Beginnings – Chapter 1


January 2

Herta spent two days writing thank you notes for her wedding gifts. Krista found her still hard at it when she arrived after lunch on Tuesday.
Have you eaten at all today?” Krista asked, seeing the large pile of hand-written notes.
“I had breakfast,” Herta asserted. “Turan made me eat.”
Krista hung her head. “Have you had lunch?”
“No, it’s— Oh, I guess it is after lunch. Can we grab a bite in Wilhelmsburg?”
Krista chuckled. “At least then I know you’re not going to be eating cat food. Where’s Turan?”
Herta smiled. “Nope. A Reuben, if I can get one. And Turan’s already left for Tielen. He said something about arranging the wedding reception with his mother.”
“That doesn’t sound promising,” Krista observed.
“No, but it’s a dirty job that has to get done to appease the Powers That Be,” Herta rejoined.
Krista blew out a breath. “Am I needed for that, too?”
“I’d appreciate it if you could find the time for it, yes.”
“You hate dresses, I hate politics.”
“I’m not fussed on the politics part of the event, either, but it’ll keep Talya happy. I have an invite for the Minister of the Interior, too, but I’m not sure how I’m going to get that to him. I’m not even sure he can make it. Normally, he has things planned months in advance, doesn’t he?”
“Probably. You can query them via email, you know.”
Herta’s head came up. “Now there’s a thought. I just need to figure out how to word it so that he knows who it’s from without actually saying who.”
Krista propped her hip up against the desk. “What about having it come from Turan, with an official seal or something?”
Herta thought. “I don’t know about a seal, but yeah, I could invite him for Turan. It’s just a long way from Berlin for just a few hours of schmoozing. I’ll phone the office and ask for the email address.”
“There you go. That problem’s solved. So how far along are you on the thank yous?” Krista asked, picking up one of the envelopes.
“I spent most of yesterday doing up the ones for Tielen. They went out with Turan this morning. I’m just finishing the ones for town. Give me a few minutes and I’ll be done.”
“Sure. I’ll go find us a coffee,” Krista offered, seeing Herta’s empty cup. “One cream, one sugar?”
Herta nodded absentmindedly. “Thanks,” she said, her mind back on gifts and thank you cards.
An hour later, Herta and Krista left the house, Herta with a packet of envelopes. “I don’t know where some of these will go, so I’ll just drop them off with Father Edmund if that’s okay with you?” Herta asked.
Krista’s answer was lost during the process of climbing into the police officer’s Volkswagen. “I said,” she repeated, “Sure. We have to go right past the church to get to Wilhelmsburg anyway.”
Herta made a face. “We’re still going to go get that dress, aren’t we?”
“How formal are we getting?” Krista asked, putting the vehicle into gear.
“Turan says one step down from the bride dress, so I’d say it was long-dress formal.”
Krista nodded, not taking her eyes from the snow-covered road. “If it’s still there, there’s one that’s similar to your wedding dress.”
Herta laughed. “So long as it doesn’t have a corset, I’ll wear it.”
Krista’s eyes crinkled. “Nope. No corset.”
The snow was coming down heavily by the time the two women arrived in Wilhelmsburg. Krista had to park a couple of blocks from the shop. The walk was slippery but it wasn’t as cold as Herta had been expecting.
The shop was a small one, but the selection of dresses was astounding. Krista went directly to the rack that held a white dress with a blue panel in the front of it. Unlike her wedding dress, this one had short sleeves and an Empire waistline. It almost reminded Herta of a dress she’d seen in a historical program. She liked it on sight but looked at some of the other dresses as well. There had to be something she could wear to a fancy party more than once. Nothing struck her fancy, so she went back to the white dress and, after trying it on, decided she’d take it.
The trip back to Kochberg was interesting. The snow hadn’t let up all the time they were in the shop and the roads were now very slick. There was no conversation on the way back, Herta letting Krista concentrate on driving.
“Just drop me off at home, and I’ll manage from the driveway. It hasn’t been plowed and you could end up getting stuck,” Herta advised as they approached the turn-off for her house.
“Are you sure?”
“I have my winter boots on and the dress doesn’t weigh that much. I’ll be fine.”
“If you’re sure.” Krista pulled over to the side of the road and stopped.
Herta got out, pulling the bag with the dress, carefully boxed, in it after her. “I’ll see you once I get the driveway plowed. I’ll give you a call.” She waited until Krista had turned around and, waving her away, began the short trudge through the deep snow.
Turan was waiting for her when she got to the house. “Did you find what you were looking for?” he asked as he helped her out of her coat.
“I did,” she beamed. “It looks enough like my wedding dress to keep even Talya happy.”
“That could be a problem,” Turan warned.
“I gathered she doesn’t like humans,” Herta said, exchanging boots for slippers. “Given her treatment of Reikert, it doesn’t surprise me.”
“She likes them even less than I thought.”
“There’s more?”
“She’s made up a guest list of over two hundred influential Tiel.
“Good grief!”
“So we get to sit down and decide who we’re going to snub. I told her I’d prune it down considerably and I’d appreciate your help with that.”
“She was a bit miffed, I’m guessing?”
“That’s putting it extremely mildly.”
Herta fixed herself a coffee before answering. “There is a possible solution,” she ventured, leaning up against the counter while stirring her coffee.
“If you can think of a way out of this mess, I’ll love you forever.”
“You already do. What about a come-and-go party rather than a formal sit-down dinner?”
“A what?”
“A come-and-go. There’s no set time to arrive and you can leave when you like. For those who want to stay and schmooze—”
“Socialize, see and be seen, meet people who can advance your agenda,” Herta explained.
“Ah, okay. I like your word for it better.”
“What do you call it?”
“Pr’toi,” Turan answered. “Preteretoi is the proper name, but most people shorten it.”
Herta stifled a giggle. “Anyway, we could have a buffet set up and tables and chairs for those who want to use them. We could have a receiving line—”
“That one I know. It’s a line of ‘important people’ who shake hands with other important people as the latter arrives,” Turan said cheerfully.
Herta nodded and waved her coffee cup. “That could go on for about an hour and then we mingle with the guests as they come in.”
Turan frowned. “Knowing Talya, we’ll be standing in line the full time.” He thought for a bit. “What about having a table near the entrance where you and I sit and talk to whoever comes in?”
Herta tipped her head, thinking. “That might work. A friend of mine used to call that ‘holding court’.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking. We could take turns doing the rounds of the other tables so that someone would be at the table at all times.”
Herta nodded. “That sounds like a good plan.”
“That’s settled then. Talya will be livid, but that’s too bad. I don’t want to subject you to a formal dinner if you don’t have to be. Especially not one the size that she was planning.”
“I hate to get on the bad side of your mother, Turan. As much as I’d like to have a come-and-go, it’s not one hundred percent necessary.”
“Talya will just have to accept that I’m married and not to her choice of mates.”
Herta gave Turan a quizzical look. “Who did she want you to marry?”
Turan chuckled. “I’m not telling you that this close to our wedding day. Maybe in a few years, after all the fuss, pomp and ceremony is over.”
“Fair enough. And I won’t tell you who I was advised to marry until then.”
“You? I thought you married the man your parents picked out for you.”
“Nope. I got married all on my own. It was a dumb move, considering that I had just started university when we got married.. Mom wanted me married off at sixteen instead of me going to school.”
“Rae-Lynne, too?”
Herta nodded. “Yeah, but Rae-Lynne was smarter than me. She told Mom off and she got left alone.”
“Would your mother have approved of me?” Turan asked.
“Oh, yes,” Herta agreed quickly. “You have all the right qualifications.”
“And those are?” Turan asked with a smile.
“Are you sure you want to know?” Herta countered.
“That bad?”
“You’re not a farmer, you’re older than I am and you have money. It’s an added bonus, according to Mom, that you’re a politician.”
“And your ideas of qualifications?”
“You’re my soul-mate, you don’t mind if I continue to write and you’re willing to help me learn your culture and politics. For the most part, you don’t talk down to me like I’m stupid or backward.”
Turan laughed. “Only for the most part?”
Herta grinned back. “You have your moments, but I suspect that’s because you’re Tiele and not because you’re a jerk.”
Turan laughed again. “As you say, sounds fair. If I ever become a jerk, let me know, please.”
Herta chuckled. “Bet on it.”
The phone rang. Herta got up to answer it. It was Krista.
“Hey, Herta, can we forego the lessons tonight? My migraines are back.”
Herta stared in surprise at the phone. “Sure. I’ll phone Priscilla and let her know.” Herta had forgotten all about the Tiel lessons that were supposed to start in… She looked at the clock… Two hours, she realized.
After a few moments of conversation, Krista rang off and Herta dialed Priscilla’s number. Tamika answered with Priscilla’s number.
“Tamika? It’s Herta. Is Priscilla around?”
“Just a moment. She’s pouring pasta into a colander.”
“How are you doing,” Herta asked the young Tiele. “How’s work going?”
“It’s going well. I just have the lessons for calligraphy to plan and then I can start classes. Will you be coming?”
Herta chuckled. “I’m not sure yet. I have classes to teach myself.”
“Oh, okay.” Tamika sounded disappointed. “Here’s Priscilla.”
“Priscilla here. How can I help you, Herta?”
“It’s about the lessons tonight. Can we make it for another night? Krista’s down with a migraine.”
“Sure. Tamika and I were just going to sit down for supper.”
“Thanks. I’ll let you go then.”
Herta rang off and turned to Turan, who had been listening intently.
“Tiel lessons off?” he asked. “How’s Krista?”
“She sounded like she was in pain, but some sleep and a pain-killer, and she’ll be fine, I’m sure. That long ride in the blowing snow must have been harder on her than I thought.”
“Have you decided what you’re going to teach in Tiel?”
Herta shook her head. “Not yet. You’ll help me figure out what phrases are the most necessary?”
“We can do that after supper, sure. I’m starving.”
Herta laughed. “Okay, so we’ll feed you.”
They set about making supper, both in a teasing mood.
After the supper dishes were done, Herta got a notebook from the office and a pen. Taking both back to the kitchen, she sat at the table. Turan brought two coffees to the table and they began the task of deciding who to cut and who to invite to the reception and which phrases and questions were most important to learn, and the responses to the questions

January 5
Herta walked to Kochberg to pick up the mail. Her lessons were in. Krista was busy with work, so Herta wandered over to Priscilla’s to see what the older woman was doing.
“Come in, Herta,” Priscilla said, opening the door wider to allow her guest to enter. “I was just making some coffee. Care to have some?”< “With pleasure,” Herta agreed, taking her boots and coat off in the entryway. “So what are you doing out on such a cold day?” Priscilla wanted to know as they sat down for coffee and a chat. “Lessons. My German lessons have come in. I’m going to model the Tiel lessons after them.” She sighed. “After the Councils get a copy and look them over.” Priscilla laughed. “Don’t you just love politics?” Herta gave her a dirty look, which only made Priscilla laugh harder. “You could have said no, you know.” “>No, I couldn’t. I just wish that Hans had been a lot more…”
“That, too. So you’ll be coming for lessons on the weekend?”
“You can’t keep me away. How will you start out?”
“Basic things like greetings, colors, numbers, and so on, and the names of the Councilors and their titles.”
“The easy stuff.”
It was Herta’s turn to laugh. “Not according to Turan. We started out with just greetings, but he insisted that the formal tone be used, so I had to go looking for it. My spelling is atrocious, so I wrote a lot of it phonetically. Tiel is almost as hard to learn as Irish is, given that they’re based on the same language. Turan corrected me on my speech, but I didn’t let him correct my spelling. I need to be able to read the words properly. Writing in Tiel can come later.”
“I can speak a bit of it, but I’m sorely out of practice. My writing is a bit better.”
Herta smiled, remembering the diary that Priscilla had kept about the smugglers of the past summer. “Well, it might be correct, but the usage wasn’t formal, otherwise I’d use that as an example.”
Priscilla blushed. “Well, I didn’t want Reikert to find it and be able to read it easily.”
“Not to worry, Priscilla. Actually, I may see what Hans has for stories that we can use as examples of Tiel writing. I haven’t translated any yet, just a few household memorandums.”
“That would be an excellent plan,” Priscilla agreed. “I never did get to learn anything about Tiel history.”
Herta chuckled. “There’s a good possibility that you’re going to have more than you wanted to know before the lessons are over. Thankfully, Kyria speaks German, but many of the councilors don’t and they’ll be lurking about, you can bet.”
“When does Talya plan to have the ‘reception’ on Tielen?” Priscilla wanted to know.
“You’re coming and I have no idea. I suspect that I’m not going to get my way on a come-and-go party, so find a formal dress.”
“I have one of those.” Priscilla blushed, “A bit outdated, but I do have a formal dress.”
“Good. It means I won’t be the only one in a period gown,” Herta laughed. “Mine looks like it’s straight out of Regency England. Thankfully, there’s no corset to go with.”
Priscilla laughed, too, remembering Herta’s wedding dress with its very formal corset and train
They talked for several minutes on really important things like church doings and the new prices for groceries that had come in at the beginning of the year before Herta rose.
“I have to get going. I need to get started on translating these lessons into Tiel.”
“Why not just leave it as German?”
“The Tiel won’t understand the instructions and the Germans won’t understand Tiel pronunciations. I need to make two copies, one Tiel to German, one German to Tiel. To make matters worse, I need them for the next council meeting on the ninth.”
“Ouch! That’s in four days,” Priscilla observed, looking at the calendar behind Herta. “Would you like me to send Tamika and Diesel out to help you? They normally spend Saturday getting underfoot here and it would be nice to have at least one Saturday to myself.” She grinned to take the sting out of her words.
“Oh, could you? That would be so much help. Thank you,” Herta said, walking down the hallway, trailed by Priscilla, to the front door.
“I’ll send them over with breakfast for you.”
Herta stood up from putting her boots on. “You don’t need to do that, Priscilla.”
“Call it my contribution to the cause,” Priscilla laughed. She lifted one finger in warning when Herta looked like she was going to argue the point. “Ah. Don’t argue. Just say thank you and put your coat on.”
Herta grinned. “Danke, Mutter. Ich kann es machen. Thank you, Mother. I can do this.”
“Good. And don’t be cheeky.”
Herta laughed and, drawing on her coat, picked up the bag that contained the lessons and went home.