey skies sheltered sleeping lovers the following morning; when Amanda finally woke and showered, she found Barbara happily occupied in the workshop as Luther showed her how to do dovetail joining. Amanda was breathtakingly beautiful to which both Luther and Barbara smiled. With still misted eyes, Amanda held out her left hand to show both her friends her new platinum band worn with the circle of diamonds and rubies. She had not heard Laura walk up behind her and tears fell when Laura wrapped her arms around the waist of her lover. Luther quietly stated Forever." Laura prepared breakfast for both of them and Barbara made another pot of coffee. They invited Luther to join them and he agreed. All four friends sat before a welcoming fire. Luther spoke of how his heart was heavy for his friends Harry and Jeannie. Amanda explained the situation to Barbara who had to walk to the doorway through part of the story. She said she watched violence at home for her entire childhood with understanding of Jeannie ' s fear and sadness. Luther had known Harry since childhood. Luther explained that his friend had been raised by very strict parents who allowed for almost no free thinking and certainly no voiced opinions. He had learned from early childhood that resolution of any problem was done with violence although to his knowledge Harry had not become physically harmful with Jeannie or his children. He continued that Harry had been very distraught when Jacob finally told his family that he had fallen madly in love with Peter Bond who, according to Luther, was a very fine man, a wonderful partner, and would love his children to distraction. He knew Harry missed his children but he could not step outside the rules so ingrained in him since birth. Luther certainly did not agree with Harry ' s behavior or reaction but he loved his friend; Harry needed them all to try and understand as did Jeannie.

Since the air was cooler, Laura and Barbara spent hours in the kitchen preparing food for the freezer and for dinner. Amanda took photographs and helped Luther install storage units underneath the staircase as well as against the wall. Lydia returned from the base by 1600 hours, stating that it had been quiet day on the western front. She wanted a quick shower before dinner and an hour later everyone was sitting before the fire with glasses of wine. Amanda wanted to know if anyone was interested in a bit of ruckus raising, summer style, at the bar on the fifth weeknight. Charlie was scheduled to take command all weekend including the fifth weekday and so nobody would have worries about an early morning that day or the day after. There was a wonderful twinkle in Laura ' s eye as she said she was very much in the mood for ruckus raising. No-one had said a word to Lydia about Amanda ' s new ring until Barbara whispered to her lover who immediately grabbed Amanda ' s hand and then hugged both her friends. Lydia then declared that a celebration at the bar was definitely in order.

Amanda excused herself early in the evening as she wanted to sleep early and rise early. She had work she wanted to do at the base while it was quiet, work centered around the upcoming court martial. Lydia left information on her desk pertaining to the European standard and also the standards still in place before The Decision had corrupted the former military. She led Laura to the staircase, stating that she did not have to join her if she wanted to stay awake with their friends. When they both looked to the hearth, Lydia was wrapped in Barbara ' s arms and both were oblivious to the world around them. Laura smiled, saying it was not likely they wanted or needed any company. She wanted the company of her lover more than anything else. Both women showered and readied for bed. Laura asked Amanda is she was worried about the upcoming court martial; Amanda was not in the least concerned. She would carry out that duty as Commander-in-Chief. It was in fact only a formality as there were few living peers but she wanted Anthony Downs to understand that by his action or lack of it, thousands of men and women had died needlessly. He had personified everything wrong about the greed of power. She felt she owed it to those living and those who were on the helix now to make certain that history recorded that. She expected the utmost professionalism from all those officers present but knew that would be the case. She said she dreaded the rape trial but when Eleanor told her she would testify it shored up her resolve. Laura said she would attend every day with her lover as would their friends. Laura stated she was not looking forward to facing Tony Downs again but had no regrets about any action she had taken.

Laura rose early with her lover the following morning to start their days together. When alone, she did morning chores and made a second pot of coffee. Luther arrived and both friends enjoyed a second cup in the workshop. Laura thanked him again for the beautiful windows, asking where he had learned that craft. Luther said for the most part he was self-taught as he was for most of his skills. He also said that with his computer he was able to research any information he needed about anything. He changed the subject, asking Laura about the upcoming trials for Anthony Downs. He had great concern that she would be charged. She reassured him that there was no proof of her actions and only his word against hers if he had the courage to pursue it. She said that there was fine line of balance between pitying him with his occupation by Olc and loathing him for his lack of courage and ethics. Laura reassured him that all the priestesses, Curran, and Lughe would be watching as would all those on the helix. Before leaving Luther to his work, Laura asked him to tell Jeannie they would be taking Amo Te to Carriere on the fifth weeknight for a bit of ruckus raising at the bar. With great mischief, Luther replied that he would be sure to arrive in time to say goodbye before charging batteries using the wind towers.

Chapter 8

Amanda communicated with Declan often during her work day. An experienced judge had been asked to preside at all of Anthony Downs ' trials; a panel of judges would take a decision in the court martial. Other former lawyers would act in his defense at the trials. Drew communicated to all the outposts and Sanctuary with a call to those who would volunteer to make up a jury of peers; almost everyone responded with their agreement. An absolute date had not been set for the murder and rape trial. General Amanda Bennett would represent the Armed Forces in the role of prosecutor. Lydia found documents outlining proper procedures for court martial, forwarding copies to Declan with a request to inquire with the presiding judge if they were correct. As part of their training for positions of command at the former military bases, both Lydia and Amanda had studied military law including its history. Amanda knew Anthony Downs, understanding he would not readily admit to even the obvious. As such, a hard line of accusation and proof needed to be taken. There would have been a time when Amanda Bennett would have enjoyed seeing her former commander suffer through humiliation but she had moved far beyond that in her wisdom. She knew that they were all recording a history of hope with the end of the past chapters of darkness. She was absolutely determined that she would convey that attitude and expect it from all her senior officers. The work day hours flew by; at 1600 hours Amanda was in the air and going home.

Laura walked to Amanda ' s vehicle in the driveway, greeting her with a kiss, long, hard, and full on the mouth. Once again, Amanda wondered what she possibly could have done in her life to deserve the happiness that was now hers. She immediately went to the shower, and then found cool, comfortable clothing before joining her lover and their friends for a glass of wine on the deck. Lydia and Barbara were working magic with a roast on the fire pit. It was a huge cut of cow; there would be much left for later in the weekend. If the weather held, they had planned a trip to the summit on the second weekend day followed by a picnic at the lake. Luther and Mary invited them to an early autumn fishing trip, when the catch would be the most plentiful and before the ocean tantrums began. Before Luther left for the day, he said he would return in later morning the following day as he had an early morning date with Mary on Yule after which they both were going shopping in Carriere. He did say with a wink that he would return before the departure for the bar just to ready himself to charge batteries using the wind towers. Laura moved a music player to the deck, soon lost in rhythm as she danced with herself as she watched her ocean. Amanda was absolutely charmed by her, joining her in dance, both laughing, and both very much in love. After dinner and clearing, all four women danced well past twilight and then under the stars. Passion rising from the seduction of sultry rhythms enticed both couples to showers and each other ' s arms for hours into the night.

The next day was whiled away, each woman anticipating their night at the bar. It was another very warm day; Sally held no truck with a dress code at the bar. Comfortable hot weather clothing would be the choice for all four friends. All except Laura choose shorts, sleeveless shirts, and sandals. Laura felt she had a reputation to maintain, choosing a short skirt, matching halter, six inch heels, come-hither make up, and her curls tied up in a ponytail. She laughed as she remembered wearing the clothing at a party at university, quite shy about others seeing that much of her body. She thought that was more like centuries ago now. She purchased this outfit from Karina who had to push her to try it on her beautiful adolescent body. While checking the final product in the bathroom mirror, Laura sent a quiet loving message to her old friend, now forever with Susan on the helix, that she wore it proudly to celebrate their friendship. Laura emerged from the bathroom; once again Amanda was speechless with love and lust while looking at her drop dead gorgeous mistress. Amanda and Barbara both took photographs; after Luther arrived he took photographs of all four priestesses about to go on a night of ruckus raising. Amanda drove to the tarmac and flew Amo Te to the base. When all four senior officers emerged from the helicopter, very young ground crew members barely remembered to salute as they watched all four very beautiful women walk to a waiting vehicle. Amanda laughed all the way to the bar, saying that she particularly enjoyed doing that to the little boys at the base. Sally stood behind the bar as her friends entered and walked to their usual table at the back of the room. She shook her head, telling one of her bartenders that the military was never that gorgeous all at once in her day. Several women from the base were already at the bar, momentarily surprised to see the General and Lieutenant General walk across the floor holding hands as did the other Lieutenant General and the Lieutenant Colonel. There had never been any denial from anyone that Amanda and Laura were lovers; finally their world would not accept intolerance. Everybody had to readily admit that all four senior officers were beautiful, especially the drop dead gorgeous Lieutenant General Ravencouer. Once again, there was a parade of women past the table until Amanda stood up, took Laura in her arms, and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Laura laughed, responding with a look of bring it , thereby setting the tone for the rest of the evening. After their dinner, Sally caught Laura ' s eye to beckon her to come to the bar; Laura could not disappoint. The six inch heels took legs that would not quit slowly to the bar and then the woman wearing them learned over as far as humanly possible to order a soda. There was momentary silence broken only by hollering and whistling by Lydia and spontaneous applause by other patrons. The music started; Laura took Sally ' s and led her elegantly in dance. They were lost in conversation and almost did not notice that the music had ended. Laura smiled and kissed her friend before she returned to behind the bar. Amanda joined her lover for dancing and seduction. Laura Ravencouer was definitely no longer a child, matching Amanda ' s play movement for movement to their delight. Lydia danced close with Barbara to tell Laura she had learned well indeed. Amanda whispered to her lover that tonight ' s lesson was on fingers and to pay attention. Laura moaned softly, quickly deciding it was time to return home, getting no argument for any of her friends. Amo Te landed safely on the tarmac and the vehicle transported four women almost overcome by desire back to the cabin. Women in love took their partners to their own showers, bedrooms, and journeys. With no kisses and only work with fingers, Amanda undressed her lover and took her to the shower. From there, once again only fingers led Laura to the chaise on the upper deck under galaxies of stars. She admonished her student for attempting response with kisses, commanding that fingers were the only subject of the present lesson. Touching, teasing, and touching left a grown up Laura begging in between moans before the first of many pinnacles was found. Amanda then led her lover to their bed; the subsequent lessons on fingers were conducted with a very much more compliant student. As the gold rose of dawn shone through the skylight, Amanda finally kissed her lover to tell her that she probably had brought it. Laura could not speak and only smiled her reply.

All four women arose late in the morning after nights of journeys. Laura stirred as she felt Amanda leave her side, watching as her gorgeous mistress entered the shower. She quickly joined her; in no uncertain terms told her that there would be kisses today and she got no argument in return. They emerged from their dressing room to find Barbara and Lydia carrying breakfast trays for all to the upper deck. Lydia took one look at her friends, once again shook her head, and smiled. There was magic at this home, filled with women loving women, priestesses loving priestesses. Laura was still not easily able to talk; after a few minutes Lydia asked Amanda what she had done to the woman. Amanda innocently replied that she had simply brought it, Lydia replied Ah yes." In the early afternoon, Jeannie arrived for a visit and company. She said she was once again curious about their night of ruckus raising. Lydia just happened to mention that Laura still had difficulty talking in full sentences. Laura blushed, Amanda blushed, and Jeannie smiled wistfully. Laura found sandals, took Jeannie ' s hand, and asked if she wanted to go for a stroll to Spy Rock. Jeannie did not argue; as they departed Amanda saw tears just behind her friend ' s eyes. Amanda turned to her friends stating that she was so much in love; they fully agreed that she was indeed.

Laura did not let go of Jeannie ' s hand as they walked along the mountain road. Laura finally told her friend that she did not have to withstand the terror of her husband ' s illness. Jeannie wept, stating that she knew that but she could not leave him when he needed her so much. She sobbed as she told her friend that she was not sure Harry was capable now of loving her in return; they were no longer lovers and had not been for quite some time. Laura stopped, took her friend ' s hands in hers, and told her that she had to love herself as well, that she deserved to be happy. Jeannie admitted she came to the cabin just to sit in the presence of the great love she felt there. Laura smiled, stating it was a magic place but that their kind of love was elsewhere as well. Jeannie replied that she did not want to whine but she really was lonely. Mary was a good friend but she had an enduring lovership with Luther. Jeannie would not interfere with that. Laura asked Jeannie if she would like to have lunch with her one day the following week in Carriere. She had a friend, a woman about Jeannie ' s age, a widow, who she knew Jeannie would like and wondered if Jeannie would like to meet her. Jeannie ' s face lit up at the prospect of getting away for at least lunch and happily agreed. They chose the fourth upcoming weekday; after a long hug both women walked back to the cabin. After Jeannie had left and Lydia and Barbara had returned to the guest room for alone time, Amanda sat with her lover but did not ask of the conversation with Jeannie. Laura finally said that she would need to ask the boss lady for some extra time for lunch on the upcoming fourth weekday as she had a lunch date that did not include her. Amanda knew better than to deny her request as she would go anyway but did ask politely if her date was Jeannie. Laura said the woman was lonely needed some attention, and friendship. Amanda agreed, knowing instinctively that was not all of the answer but also knew she would find out in time of the entire scenario. Amanda then led her beautiful lover to the upper deck for sun, fresh air, and consequences. She held Laura and told her that she was so much in love to which Laura replied that she was indeed and she was very happy for her dear friend. She then reminded herself out loud to tell her dear friend to bring it often because her dear friend paid attention.

Dinner was very casual with every woman finding leftovers to suit themselves along with wine. Laura asked if anyone was entirely sick of dancing and if not she would bring music to the deck for seduction under the stars. Without missing a beat, Barbara replied Bring it and seconds later everyone was close to paralysis by laughter. The four friends chose brief showers, then satin and lace for dancing attire. Laura smiled as she watched Lydia and Amanda dance, each beautiful, each remembering past and present love. Great friendship, great laughter, great music, and greater passion filled the night at the cabin on the mountainside.

Everyone slept late again the following day, aided by the rhythm of gentle rain on the roof and grey skies. This was the last day that Barbara and Lydia could spend together before Barbara returned to the ranch. Laura made a breakfast tray including a fifth of champagne and orange juice to take to them for breakfast in bed alone. She knocked softly on the door; when invited in she brought breakfast to her friends, then returning to her lover ' s arms before a newly set fire. Both women enjoyed cups of coffee while talking of the last year of their lives as it had been twelve months since Amanda had taken Laura home. They both marveled at how quickly and well she had recovered. Laura said it was because of her ancients and the great love they each had for each other. She knew that every day of her future with her beloved earthlings would not be without problems but she had been to the edge of hell on earth as she had been many times before. Laura Ravencouer knew the depths of her own soul and her strength. She took great pride in her work and the help she could give to those who had fought so hard to survive. As Amanda knew, she still had memories of intense hurt but she could walk through them now with Amanda, get to the other side even stronger. She was happier, more in love than she had ever imagined possible with it growing daily. Both women then sat in loving silence, watching Noshi, Tom, Thea, and Lindsay greet them in the flames.

Barbara and Lydia joined their friends in late morning, themselves more in love than ever. The rain did not relent; the day was passed with quiet conversation. Laura danced in the kitchen, taking advantage of a cooler day. There were many vegetables to preserve and freeze; she and Amanda harvested and prepared food for meals ahead. The kitchen muse had never called to Amanda but she loved doing anything with Laura. Laura chose to set an elegant table for dinner with their friends on their last night of this visit to the cabin. Four friends enjoyed wine before the fire after dinner. They all said goodnight early as Lydia was taking command the following day and needed to be at the base by 0830 hours; Barbara planned to return to the ranch the following day as well. Before they departed for their rooms, they decided to visit the ranch before the court martial set for the first week of the eighth month of the new year. All senior officers were required to attend, including Sean Taylor and Charles Smithson. Lieutenant Serena Lorimer was well prepared to take command at the base and as usual Luther and all their friends at the coast would care for their home. Amanda did not anticipate that the trial would not take long as it was straightforward. She anticipated that they could fly to the Ravencouer Base on the second weekend day and could likely return to the ranch by the following first weekend day. It was likely that Charles would return home that day as well and be at the Carriere base to take command on the following first weekday. Before Barbara said goodnight, Laura gave her a carton of letters, crayons, markers and paper for Spero; story books for Karina Lynne.

Laura and Amanda woke early to prepare coffee and breakfast for their friends before they departed. Amanda drove them to the ranch helicopter. Barbara planned to take Lydia to Carriere and then fly home. Amanda made another pot of coffee while Laura put clean linens on the guest room bed; then tucked Anna and Versarie beneath Mrs. Smithers ' quilt. She changed linens on their bed and was just about to start laundry when Luther arrived and admonished his friend for doing his job once again. The day was greeting the sun but the air was freshly washed. Amanda asked Laura to join her at the beach; Laura never needed an invitation to sit with the ocean. Both women walked to water ' s edge and then found driftwood on which to perch. Laura gave down thanks every day when she realized that this was her home now, that she did not have to go elsewhere unless by her own choice. She could be drawn to the continuous rhythms of the sea although she no longer needed the centering as she did a younger woman before the battles. She smiled at her silent lover, telling her very quietly that she loved her more every day. She still sat in wonder that they had found each other, that they would be together forever, here on earth, there in the multiverse, and on the spiraling helix. The grandfather had pushed her to love many Wintersday dawns previously and he had been right. Thea and Ekaterina we're correct as Laura remembered their conversation as a young child, one stating that if one loved one got hurt as it was part of the equation. Laura was humbled when she realized that she had almost perished from hurt and missing the love of her life who she thought had died. The beautiful young woman now walked on earth with the most ancient priestess Lohrissa, having been mated eternally with Aine, her most beautiful ancient priestess. They all paid a huge price for the happiness that each felt now but she had not heard one word of regret from any survivor. On return to the cabin, Amanda and Luther finished moving and securing all the storage cabinets to the old bedroom space while Laura found her muses in the kitchen and in the studio where she prepared canvases for new stories to be told. She wanted to give Charlie and Eleanor a painting for the next Wintersday but the story of that had not come to the surface as of yet. There was also a story about Jeannie below but again not at the surface yet. Laura saw turmoil primarily with the upcoming court martial but without a sense of foreboding. She knew that Lohrissa, all the priests, and priestesses of Naofa would be ever present; she had grown enough as an earthling to trust that without fear. Muses of painting and photography finally released their humans in late afternoon. Luther had left for the day with a warning to leave his work to him for the next weekdays. Both women dined on the deck, deciding on a long soaking bath before retiring early in preparation for their work week.

General Bennett and Lieutenant General Ravencouer were at the Carriere base at work by 0830 hours the following morning. Amanda received official notice from Declan McDaniels that the prisoner Anthony Downs was incarcerated at the Ravencouer Base awaiting trials. Andrew McDaniels had transported the prisoner from the northeastern archipelago to the base the previous week safely, somewhat respectfully as ordered, but there were no pleasantries offered. Anthony Downs was now confined to mobility devices due to a permanent inability to walk. The guards at the jail aided him as needed. Amanda responded that she had chosen personnel at the Carriere Base who were in flight to the Ravencouer Base that day to serve as guards along with those already employed in that capacity. Amanda also replied to both Declan McDaniels and Ross Shipman that she and her senior officers would be well prepared to conduct themselves as well as they could for the upcoming trial. General Bennett called for a weekly meeting on the third weekday stating that she chose to have an ongoing conference each week. Lieutenant General Stenns was busy with the phase two expansion of the Central Command Base, otherwise known to everyone as the Carriere Base. This phase concentrated mainly on housing for new recruits as well as storage facilities for aircraft and overland vehicles. There was a building being erected to serve as a teaching and meeting center to replace the current smaller facilities. Colonel Smithson focused immediately on making sure everyone had information about the upcoming court martial trial as well as further developing basic training curricula for new recruits who they hoped would be accepted by the autumn. Lieutenant General Stenns was assigned to preparing statements and documents for the upcoming court martial as well as proposing criteria for hiring new instructors for the ongoing education of personnel and potential recruits.

On the third weekday, the senior officers met at the base and by satellite link with Lieutenant Colonels Maclippe and Taylor. Sean reported that the new settlements were inhabited now including the Communications and Security facilities. There were four more settlements to be readied by the middle of the ninth month of the new year in the former northeastern city and the northeastern coast. Ross Shipman sent a written report documenting continued salvage all usable materials from both cities; Roy Crosby continued to coordinate overland transportation of supplies and materials to new settlements. There were now also crews of workers harvesting renewable logs for lumbar for use by the settlers and for export to Europe . The money from the sale of these resources paid for labor for those work crews. There were plans to officially open a university, likely to be housed initially at least at Sanctuary with longer term plans to erected buildings in the inner cities once they had been made habitable for humans once again. Justine Carland was approached to become the first university president; she had accepted the position to everyone ' s delight and relief. Amelia Carland, Justine ' s mother and head of the Intelligence sector of the new fledging interim government emailed Declan, stating unequivocally that there would be absolutely no living with her daughter now. She then said she and Sterling were beyond proud of their firstborn; she reiterated that she would be brilliant in that position. The officers were taught protocol by Colonel Smithson in preparation for the upcoming court martial with material to study. General Bennett insisted that all be completely prepared as they had one chance to make this right, to set precedence and records for history; every officer had absolutely no doubt that their Commander-in-Chief would never accept less than excellence as none of them would individually. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe reported that the final testing had been conducted on the large helicopters using the new battery cells rather than fossil fuel and every test had been successful. She reported that a team of engineers planned to report to the ranch in the following week to teach her how to do the conversion; she remarked that she did not anticipate any problems with her education. Lydia quipped that she could probably teach them all as they were still children when she earned a perfect mark on her Advanced Mechanics Course. General Bennett gave Lieutenant General Stenns a look; then asked Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe to set an agenda to have all Armed Forces craft converted either at the Carriere Base, the Ravencouer Base, or the ranch. At the end of the meeting, General Bennett thanked all her officers for their hard work and dedication to service of others.

While in the air the following day on the way to the Carriere Base, Amanda told Laura that she had asked Lydia to be part of the official prosecution team at the court martial trial with hopes that her other officers would understand. Laura looked at her with some wonder, stating that it was her job, as far as she understood, to choose the right people for the work. She was, after all, the Commander-in-Chief. She said that other than constantly wanting her lover, Laura understood that when she put on the uniform Amanda was her commanding officer, her boss. She had great respect for the position and for the woman in it. Laura also told her clearly this would be the last time she ever doubted that. Amanda laughed out loud, replying Yes ma ' am." When they walking across the tarmac, Laura reminded Amanda that she would be taking an extended period of time over lunch as she was meeting Jeannie. She said she would work to make up the time when they took command next on the fifth weekend when Lydia returned to the ranch. Jeannie arrived at Laura ' s office at 1130 hours. Laura smiled as she saw a lovely woman standing before her, dressed in a matching skirt and shirt, sandals, with very pretty make up. Amanda came out of her office and noticed Jeannie in her office; hugged her friend as she told her she cleaned up quite well. Laura told Amanda to make sure she waited for her to go home just in case of ruckus raising; to raised eyebrows and a grin Laura led her friend to the waiting vehicle for their lunch in Carriere at the bar.

Jeannie knew they were going to have lunch in a lesbian bar. She was not in the least fazed by that. She had all these very gay female friends whom she loved, felt entirely comfortable with, and always had. On their drive into town, Laura told her that she would introduce her to Sally Palmer, the owner of the bar, a woman of Jeannie ' s age, a widow, and retired military pilot. Laura said she had grown to be very fond of her friend; she hoped Jeannie would enjoy her company. The bar was quiet as it was just midday on a weekday. Sally came out from behind the bar to greet Laura and smiled as she was introduced to Jeannie Dawson. She led them to a table by the window and stayed to chat for a few moments before leaving the women to order lunch. Laura had to suppress a smile as she saw the electricity happening between these two women as she suspected it would. Sally was a naturally gregarious woman and when applying herself she could charm the spots off a leopard. Laura and Jeannie ordered lunch and chatted about their individual weeks. Sally returned with their meals and was about to leave them alone when Jeannie invited her to join them. Laura saw her friend Jeannie flirt and blush, she was absolutely beautiful. Before coffee, Sally invited Jeannie on a tour of her humble establishment, taking her hand as the rose from her chair. Laura wanted to applaud watching a master at her work but did not, leaving her friends to become more acquainted. They returned with coffee; Laura finally had to remind Jeannie that she was an employee and although she had a certain influence over the boss lady she did have to return to the base. Jeannie tried hard to hide a natural disappointment. Immediately, Sally said the bar was quiet; her staff was present and very capable. She offered to drive Jeannie back to the base and Amo Te later in the afternoon, to allow them time to catch up on the years of their lives. Laura said if Jeannie agreed, she was happy to leave the two of them for the afternoon and hugged both her friends goodbye. She laughed out loud all the way back to the base and was still humming when she returned to her office. Both Amanda and Lydia came into her office to find out about lunch at the bar, asking where Jeannie was as they did not see her at Amo Te. Laura grinned as Amanda realized what was going on as did Lydia . Laura explained that Sally offered to drive Jeannie back to the base and Amo Te so that they could have more time to catch up on their lives. Lydia let forth with a low whistle as she returned to her office. Amanda smiled and told Laura they would talk on the way home. As Amanda and Laura were preparing to leave for the day, they both saw Sally drive across the tarmac to Amo Te. Jeannie ran the prefight check list and was about to board the helicopter when Sally took both her hands and then hugged her. Amanda said softly that the woman was good. Laura had not stopped smiling for the afternoon; when she saw her friends at the helicopter she laughed aloud again. When in the air on return to their home, Amanda asked Laura what she was doing to which Laura replied she was trying to orchestrate some happiness for a dear friend, one who needed love and affection, one who had not been intimate with her husband in a long time and had never been intimate with a woman. She continued that she liked Sally Palmer, having great respect for her. She trusted her and she also said she knew Sally was smart enough not to treat Jeannie badly or she would have a few priestesses to answer. Before Amanda could argue, Laura told her to step back and see Jeannie as a real live woman, not just a friend at the coast. She said that she and her lover knew the absolute magic of loving another woman, Jeannie had seen that often, stating often she liked to just sit with among her friends in that magic. Laura said she thought maybe, if the ancients deemed, it was time that Jeannie found her own magic loving another woman. Amanda landed the helicopter; after climbing down from the pilot ' s seat she took Laura Ravencouer in the arms, telling her she loved her even if she was becoming almost as incorrigible as Lydia Stenns and Barbara Maclippe together.

Luther was leaving for the day when both women returned to the cabin. He told them he planned to fly to Carriere the following afternoon to shop for supplies and he would stop for their list by about midday. Both women then showered and ate dinner on the deck. There were great want on the part of each woman as sleep alone had conquered them for the last three nights. Kissing and touching led the lovers to the upper deck, the chaise, and passion under the twilight sky. Before finding their bed, Laura held Amanda and as she kissed her eyes, her mouth, her neck, and her breasts, she whispered about how transformed she had been when Amanda had taken her hand, kissed her, touched, her, and led her to passion on their first night together at the cabin. She asked about Amanda ' s first initiation with Lydia and how she felt. Amanda laughed, stating she was absolutely terrified until that first kiss and then it was if she had always known what to do. She did admit that Lydia was a very patient teacher, extremely gentle with her novice. She said she wept like a child afterwards as she lay in Lydia ' s arms. Laura told Amanda that she had fallen sleep but Laura had cried as well. Laura asked Amanda if she still felt that first thrill each time they took each other to pinnacles to which amounting passion answered only a groan. Laura replied Exactly , whispered that she wanted that for their friend Jeannie as well.

Over a second pot of coffee the next morning, Harry arrived unannounced and asked to speak to both Amanda and Laura. He was very nervous and agitated. Amanda told him he was with friends who cared for him; he did not have to fear anything he needed to say. He said he knew it was wrong but he could not stay at the coast. He had applied for a job at one of the outposts as a mechanic and if they agreed to refer him he thought he could get the job. He said he would send money back for Jeannie; he was sorry to leave her alone but he could not stay now with his son being so blatant and about to be a father in an entirely abnormal way. He stumbled in his words as he said he did not mean any offence to their way of life; he was happy they loved each other but he could not understand it. It made him so uneasy it was affecting every other part of his life. He said he had behaved very badly with Jeannie, continuing he was genuinely sorry as he cared for her but he also knew that she wanted to be involved with Jacob ' s children while he could not. He told his friends that he did not want to interfere with Jeannie ' s life any longer. He asked that his friends would watch out for her and help her if she needed it. Finally, he apologized for giving them such short notice of his leaving in light of his request for a letter of reference. Amanda asked if he had told Jeannie and his children to which he replied he had told Jeannie earlier that morning. He said he had nothing more to say to either of his children; if Jeannie wanted them to know she could tell them. Luther arrived, in support of his friend and to help in any way he could. Amanda asked for use of his computer and immediately wrote a letter of reference from General Amanda Bennett. She emailed the letter to Lydia at the base, asking her to print it immediately as Harry would be picking it up later that morning. Lydia immediately responded that she had received the email and said the letter would be ready for Harry in minutes. Then Amanda turned to her old friend, thanking him for all his years of help and love. Both women hugged him with tears wishing him well and happiness. They asked that if possible they would like to know of his wellbeing from time to time; reassuring him that he could always return to their employ in the future, both knowing that would not occur.

Luther then said he would take Harry to Carriere to await a flight to the east. Laura asked for a bit of time alone to talk to Amanda but that she wanted to join him on his trip to Carriere if neither man objected; neither did. Harry and Luther returned to the workshop as Laura led Amanda to the deck. Amanda asked her if she knew. Laura admitted that she did not know of the specifics but she knew of the great changes in both Jeannie ' s and Harry ' s life. Amanda said she would change and go to Jeannie. Laura replied she was going to Carriere to find Jacob to tell him what had happened and then to find Sally as if Jeannie ever needed friends it was now. Before Laura changed for her trip to Carriere, she hugged Amanda for a very long time, telling her they were so lucky. Amanda said she doubted Jeannie would agree but she wanted to invite her to stay at the cabin at least overnight if Laura agreed and she got no argument.

Luther reminded them that they should depart soon as Harry would meet a transport plane in about ninety minutes; shortly thereafter Huguette was flying to the Carriere base. As Luther was doing a post flight check list, Lydia met Harry and Laura on the tarmac. The transport plane was making a final approach before landing and Luther then indicated to Laura he was ready to leave for Carriere. Lydia did not have a clear idea of what was happening; Laura quietly told her she would stop by on their return to Huguette. Laura hugged Harry one final time, telling him she loved him, and wished him well. Luther also hugged his friend after which he and Laura were in the overland vehicle to Carriere. Laura asked Luther if he knew of Harry ' s plans; he replied only for the previous day. He said he had been more distant and angry over the last days. Luther suspected there were changes about to happen. Luther too had given him a letter of reference at Harry ' s request. He told Luther that he didn ' t love Jeannie, maybe he never did. He said he married as he was supposed to and he had been happy enough until his children grew to disagree with him in defiance. He said he had tried hard to hold all his anger in but he was no longer able. Laura asked if he knew where Peter and Jacob resided as if so she wanted to go there. She then would find her way back to the bar; he could pick her up there. In a few minutes, Luther dropped Laura off at Jacob ' s home, waiting until she had greeted both men and introduced herself. She waved a small goodbye to Luther as she was invited into their home. She apologized for interfering in what was not likely her business but she was helping Jeannie. She told them of Harry ' s behavior over the past few months and that he had finally left for the east. She told them why and also that Jeannie was sad but also eager to meet their children, to be a grandmother. Both men were initially shocked but neither was surprised once they had time to digest the news. Jacob said he loved his father until he rejected his partner; from that point they had not had a relationship. Peter continued that they had known years before that theirs was a forever love; now that they were having children they were even happier than either had thought possible. Laura smiled; stating she very much understood and was very happy for them. They knew who she was, the former Commander Laura Ravencouer. Jacob said that his mother had told her about Amanda and Laura, speaking to how happy he was for his childhood friend. She said they were the loves of each other ' s lives, having been together for nine years. Jacob asked what they could do for their mother. Laura said she was not sure at this point. She explained that Amanda had gone to Jeannie ' s home with plans to invite Jeannie to return to the cabin if she wished. Laura did offer to take Jacob and Peter to the coast at any time, telling them they simply needed to contact her at the base. She then asked if they could find transportation for her to the bar as she planned to meet Sally Palmer there before Luther returned to take her back to the cabin. Peter offered to drive Laura to the bar; within minutes she was saying goodbye with a promise to keep in touch with them. The bar was closed but the door at the side was open; Laura entered the bar to find Sally working with her staff. She saw a look of concern on her friend ' s face and immediately asked for two cups of coffee as she took Laura to a table. Laura reassured that everyone was well and not harmed but that Jeannie was walking through her own journey of hurt. Laura told Sally the entire story including the verbal assaults and emotional blackmail over the past few months. Sally knew Jacob but did not realize he was Jeannie ' s son. Laura asked simply if Sally could come back to the coast as Jeannie needed a friend to walk through the hurt with her. Sally said she very much liked the woman; for the first time since Melissa had died she felt that quiver of excitement in her core once again. She asked Laura if she knew that was about to happen. Laura replied that she knew that great changes were coming but did not know the details until earlier this morning. Sally left the table for a few minutes to speak with her staff and returned to tell Laura she would meet her at the base after she went home to pack some clothes. She was about to leave when she grabbed a bottle of brandy, smiling as she walked out of the building to her vehicle. Laura left the bar just as Luther drove up. Laura asked that they make one more stop before returning to the base. Laura made a short shopping trip for some satin, lace, and perfume. On the way back to the base, Laura told him that Sally Palmer was going to return with them and would be spending a couple of days with Jeannie. Luther looked at her briefly and then smiled as he too was a magic man who rarely argued with his priestess. They arrived back at the base before Sally; Laura ran quickly to find Lydia in her office, asking her to come to the tarmac to wait so she could tell her what had transpired. Lydia was silent as Laura told her of Harry ' s morning visit and then his flight to the east. Laura told her that she visited Jacob and Peter; then went to see Sally. Amanda had gone to Jeannie and likely was still there. Just at the end of the conversation, Sally drove up and tossed Lydia the keys in case she need to move her vehicle. Lydia was in uniform or she would have hugged Laura but chose to communicate her approval with a smile instead. Laura returned the smile, stating that just last night Amanda had complimented her by saying that she was just as incorrigible as Lydia Stenns. She then went to take Sally by the arm to take her to Huguette. She introduced Sally to Luther; shortly thereafter they were in the air heading to the coast. Laura asked Luther to fly over Jeannie ' s house before landing as she wanted to see if Amanda was still there which he did and she was. Luther drove the women to Jeannie before returning for supplies. Laura grabbed her package and entered the house with Sally walking behind. Jeannie and Amanda were in the common room with coffee; when Jeannie saw Laura the tears started again. Laura went to her with hugs, telling her to look up as she brought a sister for her. Jeannie looked up to see Sally walking towards her and sparks flew again. Sally politely said hello to Amanda for maybe the first time in years. Then she smiled at Jeannie, hugged her, telling her she would survive this because, after all, she was female and that was what females did. Laura excused herself, asking Amanda to come help her briefly. They went to Jeannie ' s bedroom, found clean linens and towels, changed both, and tidied an otherwise clean room. Then Laura placed her package on the bed, smiled, and told Amanda it was probably time to think about leaving. Before saying goodbye for this day, Amanda asked Jeannie if there was anything she needed and if so to just ask. Jeannie rose and hugged her dearest friends, thanking them for maybe the best day in a very long time. Sally told them not to worry, she would take very good care of their friend; they had absolutely no doubt.

Laura was quiet on the return to the cabin. She finally told Amanda that she had met Jacob and Peter who sent blessings to her. She said she offered transport for them at any time they wanted to visit their mother. Amanda told her that Jeannie had called Ruthann who had offered to come but Jeannie declined the offer saying that she was fine, needing time to digest all the changes. Laura told Amanda that she had explained the situation to Lydia before Sally had arrived at the base. Before they got out of the vehicle at the cabin, Laura told Amanda that Sally had admitted that she had said she really liked Jeannie; it was the first time since Melissa had died that she felt that quiver in her core. Amanda leaned over to kiss her lover, stating that one would have to be blind not to see the electricity between the two women.

Luther was still putting away supplies and both his friends insisted on helping. Amanda hugged him, thanking him for all his help with Harry with concern that he would miss his friend. Luther admitted that he would but also that Harry had not been the same man since the battles. Laura teased him saying that he now surrounded by women; he stated he thought it probably could be worse. He also said that he had struck up a friendship with Ian Fletcher when the construction was done. He was also was quite sure that he and Charlie Smithson would have wonderful conversations about plants and gardens. He said that there were enough Fletcher offspring to help when he needed more arms; as such, he was not concerned. He said his lives had always been about change; this was no different.

Laura was famished and created a salad as Amanda made a pot of coffee on the outdoor pit. The day was hot and humid, likely indicating a thunderstorm before nightfall. Laura quickly changed her clothes to a sarong and a bikini top before joining Amanda on the deck for salad and coffee. Amanda sat beside her lover on the deck swing, taking the cup from her hand so as to gather her lover into her arms. She told her she loved her, admitting that she was not entirely happy with Laura introducing Sally to Jeannie. Laura said she knew that but that she knew the two women were destined to be together and acted on it. She teased her lover, saying that she had the least amount of experience with affairs of the heart but she also knew what great love was and how to go about getting it. Amanda kissed her, thoroughly agreeing with her. Luther cleared his throat as he joined them on the deck. He said his work for the day was done and he was going home to the love of his life. Mary had been upset for Jeannie but also glad that her torture might be finally over. Amanda and Laura both reassured him that the greatest adventure of Jeannie ' s life was just about to start. Luther blushed slightly, affirming he was very sure it would.

Grey clouds full of water and cool air rolled in quickly from the ocean; within minutes it was pouring rain. Amanda started a fire just as Laura returned from the bedroom with a warmer shirt. Amanda smiled, stating she was mightily disappointed that the bikini top had been changed to which Laura replied that within minutes it would all be gone so she should not worry. Mother had worked herself up to a fine tantrum aided by the ocean ' s howling winds. Amanda asked if the noise frightened her; Laura replied definitely not as it would mask her own loud voice about to cry out. Both women were naked on the rug before the fire in what seemed like seconds. Urgent, crashing passion consumed the lovers, neither of whom could talk in full sentences for some minutes. Amanda did not let her mistress leave her for hours until they were both cool and the fire needed banking. The cabin was now cloaked in the darkness of a stormy night. Laura lit candles and prepared a simple dinner for them to consume before the fire, both still only partially clothed.

Both women were tired as it had been a long and emotionally tiring day. Amanda led her lover to their bed to hold her and stroked her silken curls. She asked Laura what was in the package she had left on Jeannie ' s bed. Laura smiled, replying perfume, satin, and lace, a woman ' s best choice for simple seduction. She also told Amanda that Sally had grabbed a bottle of brandy on her way out of the bar earlier that day. Amanda ' s soft caresses and kisses soon led to Laura ' s return of them as soft quiet enduring passion found the lovers once again. Afterwards, Laura laughed softly as she asked Amanda if she realized they found passion almost every day or every night or both. Amanda then inquired as to her point, shrugged, grinned, stating she thought that was normal. Amanda clearly admitted that it was her absolutely favorite activity and had been since their first night at the cabin. Laura teased that she probably liked it quite a bit with Lydia as well to which Amanda smiled and kissed her answer.

Mother was still sending down water the next morning although the ocean had blown out the tantrum in her. Laura rose early, showered, banked the fire, made coffee, and was in the kitchen when Amanda woke. She sat up in bed and watched her lover move quietly about their home. Every day, she was still amazed that this beautiful creature was madly in love with her; she still could not understand what she had done to deserve that. Laura set bread dough to bake loaves for the following week along with pots of soup and stew on the stove and in the slow cooker. She loved her domain in the kitchen and the routine of coming home to dinner ready after their long days at the base. She looked up to see Amanda watching her, smiling good morning to her. Amanda finally rose, showered, dressed, and joined her lover for breakfast. Amanda made a second pot of coffee after doing morning chores and bringing in wood. As the morning was still cool. The rain finally stopped just past midday; by late afternoon the clouds had been breached by the sun. Laura said she had decided what to paint for Charlie and Eleanor, asking Amanda to print extra copies of the tundra in bloom at Sanctuary which she would use for reference. She hoped the sun would stay in the sky in the morrow so she could start that painting. Amanda cuddled her lover, telling her she had enjoyed a wonderful day with her in their quiet magic home. Laura smiled, took the bottle of wine, her lover ' s hand, two wine glasses, and led Amanda to the loft, stating the magic was not over yet. The robust cries of the great passion of Aine and Lohrissa were offered down to the ancients and to the multiverse

Amanda let Laura sleep well into the morning as she made coffee and breakfast, taking both back to her lover. The sun was still struggling to find way though morning clouds but the light was still sufficient for Laura to paint; she was eager to answer the call of the muse. After breakfast, both women showered and completed morning chores. They had taken second cups of coffee to the deck just as Jeannie and Sally drove into the driveway. Both Laura and Amanda caught their breaths when Jeannie got out of the vehicle and walked towards them. She was dressed in blue jeans, a white camisole, with her hair loosed and falling to her waist, held up with small clips at her forehead. Both women were absolutely radiant; Amanda and Laura could only smile as they walked to greet them with hugs. Sally smiled, said good morning. Jeannie had the most lovely blush, that of a new lover. Sally was overwhelmed by the view and then the cabin. Both Amanda and Laura welcomed her to their home. Laura asked if she would like a tour. Amanda poured two more cups of coffee saying she and Jeannie would meet them back on the deck. Sally ' s breath was taken away when she entered the cabin and saw the painting of hope above the mantle. Laura smiled and led her to the kitchen, then the guest room and en suite. Sally saw the print of the priestess dancing and asked who had taken the photograph, all the photographs. Laura told her that Amanda Bennett was a very talented woman indeed. She then led Sally up the stairs; half way Sally stopped and stared at the painting of Laura and Amanda naked and dancing. Laura smiled as she explained she had some experience with the subjects. Sally was dumbfounded when she realized that Laura was the artist. Laura finished the tour by showing her the upper deck, their bed that Luther had carved, the windows that Luther had given them, and her studio. Before they returned to the deck, Sally took Laura ' s hands, thanking her for finding Jeannie for her. Laura replied that she didn ' t find her, she just pointed them both in the right direction and the ancients took over. They returned to their lovers on the deck and Sally took Jeannie ' s hand to sit with her on the swing. She put arm around Jeannie ' s shoulder and kissed her on her brow. Jeannie had almost tears as she looked at Laura who just gently told her that she knew and that it just got better. Amanda smiled and welcomed Jeannie to the magic. Sally retorted that she had already done that many times but thanked her friend all the same. Sally said that Jeannie had been very shy about coming to the cabin to visit. She said she had told her new lover that Laura and Amanda probably knew that was going on as the same thing was likely going on with them, after all they had changed sheets and left perfume, satin, and lace. She smiled tenderly at her lover, telling their friends that all new women lovers think that it is written on them somewhere for the entire world to see. She said the only thing showing was beautiful lovelights shining from lovely eyes which she had every intention of keeping there. Jeannie then told her friends that she had been offered a job keeping books for the bar. She had done that for decades for Harry ' s business and could work at home. She had accepted but wanted Laura and Amanda to know that she still wanted to work for them as she had. She said between both incomes she would be fine financially even if Harry did not send home money which was doubtful. Sally said she had a feeling that they would be a few more bartenders hired as she had no intention of living at the bar because she had a beautiful woman in her life now. Laura innocently asked if that meant there would be no more ruckus raising at the bar. Sally replied that indeed there would be but now with two more beautiful women in attendance. Amanda quipped that Lydia would absolutely love the whole concept as would they all. Laura returned to the cabin to find some of Judith ' s chowder to send home with Jeannie for their dinner; Jeannie joined her in the kitchen. She had this look of almost disbelief on her face; Laura just smiled. She told Jeannie that Amanda was her first woman lover and from the first kiss it felt like coming home. She said she did not know that her body was capable of what she felt; she had cried. Jeannie said she could almost not breathe, weeping but not from sadness. She told Laura she had no idea what that was like to which Laura replied there was no way to describe it, a woman just had to experience it. She teased Jeannie, telling her to listen some nights as she would hear the mountains ringing from voices of love being offered up, especially when Lydia and Barbara joined them. Jeannie quipped that there might now be snow falling off the caps to which both women broke out in gales of laughter bringing curious lovers in to see what was that funny. Jeannie just remarked they were discussing ringing mountains. Sally and Jeannie decided to drive to the beach and then return home. Amanda invited them both to visit the lake any time they chose as it was quite lovely there and very private. Friends said goodbye after which Amanda and Laura watched the new lovers drive away to the beach. Amanda said she had never seen Jeannie look as beautiful as she did that day. Laura said good passion and love will do that to a woman, saying she should know as it kept her drop dead gorgeous all the time.

Laura spent the remaining daylight hours in the studio telling the story of new life in the north. There were mountains in the background touched by a river, in the foreground a riot of tundra flowers and grasses among which ran families of survivors. Laura painted her signature ravens in the sky, finishing the painting with a shimmering faint silver and white wash. Amanda took photographs of her lover with her muse as she always did, then viewed the story at Laura ' s invitation. After dinner, Laura sat with her mistress on the swing and slowly kissed her neck and breasts. She laughed as she said she felt like an old wise woman with Jeannie when in fact Laura was younger than Jeannie ' s children. The conversation with Jeannie earlier that day had taken Laura back to her first days being Amanda ' s lover, remembering how overwhelmed and amazed she felt. She told Amanda that Jeannie had wept; Amanda had reassured her that many women weep when first loved by another woman. She also told Amanda about asking Jeannie to listen some nights to hear the mountains ringing with the sounds of love, especially when Lydia and Barbara were at the cabin. That was when Jeannie laughed, stating that now the snow caps might fall. Amanda smiled, replying that she had known Sally for many years and had known Melissa as well. She fought hard to keep her sanity after Melissa returned to the ancients. Laura replied that she understood that all too well. She kept this fa ç ade of being a tough raunchy woman but in fact she was a very dear soul who was responsible for countless acts of kindness of which only the recipient knew. Both women agreed that she looked radiant with newly found love; both women also knew that she would treat Jeannie as the most precious woman walking the planet. Laura kept kissing and touching stating it was one of those nights where her twenty-something lust was fierce. Water barely started to fall in the shower before passion claimed the lovers repeatedly. Amanda moaned, and then quietly whispered that she hoped Jeannie was listening just as Aine met Lohrissa met for hours into the night.

Luther was already in the workshop after having put a pot of coffee on the pit when Amanda woke in the morning. As she was about to get out of bed, Laura stirred to take her into wanting arms. Amanda told her Luther was in the workshop; they would have to continue the thought in the shower which they did. As they were dressing for the day, Laura wondered if this much wanting might not be an infliction. Amanda laughed out loud telling her it was not an illness, just the result of having a wonderful lover on both their parts. Laura heated cinnamon buns while Amanda poured coffee. Both sat perched at the kitchen island enjoying their breakfast, the morning, and each other ' s company. Luther came to the kitchen to join them for his second cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun. He grinned as he explained he now had to remind himself to be as sensitive with his time with Jeannie as he did with his priestesses. He stopped at her house on his way to the cabin; after waiting for a few minutes for an answer to his knock, Jeannie came to the door blushing and radiant. Luther was long past being fazed by all the women surrounding him, stating very sincerely said that he delighted to see his old friend well ensconced in the throes of newly found love. Both Amanda and Laura smiled, agreeing with their friend. Laura asked Luther to mat and frame the newest painting when it was dry; telling him it was for Charles and Eleanor for the next Wintersday. Luther replied he would insure wrapping it in protective covering until the time for gifting. Luther returned to the workshop and then to the greenhouse as it was time for new planting for a fall harvest, one of Luther ' s most favorite tasks. Amanda asked Laura if she would like to take a picnic to the lake for their lunch with the response of lights shining in her lover ' s eyes as she rose to start preparation of food. Amanda busied herself with morning chores including laundry followed by scolding by Luther. By 1100 hours, lunch was prepared and in a basket, as well as towels, blankets, coffee, egg shells, camera, and sketch pad readied for departure. The women told Luther they would return by midafternoon giving him time to charge batteries using the wind towers at the cabin if he chose.

At the summit, Laura sketched perched on the tailgate of the vehicle while Amanda took photographs; both greeted the ravens. The women then returned to the lake to enjoy lunch, coffee, and each other. The water was cool against a hot day and refreshed the priestesses. The sun and fresh air worked their magic with the lovers before they dressed and returned home. Luther was just finishing his work day as they arrived at the cabin; he smiled as he anticipated fishing date that evening with Mary. Laura and Amanda ate an early dinner and retired at an early hour in preparation for their work week.

Amo Te landed on the tarmac at Carriere just after Amanda and Laura arrived at their offices the following morning. Lydia joined them in Laura ' s office, watching as Jeannie walked with Sally to her vehicle, lingering with hugs and long passionate kisses. Lydia let forth with a restrained howl of approval. The work week was busy with consolidation of information, data, and plans for the upcoming court martial as well as selection of new recruits to be hired for the middle of the ninth month of the new year. Colonel Smithson recommended more senior personnel to teach basic physical training to the new recruits but again did not anticipate great lack on the part of the recruits as all had lived through the oppression and deprivation of The Decision as well as surviving the battles. Lieutenant General Ravencouer agreed to teach Law and Security once again while they chose new permanent instructors. General Bennett communicated with both Declan McDaniels and Dr. Roy Dobson at Sanctuary about new recruits spending two weeks at Sanctuary for basic medic training as well. Colonel Smithson also had preliminary plans made with Margaret Campbell and Iselin Dragor, the skydiving instructors, to arrange for classes at the ranch. Declan introduced General Bennett by email to Eric Thompson, the lawyer chosen to defend Anthony Downs as they were legally required to disclose information prior to the proceedings. Amanda was very familiar with her legal obligations and immediately forwarded all the data to Mr. Thompson and to the panel of judges presiding over the trial. Her only request was that Anthony Downs be told that the prosecutor was General Bennett and not General Amanda Bennett. Declan readily understood her reasons; Mr. Thompson did not but agreed. Both Andrew and Annique McDaniels requested attendance at the trial for the purposes of recording the trial for archives and to communicate to the survivors who wished information; the request was granted by the panel of judges.

Lydia returned to the ranch on the fourth weekday with planned return on the upcoming second weekend day. Both Amanda and Laura agreed to take command on the fifth weekday and the upcoming first weekday so as to relief Colonel Smithson for his four day weekend with Eleanor. General Bennett told Lieutenant General Ravencouer it was not necessary to her to share command but Laura replied that she wanted the extra time to work on the curricula and hiring for the classes to start in the ninth month of the new year. General Bennett asked to meet with Lieutenant Serena Lorimer on the fifth weekday. Amanda told the Lieutenant that she would be promoted to the rank of Captain effective on the upcoming second weekday. She thanked her for taking command during the court martial and was very sure she was more than capable as she knew of her history in the years when Lieutenant General Stenns was commander at the former Carriere base. Lieutenant Lorimer understood that all senior officers would be at the Ravencouer Base but there would be constant open communications with the base if needed. Before she left, Lieutenant Lorimer was asked to report to the Supply Technician to pick up shirts designating her new rank of Captain as well as dress uniform. As a matter of formality, both General Bennett and Lieutenant General Ravencouer saluted and then congratulated the new Captain before she left the General ' s office.

In the late afternoon, just as Amanda and Laura were planning to return to the cabin, they saw Jeannie land Amo Te on the Tarmac, greeting Sally with a hug and a kiss before flying back to the coast. Laura reminded herself to tell both women that she had no problem with either piloting her helicopter as Sally Palmer had been taught by Charles Smithson and therefore could likely pilot a tank if it had wings. Both women were tired upon returning home with both choosing a quick shower and night shirts before dinner. Luther left a note stating that he had been to Carriere and brought back supplies. He put soup in the slow cooker to warm and took a braided loaf from the freezer for their dinner as he supposed they would be tired. Fatigue precluded any notion of passion; sleep found both lovers early that evening.

Amanda woke Laura early the following morning and kept her awake until mid-morning drove both women out of bed due to hunger. They decided upon minimal chores for their two days away from the base, allowing for restful time together. Luther and Mary made a quick stop in late morning with Dungeness crabs for their dinner before returning to their home and a date back on Yule for evening fishing. Mary did thank Laura for pointing Jeannie in the right direction as her dear friend was beyond happy for the first time since she was a child. Amanda smiled and replied that love had a habit of doing that to a person as both she and her husband knew. When they left for home, Laura talked to Amanda about how she worried for Harry's emotional and spiritual state. He had not come from the ancients; knew not of their power. She continued he was vulnerable and as such was in danger to host a spirit from Olc to walk in his body. Amanda told Laura that she knew that the only way that Harry could be safe from that would be to die as an earthling to be taken to the ancients before he returned to earth once more. The fight for souls have been ongoing since the split of the multiverse with the ancients of Naofa constantly battling the minions of Olc. The final battle would be won when Naofa had claimed more souls than Olc; until then the priests and priestesses would protect all those souls on earth and in the multiverse. Amanda said she had no recollection thus far about the minions of Olc but she did know they had met their destruction during the battles; they had been sent back to Olc then and would be again. For a brief moment, Lohrissa held her lover, thanking her for her beauty, her power, her constant dedication to her priestess, and to their beloved earthlings. Amanda kissed Laura, reassuring her it was not a hardship. It was another very hot day and by just after midday both Amanda and Laura had changed to bikinis, seeking shade and some ocean breezes on the deck. Jeannie drove into the yard, stood out of her vehicle, and asked her friends if they felt like a swim in the lake to cool off. Laura looked at Amanda, grinned, and told Jeannie to wait until she grabbed towels before they joined them. Sally told both women that they had cool drinks; they just needed their beautiful selves and they could be off. Jeannie and Amanda laughed as they remembered they had not been at the lake together since she and her brother were children when Jeannie had joined them there. Jeannie was delighted when she saw the dock and the raft that Luther had built years before. Both Amanda and Laura ran for the dock, dove into the cooling water, and then swam to the raft. Sally removed outer wear to reveal a becoming bathing suit; Jeanne revealed a bikini accompanied by a blush. Laura just applauded and promised she would not howl like Lydia , initially at least. Sally and Jeannie laughed and played like children in the water much to the delight of both Amanda and Laura. When the hot sun conquered the women on the raft they joined their friends in the water to be cooled again. Sally helped Jeannie back to the dock; as Laura turned she saw their friends in each other ' s arms, kissing each other as only women in love can. Jeannie pulled away when she saw Laura watching. Laura called to Amanda, asking her to join her on shore. When out of the water, she told Amanda they were about to do a demonstration for Jeannie. Laura then kissed Amanda long, hard, and full on the mouth while she loosed her bikini top thereafter kissing Amanda ' s neck and breasts. Then she handed Amanda her top, turning to Jeannie to ask her if that offended her. Jeannie absolutely denied that it did in any way. Laura then asked if she noticed either her or Amanda blushing or pulling away just because they had an audience. Sally was laughing out loud by this time; soon after Jeannie was as well. Laura told her as Sally ' s new lover that she looked breathtakingly beautiful with lovelights shining; she was with women who celebrated their love every minute of every day. Amanda told her old friend that it was wonderfully correct to be in love, to be happy, and to never deny herself that again. She finally agreed, then took Sally in her arms to kiss her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Amanda giggled, stating the ruckus at the bar would never be the same. On the drive back to the cabin, Sally told Jeannie about the good Lieutenant General Ravencouer buckling her knees at one of the ruckus raising nights at the bar; she had seen her do that as well to Lydia Stenns. Jeannie quipped that she needed to know what she needed to do for that kind of provocation. Amanda answered that most times all one had to do was show up. Laura suggested that they should have a practice run at ruckus raising with Jeannie and Sally once the court martial was over and when Barbara could return to the coast for a visit. Sally agreed but asked for lead time so she could put the staff on notice. Sally and Jeannie declined an invitation to visit at the cabin when they dropped their friends off; both couples wanted alone time after all the sun and fresh air. When out of the shower and still unclothed laying on the bed, Laura asked Amanda which of Laura ' s ruckus raising choices for clothing had been most alluring as she would choose that again for the practice run with Jeannie. Amanda immediately responded it was the black lace dress with only skin underneath that drove her most mad. Laura asked then who was incorrigible as she took her lover ' s hand to touch that very skin. It was well past twilight when Amanda finally steamed the crabs for their dinner on the deck. Laura said it was just a fine idea for them to consume food with aphrodisiac properties as the ancients knew they needed them. Amanda agreed, stating there would be enough left for their dinner the following night as a salad. Since they had to rise early for work on the first weekday, they probably needed to dine at 1500 hours the following day. Both women laughed out loud for a long time at themselves.

Laura woke Amanda the following day, asking if she thought if they just stayed naked in bed that nobody would visit them during the day. Amanda said was not sure but perhaps they could ask Luther to make them an Occupied sign for the deck but that would be rude. Laura was determined to spend this day alone with her lover which she accomplished. Both women enjoyed a cold supper and wine on the deck in early evening after a quiet restful day together. As much as their desire told them otherwise, they showered and fell asleep early in preparation for busy work weeks ahead.

Luther arrived early the next morning before his friends left for work. Amanda asked that he take all dress uniforms including Lydia ' s to Carriere to have them cleaned in preparation for their flight to the ranch early on the first weekend morning. She also asked that Jeannie launder uniforms twice this upcoming week again in preparation for the court martial trials as full dress uniforms would be mandatory for the days in court. Additional dress blazers were ready for all senior officers at the base as ordered earlier. It did not need to be stated that the General expected the very best performance from her senior officers including appearance. Ross Shipman confirmed that there were rudimentary but functional laundry facilities at the Ravencouer base now to assist the officers during their stay. Amanda indicated that if the trial extended beyond the week, the officers planned to return to the ranch for the two weekend days.

Lydia returned to the Carriere Base on the second weekday in a Peregrine now fitted with batteries for power rather than fossil fuel. They could return the other Armed Forces craft when they returned from the court martial. Lieutenant Lorimer was asked to attend the dining room by 1200 hours; in a brief ceremony in front of her peers she was promoted to the rank of Captain with much pride by all the senior officers, especially Lieutenant General Stenns. She was invited to attend the meeting of the senior officers the following day for briefing about the upcoming court martial.

The meeting the following day included satellite links with Lieutenant Colonels Taylor and Maclippe as set up by Drew McDaniels. Amanda immediately congratulated him on work exceptionally well done as he came into the meeting just to insure everything was set up and working correctly. Drew very humbly thanked the Commander-in Chief for her compliments, joking that now that they all knew his mother there really could be no question as to anything other than his best. Charlie Smithson indicated he had not had the pleasure of meeting Louiza Shipman yet but indeed her reputation preceded her. Amanda introduced Captain Lorimer to Lieutenant Colonel Taylor who congratulated her on her promotion, thanking her for assisting with the court martial trial. General Bennett stated she expected that everyone was absolutely familiar with the procedures that would be followed as well as the facts pertaining to the trial. She informed everyone that Lieutenant General Stenns would join her as part of the prosecuting team but that all her officers would be in attendance for the entire proceedings. At the end of the meeting, she said that they all had one chance to get this right; they would for themselves, for history, and for those who had suffered and died because of this man ' s inability to lead those in his command. The room remained silent as General Bennett returned to her office.

On their flight back to the cabin that evening, Laura told Amanda she was very proud to be her friend, her lover, and an officer under her command. She said their journeys were unfolding as they should with guidance of the ancients. Amanda replied she was absolutely certain that the trial would be conducted fairly. She had not told her senior officers that Mr. Eric Thompson, Anthony Downs ' lawyer, had been requested to tell his client that the prosecutor was General Bennett and not General Amanda Bennett. Amanda allowed herself that small bit of drama as she actually thought she deserved it. Very tired women ate dinner as soon as they arrived home; after showers and brief cuddles they both submitted to much needed sleep.

Luther and Jeannie were at work before Amanda and Laura left for the base the following morning. Luther picked up the dress uniforms, packed and hanging in sleeves. Jeannie laundered all the uniforms with starched shirts with plans launder those from the previous day. She too would pack them hanging in sleeves individually for Amanda, Laura, and Lydia . Luther polished the shoes to accompany the uniforms and all their personal laundry was ready for packing. He asked if they wanted kit bags or luggage as he would have them ready for them when they returned in the afternoon. Amanda hugged both her friends, stating she really had no idea how they would manage to live happy lives without them.

Amanda and Laura arrived at the base at 0830 hours. Lydia was just returning to the offices with coffee for everyone. She congratulated Amanda on the meeting yesterday, saying she was very proud of her former student, followed by the most lovely wicked grin. They stayed in Amanda ' s office for coffee. Laura caught Lydia up on the Sally and Jeannie lovership. Laura suggested that after the trial that perhaps Lydia and Barbara could join them at the cabin for a four day weekend as Jeannie wanted a practice at ruckus raising. Lydia laughed, saying she was always ready for ruckus raising, Now that Serena had been promoted they would not have to ask Charlie to forfeit his days away to accommodate the other officers. Charlie came to the office as he heard his name mentioned. He said he was always fine with any time he was asked to work. He did say that he had request, something that was not usual for the Colonel. He knew that they would fly the Raptor to the ranch on the first weekend day; he humbly requested to be the pilot if no-one objected. Amanda ordered him to pilot the aircraft to the ranch and to the Ravencouer Base. He left beaming.

At 1200 hours, Amanda and Laura left the base notifying Lydia and Charlie that they would return at 0700 hours on the first weekend day with time of take-off at 0730 hours. Both Laura and Amanda had briefcases and computer cases as well as extra uniforms to transport to the cabin for repacking. Laura was famished and very eager to get to her home to spend precious time with Amanda. Both women left their friends long enough to get out of uniforms which Jeannie immediately took to launder. Luther was polishing boots, brief cases, and computer cases before they returned to the kitchen island. Both friends understood the importance of the upcoming trial, for Amanda, for Laura, for all the senior officers, for history, and for all those who died because Anthony Downs could not lead. They stated that to Amanda and Laura, saying that they could not be there and could not influence the judges but they could help in the way they knew how, with practical help and love. Luther and Jeannie both promised they would not be at the cabin the following day, both knowing that the priestesses needed time alone together. Laura and Amanda both told Jeannie that Lydia was very much in agreement at the practice ruckus raising; she was sure that Barbara would be in total compliance as well. Luther shook his head, laughed out loud, stating it was a good thing that the General knew what was going on as the Armed Forces Security Forces needed to be put on high alert. Laura politely informed him that Security was her forte these days but she was very sure Sally ' s staff could handle any little bit of hell that might be raised. Jeannie was just glowing as they teased her about learning how to raise ruckuses. Laura said she would consult with her about how to dress appropriately to which Amanda retorted that might actually be how to lack of dress appropriately. Jeannie was a small woman; Laura was sure there were items in her wardrobe that might suffice. Laura reminded Jeannie that she needed to practice the come hither make up to which Jeannie blushed, saying she already had. Amanda asked if Sally was coming to the coast for the weekend; Jeannie said yes. They had a lunch date on the morrow followed by a shopping trip planned before their return to the base and then the coast. Jeannie said she was having entirely too much fun shopping for clothing which Sally insisted on gifting to her. She said it had been years since she chosen readymade clothing save for outerwear. She had never purchased lingerie; after she showed Sally the boudoir shots she had taken a few years ago Sally wanted to get their own, but with practice first of course. Jeannie blushed as she asked Amanda if perhaps she could consider returning the favor; Amanda hugged her friend for a long time. She told her she would be absolutely delighted to do that as she had for Lydia and Barbara. Luther was polishing and grinning while listening to the entire conversation. The lovers finished their sandwiches and lemonade. Laura wanted to know the ingredients in the salad for the sandwiches. Jeannie replied crabmeat, avocado, lime juice, and chervil. With her own very lovely wicked grin, she said that she thought that perhaps her friends needed the aphrodisiac properties. She finally admitted that she had sent Harry with the crabs on their first weekend at the cabin years ago; again thinking they might just need the aphrodisiac properties then as well. With a very serious look on her face, Laura replied that she would be forever grateful; all three women erupted in gales of laughter. Luther just kept grinning and polishing. In less than two hours, Jeannie laundered, starched, and packed uniforms for their week away. She hugged her friends, wished them blessings, and left to prepare her own home for a weekend of unadulterated lust. After she left, Luther handed Laura and Amanda a handwritten note that he had picked up in Carriere that morning. It was a note from Peter, Jacob, and Ruthann, expressing thanks and absolute delight in their efforts to help Jeannie find the love of her life. None had seen her look this radiantly beautiful ever before. Peter and Jacob were very fond of Sally Palmer and had been for years. Ruthann went with Jacob to the bar earlier in the week to meet Sally; she was immediately charmed. They ended their note by saying that Sally had told them all that she loved Jeannie Dawson and would treat her as the most precious woman on the planet, that was good enough for all of them. Luther reported that Jeannie did not know yet of the visit as Sally wanted to tell her this weekend. They had a surprise dinner date planned at the Inn with a quite likely very romantic overnight stay. Laura rose, went to her dressing room, and returned with the black dress, four inch heels, pearl clip with matching earrings, and asked Luther to take them to Jeannie without telling her why. Laura smiled, stating it worked for her; it might work just as well for Jeannie. Now, it was time for Amanda to blush. Luther was finished polishing but he continued to grin. Before Luther left for the day, he took clean kit bags and packs to the dressing room in the loft. He said he would not return in the morrow but would be at the cabin at 0600 hours on the first weekend day. Amanda and Laura started to protest; he explained that Lughe needed to bless his priestesses before they left. By late afternoon, the women were alone. Laura asked Amanda if she thought maybe they should think about packing a lunch to which Amanda only replied with a look of questioning. Laura stated that for the rest of this day and for the entire day tomorrow they were not likely to leave the loft; she thought they might get hungry. Amanda was touching and kissing her response, whispering she would make sure they got sustenance when they needed. She took Laura ' s hand, led her to the shower, and time stopped for two priestesses for earth hours. Long past dark, Amanda grilled steak and brought dinner to her lover on the upper deck along with a fifth of champagne. Laura returned to the main floor to tidy after dinner and bank a small fire for morning coffee, returning then to her lover ' s wanting arms once more.

The lovers did not leave the second floor save for food breaks for the entire fifth weekday. They slept and were awakened by movement and desire. They did not speak of work but only of words of love and need. Aine took her mate to her own pinnacles, matching passion for passion repeatedly. By twilight and after dinner, Laura stated that perhaps they should to tidy the kitchen as she did not want to leave a mess for Luther the following day. Amanda agreed, stating they needed to pack kit bags for the morrow. As such they finally left the loft for a short amount of earth time.

Chapter 9

Luther arrived at 0600 hours on the first weekend day to find both women awake, drinking coffee, and eating breakfast. Kit bags, packs, cases, and uniforms were ready by the door. Luther took them to the vehicle in preparation for their departure. He made a second pot of coffee and filled thermos bottles. He packed a bag with fruit and cinnamon buns for their trip to the ranch. Both women were dressed in jeans, t-shirts, boots with leather jackets ready for the trip in the Raptor. Luther drove his vehicle to the landing pad to accompany his friends. As they were ready to board, Lughe appeared to bless Lohrissa and Aine. He told them he would keep constant watch; as Luther returned he told them he would care for their home. Both women hugged him, kissed him, and then flew into the morning sky.

When they landed at Carriere, there were crew members loading kit bags, packs, cases, and uniforms into the Raptor. Charlie was running the preflight check list. Serena had joined them to bid them well. She told them to have no concern about the base as she was very sure she and the personnel could manage any issues to which General Bennett replied that she was very certain she could. Before boarding, Amanda barked Attention and all the senior officers saluted Captain Lorimer, the ground crews, and the base. With that, they boarded the helicopter after which Charlie Smithson took off and flew east to the ranch. Once at flying altitude, Laura brought coffee to Charlie. She promised him that they would keep cinnamon buns for him when they landed. Amanda asked Charlie if wanted a copilot. With respect he told her that he had taught Lydia how to fly the large birds, she had taught Amanda in turn so he thought he could manage on his own; with that there was his delightful hearty laugh. Laura did join him in the cockpit, asking him about how carry out to the rolls. He replied that when they returned to the base he would teach her, if the General agreed. The General said she might as well agree as Lieutenant General Ravencouer would do it anyway. Laura continued they had all been in awe during the battles; if they had not been scared to death and concentrating on staying alive they might have paid more attention. Charlie replied that he understood completely, also stating they were all scared to death but also mad as hell which kept them breathing and bombing. He said the one who surprised them all was Luther who without a flight suit and bombs was a quiet soft spoken man but once he was in the air and on the attack he was the most fearless of them all. Laura said he told her he had been on a mission; he was just as mad as any of them. Charlie reiterated the story about Jeannie and Luther pacing the tarmac, cursing after each battle. He asked how Jeannie was managing as Lydia had told him of Harry ' s leaving. Laura glanced at Amanda who just nodded. She told Charlie that Jeannie was quite madly in love and absolutely beautiful these days. Charlie, of course, asked with whom and Laura replied with Sally Palmer. Once again, Charlie let forth with a hearty laugh saying he was absolutely delighted and absolutely not surprised. He looked briefly at Laura; then said he supposed she had nothing to do with that. She said that she most definitely did and was very proud of that. Lydia and Amanda were working in the back so Laura left them to it. She enjoyed the vistas from the Raptor, giving down thanks for the peace her world now enjoyed. When Charlie was about twenty minutes from landing, he warned his passengers of potential turbulence from the mountain air updrafts and asked that all gear be stowed. Aviation belts were attached as the descent started through some turbulence and then a calm landing. Barbara, Jackson , and two ranch hands were waiting on the tarmac for the passengers to disembark while Charlie ran the post flight check list. Immediately, Lydia was in Barbara ' s arms for hello and kissing. As uniforms were required for the morrow, all luggage was taken from the craft and delivered to the main house, the guest cabin and a room in the staff house. Barbara asked Jackson to meet her later on that afternoon so that they could change the batteries and recharge the current ones. Barbara and Lydia both welcomed Charlie back to the ranch. Barbara helped Laura and Amanda carry their luggage to the guest cabin as Lydia led Charlie into the main house. There were pots of coffee on the fire, put there just recently by Jenny. Coffee and Charlie ' s cinnamon buns were enjoyed just before Spero joined his mother and his friends. He ran to see Just Barbara and Just Lydia. He very politely shook Charlie ' s hand and introduced himself. He hugged Amanda and then ran to Laura ' s lap with hugs and kisses. He told Charlie that he loved all his friends, Just Barbara, Just Lydia, but he really loved Laura and the lady who lived inside her. Charlie was completely charmed by the child, told him they all liked Laura too, and especially the lady who lived inside her. Spero told Charlie that the lady had been there when he had been born; she had named him Spero which meant hope. He then ran to Papa Jackson to ask him to carry Karina Lynne to meet Mr. Smithson and to hug everybody. Karina smiled at Just Lydia and Just Barbara but was not sure she was interested in either Amanda or Charlie. Then she spotted Laura and almost wriggled herself out of Jackson ' s arms to be picked up by Laura. Spero very seriously said that his sister Karina Lynne also liked Laura a lot and the lady who lived inside her. Jenny apologized for her exuberantly talkative son. Charlie laughed, saying he had grandchildren of his own and they all went through that stage. Jenny explained to Spero that all his friends were really working and they would need to leave them to it. Spero understood work easily and was about to leave when Charlie asked him to come close for just a moment. From behind Spero ' s left ear he pulled out a shiny coin, wondering out loud where that came from. Spero was beaming, saying it was magic. Charlie asked Spero to make sure there were no more coins behind his ears. With that Spero did say goodbye as Jenny took Karina Lynne from Laura. Charlie asked about Just Lydia and Just Barbara; they told him the naming story. Charlie assured women that he knew they were far too young and beautiful to be grandmothers but nonetheless it looked very good on both of them. Jenny returned with her sister Clara to serve a huge lunch buffet style. Jackson knew that when Lydia returned, she needed to be alone with her lover; he was always very good at arranging that. They loved him for it. Amanda and Laura were genuinely tired, happy to return to the guest cabin for perhaps naps and perhaps passion. When they left Barbara kissing her lover, perhaps was not an option for their friends. Jenny said dinner would be served at 1800 hours; people were welcome to return for drinks in late afternoon as they chose.

Amanda and Laura actually did nap as their day had started very early that morning. Both women chose a walk outside in the later afternoon as the mountain air was always cooler and very clean. Laura noticed that Jackson arrived to drive Barbara to the Raptor. Both women asked if they could accompany them to watch the changing and charging of batteries. Amanda was not a wrench head like her friends but she was intrigued with the new technology that all Armed Forces aircraft would soon use. The process was remarkably easy, taking very little time.

On return to the main house, Barbara and Lydia grilled steak grown at the ranch and along with Jenny and Clara a huge ranch dinner was served on the patio. After dinner, Laura walked out to the plain as she remembered her walk there before the battles. Amanda joined her, taking her hand as once again they both walked through that pain to the other side. Mother Moon rose from just above distant peaks and as darkness fell the plain was bathed in light enough for shadows. Charlie Smithson was mesmerized with the vastness of the land he had fought to preserve and gave down eternal thanks to his ancients. Amanda chose 1000 hours the following day for departure to the Ravencouer Base. Jackson asked that everybody be ready for departure by 0915 hours. In early evening, all the senior officers said goodnight and retired to their respective bedrooms. On their return to the guest cabin, Amanda led her lover to the shower, then passion. She said that just when she thought it was impossible to love her eternal partner more she did and beyond. Laura smiled, stating that as much she wanted to keep Amanda awake until dawn they both needed their wits about them for the coming days and as such sleep was necessary. Amanda sighed, bantering that she did have to have found a lover with an abiding sense of commitment and duty.

The senior officers met in working uniforms on the tarmac the following morning. Amanda had insisted that for their work at the Ravencouer base they would remain in uniform; dress uniforms while at the trial itself. Colonel Smithson was running the preflight check list as the luggage was loaded and the passengers boarded. Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe acted as copilot mostly at her request. Laura told Barbara that Charlie said he would teach her how to do rolls; Barbara replied that Charlie Smithson was by far the best pilot the former military had ever produced. Curran was a very old priest, having battled many times for his earthlings in their history. He immediately recognized Declan McDaniels when they met earlier that year as both had been at the massacre of Glencoe in the highlands.

In just over one hour, the Raptor was on the tarmac at the Ravencouer base. The senior command was met by Declan McDaniels, Drew McDaniels, and Ross Shipman as well as several crew members to assist with luggage. Everyone entered Declan ' s office and meeting space. The officers were then introduced to Eric Thompson, Anthony Down ' s defense council. Declan invited the officers and Mr. Thompson to view the facility that would be used as the courtroom. When they arrived, Annique McDaniels was testing Communications equipment and the satellite link. They both took her hands, offering their most sincere respect and thanks. Declan asked General Bennett, Lieutenant General Stenns, and Mr. Thompson if they agreed with the present facility for the trial, mentioning that the panel of judges had already agreed with the space. All those present agreed with the facilities. The presiding judge had already communicated that his opening comments would start at 1000 hours the following morning. As they were leaving the temporary courtroom, Lieutenant Colonel Taylor landed his helicopter and after routines for disembarking, he walked to the other senior officer and saluted. He had been shown the courtroom earlier in the week and had been introduced to Mr. Thompson at that time. Ross then took the officers to the guest quarters and showed them a room that had been converted to a meeting facility if needed. Ross chose rooms at either end of the facility to house the women and the men. Frida reminded him that as much as privacy as possible should be maintained. The ground crew placed luggage in the appropriate rooms before moving the Raptor to a hanger. The officers then attended the staff dining room; upon entering one of the Carriere base personnel on guard duty barked Attention to all those Armed Forces personnel in attendance. The officers returned salute; General Bennett put all at ease. Although it was not her usual expected decorum, Amanda had commanded that for the purposes of recording for history the Armed Forces staff would follow expected protocol for the duration of the stay at the Ravencouer Base. Many personnel came to greet Laura as some had not seen her since she had left them as Commander Ravencouer. She was genuinely happy to see old friends, very gracious in accepting their thanks and encouragement. As they were leaving the dining room, Charlie quietly shook her hand and said Well done Commander Ravencouer, well done." Amanda and Lydia took coffee back to the meeting room to review final preparations for the opening of the trial in the morrow. Ross took Charlie to inspect the large greenhouse facility at the base, one that supplied all vegetables and fruit for the dining room. Colonel Smithson asked if he could take photographs as he would really like to show his wife and also requested a list of plants from the groundskeeper. Ross explained that Frida and Emma had been largely responsible for suggesting the correct plants with much help from Tess Redhawk at Sanctuary. Charlie smiled, saying that perhaps one of these months he and Eleanor would get to visit Sanctuary. Ross replied that everyone should visit Sanctuary but not in the winter with the warning that they will most definitely not want to leave. Colonel Smithson was well aware of the magic of the north. Lieutenant Colonels Taylor and Maclippe visited the hangers and the ongoing conversion of the helicopters to new batteries. Sean said that it was only a matter of time before all the aircraft would be converted which would be a great help to the ranchers and new settlers. Barbara wholeheartedly agreed.

Laura wandered to the edge of the tarmac as she has done many times over the past years. She stood quietly with Noshi, Thea, Tom, and Lindsay, receiving and giving down blessings. She smiled as she saw the ravens of her ancestors circling above. Declan asked to join her, standing with his old friend in silence. He finally laughed, stating the ravens never showed up except when she did. She just grinned her response. He told Laura that he was so proud of her, her strength, her survival. He said he did not have a biological sister but felt she was as close as he would get. He continued that he had never seen a love like what she shared with Amanda. Laura explained that he already knew of Lohrissa; Amanda was the priestess Aine with whom Lohrissa had mated just months before the battles. She explained that was the reason Laura survived and healed. She also said that she was constantly amazed herself with the degree of their love as it just kept growing. Declan then said it looked very good on both of them.

Amanda walked to meet Laura and Declan as they returned. Declan said that he hoped that he was not talking out of turn but that he was blown away about the love he saw between his sister friend and her lover, stating very fondly that it looked just fine on both of them. Amanda beamed and simply thanked him. Laura asked how the meeting was commencing. She was told that they were done, as ready as they ever would be for the morrow. She took Laura ' s hand as even in uniform they were madly in love; since Amanda was the boss lady she could hold whatever hand she wanted. Amanda inquired as to the prisoner ' s wellbeing. Declan reported that other than being surly and not exceedingly polite he seemed fine with attendants to help with his every care. Amanda had no voiced comments although not complimentary thoughts ran through her head. Declan left the women with an invitation to dine at 1730 hours.

Amanda and Laura returned to their quarters, holding each other for a long time in the shower. Each woman finally talked about facing Anthony Bennett again. Neither woman had an iota of fear or regret but instead great feelings of sadness and resentment. But, both women also understood that once these trials were completed justice would be carried out thereby affording closure to the history of Anthony Downs. Amanda talked of being taken back to the memories of her childhood and days in university. Laura ' s love and return healed the hurt but there was still a great sadness for what had been lost due to Olc. Laura spoke to the violence perpetrated by her own hand and by Lohrissa. At many levels she understood she was fulfilling a destiny with all her actions directed by Lohrissa, by the ancients; at an earthling level she was sickened with the memory of the pain and horror she caused. Before dinner, Laura held her mistress telling her to set the alarm for early the next morning as before the day started she intended to love breathtakingly, radiantly beautiful into the General; Amanda turned to set the clock.

The senior officers met at 1730 hours to dine with Ross and Frida Shipman, Declan and Emme McDaniels, Andrew and Annique McDaniels. Sean reported that he was seriously considering erecting another building at the Taylor ranch just to house all the gifts, mostly knitted, for their much anticipated child. Barbara smiled, shrugged, and stated that she rested her case. Everyone laughed as the woman possessed outstanding wit. Amanda said they should probably do that as the women on the coast and the ranch had not contributed yet. Sean groaned but smiled, offering his most sincere thanks. This child was already loved beyond possible; Sean stated he was having a hard time waiting out the final few weeks. Lydia asked if they had chosen names and he replied that they had. He said with much respect that if the child was male his name would be Mitchell Ross; if a girl her name would be Dorothea Lindsay. Laura wept but only out of sheer happiness. Ross stated he expected that the next generation would have many women named Dorothea and Lindsay; there was not a thing wrong with that. After dinner, Ross took Laura aside, handing her a photograph they had found when they had renovated the former space allocated for Laura ' s quarters. He handed her a small framed photograph of Laura and Amanda in bikinis on the deck of the cabin. He said they had not changed at all and wondered how they continue to look so remarkably fit. Laura replied with a slightly wicked grin to which Ross simply said Roger that!

Laura did love breathtakingly, radiantly beautiful into the General before dawn on the first day of the trial. When they met Lydia and Barbara for breakfast, Laura had strong suspicions that the same conduct had occurred in their quarters as well. Although it had not been commanded, each woman chose the skirt and heels as part of their dress uniforms.

General Amanda Bennett and her senior officers entered the dining room for breakfast with a senior guard barking Attention and all Armed Forces personnel snapped salutes that were returned. Ross and Declan both smiled slightly and shook their heads. Andrew McDaniels drew in a sharp breath as Lieutenant Colonel Taylor and Colonel Smithson, both impeccably dressed, followed four stunningly beautiful women to their breakfast table. There was a look of determined confidence that had not likely been seen in this congregation by anyone in the dining room that morning. Ross was very proud of all of them but particularly of both Laura and Sean who he sometimes saw as his children still. Sean had flown back to the Taylor ranch to retrieve Archie Granger as he was the best photographer known to the survivors. Drew introduced Colonel Smithson to Archie who then asked if he could take group photographs before the proceedings. General Bennett agreed and asked that copies be sent to the Central Command Post. Archie Granger, like his friend Drew, loved women, all of them, and said that this photography session would not be a hardship whatsoever. Amanda then dismissed her officers and returned to her quarters to retrieve briefcase and computer. By 0930 hours, all senior officers were in attendance in the temporary courtroom. Declan introduced the officers to the panel of judges and the presiding judge. A northern woman had been appointed as bailiff of the court; five minutes before the trial was to commence she opened a door to have Mr. Eric Thompson lead his client into the room assisted by guards. Both General Bennett and Lieutenant General Stenns greeted Mr. Thompson and shook his hand. Anthony Downs looked up and in only seconds recognized Amanda with a look of initial shock and then dismay as he realized that she did not die. He also recognized Lieutenant General Stenns, Colonel Smithson, and his eyes widened with horror when he looked to see Lieutenant General Ravencouer. Amanda and Lydia returned to their desk and stood as the bailiff ordered All rise as the panel and presiding judge entered the courtroom. He introduced the himself and the panel as well as the prosecutors and the attorney for the defense. He explained the procedure of the trial and conduct that he would tolerate and not tolerate. He told Andrew and Archie that there would be times when they may be asked to interrupt photography. He then stated that the purpose of the trials was to prove that the defendant Anthony Downs was negligent in his duties as Commander-in-Chief of the former military with the intent to strip him of any rank. He asked if the prosecution and defense agreed, if they understood the purpose, and procedure of the trials to which they all agreed. He then asked the prosecutor, General Amanda Bennett, to address the court with an opening statement to be followed that of the defense attorney, Mr. Eric Thompson. Amanda spoke clearly, presenting a summary of the facts with written material to the presiding judge and the panel as well as Mr. Thompson. After a midday meal, General Bennett outlined the history of Anthony Down ' s military education, military career, and the appointments of few people in his command to lead in the event that he was unable to continue. She then chronicled the events leading up to his removal from office by his employers and the events following. She supplied written documentation as kept at the former Carriere Base including daily memos from several officers attempting to lead without sufficient training. The judges and defense were given copies of the timeline for the destruction of bases in the former Northwestern City and Northeastern City .

The trial was suspended at 1600 hours on the first weekday with a command to return at 1000 hours the following morning. The judge instructed Mr. Thompson to be prepared to present the defense statement and summary. Anthony Downs glowered the officers as he was taken from the room back to his cell. Amanda told her senior officers she would meet them for dinner at 1730 hours and then returned to her quarters. When outside the building, Colonel Smithson barked Attention and all personnel saluted General Bennett. Once at ease, her officers shook her hand with pride. Declan walked with her, stating he knew there was a reason why he chose her to command. Lydia looked at him stating it was because she told him to and with rolling laughter the great hulk of man in an ancient tartan kilt agreed. Archie Granger continued to take random shots as the officers returned to their quarters with a promise to have them ready for viewing at the evening meal. As the woman walked in the hallway to their rooms, Lydia excused herself, took Amanda in her arms and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Then with a wicked grin told her former student and former lover that she had done them all proud, very proud indeed. Once in their room, Laura took the briefcase and computer case from Amanda ' s hands, removed her uniform blazer, and then took her love of her life into her arms. She told Amanda that she had been blown away all day by her brilliance, her assured countenance, her courage, and her absolute dedication to insure justice for all those innocent personnel who had lost their lives. Amanda had tears in her eyes as she told Laura it was their destiny. Laura reminded her that what they were doing was honoring their memory for all of recorded history. She told Amanda that although there was peace now Olc was still very present and ready to invade the souls of humans who weakened as had Anthony Downs. Amanda stretched out her legs as Laura massaged her neck and back. They both spoke of Anthony ' s appearance. Laura said she had to find some strength not to gasp when she first saw him. Amanda said that she did as well. She continued that she had never thought of Anthony Downs as an exceptionally handsome man in his prime but his state now was only to be pitied. His bald head still bore old scars from being burned by Lohrissa ' s flames. His eyes were hollow spheres sunk in a pale face. He was now permanently confined to a mobility device as he had not received proper immediate care when his legs had been broken. His superiors were more interested in covering up the scandal and getting him out of the country than insuring his wellbeing. There had been no mention of a family; it was assumed that they had all died in the battles after his escape to the European City . Amanda did admit that she enjoyed the moment of his realization that she had not died. She was quite sure that his expectations for the upcoming murder and rape trial might have changed ever so slightly.

General Bennett and her senior officers met at 1730 for dinner joined by Declan McDaniels, Annique and Drew McDaniels, and Ross Shipman. Archie Granger was truly in his element as he continued to take almost continuous candid photographs. Drew showed the officers the proofs of the photographs taken throughout the day. Amanda stopped Archie almost in mid shot and congratulated him, stating she had not seen better photography anywhere. Laura explained the woman was a very accomplished photographer herself so to consider her words as a very significant compliment. When the photo journal was complete, Amanda requested that at least one copy be sent to the Carriere Base. Andrew stated that a second copy was going to the archives at Sanctuary along with a video transcript of the trial. Everyone was very tired and Amanda asked to be excused from company immediately after dinner. Once back in their room, Laura prepared uniforms for the following day and polished shoes yet again. She grinned, stating it would never be quite as good as Luther but passable. She undressed her lover and led her to a long hot shower. She loosed her curls and brushed them after her shower before retiring for the night. Before sleep, Lydia knocked softly on the door and poked her head in to see if they were okay, if they needed anything, and said they were good to go for the morrow. Almost daily, Laura continued to grow in her understanding of why both Amanda and Barbara loved the woman as she did.

The following morning at the trial, Mr. Thompson had a very brief summary of Anthony Down ' s career as the facts presented by the prosecution could not be denied and were historically correct. He did question why the Carriere base had been spared and why the former Captain Stenns had been asked to lead the former military. Lieutenant General Stenns rose, asking to answer the questions. The presiding judge granted her response. She said that they had no notification as to why the former Carriere base had been spared. She also stated that The Decision had mandated that no woman would take command of any base. She reported that the former Commander-in-Chief had asked her personally to continue command at the Carriere Base as he could not convince another senior officer to move to the remote area. She produced memos with the requests along with the official notice about women not taking command. She supplied copies of her official notice of continued command, dated, and signed by General Anthony Downs.

Mr. Thompson did speak of his client's injury, his poor recovery, and the death of his family. He stated he would not have a closing argument, instead asking the court to judge the man fairly and with compassion. The judge asked the prosecutors if there were prepared to make a final statement before the panel which General Bennett confirmed. The judge asked that the trial reconvene after the midday meal. Amanda asked that Laura and Barbara bring lunch to them in the meeting room as they finalized their statement. When both woman returned to join Charles and Sean, each man stood and saluted them as they joined them at the table. Laura stated the saluting stuff was the only thing she really did not like about her job. She understood the necessity of showing respect but she just didn ' t think she would every get comfortable with it. Charlie told her they all felt like that but it became invisible after a while and there were people he just didn ' t want to kiss instead. That brought delightful giggles from the former commander.

The trial reconvened at 1300 hours; General Amanda Bennett made her closing statement. She stated that the evidence provided showed the history of the events and the lack of proficiency on the part of the former commander-in-chief. She stated that the oath that they all took as officers in the former military was breached by the former General Downs in that he did not honor the wellbeing of all those he promised to protect as their commander. She continued that it was their belief that history should show that by his lack of leadership serious errors were made. She asked that he be found guilty of crimes against those he failed to lead and that history record that he was removed of any rank he had achieved previously. She finished by asking the court to spare the man ' s life as not one of the survivors wanted any more death but instead that he would be incarcerated until his death. The presiding judge asked Mr. Thompson once more if he had a closing statement and he declined. The judge adjourned the court stating that it would reconvene at 1000 hours the following day.

On their return to their quarters, Lydia was muttering about idiots; Barbara indicated to just let her be. She did whisper to Laura that her lover was particularly beautiful, however, when she was this mad. Laura suppressed a smile as they said goodbye to their friends until dinner. When Laura closed the door, Amanda simply smiled. In herself she had done what she had come to do; the decision was up to those she had addressed. Laura kissed her and kissed her again. Amanda moaned softly as dress uniforms left beautiful female bodies very quickly. When showered and dressed again, Laura and Amanda walked hand in hand beyond the tarmac to gaze at the vast expanse of prairie now full of growing grains. Laura smiled as she told Amanda when she first came to the former transportation depot almost all the land they looked at now was scrub grass, not fit for growing anything. She said when she returned that first day from the former Northwestern Command Post she wanted to see Amanda immediately but thought she might bawl when she thought of where she was going to have live; as such she kept to herself to garner her composure. On their return to the dining room, she said that Ross and Declan had tried hard to accommodate her but that the worst was never enough hot water for a whole shower. On the Wintersday of their victory she chose to fly to Sanctuary and Lindsay, asking only once for a enough hot water to get clean. She was very happy that they had improved that.

Amanda and Laura entered the dining room and Lydia barked Attention to which all Armed Forces personnel. Lydia then put the room at ease as their friends joined their table. Laura whispered to Barbara that it looked like Lydia got over her snit. Barbara grinned wickedly, replying it was that Stetson thing. Lieutenant Colonel Taylor certainly was no innocent prude but he realized he had to work very hard to keep up with these women and was very thankful that Olivia did not spent much time with them. He did know that he was the only member of the senior command who was not a holy one with extremely healthy respect for the magic surrounding him. Ross and Declan both told him several times about Lohrissa ' s visit years before and then of the emergence of the priests and priestesses when they were told that Anthony Downs had survived to be put on trials. He heard Lohrissa speak on the day of the last battle and still trembled when he thought of that. Amanda and Lydia were much more animated over dinner, lingering over cups of coffee. Laura and Barbara just smiled at each other and then at their lovers. Perhaps there was a real reason why there were in attendance. Archie Granger showed them the day ' s proofs and Andrew got approval for the video communication they would send to the outposts when the judges had given their ruling. Laura told Archie she would email him some of Amanda ' s photographs as she was quite certain that he would be impressed. Colonel Smithson reported that he had communicated with Captain Lorimer and the Carriere Base remained quiet.

The court reconvened at the 1000 hours the following day. The presiding judge stated that he and the panel had agreed on a verdict as they had met after the adjournment yesterday and again last evening. He asked that the prisoner be brought to the bench as well as the prosecutor and defense attorney. He stated that they had reviewed the documents submitted and had heard the statements. He continued that the he and the panel had unanimously agreed on a verdict. He looked at Anthony Downs, stating that he had been found guilty as charged and history would show that he no longer carried any rank in the former military. Anthony remained silent and continued to glower. The judge sentenced him to incarceration at this base until such time as permanent prison facilities could be erected. Instantly, a huge dark spirit emerged from Anthony Downs; in time not measured on earth Lohrissa, in full auras of shimmering white and jewel tones, confronted the spirit; with Laura ' s voice she commanded the Olc minion Reprah to leave the earthling. The minion only laughed with Anthony ' s voice and greeted his enemy once again. There were rising tentacles prepared to strike the high priestess; in time again not measurable on earth Aine, Lemanychia, Briallen, Curran, and Lughe in auras of silver, gold, blue, and garnet wrapped chains about the spirit as he attempted to strike out. Once again, Lohrissa commanded that the minion Reprah leave the earthling. The minion flew high above the room and sent flames directed at all below. Lohrissa lifted both arms and directed white flames at her enemy. He quickly dissipated with the most horrible terrifying scream from Anthony Downs. The priests and priestesses left; Lohrissa remained only with a faint aura as Laura returned to her seat. The courtroom was silent. All those in attendance except for Tony Downs were ancients who knew of the priests and priestesses but only Declan McDaniels and Ross Shipman had seen them; none had seen Reprah before. Amanda turned to ask Anthony Downs if he was alright; with tears of shock and disbelief he nodded he was. After a few moments to gain composure, the presiding judge further ruled that the Central Command Post would be known officially as the Carriere Base and that the Armed Forces Base 2 would now officially be known as the Ravencouer Base. He stood as did all others in the room; with a look of continued amazement he declared that trial was adjourned. Amanda extended her hand to shake that of Eric Thompson who was slightly hesitant. She quietly told them the priests and priestesses had returned to Naofa; Reprah had returned to Olc. Lydia walked toward him to shake his hand as a defeated Anthony Downs was returned to his cell. Sean had been silent for minutes, finally looked at Amanda, and asked her to constantly remind him to never annoy any of the officers. For just a second there was silence and then gales of laughter, more from relief than from humor. Amanda beckoned to Annique, Drew, and Granger. She said she was certain that none of the spirits were photographed but she asked that the events with Reprah not be officially recorded or reported. Laura spoke without Lohrissa, stating that there was no point in promoting fear. All the priests and priestesses had fought the minions from Olc from the beginning of time and would continue to do so. She said there was hope and peace among the earthlings and it should be continued. Everyone was in agreement although Archie said he surely would have liked to have taken those shots.

Declan asked them to meet him in his office and when they arrived there was a large bottle of brandy and shot glasses on the table. He said he knew it was not noon yet but there was a whole lot of what the hell was that? going on. The judges were already preparing for flights to return to their outposts. Declan invited Eric Thompson to join them as well. Laura accepted a shot of brandy, explaining that they had all had the privilege of meeting Reprah, one of the lesser minions from Olc. Charlie said he was a bit of a clown; they had tied him up and fried him hundreds of times in the past. He kept returning with the same tactics which had become beyond boring centuries ago. Archie innocently asked if there were worse. Curran and all the priestesses laughed. Ross asked if they needed to be concerned about him returning in Anthony Downs again as this could cause some problems at the base. Laura said that he had been sent back to Olc, only to return to another poor soul at a time in the future. She said that the fool had been humbled for years at least. Amanda then asked Declan and Ross if they were needed further at the base because if not she wanted to return to the ranch that afternoon. Ross replied that as much as he hated to see them leave there was no reason now to keep them. There had not been a date set for the murder and rape trials but Declan anticipated they would not occur before the tenth month of the new year. Lydia used Declan ' s computer to alert Jackson that they would return by late afternoon and to prepare the guest room and cabin. Everyone met then in the dining room to a standing ovation as they entered. Drew said he would forward the communications to the ranch by 1800 hours; if approved he would then forward to the outposts, the new settlements, and Sanctuary. Amanda thanked Declan and Ross for an exceptional job very well completed. Ross simply replied Roger that! as his friends boarded the aircraft. Barbara had the helicopter in the air before Charlie Smithson noticed he was not the pilot. She did tell him he could fly back to Carriere the following day.

Five very tired and very happy senior officers arrived at the ranch by 1600 hours. Laura immediately emailed Luther to tell him they were fine; Anthony Downs would be imprisoned for the rest of his life. She also said that they would return home the following day as there was no reason to stay at the ranch and pester Lydia and Barbara. She continued they would not be returning to the base to work until the upcoming second weekday; as such, they would pester him for more days than usual. She also thanked Lughe for his love and support.

Jennie and Clara served a dinner that tasted like they had worked to prepare it for days. Jenny did not tell Spero that they had arrived back at the ranch as she knew everyone was exhausted and did not need a happy, chatty four year old messing with their heads. Charlie, Amanda, and Laura planned an early departure the following day with a promise that Charlie would be the pilot. Lydia confirmed she would return to the base on the following second weekday early in the morning. Right after dinner, everyone retired to their rooms for a much needed rest. Amanda approved the communication forwarded by Drew before she left the main house.

She had not kissed her lover since early that morning; Laura would not let her mistress leave her lips for many minutes. She took her to the shower and each woman let the stream of warm water take the stress of the day from them. As they lay in each other ' s arms in bed Laura looked at Amanda with wonder, telling her she was immensely proud of her. She said she was brilliant and in total command of that trial even when Reprah showed up. Amanda admitted that for a moment she felt sorry for Tony Downs with the terror he felt and saw. That being said, she indicated that he made the choices that led to the judges ' decision; she felt honored to have insured that history would show he had not led well. Laura then loved her mistress with gentle passion before sleep conquered both women.

Charlie, Amanda, and Laura were on the tarmac by 0900 hours the following morning. While Jackson and the ranch hands loaded luggage and Charlie ran the preflight check list, Lydia and Barbara said goodbye to their friends complete with kisses long, hard, and full on the mouth. Charlie had known Lydia and Amanda for years; so far, nothing that those two women had done fazed the man. Barbara walked up to Charlie and hugged him as did Lydia . Amanda worked on the flight back to the coast and Laura kept Charlie company in the cockpit. The Raptor landed at Carriere at just past 1230 hours. Captain Lorimer met the senior officers on the tarmac while crew members transferred luggage to the helicopter to be flown to the cabin. She saluted her officers and then congratulated General Bennett on a job well done. Serena knew Tony Downs as a young recruit and had lived with the myriad of bad decisions he had made. She said she would give down thanks forever for the arrival of Captain Stenns. Captain Lorimer stated that if needed she would be willing to continue command until the following first weekday when Colonel Smithson planned to return to the base. Amanda was very happy to accept her offer, stating that they were all very tired and needed some time away from this Armed Forces business.

Laura flew home to the cabin. Both women loaded the vehicle and made the short trip back to their home. Jeannie left lunch waiting for her friends. They walked through the door and into the arms of a very grateful Luther. He hugged them and welcomed them home. The tucked into Jeannie ' s wonderful sandwiches and Luther ' s coffee. Luther congratulated both women on a miserable task very well done. He talked, with disgust, about the annoying interruption by Reprah once again. Laura replied that they probably should just be grateful that Olc did not send a minion that was close to effectual. Luther agreed but stated that Reprah had moved to beyond boring centuries previously. Laura then told Luther that Charlie was going to teach her how to roll helicopters; Amanda grinned, shook her head, and shrugged as she continued to munch.

Both women were tired and very happy to be home once again. After lunch, they both unpacked and left the chores to Luther. There were fresh Dungeness crabs for dinner as well as greens harvested that morning. After showers, each woman settled on the deck, promptly falling asleep in the warm sun and ocean breezes. Luther left at his usual time with a note stating he would return in the morning but chose not to wake his priestesses. Dinner was enjoyed at twilight along with a fifth of champagne. Laura moved a music player to the deck and then asked her mistress to dance in the starlight. Amanda stroked Laura ' s curls, finally loosed after days of being kept in a chignon while in uniform. Both women knew that sleep would not return again until near sunrise as overwhelming desire took them to the loft and the night.

Both Luther and Jeannie were at the cabin and working when the lovers awoke in the morning. They took quick showers, dressed for the day, and then enjoyed coffee with breakfast while chatting with Jeannie. Laura asked if she had worn the black dress to the inn. Jeannie smiled and said she had; then had made a pattern for similar dresses for herself, one of dark brown and one of burgundy. She said Sally liked the four inch heels so well she had insisted that they stop on their way back from the Inn the following day to purchase several pairs for her. Laura was astounded that she could take patterns from other clothing. Jeannie said she had done that all her adult life. Laura was then intrigued and asked to be taught how to do that, after she had learned the basics of course. Jeannie reported that Sally and Ruthann had become instant friends; Jacob and Peter were no longer protective men with Jeannie. She excitedly told them that her grandchildren were likely to arrive by the end of the tenth month of the new year. Jacob and Peter told her that they had been living at an outpost as their parents had been killed trying to escape the former Northeastern City . Both men planned flights to the outpost in the tenth month of the new year to meet their children to live with them and their foster parents for a few weeks before the new family returned to Carriere. Jeannie finished her work; before she left for the day she asked if perhaps Laura and Amanda would like to join her and Sally for a barbeque on the second weekend evening. Both women were delighted to accept. Jeannie said she was off to clean up, get beautiful to fly to meet her lover, and bring her to the coast. Laura smiled as she thought how much she liked the word lover .

Laura found her muse in the kitchen and as on most fifth weekdays she prepared food for the freezer and for the weekend, including a pecan tart to take to the barbeque on the second weekend evening. Amanda once again watched her beautiful young lover dance in the kitchen and did not resist the urge to kiss her often. Both women had evolved past their shyness to express affection while Luther was at the cabin. He was indeed their greatest champion and obviously delighted in the love they shared. They invited him to eat lunch with them at the kitchen island; he smiled as he remarked about Jeannie's happiness these days. He said with some shame that he had not realized how miserable she had been over the years. He did not fully understand the degree of control that Harry had been able to exert; it only had started to change when Jeannie chose to pilot for the battles. Harry had not been able to cope not only with her independent and unwavering decision but also with the loss of what they both had perceived as control. He said that in contrast although Mary was completely afraid every time he left she was immensely proud of him, If she had not loved him to distraction previously she fell in love more with him every time he left and every time he returned. He then asked that although it was many months away if he could take a few days away at Wintersday to visit their children, Jonathon and Glenys and their spouses. He also asked if he might take Huguette for that trip as both his children lived in a hamlet along the coast not easily accessible by road. Laura had never heard Luther speak of his children previously. Amanda agreed absolutely that he and Mary should take time with their family. She asked as to their health and wellbeing. Luther smiled with pride, replying all were well and continued to be part of a successful fishing cooperative. He said they had supplied the Resistance with large amounts of fish during the battles and now had a fledgling network of markets in the northwest. Laura told him she had never heard him speak of his son and daughter, asking him to congratulate and thank them for helping to feed them when they were fighting. She also said that she hoped to meet them one day. Luther said that as soon as they had confirmed dates he would notify his friends. He said that Daniel Fletcher had offered to replace him at the cabin should he be needed. Amanda replied that Lydia and Barbara would be joining them as usual; she expected that between them they would be able to manage. She did not want him to fret. Luther did say that Daniel would plow roads, remove snow if necessary in their absence, and from his tone of voice Amanda chose not to argue.

On one of her interruptions for a kiss from her lover, Laura whispered that there would be a pre-date date tonight with a possible re-examination on the subject of lips. With a very soft moan, Amanda said that being the case, the real date would have a re-examination of the subject of fingers. Laura said with her hearty laugh that it was shaping up to be a very enjoyable weekend. Luther left in midafternoon, stating that he would return on the upcoming first weekday to fly to Carriere for supplies, It was not likely that Luther was off the mountain before both women were in the shower as absolute, unadulterated lust over took them yet again. When temporarily satiated, both women laughed at themselves for wanting each other as much and as often. Laura said that she would ask Barbara one of these days if Lydia was still as tempted by lust as she ever was. Amanda laughed as she stated she might better ask Lydia if the same was true of Barbara. When Laura raised her brows slightly, Amanda said that Lydia had told Amanda on several occasions that the good, very good Lieutenant Colonel, bordered on maniacal as far as lust was concerned. Amanda smiled as she told her young lover to watch the quiet ones.

The priestesses dined on the deck and watched the ocean beckon the sun to rest. Laura took Amanda ' s hand to stand with her at the rail as the sun showed its last rays. She smiled; telling Amanda on that first night at the cabin almost nine years previously when they stood at the same rail and their hips touched she was almost overcome with desire for the first time in her life. She had no idea what was going on but knew in an instant she liked it, maybe more than anything she had ever felt in her young life before. She admitted that to the present day she was still amazed and thrilled with that feeling. Amanda kissed her lover, told her she felt exactly the same way, and had ever since she had taken Laura ' s hand to go to the deck. With a wicked grin, she said that some lust had entered her when she first laid eyes on that young women with the four inch heels standing in her office. Laura said her first inkling that it might not be just a weekend at the coast was when she first saw Amanda out of uniform for the first time, in jeans and T-shirt, getting ready to board Bella for their first weekend away. Night had fallen before they were released from the trance of memories. The mornings were cool enough to warrant a fire so Amanda started a small one, banked for warmth and coffee the following day. Laura ' s lips found the nape of her lover ' s neck as she whispered the examination had started. Earth hours later, Aine left Amanda long enough to allow her to retrieve cool water for throats; voices hoarse from cries ringing the mountains and the cabin at the coast. Amanda sat up, taking Laura to rest her head on her breasts. She wondered if she would ever get used to those journeys; Laura whispered she certainly hoped not.

Aside from coffee and meals, neither Laura nor Amanda left the loft the following day. The re-examination on the subject of fingers was carried out all day; at night ' s end both women declared the other had passed once again. By mid-morning on the second weekend day, Laura served breakfast on the deck. Amanda was glowing with lovelights shining, having lost the stress of the previous week. She asked Laura about inviting Lydia and Barbara to join them for the fourth weekend of the current month with perhaps a night of ruckus raising on the fifth weeknight. She knew Serena Lorimer would agree to take command for that weekend; Charlie always worked both the last and first day of the weeks. They would have to return to the Ravencouer Base for Anthony Down ' s murder and rape trial; she wanted to have some relaxation before that as well as the increased activity at the base when the new recruits arrived. There was a planned fishing trip with Luther and Mary in the ninth month of the new year as well. Laura said she was really looking forward to going out to the bar with Jeannie as she remembered her first night and how much fun she had.

The lovers whiled away the late morning and early afternoon hours on the deck. Amanda was lost with her camera and Laura with a sketch pad. Amanda took photographs of her mistress lost in a muse and then looked with some surprise to see clothing designs rapidly finding the paper. Laura stated they had been in her head for a long time; she said with affection that Karina was likely directing her pencil. She shyly told Amanda that she would like to make clothing for the both of them at some point in the future. That got a kiss, long, hard, and full on the mouth as a reply.

The priestesses showered, dressed, and drove to Jeannie ' s home in late afternoon. Laura brought the pecan tart and a fifth of champagne for the celebration. Sally answered their knock, hugging them both as they entered the house. She congratulated Amanda on the results of the trial as she too knew the former General Downs and the havoc he rendered. Jeannie was on the patio preparing the grill, looking more beautiful than ever. She had braided her hair; Sally went to her and automatically nuzzled her neck as if she had done that all her years. Amanda was beaming. Sally offered drinks but the women chose only wine. Laura said she did not drink much alcohol to which Amanda quipped except for brandy, nudity, and firelight in that order. Laura smiled and shrugged. Sally said she was taking notes to which Jeannie remarked that the woman did not need to take notes, not at all. Amanda told Sally that they had a tentative date for the ruckus raising as she did want to forewarn her staff. Laura stated she would put the Security detail at the base on notice. They senior officers worked hard. It was time to just relax and play for a while. Laura told Jeannie to come to the cabin before the ruckus so they could find some come hither clothing for her if she wanted. Sally took over dinner preparation as Jeannie took Laura to her bedroom to show her the new shoes and the dresses she had made using the pattern from the black dress Laura loaned her. Laura loved the shoes, all of them. Jeannie said her favorites were the red ones. Laura offered the loan of her six inch red heels if Jeannie ever wanted to drive Sally out of her mind. Laura was amazed at the dresses Jeannie designed and sewed for herself. She told her about the sketches she had done and really wanted to learn how to do that for herself. Jeannie said she really needed to ask Laura a rather embarrassing question to which Laura readily agreed. She said that she was a bit concerned about how much she wanted Sally, all the time, day and night, and often. She thought that might be some symptom of an illness as she had never had that behavior in all of her adult life. Laura told her it was most definitely not an illness. She said all women who were in love with awesome lovers felt exactly the same way. Jeannie said Sally never seemed to complain but she did not want to take advantage of her kindness. Laura replied very seriously that she did not look hard done by; in an instant both women were almost paralyzed with laughter. They were still laughing with tears streaming down their cheeks when they returned to their lovers. Amanda wanted to know what could possibly be that funny. Laura asked her to tell Jeannie what they did the night before last, all day yesterday, and she did not need to be polite. Amanda instantly understood; in what would be considered less than ladylike terms outlined their activities for hours. Laura said they had been lovers for nine years and wanted each more every day. They very honestly told both their friends that they had chosen the loft so that they could be naked and occupied even if Luther or others happened to enter the common room. She also said that Lydia took way too much pleasure seeing them unclothed sleeping in each other ' s arms. Jeannie blushed when she thought about the reclining shower benches at the cabin, now understanding why they were there. She was told that after their first weekend at the cabin, Lydia and Barbara returned and immediately installed them at the ranch. Jeannie then took Sally in her arms, saying right out loud that she was incredibly, madly in love, then kissed her lover long, hard, and full on the mouth. Amanda and Laura applauded. Dinner was delicious as both Jeannie and Sally loved to cook and were very good at it. Sally had one bite of the pecan tart and asked Laura to marry her. Laura quipped that she needed to get in line. After dinner, the women walked to the water ' s edge to watch Mother Moon rise to her throne. At their insistence, Amanda and Laura helped with clearing and cleaning before they thanked both women, telling them that love looked ravishing on all of them, and then said goodnight. Laura laughed as she remarked to Amanda that she doubted they were out of the driveway before the women in the house were naked. Amanda asked if she wanted to go back to check which was answered with a look leading to the choice to drive home instead. Before they retired for the night, both women completed the supply list for Luther. Amanda wanted a music player for the loft and both decks. Laura ordered cooking and baking supplies as well as personal items for both. They chose to take a long soaking bubble bath before going to bed. Laura was still smiling about her conversation with Jeannie and about how beautiful she looked. She asked Amanda if she thought that others saw them the same way. Amanda said Lydia had told her many times that she could read by the glow so she suspected they did. Kisses and touches while still in the bath started the lights glowing again, continuing long into the night.

Mother let forth with a soft soaking rain by early morning and dark skies lulled the lovers to more sleep in the morning. Luther made coffee before he left for shopping in Carriere. He left a note on the kitchen island that was fresh fish in the refrigerator for their dinner. Laura rose and showered leaving her lover sleeping. It was a quiet peaceful day; Laura chose to make many braided loaves and pans of cinnamon buns for the freezers as well. She found small old pine box and packed it with buns, harvested greens, and wine as a special thank you to Serena Lorimer for her support and taking command over the weekend, thereby allowing all the senior officers a much deserved rest. Luther arrived back at the cabin by midday and everyone stowed supplies. He noted that the cabin was getting very low on Judith ' s chowder. Amanda replied that she thought a date in Eaglesdown the upcoming fifth weekday sounded like a fine idea, thanking her friend for his reminder. He asked permission to hire Ian and Daniel Fletcher to assist with wood cutting for the fall which was granted. He asked for confirmation about the fishing trip in the ninth month of the new year; Amanda said she would get definite confirmation from Lydia and Barbara when she returned to the base in the morrow. Both women told Luther they enjoyed a delightful dinner with Sally and Jeannie the previous evening. Luther added he saw Jeannie land Amo Te at the base as he was preparing to return to the cabin. He smiled as he spoke of a very lingering and tender kiss on the tarmac before Sally left for her home once again. Amanda said their dear long-time friend was absolutely smitten; she had given down many thanks. Laura talked about the dresses Jeannie had made. Luther stood up, explaining that both his shirt and jacket were designed and made by Jeannie. He said that she and Mary made almost all their clothing for many years. Laura was very excited to start her lessons with both of them.

The rain continued for the day necessitating a fire to keep out the chill and dampness. Laura chose to set an elegant table with many candles and dined by that light with Amanda. Amanda kept looking at her, telling her how much she loved her, more with each passing earth minute. The woman child who she had taken to her bed nine years ago had grown, led an entire army of fighters she had taught herself, had survived a near collapse from a broken heart, growing to a breathtakingly beautiful full grown woman, still not thirty earth years old. Both women took their wine to the couch before the fire. Laura said she could spend the rest of her life in Amanda ' s arms but tomorrow started a new work week; as such, they needed to finish chores and get rest early.

Chapter 10

Lydia brought coffee to Amanda and Laura the following morning at the Carriere Base. Colonel Smithson was in his office and engrossed with the curricula for the upcoming classes to start in one month. General Bennett and Declan McDaniels agreed that twenty recruits would be hired and advanced through basic training, law and security, Armed Forces procedures; at the end of those classes the recruits could then choose what area of specific training they wanted. Declan confirmed with both Stephan Redhawk and Dr. Ray Dobson that ten recruits at a time would travel to Sanctuary for basic medic training for two weeks at the end of their classes at the base. Laura agreed to test skydiving skills as most recruits had learned during the battles. Those who did not meet Laura ' s standards would be sent to the ranch for further training. Laura asked that Captain Lorimer report to her office by mid-morning; within minutes Serena reported to the Lieutenant General. Laura handed her the gift box she had made with their sincere thanks for her support and excellence of command while they were away from the base. Serena was genuinely surprised and delighted, stating she was very honored to take command. She also said that Annette would be delighted with the gift as well. Serena then realized that Laura did not know of Annette and explained they had been partners for fifteen years. Laura asked if she was at the base and if they lived together. Serena replied she was a medic; they did not live together officially. It had not been sanctioned in the past and they had worked very hard to keep it a secret although with no need with Captain Stenns. Laura asked Serena to sit down, stating that she would return momentarily. She knocked on Lydia ' s door to ask if there were apartments available at the base; Lydia replied that there were several. Laura then knocked on Amanda ' s door, asking for a moment of the General ' s time. Laura told Amanda about Serena and Annette, respectfully requesting that they be moved to permanent quarters together in one of the vacant apartments. She explained that they had spent fifteen years living apart; everyone knew how dull and unnecessary that was. Before Laura left her office, Amanda had sent an email to Lydia and to the clerk in charge of housing. Laura then returned to her office to tell Serena that she and Annette best get packing as they could move to a vacant apartment when they chose. Serena was quiet with surprise when Laura told her that she and Amanda had lived a presence for their first four years together; as long as she was a senior officer anywhere that would not happen again on her watch. Captain Lorimer stood, saluted the Lieutenant General, and then asked permission to hug Laura which was granted. Laura watched as Serena met Annette on the tarmac; after a few words Annette with jumping up and down laughing. Laura thought that was not a bad way to start the work week.

At lunch, Amanda asked Lydia to confirm the fishing trip for the ninth month of the new year. She also invited her and the love life to the cabin for the last weekend of the month with a night of definite ruckus raising at the bar on the fifth weeknight of that weekend. Lydia said she would ask Barbara but she was quite sure she would agree. She wanted to show the mechanics at the base about installing batteries in the large helicopters; if possible she could do that for two days prior to that weekend. As soon as she had confirmation, Amanda said she would ask Captain Lorimer to take command for the weekend days. They told Lydia about their dinner with Jeannie and Sally, repeating the conversation about an infliction. Lydia laughed out loud, stating she was about to have much fun with that woman. Laura then reminded Lydia that she had a question for her about Barbara and lust but it would have to wait as it was not the subject of an Armed Forces lunch. With that, Laura rose to return to her office leaving Lydia with a very stunned look on her face and Amanda laughing.

At the weekly meeting the following day, General Bennett thanked her officers once again for the exemplary conduct at the court martial trial. She said that history would record that this Armed Forces took their work of service to the public seriously and honorably. She asked for interim reports about the new recruits and the expansion of the base. She stated that Ross Shipman asked about the development of a course for guards at the jail at the Ravencouer Base. Laura advised that she felt that the course taught to the Security personnel at the new settlements would be sufficient. She said that they should recruit permanent instructors for that. Lydia stated that there were personnel at the base who would qualify to teach with some encouragement. Amanda asked for their personnel files for review. At the end of the meeting, General Bennett stated that she would be requesting meetings with each of the officers individually for a discussion not yet appropriate for the group.

General Bennett met with Lieutenant General Stenns after lunch that day to discuss her proposal to promote Colonel Smithson to the rank of Lieutenant General. She proposed that Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe be promoted to the rank of full Colonel. She then proposed that Captain Lorimer be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She said that Serena had served well for a very long time and deserved to be recognized. She also said that they could use her experience with educating recruits over the years. She was a qualified pilot instructor; at some point in the future they would need a full time instructor at the Carriere Base. When Lydia asked about promoting Sean Taylor, Amanda replied that he needed more time in his current rank as she needed to assess his level of commitment to senior command before he was promoted. Lydia was in full agreement with all the proposals. The same discussion was held with Lieutenant General Ravencouer who was also very much in agreement.

Amanda spoke with Barbara by satellite link the following morning about her proposals regarding Charles Smithson and Serena Lorimer to which Barbara immediately agreed. After lunch, General Bennett met in person with Colonel Smithson and discussed promotions of Lieutenant Colonel Maclippe and Captain Lorimer; the Colonel was in full agreement. Amanda then spoke with Sean Taylor by satellite link, telling him of the promotions along with her reasons for not recommending his promotion at the present time. Lieutenant Colonel Taylor was in absolute agreement, stating that he felt he had much more to learn about his current rank before he consider accepting a promotion. He thanked the General sincerely for her candor and respect. Amanda then emailed Declan McDaniels with her requests for promotions with an immediate response of wholehearted agreement.

Laura and Amanda arrived at the cabin at 1630 hours on the fourth weekday, ready once again for time away from the base. Luther was just leaving as they arrived, stating that dinner was in the slow cooker as Laura had requested that morning. He said he would return the following morning and then wished his friends goodnight. The lovers ate before the fire, needed now when the sun set as the night air spoke of the coming autumn. The wood box was filled and placed it by the hearth. Amanda banked the fire as Laura finished the night chores. The loft was cool at night now; permanent space heaters were now necessary for the shower and bedroom. The lovers were tired, enjoying caresses in the warm shower before finding warm night shirts and sleep quickly in each other ' s arms.

Desire did not escape either woman beyond the first light of morning; urgent crashing passion found them. Luther arrived at his usual time, stating that he was flying to Carriere for supplies with planned return by early afternoon. Amanda and Laura had a date planned for lunch in Eaglesdown with shopping at the Smithers store. Just as Amanda had made a second pot of coffee, Jeannie arrived for a visit. She asked Laura if they could consult about clothing for the ruckus raising. Laura beamed with excitement as she led her friend to the dressing room on the second floor. She offered to teach Jeannie about come hither make up, Jeannie was an eager student. Laura showed Jeannie a short grey pencil skirt to be worn with a black halter, ruby earrings, a ruby ankle bracelet, and the red six inch heels. Jeannie said she was uncertain if that was appropriate; Laura advised her friend to understand that the bar was never appropriate. Jeannie tried on the clothing including the shoes; with only a little practice she was walking well and then staring at her image in a mirror. Laura said their good friend Sally was about to lose her mind. She told her friend that she would show her how to apply the come hither make up on the following fifth week day, then packed up the clothing, jewels, and shoes for her friend to take home. She insisted that she not show anyone to keep the surprise until she walked into the bar. Jeannie stayed for a cup of coffee, and then returned home in anticipation of meeting her lover at the base later that afternoon.

Amanda and Laura drove to Eaglesdown to enjoy Judith ' s chowder and biscuits, asking to take as much as she had to sell with extra containers for Luther to retrieve later in the following week. They explained that Barbara and Lydia were arriving soon for a four day weekend; they would like to send chowder home to the ranch with them. Judith agreed to have twenty containers ready for Luther when he arrived.

Amanda ordered prawns for dinner before they entered the great adventure known as the Smithers store. Ruthann Smithers ran to hug Laura, thanking her many times for pointing her mother to Sally. She smiled as she said she had never seen her mother act like a woman in love before; it was absolutely delightful. Both Amanda and Laura agreed. The women shopped, purchased clothing for the upcoming autumn and winter. Amanda found all the new yarn from the cooperative and purchased all the skeins. She was delighted with the dyes and texture, saying her needles would find much entertainment over the coming months. Laura asked Ruthann about a layette for Sean and Olivia ' s new baby, Ruthann showed her two that her mother and Mary had made. Laura could not decide between then so she purchased both. She also bought several meters of fabric and notions that caught her eye, telling Ruthann that both Mary and Jeannie planned to teach her basic sewing skills over the late autumn and winter months. Ruthann replied she could find no better. Laura also purchased several large glass jars to act as canisters for her baking supplies, more easily managed that the large containers currently in the pantry. Amanda found all the hard candy her sweet tooth craved. Both women carried armfuls of purchases back to the vehicle before picking up the prawns and Judith ' s chowder. On the way home, Laura put her hand on Amanda ' s thigh as she drove, stating that it was nine years ago to the day that she had first come to the cabin with the idea of seducing the Colonel. Amanda remembered well. Luther met his friends and helped them carry their packages to the cabin. When both women walked through the door, on the trestle table were two vases, one holding yellow roses and one holding purple irises. Each woman had ordered them for the other through Luther; he said not a word but brought home the bouquets. Teddy and Primrose were dressed in satin and lace as an advent to the weekend ahead. Laura gathered her mistress in her arms and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth which elicited a slight moan from Amanda and a slight blush from Luther. The purchases were put away with Luther ' s help. Before he left, he said that there were Mary ' s cookies in the refrigerator as both of them remembered she had sent cookies for that first weekend nine years previously. He said goodbye, stating he planned return again on the first weekday of the coming week. Amanda found the end of the couch with needles, her new yarn, with a pattern to take her to her muse. She spoke again about the quality of the wool and her delight that workers in cooperatives on the plains had produced it. Laura continued to be charmed as she had been on their first afternoon at the cabin. As the sun started the descent to the horizon, Amanda prepared water to steam the prawns for dinner. She poured wine for herself and wine with soda for Laura, handed her lover her leather jacket and her glass of wine. She took her hand and they walked to the deck; while leaning at the rail they watched the sun set. Both women dined before the fire and after brief chores they sat on the rug before the fire with glasses of more wine. Amanda took Laura ' s hand; once again she did not pull away. She whispered that it still felt like coming home with every touch and every kiss. Amanda lovingly replied that she was glad that she no longer had to direct the tempo of an initiation Laura no longer needed. When Laura asked why, Amanda laughed, replying that while new young women lovers were fun, experienced women lovers were much more fun. Laura asked her how she knew that; as Amanda started to undress her mistress she stated she had one once.

Laura woke before her lover the following morning. She took a cup of coffee to the window to watch the sun rise in the sky. She loved the colors and shadows of both morning and late afternoon this time of the year. Their lives continued to be busy and would be for the coming months but Laura always loved the change in Mother ' s pace in the autumn and winter. Her beloved ocean was still quiescent but there were undertones of anger and tantrums just below the surface. She took two cups of coffee with breakfast muffins on a tray to the loft and kissed morning into Amanda. After breakfast in bed, both women showered and Amanda did morning chores while Laura danced her weekly dance in the kitchen. Earlier, Luther mentioned that the Fletcher family raised fowl and sold eggs for almost the entire year. Laura said she would like to purchase from this family rather than the store in Carriere. She understood that all the food supplies were locally grown but she wanted to support their local businesses and cooperatives as she could. Amanda was in complete agreement. Ross emailed Amanda earlier in the month stating that Tess Redhawk had developed a climate resistant coffee strain that most settlers were now growing in their greenhouses. He asked if the base wanted plants for their greenhouse; Amanda had immediately ordered as many as they could ship for the base as well as for their homes. Laura finished the preparation of meals for their week and the freezers. She filled a thermos bottle and asked Amanda if she wanted to go to the beach. Amanda grabbed jackets and her camera along with mittens as the ocean spray was cold even at this time of the late summer. They sat on the tailgate of the vehicle and enjoyed a second cup of coffee. Amanda stated that she was so grateful that they did not have to take eyefuls away as they were present every day. On their return to the cabin, Laura invited Amanda for lunch at Spy Rock. She filled another thermos with soup, packed a braided loaf, and a fifth of champagne along with a tarp and a blanket. She took her priestess ' s hand and they strolled up the mountain road. Luther greeted them from vehicle on his return from washing Huguette, still the cleanest helicopter on the northern continent.

Amanda always had looks of delight when she stood on the rock and remembered her days with her brother. Laura asked if she missed him; Amanda stated that she did not as they had not been close. He had moved to the Far East just after Amanda graduated from university with no return. He was older; they had not been close save for brief times together at the cabin as children. She doubted he would accept his sister and her choice of partners; his pride would only be of the prestige of her position as Commander-in-Chief. She took Laura ' s hand stating it all seemed irrelevant now in light of their love and the course their lives had taken. Both women enjoyed lunch, champagne, and each other until the cooler afternoon air drove to dress and return to the cabin.

Muses called the names of both women for hours that afternoon. Laura finished her kitchen dance and then sat on the sofa to sketch as Amanda chose a pattern and put stitches on her needles. Both women stopped for a cup of coffee and some of Mary ' s cookies, enjoyed as much as nine years earlier. As the sun was setting, Laura made crisps and cheeseburgers for their dinner before the fire. Laura showered in the loft and waited for her mistress dressed in the little black dress and four inch heels. Amanda emerged from the first floor shower wearing satin, lace, Laura ' s white on white striped shirt and her own four inch heels. Laura took two pewter goblets filled with brandy to the loft and found sultry Latin music for the new player in their bedroom. The seduction of dance led the lovers to their bed and hours of passion into the night.

Cool air greeted Amanda as she hurried to bank a fire the following morning. The sun was challenged by clouds and wind rolling in from the ocean; within an hour rain was falling. Laura joined Amanda and both women cuddled under warmed throws before the fire, waiting for coffee and the air to warm. Laura brought cups and a hot breakfast to the hearth as Amanda dressed Teddy and Primrose in warm sweaters and tucked them in their rocker with their own small throw. Laura made another pot of soup for their lunch as Amanda did morning chores. She wondered if a game of canasta was in order on the rainy day; Laura thought it might just be. As such, the hours were whiled away with competition interrupted by soup, kisses, and passion on the rug before the fire.

The sun chose to grace with his presence the following morning. Luther arrived at his usual time, this time accompanied by Mary. She asked Laura if she wanted to start her sewing lessons; the child well hidden in Laura from the hell of the battles emerged briefly with great excitement. Amanda took dozens of photographs of teacher and student who laughed as Laura learned how to work the machine and then the lessons of tension and straight lines. Mary explained why each step was taken, also explaining that unless the stitching was true the finished project would suffer. Laura never did anything by halves and approached her new craft as she did every other challenge in her life. Amanda interrupted everyone for lunch after which Mary showed Laura how to cut exact squares of fabric to sew as a small quilt. With that, Mary departed for her home and her own sewing projects. Laura spent several afternoon hours lost in her project accompanied by her favorite music and interrupted by kisses from her lover. Amanda remained fascinated when Laura went to her ancients with the muses. Laura kept telling her that she looked equally as beautiful with the camera or the needles.

The lovers chose an early dinner and early retiring for the night as the once again the work week started the following day. Before falling asleep, Amanda thanked her mistress for agreeing to return to the cabin after that first weekend together as well as a wonderful anniversary weekend.

When Amanda returned to her office the following morning, she sent a general communiqu é to all personnel at both bases regarding the upcoming promotions. She then called Charles Smithson to her office, personally thanking him with congratulations. Barbara was very surprised and very honored to accept. Amanda then called Captain Lorimer to her office. Serena arrived promptly, quite concerned about the urgent request. Lydia joined them and simply handed her new uniform shirts showing the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. It took a minute before Serena realized that they were for her. She was speechless and beaming. Laura had summoned Annette to the General ' s office; when she arrived General Amanda Bennett informed her that partner would now be addressed as Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer. Annette was surprised, beaming, and then told Serena this did not mean she was going to salute her any more than she ever had save for those formal occasions. There was momentary silence and then great gales of laughter. General Bennett said that the official ceremony would be on the third weekday of the following week in the dining room at 1200 hours. She also emailed both Charles Smithson and Barbara Maclippe with the date of the ceremony. When Serena and Annette were leaving, Laura mentioned that there would some ruckus raising at the bar; since Serena did not take command until the following morning she thought they might like to see their senior officers behaving badly.

The rest of the week was filled with final preparations for the new recruits. At the weekly staff meeting, Amanda asked Lydia about the progress of the erection of the greenhouses on the base. Lydia reported that completion was expected in less than two weeks. She asked for permission to move personnel to the positions of permanent gardeners which was immediately granted. General Bennett reported that two instructors had been chosen to teach the basic Law and Security classes to those survivors working at the Communications and Security buildings at all the new settlements. Lieutenant General Ravencouer planned to teach the instructors before the next settlements were ready. All new employees were recruits of the Armed Forces and required to complete basic training as all other recruits.

Jeannie and Laura giggled their way through lessons on come hither make up on the fifth weekday morning. Luther arrived with the weekly supplies by midday on the same day. Laura danced in the kitchen for the afternoon with preparation of food for the following week. The days were warm once again and Laura wanted fresh air, sun, and her lover in the afternoon of the first weekend day and again the second weekend day. Mary arrived on the first weekday morning; Laura ' s second sewing lesson was underway. By the end of the morning, Laura made Amanda a T-shirt, immensely proud of her accomplishment as were both Amanda and Mary. Mary showed her how to take a basic pattern and adjust it for size. Laura insisted that both Mary and Luther join them for lunch. Luther confirmed the dates they wished to be away over Wintersday but promised to help transform the cabin to Wintersday magic before they left. He said Daniel Fletcher had already agreed to help him cut trees and boughs with their transport to the cabin. The air had cooled by the afternoon indicating that another rain was imminent. Luther blanked the fire and filled the wood box before he left for this work day. As was their routine, the lovers dined early and retired early as a busy work week lay ahead.

General Bennett inspected the renovated quarters for the new recruits. Each had their own private room with dining in the staff dining room. Alex Taylor, Sean ' s brother, was hired to coordinate transportation for all recruits with their expected arrival at the Carriere Base at the end of the first week of the ninth month of the new year. An old hanger had been renovated for use as the classroom at the base. General Bennett sent a letter of congratulation to both Lieutenant General Stenns and Colonel Smithson on excellent work in preparation of the new personnel. Barbara arrived at the base late in the afternoon of the second weekday and immediately into Lydia ' s arms. Over lunch earlier that day, curiosity got the best of Lydia ; she insisted that Laura ask her about Barbara and lust. Laura outright asked her if Barbara was still as tempted by lust as she always had been; for the first time in almost nine years Laura saw Lydia Stenns blush. Amanda simply interjected that she had already told Laura that was likely the case. The officers were promoted the following day at 1200 hours. Eleanor Smithson was in attendance, beaming as General Bennett saluted and then introduced Lieutenant General Charles Smithson. Lieutenant General Lydia Stenns beamed as General Bennett saluted and then introduced Colonel Barbara Maclippe. There was polite applause with each. Annette Lemaine glowed as General Bennett saluted and introduced Lieutenant Colonel Serena Lorimer with immediately clapping, whistling, and cheering from all Serena ' s peers. Annette stepped forward, saluted her lover, then gave her a bouquet of lilies with a kiss long, hard, and full on the mouth. Charlie smiled as he thought that it was indeed no longer this man ' s military . Barbara returned to the hangers to instruct the switch to batteries for all the large aircraft on the base. Amanda stopped to remind Serena about the weekly staff meeting in the meeting room on the first floor of the administration building. On their way back to their offices, Amanda asked Lydia to arrange for a vacant office to be readied for Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer. The fourth weekday saw each officer busy with their projects. At 1500 hours, Amanda and Laura few to the cabin as did Lydia and Barbara.

When all four women arrived at the cabin, Luther helped carry in luggage and congratulated both Lydia and Barbara on the outcome of the court martial. He did his usual wonderful work at preparing the guest room. Everyone showered and met on the deck as the sun started to set. Amanda poured wine for everyone, and then stood with her mistress at the deck rail to watch the ocean kiss the sun for yet another day. The friends dined early and then sat with another glass of wine before the fire as the night air was now too cool to stay for long on the deck. Lydia laughingly told Barbara about Laura ' s question earlier in the week. Barbara immediately replied she was not as tempted as she always had been; in fact she was tempted more. She told Laura that as a woman grew with a lover it just got more and better, to just settle in and enjoy the ride. Then Laura told Barbara about Jeannie ' s questions about an infliction; Barbara quipped that she hoped the woman never recovered. Then Barbara stood, drew her lover to her arms, stating that all this talk about lust gave her ideas that needed to be explored; both women promptly gave their night blessings. As Laura and Amanda prepared for bed, Amanda told Laura that she hoped she was no longer concerned about the subject of lust. Laura mouthed the words bring it , Amanda did for many hours.

Everyone chose a late and lazy start to the fifth weekday. Luther was at work and had the first pot of coffee waiting before Amanda and Laura found themselves in the throes of passion in the shower yet again. Laura prepared breakfast as Amanda completed those morning chores Luther would permit. Amanda wandered to the workshop to ask Luther how hard it would be to install a small corner fireplace in their bedroom in the loft. Luther laughed, replying he was waiting to see how long it would take before they asked. In anticipation of that very question, when the new addition was built, both he and Ian Fletcher tripled the capacity of the load bearing posts and beams for that section of the loft; as such, it would not involve any more work than the installation of the fireplace itself. If they agreed, he stated he would arrange for installation with help by Daniel and Ian Fletcher when the priestesses were at the Ravencouer Base for the murder and rape trial in the tenth month of the new year. They discussed the plans with Laura who was delighted with the idea. Both women told Luther to make the plans as he saw fit. It seemed that Barbara and Lydia had finally explored all Barbara ' s ideas, finally greeting their friends for coffee and breakfast. Laura reminded Luther that they planned to fly Huguette to the base that evening for their ruckus raising. As usual, Laura planned to be the designated pilot allowing all her friends, including Jeannie and Sally, to imbibe if they chose. Jeannie had changed her mind, asking to join her friends for their flight together to the base. She also said she wanted just a bit more help with the come hither make up; Laura was happy to comply.

There was a decided air of excitement throughout the day as the four women at the cabin looked forward to teaching Jeannie how to behave badly, although Amanda said with Sally as her lover she likely didn ' t need much instruction. Laura chose to give her friend shutting up lessons as well to which Lydia asked if she could be the practice woman for that lesson. Jeannie arrived by midafternoon after which she and Laura giggled their way through make up. Amanda commandeered the first floor bathroom for showering and dressing. Barbara and Lydia both dressed and presented as their usual beautiful selves. Jeannie dressed as Laura showered and then descended the stairs to applause by everyone and Lydia ' s signature howls. Luther came to see about the fuss, speechless when he saw Jeannie, dressed in short skirt, halter, hair loosed falling down her back, rubies, come hither make up, and six inch red heels. She bore a slight blush of pleasure as Amanda snapped many photographs. Laura then emerged in her skin tight black lace dress with only lovely priestess skin beneath, her own six inch heels, diamond and obsidian jewels. Lydia howled long and hard with the hope of being shut up which she was. Laura looked at Jeannie, telling her with a very stern look on her face that the Lieutenant General was entirely too loud and needed to be quieted. She then took Lydia in her arms and kissed her long, hard, and full on the lips. Barbara moved to stand behind her lover as she knew knees were about to buckle. Even Luther was laughing out loud. Mary had arrived so as to not miss the sight of her friends about to misbehave. Laura turned and with a wink told Jeannie she probably needed shutting up practice herself. With that, she took her friend her arms and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth followed by a soft whisper welcoming her to mischief. Before they departed for the landing pad, Amanda suggested that Jeannie find some flat shoes as Laura Ravencouer was the only woman she had ever known who could board a helicopter in six inch heels.

Amanda reminded Jeannie to watch the reaction as they prepared to disembark the helicopter at the base. The young crew members had a very hard time remembering to salute their senior officers as they all walked to a waiting vehicle. Charlie Smithson had waited for the display, speechless due to laughter.

The women entered the bar and walked to their usual table. Jeannie entered last as she wanted to completely surprise Sally which she did. Sally just stared before taking her lover in her arms and kissing her long, hard, and full on the mouth to a standing ovation from all the staff and patrons. They followed their friends; Sally stated that unequivocally this was the most beautiful woman on the planet. Everyone simply agreed. Sally also said she saw the fine mind of Laura Ravencouer directing the dress and makeup; Laura bowed, replying it was with pleasure. Before dinner was over, Serena Lorimer and Annette Lemaine arrived to join friends at a table near the front entrance. Jeannie was beaming with lovelights shining, learning quickly about misbehavior. Once dinner was complete and before dancing, Laura took the six inch heels to the bar and learned over as far as womanly possible to order a soda. Both Serena and Annette noticed her, applauding with other patrons. As her usual signature, she blew a kiss to the room before returning to the table. Jeannie had a look of decided surprise, and then laughed aloud with all the others. Laura said that was lesson number one. She then took Jeannie ' s hand, led her to the dance floor, and at music ' s end kissed her friend long, hard, and full on the mouth. On their return to the table, she said that was lesson number two. Sally laughed, stating she could probably handle further lessons herself. Lydia then took Jeannie ' s hand and led her to the dance floor to which those remaining at their table unanimously and simultaneously thought that the woman might just be in trouble; however, Amanda stated that she was certain she was in good hands to which Barbara fully agreed. Lydia led Jeannie in an elegant waltz; when the music was done hugged her friend and kissed her gently. She told Jeannie she had never seen her look as beautiful and happy. She told her that it would just get better with time. She had known Sally Palmer for a very long time. She told Jeannie that it was wonderful to see lovelights shining in her eyes again after many years. Lydia continued that Sally was a wonderful woman; she knew they would make each other very happy. Jeannie returned to the table with tears in her eyes and a radiant smile. Barbara kissed her lover, told her she was wonderful, and took her to the dance floor. Amanda, Laura, Sally, and Jeannie joined them. Serena cut in and asked Amanda if she could finish the dance with her drop dead gorgeous mistress. Amanda laughed and agreed. Serena then asked Laura why she had to be that beautiful; Laura smiled, shrugged, and replied it was due entirely to good loving but not to let that fact be well known as it was wreck the General ' s reputation. Serena had to stop dancing before the end of the song due to laughter. Amanda asked for her mistress back to which Serena acquiesced. Very purposefully, the black lace got displaced with Amanda touching every available portion of Laura ' s body. Jeannie and Sally danced close enough for Amanda to ask Jeannie if she was taking notes. Lydia then joined their group, stating that it looked like Barbara was thinking up new ideas to explore; Laura whispered the word lust in Jeannie ' s ear which elicited a delightful blush. Sally then kissed her lover with an audible moan in response. Laura thought it might be time to return to the coast before they all started a brawl; she did not want to summon the Security detail this late in the night. The senior officers walked to say goodnight to Serena and Annette as Sally retrieved her pack from behind the bar, an act which elicited another round of applause from staff and patrons. This time, Sally Palmer blushed with a radiant smile.

Laura landed Huguette briefly at Jeannie ' s home and thanked her friends for a wonderful evening. As Laura prepared to take off again for the short flight to the mountainside tarmac, she asked out loud if her friends thought they were in the air before those women were naked. Barbara asked if she wanted to go check. Laura smiled, sighed, and flew up the mountain. Luther had filled wood boxes, banked fires, placed many candles about the common room and both bedrooms. Lydia was laughing as Barbara started to undress her walking to the guest room; she looked back and told Laura to never ever consider her former question again. Amanda had her own ideas about lust as both women climbed stairs to the loft. Black lace, diamonds and obsidians, a very small black skirt, satin, and lace found the floor and quickly. Mountain snow caps were definitely disturbed as voices of love rang out from the coast for hours into the night.

Laura woke Amanda with a review of the lessons of lips and fingers, well-practiced in bed and in the shower. By the time they dressed, Barbara and Lydia were making coffee, breakfast, stealing kisses and touches of their own. Amanda confirmed that their friends would join them again for the upcoming Wintersday holiday. She said that between the now six senior officers regularly at the Base none would have to work many days. Barbara planned to return again in two weeks for the fishing trip with Luther and Mary. The late summer sun still warmed the deck sufficiently to allow comfort and all four women took a second cup of coffee to sit and enjoy the ocean vista. Shortly thereafter Sally and Jeannie arrived to bring a bottle of very good brandy as a thank you for a wonderful evening of ruckus raising. Mischief shone in Lydia ' s eyes as she asked if they got naked before Huguette was in flight again; without missing a beat Jeannie said Of course!" Lydia then quipped that the woman was learning well, well indeed. Amanda returned to the cabin with a look to have Laura join her. She asked if Laura would mind if they invited Jeannie and Sally for dinner and dancing later that day; Laura was delighted to agree. Amanda returned, walked to put her arm around her old friend ' s waist with an invitation to her and her sweet woman to dinner and dancing later that day. Both women readily accepted with the proviso that Jeannie could contribute sweets; nobody objected, especially Amanda. Dinner was set for 1800 hours. As they left, Barbara smiled and said she was having a romantic moment. She stated that new lovers were wonderful, tiring but wonderful. Lydia said she wanted to know when she would graduate to being not a new lover. Laura suggested a walk to Spy Rock, a walk Lydia and Barbara had not taken. Amanda agreed but firmly stated she was not taking a blanket or a tarp. The couples strolled with lovers holding hands. The riot of Mother ' s green had begun to fade ever so slightly; the ocean now offered up stronger, cooler winds as summer was about to give in to autumn. The friends reveled in the vistas until cool winds drove them back to the warmth of the cabin. Amanda banked the fire while Lydia and Barbara filled the wood boxes. Barbara agreed to work her magic with steaks on the grill. Laura set an elegant table to honor all her friends and to celebrate the wonder of women loving women. She grabbed a quick shower as did all her friends before Jeannie and Sally arrived. Laura found a black silk shirt, one she had not worn since she was a young student pilot at the former military base. She also chose blue jeans and black four inch heels to tempt her lover. Everyone dressed very casually and accentuating their very best assets. Amanda harvested greens just as Sally and Jeannie arrived. Jeannie presented a ginger cake and caramel sauce for their dessert; Amanda hugged her. Sally immediately went to the kitchen to help Laura with the last minute preparations; within minutes both women were much at ease with each other's dances in the kitchen. Amanda took dozens of photographs of all her friends. Dinner was enjoyed by candlelight as twilight cloaked the cabin and the mountains. Night chores were easily carried out by six women. Laura invited her friends to dance. At one point, Sally remarked that there was enough love and energy in that room to light the town of Carriere . Just for mischief and only momentarily, Lohrissa, Aine, Lemanychia, and Briallen appeared in auras of shimmering white, jewel tones, silver, and gold. Jeannie whispered to a very shocked lover that their friends were all priestesses of Naofa, living among them as earthlings. Lydia decided that Jeannie really needed to understand that wanting a lover almost beyond control was a perfectly normal reaction for a woman who loved a woman. She winked at Barbara as she started supposed theatre although neither Amanda nor Laura was entirely convinced it was pretense. With the experienced touch of a lover of more than twenty years, Lydia started the seduction of a very controlled Barbara. Jeannie was dancing but watching as well; Amanda asked her quietly if she was taking notes from one of the best. Laura whispered to her lover that she was taking notes as she was still a relatively new lover and needed all the hints she could get. At the end of the song, Jeannie walked to Lydia , gathered her in her arms, kissing her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Everyone laughed and applauded including Lydia when she came up for air. Sally then asked her lover if she wanted go home for practice. Jeannie agreed but stated that no practice was necessary as she had a very clear plan. Friends hugged each other goodnight and Jeannie took her lover home. Barbara and Lydia wished their friends goodnight as well, finding their journeys in the guest room. Laura took music to the loft and continued to dance with her lover. With the experienced touch of a lover of more than nine years, Amanda started the seduction of Laura who fought for control. When laying in Amanda ' s arms later, Laura stated that she would have to ask Barbara where she found that control. Amanda stated she wanted to know as well because Lydia was very convincing.

Morning rains beat gentle rhythms on the roof and panes of the cabin, setting the mood for a quiet awakening. Amanda and Laura showered, dressing in soft warm clothing as the day just dictated that. Amanda banked the fire, started heaters and put a pot of mulled cider on the trammel. Laura placed a savory breakfast tart in the oven to warm and then helped Amanda fill the wood box. Amanda found warm comfortable clothing for Teddy and Primrose and set them rocking on the hearth. Both women completed morning chores before Lydia and Barbara joined them before the fire. Over breakfast at the island, Amanda and Laura told their friends about the new fireplace planned for installation when they were at the trial at the Ravencouer Base. Both Barbara and Lydia asked if Amanda wanted them to attend for support; there was an instant and undeniable request in response Amanda stated she still did not have definite dates yet but Declan had told her the trial was tentatively booked for some time in the tenth month of the new year. Amanda admitted she was not looking forward to the testimony but also knew that truth needed to be told; Eleanor gave her great courage. Barbara quietly said that Karina ' s story needed to be told as well. With the mention of Karina ' s name, Laura went to the studio and returned with her sketches as well as her sewing project. She told her friends that Jeannie and Mary were teaching her; she was fascinated with the process. She also said that Jeannie had a great talent for design which she hoped to encourage; she said she was looking forward to working with her over the winter months whenever she could get her out of Sally ' s arms. Amanda returned with the wee knitted clothing for Sean ' s and Olivia ' s new baby, due to arrive very soon. Lydia returned with hers as well as did Laura with the layettes from the Smithers ' store, made by Jeannie and Mary. They packaged all in a carton to take to the base for return to the Taylor ranch with Sean ' s brother Alex the following fifth weekday. Barbara continued to playfully shake her head at the whole concept of knitting for new human babies but she too had her own gift to contribute, that of hand carved wooden toys made by Jackson . Amanda also showed Lydia the wool she had purchased, produced by a cooperative on the plains; Lydia insisted that when the returned for the fishing weekend that they return to the Smithers ' store. She too loved the quality of texture and dye. Laura gave Barbara letters and stories to return to Spero and Karina Lynne. Lydia always returned from the ranch with a huge bundle of colorful drawings and stories for Laura from Spero, always addressed to Laura and the lady who lived inside her. The friends moved to the warmth of the fire. Laura asked Barbara about her muse. Barbara replied that she raised horses and cattle; with a rather stern look from Lydia she also said she wrote. Lydia explained she had been published in the past under a pen name. Both Amanda and Laura were silent with surprise. Amanda asked about her choice of genre for stories. Barbara shyly replied that she most enjoyed historical fiction, writing mostly of early earthling journeys. Lydia stated that she had written a series of books about women surviving the journeys from cave dwelling to independently living among Mother ' s grandeur. Laura suddenly recognized the stories and grabbed Barbara ' s hand. She said emphatically that she knew her pen name, that of Breagh. Barbara smiled brightly as Laura stated she had read the books as a young woman while still in university as had many of her friends; they had been thrilled with the stories. Laura was lost to the new storeroom built as a former clothing cupboard; after a few minutes returned with a carton taken from her quarters at the old air base. She unpacked the carton full of books including all those written by Barbara. She asked if Barbara would sign them as they were now treasures; Barbara complied with some shyness. When signed, the books found a place of honor beside Amo Te on the mantle. Amanda asked if she still actively wrote to which Barbara replied she had been thinking about a children ' s series as most stories for children were a great insult to their minds. She also said that the days of printed books on paper were likely lost as trees were at a premium now. She had written some stories for and with Spero; he seemed to quite enjoy them. Laura asked where she learned to write. With a laugh, Barbara said that she told herself stories as a youth to escape the violence and abject poverty of her family life. Lydia gave her a laptop computer for her birth anniversary the first year after they met, asking her to write her a love story. She did; it became part of the first book written by Breagh. Lydia held her lover ' s hand, kissed her brow; explaining that she had been blown away by the woman ' s mind from the first time they talked at the Carriere base, long before their first Wintersday weekend together. Laura wondered out loud if she would ever stop being amazed by the women in her life; then answered herself stating that she hoped not.

The rain continued all day, inviting naps and cuddles before the fire. Amanda shared some of her yarn with Lydia ; soon needles were taking both women to their muses. Barbara and Laura danced in the kitchen with preparation for dinner. Laura asked Barbara how she could keep that much control with her lover was actively seducing her. Barbara asked if she ever had experienced bad sex; Laura replied only with very inexperienced male university students when she was very young. Barbara told her to think about that for as long as she could. Laura giggled, stating she was going to try that theory later that evening. Both women were laughing; Amanda and Lydia knew it was not good, agreeing that they were likely in for some kind of wonderful trouble.

The friends dined by candlelight and firelight. Amanda ran a soaking bubble bath for her friends. Laura wanted a quiet cuddle with her lover by the fire, sitting with legs stretched out and Amanda ' s head in her lap. She knew her mistress was happy but asked what would make her happiest. Amanda replied five eternities with her beloved priestess might suffice. Laura suggested that Aine could request that of Lohrissa when they met next. Amanda laughed as she still could almost not believe that once in her life she thought that mystical stuff was just bunk. She said early on in their lovership she knew Laura was magic; it was not until she had a tantrum about having to send young cadets to their potential deaths did she see the grandfather for the first time. Laura replied that she remembered that very well, being beyond happy that she no longer had to lie by omission. Lydia and Barbara emerged from the bath bidding night blessing to their friends. Barbara just winked and said Remember." Laura led her lover to the loft and a shower. She found music for seduction; with only curls covering her lovely priestess skin she asked her lover to dance. She was silent for a few songs and then whispered to Amanda to seduce her. With the experienced touch of a lover of more than nine years, Amanda started the seduction. Laura remembered her bad sex for as long as she could manifesting as great control. Amanda laughed, congratulating her as she had put forth almost her best efforts but Aine had not. No remembrance of anything could keep control for Laura as priestess loved priestess to pinnacles throughout the night.

The following day was the last day that Lydia and Barbara could spend together before the new Colonel left for the ranch. Laura made a breakfast tray and took it to her friends to enjoy together in their bed. Luther arrived just as Laura was returning to the kitchen. Both priest and priestess were enjoying a cup of coffee perched on stools at the island when Amanda joined them kissing her lover morning blessings. They invited Luther to join them for breakfast but he declined and returned to the greenhouse. The day was clear and the sun made valiant efforts to warm the washed air. Luther planned a flight to Carriere for supplies and Amanda asked Laura if she would like to join her for lunch and some shopping. She said that she thought that Lydia and Barbara would enjoy real alone time for a few hours; Laura told her she was a dear, sweet woman. Luther was delighted to have their company. Lydia was just entering the common room when she was told that she and her lover were being abandoned for a few hours while their three friends shopped. Lydia filled two coffee cups and kissed all her friends as thank you. Within less than hour, Luther was flying his priestesses for lunch and a shopping adventure.

Amanda and Laura had cheeseburgers and fries at the bar before shopping for boots for the upcoming winter months. Laura found the fabric store and could have spent days there had she not been rescued by her lover as Luther was waiting. She did arrive back at the cabin with armfuls of fabric and a large bag of notions. Amanda teased her that yet another monster had been created, a decidedly beautiful monster. Lydia and Barbara were cuddled on the couch before the fire. Everyone helped to store supplies after ignoring Luther ' s protests. Barbara had a herbed roast of ranch beef in the oven for their dinner filling the cabin with the enticing smells of a cooler day feast. Amanda was wearing the T-shirt that Laura had made for her and proudly modelled it for their friends. Both Lydia and Barbara ordered dozens in all colors and both short and long sleeves. Laura laughed and said she was flattered but they should not anticipate shipment of orders much before a year.

Dinner was enjoyed at an early hour as all the women wanted to retire early in preparation for work the following day and Barbara ' s flight back to the ranch. The following morning Barbara and Lydia were in the air at 0730 hours with a planned arrival at the Carriere base by 0800. Laura and Amanda arrived in time to see Barbara take off and on her first pass she tipped the tail of the ranch helicopter. Serena had moved to her new office. She snapped attention with a salute as General Bennett and Lieutenant General Ravencouer said good morning. Amanda told her that they did appreciate the symbol of respect but they were working colleagues and unless commanded she did not need to salute or stand to attention to greet them. She also winked, saying it really annoyed Laura, and she could get quite nasty when annoyed. Serena smiled, replying she had heard. Lydia arrived at Serena ' s office to discuss testing of pilot skills for the new recruits and institution of a curriculum for those who chose to pursue that branch of the combined forces. Lydia stated that as much as she enjoyed teaching recruits to become pilots, she had many portfolios now and although she would help when necessary and always be available for consultation Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer was now responsible for that portfolio. Serena was just about to reply Yes ma ' am when the Lieutenant General firmly told her that her name was Lydia ; she expected to be addressed as that when they worked together. Before lunch, Lydia also met with clerks responsible for housing with one final report on the readiness at the Carriere Base for the Armed Forces new recruits. Amanda settled into the very familiar routine of preparation for new recruits although she did mention that she was very happy that there would be no repeat of those tiresome welcoming evenings she had to endure with the new cadets and the nervous parents. It was well understood that all the recruits had seen more ugly warfare in a few short years than any of the former military had when Amanda had tried to command a training base. There were still lessons to be taught and learned. The former commander of the Resistance had only expected the very best from all those who battled with her. There was an abiding understanding of why they had been called to discipline and selflessness, concepts that would not need to be instilled once again. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer was welcomed to the weekly staff meeting before all the other senior officers reported on their portfolios and projects. The new recruits were expected to arrive on the fifth weekday with classes planned to start on the following second weekday. All senior offices except Lieutenant Colonel Taylor would be formally introduced to the new recruits at the noon meal in one week. Amanda reported that two Corporals had been approached about permanent teaching positions for the Law and Security course and had accepted. Lieutenant General Ravencouer was commanded to augment their knowledge in intensified half day classes starting the following second weekday. Amanda also planned to promote these personnel to the rank of Master Corporal at the completion of their classes. Lydia reported that the greenhouses at the base would operational by the end of the current week and personnel had been chosen to become gardeners. Emme McDaniels, Frida Shipman, and Tess Redhawk sent extensive lists of plants proven in the climate. Charles Smithson had looked at the list and had heartily approved. Amanda asked Lieutenant General Smithson if he would have time to take on the portfolio of Sustainable Provisions. He beamed he would work off hours if needed to as they all knew his plants were his first love, after Eleanor and his family of course. Both Amanda and Lydia thanked him as both women were becoming very busy with other projects. General Bennett announced that the flight school and pilot instruction portfolio would be taken over by Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer. She also asked that Serena provide the group with a detailed inventory of aircraft as well as current pilots and mechanics. At the end of the meeting Laura asked Serena if she would pilot for her practice jumps in preparation for testing of new recruits for their skydiving ability. Amanda winked, stating that some officers had all the fun. Laura met Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon to finalize class times, days, and locations for the instructor ' s course for Law and Security. Lydia stood at the window and smiled at the increased level of activity on the tarmac with crew members moving supplies and equipment in preparation for the arrival of new recruits the following day. She told Amanda that it had been years since there was finally a sense of hope and purpose for this base, stating she was very proud to renew her career here.

Laura and Amanda returned to the cabin by 1630 hours on the fourth weekday. Both women were tired from a busy work week and decompressed with showers and wine before the fire. Luther left a note he would return the following morning. Judith ' s chowder, Laura ' s rolls, and Mary ' s cookies were enjoyed by the fire. There were few night chores as Luther filled the wood box before he left for the day. Laura was hoping that Jeannie planned to arrive in the morning as she wanted to show her the fabric she had purchased. Laura found empty sketch pads and pencils for her friend. She told Amanda she sensed a great talent waiting to be discovered; she was hoping to help that along. She laughed and said that she now had a definite edge because she had been so right about Sally. Amanda asked her lover to go to the loft. They had chosen sleep above passion for three nights; they now had four days to sleep if they chose. Laura had absolutely no protest.

Luther was banking the fire when both women greeted him the following morning feeling rested and very much in love. He agreed to join them for coffee as he wanted to report on the progress of plans for wood harvest for the winter as well as plans for installation of the new fireplace. Ian Fletcher was happy to help with the fireplace. The autumn and winter were slower times for his family business; therefore, he was happy to have the work. Daniel and Ian both agreed to help with the harvest of wood for the winter. Daniel reported that he would insure that the harvested trees were replaced by young plants the following spring. There were enough stones left from the construction of the guest room fireplace and chimney to complete the small corner fireplace for the loft fireplace. Luther also inquired as to whether or not the women wanted quantities of fowl for their freezers for the wintering over. Ian said they always had fresh birds and eggs but transportation was more of a challenge in the winter. Both women readily agreed to purchase enough fowl for the late fall and winter, including a large turkey for Wintersday if possible. Luther replied he did not see that as a problem. He also said that he and Mary had decided not raise their own fowl again as they traded fish for fowl with the Fletcher family. Amanda also asked Luther to order a supply for Jeannie ' s freezer and to have invoice sent to her. Luther said she would protest; Amanda just shrugged. The Fletcher family had a landing pad as did most families living on the coast and Luther said he could manage transportation over the winter months. He smiled stating since he bombed in the winter he could pick up and deliver eggs. Just after breakfast and a second cup of coffee, Jeannie arrived. She was dancing with excitement as she showed all three of her friends' photographs of who would soon be Julia and Adam Dawson-Bond. The usually outwardly stoic Amanda Bennett let tears roll down her cheeks as she touched the photographs after which she looked at her old friend who was simply and completely happy. Amanda was still being taught. Good had fostered good. The battles, the sacrifice, and the hurt had paid the price for happiness; she saw that clearly on the face of her friend from childhood. She had one more understanding of the ancient Naofa and her purpose. Laura smiled at Jeannie; Lohrissa held Aine at that moment and forever. Both women shone with faint auras or silver and shimmering white. Luther too had tears on his cheeks as he blessed the children in his faint garnet aura. Jeannie hugged her friends, stating that if one was going to have grandchildren it probably did not hurt to have them loved and protected by priests and priestesses. Laura reminded her that all children were loved and protected by Naofa.

Laura said she was sure her news paled by comparison but asked Jeannie if she wanted to see the fabric she had purchased. Jeannie grabbed her hand and ran up the stairs to the studio. Amanda laughed as she told Luther not only did she have to compete with mechanics it was becoming very apparent that she would also have to compete with fabric and thread. Luther hugged her, stating fortunately the competition was easily won. Jeannie loved all the fabric, especially the satin and lace trim. She said it would make beautiful lingerie. Laura gave her friend the sketch pads and pencils, telling her to draw what was in her mind, what her inner eyes saw. Jeannie perched on a stool in the studio; lost to pages of designs, all original, all beautiful. Laura stood in awe, beckoning Amanda to bring the camera. When Jeannie ' s pencils took a break, Laura asked her if she could make the patterns and then make those clothes. Jeannie replied she had been doing that for years but never had money to invest in beautiful fabrics that were before her today. Laura showed Amanda the designs Jeannie had drawn; Amanda too was astounded. Laura sat beside her friend, telling her she wanted her to do this, to make her designs. She said she was brilliant, they were brilliant, they were original. After the battles, there were few places for women to purchase beautiful clothing. Laura said she would purchase the material Jeannie needed; she could pay her back if and when her clothing was sold. Jeannie sat in stunned silence. Her friends told her they both really hoped she wanted to do this as they both could see both a huge talent and a huge potential success. Laura asked if she had a space in her own to convert a studio. Jeannie replied that she had always used Ruthann ' s old bedroom as the light was best there. Jeannie said she would ask Mary to help as her technique was as good or better than Jeannie ' s. Jeannie was silent again for another few minutes and then whispered Mary Jeanne Designs ; the dream was born.

Jeannie left after sharing lunch with her friends at their insistence. Laura and Luther helped her carry the fabric to her vehicle. She was flush with excitement, both at the prospects of her own designs and meeting Sally later that afternoon. After she left Laura danced with her muse in the kitchen as was her usual routine on the last weekday of each week. Luther said goodbye in midafternoon as he had a date on Yule with Mary. He told her priestesses he planned to return to the cabin on the next first weekday.

Chapter 11

Both women still loved the quiet of their home and never tired of it. While sitting before the fire after dinner, Amanda spoke of being anxious about getting back on Yule again. She had not even seen the boat since the day Luther and Harry had hauled her out of the ocean after Bella crashed. Laura held her, reassuring her beloved that they did not have to go fishing if she did not want to. She was very sure that everyone would understand her anxiety. Amanda replied she had to confront that fear again as Laura had confronted hers and continued to do so. Many of the nightmares were behind them now; she needed to close this one as well. Amanda had not spoken at length about how she felt during the battles; it seemed that the time was drawing nigh to put all that behind her. Laura banked the fire, took her lover to the shower, and found warm night shirts for both of them. Amanda returned with warmed duvets to cover them in the night and brought Teddy and Primrose to the loft as well. The bears had not seen the second floor previously; happy to be tucked in the rocker, just to listen to the earthling voices they loved. Laura invited Amanda to rest her head on her shoulder and breast. Amanda was quiet for minutes before starting to talk about how she had felt from the time she saw the computer images Laura had sent from Tony Downs' office. She read Karina ' s last email and knew that Laura would not return to the base or her arms. She said she had sketchy memories of Charlie, Barbara, Luther, and Jeannie packing their possessions and flying to the Carriere Base. She said clearly remembered stepping down from the ranch helicopter, seeing Lydia, then screaming until no sound came forth, and lying face down on the tarmac. Amanda knew in her mind that Laura ' s destiny was to lead the earthlings but when she left to do so Amanda ' s heart could almost not bear it. Barbara took her to the cabin as Lydia had to stay at the Carriere Base to deal with the havoc surrounding Anthony Downs yet again. Amanda said she could not even look at their bed, sleeping on the sofa before the fire for two nights. Lydia returned on the third day. As only Lydia could, she told Amanda that she would not give up; they had a job to do, and they were going to do it. She said the Colonel was AWOL. If they did not make her disappear permanently she would be hunted and incarcerated. Amanda wore a personal GPS device and parachuted to the ocean before Bella crashed and burned, helped by extra fuel on board. Amanda did not return to the cabin from that day until she brought Laura back home. She lived with Mary and Luther until they had devised a plan. She then moved to the ranch, living there for the remainder of the battles. Lydia and Barbara had breached the Resistance communications system; she was sure with some help from the ancients. Amanda said that after meeting Drew and Annique McDaniels she immediately knew they were entirely too smart not to thwart the breach if they had not been told it was by friends. Amanda said that as long as she was busy planning attacks and teaching both Luther and Jeannie to drop bombs her heart did not ache to almost paralysis. She ran each night, rain, snow, or heat to exhaust herself so she would fall into bed and not think about her beloved. Laura kissed tears from Amanda ' s cheeks as she continued to talk. She said with every battle, she wanted to go to the Northwestern Command Post, every time she heard Laura ' s voice over the communications system but the ancients constantly told her the journeys were unfolding as they should. Lydia refused to speak of Laura to Amanda. Amanda knew that she was protecting her as she could not afford any more hurt than absolutely necessary. She touched Laura ' s face, whispering that she was so proud of her in every one of those battles. As victory came closer, she really thought that Commander Ravencouer would continue to lead in peace as brilliantly as she had in war. Amanda told Laura that it was not until the day they came for her that Lydia told her the truth about the horrors Laura saw, about Lindsay, about Thea, that Ross Shipman told Amanda that they would lose their sister if she did not go to her. Amanda stroked Laura ' s curls as said she simply did not think Laura wanted a life with her again. After the battles, when peace was insured and the future loomed there were no longer any distractions to keep Amanda from the ache she felt constantly. She said she really just went through the motions of being alive. She laughed as she spoke of the loud arguments between her and Lydia as her friend tried to push her to hope to no avail. She stopped talking again to gather composure. Laura left for a moment to bring her lover brandy and then to gather her back into her arms. Amanda said that she did not want to see or talk to anyone on the day that Declan and Ross came to the ranch. She had found some type of solace by just staying with the ancients, some sort of insulation against an ever deepening aching sadness. She said they mentioned Laura ' s name; for a small second she remembered being happy. Laura again kissed tears from her beautiful lover ' s cheeks. Amanda then said that Lydia Stenns was a wonderful woman; Laura very much agreed. Lydia basically told the leaders of the new settlements what to do, when, how, and they ended up thinking it was their idea all along. She was the one who had made a stop at the cabin on her way back to the ranch to retrieve Teddy, had Luther paint Amo Te on the helicopter, and found a crystal vase. She smiled through tears, saying that despite the woman ' s brash and brusque behavior she was a hopeless romantic. Amanda sat up, looked at her lover. She said she heard Laura whisper her name as she realized she had not died. She continued that she could almost not breathe as she waited at the door to have somebody bring Laura from her quarters to see her. She said life started again at that moment, continuing to the very present. She sat on the bed looking at her lover through tears and in candlelight. That nightmare once burdening Amanda Bennett was over now. She said after a few minutes of silence that she was ready now to go fishing. Laura rocked her sweet woman for a very long time that night. They had crossed another threshold, one where passion was not necessary to define intimacy.

Laura left Amanda to sleep in the morning. The walk through her nightmare the previous night exhausted and cleansed her lover; Laura knew about that kind of fatigue. The morning was bright and cool. After banking the fire and making a pot of coffee, Laura stood at the window for several minutes watching the ocean while returning to her ancients. She smiled as she remembered that Noshi guided her years earlier to never fear loving, to find it to her capacity. She knew now the lesson, her capacity was endless if she allowed the well to be opened further constantly. She understood that Laura Ravencouer was a work very much in progress as they all were. There was a balance now, one where she understood that although she was a young earthling with many more life lessons to learn she was the most ancient high priestesses of Naofa with all the attendant power and wisdom. She saw a similar balance now evolving in Amanda ' s life. Amanda had grown from a lonely frightened woman who had hidden in external motivations to loving, courageous, and generous of spirit. She was very familiar with external confidence and leadership but was learning how to allow the reality of her own vulnerability. Laura knew that her Amanda ' s knowledge of her eternal journey with Aine was still becoming familiar to her lover, no longer with trepidation but still very much with wonder. Laura gave down thanks to a proud smiling grandfather as she returned to reality of the cabin. Laura looked to the loft and saw Amanda stirring though sleep giving over to waking. She made a breakfast tray of her lover ' s favorite cinnamon buns, fruit, coffee, a yellow rose from the garden, and ascended the stairs to share with the love of her life.

Amanda smiled as Laura crawled back to bed and set breakfast before them. She was almost overcome with love for this woman who quietly greeted her, kissing her brow. After sips of coffee, Amanda spoke of her journey the previous night. She said that the tough Amanda Bennett had an epiphany of sorts. She lovingly chided her lover that she was a magic woman indeed as she was the only one ever in her life who had drawn out her secrets. Laura replied that she did nothing of the sort but instead Amanda chose to let them go when the time was right. Laura spoke of her early morning conversation with Noshi and her own realizations. She told Amanda that she had known of the infinity of her soul from their first night together. She now understood that loving a woman physically was fun, exponentially thrilling, addicting, necessary, but was also an initially easy avenue to a lover ' s soul. She smiled as she admitted that she was initially shy when Amanda removed her clothes their first night together and she was seen naked. With a quick kiss, she reassured her lover that she had liked it, shy or not, but that it was new, something not conditioned in her childhood. She also explained that the love given and received in that nudity was life altering that night. When she had lived through the hell of the battles with her almost life-ending ache for her eternal partner, she had to become naked in her soul if she was to heal, to grow, a process she now understood to be ongoing and eternal. She readily admitted that act of becoming bare was far harder, more significant than Amanda seeing her body unclothed. She then was quiet for a few moment before taking her lover ' s hands, thanking her for the privilege of sharing the intimacy of her soul, stating it was perhaps her greatest gift so far. Once again, Amanda Bennett allowed tears to fall down her cheeks as she asked her young mistress where she got that much wisdom. Laura replied with one word, that of here . Suddenly and very clearly, Amanda understood the true meaning of the spiral, of Naofa.

Both women rose finally to greet the rest of the day. Laura completed her dance with the muse in the kitchen after helping Amanda with morning chores. After a late lunch, they sat on the deck for the last of the sun ' s warmth before the true onset of the autumn. Laura sketched her lover as she sat with a new countenance of peace. Amanda asked her if she wanted a trip to the summit tomorrow, likely the last for the season as Mother ' s winds were blowing more strongly each day. Laura replied happily that she would pack a tailgate lunch for either the summit or the lake, stating that she always loved dates with her best friend. After dinner, Laura found heavy sweaters and asked her lover to join in her for dancing on the upper desk, lit only by galaxies shining more brightly in the cool air. Laura and Amanda entered the shower afterwards, Lohrissa and Aine left it and found each other in the bed for hours into the night.

Amanda woke Laura the following morning and stated that a storm was coming by late day. She suggested that if they were going to go to the summit they should take coffee and go after breakfast. Mother ' s winds were brisk and strong enough to keep both woman on the tailgate only for a few minutes before leaving the summit again for another year. On their return to the cabin, Laura giggled as she thought she needed to tell Jeannie that the snow caps were still on the peaks. They would just have to apply themselves more. The first of many autumn drenching rains driven by wind arrived by midafternoon. Amanda was lost with the needles and Laura was lost with her quilt in the studio. She had started to think of using fabric to tell stories as did the canvas. She reminded herself to ask Jeannie to keep fabric scraps. Amanda finally rose to prepare dinner as Laura joined her in the kitchen. The dynamic of their lovership had changed y again over the past two days, one both women recognized, accepted, and celebrated. After dinner and night chores, Amanda said she thought a cool wet evening called for a long warm bubble bath for two lovely women to which Laura readily agreed. Just before climbing to the loft, Amanda banked the fire and then invited the love of her life to her arms. As if they were new lovers once again, there was the familiar almost mountain moving passion now coupled with the intimacy of spirit each had allowed to give and receive. Before sleep both women were engulfed in gales of laughter; even Noshi and the ancients laughed with the priestesses and their discovery.

The lovers woke to Luther whistling songs the following morning. After quick showers and dressing, they greeted their friend just as he was bringing in a catch of fish for their freezer. He said that the ocean was becoming a bit more temperamental now but this was the very best time for fishing; he and Mary had been very successful over the weekend days. He brought enough fish to trade with Lydia and Barbara for ranch beef. Both he and Mary were looking forward to their day with their friends on the upcoming first weekend day, hoping Mother cooperated with skies not filled with rain. With his ever present priest sight, he asked Amanda if she would be able to enjoy a trip on Yule again. With the radiance of looking at the only love she would ever know, she said that indeed she would. Luther did not ask further. Before lunch, Amanda managed to frustrate herself as she looked through her clothing attempting to find civilian clothing appropriate for the upcoming trial. She refused to attend in uniform as this was a personal issue. She returned to the fire stating that she needed to find time to go to Carriere to find suitable attire. Laura suggested she ask Jeannie to design and sew clothing for her. Laura had already decided to set up a system whereby Jeannie could order fabric as she chose and the invoice would be sent to Laura at the base. After lunch, both Laura and Amanda decided to visit Jeannie and Sally to discuss those very designs.

When they arrived, both women were cleaning the garage in preparation for winter. Sally teased Jeannie by saying that she would owe them forever for rescuing her from the drudgery. After entering the house, Sally made a pot of coffee while Jeannie showed them her work area. Amanda told her that was exactly why they had interrupted their weekend together. She explained that she did not have suitable clothing to wear as a civilian at the trial and wandered if Jeanie would design clothing for her. Amanda insisted that she pay a comparable price to any shop in Carriere but hated shopping and did not want to give up any free time for that activity. Jeannie was already sketching when Sally invited them all for coffee in the common room. Within minutes, Amanda and Laura were looking at sketches of a suit with trousers and a skirt as well as a matching dress to be worn with the suit blazer. Before Amanda had a chance to be surprised she was back in Jeannie ' s studio being measured by an expert. Laura clapped as she watched an artist in her element. When both women returned to their coffee, Laura said she had decided to notify the fabric shop in Carriere with instructions to have invoices for Mary Jeanne Designs sent to her at the base. Jeannie started a protest and was told to shut up or she would need to be shut up again. Sally was very excited as she watched her lover with a muse she had only just started to discover. Jeannie advised she would have patterns and preliminary clothing to try on in one week if that was suitable. Amanda continued to be almost speechless.

When the designs were chosen and plans made, Jeannie then said she and Sally had an issue to discuss with them regarding Amo Te. Sally spoke first, explaining that she loved Jeannie Dawson and wanted to be with her the rest of her days on earth. She said they had both known from their first night together it would be forever. She continued by saying that she lived in an apartment in Carriere and Jeannie lived in a house on the coast. They both loved the coast and Jeannie would never agree to leave her ocean. Jeannie then stated she had asked Sally to live at the coast with her. She explained Sally needed to be at the bar now only three days a week as many staff members working there had done so for as long as Sally and Melissa had owned the establishment. Sally continued that she loved her bar with no intention of giving up her work there but she loved her woman more with absolutely no intention of giving her up. Laura and Amanda were both beaming as they knew where the conversation was leading. Sally said she was a currently licensed pilot and a good one. Jeannie asked Laura if she objected to Sally piloting Amo Te to and from the Carriere Base three days a week in order to work at the bar and then return to her home on the coast. Jeannie said she loved her home on the coast but if there was no other way she would move to Carriere to live with Sally. She said softly that she had waited all her life to know this kind of love; she would not let it go. Both women offered to pay rent for the use of the helicopter as it would be used at least three days every week now. Amanda walked to both women, hugging them both. She returned to her seat to take Laura ' s hand. It was not her decision to make as Amo Te was Laura ' s helicopter but she was happy and thrilled that both women wanted to spend their lives together. Laura also hugged her friends, explaining that they were talking to women who had just finally been able to live together in the past few months after many years of being lovers. She said they both had a deep understanding of the need to be together now and forever. Laura gave her blessings with complete agreement with both women piloting Amo Te for as long as they needed. She asked that they continue to be responsible for any maintenance. She explained to Sally that Amo Te had been a birth anniversary gift to her from Amanda , Lydia , Barbara, and all her friends at the coast. Amanda told them that the night that Laura met Amo Te, Amanda had been mated for eternity with the ancient high priestess Lohrissa. She told both her friends that as such this was a very magic little helicopter; she would fly them safely. She quietly wished both her friends the same happiness as she and Aine had found with Laura and Lohrissa. Amanda and Laura then joined their friends to finish cleaning the garage.

Laura and Amanda returned to the cabin just as Luther was preparing to leave for the day. They decided to let Jeannie tell her friends about Sally moving to the coast. As was their usual first weekday routine, the lovers dined early and then retired early in preparation for another busy work week ahead.

Laura landed at the Carriere Base just before 0830 hours the following morning. Both women remarked on the sense of increased activity with the new recruits now at the base. As well, heavy machinery was being moved into position to start the third and last phase of the current planned expansion. They were just arriving at their offices when Lydia beckoned them to her office, handing them tissues. Laura was curious as Lydia turned on her computer monitor to play a video of Sean Taylor, grinning, weeping, and introducing Dorothea Lindsay Taylor born at 0200 hours that morning. Laura was sobbing; Amanda also allowed tears to fall freely down her cheeks. Charlie heard the women and came running as did Serena Lorimer, both very concerned. Lydia was beaming, shrugging when Serena looked at Amanda and Laura. Charlie applauded at the birth of his friend's new daughter. Lydia continued that Alex emailed later stating that mother and daughter were absolutely fine, healthy; father was recovering slowly. In his email, he said the man bombed the hell out of every military installation in his sight including the compound housing the remaining members of The Decision and other than cursing was very calmly focused. But, when his daughter cried for the first time he was a blithering fool; it had been absolutely wonderful to see. He also said that when he told Ross and Frida Shipman over satellite link he was sure the entire western half of the northern continent could here ROGER THAT!!!!! repeatedly. Lieutenant General Smithson stated he felt this called for a cup of coffee and he asked Serena to help him carry back cups for their friends from the staff dining room. On their walk there, he told Serena about Dorothea Ravencouer and Lindsay Reynolds with the phenomenally significant roles they had played in their recent history. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer had to exercise control to hold back her own tears at the end of the explanation. When they returned, their friends had all returned to their offices. Laura was preparing to start teaching her first class to Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon about Law and Security and how to teach further classes of students. Laura apologized for her tears, thanking her friends for the coffee. Serena told Laura to never apologize for being an earthling. Laura smiled as she left for the classroom to start her classes. On her return after lunch, she emailed her colleagues notifying them of her absence at the weekly staff meeting for the current and next week due to her classes. She called the owner of the fabric store to set up an account for purchase of fabric with the invoice to be sent to Lieutenant General Ravencouer at the Carriere Base. She gave the owner the names of those people authorized to purchase fabric and supplies. Laura then emailed Jeannie that the arrangements had been made. She also told her of Dorothea Lindsay Taylor.

Colonel Maclippe arrived the following morning, joining her colleagues to welcome of the new recruits with introduction of the senior officers and Commander-in-Chief. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer barked Attention as the senior command entered the dining room. Salutes were returned before General Bennett put the room at ease. Lieutenant General Smithson led his colleagues to the tables where twenty nervous excited recruits stood at attention and saluted their officers. Once again, General Bennett put them at ease, asking each to introduce themselves to each of the officers. Laura recognized many former Resistance fighters. She was very proud and happy that they had been hired to continue their service to those with whom they all had struggled for survival. Amanda welcomed them, speaking to her pride in them and awe by their service during the battles; stating they had been hired as they were already assets to the new Armed Forces. She told them that they would be expected to give their best at all times but also stated that a certain former commander had already instilled that in them. After lunch, Amanda invited Barbara and Lydia to stay at the cabin with return to the base to work rather than staying in Lydia ' s suite, if they chose. They accepted happily; Amanda immediately emailed Luther to get the guest room ready. He replied he already had and that dinner would be sufficient to feed four hungry officers. Amanda loved that man.

Laura continued her classes on the fourth weekday. Barbara worked with Charlie on a formal curriculum for basic, intermediate, and advanced mechanics. The new recruits easily passed the requirements for physical training. Lieutenant General Smithson began teaching basic structure and procedures for all Armed Forces personnel. Serena and Laura choose an afternoon the following week for two practice jumps in anticipation of testing the new recruits as Amanda had set that as a requirement for all Armed Forces personnel. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer offered to share command with Lieutenant General Smithson for the fifth weekday and the upcoming first weekday which would allow Barbara and Lydia to spend four days together with their friends at the cabin. She smiled when Lydia thanked her, stating that she got to go home to Annette ' s arms every night now and would be forever grateful. Before Amanda left for the cabin on the fourth weekday, Declan emailed that the trial was set for the second week of the tenth month of the new year. He asked who would attend; she replied Laura , Lydia , Barbara, Charles, and Eleanor as well as herself. On the flight to the cabin, she told the others.

Over wine before the fire after dinner, Lydia kept looked at her former lover and finally asked her what was going on. She said Amanda was more beautiful and more at peace than she had ever seen her friend. Amanda thanked her, explaining she had closed the door on the nightmare of the battles. She kissed Laura ' s brow as she said that a very wise, beautiful young lover had walked with her through that to the other side. Both Barbara and Lydia were silent as Amanda talked about finding intimacy beyond the physical and the depths of her soul now, depths she did not know existed. Lydia smiled, quietly remarking it sounded like her former lover had grown up or at least caught up, telling her it looked absolutely breathtaking on her. Lydia said she knew something was up when she saw Amanda weep at the video of Dorothea Lindsay. She had only seen Amanda cry on a few occasions and knew that something or somebody had managed to help her cross that bridge. Laura looked at Lydia for a moment, and then asked her if she wept as she had rarely seen tears in her eyes. Barbara lowered her head slightly and smiled. Barbara said she had made her lover weep the first time she seduced her and the woman had cried ever since. Lydia looked at her mistress with absolute adoration and stroked her hair. Amanda smiled and teased her former lover that she had it bad, bad indeed. Laura chuckled, stating Amanda had been right when she warned her to keep an eye on those quiet ones. Everyone was tried from a busy week and chose to retire early. There were few night chores; within minutes the couples were headed to their rooms.

Luther was at work as all four women arrived in the kitchen for breakfast. They chose to go Eaglesdown for lunch and shopping. No-one ever tired of the little hamlet, the chowder and biscuits, or the adventure at the Smithers store. Amanda and Lydia headed directly to the new shipment of wool from the cooperative. Laura purchased as much of the newly woven fabric as she thought fair, leaving some for the inhabitants of the small village. When Ruthann discovered Amanda and Laura, she almost cried when she spoke of her mother ' s new designs and the arrangements they had made. She said she saw the clothing in progress for Amanda; she would be very surprised if she did not think they were the best. She giggled when she talked about her mother making very seductive lingerie, stating that her mother ' s mind often drifted to the need or lack of it. She also told all her friends that a group of women in the village including herself had decided to start a knitting cooperative for children ' s clothing and large warm sweaters for the fishermen. She said that it was early yet but she knew that before they realized it there would be more children living among them and they needed warm clothing. They were also working with cooperatives on the plains for supplies of wool. Every day, all the priestesses rejoiced in the freedom, resilience, and ingenuity of those who had chosen life over evil.

Everyone chose an early evening once again as they promised Luther and Mary they would at their dock by 0900 hours the following day. Laura and Amanda woke early and prepared a huge breakfast for themselves and their guests. The day was bright but cool with ocean ' s early fall winds. Once again, they were told not to bring anything except cameras and warm clothing. At 0900 hours Luther and Mary welcomed the priestesses aboard Yule and the fishing expedition began. Laura kept asking Amanda if she was faring alright; Amanda told her not to fret. The wind and a moving boat caused everyone to stay seated while Luther drove to a secluded fiord out of the wind ' s path. He insisted that they all wear floatation devices throughout the day. Once in the fiord, the women fished in earnest and in fun. Indeed this was a good time of year for fish harvests; by noon the live wells in the boat were more than half full. Mary then drove to a small secluded archipelago for lunch. Amanda was lost with her camera, taking dozens of photographs. After a huge lunch of fresh fish, potatoes, salad, apple tart, and coffee, they prepared to go to another secluded bay closer to shore. Just as they returned to the open ocean, Luther suddenly stopped the boat and pointed the water between Yule and the horizon. Four women gasped as a pod of killer whales swam and fed. Four priestesses and a priest emerged, singing greetings and blessings to their brothers and sisters. The whales sang their replied greetings and blessings. Lohrissa gave down thanks for the eternal watch of Mother ' s children, human and otherwise. She renewed her vow to always protect all from the attempts at harm by Olc.

The communing with the whales meant less hours for fishing but no-one regretted a minute away from the rods and reels. By 1600 hours, Luther and Mary were tying Yule to the dock, helping four tired women disembark. The live wells were full of fish which Luther promised he would clean and share among everyone including Jeannie. When back at the cabin, everyone showered and found warm sleep shirts, robes, and moccasins before sharing stew and braided loaves before the fire. The winds, fresh air, sunlight, fishing, and the thrill of the whales had exhausted four women who all found beds very early.

Chapter 28

It was well past mid-morning when Luther arrived with cleaned fish for the freezers and found everyone still fast asleep. He banked the fire, brought in wood, and made a pot of coffee. Justas he was leaving, Laura met him in the kitchen. She hugged him with thanks for a wonderful day again. He smiled and said with great affection that it was their pleasure. Amanda joined her lover as Luther was driving away. Both women were famished and set about preparing a meal for breakfast and lunch. Their friends could not resist the smells of bacon and savory tarts causing everyone to gather around the island for food and conversation. Amanda took coffee to her work station and set about printing photographs of the whales as Laura wanted to write to Spero and tell him the story. There were photographs of Barbara and Lydia with the whales in the background which Laura was sure would impress the precocious four year old. The sun tried valiantly to warm the deck but was constantly interrupted by clouds and winds from Mother. A thoroughly lazy mood captured all the women for the remainder of the day. Barbara worked her magic with steaks for dinner enjoyed at an elegantly set table with good wine and great company. No-one even thought about dancing, choosing instead to cuddle before the fire. Amanda ran a bubble bath for her friends, a true luxury for them as bathtubs did not exist at the ranch. Laura and Amanda filled wood boxes and finished night chores while their friends soaked and giggled. The tempo of the day and the previous day ' s overdose of fresh ocean air and sun still easily lulled all four women to sleep early and to wake late, long after Luther had arrived at the cabin. Daniel Fletcher arrived just as everyone was settling into breakfast. Luther introduced him to Lydia and Barbara before both men left to inspect the areas of forest for harvesting wood for wintering over. Amanda had to hide a grin as Daniel glanced up to see the large portrait of her lover and herself, naked and dancing. The man turned four different shades of red before he stopped staring. Luther smiled, explaining that Laura had painted that; in fact, she painted all the artwork in the cabin. Laura sat perched on a stool at the kitchen island, smiling innocently when introduced as the artist. Amanda walked to the pantry to stifle a smile at her lover ' s disguised insolence. Laura Ravencouer was beautiful and knew that but she also thought all women were beautiful. She understood it would take educating a new generation of earthlings to see beyond the politics of procreation when looking at nudity but she was also on her own mission to convert those who might understand. Amanda donned a warm sweater and walking shoes, announcing that she was going for a walk among her fir trees while Mother still permitted. Laura asked if she wanted company; smiling eyes answered. Lydia and Barbara declined, offering to do the morning chores Luther would permit while they were gone. Amanda got in the vehicle and Laura joined her with a question on her face. The women drove to the beach and beyond to where the road stopped. Amanda stopped the vehicle, stepping out to view the ocean and the mountain before her. Laura joined her before both women found branches to act as walking sticks as they started an ascent. Amanda said she had not been here in a dozen years and wondered if the path would have overgrown entirely. The walking was certain more arduous than if on the roadway but the path was still passable. They came to a clearing and beyond the sound of running water. Amanda took Laura ' s hand as they walked past the clearing; around a sharp bend on the old path was a small pristine waterfall and briskly running stream. Laura could not stop smiling as she looked at the prisms in the water. Amanda remained silent as they stood for several minutes gazing at another of Mother ' s quiet surprises. Finally, Amanda said that they should return to the vehicle as the path beyond this point was grown over making any further ascent difficult. Laura knew there was a battle being fought in her lover; she stayed close and respectfully silent. Amanda stopped just before they reached the vehicle, turned, buried her head on Laura ' s shoulder, and cried. Laura held her again in silence. Suddenly, a side of Amanda that Laura had only seen rarely screamed, yelled, sobbed, and cursed Anthony Downs. She paced, broke her walking stick, and threw stones to the ocean. She sobbed her anger, her hurt, her physical pain, her repulsion, and her shame. She wept as she spoke of feeling the man body on her, then in her, and how she had not felt pretty or clean since. She cried that she had not felt truly worthy of any lover since that night at the university campus. She sobbed that she had to fight with her parents not to see Tony again and also about walking in the neighborhood as Tony ' s snickering friends pointed at her. Laura took her hand to lead her to the vehicle and drove her back to cabin. Amanda was still sobbing when they arrived. Lydia ran to meet her former lover. She and Laura helped her stumble to the cabin and the fire. Barbara poured Amanda a shot of brandy, forced her to drink it, and poured another. Laura did not stop holding her lover as she continued to weep. When she quieted, Laura took her hand and led her to the loft. Lydia and Barbara turned down the duvets as Laura helped her lover shower. Laura found Amanda ' s old, worn, soft sleep shirt and dressed her. Instinctively, Lydia held her friend until Laura returned dressed in her own sleep shirt. Lydia convinced Amanda to leave her arms and climb into Laura ' s. The priestess Briallen emerged to sing a hauntingly beautiful lullaby to soothe her friend and sister priestess. When Luther heard the music from Naofa, he ran to the common room and then to the stairs. Lydia motioned to him that it was alright, explaining quietly they would be down to explain in a few minutes. Laura eased Amanda to laying in her arms as Lydia covered both women. Amanda had quieted to the point of only diminishing dry sobs. Briallen returned to Naofa as Amanda closed her eyes and Laura sent down thanks and blessing. Laura quietly told both her friends she was not leaving Amanda. Everyone nodded their agreement as the priest and priestesses found their way back to the fire.

Laura continued to hold her lover, stroking the soft blonde hair framing her face. Amanda had not spoken since she had returned to the cabin although Laura knew she was not yet asleep. This beautiful woman was her lover, her mistress, her friend, her seductress, her partner, and her boss. This woman had been born to parents not wanting her in their lives but only the status of intelligent offspring leading to approval of their peers, had fought her way through a maze of misogyny as a young career military officer, had commanded a training base well despite poor leadership from her superiors, had trained and fought with five amazing pilots to assist in the defeat of her former bosses, had lived through years of aching for a lover she was not sure ever wanted her again, and had chosen to lead a new Armed Forces forged from the wills of earthlings who had fought to survive. She was loved by friends, being a kind, generous friend in return. When all of those descriptions, histories, and roles were removed, Amanda Bennett was a woman with her own very real insecurities, fears, nightmares, and self-imposed pressures to be brave every moment of her life. She had finally learned to trust herself enough to allow the walls around her internal life to fall; once started they fell like dominoes lined up. Laura understood Amanda ' s initial anger and determination to rise above the males in her life who had hurt her. She also understood her internal struggle with hiding in that familiar negativity but also cherishing males in her life who loved her and whom she loved in return. Amanda moved slightly, opening her eyes to look at her lover. The child in Amanda was allowing herself to be held now perhaps for the first time since her infancy. Laura smiled at her, kissing her brow to which Amanda just moved farther into Laura ' s arms. Amanda finally spoke, whispering her love for Laura. Laura told her lover she was very much aware of that and returned the sentiment tenfold. Then Amanda thanked her friend for walking through that nightmare with her to the other side. Laura kissed her, telling her she was incredibly proud of her as she had chosen freely to close that door and start healing. She teased Amanda ever so slightly as she told her that she was very brave once again but much more than ever after this fight. That bravery was clearly defined by Amanda ' s trust in herself. Laura whispered that now she could start to feel cherished as a woman, as a friend, as a lover.

Luther , Lydia , and Barbara remained in the common room, quietly sending blessings to their sister priestess. Lydia told Luther about Amanda ' s fight with the nightmare and what would be a huge victory in her. She said that by the end of the next month of the new year Amanda would finally have closure on the horror imposed on her by Anthony Downs. Barbara spoke of the degradation, humiliation, and violence of rape. She explained to Luther that it was often much easier to women to internalize all the negativity rather than fight against preconceived notions, those where earthlings believed that those raped were not victims but in fact had asked for the violence. She continued that their new world must believe that ownership of one earthling by another was no longer accepted. Lydia had been quiet after Barbara ' s rant, finally stating that it was time for them all to insure that no other earthling would be chattel. It was early afternoon; Luther went to the kitchen to warm chowder for everyone ' s lunch. He was preparing a tray to take to the loft when both Laura and Amanda joined their friends in the common room. Lydia took her dear friend and former lover in her arms, hugging her for a very long time. She quietly told Amanda that today she was the bravest, the most lovely she had ever been in the years that they had known each other, perhaps in her entire life. Barbara stated it was much easier to beat an enemy one could see than to conquer a nightmare internally and choose victory. Luther served lunch at the island; as Amanda and Lydia walked to the kitchen Barbara hugged Laura, telling her that she loved her and thanked her for loving their sister. After lunch, Lydia and Barbara found time alone in the guest room before the days they would be apart. Luther had banked the fire and filled both wood boxes. He also insisted on cleaning and tidying after lunch, stating this was for his friends, not his employers. They all loved that man.

Laura and Amanda spent the afternoon cuddled before the fire. Amanda napped off and one after the exhaustion of her early journey. Laura drew down to Noshi and her mother who both thanked her for loving as much as she did. Noshi said he no longer needed to encourage his priestess to find her capacity on earth as she has exceeded it previously. Luther came back from this workshop to say goodbye just as Lydia and Barbara rejoined their friends. Everyone thanked him again for a wonderful day on Yule and for just being his wonderful self. He blushed, telling Lydia and Barbara he looked forward to seeing them at the Wintersday celebration. Laura chose to make home-made pizza for dinner, a treat no-one had enjoyed in a long time. She and Barbara both worked in the kitchen to prepare dinner and Lydia joined her friend before the fire. Laura looked over to see Amanda sitting with her head resting in Lydia ' s shoulder; only thankful for the love they continued to share.

Chapter 29

Both Lydia and Barbara declared that the pizza must now be part of Laura ' s repertoire for subsequent visits both at the coast and at the ranch. Laura laughed as she agreed she could be persuaded to accommodate her friends. The sun stayed in the sky less and less now as the autumn arrived. Everyone chose an early night as their work week started in the morrow and Barbara planned return to the ranch. Laura continued to marvel at how they coped with the many days they lived apart but also knew that the love they shared grew with each day and sustained them. Luther arrived earlier than usual the following morning to help Barbara pack fish for the ranch and drive her to the tarmac. She was in the air before the other officers left the cabin and tipped the tale in goodbye and I love you. Amanda , Lydia , and Laura landed at the Carriere Base at 0830 hours to start their work week once again. Laura finished teaching Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon by the third weekday, after which Lieutenant General Smithson supervised and marked their examination. Both were successful; they would be promoted to the rank of Master Corporal. They both would start instructions with as new class of special recruits for the six new outposts ready for new settlers. The newly hired recruits moved through classes with Lieutenant Generals Smithson and Stenns. Dr. Ray Dobson and Stephen Redhawk agreed to take all new recruits in two groups for basic first aid training at Sanctuary. Because of the upcoming trial at the Ravencouer Base, the classes at Sanctuary would take place for the week preceding and the week of the trial. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer was asked to supervise the classes being taught on Law and Security to the special recruits for the new outposts. Serena and Laura chose the fourth weekday afternoon for Laura ' s test jumps before assessing the newly hired recruits. Several crew members and new recruits watched Lieutenant General Ravencouer easily hit the target on the tarmac with both jumps, without the need for a roll on landing. Amanda smiled as she watched from her office, very proud and slightly envious. She suspected that it would be many years before new recruits would need to be taught skydiving as Laura had taught instructors and fighters for the Resistance; many of whom had jumped several times to destroy previous military bases. Laura returned to her office on the fourth weekday in time to meet Amanda to return to the cabin and the beginning of four days alone together.

Luther had left a note stating that he would return in the morning and planned a shopping trip to Carriere. He also stated there were several frozen fowls in the freezer as he had made a flight to trade fish for fowl with the Fletcher family. Laura immediately took fowl from the freezer for her usual fifth weekday dance in the kitchen. The air was now cool once the sun started to set. Luther had banked the fire and filled the wood box as well as turned on the heaters in the loft for showers after his friends returned home from work. Jeannie emailed Amanda earlier in the week stating that she wanted to do a fitting for Amanda ' s new clothing on the fifth weekday morning if possible at her home. After very brief night chores, Laura invited Amanda to join her on the rug before the hearth. Amanda ' s journey through the rape and then a busy work week had led to only sleep on the previous nights. There was an almost innocent sweetness now in Amanda; Laura wanted to love her gently through the night. She took her lover ' s hand and with a smile told her that it was her turn; Laura Ravencouer directed the tempo of this journey to passion. Amanda surprised even herself with her reaction of trembling when her lover kissed and touched her. Laura asked her if she was frightened, if she wanted to stop. Amanda only shook her head and returned the kisses and re-exploration of her lover ' s body. Amanda banked the fire and grabbed Teddy and Primrose as Laura took warming stones and duvets to the loft. Once again, Laura started a gentle tender seduction of her lover as she undressed her before taking her in her arms and leading her to bed. Amanda allowed herself to be loved and to feel loved as if this was her first time in the arms of another woman. Both women wept as a new depth of trust and passion found them, Amanda with a final understanding of being cherished and Laura with the exquisite privilege of helping her lover to find that. Laura held her lover, smiled, and kissed away tears. Amanda started to tell her she was not sad to which Laura replied she knew. Both women talked of a new understanding that they had to know each other at the level they had just reached. Amanda always felt she must fill the role of sexual aggressor with Laura as she was older with more experience. Laura told her that she completely understood; for years they had both allowed those roles to perpetuate. Laura finally understood the connection between love from her heart, her soul, and intimacy with her body. She told her lover how wonderful it was to love her this night, to help her understand the feeling of being cherished for the woman she was; not just for her drop dead gorgeous body. Amanda was quiet for a few moments, finally realizing that she always reacted to intimacy and passion as if was still a competition, another need to be better in a man ' s world. She said she had to break that wall down before she could feel honest receiving of love with no need for grading or performance. Laura looked to the rocker to see Teddy and Primrose holding fast to each other so the humans could not see their tears. Teddy would say later to Primrose that there was hope for their humans after all, silly as they seemed at times.

As dawn found the night sky, Amanda woke her lover with a need of which she was not aware she was capable. This was not her usual physical aggression but rather a great desire from her soul with no need to invite Aine to join her. Suddenly, she understood that this new depth of love, need, and desire was where Aine dwelt in her all the time. Laura had known where Lohrissa lived in her, easily meeting her lover ' s demands and needs. Both women were basking in the journeys back from the ancients when Luther arrived for work. Both women scurried to the shower and dressed for the day. Luther was making a pot of coffee as Laura greeted him; Amanda joined her lover and Luther and was almost dancing as she helped Laura make breakfast. Luther was not entirely sure of the all the details but he was certain new magic had happened in the cabin. Laura invited him to join them for breakfast; although he declined food he did accept a cup of coffee and perched at the island with his friends. Jeannie told him about Sally moving to the coast; he was delighted for his friend as although he did not know Sally Palmer well he liked who he did know. He said there was no doubt in his mind that both women were very much in love; he was not worried about either wellbeing. He took fowl to Jeannie who protested but accepted them as she knew she would not win the argument with Amanda. He did say that he was going to help them make an entranceway from the garage to the small hanger so they could access Amo Te easily in inclement weather. He also said he would use Huguette to help Sally move what she needed to when she was ready to make the final move if that was agreeable with Laura and Amanda. Laura finished the supply list; Luther then readied himself for shopping in Carriere.

After a second cup of coffee, Amanda and Laura drove to Jeannie ' s home for Amanda ' s fitting. She had no idea what to expect as she had never had clothing made specifically for her. Laura told her to find some satin and lace and the shoes she intended to wear at the trial. Mary greeted both women, telling Amanda to meet her and Jeannie in the sewing room. Laura was told to make herself comfortable in the common room for the fashion show. Amanda modelled expertly tailored, exquisitely designed clothing that needed almost no changes. Amanda was glowing as she knew she looked beautiful with Laura clapping constantly. Jeannie and Mary were both happy with the results but did not seem surprised as these women had sewn since adolescence. Jeannie said she would have the clothing ready by the following weekend. Amanda consulted with Laura about what price was fair knowing that Jeannie would not charge enough. Amanda asked for the price as she wanted to pay for the clothing before they left. Jeannie said the fabric was expensive, she hoped she did not mind. Laura had already paid the invoice for the fabric with the understanding that Jeannie would pay back the investment when her business was flourishing. Jeannie shyly said she thought perhaps the invoice would be three hundred dollars which would cover the cost of the fabric and her time. Amanda gave her a certificate for one thousand dollars; when Jeannie started to refuse Amanda grabbed a pair of scissors and made like she would cut the clothing. Amanda told her the clothing was beautiful, original, and worth every penny. She was very sure these women had a business that would make them very successful in the future. Jeannie blushed, stating she had ordered labels that she wanted to sew into the clothing, that of Mary Jeanne Designs. Both women thanked their friends again, returning to the cabin as Laura wanted to cook for the reminder of the day. Jeannie was meeting Sally at Carriere at 1500 hours; they hoped to move some of her personal items and clothing this weekend. Amanda told her that it was perfectly fine to have Luther use Huguette to move what was necessary.

Laura was beyond excited on their return to the cabin. She said Jeannie Dawson was every bit as good as Karina had been; with some encouragement she would grow beyond that. She said she had a very fine sense of color and shape with an obvious love of the art and craft of her designs. Amanda laughed as that shopping there was just so much easier.

Amanda was able to finish morning chores before Luther returned and when he did they helped him stow supplies. Amanda agreed to grill fish for their dinner as the days for grilling were quickly coming to an end for another year. Luther said goodbye in the late afternoon; he would return on the first weekday morning. He planned to start the harvest of wood for the winter with Ian and Daniel Fletcher in the upcoming week.

After dinner and with wine before the fire, Amanda asked her mistress if she would like a long bubble bath by candlelight which sounded like a fine idea to Laura. Amanda ran the bath; Laura found warmed robes and lit many pillar candles. The galaxies shone diamonds through the skylight as both women relaxed and soaked in the warm water. It would have taken no persuasion whatsoever for both women to find passion before leaving the tub but romance took precedence over lust. When out of the bath and in warm robes, Amanda banked the fire for the night while Laura took warming stones and duvets to the loft. Amanda carried Teddy, Primrose, and their own warmed throw to join them in the rocker. Laura found music for the player and asked her lover to dance. Amanda danced, and then simply asked Laura to love her which she did over the next earth hours. Amanda laughed at herself as she said she was acting like a brand new lover once again. She did think she was just a bit too long in the tooth for that behavior. Laura whispered that was not a thing wrong with feeling new all over again as she started decided distraction.

Autumn rain started to fall before dawn cloaking the cabin and the firs in shades of gray. Laura rose, banked the fire, made coffee, brought warm stones to their bed, and returned to kiss morning into her lover. Amanda smiled as she found the place just beyond sleep and before opening her eyes. Laura left the bed long enough to grab both bears that were very chilly and needed humans to warm them. Amanda laughed as she wondered what the free continent would think if they knew their commander-in-chief was laying naked in bed with a couple of bears. Laura immediately replied they would think she was wise and fortunate. After morning chores, both women found ends of the sofa and joined their muses. Laura found music to listen to as she sat with a sketch book. Amanda was lost with her needles as usual. She was knitting sweaters from the new wool she had purchased at the Smithers store as gifts for Sally and Jeannie for Wintersday. Both women spoke of the very magical Wintersday ahead for Jeannie, Sally, Jacob, Peter, Alan, and Julia. Jeannie told them that Jacob and Peter planned to leave for the east in the upcoming week to meet their children and live with them for a few weeks before returning to Carriere. Laura sketched designs for wall hangings she wanted to make from fabric including gifts for Spero and Karina Lynne. Mary had shown Laura how to use small amounts of fabric adhesive to attach fabric to other surfaces. By doing this, Laura hoped to cut shapes and hand finish edges. She had enjoyed the hand sewing when they had made braided rugs before, thinking she would again. She supposed it would be as meditative as painting. She had a painting in mind for Jeannie and Sally as a Wintersday gift and had a canvas prepared but needed a sunny day to tell the story. She did ask Amanda for photographs of both women taken during previous visits as reference. Laura was lost in the sketches and looked up to see Amanda watching her with lovelights shining. Laura put down the sketch pad, took the needles from Amanda ' s hands, enticing her to the rug before the fire. The air was too cool to linger; both women reluctantly dressed after passion although both could have stayed in the other ' s arms for hours.

After dinner and night chores, both women showered and returned to the hearth. Amanda spent some time in the pantry, emerging with a chess set that she had not seen since she purchased the cabin. It was not fancy and was worn but both Amanda and Laura thoroughly enjoyed several games. It had been years since either woman had played; while initially challenged the game returned to their minds quickly. Their analytical minds were a fine match for each other which was a great pleasure to both. Once again, Teddy and Primrose questioned the sanity of humans but remained delighted to be in their company.

The second weekend day dawned with sun but cooler air after the rain. After breakfast, Amanda asked Laura if she wanted to go to the beach, promising there would be no tears. The ocean ' s temperament was daily growing more surly although still not enough to deter either woman from enjoying the quiet of waves and soaring birds. On return to the cabin and the warmth of the fire, Amanda found her needles and Laura retreated to the studio. She created the story for Sally and Jeannie, one of a mountainside with Sally standing on a rock ledge above Jeannie with her arm extended grasping Jeannie ' s hand. In the background were mountain tops with some snow caps melting and sliding down the green sides. Laura painted her signature ravens circling above. She was not sure the story was completely told, choosing to leave it sitting on the easel until she was certain. She joined Amanda on the couch and drifted to a nap before the fire. She woke to find her lover preparing dinner and enjoyed the luxury of simply watching her. Laura understood that the dynamic of their lovership had changed over the years but she also understood that she was more in love than she ever thought possible with the most beautiful woman on the planet.

After dinner, night chores, and wine before the fire, Laura told her lover that unfortunately she was being overcome with the lust of a twenty-something year old, inquiring if Amanda knew of any possible solutions for that condition. Amanda did; the rest of the night was taken up with remedies.

Luther arrived at his usual time the following morning, banked the fire, and made a pot of coffee as Amanda and Laura were preparing for the day. Shortly thereafter, Ian and Daniel Fletcher arrived to accompany Luther to begin the fall harvest of wood for wintering over. Before he left, he told both women that he expected to return to find all his chores ready for completion. Both women grinned, promising they would not do his work for him. He filled the wood box before leaving for the forest, stating he would return just after midday. After a second cup of coffee, Amanda settled in with her needles and Laura returned to the studio to seek completion of the painting. She chose to paint opaque flowing figures about the canvas with shimmering white, jewel tones, silver, and gold indicating the blessings of Naofa for the union of these two women. She then knew this story was complete. After lunch and Luther ' s return, Laura wrote long emails to Lou and Niki, asking about their move to the east and when they had planned that. Laura knew from both Sean Taylor and Drew McDaniels that the settlements were ready for habitation. Master Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon had classes scheduled for the next weeks to teach Law and Security to those chosen to live and work at the Communication Centers at the new settlements. She told her friends of the summer at the coast, of Jeannie and Sally, of Jeannie's and Mary ' s new business, of being happier every day. She finished her letter by stating that they hoped to visit the new settlement where they would live in the following spring before they visited Sanctuary once again. When Luther returned, Laura asked him to frame the new painting, requesting that he wrap it as it was a Wintersday gift. Amanda asked to see it; she was amazed as usual at Laura ' s talent and ability to capture magic on canvas. As was their usual routine, the women dined and retired early in preparation for the work week ahead.

Chapter 30

Amanda and Laura were at work at 0830 hours the following morning. Lydia had started classes with the new recruits in Communications. Serena and Laura chose the fourth weekday to test skydiving skills with the new recruits. Serena chose another pilot to copilot and ready the recruits to jump. Laura had watched most of them jump out of aircraft while being shot at with bombs exploding around them as they landed so she was quite sure they would pass the test readily but Amanda stated it was a requirement for all personnel. General Bennett had asked Drew McDaniels if he had civilians he would recommend to teach basic communications at the Carriere Base for future groups of recruits. She explained that she did not want her most senior officers to always teach classes in addition to all the portfolios each was responsible for. It was her plan to eventually have Armed Forces personnel trained to teach but in the interim she did not want Lieutenant General Stenns to continue to prepare for classes of new recruits. Drew replied that he believed that one of the new recruits had worked with him at the Northeastern Command Post and was quite knowledgeable with the Communications system they had built and were using. He said he would need to learn how to teach but he had the skill and knowledge set already. Amanda asked Lydia to have the recruit report to her office before the classes started on the third weekday.

At the weekly staff meeting on the third weekday morning, General Bennett confirmed that Lieutenant Generals Ravencouer, Stenns, and Smithson would accompany her to the Ravencouer Base in the second week of the tenth month of the new year for Anthony Downs ' murder and rape trial. She told Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer that she had no idea how long they would need to be away from the base but said she did not anticipate it would be more than one week. She explained that Lieutenant General Smithson ' s wife as well as herself were witnesses that had been requested to testify. She also said that Lieutenant Generals Ravencouer and Stenns as well as Colonel Maclippe were accompanying them for support. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer replied that she did not anticipate problems whatsoever. General Bennett reassured her that they would be in daily contact during the time away. General Bennett expressed her appreciation and pride with the new recruits, their orientation, and education. Lieutenant General Ravencouer reported that the special recruits to be living at the new settlements were getting instruction now given by Master Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon. Amanda ended the meeting as she wanted to meet with Private Kevin Johnstone prior to lunch.

Private Johnstone arrived at General Bennett ' s office at the requested time. Lydia introduced him to Amanda. They explained that Drew McDaniels had recommended him to teach Communications to future classes of new recruits. Amanda told him he would be taught the skills to instruct but that she was very sure he would be able to teach well. He was surprised but very please, happily accepting the challenge. Amanda said that they would set up instruction time for him once all the basic classes were completed and he had returned from Sanctuary. Both Amanda and Lydia did inform him that if he had chosen another field he preferred he was certainly free to pursue that. He said that the Communications system fascinated him; Drew and Annique McDaniels were brilliant in its design, operation, and maintenance. He said it was a privilege to have worked with them as well as being taught by one of the women who had breached it. Amanda and Lydia stifled smiles as the agreed with him.

After lunch, Amanda emailed Declan to request that the former Northeastern Command Post be named an official Armed Forces Base. She said it more readily served the eastern settlements than either the Ravencouer Base or the Carriere Base. She also suggested that it be named the Shipman Base for obvious reasons.

On the fourth weekday, Lieutenant General Ravencouer tested all twenty new recruits on skydiving and as she expected all passed readily. She jokingly told Amanda that it had to be easiest class she had ever taught, then seriously told her that most of the current generation of recruits would be very well qualified as most of them had jumped several times under very adverse conditions. At the end of that day, both women returned to the cabin anticipating time together for another four days.

Jeannie delivered Amanda ' s new clothing on the fifth weekday and told Laura that she would return with her clothing that Luther had sent for cleaning. She also told her friends that Peter and Jacob had flown to the outpost on the plains in the middle of the week. They sent back an email stating that her grandchildren were beautiful, telling her that she would love them as they already did. As was her routine, Laura spent most of her day in the kitchen and the greenhouse. Luther was at work only briefly as he joined Ian and Daniel Fletcher with wood harvesting for most of the day. When they returned, all three men moved all the deck furniture to the storage shed for the winter. Laura always liked the coming of fall at the cabin. There were few days to enjoy the outdoors but the pace of their life also quieted; she like the feeling of being tucked in.

The weekend days were peaceful, filled with muses, passion, and relaxation. Jeannie and Sally visited on the first weekday to drop off Laura ' s cleaned clothing and to update their friends on Sally ' s move. She told her friends that Luther and Daniel agreed to help move furniture to replace some that reminded both women of Harry. Sally learned early on how to change batteries for power as supplied by the wind towers and solar panels on the mountainside. Both women looked entirely happy and content; so looking forward to their futures together. Laura asked Sally if she had seen Jeannie ' s creations for Amanda to which Sally replied that she was blown away by the talent and hoped to help grow that business. Sally asked both her friends if they had seen the lingerie that Jeannie had designed and sewn. Both women answered they had not but wanted to. Jeannie blushed as Sally explained that it was entirely decadent as it should be. Before they left, both women told Amanda they would be with her in spirit at the trial and to remember always that she was loved. Amanda simply hugged her reply.

Lydia and Barbara invited Laura, Amanda, as well as Charlie and Eleanor Smithson to stay at the ranch from the second weekend day until the first weekday when they were expected to arrive at the Ravencouer base. Declan sent the names of attorneys, stating that a jury had been interviewed and approved. He stated privately that it was incredulous that Anthony Downs still insisted on his innocence; as such, the trial would proceed. Laura, Amanda, and Charles had all decided to work on the fifth weekday for the upcoming week in order to clear as many items as possible for Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer. Lydia planned to return to the ranch later in the fourth weekday. At the end of a very busy work week, two tired women returned to the cabin. Luther had readied luggage for packing and had dinner ready when his priestesses walked through the door. He said he wanted to stay to offer his blessings to them both and also to tell them he would walk with them with Lughe. He reminded both women that he and Daniel were helping Jeannie and Sally on the first weekend day and that when they returned they should have a new fireplace in their bedroom in the loft.

There were no night chores and as both women were tired they dined and retired early. Amanda woke Laura before dawn the following morning with need and desire, keeping her awake well into the morning. Both women packed luggage in preparation for an early morning flight to the base and then on to the ranch. The remainder of the day was spent quietly. Laura did not need to prepare food as there was much ahead in the freezer and she wanted to spend the day with her lover. Amanda was lost with the needles; Laura prepared canvases and sat with her lover before the fire. After dinner and night chores, the lovers enjoyed the luxury of a bubble bath, knowing there would not be one again until they returned to the coast. Laura noticed a very strong quiet resolve in Amanda. She fully trusted that once this trial was over, no matter the verdict, the Anthony Downs nightmare was closed for all of them.

Chapter 31

Both women met Charlie and Eleanor Smithson at the Carriere Base at 0730 hours on the second weekend day and were airborne by 0815. No-one discussed the trial but instead the women became better acquainted. Lydia and Barbara met the Raptor, welcoming everyone to the ranch. Both Amanda and Laura had offered Charlie and Eleanor use of the guest cabin but they had declined; Jackson showed them to room in the staff house. Just after lunch, Spero came bounding into the great room and immediately ran to Laura for a hug and a kiss. Then he politely greeted Amanda, Charlie, and introduced himself to Eleanor. He said that his Papa Jackson had told him he could only visit for a few minutes as everyone was tired and might need a nap like Karina Lynne. He continued that Karina Lynne got very cranky if she did not have her nap and he did not want his friends to get cranky too. Lydia said the child was wise indeed. Before he left, he asked Charles if there were any more magic things behind his ears; Charlie was able to find two more shiny coins. Spero said it was magic and he would share with Karina Lynne. Jackson told him it was time to check on the horses: Spero happily joined his grandfather. With ever so much pride, Barbara said she feared the child would rule the world before he was ten earth years old.

Everyone did have naps. As Amanda looked in her luggage, she laughed out loud. It seemed that both Teddy and Primrose had insisted on accompanying their humans for this trip. They had both complained bitterly that not counting the initial trip to the cabin neither had made it past the deck. They both expressed vehement complaints about the humans always having more fun, pitching quite spectacular tantrums in order to make their way into the luggage. Amanda hugged both as she reclined on the bed; within minutes she and the bears were fast asleep. It took no convincing to have Laura join them. The friends met for a ranch dinner, once again large enough to feed the base but delicious and a treat for everyone. Lydia asked if anyone was interested in a bit of dancing in the evening. Charles Smithson never could resist dancing with the love of his life. By 2200 hours, everyone had returned to their rooms. Laura held Amanda for a long time after their shower, not because of lust but because of overwhelming love and admiration for this beautiful strong creature.

Barbara had the Raptor in the air and headed east by 1030 hours the following day. Ross and Frida met the aircraft after which Laura introduced Eleanor Smithson. Eleanor said she had heard many wonderful things about her new acquaintances from Laura and Amanda. She winked and congratulated Ross for surviving living as long as he did with a holy one as she knew more than any it could be tedious at times. That got her a kiss from her husband in reply. Lydia quipped that was downright dangerous if you put two of them together for any length of time. Ground crew members helped to carry luggage to respective rooms. Charlie was very excited to show Eleanor the greenhouse once they had settled in. Ross invited his friends to join him and Frida for dinner at 1800 hours.

Everyone met in the dining room at 1800 hours, this time in casual clothing, out of uniform. Archie Granger as well as Andrew and Annique McDaniels were delighted to meet Eleanor and greet their friends once again. Once again, they would all record the trial for public viewing if requested and for archiving at Sanctuary. Declan and Emme McDaniels also arrived just as the friends were sitting down. Declan and Drew reported that Lou and Niki were almost ready to move to one of the new eastern settlements. Those settlements were still in a very rural northern part of the former Northeastern City as the more populated areas were still not safe due to debris and the sullied water supply. Drew did convince his mother to choose a site reasonably close to the post where he lived with Annique so that they could visit often. He continued that he knew better than to tell her it was in case she needed help. Laura told him he was a wise man. After dinner and chatting, everyone chose to retire to their rooms. Declan informed them that court would convene at 1000 hours the following morning. He told Eleanor and Amanda that it was not likely that they would be called to testify until the second weekday but their presence was still needed as soon as court convened. Barbara and Lydia with hands joined walked with Amanda and Laura with their hands joined to the edge of the tarmac to look at the great expanse of prairie night skies. Lydia turned to Amanda, quietly telling her that Anthony did not take this away from all of them; he would not take any more power because of his former acts. Both Lydia and Barbara hugged their sister friend and told her they were immensely proud of her.

When they returned to their room, Laura told Amanda she was setting the alarm for daybreak so that she could love drop dead beautiful into her; Amanda smiled saying she could always use all the help she could get. The alarm did ring but after both women were already awake and very distracted. When Amanda finally emerged from the shower, Laura declared she had done a fine job. Both women dressed and walked to the dining room in the cool morning air. Lydia and Barbara were already eating breakfast as were Charlie and Eleanor when the women joined them. Amanda was breathtaking in a berry print sheath, navy wool blazer with matching print scarf behind the lapels, four inch heels, and simple ear hoops. Lydia and Barbara both caught their breaths when she looked at Amanda. Lydia asked if that was one of Jeannie ' s designs; Amanda said it was with pride. She showed them the label on the inside of the blazer that read Mary Jeanne Designs . Lydia and Barbara both said they were going to go shopping when they next visited the coast. Eleanor overheard the conversation, delighted with Amanda ' s clothing. Laura and Amanda told her about the new business; Eleanor confirmed she just got herself another new customer. Everyone had cleaned up well; Charlie was a decidedly handsome man in a suit and tie. After breakfast, everyone returned to their rooms with a plan to arrive at the courtroom together at 0945 hours. Declan ushered them to seats behind the prosecutor ' s desk. Shortly thereafter, twelve jury members were ushered in by the bailiff and then the defense attorney led the prisoner into the courtroom. The prosecutor was a former member of the previous governing council, before the days of The Decision as were the defense attorney and the presiding judge. At 1000 hours the judge called the court to order; after introductions he read the charges against Anthony Downs and asked if was prepared to enter a plea. Anthony Downs replied he was not guilty. The prosecutor made opening statements as did the defense attorney. The prosecutor then called Eleanor Smithson to testify; she quietly clearly recalled the events leading up to her rape by Anthony Downs, the reasons why, and the details of the rape itself. She did not waiver and looked directly at Anthony Downs as she spoke of the violence inflicted upon her. When asked, she said she reported the rape to the local security forces and was examined at a local health care facility. She then produced printed copies of both reports, ones that no-one including the prosecutor had known. When asked to question the witness, the defense attorney started to inquire about her fianc é 's behavior but before she could answer the prosecutor pointed out that her fianc é was not on trial and his behavior had no bearing whatsoever on the actions of Anthony Downs. When both attorneys indicated they had no further questions, Eleanor was excused and told she could return to her seat. All her friends stood as she returned to sit beside her husband, to hold his hand very tightly. The judge adjourned the trial until 1400 hours in order to break for a noon meal and to examine the evidence just submitted that morning. As requested, the witnesses and their friends dined in the common room of Declan ' s office. Amanda hugged Eleanor for a very long time, stating that she was very proud to be her friend. She said that all those who Tony Downs had hurt had been honored by her bravery. Charlie had tears in his eyes but he beamed at his wife. When court reconvened, the bailiff read Karina ' s emails about Susan ' s rape and death as sanctioned by Anthony Downs and then of her own rape and beating. It took great strength for the witnesses and their friends to remain calm and dry eyed as those words were spoken. The judge adjourned the trial at 1530 hours with instructions to reconvene at 1000 hours the following morning.

Again, the witnesses and their supporters dined separately in the common room outside Declan s office. Charlie used Declan ' s computer to communicate with Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer who stated the base was quiet and status quo. She did not inquire as to the proceedings but did inquire if everyone was alright to which Charlie replied they were all fine.

Both Amanda and Laura cried tears when alone as they remembered Karina's degradation and violence she had suffered before her death. As they were falling asleep, Amanda whispered this was for all of them, those who had perished, those whose lives had been changed forever, for those still living. The following morning, Lydia and Barbara brought breakfast trays and coffee to Laura and Amanda as they knew that their priestess would be asked to testify when court reconvened.

Amanda, .Eleanor, and their supporters entered the courtroom together once again on the second weekday. Amanda was beautiful in a navy wool skirt suit, white shirt trimmed with lace, and four inch heels. Again, everyone was amazed at Jeannie ' s design as well as the craft of both Mary and Jeannie. The judge reconvened the trial at 1000 hours and prosecutor asked Amanda Bennett to testify. She walked to the front of the room; after taking an oath to tell the truth she too spoke of the events leading up to her rape as a fifteen year old. She spoke of her innocent rejection of a man who she did not want to marry; at fifteen she did not want to marry anyone. She spoke of being very frightened and also of physical pain due to violence. She also spoke of the damage those actions had caused in her life for many years. As she spoke quietly but strongly, she continued to look directly at the prisoner who simply glowered at her. The defense attorney attempted to inquire as to her sexual experience before and after that event; once again the prosecutor stated that those facts had no bearing on the charges being laid. The judge agreed.

The defense attorney then spoke of Anthony Down ' s attack by a person in the courtroom. Laura remained calm, quiet, and simply held Amanda ' s hand. The prosecutor asked if he could prove that fact; the defense attorney produced an old computer printed image of a woman dressed in a dominatrix costume with a mask and long curls. Laura had worn her hair in a chignon on both days of the trial; as such the curls did not fall down her back as they had in the old photograph. The judge glanced at the photograph and handed it back to the defense attorney without showing it to the jury, declaring it was entirely irrelevant to the trial and impossible to prove in light of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people since the event had occurred.

Both attorneys gave closing statements; the judge then charged the jury to consider the facts and return with a verdict. He then adjourned the trial until such time as a decision had been reached. Since the testimonies were completed, Amanda, Eleanor, and their supporters dined in the staff dining room. They did not discuss the trial among themselves but there was a decided air of relief that it was over. Everyone returned to their rooms after lunch. At 1530 hours, Declan knocked on doors to report that the jury had returned with a verdict; their attendance in the courtroom was requested. The judge prepared to read the verdict. Anthony Downs was brought before the bench as were the prosecutor and the defense attorney. The judge read the verdict that Anthony Downs had been found guilty of rape, assault causing death, and was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. When asked if he had anything to say, he only screamed obscenities as he looked at both Amanda and Eleanor. He was then led from the courtroom. It was the hope of everyone present that they would never lay eyes on the man again. After he left, Amanda and Eleanor held each other and wept. There were many hugs all around; Laura held Amanda ' s hand very tightly as they left the courtroom and returned to their rooms. Although Ross and Declan would have liked to visit longer with their friends, they both understood their real need to put this week behind them. Lydia alerted Jackson that they would return to the ranch by 2000 hours, asking that dinner be held. Barbara flew the Raptor back to the ranch as Charlie was still too occupied holding his wife. After a simple and quick dinner, everyone retired with plans to fly back to the coast at 1000 hours the following day. Laura emailed Luther to tell him of the verdict, staring they would be home by the following afternoon. He replied he was very grateful; although they would try his priestesses might have to sleep in the guest room for one night while the fireplace was being completed.

Laura and Amanda were tired; Laura led her lover to the shower before falling asleep. She was so proud of Amanda; the door to that nightmare was closed forever. Both women fell asleep in each other ' s arms. Laura flew the Raptor back to the Carriere Base the following morning. Charlie was still very much in awe of his wife; they both had lovelights shining when they boarded. Laura was really looking forward to being back at the cabin and planned a weekend of total passion. Amanda joined her in the cockpit for most of the flight, stating she felt bad as she had no yellow petals to drop. Laura quietly told her lover that she planned an entire weekend of play, guest room or not. Teddy and Primrose heard that from the luggage and silently rejoiced. Laura landed the helicopter at just about 1300 hours. Serena met them on the tarmac as ground crews transferred luggage to smaller helicopters. She also said she was prepared to keep command until the following first weekday if the General concurred. The General quietly told the Lieutenant Colonel that she had been informed there were plans for an entire weekend of play so she certainly did concur. Serena smiled and without a salute replied Yes Ma ' am."

The priestesses arrived at their home by 1400 hours. Daniel and Ian Fletcher were still on site as Luther met his friends at their vehicle and carried luggage inside. There was a bouquet of yellow roses on the table before the fire with a card that read Amo Te . Laura asked Luther to pick them up when she emailed him the day before. She smiled at Amanda, telling her she did ask for petals after all. Both women were very happy to be home and held each other for minutes before moving from the common room. Amanda asked if they would be sleeping in the guest room, Luther smiled as he took her hand, leading them both up the stairs to their bedroom. The fireplace was installed with a fire ablaze. Ian and Daniel joined them with broad grins asking if they were satisfied. Luther said the hearth needed to be finished as did trim for the mantle but otherwise it was fully functional. Both women were delighted, hugged and kissed all three men leading to more grins and wonderful blushes. Before they left, Amanda asked for the invoice and upon its receipt she paid both men with a very generous bonus for doing excellent work, having it ready for their arrival home. Ian started to protest; Luther told him not to waste his breath as he had been trying to protest for years to very deaf ears from both women Luther did say that he needed to uncover their bed and find linens. He also said he would return the following day to hang the painting once again as he had removed it so no harm would come to it.

They left Luther to his chores as both women were starved. Laura served bowls of Judith ' s chowder and a braided loaf on the island. Amanda made a pot of coffee; after lunch they munched on Mary ' s cookies and enjoyed good coffee before the fire. Before Luther left, Amanda told him that she had many compliments on her new clothing and that her friends would be ordering their own from Mary Jeanne Designs. Luther flushed with pleasure, stating that he was so glad that both women were finally being recognized for their talents. Ian and Daniel had carried armfuls of wood to the loft and Luther made two more trips, stating that there would be enough wood for the overnight hours. He said that by the end of the next day, there would be a new wood box for their bedroom. He then said goodbye to his friends stating that he would return later in the morning the next day as he and Daniel were going to finish up a small task at Jeannie ' s home.

After Luther departed, Amanda took Laura in her arms on the sofa, kissing her long, hard, full on the mouth repeatedly. Laura laughed, stating that before the play began she needed to rescue the bears as they would be sorely disappointed should they miss out on their opportunities as well. Dusk fell as both women emerged from the shower and moved to the rocker before their new fireplace. Teddy and Primrose did not object to sharing the chair and reclined on pillows on the floor before the fire themselves. After she had finally walked through her nightmare of the rape with its damage before the trial, Amanda had been like a new lover with some degree of timidity and loss of her former aggression. Laura was not sure how her lover would react now that trial was behind them and there had been closure of that horror in Amanda ' s life. Laura knew there was still the overwhelming desire from both of them; as she took Amanda in her arms while sitting together in the rocker her questions were answered entirely. There was no aggression now and no need for it. Amanda was finally able to ask for and return love with no conditions applied with no more demons in herself to fight against. Laura wept as she discovered very much deeper depths of Amanda ' s soul who in turn gave back to the woman she would love for eternity. Well beyond darkness, hunger called; both women returned to the first floor to dine on grilled fish and salad before the fire. Amanda banked the fire after dinner and took the opened bottle of wine and her lover back to the loft. Laura laughed as she said it could be doubtful that they would ever leave the second floor of the cabin again now that there was a fire to watch and keep them warm. Amanda took her to the shower once again; then to their bed to enjoy wine, the fire, and each other. Passion did not leave them save for enough time to bank the fire throughout the night. The very first light that broke though the ink black sky lulled the lovers to sleep and the bears, now happily ensconced in the rocker wept their own tears of happiness for their earthlings and themselves.

Luther arrived, banked the main fire, and made a pot of coffee in mid-morning. He was purposefully loud enough to alert his priestesses of his arrival. Amanda woke, quickly showered, and after kissing her sleeping lover went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and greeted her friend. Over breakfast and coffee, Amanda talked to Luther about the trial, the course of events, and Anthony ' s reaction to the verdict. She said that she was amazed by Eleanor Smithson and her strength. She told him that she had kept records all these years as if she knew the ancients would serve justice eventually. Luther said that Curran likely had some influence on her doing that. She said it was hard to hear the words Karina had written before her death but they served to influence Anthony ' s peers to find him guilty. She had not heard Laura arrive behind her. Laura also told Luther that Amanda Bennett had been strong, calm, and assured through her testimony. They both told him about the defense attorney showing the judge the old print of Laura in costume with a significantly injured Anthony. The judge only glanced at it and returned it to the attorney stating it was irrelevant. Neither woman knew if he recognized Laura or not; they had not been concerned. Amanda talked to Luther about closure of this nightmare; how Laura walked through all that pain to the other side. Amanda was not usually candid about her feelings but she held Laura ' s hands, telling Luther that she loved that woman beyond what she thought she was capable. Luther smiled, mentioning he had already figured that out after their first weekend together at the cabin over nine years ago. Luther set about morning chores; Laura helped him hang the painting back in the loft. He finished a wood box for the loft and made a canvas carrier to bring wood to the second floor. He explained that the fireplace was smaller than either of the others in the cabin; as such, it would require less wood. He also explained that they would need to continue to use heaters as the fire would not provide enough warmth in the winter. Amanda told him they wanted the fireplace to gaze into and not necessarily for heat. Luther grinned wickedly, stating they did lend well to atmosphere. He finished the trim on the mantle with plans to finish the hearth early in the new week.

Just after lunch, Jeannie arrived to learn of the trial. Both Laura and Amanda told her the events. Amanda also told Jeannie that her designs astonished her friends and that she could expect more business very quickly. Jeannie laughed, stating she already had emails from Lydia , Barbara, Eleanor, and Annique McDaniels. Laura said she would like to see the lingerie she had made and had designed. Jeannie then invited her friends to join her and Sally for dinner on the first weekend night; inviting them to arrive early so they could look at further new designs and the lingerie. Both women happily accepted but Amanda did warn Jeannie that Ms. Ravencouer was in a mood and had planned an entire weekend of play. Without missing a beat, Jeannie said she was always in a mood so she fully understood. Before leaving she picked up Amanda ' s clothing that needed cleaning stating that she could send it with Sally when she returned to Carriere and have her return with it. Although Sally still had items to move, she was living with Jeannie all the time now. She had flown to Carriere earlier in the morning to retrieve more items, to check on issues at work, and to return with wallpaper, paint, and hardware as redecorating was underway.

Luther and Jeannie both departed in midafternoon. Luther reminded his friends he would return on the first weekday with plans to fly to Carriere for supplies. Jeannie said goodbye stating she looked forward to seeing her friends on the morrow. By late afternoon, most of the kitchen chores were complete. Laura showered and dressed for dinner as did Amanda. They dined at an elegantly set table and afterwards enjoyed wine and dancing. Amanda banked the fire before leading her lover to the loft, their bed, and the night. Lohrissa and Aine sang the songs of priestesses in love which rang out among the mountains on the coast until dawn.

Laura woke, banked the first floor fire, made coffee, and started dough for fresh cinnamon buns, braided loaves, and homemade pizzas to place in the freezer. She sat at the island with a cup of coffee thinking of her lover and how much she cared for the woman. She knew that they both had come to earth to help their beloved earthlings as they had countless times in the past and would again but for this reality she was always just on the brink of overwhelmed with her depth of love and how it only grew day by day. Her thoughts were interrupted when she placed all the buns and loaves to bake. Amanda woke and joined her lover in the kitchen for coffee, having been lured by the smell of almost baked cinnamon buns. Both women ate before the fire and then Laura returned to the kitchen to retrieve braided loaves and to make pizzas for the freezer and future meals. Morning chores were completed and wood boxes filled for the day. The morning was cool but the sun still tried valiantly to brighten Mother. Amanda made a second pot of coffee and asked Laura is she wanted to go to the beach. A thermos bottle was filled; both women found warm outer clothing and mittens before leaving to sit with the ocean. Amanda brought the camera, taking many shots of the beach, the ocean, and her beloved. Coffee was enjoyed while both women sat on the tailgate, silent with the majesty before them. Amanda talked after some time about how she never tired of being at the beach, of her first memories of being taken there by her father. She said she was too young to know whether her father was moved by the vistas but said she now doubted that he had been. Amanda ' s parents had been driven only by success, wealth, and shunned all else in their lives. She put her arm around Laura, stating she believed exactly the same until a certain magic eighteen year old showed up in her office, stealing her heart. Amanda had believed she knew about loving as she had loved and still loved Lydia but that theirs had been a physical love and then a deep abiding friendship. She still was amazed daily that they loved each other as much as they did and that it grew. Laura kissed her, telling her she thought of the same thing earlier that day. The coffee was long gone and the air was very cool. Laura asked Amanda if she wanted to go home and play.

Both women showered and found passion under the falling water. By midafternoon, both women had dressed in preparation of dinner with Sally and Jeannie. Since both were in a mood, both dressed entirely to entice the other. Amanda choose tights, a grey silk tunic, and four inch heels. Laura chose skin tight jeans, a black long sleeved t-shirt, and her own four inch heels. Laura braided her curls as her lover liked them best that way. Amanda grabbed a fifth of champagne, Laura ' s braided loaf, and met Laura in the vehicle.

Jeannie greeted them at the door, thanking them for the gifts. She led them down the hall to the common room which had been transformed. Sally hugged and kissed her friends welcoming them to their home. The dark room had been transformed to one of soft colors to reflect the firelight. Jeannie explained that they had removed all the dark wood paneling and then had painted the walls beneath in a very pale shade of yellow. Sally said she had moved her almost new furniture to replace the old chairs and sofa that Jeannie had for years. Jeannie continued that they hoped to remove carpets and replace windows in the spring. There was now a door in the kitchen leading to the garage and another leading from the garage to the small hanger housing Amo Te, thanks to Luther and Daniel. Neither man would accept any payment for their work, stating it should have been done years previously and it was a home warming gift to both. The Fletcher family had known Sally for many years as they provided the bar with fowl and eggs. Sally said they had plans to meet with Samantha Morgan to discuss enlarging and renovating the sewing room, soon to be known as the studio. She said she was certain that Mary Jeannie Designs was just on the brink of exploding and they would need much more room. Then Jeannie took both her friends ' hands, leading them to the bedroom. Both women gasped and then laughed aloud. The room had been painted and filled with brand new furniture. There were lace trimmed linens and duvets. Jeannie said she felt so indulged but had a wonderful time in Carriere choosing all the linens with Sally. Sally added she had many more linens to bring from her apartment in Carriere. They also talked that along with the new studio space they hoped to plan two more smaller bedrooms for Alan and Julia as they grew and if they wanted to join their Grandmother and Sally at the coast. As they returned to the common room, Sally said that next they planned to take a round out of the twenty-five year old kitchen and make better use of a the sufficiently large space. They had already ordered new appliances; Luther had offered to refinish the cabinets and place new countertops. Sally hugged Jeannie, telling her friends that this beautiful woman deserved the nicest home they could provide; provide they would.

Laura then asked for viewing of the lingerie; although Jeannie blushed she carried armfuls of satin and lace to the common room. She that the women ' s clothing stop in Carriere had already agreed to take as much as she wanted to sell. Laura looked at them and touched them, declaring they were the finest she had seen including those that Karina had imported years before from the former European City. Jeannie was quick to say that Mary McBane did much of the hand sewing as she knew of none better. She told Amanda and Laura that they had agreed on a partnership for credit and profit, one with which both women were very comfortable. Sally insisted that legal documents be drawn up; Peter ' s father had been happy to do so for them. Sally explained that although she and Melissa had been lovers when they bought the bar years before they were also business partners as it made life much less complicated. Laura purchased many selections, some suitable for beneath her uniform shirts and many suitable for seducing Amanda. Amanda giggled as she too purchased selections, none for beneath uniforms and all to seduce Laura. Laura asked to see more designs for clothing; Jeannie sat beside her as she showed her the sketches for spring and summer clothing. Both Amanda and Laura ordered several more designs with no deadline for delivery. Amanda laughingly said she used to hate shopping but this was entirely too much fun. Both women told Jeannie to choose fabric and colors she knew would suit them. Jeannie explained that Mary Jane Fletcher and her daughters in law had agreed to do home sewing for some of the basics. Jeannie knew they too had sewn all their adult lives. She said it was the norm for all women who lives isolated poor lives on the coast. She said unfortunately there were really only about a dozen patterns available; most families could not afford other than very basic, decidedly ugly fabric but it did beat being cold in the winters. She giggled and said that she was going to say it did beat being naked but nothing beat being naked; with that she kissed Sally long, hard, and full on the mouth. Laura quipped that if Lydia had been present she would be telling them to get a room.

Sally excused herself to return to the kitchen. Jeannie set the table before her friends arrived. She poured champagne for all as Sally put a huge meal on the table. As they sat down to dine, Sally proposed a toast to all women loving women; with lovelights shining in all eyes all women drank to it. After dinner Amanda and Laura insisted on helping with clearing and cleaning before returning to the common room. Laura said she would need to either keep the General awake for the rest of the weekend or she would have to run up the mountain as she had taken way too much delicious food. Amanda said she preferred option one; Sally agreed. After coffee, Laura and Amanda gathered all their purchases, paid Jeannie for what the clothing was worth, more than she had charged, and thanked their friends for a wonderful dinner and time together. Amanda admitted she had been annoyed when Laura chose to introduce Jeannie to Sally as she thought it to be interfering. She stated happily that she had been wrong as now she was very happy for both her friends with love looking wonderful on both of them. Laura walked to the vehicle; once again Sally told Amanda she felt sorry for her, very sorry indeed.

The night sky was brilliant in the cool air. Laura stood with Amanda on the deck for several minutes gazing at the galaxies, giving down thanks for the beauty before her, and peace in her life. She kissed Amanda, telling her once again that she loved her more than she thought possible. When cool air drove them inside, both women filled the wood boxes and banked the first floor fire. Laura led her lover to the loft and slowly undressed her leaving Amanda breathless and moaning. Laura giggled as she whispered that she quite liked having this much control over the General. Sometime later, Amanda whispered that her dear young lover was just about to learn about real control. For earth hours she kissed every centimeter of Laura ' s body repeatedly. Laura cried, begged, was reduced to very unladylike language, and still the General did not relent. Amanda finally took mercy on her lover and allowed passion to find her lover. Laura did not speak for a long time; as Amanda held her and kissed her she told Laura she didn ' t know she knew those words. Laura told her to keep it up and she would use them again. Amanda did and Laura did.

Amanda rose, banked the fires, and brought coffee to her lover the next morning. Amanda said she felt a bit sad; with concern Laura asked why. With a very serious face, she said she realized that her young innocent lover had possibly grown up and then beamed with a beautiful smile. Laura reminded her that the last time she was innocent was over nine years ago on the rug before the first floor fire. She admitted she was still learning about intimacy and pleasing her lover but she honestly believed she was not doing too bad a job. Amanda took the cup from her hand and led her to the shower with a request to have Laura keep practicing.

Breakfast that morning became brunch as it was close to midday before the women left the loft to attend to food and morning chores. Laura told Amanda she was going to take all the lingerie they had bought to the base to show Lydia and Serena, partly to show Jeannie ' s craft and partly to make them both envious. Amanda kissed her, calling her one of the unladylike words Laura had used the night previously. The ocean had whipped itself into a fine tantrum; by midafternoon it was pouring rain. Laura found music to listen to as she sat with her sketch book while she watched Amanda lost with her muse. Neither woman was very hungry for dinner as they had had a huge brunch at midday. In early evening, they ate a light meal before the fire and then carried out the night chores. Laura finished the list of supplies she needed as well to be ready for Luther the following day. Amanda ran a warm bubble bath; both women soaked by candlelight and lovelights. Later, while lying in bed and watching the fire Laura spoke of women loving women. She said she had been fortunate to see men and women who loved each other as well. Amanda replied that love was love. She believed that when that person chosen for you by the ancients came into your life you loved forever. She said that unfortunately women, like Jeannie, had been told to marry as it was the only acceptable way to bear children. She saw the sadness in her eyes for many years but did not realize why. She also said that she saw eyes full of happiness and love now as she had found the mate her ancients had chosen for her. Laura wondered out loud if those women who loved men found passion the same way they did. Amanda suggested that Laura could ask Mary as she was very much in love with Luther as was Eleanor with Charlie. She did say that she was entirely biased but she didn ' t think anyone could find passion and enjoy it nearly as much as they did. With that, the conversation stopped and the play began once again.

Luther arrived the next day to find his friends finished breakfast with morning chores done, both sitting before the fire enjoying a second cup of coffee. He flew to Carriere for supplies and on return everyone helped to put them away. Laura started a wall hanging for Spero for Wintersday, one showing an ocean and mountains in the background. She designed and sewed a boat, many whales, with attached material that allowed him to move the boat and whales around in order to tell different stories. She made a sun and a moon so that he could choose day or night. The basic designs were done by day ' s end; she could work at the hand sewing when time allowed. She was intrigued with the use of nontoxic paint on fabric as it allowed her to use what came easily to her in order to tell a different kind of story. Amanda watched Laura intent on her work at the sewing machine.

They dined and retired early in preparation for another work week. Before falling asleep, Amanda held her lover, thanking her for a wonderful weekend to which Laura kissed her returned thanks.

Lydia had arrived at the Carriere Base before Laura and Amanda landed at 0830 hours. Amanda greeted Serena, thanking her again for taking command for the entire week. Laura told Lydia and Serena that she would like to have lunch with them in her office as she has items to show them. Of course, both women were intrigued and agreed to bring back lunch for Laura from the dining room as well. Amanda said she would join Charlie as she was quite certain he would not be interested.

Amanda asked that Laura communicate with Declan McDaniels regarding the Shipman Base. Declan had not responded to Amanda ' s request; Laura emailed him to ask if he had reached a decision. Declan replied immediately and apologized for the delay, stating his excuse was only too much work. Laura talked to Amanda about an administrator filling the role that Ross Shipman filled at the Ravencouer Base. He was a civilian and did not carry out Armed Forces work but did insure that daily needs were met and any infrastructure was built, maintained, or repaired. Amanda considered Annique McDaniels as she had lived there for years and understood the base well. Amanda preferred to ask Drew McDaniels but he was very busy with the Communications sector for the new settlements. Laura communicated their choice for administrator, asked for his thoughts and then approval or disapproval.

Lydia knocked on Laura ' s door just past midday and carried a tray with lunch to her desk. Serena arrived shortly thereafter with her own lunch. Laura closed the door and then opened the container with all the lingerie they had purchased from Jeannie. Serena was delighted with all the designs and items. Lydia knew that both the General and the Lieutenant General were completely incorrigible when away from the base. Serena quipped that she noticed at the bar. Both women were amazed with the work. Laura said she honestly had not seen better; she had formerly purchased lingerie from the former European City when Karina still had her business. Serena kept saying that Annette would lose her mind with Lydia telling her to purchase some as she must know how much fun it is to have a lover lose her mind. Laura quipped that it was much like a Stetson and Lieutenant General Stenns blushed. Laura said that some of Jeannie ' s lingerie would be for sale at the women ' s clothing store in Carriere but she also took orders at her home. Lydia told Serena had Jeannie designed and made clothing for Amanda for the trial which were beautiful. When they were next at the coast both she and Barbara planned to place orders. Amanda walked in to Laura ' s office just as Laura had put the lingerie away and as Serena was leaving. She smiled and did not salute but simply said Yes Ma ' am." Laura snickered; Amanda quietly told Lydia to ask Laura sometime about her use of very unladylike language. Lieutenant General Ravencouer blushed. Lydia said they must have had a good weekend what with new lingerie and naughty words. Amanda left and returned to her office.

Declan emailed Laura and stated that he thought the General ' s choice for an administrator for the Shipman Base was perfect; with some humor he interjected that if you wanted something done you needed to get a McDaniels woman to do it. He said that since this was an Armed Forces base he would let General Bennett make any arrangements for hiring Annique. Laura wrote a report and prepared copies for the staff meeting on the third weekday.

At the staff meeting, Amanda asked for reports on current projects and new staff positions. She asked Lieutenant Colonel Taylor and Colonel Maclippe to attend using a satellite link. Sean was in complete agreement with asking Annique McDaniels to be administer at the new Shipman Base as he was there only occasionally. Most of his work meant he was visiting existing outposts, new settlements, and working with groups of survivors who were planning more new settlements. Lieutenant General Smithson reported on the progress of the new recruits and the plans to have the first group fly to Sanctuary at the end of the current month. Again, Alex Taylor had been contracted to make that flight with the recruits staying one night at the Ravencouer Base on flight to and return from the north. Once the basic education for the recruits was complete, Private Kevin Johnstone would take further instruction on how to teach upcoming Communications courses with both Lieutenant Generals Stenns and Smithson contributing to that instruction. Once the reports were delivered, General Bennett then spoke about some potentially alarming news from Sterling Carland. He had been working with his European colleagues to gain any information about the situation below the southern wall. He said that the situation was grave from all reports. Amanda continued that Olc had been establishing strongholds there from the time The Decision took power there. Sterling indicated that it did not appear that there was any immediate threat to the new settlements but he wanted the Armed Forces to be aware that the unrest was growing; from what information they could gather many thousands of innocent earthlings had already perished. He also reported that The Decision in the South was as resourceful as their former colleagues north of the wall. Declan noted as well that there was still no need alarm and certainly no need for action but that they all must remain aware that there was always a potential threat.

After lunch, Laura reviewed all the plans she had put in place before she left her role as Commander regarding defense of the southern wall. She asked to meet with Amanda in her office to discuss that they needed to start hiring recruits as official Armed Forces personnel to fill the roles of defense if the need ever arose. Laura and Sean were the only members of the senior command who had firsthand experience in organizing troops to fight. Laura never wanted to be in a position such as that again; they owed it to the survivors to be ready if defense was ever needed. Amanda agreed but said that they needed to grow the numbers before personnel could be trained; they needed a strong organization of trained staff in order to do that. Amanda took Laura ' s hand and told her they were fine and the ancients would keep them that way.

Amanda wrote to Annique McDaniels to offer her the position of civilian administrator of the new Shipman Base. She did not get a reply immediately and did not expect one. She had not asked Drew or Annique if they planned to stay at the base or to move to one of the new settlements at a later date. Lydia and Barbara both confirmed their happy acceptance of another Wintersday celebration at the cabin. On their flight back to the cabin on the fourth weekday, Laura was quieter than usual. When they landed and even before starting the vehicle. Amanda told her to give no more power to Olc. They always knew they existed and would until every soul was returned to Naofa. She also said that in this time on earth they would wage war again. She told her lover that she had fought her battles extremely well; their beloved earthlings were free, thriving, and would continue. Naofa would teach the earthlings below the southern wall as their beloved earthlings north of the wall had been taught. When the time arrived, Naofa would send warriors as they had since the advent of measured time. Laura told Amanda she knew she was right but that she still saw the horrors of those lives lost and would never forget. Amanda told her she would not forget. Laura would always have the horrors but Olc had been defeated and Naofa claimed souls. She said that they had the privilege now to serve those who had fought beside them to defeat evil; with each assistance Olc was defeated further. Before they got out of the vehicle, Amanda took Laura ' s hand telling her to just accept her happiness and not give guilt or fear to those who wanted to claim it. They were now commanded to teach their beloved earthlings to also accept their futures and believe in their right to happiness and growth. Lohrissa emerged very briefly to kiss Aine before Laura and Amanda walked to the cabin.

Luther was gone for the day but left a note stating he would return in the morning, he left a spotless home, and dinner warming in the slow cooker. Both women showered and found warm knit clothing. Laura served dinner before the fire; then sat to enjoy the quiet and a glass of wine with her mistress. Noshi appeared in the flames, lovingly admonishing Laura for giving into doubts about future fights with Olc. He promised her that she would always fight now with all her ancients beside her. Laura yawned, telling Amanda that she was falling asleep with a need to go to bed. Amanda carried Teddy and Primrose to the rocker in the loft, and then joined her lover in a warm bed.

Laura woke the following morning feeling rested with a healed spirit. She gave down thanks for giving her perspective, insight, and the love of the most beautiful woman in the multiverse. Luther arrived with fresh fish from an early morning fishing expedition stating that the fall harvest was coming to a close. He also said the ocean was now almost too treacherous for Yule to navigate safely. The women invited Luther for coffee but he declined, stating that Ian and Daniel Fletcher were going to accompany him for a further harvest of wood for the winter. He said he had promised Sally and Jeannie that he would take Huguette to the Carriere Base for the last of Sally ' s belongings to move to the coast; as such, he would not be at the cabin for too long. Ian and Daniel stopped in to greet the women before they left to harvest wood; both women remarked on the quality of the fowl they raised and were eager to purchase more. Laura stated there were two in the oven as they spoke. Luther asked if the woman wanted to inspect the harvest grounds. Amanda replied she trusted their judgment completely, knowing that Luther loved the mountain as much as they did. Daniel assured them that they would replace the trees with new planting in the spring. Luther also stated that with the solar and wind energy the amount of wood harvested now was significantly less than when it was the only source of heat. He said that now the fires were basically for gazing and making decent pots of coffee.

The days away from the base were quiet, filled with peace and passion. Both Laura and Amanda wanted to make another trip to Eaglesdown before Wintersday and before the ocean ' s temperament disallowed safe travel. They decided they would return to the hamlet on their next time away from the base. Muses found both women and Wintersday gifts were completed.

When Amanda and Laura returned to work on the following second weekday, General Bennett received an email from Annique McDaniels expressing surprise at her offer for employment and acceptance of the position of administrator for the new Shipman Base. Lieutenant Colonel Taylor lived at his family ranch with his wife and daughter, only staying at the base occasionally. He offered to have Drew and Annique move to the former quarters he and Olivia had inhabited. Annique asked if that was acceptable with the General; Amanda immediately replied giving her consent to make any changes necessary. Declan had suggested that Annique work with Ross Shipman closely as well as Sean Taylor in order to learn how to find supplies. Drew emailed Amanda and told her he was exceeding pleased that Annique had accepted the position although he was not sure how happy he would be working with his wife as his boss.

Laura met with the senior officer of the Security forces for the town of Carriere . All personnel were civilians; he wanted clarification that they would have the same authority as they did prior to the new Armed Forces. Laura told him that it would remain status quo until all the senior officers had discussed the issue. She did tell him that all the new settlements had Armed Forces personnel acting in a dual role of Communications and Security. She also recognized that the town of Carriere was a unique situation in that it had not been touched by the Resistance when the survivors fought back to defeat The Decision. The senior officer did tell Laura that he and all his personnel would be very agreeable to taking any training that been required by all other security forces in the new settlements.

At the staff meeting on the third weekday Laura raised the question; following a discussion it was decided that the personnel would take the same training as other special recruits working at the new settlements. Lieutenant General Stenns knew all the personnel in Carriere well as they had been in their positions for many years. She said she was very sure that they would all be very capable taking the course and being successful. Amanda asked Laura to arrange their classes in groups with Master Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon.

Jacob Dawson and Peter Bond returned to their home in Carriere with their children, Julia and Alan, in the first week of the eleventh month of the new year. There were so few children in any community due to the vaccination given to all adults by The Decision; their presence was always celebrated. Jeannie wanted to go to them as soon as they landed but she wisely allowed the new family to settle in to their home and their new community before being introduced into their lives. Neither child remembered their natural grandparents, only knowing elders at the outpost there they had lived after rescue. After Jeannie excitedly told Laura and Amanda about their arrival, both women talked of being orphaned. Laura said she knew that adults became orphaned as part of their lives but she said she also remembered well what that emptiness felt like. She said she was particularly grateful and happy that Alan and Julia now had a family who would love them all their lives as she did in Sanctuary. Jeannie said the children were fascinated by the ocean, asking to be taken there every day. Jacob quipped that it would certainly cut down on the expense of toys but also knew the novelty would wear off eventually. Jeannie has tears in her eyes as she spoke of how happy her son was now with a family of his own. She quietly said that his father was missing out on so much. Sally hugged her, stating that was Harry ' s loss and his problem; there should be nothing interfering with her happiness or Jacob ' s.

Laura and Amanda travelled to Eaglesdown on the first weekend day for Judith ' s chowder and biscuits, prawns for dinner, and a shopping adventure at the Smithers store. Once again, Amanda purchased every available skein of wool from the cooperative on the plains. Ruthann Smithers told Laura that her mother had purchased all the woven fabric the same day they had received it. Amanda confided in Ruthann that the clothes her mother made for her were beautiful as was the lingerie. Ruthann laughed, saying it still seemed incongruous to her that her mother would even think about lingerie, especially the type she designed and was selling. Her mother was very much in love, more alive, and beautiful than she had ever been seen, even to her children.

On the second weekend day, Laura and Amanda flew to the base and drove to Carriere to shop for Wintersday. Amanda insisted that they visit the linen shop where she purchased many sets of the laciest sheets available. Laura was delighted but questioned why. Amanda explained that she promised herself when Laura had almost died of anaphylaxis that she would give her as much lace as she could find to sleep on; she was keeping her promise. They also purchased many new decorations for the cabin transformation. The child in Laura never reappeared after the battles but she still found a great deal of delight with Wintersday which thrilled Amanda. Both women looked forward to two weeks with Lydia and Barbara. The New Year ' s feast this year would be special as Sally, Serena, and Annette would join them along with Luther, Mary, Jeannie, Charles, and Eleanor. Before they left the town, they ate cheeseburgers and fries at the bar, still one of their most favorite dates.

Chapter 12

Winter was closing in on the northern continent once again. The work at the base continued and grew. All the new recruits spent two weeks at Sanctuary; they all returned amazed and even more committed to helping their fellow survivors to build new lives. Lou and Niki moved to one of the new eastern settlements. Lou continued to help Meda ' s granddaughter Katy as she learned to chronicle the history of Sanctuary and the new settlements. Lou also started a weekly communication with all the settlements with plans to expand information as they communities grew.

Declan and Amanda agreed on hiring forty more recruits to be trained in the spring. General Bennett explained that there were still building a staff of instructors. She did not want to overburden those in the positions until such time as they could hire more. Declan was in full agreement but also wanted to be proactive as their communities grew. The existing security forces for the town of Carriere were trained to the same curricula as all the special recruits working with Communications and Security at the new settlements.

Declan finally admitted that the survivors needed more time to organize their homes and livelihoods before free elections for a new government could take place. Each new settlement had a coordinator; that person was the liaison with Declan and the bases. Roy and Celeste Crosby moved to one of the new settlements in the western prairie. Roy continued to coordinate salvage of materials from both former cities. He was a part of a cooperative that provided overland transportation for the bases, and the new settlements. Sean Taylor and Ross Shipman established depots for all salvaged materials and a system wherein those building the new settlements could retrieve any materials that were needed and available. As the year drew to an end and earthlings waited for the advent of another new year, earthlings continued to journey forward in peace and with hope.

Laura and Amanda few home early in the afternoon of the fourth weekday to begin the Wintersday break. Barbara was in the air, planning to stop at Carriere to pick up Lydia and then fly to meet their friends at the cabin. There were plans to transform the cabin the following day; Luther and Daniel Fletcher cut trees and boughs, both to return the following morning to help with the transformation. This would be the first year that Sally would join the festivities of decorating; Laura giggled as she hoped Daniel could handle six outrageous women in love. Amanda was quite certain Luther had prepared him for that event. Luther was still at the cabin when the women arrived. Charlie agreed to work for many of the days over the Wintersday break in order to take two weeks following New Years to visit with his children and grandchildren. Serena also offered to take command for the days Charles was away as she had no plans to travel. With those arrangements, Amanda, Laura , Lydia , and Barbara only had to take one day each for command. As usual, their home was spotless and welcoming. Laura prepared fowl for the slow cooker before she left for work that morning; the smells of an eventual delicious dinner greeted both women as they entered their home. After quick showers and finding comfortable clothing, both women returned to the first floor. Laura checked the guest room, stocking the small refrigerator with wine and champagne as Wintersday was also the anniversary celebration for Lydia and Barbara, this year the twenty-first. Within two hours, the ranch helicopter flew low over the cabin; Barbara tipped the tail before flogging around and landing on the mountainside tarmac. Luther and Daniel took vehicles to meet them, transporting luggage, cartons, cases of wine, champagne, cider, and coolers full of frozen ranch beef. Daniel joked as he was loading one of the vehicles, stating to Lydia that it looked like they were about to enjoy themselves. Lydia bantered that he had no idea how much. Amanda and Laura were waiting on the deck to greet their friends. It made no matter that they had seen Lydia three hours earlier as when she arrived at the cabin there was the usual kiss, long, hard, and full on the mouth from both women to both women. If Daniel was fazed he hid it well and only grinned as he carried luggage into the house. After getting settled, Amanda took Lydia and Barbara to the loft to show them the new fireplace and a bed covered almost entirely with lace. Laura joined them, admitting they had entire weekends when they did not leave the second floor save for food; it was wicked and wonderful. Lydia stated she could not have expressed that better herself. Luther called up from the first floor, stating he and Daniel were leaving but would return at 1000 hours the following morning along with Mary to start the decorating. He also said that Jeannie and Sally knew of the time.

Laura and Barbara served dinner; afterwards all four friends sat by the fire and enjoyed good wine and great company. Lydia and Barbara talked of the news at the ranch, of Spero and Karina Lynne. Barbara told her friends that she and Jackson had been busy as now that there was peace once again ranchers were ordering more horses and there was interest among the new settlements as well. Jackson had been teaching Spero to ride and true to his genetics he loved it. Amanda asked her when was going to teach him to fly; Lydia replied that when he was ten earth years old she would teach him as she did all other children living at the ranch. Amanda talked of another trip to Sanctuary for the Bealtaine ritual, perhaps this year inviting Charlie, Eleanor, Luther, Mary, Sally, and Jeannie. Laura had not heard of these idea previously; she was surprised and happy at the prospect of showing her native heritage to more friends. Amanda said that she expected Serena could handle command at the base and perhaps by then there may have been some promotions to assist her. Barbara kissed Lydia ' s neck, smiled at her friends, said she has missed her lover entirely too much, and was going to take her to the guest room to get reacquainted.

Amanda banked the first floor fire and grabbed the bears before following Laura to the loft. Laura had lovelights shining as she put music playing softly and gathered Amanda in her arms to dance. She told her lover that she was looking forward to their Wintersday holiday more than ever. Gentle kisses and touches took both women to bed in each other ' s arms and to sleep. They rose to the sun the next morning. Amanda banked the fire and made the first of many pots of coffee and hung a pot of mulled cider on the fireplace trammel. Laura prepared a full breakfast and also put a pot of soup on the stove to serve her guests at the midday meal. Lydia and Barbara joined them just as Laura was putting breakfast on the island. She set dough to rise and made three pans of muffins before she sat to eat with her friends and drink her second cup of coffee. Amanda looked as her as she moved with ease about the kitchen, realizing that although she did not look much older than she had when they first met she had grown into a self-assured woman who she loved beyond what she thought was possible. After everyone had their fill, Amanda and Lydia filled wood boxes and then finished morning chores. Barbara and Laura rescued muffins and put braided loaves and pans of cinnamon buns to bake. Sally and Jeannie arrived at 0930 hours with greetings of kisses, long, hard, and full on the mouth. Lydia said she had learned well indeed to which Jeannie said it was all due to much practice. Luther, Mary, and Daniel arrived shortly thereafter and the routine of transforming the cabin to Wintersday magic was underway. Laura and Amanda had purchased more decorations for the new staircase and upper story railing. Luther laughed as he said the Wintersday cacti were being stubborn with the blooms this year but he thought they would produce by the day itself. He and Mary were visibly excited about their upcoming visit with their children. When he went to his workshop for a moment, Amanda and Laura followed him, gifting him for Wintersday as well as with a card inviting him and Mary to join them for Bealtaine at Sanctuary. He was speechless and then ran to find Mary to bring her to the workshop. He showed the invitation; she just smiled and hugged both her friends. Everyone returned to the decorating; Laura insisted that people take a break for a midday meal with mulled cider. Daniel left as soon as all trees were in stands and boughs had been hung. Sally took Amanda ' s arm and led her away slightly to thank her for including her in the festivities. She said she had not celebrated Wintersday since Melissa died and this year was very special indeed. Amanda smiled as she hugged her old friend, stating it was such a joy to see both of her dear friends very much in love and exceedingly happy. While enjoying the cider, Lydia told Jeannie she had heard a rumor that the beautiful woman she was looking at was in fact a grandmother and she wondered how that could be possible. Jeannie was radiant as she showed both Lydia and Barbara photographs of Julia and Alan Dawson-Bond with their fathers. Lydia then told Jeannie that not to spread it around loudly but the grandmother thing was absolutely wonderful and kept one young. Both Barbara and Sally disagreed, vehemently stating that was their very pleasant task.

By 1400 hours the cabin was transformed to the magic of Wintersday; as usual Laura was delighted as she roamed about looking at all the decorations and lights. Anna and Versarie had new satin lobes worn over very decadent lace. Not one of the bears would ever give the name of their designer but everyone agreed they were stunningly beautiful. A date for ruckus raising at the bar was set for one week when Luther and Mary were back in case bail was needed. Laura was scheduled to take command the day preceding and intended to ask Serena and Annette to join them as well. Laura invited Sally and Jeannie to stay to dine with them for the evening meal but they declined as Ruthann and Michael had invited them to dinner in Eaglesdown. Amanda smiled as she gave down thanks that Jeannie could see her children again without threats.

Laura chose to set an elegant table for dinner, inviting her lover and her friends to dine at 1800 hours. After dinner and night chores, Amanda asked Lydia and Barbara if they would like a bubble bath, a luxury they could not enjoy at the ranch. She ran the bath for her friends while Lydia and Barbara filled the wood box in the guest room and the loft. Once their friends were soaking and giggling, Amanda invited Laura to sit with her on the couch to enjoy a glass of wine. There were quiet minutes of soft kisses and touches in the firelight by two women falling more in love every day. Lydia and Barbara finally emerged, joining their friends long enough to say goodnight. Amanda banked the fire and grabbed the bears as Laura turned off tree and mantle lights. Luther had draped a bough across the mantle in the loft; there was a tree on a small table by the rocker for Teddy and Primrose to enjoy. Laura lit pillars as the only light for a shower with her lover, smiling as Amanda trembled with the removal of her clothing. Before taking her lover to the lace linens, Laura turned off tree lights and Lohrissa met Aine in only firelight.

Amanda woke early and banked both fires before returning to her lover ' s arms. Although passion could have called, both women chose to shower, dress, and prepare for their day. Amanda made coffee and Laura prepared breakfast. Soft sounds of love could be heard from the guest room; as Laura joined Amanda at the island for coffee she giggled, saying that Barbara must have thought up some new ideas. Amanda replied that was a hazard of creativity that had to be endured. Amanda finished breakfast; both women finished most morning chores before Lydia and Barbara joined them, very much in love. Laura heated breakfast for them and Amanda poured coffee before she and Laura filled the wood box and carrier for the loft. The sun was quickly defeated by heavy clouds full of snow and by noon flakes were falling. Luther arrived with every battery charged for his time away. He told Amanda he had taken charged batteries to Jeannie and Sally as well and there were charged ones ready to be switched at their home tomorrow before they left. He said it would be no surprise on Wintersday as he carried another large swayback rocker up the stairs to the loft, stating it was his gift to his priestesses. There was another in the hanger on the mountainside for the loft at the ranch as well. He told all the women that there were completely charged batteries in the hanger for their aircraft. Amanda hugged him, teasing that he sounded like a parent leaving his children for the first time with a caregiver. She reassured him that they would be fine and did say that they would accept Daniel ' s help for snow removal if that became necessary. All the women hugged him, wished him safe travel, and Wintersday blessings.

Soft snow fell for the remainder of the day but with little real accumulation. After dinner, Daniel arrived to clear the driveway and shovel paths to the deck and wood enclosure. He also plowed the mountain road to the hanger and landing pad. Night chores were carried out quickly and all fires banked. Lydia suggested dancing by candlelight and firelight with no trouble convincing her friends to agree. As happened with all these women, dancing led easily to seduction; soon thereafter, tree and mantle lights were turned off as lovers found their ways to showers followed by passion throughout the night. Laura giggled and wondered out loud if Jeannie was listening to the mountains; Amanda relied that it was highly doubtful as she was likely making her own music to ring out among the firs.

Lydia and Barbara woke before their friends, banked the fire, made coffee and breakfast. After showers and dressing, Laura and Amanda joined them at the island just as Sally and Jeannie arrived. Jeannie knew that Amanda was taking command the following day until early afternoon and then returning to the cabin. She said they were flying to Carriere for last minute shopping and to visit with Jacob, Peter, and the children. She wondered if anyone wanted to accompany them to Carriere for shopping; Laura happily accepted. She had considered flying to the base with Amanda when she went to work but it would be a long day just to pick up last minute supplies. Both Lydia and Barbara reminded Jeannie that they wanted to meet to look at designs and order clothing while they were at the cabin. Jeannie happily agreed to time after the ruckus raising at the bar was over. The afternoon found Laura and Barbara in the kitchen preparing ahead for the Wintersday feast. Amanda and Lydia sat before the fire with needles flying. As Amanda had to be at the base early the next day, dinner was served early, each couple retired early as well.

Laura woke with her lover early the following morning, Wintersday Eve. After Amanda left for the base, Laura completed morning chores and filled both wood boxes. She showered and readied herself to meet Sally and Jeannie to travel to the Carriere Base for last minute shopping. She also started carrying armloads of gifts for beneath the tree. Lydia and Barbara joined her just before she left to meet Jeannie and Sally. Sally flew Amo Te to the base where Laura stopped to see Amanda before driving to the town for last minute supplies. The base was quiet; Amanda actually did not mind working for part of the day as it allowed her to work on projects for the future. Since there was nobody about, Laura kissed the General and told her she would return to fly home with her in early afternoon. The small town was bustling with last minute shoppers but everyone was happy. Laura drove to the florist to pick up roses for both Lydia and Barbara as well as Amanda. The grocery store was busy but people still recognized Laura Ravencouer, happy to allow her room to purchase her items. She found fruit for dinner, for the Wintersday breakfast. She then picked up cheeseburgers and fries at the bar before returning just before midday to the Carriere Base to dine with the General. Amanda was delighted with her lunch and even more with her lover. After lunch, Amanda finished her work. Both women walked to the staff dining room to wish those personnel at the base Wintersday blessings.

Barbara and Lydia tidied the cabin and finished putting gifts under the tree when Amanda and Laura returned home. Everyone helped carry in packages and Laura immediately placed flowers in both bedrooms. The Wintersday cacti did finally choose to bloom; pots adorned the island and trestle table. Barbara placed mulled cider on the trammel; after a quick shower and change to comfortable clothing Amanda joined her friends for cider and conversation. Laura set dough for pans of cinnamon buns for the morrow and also for bagels. She told her friends that the menu tonight was light as they would feast tomorrow. She had chosen homemade pizza and for sweets chocolate fondue with fruit along with wine. The tired old sun gave way to the night sky early as Barbara and Laura were finishing bagels and preparing pizzas for the oven. Laura invited her friends to choose the pizza they wanted and to dine before the fire, stating jokingly that pizza just did not lend itself well to an elegant table. After two bites each, both Lydia and Barbara demanded that when Laura joined them for the annual Ostermonat weekend at the ranch she had to teach them both how to make pizza as it were delicious. Amanda laughed, telling her friends that they used to eat pizza at the old base on the weekends just before they ravaged each other ' s bodies repeatedly. Laura shrugged, told her lover that the night was still young, and just be careful. Lydia wondered about the aphrodisiac properties of pizza; Barbara said with the current crowd of women dry toast was an aphrodisiac. After pizza, Laura suggested that they complete night chores and showers before fondue at the hearth as it actually did have seductive powers. No-one needed any further motivation with chores and showers being completed quickly. Amanda banked the fire as everyone returned with sleep shirts over very brief satin and lace. Laura served chocolate fondue laced with brandy and fresh fruit accompanied by flutes of champagne. Teddy and Primrose joined their humans with their own satin, lace, and requests to stay in their rocker on the first floor for this magic Wintersday Eve. When everyone was full of chocolate, brandy, fruit, and champagne, there was the mutual will to be alone with their lovers; after another banking of the fire, turning off tree and mantle lights, everyone retired to their rooms. Laura and Amanda slowly undressed each other and Amanda loosed Laura ' s braid to allow her curls to tumble over her breasts and back. Laura asked her lover if she wanted to try the new rocker and drew Amanda to her lap facing her. Both women heard gales of laughter rising from the guest room and soft music playing which quieted and then stopped as did the laughter. Amanda softly kissed and touched Laura as both women rocked. Desire soon took both women to their bed as they were overtaken with passion. When she returned to reality, Amanda returned with champagne flutes and a small wrapped gift tied with a silver ribbon. She climbed back into bed, handed Laura a flute, the tiny gift, and softly kissed Wintersday blessings into her lover. Laura opened her gift to find a small silver sail boat, looking with a question to Amanda. Amanda told her that the upcoming summer would mark the tenth year of their lovership and she wanted to celebrate. She talked to Amelia and Sterling Carland to inquire about visiting the eastern coast and the northeastern archipelago. Amelia told her that the islands had not been attacked during the battles; there were several small inns where visitors could stay. The eastern coast had seen damage because of The Decision and the battles but there were still miles and miles of coastline untouched. Amanda took Laura ' s hand and asked if she wanted to travel to the east for time away in the eighth month of the upcoming new year. Amanda never took time away from her former position as she hid there but now she had a life she wanted to share with the most wonderful woman on the planet. She quickly interjected that they would also visit Sanctuary for Bealtaine as this would now be a yearly trip partly for work and partly for love. Laura was silent as tears rolled down her cheeks. She said she wanted to travel to the east her entire life but as a child it was not safe to leave her neighborhood. She had seen bits and pieces of the northern continent from the air during the battles but stated she more intent on staying alive than on looking at the scenery. She kissed Amanda, telling her she would very much like to travel with her wherever she wanted to go on this planet. Amanda suspected the laughter they had heard earlier was because Lydia had given Barbara the same gift and asked the same question. Barbara had not returned to her birth place since she left home at the age of sixteen earth years. Lydia told Amanda she had wanted to take her there for a long time but for many years it was not safe. Laura clapped with glee at the prospect of traveling with their dear friends. Neither Amanda nor Lydia had ever travelled there; aside from Barbara this would be a brand new adventure for all of them. Laura took Amanda ' s flute from her hands as Lohrissa took Aine in her arms with songs and voices of love ringing out from the cabin on another magical early Wintersday morning.

Laura and Amanda rose to greet a newborn sun later that same morning. Amanda banked the fire and made coffee as Laura finished preparations on a huge fowl before asking for Amanda ' s help to place it in the oven. Amanda teased her about feeding the base; Laura stated there would much food left for further creations to find their way to the freezers. It was still very early, just past dawn; Amanda poured two cups of coffee, led Laura back to the loft and their bed. Aine returned and took Lohrissa on another journey to Naofa and the multiverse as all the ancients gave down thanks for renewal of life. There were soft songs and voices of love rising from the guest room, Laura reiterated that that was still her most favorite sound. Both women put out a morning feast on the island and mulled cider on the trammel. The lovers took second cups of coffee to look to the sky from above the deck; as always, ravens circled with Wintersday blessings. Both priestesses saw Noshi, Tom, Thea, and Lindsay and with smiles they returned blessings. The lovers stood in silver and shimmering white auras as they kissed Wintersday blessings to one another once again.

They both heard the guest room door open; as they turned they saw Lydia and Barbara embracing each other with auras of gold. They wished each other Wintersday blessings and happy anniversary. Then Barbara smiled, quipping that it appeared she was taking the lot of them to the east coast this summer. She was absolutely beaming and beautiful. Laura took warmed foods from the oven, poured champagne with freshly squeezed orange juice as she invited her friends to the feast. She laughed as she told them to eat well as there was nothing more until dinner. However, much of the feast would be left on the island for hours for everyone to enjoy as they wished. When hunger had been beaten back, everyone gathered before the fire for coffee and exchange of gifts. Amanda had to apologize once again for Teddy and Primrose who were still exploring lust. Laura grabbed them and ran up the stairs to the loft, kissing them both and telling them to enjoy themselves. Amanda laughed when she opened a smaller and more modern camera along with portable printer. Laura said it was meant for Sanctuary but now could be for all their travels. Lydia had gifted Amanda and Laura with new sweaters and serapes. She laughed when she opened a new sweater from Amanda but was delighted with it. Luther left a card stating there was a new rocker for their loft in the hanger much to Lydia ' s and Barbara ' s delight. Jackson gifted both Amanda and Laura with a hand carved tray, intricate salad bowls, and spoons. Laura purchased some of Jeannie ' s most decadent lingerie for both Lydia and Barbara who laughed out loud as they opened each. Both Amanda and Laura gave their friends very generous gift certificates to purchase their choices of Mary Jeanne Designs. The riot of paper and ribbons was cleared and gifts carefully piled beneath the tree. Laura returned with more champagne and orange juice. She joined Amanda in the rocking chair before the hearth. Barbara then handed both of them another wrapped gift. Lydia had the camera ready. Laura opened the gift addressed to both of them. Inside she found a leather bound book engraved with the title Amo Te and the author ' s name of Breagh on the lower right corner. The inside page had a hand written inscription that read Journeys of love by two women who had the courage to walk together, apart, and then take each other back home and signed with love to my sisters, Barbara. Both Laura and Amanda were sobbing as they looked at the titles of the stories of their lives together. Lydia took many photographs with tears in her own eyes. When both women found enough composure, first Amanda and then Laura took Barbara their arms, hugged her for a long time, and then kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Barbara said that after she had finally told them about writing in her past, the floodgates opened and she had been writing almost every day. She said she had been amazed by the journeys her friends had taken and knew they needed to be recorded. She said it was the best love story she had written to date. She told both women that she had written a series of five children ' s books with the approval of Spero, recording them on a computer. Both Laura and Amanda immediately suggested that she speak to Ruthann Smithers about selling the stories as there was almost no literature available for children. Ruthann had contacts with many cooperatives now being formed among settlers all across the northern continent. Laura said she would email Stephan and Tess Redhawk as there were many children in the north now with more to come. Both women were very excited, proud of their friend, thrilled with her book to and about them. Barbara smiled as she kissed her lover ' s brow, stating that the words helped her get past all the lonely days and nights without her priestess at the ranch.

Laura smiled as she spoke about how wonderful this Wintersday morning must be for Jeannie and Sally, their first together. She also spoke of new grandchildren and the excitement of sharing their lives with children again. She also spoke of Luther and Mary, knowing that they were enjoying love and the company of their children. Amanda told both Lydia and Barbara that their children worked as members of fishing cooperative and had formerly supplied huge amounts of fish to the survivors who fought in the battles.

The remaining morning chores were completed with very little effort. Amanda and Lydia filled the wood box for the guest room and changed linens on both beds. Barbara and Laura cleared and tidied in the kitchen, then finished preparation for the dinner feast. Throughout the day, both women wrested the huge fowl from the oven to baste it before wrestling it back, both done with great giggles. Amanda investigated her new camera, printer, taking many photographs of her lover and her friends. Laura enjoyed the magic of this day at the cabin as she always did when women loving women were in their home. She asked that everyone dress for dinner as she and Barbara set a formal, elegant table well before dinner. She also suggested that they dance after dinner. Amanda spent part of her day lost in the stories of her love affair, often laughing and then crying as memories flooded to the fore. Barbara glowed as she saw how much happiness her words had brought. In midafternoon, Amanda showered in the first floor bathroom allowing Laura to shower in the loft. Amanda chose to wear the trousers Jeannie had designed for her along with a satin camisole. Lydia and Barbara showered and both dressed in dress trousers and silk shirts. Laura had purchased a new dress from Jeannie as a surprise for Amanda. Jeannie found dark red raw silk and designed a simple knee length sleeveless sheath that draped beautifully from the shoulders. She had fashioned a cowl back open to the waist. Laura tamed her curls into a chignon with a ruby clip and chose ruby earrings along with black four inch heels. She had loved the dress when she had tried it on at Jeannie ' s home on Wintersday Eve; when she looked in the mirror she decided she still cleaned up well. She really enjoyed dressing for her mistress and was quite certain she would approve. Amanda did not notice her until she had descended the stairs and was walking across the common room. Lydia let forth with a low whistle. Amanda gasped when she saw Laura who smiled in return, realizing that she could still turn the woman ' s head and catch her breath just as she had once when they first met. Amanda gathered her in her arms for a kiss, long, hard, and full on the mouth. She said she had not seen this dress before; Laura stated it was new, a Mary Jeanne Design. Barbara and Laura finished putting dinner on the table and all four women celebrated with a feast. After clearing, tidying, and more wine, the women danced by firelight and candlelight. Lydia and Barbara quietly wished their friends goodnight as they danced their way to the guest room. Amanda banked the first floor fire as Laura turned out tree and mantle lights and extinguished candles. Amanda grabbed Barbara ' s book and led her mistress to the loft. As Laura removed her new dress, Amanda told her she was breathtakingly beautiful; Jeannie had absolutely captured the elegance of Laura ' s body. Laura kissed her lover, telling her she still loved to dress to please her and hoped she always would. Laura climbed into bed and rested her head on Amanda ' s shoulder as Amanda started to read Barbara ' s book out loud. It fascinated both women how someone else had watched their lovership unfold including respectful but quite specific reference to the passion that had grown from their first weekend at the cabin. Laura fell asleep listening to her lover read to her; Amanda gently laid her back to the pillows and turned out the light.

The new sun had to give way to the ocean ' s tantrum and a dense snowstorm the following morning. After breakfast and morning chores, everyone found warm outerwear and brought in wood to the enclosure. Everyone shoveled paths and the deck; before midday Daniel Fletcher plowed the driveway, the mountain road, and both landing pads. Laura insisted that he join them for a warming cup of coffee before he left, stating he would return before evening to plow again. He said that the Carriere Base had reported that the storm would not last beyond twenty-four hours. Laura mentioned that the Armed Forces helicopter would need to be on the tarmac for the following morning. He replied that Luther had already given him instructions to the same. He said he would arrive by early morning to plow if necessary and to move the helicopter from the hanger. Although everyone said they were still full from the previous day, Barbara and Laura put leftovers on the island and everyone chose what they wanted to eat for both the noon and evening meal. Daniel returned in early evening to plow again, all four women cleared paths and the deck once again. Logs were replaced in the enclosure and then wood boxes were filled for the night. The storm had stopped by the time Daniel left. He stated he would bring the helicopter to the tarmac early the following morning and wait until Laura was in the air.

Laura retired early as her waking would be early the following morning. Amanda woke with her to make coffee and breakfast as Laura showered and dressed. Both women drove to the mountainside tarmac to find Daniel waiting for them with a warmed readied aircraft. Both women thanked him and then Laura took flight to work. Amanda left the vehicle at the hanger; Daniel drove her back to the cabin. She thanked him again for his work. He said it was his pleasure and grinned as he said he knew that if he didn ' t Luther would lay down his own particular kind of hell. Amanda laughed and agreed. But the time Amanda had arrived back home, Lydia and Barbara were in the common room with a fresh pot of coffee on the hearth and all the wood boxes filled. After coffee, everyone did morning chores and cleaned the cabin. Luther would not be amused when he arrived home to find his work done for him but he would get over it. Barbara dealt with the huge fowl and packaged meat before setting a huge stock pot on the stove to start the preparation of soup. Laura had chosen fish for dinner; Amanda had made sure she removed it from the freezer when she returned to the cabin. When she could find no more chores to occupy her time, she laughed at herself as she was restless, missing her lover. Lydia handed her needles, told her to get over it, and to not talk to either her or Barbara about missing a lover.

Laura landed at the base with no problem. The ground crews had the tarmac cleared as snow removal in the winter was just another part of the job they all did very well. Aside from the new recruits who had helped, all of the crew had worked at the base when Lydia was commander; she would have not accepted less than their best efforts. Laura went to the dining room to retrieve coffee before going to her office and spoke briefly with Serena and Annette. Serena was not working but Annette was on duty in the infirmary. Laura reminded them both of the upcoming ruckus raising on the fifth weekday night; both women said they would not miss it. Charlie was scheduled to work starting the following day until the second weekend day which meant that both women could party without concern for the call of duty.

Laura walked to her office, spending some of her morning writing emails to Lou and Niki. She told both women that they hoped to see them at Sanctuary at Bealtaine. She also told them of their planned trip to the eastern coast and how excited she was about that. She said that this year, Luther and Mary McBane as well as Charles and Eleanor Smithson, Jeannie Dawson, and Sally Palmer would join them at Sanctuary, mentioning that Luther knew the north from a former life on earth.

Laura spent the rest of her day reviewing personnel files with the view to hiring and training more personnel to act as instructors. She also confirmed the Security forces in the town of Carriere had successfully finished their training. She spoke to the senior staff personnel and received specifications and photographs of the current jail facilities which were more than adequate, having been used rarely. She emailed Amelia Carland to ask for information about security standards currently being used in the European city as she felt it was important that she understand all she could about current practice and the need for any change for future practice. She had taken a very small lunch from the dining room back to her office; by 1500 hours she was tired but finished the work she had hoped to do for her day taking command. The base had remained quiescent as usual.

Before taking off, she thanked the ground crew for the excellent job of snow removal and insuring the safety of everyone who used the base airfield. They were obviously pleased that a senior officer had noticed and then taken the time to say recognize their efforts and express thanks. Laura flew low over the cabin, tipped the tail before flogging the craft around once and landing on the mountainside tarmac. Huguette was back in the hanger with her usual impeccable appearance. Amanda met Laura with a hug, telling her it was a long day without her. At the cabin, Luther was bringing in cartons of fish for the freezer. Amanda showed Laura containers of live lobsters caught earlier that morning, destined for dinner at the cabin. Laura congratulated Lydia on her former training of the ground crew, stating that the tarmac was well cared for and plowed when she arrived for work. Lydia smiled, stating they all knew better than to not comply. Laura went to find Luther and hug hello into him. She told him he was missed but that Daniel did a fine job at snow removal in his absence. She then changed into comfortable clothing and joined her friends before the fire. Amanda gathered her in her arms once again and hugged her, whispering that absence makes the heart and various other body parts fonder. Laura told her the parts did not need to be any more fond but she did appreciate the sentiment.

Amanda cooked the lobsters for dinner which were thoroughly enjoyed along with fresh salad and good wine. Before Luther left, he filled wood boxes and as such there were few night chores. Laura found herself yawning after dinner and all her friends chose their own pursuits in their bedrooms early in the evening. Both Laura and Amanda showered and tucked into bed to have Amanda continue reading the stories of Amo Te. Once again, Laura fell asleep to sound of her lover ' s voice cradled in Amanda ' s arms. She woke before dawn to Amanda ' s kisses and touches, well rested and full of wanting. Well past the new sun ' s rise to the morning sky, both women fell back to sleep and only woke with Barbara and Lydia brought breakfast trays to them close to midday. Lydia jokingly whined that with the new loft bedroom she could not wake her friends and annoy Laura enough to be told to shut up. Laura whispered to Amanda who immediately rose from bed entirely naked and then drew Lydia down to her former place beside Laura in the bed. Laura then gathered Lydia in her arms, letting priestess skin touch available priestess skin, and kissed her friend long, hard, and full on the mouth. She then quietly told Lydia that she had just experienced the exquisite pleasure of being in bed with the divine Ms. Ravencouer. Amanda told her former lover not to ever get used to that.

Luther had arrived for work much earlier and was in the workshop when all four women returned to the first floor. Laura reminded him that this was the night of ruckus raising; as such, she would fly Huguette to Carriere. She said that there were eight women attending together, six flying from the coast. Luther grinned, stating he and Mary would be sure to arrive early as this had become an annual event to remember.

The morning escapades in the bed in the loft set the tone for the entire day; Lydia was in very decidedly incorrigible mode as was Laura. Amanda quietly told Barbara that their two lovers would need very definite taming before night ' s end; Barbara replied she was entirely sure they could handle it.

In early afternoon, Laura claimed the loft bathroom in order to shower and tame the curls. Luther left earlier than usual as he planned to returned with Mary before everyone left for the bar. Lydia and Barbara showered, dressed, and greeted Sally and Jeannie while both Amanda and Laura were still dressing. Lydia let forth with the ubiquitous howl as she saw Jeannie dressed in a stretch lace red teddy, skin tight jeans, and red heels. The woman had mastered come hither very well. For the first time since either Barbara or Lydia had known Sally, she wore a skirt, her own heels, and an elegant silk pin tuck shirt showing very lovely satin and lace beneath. Barbara smiled as she noticed an engraved silver labrys around her neck. Sally told her friends that Jeannie had given it to her for Wintersday. The priestesses did not disappoint. Luther and Mary arrived to find six drop dead gorgeous women at the cabin about to embark on a night of ruckus raising in Carriere. Sally said she had warned the staff at the bar who were very much looking forward to their evening ' s work. Luther drove Jeannie and Sally to the landing pad and the other women followed in their own vehicle. Huguette was spotless inside and out; within minutes she was heading to the Carriere base. Upon landing, Serena and Annette met their friends. Once again, Charlie had stayed to watch the fun and had to bark Attention to the ground crew who were beyond mesmerized as their senior commanders walked to a waiting van.

The bar was almost full by the time the women arrived. Several of the staff members had put the word out to all those who wanted to sit back and enjoy ruckus raising at its best. Sally walked into her bar holding Jeannie ' s hand; the entire place erupted in shouts, cheering, and a standing applause. In recognition, Sally gathered her lover in her arms and kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Both woman were glowing as they greeted friends and walked to the reserved table, followed by all the other women. Annette was a bit reserved initially as she was seated with all her senior officers, still becoming accustomed to the total acceptance of her lovership with Serena. With eyes full of mischief, Lydia told Annette to utter something smart-mouthed and watch the reaction. Serena just grinned her encouragement as Annette summoned courage to ask the General if it was true that Lieutenant General Ravencouer was this beautiful due to the rumored good loving. Amanda and Lydia howled with laughter; after suppressing a grin, Laura rose, took Annette to her feet, gathered her in her arms, kissed her long, hard, and full on the mouth, and with the sweetest smile told her to shut up. Serena grabbed her lover as her knees were about to buckle; everyone at the table applauded with gales of laughter. When she was able to talk, Amanda said the answer to the question was definitely yes. Several minutes later, Annette looked at Laura, told her she was not a child, and returned the kiss. This time Laura ' s knees almost buckled and Amanda applauded the medic. Annette said with a wink that it was years and years of mouth to mouth resuscitation training. The ruckus was well underway.

Before dancing, Laura took the six inch heels to the bar to play the learning over theatre to groans with applause before returning to the table. She asked Sally if she thought that was getting tired. Sally reassured her that the even those in a coma would not find it tiring whatsoever. Sally led Jeannie to the dance floor; the lovers danced an elegant waltz as all the patrons and staff watched. Many of Sally ' s staff had worked for her for years and loved her. There were very few dry eyes as they watched their dear friend very much in love. The dance floor then filled with women loving women. Laura watched all her friends love their partners happily without threat or shame. She also smiled as she realized that each couple was lost in their own journey oblivious to all others around them. Amanda kissed her back to the present, loosing the satin tie on her camisole with the most wicked of grins. Laura smiled sweetly, whispering all those unladylike words she had used previously causing the General to stop dancing and moan softly. Lydia danced by to tell them both to get a room. Sally joined her friends at the end of the song, suggesting that perhaps the party was over; they all needed to go home. Nobody objected. Laura drove the van to the base; everyone thanked Serena and Annette for a wonderful evening. She then flew Huguette to Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home. Amanda told Laura did not want to know what was going on behind the cockpit; they should never tell Luther. After saying goodnight to Sally and Jeannie, Laura flogged it around and landed at the mountainside tarmac before driving to the cabin. Luther had filled wood boxes and other than briefly banking the first floor fire all lovers found their bedrooms. Laura was sure she heard cries of love from the guest room before they ascended to the loft. She raised her eyebrows to Amanda who said she told her she did not want to know what was going on behind the cockpit on the flight home. With as much restraint as humanly possible, both women undressed the other and hours of passion left the lovers breathless as dawn greeted the sky. Even a more experienced Amanda had to admit that she had no idea she would want another woman as often and as much as she did. When Laura woke some hours later the cabin remained quiet and she woke her lover with whispers of very unladylike words which elicited moans, kisses, touches, and urgent passion. They did not hear Lydia and Barbara in the common room, banking the fire and making coffee. When Amanda and Laura finally rose for showers and dressing, they looked down to find their friends very much occupied before the hearth. Amanda shook her head, saying they were all entirely too incorrigible and wonderful. Amanda walked by her friends still lying in stages of undress before the hearth; without looking she told them to get a room. She then climbed over them to retrieve the coffee and poured 4 cups before making another pot. Lydia and Barbara rose, dressed once again, grinned wickedly, and enjoyed their coffee. After morning chores and brunch, showers again for Lydia and Barbara, all four women drove to Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home to choose designs for new clothing. Sally greeted them at the door, welcoming them to their home. Lydia and Barbara had not visited previously and loved the proximity to the ocean. Jeannie took measurements first of Lydia and then Barbara; when they had dressed she invited them back to the common room to first see more lingerie she had finished. She told all her friends that the store in Carriere constantly sold out of all they supplied. After the Wintersday break, the Fletcher family women would start home sewing as well. She showed everyone all the designs she had to date; Lydia and Barbara were silent with amazement. Sally simply beamed with much love and great pride. Jeannie's designs were elegantly simple and timeless. She said she loved lace, using it often for accent, trim, and lingerie but she did not naturally tend to ruffles as she honestly felt that grown women should leave them behind. Both Barbara and Lydia ordered suits, dresses, skirts, trousers, and purchased most of the lingerie Jeannie had to sell. Amanda had already warned that Jeannie would not charge enough; when asked she replied she would not consider an invoice until at least the clothes were fitted the first time. Laura suggested that her friends return for the Candlemas weekend when they could have a fitting. Over coffee and Sally ' s homemade cookies, Jeannie showed her friends photographs from Wintersday with Peter, Jacob, Julia, and Alan. There were delightful shots of Sally on the floor playing with a new train and building blocks with both children. Luther made them a swayback rocker as his gift for a new family; there were beautiful photographs of Jeannie rocking her grandchildren. She said Ruthann and Michael joined them for dinner; it was the first time in many years that they had all been together as a family at Wintersday. Sally took her hand, promising it would be the first of many more. When they were leaving, Jeannie had a wicked grin on her face as she asked Lydia if she might make an inquiry. Lydia saw mischief and absolutely agreed. Jeannie asked if she remained clothed until they made it to the guest room the night before. Laura quipped that snow caps got loosened before she and Amanda were on the top step going to the loft. Jeannie said she was not at all surprised and would never tell Luther what really went on behind the cockpit on the return flight the previous evening. Lydia hugged her, stating she was a very quick study indeed.

Over a light dinner and wine before the fire, both Barbara and Lydia spoke of Jeannie ' s talent and of her happiness now. Lydia also remarked that she had never seen Sally Palmer look as radiantly happy as she was now; she and Jeannie were eternal partners. Amanda smiled with a kiss to her lover ' s brow, admitting that Laura had been entirely correct on that call.

In an instant, all four women were running to the vehicle with Amanda screaming Jeannie and auras emerging. The vehicle careened over the mountain road and before it was fully stopped the priestesses were running to Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s door. Luther and Mary were right behind them. Luther ripped a kicked in door from its hinges and entered to find Jeannie lying on living room floor in a pool of blood. Sally had dropped a very drunken Harry with one kick to the solar plexus and had his gun pointed at his chest. Lemanychia cast a healing spell immediately to stop Jeannie ' s further bleeding as Barbara ran to take Amo Te from the hanger and warm it quickly. Amanda sent a urgent message to Serena ' s personal computer stating that medics needed to meet Amo Te immediately for a gunshot wound. Luther took the gun from Sally and kept it pointed at Harry. Sally ran to her lover and covered her with blankets. Barbara returned and Briallen gently levitated Jeannie from the floor to the waiting helicopter. Mary and Sally climbed aboard to hold Jeannie calm as Barbara was in the air heading to the base in minutes. Laura quietly said this was not over. Lughe levitated Harry to the roadway beyond the house as he kept a bead on him with the gun. Harry was very conscious and angry. He screamed his hatred to Amanda and Laura for changing his wife to something unnatural just like his son. He said he came back to his house to claim his wife and what was rightfully his possession. Slowly his body lifted from the ground; from it emerged the minions Tnemelc and Gninnam. Lughe, Lemanychia, Aine, and Lohrissa demanded that they leave the earthling. Curran appeared above the house, deflecting the first assault of flames directed at the dwelling. Again, the minions were commanded to leave the earthling; as they directed flames again both Curran and Briallen deflected them from harming the house. Lohrissa rose to face her ancient enemies; with flames from her eyes, her hands, and feet an assault started. With speed not quite visible to a human eye, all priests and priestesses kept a constant deluge of white hot flames and ice directed at the minions with rapid weakening of their power. They had been driven high above the dwelling; Harry ' s body was slowly disintegrating as they were further driven to the ocean where in a final act of defiance and then defeat Harry Dawson ' s body exploded. In the flames, Noshi cradled his soul and with love carried it back to Naofa. Harry would no longer know hatred or torture as he dwelled among the ancients finally. The priests and priestesses took their human bodies back to earth and slowly left, with Lohrissa remaining with a shimmering white aura. Curran returned to Charlie ' s body in Eaglesdown and Briallen returned to Barbara ' s body at the base. Silently, Lohrissa asked the holy ones if they were unharmed; they all replied silently they were. Luther boarded the doorway and then drove to retrieve Huguette. Lemanychia cast a further healing spell to Jeannie. Lydia spoke that Jeannie was only barely injured. Amanda went to Laura; they held other while awaiting Luther to arrive with Huguette. Laura spoke for the first time, giving down thanks that Harry ' s soul was at peace now. She also gave down thanks for the defeat yet again of Olc ' s minions. She gave down thanks for her ancients and her holy ones. The ancient high priestess led Lydia and Amanda to the helicopter. Luther then flew to the Carriere Base. Luther remembered to carefully place Harry ' s weapon in a container to hand over to the security forces at the town of Carriere . Amanda used Luther ' s computer to alert Serena that they would be landing in minutes; as they did Serena was waiting for them with a vehicle and parkas. She drove them to the infirmary where they were greeted by Barbara who stated that Jeannie was awake and healing. The bullet only grazed her leg without hitting bones or vital organs. She took Lydia ' s hand, thanking Lemanychia for her magic as they all did. Barbara knew Harry was dead but she had not told Mary, Sally or Jeannie. Sally had alerted Ruthann and Jacob, advising them that there was no need to come to the base as their mother appeared to be injured only slightly. Amanda asked Annette if she could see Jeannie to tell her of Harry ' s death. Annette knew they were all holy ones; she agreed to all see her including Luther. Sally wept when she saw her friends enter the room; Laura held her for a long time. Amanda went to Jeannie as did Luther and Mary. They told her quietly that Harry had died at the hands of minions from Olc who had possessed his mind and body. Laura then softly told Jeannie that his soul had finally been taken to Naofa; he would be at peace now for eternity. Jeannie was silent as tears rolled down her cheeks. She finally spoke, saying that now she understood the change that had slowly overtaken him. She gave down thanks that he was now at peace. She said she also gave down thanks for all the holy ones including the healer. Annette said that the physician was amazed as hourly she could see visible changes of healing that would normally take at least days if not longer. She said that it was expected that Jeannie would be able to return to her home by midday. Annette found a cot and clean clothing for Sally who was covered with blood. She told her that she needed to get some sleep as Jeannie would need her to be strong to take care of her. She brought her a shot of scotch, telling her it was an order to take that down all at once. Sally did. Jeannie was treated for some pain and both women drifted off to sleep. Mary kissed her friend goodnight, and then fell into her husband ' s arms weeping mostly from relief. Serena reassured her friends that they would clean Amo Te in the morning before Sally took Jeannie home. Luther handed Harry ' s gun over to the senior Security officer for the town of Carriere . Laura said she would send a report, one that they might have a hard time believing. The officer told Laura that he knew that holy ones had intervened and that Mr. Dawson died at the hands of Olc. He had already spoken to Colonel Maclippe along with Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer; he had no question of the validity of the story. Laura still bore the faint aura of Lohrissa; the officer silently gave down his own thanks for the holy ones among them.

Luther flew everyone back to the landing pad and then drove his priestesses home. He came inside long enough to help fill wood boxes and bank fires. He said he would ask Daniel and Ian Fletcher to help him remove the carpet at Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home in the morning and replace the door. Mary stated she would help clean; all four women informed them that they would join them in the morning. Once Luther and Mary left, all four women hugged each other and went to bed. Amanda had not shed tears until she climbed into Laura ' s arms; then she wept. She had known Harry Dawson since childhood; she watched the torture of his body and soul before his death on earth. Laura whispered that Harry was happier than he had ever been in his life. He would be able to see his children and grandchildren through his soul ' s eyes of love. She said he would return but as an ancient never to be tortured by Olc again.

Laura woke everyone early the following morning; after a quick breakfast and filling of thermoses all women went to Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home. Luther, Ian, and Daniel were already on site and had removed the carpet in the common room. There were original pine floor boards that were in excellent condition having been covered by carpet for years. Mary had already cleaned blood from the walls. Amanda and Laura changed linens and did laundry. Lydia and Barbara cleaned the kitchen; Barbara put a pot of soup in the slow cooker. Just past midday, Sally landed Amo Te on the tarmac as Luther ran to carry Jeannie to her home. She said she was very capable of walking but accepted her lover ' s arm to lean on. She hesitated only briefly as they came to the threshold as she remembered the events from the night before. Sally kissed her cheek gently, telling her she was home and safe now. Jeannie headed for the common room but Sally directed her to their bedroom, telling her she going to stay resting there for the remainder of the day at least. She protested stating that she wanted to see her friends; Sally told her they could come to their bedroom. Within minutes, Jeannie was propped up on pillows in a soft nightshirt of her own design enjoying a bowl of soup and a piece of Laura ' s braided loaf. When she was done eating, she asked that all her friends come to her room. With a grin, the first thing she told them all was that she had every intention of attending the New Year ' s feast at the cabin if that was still planned. Laura laughed, stating that had not even thought about it but she supposed it was still planned. Jeannie then sobered saying that she was sorry that Harry had died but to her he had left months before; his return had only caused terror for her and Sally. She spoke to both Ruthann and Jacob at the base earlier that morning; neither felt that any sort of remembrance was in order. They were all relieved that he could cause no more hurt for anyone. Jeannie said she was also very thankful that he was now finally among the ancients to find peace for the first time. Jeannie looked at Sally, softly stating that her sweet woman had finally taken her to the place within where she understood love and being loved, a place never traversed with Harry.

She then asked her friends how they knew to show up when they did. Amanda said they all saw the horror immediately, simultaneously. Jeannie was quiet as if still trying to comprehend the entire scope of the events from the previous night. Sally explained she and Jeannie were cuddling together on the love seat enjoying a glass of wine after dinner. They both heard shouting; it seemed like seconds later Harry had broken through the door and was headed down the hallway. He appeared very drunk or very delusional. Sally continued that he screamed obscenities and insults to both of them, calling them very derogatory names as women loving women. He kept coming toward them as Jeannie tried to talk him down. Sally said that in an instant he had pulled a gun; before she could kick it from his hand he shot Jeannie who screamed and fell immediately to the floor. Sally said quietly that she wanted to kill the man; it took every ounce of strength not to continue to beat him after she kicked the gun from his hand and then dropped him with one kick to the solar plexus. Sally had extensive martial arts training from her days as a former pilot and then as a safety measure as a bar owner. She said it was only seconds later that their friends arrived. She cried as she said she was so afraid that Jeannie would die before she had a chance to assess her injuries and get help. Later at the infirmary, Barbara said to them that the healer had cast spells to stop her bleeding, starting her healing even before she left the living room. Laura explained that the priestess Lemanychia who walked in Lydia ' s body was the healer; she had cast spells to protect Jeannie. Luther did not go into details but he did tell his friends that Curran who was the priest who walked in Charlie ' s body arrived as the assault started as had Briallen who was the priestess who walked in Barbara ' s body. Jeannie she did not realize that the holy ones could be present even if the human bodies were not but that she was very glad they could. Laura told both women that they had met the minions repeatedly since the multiverse had split and would until all souls were returned to Naofa. Jeannie looked very tired suddenly; as such, everyone left to allow her to rest. Amanda and Luther both told Sally that they would stop by to make sure they did not need help or supplies. Sally thanked her friends, telling them they would see them for the New Year ' s feast.

The priestesses returned to the cabin, tended to fires and chores. The atmosphere at the cabin was one of great tenderness among the lovers. They had all battled together for eons and would until Olc was finally defeated. One of their sisters had been harmed and could have returned to her ancients. There was the reminder of how precious their lives as earthlings were; everlasting was the love their felt for their partners. A simple dinner was enjoyed by the fire in the early evening and everyone wanted their beds early as they were still exhausted from the events over the last twenty-four hours. Laura decided to go to the base with Barbara in the morning as she wanted to complete her statement for the Security forces in Carriere. As well, she wanted to pick up last minute supplies for New Year ' s Eve and the feast the following day.

Barbara and Laura arrived at the Carriere Base at 0830 the following morning. Serena joined them for coffee in the staff dining room, inquiring as to Jeannie ' s wellbeing and also about the planned feast the following day. Both women told her that Jeannie was remarkably well and insisted on joining them all for the annual feast. Laura emailed Charlie and Eleanor with the same message, stating also that she was looking forward to a celebration with them again this year. Laura finalized her statement of the events surrounding Jeannie ' s assault and Harry ' s death. She informed Barbara she was going to drive to the town to report to the senior officer and then pick up last minute supplies. They made arrangements to meet on the tarmac at midday.

Laura did report to the Security Forces depot in Carriere and submitted her report. She stopped into the bar to let everyone know that both Jeannie and Sally were back at the coast, that Jeannie was healing very well. Laura braved the grocery store to purchase all the last minute items she needed before driving back to the base and loading the helicopter. Just as she finished Barbara met her and prepared to return to the cabin.

Amanda and Lydia had done a thorough cleaning of the cabin while their lovers were at the base. Amanda stopped in to see Sally and Jeannie who were coping very well. Jeannie was propped up in the love seat with her sketch pad. She stated she was able to walk now with only the assistance of a cane without pain. Lydia took Barbara to the guest room to help her change from a uniform to comfortable clothing by way of naked priestess skin in a shower in the interim. Everyone had specifically asked for homemade pizza for dinner; since there was little preparation Amanda took Laura to the shower in the loft and then a nap.

The priestesses slept well past the usual hour for dinner and did not dine on until later into the evening. Champagne and kisses greeted the new year under the galaxies of the multiverse. Lydia and Barbara returned to the guest room for their own private celebration. The common room was lit only with firelight and the light of Mother Moon. Lohrissa gathered Aine in her arms and danced to the rhythms of Naofa. Laura and Amanda walked the priestesses to the loft and pinnacles of passion long into the night.

After New Year ' s blessings to each other and the ancients of Naofa, all women enjoyed coffee and a huge breakfast buffet. Morning chores were finished quickly after which Barbara and Laura prepared for the evening celebration with their friends. Lydia and Barbara agreed to work their magic with steaks on the outdoor grill; Laura set a very elegant table. Amanda placed dozens of pillar candles about the cabin and found music for dancing as all the women were convinced Charlie would enjoy after dinner steps. When their friends had been invited, Laura had indicated that the atmosphere would be casual but all the women intended to dress elegantly for their friends. Before afternoon showers, Amanda and Lydia set a bar on the island so that their friends could choose their own libations. Laura claimed the loft shower in midafternoon in order to tame the curls. Lydia and Barbara were dressed elegantly as they returned to the common room. Laura and Barbara prepared oysters and the indulgence of caviar as well as home baked savories that were ready to place on the island along with the libations. Amanda joined her friends wearing the sheath Jeannie designed, her four inch heels, a ruby ankle bracelet, and ruby earrings. She was rewarded with a low whistle and a kiss from Lydia who told her she was even more beautiful now than she was when they first met. Laura descended the stairway wearing the strapless wine gown and matching heels that she had worn for her first Wintersday soiree with Amanda at the University years previously. Amanda was beaming as she walked to the bottom of the stairs to greet her lover with a kiss. Neither Lydia nor Barbara had seen Laura in this dress before and were speechless. Laura reminded Lydia that this is what she had chosen to wear to the officer ' s dinner at the former base where it had been rumored she was ravishing. Lydia quietly replied that indeed it was not a rumor. Luther and Mary arrived; Luther let forth with a soft whistle when he saw all the priestesses. Laura clapped when she saw Mary wearing a calf length dress and her own heels, this being the first time she had ever seen Mary dressed in other than pants. Luther said he was going to meet Charles and guests at the landing pad at Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home. Sally arrived; Luther tried to convince Jeannie to be carried to the cabin but she would have none of it. She was walking very well with the assistance of only a cane and holding Sally ' s hand. Despite being injured three days previously, Jeannie was radiant and elegantly dressed as was Sally. Luther arrived back at the cabin with Charles, Eleanor, Serena, and Annette. Everyone was understandably concerned as to Jeannie ' s wellbeing; after polite acceptance of concern, she told everyone that she was fine, that the priests and priestesses had cared for her and her healing. She also took Annette ' s hand; with a smile also told her friends that she had been loved and very well cared for at the infirmary. Laura invited her friends to choose their own libations as she poured flutes of champagne. Amanda helped Laura place food on the table as Lydia and Barbara grilled steaks on the deck. Before dinner, Jeannie stood, walked to Charlie, and hugged her thanks for the night of Harry ' s assault. He very gently told her that he was born to earth again in order to assist earthlings find they own ways to the future. He reassured Jeannie that Harry was now at peace; in time his soul would return but without fear of the misery of minions. The New Year ' s feast was thoroughly enjoyed by all the friends. After dinner, furniture was moved slightly; Charlie led Laura in an elegant waltz. He said he remembered the dress from years before; she looked every bit as elegant now as she did then and certainly more in love. Sally took Jeannie to her feet to dance on the spot with her lover. Despite the trauma and sadness of the events of the week, all friends celebrated the advent of a new year full of adventure. Laura gave Charles and Eleanor the painting she had done for them of Sanctuary as Amanda handed them a written invitation to join them for the Bealtaine celebration in the spring. Laura then gave Sally and Jeannie the painting of the two of them as Amanda handed them a written invitation to join them at Sanctuary for Bealtaine. Both Laura and Amanda promised Serena and Annette that they would have their turn in the north in years to come. Late in the evening Luther took friends to Charlie ' s helicopter and then returned for Mary who had helped to further tidy after the evening. Luther reminded his priestesses that he and Mary would return the following day to remove the Wintersday decorations for another year. Jeannie piped up to say that she and Sally would also join them, stating that she could not walk around much but she could still pack and pack she would. Jeannie was tired and did allow Luther to carry her to the vehicle to be taken home to the arms of her lover. Laura and Amanda said goodnight to Lydia and Barbara with more blessings for the new year. As Laura was undressing, Amanda smiled at her and thanked her for another wonderful celebration. She also said that if anything she was more beautiful in that gown than she had been as an eighteen year old girl. Laura simply quipped it was because of good loving. That was all the invitation the General needed.

Everyone was before the hearth by mid-morning with coffee after a very brief breakfast. Luther and Mary arrived just as morning chores were finished. Daniel Fletcher joined them to help remove trees and boughs. Jeannie and Sally also arrived to help put away decorations. Amanda smiled as she told Jeannie she really did look more beautiful every time she saw her to which Laura quipped it was because of good loving which elicited lovely blushes from both Jeannie and Sally. By midafternoon, the cabin was transformed again from the Wintersday magic. Barbara talked to Jeannie about using salve on her leg to help reduce the scarring. Lydia had used it for burns she had received years before. She said she would check in Eaglesdown to purchase some for her and if they had none she would bring some back when the returned at Candlemas. Amanda said that when she was healed and comfortable she would set a time for the boudoir shots they had requested. Before everyone departed, Mary told Jeannie that she would arrive in the morning to stay with her for the day as Sally needed to fly to Carriere. When Jeannie started to protest, Mary told not to waste her breath as she was showing up. There was much sewing to organize and send to the sewers at the Fletcher farm. Jeannie smiled and agreed to her friend ' s company for the morrow.

Everyone agreed to a light early dinner and an early night as Lydia was due to take command at the base the following day. After night chores and banking of the fire floor fire, everyone retired to their bedrooms. Laura and Amanda showered and then climbed into warmed sheets. Amanda read aloud more of the story of their lives together before having the book taken from her hands. With tears coursing down her cheeks, Laura spoke of how she loved Amanda almost to the point of not possible. She said that Jeannie ' s shooting brought back her own memories of believing Amanda had died. Aine emerged and took Lohrissa to her; only the language of priestesses told her she would never leave again until the spiral of Naofa stopped and they could journey on to the new world that would create.

Barbara and Lydia were awake and dressed when Luther arrived the following morning. Barbara drove Lydia to the mountainside tarmac for her flight to the Carriere base. When Barbara returned to the cabin, she took coffee to the workshop to help Luther prepare soil mixtures for new plantings for the greenhouse. She found frozen stock and vegetables for a huge pot of soup to share with Jeannie and Sally over the coming days. Amanda and Laura finally woke, showered, dressed, and sat before the fire with coffee. Barbara returned to the kitchen to check on the soup and greeted her friends, humming as she went about bringing in a harvest from the greenhouse and continuing to add to the soup. Laura joined her in the kitchen, asking how she coped with being away from Lydia as often and as much as they were apart. Barbara smiled as she said that every cell in her body missed the love of her life and wanted her with her all the time. She said, however, that not one earthling ever owned another or their time. Barbara knew how much Lydia loved her work and how important it was in her life. She thought she would be bored to catatonia if she did not have challenges and projects. Barbara loved her enough to allow her to fulfill that place in her. Barbara loved her life at the ranch and the permanency of that. She loved the people who lived there and treated them as her family. Lydia often told Barbara that she loved her enough to never deny her that. Then Barbara explained satellite sex to her somewhat innocent friend who giggled, blushed, and asked many questions. Laura finished making a ginger cake for dinner, laughing when Amanda came into the kitchen to find out what the giggles were about. Laura just replied that indeed one had to watch the quiet ones. Barbara was grinning from ear to ear but said not a word. When the bread was baked and cooled, Amanda packed containers of soup, buns, braided loaves, and home-made pizzas and drove to Jeannie. Mary was sewing and Jeannie was napping. Amanda helped Mary store the food and asked her to hug Jeannie for her when she woke.

Lydia returned from the base at 1600 hours. Barbara walked to the vehicle to meet her, hold her, and kiss her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Laura watched them and giggled. Amanda was entirely too curious; Laura told her she would explain in bed later that night. Once in the cabin, Lydia told Barbara she needed help changing her clothes. Amanda quipped that they might as well resign themselves to dinner being late. Laura returned to the kitchen to make caramel sauce for the ginger cake, a treat for her lover. The homemade soup had enticed them most of the day and once Lydia and Barbara returned, everyone enjoyed hot soup, fresh bread, and ginger cake with sauce. Amanda asked Laura if she wanted to get married. Laura said it was not possible as she was already married, showing the rings on her left fourth finger. Occasionally, Laura looked at Barbara and Lydia and then giggled. Lydia finally asked Barbara what was so funny; Barbara whispered the answer in her lover ' s ear. Lydia laughed out loud as she shook her head. Now, Amanda was beyond curious. Laura sat in her lover ' s lap in the rocker before the hearth and nuzzled her neck. One of the bears moaned. Lydia then declared it was time for all of them to get a room. After night chores and banking the first floor fire everyone found the bedrooms, including Teddy and Primrose. Laura took Amanda to a candlelit shower and told her about satellite sex. Amanda laughed out loud, very charmed that her somewhat innocent young lover did not know about that until earlier that day. She asked Laura, knowing both Barbara and Lydia , how she thought they got through over two weeks being apart without having some sort of intimacy. Laura said it simply never occurred to her. Then she pretended to be miffed, stating that all those years when they lived across the hall from each other without regular intimacy they could have just used the laptops at least some of the time. In a minute or two, both women were gasping with laughter. Laura was laughing at her own innocence as much as at the idea of long distance sex. Amanda nuzzled her lover ' s neck and said that it filled a need but was not nearly as much fun as being in the same geographical location as one ' s lover. There might have been more reading of the book except that all the talk of intimacy led to it.

Mother ' s sky allowed a newborn sun to sprinkle diamonds on the snow the following morning. Luther arrived early and told his friends he was flying to Carriere for supplies to finish Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s floor. The four women decided to drive to Eaglesdown for lunch and an adventure in the Smithers ' store. Amanda stopped briefly to inquire as to Jeannie ' s wellbeing and learned she was fine. Sally and Jeannie returned from an early morning visit to the infirmary where the medics were delighted with her healing. Jeannie still needed the use of a cane for another week but then was free to assume normal activities provided she was careful to rest her limb when it became tired.

Judith greeted all four women and wished New Year ' s blessings to all. By this time, everyone in Eaglesdown knew of Jeannie ' s shooting, Harry ' s death, and the arrival of the holy ones. There was a small number of patrons in the diner who stared briefly at all the women as if to look for a new magic appearance. They all just smiled a greeting and sat down to enjoy bowls of hot chowder, fresh biscuits, and tea. When leaving, they asked to purchase as much chowder as Judith had to sell, agreeing to return to retrieve it after they shopped. Amanda ordered prawns for their dinner and enough to take to Sally and Jeannie on their return to the cabin.

The adventure known as the Smithers Store was greatly enjoyed by everyone. Ruthann greeted the priestesses, thanking them many times for helping Jeannie and Sally. Barbara inquired about the salve they used at the ranch for animals and humans; Ruthann showed her the limited supply. Barbara only chose one container to purchase in order to leave some for other inhabitants of the small hamlet. Amanda and Lydia purchased every skein of wool available. Ruthann showed all women a new supply of pillar candles made by another cooperative on the plains, candles made from both tallow and beeswax. Amanda and Laura purchased the entire supply, telling Ruthann that they would purchase candles regularly as they still preferred candlelight to electric lights. Barbara timidly told Ruthann about the series of children ' s stories she had written and wondered if perhaps there would be a market for them on the coast. Ruthann was excited about the news, stating she wanted to read them as soon as Barbara could send them. All four women found a new supply of waterproof boots and purchased several pairs for themselves and for Jackson . Before saying goodbye, Amanda purchased her favorite hard candies. Amanda retrieved the prawns while Lydia retrieved the chowder just before the friends drove back to Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home. Amanda delivered the prawns, the salve Barbara had purchased for Jeannie, and then drove home to the cabin.

The following weekend days were lived with laughter, love, and passion by all women at the cabin. On the following first weekday, Barbara flew Lydia to the base before heading to the ranch. Laura and Amanda carried out morning chores before Luther had a chance to scold them for doing his work one more time. He thanked his friends again for the time away and the use of Huguette over Wintersday. He also talked about his and Mary ' s excitement about going to Sanctuary for Bealtaine. He had already spoken to Ian and Daniel Fletcher about caring for the cabin in his absence. Amanda and Laura reminded Luther that Lydia and Barbara would return to the cabin for a long weekend over Candlemas. He told his friends he was leaving earlier than usual as he wanted to finish the new door frame at the Dawson-Palmer home, a name he had chosen to use for Jeannie ' s and Sally ' s home together. Ian already agreed to replace all their windows in the spring and Luther suggested that since both women were joining their friends at Sanctuary for the week the work could be done then. Amanda laundered and readied uniforms for both her and Laura for the week as although Jeannie wanted to they both insisted she rest her leg for at least one more week. With the laundry done, kitchen work done, and Luther ' s departure, Laura took Amanda ' s hand and led her to the rug before the hearth. She whispered that a work week was coming; as such, they needed to make up for nights of simple sleep and could start in preparation. After an early dinner, both women showered and went to bed. Amanda read more of Barbara ' s book out loud to Laura once again fell asleep at the sound of her lover's voice.

Both women arrived at the base at 0830 hours the following morning. Amanda immediately emailed Stephan and Tess Redhawk to notify them that ten people hoped to join them for the Bealtaine celebration and week, two priests, four priestesses, and four wonderful friends. Almost immediately, Stephan replied stating that he was delighted of her news and looked forward to welcoming all to the magic of the north. Amanda mentioned that there were avid gardeners in the group who very much looked forward to conferring with Tess. Amanda also notified him that there would four groups of recruits going to Sanctuary for two weeks in the spring.

At the weekly staff meeting, Laura reported the placement for the new recruits and plans to further their education. Amanda directed Laura to consult with Annette Lemaine as to the requirements and duration for education for the two recruits who had chosen a further career as medics. Amanda also directed Barbara to arrange for the recruits who wished education in Mechanics to live at the ranch for that education. She said the Basic Course usually took three months but since there were only two recruits and they had existing rudimentary education she estimated that with full days of instruction they could complete the Basic Mechanic course in six weeks. The second part of the training usually took six months but again due to the initial class size she estimated its completion in about four. If the recruits chose to take the Master classes they would need instruction for approximately one year. She pointed out that she did expect more recruits by early summer when the basic training for the expected forty new recruits was complete and their further education was chosen. Laura suggested that recruits be expected to learn pilot skills or advance them as she believed the further security of the northern continent relied on a well-trained contingent of pilots. Serena , Lydia , Barbara, and Sean wholeheartedly supported that view. Amanda expressed concern that they had no firm structure in place to teach pilots; Lydia pointed out that every senior officer and the General were all accomplished pilots able to teach until more instructors could be hired. Lydia also pointed out that they had very little in the inventory for overland weapons or training; it would likely be years before that division of the Armed Forces would be reliable and functional. Laura quietly commented that ranchers and farmers, trained as children to fly for work, fought back the entire former military with some help. She suggested that with more training and opportunity they all could be experts, the best that history could record to date. General Bennett totally agreed.

Lydia reported on the progress of expansion of the base, slowed now because of winter weather. She did state there was already housing for the forty new recruits expected in the first week of the fourth month of the new year. Amanda asked that Laura, Lydia , and Serena prepare a report on possible instructors with a view to have it ready for Lieutenant General Smithson on his return in ten days. Charles left a report on the progress of the greenhouse and planting with hopes to have produce by the spring.

Amanda and Laura returned home to the cabin at the end of the fourth weekday, tired and looking forward to their days together away from the base. Luther left for the day but not before he had banked both fires, filled both wood boxes, left a spotless home for their return, and dinner warming in a slow cooker as Laura had requested. Both women showered before dinner and dined before the hearth. Very soon after brief night chores, Amanda banked the first floor fire while Laura carried Teddy and Primrose to the rocker in the loft. Affectionate cuddles lulled two tired Armed Forces officers to sleep. Laura woke early, leaving Amanda to sleep. She showered, dressed and banked the first floor fire before making coffee and setting dough. She finished the supply list for Luther and was perched on a stool at the island eating breakfast when he arrived. She asked that when it was possible the Fletcher family supply more fowl for the freezers and eggs if they had them. Luther indicated he would stop there on his way back from Carriere as Mary had asked him to deliver fabric and pick up sewing the family had completed for Mary Jeanne Designs. Luther returned in early afternoon with cartons of frozen fowl, eggs, and supplies. Amanda asked that he take some of the fowl to Jeannie and Luther said he had already dropped off supplies before he returned to the cabin. Sally and Jeannie arrived to say hello and to thank Amanda for the fowl. Sally said she did not want to sound ungrateful; however, she was not fabulously wealthy but a very successful businesswoman who could afford to purchase their own supplies. Amanda laughed, saying she considered herself told and it would not continue. Jeannie was walking without any assistance, had no pain, and stated that the salve that Barbara had given her was working wonders on healing of the scar. She joked that she would be ready for bikini weather when it arrived. They asked if Amanda and Laura would join them for dinner at their home on the second weekend evening; both women happily accepted. Jeannie and Laura spoke of business for a few moments with payment of some past invoices. Jeannie said they were selling their lingerie in Carriere as soon as they could supply it; the women at the Fletcher farm were doing wonderful sewing for them. Jeannie excitedly told them of a new cooperative on the plains producing flax and making linen. She said this would broaden her ability to make light weight clothing until such time as settlers learned how to grow weather resistant cotton plants. Sally and Jeannie left by late afternoon as did Luther. He told his friends he would return on the first weekday as usual, wishing them blessings for a happy weekend together.

Laura and Amanda filled the weekend days with quiet muses, music, chores when necessary, and passion. Jeannie told Laura not to bring food when they met them for dinner so Laura brought wine and champagne instead. Sally greeted her friends late in the afternoon of the second weekend day. Jeannie returned to the common room from the kitchen, looking more radiant than ever. Amanda hugged both Jeannie and Sally, telling them both that love looked absolutely beautiful on both of them. Over dinner, everyone talked about the trip to Sanctuary and how excited they were to see the north. Laura explained the celebration of Bealtaine, its history, and how the family at Sanctuary had combined it with honoring their elders. Amanda said the ceremony of recommitment to one ' s mate was very powerful. Both women hoped that both Niki and Lou would be able to return to visit as well.

After dinner, all four women cleared and cleaned before enjoying a cup of coffee together. Jeannie and Sally returned to their routine once again after Wintersday and Jeannie ' s shooting. Laura mentioned that she wanted to order clothing for their trip east in the eighth month of the new year; Jeannie replied that by then she hoped to have new linen to use as well as cotton, and of course satin and lace. They talked briefly about rebuilding of the more southern and western harbor and what that would mean in terms of Jeannie having access to more fabrics from around the globe.

The remainder of the first month of the new year was filled with work and routines at home. The senior officers were able to choose instructors from personnel already at the base and after direction from Lydia , Charles, and Laura, classes were designed for the new group of recruits. Lydia returned to the ranch for five days away in the middle of the month; Barbara flew to the base on the last weekday of the month to join her friends for a long weekend and celebration of Candlemas. Laura purchased stretch lace teddies from Jeannie and Mary for all her friends for Candlemas gifts. She prepared food and baking ahead so she could have time to enjoy their company for the four days away from the base.

All four women arrived at the cabin by late afternoon on the fourth weekday. As usual, Luther had left a spotless home, wood boxes filled, fires banked, dinner warming in the slow cooker, and the guest room prepared. Everyone was tired from a busy week; the friends dined early and then retired to the night. When Amanda was removing her uniform, Laura told her she had to be the most gorgeous General and Commander-in-Chief of any Armed Forces on the planet. Amanda smiled and stated she was surrounded by beautiful women who were also brilliant and tough as nails. She also said that she hoped that history could record that she was fair and respectful of those with whom she worked and especially those she served. Laura gathered in her arms telling her history had already recorded that when she chose to take the position and then when she had enough courage to face Anthony Downs twice. Laura told her she knew they would rally and fight again in the future when earthlings needed help; with the next fight there would be strong, mindful, and compassionate leadership. As she held her, she said she never would look forward to fighting evil but they would now do so together for as long as helix spiraled. Both women walked to the shower, still in each other ' s arms, called by love and passion.

Lydia and Barbara rose before Amanda and Laura who showered quickly, dressed, and joined their friends. Lydia and Barbara had plans to meet Jeannie for fitting of their new clothing later in the morning. It was a beautiful clear winter day and Amanda asked if Lydia and Barbara would like to go for a walk after lunch. They would have to stay to the mountain road as the snow was too deep elsewhere but they could still hear the silence of the firs. Laura added that they had warm outer clothing to share if they wished. Lydia and Barbara left for their fitting with Mary and Jeannie. Laura set dough for loaves, buns, and pizza. Amanda found warm outerwear for their friends including warm hand knit helmets and mittens. Luther asked if his friends had a supply list as he planned to fly to Carriere immediately after lunch. Laura asked him to purchase more champagne and brandy along with the usual weekly supply order. He blushed as he told his priestesses that he planned to pick up a new ring for Mary, one circled with diamonds. He said they were married on Candlemas many years before; he wanted to remind her how much he loved her. Both his friends hugged him; Laura told him to make sure to take some of the champagne back to his home for his celebration. Amanda told him about Bealtaine, the commitment ceremony, and how beautiful it was. She quietly reflected that it had profoundly moved her then and every day since.

Lydia and Barbara returned just at midday. Both women were thrilled and amazed with their new clothing, stating that Jeannie was brilliant as were all her sewers. There were very few alterations required. They invited both Sally and Jeannie to Ostermonat at the ranch; Jeannie planned to bring the clothing then. After lunch, four friends walked up the mountain road to listen to the silence among the firs. They were just returning to the cabin when Luther arrived with supplies, champagne, and brandy. He showed all four priestesses the ring he had purchased for his beloved Mary; they were all thrilled for him. Laura insisted that he take two bottles of champagne and orchids that were blooming in the greenhouse. When he left, Lydia giggled as she told both Laura and Amanda that Mary had shown them lingerie Jeannie had designed and they had both sewn, none of it with any structural integrity whatsoever. Mary said that would be a nice surprise for Luther for Candlemas to shake the old boy up a bit . Jeannie quipped that the snow peaks were in definite jeopardy over the weekend.

Everyone was famished by dinnertime with all the exercise and cold fresh air. Laura had thawed a huge container of chicken stew and made dumplings to serve along with salad and an apple tart. Lydia helped with clearing and cleaning, telling Laura that if she was not already married with a good home she could certainly find one for her. Barbara came up behind Lydia and quietly reminded Lydia that she was married herself. Amanda barked a command of Back Off! seconds later everyone was breathless with laughter. Laura took her wine to the window to gaze at the galaxies in a very clear old winter sky. She wondered if there were other lovers on those planets and star systems who were as much as love as those gathered in the cabin. There was a general consensus of decided hope there were. The room was lit with only firelight as Amanda and Laura found the rocker before the hearth. Laura quietly whispered lesson in Amanda ' s ear which elicited a tremble and a sigh. Lydia smiled warmly at her former lover, telling her she remembered that. She then told Barbara that their friends really needed to go to the loft and soon. Barbara could not have agreed more; all friends gave mutual night blessings.

Laura led Amanda to the shower, stating that the state of a twenty-seven year old was coming on; they really needed to deal with that. She told Amanda the lesson was a repeat of lips and to pay attention as they would be a test. Laura reduced Amanda to using some unladylike words of her own before the lesson was over. Both women laughed aloud at themselves, how much they wanted each other and it just became greater as the days passed. The lovers fell asleep in each other ' s arms; before light Amanda whispered in her lover ' s ear that the lesson was now fingers. Laura moaned her way to waking and was left begging as the sun rose. When Amanda ' s lesson was over, she kissed her lover and wished her Candlemas blessings. Both women fell back to sleep basking in the afterglow of love and passion. They awoke again by mid-morning to find Lydia and Barbara making breakfast and coffee. After quick showers and dressing, Amanda and Laura wished Candlemas blessings to their friends. After breakfast, everyone sat before the fire with a second cup of coffee. Laura returned from the studio with wrapped gifts for her friends and her lover. Everyone loved the lingerie. Laura said she had purchased a teddy for herself as well. She also said there would be dancing after dinner and everyone was expected to wear their teddies and any other items of clothing they chose although that too was optional.

Morning chores were carried out quickly by all four friends. Barbara had offered to work her magic with anything bovine for dinner. Barbara told her friends that Ruthann Smithers had read her children ' s stories, had really liked them, purchasing several electronic copies. She emailed Barbara less than four days later stating that they had sold out immediately; she purchased twice as many copies. There were babies being born now and also many orphaned children were being adopted. Barbara planned to write more stories for children, partly for pure entertainment and partly to educate them in the basics. She and Jennie taught Spero to read before the fourth anniversary of his birth; he could now write very well and use a computer. She had credited Spero with the first series of books and would with any future writing as he contributed much to the stories as well as being Just Barbara ' s biggest fan and biggest critic. Lydia said he told them both that he knew there were ladies living inside them, Amanda, and Mr. Smithson the same as the lady who lived inside Laura. When Lydia asked him how he knew that, he simply told her he could see them. Laura was quiet; she then stated that Spero was the priest Doakus, a very old ancient warrior, one with whom they had walked since almost the beginning of the spiral of the helix. No further words were spoken but the priestesses all knew that another battle was not far on the horizon. After lunch, Laura dressed and asked if anyone wished to join her at the beach. Barbara put a pot of mulled cider on the trammel to warm them when they returned. Everyone dressed warmly and joined Laura in the vehicle. Amanda knew that this trip was because Laura needed the centering she found with the ocean waves, no matter their temperament. Lydia and Barbara walked hand in hand along the road to as close to the shore as they could safely reach. Laura stood beside the vehicle and gathered energy from the endless waves and their rhythm. Amanda stood with her and then placed an arm around Laura ' s waist. There was no need for words as all priests and priestesses were reassured on this day celebrating love and purification that their journeys were unfolding as they should. The cold salt water chilled quickly; everyone returned to the cabin renewed and invigorated. Aside from steaks, dinner was already prepared; as such, everyone chose warming showers and donning of teddies as the tired sun slipped below the horizon.

Absolutely gorgeous woman emerged from showers and bedrooms ready for dinner and a night of dancing. They all laughed as each woman had chosen skin tight blue jeans over the lace teddies. Laura and Amanda set the table while Lydia helped Barbara grill steaks. Laura thought she could almost touch the love vibrating among them as she sat down to dine. She chided herself as she could not take her eyes off Amanda after all these years together. Lydia lovingly teased her that she had it bad, bad indeed. After dinner, Amanda poured goblets of brandy and the priestesses danced by candlelight and firelight. Noshi smiled in the flames watching Lemanychia and Briallen wrap themselves in auras of gold as they drifted to the guest room. As did all the ancients on helix, he then knelt to honor Lohrissa as she gathered Aine in her arms cloaked in shimmering white, jewel tones, and silver auras. Earth time faded as priestesses loved priestesses in the cabin on the mountainside at the coast.

Chapter 13

The following days and weeks were filled with the routine of work and lives together and apart for all four friends. Laura contacted Justine Carland to request as much information as she could send on the recent history of the peoples living below the southern wall. Justine replied that the archives stopped when The Decision overtook any sense of remaining sanity. Laura knew that she would need to teach this information to the officers and recruits at some point in the future. She gathered information, studying it as time allowed. Laura contacted Declan to ask of any updates from Sterling Carland and his European colleagues with the Espionage sectors. Declan replied that the information was still sparse but also stated that if anyone on the planet would learn the truth it would be Amelia and Sterling Carland. Laura told General Bennett what she was working on; before the General could protest Laura told her that she was not forfeiting any current projects and would not. She also informed the General that she had not been paid a cent since she started leading people years before; she felt she could choose some important work on her own. Amanda had to suppress a grin and the almost overwhelming urge to kiss the Lieutenant General as she knew not only was she right but that she would do the work despite any lack of authorization on the part of the General.

The base expansion continued under the very careful and specific direction of Lieutenant General Stenns. Plans were finalized for acceptance of forty new recruits planned for the first week of the fourth month of the new year. Declan McDaniels confirmed the completion of twelve new outposts, six to be ready in the spring and six to be ready in the autumn. Drew McDaniels chose twelve settlers with some Communications skills to be further taught by Private Kevin Johnstone at the Carriere Base as part of the next class of recruits in the spring. Amanda alerted Declan that the Carriere Base could take forty more recruits in the ninth month of the new year but they would need to expand both the Ravencouer Base and the Shipman Base for recruits beyond that. Declan was in full agreement.

Amanda, Laura, Sally, and Jeannie prepared to fly to the ranch for the Ostermonat weekend. Serena planned to fly from the base with those women who would attend, returning to the coast the following day. Sally insisted that she supply all the wine and spirits but only if Laura promised to lean over something at the party. Laura laughed and promised. Once again, Laura and Amanda offered to let Jeannie and Sally use the guest cabin and they would take a room at the staff house but no-one would have any of that. Lydia said if they did that the children would get no sleep, leaving the comment at that. Amanda pulled rank and flew to the ranch on the fifth weekday of the Ostermonat weekend. Laura joined her in the cockpit; Jeannie and Sally slept. Lydia , Barbara, Jackson , and a ranch hand met the helicopter. Jackson knew all four women but had to adjust to more women kissing women long, hard, and full on the mouth. Laura handed him a pan of cinnamon buns she had made just for him, telling him he only had to share if he chose. The ranch hand unloaded cases of wine and spirits with comments that he thought maybe there was a ruckus about to occur. Jackson knew Jeannie well from the time of the battles and he also remembered Sally but understood now that they were lovers. With his usual reticence, stated he thought it looked fine on both of them. Lydia showed Sally and Jeannie to their room at the staff house while Barbara helped carry luggage for Laura and Amanda. When they returned to the main house, they were greeted by Spero and Karina Lynne who was now toddling. Spero was very dear with his little sister, always trying to help her and getting shut down most of the time. Jennie laughed, said she had a mind of her own, and she had no idea where the child would learn that. Spero said hello to everyone and introduced himself to Sally and Jeannie who were charmed by him. He said he knew that Mr. Smithson would not be there this weekend as this was a celebration for ladies. His said Papa Jackson said it was going to be a ruckus but he did not know that that was. He then looked at this mother to see if she gave permission before he excitedly told them his family ' s news. He said he was going to get two new brothers and another sister. They were all older than he was but he was very happy about having more boys with whom to play. He explained that their mother and father had died and they were all alone now. Spero explained that his father, his mother, and Papa Jackson had asked him if he wanted to have a bigger family and he said of course he did. Laura smiled and asked the names of his brothers and sister. He replied "David, Kevin, and Leah." He said that they were going to come to live with them soon. Jennie smiled, telling the group that they expected to return with the children by the end of the fourth month of the new year. She said they wanted more children and there were so many who needed families to love them.

Laura then congratulated Spero on the books he had written with Just Barbara. He proudly said they had sold some; he had some money saved now. When Amanda asked him what he was saving for, he replied it was for a pilot ' s license when he got old enough. Lydia grinned with a shrug as did Barbara and Jackson. He walked over to Laura, telling her that he knew he was getting to be big now but he wondered if he could still sit on her lap for a little while. He said he needed to talk to her about something. Laura gathered him up to her lap and then suggested that they take a walk to see the new foals in the barn. She knew of the conversation and was not sure it needed to be shared just yet. Spero asked his mother ' s permission and then ran to get his coat. He took Laura ' s hand as they strolled to the barns. He was old enough now to roam about the ranch without constant supervision. He told Laura that he knew there were people inside of Just Barbara, Just Lydia, Amanda, and Mr. Smithson. Laura told him she knew he did and that he saw them. He stopped, looked at her, and told her there was a person inside him too. He said that person ' s name was Doakus. Laura told him she also knew that. She explained that the lady inside her and inside all the others knew the person inside him for a very long time. She asked him if he was frightened by that; he replied he was not but he had not told anyone that he knew about the person inside of him except for Laura. Laura told him the name of the person who lived inside her was Lohrissa and she was a priestess from Naofa. She told him he was a priest from Naofa. She explained that as he grew older he would understand more; she told she was almost as old as his mother when she found out about the lady living inside of her so he was a very lucky little boy to know now. He admonished her, stating he was no longer little as he was now five earth years old and a published author. She stood corrected. She asked if she could tell Amanda, Just Barbara, and Just Lydia that he knew about Doakus, saying that they already knew he lived in Spero. He thought for a moment and then agreed that it was a good idea. Spero then showed Laura all the new babies in the barns, much to the delight of both. Laura asked that they return to the main house as she was hungry for her lunch; Spero replied he was too.

Both friends returned holding hands; Jennie asked if he had talked Laura ' s ears completely off her head. She smiled, picked up her friend, hugged him, kissed him, and told everyone they had a marvelous time. Karina Lynne was getting impatient for her lunch; Jennie stated she would return after she fed her family. Barbara invited her friends to help themselves to soup and sandwiches. With decided mischief, Barbara ran up to the loft and called for Laura to look to see her friend holding a laptop which led to giggles and then gales of laughter as Amanda explained Laura ' s learning of satellite sex to Sally and Jeannie. After lunch, Barbara and Lydia showed their friends the plans for renovations and new buildings for the ranch. Jennie, Scott, and their expanding family needed a home of their own as the staff house quarters were entirely too small for a family with five children. They planned separate quarters for Armed Forces personnel living at the ranch for instruction. With peace now, the market for horses and cattle was growing quickly; new staff were needed to meet the needs of a growing business. They planned expansion of the barns and the workshop attached to the main house. Barbara said they planned two more large greenhouses to meet the needs of increasing staff. Lydia and Barbara conferred with Declan about funding for some of the costs of the new building housing the Armed Forces personnel; he was in full agreement. Finally, they decided to build another guest cabin to accommodate more friends who hopefully would come to the ranch to visit. Samantha Morgan drew up all the plans; Jackson hired all the loggers and builders with the hopes of starting the construction as soon as the cattle drive was done in the second week of the fourth month of the new year. Everyone was excited for Lydia and Barbara, happy that their business had survived the battles with growth once again. Lydia smiled, stating that it would not have happened without Barbara ' s hard work and the satellite. Laura was recruited to make pizza dough and show both Barbara and Lydia that lesson. Sally and Jeannie chose to wander back to the staff house by way of many stops to enjoy the vistas. Sally had only been to the ranch briefly and always overnight. She never had a chance to enjoy Mother ' s wild beauty, so different than the coast. They were invited to return to the main house for before dinner drinks at 1730 hours. Laura finished the pizza dough and showed her friends how to prepare it for the freezer for use when they chose. Both Amanda and Laura had risen very early that morning to fly to the ranch; they chose to return to the guest cabin for naps before dinner. Amanda asked if Laura had a great chat with Spero; Laura told her that he knew about Doakus. She said she had explained in very simple terms that they all knew each other a very long time ago before he was a little boy here on earth. He had not spoken of this to anyone before but he wanted Laura to know.

Everyone returned to the main house by 1730 hours and enjoyed glasses of wine before dinner. A true ranch dinner was served with beef and vegetables grown there. Jennie prepared a huge spice and apple cake for dessert as she knew of Amanda ' s sweet tooth, promising to send the recipe home with Laura. Mother Moon had risen above the mountain peaks, shining brightly enough to induce shadows. Sally and Jeannie stood at the window in each other ' s arms for a very long time, mesmerized by the grandeur. They joined their friends to sit before the fire with coffee and brandy, after Laura had been warned that no nudity was required. Jeannie sat on the sofa and leaned against the love of her life. She said it was very nice to be back at the ranch, especially under much different circumstances. Lydia explained that the six pilots who flew missions with the Resistance always returned to the ranch for rest and food before returning to Carriere. Amanda told Sally that after every mission Jeannie and Luther would pace on the tarmac and curse The Decision. Jeannie laughed, stating that it was either curse or cry; she would never give the bastards the satisfaction of tears. Sally kissed her brow, asking if she had not been frightened. Barbara laughed out loud before Jeannie could answer. She told Sally they were all scared to death every single time they flew and gave down thanks every single time they all returned to the ranch. Amanda told Sally the story of Luther going after the installation that shot down two Resistance helicopters. She said he was on them before either she or Lydia would catch him. Jeannie talked about Charlie doing roll after roll to attack quickly. Sally commented that in her opinion Charles Smithson was the best pilot the former military had every produced; she knew as he had taught her years previously. Laura took Amanda ' s hand, quietly telling Sally that they were all brilliant. She had flown with them for every mission but did not know until the end of the battles that it had been them. Sally broke the somber moment by stating that she was entirely miffed that she had not been asked to fly. Amanda promised her that she would be asked the next time but hoped there never would be a next time. Firelight, candlelight, lovelights, and brandy worked magic on all the women and Barbara declared that she thought it was likely that the Lieutenant General needed taming with the suggestion that they all retire to their rooms for the night. Lydia offered to drive Sally and Jeannie the short distance to the staff house but they both declined, stating that they wanted to chase the moon shadows on their way there. Amanda and Laura walked to the guest cabin hand in hand. Love and passion followed for all the women long into the night.

Lydia and Barbara served breakfast the following morning to themselves and four rested friends. Barbara suggested a short trail ride out to the plains before lunch and preparations for the party that evening. Sally said it had been years since she had ridden but she very much wanted to go if her friends would be patient. Lydia quipped that it was like sex and riding a bike, one never really forgot how. Jackson and Scott had six mounts ready for the women when they arrived at the barn. Jackson teased Sally, telling her that the horse he had chosen for her went so slow it moved more like reverse than forward. She thanked him for that. Within minutes, she was as comfortable as her friends as they rode out to the plains. Jeannie had not stopped smiling since they left the barn, clearly enjoying the company and the view. Amanda dismounted in order to take many photographs of her friends, her lover, the mountains, and the plains. Jeannie kept remarking about Mother being wild and breathtaking. Laura smiled when she thought of how much Jeannie would be blown away by Sanctuary and the north.

Hunger and cold air convinced all six women to return to the ranch for lunch, coffee, and a rest before the ruckus. They expected Serena, Annette, and many friends from the bar by 1600 hours. Jackson grinned, stating he knew he was not going to be able to ride herd on the potential hellery about to be raised.

Jeannie and Sally returned to the staff house; Amanda and Laura returned to the guest cabin. Both women showered so that Laura could have reasonably dry curls when they braved cold temperatures to return to the main house for dinner. Laura giggled as this was her annual chance to shut up a bunch of beautiful women including her lover several times.

Barbara and Lydia along with Jackson and the ranch hand met Serena, Annette, and several friends from the bar including two bartenders at 1600 hours. Jackson took all the women to their rooms while Lydia and Barbara returned to the main house to dress for dinner and partying.

Amanda dressed in her black lace teddy, very short black skirt, and new six inch heels. She almost had to dress twice when Laura saw her. Laura then emerged from the bathroom wearing one of Jeannie ' s corsets, white and trimmed with lace and ribbons, her very short leather skirt, and her own six inch heels. She braided the curls and wove in ribbons to match those on the corset. She just grinned as Amanda said some very unladylike words before kissing her hard, long, and full on the mouth. Both women did not linger on the hurried walk back to the main house. There was laughter, music, and the sounds of several women misbehaving well. Amanda asked Laura if she thought they could make an unobtrusive entrance to which Laura replied that was not the plan. As soon as they entered the foyer, they spotted Jeannie and Sally, looking breathtakingly beautiful in clothing designed by Jeannie. Sally looked beautiful in trousers and a satin camisole. Jeannie wore a red backless sheath, heels, and could stop traffic. Sally then saw Laura and started her own howl which, of course, got Lydia looking in a hurry. The entire room was howling seconds later. Amanda barked Back Off! in her best General voice; everyone collapsed into fits of laughter. Jeannie laughed, clapped, and told Laura that they got the exactly the response they had hoped for. Lydia found Amanda and was busy kissing her long, hard, and full on the mouth. Laura tapped Amanda on the shoulder and asked her if she could butt in. Laura then kissed Lydia hard, long, and full on the mouth and the shutting up journey began. Lydia found one of the ribbons on the corset and not so innocently asked what would happen if she pulled it. Amanda told her to not even think about it. Jackson was standing in the kitchen ready to help his daughters put dinner on the buffet, watched the entrance, and just shook his head. Sally went to talk to her friends and long time staff members to welcome them to the ranch. Laura walked to speak to Serena and Annette who were still shaking their heads. Laura said to blame Lieutenant General Stenns as she gave constant incorrigible lessons, had for years. A buffet dinner was placed on the table; certainly enough to feed the base, and all the women were invited to dine. After dinner, Jackson moved a portable bar near the hearth and also moved furniture to allow for dancing. When he walked past Laura, he said he was going to wait for the leaning over before he left for the night. Laura nodded, walking to the portable bar and leaned over it as far as womanly possible leading to spontaneous applause and a broad grin on Jackson ' s face. He had to admit to himself that ruckus raising had its finer points. Laura danced her way through the crowd of women, shutting each one up at least briefly. She returned to Amanda often for dancing and kissing. Amanda was delighted and charmed as she watched her mistress, one who had grown from a rather shy adolescent at her first Ostermonat celebration at the ranch to a very confident, very beautiful, and occasionally incorrigible full grown woman. By 2300 hours, every woman wanted their lovers far more than they wanted dancing; they left for their rooms, Lydia invited them for breakfast at 1000 hours the following morning.

Laura laughed out loud as Amanda started to pull ribbons on the corset before they reached the guest cabin. She told Laura this had to be the most alluring she had seen to date save for only lovely priestess skin. Laura told Amanda that she and Jeannie had actually been joking when they initially talked about it. Then Jeannie ' s pencil found the sketch pad and the corset design became a reality. Laura supposed that Jeannie and Mary would make more now that Jeannie had seen it on a woman and the effect it could have. By morning, snow peaks surrounding the high country had been shaken by many women offering voices of love to the ancients and to the multiverse.

Women met for breakfast, coffee, and laughter the following morning. Lydia , Barbara, Jackson , and Scott drove Serena and all her passengers to the tarmac and their friends were in the air flying west to the coast by midday. When Lydia and Barbara returned, everyone settled before the hearth for more coffee and conversation. Jeannie was somewhat quiet and distracted. Amanda asked Sally what she had done to the poor woman to which Sally replied she has simply brought it. She reminded all the women there that she was the eldest and therefore the most knowledgeable although she did concede that all the other women in her company could certainly keep up if needed. Laura took Jeannie ' s hand, soberly telling her she had to be very careful if she asked Sally to bring it, stating that the General had taught her that lesson well. Lydia immediately interjected that the Lieutenant General had originally taught the General about that topic. After a few moments, Jeannie asked both Amanda and Lydia if there had been derision that caused them to change their original lovership. Amanda replied no and in fact they both still loved each other dearly. Amanda continued she had consciously chosen to advance her career; until Anthony Downs took chief command she thought she wanted to achieve the rank of General. Lydia explained that she loved to teach and had been offered the command at the former Carriere Base where she continued to train pilots, including Amanda Bennett. There was a mutual decision to change their lovership to deep abiding friendship which had grown over the years to the present day. Barbara explained that she had been transferred to the Carriere Base; when the Captain invited her to the ranch for Wintersday over twenty-one years ago she accepted. Amanda then told Jeannie and Sally that she had married her career until a certain young woman showed up in her office one day, a student accepted on her behalf by her father who had not consulted her prior to that. She freely admitted she resented the hell out of this child who had used her power and connections to get lessons given by a busy Colonel. Laura remained quiet as Amanda continued, telling Jeannie and Sally that she remained mad as hell until she looked up from her desk and the issue was over. She laughed when she thought she would find a silly, giggly, frumpy daughter of ' and instead found herself staring at the most beautiful woman she had ever laid eyes on. Jeannie teased her old friend as she told Amanda she had unadulterated lust written all over her when they disembarked from Bella when Jeannie was introduced to Laura for the first time. Sally then quietly stated that nothing happens by accident. They had all come to each other ' s lives as these were their destinies. Sally Palmer was a very wise old ancient.

Laura made homemade pizza for lunch after which a fiercely contested card game was played all afternoon. Laura still remembered the names of naked women on some of the playing cards; the other deck showed Lydia and Barbara in the bubble bath at the cabin. Jennie arrived to put leftovers on the table after which Lydia invited her friends to choose what they wished and to return to the hearth. Over dinner, Laura told Lydia and Barbara that Spero knew about Doakus living inside him. She explained to Sally and Jeannie that Spero was a priest. Laura told her friends that she had told Spero about priests, priestesses, and asked if he was frightened. He assured her he was not; when Laura told him he was a lucky little boy to know at his age as she had been much older he admonished her, telling her he was no long little. Laura also told her friends that she had seen Doakus arrive when Spero ' s earth body had been born but chose to wait until he knew himself before speaking of that. The previous very late night had taken its toll on everyone; the friends retired early in preparation for a late morning return to the coast.

When holding her lover in bed, Amanda spoke of the passage of five years since she had met Lohrissa for the first time. Laura kissed her, saying it felt like seven lifetimes had been lived in those five years. Amanda agreed but also said that the outcome had been wonderful so far and would be for eternity. Laura laughed at herself as she was overcome with desire for Amanda, wondering if there was a term for that. Amanda politely told her it was described as wanton women and then impolitely whispered several unladylike names for the same condition.

Laura flew back to the base the following morning. Sally sat in the cockpit for much of the flight learning the controls. She stated she really did need to learn to fly these things as they were generations beyond the older large helicopters she had flown while still part of the former military. Laura suggested that Jeannie could teach her lover as she had flown them and bombed in many battles. She suggested that if Sally was serious she could join classes at the Carriere Base when they were offered in the future to new recruits. Serena met them as Laura landed; the ground crew transferred luggage to a smaller Armed Forces helicopter. She told Amanda that Declan had sent an email about a unusual occurrence at one of the more southeastern outposts. She reassured the General that there was no incident of concern but stated she should address the issue in the morning. Amanda trusted Serena ' s judgment, stating she would meet with her again the following morning.

Amanda flew home to the cabin with thanks to Jeannie and Sally for a wonderful weekend. She said she was very much looking forward to traveling to Sanctuary with both of them. Luther met his priestesses and welcomed them home. As usual, their home was spotless. He asked if Jeannie had misbehaved well; they reassured him she was quickly becoming a professional at bad behavior. He smiled his approval. Laura told Luther about talking to Spero and about his discovery of Doakus. As she told him that Spero was saving for a pilot license; both priest and priestess acknowledged the unfolding of their journeys.

Luther already put dinner in the slow cooker; after filling wood boxes and banking fires he said goodbye to his friends. Both women were tired from the flight, their weekend; they dined early and retired early in preparation for a busy work week ahead.

Lydia was already at the base when Amanda and Laura landed the next morning. Serena notified her of the possible forecast of an ice fog and did not want her to be stranded with no chance of landing. She also warned Amanda and Laura, suggesting that they leave by midday if they wanted to spend the next days at the cabin and not at the base. Charlie agreed, stating that he planned to leave for Eaglesdown by midday. Lydia put the crews on standby; Serena had alerted all aircraft in the air with plans to land at Carriere. Amanda notified Luther, asking him to contact Sally and Jeannie with warnings not to fly unless an emergency.

Amanda went to her office to read the email from Declan. It stated that there had been earthlings found near the southeastern wall, children barely alive and grown earthlings dead. The bodies and the children had been taken to Sanctuary for care and autopsy. There were no detected illnesses in either the dead or the living; the physicians had easily concluded the death was by starvation. Neither Ross nor Declan felt that they were original inhabitants of the northern continent as all known survivors were at outposts or new settlements. Preliminary testing showed that none had been vaccinated which further confirmed the argument that they were not inhabitants of the northern continent. The children were too young and too ill to be questioned. This was an isolated event. Declan, Ross, Drew, Amelia, and Sterling felt that there was no immediate cause for concern. However, Sterling stated he felt strongly they had escaped somehow from below the southern wall. He warned to watch the behavior of the children closely, monitoring their physical state often. Amanda wrote her report and notified her senior officers, stating that this would be discussed at the next staff meeting.

By 1100 hours it was pouring rain and turning cold. Amanda told Laura to get ready to leave soon. Serena asked that the crew de-ice the helicopter returning to the coast as a precaution. Lydia was already in ice fog mode as were most of the personnel at the base. Charlie left to return to Eaglesdown. Serena and Lydia both reassured the General that the base would survive this year ' s misery as it had every other year, then telling her go home immediately. Lydia notified Luther that Amanda and Laura were in the air, asking that he meet them at the mountainside hanger. Amanda flew home, silent as she concentrated on every kilometer in the wind and rain. Luther met them; Amanda said she would take their vehicle to the cabin and leave it there. They drove on a quickly iced mountain road and slid into the driveway. Luther gave them sand to throw before their steps to get to the deck and then inside. He returned to the cabin about one hour later, soaked. He accepted warm dry clothing and hot soup before heading home to Mary. Sally and Jeannie were alerted early; Amo Te was dry in the hanger to remain there until the fog was over for another year. Amanda lit a fire in the guest room for more warmth throughout the cabin. Laura checked the greenhouse temperature and changed a battery to allow for more heat if needed. By midafternoon, the fog had rolled in from the ocean, blanketing the mountain and encasing every surface in thick ice. Laura baked a savory tart for dinner before the fire. The women chose not to use the electric heaters any more than usual in order to save energy if the fog lasted more than a few days. After dinner, both women filled wood boxes again and opened the door to the deck with some difficulty. Amanda poured salt and sand around the casing and jam before closing it again. Fires were banked for the night before both women climbed to the loft and a hot shower. Luther had placed extra duvets on the warming racks on the loft hearth; both women were glad to crawl beneath them in between warmed sheets. It was still raining although with less force. Amanda reiterated that this was her least favorite time of the year at the cabin, stating she would happily lie on a beach if there was one anywhere on the planet that was not invaded by The Decision.

Both women talked about Declan ' s email. Laura said she was certain the earthlings were from below the southern wall. She told Amanda that in their future they would need to help earthlings there to survive but not for many years yet. Amanda replied she knew that the ancients were readying the survivors of the northern continent to eventually aid their brothers and sisters to the south. She held her lover, e telling Laura that when they fought in the future they would fight together as they both knew the depths of love of which they were capable.

Laura woke before dawn and banked all three fires, replaced warming stones in the bed, and crawled back in between the sheets. Laura had hoped not to wake Amanda but was not successful. She kissed her apology to her lover who replied with gentle touches and kisses leading to passion in the cabin in the ice fog. Both women finally showered and dressed in warm clothing. Amanda made coffee and Laura prepared a hearty breakfast. After eating, both women filled wood boxes and banked fires yet again. Laura checked the greenhouse temperatures which were holding constant and safe. Once again, the deck door was opened with difficulty for salting and sanding. Luther had insured there was enough wood in the enclosure to last for several days as there was still entirely too much ice to venture past the threshold. The fog remained dense such that they could not see beyond the deck or the vehicle. It continued to rain which settled to thicken the already ice crusted surfaces everywhere. Morning chores were completed and Amanda made a second pot of coffee. The cabin was cooler as they had chosen to conserve battery power. Laura hugged Amanda and stated she was very glad she had been wise enough to purchase warm socks and knit pants at the Smithers store over the years. Laura had brought Anna and Versarie to the hearth to join Teddy and Primrose, for company and for warmth. Amanda found throws to warm near the hearth, after which she found many pillar candles for light. Laura thawed ranch beef, cabin vegetables and put a stew in the slow cooker. She also set dough for braided loaves and cinnamon buns and made two pecan tarts for her lover.

The women ate lunch before the fire, and then enjoyed another cup of coffee and some of Mary ' s cookies Laura retrieved from the freezer. After banking the fires again and fighting with the deck door, Laura returned from the studio with her sketch book. Amanda found her muse with the needles. Laura finished all the baking and then curled up at her end of the couch for a nap. Amanda put down her needles, telling her lover she had a very good idea, laid down with her head in Laura ' s lap, and both women slept before the fire. Darkness fell early in the shroud of the fog. Laura made dumplings for the stew while Amanda banked fires again and checked the greenhouse. She returned to the kitchen stating that the rain had finally stopped and the wind had increased which meant that the fog would start to dissipate. She helped Laura bring dinner to eat before the fire along with mulled wine. Amanda thoroughly enjoyed her dinner and kissed her appreciation for Laura. Laura cleared away dishes and brought Amanda a large piece of pecan tart with a smile. She told her lover that she really did like to cook for her. Amanda replied she was very glad she did.

After dinner, Laura stored the stew for lunch the following day. She suspected that Luther and perhaps Daniel would arrive at the cabin at some point once the fog lifted and she wanted warm food to feed them. Wood boxes were filled once again, fires banked. Amanda found night shirts to warm before the first floor fire and then asked Laura to join her for a candlelit bubble bath. Amanda did warm the first floor bathroom before she slowly and tenderly undressed her lover which caused trembling not from the cold. Both women soaked, giggled, and played with bubbles before the water started to cool. Amanda ran for warmed night shirts and after banking fires for the last time that night both women climbed to the loft, taking all four bears for warmth and company before the loft hearth. Once the warming stones and duvets had warmed the bed, night shirts returned to the hearth. Both women found passion before the need to dress again for sleep in the cooler cabin air.

Once again, Laura woke before Amanda. She made sure that Amanda ' s clothing and towels were warming before she returned to the first floor to make coffee and breakfast. The skies were still grey but the fog had lifted such that Laura could see the ocean ' s fury once again. The tantrum whipped clouds away to reveal a struggling sun to peak through. Amanda rose, showered, dressed, and joined her lover before the fire for coffee. Laura prepared a hearty breakfast, putting extra bacon and a frittata to warm in the oven. After eating and morning chores, both women donned warm water-proof clothing and started to conquer the ice. They won the fight with the deck door and left it open to spread salt and sand on the deck and steps leading to the pathway and driveway. Amanda found the small axes; both women started to chop a pathway to the outdoor wood piles. Luther and Daniel had covered the stored wood; once a safe path was secured, both women brought in armfuls of wood to the enclosure. They returned to the deck to remove as much ice as possible and spread more salt and sand. By mid-morning, they were soaked. They returned to the cabin to change clothing and warm with coffee before returning to the battle. Just as they were about to venture back to the wood piles, Luther and Daniel arrived with the plow, sand, and salt for the mountain road, driveway and the tarmacs. Laura insisted they join them for nourishment before returning to their work. She also insisted that they join them for lunch, taking no argument. Laura and Amanda continued to carry in wood and de-ice the deck and pathways as Luther and Daniel worked on the roadways. Over lunch, Luther said they had checked on Sally and Jeannie who were fine as the started their own conquering of ice. Amanda stated again that she hated ice fogs. Luther laughed, telling her he would be very concerned if she liked them. He did tell her, however, that it meant the advent of warmth and spring. He told his friends they had done a fine task with the greenhouse and the wood piles. Daniel was silent as he tucked into his second bowl of stew and dumplings. Amanda said he could ask Laura to marry him but she was already married and so was he. He was silent for a minute and then laughed out loud. Amanda made another pot of fresh coffee; Laura served large slices of pecan tart. Both men thanked them for their lunches and dressed to return to de-icing the roadway. He told the women it was not likely that they would be able to return to the base the next day as though the helicopters were in the hanger it would take a further day ' s work to prepare the tarmac completely. He said he worked hard to get a small clear done at the Dawson-Palmer tarmac in order to meet Daniel ' s aircraft earlier that morning. Amanda asked if she could use his computer to communicate with the base, just to check in.

Lydia responded immediately, stating that they were in ice fog recovery mode. There had been no injuries and aircraft not in hangers were being de-iced. She had not cleared the base for landing of any aircraft including the General ' s and would not likely until the morrow. Amanda replied that they would not be able to fly tomorrow as the tarmacs at the coast were still not clear and not safe. Lydia inquired as to their safety as well as Jeannie, Sally, Luther, and Mary. Amanda responded that everyone had survived without incident; they were all in ice fog recovery mode themselves. Amanda stated that they would not return to the base until the upcoming second weekday as was their usual routine.

Laura made a feast for dinner including a ginger cake with caramel sauce. She mulled cider and placed it on the trammel in the afternoon. They chose to continue to conserve energy as Luther had stated it would be at least two days before the wind towers and solar panels would be operational again. They knew they had many battery charged but also knew not to trust spring storms on the coast. Both women showered for warmth when they had finished clearing ice and bringing in wood. Amanda banked fires as Laura served dinner before the fire. The feast was devoured by hungry women and after Laura cleared dishes she brought Amanda a huge piece of her favorite cake with pools of caramel sauce. Amanda said she was not sure how she could ever really pay Laura back for her delicious meal; Laura grinned, telling her she was sure she would find a way. Once again, Laura found ranch beef in the freezer to thaw for the morrow before she helped Amanda fill wood boxes for the night.

Laura said she was about to take sore muscles to a warmed bed and wondered if Amanda wanted to join her, perhaps for a Chinese checkers tournament. Laura filled two mugs with cider as Amanda returned from the pantry with the old board and marbles. All four bears discussed the validity of human sanity among themselves as they watched the humans play, argue, laugh, and play some more. When Laura final conceded to a victorious Amanda, both women returned to the first floor to bank fires once more before returning to the loft and their warm bed. Laura sat up leaned against pillows; as she slowly unbuttoned her sleep shirt she told Amanda the only reason she always won at checkers was due to her experience and advanced age. Amanda did not slowly unbutton her own sleep shirt or finish unbuttoning Laura ' s as she murmured that they would see about the advanced age. Aine took Lohrissa within with cries to the ancients and the multiverse. Earth hours later, Laura returned to the reality of the loft being cradled by her lover, with Amanda ' s lovelights shining. She smiled at Laura, told her thanks for dinner, and to never doubt advanced age again. Laura murmured she would not at least for a day or two.

Both women slept beyond dawn the following morning. Amanda rose, showered, dressed quickly, banked the loft fire, and then banked fires on the first floor. Laura followed and prepared another hearty breakfast while Amanda made coffee. Luther and Daniel arrived by midday to tell the women they were working on the mountainside tarmac with expectations to be ready for take-off and landing by midafternoon. He told them that the road was safe now for travel as well although he did not recommend driving much beyond the Dawson-Palmer home. Lydia had sent official notice that the Carriere Base was safe for take-off and landing as well. Luther asked if there were supplies needed urgent as if not he planned to fly to Carriere on the upcoming first weekday. Both women reassured him that there were enough supplies in the cabin to winter over twice; he laughed as he agreed. Luther suggested that they could let the guest room fire burn out and they could also use electric heat as they chose. The warm sun had thawed many of the wind towers and the solar panels were fully functional again. The ice and snow were melting at a fast pace; by the end of the day there was small patches of grass seen near the driveway.

Amanda and Laura carried in more wood to the enclosure. Laura insisted that Luther and Daniel return at midday for lunch. While the men were eating, Amanda offered Daniel the position Harry had held previously. She explained the work he would need to do and discussed the salary with him. Both women understood that he worked with his family, only available for part of the time but this was also the case with Harry. Amanda said it appeared that he and Luther worked well together; they needed a backup for Luther and help for him as well. Daniel said he would be happy to take the work but that the salary was too high. Once again, Amanda told him either he took the money she offered or she would look for someone else. Daniel took the job.

Routines returned to normal the following week. Amanda and Laura returned to the base on the second weekday. Declan emailed Amanda that the children found near the southern wall had not survived. Ray Dobson told him that they were too malnourished to continue to thrive. Justine had taken a myriad of tissue samples and was still doing analysis just to be certain there was no other more ominous cause of death for any of the earthlings. Stephan had also emailed Declan to tell him that they all would be honored at the pyre. Amanda reported the news at the staff meeting the following day. By week ' s end more new recruits moved to the Carriere Base and instruction began again. Lydia returned to the ranch on the fourth weekday and planned to return on the upcoming second weekday before Barbara and Jackson moved the cattle to the summer pasture grounds.

Since the ranch was undergoing major renovations and additions, Amanda notified Ross Shipman that twelve people would arrive at the Ravencouer Base for an overnight stay before flying on to Sanctuary. She said to expect them on the first weekend day of the last full week of the fourth month of the new year. Ross replied immediately, stating they would be happy to accommodate them and looked forward to seeing all of them again. Amanda told Ross about Harry ' s death and also about Sally; his only reply was Roger that." Amanda then confirmed with everyone that they would travel to the Ravencouer Base rather than the ranch. She also directed that uniforms would be required for the day of arrival at Sanctuary.

Routines continued at the Carriere Base. Amanda spent many days doing annual reports and budget for Declan McDaniels. She never liked the tasks but had many years of experience and completed them without effort. Even Laura knew to not interrupt or tease the General when she was in budget mode as the General tended to slight crabbiness with that exercise.

Spring arrived at the coast. Riotous green shone everywhere. The ocean had quieted after winter tantrum, only sending forth occasional gentle winds when the skies left forth rain. Luther and Mary planted spring blooms on the deck as well as many new varieties of vegetables and fruits in the greenhouse with suggestions by Charlie Smithson. Ian and Daniel Fletcher readied themselves to replace all the windows at the Dawson-Palmer home while Sally and Jeannie were at Sanctuary. Drew McDaniels notified Laura and Amanda that he planned to take Lou and Niki to Sanctuary for their visit as there would be no peace in his life otherwise. Amanda and Laura ordered clothing from Mary Jeanne Designs as did Lydia and Barbara for their trip to the northeastern coast and archipelago in the eighth month of the new year.

Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer reassured all the senior officers and the General that she was more than prepared and capable to take command while they were in the north. She did say jokingly that she expected to join them on the subsequent visit; Amanda thoroughly agreed.

At 0700 hours on the first weekend day of last week of the fourth month of the new year, Amanda, Laura, Jeannie, Sally, Luther, and Mary landed at the Carriere base and helped the ground crew transfer luggage to the Raptor for flight to the Ravencouer Base. Charlie Smithson ran the preflight check list as everyone boarded the aircraft; after reassurance from Serena, Annette, instructors, and senior pilots that they base would be operating fine for a few days, the Raptor was in the air dealing east by 0800 hours. Sally joined Charlie in the cockpit to learn more about flying the huge helicopter. He confirmed that he would be happy to teach her with the next class of recruits if she was still interested. Everyone teased Luther and Laura as they had packed enough food for snacks to feed ten families for a day. Luther stated he did not want anyone to be hungry before they arrived at the Ravencouer Base. He, Mary, Sally, and Jeannie had not seen the Ravencouer Base at least from the ground. Jeannie and Luther had flown over it on their way back to the ranch after the last battle. Charlie landed the aircraft at just after 1400 hours; everyone was greeted by Ross Shipman, Declan McDaniels. Lydia and Barbara. Ross invited them to dine but they all declined, stating Laura and Luther had fed them on the flight from the coast. Lydia and Barbara ate at the ranch before the hour ' s flight to the base. Luther took Laura ' s hand, stating quietly that he lived here with her spirit every day she did. She hugged him, thanked him, and then told him it was far nicer now than it was then. She teased Ross and Declan by saying that now the entire base had hot water whenever it was needed. The ground crew moved luggage to the guest quarters while Ross took Sally, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary on a tour. Charlie joined them when they walked to the greenhouse. Ross proudly told everyone that the Ravencouer Base was self-sufficient now with their own herd of both dairy and beef cattle as well as fowl. He also said that the Shipman Base would be self-sufficient by the end of the year. Ross stated that every piece of salvageable glass was being removed from the destroyed former cities with the aim of supplying all new settlements with their own greenhouses as well. Sally, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary walked to the edge of the tarmac to look at the grasslands as far as the eyes could see. Jeannie said she felt like their world went on forever. Again, Laura smiled when she thought of her reaction to the wild north and looked forward to showing her. Ross invited everyone to join him in the dining room at 1800 hours for dinner as everyone returned to their rooms to rest from the early morning start. At dinner, Amanda spoke with personnel formerly at the Carriere base as did Lydia . They were part of the regular contingent of Security forces at the prison at the Ravencouer Base. Amanda asked if their prisoner was behaving; they replied that aside from a very ugly personality he was acceptable. Ross had heard the odd story about ruckus raising at the bar, delighted when he learned that Sally Palmer owned the bar, a very reliable source of potential incriminating information. Sally laughed, showed him several photographs from years past, and the last Wintersday as well. Ross grinned from ear to ear, simply stating Roger that! Jeannie ' s eyes opened wide when she heard him and realized it was his voice that was screaming over them all on the return from the final battle. Laura told both Ross and Declan about the exciting growth of Mary Jeanne Designs as well as wool and fabrics from outpost cooperatives. Laura also told both men about Luther ' s and Mary ' s children and their fishing cooperative sending large amounts of fish to the Resistance during the battles. Declan asked for contact information so that they could be thanked officially and sincerely. Laura announced that she planned flight north at 1000 hours the following morning, asking that luggage be on the tarmac by 0930. Amanda kissed her lover, teasing that one could take the base away from the commander but one could never take the commander out of the base. Jeannie smiled and said Well done Commander Ravencouer, well done." Lydia had a look of slight surprise after which Declan told her that they had all heard her after that battle.

After breakfast the following morning, Laura met the ground crew and ran the pre-flight check list as luggage and supplies were loaded into the Raptor. General Bennett has requested that the Armed Forces personnel wear working uniforms to meet with Chief Redhawk at Sanctuary. Amanda joined Laura in the cockpit as they became airborne knowing that everyone else would be mesmerized by the vistas they were about to see. As they flew closer to Sanctuary, conversation dwindled as the magic of the north overtook the passengers in the Raptor. Laura landed the aircraft effortlessly as she had done many times in the past. She ran the post flight checklist before everyone disembarked and walked as a group to meet Stephan and Tess Redhawk. Lieutenant General Smithson barked Attention after which all Armed Forces officers saluted the chief and all the peoples of Sanctuary. Immediately, the entire population gathered on the tarmac was on a bended knee in honor of the priests and priestesses. Laura motioned for them all to rise as Lohrissa gave blessings to all. The officers were put at ease. Stephan and Tess were introduced to everyone with hearty welcomes to the magic of the north. Charlie, Eleanor, Sally, Jeannie, Luther, and Mary were almost silent as their eyes took in the vast open spaces and forests. Laura spotted Lou and Niki, running to hug both of them. Lou grinned telling Laura she was not getting any uglier; Laura whispered in her ear that it was due to good loving. Lou smiled; she absolutely believed that. Amanda walked up beside Laura and hugged greetings to their friends as did Lydia and Barbara. Laura returned with the rest of their group to introduce Louiza Shipman and Nikita Cee. Lou was actually reasonably well behaved; when Laura asked Niki what was going on Niki grinned, telling her she warned Lou to be polite or there would be a withdrawal of certain services. Stephan led their guests to the main house and offered them a lunch buffet. Friends from their former visit came to great the women including Justine Carland. Laura hugged hello to her and introduced Justine to everyone. Lydia and Justine laughed out loud as they hugged each other. Laura told Justine she would visit with Ray Dobson after she ate.

After lunch, Meda showed everyone to their rooms after which Laura took them all to the Lindsay Reynolds Centre for Hope and introduced Dr. Ray Dobson. Lieutenant General Smithson expressed their collective gratitude for the instructions of all the new recruits and the continued education of those who chose to be medics. Laura knew she would always have an ache in her for Lindsay and her child but she knew they were at peace now on the helix. This visit elicited no tears with only good memories. Stephan had invited everyone to gather for dinner any time after 1700 hours; as the official part of their greetings was over Amanda told the officers they no longer needed to be in uniform. For the rest of their visit they could dress in casual clothing. The celebration of Bealtaine was in two days ' time; Laura and Amanda had explained the ceremony to all their friends before their trip. Laura packed Thea ' s native attire and had already asked Meda to help her dress before they travelled to the pyre. They also explained about the morning ritual of breakfast trays and not to be concerned if unknown women walked into their room without invitation.

The ten friends met before going to the dining room for dinner. Laura explained this was communal dining and they should sit where they could find room. Amanda and Laura found space beside Niki and Lou who talked at great length about their new home and the adventures of moving to a new settlement. Niki stated that their settlement had two new babies born after they arrived. Lou proudly told her friends that both families had been attended by Nikita Cee. Niki said she was thrilled with her new midwifery training and medic training. Laura smiled, telling her that Lindsay saw her from the helix and was very proud of her as they all were. Amanda and Lou talked about the newsletters Lou was now publishing electronically. At dinner ' s end, Laura and Amanda excused themselves to usher their friends for a stroll on the tundra at twilight. Lydia , Barbara, Laura, and Amanda all wore the hand crafted jackets given to them last year as they walked with their friends out to the vastness of the north. As the moon rose, all five couples stood in each other ' s arms, silently giving down thanks for the beauty and preservation of Mother. On the return to the compound, Sally quietly murmured that Sanctuary was a very magic part of the planet. Laura told her she was entirely correct.

After breakfast the following day, Laura took her friends on horseback to the separate compound housing many native families. Meda ' s granddaughter, Katy, hugged Laura as she dismounted and then greeted all of Laura ' s friends. Laura explained that Katy was the new chronicler at Sanctuary, a task that Lou had undertaken for years. Katy showed everyone the compound including a huge greenhouse, one that Tess Redhawk had helped them build. She explained that Sanctuary was now completely self-sufficient thanks to the visions of Laura ' s father and mother as well as the elder Noshi. Jeannie was very interested in the production of flax and the linen the women had made as well as the wool for winter and summer clothing. Katy told Jeannie that Tess had finally perfected a strain of cotton that was climate hardy and fast growing. They had a small harvest last summer with hopes for a much larger one for the upcoming summer. Katy insisted that Jeannie take a bolt of both hand woven linen and cotton back to the coast with her. She also gave every home new coffee plants to transplant in their greenhouses.

Laura led her friends back across the tundra now covered with spring blooms. Hunger called everyone as they tucked into a delicious lunch before having alone time in the afternoon. Stephan joined them briefly with an invitation to visit the third compound in the morrow. Amanda asked if she could take photographs of Stephan and Laura together as there was a great resemblance. Stephan added that he was prettier though. On many occasions, their friends thanked both Amanda and Laura for the invitation to visit the north stating that it was a life changing part of Mother ' s world.

Laura and Amanda returned to their quarters, choosing a shower and passion before a nap. As they lay in each other ' s arms before drifting off to sleep, Laura spoke of how fortunate they were to be surrounded by couples who were madly in love with each other. Amanda agreed, stating that she had grown to understand love is love no matter the gender. She said she could not recall understanding that her parents loved each other but she looked at Luther and Mary, Charlie and Eleanor, and saw a deep abiding love and respect. Laura teased that they could never have nearly as much fun in bed as two women but perhaps what they did not know would not hurt them. She said that one day she would ask Mary about that as she did not really know.

After dinner, people gathered around the fire to listen to Lou tell the stories of an early Sanctuary. Laura smiled as she saw Thea ' s dolls and their rocker before the hearth; one young woman held one of the dolls while she listened to Lou. Noshi, Tom, and Thea smiled through the flames as their beloved daughter and most ancient high priestess was home in the north once more. Lou grew tired; the stories ended for another night. Laura, Amanda, and their friends retired to their rooms.

Laura loved dawn into Amanda on the anniversary of her birth and the day of celebration of Bealtaine. The women eventually showered and were lying in bed dressed in satin and lace when Niki and Marla brought a breakfast tray to them and gave them blessings for a new day and for Bealtaine. Laura quietly also said blessings for Amanda ' s birth anniversary. Niki kissed Amanda ' s cheek and winked at Laura as she left the room. Laura handed Amanda many wrapped gifts. Amanda giggled when she opened a gift with her own corset, made of black lace and black satin ribbons. Laura told her she must wear it at the next Ostermonat weekend or before and perhaps even later this evening. She also gave her new clothing to wear on their trip to the east including new bikinis to wear to the beach. Laura said it was quite lovely having a designer for a friend once again; Amanda agreed. Everyone gathered in the common room to accompany Stephan to the farthermost compound, this time in a tundra vehicle. Luther was fascinated by the wood harvest and replacement techniques utilized, asking many questions. Lydia and Barbara had already conferred with the forewoman by email about the fastest possible replacement of those trees they were harvesting for the new buildings at the ranch. Many logs had been harvested over the years but the forest did not look denuded whatsoever as great care had been taken with every tree cut and every new tree planted. Stephan explained that the harvest continued as the new settlements were being built but the tempo had slowed as survivors were learning how to manage their own forests in the south. On their return to the main compound Stephan reminded everyone that he would be happy to transport them to the pyre at sunset; they agreed on a time to meet in the common room. Meda met Laura, asking her to dine at 1700 hours so they would have time to prepare for the Bealtaine ceremony. Laura took her mother ' s native attire to Meda ' s room before returning to spend the afternoon alone with her lover. Laura showered and asked Amanda to brush her curls as she knew Meda wanted to braid them. Laura told her friends to dress warmly as the air was cool after sunset. Everyone meet just before 1700 hours for dinner. Stephan arrived and gifted Luther, Mary, Charlie, Eleanor, Jeannie, and Sally with handmade deer skin jackets with intricate quill work and beading. He said that they were about to be initiated into the family of the north; they all wanted them to have a remembrance of their first visit. There were no dry eyes before words of thanks were found. Tess joined her husband and everyone sat down to eat. At the end of the meal, one of the cooks carried in a huge ginger cake with many candles as the entire compound sang birth anniversary blessings to Amanda. She blushed beautifully as Laura giggled and clapped. After kisses and promises that a piece of cake would be kept for her, Laura hurried off to meet Meda to dress for Bealtaine at the pyre. Meda worked her magic; in less than an hour Laura returned to the common room. Once again, her friends were speechless at her beauty. Stephan asked them to walk to the tundra vehicle and they all drove to the pyre.

Almost the entire population of Sanctuary had gathered. There were musicians, drummers, and many logs ready to be set ablaze at the pyre. Stephan spoke, welcoming their guests and now the priestesses and priests from Naofa. He explained the ritual of the maiden and the stag, a remembrance to the ancestors, and renewal of love and commitment to mates. He introduced Lohrissa, Aine, Lemanychia, Briallen, Lughe, and Curran; as he did the holy ones emerged. He invited the holy ones to ignite the flames as the drummers and musicians started the ancient chants. All the holy ones rose above the ground, floating to the pyre where Lohrissa blessed all; with flames from her hands, she lit the blaze. All the holy ones sang blessings to the ancients, to the multiverse, to Mother, and to their families on earth. Both Sally and Jeannie wept as the holy ones continued the songs. The priests and priestesses left their earthlings ' bodies and auras diminished save for Laura who remained with a shimmering white aura. Stephan and Tess then knelt at the pyre, recommitting their lives and love to the other. Couples followed including Laura and Amanda , Lydia and Barbara, Jeannie and Sally, Charles and Eleanor, Luther and Mary. The festival continued with music and conversation. Laura and Amanda walked away from the crowd; when looking up they once again saw the beauty of the northern sky with brilliant aurora borealis. Laura also pointed to silver circles of stars to all her friends, reassuring them that Lindsay was sending her blessings to all. Noshi appeared briefly to Laura to tell her that Lindsay had been anointed as the priestess Iobairt; the ancients in the multiverse revered her and the gift she had given to the earthlings. Stephan found all the guests, asking if they were ready to return to the compound. There were no activities planned for the morning as it was expected that passion would find all on this night of mating; it did.

Amanda helped Laura removed quills and bead from her braids as they undressed for the night. Laura told Amanda that she wanted her entirely too much to wait for the corset being put on and then taken off. Amanda laughed at her lover, telling her she promised she would model it very soon. Lohrissa ' s aura had not left Laura as she met Aine for the priestess journeys to the ancients and the multiverse until the first light of dawn. Nikita brought a breakfast tray in the morning, covered her friends, and chose to return with their breakfast later.

Amanda and Laura wandered into the common room just as their friends were sitting down to lunch. Lydia had a contrived look of disgust on her face to which Amanda told her not to be jealous as it was not becoming. Tess greeted the guests as she led both Luther and Charles to the greenhouses for lessons about new hybrids. Lydia and Barbara met with the Sam and the other senior stable keepers to learn about new natural antibiotics they had been using to treat newborn foals and cattle. Jeannie, Sally, and Eleanor met with spinners and weavers to learn techniques for producing linen from flax and fabric from other grasses native to the north. Amanda and Laura took mounts to the original settlement where Tom and Thea had lived when they first returned to the north. Laura was silent as she walked about the old hamlet and then into the first home her parents had shared in the north. She sat on the hearth and drew back to her mother, her father, their lives, their dreams, and their courage. She knew the life her mother had in the former elite neighborhood, a life of luxury, of not wanting for anything. She had the same life before the battles, even after she met Amanda and shared their home at the coast. She talked to Amanda about the sacrifice her mother had made for the earthlings and how hard she must had found life after moving north. Amanda agreed but asked Laura if she found living hard at the Ravencouer Base in a steel shed that was poorly insulated at best, in a room only big enough for a bed and a trunk, and never enough even warm water. Laura immediately responded that she did not think of that often. She stopped with smiles for Amanda when she realized that Thea had not thought of it either. What mother and daughter had done was by direction and for love. Both women walked to the edge of the river and watched seals basking in the warming spring sun. Laura looked at Amanda, telling her they must never let Olc claim this beauty. Amanda reminded her that Olc had tried for eons; Naofa remained victorious, and would until every soul on the planet was claimed.

Both women returned to the main compound by late afternoon. Lydia and Barbara both asked Laura if she would skydive with them in the morrow, tandem at first as it had been many years since either had jumped and neither had learned to land without rolling. They reassured her that Charlie promised to pilot with Sally and Jeannie as copilots. They already asked Stephan for the user of a small Eagle. Barbara indicated that as much as she really wanted to pilot it she wanted to skydive more. Laura was beyond excited as she agreed. Luther, Mary, and Eleanor all declined an invitation to join them, they would observe from the ground. Luther agreed to drive the overland vehicle to meet the skydivers and drive them back to the tarmac. Amanda was almost as excited as her lover as she would be able to jump each time the plane was in the air.

The following morning, Charlie flew the Eagle to the coordinates and Laura jumped first with Barbara. She smiled at herself as she automatically went into instructor mode as they neared the jumping point. Jeannie was in the cockpit with Charles and Sally was in the hold with her friends. She gave them the warning as the plane closed in on the coordinates. Laura clipped Barbara to her and when Sally gave the command both women were free falling. Laura opened the chute, and as they neared landing pushed her legs against Barbara ' s; both women landed effortlessly and without a roll. Laura was certain the night could have been lit by Barbara ' s smile; she did not stop grinning as they returned to the tarmac to meet the plane, Lydia , and Amanda. Charlie rounded up all four women as well as Jeannie and Sally, taking off once again to the coordinates. Luther thought they were all entirely insane; stating that he had a hard time climbing to the top rung of a ladder so jumping out of an airplane was beyond his scope. Amanda teased him that he loved to fly helicopters, was a kick ass bomber pilot, and yet he was afraid of heights. Luther said it was not heights that bothered him; it was the landing without heavy machinery beneath him. Laura jumped tandem with Lydia as she had with Barbara and landed without effort. Everyone broke for lunch with plans to continue diving afterwards. Lou told them all that they were beyond insane for wanting to jump out of a moving airplane for no good reason. Laura quietly reminded her she took on The Decision for years; if she thought for a moment she would realize that took just about as many ovaries as skydiving.

Amanda, Laura , Lydia , and Barbara jumped twice more after lunch, the last time all holding hands in free fall. On their return to the tarmac, Lydia stated she was going to jump every chance she had with recruits at the base. Amanda reminded her she had been doing that for years.

As they only had one more full day at Sanctuary before returning to the Ravencouer Base, everyone chose their own activities for the fifth weekday. Amanda took dozens of photographs. All the couples walked to the tundra after dinner, standing in silence as Mother Moon rose to her full girth in the northern sky.

On the first weekend day, Laura readied the Raptor for flight back to the Ravencouer Base. Everyone said reluctant goodbyes with promises to return to the north when they could. The sky was gray with clouds full of water as if Mother was about to weep as the friends left. Before boarding the helicopter, all ten friends stood together to wave goodbye; the entire population of Sanctuary moved to bended knee to return blessings to the holy ones as auras shone briefly.

There was little conversation on the return to the base. Amanda joined Laura in the cockpit only for company as Laura did not fly with a copilot. The Raptor landed without difficulty, met by Ross Shipman and ground crew. Everyone was tired, choosing to rest before meeting for dinner and then an early night. Charlie flew Eleanor and his friends back to the Carriere Base and was on the tarmac by 1400 hours. Luggage was transferred; Amanda returned Jeannie, Sally, Luther, Mary, and Laura back to the mountainside tarmac by midafternoon.

Daniel Fletcher was waiting when Luther, Mary, Laura, and Amanda arrived. The cabin was spotless; Daniel stated it had been an uneventful week. While he talked with Luther, Laura slipped back to his vehicle to leave him a bonus with a note of thanks. He told his friends that he and Ian had replaced all the windows at the Dawson-Palmer home including a large window looking out over the ocean. They both hoped Jeannie and Sally would be pleased. As Laura has asked, Daniel had thawed a container of Judith ' s chowder and a braided loaf for their dinner. Everyone said goodbye; Laura and Amanda were alone at home at last. Both women cuddled before the fire after dinner and very brief night chores. Laura said she thought that everyone had enjoyed their trip to the north; Amanda reassured her they had. Amanda asked her lover if she wanted to share a bubble bath; Laura never needed to be asked twice. Both women were tired and after a long soak, they climbed to the loft to fall asleep in each other ' s arms in their own bed.

Amanda brought Laura through the journey from sleep to waking with kisses, touches and blessings on the twenty-eighth anniversary of her birth. Desire precluded verbal response from Laura until sometime later. She lay in Amanda ' s arms, laughing as she remembered how innocent she was ten years previously. She had already planned to seduce the Colonel but saw it as only a means to an end. She convinced herself that she would be able to ignore anything distasteful about that. She kissed Amanda, telling told her that she got her mind changed when she saw her standing on the tarmac in jeans and a T-shirt prior to their first flight to the cabin. She then murmured that her body got changed later that same day; her heart and soul had been changing ever since. She said she gave down thanks every day to her ancients for the gift of Amanda; she would for eternity. By mid-morning, both women were sitting before the hearth with coffee and breakfast. Amanda handed Laura a wrapped gift tied with a silver ribbon and kissed her birth anniversary blessings once again. Laura opened the box to find a new laptop computer. Amanda explained that she knew Laura did not want computers in her their home as she did not want to bring work to their peace. She said this computer was not for work but for communicating with their friends and the base in cases of emergencies like ice fogs. Laura stated that she had a computer already but Amanda reminded her it was old, not capable of easy transmission using a satellite link. She told Laura that Spero used a computer at the ranch; it would be wonderful to talk to him when she chose. Amanda reminded her they had too many people they loved and who loved them not to be able to contact them when they wanted or needed. Laura hugged and kissed her lover, speaking to how wonderful it was to have a family of choice now rather than circumstance. She said she had a birth family who she met, remembered, and loved; she also had a family of choice now moving across the northern continent who she loved as much or perhaps even more. Amanda kissed her in return, saying that she now has a family of choice who she also loved. who loved her; at the center of her family and her heart was her most beautiful mistress. Laura put down the gift to take her lover to the rug before the hearth to show her thanks in very loving ways.

Laura spent much of the remaining afternoon discovering all there was to know about her new computer and sent an email to Spero. Amanda grilled steak and made salad for Laura ' s birth anniversary dinner after which she excused herself to shower, suggesting perhaps Laura might do the same but separately. Amanda also asked that Laura remain on the first floor until she was invited to the loft. As darkness fell, Laura showered in the first floor bathroom, dressed in satin and lace to wait for her invitation to the loft. She banked the first floor fire for the night, waiting rather impatiently for what she perceived was a date. She was finally invited to join Amanda in the loft where she found many pillar candles and her lover wearing her new black lace corset and beautiful priestess skin. Laura caught her breath as she saw Amanda, walking as slowly as she could to take her in her arms. She whispered that she had been wrong about Amanda ' s advancing age as no older woman could ever look as breathtakingly gorgeous as she did. Amanda smiled, murmuring it was because of good loving. Laura giggled but only for a moment as kissing and touching led to kissing and touching with the slow loosing of black satin ribbons. Love and passion found both priestesses in the fifth month of the new year at the cabin at the coast.

Chapter 14

Life at the base and the cabin followed routines. Laura tested all the new recruits for skydiving skills; all passed with no need for further instruction. Annette Lemaine travelled to Sanctuary to be tested for skills sufficient for teaching new recruits the basic medic training. It was agreed that those who wanted certification would still be taught and tested at Sanctuary. Private Johnson was promoted to Master Corporal Johnson in his position as instructor for basic Communications for all new recruits. Corporal Lemaine was promoted to Captain Lemaine as she was the medic instructor and the senior medic for the infirmary. There were no physicians on site; those who attended were from the town of Carriere . All the senior officers agreed that Annette could more than handle any crisis as she had with Jeannie ' s gunshot wound. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer commented there would be no living with Annette with two officers living under one roof. Laura reassured her she was sure they would compensate.

Barbara and Lydia declined an invitation to a weekend at the cabin in light of the renovations at the ranch plus the fact that they were taking two weeks away in the eighth month of the new year to join their friends with travel to the east. Amanda was quietly concerned about her friends as Lydia was silent, stating she was not going to return to the ranch on one her weekends off. She also knew better than to ask her friend as she would be told to mind her own business in no uncertain terms. Laura also noticed; she emailed Barbara to see how the renovations were progressing and how her life was progressing. Laura too was concerned and had been since their visit to Sanctuary as she noticed some undefined distance between her friends. Amanda and Laura finally talked to each other about what was a growing mutual perception of problems. Amanda told her lover that Lydia had gone through periods previously where she became quite insecure because of her age now of forty-five earth years. Laura did not understand well as Lydia was a stunningly beautiful woman on a bad day; when she applied herself she could stop traffic. Both women knew that Barbara loved her more every day and told her often.

Amanda asked Laura if she would join her at the bar on the evening of one fifth weekday, one where Lydia was supposed to return to the ranch and had not. She emailed Sally and Jeannie, asking them to join them. She then privately told Sally there might be some hell to pay. Sally knew these women well and knew what to expect. Amanda and Sally gently forewarned their lovers that there might be a ruckus, perhaps not a fun one. All four women arrived at the bar and sat down to dinner. In about an hour Lydia arrived with one of the new, pretty, and very young recruits. Laura spotted her; with a look of confusion on her face she rose to motion to Lydia to join them. Amanda and Sally both told Laura to sit down and say nothing. Lydia walked to the bar, ordered a bottle of scotch and two glasses before returning to the table with her new friend. Sally had forewarned her bouncers that there might be an issue with which they needed to possibly contend. Lydia was already quite inebriated. Laura was sad and surprised as she had never seen her friend in that state previously. She was then angered as she saw Lydia attempt to start seduction of this young defenseless woman. Both Amanda and Sally told their lovers to stay seated after which both women rose, walking towards Lydia ' s table. When Lydia saw them, she stood and readied for a confrontation. Sally told Lydia 's companion to leave now and take her vehicle back to the base. Amanda quietly told her that was an order. Lydia found some very unladylike words for her friends as she stumbled towards Amanda. Amanda spoke to Lydia quietly as both she and Sally took her by the arms, walking her from the building. Laura was crying as she and Jeannie followed their lovers outside. Sally held Lydia ' s arms as a side of Amanda that Laura had never seen emerged. She asked her friend what the hell she thought she was doing, saying the bullshit about aging just didn ' t cut it. She continued that other than when she behaved like this she was a drop dead gorgeous woman who had a lover of over twenty-one years who loved her more than life itself. She also said that Barbara was in the air and would be the base soon. Amanda berated Lydia that it was entirely selfish to involve the affections of an innocent young woman to her own self-aggrandizement; then asked her if that was what Amanda had been to her many years before. With that question, all the fight left Lydia ; she crumbled in tears as Amanda grabbed her and held her. Sally returned to the bar to tell the staff all was well. She grabbed the bottle of scotch before saying goodnight to her friends.

Jeannie returned with the vehicle just as Barbara arrived. She looked at Amanda, gathered Lydia in her arms, and both women sobbed. Amanda drove Barbara and Lydia back to the base; Jeannie and Sally followed. Amanda told Laura that their friends would be joining them overnight at least at the cabin as they helped Lydia board the helicopter. Jeannie flew the ranch helicopter back the landing pad at their home. Luther was at the cabin, having readied the guest room as the priestesses arrived. Amanda and Barbara helped Lydia to undress; both women walked her to the shower. She told Barbara to let her know if she needed help getting Lydia back to bed. Sally and Jeannie arrived as Amanda walked back to the common room. Amanda thanked Luther, telling him that he could return to his home. Sally and Amanda hugged each other; Sally poured two shots of scotch and handed one to Amanda. Amanda downed it and just said One more time to Sally. Barbara yelled for help and Amanda returned to the guest room to help Lydia into bed. Barbara hugged and kissed Amanda, thanking her. Sally and Jeannie said goodnight after telling both Amanda and Laura to notify them if they needed help.

Laura stood at the window looking out to the night sky. Amanda joined her and wrapped an arm around her lover ' s waist. She quietly told Laura that she was sorry she had to live through that. Laura was crying softly; Amanda kissed away the tears. Both women banked the fire and climbed to the loft. Laura was still very quiet as Amanda tried to explain what had transpired over the last hours. Amanda told her that Serena had mentioned that she suspected Lydia was about to pursue one of the new young recruits; both woman immediately knew what was about to happen. Amanda had emailed Barbara to come to the base and why. Lydia was a flirt, loved women, and most women loved her in return. Amanda explained with a rather wistful smile that when Lydia Stenns decided to seduce a woman she was hard to stop. Lydia had been sad about what she perceived as impending middle age, questioning whether or not Barbara would still want her or love her. Laura had a look of complete surprise on her face with that comment as she knew how much Barbara loved her and wanted her more every day. There was never a question of Lydia loving Barbara; it was a question of Lydia loving Lydia . Laura shook her head as from her discerning eyes Lydia Stenns was beautiful. Amanda knew Lydia would drink for courage and then take the young recruit to the bar, thinking that nobody would interfere. Amanda told Barbara to come to the base as Lydia needed her and why. This was not the first time that Lydia had suffered from the perceived devastation of age. Sally and Amanda had interfered in the past, either alone or together, because both women understood and loved their friends. Laura asked how they could help; Amanda replied that they had already. Barbara knew her lover's insecurities. Amanda said that as far as she knew that Lydia had not been unfaithful to Barbara, not certain she could ever follow through. She said she thought that Lydia had hurt some women along the way; she would feel bad about the new one when she was sober once again. Laura said it might be awkward at the base; Amanda agreed but she also believed that if Lydia wanted to pursue falsehoods she needed to be prepared to pay for that. After a few moments of silence, Amanda said that in all fairness Barbara needed to perhaps love the animals a bit less and time with Lydia in person perhaps a bit more. Laura kissed her lover, telling her that she was very glad that Amanda wanted to return to home with her every night with hopes she always would. Amanda returned the kiss, saying she lived too many months wanting to hold the love of her life to ever consider not changing her desire to return home with her.

Both Amanda and Laura were sitting before the fire the following morning when Barbara joined them. She looked tired and worn; Laura held her for a long time without speaking. Luther arrived briefly to let everyone know he had changed the batteries for the ranch helicopter as he was not certain of the plans for return. Barbara finally spoke, once again thanking her sisters. She said she was going to take Lydia back to the ranch for a few days as both of them needed time alone to work this latest episode to resolution. She said Lydia was awake and not feeling too badly physically but did not know how to face Amanda and especially Laura. Laura rose, filled 2 cups with coffee, a shot glass full of scotch, placed them on a tray, and kissed both Amanda and Barbara as she carried the tray to the guest room.

Lydia was sitting up in bed, holding both Anna and Versarie, and crying softly. Laura put the tray on the bedside table, removed all her clothing, and climbed into the bed beside Lydia . She kissed away the tears, and then started to seduce her friend. Lydia immediately drew back, looking at Laura with some surprise. Laura quietly told her friend that she only seduced beautiful women and was only seduced by them. She asked Lydia if she thought Laura was beautiful; Lydia smiled, telling her that she knew she did. Laura then asked Lydia why she had drawn away from seduction by a beautiful woman. She told her friend that if she needed to seduce someone other than Barbara that Laura was the youngest of their close friends and at least as gorgeous as any of them. She was quiet for a moment, and then asked Lydia directly why she did not want to continue with the seduction. Lydia started to sob, telling her it was because she was only in love with Barbara Maclippe and had been for so many years. Laura rose from the bed and dressed once more. She walked to Lydia ' s side of the bed to hold her friend as she sobbed. Laura reminded Lydia that Barbara Maclippe loved her more than life itself. She told Lydia that she was a beautiful woman and what made her the most beautiful was the depth of her heart, the measure of her courage, the scope of her spirit, and her unselfish love for all earthlings. She offered Lydia the scotch; Lydia smiled and refused. She said she wanted coffee, a shower, and then to hold the love of her life. Laura drank coffee with her friend; as Lydia went to the shower Laura changed linens. She then gathered the cups and shot glass before carrying the tray back to the common area. She smiled at Barbara as she told her that Lydia wanted her and now. Barbara rose to return to the guest room.

Amanda poured Laura another cup of coffee and asked her what she said. Laura asked Amanda if she thought she was beautiful. Amanda answered that it was a very silly question. Laura told Amanda that she got naked before trying to seduce Lydia who immediately drew away. Laura told her lover that she had asked Lydia why she had refused a beautiful woman and was told that the only beautiful woman Lydia wanted was Barbara Maclippe. Laura continued that Barbara loved Lydia more than life itself; Lydia ' s greatest beauty came from her spirit, her soul, her courage, her love of others. Amanda was silent and then gathered Laura in her arms, asking where she got to be that wise. Laura replied that she had a very good teacher.

Sometime later both Lydia and Barbara joined their friends again in the common room. Lydia walked to Amanda; through tears she hugged her friend, thanking her for hauling her ass out of the flames one more time. Amanda laughed, replying that they had their own particular ways of laying down hell but they ended up at the same place. She told Lydia she loved her and always would. She then looked at Laura, saying with a smile through more tears that perhaps in another lifetime she would reconsider her offer of earlier that day. Laura handed her friends bowls of soup and braided loaves as both needed nourishment. Barbara said they planned to return to the ranch that afternoon. When everyone was finished lunch, Laura filled thermos bottles for flight back to the ranch. Amanda and Laura drove their friends to the landing pad at the Palmer-Dawson home where Lydia sought out both Sally and Jeannie thanking them both for loving her as much as they did. With their friends headed east, Amanda and Laura returned home. Laura spent the remainder of the day cooking and then joined her lover before the fire. Amanda kissed Laura ' s neck, telling her that while she had loved her as a youth, she adored the grown woman she had become. Laura replied she was still in almost disbelief at Lydia ' s behavior. Amanda led Laura to the shower; when curled up in bed she told Laura the story of a young Lydia Stenns and perhaps the reason for the insecurities.

Lydia Stenns was the only child born to ranchers. Her parents had wanted more children to carry on the legacy of the farm but none were conceived. Lydia ' s mother died before Lydia reached adolescence and so she remembered very little female influences in her upbringing. Lydia was a beautiful child and an even more beautiful young woman. Her father was a loving man but very strict, supporting the religious right with their rise to power. Mr. Stenns wanted Lydia to marry so there would be a man to run the ranch when he died. Lydia had grown up with ranching, learning a great deal from her father mostly by observation. He hired Jackson as the ranch foreman. Jackson was only a few years older than Lydia ; at first, her father had hoped there might be a chance the two would marry. However, Jackson told Mr. Stenns he loved Lynne with plans to marry her when she was of age. Lydia had always known she was a lesbian and wanted no part of marrying any man. She wanted to travel far away from her father ' s opinions and his notion of a woman not being good enough to run anything save for maybe a household. Jackson helped her apply to the former military; the day after she turned the legal age of sixteen earth years she informed her father that she was leaving to become a military pilot. He was furious as he thought that the military was a breeding ground for unlawful sex and power for women. Jackson flew her to Air Command Base 12 where Amanda would eventually become Colonel. Lydia kept in contact with her father as they loved each other despite their differences. She was exceptionally bright; by the age of just twenty earth years she had been promoted to the rank of Captain and was a senior flight instructor. Despite his religious views, Mr. Stenns was very proud of his daughter, still holding out hope that she would meet a nice young man to settle back at the ranch in the role of wife and mother. Lydia never really lost the idea of having something to prove to her father and to the world. Her father died in a ranch accident before Lydia ' s twenty-first birth anniversary; she inherited the ranch. She did not want to leave her career; Jackson in essence ran the ranch from the time of her father ' s death. Because of circumstances, Lydia became commander of the remote Carriere Base for the former military at the age of twenty-two earth years. She knew Amanda from her student days and then as a young pilot being taught at the Carriere Base. Amanda had always said that Lydia Stenns was a thoughtful, very adept lover but at the very center of her was sex and power, a defense against being rejected and hurt. Then, she met Barbara Maclippe who stole her heart and seduced her for life. Barbara also loved the ranch and the security of that life. She was wise beyond her years as a result of a very violent childhood. She adored Lydia Stenns from the first time they were lovers, continuing to adore her. When Lydia feared rejection, she reverted back to the pattern of sex and power. That was what the scene at the bar was about. Barbara understood that inherently about the love of her life, readily admitting that she sometimes let her life at the ranch walk Lydia to perceived rejection. Amanda quietly said that for all her bravado and swagger, Lydia Stenns just wanted to be loved as all earthlings did.

Laura rose and wrapped herself in a throw before walking out to the upper deck. The early summer night was cool but clear under galaxies of stars. She felt hurt for both Lydia and Barbara as they faced another hurdle to pass over. She and Amanda had only had one argument. She still remembered the hurt and confusion between her heart and her mind all these years later. Amanda joined her; as if she had read her mind she asked Laura if she would still love her even if they faced another hurdle in their futures. Laura immediately replied that she would love her forever and would try hard to understand what her lover needed or wanted. Amanda hugged Laura as she told her that Barbara and Lydia loved each other that much; they would walk together through their hurt to the other side. Amanda then asked Laura if Lydia had agreed to the seduction would she had followed through with it. Laura smiled, replying that she was absolutely sure that Lydia Stenns would refuse her; otherwise, she would never have offered. She gently kissed and touched her lover with words that Amanda Bennett was the only beautiful woman she would ever want as a mistress.

Lydia returned to the base on the next fourth weekday. She immediately apologized to Serena Lorimer, a colleague and a very good friend for many years. She also sought out the woman she had taken to the bar and apologized to her, telling her the truth about her actions. Lydia told her that she hoped her error in judgment would not influence the recruit ' s decision to remain a member of the Armed Forces or cloud her opinion of all the other senior officers at Carriere. The young woman replied that the incident was in the past, would be forgotten, but she did thank the Lieutenant General for being candid.

Jeannie and Mary were extremely busy with new customers and keeping the shop in the town of Carriere supplied with their new designs. They completed all the orders for clothing for their four friends in time for their travels to the east coast. Both Barbara and Lydia reassured Amanda and Laura that the guest cabin at the ranch was intact; they could stay there while on route east. Barbara flew to the base on the weekends that Lydia took command which made both women very happy. Laura and Amanda offered the use of the guest room for those weekends but their friends declined, stating that they really needed time together when Lydia was not working. Laura and Amanda understood completely. Sally and Jeannie hosted the summer barbeque at their home; although there were fewer people attending everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Amanda, Laura, and Lydia worked full weeks for part of the seventh month and the first full week of the eighth month of the new year in preparation for taking more than two full weeks away from the base. Both Charlie and Serena reassured their friends that the base would operate without them with an order to enjoy their time away. Amanda had planned a couple of official visits, asking that everyone bring uniforms for those dates. Their itinerary included an overnight stay and charging of batteries at the Shipman Base. From there, they planned to fly to the eastern coast to a hamlet near where Barbara had been born and raised. Amelia and Sterling Carland arranged for overnight lodging for two nights in order that all the officers could meet with the survivors and enjoy the vistas.

Amanda and Laura left work early on the fourth weekday of the first full week of the eighth month of the new year. Both women were excited to be travelling away together. Luggage was readied and packed as were coolers ready to take a fish harvest to the ranch freezers. Jeannie and Sally arrived just past the dinner hour with wrapped gifts for the tenth anniversary of their lovership. Jeannie had made both women long soft robes from the bolt of fabric Katy had given her at Sanctuary. Each was hand embroidered with roses and irises with trim of fine lace. Sally gave them two engraved crystal flutes with two bottles of imported champagne. Amanda and Laura thanked their friends for remembering and for their gifts. They told both Jeannie and Sally that there were looking forward to being away together for a new adventure. Sally asked how Barbara and Lydia were faring; Amanda reported that they appeared happier than ever. Sally laughed, stating maybe they should hang out a shingle and start a counseling service. Amanda said they already ran ones, called the Armed Forces and a gay women's bar.

Laura showered and finished packing her clothing. She crawled into bed with Amanda, giggling as she told her lover that she knew she should probably just to go sleep as they had an early start planned for the morrow. She said, however, that she was quickly been overtaken by overwhelming lust, really wanting to find love and passion quickly. Amanda whispered that sleep was over-rated as she started to seduce her beautiful mistress.

Both women were awake and eager to start their travels when Luther arrived to help them load their luggage and the frozen fish into the helicopter. Amanda chose a Raptor for their voyage as it had the large capacity of battery storage thereby allowing longer distances without recharging. Sterling Carland reassured her that the hamlets they planned to visit all had facilities to charge batteries. As a precaution, Amanda chose to carry two extra charged batteries. They hugged their friend goodbye and flew to the Carriere Base to pick up Lydia . By 0830 hours, Lydia was flying to the ranch to the arms of her mistress and the beginning of an adventure.

Barbara and Jackson met the helicopter at the tarmac and Laura helped him unload the frozen fish as well as Lydia 's luggage. Both Amanda and Laura had packed small bags for overnight at the ranch before flying to the Shipman Base the following day. Laura smiled as she watched Lydia and Barbara embrace and find the trance of lovers. She also noticed that Barbara had changed from the usual ranch attire to jeans and a camisole as a greeting for the love of her life. Amanda and Laura told their friends they did not need help opening the guest cabin and would see them for lunch, understanding that they needed time alone together. The ranch was still in a state of renovation. There was another guest cabin almost completed slightly farther away than the older one. Laura was yawning, admitting that she should have listened to her body's need for sleep the previous night rather than her body's need for passion. She told Amanda that she intended to nap; within fifteen minutes both women were asleep.

Just past midday, Laura and Amanda returned to the main house to greet Clara in the kitchen. She said that Jennie was still busy with getting her new home settled as well as her family of five children and a very busy husband. Both women stated they hoped they would see her on their return. Laura talked often to Spero online, delighted with his perspective on the changes at the ranch and his family. Clara blushed, telling them that she and her mate Elmer were about to add another child to the brood at the ranch, a new baby due near Candlemas. Barbara overheard the conversation as she descending the stairs from the loft and teased Lydia that the needles were flying once again. Amanda very earnestly stated that she would start knitting when she returned to the coast. Barbara shrugged but it was very obvious that both women enjoyed all the children running around at the ranch. Clara invited all four women to help themselves to soup and salad for their lunches. Laura had baked cinnamon buns and braided loaves for the ranch, enough for breakfast and Jackson .

Lydia and Barbara took their friends on tour of the expanded ranch. Spero spotted his friends, running to them after beckoning for his new brothers and sister to join him. Karina Lynne was toddling but could not run as fast so one of the older boys picked her up and carried her. Spero hugged his friends and then introduced his brothers David and Kevin as well as his new sister Leah. Spero quietly explained that they could not see the ladies living inside his friends; therefore, he did not mention them. All of the children greeted Just Lydia and Just Barbara with hugs and by those names. Karina Lynne could only say Just so that was her name for them. The new barns were huge in comparison to the original buildings as was the staff house. There was a new building to house Armed Forces personnel training at the ranch. Apart from all the ranch buildings was another log home, home for Jennie, Scott, and their children. Spero spent some time in polite conversation with the adults but then ran off to play with his family. Lydia and Barbara were beaming as they watched all the children.

Over dinner, Barbara spoke of the history of hamlets they planned to visit. She was obviously excited to be going back to her ancestors' homes and history. Her parents and siblings had not survived but she did have some distant family members who she hoped to see when she was visiting. Like all of them, no-one had time to gaze at the vistas when they were engaged in battle; they were all looking forward to seeing the changes of the land in peace now. It became very obvious that both Lydia and Barbara needed and wanted each other; their friends returned to the guest cabin for their own alone time.

Everyone met at 0900 hours the following morning and ate a huge ranch breakfast before embarking on their voyage. Laura flew the Raptor to the Shipman Base, landing on the tarmac by 1430 hours. Drew and Annique McDaniels welcomed them, telling them there were very happy to see them with no work and only play on the horizon. Drew asked if they would like to visit Lou and Niki once they had rested and before dinner. Drew told Barbara there was a transport plane full of cargo for the new settlement that needed a pilot and wondered if she would like to volunteer. Barbara's eyes lit up but she said she needed Drew to copilot. After a small lunch, all four friends flew to the new settlement where Niki and Lou lived. Both women were on the tarmac waiting for the plane to land. Many settlers unloaded cargo as Drew and the priestesses greeted Lou and Niki with a tour of the new village. All four women were amazed at the degree of organization already in place. Laura and Lydia met with the Armed Forces recruit who was now living with his family in the Communications and Security Centre. There were still few children but there had been babies born and more expected. There was a wonderful atmosphere of activity and hope. Laura smiled as she realized what the battles had secured and the future Lindsay had guaranteed. Drew told his mother and Niki that they had to return to the base. Laura told both her friends that they would try to visit on their return; if not they would keep in touch by satellite until the next visit to Sanctuary.

After dinner, all four women returned to their rooms as it had been a busy day and they planned an early departure the following morning. Barbara was chosen as the pilot to fly to the hamlet on the east coast as she was the only woman among them remotely familiar with their destination. The ground crew members charged batteries to ready the Raptor for flight in the morrow.

Everyone was ready for departure by 0900 hours the following morning. Barbara had coordinates; Drew reassured all his friends that he would stay in communications contact throughout their flight until they had landed at their destination. Barbara knew there was more than enough battery power on board to secure the flight until landing. The flight plan Drew and Barbara had chosen included the least amount of previously bombed sites with as much untouched wild land as possible. Annique insured that the kitchen packed food for their friends for their voyage as it would be later in the afternoon before they landed again. After a thorough preflight check list, Barbara had the Raptor in the air heading south east. Lydia joined Barbara in the cockpit for some copilot duties. Within an hour, they were flying over more densely forested terrain; shortly thereafter heavily wooded areas were dotted with many lakes. There was evidence of isolated clear cuttings but for the most part Mother had been left untouched and intact. Amanda and Laura were spellbound by the beauty; Amanda took many photographs from the air. Barbara remarked that even from the pilot's point of view the land below was beautiful. The flight plan did not follow those of the battles which were always more south and directed at more populated areas. Lydia took over the flight while Barbara had coffee and lunch after which they switched back to their former roles.

By 1300 hours their flight plan led them above the formerly more populated areas and destruction. It was still hard for Laura to see the results of the battles but she knew now that recovery was taking place and there was hope to replace fear. There were signs of salvage and recovery of materials as they neared the great river. Barbara flew slightly north to the river gulf and over the last of the former fuel depots. There were overland transport vehicles at that site, again a source of hope for all the priestesses.

The final part of their flight took them southeast along the coastline of the eastern ocean. Where the northwestern coast was mountainous, the northeastern coast was of rolling hills with large untouched beaches. Barbara was glowing as she looked the geography of her birth and former home. Barbara alerted her passengers of potential winds on their final descent. They were encountered but both Barbara and Lydia were more than capable of maneuvering the large aircraft to the tarmac.

The hamlet of Calanais was nestled along a wide expanse of beach with a natural harbor, undulating hills covered with forest and pastureland. Barbara ran the post flight check list, and then stood beside the aircraft in silence. Lydia stood at her side with her arm around her waist as her lover drew back to her childhood. Laura and Amanda also stood in silence taking in the untouched beauty of this part of Mother. A small group of villagers approached them after which one older woman stepped forward to speak with shy hugs for Barbara, introducing herself as Nancy Maclippe, Barbara's cousin. It took a few seconds before Barbara recognized her as it had been long past twenty years since they had seen each other and both women had changed. Upon recognition, Barbara's cheeks found rivers of tears as she hugged her family member in return. Barbara then introduced Nancy to Lydia , explaining they had been partners for twenty-one years. As well, she introduced Amanda and Laura. Nancy asked if Laura was the real Commander Ravencouer from the battles. Laura smiled, stating she was the former Commander Ravencouer and was now simply Laura. Barbara explained that Amanda was General Amanda Bennett, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. She also explained that Laura and Lydia were lieutenant generals; Amanda introduced Barbara as Colonel Barbara Maclippe. Nancy was very impressed, shyly stating that her family were all very proud of her. The rest of the earthlings then joined Nancy with welcomes to the women to Calanais and the coast. Two people drove to the helicopter; the women unloaded their luggage to be transported to the home where they would stay for two days. Nancy told her new friends that she would take them to the McCone home where they would be staying. She said there was a small party planned in the community hall; she asked that they attend for dinner, in an hour due to a time change of a few hours.

The McCooney family met the vehicle transporting Nancy and the priestesses at the gate leading to their yard and home. Mrs. McCooney was older than Nancy and told Barbara she remembered her as a child, she knew her parents and siblings. She welcomed Barbara's friends and led them to a small cottage near the shore. She said it was not fancy but warm, dry, and if they didn't mind they would hear the waves. Laura was beaming as were here friends. Mr. McCooney helped carry luggage into the two bedroom cottage, complete with a small kitchen and a fireplace. There was a small deck literally built out onto the beach. With a grin, he told the women not to be concerned as the tides never reached the deck so they would not need to know how to swim. Amanda and Laura immediately likened him to Mr. Smithers. The cottage was rustic but not unlike the cabin when Laura first met Amanda. There was a small bathroom with a shower and indoor plumbing. The McCooney family used wind power for generators; both Mr. and Mrs. McCooney told the women there was a large tank holding hot water for showers.

Barbara asked for time for her friends to change clothing before attending dinner as they had been sitting in a helicopter for hours. Nancy told her that they would return in about a half hour to take them to the village hall. After they left, lovers hugged and kissed. Barbara reassured them that this would not be an occasion to dress and that trousers and shirts would be very acceptable. The priestesses changed clothing and applied just enough makeup to be fetchingly beautiful. Amelia had previously assured all her friends that the villagers had no issues with their choice of partners and they would not encounter any disagreement. Nancy returned to take her cousin and friends to the village hall for dinner followed by a bit of entertainment. She took Barbara aside; quietly telling her it was perfectly acceptable to hold Lydia 's hand if she wanted as the entire hamlet was absolutely delighted she had a partner for life. Barbara hugged her cousin, thanking her. She then returned to Lydia to take her hand as they walked into the hall.

Every member of the entire village was in attendance. There were two new babies, older children adopted from outposts, young adults, and elders. Every family contributed food to a table overburdened with serving dishes. Nancy led her friends to the table, inviting them to help themselves to the buffet. Villagers were already choosing plates of food, encouraged their guests to take as much as they wanted and then come back for more. There were several trays of lobsters, crabs, shrimp. Villagers contributed a huge roast of beef as well as huge roasted fowl accompanied by countless covered dishes of casseroles and vegetables. Nancy told her new friends that all the food was local as there were no markets rebuilt as of yet after the battles. She also said that their hamlet had fared well, escaping destruction.

The four priestesses were famished and enticed by delicious homemade food. Within minutes, they all felt as if they had known these people all their lives. Without any ceremony, people came to their table to welcome them to the coast with wishes for a happy visit. Laura thought that Lydia was glowing as much as Barbara when seeing her lover back home. Amanda grinned in between mouthfuls of food as she observed east coast earthlings and Barbara's family. After encouragement to eat more, all the women had to refuse as they were close to paralysis with food intake. The food disappeared quickly; villagers then gathered with musical instruments; old maritime tunes, long known by genetics, filled the hall. One of the local men pulled Barbara to her feet and after some protest she was on the dance floor step-dancing a jig. She was laughing aloud as she did not know she would remember how after all the years of not dancing. Lydia clapped, smiling through tears. Amanda and Laura applauded and laughed. After Barbara returned to their table and recovered her breath, the band played a waltz; all four women took to the floor to dance. There were some widened eyes as the villagers watched the priestesses dance elegantly; they too were applauded. After a few more reels and jigs danced and stepped by the locals, the musicians played a chautese. Barbara took Lydia 's hand to lead her to the floor. Lydia had no idea how to perform the dance but with a couple of minutes both women were joining the others on the dance floor. Laura was intrigued as she took Amanda's arm and led her to the floor. Barbara stopped to show Laura the steps who in turn led Amanda quite well through the rest of the dance. The band immediately played another song for a chautese; all four priestesses grinned their way through congratulations.

By 2200 hours the villagers were leaving the hall; four tired priestesses returned to their cottage. Showers were shared between lovers before each couple found their beds. Everyone was tired but not beyond passion; voices of love rose out among the eastern waves.

Laura awoke before her friends and found makings for coffee, albeit on a small range and not the fireplace. Mrs. McCooney told the women that there was food stored for breakfast and to help themselves. Nobody believed that they would be hungry again for days after feasting the night before but all the women tucked into breakfast nonetheless. Morning chores were finished by the time that Mr. McCooney arrived with the offer of a vehicle so the women could go exploring along the coast. They planned to fly on to the northeastern archipelago the following day and only had this full day to explore the eastern coastline. Barbara had her bearings and knew of the places Mr. McCooney had suggested. He said there was a small town south of Calanais with a diner where he thought they might be able to find a lobster dinner if they were interested. He also handed them a full picnic basket packed by Mrs. McCooney stating that they might just want to stop by the ocean for a bite at midday. He drove the women to the main house where he left them the use the vehicle for a day of adventure. Barbara drove down a small side road just beyond the hamlet, then into the overgrown yard of a rundown abandoned house. She sat quietly for a few moments before leaving the vehicle to walk around. The other women joined her. Lydia hugged her lover, holding her while more tears fell. The house was Barbara's birthplace, where she lived the hell of most of her childhood. Even when the house had been lived in, there was a sense of desolation and abject poverty. Laura and Amanda stood apart from their friends, trying to take in the life into which Barbara had been born. Barbara dried her tears before returning to the vehicle. Lydia , Amanda, and Laura joined her in silence as they all knew there were no words to take away the memories or the hurt they brought.

They returned to the main road which followed the coastline south. The road was of the same caliber as the road to Eaglesdown but the coast was very different. There were green rolling hills dotted with homesteads and farm buildings. At almost every turn, Barbara stopped so that they could enjoy a new vista of Mother and the ocean. Amanda took dozens of photographs. Barbara told stories of playing on the beaches as a child and digging for clams. She laughed as she talked of riding with her sisters and brothers on an ancient white horse they named Blackie to the beach to harvest clams. They drove on enjoying the summer breezes and the glorious views of the ocean. At midday, Barbara pulled off the side of the road and suggested that they walk to the beach for their lunch. There was a huge tarp with blankets in the rear of the vehicle along with a large thermos of lemonade and the picnic basket. Despite a huge meal the night previously and a substantial breakfast, everyone tucked into lunch. After eating, Laura removed her shirt to reveal a bikini top. She then walked to the water's edge to let the cold ocean kiss her feet. She let out a yelp with the first wave but soon adjusted to the temperature, walking along the beach in the water. Amanda grabbed a blanket and joined her lover. They walked hand in hand for a short distance before turning inland to a small secluded area covered with overhanging willow branches. The lovers undressed each other, finding passion in the afternoon with the cover of ocean breezes. Amanda asked Laura if she was enjoying her vacation thus far; the question got answered with more kisses and touches. Eventually, Laura thought they should perhaps rejoin Barbara and Lydia before they sent out a search party. Amanda smiled, stating she doubted that they would have missed them but dressed and walked hand in hand with Laura back to their friends who were dressing themselves. Lydia simply smiled when she saw her friends approaching, speaking no smart remarks.

Once back in the vehicle, Barbara continued to drive south along the shore. They arrived at the small town recommended by Mr. McCooney. No-one was hungry yet for dinner; as such, the women decided to visit the shops and the wharf. There was a general store that begged exploration. It was much the same as the Smithers store, organized chaos known only to those who worked there and every earthling in the town. Both Lydia and Amanda found local wool, buying all that was for sale. Barbara talked to the owners about her children's books and took information for sending electronic copies. Amanda found homemade salt water taffy, purchasing enough to share. They stored their purchases in the vehicle before walking to the wharf to watch returning fishing boats. Finally, they found the small diner, ordering lobster dinners from that day's harvest. The diner was very plain but the food was outstanding. Four very full women thanked the cook, managing to get back to the vehicle before paralysis set in again.

Barbara drove back to Calanais in less than an hour. They returned the vehicle and picnic basket to the McCooney home by 2030 hours. Mr. McCooney drove the women to the cottage, telling them he would return in the morning to take them to the helicopter. The lovers shared the shower once again and found their own bedrooms. Despite passion only hours earlier, once again songs of love were offered to the eastern waves long into the night.

After breakfast and morning chores, the friends readied their luggage for transport back to the Raptor. Nancy arranged for the batteries to be charged and put back aboard the aircraft. The McCooney family refused to accept any payment for the use of the cottage, the use of the vehicle, or the picnic lunch. Amanda placed a certificate for two hundred and fifty dollars in an envelope, discretely leaving it on the steering wheel when they left the vehicle to board the aircraft. Amanda chose to pilot the aircraft to the northeastern archipelago using the coordinates that Amelia sent previously. Amelia also warned that there was an expanse of ocean with winds between their departure site and arrival destination. Amanda ran the preflight check list and double-checked battery integrity. She asked Laura to copilot due to the unfamiliar destination and the possibility of a rough flight. Before the women left, Nancy hugged her cousin, telling her to return to visit. As was her habit now, before they boarded the aircraft Lohrissa appeared to bless her beloved earthlings. There were looks of wonder from all the earthlings who had gathered to say goodbye; all on bended knees received blessings from Lohrissa, Aine, Lemanychia, and Briallen with auras emerged. As the priestesses left their earthling bodies, Barbara smiled with love at Nancy who stared in amazement as she waved goodbye.

Amanda flew the Raptor to the northeastern archipelago with ease. There were winds but none more fierce than those encountered on the northwestern coast, especially in the winter months. She landed the craft less than two hours after take-off. After running the post flight check list, all four women were met by Amelia and Sterling Carland. Laura met Amelia years previously when they were first readying for the battles. The women greeted each other with affection before Laura introduced Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara. Amelia graciously welcomed all the women to the island, telling Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara how wonderful it was to finally put a face to the names she talked to online for months. She turned and beckoned for Sterling to join them. He was a handsome man, tall of stature, with a lovely soft voice and an ancient Gaelic accent. He pretended to be brusque as he asked about the maids who had the nous to break into the Communications system. Both Barbara and Lydia stepped forward, telling him they had done it. Amelia laughed as she introduced Laura Ravencouer, Amanda Bennett, Lydia Stenns, and Barbara Maclippe. Sterling shook hands, telling Lydia and Barbara it was a job well done. He also told them that if they ever got tired of working for the General, he thought he could likely find them a job fairly quickly. He then held Laura by the shoulders telling her that she was entirely too young and beautiful to have been a commander. She blushed, thanked him, telling him she did not realize she had a choice. He shook Amanda's hand again, congratulating her on her excellent work to organize an Armed Forces that had integrity and service as the main mandate. Amelia was rolling her eyes as her husband was his usual very charming self but it was obvious both loved each other to distraction. Laura stated she knew instantly where Justine got her charm and her attitude. Amelia admitted she did come by it honestly. Several young adults had arrived to help unload the aircraft. One arrived with a vehicle large enough for comfortable travel around the main island. A young man asked permission to take the Raptor to a hanger nearby, promising he would be very careful. He admitted he had only seen photographs of the large helicopters and although he was a licensed pilot himself he had never saw a real one. Lydia smiled as she told him that before they left the island she would take him for a flying lesson if he preferred. His face lit up with almost disbelief as he accepted. Amelia laughed out loud, stating there would be no living with her nephew now. Amelia invited her friends to join them at her home to share lunch with her and Sterling . Laura was famished and readily agreed. She said it was not far to follow in their vehicle.

Amelia and Sterling lived on a piece of land just abutting a cliff that overlooked the eastern ocean. The home was on a wooded lot with maple trees just starting to show the faint changes of color as autumn approached. The women were quiet as they tried to take in the huge vistas before them. Amelia excused herself to bring lunch to a table on the deck. Sterling joined his new friends admitting that every day the view rendered him speechless even though he had looked at it for thirty years.

Amelia served moose casserole, stating that she thought that perhaps they had their fill of fish for a day or so. The lunch was delicious. None of the women had tasted moose meat previously, stating that most of the wild herds had been decimated by The Decision. Amelia explained that there was a breeding program in place now whereby young adults were being captured and moved to western wild country to help foster the return of a natural herd. Barbara spoke of a similar program for natural herds of bison and elk, now only surviving in the north. Amelia said for once she was happy they had been ignored by idiots in power although she was quite certain that Declan McDaniels understood that would not be the pattern for the future. After a pot of the best tea they had ever consumed, one made by Graham from tea brought over regularly from the northern European islands, Amelia and Sterling reviewed a suggested itinerary for the women while on the main island. Both stated there were small inns where they could find lodging as the traveled first north to the tip of the island, then down the west coast, around the southern tip, and back to the Carland home. Sterling suggested side trips by boat to the outer islands, stating this was the best way to see the land and meet the local people. The first destination was about one hour north; after a second cup of tea and thanks for a wonderful introduction and lunch, the women were in the vehicle on route to the Chelsea Inn .

They arrived without incident to find a charming large home painted peacock blue with a large veranda on two sides. The owners greeted their new guests, showing them to their rooms on the third floor. Each room had a four piece bathroom and a fireplace lit each afternoon for overnight as air was cool after sunset. The owners showed them the dining room and explained the dining hours. Once alone, Laura and Amanda showered and changed clothing for dinner. They arranged to meet Lydia and Barbara on the veranda before dinner. Both women dressed in trousers, shirts, and heels, to please the other. Laura braided her hair as Amanda liked it like that; both women chose come hither make up. They strolled down to the veranda, accepting a glass of wine offered by the inn owner. Shortly thereafter, Barbara and Lydia arrived; both dressed for the other, both beautiful. They too accepted a glass of wine before all four women entered the dining room. The hostess explained that the room was originally the dining room and parlor of the original home, not having been changed save to accommodate electricity generated by wind power. There were other patrons seated as the women drew stares as they walked to their table. Lydia whispered to Amanda that she surmised they had not lost the edge just yet. Amanda quietly replied that she had no intension of ever losing it. The women ordered a bottle of wine to accompany a delicious dinner. Both couples were madly in love with their partners; lovelights shone at their table. After lingering over flutes of champagne by candlelight, the women left the dining room after thanking the hostess and the chef. The women returned to their rooms as desire was contained only with effort. Amanda nuzzled Laura's neck all the way up the stairs to the third floor. The couples wished each other goodnight and returned quickly to their rooms.

Neither Laura nor Amanda remembered the removal of clothing. Their only recollection was the need and desire for the other repeatedly throughout the night. Sleep found both women but only until movement or desire wakened them yet again. Laura murmured that she really did like this vacation thing; they should consider it more often.

After breakfast, the women packed the vehicle and headed north again along the coast. Amelia and Sterling left suggestions for stops for lunch and breaks along the way with time allowed for stops just to take in the beauty of their island. They arrived at the next inn by midafternoon with for time to explore the small hamlet before dinner. This inn was less elegant but just as friendly. There was no dining room but there was a small diner in the hamlet where everyone enjoyed cheeseburgers and fries. Laura was a happy woman. Everyone retired early as they wanted an early start in the morning. Their destination was about four hours away; they chose to stay for two days at the next inn, one at the mouth of a river. Lydia and Barbara chose to drive for this part of the trip as they had prepared a cooler with oysters and champagne for Laura and Amanda to share on the trip to mark their tenth anniversary as lovers. Both women laughed as they emerged from the shower wearing the same clothing they had worn ten years previously; Amanda in blue jeans and a red T-shirt, Laura in skin tight jeans and a black silk shirt. Each woman told the other that they looked even more beautiful than they did ten years before. In the vehicle, Barbara teased her friends by telling them that they should be looking at the vistas as they could look at each other any time. Amanda replied there was no view as beautiful as Laura. Lydia quipped that her friend had it bad, bad indeed.

The women arrived at their destination by early afternoon. Their inn was lovely; their rooms were actually in separate cabins overlooking the river delta and the ocean. Amanda asked Amelia to arrange to have the inn dining room closed for the night they arrived, only available to the travelers. She asked Laura and her friends to dress for dinner and an evening of dancing. Jeannie designed elegant dresses for all four women; after settling into their cabins everyone readied themselves to meet in the lounge at 1730 hours. Barbara and Lydia arrived first, both dressed in short sleeveless dresses to show beautiful female bodies. Jeannie designed a simple jade sheath with a cowl back for Amanda which she wore with emeralds and six inch heels. Laura wore a simple sleeveless raw silk black dress with the length at mid-thigh. She chose diamonds for her ears and a clip holding a chignon. She wore simple black six inch heels. Both women applied very definite come hither makeup. All the friends smiled as they saw each other; the host beamed as he led four drop dead gorgeous women into his dining room.

After dinner, the women danced into the night before returning to their cabins. Amanda and Laura walked into a room with bouquets of yellow roses and purple irises. There was a bottle of champagne chilling and two flutes beside the bed. Both women wept as they slowly undressed the other. Laura told Amanda she remembered every minute of their first night together ten years before. She continued she never expected happiness in her life as she had never really known it before that night. Laura explained she had no gift for her lover this night save for the rest of her life with the woman she loved. Amanda replied that she was so afraid that Laura would not be her lover. She already knew before they got to the cabin that she wanted her more than she had ever wanted anything up to that point in her life. She feared Laura would reject her approach. Laura asked her when she knew she would not reject her Amanda smiled, replying when they went to the deck to see the sunset and Laura stood with her hip leaned against hers. Laura laughed out loud as she confessed that she had no clue how to seduce anyone so she was very glad Amanda took the first step. Amanda then quietly asked her mistress if she had a clue now; Laura replied she had a very good teacher. Lohrissa met Aine; both priestesses took each other to new depths of joy with cries to the ancients and the multiverse. Laura rose at dawn to find water for both parched throats, returning to take her weeping lover in her arms. Both women slept in each other's arms until mid-morning when they were awakened by a knock at their door. They dressed in the robes Jeannie gave them; Amanda rose to open the door to Lydia and Barbara bringing breakfast trays. Amanda climbed back into bed as she was not ready to leave Laura's side just yet. Lydia looked at both her friends and just shook her head. Barbara kissed both brows and helped them prop up in bed to eat. Lydia reminded them that they had a boat tour booked at 1300 hours in the fiord. Amanda told her they would be ready by then. She laughed, saying she just needed to be sure she could walk by then. Lydia asked Laura what she had done to the woman; Laura replied she had brought it. All four women collapsed in fits of laughter. After breakfast Lydia and Barbara left to return the breakfast trays to the kitchen while Laura and Amanda showered and dressed for their day. They met their friends at the vehicle at midday to travel to the dock for a lunch tour of the fiord at 1300 hours. The vistas from the fiord were breathtaking as sheer cliffs rose from water's edge. Amanda took dozens of photographs. The tour guide pointed out what she thought were eagles circling above until they got closer and realized they were ravens. She said it was the first time in twenty years of tours that she had ever seen ravens circling above and did not realize they even existed in the archipelago. Amanda and Laura smiled as they held hands as they offered down blessings back to the ancients who circled above.

The women were back at the dock by 1600 hours. Laura and Amanda returned to their cabin and did nap before rising and dressing for dinner, this time in casual clothing. They planned to drive south in the morning; after dinner everyone returned to their cabins. Laura cuddled with Amanda back in bed, saying it was wonderful to see Barbara and Lydia happy together again. Amanda said they were always happy together; they just lost sight of priorities from time to time. Laura replied she hoped they never got to that to which Amanda replied that Lydia and Barbara did not spend years apart not knowing that the other lived or wanted the other. She kissed Laura stating she strongly doubted either of them would ever forget.

The women drove to the southern tip of the island as well as taking two day trips by to smaller islands. Each woman was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the islanders; how willing they were to share their bounty with complete strangers. Lydia remarked on that at one small hamlet; an older man stated that it because they had not seen a beautiful woman in decades. He was cuffed up the side of his head with great affection by his wife. Several earthlings in many hamlets spoke about the bad decisions made for years by the fools who tried to run the country. It was the consensus that earthlings left alone could make good choices for themselves without a lot interference by outsiders from up along. In a few instances, all four women had to show Armed Forces identification before the earthlings would believe that they were senior officers. One man could not believe that Amanda Bennett was commander-in-chief. He commented that finally somebody had the good sense to get a woman to do the job with the argument that if one wanted something done one needed to get a busy woman to do it. All four women wanted to hug the old dear but thought it would not be professional.

Amelia had made an appointment for all senior officers to meet with the leaders of the largest town on the island on the first weekday of the second week of their vacation. She requested that dress uniforms be worn for this meeting and official luncheon. There was small contingent of members of the former Security Forces who had been approved by both Declan McDaniels and Sterling Carland as reputable and trustworthy. Amanda wanted to insure that they understood that they were now part of the united Armed Forces, accountable as all personnel. Amelia and Sterling arranged to meet the women prior to the introduction to the town leaders and Security Forces.

The General and three senior officers arrived in the lobby just before Amelia and Sterling arrived. Neither had seen any of the women in uniform previously; when Amelia spotted them she smiled her approval. The usually reticent Sterling remarked that there were no Armed Forces on the planet led by any more beautiful or brilliant officers. General Bennett thanked him, smiling as she agreed with him. They chose to walk to the building housing the desks of the town leaders; all the officers drew stares followed by smiles from the local population. The Security Forces personnel were outside before the building and as the officers approached the Corporal barked "Attention." All saluted General Bennett and the senior officers. Laura immediately recognized five of the eight personnel as former Resistance pilots who had flown with her on many battles. After Amanda put the troops at ease and introductions were made, Laura introduced her former fighters to three of the six pilots from the West. Amanda , Lydia , and Barbara smiled in recognition. General Bennett no longer had any doubts that they all would understand the new mandate. She said with a very broad grin that if they would work with the former Commander Ravencouer she was very sure they could all work for the new Armed Forces. They all agreed; it was very obvious that they still all loved their former commander. Amanda did say that she wanted all of the personnel to receive training eventually to mirror that of all the other personnel, met with full agreement.

The officers then met the leaders of the town who were very pleased and honored that they had come all the way from the west coast to visit their islands. Amanda replied that she spoke for herself and all her officers by saying that their home was beautiful with the largest percentage of the friendliest, most generous earthlings they had met. The woman who assumed responsibility for organizing the town issues reiterated that they were fortunate to have been thought of as not important enough to be bothered with by The Decision; as such, they did not deal too much from some of the fools from up along. She shook Laura's hand, thanking her on behalf of her islanders for leading them all in battle to victory. She told all the officers that many from her home had gone west to fight along with their brothers and sisters; some had not returned. All four officers thanked her, asking that the families be remembered with gratitude.

Lunch was prepared and served by local cooks as the woman leader of the town said she felt home cooked was always best. After dinner and over coffee with all four women once again close to paralysis from overeating, Laura stated that when they returned home she was going to have to embark on a serious exercise program. Both Amanda and Lydia simultaneously said that they were sure that the General would think of something. Laura and Barbara just shook their heads.

The officers said goodbye to Amelia and Sterling by midafternoon, stating that they planned to visit a small inn near the landing pad on the third weekday. Lydia reiterated that they would be early as she had promised to take Amelia's nephew for a flying lesson in the Raptor. The women then returned to the inn where they were staying, changed to casual clothes, and walked to the docks to watch the return of fishing boats. Laura was excited as they were all going sailing on an old schooner the following day. Barbara was the only one of the group who had sailed previously; everyone else was excited for a new adventure. Nobody wanted dinner; they finally found a small diner for a bowl of chowder and a cup of tea before walking back to the inn.

The eastern ocean cooperated the following morning and the women enjoyed a three hour sail about the natural harbor. They returned to the diner for a substantial lunch in early afternoon. As they walked back to the inn, Laura whispered that all the sun and fresh sea air was having a significant effect on her. Amanda kissed her and then told Lydia and Barbara that she needed to take Laura back to the inn to help her recover from the elements. Lydia quipped that it was just as well that they were not ranchers as no work would ever get done. Barbara nuzzled her lover's neck, whispering only her original ideas; they too returned to the inn.

The friends met for dinner at 1900 hours and then retired early as they planned to drive north again early the next day. The coastline they followed was the most rugged of all that they had seen on the islands. There were very few hamlets scattered along the ocean's edge. When they stopped for lunch at a small village, the owner told them that the transportation was more by boat and helicopter as the winter storms often washed out the road making it impassable. The travelers arrived at the inn where they planned to stay by midafternoon. It was perched on top of a cliff overlooking the eastern ocean. The owners welcomed them, telling them that they had never had an earthling blow away yet although some had been concerned. Laura was fascinated by view, likening it to the angry ocean of the west. The owner laughed and told her these were actually calm seas. The sky was low, gray, and clouds were blowing in full of water. Amanda said they could not complain as this was the first rain they had encountered in ten days. The owner showed them to their rooms, inviting them to dinner at the hour of their choice. They were the only guests in the inn; they could dine when they chose. Laura showered and dressed in her corset with a white shirt covering it along with simple dress trousers. She clipped her hair at her crown but let the curls tumble down her back. Amanda had showered earlier and was sitting in a rocker looking out to the seas. Laura sat on her lap, kissed her, thanking her lover for a wonderful vacation. Amanda replied that it had been years since she had been away from duty; she now promised herself she would take time away every year. She told Laura that she knew that there were more battles looming in their futures as Olc was still invading the planet, close to them below the southern wall. She continued that eventually they would be directed by Naofa to help the earthlings living there fight back for their survival; they would. She also said that until that time she was going to take her mistress on as many days away as they could arrange.

They were seated in the dining room when Lydia and Barbara joined them. Barbara apologized for their lateness, stating with feigned annoyance that she had to get dressed twice. Lydia shrugged and grinned. The dining room was a transformed enclosed veranda overlooking the ocean. Even with wind and rain, the vista was breathtaking as darkness fell. The owner served a roast beef dinner almost as good as any that Barbara could prepare. The women enjoyed a bottle of wine with dinner and brandy with their coffee. The dining room was lit only with candlelight and firelight. The owner sensed great love at the only occupied table, inviting his guests to dance if they chose. Amanda did notice the corset beneath Laura's shirt until she started to undo top buttons and spied ribbons to untie as well. Laura kissed her lover to silence a moan as she really wanted to dance seduction into her. After several dances, Laura looked to see that Lydia has successfully managed to remove Barbara's shirt entirely revealing a lovely satin and lace teddy. Laura laughed, stating it was probably time to stop dancing before they embarrassed themselves. The owner waited discretely until the women returned to their rooms before clearing the dining table.

Amanda loved Laura one ribbon at a time leaving her lover ultimately begging. As they lay in each other's arms, Amanda reminded her to not even think about that corset unless she planned on one ribbon at a time; she kissed her lover, reminding her to garner some patience for that circumstance.

The following morning during breakfast, Amanda decided she had best drive as neither Lydia nor Barbara were yet capable of speaking in full sentences. Laura declared all four of them as outrageous, raunchy, incorrigible, and absolutely wonderful. That elicited laugher for minutes. The journey to the hamlet and inn near the tarmac took a little over an hour. After checking in to the inn, all four women drove to the tarmac to meet Amelia's nephew who was waiting eagerly. The Raptor was on the tarmac, readied with charged batteries and extras on board, thoroughly cleaned both inside and out. Barbara could not resist taking the aircraft up and out over the ocean. On the return flight, she tipped the tail and then a second time. The young man had widened eyes as he asked how she did that. Lydia said she had slept with the woman for over twenty years with still no clue how she did that. The youth blushed deeply as Lydia walked to the helicopter and kissed her lover as she returned to her friends. This was a fine example of Lydia Stenns at her very best. She showed the young man the check list and how to run it. She then took the copter to the air with the youth aboard. She landed and told him to take the controls with her as copilot. He grinned incredulously as the Raptor was airborne once again. Lydia told him he was a fine pilot as he landed the large aircraft effortlessly. She told him to consider a career in the Armed Forces as he had a natural talent which they could certainly use. He admitted that he had been considering that seriously. He introduced himself as Willbond Tenpenny, asking that she please call him Will. She showed him how to run a post flight check list, shook his hand, and once again encouraged him to consider a career with them.

The four women returned to the inn for their last afternoon and evening before returning west. They all walked along the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Barbara and Lydia both thanked their friends for inviting them to join them on their vacation. They both had already agreed to take time away each year just to enjoy each other without work or the ranch. Amanda repeated what she had told Laura the previous evening; all four women agreed to vacation together once a year no matter the destination. Laura said she would be happy to return to the east coast as she had thoroughly enjoyed the vistas and even more so the people they had met. The tiny hamlet was hosting a lobster dinner as a community gathering; it seemed like an entirely fitting way for the priestesses to say goodbye to their new friends. Amelia, Sterling and Will joined them as everyone feasted on lobsters harvested that morning. All four women insisted that both Amelia and Sterling travel west to the ranch and then the coast the following summer. Amanda told Sterling that if he did not agree to travel on his own accord, she would ask Declan to threaten his job if that was the only other option. Sterling had met Drew McDaniels when he flew to the archipelago to take Anthony Downs to the Ravencouer Base for trials; the two had liked each other instantly. Amanda said she very certain it would take no convincing to have Drew make the flight again as he always said he did not get nearly enough time in the cockpit of an aircraft.

Everyone said goodnight as the women planned an early morning flight back to the Shipman Base, a seven hour flight. Will reassured all that he would meet his new friends on the tarmac at 0700 hours for planned take off before 0800 hours. Each woman planned to take turns being both pilot and copilot for the long flight. Laura and Amanda woke to watch the sun rise over the eastern ocean. Laura admitted it was just as dramatic as watch the sun set over the western ocean at home. They met Lydia and Barbara for breakfast. Amelia met them with a huge lunch packed in the helicopter cooler along with four large thermos bottles full of coffee and two with lemonade. All four women hugged thank you and goodbye into Amelia and Sterling who just grinned, not protesting in the least. Amanda had the Raptor in the air and headed west by 0745 hours. Lydia landed the aircraft at the Shipman base seven hours later. Due to the time change it was only midday at the base but four tired women headed for naps before dinner with Drew and Annique.

Over dinner, Drew said it was very obvious that all four of his friends had a wonderful vacation. He and Annique told them all that they were more beautiful than ever. His friends thanked him in between yawns. He smiled, telling them all to go their rooms and to sleep.

In the morning, Amanda contacted Charlie to let him know they were at the Shipman Base. He replied immediately that the base was quiet and all was well other than everyone missing their friends. Everyone said goodbye and Lydia landed the helicopter at the ranch by midday on the fifth weekday. Jackson and Scott met the women on the tarmac and helped transport luggage to the main house and the guest cabin. Lydia and Barbara were obviously very happy to be back to their home and their growing family was glad to have them home. Amanda smiled as they watched both women surrounded by excited children. She took Laura's hand, repeating that was the reason they had fought. After a pot of coffee finally made over a bed of coals and a light lunch, Laura emailed Luther to tell him they would return to the cabin the following morning. His reply was of blessings and how much they all looked forward to seeing the priestesses home again. Laura and Amanda walked to visit with Jennie and her family. She welcomed them to her home. Laura told her she looked more beautiful than she had ever seen her. Jennie blushed, telling her friends that she was very busy but happier than she had ever thought she could be. Children ran in and out of her kitchen, calling to Mama and then running back to play. Jackson walked back to the main house with both women, stating that he would keep an eye on Barbara and kick her rear end to the base if she got to loving the livestock more than she did Lydia . Amanda laughed, confiding she was very glad he was on the planet as those two women needed serious supervision most of the time. They met Lydia and Barbara as they returned from greeting the staff at the ranch, stating that they had notified Luther of their return in the morrow. They also said they were going to return to the guest cabin to try to right their bodies to their circadian rhythms with plans meet them at the main house at 1800 hours but only if they promised a very light dinner.

All four friends dined on the patio. Laura said she was growing more and more excited to return to the cabin. Barbara said she fully understood. All the women had enjoyed a wonderful vacation away from their busy lives but everyone was glad to be returning to the quiet of the upcoming fall and winter with their familiar routines. Laura did ask if they intended to join them for Wintersday. Lydia replied that was now part of their regular yearly routine as was Bealtaine at Sanctuary.

Laura landed the Raptor at the mountainside tarmac at midday on the first weekend day. After running the post flight check list, both women disembarked and were hugged by both Luther and Mary. Laura ran to the deck from the vehicle as Amanda laughed at her. Both women embraced and kissed each other long, hard, and full on the mouths just after they entered their home, before they noticed that Jeannie and Sally were standing in the kitchen grinning at them. There was a welcoming fire in both the first floor and loft fireplaces. Their friends had placed bouquets of yellow roses and purple irises on the trestle table and the bedside table in the loft. Luther and Laura carried luggage in from the vehicle and up to the loft. Jeannie had made a pot of coffee and asked if the priestesses were hungry. Both women groaned, stating that it might be weeks before they were hungry again. Laura said she was going to have to embark on vigorous exercise. Sally quipped she was certain the General would think of something. Over coffee, Amanda and Laura told their friends of the highlights of their trip. Laura laughed as she told Jeannie about the evening of the corset, the teddy, and how they came close to real embarrassment. Jeannie clapped, exclaiming that was the entire purpose of the design. Amanda grinned as she said those ribbons could make a woman lose her mind. Sally agreed wholeheartedly; Jeannie blushed as she had made one for her and her lover. Laura settled into the sofa, cuddling hello into both Teddy and Primrose who were both grinning from bear ear to bear ear. The time away had been wonderful but the time at home was even better.

Chapter 15

Autumn softly caressed the coast until the ocean brought tantrums of wind and rain leaving Mother void of all her temporary green finery. The final renovations of the Carriere Base were completed by the first snow fall. There was room now for two hundred recruits with groups of forty new personnel arriving every three months. Seasoned personnel were promoted to positions of instructors as the need arose. Lieutenant General Stenns assumed responsibility for some flight instructions for pilots advancing to flight of large helicopters as Lydia still enjoyed teaching more than any other challenge in the Armed Forces. Lieutenant General Ravencouer worked with Lieutenant Colonel Taylor to develop a new base on the east coast. Several personnel long stationed at Carriere requested transfer back to the east coast to help with the building and development of what would be known as the Calanais Base. There were also plans for the development of a base on the northeastern archipelago.

Overland and air transportation expanded thereby aiding with salvage of material and disposal of debris from both the former inner northeastern and northwestern cities. The natural harbor in the former northwestern city was cleared of debris and workers started to rebuild. Declan McDaniels hired crews to salvage materials from the former major airstrips, then to start the arduous tasks of rebuilding those as well. In the autumn, six new settlements opened, Master Corporals Janet Clarke and Matthew Brandon trained Security personnel chosen by Drew McDaniels work in the Communications capacity at each new settlement. Master Corporal Brandon had requested transfer to the Ravencouer Base to be closer to his family's ranch and his new wife. This also facilitated training of some of the new special recruits.

Mary Jeanne Designs grew as quickly as possible. Jeannie impatiently waited for new crops and new woven fabrics. Laura asked Sterling and Amelia Carland for European contacts for fabric manufacturers and slowly Jeannie was establishing trade with them. She stated she wanted to support the settlers as much as possible, only relying on the European producers for lace, silk, and satin. The business hired ten part time home sewers, a symbiotic arrangement for everyone.

Civilians were hired by the Carriere Base to help with seasonal maintenance and storage. Outlying farms including the Fletcher farm supplied meat, fowl, and eggs. Settlers arrived to re-establish a cheese and butter making operation which drew milk from local farmers, selling to the base and the town of Carriere markets.

Over the autumn months, Barbara and Spero wrote three more children's books which were well received and sold to every market Barbara approached in both the west and the east. Barbara now kept regular contact with her cousin Nancy to learn the ongoing news of her extended family.

Amanda completed a leather bound album of photographs of their trip to the east as a Wintersday gift for Barbara and Lydia . On cool afternoons in the cabin, Amanda's needles produced warm sweaters for the children at the ranch as well as Clara and Elmer's awaited baby. Laura designed and sewed a wall hanging of Sanctuary for Lydia and Barbara's bedroom in their loft. Jeannie was very generous with supplying Laura with all the ends of fabric not usable from all her designs. Charlie and Eleanor invited Laura and Amanda to dine at their home; Amanda took dozens of photographs of Charlie's extensive orchid collection. Laura used the photographs as reference for a series of small canvasses to give them as a Wintersday gift.

The first snows fell late in the eleventh month of the new year. Laura stood at the winter looking out over the angry western ocean, watching Mother lay down her first of many blankets to protect her. Amanda put down her needles, banked the fire, and grabbed her camera to take photographs of her beautiful lover. Laura had surprised everyone by returning from Carriere during the week with two feet cut from her curls which still fell down well past her shoulders. She said the weight had become too great; it was time as she had not had her curls cut since before the battles. Genes had directed even more silver strands now which Amanda declared made her even more ravishing as each one appeared. Laura and Annette had pushed for a full gym to be erected in one of the older hangers no longer used for aircraft. It was easily converted and many personnel used it on a regular basis, including all the senior officers. Charlie claimed that pencil pushing did not lend itself necessarily well to physical fitness; he was glad to get more vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Colonel Maclippe declined when she visited Lydia regularly as she stated that tossing hay bales on a daily basis and carrying newborn cattle from time to time gave her enough physical exercise. She also quipped that taming the Lieutenant General often would keep any woman in shape.

Barbara arrived at the base to join her lover and their friends for over three weeks of Wintersday celebration. All the officers took turns taking command so as to allow Serena and Charlie time away with their families. As was his custom, Charlie planned to take two weeks away in the first and second weeks of the first month of the upcoming new year to travel to visit with his children and grandchildren. Serena and Annette planned to take days away in the hills beyond Carriere to ski. On the first weekend when all four women were at the cabin, Sally and Jeannie invited them to dine with them along with Peter, Jacob, Alan, and Julia. Barbara and Spero printed computer copies of their new stories along with artwork supplied by all the children at the ranch. Barbara and Lydia planned to give them to Alan and Julia as a Wintersday gift; the dinner was a perfect occasion. Laura and Amanda met Nana Jeannie's and Nana Sally's grandchildren previously but this would be the first introduction for Lydia and Barbara. Laura baked a Wintersday log, decorating it with the Wizard and the Witches to contribute as a gift.

The children were delighted to see Laura and Amanda again, excited when they saw the Wintersday cake. Amanda hugged both Peter and Jacob remarking that she had never seen either look as happy or handsome. Both men agreed that parenthood suited them well. The children called them both Papa and their first names which made each glow each time they were addressed. After dinner, Barbara sat on the sofa, asking that both Alan and Julia join her for a story if they wished. Both children knew of the original stories, telling Barbara that they liked the lady Breagh who wrote with the boy Spero. Papa Jacob knelt down; explaining that the lady Breagh used a special name to write the books but it was really their new friend Barbara who wrote the stories. The children were wide eyed as Barbara smiled, telling them she wrote the stories with Spero who lived at the ranch where she lived some of the time. She handed the children the printed stories signed by Spero and Breagh. Alan and Julia then snuggled into Barbara as she quietly read them stories about children who lived in the mountains with many animal friends. Lydia had misted eyes as she watched her beautiful lover capture the hearts of the children, casting her own very special spells of magic. At the end of the stories, Julia was nodding off to sleep. Jacob and Peter stated that it was time to get their tired family back to their home. Sally readied Amo Te to fly the family to the base. The priestesses insisted on helping Jeannie clear and clean after dinner and then kept her company with pleasant conversation until Nana Sally returned to the arms of her lover. It was very quiet in the back of the vehicle as Laura drove back to the cabin; Amanda told her she did not want not want to know what was going on in the back seat. Laura smiled, saying she could hear the kisses and it was an absolutely lovely sound.

After banking fires, everyone retired for the night, full of good food, much love, and the incessant need for passion. Lydia said many times after that if she had not loved Barbara Maclippe to distraction before that evening she would have fallen in love for eternity with the woman who touched the hearts, minds, and souls of the next generation of earthlings.

The following day, all four women journeyed to Eaglesdown for lunch and shopping. Luther made regular trips to Judith's diner to purchase chowder for the cabin, the ranch, the Dawson-Palmer home, and the McBane home. Judith hired two part time workers to help keep up the demand. Charlie and Eleanor had become regular diners and customers as well. After lunch, Amanda ordered prawns for dinner before the great shopping adventure known as the Smithers store began. Ruthann had contacts with many cooperative across the northern continent now supplying the store with fabrics, spun yarn, candles, soap, and handmade jewelry. Ruthann sent samples home with Jeannie for Laura to see as suggestions for Wintersday gifts for her friends. The store carried varieties of cheeses and local honey now produced near Carriere as well as homemade jams, jellies, and chutneys made by local families. She said that for years when The Decision ruled and then through the battles there were no supplies save for those necessary for survival. Every time she and Michael received a new shipment from anywhere on the continent, they both gave down thanks to the ancients with special blessings to all those who had fought for victory. Lydia and Barbara bought winter outerwear for themselves and several of their family members back at the ranch. Laura and Amanda renewed their regular order for candles and soap. Ruthann stated her mother and Mary kept her sold out of fabric almost as soon as the cartons arrived but she was glad for both her mother's business and the cooperatives who made the sales. Laura hoped she never got over the thrill of hearing hope in the voices of survivors as the sound helped to assuage the hurt of the deaths she caused that she would always carry. Amanda knew of all those thoughts, taking her hand each time she could. The four women carried armloads of packages back to their vehicle before Amanda returned to retrieve the prawns for dinner.

Amanda and Lydia planned to share command at the base for the first three weekdays of the coming week. Laura and Barbara chose to remain at the cabin to prepare food for the Wintersday's and New Year's celebrations. There were plans to decorate the cabin on the fourth weekday with Jeannie, Sally, Luther, and Mary. Daniel Fletcher had offered to help Luther harvest trees and boughs and transport them to the cabin and then help to place them for decorating. Laura never tired of the transformation and each year added more baubles and lights to add to the magic. Amanda and Lydia knitted new bears for Sally and Jeannie for their home and Luther had made a small rocker for their hearth. Primrose and Teddy offered to donate some of their Wintersday clothing to their new sisters which all the women applauded.

Lydia and Amanda flew to the base at 0800 hours each of the next three weekday mornings. Luther, Ian, and Daniel were finishing the harvest of wood for wintering over. Luther insisted on doing his regular cabin chores including a thorough cleaning in preparation for Wintersday. Ian and Daniel brought a huge order of fowl for the cabin freezers including a large fowl for Wintersday. Luther had managed to perfect the growth of oranges and lemons in the greenhouse which Amanda and Laura shared with the Fletcher family as a treat since citrus had never been native to the north; since The Decision and the battles none had been available. In exchange for fowl, Luther and Mary had agreed to help the Fletchers erect their own greenhouse for plants they were not able to grow off season.

Laura baked on all the weekends for the previous six weeks in anticipation of the celebrations. She and Barbara made pots of soup and stew for days in between feast days and the days when they both planned to take command at the base. Many pots of coffee and cider accompanied days of laugher and the talk of sisters. Barbara talked about Lydia 's incident at the bar. She said that Lydia had told her of Laura getting naked and attempting seduction. Barbara told Laura that her actions had profoundly affected Lydia as she realized that her actions not only hurt her and Barbara but they also potentially could have hurt other women as well. Laura took Barbara's hands, telling her she would never have offered if she had not been entirely sure of Lydia 's reaction. Barbara hugged her sister friend with reassurance that she knew that but Lydia had remarked several times that Laura Ravencouer was very wise, well beyond her years. Laura laughed, reminding Barbara that Lohrissa was older than all of them. Barbara did admit that there was a softness about her lover now that she had finally allowed the world to see; she was more beautiful than any words could describe. Laura said both she and Amanda had noticed and celebrated. Barbara asked if Laura and Amanda had hurdles to cross; Laura replied that they endured hurdles being apart for months and years. She admitted that she would always have the horrors of the battles with her but Amanda walked with her through them to the other side. She said that as time took her farther from them the hurt was less acute, also tempered by the hope she saw in her beloved earthlings almost daily. She told her sister friend that she and Amanda loved each other more every day with passion that grew with each intimate moment. She blushed slightly as she said there were times when she looked at Amanda walking down the hall or in the dining room at the base and all she wanted right at the moment was to undress the woman and take her within. She asked Barbara if she thought that was abnormal. Barbara laughed, telling her to ask Serena Lorimer about the lock on Captain Stenns' office door. Lydia had her own apartment at the base, the same one she still occupied, but there were times when she and Barbara just could not make it there before getting naked. Laura laughed as she remembered the first Wintersday when she had met Amanda's good friend, Captain Stenns. She said she had dressed discretely with just a bit of makeup to meet Lydia and then listened as Amanda politely asked about her family. Lydia emailed Barbara as soon as Laura and Amanda left that day, telling her that Amanda was overwhelmingly in love with the most beautiful woman on the planet. She told Barbara that Laura was the one in Amanda's life, finally, and she obviously was not mistaken. Laura told her how wonderful she had felt when they had first gone to the ranch with the realization there were other women loving women out there.

Amanda and Lydia returned back to the cabin earlier than usual on the third weekday. Amanda said she was the boss lady and she said they could leave early. She said the real reason was that both women could not wait any longer to hold their lovers. With that Barbara and Laura took the wanting hands of their mistresses to lead them to showers and passion. Luther left note on the island that they would return in the morning with trees and decorations.

The cabin on the mountainside was transformed yet again to the magic of Wintersday. Jeannie and Sally met their new bears, immediately naming them Satin and Lace. Laura suggested that perhaps the bears could all get together at the cabin on the night of the bar ruckus as Amanda was sure they had an orgy when the earthlings were not there; now that the earthlings lived there full time there were much less opportunity. Teddy grinned from ear to ear; Versarie could be heard imitating a Lydia howl from the guest room. Wintersday gifts were given out to all their friends with blessings from Amanda and Laura. The date for the annual ruckus raising at the bar was confirmed with no need to mention the episode with Lydia earlier. Another celebration of Wintersday and the New Year danced its way into the memories and hearts of all the friends on the coast.

The activity at the Carriere Base increased as new recruits were hired and trained. The Calanais Base was completed and personnel transferred to the east coast. Amanda offered the command of the east coast base to Colonel Maclippe as this was her home but Barbara declined stating that her life was with Lydia at the ranch and the Carriere Base. A senior pilot from the Carriere Base was promoted to the rank of Captain and transferred to the east. Plans for a base on the eastern archipelago were finalized; Sterling Carland was recruited to oversee the initial renovations of the existing Security Forces encampment.

Over the ensuing five years, settlements grew; the salvage and clearing from the original inner northwestern and northeastern cities was close to completion. Two air fields were reconstructed, one on each coast. Settlements were once again established in the former inner cities and former inhabitants moved back to their former geographical locations. Justine Carland remained at Sanctuary but established the curricula for education for all children now living at the new settlements. Through the Communications department, teaching was done using satellite links with former teachers being hired once again to guide the minds of the future generation.

Each settlement became self-governing with regular meetings at regional conferences to communicate needs and continue work on fair justice. Frida Shipman became the new government's finance director. Drew McDaniels became Communications director. Sterling and Amelia continued their roles as directors of Intelligence and Espionage as they had done for The Resistance. All settlers were asked to suggest a name for their new country; the consensus chose Siochain, an ancient word for peace.

The ranch family grew with new ranch hands; by the tenth anniversary of Spero Tristan's birth there were fourteen children bringing joy and challenges to the high country. As predicted Lydia and Barbara taught Spero to fly helicopters and small airplanes; he successfully completed a junior pilot's license in less than one year. As with all children raised at settlements, and ranches, Spero and his siblings learned not only how to do the work of their families but to love it and be grateful for the freedom to live without fear. Spero had already made it very clear that when he reached the sixteenth anniversary of his birth he would apply to join the Armed Forces to train as a fighter pilot like Just Lydia and Just Barbara.

The friends at the coast and the ranch made their yearly pilgrimages to Sanctuary. Charlie Smithson and Serena Lorimer took turns remaining at the Carriere Base to allow the other time to enjoy the magic of the north. Sanctuary had grown to include three separate hamlets centered about the original cave settled by the elders Tom and Thea. Buildings were erected to house new classrooms and those who trained to instruct settlers of all ages who asked for education. Justine Carland established the first curricula for advanced studies in science and the arts. The Lindsay Reynolds Centre for Hope now regularly taught medical students, Armed Forces medics, midwives, and natural healers. Niki Cee finally agreed to instruct classes in midwifery with the use of satellite links and regularly scheduled teaching missions back to Sanctuary.

Louiza Shipman continued to write weekly and then daily newsletters which were distributed to all settlements via satellite links. These included stories on the progress of the settlements, the care of renewable resources, and with little surprise daily editorials reminding every reader to never become complacent again, to assume responsibility for their own leadership and the leadership placed with trust in others.

A free election was held to choose a chief administrator and Declan McDaniels secured the position easily. Alex Taylor had chosen to also run knowing that Declan would win readily. Alex clearly stated that he wanted to learn from the best as it was his hope to perhaps secure the position later in the future. Alex and his family had a flourishing air transport business along with the family ranch. All settlements had access to helicopters but air transportation of large cargo was necessary; overland transportation did not always lend itself well to the task.

Thirteen years after the Resistance had dropped the last bombs in the former inner cities, new settlements opened on those sites. The Armed Forces established new bases at the former northwestern harbor, two eastern harbors along the great river, and in the interior of what were the former cities. Senior personnel long stationed at the Carriere Base, some from the former military's presence there, were promoted to positions of leadership and command for all the new bases.

Sterling and Amelia Carland continued to collect data and information about the situation south of the southern wall. The new European city, now called Avalon, had a growing and efficient Department of Espionage and Intelligence that established exchange of information and conference well with the like departments in Siochain. There were known pockets of resistance fighters among the huge population who struggled to make any effect on the corruption and destruction of The Decision and Olc. The newly elected administration along with General Bennett and all the senior officers knew that there needed to be increased security along the entire southern wall; all plans for further development of new bases elsewhere were postponed while six new bases were established. A larger base was built in the middle of Siochain near the southern border. This was the planned command post for any future battles if they needed to occur. Once again, all aircraft was readied under the very capable and watchful eye of Barbara Maclippe, now Lieutenant General Maclippe.

A growing community was established around the Ravencouer Base as this was now the center for the administration of Siochain. There was never a question that the new settlement would also take the name of Ravencouer, a decision made to honor the elders who had journeyed north to establish a center for hope for all earthlings; also to honor a young woman who had risked her own life to lead her beloved brothers and sisters into the future.

Life and love among the priestesses continue to unfold as it was destined. Lydia and Barbara continued their lives at the ranch and the Carriere base; Lydia no longer felt insecurities about her age or Barbara's need and want for her. Sally Palmer learned how to pilot the large Raptor aircraft, both with and without a copilot. Charlie Smithson taught Laura how to roll aircrafts for battle; with her usual talent she excelled at it. Jeannie and Sally continued to live at the coast with some renovation to their home to allow for administration of Mary Jeanne Designs but the actual work was now carried out in the town of Carriere with more than thirty full time employees. Because of re-established air fields and the harbors, the business was able to trade not only in Siochain but in Avalon and the far east. The population of Carriere continued to grow as did that of the Carriere Base. In a cooperative effort with the leaders of the town of Carriere , a health care facility was erected on the land of the Carriere Base to be shared with all those who needed it. Captain Annette Lemaine was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Lemaine, assuming the duties of administration of the new facility. Lieutenant Colonel Lorimer was promoted to Lieutenant General Lorimer, assuming duties for recruitment and training of pilots for the new Armed Forces.

Amanda Bennett and Laura Ravencouer continued to fall more in love with each other as the days, weeks, months, and years were lived out. Both women only showed small signs of aging as the effects of the former vaccine kept their bodies young. As time progressed, Laura had visions of upcoming battles with more frequency; Lohrissa was able to allow sharing of some of the visions with Aine and with all the priests and priestesses. Laura had grown to accept that their destinies were forever linked to the beloved earthlings; as was directed by Naofa they would go on to help them to freedom over Olc as often as was necessary. The holy ones all clearly understood that they would go to battle below the southern wall; the time was drawing closer. The elected administrators of Siochain understood that they holy ones had visions of the future, promising cooperation and commitment to aid their brothers and sisters below the southern wall. Stephan and Tess Redhawk immediately agreed to ready Sanctuary for assistance in any way requested.

The large command center near the southern border, known to those in the Armed Forces as the Bennett Base was readied as a battle post when the need arose. Declan McDaniels requested that his senior administrators coordinate efforts to once again establish facilities for transport of any survivors to settlements and Sanctuary. There had been more humans who had died in an attempt to escape north of the wall and there were no survivors. Each body died from starvation. With every report, all the survivors in Siochain mourned and remembered, after which there was a recommitment to defeat Olc yet again.

Chapter 16

Lieutenant General Stenns and Lieutenant General Maclippe continued their routines of living part of the time at their ranch and part of the time at the Carriere Base. Barbara understood that Lydia loved her career but loved Barbara as well; they did need as much time together as life would allow. Amanda often mentioned that Jackson was doing a fine job as kicking Barbara's rear to the base as often as possible, just as he had promised after the last time Lydia almost became unfaithful. There were still no airstrips between the ranch and the Carriere base except for rudimentary tarmacs at log harvesting and planting sites on mountainsides. The terrain was simply too rough to attempt anything larger; there had never been a need as all aircraft were able to make the flight with the use of batteries rather than fuel.

As was her usual habit, Barbara Maclippe prepared for a flight to the Carriere Base, notifying Lydia that she expected to land at 1700 hours, just at the setting of the sun in the fall of the year. Lydia looked forward to holding the love of her life for many hours over the weekend while she took command at the base. Laura and Amanda returned to the coast earlier that afternoon and were just settling into a glass of wine, chatting with Luther. Suddenly, both women were screaming and running to the vehicle as was Luther. Amanda yelled at Luther to notify Jeannie and Sally to meet them at the base as they would need every pilot they could find. The minions of Olc were attacking Barbara; her aircraft was down somewhere in the mountains between the ranch and the coast. By the time Amanda and Laura landed, Serena had every available aircraft and pilot on standby to start the search. Lydia was almost incoherent with fear and anger. Laura strode her to and with fire in her eyes Lohrissa emerged, firmly telling Lemanychia that they would fight and give no power including human emotion to Olc. Charlie Smithson arrived as did Sally and Jeannie. Amanda notified Declan with her request to notify Sean and Alex Taylor as well as Drew McDaniels and Ross Shipman. Amanda asked that Drew fly a Peregrine immediately to the ranch and wait for orders to fly to coordinates once they had been established. Noshi and all the holy ones saw exactly the hell that Briallen was enduring as several minions fought to capture her soul. Barbara Maclippe's earthling body was broken and burned as a result of a fiery helicopter crash. The healer Lemanychia cast spell after spell to assuage pain and further injury but to no avail. The senior Olc minion Teragram led six others in constant torture, that well beyond the spells cast even by the powerful Lemanychia. Lohrissa, Aine, Iobairt, Lemanychia, Lughe, Curran, and Doakus circled below and above the minions, preparing the onslaught. Teragram was a powerful and ancient minion, one not battled often in the past. Her fury heightened as Lohrissa demanded that they leave the earthling and the priestess. Tentacles of great strength and stinging poison lashed out at all the holy ones while ice cast from lesser minions temporarily paralyzed the priests and priestesses. Without second thought, Lohrissa commanded her holy ones to stop the minions immediately without mercy. Explosions of fire and ice illuminated the skies over Mother as attack met attack, defense met defense. Briallen lost the ability to fight and asked her ancients to rescue her rather than allow Olc to take control of a holy one. Teragram swooped low to the earth to capture Barbara's soul as life ebbed from her body. Doakus and Lughe took great risk to wrap silver chains around the minion to temporarily stop the capture, giving enough time for Noshi to cradle Briallen as he walked with her back through the portal to Naofa. Barbara Maclippe was dead.

With Briallen's rescue, the minions screamed anger; by doing so allowed the holy ones to usurp power long enough to send them in retreat back to Olc. The priests and priestesses returned to their human bodies. Personnel awaited Amanda's command to start the rescue effort to find Lieutenant General Maclippe. Lohrissa remained in Laura's body as she gave Amanda coordinates to find and retrieve Barbara's body. She suggested that Lieutenant General Lorimer, Lieutenant General Smithson, and Drew McDaniels make the attempt at landing at one of the small logging camps near the coordinates. A Search and Rescue team could retrieve Barbara's body to return to the ranch.

General Bennett addressed the gathered pilots and Armed Forces staff to notify them that Lieutenant General Barbara Maclippe had perished as a result of a helicopter crash in the mountains. She then turned and ran to take Lydia in her arms as both women sobbed. Lydia collapsed as the reality of the events found her mind and then her soul. Laura returned to her office and notified Declan McDaniels, Ross Shipman, Stephan Redhawk, Louiza Shipman, and all the senior personnel at all the bases of Lieutenant General Maclippe's death. She informed them that she would be taking command temporarily as General Bennett was caring for Lydia Stenns. She outlined the plans to retrieve Barbara's body. Aine asked Noshi to cast as much healing as was possible on Lydia to continue until she could function again. Luther carried Lydia to Huguette while Annette packed clothing and personal items to accompany Lydia as she was taken to the cabin on the coast. Laura then contacted Jackson by satellite link to apprise him of the plans, asking that he make arrangements for honoring Barbara at the ranch. She said that they would take Lydia home when she was more able to travel. Jackson replied immediately that the priest Doakus had informed them of the battle and Barbara's sacrifice. Laura asked Jeannie go to the cabin and then return to the base with clothing and personal items for Laura as she planned to stay at the base until Lieutenant Generals Lorimer and Smithson returned from the Search and Rescue mission. Luther stayed with Lydia as Amanda returned to Laura's office for strength and comfort. Laura held her, telling her to take Lydia to the cabin and care for her. She told her not to offer the guest room to their friend but instead to take her to their bed and stay with her there. Laura kissed her mistress and then told her that Lydia had lost the love of her life; she needed comfort and strength from a woman who she had loved and still did. She explained that when she thought that Amanda had died, Lindsay loved her through that pain; Lydia needed the same now in her life. Before Amanda had a chance to question Laura's words, she was told by her priestess that she would love her even more for the gift she was about to give. Laura kissed Amanda goodbye, saying she would return to the cabin as soon Serena and Charlie returned.

Sally and Jeannie arrived at the cabin; Jeannie to retrieve the items Laura requested and Sally to help with food preparation and a very necessary supply of scotch. Luther banked fires and filled wood boxes, Amanda did not speak as she cradled Lydia in strong arms before the fire. Mary arrived just after Sally and Jeannie to learn of the tragedy. She held her husband; both wept openly. Jeannie told Sally she would return as soon as possible after her flight to the Carriere Base. Amanda quietly told Luther not to bother opening up the guest room as Lydia would not be sleeping there for a few nights at least. With his usual accepting discretion, Luther did not raise a question. He did put a pot of coffee on the coals; Sally brought two glasses of scotch for Amanda and Lydia . Amanda insisted that Lydia drink the shot of scotch and asked Sally for another. Amanda also asked Sally to unpack Lydia 's kit bag in the loft and return with a sleep shirt, a robe from the dressing room, and moccasins. When Sally returned, Amanda asked her to place the clothing on the rack on the hearth. She then forced Lydia to take a bowl of chowder and cup of coffee before taking her to the shower. Lydia had still not spoken but was lucid enough to follow requests. Amanda undressed her former lover and then removed her own clothing. She held Lydia under the warm water, helping her cleanse her body. She then dried her friend and helped her dress in warm night clothes. Sally had placed warming stones beneath the sheets and warm duvets on Amanda's bed. Luther asked Amanda if she wished for him to stay for the night in case she needed assistance. Amanda thanked him but declined, stating that she had hopes that Lydia would take some rest for some of the hours at least. Jeannie returned; as they prepared to leave for their own home both she and Sally promised they would return in the morning to help with chores and any support they could offer. Amanda thanked them, asking that they not arrive early as she knew both she and Lydia needed rest and quiet. Amanda took Lydia 's hand, led her up the stairs to the loft, and gathered her in her arms as they crawled in between warmed sheets.

Amanda's arms ached for Laura. They had not spent a night alone without the other since Laura returned from the battles. Amanda's heart was nearly broken for Lydia with close to understanding of the loss of the love of her life. Amanda held her friend and former lover close to her as tears coursed down Lydia 's cheeks. Lemanychia's sisters and brothers on earth and on Naofa stood close as racking sobs convulsed through Lydia 's body in Amanda's arms. Lohrissa and Noshi answered Briallen's pleas to comfort her mate while she remained on earth; both firm in the promise to disallow Briallen's presence in Lydia 's earth reality. Amanda knew that when the initial anger and hurt had been tempered Lydia would then understand the great sacrifice her lover had made, one insuring that a holy one from Naofa would never be taken to Olc.

Amanda continued to cradle and rock Lydia as she sobbed her grief, her loss, her anger. When Lydia 's tears slowed to a trickle, Amanda kissed them from her cheeks and stroked Lydia 's auburn hair. The old and very familiar knowledge of Lydia 's body slowly came to Amanda's presence as her lips found those of her former lover. Primal desire rose up in both women before a myriad of emotions led Lydia to passionate demands and responses. Though certainly not joyful, cries rang out among the mountains repeatedly before Lydia gave in to exhaustion. Amanda wept as her friend slept in her arms, tears for her loss, tears for the gift that Laura had shared with their friend. Lydia woke before dawn with want for Amanda's passion again as if trying to assuage the raw aching void in her soul; for passage of earth time Lydia 's hurt was masked by her former lover and very dear friend.

Long hours after dawn, Amanda rose to shower and dress. Jeannie, Sally, and Luther had already arrived, greeting Amanda with hugs. Everyone understood the journeys taken the previous night and the reasons why. Lydia called out for Amanda who returned to her friend. Lydia rose and Amanda took her to the shower while Sally changed linens. Jeannie brought breakfast and coffee to their friends. In the shower, Lydia woke enough to realize that she had found passion with Amanda the previous night, weeping her apologies. Amanda told her to never apologize again for needing, wanting, and loving. She explained that Laura asked Amanda to take their friend home to their bed and love comfort into her as she could. She continued that Lindsay did that for Laura when she thought Amanda had died, knowing clearly of at least temporary comfort in that passion. Amanda told Lydia that both she and Laura loved her and would care for her as would all their friends. She reminded Lydia that Barbara had died in sacrifice for all of them, that Briallen was home again among the ancients at Naofa, that the love she had for Lydia and Lemanychia was eternal, and would never waiver. After their showers, Amanda took Lydia back to bed where they both ate breakfast before Lydia fell back to the merciful sleep of exhaustion.

Amanda joined her friends on the first floor, once again thanking them for their love and support. She used Laura's computer to contact her at the base. Laura reported that Serena, Charlie, and Drew had found Barbara's body. Search and Rescue crew members were preparing to retrieve it and take her remains back to the ranch. She reported that Jackson notified her stating Alex Taylor was en route to Sanctuary with a passenger transport airplane to bring Stephan and Tess Redhawk as well as many elders back to the ranch. Stephan asked that they erect the pyre to honor Barbara. They were bringing ashes from the last Bealtaine fire, one where Lydia and Barbara had recommitted their lives and love to each other. Jackson agreed, stating that he knew Lydia would also agree. He asked Laura to reassure Lydia that he and Scott would assume full responsibility for the daily business at the ranch until such time as she chose otherwise. Laura told Amanda that she expected to stay at least one more night at the Carriere Base as both Serena and Charlie wanted to accompany Barbara's body back to the ranch before they returned to the coast. Amanda told Laura that Lydia was still in shock but was eating, sleeping, and grieving which was all that any of them could expect to this point. She reassured Laura that she was fine; Luther, Sally, and Jeannie were taking care of Lydia , her, and their home. Laura advised Amanda that she was organizing a formal Armed Forces celebration of the life and work of Lieutenant General Maclippe for a date after the honor at the ranch. She notified Barbara's extended family at Calanais as well as Sterling and Amelia Carland, offering transportation to the ranch for the celebration of Barbara's life. Nancy Maclippe declined but thanked Laura for her offer. Sterling and Amelia replied that they would attend both events, arranging transportation through the base at the eastern archipelago. Laura reiterated to her mistress that she loved her beyond possible; she should hold that forever in her heart and soul. She told her to take care of Lydia with every fiber of herself as would she when she returned to the cabin. She asked Amanda to contact the Fletcher family with the sad news, requesting that they care for their home as well as the McBane and Palmer-Dawson homes knowing that all their friends would want to attend the celebration of Barbara's life at the ranch. Amanda replied that she had already asked Luther to finalize those plans. Laura also said she would notify Amanda and Luther when Serena and Charlie returned to the base.

Sally and Jeannie left for their own home after preparing meals for their friends. They told Amanda they would return the following morning and to contact them immediately if she needed help before then. Amanda hugged them both with her profound thanks. Luther put another pot of coffee on the fire before joining Amanda before the hearth. He told his friend and his priestess that another battle was looming as he was sure she was aware. He affirmed that Naofa would win over Olc again but at a huge cost; life as they understood it now would be changed for eternity. He told Amanda that he intended to fight even if she did not include him with the Armed Forces pilots. Amanda smiled, hugged her dear friend, telling him that it was never a question of his participation. He also said he was quite certain that both Sally and Jeannie would join him; Amanda agreed. He then took Amanda's hands; while looking directly into her eyes he reassured her that he understood the events of the last twenty-four hours with Lydia and why. With tears in his eyes, he spoke of the great love between Lohrissa and Aine, for each other and for all their brothers and sisters. The two old friends enjoyed their coffee then in silence.

Lydia awoke, dressed, and joined her friends before the hearth. Luther rose to hug his priestess before going to the kitchen to prepare food for both his friends. She accepted his kindness and ate what was before her. There was much more clarity now from eyes nearly drowned with sadness. Amanda told her that Barbara's body had been found and was being taken to the ranch. She spoke of their friends coming from Sanctuary and of Stephan's request to erect a pyre to honor Barbara. Lydia smiled briefly as Amanda reiterated Jackson 's promise of continued help with Scott until such time Lydia chose to change that. She repeated Laura's message about a formal Armed Forces honor of Lieutenant General Maclippe once the celebration at the ranch was over. Lydia said they needed to go to the ranch and Amanda agreed but asked that they wait until Laura returned to the cabin once Serena and Charlie had returned, stating she expected Laura to be home by the next morning. Luther reassured Lydia that all plans were in order for their travel when the time was established. Lydia wept again, telling both her friends that she saw no reason now to live. With that Amanda rose, took Lydia to her feet, looked her directly in the eyes, telling her she would not hear that again from her. She asked her if she really thought that Barbara would expect her to quit fighting just because she went back to Naofa. Before Lydia could answer, Amanda told her that there was a fight coming and she would fight as she had since the first spiral of the helix. Their beloved earthlings were dying at the will of the evil that claimed Barbara's body; Naofa would fight including Lydia . She told her that Barbara would expect absolutely nothing less; if Lydia loved her she would fight back if for no other reason than pure revenge. Luther spoke up, telling Lydia that she knew that all earthling bodies died but priestesses never died; she would walk with Briallen for eternity as they had from time they had been anointed. He reminded his priestess that she was the ancient and blessed Lemanychia, one who had protected Lohrissa as their most high priestess and she would continue to do so. He lovingly but sternly told Lydia that there was no time or room now for self-pity, only sadness which would heal with time. He told her that ultimately their beloved earthlings needed them to fight for their survival as they had since the division of the universe; they had all sworn that oath when they had been chosen and anointed. Both Amanda and Lydia had initial surprise as neither had ever heard Luther McBane be stern in all the years they had known him. Very soon thereafter, they loved him even more for his wisdom and caring. Within a minute, Lydia 's countenance visibly changed as she stood her full height with her shoulders drawn back, feet well planted on the ground, and a look of victory over evil flashing from her eyes. Amanda smiled, took her in her arms, and kissed her long, hard, and full on the lips. Lydia Stenns was back.

Lydia stayed in Amanda's arms on the couch for the afternoon as both women silently and verbally remembered their days with Barbara Maclippe, giving down thanks for her life. Lydia kept stating that she did not think she could live without arms holding her. Amanda replied that for as long as they were needed she would be held with Amanda's arms. In late evening, Luther arrived back at the cabin after he had met Laura at the mountainside tarmac. Serena had returned to the base while Charlie accompanied Barbara's body back to the ranch as she knew Laura wanted to go home. She entered the cabin quietly and climbed the stairs to the loft. Amanda was awake as Lydia slept. Laura motioned to have her stay with Lydia as Laura had a quick shower before climbing into bed. Lydia woke and started to get up. Laura touched her arm and told her to stay where she was as the bed and the souls had room for all. For a few seconds there was a look of complete surprise on Amanda's face until she understood as only more love than she had ever known possible for her mistress shone from her eyes. Women gathered women in each other's arms as Laura whispered to Lydia that it was another lifetime now. Noshi wept as he understood Lohrissa's love for her priestesses and her friends. Newly defined passion was offered up to the multiverse and down to the ancients in the cabin in the mountains at the coast. Earth hours later, Amanda rose to bank both fires and to gaze at her sleeping lovers in each other's arms. She marveled at how easily they had overcome the politics of ownership, giving way only to women loving women. She also understood that the dynamic of their lives had changed forever with no sense of sadness or foreboding.

The following morning, Amanda flew to the Carriere Base to finalize plans for the celebration of Barbara's life with the personnel. Serena offered to continue to take command so that all other senior officers could attend the ranch. Amanda thanked her but declined the offer. She arranged for the commanding officer at the Western Harbor Base to travel to Carriere and take command for the time that was needed away for all the senior personnel. Amanda made a request for the kitchen to prepare food to feed the large number of people who planned to attend the celebration and have it ready for transport the following day. Before Amanda left the cabin earlier that day, Lydia said she was ready to return to the ranch and asked if they could fly later that day. Amanda and Laura planned to take Lydia home that afternoon with all others to arrive early the following day. Lydia emailed Jackson to tell him she was coming home, to prepare the guest cabins and staff houses for many friends who would be arriving. She told her dear old friend that she was sorry for his hurt and that they would survive this as they had all else. Amanda then returned to the cabin to pack for departure in midafternoon for the ranch.

Laura flew the Raptor to the high country, landing just as the sun had set. Every member of the ranch family and many friends were waiting on the tarmac as the helicopter landed. Lydia and Amanda waited until Laura ran the post flight check list before disembarking. Laura and Amanda took Lydia 's arms as she saw her family and friends waiting for her. Spero, now a handsome young man, walked to take Lydia in his arms as they both wept. Lydia broke from his embrace, fell to the tarmac, and screamed her rage, her hurt, her loss, her love. The holy ones let the battle within play out before helping her to her feet. Jackson went to carry her to a waiting vehicle but she pulled away, dried her tears, hugged her friend, and with the quiet resolve only Lydia Stenns possessed she climbed aboard to ride to the main house. Noshi cast constant spells to ease Lydia 's pain; Stephan and Meda chanted blessings to the ancients for solace and peace. Jackson went to carry luggage to the guest cabin before Amanda quietly told him they would be staying in the loft for this visit at least. When Lydia entered her home, she walked to every corner and touched every piece of furniture as if able to feel part of the love of her life there. Jennie and several other ranch women had prepared a buffet in the main house, inviting everyone to partake as they wished. Amanda had emailed Jackson earlier that food for the celebration in the morrow would arrive in the morning. After dinner, Lydia finally found the courage to climb to the loft with Amanda and Laura. Laura led Lydia to the shower while Amanda returned with warming stones and duvets for the bed. Lydia wept with every step and every reminder of the woman with whom she had shared her life and her love for almost thirty years. Laura caressed her friend and new lover as Amanda joined them both; the temporary healing of fiery passion wrapped its way around Lydia 's broken heart and wounded soul. As the main house became quiet, the three lovers joined each other in bed. Amanda spoke to Laura as Lohrissa and Lemanychia emerged. She finally understood that the priestesses had been together as lovers in their pasts. Laura smiled as told Amanda that had been their herstory several times since the first spiral of Naofa. Amanda told Laura that Noshi had forbidden her to greet Lydia with Aine. With a wicked grin, Laura told Amanda that she was the boss lady; as such she said they could and they would. She explained that Noshi had been concerned with Lydia 's state at the time but they all knew now that both Lydia and Lemanychia would survive and grow. Lohrissa then told both Lemanychia and Aine to hold tight and hold fast as love among the priestesses would ring through all the mountains for earth hours into the night. Briallen radiated her blessings from Naofa as she knew that her beloved Lemanychia was well loved.

Amanda woke before either of her lovers, descending to greet Jennie and Clara. Jackson, Scott, and several ranch hands were en route to meet aircraft coming from the coast, the Ravencouer Base, and the Shipman Base. Charlie and Eleanor Smithson, Luther and Mary McBane, Jeannie and Sally, Serena and Annette all arrived along with the food from the kitchen at the base. Ross and Frida Shipman, Declan and Emme McDaniels, Andrew and Annique McDaniels, Sterling and Amelia Carland, Louiza Shipman and Nikita Cee arrived shortly thereafter. Alex Taylor and his wife along with Sean and Olivia Taylor, Archie and Lilly Granger all arrived from the Taylor ranch and compound. Several aircraft with personnel from the Carriere Base along with staff from the bar arrived as well. Lydia was initially overwhelmed at the number of people who had come to honor Barbara but soon realized it was no surprise at how much she was loved and respected. Amanda inquired as to whether the ranch women needed any assistance with the food preparation or buffet, knowing immediately that was a very foolish question. Stephan reported that the pyre had been erected and that Barbara's body was placed there. He asked if perhaps Lydia wanted time alone with her lover before the others met. Laura asked Lydia who replied that she wanted that time alone. Laura warned her that Barbara's earth body was broken and burned to which Lydia replied that she would forever be the most beautiful woman on the planet. Laura asked Amanda to come with her as she drove Lydia to the pyre. Barbara's body had been loving bathed and shrouded by Jennie and Clara, the one last gift they could give her. Amanda and Laura let Lydia walk to the pyre alone, standing back as their friend took her lover's remains in her arms, weeping as she spoke of her undying love for eternity. For brief minutes, both Lydia and Barbara's shrouded body glowed with gold auras; when Lydia turned to walk back to her waiting friends she had a smile shining through tears.

The three women rested after lunch as the ceremony was slated to start at the setting of the sun. The pyre had been erected next to a large coral and in the afternoon hours several ranch hands moved horses and cattle to the enclosure to honor the woman who lovingly cared for them. Several wagons as well as every available vehicle was washed and readied to transport all the earthlings and holy ones to the pyre in late afternoon. Laura asked Spero if he wanted to join the other holy ones as they sang the blessings; he immediately replied that he did. Everyone at the ranch knew he was a holy one; he wanted to honor his priestess and his friend. During the transport to the pyre, the sky was filled with ravens circling with wings tipped in gold. Laura told the others she would meet them at the pyre as she had one last task to perform before her final goodbye to her sister friend. Scott drove her to the tarmac and a waiting ranch helicopter. As the last vehicle reached the large gathering of friends and as the sun was setting in the west, Laura flew over the crowd and tipped the tail in love, honor, blessings, and goodbye. She then landed a short distance away, walking to meet the holy ones. Stephan rose to climb the steps leading to the pyre. He explained the ceremony of celebration as elders from Sanctuary chanted blessings. He spoke of Barbara's great contribution to the lives of everyone gathered and thousands who had benefitted from her love and bravery. For those who did not know of the Bealtaine commitment ceremonies, he explained the yearly honor of the ancients and of mates; the ashes surrounding Barbara's body were those from the pyre at the last celebration where Barbara and Lydia had once again committed their lives and love to each other. He said softly that he knew that those promises would be kept for eternity. Stephan then introduced the holy ones, asking that they walk forward to sing blessings as Lydia lit the final flames. The holy ones rose above the ground; with full auras shining they encircled their sister's body. Beautiful songs of celebration were sung with voices not heard elsewhere on earth. Doakus and Lemanychia floated above Barbara's earthly body; flames from Naofa lit the fire. Songs of blessings continued as Briallen came to all of them with love and the promise of eternity. The priests and priestesses remained with their sister until her remains reduced to ashes. The holy ones returned to their earth bodies; as Laura looked to the sky she saw Iobairt's silver circles of stars shining from the multiverse. Stephan then directed the friends to return to the main house for nourishment and memories.

Lydia was seemingly more at peace than she had been since Barbara's death. She later told both Amanda and Laura that she saw Briallen who told her they would meet again and soon. Both women replied they knew that to be true. After hours of visiting, friends either returned home or to their rooms at the ranch. After showers, Lydia finally found humor enough to state that she thought perhaps she would need a larger bed if this current practice was to continue. Both Amanda and Laura told her that the solution was entirely up to her. Lydia did state that when they returned to the base for the Armed Forces ceremony she wanted to stay at the base by herself to which both Laura and Amanda readily agreed. Lydia again smiled, stating that while it was no longer this man's army their current lovership might be stretching tolerance just a bit. Amanda agreed with a smile and a kiss. All three women agreed to take one more day at the ranch for respite before returning to the base for the ceremony in four days' time.

After breakfast, Charlie prepared to fly the friends from the coast back to the base. The senior pilots had left at dawn to return for duty. Amanda told him that they would return early the following day, once again thanking her longstanding friend. Luther told the priestesses he would return to the cabin and ready it for their return. Laura told him that Lydia planned to stay at the base, only she and Amanda would return to the coast. She did invite him to attend the official Armed Forces celebration as he was as much a fighter pilot as any of them. He smiled his acceptance of the invitation. Jeannie took her friends aside, telling them she had never been more proud or in awe of both of them. Laura quietly replied that love had many faces and journeys. Lydia spent part of the day meeting with Jackson and Scott with instructions to make whatever decisions necessary until she had a clearer head. She did tell them that she intended to continue her Armed Forces career as there was a good scrap coming and they both knew she could never resist that. Their friend Lydia Stenns was back. Jackson was not entirely sure he understood the relationship with Amanda and Laura but he did not need to if helped his sister friend find peace.

The following morning Laura flew back to the Carriere Base. When they disembarked, the entire personnel at the base was on the tarmac and when Serena Lorimer barked "Attention" all three women had to fight back tears to take the salute before putting the crowd at ease. Amanda returned to her office briefly to thank the commander from the Western Harbor Base for assuming command while her senior officers could attend the celebration of the former Lieutenant General Maclippe's life. Serena reported that all the plans were in place for the official celebration in two days' time. Amanda asked her to keep an eye on Lydia but that she was strong, smart, and returning to her irascible self. At some point, they would explain the new relationship to both Serena and Annette as they would understand but Amanda wanted Lydia to agree do that first. Both Laura and Amanda walked back to Lydia 's quarters with her and kissed her goodbye before they left for the cabin.

Luther met the helicopter and drove his priestesses to the cabin. Jeannie and Sally were waiting with a fresh pot of coffee and dinner in the slow cooker. Laura told their friends that they hoped they would all attend the official Armed Forces celebration in two days ' time. She smiled while she told Sally she was still Armed Forces and Jeannie was as much a fighter pilot as any of them. Luther said he was going to return home to Mary as they were both very tired and needed time alone. Amanda asked Sally and Jeannie if they would join them for dinner; both women agreed. Sally filled wine glasses as the four women sat before the fire. Laura then spoke of the change in their lovership. Both Sally and Jeannie reassured their friends that they had already come to that understanding and were only happy for their three friends. Laura said she initially suggested that Amanda take Lydia to their bed for comfort as she understood that passion helped to temporarily assuage that deep kind of hurt. She explained that she then realized that the journey had led to the change for many years. She told them about suggesting seduction to Lydia when she had misbehaved with the young recruit. She knew at the time that Lydia would refuse; she would not have pursued it otherwise as Barbara was her dear sister friend. She then admitted that since that time she had been struggling with the politics of the implied ownership of monogamy. She glowed as she took Amanda's hand and smiled at her, stating that becoming Lydia 's lover as well had nothing to do with not wanting Amanda; in fact, she loved her more than she ever had. She said she grew to understand that Lydia and Amanda had a deep abiding connection, love for each other, and there was no longer any reason to deny the full range of that relationship. She had never felt threatened by their herstory and now that they shared physical love as well as the emotional and spiritual journeys nothing had changed. Amanda giggled and winked at Jeannie, warning her that the snow caps were now in huge jeopardy with three priestesses finding passion repeatedly at the cabin. Amanda told their friends that Luther knew of the relationship and only gave his blessings. Laura said that they would tell more of their friends as the need arose but they both felt strongly that both Jeannie and Sally knew and understood. Sally smiled, stating that she figured it was just about time as the love for each other had been strikingly obvious for as long as she had known Laura. Laura said wistfully she regretted that they had not included Barbara but that was not the direction of the ancients. She did tell her friends that Briallen would not stay on Naofa for many earth years; they would all meet her soon. She soberly said that there was a huge fight coming; both women would be asked to fight if they chose. Both women agreed before Laura finished the sentence. Sally and Jeannie left for their own home not long after dinner so as to let Amanda and Laura have time alone together, but not before Sally remarked that a ruckus at the bar just might take on an entirely different definition.

Amanda and Laura showered and crawled in between warmed sheets. Laura asked the question out loud that both women were thinking, that of missing Lydia . Amanda said that she was holding the most gorgeous woman on the planet, her longtime lover, her priestess, a woman who could reduce her to tears with kisses and touches. She loved Lydia , always had, and mostly likely always would but she was a different woman than Laura; as such, the love was different. Laura expressed the same sentiments but also that she had only known Lydia as a lover for a very short period of time. They both understood that they filled a need in Lydia 's life, rejoicing in that. Amanda whispered to Laura that she loved her beyond words when she gave her lover to her friend when that friend needed that more than anything at the time. Laura smiled, caressed her mistress tenderly, telling her that love had many faces; all them were beautiful. She admitted that there were many times when she wanted to just keep kissing Lydia when telling her to shut up. Amanda smiled in return, telling her she had known all along. She said there were times with the tension between both women was close to tangible. Laura asked her if she had been angered; Amanda replied that she had not been as she knew without question that it took a special kind of strength to resist Lydia Stenns. Laura also admitted that there were many times when she looked at Barbara, especially at her wicked grin, wanting her naked and immediately. Amanda laughed as she always knew one had to watch those quiet ones. Laura's eyes misted as she whispered that she should have had enough courage to act on that. Amanda told her it was not directed by the ancients in the past but they both knew that Barbara would return to live among them again as an earthling and very soon. Words ceased as the real language of love played out in passion throughout the night and again well into the morning hours.

Laura and Amanda spent quiet hours during the following day at the cabin. Jeannie arrived with dress uniforms for Amanda, Laura, and Lydia . Amanda communicated with Serena using a satellite link, both finalizing plans and accommodations for visitors to the base for the celebration of Barbara's life there in the morrow. The celebration was scheduled for 1100 hours, following which personnel would be invited to gather for lunch and memories in the staff dining room. The early hour would allow time for visitors from bases on the west coast to return before nightfall. Serena told Amanda that Lydia had returned to her office for a few hours with remarkable courage and quiet strength. Serena also informed Amanda that classes and instruction had been temporarily stopped until the celebration was complete so that the personnel had time to grieve and adjust to the changes in all their lives.

Amanda and Laura arrived at the Carriere Base early the following morning. Serena and Charlie met them on the tarmac before both women went to Lydia 's quarters. The base was spotless. All aircraft and vehicles had been washed, were gleaming in the morning sun. Even the tarmac had been washed. As the senior officers walked to the dining room and Lydia 's quarters they were met and saluted by personnel, all in dress uniforms impeccably groomed. Amanda and Laura recognized all the personal efforts put forth; Amanda stated she had never been prouder to be the commanding officer of the Armed Forces. As they approached the staff quarters Lydia strode across the tarmac, snapped to attention, and saluted her fellow officers. There would be time for hugs and kisses later but it was very clear that she expected to continue a day of honor and celebration of not only her lover and her friend but also of the former Lieutenant General Barbara Maclippe. Personnel from other bases started to arrive by 0900 hours to be greeted by Lieutenant Generals Lorimer and Smithson. Serena organized a fly past in which Laura had requested to take the first and last position in the air just prior to the official ceremony. The guests were directed to the staff dining room and then to the tarmac for the official proceedings. By 1045 hours, hundreds of personnel from all Armed Forces bases gathered along with the senior members of the Administration of Siochain. Aircraft had taken to the air several minutes earlier; at 1055 hours Lieutenant General Ravencouer flew the first pass with a Raptor and tipped the tail above the crowd. She then circled around to fly the last pass with the same tip of the tail in honor and respect. She returned to join all the other senior officers as General Bennett conducted the proceedings with her usual confidence and respect. There were no tears shed but only profound sadness from every heart gathered in honor. At the end of the celebration, Lieutenant Smithson directed the crowd to observe silence in honor of their fallen officer and then barked "Attention" as Barbara Maclippe took her last salute. When the personnel were put at ease, they were invited to join the Carriere personnel in the staff dining room for lunch and memories.

By late afternoon, personnel from other bases were en route home or were settled in guest quarters at the Carriere Base. Amanda thanked all her personnel for another task well performed, stating she was very proud and humbled to be their commander-in-chief. Serena Lorimer and Charles Smithson both reassured Amanda, Laura, and Lydia that they would take command at the base until such time as their friends returned to a more normal routine of their work lives. All three stated that they would return on the upcoming second weekday to start plans for the battles they knew were looming. With that, Amanda flew back to the cabin with Laura and Lydia .

Luther, Jeannie, and Sally returned earlier in the afternoon to ready the cabin. Sally, Jeannie, and Mary had prepared many meals in advance to allow for their friends to take a much needed rest before returning to work. Lydia requested that her clothing and personal items be moved to the closets in the quest room to allow for more room in the loft; this was carried out. After dinner and wine before the first floor fire. Lydia spoke of being able to see more clearly each day. She told her friends that she knew that she would meet Barbara again in the future; it would be soon. Both Laura and Amanda readily agreed. All three women talked of their new lovership and how their individual journeys had led them to it. Laura told her that she wished that she had acted on her desire to take Barbara as a lover to which Lydia immediately replied that it was not then directed by the ancients but she knew it would be in the future. Both Amanda and Laura spontaneously agreed. Amanda explained to Lydia that Jeannie, Sally, and Luther knew; they only extended blessings. She laughed as she reiterated Sally's comment about the bar ruckus being redefined. Once again, there was a definite wicked grin and spark from Lydia 's eyes. Laura smiled, saying that looked like an invitation. She led both her lovers to the loft shower followed by a night of passion given down to the ancients and up to the multiverse. Depths of love not known before in their lives on earth were reached by the priestesses. Just before the dawn conquered the midnight blue, there were three strong whispers of "Amo Te".


The End

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