The Final Story
By Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read if you are under age or if it is illegal to do so in your end of the swamp.
To a very special friend who traveled with me through this story.
My grateful thanks to Lisa, Inga and Susan who work as a team to see that these stories meet a high standard of accuracy.
A final word: The Encounter series loosely reflects The Rift Arc. I wanted to end this series by taking the uber characters back to where the trouble all started and see if, this time, the characters could escape their fate. I've endeavoured as much as possible to make sure that the facts and cultures described in this series are a fair and accurate portrayal. I hope you have enjoyed traveling through this series with me. Because this story interrelates with both the Encounter and Seasons series, it would be best to read those stories before reading this one.
Gunnul finished her prayers in the dawn's light and rolled up her prayer rug. She had let her daughter Christy and partner Jamie sleep in. Normally, the two joined her in prayer but Christy had been dangerously ill only a few months ago and Gunnul felt Christy should rest and rebuild her strength even though the puzzled doctors could not now find a thing wrong with her.
As for Jamie, she wasn't sure really why she had not called her to morning prayer. Although Jamie was not Moslem, she always joined Gunnul in prayer if they were together. Jamie could say all the prayers in prefect Turkish, much to Gunnul's pride. But somehow calling Jamie to prayer now that they were in England, didn't seem right. They were in the European world now, not in Turkey, and although Jamie was American not English, Gunnul felt that maybe Jamie would like to practise the customs of her own heritage while she was here.
Gunnul slipped silently across the small bedroom and crawled under the warm sheets once more.
Jamie groaned and rolled over to wrap Gunnul close to her. "You're cold," she muttered. "Were you up doing morning prayers?"
"Yes," Gunnul responded, kissing her partner's forehead tenderly.
"Mmmm, why didn't you call me?" Jamie muttered from where she had nestled in Gunnul's arms.
"Jamie, do you miss your culture?" Gunnul asked. "Do you get homesick?"
Jamie's head came up and thoughtful green eyes looked into worried blue. "Sometimes I miss specific things and sometimes I get a little frustrated with the attitude of some of the Turkish males towards women, but my home, my family are in Turkey, so how could I possibly feel home sick?" Jamie reassured her lover.
"I did not wake you this morning because I did not know if you wished to honour Turkish and Moslem ways when you were amongst your own people," Gunnul confessed, looking down at the bed sheet with a worried frown. "Besides, it is very cold."
Jamie smiled and kissed her thoughtful lover's bowed head. "My soulmate is Turkish and so for the most part is our daughter. I wish to be part of that culture. I am proud to be an American but that does not mean I can't appreciate and enjoy my family's culture. I do not pray in a Moslem manner when you are away on business but when we are together I like to do so because it is part of who we are."
Gunnul looked up with serious eyes but the slight curl to her mouth let Jamie know that her answer had pleased the Turk. "Tomorrow I will wake you then," Gunnul promised.
"Hmmm, well, it was nice to sleep in a bit. I was tired after the late flight into Heathrow last night and sitting for so long always makes my lame leg sore. You are always so thoughtful, my love, but just one thing...."
"What is that, Jamie?"
"The British are not my people. Do I lump the Turkish people together with all the Arab nations? I am not British, although some of my ancestors were. I am American."
"Genetically, we Turks are only a part Arabic, we have more Greek and Bulgarian blood than Arabic," observed Gunnul, with her usual logical precision.
Jamie smiled and kissed the end of Gunnul's nose. "I love you," she stated.
"I love you too, Jamie," Gunnul smiled. The smile flashed across her features changing her classic stern beauty into radiant delight. Jamie hugged her lover close and thanked God for bringing this amazing woman into her life.
It hadn't been an easy relationship to foster. Jamie had been married to Gunnul's brother and had Christy by him. But where Gunnul had inherited all the fine and noble traits of her family, her brother Moe had inherited all the weak ones. His substance abuse had made him unpredictable, unreliable and violent. It had been Moe who had left Jamie lamed for life after a violent beating and it had been Moe who had taken their daughter back to Turkey to be raised by his sister, Gunnul. It had been ten years later, when Jamie had accepted Gunnul's invitation to visit Christy that they had met in open confrontation. Gunnul had believed Moe's lies that Jamie was a prositute and Jamie had believed that Gunnul was a drug lord and kidnapper.
Jamie giggled. "What is so funny?" Gunnul asked.
"I was remembering the first time we met," Jamie confessed.
Gunnul felt the heat rising up her neck. She had not acted very nobly that first day. "I am sorry, Jamie. I did not behave myself."
"No, you didn't did you?" teased Jamie, looking up at her lover with eyes sparkling. Gunnul smiled and raised an eyebrow. There was time yet before they needed to get ready to go to the museum.
It was sometime later that Gunnul once again slipped from their bed and padded back with coffee, rolls, white cheese and olives. It had taken Jamie a while to acquire a taste for this traditional Turkish breakfast but now she quite enjoyed it. "You spoil me, Gunnul!" protested Jamie, pulling herself up in bed and trying to hide the pain that her cripple leg inflicted.
"I could tell, when we made love, that today your leg hurts far more than you have admitted," answered Gunnul, kissing Jamie's temple gently.
"Hmmmm, a little, but it will be better once I move around a bit." She leaned over to slip a black olive into Gunnul's mouth, then followed the treat with a kiss. Jamie thought, sometimes, that her twisted leg hurt Gunnul far more than it did her. Knowing that it was her own brother, Moe, that had caused the injury made her lover feel responsible. 'I am head of the family, Jamie. That means I am ultimately responsible for every family member's actions,' Gunnul had explained once.
So whenever Jamie saw that Gunnul was upset, she made a special effort to show her love. Gunnul was so strong and capable in many ways and yet insecure and fragile in her need to feel loved. "What do you have planned for us today?" Jamie asked.
"I had planned to take you and Christy to the British Museum," Gunnul stated. "Now I am not sure. It is a huge complex, Jamie. Four hundred feet long and three stories high and yet they can only display ten per cent of all the treasures that the British stole from other nations. It is a pilgrimage to go to the museum because it has some of the best examples of other nations' heritage."
Jamie smiled at Gunnul's bias explanation, filled with both bitterness and awe. "I thought it was Germany that took most of the treasures from Turkey," Jamie reminded quietly.
"That is true. Schliemann, he took so much from Troy! And some say, Jamie, that he was not even an honourable academic!"
Jamie's eyes twinkled at her serious lover's discussion. She loved it when Gunnul got all worked up about an issue and let her guard down to show the passionate woman behind the often cold exterior. It was time to swallow her own determined pride to give her Gunnul some comfort. "I don't think that on even a good day, Gunnul, I could manage a museum of that size. Would you mind terrible if I asked you to take me around in a wheelchair?"
Intelligent blue eyes, the colour of a summer sky, search her lover's face. Then Gunnul took the breakfast plate from Jamie's hand and placed it on the bedside table so that she could carefully pull her lover into her arms. Gunnul buried her face into Jamie's soft hair. It always carried a scent of herbs, drying on a warm summer's day. The scent was familiar, like some trace memory from her past that brought her comfort. "You have never asked this before, Jamie."
"I've never had to do so much walking as I will while we are in England. And I have learned to trust our love and know that my lameness does not make you feel that I am a burden in your life."
"Jamie! I would never feel that!" Gunnul protested.
"You are beautiful, rich, powerful, you could have anyone you want for a partner. That you chose a lame, working widow from a foreign country shocked and surprised nearly everyone that knew you. It took me a little while to believe that it wasn't just a dream and that I was going to be part of my daughter's life and your partner."
"You are so much more than that to me, Jamie. You are my soulmate!" responded the earnest Turk.
"Yes, we are soulmates," reassured Jamie. "Will you wheel me about?"
"Of course, this is no problem. This way we can stay longer and we can instruct Christy in many things that will broaden her learning and knowledge."
Jamie smiled and snuggled tighter into Gunnul's arms. Gunnul was such a sweety and so impossibly focused!
By the time they had got Christy up and the three of them had showered and dressed, Teefo and his wife Peeti had arrived at the small flat that Gunnul owned in London. Teefu was General Gunnul Dedeman's administrative assistant and general man of all trades. He was very loyal to the Turkish war hero and was one of the few people that Gunnul trusted completely.
That he was here with his wife as a chaperon for Christy had caused some tension between Jamie and Gunnul. "I will not have our daughter treated as an object that must be protected so that she is marketable goods in some prearranged marriage!" Jamie had snapped. "We have argued about this before, Gunnul. Christy will be free to have equal opportunities and to chose her own partner!"
"I have agreed that I would never force Christy to marry anyone she did not wish to marry. I see no harm, however, in introducing her to the man and family that I think are the most suitable match for her. A decision as important as one's life partner should not be left to chance! It is important that no doubt falls on Christy's reputation."
"I found you by chance," argued Jamie, "I don't want Christy feeling like she is under guard!"
"I am very lucky that you came into my life but for many, their relationships are not as lucky. Christy must be guarded. She is the sole heir of the Dedeman Empire and the daughter of a woman who lives in a man's world in defiance of my traditional culture. The growing power of the Moslem traditionalists makes that position open to attack."
"You single-handedly saved the nation from invasion! You are a hero to your people! They are very grateful for your sacrifice on their behalf!"
"Fanatics are grateful to no one. We must be careful. England is a foreign land and Christy must be protected!" stated Gunnul firmly. Jamie had sighed and nodded her consent. Gunnul was right, of course, Christy was not just another child. She had been born into a family of fame, wealth and power. Still, Jamie harboured some resentment because she suspected that one of the concerns that Gunnul had diplomatically not expressed was that they were going to a land that Gunnul saw as decadent infidels. There was, below Gunnul's veneer of international lifestyle a very traditional Turkish mind.
Right on opening time, the Dedemans and their entourage arrived at the British Museum. The 1852 colonnaded facade in a Greek architectural tradition towered over them as they entered through the doorway into the marble floored lobby. Ahead of them was the famous Reading Room crowned by its 110 foot dome. Floor to ceiling glass fronted doors protected eighteen million books, the largest collection in the world. The circular room had concentrical rings of oak desks with straight wood chairs with cushioned seats of green leather. The air held the faint sweet scent of leather bindings and rag paper.
"Many famous scholars have worked and studied in these rooms, Christy," Gunnul explained in a whisper as they stood looking in. "In fact, it was in the Reading Room of the British Museum that Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto."
"It has a wonderful atmosphere, Mommy," Christy sighed. She liked books very much. It was the one thing that her natural and adopted mothers never put a restriction on. Christy was allowed as many books as she wanted.
"I am glad we got to see it before it is moved. This space is to become an educational area for the museum and the books are all being moved to a new facility in St. Pancras. That's good, Christy, because there will be more room for the books and the environmental controls will help to preserve the books longer but it is always a shame to see the end of a bit of history," Jamie commented. Christy nodded. She was a sensitive girl and the moving of the books seemed sad to her.
"It is that things do not last forever that make them precious to us," observed the ever practical Gunnul. "I do not approve of rebuilding ruins or repairing them with cement. They should be allowed to die with dignity and we should appreciate not only their history but also their aging."
Christy smiled up at her taller mother, with respect and love. Gunnul petted Christy's hair and then took Jamie's arm that was not supported in her metal walking stick. "We need to go up these stairs to get to the area that displays the manuscripts and books. I will leave you there to look around as I need to see to a small matter and also, Jamie, I will get you a wheelchair," Gunnul organized, as she helped her soulmate up the stairs to the manuscript gallery.
Here a collection of works by some of the most famous authors of the English language could be found. As well, there were Egyptian papyri, Greek and Roman texts and letters from famous writers and musicians along with many amazing selections from other cultures' written history too. In the Grenville Gallery, Jamie and Christy found the oldest known Bible written in Greek, the Codex Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus and in another case the original Magna Carta! Jamie carefully answered Christy's questions as they walked around in wonder.
A respectful distance behind, Teefo and Peeti walked, also enjoying the many wonders of the famous museum. Jamie had found this arrangement awkward at first when they were out in public. She felt that she was slighting Teefo by ignoring him. But Teefo had explained that it made it easier for him to do his job in protecting them when he was following behind and could observe better who was around. Still, Jamie included Teefo and Peeti when she could.
Jamie left Christy showing Teefo and Peeti illustations from famous children's books and limped over to look into a case that contained early Greek manuscripts. The case seemed to draw her to it and she needed to know what it contained. The Greek manuscripts within were old and beautifully written and illustrated.
One caught her eye and held her gaze. It was a small illustration of flames rising from a stone alter. As Jamie stared, the flames lifted from the page and curled like fingers around her. Even as her conscious mind denied what she saw, her heart pounded in fear and her senses felt scaly, red hot talons curling around her arms. She could feel herself being dragged back into the illustration. A gasp escaped her parched lips and far away she could hear Gunnul calling her name in fear.
Gunnul had entered the gallery pushing the wheelchair to see Jamie leaning over a display case, her face white and distorted with terror. Calling her lover's name, she had rushed to Jamie's side and wrapped her in her arms. "I've got you, Jamie. It is okay. I've got you!" Gunnul whispered.
Teefo, Peeti and Christy now crowded around in worry. "What happened?!" Gunnul demanded of her assistant, her eyes burning with anger.
"I do not know, General Dedeman. She only just left our side while Christy showed us some Beatrix Potter illustrations. No one else has entered this gallery, I was watching," Teefo explained.
Gunnul nodded, satisfied that Jamie had not been attacked. Then what had happened? "Jamie? Jamie, are you all right?" the Turkish woman asked, gently supporting her lover as Jamie clung to her in fright.
"I...I'm fine now. I...I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me! I...I felt ...it's hard...I'm okay really!" Jamie finished in a confused rush, as Gunnul carefully lowered her into the wheelchair that Christy had run to bring over. "I just fainted. Silly. I'm fine now. It was probably just a reaction to the time change...a little jet lag," Jamie tried to justify, looking at the circle of worried faces around her.
"Are you sure?" Gunnul demanded. "Nothing happened?"
"No! No, nothing. I'm fine now, really. I'm sorry to have upset you all."
"It's okay, Mommy. I fainted once when I was out in the heat too long. Do you feel sick to your stomach? I did," Christy reassured, holding her mother's hand.
Jamie smiled up at Christy and gave her daughter's hand an affectionate squeeze. "No, I feel fine now. It was just one of those passing things. I wonder where Gunnul has been and what she has been preparing for us?" Jamie asked, trying to change the subject.
"Perhaps it would be better if we go back to the flat," Gunnul stated, feeling Jamie's cold and clammy forehead with worry.
"No! I am fine. Please, Gunnul, I have my wheelchair now and you can push me around so I can relax and still see all there is to see!" argued Jamie, embarrassment now colouring her face.
Gunnul nodded, realizing that Jamie was determined. "Very well. But you must tell me immediately, Jamie, if you start to feel ill again."
"I will, Gunnul," Jamie promised, as she was wheeled from the room at the head of their little possession. She stubbornly refused to look back at the case that contained the terrifying illustration even though she could feel it calling to her.
They went on to explore the halls of armour and weaponry and Gunnul remarked on how impractical the knights' heavy armour was. The knights would have to be lifted by cranes onto their mounts and when they fell off in battle they couldn't get up again. Christy and Jamie started to laugh, imagining helpless knights, arms and legs flailing like turtles stranded on their backs.
Jamie's fainting spell forgotten, they went on to investigate three million year old stone age tools from Africa, priceless porcelain and sculptures from the Far East, hand woven rugs from ancient Persia, stone and gold figurines from the Middle East and countless other treasures, including the famous Rosetta Stone.
They sat in a small courtyard and ate a picnic lunch that Peeti had prepared and quietly said their noon prayers. Then they followed a scholar to the room that contained the Elgin Marbles as well as a full size and complete Greek temple that Lord Elgin had simply packed up and brought back to England! The speaker stood on a box and told the small crowd that formed about how the Elgin marbles had been the sculptures on the frieze of the Parthenon in Athens. The temple, he explained, had been complete until the 1600's when invading Turks had used the Parthenon to store gun powder. Lightening had hit the temple during a storm and the roof had been blown off.
Jamie and Christy looked at Gunnul in mock annoyance and the Turkish general shrugged and grinned sheepishly. But when the lecturer had finished by laughingly remarking that the Greek government kept asking for the Marbles and temple back but the museum was pretending not to hear, Jamie had to grab Gunnul's arm to prevent her from talking to the man about the robber of antiquities from other nations by the Europeans, particularly the English, French and Germans.
At the end of their tour of the museum, Teefo and Peeti took the rented wheelchair back while Gunnul led her family to a small room not normally open to the public. There they put on white gloves and sat at a table covered with green felt and waited for her friend a Turkish-born curator to bring out a special treasure for them to see. It was the great book of the Lindisfarne Gospels! With care the curator laid the book on the table and used a flat wand to turn the pages while Gunnul explained.
"We must be very careful not to touch the pages or breathe too close to them. The oils in our hands could damage the colours and stain the parchment. I wanted you to have this experience because it explains why I feel bringing you here is like a pilgrimage. Being this close to an ancient work of art and sacred book is a spiritual experience."
The curator's eyes shone with understanding and pride at Gunnul's words. He turned to the first illustration and explained to the three women: "The Gospels were done in the Hiberno-Saxon style by Irish monks in Saxon England. Their monasteries were isolated specks of Christianity clinging to the edges of a pagan dark age. Their devotion to their faith, gave them the strength to stubbornly hold on to the ancient knowledge of Greece and Rome against a savage world.
"Those that study these manuscripts will tell you that there are complex rules of order in the illustrations that are superimposed one on top of the other. For example, organic and geometric forms are never put together. In the areas where there are animals, all the interweaving lines go out so that they become part of the animals' body. On top of these basic rules, there are rules for patterns of symmetry, flipped images, knots, colour and even texture."
The curator turned to the most famous illustration of "The Cross". Jamie had found a dread creeping over her again as she looked at the gold images of pagan monsters and serpents interwoven into the borders. But the last illustration seemed to chase the fear from her heart and replace it with a feeling of warmth and contentment. She stared at the complexity of patterns that seemed almost musical in their harmony of line and colour. The miniature patterns were worthy of a Tiffany jeweller. Geometric animals and plants interwove in complex patterns as faith brought order to chaotic and pagan images.
Gunnul took her daughter's and partner's hands in her own. "Many of the scribes couldn't read or write, but for thirty or forty years, they would get up at dawn and sit on hard wooden benches in damp stone monasteries and copy the sacred symbols faithfully. A life time given to copy out one Bible by hand that they would never read. They loved their God so much that they decorated each page with the most incredible art work to glorify his name.
"To me this book represents all that is truly great about humanity. It is a work of art, of devotion, duty and love. I'm sure the scribes who wrote this Bible must have wondered what their humble lives meant to this world. They were illiterate nobodies who would die and be buried without family in nameless graves. And yet a thousand years later, what they did is treasured as a moment of human genius. Every life has meaning, Christy, and every life impacts. We just rarely get the opportunity to see how. This museum is filled with such treasures. When you are a leader, you must remember always that every individual has worth."
Christy nodded seriously, taking in everything that Gunnul said as she watched the curator carry the magnificent book away. Jamie smiled softly at her lover with eyes filled with love and pride. Gunnul saw the look and blushed.
"But Mommy, in our faith we are taught that it is vain and arrogant for man to try to create images of Allah's creations. That is why all our art work is geometric designs. Yet in this Bible and others I have seen man and animals are represented."
"That is true, Christy, but each person must worship God as they feel they ought. In the past, the Christians and Moslems have had terrible wars trying to prove their faiths were better. It was wrong to do so; only God can judge our soul's worth. We share the same holy books, a common history of belief and even the same God. We should never have been enemies."
The three thanked the curator for letting them see the holy book and walked out to join Teefo and Peeti. Jamie gave her crutch to Christy to carry and leaned on Gunnul for support instead, as she limped along. "That was beautiful what you said to Christy, Gunnul. You are a marvelous mother. I am so lucky you were there to raise my daughter after Moe kidnaped her from me."
"I try to train her as my father trained me. I want her to grow up to be a wise and kind leader but I also want her to be confident and happy. I am glad that you came into our lives. I do not always agree with your American attitudes but I think you bring that confidence and happiness into Christy's life that I could not. I know you have made me happy. I was not whole until I met you," Gunnul answered, in her honest and straight forward way.
Jamie smiled up at Gunnul and squeezed her lover's arm. She knew she too had not been complete until she had met Gunnul. Now the three of them were a family and they shared a very special love.
The same day that the Dedeman's had arrived in London, Robbie Williams was also at the airport. Robbie Williams bounced on her heels the way she did when trying to be patient. The film producer and actor was not by nature a patient person. Her genius and her temper were legendary in the film business. It was not business, however, that had brought Robbie to Heathrow Airport near London this day. She was here instead to meet her family; her partner and wife Janet Williams and their two daughters Ryan and Rebecca.
Robbie had been in England for three weeks, checking and approving the sights that the scouts had chosen for consideration for her new film. Now her family was joining her and she could hardly wait. She had missed them terribly. That feeling always surprised and scared her a little. It made her feel very vulnerable. All her life she had remained aloof, taking what pleasure she could from casual relationships and maintaining high walls between her heart and soul and the rest of the world. Then, Janet, her brother's widow had shown up, and her walls crumbled one after another. Robbie smiled from under the sloppy hat that she had pulled down to help hide her identity from fans. Who would have thought it! Me, an old married woman with a family! That thought filled her with a warmth that spread all the way to her toes.
Her amazing blue eyes, hidden behind thick framed glasses, flicked up to check the over head arrival screens. The plane was on time and due in about five minutes. Robbie had spent a lot of time at airports over the years and hated it. Her restless, active personality did nor handle down time well. Still, she had to admit if there was an airport to love it would be Heathrow. It was nothing special to look at really, just an airport like any other. A bit worn and dirty due to the thousands of people who passed through the doors every day, and filled with over tired, over stressed humanity.
Yet, Heathrow had a personality that was unique. It reminded Robbie of the line in the original Star Wars movie were the Jedi Knight, Obi Wan, tells Luke Skywalker that all the best pilots of the galaxy could be found at sometime at the Mos Eisley Spaceport. That was Heathrow. All international flights to and from the Americas to Europe and the Far East had to funnel through this one single place. Being here was as close as a human could get to feeling like a time traveler.
Your attention, please. This is the last call for flight 329 to Nairobi, Kenya.
Robbie wondered how many Heads of State had walked through these gates, how many spies, soldiers, tourists, billionaire Sheiks, refugees, terrorists...her mind saw their stories as promos for films. Her intelligent eyes recorded details that would become part of her director's arsenal of ideas.
Passenger Mr. Rada Singh, on route to New Delhi, India, please report to the information desk.
Robbie watched a haggard looking man stepping up to place his order at a fast food stand. His wife and children stood off to the side, leaving the male of the house to bring back the fatted mastodon on a bun. Robbie's mouth took on a sneer; she had no patience for those who maintained traditional roles. Not that she supported any woman's liberation organizations either. Freedom to live her life as she wanted was something that the confident, rich and powerful woman took for granted.
Flight 976 to Bangkok, Thailand will be delayed...
Even the MacDonald's counter had been infected by the spirit of internationalism, Robbie noted, as her eyes traveled down the posted menu. They offered such treats as MacCurries and MacLamb burgers! The smile returned to Robbie's lips and she moved closer to the gate where she knew her family would be appearing at any minute.
The 747 touched down and the roar of the braking systems filled the cabin. Janet sighed. Thank God they were here. It wasn't that she minded flying; she didn't - but flying with a three year old and a bored teenager was right up there with suicide missions! Not that Ryan wasn't a pretty special kid. She had really been wonderful in the way she had worked to be part of their family unit. It must have been very hard for her, having been raised by a series of nannies or in boarding schools. She didn't have a very good idea about what family life was like anymore than her famous mother, Robbie Williams, did. Yet she had taken on the challenge with a focused and determined attitude so typical of the Williams family.
Janet instinctively reached over and brushed Ryan's bangs into place. Ryan smiled back, relief that the long flight was over written on her face. "It won't be long now, Ryan. Your mom will be there waiting," reassured Janet. "We just need to get wiggle bum here through customs and pick up our bags." Janet grabbed the hand of her fearless baby daughter and held on tight to prevent the three year old from running to the open hatch, while Ryan got their hand luggage down from the over-head compartments.
Janet frowned and gave herself a mental shake. That feeling of foreboding had suddenly swept over her again. It was silly. There was no reason to feel any anxiety. Here she was visiting a country that she had always wanted to see and meeting up with Robbie, whom she had missed so much! It was silly to feel any apprehension. Maybe I'm just over-tired, she thought, as they now stood in line waiting for their customs clearance. As always, Robbie had dreamed the impossible and then made it happen just by the force of her personality and will alone. With Janet working at her side, they had put into motion the construction of a state of the art school and studio in film and animation. It was a tremendous achievement but one that had really stretched their endurance.
Janet smiled, as they now waited for their bags to dropped down onto the baggage carousel. Well, it had taxed Janet's endurance. Robbie, as always, had any number of irons in the fire. She had planted the seeds for her school and then left Janet and Gwen in charge while she worked with Brian on the planning sessions for the new motion picture that they hoped to start filming this fall. For the last three weeks, Robbie had been in England seeing to the final details.
"No! Reb!" Janet screamed, snapping out of her thoughts, as she saw her daughter crawl up onto the metal baggage carousel while her big sister was busy lifting one of their bags off. Reb, giggling with delight, sat down between the bags and spun away past the row of startled passengers patiently waiting for their luggage to appear. "Reb!" called Janet in fear, as she envisioned a heavy piece of luggage dropping down on her adventurous daughter. Two long , strong arms reached out and lifted the child out of harm's way and as Janet battled her way through the crowd she heard Reb squeal, "Obby!"
Obby was Reb's pet name for her adopted mother and aunt, Robbie Williams. What was Robbie doing down here? Janet pushed through the crowds to see a tall, beautiful woman standing holding a rather startled looking Reb. The woman did look a lot like her Obby. The same build and graceful cat like movement and the same dark hair and brilliant blue eyes. The features were stronger, however, and the skin the golden tan of the Arabic people.
"Oh, I'm sorry, she got away from me! Thank you for saving her," Janet said, reaching up to take the confused child from the stranger's arms.
"I thought it was my Obby, mommy," the small child explained.
"I know, sweety," Janet reassured Reb. She and Robbie had needed to give Reb a talk about not going with strangers a few months ago. Reb had grown up in a town where everyone knew her and was a friend. As a result, she was a little too trusting and friendly. Since the talk, Reb felt the need to justify her actions every time she went ahead and talked to strangers anyway!
"That is all right. I remember when my Christy was that age, she too was such a handful," responded the exotic woman with a twinkle in her eye.
Janet smiled back, liking the woman instantly. "Well, thank you again. Reb, say thank you and good bye to the lady who helped you."
"Thank you. And good bye."
The tall woman smiled and responded formally. "You are very welcome, Little One." Then Janet hurried to join Ryan with the cart loaded with their bags and they headed for the exit.
Robbie was there and wrapped Ryan in her arms for a big hug before scooping Reb up and kissing her and depositing the child in Ryan's arms so that she could wrap Janet in a bear hug. "I have missed you so much!" she whispered into the small blond's ear.
"Mmmmm, I missed you too," Janet confessed, as she satisfied herself for the time being by dropping a tender kiss on the tall woman's temple. Robbie smiled down at her, her eyes soft with love and pride.
"Come on then, let's get back to the hotel and settle in," suggested Robbie happily, as she took command of the baggage and led her family towards the exit that would lead to where she had parked their car.
All bags left unattended will be removed by security and destroyed...
After Robbie had got her family settled in the hotel and they'd had a decent meal and rest, she gave into Reb's demands.
It seemed that Ryan had alleviated her boredom on the plane by convincing Reb that the one thing that she had to see in England was the Bloody Tower. The bulk of Reb's conversation since she had arrived had been "Obby, take me to the Bloody Tower!" What was it with my daughters and swear words anyway! Robbie wondered good-naturedly, as she swung the small child into the cab beside Ryan, who was trying her best to look innocent.
Robbie, who had been to England on many occasions, found that being a tour guide for her family was fun. They walked along the Victoria Embankment beside the river Thames while Robbie lectured. "The Tower of London...
"Bloody Tower!" protested Reb loudly.
Robbie knelt down beside her littlest, daughter having given her oldest daughter a stern look first. Ryan smiled wickedly and Janet rolled her eyes. "Reb," explained Robbie, "the right name for the place is the Tower of London, okay? We don't use the other name."
"Ryan isn't going to anymore!" stated Robbie firmly, looking up at her teenage daughter with a raised eyebrow. Ryan smiled and shrugged.
Robbie got up and took Reb's hand again. They started walking once more towards the main gate of the Tower of London. "The Tower was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1066 as a fortress but over time it has served as a royal residence and a garrison. The Captain of the Tower was the commander of London's defense forces. But it has gone down in history as one of the most infamous prisons in the world! The guards here are called Beef Eaters. No one is sure why. Their jobs have been passed down through their families for generations. One of their jobs is looking after the huge black ravens that are always around the Tower." Robbie squatted down and pointed for Reb to see. "There is one over there on the grassy bank. Legend has it, that if the ravens ever leave, England will fall."
"I like that," muttered Janet. "I must make a note of it." Robbie smiled at her wife. She was well aware of Janet's love of mythology. Janet knew lots of the myths of the Eastern Woodland Indians and she had been doing a lot of reading on Celtic myths since she knew she would be visiting England.
They paid the entrance fee and had their bags checked by security. Then they wandered into the courtyard. "The Tower has had many famous prisoners. Some survived to tell the tale such as Elizabeth I, who went on to rule Britain. Others, such as Charles I, Thomas More, Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey, and William Penn died here," Robbie explained ghoulishly. "Most of them were beheaded over there on that little patch of stone. If you were a commoner they used an axe but if you were royalty they used a sword."
"Nice touch!" smirked Ryan.
Robbie raised a warning eyebrow in fun and Janet and Ryan laughed. "Don't encourage her!" Robbie ordered Janet with a smile. "As I was saying, the last prisoner to stay here was Rudolf Hess, one of the Nazi leaders."
They looked around the various towers and rooms checking for ghosts then Robbie took them to view the crown jewels. As they stood on the moving walkway, Robbie explained. "Queen Elizabeth II is the third richest woman in the world. These jewels are owed by the Crown and the State," Robbie explained. She pointed into a case. "That's the Star of Africa. It's the largest diamond ever cut in the world. It weighs 530 carats! See the Imperial Crown? It's the one you see the monarch wear at the coronation. It has 3,000 diamonds alone in the setting! And the Crown of India over here has a 34 carat emerald in the centre and 6,000 diamonds around it! Not a bad jewelry collection, huh?!"
The Williams played tourist looking into the cases that protected and luminated the spectacular collection. "Boy! I bet they have an army protecting that stuff !" Ryan commented.
Robbie shrugged. "I asked once and they said no. That when the Queen needs one of the crowns they just stick it in a cardboard box and run it over to the palace in a truck. They said a large guard and armored vehicle would just be a sign that the jewels were being moved. Delivery trucks come and go from here all the time so no one would be the wiser!"
"The British understatement, at its best!" laughed Janet.
The Williams hailed a cab and headed back to the hotel. Janet and Robbie worked together to get Reb fed, washed, changed and into bed for a bed time story. When Janet went back to the connecting room she was sharing with Robbie to shower, the actor started negotiations with Ryan who had been lying on the other bed reading a book..
"How much?" asked Robbie, leaning against the wall with her arms crossed and one eye brow up.
Ryan smiled evilly as she book-marked her spot and tossed the novel on the table between the two beds.. "Fifty dollars an hour plus the use of your laptop. I want to e-mail some friends back home."
"Fifty dollars! That's robbery!" growled Robbie.
"Nope, that's supply and demand and the free enterprise system. You haven't seen Mom in three weeks and are desperate for some time alone with her and I'm the only available babysitter. Besides, I'm saving for a car," responded Ryan, getting up and unconsciously folding her arms like her mother.
"What ever happened to love and family support," grumbled Robbie, pushing off from the wall to shake Ryan's hand and seal the deal.
"Tomorrow, we can be a loving, caring family. Tonight, you are paying through the nose for a little private time with my other Mom," smiled Ryan, with a grin. "And I won't even charge you extra for reassuring Aunt Janet that I'm perfectly happy to babysit Reb while I e-mail my friends," responded Ryan, shaking her Mom's hand.
"You are a shark!"
"Takes one to know one!" laughed Ryan. "You and Aunt Janet have a good time!"
Robbie gave her daughter a hug. "Sure you don't mind?"
"Not at all," Ryan reassured her.
Janet struggled to escape the flames. They surrounded her and held her tight in a burning grasp. She opened her mouth to scream for help but nothing came out as she gagged on smoke and flame. With superhuman effort she forced herself up and woke with a start to see that she had fallen asleep in the tub and slipped down until she had taken in a mouthful of water. The bathroom was steamy and hot.
She struggled out and wrapped a towel around her as she fumbled at the door handle to get out. Back in the bedroom, the air felt chilled and fresh. Janet closed the door to the bathroom and leaned against it, her heart pounding still in fear. That had to be the worst nightmare that she'd had in a long time! Maybe the worst! Slowly, the fear dissipated and was replaced again with a heavy feeling of dread. Janet shivered and then pushed the feeling away. It must be some chemical imbalance her body was experiencing. It was nothing more than a stupid mood swing. She must be over tired. A few weeks visiting Robbie here in England and she would be feeling like herself again.
"Are you alright?" asked Robbie, coming back into the hotel room she was sharing with her soulmate. Janet stood wrapped in a bath towel, leaning against the bathroom door, white and shaky.
"I'm.... yes, I'm fine," responded Janet, leaning into Robbie's outstretched arms. "I fell asleep in the bath tub and had the worst nightmare! It's probably jet lag. I'm fine. Hmmmmm, it is so nice to be back with you!"
Robbie bent and picked Janet up in her arms and carried her over to the bed. It never ceased to amaze Janet just how strong Robbie was. Her lover lay her down on the bed and bented over her to nuzzle at the soft, warm skin below her jaw line.
"Hmmm, no, ohhh that's nice, but the kids," Janet managed to articulate with difficulty.
"S'okay, I've bribed Ryan to babysit for the evening," muttered Robbie, as she lowered her lean form over Janet's now naked body.
"Ohhh, you're good, very, very good," moaned Janet, as she arched into the touch of her soulmate's lips on her nipples. Robbie's hands drifted along the lines and curves of her lover's body, as the two of them felt the rhythmic need building with each touch. Janet's hands slid down her lover's form and unfastened the actor's shirt and bra . Robbie groaned and arched back, allowing Janet to lean up and suck on the actor's waiting breasts. Need rose to passion and all else was forgotten.
Sometime later, Janet and Robbie dressed and called for one of the quaint London cabs. "I'm taking you to visit my girl friend," Robbie had teased her love sated partner. Janet had looked up at Robbie with wide eyes and arched eyebrows but Robbie had just laughed and tucked her soulmate into the cab. In the late afternoon light, they drove down towards the Thames and got out near Westminster, asking the driver to wait.
Robbie grinned with excitement. "This way, Janet, down here. This gold statue of a chariot pulled by two horses and driven by a woman with bare breasts is to honour Queen Boadicea of the Iceni. In 61 A.D., she and her two daughters led an attack that defeated the Romans. She burnt the Roman town of London to the ground!
"They say she was six feet tall, when most men of the time were much shorter, and she had flaming red hair. For almost two thousand years, her name has remained a legend. Bold, strong of character and loyal, she represents to me what all women should strive to be. Whenever, I am in London, I come and visit her and pay my respects."
Janet laughed and looked from Robbie's animated face to the monument of the daring and brave woman. "I can see why you would want her as your girl friend, Robbie. She is definitely your type! Maybe in another life you knew her!"
Robbie laughed and took Janet's arm to lead her back to the cab. "If I did, I'm sure we were on opposite sides. I'd probably be supporting Rome in the conquest of the known world!"
Janet looked up at her lover thoughtfully. "No, you'd get bored with that quickly and be out there fighting for the under dog. That's why you identify with Queen Boadicea. She stood up to the might of Rome and won."
"Maybe," Robbie conceded, but she wasn't so sure she was as honourable a character as Janet liked to believe. She slipped into the cab beside Janet and looked back at Boadicea the bronze charioteer charging forever into battle. For a second, she could smell the dust and leather, hear the flags cracking in the wind and the scraping of swords as they were drawn from their scabbards. She smiled, winked at the statue and ordered the driver to take them to St. Catherine's Gate.
There they walked, arms linked, past Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Janet caught Robbie up on all the news from home and Robbie shared with Janet some of her plans for the filming of Harold: King of England.
Later, they returned to have dinner at the Charles Dicken's Pub by a window that over looked the Pool of London. They looked out at the famous galleons the Cutty Sark and the Golden Hind and through their rigging watched the sun set, turning the harbour water into a golden strip. They shared a bottle of Mouton Cadet de Rothchild over a meal of venison and wild truffles, then sauntered around the dock to look more closely at the historical vessels and recreational boats that were moored there before taking a cab back to their hotel room. Their love making this time, was tender, familiar and long.
After Teefo and Peeti had left, Gunnul had insisted on going out with Christy to bring back curry from the corner shop for dinner rather than having Jamie cook. Jamie was instructed to rest while they were out but she sat in the window instead that looked over Russell Square and the Bloomsbury area which had once been the home of Virginia Wolf and her artistic friends.
Gunnul's London flat was small, yet Jamie was aware because she worked so closely with Gunnul on her accounts that the one bedroom, third story walk up, with the roof patio was worth over a million and a half dollars. London property was some of the most expensive in the world. Of course, the apartment had been designed and decorated professionally and the kitchen was by Smallbones! Jamie hoped she got a change to use the kitchen before they left London. Gunnul was clearly worried about what had happened at the museum today. Knowing how close they had come to losing Christy to some mysterious illness, Gunnul was feeling more than her usual over-protectiveness.
Jamie frowned. She would have to explain to Gunnul what happened this morning when she looked at that illustration and the strange feelings of dread that she had been experiencing. She wasn't sure that the ever practical and logical Turk was going to understand. Jamie sighed and picked up her latest book on Celtic religion that she had been studying. She had developed quite an interest in the ancient faith and was looking forward to visiting some of the sites on Salisbury Plain including Stone Henge.
She read quietly until she smelt the hot tangy scent of curry and heard the laughter of her family as they raced up the stairs. They ate informally on the living-room rug watching a video that Gunnul had deemed appropriate for Christy to watch. Then they played scrabble until Jamie said it was time for Christy to go to bed. Gunnul and Jamie sat quietly, working on the last of the business contracts that had brought Gunnul to London. Then, when Christy was asleep on the sofa bed, Gunnul helped Jamie up the steep stairs that led to the roof garden.
There, softened by the evening light, was London. Below them to the right was the British Museum. Farther along Oxford was Baker Street, where the legendary Holmes was supposed to have lived. To the south of Bloomsbury was the Soho area and Covent Garden. Big Ben chimed the hour over the Thames. The dirt of the city was mellowed by the yellow street lights slipping London back into its nineteenth century elegance. It was a Mary Poppins world up there, of Romanesque chimney pots, push bikes leaning against dust bins in back alleys, London cabs bustling down tree lined streets and singing drifting up from a local pub. Samuel Johnson once wrote that to be tired of London was to be tired of life.
Gunnul stood behind Jamie who was nestled deep in her arms and let her lover soak up the magic of the city before she spoke. "What happened today, Jamie? Were you ill?"
Jamie stiffened a little in Gunnul's arms, then relaxed, knowing that she couldn't be in a more secure place. "No, I wasn't sick, Gunnul, I was terrified. I saw this illustration in a manuscript of a fire rising from a stone altar and suddenly I had this vision."
"Yes. The flames reached out to me with hot talons that wrapped around my arms and pulled me towards them. I could feel it, smell it...."
"Shhhh, do not talk of it if it upsets you," soothed Gunnul, holding Jamie close in her arms.
"Since we arrived, I've been getting these moments of foreboding, dread...I put it down to jet lag and being tired but today really scared me. Do you believe me, Gunnul?"
For a moment there was silence as Gunnul pondered the question in her logical way. "I do not believe that a picture can pull you into its flames but I do accept that you had a vision that seemed very real to you. There was a time that I would have told you it was silliness but I have felt the power of the grave and I have seen how the visions from the grave visit our daughter and give her sight. I do not understand but I know it has happened."
"I thought all the trouble with the grave was over, that our ancestors had found their way back to loving each other. Do you think the vision was a warning?"
"Maybe, maybe not. At the airport, Jamie, while I waited for our bags with Teefo, I saw one of the Others. One of your lineage, Jamie with a child that carried the same traits as myself. It was not one we have met before."
"Then it is not over! Oh Gunnul, I'm worried!"
"Don't be, Jamie. Everything will be fine. The past can not hurt us," Gunnul reassured, kissing the top of Jamie's head. They stood there for a long time watching the lights of London. Less than a mile away, Robbie walked with Janet along the waterfront and Boadicea stood frozen on the edge of battle.
Evil is a seed that lies within all of us. Like a desert plant, it can lay dormant for years or even a life time until such time as its genetic code is activated and then it grows quickly, madly and completely out of proportion. We all sense it within us, that minute kernel of evil. It is what compels us to set down laws of social behaviour and dire consequences for those who break them. It sends us seeking a god that will protect us from our wrong doings. Yet in the end, we execute the murderer, kill in our god's name and evil laughs in triumph.
Even the power of the wind let loose on the plain howled around the massive ancient stones in terror. They stood like sentries guarding a lost secret. Neither good nor bad, they were the silent Watchers though time. The price of neutrality is indifference. The Watchers were cold stone without feeling.
The ring of massive stones capped by lintels weighing tonnes casts shadows that could be read by believers as clearly as a scientific instrument. Summer solstice was not far off. The setting sun's rays knifed through the arches and cut a jagged line across the wind tossed grass, barely missing the heel stone.
The darkness nearby shifted and shadow became a well of blackness far denser than the night. A scaly hand reached up from out of the ground and talons dug into Mother Earth. The figure heaved its massive bulk up out of the timeless void in which it had disappeared so long ago and stood by the ruined altar within the skeleton of the fallen temple.
A voice, harsh and forced with lack of use, rumbled a promise to the ring of Watchers. "I will revenge!"
Continued - Part 2
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