At the Inlet: Introduction and Synopsis to Paludavia


Introduction

At The Inlet is the immediate sequel to Paludavia, “the swamp road,” which takes place on the semi-tropical Island.  It is a sequel to that adventure only in the broadest sense of the word.  In the previous work, we saw royalty and their ministers drawn into a life or death struggle for the survival of not only their way of life but also the way of life of the entire Island.  The result of this was the war that changed everything, and not only those nations that were directly involved.

With the war over, those who were the direct participants in this adventure (which they blithely referred to as “the trip”) had other matters to deal with, matters of home and family, matters of romance, and the matter of their relationships with God.  Although the Island’s (and in particular Serelia’s) very specific situation always puts things in its own mould, we turn from wars and conquests of nations to the interaction of individuals, a realm we all must live with from day to day.

For those who have not read Paludavia, which is prologue to this work, we present a brief summary of that adventure, and how it connects with the present narrative.

Synopsis of Paludavia

The story begins on 28 February.  After a long and agonising conflict, the Serelian Kingdom acknowledged the inevitable and gave its southern half independence as the Drahlan Kingdom.  To formalise the process after a three-year cease-fire, they sent Crown Prince George, last surviving son of Serelian King Adam, to the Drahlan capital of Barlin for the formal ceremony of independence.  George had suspicions about the recent activities of Serelian ally Verecunda, and he arranged a meeting with Drahla’s head of government and Royal Counsellor, Terry Marlowe, who years ago had fled the left-wing regime in Verecunda and who was also a Pentecostal minister.  He presented his suspicions about the place.  Terry responded that she would consult Drahlan King Henry, which she did, along with Crown Prince William and Prince Dennis.  After a tense session, Henry decided to send Terry and William to Serelia to pursue the matter further.

They went to Serelia via Drago and Fort Albert, Drahla’s most prosperous cities, which were chafing under both the tax load and the lack of representative government.  When they reached Serelia in the afternoon of 3 March, they had a formal audience with King Adam and attended a reception in their honour.  While there Terry was confronted by her brother, Richard Marlowe, a Verecundan Special Envoy, who drug up Terry’s past in font of everyone, including her date rape at her prep school prom, her problems with drugs and prostitution, and her flight into the eastern part of the Island after her encounter with Jesus Christ.

After this they met with King Adam, who proposed that Terry, George and George’s wife Darlene travel on the Serelian royal yacht to Verecunda and places in between to attempt to determine just what the Verecundans were doing.  The next day Terry and William attended church at the Cathedral in Serelia, which was a part of Serelia’s Anglican state church.  William returned to Barlin and Terry spent the afternoon with Canon Desmond Lewis of the Cathedral and his family, where she described her dramatic conversion experience and fielded a large number of questions about her activity as a Pentecostal minister.

Terry, George and Darlene left Serelia the next day (6 March) on the royal yacht. They travelled until they reached the Avalon Retreat, located on a small island off of Alemara.  Started by a Catholic priest named James Avalon and other refugees from Verecunda twenty years before, it was Terry’s home from the time it was started until she left as a lay missionary in Cresca.  Her mission had ended in disaster for Avalon, as she left the Catholic Church and became a Pentecostal minister while in Cresca.  This made her welcome less than wholehearted on Avalon’s part; however, she was able to visit those in the retreat while George got a summary of the grim record of religious persecution on the part of the Verecundan government, including their requirements that all religious groups adhere to their Six Statements, a manifesto that required humanistic or New Age beliefs to be adopted.

They spent two days at the Retreat before crossing the sound on 9 March to Alemara, which with Verecunda’s problems had become the commercial centre of the Island.  George and Darlene were whisked away to a meeting with the government, leaving Terry stranded at the dock.  This was not entirely a snub, because she was met by and had a long French lunch with Pierre des Cieux, a former automotive components sales representative and general “man about the Island.”  Des Cieux told her many things about current Island affairs, but the most significant thing he revealed to her was that Darlene was in fact the kid sister of Ronald Amherst, the great Serelian general who had killed Terry’s husband Max Serlin in battle and personally shot her infant son David during the war before dying at the Battle of South Barlin.

This revelation was a shock to Terry; she went to the Alemaran guesthouse and sulked for several hours.  This pity party came to an abrupt halt that evening when a Verecundan embassy official attempted to kidnap her for bounty, an attempt that ended with Terry flushing his head down the commode prior to his arrest by Alemaran authorities.

Terry herself met with the Alemaran government the following day.  That evening the three went to an expatriate party at the Aloxan embassy, the diplomatic mission of the Island’s only predominantly black nation.  After this Terry went to sit at the dock, but was joined by Darlene. George had forced his wife to go there in order to save the mission.  The two women decided to try reconciliation, which they attempted to carry out on a shopping trip the next day while they and George attempted to secure an invitation to Vidamera and to insure they all had diplomatic immunity to go to Verecunda.

The following Monday (13 March) they went to Vidamera city to see the irresponsible Vidameran King Francis.  He was in usual form; George and Darlene found themselves on a deep sea fishing expedition while Terry went to the local Catholic church to see Pierre’s son, Monsignor Raymond des Cieux.  They had a discussion about why they ended up having to leave Verecunda.  When she stepped out of the church, she was confronted with a group of armed men who took her to their boss’ “hideout.”  Their boss turned out to be Count Michael of West Vidamera, who was supposed to be a Verecundan ally but had actually soured on his “ally” because of his father’s assassination and other problems.  They went skeet and trap shooting and he returned her to the palace for another uneventful reception.

The trio’s audience with Francis was unproductive.  As they left town, they were ambushed by bounty hunters; they were rescued by Count Michael’s men, who helped them get safe passage back to Alemara.  When they returned, they found that the Verecundan government had given in to their demands and issued letters of immunity to all three of them.

The next day (15 March) they took the yacht to Verecunda.  They were greeted in Druid style by Seamus Gallen, Verecunda’s Foreign Minister.  They were taken to the Elaron Beach Hotel, which Terry’s grandfather and uncle had built.  It was here that the import of Terry ancestry—her grandfather, Lucian Gerland, had been in his day the wealthiest man on the Island—started to sink into the royals and especially Darlene.  That evening they were given a reception by the Finance and Foreign Ministries, and it was there that Terry ran into a childhood friend, Cathy Arnold, who was an officer with the Verecundan Central Bank.

The next day they were taken to a “model school” by Patricia Langley-Cox, Terry’s cousin and the Minister of Education.  The program at the school was shattered by an invasion of left wing rioters, who forced the entire school—children, guests and all—into buses so they could leave.  They ended up at the Presidential Palace, where they wasted the afternoon in a verbal sparring match with President Lillith Connolly and her advisors.

That evening George and Darlene attended a “cultural” event, but Terry had dinner with Cathy Arnold.  It was only here that Terry learned the truth: the Verecundans had concluded an “economic development package” with the Claudian Kingdom that essentially involved the takeover of virtually every institution in the country by one Verecundan ministry or another.  Terry now knew the peril they were in; even in its weakened state, Verecunda would be able to take over a divided Island one loan at a time.

The next morning Terry and Darlene went to the beach to go over what they knew.  When they were done they realised they would have to leave.  George came back from the Serelian embassy to announce that the yacht had been seized and that he was ready to get out, but their exit was blocked by an official from the Ministry of the Environment, who attempted to arrest them.  Her arrest was foiled by Darlene, who exploded at the official with such authority that they were able to take her car right in front of her and flee, first to Point Collina and then into occupied Collina proper.

They were eventually captured by Collinan rebels, lead by Andy Dell.  After some time of eluding capture and a late night meeting, they decided to go to Aloxa to secure help.  They left early Sunday morning (19 March) in a boat that headed up the coast past Collina town and into Aloxan waters, arriving at Beran in time for Sunday morning church at the Beran Pentecostal Church.  Terry preached and afterwards the trio had dinner at the parsonage, but they had arranged with the provincial governor to meet with Aloxan King Leslie later that afternoon.

On the way to Aloxa town, Darlene drilled Terry with many questions about Terry’s faith.  When they arrived at the Aloxan palace, they were awed at the size and beauty of the place.  Leslie received them; upon hearing about the seizure of the yacht and the deal with the Claudians, he called his advisors together and had an extended meeting to discuss what might be done.

The next day Leslie took the three back to a large mansion to the west of the palace, which he announced was the old Amherst estate, which were Darlene’s ancestors.  He also revealed a secret that very few remembered: that Darlene’s great-grandfather Theodore had married a daughter of the last King of Beran, making Darlene a direct descendant of that monarchy.  Leslie then explained his “vision” with the three “cords” of the Island: Beran, represented by George and Darlene; Verecunda and the commercial states, represented by Terry, and the black Aloxans, represented by Leslie.  He stated that the Island would only have peace and prosperity if the three cords could be put back together, which was being done in their presence.  He also announced that Aloxa was going to war against Verecunda, and already mobilising.

That evening Terry spent time with Leslie and Queen Arlene where she presented the case for Christianity to Leslie.  Early the next morning Terry’s prayer time was interrupted by Darlene, who was frantic about taking a direct invasion approach as opposed to a more indirect one some of the Aloxans were advocating.  The three eventually presented this to the Aloxans and they agreed.  George and Darlene left Aloxa town that afternoon for the main front; Terry stayed behind with the North Army Group, which would come in behind the main unit.

The invasion started on 22 March.  Terry—with backup from Christian Queen Arlene—prayed over the troops in Aloxa, after which the whole army moved out.  The main group in the south wiped out the border post and raced to Uranus town, only to find that they could not get there fast enough to get suitable field position south of town against the Verecundans.  Taking a plan from a field commander, they partially evacuated the town and lured the Verecundans into Uranus, where the Aloxans cut the Verecundan armour to pieces.  With that the infantry resistance collapsed, and the rest of the Verecundans fled south, the Aloxans in pursuit.

Army Group North came in behind but went to Jersey Heights, where they defeated the Sacred Band of the Inland Police.  From there they made a dash to the crossroads with the main road, where they captured the field command of the Verecundan army.  They were eventually able to trap and receive the surrender of the rest of the Verecundan army.  The Aloxans then went forward to capture Fort Stevenson, the airport and its environs in preparation for invading the city proper.

Established in Fort Stevenson, all of the dignitaries were in the Officers’ Club when they noticed Prince Peter, Leslie’s youngest son, with a Verecundan army officer.  With the help of Darlene’s nosiness, they found her to be Julia Stanley, a Christian whose parents had died in prison for their faith.  They also found out that Peter had decided to take Julia as his wife, as a spoil of war.  Julia spent the night with Terry, who spent time in prayer with her as Julia set out on her new life.

Peter and Julia were taken back to Aloxa early the next morning. After overcoming shortages of just about everything, the Aloxans proceeded down Central Avenue to take the city.  Their advance was delayed by another protest, which they broke up by shooting into the crowd.  They then went to the Presidential Palace, where the surrender was interrupted by Richard Marlowe.  He launched into a monologue about the reasons for Verecunda’s left-wing regime, which so angered one of Leslie’s guards that he shot Richard dead in front of everyone.  At this Terry went into hysterics and had to be taken to an office, where Darlene helped calm Terry down with herbs provided with the help of Maeve Martin, an herbalist with the Verecundan Ministry of Health.

Leaving his brother Desmond with the task of controlling Verecunda, Leslie took George to the port, where they reviewed the marines there and reflected on the cost and the worth of the whole adventure.

The next day (24 March) Terry went to Point Collina to see her mother, who was in a care facility.  She found her mother unable to communicate or move as a result of a stroke; she also found her Uncle Ernie, who berated her for her “betrayal” of her family and country.  Terry went to the Point, where Pierre des Cieux tried to put the whole thing in a greater perspective.  After that Terry went to the Yacht Club with Andy Dell for lunch; while leaving, she met a frantic Cathy Arnold, who begged her to take her away from Verecunda altogether, which she agreed to.

The evening was taken up by the Golden Light ceremony for Richard Marlowe, which was done in pagan style by Seamus Gallen and the Druids.  The end of the ceremony was the lighting of the funeral boat with Richard’s body on it.  It was also visible across the bay as well at the care facility.

Having recovered the yacht, next day the three left for Alemara with Cathy Arnold.  While under way Terry laid out the plan of salvation to both Cathy and Darlene, and both became Christians as a result of this.

Cathy and Terry returned to Barlin on 27 March; Terry baptised Cathy on Easter Sunday (16 April) with a challenge to evangelise the whole Island. This is the actual end of Paludavia.  George and Darlene returned to Serelia on 29 March. Just before Easter Darlene’s first pregnancy was announced.

Transition to At The Inlet

The six weeks between the end of one work and the beginning of the next one are not very long in time but contain some important events, some of which are explained in the narrative and some of which are not.

Peter and Julia were married on 1 April; they started their honeymoon in a remote area of Serelia but after Easter joined George, Darlene and Prince Dennis and Princess Andrea of Drahla on a hunting expedition.  This had three important outcomes: it bonded the diverse royals together in general, it was an important time of discipleship for Darlene with the two other Christian princesses, and the six put forth the “New Beran Initiative,” a manifesto of cooperation between the three countries which at one time had been part of Beran’s empire.  This manifesto was accepted by all three countries, but events would overshadow this very progressive step.  Peter and Julia went on to Barlin and Drago on 25 April for the remainder of their honeymoon, where they saw the country and attended Pentecostal church in Barlin.  The two honeymooners returned to Uranus on 4 May to the mess that is described in the narrative.

The Aloxan occupation of Uranus and Verecunda got off to a rocky start.  Uranus’ situation is alluded to in the narrative.  Verecunda’s was a constant uproar, with problems posed by a resurgent CPL. Prince Desmond was also forced to deal with external problems as well; he ended up in a pattern of playing off Verecunda’s creditors against human rights activists, which stalled either group from taking action against him.

Darlene’s salvation brought important changes to her life and the life of those around her at a time when her pregnancy induced changes enough.  Her difficult relationship with Queen Annette began to improve.  Unfortunately the Church of Serelia ministers around her—especially Bishop Weston Collingswood and Canon Desmond Lewis—were either unable or unwilling to adequately deal with her questions and her need for discipleship, and so her whole Christian journey was placed in jeopardy from the very start.

Terry’s situation in Barlin was becoming difficult but for an entirely different reason.  Drahla was a “composite” state, made up partly of chartered “free” cities such as Drago and Cresca and partly old Serelian royal estates such as around Barlin and in the northwest.  The details of how to properly govern such a country were extensively delayed, first by the war of independence and then by the “limbo” of the cease-fire.  After formal independence, though, the chartered cities pushed for a more democratic system, while King Henry tried to go on with an absolute monarchy modified by the existing charters, a course that Terry, as Royal Counsellor, favoured both out of principle and as a practical matter.  By the middle of May the cities—especially Drago—had decided to “call the King’s bluff” on the issue and press for representative government.  This meeting took place on 2 June; it is the aftermath of this meeting that begins At The Inlet.

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