Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet
by Addie Fielding
June 2002

Introduction & Disclaimer

One har’s travels to the ends of the earth and back again.

Disclaimer: All the characters in this story, belong to Storm Constantine. The Aboriginal Dreamtime story belongs to the Australian Indigenous Museum.

– 1 –

It was deathly quiet, and the velvet black night was caressed with more stars than I had ever seen before. But they were wrong… none of the normal patterns in the sky were evident… I could have been on the moon, except that it was there in the sky, rising full and golden, lighting up the terrain around me.

What place was this? How far had I traveled on my horse? I knew that I had slept on and off and had witnessed three sunrises. But at one stage it was like the sun wasn’t so much as rising, but following me.

I was completely exhausted and as I had been flying up so high it had been freezing cold. My hands and feet were so cold that I couldn’t feel them yet, but down here on the warm earth, I was beginning to thaw slightly. As I wrapped a blanket around my shoulders, I snuggled close to my horse, Faldon, and began to sleep. Fitfully at first, snapping awake whenever Faldon snorted, then drifting back again.

The nightmare came again… dark and frightening. Always the same thing… being torn in two… then discarded like a pile of rubbish. I could never see the faces of my tormentors, but I knew who they were. I knew that they both loved me in their own way, but also knew that they loved each other more. In the dream they kept drifting off into the darkness, until they were just a speck of light at the end of a long cold tunnel. I would try to cry their names, but no sound would come from my lips. I would try to follow them, but my legs wouldn’t move.

I awoke in a bath of perspiration, Faldon standing a little way away from me, nibbling on a few spiky tufts of grass. Now that the sun was shining, I might be able to get my bearings and find civilisation, if there was such a thing in this Aghama forsaken land.

For as far as my eyes could see, there was red earth, a few outcrops of grass and some very round rocks off in the distance. They were as good a place to begin my journey, so letting Faldon move at a normal horse’s pace for a change, we trotted over the stony ground.

The closer we came, the larger the rocks grew, until I was standing underneath them staring up. There were dozens of them, like a Giant’s marble set, at least 1000 feet high. I prayed that the Giant was not about to wake up and begin playing with them.

“What do you make of them?” I asked Faldon. Of course he just snorted at me, as if to say. “Fucked if I know.”

I was hungry, so giant or no, I decided to take a rest in the shade of one of the marbles and have a snack. Faldon trotted about, as if he were checking out the place. Perhaps he was… who was I to decide how intelligent these Faraldiennes were? If they could fly, they could surely make certain judgments about places and hara.

My food was bland but nutritious… at least in my haste to leave I had had the foresight to pack some food. I munched on some dried fruit, wholemeal biscuits and drank some water. Much refreshed, I decided to try and climb to a vantage point on one of the marbles to survey the area.

That wasn’t as easy as I thought, because all the rocks were quite smooth and round, and no footholds could be found. Faldon would have to carry me up to the top of one of them, and set me down. I didn’t think it would be wise to get him to land up there, and I knew he was also too exhausted to fly me anywhere for a while.

Once on the top of one of these red rocks, I pulled a pair of magnifying glasses out of my bag, then did a 360 degree turn. I could see nothing in any direction but the same red earth… not even a mound or a small hillock. The only outcrops of anything blotting this landscape were the marbles… one of which I was perched precariously on top of.

It was windy on top of the rock, and dust began to blow into my eyes and ears. Perhaps this was the end of the earth, perhaps if I had ridden any further, Faldon and I would have dropped off the edge. Knowing logically that this wasn’t true, but also feeling completely lost and isolated, I called to Faldon to rescue me.

I decided to stay put for at least twenty four hours, so that Faldon could rest sufficiently, then we would take to the ethers again for a low flying cruise. Surely, somewhere on this continent, there had to be civilisation. Faldon carried me gently back down to Earth again, and for a while, I explored the rocks and the small crevices beneath the stones. I counted thirty six of them all together. Was that significant I wondered? Were they put there for a reason? I was pondering this intriguing thought when a creature skitted across my path. A glimpse was enough to send me hurtling back to Faldon in the hope that if it attacked, he might be able to protect me.

It hadn’t been large, but was certainly ferocious looking, with spines down its back and rough skin. While I was blundering through the rocks, hoping that I would eventually find my way back to my starting point, my logical brain kicked in. It was small, it ran away from me, so chances were it wasn’t dangerous.

Laughing to myself I came around the corner of one of the rocks to find myself face to face with humans. A whole gaggle of them, all carrying weapons – albeit crude ones, made of wood and metal. I stopped and stared at them and they stared back.

Holding my hands up in a gesture of peace I smiled at them.

“It’s not safe out here for women.” One of them said.

I was about to answer that I wasn’t a woman, when I found myself surrounded and being herded in the opposite direction to where I had been going.

We walked for a while, through the gullies and creek beds between the rocks until we came upon a campsite. There were many more humans there, men, women and children, as well as a motley assortment of scruffy looking animals, one of which was being cooked on an open fire. It looked disgusting, but smelled delicious.

One of the humans beckoned for me to take a seat on a small rock, and brought a cup of water. He smiled at me with huge white teeth and his curly black hair straggled down across his face as he bent towards me. All their weapons had been discarded and the whole scene seemed peaceful and domestic.

I began to relax and before too long, one of the female humans offered me a bark plate covered in steaming meat. My hunger overtook my revulsion and I began to nibble at it tentatively. It was delicious, hot, tasty and quite tender. Not quite the fare I was used to, but my stomach didn’t seem to care.

Satiated, I put my crude plate down and thanked the human who had fed me. She seemed very pleased and touched my face gently. Normally I would flinch at such a touch, but out here, under the strange stars, in this alien landscape, I welcomed her audacity.

For a few seconds I considered touching her mind, but was afraid I might scare her. While we communed peacefully, a low thrumming sound began to permeate the still air. It throbbed with a haunting cadence – it was the sound of an ancient civilisation.

I turned to view its players, as they sat on the dry earth, blowing into their instruments of hollowed out wood. They clacked a primitive beat with sticks on the outside of them.

For a while I was mesmerised by the sounds and smells of this place, strange but reassuring, lonely but filled with warmth. These were an old race of humans, maybe they had never seen my kind before.

Some of the younger ones began to dance, but it was more than dancing, they were telling a story, of conquests, love and finally triumph. No one needed to translate for me, it was in their facial expressions and their movements.

After a while, the dancing slowed, the music stopped and they went about their business of settling in for the night. I considered that as an interloper I should move away from the camp for the night. I should also try and find Faldon, although I knew he could look after himself.

I tried to communicate on a rudimentary level with them, but I needn’t have bothered. One of them came up to me and sat down by my side. He seemed less dark than the others, without the strong features of wide nose and broad lips.

“You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“We have many names for your kind. Some are not no flattering. But you are what the humans in the cities call mutants, Wraeththu, are you not?”

“So you know about us, even here?”

“Oh we know about you all right. Why do you think I choose to live with my family’s tribe out here in the desert?”

“So you didn’t want to become, one of us?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want to. I came here with my wife, Ella. She was pregnant. I couldn’t leave her like that, could I?”

I felt a shiver running down my spine as he said the word ‘wife’. I don’t suppose any one of my so called hara friends and relatives had even known of the human girlfriend I had had before I was incepted. I hadn’t thought of her for many years, perhaps 30 or 40, but this dark human, had brought all those dampened memories flooding back to me.

“Are you okay, mate?” My friend asked me, curiosity and compassion in his eyes.

“Yes, I am… or I will be. What can I call you?”

“My tribal name is Kujani, but my white name is Mike.”

“What does it mean?”

“Fucked if I know, mate.” Kujani laughed out loud. “The tribal elders gave it to me, but they wouldn’t tell me what it meant. I have a suspicion it means something like, ‘pain in the bum’.”

I laughed. “Very strange.” I answered him. “Will I call you Kujani, or your very human name.”

“Well I am very human, but I kinda like Kujani. What can I call you?”

I had to think for a moment, I didn’t want to reveal my real name. Who’s to know if there might have been other traveling hara from Immanion, who might recognise it. “Call me… Gypsy.” For that was what I was… a wanderer for now.

“Not your real name, I am guessing.” Said Kujani. “But a good one all the same. Been traveling for very long?”

“Only a few days, I think. Although it could have been longer.”

“On the horse?”

“Faldon, yes. Have you found him?”

“He’s found us. Came looking for you I think. One of the tribe has given him some food. A fine looking beast. We don’t find too many of them in these parts.”

“I don’t suppose you do. What are these parts called?” I waved my hands about, meaning the immediate vicinity. “Those round rocks, are they significant?”

“They are called Kata Tjuta.” Kujani shook his head. “And no, I don’t know what that means. But yes they are significant… part of our ‘Dreaming.’ Sacred ground to our ancestors.”

“What about the whole land, does it have a name?”

“It’s called Arabana now, the “Great Southern Land.”


– 2 –

Kujani became my friend after that… he didn’t seem to mind what I was, or where I had come from. As soon as he had ascertained that I wasn’t threatening in any way, he welcomed me into his tent. It was crude, covered in bark on the outside, but inside was quite a surprise. It was filled with comfortable soft furniture, and what appeared to be some sort of electrical equipment. I wasn’t sure what its use was but it looked of definite human origin.

Faldon was also welcomed into the camp, everyone assuming he was nothing more than a rather well-bred horse. I communicated with him on a rudimentary level, to let him know that he wasn’t to go flying anywhere. There was nothing worse than a heap of humans rushing around in a panic, waving about their weapons.

In fact, I stayed out of the tribes minds all together, especially the leader, whom I was advised was actually a well educated human, who had studied law in the city. Another, whom I stayed well clear of was their Kadaicha man… who was fearsome and rather comical all in the one breath. He was darker than some of the others, with very thick, black hair, and wild eyes. He slunk about the place in a costume of feathers and foul smelling paint which covered his lithe body.

I was told that he was the equivalent of a priest or a shaman and could, if he was provoked, kill me with his bone. I wasn’t quite sure what Kujani meant by that, but as he seemed fearful of him as well, I didn’t press the point. I merely tried very hard to stay out of his way.

The only ones I really spoke to were Kujani and his wife Ella, who was very quiet, and extremely pregnant. She looked as though she were about to have her baby at any moment, and I hoped that she wasn’t going to do it with me anywhere in the vicinity.

I had witnessed a few births in the last few years, even had one of my own, so I knew how traumatic it could be. Well it was for me… especially as the whole situation had come as such a shock. But of course this human woman was going to birth a live child, not a pearl. The whole idea of it made me feel quite ill.

For the couple of days it took for Faldon and I to regain our strength, it was pleasant enough living with these semi-primitive people. But it wasn’t the purpose of my trip… or escape. I had simply wanted to be on my own, to think about my life and to decide my true purpose. I was sure, by now, that I would be missed and probably the Gelaming would be hot on my trail. So I needed to keep moving.

Kujani seemed to sense this. “Gypsy, even though you are one of them, I feel that you are not like those in the cities, to the East or down South. From what I saw they were early in their stages of evolution. They are a bad lot. I had a confrontation with a couple of them and it wasn’t pleasant, I can tell you. They are forming gangs and ransacking the suburbs. The cities are nothing but burnt out shells.”

Can they be so far behind the rest of us? I was curious and a little afraid.

“We are a long way from where you come from, Gypsy. Your kind may be well established by now, civilised and educated. These mutants are fledglings… newly incepted.”

“How do you know where my country is, Kujani? I’ve never told you.”

“Because my father visited there once, many years ago, just as the troubles were beginning. He came home terrified and prayed that it wouldn’t spread to here. Our government resisted and had our shores protected by the military. It’s only because we are so isolated and far from the rest of the world that we managed to stay free for so long.”

“You make it sound as though we are some kind of disease.”

“Aren’t you? Your kind are like a contagion. The ones I have seen are feral, to be feared.”

“I could help, Kujani. I have friends in high places. I could arrange for them to send teachers.”

“The only way to control these Wraeththu, my friend, is with force. They would have to send soldiers.”

“Surely it isn’t that bad.” I couldn’t believe how far I must have traveled. When I had first landed in this red desert, I had thought I was in an alien land, and now, listening to Kujani, I realised that I was. As alien as it could possibly be, and many years in the past.

“Do you know anything about the ones who came here from my land? The ones who began this chaos in your country?”

“They were from a renegade tribe called the Varrs. War-like and hateful. Some say they had been all but defeated in their own world, and escaped across the sea.”

I must have looked concerned, for Kujani asked. “You know them don’t you?”

“I’ve heard of them. They’re not a tribe I would like to run into that’s for sure. I was trying to flee from conflict… I certainly don’t feel like running headlong into it.”

“Well you can stay with us for as long as you like. The mutants don’t come out into the desert, they seemed to have decided to let us keep it. Suits us fine as a matter of fact, but I do miss a few luxuries.”

“So they never come out here at all?” I was surprised, for I had know several smaller tribes who had settled in the desert areas in my own land. They were very adaptable.

“One or two, occasionally.” Kujani was interrupted by a shout from one of the women. She seemed very upset and began dragging Kujani back to one of the tents.

“What is it?”

“It’s Ella, she’s about to have our baby.”

I watched his retreating back, determined not to even be anywhere in the vicinity of this woman and the birth of her baby. I wandered off to the small canyon where Faldon was grazing and sat down on a rock next to him. He cocked his head, in his horsy sort of way then came up and nudged me.

“Yeah I know, you’re bored. You want to go flying don’t you?”

He whinnied and began stamping his feet. “We’ll head off soon, I want to make sure that Ella is all right first.”

He whinnied again, and began prancing about the place making the dust beneath his hooves fly up in the air around him. Faldon was becoming distressed and as I glanced about nervously, I delved into his thoughts and came up with a jumble of images. They terrified me to the core. I leapt onto his back and within a few seconds we were soaring over the rocks below.

Beneath me I could hear shouts and cries, but was unable to see exactly what was happening as the dust cloud was growing thicker and thicker. It was as if the earth itself was spewing forth its core in an effort to rid itself of whatever was down below. The sky was turning red and my eyes were becoming so gritty I had to close them tight. I could feel Faldon shivering as he fought to maintain control.

“We have to help them.” I cried out and Faldon, began dipping down through the maelstrom until we landed in a relatively clear spot behind one of the big marbles.

I’m not the bravest of hara, but these were my friends and they were in trouble. Rounding the rock in front of me, I found myself in the middle of a battle – bodies everywhere, rolling on the ground, spears being thrown and shouts and curses renting the air. A wooden object whooshed past my ear and I heard a someone calling my name.

“Gypsy, don’t worry about us, can you find Ella? Take her to safety, please.”

It was Kujani, covered in blood and he was fighting off a har who was in almost as bad a state as he was.

“I’ll find her.” I shouted to him, then took off, glad to be away from the fighting, but very fearful for Ella and her baby. I didn’t even know if she had given birth yet. The tribe had drawn the attacking hara away from their campsite, so at the moment it was still relatively safe there. I saw several of the women and children rushing about, gathering up a few of their belongings and they cursed me as they passed.

I felt like one of the enemy now as I floundered about trying to find Ella. In my confusion I couldn’t remember what tent she was in. Then I heard the distinct cry of a baby and its plaintive wail drew me in the right direction. Ella had just given birth and was sitting up against some cushions feeding her newborn.

She screamed when I entered her tent, but calmed down as soon as she saw it was me. “I’ve come to take you to safety. Kujani asked me to help you.”

“I can’t go anywhere, my baby is too tiny.”

“You can’t stay here, it’s too dangerous. Come… ” I held out my arms so that I could take her baby from her.

She hesitated for a few moments, then seemed to understand that it was her only chance of escape. The young boys would be incepted by the Varrs. All the others most likely would be rounded up and killed, including the baby. I took the baby from her then helped her to her feet. She picked up a bag stuffed with clothing and some baby gear and followed me out of the tent.

“We cannot flea to the desert, there is nothing. Surely you are aware of that.”

I clutched the baby to my breast, took her hand and together we ran towards Faldon. I had no time to explain to her what was going to happen, all I could do was to tell her to hold on. Faldon instinctively knew that our cargo was precious, so our take-off was smooth. Ella was shivering as she clung onto my back, and her baby had begun to mewl, but I knew we would be safe in the air, even if we had to fly for a few hours.

Kujani had told me there was civilisation of a sort down South, so that is direction we took, flying low so the air wasn’t too cold.

– 3 –

I watched from my vantage point of the top of the building, leaning over precariously, peering into the dark. A group of humans were fighting off some hara, who looked more like they should have been in a circus. Feathers and bones adorned their bodies as they twisted and turned, ducked and weaved, punching and slashing with their knives.

It was sickening… .

I turned to see Ella clinging to her baby, watching me fearfully as she listened to the cacophony coming from below. “It’s all right. They don’t know we are here.”

She nodded fearfully and pulled her baby closer to her breast, wrapping her torn cloak about herself. I looked over the edge again and saw several bloodied bodies sprawled on the ground. The screams of two or three of the younger males could be heard as they were dragged off into the street. To be incepted I supposed.

I shuddered…

Slowly I walked back to Ella and looked down at her and her baby. I knew she was terrified and worried about Kujani. Hopefully the tribe had been able to fight off their attackers. Perhaps Kujani might have been young enough to be taken alive, he was only young, perhaps in his late teens. I prayed to the Aghama to keep him safe. But what of Ella and her offspring? What was I going to do with them?

“Come, we best get out of here and find some shelter. I’ll go back and find him, as soon as you are safe.”

“Why did you bring me here? You knew the city wasn’t safe.”

“Where else could I have taken you? I couldn’t leave you out in the desert.”

“You’re one of them, why do you care?”

“I may be of their race, but I am certainly not one of them.” I gestured with my hands in the direction of the alley. “The tribe that incepted me, long, long ago, were nothing like them. I went freely. Well almost.” I added as an afterthought.

Ella rose up, keeping her baby covered by her cloak to keep it warm.

“What is it?”

She looked at me strangely for a second, then snapped an answer. “He’s a boy.”

“Good!”

“Really! And why is that good? So that he can be taken by those mutants and turned into one of them?”

“Well at least he will have a chance, if you can keep him alive long enough.”

“Thanks. That’s so reassuring.”

“Sorry!”

The baby began to wail as I went over to stand close to Ella. “Do you know anyone in the city who could look after you?”

Ella nodded. “My Aunt and Uncle live up in the hills. At least they used to. Don’t know if they’re still there… or even alive.” She shook her head as she said this, then opened her blouse to allow the baby to suckle her breast.

It had been so long since I had witnessed such an event it took my breath away. Our kind didn’t do that… our harlings grew quickly, they had no need to seek nourishment from our bodies once they were hatched. I wondered for a few seconds what it would have been like to have fed my harling like that. Then Ella glared at me.

“Sorry… I didn’t mean to stare.” I was embarrassed and felt myself blushing. “Have you named him yet?”

“No. Kujani and I will name him together.”

I nodded, but didn’t add anything. We both knew what Kujani’s fate could have been. When she had finished feeding her baby I called Faldon over. He had been on the roof with us, watching the city burning below -the smoke was wafting up and causing the baby to cough.

“Come. Get us out of this place.” I said to him, as I patted his silky mane. Then into his mind I gave him the general direction of our journey. The villages in the hills seemed less affected by the chaos down in the city, and I could see that most of the houses were intact. That was a good sign at least. But Ella couldn’t remember exactly how to find her Aunt and Uncle’s abode, so we flew around for an hour or more, until she shouted out and pointed.

“There! I’m sure of it. They live near the railway line. It has to be their house.”

I helped Ella and the baby to dismount then watched as she approached the door. She hesitated and suddenly a feeling of foreboding overtook me and I ran to her side. Panting I turned to her. “Perhaps I should knock… just in case. You never know who might answer the door. Go stand back there.” I gestured to a clump of bushes off to the right.

“But I’m sure it’s the right house, Gypsy. I’ll be fine. You go. They may not appreciate having one of you knocking at their door.”

“I’ll take my chances, Ella. Now move.” I pushed her gently towards the bushes, then knocked loudly. It was late evening, and besides not being sure who might answer the door, I thought they would probably be angry to have such late night intruders.

After a few moments I knocked again, and was greeted by the barking of a very annoyed, and from the sound of it, very large dog.

I stepped back from the door just as I heard someone cursing loudly. “Who the fuck is it? Shut-up Wombat.”

The barking continued along with the cursing for a few seconds, then I was greeted through a security screen door by an irate human holding a rifle. Wombat, assuming that was the name of the dog, was huge and black and decidedly scary.

“Um… is this the residence of Julie and Dave Williams?” As I said this I backed away a little further and held up my hands to let this human know I wasn’t here to cause any trouble.

“Yes it is. Who the fucking hell are you?”

Before I had a chance to answer, Ella came rushing forward and called out. “Uncle Dave, it’s me, Ella. Can you let us in please. Gypsy is my friend.”

I was relieved when this Uncle Dave lowered his rifle, reigned in the ferocious beast and opened the door. With some trepidation I entered, constantly wary of a pair of beady eyes glaring at me and a large snout sniffing me up and down. Dogs had never been part of my life, and big ones always made me extremely wary. Sharp teeth, even in Wraeththu flesh that can heal quickly, are not pleasant.

Uncle Dave in his half sleep and with the dim light from a hall lamp, obviously didn’t realise what I was, so we were ushered quickly into a living area and offered a hot drink. I’m not sure whether he considered me to be male or female, but just at that moment I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was lay down on the floor and go to sleep.

When Dave came back from the kitchen with two steaming mugs in his hands, he noticed the bundle under Ella’s jacket for the first time.

“You’ve had it!”

“Yes, we had a boy.” Ella held the bundle out for Dave to see, and he took it in his arms and cradled it gently.

“Mike, where is he?” When he said this he looked at me.

“Hi name is Kujani now, Uncle Dave. He’s still out bush… I don’t know if he’s okay or not, we were attacked.”

“Shit!” Dave didn’t even ask by whom, it seemed he merely assumed it was by hara.

“Who are you?” He asked me, still staring.

“I’m just a friend. I helped Ella to escape with the baby.”

“Thank you.”

I nodded as I sipped the hot drink.

“Uncle Dave, where’s Aunt Julie?”

Dave lowered his head and looked as though he were about to cry. “They got her two weeks ago. The bastards. She was in the city trying to buy some food. She got caught up in a melee and got shot.”

For several minutes I wished I had been somewhere else, as Ella wept and comforted her Uncle. It was some of my own kind who had murdered their loved one, and for that reason I felt guilty. I also wondered how this Dave would react when he discovered that I was one of them. Perhaps I shouldn’t stick around to find out.

I stood up when they had calmed themselves and announced that I would be leaving. Ella looked distraught and Dave a little confused.

“But it’s late Gypsy. You need to get some sleep. At least stay until the morning.” Ella begged me with her whole demeanour.

“You’re welcome to stay.” Dave added. “I’ll bring you some blankets and a pillow. It’s dangerous out there, even up here in the hills. The bathroom is down the hallway if you want to freshen up.” He added, assuming that he had talked me into it.

“Thank you.” I replied and followed him down the hallway. When he switched on the light for me however, I heard his sharp intake of breath, and could sense his body tensing.

“I’ll leave if you like, Dave. I don’t want to cause any trouble and I’m not going to hurt you. I just needed to make sure that Ella and her baby were all right.”

“But… but… ” Dave was stumbling over his words as he backed away from me.

“What are you doing with her?”

“I’m not like the others… I promise. I don’t want to hurt any one. Kujani and Ella have become my friends.”

Dave was becoming quite distressed, so I decided I would help him to understand that I wasn’t dangerous with calming thoughts. I was quite adept at doing just such a thing when tempers had become heated at home and many a time I had calmed down a volatile situation between my consorts.

With the power of my mind and a touch of hypnosis, I saw Dave visibly relax and his eyes glaze over slightly. I kept up with these thoughts until I saw him wobble slightly. I took him by the arm and helped him back into the living room and onto the couch. Ella looked at me strangely.

“He was getting distressed. I just let him know that I wasn’t going to hurt him, that’s all. I can leave if you like.”

“No stay Gypsy.” The baby began to wail and I could see the look of frustration on her face.

“Is he hungry again?”

“No… ” she snapped. “And he’s clean too. I just put a fresh nappy on him.”

“A what?”

“Oh you know what I mean… a diaper… a towel binding for when he wets himself.”

“Oh!” I replied, as I remembered back to the early days with my harling. Spoiling his pants had only occurred in the first few days of his life. “Can’t you teach him not to do that?”

“You’ve not been around babies much, have you?” She said with a small grin.

“Not human ones.”

“Well I don’t know what to do with him Gypsy. He won’t settle. He’s had a burp, he feels warm.”

“Give him to me.” I said, and took the squirming, crying bundle into my arms and began to sing to him. After a few moments he began to settle.

“He’s asleep.”

“Well done, Gypsy. You have a very nice singing voice. Has anyone told you that before?”

“Yes they have. In fact I used to sing in a band… once upon a time… in a land, far far away.”

– 4 –

NOTE: Part of this story includes an except from the Australian Indigenous Museum. It is an Aboriginal Dreamtime story called Membardda, Narrated by Josie Boyle.

“How long is it since you’ve seen him?” Pell was pacing up and down staring at his son.

“I didn’t lose him, father.” Abrimel pouted and turned away.

“Well, he told me he was visiting a friend of his in the city. Do you know who it was?”

“He said one of his old friends was in the city. Amorel, I think it was. He played in that weird music group of his, “Emily’s cupboard” or something. He never really told me much about it.”

“It was the “Closets of Emily Child,” Pell advised, sitting down beside Abrimel now and taking his hand. “Did he say anything to you about leaving?”

“No… we haven’t exactly been on speaking terms lately. The last time I saw him he jumped down my throat about some little thing.”

“And what little *thing* might that have been?”

“I don’t even remember. ” Abrimel said, hoping his father wasn’t able to read his mind. “But he’s been so grouchy lately that Vaysh keeps saying he’s got PMT. Do you know what that means? Every time I ask, Vaysh just cracks up laughing.”

Pell looked confused. “No I don’t. But I had noticed he seemed rather moody. I can’t understand why… his life is not exactly stressful.”

Abrimel held his hand up to his mouth to smother a laugh. “You’ve got to be joking… living with you and Cal would have to be the most stressful occupation in all of Immanion. For the love of the Aghama, all you two do is fight then make up, or bicker about Hegemony decisions. Rue always seems to be in the middle. He can’t take sides father… but he can’t agree with both of you at the same time either.”

“We don’t expect him to take sides.” Pell looked confused.

“Well he thinks you do. If you are not bitching to him about something that Cal has done, or hasn’t done, then Cal is bitching to him about you. Even Thiede gets in on the act sometimes and wants to find out from him what you two have been up to behind his back.”

“Thiede talks to him?”

“Well since you two are able to block Thiede out, he goes to him to get the latest gossip. If he tells him he feels guilty, if he doesn’t tell him he feels guilty. ”

“It can’t be that bad, Abrimel. I mean, Rue doesn’t have to make any important decisions. All he has to do is…”

“What father? Look glamorous. Is that what you were going to say?”

Pell turned away with a pink blush to his cheeks. “No… I wasn’t going to say that. Rue has an important place in the kingdom… the people love him. He lives a life of luxury. What more could he want?”

“Respect, father, and perhaps someone who really cares about him.”

“We care about him.”

“But you never really show it. I wouldn’t blame him if he’s run away.”

“What? You do know something don’t you? Has he run away? Where would he go?”

“Vaysh told me that one of the Faraldiennes was missing, so he could be anywhere by now.”

“Abrimel! How long have you known that he’s been gone?”

“I wasn’t really sure he had left the city until I heard about Faldon going missing. Vaysh only told me yesterday and that was a slip up.”

“So is Vaysh in on this then?”

“I think he helped him pack.”

::CAL!:: Pell mind screamed for him, holding his head in desperation.

***

“Find him for me Gypsy.” Ella held my hands as she said her tearful goodbye. I kissed her and her baby and nodded to Dave, who was still very wary of me. I hated leaving her, but Dave and Wombat, were a force to be reckoned with and I believed that they would be safe enough for a while. Kujani, if he was still alive would need me more than they would.

Faldon was in the backyard, snorting and trotting up and down. He had worn a furrow around the perimeter of the yard and trampled all the plants. He whinnied when he saw me and reared up on his hind legs.

“Time to stretch.” I said to him, as I waited for him to calm down. He pranced about for a few seconds then came up to me so I could fling my bag over the saddle and mount. His huge body shuddered with pent up energy as we jumped the back fence, scaring the living daylights out of the neighbours’ cat, then took to the air.

For the first time since I had run away from my responsibilities and my old life, I felt a twinge of homesickness. Knowing that Ella hadn’t wanted me to go, and was concerned for me, I wondered how Pell and Cal were feeling. Did they even miss me? I hoped the story I had spun to my servants about visiting an old friend in the city would have given me a bit of leeway. But by now they would all know I had gone further than that.

Would they send some one after me? Or would they be glad to be rid of me?

***

(Excerpt from a story of the Aboriginal Dreamtime)

The Two Wise Men and the Seven Sisters
Told by Josie Boyle

In the beginning of Yulbrada, the Earth, the Creator, Jindoo-the Sun, sent two Spirit men, Woddee Gooth-tha-rra, to shape it. They were from the far end of the Milky Way.

They made the hills, the valleys, the lakes and the ocean. When they had nearly completed their work, Jindoo the Creator sent seven sisters, stars of the Milky Way, to beautify the earth with flowers, with trees, with birds, animals and other creepy things.

The Seven Sisters were making the Honey Ants when they all got thirsty and they said to the younger sister, ‘Go and look for some gubbee, some nice water. Over there, in the hills. Go in that direction’. The little young sister took the yandee dish and she went in search of the water.

The Woddee Gooth-tha-rra, the two spirit men, they were in the bushes and they were spying on these women. They followed the minyma Goothoo, the younger sister, when she went for the water.

This young sister, she fell in love with the two men. The other six sisters went looking for their sister, because she had been gone for so long. They wondered where she might be. They were really very thirsty and they needed their water. After a while, they found her with the two spirit men.

The Creator, Jindoo the Sun, had warned them that should such a thing happen to any one of the sisters, she would not be able to return to her place in the Milky Way. When the six sisters finished their work, they returned to the Milky Way. The two men and the woman remained here on Yulbrada, the earth. Their special powers were taken away when they became mortal. They became the parents of the earth, who made our laws and our people-the desert people. They live by these laws today.

This is why the people of the desert have such knowledge and respect of the stars in the universe.

***

The campfire crackled and the silence of the desert echoed in my thoughts as I listened to the story being told by one of the old women of the tribe. These people were clinging to their ‘Dreamtime’, holding on for dear-life to what was sacred to them; this land, the stars and the sky, and their humanness. Who were we to take it away from them?

I had been shunned when I had returned to what was left of the camp. They were afraid of me. Several of the men had been killed and five of the young boys had been dragged off into the desert. They were mourning their deaths, for even though they had probably been incepted and were still alive, to the tribe their spirits had been taken to the Dreaming in the sky.

However, with a little mind control, I managed to talk them into telling me what had happened to Kujani. When I told them that I had rescued Ella and that she and her baby were alive and well, they finally let me see Kujani, who had been wounded in the fighting.

Their Kadaicha man looked on with a fearsome expression as I was led to Kujani’s tent, and I was terrified that he would point his bone at me and cause some terrible malady. But he merely sneered behind his feathers.

Kujani was lying on a nest of blankets in the corner of one of the tent, along with several other wounded tribesmen. He became aware of me even before I had reached him and the first thing he said to me was. “Ella, the baby… are the okay?”

I nodded and he sighed and fell back to sleep.

– 5 –

Kujani wasn’t mortally injured, but he was in a bad way with several nasty knife wounds and severe bruising. He was in pain and very groggy. The Kadaicha (medicine man) had tried his best, using poultices on the wounds and chanting over him with his shaking stick, but it wasn’t enough.

He would have healed eventually, but I decided I would try and help him a little more. With my rudimentary healing skills, I focused all my energy through my hands and ran them over his injuries. It wouldn’t be a miraculous healing, but it would speed things up a little.

For two days I sat by his side, talking to him, bringing him food and water. He told me that the attacking Wraeththu had tried to capture him, but he fought them off. Ella and baby were the most important things to him, and he had to live so he could be with them again.

I hovered around the edges of the camp when I wasn’t by Kujani’s side. Even though I was helping to heal him, the rest of the tribe seemed very wary of me, especially the Kadaicha man… who would lurk in the shadows and watch me, with his pitch black eyes. It was un-nerving, and I was afraid of him.

One evening, after I had talked to Kujani for a few hours and shared my meal with him, I ran into the Kadaicha man, and I mean literally. We banged into each other coming around the corner of the tent and knocked each other flying. He scrambled to his feet quickly and crouched low as though he was about to pounce on me.

I stood up slowly, not wanting to startle him and stared him down. He didn’t flinch, even when I delved into his mind and tried to let him know that I wasn’t a threat to any of the tribe.

“Why did you bring them here?” He snarled at me.

I was totally confused. “I didn’t bring them here.” Thinking he meant the Varrs, the ones who had attacked their tribe.

“Not the wild ones, the creatures like you… the ones who came in the black clouds out of the skies.”

“Oh fuck!” He meant the Gelaming surely, and they must have been close. We must have flown passed each other on our Faraldiennes. “Why didn’t you tell me about them before?”

“You were busy with Kujani.”

“When… when were they here?”

“A day before you came back. I told them you had gone.”

“Which way did they go?”

“Down South, to the city. But they’ll be back when they realise you are no longer there.”

“How many were there?”

He held up four fingers on his hand. “Many.”

“Do you know where the others have gone, the wild ones?”

“They’ve gone into the desert. They won’t be back, they’ve got what they came for.” He seemed sad and broken suddenly and no longer a human to be feared.

“I’m sorry. Did they take one of your family?”

He nodded then walked away slowly, shoulders hunched, muttering under his breath. Now I just felt sorry for him, and angry. I couldn’t understand why I was taking their side in this. I was after all one of the enemy, but I’d hadn’t spent time with humans since I had been changed and I had forgotten their humanness. I had forgotten what it felt like to lose someone you loved.

Maybe now the Gelaming were here, they might put a stop to the bloodshed. Perhaps somehow they might help let these people live out their lives in peace. Maybe…

What was happening in the city was beyond the Gelaming’s control… it seemed that the wild Wraeththu would soon make it their stronghold. Perhaps all that the Gelaming could do would be to appoint a fair and strong leader.

But what of me? I was obviously sprung, and my holiday away from it all was nearly over. But before I returned to Cal and Pell to face the music, I needed to reunite Kujani and Ella and their baby. After all, the baby didn’t have a name yet.

– 6 –

Note: The word roon and rooning, are wonderful slang words for aruna as used by Dave. All rights to this word belong to him… at present.

“Why did I have to come? I was just starting to get to know Tian.”

“That’s exactly *why* you had to come, Abi, Tian is a bad influence on you. Twice now you’ve missed a meeting of the Hegemony because Tian had you off somewhere, doing heaven’s knows what. They won’t let you be part of the council if you miss any more.” Cal impatiently wagged his finger at his stepson.

“Those meetings are boring, and I don’t have voting rights, so I can’t see any reason for attending them.” Abrimel was sulking and in a foul mood.

“You have to learn some time how to act like a grown up. You can’t spend your whole life rooning and drinking.”

“Why not? You did from all accounts.”

Cal glared at him, then conceded, ungraciously. “Fine! Have it your way… what accounts have you heard by the way?”

“I’ll tell you later.” Abrimel winked at his step-father then started at a sudden loud sound. “This neighbourhood is not exactly conducive to father/son talks, Cal. Can’t we do something about this rabble?” Abrimel pointed in the general direction of a group of hara who were drunk and unruly, running about lighting fires and firing shots in the air.

“You’re right. We’ll have to do something about this. Can you think of a governor who might be able to sort this lot out?”

“I have a few ideas.” Abrimel grinned.

“No… I don’t think Ash wants to come down here… he seems quite happy to annoy Pell and me.”

“What makes you think I was talking about General Aldebaran?”

“Well he has been causing you a few problems lately. I thought maybe you’d like him out of the way for a while.”

“Yes… ” Abrimel seemed to be thinking deeply for a few seconds, then smiled at Cal. “No actually I was thinking about Tyson.”

Cal sneered at him. “You two have been fighting again, haven’t you?”

“No… whatever gave you that idea?”

Cal hmmphed loudly. “Well maybe that’s not such a bad idea anyway, Abi. Tyson could do with a bit of growing up, and he’s certainly strong willed enough to bring this lot into line.”

“Have Vaysh or Haron, found any sign of Rue yet?” Abrimel asked, cheekily changing the subject.

“Not a whiff. If he was in this city he kept a mighty low profile, and that’s certainly unusual considering it was Rue. Maybe he’s headed back to that primitive tribe we found in the desert. That shaman of theirs seemed to know more than he was letting on though… he was pretty good at blocking me out. And I didn’t like the look of that bone of his, one little bit.”

“Yeah, he was one muto, wasn’t he? Gave me the shivers just looking into those eyes of his.”

“When Vaysh and Haron come back, lets fly up North. The air is cleaner for one thing. This smoke here is making me cough.”

“It’s old age, Cal.” Abrimel mumbled under his breath.

“Watch it, or I’ll tell Ash on you.”

Abrimel gave a mock shudder and smirked at Cal.

***

The sounds of shouting was growing louder and I had to make a decision between trying to protect Kujani and the other injured aboriginals in the tent, or going outside and helping the rest of the able bodied humans, mostly women, to fight off the attackers.

“Go, Gypsy, I have a my spear, and so do a few of the others here, we can fend for ourselves. Go and help the women.”

Psyching myself up to face the foe, I ventured outside and was immediately hit in the face with something hard and blunt. That was the end of my battle for that night, and when I came to I found myself tied up in the corner of one of the tents, with a group of angry looking Varrs sitting off to one side. The were eating a meal and drinking copious amounts of something intoxicating.

“Do you have any idea who I am?” I tried to yell at them, but discovered that my voice was too croaky to do anything but squeak. I tried again, after clearing my throat. “What’s the fucking idea? Don’t you know who I am?”

One of them heard me and turned around to sneer. “Some femme har from Immanion by the looks, whose Faraldienne got lost on a shopping trip.”

“You have no idea do you? But when you do, let me tell you… you’ll be sorry… that’s all.” I was pathetic and knew it, but couldn’t think of anything more to say.

“Who’s the aratite?” One of the others said, finally noticing that I existed.

“Somehar who thinks he is second in line to the Tigron.”

“I fucking am.” I tried to bellow, but again nothing came out but a squeak. I sighed and laid back on the ground. ::Now the Gelaming could come and find me… any time now hara, not that I’m desperate or anything::

– 7 –

“There’s some crazy human down there, Cal, waving at us. What do you think that’s all about?” Abrimel was staring down through the clouds from his vantage point on his Faraldienne, Ghost. “Don’t they know who we are?”

They had just begun their flight away from the city, having found no clue as to the where-a-bouts of Rue, when Abrimel, for some reason, had decided he wanted a particular souvenir from the city. Vaysh and Haron had flown on ahead of them. Abrimel had fossicked about in the ruins of fallen down houses and shops until he found what he wanted. Clutching his furry Koala toy he had whooped with glee, then told Cal that he was finally ready to take off.

“Why a soft toy?”

Abrimel winked at him. “Don’t you think it’s cute… Tian likes cuddly toys.”

“I bet he does.” Cal answered, with a wide grin on his face. “Looks like a funny little bear if you ask me.” He said, holding it up for a better look. “Wonder if there are real ones.”

“Cal!” Abrimel was disgusted. “Even I know these animals are real… they’re wombats… I’ve seen photos of them.”

“Nah, don’t think they’re wombats… could be roos or something… ” Cal furrowed his brow. “Doesn’t matter, let’s go, Vaysh and Haron are already up over the hills.”

And now, here was this human, frantically flapping her arms about. “Shall we go down and investigate?” Abrimel asked.

“Could be a trap.” Cal scoured the surrounding area with his eyes, but couldn’t see anyone hiding. He then scoured her mind. “Fuck… she’s seen Rue.”

“And she still wants to talk to us.” Abrimel seemed surprised.

“Seems like it. Let’s check her out.”

The woman was so excited when they landed their horses… and Abrimel and Cal were even more excited when a cat started to attack them, leaping from the branch of a tree, hissing and scratching.

“Get that bloody thing away from me.” Cal whined, “they make me sneeze.”

“Poor thing. Got frightened out of its whiskers when that horse took off from the yard a few days ago. Guess it’s been waiting for a chance for revenge.” Ella shooed the frantic cat away with a broom. “Come inside, my Uncle is out.”

Cal and Abrimel cautiously followed the woman and were offered cool drinks and something to eat.

“You’re not used to being around humans, are you?”

“How do you know that?” Cal was curious.

“Gypsy wasn’t either. He is the one you are looking for.”

“Who’s Gypsy?”

“You’re friend, but I gathered that wasn’t his real name. Good looking, very brave.”

Cal coughed and Abrimel giggled. “You can’t be talking about Rue.” Abrimel suggested. “He’s not exactly brave.”

“I don’t think you know him very well. Are you friends of his?”

“I’m his son.”

“And I’m his… um… er… sorta husband, I guess you could say.”

“Where’s your mother then?” Ella looked at Abrimel

“Well, he is I suppose. He was my hostling, the one who bore me. Pell is my father, and Cal here, is my step dad.”

“A modern family then.” Ella grinned. “Don’t worry, nothing surprises me any more… what with flying horses and insane cats.”

The baby began to cry and Ella went over to his cot and picked him up. “He’s only a week old. Kujani is his father… he’s with the tribe up North.”

“Is that where Rue… er Gypsy is?” Cal asked.

“That’s where he was heading. I don’t want to stay here. My Uncle Dave has seen more of the mutants… sorry… Wraeththu around the district and several of the young men have disappeared. Two of the older men who lived up the street were shot two nights ago when they went out after dark. It’s too dangerous. The desert is safer.”

“I don’t think anywhere will be very safe.” Abrimel mused. “But we can take you to your chesna if you like.”

“Chesna?”

“Partner, husband… ” Cal informed her.

“Thank you. Uncle Dave is expecting me to go… in fact he almost begged me to take his old car, but I don’t think it would get me very far. Can you wait for a while so I can pack a few things?”

They both nodded, and Ella busied herself packing bags, while Cal and Abrimel did a quick tour around the house and outbuildings, hoping that the feral cat wasn’t around any corners. They heard a mewling once, coming from under some wood in the corner of the yard and Cal jumped.

“Cal… you can’t tell me you are afraid of cats?” Abrimel was giggling.

“No… not really. Quite fond of them usually, just don’t like it when they attack my ouna-lim.” Cal put his hand down to the said spot and touched it tentatively.

“Ouch! Didn’t realise it got you there.”

“Well I couldn’t go pulling off my trousers and whipping it out to have a look at the damage in front of Ella, now could I?”

“No I suppose you couldn’t” Abrimel laughed out loud… “That is so funny Cal, just wait till I tell Dad, he’ll rib you about it forever.”

“You tell him, Abi, and I’ll make you take fencing lessons from Ash.”

“Cruelty doesn’t become you Cal.” Abrimel pouted, in between guffaws.

***

I spent two days and nights trussed up like a turkey, being poked at by those insidious and smelly Varrs. They wouldn’t take me seriously… and every time I tried to tell them who I was, they laughed at me. I was livid, and had never wanted to see anyone so much in life as my rescuers… whenever they deigned to come and rescue me that is. What in the name of the Aghama was taking them so long?

It was very early in the morning, just as the cool desert sun was peeking through the flap of our tent, when I heard another commotion outside. Then I saw a face I knew only too well peeking in looking for me. It was Vaysh, and he smirked at me when he saw the state I was in. My hair was in an unbelievable mess… my clothes were soiled, ugh! And to top it off, my mascara had run and was all over my cheeks. I must have looked a fright… and the bastard, instead of rushing to my aid, just stood there, hands on his hips and wailed with laughter.

“Some rescuer you are.” I screamed at him. “Untie me you beast, and help me get cleaned up.”

“Temper, temper, Tigrina. All in good time. I have to make sure it’s safe to untie you.”

Vaysh was toying with me, and har was he going to get it when we got back home. First off, I would tell Pell all about his behaviour, then I would make him paint my entire suite of rooms, twice. Because the first time I was going to change my mind about the colour and make him do it all over again. Then…

“Rue… who is Pell going to believe?”

“Hmmph! What took you so damn long?” I growled at him as he finally untied me, and helped me to my feet.

“You have grown quite good at blocking, Rue dear. So good that all we had to go on was your after-aura. We could find that easy enough once we realised you had disappeared. Faldon, your faithful Faraldienne, was in touch with his mate Athena, the whole time.”

“That tart! So that’s how you found me in this huge country… my fucking horse gave me away!”

“Well don’t be too angry with him, he was missing his mate. But a few minutes ago, you seemed pleased to see me. Have you changed your mind? Would you like to stay here in this stinking tent. I can arrange it you know. Send a couple of those Varrs back in to keep you company.”

“You had better bloody not.” I screamed at him and he covered his ears with his hands.

– 8 –

“What’s all that bloody noise?” Cal screeched then halted in his tracks. I was standing before him, looking a complete mess and angrier than I had ever been before.

“What has happened to you?”

“Stay out of this.” I yelled, then stopped suddenly when I realised who it was who had spoken to me. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“That’s not a very nice thing to say to your rescuer, Rue.”

“I thought this… this… ”

“His name is Vaysh, Rue. Now what’s all the fuss about?” Cal was grinning at me, but I was looking at Vaysh, whom I was about to strangle.

“He was playing with me, Cal… threatening to leave me tied up… he’s going to pay, I can tell you. Just you wait.”

“I’m positively petrified.” Vaysh answered, with a deadpan expression on his face, which only caused me to become more angry. I could feel the veins popping out on my forehead and I lunged towards Vaysh, fingernails at the ready.

Vaysh jumped out of the way, leaving his foot in my path causing me to fall into Cal scratching his face on the way down. In his surprise Cal dropped me to the ground, where I landed face first.

“By the Aghama, Vaysh. What’s happened to him? Why’s he in this state?”

“Oh you know Rue.” Vaysh waved his arms about nonchalantly and winked at Cal who was now trying to lift me to my feet.

I straightened myself up and as I turned to Vaysh again, I noticed blood streaming down the side of Cal’s face. “Sorry Cal.” I whispered, then to Vaysh, I said. “I will not demean myself any more. I will simply make your life back in Immanion hell. Do you understand me?” I was standing with my back straight, trying to make myself look fierce.

Finally Vaysh realised he might have gone too far, and would probably be in for some bad treatment when we got back home. He nodded to me sullenly.

“That’s better. Now Cal, what brings you here?”

“You of course. What made you think you could just wander off to the other side of the world without telling us where you were going?”

“Would you have let me go?”

“With an escort… maybe.”

“That’s what I thought. And how long was it before you realised I was gone, Cal? One day… two.”

“That’s beside the point, Rue. We were worried about you. Pell was frantic when he discovered you were missing.”

“Oh, and if he was so bloody worried about me, why didn’t he come find me himself, instead of sending his lackeys?”

“Are you calling me his lackey?” Cal’s voice was raised now, and I backed off a bit. Cal doesn’t need to try and act fierce, it’s part of his very nature.

“Not you… that piece of shit over there.” I waved my hand in the general direction of where Vaysh was standing.

“Pell had important meetings he couldn’t get out of… and Vaysh isn’t exactly his lackey… he’s an important member of staff.”

“And since when did you need to suck up to him?”

“Stop the sniping, Rue. We’re here now… you’re rescued… Vaysh has been told off. So why don’t we get out of here? I’m tired, I would like to sleep in my comfortable bed again.”

“I can’t go. I have people to see to first. My friend Kujani and his little wife and child.”

“His wife is here Rue, she’s with Abi.”

“Is she? And Abi, is he here as well? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well you didn’t exactly give me a chance, now did you?” Cal put his arm around me and kissed me on the cheek. “You’re a mess. What say we get someone to boil up some water for you on the fire, and find you some clean clothes.”

“Yes… that would be good… I must stink.”

“Well I didn’t want to say anything.” Cal screwed up his nose and I grimaced.

“That bad huh?” Cal nodded.

“Vaysh… ” I called out sweetly. “Boil some water for me, and find me a bowl of some sort so I can have a wash. Oh and while you are at it… my hair will need washing. Do you think you can find some shampoo… and I’ll need some clean clothes? You’re about my size… and I like that jacket you have on.”

Vaysh glared at me, but didn’t say a word. Cal nudged me in the ribs. “Great going. I’m looking forward to what you have in store for him when we get home, the trumped up har.”

I sat on a rock to wait for Vaysh to prepare my bath, making sarcastic remarks to him the whole time, then I allowed Vaysh to partially undress me so I could have a wash. Donning some of Vaysh’s clean traveling clothes, I finally fronted up to the tent where Ella and Abi were.

Abrimel was nursing the human baby and making soft little noises to keep him amused. Ella was fretting, wrapping her fingers around her long hair then untwining it again. She looked up and ran over to me when I entered.

“Oh, Gypsy. No one knows where Kujani is… he was taken. Do you think they’ve killed him?” She began to weep on my shoulder, and I made my own soft little noises to try and calm her down.

“Does anyone have any idea where that tribe of Varrs has gotten to?” I looked from Cal to Abrimel. They both shook their heads. “Do you think you can find them?”

“This friend of yours is important, isn’t he?” Cal said.

I nodded and with my arm still around Ella, I led her to some cushions where we both sat down. “If anyone can find Kujani, love, it’s Cal. And he’s going to start looking right now… aren’t you?” I glared at Cal.

Cal looked slightly surprised by my much more aggressive demeanour. Although I have always been determined to get my own way, I have always gone about it by wheedling and enticements. This new me felt good and I puffed myself up slightly, although I did wonder how Pell would cope with a full frontal assault from me, instead of my usual backstabbing.

With a slightly bemused look, Cal gathered up Vaysh and Haron for a search of the skies around the immediate vicinity. Cal assumed that the Varrs wouldn’t have been able to travel too far on foot, and out in this bare land, they should be relatively easy to find.

I chose to stay behind, to catch up with some of the court gossip from Abi, who was, in his own way worse than me, and to reassure Ella that Kujani would be fine. My greatest fear for him however, was about to come to pass.

Cal, Vaysh and Haron were only gone for a few hours, very stressful hours I must admit, where I tried to get Ella to eat, so she had enough sustenance in her small frame to feed her baby. Abi kept me giggling the whole time about the antics of Cal and Pell, as well as Ashmael… whom it seemed had taken a liking to playing croquet, of all things. Some one a few years earlier had found this set of croquet balls and hoops in an abandoned hall, and brought them to the palace as a gift for me. I had no desire to use them, but Ash it seemed was quite taken by the game – which he told everyone was quite tactical.

I wondered if I could get Ash to use Vaysh as one of the hoops, but thought better of it, given their past history. I didn’t want a full on war on my hands. By the time I had coaxed Ella into looking after herself and had a short nap myself, I heard the distinct thunder like sounds of the Farldiennes, booming through the clouds as they came back down to earth.

All three of us rushed outside as the horses came charging into the camp, frost clinging to their manes and hot air belching from their nostrils. They were all carrying passengers and the one sitting in front of Cal, was Kujani.

He was no longer human.

– 9 –

I watched in despair as Cal lifted Kujani down from the horse, and helped him to a spot under a tree where he could rest. He looked exhausted and I realised he had only just come through inception. How the hell was Ella and her baby going to cope with this turn of events?

Ella ran to his side as soon as she had seen him, but when she realised what he had become she had backed away, shaking her head from side to side and weeping. I took her baby out of her arms and tried to calm her down, but she was too distressed and ran off into the bush sobbing. Kujani looked at her receding form with tears in his eyes.

I went up to Kujani and took his hand, but he snatched it away from me.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Fat lot of good that will do me now.” He snapped angrily.

Cal was seeing to the other two, who were distressed as well, so I took Kujani aside to have a talk in private. I was still holding his baby, so I handed it to him. For a few moments he just stared at the small bundle, then he began to cry, great wet drops falling on the baby’s face.

“I’ll have to leave, won’t I? I can’t live here with my tribe now. What will I do?” His fingers wiped his own tears from his baby’s face. “He’s so beautiful, isn’t he?”

“He most certainly is beautiful and he’s waiting for his name. Ella wanted the two of you to name him together.”

“I can’t be with Ella any more… ” Kujani pushed the baby back in my arms. “I’ll have to go to the city… be like the rest of them.”

“But you are not like the rest of them and you don’t really have to leave.”

“Don’t I?” Kujani sobbed these last words and turned away from me. I could see his shoulders shaking as I touched him softly.

“You haven’t had aruna yet, have you?”

He didn’t answer me, so I walked around to face him. “You were rescued before the Varrs had a chance to complete your changing, weren’t you?”

“What are you talking about? I don’t understand. I’m changed. I’m a *thing* now. What more can be done to me?”

I decided then that I was the only one who could help Kujani through this. Afterwards something could be worked out so that he could still spend time with his son and Ella. “Come with me.” I led him by the hand through the campsite, finding a woman to take care of the baby, then found a tent where we could have some privacy.

“Sit down Kujani. I will help you with this final stage… it’s pleasant, and some say I’m quite good at it.”

“What are you talking about Gypsy? I don’t feel like doing anything else, I just want to sleep forever.”

“I promise you won’t want to sleep when I’ve finished with you.” I whispered seductively, then took him in my arms to share breath. His body stiffened at first as our lips met, but I let him experience only beauty as we melded together, and after a short while he relaxed, still shivering slightly. I pulled away from him and looked into his eyes – he seemed confused at the feelings I had awoken in him.

“You’re different now, I’m whatever you want me to me. You can take me first if you want… then I’ll teach you what its like to be soume.”

After the first initial surprise at what our bodies could do and become, he took over. He was fiery and sure of himself, taking me to places I had forgotten existed, that were infused with light, colour and warmth, with the extra depth of surprise thrown in. He revelled in being whatever took his fancy, and I revelled in being his teacher.

As we lay together afterwards in the post-aruna glow he sighed deeply then shuddered. As I put my arm around him and kissed him gently on the cheek he began to weep again.

“I thought you enjoyed that?” It was my turn to be confused now.

“Oh… I did Gypsy… it was most certainly pleasurable… but you’re going to leave… go back with your friends. What’s going to become of me? What’s going to become of Ella and our baby?”

Indeed… this was the next ste. I had to make sure he could be happy. I left him by himself, snoring gently, sleeping the sleep of the recently satiated, while I sought out Cal and some advice.

“It’s not my problem.” Cal barked at me. “I came to rescue you… that was my job… I’ve done it… now we can go home.”

It was time for puffing again, so I did my best impression of a har with a big ouana-lim and barked back at him. “Firstly, you didn’t have to rescue me, I would have eventually found a way to escape those morons… and secondly, the situation with Kujani and Ella is *my* problem. I’m not leaving them until I am sure everything is going to be all right. Do you understand?”

Cal actually nodded… which gave me the impetus to puff even more.

“I have an idea and I don’t particularly care whether you like it or not. OKAY!”

Cal nodded again then sat back a sly grin spreading across his face.

Damnit!! He had been letting me have my way.

– 10 –

Two years later… back in Arabana. (OZ)

I take a big bite of the sandwich and nearly gag, spit out the mouthful on the floor and glare at Kujani.

“What are you trying to do to me? Whatever was in that sandwich tasted disgusting.”

Kujani laughs loudly. “It’s a national delicacy, called vegemite. We feed our babies on it… they thrive on the stuff. You’ve just got strange taste buds, is all.”

“You make your poor babies eat that stuff? And here’s me thinking you’re good parents… the poor little things.”

Kujani giggles again, then looks up as one of his staff enters and leaves some papers on his desk. He sighs loudly. “Why did you let me get talked into this, Rue? I should be outside enjoying this glorious Spring weather, not shut up in this bloody office.”

“You were perfect for the job, mate… ” I said to him. He winks at me – obviously enjoying my use of the Arabana vernacular. We have taught each other a lot since we have become friends. Kujani has taught me to be more ‘down-to-earth’ and I have taught him the intricacies of aruna, and how to wheedle certain things out of Cal and Pell.

Kujani is currently being trained as the local Governor of this colony by Tyson, who has actually done a superb job of sorting out the local hara population. They needed a firm hand, but someone with a sense of humour as well. He fitted the bill perfectly.

I am on an official visit this time. They are about to open their new parliamentary offices and the meeting room is being dedicated in my honour. I am quite proud.

I was totally overwhelmed by my reception when I returned to Immanion, after my little escapade. Pell seemed quite pleased to see me and Cal even made me sound like a bit of a hero. Mind you, I think some of his anecdotes were slightly tongue in cheek… but it did help me to remain on a high for several months.

Kujani came back with me… I simply didn’t know what to do with him. He didn’t feel that he could stay with Ella and their son, whom they named, Gypsy, by the way… and he certainly didn’t want to become part of the Varrish rabble that was still marauding most of the local areas.

We left Ella and Gypsy with some of the tribe in a small settlement on the edge of the gulf. It comprised part humans and part civilised hara as well as a battalion of Gelaming, which Pell despatched to protect them. Ella’s Uncle Dave also managed to find his way there… so Kujani and I felt quite content that they would be safe and happy.

When I first introduced Pell to Kujani, he was quite taken aback, and it was with some amusement that I realised he was jealous. I believe he was in awe of the har who could change my outlook on life so radically. He was also a little in awe of me too, I must confess.

Kujani stayed for several months, to undertake his caste training. He was quick and proficient as I suspected he would be and became the obvious choice to assist Tyson when he was appointed the Governor of the colony.

I knew that Kujani wouldn’t be able to stay away from his family forever… he just needed to come to terms with who he was now and to see from personal experience how hara and humans could co-exist. He also discovered, on one of his trips to some of the outlying towns and cities, that it was possible for some women to be incepted into the sisterhood of the Kamagrians. In fact, he became friends with a high ranking official from the sisterhood, called Kayla, whom he invited to come and visit him when he returned to Arabana.

Kayla, so far hasn’t made the trip… but for the moment Kujani seems quite content to keep in touch with Ella as a friend. They have chosen to live apart, but who knows what will happen in the future. Gypsy spends time with his father, and they regularly go walkabout with the tribe in the desert. They are quite an eclectic bunch now… with a few incepted hara as well as two purebreds, being part of the tribe.

The old Kadaicha man was the only member of the tribe unable to accept the new situation… and he was last seen, polishing his bone while sitting cross legged on the side of a billabong.

Well, I am about to get dressed ready for the dedication ceremony, and in respect for Kujani and his tribe I will wear simple clothes of cotton and my braided hair will be adorned with the blue and grey feathers from the local Kookaburras. We will be entertained by the musicians from Kujani’s tribe and modern music played by hara. It is to be a double celebration… a farewell to the past and a welcome to the future.

Come join us… .

The End

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