At the Inlet: June, Part 2 (A marriage and an exile)

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The next day was Pentecost Sunday, always a day of celebration at church, but for Terry everything was a blur.  Monday she came into her office to clean out her things; Prince William would act as his father’s chief subordinate until the elections took place.  The capital’s rumour mill, abuzz enough with William and Cathy’s romance, now added Terry’s future to it.  She spent the next few days resting and spending time with friends and church people she hadn’t had a chance to in a long time.

Later in the week, however, William’s lackey came to her house and announced that the King wanted an audience with her.  She following him to the palace, but again instead of the throne room she once again went to the study.  She entered to find not only the King, but Queen Janet, Princes William and Dennis, Princess Andrea and soon to be Princess Catherine.  The King especially had a grave look as he bid Terry to be seated.  The princes secured the doors and returned to their places.

“Did you solicit this?” the King asked Terry, handing her a piece of parchment.  Terry unrolled it to read a very formally worded and beautifully styled request (she suspected Darlene’s doing on the calligraphy) from King Adam that requested King Henry to release his subject and servant, Terry, from Henry’s service into Adam’s, specifically to be the administrative assistant and spiritual advisor to the Princess Darlene.  As she read the legalese, her eyes widened in astonishment.  She then looked up at the royal family.

“I did not,” Terry said.  “I am in total shock as much as you are.”

“You expect us to believe that?”  William asked.

“I do, God being my witness.”

There was a pause in the room.  Then Henry chuckled and said, “The old buzzard was always the expert in feudal law.  You could probably count the number of requests like this on one hand since Beran broke up.”

“So what are you going to do about this?” Dennis asked Terry.

“It’s not her decision,” Henry flatly stated.  “It’s mine.  However, since I am about to become the Island’s first constitutional monarch, I guess I should at least give her the opportunity to express her desire in this matter.”

Terry knew she was in a tight place; her palms were moist and she trembled.  “Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, my only desire in this case is to minister to a soul which I led to the Lord, and that soul is the Princess Darlene’s. She is the first descendant of the Kings of Beran to have accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Saviour, and if we have any plans of a really new Beran, she is crucial to that plan.  I understand better than anyone the gravity of my taking a position with the country with which we fought such a bloody war of independence.  But as Samuel de Champlain used to say, ‘The salvation of one soul is worth the conquest of an empire,’ and I am prepared to endure whatever hardship befalls me to accomplish that.”

There was a silence in the room, only accompanied by the sniffles of the princesses.  Then Henry leaned forward and said, “I want you to take this position.”

“You do?” Terry asked, stunned.

“Absolutely.  I was a fool to give in to the delegation—my children never tire of reminding me of this.  The charter cities’ objective is to establish a republic like Alemara.  The monarchy in Drahla is in a fight for its life.  I have asked William to be the representative to this new-fangled council from Barlin—I at least got the option to appoint him at the start.  Dennis is my special envoy to the rest of the Island.  Our newest addition, Catherine, is of course at the Central Bank—as you have observed, our friends on the coast will find her a challenge. As our friend, you in Serelia are an important part of our survival as the rulers of Drahla—especially if we fail.

“The wedding is set for two weeks from Saturday.  You will go ahead and officiate the ceremony, then use the activity of the reception and all that to slip out.  Don’t make any direct contacts with the Serelians—Cathy will be your go between, she visits their embassy often as it is.  This plan must not leave this room; I trust the Serelians will keep it under wraps also.”

“It’s hard to believe,” Dennis added, “that the people who benefited most from what you gave have turned on you like this.  We’ll never be able to repay you for what you’ve done—both in affairs of state and spiritually as well.”

“I hope you find happiness in Serelia, even though it breaks my heart to see you go,” Janet said.

“We need to pray,” Andrea stated.  “We’re all facing some major things here, even though I’m ashamed to say my relatives are a big part of the problem.  But no matter what, God can turn this around for the best, because all things still work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”  They repositioned themselves into a circle, joined hands, and entered into a time of concert prayer—the first time the Drahlan royal family had prayed together about anything.  After a long time of groaning and weeping before the Lord, Dennis took some oil and anointed Terry, who in turn anointed all of the royals, even the King and Queen.  After these things they dined together, discussing the wedding and everything else but the plans for Terry’s departure.

The next two weeks were feverish ones, weeks of preparation for all kinds of things.  Cathy was the shuttle diplomat for Terry’s departure; it gave her a chance to spend time with her old friend. That time was limited since she additionally had to both assume her duties as Managing Director of the Bank and prepare to be William’s bride.  She was amazed at how quickly a royal wedding could be put together, but Janet was experienced at this.  Cathy’s new duties at the bank were facilitated by the fact that the coastal cities—and the northwest for that matter—were more focused on their own election campaigns for the provisional council, as the elections were scheduled for the Monday after the wedding.

The rumour mill found a new high gear during this time.  The palace was finally forced to issue a statement that Terry was going abroad for an extended period after the wedding, which only increased people’s curiosity.  Terry found herself bombarded with questions about this, as did both those who did know and those who didn’t.

Terry baptised William the Sunday before the wedding.  The royals were forced by circumstance to let Vernon Calloway in on the secret, which made it possible for him to make arrangements for some of Terry’s ministerial duties, such as teaching at the Bible school.  The whole process made everyone a little manic-depressive, excited one minute and down the next.

The wedding day finally came.  Because the church was an open structure, the weather was a major factor; they had the wedding in the morning to beat the afternoon rains, and in this they succeeded.  Drahla’s new status on the Island meant that the guest list of dignitaries was unprecedented for them.  The Serelians sent Prince George and their Chancellor, Devin Dillman.  Although this was the first time since the trip that Terry had actually seen George, they interacted little by agreement.  From Alemara came their current President, Clark Garrison, along with their Finance Minister, Morrison Keller.  The Vidamerans sent Queen Helene and her son, Prince Victor.  The Aloxans sent Prince Marc and Princess Bernadette; they had to be especially careful that they were covered every time they sent someone out of the country.  From Collina came the Finance Minister, Rosa Mott, who like Cathy used to work in the Central Bank of Verecunda but whose father had been killed in the war of independence.  Even the Claudians came out of their shell for this one, sending their Grand Worshipful Master Theodore Macken.

Subject to the usual limitations the Drahlans worked under, the wedding was worthy of the guest list, and the people from within Drahla itself filled the church to overflowing.  The wedding went well, but it took all of Terry’s ministerial professionalism to get through it.  The most moving moment took place at the end where, at the request of the couple, those who had been approved came forward to lay hands on William, Cathy and William’s children in concert prayer for their marriage and their governance of Drahla.  This was usually a more spontaneous affair in a Pentecostal church, but for security reasons those who came forward to pray were prequalified and searched; the Drahlan security personnel were still nervous through the whole process.  Some of the foreign guests were a part of this, including the Aloxans, Alemarans, and even Prince George.

When the bride and groom had recessed out of the church along with the rest of the wedding party, everyone began to make their way to the Royal Pavilion for the reception.  Terry for her part started to do the same thing, but at the right moment slipped away and scurried toward the Serelian embassy, her only possession at that point being her new Bible.

When she arrived, the SUV waiting to take her away was waiting out back.  “We’re glad you’re coming with us today,” said Kyle Harmon, the young man who had guarded the yacht when it was tied up at Alemara during the trip.  Kyle opened the back door and Terry got in.  “Your things are already in the back—we’ll make arrangements to move everything else next week.”  Kyle closed the door and went around to start the vehicle and began the journey to Serelia.

One of Terry’s last achievements as Royal Counsellor was to convince the council at Fort Albert to allow a public road to be designated through the orange groves from the Fort to Barlin.  It wasn’t much; it was dirt in most places, but it was passable.  Terry was one of the first beneficiaries of her work as the SUV bounced through woods, swamp and groves.

At the edge of the groves, Kyle said, “This country brings back memories, doesn’t it.”

“This is about where Prince George was captured.”

“You ever think you’d be coming to our court to serve?”

“Never did,” Terry said.  “God has a great sense of humour.  Since they abolished my office, sometimes I know how He felt before the Flood.”

“They’ll figure it out,” Kyle said.  “A lot of people in Serelia think it’s funny, but it’s really not.  Our two nations are too close—when one hurts, we both hurt.  But that’s what always amazed me about Alemara when I was posted down there—the endless yammering in the press about the silliest things, and yet things just keep getting better and better.  It’s just the way things get done in a democracy.  They’ve got a first rate security and intelligence service, too.”

They drove on towards Fort Albert; the road improved as they went.  “Her Highness is really excited about your coming.”

“I am too—she’s why I’m doing this.”

“Whatever you told her coming home made an impact—she spends a lot of time reading the Bible.  Our Bishop is about to go crazy over it—afraid you’ve made her change her religion, so she’ll disestablish the church.”

“That’s not what I was trying to do,” Terry said.  “Darlene is precious—I want to make sure I spend eternity with her.  Besides, I was witnessing to Cathy Arnold anyway.  I couldn’t resist.”

“Princess Catherine is King Henry and the princes’ ace in the hole,” Kyle observed.  “Drago and the rest want two things—a republic and easy credit.  She’s see to it they’ll get neither.”

They reached the Old Beran Road just south of Fort Albert and, turning left, went through the Fort and northward to Serelia.  As they did, things got quiet and Terry had time to look out of the window at the country she had served and ministered to for more than fifteen years.  Although she was looking forward to being with George and Darlene again, she couldn’t shake the feeling that, somehow, she was leaving her freedom behind and going into exile for some crime she had committed.

As was the case the last time she came to the border crossing, she was waved through.  Once again she came up on the supremely nondescript Serelia Beach and Serelia.  She did notice, though, that quite a number of septic tanks were going in people’s back yards.

“We’re going to fix this lake,” Kyle said.  “The tanks were one of the main sticking points with the Verecundans—they always maintained that septic tanks were ‘an affront to the Earth.’”

“Takes one to know one,” Terry quipped.

“We’re still working on the water treatment and sewer contracts,” Kyle said.

They almost reached the palace, but Kyle turned off to the right and went to the Prince Arthur Inn.  They pulled up to the front.  “They weren’t sure when you were coming—they want to do a proper presentation tomorrow afternoon.  I told them not to give you the suite your brother usually stayed in.”

“Thank you,” Terry replied.  He went around to open the door; she got out.  They went in and he made sure her room arrangements were in order, and then left her with her things to be taken up by the hotel staff.

She was not in a mood to socialise; she spent a lot of time in prayer and finally feeling the impact of the change she was about to make.  As the sun set, she took her supper on the deck which overlooked the ocean.  After years of being inland, the sea breeze felt good; it had rained a bit as they went up but now the sky was breaking up and she could see the clouds in their graceful formations, lit from behind by the setting sun.  She recalled Darlene’s letter about feeing the presence of God just up the coast; she too felt His presence preparing her for a life in a place she had literally fought for years, but now greeted with a combination of nervous anticipation and peaceful acceptance.

Terry rose early to make the long walk from the Inn down to a house several blocks away.  There were about a dozen people there, who looked at her coming with suspicion; however, when they realised who she was, their greeting was joyful.  The people were part of the Serelia Pentecostal Church, which was part of Terry’s church and whose pastor, Tim Mallen, had been a student of Terry’s at the Drahlan Bible school.  Mallen was both surprised and happy to see her, as were the members who were part of the palace staff and who remembered her from her last visit in March.

The service started about 0830, to accommodate those staff members who had cooking duties at the palace and Cathedral.  Because the church was illegal under Serelian law, they took the usual precautions of any house church. The worship was subdued by Drahlan standards, but the church was well organised, and included a nursery and a complete order of service.  Mallen gave the pulpit to Terry, who simply told the story of how she was forced out of the Drahlan government and how she would be now working for the Serelian.  The congregation responded with an extended time of prayer for Terry.  She had promised to be back to continue God’s work in Serelia during her last visit; her return was taken by the congregation as a sign from Him that she was being sent to Serelia for His purpose and mission.

The service wound up about 0930, not only so the palace staff members could get to their duties, but also so that Pastor Mallen could move on to conduct services for the three additional cells of the house church that he pastored, which extended from Serelia and Serelia Beach to West Serelia.  Terry returned to the Inn, ate and got ready for presentation at court.

Kyle came by about 1445 to pick her up.  They made the short drive to the place and through its gate.  By then it was raining and messy.  She opted to leave her shoes in the foyer of the palace before entering the throne room; the staff who greeted her understood their challenge of finding women’s slippers big enough to accommodate her ample feet, so she opted to enter barefoot on the long Oriental rug which led up to the throne.

She positioned herself at the entrance to the throne room.  Her whole being was in knots.  The last time she was there, she was a head of government and in the company of a Prince of her realm.  Now she was virtually stateless and presenting herself as a member of the palace staff.  Terry was well aware of the limitations of the glory that came with a high position like she had before, but such a transition could not help but be a difficult moment for her.

The doors to the throne room were opened and she walked in slowly.  King Adam and Queen Annette were on their thrones; next to the Queen was Prince George.  Their demeanour was more relaxed and friendly than it was before, but they still observed the formalities of the moment.  Terry stopped at the appointed spot and bowed before her new sovereign.

Terry was at the bottom of her bow when she heard a woman’s voice from the left.  “Terry!” it screamed.  She looked to see a very pregnant Darlene at the threshold.  Darlene literally ran over, arms outstretched, to greet her friend.  Terry went down on her knees, not to be servile but to overcome the difference in their heights.  They hugged each other and cried for a long time.  “I’m so glad you’re here,” Darlene went on and on.  After being together like this for a long time, they suddenly stopped, looked at each other in astonishment, then looked up at the throne.  Terry rose to her feet, but the two had their arms around each other.

“I think we have just wrecked the protocol of this palace,” Terry said.

Adam chuckled, along with Annette and George.  “I don’t think any further greeting here is necessary,” he said, “but tea and coffee are ready in the parlour.”  They went in, Darlene holding Terry’s hand and pulling her in like a child in a store wanting her parent to see a new toy.

They sat down for service and chatted about Terry’s trip and the other events that made the moment possible.  Finally Adam rose to make a more formal statement.  Terry also rose to receive it.

“The release that brought you here,” Adam began, “is a very rare procedure on this Island.  It was initiated in the years immediately after the collapse of Beran to enable to movement of servants and officials from one kingdom to another, as many people found themselves in difficult places as events unfolded very rapidly.  I know that I have never made this kind of request before during my reign, and I do not believe that any other kings have since the 1950’s.

“When we learned of your misfortune and the abolition of your position, we had a lively”—he looked at Darlene—“debate on whether we should make the most of it.  In the end I decided to request your release.  One thing that I have learned about the Princess is that her outpourings of emotion conceal the fact that she is very sparing in her choice of close associates.  These outpourings, though, illustrate that, once she makes up her mind about someone such as yourself, she is very single minded in their pursuit—something we learned all too well during her courtship with my son.”  Everyone got a chuckle out of that.

“We are as sensitive as anyone,” Adam continued, “in the depth of your transition.  We know that you, both as an official of state and a minister in your church, were a respected person in your home country.  For you to leave all of this behind and come to the court of those who were until recently your enemy is a big step, and we will do what we can to make that step as painless as possible.  One of the things that we discovered during your voyage to Verecunda and Aloxa is that you have a prodigious capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation.  It is our desire that your presence here will be your reward for that, both for you and also for us.

“As for your duties, as stated in our request you are both an administrative assistant and a spiritual advisor to Her Highness.  You are experienced enough in the workings of government to know how important it is for any government to issue charters for the various types of commercial and other activities that our subjects might conduct.  We have determined that, not only have the difficulties of our situation made us in arrears in issuing and reviewing these charters, but also that it was time for a member of the royal family to look at these herself to insure that the interests of the Crown are not neglected in the bureaucratic process.  We have assigned this task to the Princess Darlene; unfortunately, the clerical help we normally employ has been reassigned due to staffing shortages.  So assisting her in this task will be your primary duty.

“As for the spiritual advice, we have noted the change in Her Highnesses’ views on this subject since her return from the voyage.  Although we had initial reservations about this, we have come to realise that these changes are beneficial to the long-term interests of the nation.  As you were instrumental in these changes, we believe that your presence here will be a positive one.  That presence, however, poses some unique problems, because the church you are affiliated with is not licit in our realm, as the Church of Serelia is the only recognised religion.  How we will work though this problem is an unanswered question, but given what we have accomplished so far, I am confident that a satisfactory solution to this difficulty can be found.”

With this the King ended his speech.  After a pause Terry responded.  “I want to thank you for your gracious invitation and the confidence that you have placed in me.  This too is a big step for you also, in view of our recent war.  My ‘capacity for forgiveness,’ as you state it, comes from my conviction that forgiveness and reconciliation is God’s way for all people, even though that can be difficult to carry out in matters of state.  My reward for that will ultimately be eternal, as my own Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ forgives me as I forgive others.  But all of His eternal benefits have earthly ones too, and I gratefully accept those from Him and from you.”

“There is one important matter we’ve overlooked in all of this speech making,” George said.

“And what is that?” Adam asked, a little miffed.

“The fact that, as the ‘mother country,’ we do like to wear shoes up here.  I think that we should show her what these things are and what they’re for.”

“Don’t be so cocky about this,” Darlene came back.

“Why not?” George asked.

“You’ve never been to the shoe store with her,” Darlene replied.  “We may not have her size here in Serelia.”

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