Maud Hawkinge was ecstatic. It looked as if the coffee plantation was going to provide a bumper crop and the orangeries were doing beautifully as well. She had also wanted to plant pineapples, but had been dissuaded by objections from North American Command. There was no market for the product. Producers had moved overseas and had undercut the domestic product. If they tried to run a large business at a loss it would surely draw unwanted attention and suspicion. Then, too, HSH the Prince Ashmore, Earth Magister and Personal Councilor had started getting sniffy and that was a fight to be avoided. He had objected to coffee on the grounds that it was not native to the islands. The King had overruled him on this issue because the King’s day began with coffee; of course Prince Ashmore’s day began likewise. Maud always sniffed when the Prince’s supply of beans was shipped. Invasive coffee was apparently a welcome addition to his household. Interestingly, General DeLucca declined the island’s coffee devoted as he was, to the product of Æthiopia.
Then there was the citrus issue. The islands would be perfect for the production of citrus fruit and the citrus was an abundant source of the principal additive necessary for the Riffian diet. Plus, you didn’t have to be a Riffak to enjoy an orange, or a slice of lemon meringue pie. But Prince Ashmore went into ‘Green Invasive Species Meltdown’ the instant citrus was mentioned in the same sentence as the islands. This led to an epic tirade on another invasive species – sugar cane. He went on at length about how “evil” sugar was as if the poor cane was a sentient demon. The King hoped for compromise. “After all,” he commented to the Queen. “Gary might open a lava vent into the orange groves if he’s not happy.” The compromise was the orangerie. An idea from the Age of Enlightenment, when fresh citrus fruit was not just a short railroad ride away.
The Queen was instrumental in this. She reviewed space ship design to ensure that the finished ships were sleek and attractive in much the same manner as an Orca is attractive. So this task was her cup of tea. She would never be satisfied with blocks of boring rectangular greenhouses littering an Hawai’ian vista and she discovered the answer in the Orangerieschloss of Fredrick-William IV of Prussia. She expanded the concept and soon had a series of baroque orangeries that covered several hillsides.
Prince Ashmore didn’t like that idea at all. Based on his farming experience, which was considerable as he owned a number of organic farms; though, it should be noted, he seldom dirtied his hands or his trousers in the work of those farms. “The plantings,” he insisted, “should be straight and level, so as to ease the harvest of fruit and the fertilization and maintenance of the trees.” His Serene Highness was in full agrarian dudgeon and emphasized his points, with much finger waving and pointing. “You’re making this into some kind of citrus garden.”
It was at about this time that Colin, the Earl Martial, glided through the dispute without really being aware of it. “Oh you should never plant trees in rows.” He offered knowing nothing about farming or trees. “That’s what General Lee told the groundskeeper at Washington College when he was President there after the war. ‘God never plants trees in rows,’ he said.” Prince Ashmore, startled by the complete divorce from practicality this comment demonstrated, was silent. The Queen remarked, “Well, that’s that, then.” She proceeded with her orangeries.
All of this discussion was about how to keep the Riffian parolees busy and provided with a necessary supplement. They did the work under the supervision of some Bwca pensioners who were not above disappearing the tool a Riffak might have just been using. They never bothered the Riffians’ lunch. Possessing, as they did, firm opinions as to what was edible and what was not.
So having inspected the coffee crop, it was now time for Maud to move on with the inspection of the orangeries. Maud was Chatelaine of the Maui Palace which had been built as an escape hole for the royal family if defeat had overtaken them in the invasion of Prime. It had never been used. However, it was necessary to build facilities for the Riffians, and these facilities were to be built on Hawai’i. Maud and her staff had become involved supporting that construction and the first few Riffians became involved as a work force; then there was the coffee plantation and then the orangeries, but there was an increasing number of parolees and a few actual POWs. The work load continued to increase. Maud became the de facto governor of the Hawai’ian Islands on Quartus Earth. The governorship and the award of the Order of Merit made it all official. Rather tardily as governments all too frequently are.
But here was young Pipes Connors cantering toward her on a lovely bay, looking elegant in his Campbell tartan riding britches, gleaming boots, and glengarry. Pipes was the son of the Dodger and Tamara; gifted in the care and love of horses, he was Maud’s right hand man in all respects. He played the Highland pipes majestically. He did concerts for the Riffians that were well attended.
Pipes reined up in front of Maud and saluted casually, a gesture of genuine friendship. “The army and navy are at it again,” he remarked smiling.
“Oh,” Maud returned his smile. “What’s the trouble this time?”
“Well, it’s all about harvest bonuses. Remember we tried to make it easy on the Riffians, and we gave the navy Riffs the job picking kumquats, tangerines, and limes. Then the army Riffs got the heavier fruits to haul because they were more used to carrying loads. Seems, though, that the navy Riffs are all cranky cuz the army Riffs get done faster and get more bonuses. Quicker pickin’ a grapefruit tree than a tangerine or a kumquat, see?”
“So what’re you gonna do?”
“I’m gonna mix them together into whole new teams. No more divisions based on what they used to do.”
“Great,” Maud smiled at her protégé, “that should do it.”
“And did I tell you we’re going to form a Riffian pipe band? I’ve got surplus uniforms, pipes, drums, the whole bit. We’ll need a pipe major, of course. That’ll be a problem I’m thinking.”
Maud just looked at him.
Jubilee was carrying the King of Denmark on his morning ride through the Marselisborg Forest. It was adjacent to the summer palace of Marselisborg and a lovely summer ride that both Jubilee and the King looked forward to during the grey winter months in Copenhagen.
That’s what Jubilee did; he carried the King of Denmark. He’d been doing this since the year 1219 and the Battle of Lyndanisse. According to legend, the Danish flag had been handed down from heaven to King Valdemar II at this battle. Actually, Jubilee had cantered up with the flag and told Valdemar to “get on with it” and the battle was quickly won.
The Great Council of the Ancient and Honourable Co-Fraternity of Ensemble Provocateurs et Bon Chevaliers, as the governing body of the familiars was formally known, had a plan for Denmark. Denmark was going to be a beacon for light and freedom. It was going to be a human rallying point: a rallying point for the very concept of civilization. There were going to be a number of rough spots that Denmark needed shepherding through. There would be the Great Northern War where Charles XII of Sweden would be dangerous and certainly a decidedly loose cannon from time to time; the Battles of Copenhagen would require some assistance for Crown Prince Fredrik and Commodore Fischer; then there would be the rise of Prussia to contend with, followed by the world wars of the Twentieth Century. The Great Council did not know exactly what all the challenges that Denmark would face would be; but the familiars knew there would be some rocky moments and they planned for the long haul and well in advance. For these reasons Denmark had a permanent familiar.
Jubilee’s favorite time, though, was during World War II when he had carried King Christian X through the streets of Copenhagen on his daily ride. They rode alone. Their only escort being the crowds of Danes who cheered them along the way. This was a stunning moment. Jubilee and the King had never been so powerful. Denmark had surrendered. But Denmark was not defeated.
Jubilee had never spoken to this current King. That was about to change. As they cantered along the forest path, it suddenly seemed to shimmer oddly as if a vague distortion had appeared before them. Jubilee never hesitated and cantered serenely to and through the vague shimmer before coming easily to a stop before several animals and mounted men.
Somehow, the King was only slightly surprised. Somehow, he had always known that Jubilee was simply too good a horse. He never shied or started; when they jumped, it was as if Jubilee had wings; he was always eager, almost helpful; when in public, Jubilee was always on parade. There had to be a reason why the King’s Charger was always named Jubilee.
Then, too, there were all those stories that floated around in the family; about how the King’s horse was always exceptional. The last word spoken by one King on his deathbed was “Jubilee.” So, if Jubilee was not surprised by the shimmering and this unexpected meeting, he could not be either.
I am Jubilee, First Charger to the Crown of Denmark. Your moment has come Your Majesty. Somehow, that seemed to settle the matter.
A young man in a dark blue undress uniform of an unfamiliar cut, with a knighthood’s star glinting on his lower left breast approached; he was beautifully mounted on what had to be a grey Arabian, they stepped forward slowly as he saluted the King.
“Good morning, Your Majesty.” In impeccable Danish he continued, “I bring you the greetings of Justin III, King of all the Folk of Ellendale, and of the Elven Dominions Beyond the Stars.” He paused calmly, “I am Charles, the Prince Royal.”
A beautifully groomed donkey had walked up alongside the grey Arab and stood calmly. She had not been led, wore no halter, only a light blanket with an elaborate coat of arms emblazoned.
“This is the Lady Judith of Jerusalem, she is my familiar. As you now know, you are riding Jubilee of Dannebrog, familiar to the Crown of Denmark. We have much to talk about. I will continue in English if that is acceptable. Some of my friends have no Danish.”
The King of Denmark smiled. He could afford to smile because he knew he was secure and safe, “Not too fast I hope.”
Charles gestured to one of the riders with him, “This is the Baron Des Moines, he is my personal wizard. Next to him is Charles St Clare, his assistant. On the tall thoroughbred with the formidable hat, is the Earl de St Marcouf – my grandfather. Won’t you please join us?”
Now there are kings, some of whom are the merest theatrical fussbudgets; and then there are Kings. Most of them are human, some are elven: some of the human ones are grasping charlatans who seize an opportunity to make themselves a king, or the semblance of a king. These seldom last very long; there really is more to kingship than that. Others of them are born to the job, their ancestors had the job: some of these did splendidly, others not so much; but they can usually be counted on, at the very least, to die well. Charles I and Louis XVI both did. Charles XII, and others, died on the battlefield. Real royalty is unconcerned about the prospect of death. King Christian X had casually and repeatedly poked his elbow in Adolf Hitler’s metaphorical eye when he was completely surrounded by Hitler’s blood stained minions. It was Hitler, a grasping charlatan if ever there was one, who blinked. Christian and Jubilee continued to ride through the streets of Copenhagen escorted only by Denmark.
The King of Denmark smiled, nodded, and commented, “of course.”
For a King reigned in Denmark.
Commodore ‘Chipper’ Tavers, SSM, looked at the tactical display on the flag bridge of HMS Warspite; there was not very much to see. Warspite orbited the Earth from the shade of the dark side of the moon where she would be invisible to the searching eyes of Earth, newly alerted to look to the skies for the approaching alien. Further out in the solar system, on a bearing roughly in line with the Pleiades, were the two destroyers Boadicia and Belligerent. On the far side of Neptune’s orbit, the alien ship was visible, loudly advertising its presence.
He had asked for additional reinforcements and they had been promised. There was nothing for it now, but the usual waiting game.
He wasn’t very happy as he had no real plan. If the alien force was large, and aggressive, then his only option would be to attack. Having only one option, and that an uncertain one, was not a position any flag officer would relish.
Additionally, he was not sure what he would be attacking. When the alien fleet had appeared in Prime’s system, there were ten ships, huge transports for the colonists, attack transports for the soldiers, and frigates as escort. If Chipper had to attack a fleet of that size, with the three ships he had, it would be a new entry to the dictionary of lost causes: it would be Chipper’s Last Stand. He would have to select what appeared to him to be the most important target in the enemy fleet and he would have to attack it in the hopes of doing critical damage to the enemy’s strategic capacity. He did not like this plan at all; but he would implement it if he had to.
At this moment, there was only the one alien ship, though it was quite a large one; it had appeared several days ago just beyond Neptune’s orbit and had been moving only very slowly toward Earth while broadcasting a greeting in Riffian.
Chipper glanced over at the other commodore aboard. James of Cooper, the premier Magister of the Heavens sat at the communications station with a distant look on his face when his eyes weren’t closed; he, too, was a commodore, but in his case it was a staff rank. He was a specialist flag officer. He did not command. It was Chipper who commanded the thin line of ships that were the first protection of Earth.
“Excuse me. Jim,” Chipper commented. Chipper’s first meeting with James of Cooper had been tumultuous; Chipper had been piloting a shuttle for James and Bucephalus when first they met. James was going through his “arrogant prick” phase and he gave some rather inept flying orders to Chipper. Not only were the orders amateurish, they demonstrated some serious ignorance of flight, and the orders were given with the smug arrogance of ineptitude. Chipper wasn’t having it and mutinied. “Shove it up your ass,” he advised James as he relinquished the controls. But after that rather tempestuous encounter, smoothly mediated by Bucephalus, a vastly experienced war horse who had carried Alexander the Great, things had smoothed between them. Chipper knew that James liked to be called ‘Jimmy’ by his friends; additionally, James had learned a great deal, including the beginning realization of just how much he did not know, and his arrogance had evaporated. But Chipper would only unbend sufficiently for ‘Jim’. After all, Jim had been a thorough ass on their first meeting so distance, not familiarity, was appropriate.
“Guess what?” James suddenly looked up smiling. But, happily, he did not wait for an answer. “They’ve just started broadcasting a greeting in Mandarin.”
Chipper waited while James appeared to be listening carefully to his headphone.
“Basically, they’re saying the same thing. They’re anxious to know us, trade with us, share with us.”
“That’s what they’re saying; what can you tell me about their motives? When they came for Prime you could sense that they were ‘stalking’ us, maybe like a hunter. Can you sense any of that this time?”
“Well, maybe. There’s a definite feeling of avarice. Almost piratical. A strong profit motive at the very least, I guess. Precisely how that is to work is unclear. Maybe they do want a trading partner. Remember, they use drone freighters to connect with their other colonies in Prime dimension. I’ll let you know the instant I get anything more.
“One things for sure,” Chipper waited. “When that signal reaches Earth, everyone is going to start broadcasting to the alien.”
“Thanks,” Chipper was courteous as he moved back toward the tactical display. An endlessly cheerful Bwca petty officer approached him grinning and waving a message board.
“Message from Askold your excellence,” he explained cheekily handing the board to Chipper with one hand and saluting with the other.
Chipper read the board and smiled, his force had just grown by two cruisers. “Send a welcome and request the captains to repair on board the flagship.” The Askold and the Jylland were brand new. If they needed additional time to work-up to full efficiency, he’d send them out to hide behind Saturn.
Chipper began to suspect he would have to move to confront the Riffian before he really wanted too. If Earth started welcoming the Riffians before he was sure of the Riffak motive, then he’d have to confront them before they could land on Earth. “Rupe,” he spoke to the barn owl perched on his custom made perch, “Get this news to the King and the Earl Martial, like, right now.” And Rupert was gone in a snap and a flash.
Chezib, Third Banner of the Hegemonic Invasion Force; Banner commanding on the Fourth Planet, was despondent. Though he tried to give the appearance of boundless optimism it was hard to do. He was, after all, marooned. Marooned on a planet with a hostile environment; marooned with damaged starships that needed parts, were they ever to fly again, parts he did not have; marooned with a civilian population, selected to colonize and civilize, not for combat. He’d had one legion when first he landed. He had sent it to investigate a native installation several degrees to the north of his landing site. It had been destroyed.
His colonists had been put to work building a thriving colonial outpost. They had built subterranean quarters, labs, light manufactories, and hydroponic food production plants. They were attempting to build the equipment necessary to manufacture the spare parts his two ships needed. Surface facilities were limited to the two ships and a few small buildings that helped support the ships.
It was important that these people have something for which to hope; it was important that they be kept busy working on that hope. They needed to hope, at least, that they were not marooned.
He had lost communication with the force on the Third Planet which had landed with the majority of the soldiers. There had been an operational squadron that was being held in reserve; but he had lost contact with them, too.
Now it seemed that the natives were preparing to move against him. He had modifications done to some of his small messenger drones and was using them as scouts. A large force of armored vehicles was moving toward him.
It was hard to seem confident when you are marooned and an army nears: spear points gleaming, as it were.
Brigadier William Brownlees, DSO, SJT, Officer Commanding HM forces on Mars was tense but vaguely optimistic. He was moving toward the alien encroachment on the planet. He had ten fully armored mobile howitzers with which to begin the bombardment; he had twelve armored attack vehicles as well as twenty-two armored transports for infantry. All were environmentally contained though the operators would be in combat suits during actual operations. There was the destroyer HMS Guerriere to provide close gun fire support where needed. It should be a smooth operation and his patrols were nearing the alien base.
King Frederick of Denmark and Charles the Prince Royal of Ellendale were waiting for the last few arrivals at the Amalienborg Palace. There was to be a diplomatic reception wherein the assembled ambassadors would be introduced to Charles. They would report to their governments and the serious discussion of the Riffak threat could begin. First, there would be a reception line during which the ambassadors and chargé’s would be introduced to Charles. He was looking splendid in the full dress uniform of the Guards Grenadiers with medals and orders. His Elven ears, however, were on full display given his full but neatly trimmed haircut and the absence of any headgear. All of the guests would have ample opportunity to notice his ears, but were of course, too diplomatic to actually see them. That was one of the reasons it was thought wise to begin with the diplomatic corps.
The reception progressed with stately decorum despite an undercurrent of intense interest in the appearance of Prince Charles; but it was a restive decorum that coalesced in the reception room where it was clear that the King was going to speak. In due course, the Chamberlain solemnly asked for their attention as the King stepped onto a dais before a large royal portrait and stood relaxed beside the throne. The room was silent almost instantly.
“Honored friends,” began the King informally. “You all know that there is an alien space ship slowly approaching us that is broadcasting a friendly greeting in an increasing number of our languages.
“With me this afternoon, is Prince Charles of Ellendale and the Elven Dominions Beyond the Stars. He has come from combat with the same aliens that now approach us. He will ask you to notify your governments of the situation he will describe and advise you of the intentions of his King and Government. Friends, I give you Prince Charles, the Prince Royal, or Crown Prince, of his nation.”
“Good afternoon Your Excellencies, friends, guests. I am Charles, Prince Royal on a neighboring planet, in a long established kingdom that some of you have heard of. We are approaching you now to advise you of a potential threat to your lives. To your very way of life. I refer of course, to the approaching space craft that is broadcasting to you its friendly intent.
“When they approached us, they did not broadcast any intent; they did not broadcast anything; they arrived with a fleet and an army; they attempted to conquer my planet and peoples.” He looked over the rapt assembly for a solemn moment. “They are in defeat.
“They landed on my home world, which we call Earth Prime; they landed on an adjacent planet, which we also call Mars; they fought us in space. But. They are in defeat.
“For reasons too numerous to mention here; my King and my People are not prepared to permit them to attack you. At this time, we have in your planetary system, a battle cruiser, three cruisers, and two destroyers. These ships will make themselves apparent in one week. This will give you abundant time to consult with your governments and they can do what governments do. There will be considerable disbelief; there will be endless debate; there will be countless questions.
“There are far too many questions for me to even attempt; to even attempt to begin to answer them here and now. However, we are placing an embassy here at Amalienborg, guests of my cousin King Frederick. My grandfather, the Earl de St Marcouf will be present on that mission. An ex-soldier of the Riffian Hegemony, an alien, now a sworn man to my father, King Justin, will be a member of that mission. For years, a veteran police officer of this world has been cataloguing the doings of my people on your planet; he will be on that mission to help answer your questions.
“My good friend, Sir Caleb Knox, will be a member of our mission. He was born in Iowa; he is my personal wizard. And yes, that’s what I said: wizard. You will learn many new things.
“The Queen, my mother, will preside over our mission; my aunt, the Lady Nancy Countess of the Marches, who is recovering from injuries sustained in combat against the aliens, will also be present with the mission.
“You must speak with us through the good offices of the King of Denmark. This is too important, and far too complicated, to be handled piecemeal.
“Our fleet will intervene should the aliens make any overt move against you. In one week, it will come out from the planetary shadows that currently camouflage it and will be visible to you and to the aliens.
“And finally, feeling that some dramatic proof might be necessary.” There was a snap and a flash and a beautiful donkey appeared beside the Prince Royal; she was groomed to the nines, and wearing a blue blanket heavy with heraldry. “Please meet my personal Familiar, the Lady Judith of Jerusalem.” There was a long silence.
Then the assembled ranks of diplomacy seemed to hear a clear calm voice. “I am Judith of Jerusalem. Familiar to the Prince Royal of the Elven Dominions. You will meet other familiars, I am sure.”
There was another snap and flash. The Prince Royal and his Familiar disappeared.