The three boys discovered that the woman named Carey hadn’t been bluffing. They had fallen behind the riding women and the wagon mid morning. They had caught up about the time the riders were just getting back up on their horses after stopping for a meal. The teens were hungry and exhausted but knew if they stopped now that they would never keep up. Archer urged them to keep moving and trudged ahead, following the riders.
Phillip whined for a few seconds but was quickly told to shut up and was reminded that he was to blame for their predicament. By the time the sun began setting the walking trio was ready to drop in exhaustion. They made it to the camp just as the meal was finished heating and handed tin plates of beans and rice. Each got a slice of bread and a cup of hot tea. The young men ate silently, never looking up from their plates. Once finished they meekly got into the tent set up for them.
The next morning they were roused from their deep sleep at sunrise. Maggie told them that they had ten minutes to wash up before breakfast was served. After a meal of porridge and bread they had the pleasure of taking down their tent and rolling the sleeping bags. A few hours past high noon they had reached the crest of a hill.
Jeremy stopped and stared down. “What in hell is that?” His companions looked down at a well-made and large building at the base of the hill. High walls were constructed around it and men with rifles stood guard at the front gate.
“That’s the Embassy,” Maggie answered as she rode past them. “And don’t even think about running to them and asking for sanctuary. They know why we visited the Sky Dancer Clan and know you’re criminals. They won’t help you.”
With that brief hope dashed the boys continued down the hill until they reached a well-worn path. Now they knew their journey was almost over. The travelers approached the colony and the teens felt the stares of everyone near them. Children pointed and whispered and the younger two felt the flush of shame brighten their cheeks. Everyone knew who the boys were and what they had done.
They stopped in front of a small adobe building and Carey got off her horse and ordered the three boys to stay where they were. She knocked on the door and entered while the boys had to wait under the gaze of the community. It was quite a while before Carey returned with a woman. They recognized her from the transport site and knew the Queen would look at them and pass judgement now.
She stared at each of them in the eyes until they looked away guiltily.
“Two of your numbers left you behind when they realized their folly. The three of you, however, chose to remain and exist as thieves. Clearly you lack any sense of propriety since you felt no need to follow the laws on Mother Earth. I already struck a deal with the Yuma brothers. They will work for the colony until after the fall harvest. Then I will either allow them to return to the Bay Otter Clan and their families or return to the Old World with gold.
“But what shall I do with you?” Cierra turned her back, hiding a smile. Although this was serious she was learning to enjoy acting the royal bitch when needed. She wiped the smile from her face and turned around. “I suppose I could always exile you to an island. Maybe even hang you as thieves.” She saw the boys turn pale. She gave a dramatic sigh.
“Well, that last might upset your poor parents. I’ll have to give you a second chance, I suppose. You may work along side your former friends until the harvest. If, by then, I see a genuine change in your personalities then I might allow you be returned to your families. However, if you fail to learn the lessons you need to embrace I will be forced to deal more harshly with you. Is that understood?”
The boys nodded and replied respectfully. Cierra ordered the boys taken to the guest quarters in the family barracks. The boys would spend the next few weeks chopping down dying trees near the village so they wouldn’t be a hazard. Once down the trees would be cut into firewood. That would keep them busy for a long time. After that was the preparing the fields for the crops. The labors the council members had planned out would have the teenagers convinced that living in a fishing village would be a vacation in comparison.
Once the weather warmed she would send a messenger to the BOC informing them of what happened. Plus she would send a decision in writing for their lack of good judgement. They had no business tossing out irksome villagers rather than dealing with them properly. The elders would be required to send compensation to the Sky Dancer Clan for the supplies stolen. Then send repayment for the supplies the Napa Clan would be sending to the mountain dwellers.
Satisfied with her plans, Cierra returned to her spouse and child inside.
Colonel Webb sat with her pad and pen with the council members, taking notes when needed. Cierra would begin her weekly trips once more in another week so plans needed to be laid out so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed the first trip.
There were many people at the Embassy that wanted to go back home and visit their families and hadn’t seen them since the bombing.
Also, the scientific exploration parties would be ready to transport in April, bringing supplies for the trips. They would arrive about the same time as the construction crews that would be building the new barracks at the colony. It would be a mass of confusion at times and the security headaches would be enormous.
Every single person would need to go through a checkpoint before being allowed anywhere near the Embassy that was located on the Old World. Mary hoped Cierra was up to it.
The meeting took place well into noon when lunch crowd began entering the building. Jenny suggested that they stop for a bite to eat and continue later that afternoon.
Mary stood up gratefully and stretched after sitting for so long. She walked over to the shelves that held the dishes and got a bowl and plate. She knew soup was always on the menu and whatever the ladies threw together on impulse. Today they had homemade pita bread sandwiches with a spicy, meaty filling with rice and assorted diced veggies.
She took her meal to one of the tables and sat down. The colonel took a bite of her sandwich just as she noticed Sara walking into the building. Mary felt the sadness once more strike at her heart at the sight of her. Sara hadn’t spoken to her since that night they shared a bed. Mary had hoped the offer made by Sara meant she was ready to spend some time with her even if only on a friendly basis. Instead the petite woman became even scarcer than before.
Sara felt the officer’s gaze and locked with Mary’s, unable to look away. Sara wanted to run and hide but couldn’t convince her legs to listen to her. Instead, she found herself compelled to join her at the table.
“Hi,” the officer said shyly. Sara returned the brief greeting and fell silent.
“You didn’t get anything to eat. Why don’t you take my bowl of soup? The sandwich is more than enough to fill me,” she offered.
Sara took the bowl, more to have something to occupy her hands than anything. They sat in painful silence until the food was gone. Sara looked around uncomfortably then stood up. “I need to go.”
“Please, don’t” Mary begged of her, taking the smaller woman’s hand in her own. Sara didn’t know what to do; held captive by the heart melting eyes of the older woman. She felt tears pooling and threatening to spill down her cheeks, only to have them kissed away by soft warm lips before being pulled gently into a hug. Sara trembled at the touch then sank into Mary’s strong arms, unable to fight her own body’s desire to get closer.
Neither noticed the passage of time, standing locked in a needy embrace for long minutes. Eventually Sara pulled away slightly, unsure and afraid. Mary slid her fingers under her chin, urging her to look up.
“May I visit you later this afternoon? I’m afraid I need to get back to the council but we ought to be finished in a few hours.”
Sara nodded shyly.
“Why don’t we go for a ride before dinner tonight? The weather is still mild today.”
Sara agreed to meet her at the barracks door in two hours. Mary smiled as though she had been given the gift of a lifetime and pressed a soft kiss to her cheek.
Mary resisted the urge to shout out in victory as she watched the pixie-slim woman walk away.
The meeting was nearly over when Jenny looked slyly at Mary and brought up the council member’s meeting regarding marriages.
“Mary, I understand that our Embassies must formally recognize legal marriages from each world, correct?”
“Good. Several months ago we discussed marriage laws here in the colony. We obviously have no say on those laws for the other clans. Anyway, as a lesbian colony we certainly think we ought to have marriage legalized here. The only thing is that realizing the divorce rates back on the Old World would be detrimental with our small populations so we have more stringent laws.”
“Oh? How so?”
Jenny pulled out several papers and handed them to Mary. “These are the outlines of what we proposed and the population of the colony agreed on. We want you to read it later and let it sink in before saying anything.”
The officer left the communal building and returned to the Embassy. She sat down in her small office and began reading the simply written pages. The colony hated legalese and kept it simple.
In order to reduce the possible future divorce rate within the Napa Clan the following guidelines have been approved.
Any council member is authorized to perform marriage ceremonies
For couples where any of the parties requesting a marriage permit are under the age of twenty years there will be a two-year waiting period.
If both are over the age of Twenty years then the waiting period will be six months.
Marriages will consist of these types:
Youth Joining: Young couples can end the marriage after three years if they mutually agree the relationship is undesirable. The heads of the family involved may decide how properties are divided if disputed.
Adult Joining: Marriages between adults over Twenty years of age. Adult marriages fall under two categories.
Ordinary Marriages: permitted to end the marriage with the council members’ approval and advice.
Bonded Couples: A committed relationship where the couple has publicly stated their intention to make the marriage permanent. No divorce will be permitted and the couple will share the same residence for life. The Bonded Marriage is not to be taken lightly. Infidelity within a Bonded Marriage is punishable by death or exile.
Any person in such a marriage will be given special privileges within the community. Bonded Partners have the right to be on the council and can only be removed with a 2/3 vote of existing councilors. Bonded Partners also have the authority to challenge rulings of anyone in a position of authority within the Napa Clan and its related communities.
Mary blew out a breath. Those council members didn’t fool around. Death or exile for infidelity? She doubted many would enter a Bonded Partnership although couples would be secure in the knowledge their partner would never cheat on them.
The officer tossed the papers onto her desk and sat back, thinking about it as Jenny had asked. One thought going through her head was why the Bonded partners got special treatment and an automatic in to the council if they wanted. Then she thought about it. Bonded couples made the ultimate commitment. It showed a very determined personality, someone who will go the distance. What better person to have looking out for the community’s interests?
Still, Bonded couples would be rare. Rare enough that they would be considered people to admire and look up to. Maybe the council members had something there. She grunted and stood up. She had a date with a beautiful pixie.
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