p o n e e t i s l a n d s
THE TOBACCO WAR
The Tobacco Twins proved to be Kohnet Bregman’s biggest success as the two girls performed their magic on the ailing crops for the Poneet Tobacco Company.
Earlier in the day, Bregman hosted an event at the company’s Too Baa Koo farm where several company dignitaries arrived to witness the plant rejuvenation miracle performed by the aptly named, Tobacco Twins.
The girls were now dressed in attire that gave them a mystical appearance. This was Bregman’s idea. Although the girls were not comfortable in the costumes, they understood how their work was appreciated and how it benefited them as well. They lived in a nice home, wore wonderful clothing and were taken care of day and night. Although unsure of the details, the girls were happy and well fed.
Sadre Bahn De Beleedi, the recently elected Governor of the Poneet Islands, was present to see what Bregman called, Devine Evidence. Placed in a large container was a selection of poor performing tobacco plants. The Tobacco Twins, named Leena and Saytee, by Bregman himself, were called forward to conduct their magic. The girls mesmerized everyone with their unique beauty. They stood over the plants, held their hands over the wilting, dry leaves and as witnessed by Bregman before, the dying plants came to life. The small crowd was stunned and applause broke out. The excitement was buzzing.
Everyone turned to Governor De Beleedi. “Unc is my witness to this glorious feat,” he said to the sky.
The miracle then prompted the Governor to state that Bregman would be included on one of the new banknotes being produced by the government and he would submit him as a candidate for the Sima Senco Belon Prize, which was presented to citizens who exemplified excellence in Science and Medicine. The Belon came with a million Senza prize.
Bregman’s life would soon be different. It would be better. He looked to his wife Fraysia who was standing nearby. He smiled. She returned a smile. But Fraysia was not smiling inside. She knew trouble lay ahead for her husband and she would be the cause if this trouble. She was thinking of her meeting with Seygonia the day after she learned of the Twins.
She was wearing a work woman’s clothing and looked perfectly common. Fraysia stood over a bin of fruit in a very lively open market in the city of Port Avastus on Poneet Island, which was an island away from her home on Too Baa Koo. She took a water taxi to make the scheduled meeting with Seygonia.
“I was very careful not to be followed,” Fraysia said. She did her best to disguise to whom she was speaking.
Many people were milling through the open market, it was hard for her to stay near enough to Seygonia to keep their conversation going. But this was their method of exchanging information. They would meet in the market place and exchange messages.
Fraysia Bregman was not a Poneetian by birth. She was the daughter of a successful Mujand Republic industrialist. Her father, Gidmore Wolery, built an empire in the shipping industry. As an only child, Fraysia knew she would one day inherit her father’s wealth. Lately, however, she had learned how excessive wealth could corrupt people. She was seeing it firsthand with her husband Kohnet and it upset her very much.
When she and Kohnet first met, he was an ambitious man but he was a good man and not prone to taking advantage of people. Their eventual move to the Poneet Islands and his work with the Poneet Tobacco Company had changed him. Fraysia despised tobacco and what it had done to the people of the Poneet Islands. She knew she had to help with the effort to end tobacco on Poneet. What she didn’t plan for was falling in love with Bayani Seygonia. Her heart was torn between her loyalty and her passion. After giving in to infidelity and the guilt associated with the act, she and Seygonia decided to focus on helping with the opposition to tobacco and let the fate of their love wait.
Fraysia wavered at the thought of asking her father for money, for there would be questions. When those questions came to her, she straight out told her father to not ask questions and to trust that his daughter would not ask for such an outrageous amount of money if it were not for such an important reason.
Her father relented as he always did for her. The money was sent and hand delivered by courier. She received the 5 million Zilchy she had asked of her father. It was the equivalent of 7.75 million Kasutu. She would fund the attacks on tobacco companies and finance the repurchasing of farmland for the Poneetians. This was her simple plan.
“It slipped out in conversation. He said something of a spy giving up the Ludibrium.”
Fraysia was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, placing fruit into her basket while Seygonia also shopped for produce. She told him about the Twins and about her husband’s slip up about the Ludibrium.
“We are betrayed,” he said. His mind wandered. He was in deep thought and Fraysia could see the concern on his brow.
“What will we do?” She asked.
“Return home,” Seygonia said to Fraysia. “Wait until I call for you through our mutual friend. Do your best to remain unaffected. I must come up with a plan to uncover the mole. There is little we can do with these magical twins you speak of. For now.”
Fraysia was scarred. “Should they learn of my deception…” she started and then stopped.
“They will not,” he said. “And if they should, I will come for you.” He was firm and confident. She knew then that her life was about to change permanently. If caught she knew she and the Ludibrium would be executed. Her stomach was in knots.
Fraysia completed her shopping, paid for her fruit and walked away through the crowd. Seygonia did the same in the opposite direction. His mind was filled with thoughts as he hurried past a man sampling fruits. The man’s eyes followed Seygonia. He was tall and had dark uncaring eyes. He spat out the fruit and tossed the vendor a Kasutu coin and walked away following Seygonia’s path.
Two Years Ago
On a cool summer night, Satina Koobineeva sat in a garden by herself while her parents, the former King and Queen of the Poneet Islands, were entertaining guests. There were government people, business people and some military men. She made it a point to stay as far away as possible from these people.
Satina was a strong willed child and now at 18 years of age, that strength had found a purpose. She had secretly been conducting raids on tobacco ships and warehouses with a band of misfits she had put together. When she was a child she promised her parents that she would rid Poneet of tobacco. Her raids however, were coming to an end, as her comrades were bored and tired. She was feeling like she failed.
A noise startled Satina. She stood and peered into the darkness and could see someone approaching. “Who’s there?” She asked to the darkness.
Then from the shadows appeared General Bayani Seygonia, the King’s once most trusted general.
“General Seygonia. Good evening, sir,” she said softly.
“Good evening, Princess.” Seygonia gave her a proper bow.
“I trust you are enjoying yourself,” Satina said. She was always the proper host.
“I am,” Seygonia replied.
He looked back to the lights of the mansion and he could hear the music playing. Satina followed his glance.
“But you, I’m afraid, are not so well,” Seygonia said to Satina
Satina was taken aback. “Why on Blissdaine would you say that?”
The general moved closer to Satina. “You cannot escape your past, young lady. The forces that you are warring with are forming circles to combat your little group of misfits. And they will capture you.”
Satina stood back. There was fear in her eyes.
Seygonia smiled. “Yes, I’ve known for a while now that you were behind the tobacco raids.” He walked about her like a tiger measuring its prey.
“Are you going to turn me in?” Satina had a tremor in her voice.
Sygonia shrugged. He moved even closer to Satina. She was becoming frightened. “It’s over,” she said. “My band of so called misfits has retired. Do what you will.” Satina was defiant to the end. But it wasn’t the end.
Seygonia finally moved so close to Satina she could smell his face. “I need you to join me,” Seygonia said.
Satina was surprised and confused. “Join you?”
Seygonia knew of only one way to uncover the spy. He must tell each member a different lie. From this he would uncover the mole. It would not be a pleasant task but he knew time was running out on the Ludibrium. He would start now.
There were six core members in the inner circle of the Ludibrium:
Jebey Gollia. A master architect whose family moved to the Poneet Islands over one hundred years ago. He was a Poneetian all his life. His father died from tobacco. His cause was personal.
Jonnaz Toobaya. A Poneet entrepreneur who saw his family farm taken through the underhanded workings of a government official on behalf of the Poneet Tobacco Company. His cause was personal.
Hamartia Monro. A remarkably beautiful woman. She was a professor of literature at the University of Avastus who saw the history of the tobacco take-over as a crime and a cultural disaster to the Poneetians. Her cause was personal.
Fraysia Bregman, Satina Koobineeva and Seygonia himself, completed the group. He could not see either of his two closes allies being the mole but he would include them in his plot to leave no doubt. What he needed were five people he could trust to help him ferret out the spy.
Fraysia watched from a distance as her husband entertained the Tobacco Twins in their home. She disliked their title. Tobacco Twins. She thought it a sad and humiliating name for the magic the girls held when they could be helping with more important crops. How could science allow this circus to continue and allow the tobacco company to use the girls for their own gain?
Fraysia thought her husband a fool carrying on with these young girls as he did. They fawned over him flirtatiously and they were ever so eager to treat him as a king. Why not? He gave them anything they wanted. Even things they didn’t know they wanted. And he was getting richer and promoted higher. She could not bear to look at him anymore. He’d changed completely.
Suddenly, Fraysia felt someone tug at her skirt from behind. She was startled. She turned around quickly and saw Leelee standing there.
“Unc! You frightened me,” she said. Her breath was chased out of her lungs.
“Shhhh…” Leelee put his finger to his lips. He peeked over to see Mr. Bregman and the Twins. Then he gave Fraysia a follow me wave with his fingers.
He walked into the library and Fraysia followed. He waited for her to enter and then he closed the door behind her.
“What have you, Leelee?”
Leelee pulled a folded parchment out of his pocket and held it up high. “Important message, Mum,” Leelee said.
Fraysia took the note and walked to the desk and pulled a 50 Kasutu note out for Leelee. She’d never given him that much. Ironically, it was the newly released Tobacco Note bearing her husband’s face. The Twins were featured on the reverse. She cringed.
“Mum!” Leelee’s eyes were the size of boiled eggs.
“Take this to your Mummy, Leelee. She will know how to use it best,” she said. She then gave Leelee a 1 Kasutu Effulgent Silver coin. “That’s for you.”
Leelee jumped forward and hugged Fraysia. His momentum carried her back a few steps. She held him tight.
“Okay. Go now,” Fraysia said to Leelee and off he ran, carefully taking precaution not to be seen.
Fraysia watched him speed out the front door. She closed the door and moved by the light of the window. She opened the letter. It was from Seygonia.
Do not leave your home. Good news. I will be meeting someone tonight who wants to join us. Tonight at midnight a boat arrives at Ootero Port-09. Our new member will arrive alone. He has resources that will help. Remain calm. I shall contact you.
Fraysia’s letter was one of five. Her location was known as Location 1. Seygonia sent the other four members a letter with the same message but with a different location. It was a long shot but Seygonia hoped this false event would be the moment the traitor turned on the group. He chose five of his trusted officers, each one to be hiding at one of the locations. At the correct time, if any of the locations were compromised, the identity of the mole would be exposed.
Fraysia was looking out the window. The Mujand sun was setting. It gave off a pinkish hue giving the trees and skies a soft metal appearance. She looked down at Seygonia’s letter and worried about him. After a moment she turned to leave.
One of the Twins was standing there in the library.
“Oh, hello,” Fraysia said to the Twin. She couldn’t tell them apart. It was Saytee.
Saytee moved quickly and stood very close to Fraysia. Fraysia leaned back. Saytee leaned in and held Fraysia so that she could not move away again. Saytee then placed her lips upon Fraysia’s ear.
“Me and myself will help,” Saytee whispered.
Fraysia’s stood back. She was stunned.