p o n e e t i s l a n d s
THE TOBACCO WAR
THE TOBACCO TWINS
Sir Kohnet Bregman was the Czar of Leaf Gathering for the Poneet Tobacco Company. The company’s holdings included several tobacco farms on all of Poneet’s seven islands. Today Bregman was surveying one of the company’s lowest producing farms, which was located on the island of Too Ba Koo. This was the same island where he and his wife, Fraysia Bregman, made their home. The farm was not large and was surrounded by thick jungle, which roamed wildly to the Shog Strait coast on the south side. He could see the disappointing production first hand, which he blamed on the surrounding jungle. The Too Ba Koo farm might need to be shut down, he concluded, which is something he did not want. It would be admitting failure.
After concluding his business, Bregman decided to walk through the nearby jungle to gather wild flowers for his wife. The jungles were dense, which blocked out most of the sunlight. This darkness did not help the vegetation but he gathered a few flowers and created a simple, if not a bit pathetic, bouquet of wild flowers. He meandered for a while and then found a new trail, which he’d not seen before on his previous walks through this jungle. He followed it for a while and gathered a few more flowers until he came to a dark area in the jungle. The light was all but gone here. He looked up and saw that the green growth above was keeping out almost all the light. He decided he should get back to the farm.
As he started back, he stopped suddenly and turned around after a sound caught his attention. There was movement in the brush ahead of him. He peered intensely into the dark area of the foliage. He looked sharply at every tree and shadow. He saw nothing there. Maybe a hopper or some other creature, he thought. He turned again to return to the farm when again he heard the same movement. He turned back quickly almost stumbling.
“Someone there?” He asked to the dark empty jungle. “I say, someone there? Show yourself!”
He said it with a bit of forcefulness. He was about to turn to leave when he did see something. He looked at one spot, squinting his eyes intensely. Behind a large tree he could see something. Was it the tree or a pair of eyes? There behind a tree someone was looking back at him. He moved his head into different positions thinking it would help him see whatever was there.
“Hello. You are on private property…” Bregman started to give an aggressive warning and ultimatum when suddenly a young topless girl stepped out from behind a large tree. She stood there looking at him. He stared at her. In his quick evaluation, he thought her a native of the islands.
“Zi ganna vags,” she said. Then she turned to look behind the same tree she’d been hiding behind. “Zi ganna!” She said again and waved her hand.
Bregman was cautious. He wasn’t sure if the local force that had been attacking the company's farms and ships was now hunting him. He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a smallish weapon. Then, a second young topless girl appeared from behind the same tree. Amazingly, the two girls were identical. They were identical in every way but for the face painting they each wore.
The two topless girls slowly approached Bregman. This made him very, very nervous. They could be there to kill him, he thought. He kept his weapon close to his side as the young girls continued inching closer. Then they were on him, standing no farther than five feet away. Their beauty and their topless appearance took Bregman aback. He was frozen and was unsure of what to say to these girls, who were obviously twins. They stared at him. Their curiosity was equal to his. One of the girls then saw the flowers in his hand. She smiled and said to her sister, “Flonna.” They both giggled. Bregman lifted his pathetic bouquet.
“Badja Flonna,” said the other girl. The two girls giggled again.
Suddenly, one of the twins reached out to the pathetic flowers. Bregman was startled at first but held out the flowers. The twin placed her hand over the flowers and like magic the flowers started to change in color and health. She let her hand down and the bouquet looked wonderful.
The girls smiled. Bregman laughed out loud and they laughed as well. He looked at the girls. They were hardly dressed. He then saw that one of the girls was wearing an inverted feather on a lace around her neck. This struck him as odd.
Bregman then thought of something. He smiled and took one of the girl’s hands. He nodded. “Follow me,” he said in his well-rehearsed friendly tone. The girl took his hand and he started leading her out of the jungle. She took her sister's hand and the three walked away from the darkness.
Fraysia Bregman arrived home from her day of frivolity. She set her sunhat down and continued on through the sunlit living area. She stopped suddenly. Two young girls stood before her. She stood erect.
"Hello?” She said. It was a greeting of surprise. Just then her husband Kohnet appeared with his hands up.
“Wait,” he said defensively.
“Are these girls wearing my clothing?” She was shocked. “Kohnet, honestly! And in broad daylight no less. How could you?”
Bregman moved towards his wife and started to explain the two girls. He told her of his journey into the jungle and the twins making their appearance.
“Yes. I had to dress them in something,” he answered.
“Well, I suppose,” Fraysia said. “But what is this magic you speak of?”
Bregman turned to the twins. They smiled and exchanged nods with each other. “Chigoo,” said one of the twins. She held her hands to her tummy. “Chigoo e maz.”
They both held their hands to their tummy.
Bregman wasn’t certain but it sounded like a question. He turned to his wife. “They’re hungry I believe.” He moved to the girls and led them away to the kitchen.
“Kohnet, really,” Fraysia said.
Later, Fraysia was watching the girls as they were near finishing the several dishes she placed before them, not being too sure what they would eat. They were eating everything.
“They do have appetites,” Fraysia said while clearing the dishes.
“Do you have any dead flowers?” Bregman asked his wife.
“Dead flowers?” She crossed her arms. “You know, most husbands bring home flowers from the market. Not from the jungles.”
“I need dead flowers,” Bregman said.
“Well, yesterday’s bouquet didn’t last very long,” Fraysia said. She walked to the back door and then returned with the dead wild flowers. She brought them to the dinning table. “These awful flowers had very little life…” She stopped mid sentence.
The closest twin placed her hand over the flowers. The flowers returned to life and were more beautiful than they ever were. Fraysia dropped the bouquet onto the floor. Kohnet picked it up and placed them back into his wife’s hands.
“They’re just flowers,” he said holding her hand.
“This is sorcery,” Fraysia said.
“Nonsense. It’s a miracle and they are going to help me with my crops!” Bregman was excited. “Oh, yes indeed. A miracle sent from the jungles,” he slapped his hands loudly. He startled the girls.
“I see. I’m sorry, what?” Fraysia was stunned. She placed her hand to her chest. “Help you. How?”
“Yes. Help with the bad crop. A wave of their magical hands and presto! Amazing crops!” Bregman said.
“I see,” Fraysia said. Her mind was elsewhere.
“Aren’t you excited about this?” Bregman asked his wife.
“Well, yes of course,” Fraysia replied. “It’s going to increase production for the Poneet Tobacco Company.”
“And for us!” Bregman gave his wife a hug and then hugged the twins. The twins laughed. “But not a word to anyone,” he said to his wife. “This is our secret. If the Ludibrium learns of the twins, they will do everything to take them away. Tell no one. Promise me.”
Fraysia nodded. “Yes. Not one person,” she said.
“Wonderful,” said Bregman. “And soon our spy will give us the Ludibrium.” Bregman let this last statement fall from his mouth.
“What was that dear?” Fraysia asked. Her ears perked up.
Bregman realized his folly. “Nothing,” he said. He slapped his hands together again and again startled the girls. “Alright girls, lets go to the farm and look at some tobacco leaves.”
He pulled the girls to lead them outside. They smiled at Fraysia and said what sounded like, thank you.
Fraysia smiled in return and watched the three exit the kitchen. She held her hand to her chest. “Bayani,” she said softly.
She hurried out of the kitchen walking quickly through the house. She entered the library and went straight to the secretary desk. She opened the top drawer and pulled out stationary. She sat and started to write.
Upon finishing her letter, Fraysia folded the page on itself. She sealed it with red wax, scratching the wax with her stamp. She hurried out of the library and moved swiftly out the front door. She hurried away from her home and down a path that led to the street. Just beyond her gate, sitting on a box, was a young Poneet child of about 10 years old.
“Leelee,” Fraysia said to the boy. He jumped off the box as if to attention.
“Mum,” he saluted Fraysia.
Fraysia walked up very close to Leelee’s face. “I need you to run this letter to Dewar Patch-08 on Exer Crossing. Give it to the house Secretary. Tell him it is of the utmost importance! He must give it to Mr. Bayani Seygonia right away! If the meeting has concluded, then he must go find him that very minute! It is very urgent and very private!! Do you understand, Leelee?”
Fraysia’s voice scared Leelee but he responded bravely. “Mum, yes Mum. Right away,” Leelee said and ran off at breakneck speed as if a Shog were chasing him.
Fraysia watched him disappear up the street. She looked to her home. Her face fell. “You will not spread any more of this filth!” She recited to the skies.
Leelee reached Dewar Patch-08 and started to knock on the club door with ferocity. Before long a stern man opened the door.
Leelee held the letter up high.
“For Sir Bayani Seygonia. Of uncmost importance, sir. Please sir, deliver at once.” Leelee’s intensity equaled Fraysia’s.
"Utmost," the Stern Man said, correcting Leelee.
The stern man was the House Secretary. He looked up and down the street and reached for the letter. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a ½ Kasutu coin and flipped it into the air for Leelee to catch. And Leelee did.
“Go now,” the House Secretary said.
Leelee darted off down the street, back to his waiting spot by the Bregman home.
Deep inside the Dewar Patch-08 club, the House Secretary walked up to a wall, which was cloaked in darkness. He stepped forward and vanished.
The House Secretary walked up a flight of steps that were narrow and very dark. He then reached a door, opened it and entered.
Inside the dim room, three men and two women surrounded a large bamboo table. They were a group known as, the Ludibrium—an organization determined to end tobacco farming on the Poneet Islands. They organized and conducted operations against tobacco by attacking tobacco company warehousing and ships bound for trade.
The Poneet Government wanted nothing more than to capture and prosecute the Ludibrium for its crimes. With the Government in bed with the tobacco companies, the Ludibrium knew they were up against a fierce opponent and time was running out.
Today was the group’s weekly meeting time and although the Dewar Patch-08 Club was not a very clandestine place to meet, no one would find them there even if they were seen entering. Within the club there was a very secret and hidden door that led to an apartment, which was attached to the club. The Ludibrium owned this apartment. No one ever saw them going even if they saw them coming.
The windows to the room were covered with heavy curtains. A few lamps glowed dim yellow light. The House Secretary walked up to a man dressed in military garb and delivered the letter. Seated next to the military man was Satina Koobineeva, the 20-year-old Princess of Poneet. The military man was Bayani Seygonia.
Seygonia received the letter. Upon seeing the scratched red seal he immediately recognized that it was from Fraysia who could not be at the meeting today because it was the day her husband worked near their home.
Seygonia stood and walked to a corner of the room where a lamp stood. He carefully opened and started to read the letter while the meeting continued behind him. The handwriting appeared rushed with ink smudged on the page:
There is trouble. I shall find cause to be at our rendezvous point tomorrow at the clock’s strike of midday. I have information. Of the utmost urgency. You must come for the sake of the movement. A spy possibly among us!
Seygonia folded the letter and slipped it into his breast pocket. He returned to his seat and the meeting. He looked at the Princess and gave her a knowing gesture. She responded with a secret signal. She knew something was wrong.
With Fraysia’s warning of a spy possibly infiltrating the Ludibrium, he could not be sure they were not being watched at that very moment.
“Problem?” asked one of the men.
“Our colleague sends message that they are unable to attend. We shall go on.” Seygonia was unsure how much he should say with their network possibly betrayed. He looked slowly at every member sitting around the table. An enemy of the movement could be sitting among friends.