Nothing Sure but Death and Terrans
by Rachel Parsons
|Table of Contents|
Part 2 appears
in this issue.
“We at first didn’t know what to do. Many of the male slaves decided to simply head for the woods, hoping that they could forage the land. Many of the females headed back to New Prydain, hoping that their former masters would take them back.”
“And you? What did you do?”
“I headed toward New Prydain. Hoping my family would take me back. Hoping that they would not feel disgraced by a daughter who was now a slave. Oh, you won’t believe how I worried about that, Rhiannon. For it is very common, I found out, for people, especially young women, to be sold into slavery. Some get free and go back to their families only to be rejected, as no respectable New Prydain family would have a slave in it. They then turn themselves into brothels, as much to protect themselves from the authorities as to earn a living. You cannot begin to understand this.”
“Rhonda, it was that fear of rejection that kept me working on my back or on my knees for two long years. I understand.”
She burst into tears at this. I hugged her and pressed the back of her head with my right hand.
“I was half way to New Prydain when I realized that my situation was truly hopeless. Even if my family would take me back and I, deep down inside, realized they would not, would they even recognize me? I looked like an offworlder. And the more I traveled the more I heard and understood why we had been left to die — the slaves and the animals. There had been the war against the offworlders. The offworlders had lost the war. The few remaining were being hunted down and killed. I was in total despair.
It was then that I ran into Butch and Sarah. And found out their story. They were from an offworlder family, one that had been destroyed by the war, but which had relations in New Gwynedd. I hit upon a mutually advantageous plan, I thought. I would pretend to be their sister, left in an offworlder detention camp by the five kingdoms’ soldiers, thus explaining my nudity. I would then help them get to their home and become part of their family. They would get an extra body to do work, and I would have a home. Not to mention maybe a dress or two.
Butch at first didn’t like the idea of me pretending to be their sister, but Sarah pointed out that they needed me. All my wilderness training helped us make it to the border of Math and Gwennan’s realm. It was a good thing I was not enslaved before I learned that. They not only do not teach slaves jack, they imprison anyone who tries.”
“I know,” I said softly.
“Well, you really know the rest. I became Rhonda Bernstein and we pretended to be the family of the Terran soldier, Butch and Sarah’s brother, who fought, along with the ethnics, against the outworlders. And then I met you. I could not risk telling you my background, as you are a royal and your friend is the Lady Branwen, of New Prydain. I thought sure you would send me back where once again I will be a slave. Is that what you are going to do, Rhiannon? Now that you know?”
I got up and walked around the room. I was moved by her story but I was also furious. She sensed it.
“Please don’t be mad at me, Rhiannon. Please!”
She clasped her hands together imploringly.
“I am mad at you, Rhonda. I thought we were friends. Here, you have been hiding this secret from me.”
“Can you forgive me? Please?”
Rhonda climbed out of bed, crawled over to me, and on her belly, clutching my ankles, begged this. Her nightgown inched up her thigh and was crammed into her butt.
I lifted her up, helped her back into bed.
“Rhonda, you are my friend. Of course I will help you. I’m just upset you did not come to me with this story. That it had to wait until there was something strange going on with your head.
I will write the Lady Branwen to see if you can be freed from your status as a slave. I do not know if she can-she has powers limited by their Constitution. In the meantime, I do not recognize slavery and you are still welcome to be my friend and servant.”
“Thanks, Rhiannon. You won’t regret it,” she blubbered. “I’ll give my life to you.”
“I know. But one thing.”
“Yes, anything, Rhiannon. You have but to ask it.”
She brushed the tears from her eyes with an index finger.
“You will take us to the Terran laboratory. There, we might find the secret of what happened to you. I’m very much afraid this device in your brain was a way for them to spy on me. And to use you against me. Will you then? Take us to the laboratory?”
“It scares me so, Rhiannon.”
“We need to do this, Rhonda.”
“Of course, then, Rhiannon. Of course.”
She fell back unto the bed and I left her there, still bawling.
It was a house of metal and glass in a man-made clearing by the north side of the Golgonix Forest. It was unmistakably Terran, made of unnatural substances and with a lot of wiring. Terrans use the stuff that lightening is made of to provide their machines with power. They do this, yet they despise sorcery.
We dismounted and headed toward the building, Rosalyn and Elfrod, my majordomo, looking grim, Arianrhod looking intrigued, as she often does. Arianrhod likes to think of herself as aloof. We had brought along six soldiers, more to prevent people from mistaking me for slave or whore than for any real protection.
After all, the Terrans were long gone. Were they not?
We paused by the entrance. Rhonda was shaking.
“You can do this, Rhonda.”
“It is hard, Rhiannon. Remember, I was treated like an animal in there. Worse than an animal, as most people treat their beasts better than the Terrans do.”
I patted her on the shoulder.
“Your ordeal is almost over. You are no longer a slave. You have a family with me. You now have revealed your past to me; it cannot hurt you any more. We have removed the implant from your cerebrum, it can’t hurt you. And you are about to confront the specters of your tormenters here, and they will not be able to hurt you either. But you must be brave, my little one.”
“I will try, Rhiannon. For you. You make me strong.”
We headed in.
“What are we looking for exactly?” Arianrhod asked.
“Beats me. Something that goes with the device,” I said. “You brought it Rosalyn?”
“How many times do I have to answer that, Rhiannon? Yes, I brought the device,” she said, irritated. She patted her satchel.
I nodded. “Well, it is not like I can put it anywhere,” I said back to her.
“There is one place you can put it,” she replied.
I gave her a dirty look.
We went through room after room. Rooms with tables, unearthly lanterns on their ceilings, and, by the beds, sharp instruments that could cut flesh like butter. My hand went to my mouth at the thought of what they could do to bare flesh in seconds.
“Where the surgery was done,” Rhonda whispered.
Across from the surgery was a room full of cages. Cages of all sizes. Some could fit a full sized man or woman but not allow them much room for roaming about; some were so small even a bug would have a hard time fitting. Their doors were creaking in the wind, and the food bowls were overturned. The straw was long gone, dissipated by the wind or eaten by scavengers.
“They’d work on any size creature,” Rhonda said.
“And you survived this,” I said. “That is wonderful.”
“I am still haunted by it,” she said simply, turning her head from me trying to not show emotion.
She, like the soldiers, like everyone but me, was in full military regalia. It would take a lot of swords play to bring my companions down, but I knew one Terran projectile could do it. That is why I brought my runes, in Rosalyn’s satchel. If need be, I would raise from the dead, as I had done to drive them off our world. The thought of having to do that with any of my entourage thrilled me with terror. After resurrection comes Valhalla, and it would be a long, long time before I saw any of them so dispatched again.
We came across a room with rectangular objects, some still blinking after all this time. Some looked like rectangular solids merged with cylinders. I squatted by one.
“What are you doing, Rhiannon?” Rosalyn asked.
“From my time in the New Dyvedian court. I sneaked in and checked out the outworlder machines. This looks like the type they had to keep track of us and control their clients, like my late, unlamented fiancé, Ferrell.”
People involuntarily stepped back at my asperic mention of him, the man that had brought about the war by abandoning me in my disgrace.
I pulled the housing open. Saw a board with devices that looked like the one from Rhonda’s head. I motioned Rosalyn over. She handed me the device, I plugged it into an open slot.
“What now?” Arianrhod said. “They were powered by tamed lightening. We have none such.”
I shushed her. “Wait right here.”
I padded out and went to a room we had passed. In it was a set of intertwined tubes and spokes, with rubber wheels and a seat. Next to it was a cylinder. I had seen Terrans use this too, in Ferrell’s court. I attached one of the hoses from a cylinder to the rubber wheels, and then pumped. I squealed with delight as the rubber wheels inflated. Then, dropping the canister of air, hitting my big toe, I walked the bicycle, as I think they called it, back to the room of tracking machines, going ‘ow,’ ‘ow,’ ‘ow’ all the way.
“What is that for?” Rosalyn exclaimed.
“What?” she repeated.
“First, watch this magic.”
I did exactly what I had seen the outworlders do when they suffered from the outré ‘power outages’ that plagued them on our world. And then, after completing all the fastenings, I straddled the bicycle. It is not something to ride when your butt is bare, but most things are not. After adjusting myself so my butt wouldn’t hurt too badly, I rode around until the machine started humming.
“Rosalyn, replace me,” I ordered.
She got on the bicycle as I dismounted and continued the riding.
I went over to the tracking machine. Pressed a button. It began humming more loudly and lights went on. On a window attached to it came pictures. Feeling the thrill of a new toy, I explored the pictures, clicking on them.
“This is tedious, Rhiannon,” Arianrhod announced. “I am bored.”
“And I am exhausted. How much more do I have to ride this?” Rosalyn exclaimed.
“Until I say you are finished,” I shot back.
I continued until something happened. I clapped my hand.
“See, look here Rhonda. Look here!”
She gasped, as pictures of her life passed before us. Her escape, her forming a false family with Butch and Sarah; her coming to live with and work for me.
“This is what the chip has done. It has recorded your experiences!”
I clapped some more. I felt like a little girl. But then Rhonda had to go and spoil it.
“So I was a spy but did not know it. Everything I have seen at Caer Rhiannon is on this machine.”
“’Tis so,” I said glumly. “But do the outworlders have access to this machine? They are all gone.”
“But could they not have messages sent from here to their world?” she asked. “I hear they can make one machine of theirs do things by order of another, far away.”
“That sounds like superstition. And their world is a long way off. One of them, trying to impress me at Farrell’s court said that it takes light itself thirty years to get from us to them.”
“But then thirty years hence they could come, and with the knowledge I have provided them, perhaps they could enslave us all again.”
“Sixty years, for their ships will also take thirty years, unless they come back through the portal. But I don’t think that will happen,” I said, thinking to how readily they ran when I had confronted them with their violation of the ancient harmonies. Terrans are real scaredy-cats when they meet up with the dead.
“But you can’t be sure, can you?” Rhonda said.
“Isn’t there a saying, Rhiannon,” Rosalyn said. “I believe I heard it from my clients.”
“What saying is that?” I said, trying to quell the feeling of foreboding in my gut.
“Nothing sure but death and Terrans,” she said.
“She is right, Rhiannon,” Arianrhod said. “You do not have to be a seer to know this. They will be back. You will have to fight them again, Rhiannon. And this time, they will know all that Rhonda knows.”
Swallowing down fear that was like unclean animal parts wafting down through me, I went over to the window of the room we were in and stared at the sky. “Only if they got this information. Only if...” But my hopes sounded false even to me.
Copyright © 2005 by Rachel Parsons