The Lush of Lichtenstein
A Venus 1888 Adventure
The rider had galloped into the village and jumped from her mount at the foot of the pyramid. She ran up the steps two at a time and kneeled at Timapuri’s feet.
“Speak,” the chieftain said.
“The blood-coats came to the clearing where the goddess appeared. One of them said ‘Axaxe!’”
“Where are they now?”
“Colel Cab brings them here, my chief.”
“How do the blood-coats know of the goddess?”
“It was not a blood-coat who said the name. It was a stranger covered in grass-colored cloth.”
“And this stranger said ‘Axaxe?’”
“She had a strange accent, but that is what she said. It sounded something like SEE-see.”
At the mention of the stranger’s pronunciation of the name, the goddess, who had been asleep on the throne snoring loudly under the watchful gaze of Sakneate, opened her eyes and sat unsteadily.
“BET-tee,” the goddess said with a pleased expression. That was the first sound from her since the shriek, and Timapuri knew the stranger was important.
“Ride back to Colel Cab,” Timupuri said to the messenger, “and tell her that she escorts honored guests.” She turned to the crowd that had gathered in the square at the arrival of the rider. “Prepare a feast worthy of the goddess. Her emissary approaches.”
* * *
Sissi swooned on the cushioned bench. The drink they had given her had snuck up on her, and the sticky sweet fluid packed a wallop. The warrior Sahk-nee-AH-tay watched over her, apparently as her bodyguard, while the chiefain, Tee-mah-PUR-ri, presided over the village.
A woman appeared suddenly at the top of the pyramid and spoke hurriedly to the leader. She heard the messenger say “Sissi” and the Princess smiled broadly.
“Betty!” she said, and the leader immediately started issuing commands. Sissi could tell by her demeanor that the orders were not hostile in nature. She smiled at Tee-mah-PUR-ri, and the chieftain bowed her head reverently.
* * *
The procession proceeded through the jungle at a walk. After the rider she had sent away returned, the riders dropped back and the leader effortlessly pulled Betty onto her mount behind her while the other rider did the same for Beverly.
Betty was awed. First she was attacked by a giant, flying reptile, then a column of British troops appeared with their order and discipline. Now she was riding on a giant bird behind a native chieftain! She was worried about the Princess, but the wonder of it all overshadowed her concern.
* * *
Beverly was wary. At the best of times, the Aklete were civil. That a warrior had removed the dart from Middlebury, revealing that the poison was not necessarily lethal, was quite unexpected. Now it appeared that she and her command were welcome, at least for the time being, since they were in the company of the lady from Liechtenstein.
Beverly estimated that they rode for eight or ten hours non-stop before the jungle gave way to a stone city dominated by a stepped pyramid. As far as she knew, no British officer had ever been to an Aklete settlement. She looked behind her to see Lewis’ reaction, but to her surprise, Lewis, the platoon, and even Shady were not there.
Panic overcame her, but Beverly retained her composure. She was now alone, deep in the territory of a potentially hostile tribe. They could easily see the incursion of her command as a violation of the treaty, if not an act of war. She had read accounts of troops captured by the natives and the horrible atrocities committed against them.
But the natives were throwing flower petals at them. It seemed that she was in their good graces for the moment. The best she could do for now was maintain them.
* * *
A commotion arose as a pair of riders, each bearing a foreign passenger, emerged from the jungle. Sissi could not make out the figures, other than that the second passenger wore a red coat, but the villagers were cheering and throwing flowers petals at the new arrivals. She smiled, and the chieftain seemed relieved.
Sissi tried to stand up, but her bodyguard pushed her back down into the seat, watching the procession below warily. The woman clearly took her duty seriously. As the riders entered the square, Sissi saw that the first passenger was Betty. She thought to stand, but looked up to see Sahk-nee-AH-tay peer down at her protectively. Instead, Sissi sat up straight and looked regal.
* * *
Betty squealed when she saw the Princess. She was sitting on a bench under a canopy at the top of the central pyramid. She looked closer and saw that Sissi was wearing nothing but long green feathers over her chest and groin. She nearly screamed with she realized that Sissi’s exposed skin was stained all over with blood.
The city was alive with naked women who threw flower petals at the new arrivals. Betty sighed audibly, and her driver started at the sound. When the two reached the foot of the pyramid, the riders dismounted. Beverly followed suit, but seeing Betty’s hesitation, her driver unceremoniously picked Betty up by the waist and set her on her feet on the ground.
From up above, Betty heard Sissi laugh out loud. Betty’s driver looked anxious for a moment, but then relaxed when she saw Sissi’s expression of joy.
The rider then gestured for Betty to climb the steps. She started up the steps, and Beverly appeared at her side followed by the riders. It was a long climb, and Betty was winded when they finally reached the top.
“Colel Cab,” Timapuri said, “the goddess is pleased that you have brought her emissary. The Aklete applaud you.” She turned to Betty and lowered her head. “The Aklete welcome the emissary of Axaxe…” But she was interrupted when the goddess abruptly rose from the throne and embraced the newcomer before Sakneate could stop her. The assembly in the square cheered and clapped
* * *
“Princess Franziska,” Beverly said after they pulled apart, “I am pleased to see that you are well and unharmed. The Emperor of Austria and Prince Friedrich were most concerned for your welfare.” She saluted. “I am Captain Beverly Brighton-Campbell of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Venusian Colonial Forces.”
“Thank you for bringing Lady Falconbridge to me,” the Princess said with a friendly nod. “Please rest and take some refreshment.” Sissi turned to Timapuri, who in turn gestured to the serving girls. A moment later, fresh vessels were provided for the newcomers as well as the riders.
A commotion arose from below again, and this time, two columns of blood-coated figures emerged into the square. The tweet of a fife reached their ears, and the villagers in their path scattered as the platoon marched up, forming two lines at the foot of the pyramid, and stood at attention. Lewis stepped forward smartly and saluted. Shady kept close to the Sergeant, clearly uncomfortable among the villagers.
“Your Highness,” Beverly said respectfully, “that native is our translator. Please allow her to join us.”
“Of course, Captain.” Sissi pointed to the native guide and gestured for her to climb the pyramid.
* * *
An exclamation of surprise erupted from the square. Timapuri watched as the Chicchan woman looked to the blood coat next to her, and then slowly climbed the steps. When she reached the top, she ignored Timapuri, fell to her knees, and touched her forehead to the floor in front of the goddess.
Sakneate stepped between them with her club in hand, but Axaxe stayed her hand and shook her head. Sakneate turned pale, bowed her head, and stepped back. The blood coat chieftain was wary of Sakneate, as she should be, but then leaned over and pulled the Chicchan to her feet.
* * *
“Shady, please translate.” The native nodded. “Tell the chief that we are in their debt for rescuing the Princess and keeping her safe, but we must now return with her to our camp so that she may return home.”
* * *
The Chicchan said she spoke for the blood coats, and that the emissary, and the goddess, spoke their language. The blood coat leader said that the blood coats were bound to the Aklete for saving their Princess, but that she would be taking her back to the blood coat village.
Timapuri scowled at the Chicchan and then at the blood coat.
“Tell the blood coat that Axaxe will stay with the Aklete. She chose to bless our tribe with her divine presence, and we will honor her for her blessing.” She glared at the blood coat and stated loudly in a threatening tone. “Tell her that any attempt to take the goddess away will mean war with the Aklete!” The mood had turned dangerously dark on the pavilion and the crowds became quiet.
* * *
“The goddess Axaxe must stay with Aklete,” Shady told Beverly nervously. “Taking her away will cause war.”
“Goddess?” Sissi said incredulously, and turned toward the chieftain. They think I am their goddess, she thought. Not a bad situation. No husband here to dictate how to live my life, and a tribe of devoted women to do my bidding. An evil smile crept across her rosy face.
“No, Captain,” she said after a moment. “I will not come with you. Lady Falconbridge and I will stay here among my adopted people.”
“Are you serious?” Betty cried.
Sissi looked mildly amused at her friend “You do remember the shooting the emperor in the ass thing don’t you? Tell me how that can end well??” Her friend made a puzzled face as she thought for some moments and then sighed in resignation.
Sissi turned back and stared at the Captain. “My most excitable of subjects has prepared an incredible feast, Captain. It’s up to you to decide what side of the fork that you want to be on.” She adopted a regal pose. “I am not going back.”
I have orders to return you to Earth, Beverly thought, but if I attempt to carry them out, the Aklete will declare war on us. And these people think she is their god. Perhaps the Princess will keep the Aklete in check for us. I hope I don’t overstep my authority.
“Your highness,” Beverly said as she knelt before the Princess, “on behalf of Queen Victoria and the British Empire, allow me to be the first to congratulate you on your deification.”
* * *
Some time later, a delegation of the Prussian empire, on behalf of Austria and their British counterpart, gathered in the village of the Aklete under a guarantee of safe passage to be formally received by Axaxe, the Goddess of Fertility and ruler of the Aklete to ratify the treaty that had been drafted.
The extensive treaty, facilitated by Captain Beverly Brighton-Campbell with the help of Shady, and witnessed by Prussian Countess Sophia Erlichman of Brandenburg, established the sovereignty of the Aklete and acknowledged the borders of their territory. There had been much wrangling when it came to the borders , as the largest and most accessible field of Venusian Anthracite, or V-Coal as it was known on Earth, was in the negotiated region, but it was eventually resolved with an agreeable compromise.
The Prussian delegate had maneuvered the concession in order to keep it from the British, but the matter was resolved when Prince Franz I, ruler of Liechtenstein, recognized his daughter’s dominion over the Aklete, and by extension Liechtenstein’s claim to the Aklete V-Coal fields. Both the British and Prussian delegations protested, but with the weight of the tribe behind her, Sissi acknowledged the claim of her homeland and the treaty was ratified.