In spite of all Dukov's efforts, the Party of the Duchy faced a huge obstacle countering the barrage of advertising on television. The TV ads were aimed at unsophisticated voters who were unaccustomed to seeing a well-organized television advertising campaign. As long as the ads stayed on track, it looked like the Greater Danubian Progressive Party would still win, although perhaps not by as large a margin as they would have liked.
At the end of the second week of November and only a week before the election, the foreign advisors of the Greater Danubian Progressive Party made a mistake that cost their candidates any chance whatsoever of winning. It was a miscalculation that political scientists would analyze for years as a case study for failed political consulting. The consultants decided to target Vladim Dukov's son in personal attacks, and in doing so turned a likely electoral victory into certain electoral defeat.
The foreign advisors were elated when they found out about Vladik Dukov's public penance. They abandoned their attacks against Vladim Dukov's past and instead decided to concentrate on humiliating Vladik. They filmed him as he walked naked around the music store complex with blueprints in his hand and a collar around his neck. There was public discussion of the shame he had brought upon Vladim Dukov and on the police department. There was an ugly incident at the music store, as a couple of reporters aggressively approached a terrified Tiffany Walker as she was working at a cash register. The store’s owner, Vladik, and five naked male employees confronted the reporters, broke their cameras, and threw them out the door.
Reporters contracted by the foreign advisors then tracked down both Vladik's ex-fiancée and his ex-boss, demanding to know why he had resigned and why he no longer was engaged. Both the woman and the police official were incensed at having rogue reporters approach them about someone else's personal issues. Vladik's ex-fiancée, in particular, was furious that any reporter would be interested in what she considered a private matter. She was a hard and proud woman who would never forgive him for what he had done to their relationship, but she considered the matter closed when he resigned from the National Police. The use of their personal problems to further a political campaign was an attack on not just his honor, but also hers. It was a violation of the most basic Danubian value about the sanctity of personal relationships. Such people had no right to win an election.
She approached Vladik's ex-boss to discuss the inquiries. It turned out he was equally incensed, for very similar reasons. Officer Vladik Dukov had resigned to protect other people in the National Police. He had resigned honorably. The matter was closed as far as the National Police was concerned and not open to further discussion. Vladik's Section Chief suggested that he and the young woman jointly file an official complaint with the High Priest at the Temple of the Ancients.
The High Priest gladly accepted the complaint, because it gave him justification to take action. The clergy already had been offended that public penance, which was a personal matter between the priest and the sinner, would become a political campaign issue. Maybe such things are acceptable elsewhere, but not in Upper Danubia. As the sun set behind the National Cathedral, the High Priest, surrounded by other members of the Clergy, issued an official condemnation of the entire campaign of the Greater Danubian Progressive Party. He considered an attack on penance as an attack on the Church itself and on the fundamental concept of personal redemption.
The Church condemnation handed the election to Vladim Dukov and the Party of the Duchy. A condemnation was a very serious matter for many voters, especially among the rural constituents the Greater Danubian Progressive Party needed to win the election. It took the foreign advisors several days to understand how seriously their campaign targeting Vladik Dukov's penance had offended traditional Danubian values. The Danubian press also turned against the "Progressives", its traditional journalists angered by the strategy of using rogue reporters to promote personal attacks. Maybe such things were acceptable in other countries, but not in the Duchy.
Vladim Dukov already sounded like a Prime Minister in the final televised debate with his opponent. Rather than try to critique his opponent's campaign, the ex-Spokesman again took the opportunity to lay out his plans for the future. He made it clear the Party of the Duchy under him would be very different from the Party of the Duchy that had existed since World War II.
Following the debate, "Socrates' Mistresses" performed the final concert of the campaign in the Plaza of the Ancients. In spite of Dukov's likely victory the next day, the group was neither proud nor triumphant. Instead they were very reflective and somber, realizing the seriousness of the new phase in Dukov's life and the professional sacrifices they needed to make to assist his campaign. Eloisa sang in her usual forlorn manner. However, for the night's final song, she stepped back and turned the lead microphone over to Kim. To the surprise of the audience, Kim did not perform her favorite song, "The wall that divides my soul", but instead the English rendition of "A question I cannot answer".
The election held the following day was a rout for the "Progressives". Not even their most pessimistic advisors for could have dreamt the party would come in third, losing not only to the Party of the Duchy, but also to the coalition of dissidents. Vladim Dukov's party won 58% of the popular vote, leaving him in complete control of the next Cabinet. The humiliation for the foreign political consultants was absolute. They quickly checked out of their hotel rooms and were out of the country even before the official vote was completely counted.
Dukov's victory speech was low-key. He gave thanks to his supporters, to the members of "Socrates' Mistresses", and to the owners of the Socrates Club and the city's various music stores. He then thanked the people he had worked with over the years: Spokesman Havlakt and his other co-workers, various judges and top police officials, and the leaders of the Party of the Duchy who had placed faith in him. Finally, he thanked his own Spokesman and university professors from many years before, the people who had helped him focus his frustrated political energies into his future career with the Danubian court system.
Tiffany viewed Dukov’s victory with very mixed emotions. On the one hand she was glad to see him elected, but on the other hand Dukov’s win frightened her because she couldn’t see how Vladik would want to stay with her now that he was the son of the country’s Prime Minister. However, the morning after the election Vladik Dukov had a huge surprise for Tiffany. He invited her to go with him to see his father's swearing in ceremony.
In spite of their friendship, Tiffany was stunned that Vladik wanted to be seen with her at such a public event. At first he justified the invitation by arguing he felt very uneasy having to appear collared and naked in public by himself; and her presence would make him look not so much out of place. Vladik then checked himself. That wasn't the reason. He wanted her to go with him... well, because he wanted her to go with him. Maybe this time, with Tiffany, he could simply tell the truth. He struggled to express himself in English, "Deevonay, I say you come with me, because I want. That why you come. I feel myself good when you with me, so you come please?"
"You... like... really want me to come? You're really not... like... ashamed to be with me?"
"Why I shame, Deevonay? I no better you." Vladik struggled to find the words to express himself, a task twice as hard because of his limited English vocabulary. Finally he faced her with the truth "Deevonay, you, me, we... we two start new. You no drug no more, I no police no more. We live life new. That what priest say, that why I wear collar. Kimberly, she say, maybe good thing I no police no more, because I no worry no more... no worry about the other people. Only think me happy, no other people. And Kimberly say, and I know true, I look at woman... I look at you, Deevonay... and I think... maybe you the right woman..."
Tiffany became quiet as tears started flowing down her cheeks. "I... I don't know what to say, but... you can't fall in love with me... I mean... your father... he's now Prime Minister... and... people would laugh at you... and I... I'm... I mean... that ‘honor’ thing you guys have here... I don’t have it..."
"Deevonay, I now ask, what you think me? What YOU think me?"
"Vladik, if it was just me... I mean, I really like you... you're the best guy I've ever gone out with. That's not it. It's just..."
"You, me, we got time, much time. I no worry people laugh. I worry you come with me see Father in Parliament. Very important you come. I need you come."
Finally Tiffany nodded. She gave Vladik a teary smile and hugged him hard. Time... yes, she and Vladik did have time. Maybe time would heal her after all. Perhaps there really was something to Kim's promise of "maybe even a family".
Vladik Dukov and Tiffany Walker stood together with the owner of Danube City’s main music store and his other employees during his father's victory speech. Their bare bodies and collars totally made them look out of place in the otherwise well-dressed crowd. While everyone else saluted they had to drop to their knees. There was no real shame in that, however. He was performing penance and his companions were convicted criminals. It was the way things were done in the Duchy. The naked men and women standing in the crowd of Dukov's supporters simply were fulfilling the protocol and duties of their positions in life.
Dukov took the Prime Minister's sash from the caretaker Prime Minister. The Temple's High Priest gave a brief benediction, and then the Chief Justice of the Danubian Supreme Court saluted the new Prime Minister. Dukov saluted back, then turned to salute the thousands of spectators.
The crowd saluted back and roared its support, "DOC-DOC DUKOV! DOC-DOC DUKOV! DOC-DOC DUKOV!"
Prime Minister Dukov lost no time getting down to business. He left the stage to enter the National Parliament with his hands full of folders, legislation he planned to present as soon as his cabinet was sworn in.
However, as he stood at the Prime Minister's podium, the vision of the collapsed dam from the Rika Chorna Reservoir filled his mind. Protecting the lake's watershed was the first priority of his government. Even before his cabinet was sworn in, the new Prime Minister issued several emergency edicts to safeguard the forested hills overlooking the lake. He spoke with anger and force, making it very clear that any foreign business wishing to exploit Upper Danubia's natural resources or its people would have to look elsewhere.
Dukov's election removed an immediate financial threat to "Socrates' Mistresses" by placing them out of reach from anyone wanting to sue them for breach of contract. Kim's old sentencing judge became the new Minister of Justice. One of his first announcements was to declare that no lawsuit against any Danubian entertainer by a foreign company would be permitted in a Danubian court. During his first press conference he stated, "I will personally prosecute any foreigner entering our territory to harass our citizens under Item 2, article 3 of the 1968 Professional Harassment Decree. That law carries a minimum five-year sentence. Furthermore, I will personally issue an arrest warrant for any foreigner who attempts to harass one of our entertainers in a foreign court."
The Minister of Justice made good on his word. The following week Danubian embassies infuriated some of the world's most influential music executives by sending official letters to their corporate attorneys. The letters contained arrest warrants and extradition requests for the members of the legal team who had confronted Kim for violations of Item 2, article 3 of Upper Danubia's 1968 Professional Harassment Decree.
A couple of nights after the election Eloisa's old high school group decided to have dinner at the Socrates Club. Everyone, with the exception of Tuko, who still was at the National Police Academy, was present. For the first time, Tiffany and Vladik sat at the table at the invitation of Kim. There was much good cheer that evening, the band members happier than they had been at any time since the euphoric day their sentences ended. Later in the evening Eloisa reflected to the group that it felt good to have her clothes off again and just relax in a familiar setting, a comment to which many band members agreed. Sergekt then made a comment that it looked like the band was starting over, their foreign contract breached and the group unable to perform outside Upper Danubia.
"I've been thinking, maybe the foreign contract wasn't such a good thing for us. Did we really need all that money? Kim and I already have enough to build a very nice house and still plenty left over to put our kids though school. Do we need even more? Now we have the chance to go back to who we really are. We can return to our roots and do what we want to do, not what anyone else wants us to do. We can sing what we want to sing, and chose where and when our concerts are going to be. We're going to do it right this time -- as Danubians."
There was a toast, as Kim mulled over the statements of both Eloisa and Sergekt. Finally an idea came into her head. She addressed the group. "Does everyone still have their criminal's collar?"
The question surprised her friends, because it seemed to come from nowhere, but everyone in the group still had their collars. Danubian ex-criminals rarely got rid of their collars, given the importance of the device in their lives and in forming their characters. Kim's purpose became clear with her next statement.
"Then I want to go back too, completely back. We started performing as criminals. Our first listeners were criminals. That's how we got our inspiration. Now here's what I want. I want our next concert to be in this club, where we started. Then, we'll perform just like we did last year, wearing our collars and nothing else. I want us to practice that way as well, wearing our collars and nothing else. Whenever we get together to do any band business, we'll wear our collars and nothing else. Whenever we get interviewed, we'll wear our collars and nothing else. Who we really are is not a bunch of rich kids performing in Barcelona and Paris. Who we really are... is Danubian criminals. I want to make that our trademark."
The idea was a bit unusual; to return to performing in the nude when it was neither necessary nor expected, but the other members of the group liked it. Yes, go back to the very beginning, start over, write new songs, perform for the Duchy. The group's foreign fans would be welcome to travel to Upper Danubia to see the band's new concerts, but would see them as naked ex-criminals. The most important part of Kim's proposal would be frequently returning to the Socrates Club for the inspiration needed to write new songs.
"Socrates' Mistresses" had come home.
Two days later Tiffany became an important asset to Dukov's Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Public Health. Dukov called Kim into the Prime Minister's office in the National Parliament Building to ask about Tiffany's knowledge of methamphetamine. Kim stood at attention in her formal white dress and saluted the new Prime Minister; in spite of the fact she still was living in his house and having dinner with his family every night.
Once her formal gesture of respect was finished, she answered his question in Danubian, "Prime Minster, I believe Criminal # 98946 has extensive knowledge about the production of methamphetamine, as well as knowledge of other drugs such as heroin, pharmaceuticals, and on-line prescription drugs."
"Another question, Apprentice: do you think she knows how to obtain these items on the Internet?"
"Yes, Prime Minister Dukov, I believe she does."
"Very well, Apprentice Lee. Then you and Criminal # 98946 will be able perform an important service to our country. Please bring Criminal # 98946 to this office at 15:00 this afternoon. I will have the head doctor from the National Hospital Chemical Addiction Rehabilitation Program present, and also the Vice-Minister of Health and two court recorders. I would like Criminal # 98946 to share whatever knowledge she has about methamphetamine with us. Once we have completed interviewing her, I will ask that she go online in our presence and instruct us about the availability of drugs through the Internet. I plan to use the information to update our drug laws."
Kim saluted. "I will obey your command, Prime Minister. I will bring my client to this office at 15:00 today and ask her to assist you to the best of her ability."
Apprentice Lee and Criminal # 98946 showed up at the National Parliament Building at 3:00 in the afternoon. Tiffany felt very uneasy as she walked naked among Upper Danubia's most important leaders, but she was a criminal performing a public service and that was what was expected of her. As she and her Spokeswoman entered the Prime Minister's office, Tiffany dropped to her knees and nervously put her forehead to the ground while Kim stood at attention and saluted. Tiffany was scared being pulled out of her regular life, even more so because the Prime Minister was her lover's father.
Once Apprentice Lee had saluted, Dukov ordered Criminal # 98046 to stand up and take a seat. He offered her some tea and poured it for her himself. Once he passed her the cup he got down to business, asking her what information she could provide him about methamphetamine and any other drugs she had used. The debriefing of Kim's client was the beginning of Dukov's plan to mount a huge anti-drug effort, before the problem had a chance to take hold in his country.
It turned out Tiffany knew three separate recipes for making methamphetamine. She knew about several online suppliers of psuedoephdrine, iodine, and glassware. She knew about suppliers of ecstasy and LSD. She knew about concealment methods. She was familiar with online chat groups. Finally, she was able to analyze herself and her friends in the US, giving her listeners a perspective on why persons like herself started using drugs in the first place. The scope of Tiffany's knowledge on the topic was impressive. Both Kim and the Prime Minister realized she was precisely the source of information Dukov's government needed to begin comprehending the scale of the threat facing the country.
Tiffany spent two weeks in the Prime Minister's office, being debriefed and teaching investigators from the Health Ministry and National Police how to look up Internet suppliers. The Danubian officials were taken aback by the challenge facing them. In the end, the naked criminal sat next to the Prime Minister at his computer and taught him how to access the chat sites. After a very short time Prime Minister Dukov and several of his Vice-Ministers had acquired a working knowledge of the world that had destroyed so many young people in other countries. Finally, at the end of her debriefing, Tiffany returned to her job at the music store, but with the expectation she would come back every so often to answer additional questions or give advice.
Over the next several months Dukov and his Ministers used the information taken from Criminal # 98946 and several other drug addicts to grill police officials, pharmacy workers, and customs agents about the measures they were taking to protect Upper Danubia. By the end of the year the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education had an effective drug education program in place for high schools, while new laws and customs screening procedures targeted imported pharmaceuticals. The entire process began because of the contribution of Kimberly Lee’s first client.
Prime Minister Dukov treated Tiffany with respect and made it clear he appreciated the information she could give him. The only protocol he expected from her was standard criminal's kneeling when she greeted him and when she said goodbye. Apart from that he conversed with her in a completely normal manner, which in turn boosted her own self-confidence. He expressed his gratitude by giving her an official commendation and forwarding a request to the Danubian Supreme Court to cancel the last five of her 34 remaining switchings.
Tiffany's service to his father's government encouraged Vladik to discuss the possibility of a relationship with her to his parents. He fully expected his parents to vehemently oppose any relationship between himself and the American criminal, but they seemed to be able to accept Tiffany, if not exactly approve of her. Maritza felt guilty over kicking Vladik the night after he resigned from the National Police and realized the need to give her son some space in his life, while Dukov saw Tiffany as a damaged person but with huge potential.
The elder Dukovs opened the opportunity for Vladik to talk to them about his own life, and what had gone wrong. He explained his need to attempt to find out who he really was on the inside, instead of trying to meet other people's expectations. Tiffany was an important part of that journey of self-discovery. She was a deeply flawed woman, but she and Vladik seemed to match each other's needs.
Dukov's only advice was that Vladik take his time with Kim's client. He needed to give her time to stabilize her life and re-build her character before becoming too serious with her.
To that Vladik responded, "Father, I am in the same place in the path of my life as Tiffany. I am rebuilding my own character and finding myself. I think both Tiffany and I are going to need a lot of time. Things will go slowly for us, because both of us have such damaged souls."
The following Sunday Victor Dukov and his wife prepared a formal dinner for Vladik and Tiffany. Following the traditional custom, Vladik would sit at the table of Tiffany's guardian, even though that guardian was his own uncle. When Tiffany found out about the impending dinner, she approached her Spokeswoman to ask her what was going on. Kim explained the meaning of the custom and its importance.
Then she added, "At some point you'll probably be coming over here, to Prime Minister Dukov's house, or he may have you go over to the Prime Minister's Official Residence, if he decides to move there with Maritza and Anyia. Anyhow, if that happens, you'll need to understand you and Vladik will have a commitment to each other."
Tiffany did not know how to react. She couldn't believe how quickly her life had changed in the short time since she saw Kim holding up those two dollars at Dirty Grampy's. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a strand of her long hair draped over her chest. She realized another change was necessary. If she was going to do that formal Danubian dinner thing, she had to fix her hair. Kim volunteered to help her client with braiding. Over the next hour Tiffany learned how to arrange her hair according to Danubian tradition.
The next month passed peacefully for Kim and her friends as the weather grew colder and the days shorter. They studied, they reunited at the Socrates Club, and they prepared and practiced new music. Relieved from the pressure of satisfying anyone except themselves, the group experimented with more modern instruments and different themes for their music. Over the following year they would try out new music at the Socrates Club, and then perform to a packed Danube City concert hall about once every three weeks.
"Socrates' Mistresses" would remain enormously popular throughout Europe. Foreign fans came across the border by the trainload to see the defiant group of Danubians and buy their CD's, the band's mystique only increased by the fact they had decided to return to performing as naked criminals. There were differences from the previous year, however. The variety of music had increased, and some of it had a sharper edge to it. When their performances ended the band's members always took off their collars, held them up, and then bowed to the audience instead of kneeling.
When asked about the gesture during an interview, Eloisa responded. "The way we perform, and the way we end our concerts, symbolizes the path of our lives. We began singing as sentenced criminals, but now we are free and making our own choices. How we present ourselves is to show our fans who we really are, where we came from, and perhaps where the paths of our future will take us."
Vladik Dukov continued working peacefully at the music store throughout November and December, still planning to enter the military academy in January. However, just before Christmas his plans changed when his ex-fiancée entered his workplace with a large package in her hand and asked to speak with him. Vladik was amazed she actually would come looking for him and uneasy about having to confront the woman he had so badly dishonored. However, it was obvious she had something important to tell him. He wondered about the package, and then noticed she was wearing engagement jewelry that must have been given to her by another man.
The naked man and the well-dressed woman withdrew to one of the store's small recording studios and sat down. Vladik's ex-fiancée handed the package to Vladik. When he opened it, he saw it was his police uniform.
She then addressed him in her usual cold, proud manner. "Vladik, last week I spoke with your priest and prayed at the Temple. I realized many things about myself, and my path in life. Those issues are my concerns, things you have no right to know because of what you did to me. However, I realized something else. It was wrong of me to destroy your police career. You're a good police officer and an asset to our nation's security. I have no right to take that away from our country, regardless of how I feel about you personally. Yesterday I spoke with your section chief and asked him to let you return to duty. I explained you resigned because of me, but I didn't give him any details and I expect that you will not, either. He seemed very happy and made me wait so he could have your clothes packaged and brought up to his office. It's quite clear he wants you back"
Vladik was dumbstruck. He took the package. His ex-fiancée stood up and put her hand on the doorknob. "Vladik, I want you to understand I'm doing this for the Duchy, not for you. I hate you more than I think you can imagine. But, apart from the National Police, I... I suppose I'm doing this for myself as well." She touched her hand to her new engagement necklace and continued. "As you can see, the Ancients have blessed me with another relationship. Before I commit to him I need to find peace with myself and make peace with you."
Vladik stood up, wanting to thank her, but she quickly slipped through the door and shut it in his face. He decided not to try to follow her.
Vladik sat down with the package. He pulled out his hat and looked at it.
Vladik thought about the challenges that lay ahead, now that the path of his life was restored. His thoughts wandered not to his ex-fiancée or even his restored career, but to Tiffany. He now realized he loved Criminal # 98946, and had every intention of staying with her. Marriages between police officers and criminals happened occasionally, so the possibility of Vladik formally marrying Tiffany was real. There would be some difficult challenges for Vladik’s future with the American, but whatever those challenges might be, he was determined to overcome them.
In the meantime the once-and-future Officer Dukov needed to finish his immediate assignment at the store. Once he finished his commitment to Kim's employer he would return to the Temple and request permission from the priest to end his penance.
Kim and Sergekt finally settled on a day to get married. They decided to hold the wedding on December 27th, halfway between Christmas and New Year's Eve. The date gave the people in their lives a chance to attend, including the increasingly busy Prime Minster and his family.
Kim spent the days before Christmas with her sister and parents, showing them her life as a singer, as a student to become a Spokeswoman for the Criminal, and as a future Danubian citizen. Kim was elated finally having her parents in Danube City. The Lees got to see all of the capitol's major tourist attractions, including several areas of King Vladik's Castle normally off-limits to the public. Kim showed them the university and the Temple of the Ancients. Unfortunately she had to skip showing her parents the music store and the Socrates Club. They weren't quite ready to see Kim in her work uniform and her singing costume.
A couple of nights before the wedding Kim and her friends took Cindy to the Socrates Club for a pre-wedding celebration. While Cindy once again partied naked at the club with her sister, her future brother-in-law, and their friends, Vladim and Maritza Dukov invited Mr. and Mrs. Lee to have a state dinner at the Prime Minister's Residence. In spite of the elegant surroundings, Dukov quickly put the elder Lees at ease. For a night he could take a break from being Prime Minister and return to his old role as Kim's Danubian guardian. The Lees and the Dukovs exchanged stories about their daughters, Kim and Anyia. Dukov's conversation allowed Kim's parents to understand their daughter much better and laid the foundation of a new relationship they would have with her as an adult.
The wedding itself took place in the main chamber of the National Cathedral. Given Dukov's role in the final portion of Kim's upbringing, the wedding came close to being a state ceremony, with everyone in her life present. The Prime Minister and his brother were present with their families, as were the members of "Socrates' Mistresses" and their families, Dukov's secretaries, Spokesman Havlakt and his grandchildren, and the staff of both the music store and the Socrates Club. Tiffany and Vladik stood together, he in his police uniform and she in her collar with her hair done-up properly.
In spite of Vladim Dukov's importance in Kim's life, he was merely a spectator at her wedding. Presenting her to Mrs. Dolkiv was Mr. Lee's responsibility. Mr. Lee approached the moment with much trepidation, regretting that he had allowed so much time to pass by without really getting to know his daughter properly. Now she was slipping away, soon to be the wife of another man and the citizen of another country. Kim noticed he was trying his best to hold back his tears as he presented her to Sergekt's mother. There would be time for Kim and her father to re-establish their relationship, but it would be a relationship between two adults, no longer a relationship between father and daughter.
Kim and Sergekt exchanged their vows and turned to face their friends and family members. Kimberly Lee now was Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna, the wife of Sergekt Dolkiv. Until she graduated from college, Kim would be known as Apprentice Lee-Dolkivna whenever she appeared in court.
To close the ceremony, Eloisa and the other three back-up singers, for once wearing traditional dresses, performed a song Dima had written in honor of his best friend and his fiancée's best friend. The song was titled "The Summer of My Life".
Dima's song alluded to the passing of springtime, a period of excitement and hope, but also of hard work and struggle, a time when Kim and Sergekt had to form their characters and determine who they were as people. That first phase of their lives was completed. Now life's second phase had come, the time to apply the lessons and hard work of the springtime to better enjoy the summer. It was a song of sadness and hope, an accurate depiction of the couple's past and the future they had yet to enjoy.
As Kim and Sergekt held hands and exchanged glances, they knew Dima and Eloisa could not have come up with a better gift. The women of "Socrates' Mistresses" were celebrating their friends' journey through time and the beginning of the summer of their lives.
Tiffany Walker-Dukovna woke up at 6:00 in the morning as always. There was no sleeping in for Tiffany, not with two kids, a husband who had to be at work in an hour and a boss like Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna. Those were the three priorities in Tiffany's life. Maybe in the evening there would be a little time to herself if she was lucky. Ha! Not very likely.
Tiffany's first concern was her husband, who soon would become Chief of Police for Danube City, the youngest police chief in the city's history. She quickly got his breakfast on the table as he put on his uniform. The breakfast was a standard US breakfast of pancakes and eggs with bacon, the only difference being she had to use blackberry jelly instead of maple syrup. When they first got married Vladik had trouble getting used to the American style of eating. However, when it came to fixing buckwheat porridge and fried potatoes for the morning meal... well... Tiffany had to put her foot down on that one. No, there wasn't going to be any buckwheat porridge and fried potatoes, not in Tiffany's kitchen.
Tiffany kissed Vladik passionately; her bare body pressing against his freshly pressed uniform. Tiffany was one of those lucky women whose figures never seem to change, no matter how old they are or how many kids they have. Tiffany slipped her hands under his belt to squeeze his bottom. She gave him a mischievous look... get home early Vladik, there's plenty more for you tonight.
Getting the kids ready was next. There were more pancakes to be passed out, more eggs, and milk. The older boy didn't have his school uniform on yet, which precipitated some yelling. There was the usual complaint, "Mother, you never have to get dressed, why do I have to?" There was the usual explanation about school rules and the dress code. Someday, soon, she would have to tell him the real reason. The boy's mother was a convicted criminal serving a 35-year sentence. For Tiffany Walker-Dukovna there would be no getting dressed for another 26 years.
The local school sent a small bus to pick up the older boy. The younger one went a couple of minutes later in a mini-van owned by the Danubian Royal Family. The boy's aunt Anyia had sent the mini-van to pick up Tiffany's toddler and Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna's daughter to spend the day at her house with her own two small children. Once Tiffany's younger boy was in the vehicle, its driver waved at her and pulled out away from town. He passed the yellow sign that marked the edge of Tiffany's world and continued on to the house were Anyia lived with her husband. That house belonged to the estate of the Grand Duke of Danubia. Anyia's husband was the Grand Duke, although now the Royal Family's role in the Republic of Danubia's political life was completely symbolic.
Tiffany reflected on the strange contrast between the role of Anyia's husband, whose power was ceremonial, and her own father-in-law, whose power was quite real. Vladim Dukov had been Prime Minister for nearly nine years, with no sign that his government was about to end anytime soon. He was adored by most Danubians. When the crowds shouted "DOC-DOC DUKOV!", they meant it.
Vladim Dukov was halfway through what would be the most successful and influential government the Republic of Danubia had seen since the times of King Vladik the Defender. The change in the country's name was one example of the Prime Minister's influence. After nearly 500 years Upper Danubia formalized its southern border, finally recognizing Lower Danubia was nothing more than a memory and there was no hope of ever getting that land back. In exchange for the formal border recognition, Upper Danubia's southern neighbor ceded some archeological sites, two small towns, and three ancient villages back to the Danubian government. The places had huge historical significance, so bringing them back under Danubian control was well worth the border treaty. Dukov asked the Parliament to change the country's name the following year, because it was time to get real. Upper Danubia no longer was a Duchy and there was no such place as "Lower Danubia".
There were many other changes, including upgrading the dam at the Rika Chorna Reservoir and tripling the nation's hydroelectric production capacity, projects that kept Kim's husband Sergekt Dolkiv quite busy. There were comprehensive modernization programs for sewers and irrigation systems, aggressive educational reforms, and the upgrading of fire-fighting and police services, just to name a few of Dukov's other projects. In foreign affairs Dukov proved to be a crafty and hard-headed negotiator. Danubia finally did join the EU, but under much more favorable terms than originally negotiated by the former government. Among other world leaders Dukov’s negotiating skills earned him the nickname "Vladim the Extortionist".
Danubia was the one country in eastern Europe without a major drug addiction or AIDS problem, largely because the Prime Minister had insisted on awareness education and mass testing of the younger population at the beginning of his administration. Tiffany could feel some pride that nine years before she had played an important role in making the new Prime Minister understand part of what he was up against with the drug issue.
Drugs. Fortunately Tiffany's first-hand knowledge of drugs no longer was current. It remained current for a while, but over time became outdated because she no longer was part of that world. There were a few reminders that never would go away, however. There were the scars on her arms, the cut on her forehead, the occasional cravings, and the pictures of her co-workers from Dirty Grampy's. Her old co-workers were now dead, all of them. From that group, Tiffany was the only survivor.
Tiffany forced the memories of her fellow dancers out of her mind. She had to get to work. She left everything in the kitchen as is, because Vladik had hired a cleaning service to clean up the house and maintain the garden. Between two jobs and two kids, there just wasn't time for housework.
Tiffany got on her bicycle and pedaled downtown. She could have ridden the trolley, but never did so unless it was totally freezing outside. Rain or shine, Tiffany rode her bike. She was one of those stubborn criminals who refused to stand naked in a packed trolley. She passed the pleasant parks and old buildings, as well as numerous hotels and tourist cafes. The city now was full of tourists, whose money fueled the Prime Minister's ambitious improvements. Some of the foreigners, especially visitors from the US and Latin America, stared at the attractive naked woman as she pedaled past them. Tiffany did not notice. She was a criminal and that's just the way things were.
As Tiffany neared downtown she passed the Danube City Studio Complex. The studio area was full of groups of naked criminals, the people who formed the heart of the still-popular Danube City music scene. Tiffany then passed the music store where she had worked a couple of years at the beginning of her sentence. She glanced at a display of the latest CD of "Socrates' Mistresses", the enormously influential band that had changed the course of Danubia's music, and probably the course of the nation's history. It was weird to think, without "Socrates' Mistresses"; it was unlikely Vladim Dukov ever would have become Prime Minister.
"Socrates' Mistresses" still performed, although not as often as before because its members were pursuing other careers. When the band did perform, Tiffany's boss, along with its other 14 members, always performed naked. That held true even when one or more of the singers were pregnant. Performing naked had become the band's trademark, their reminder to the world they began their careers as criminals.
Tiffany's journey took her past the Socrates Club, which still was going strong. She rode past the old armory building, where she could hear Malka Chorno's voice snarling at a morning gym class. Tiffany had classes in the evenings with that strangely driven woman, which kept her in shape and partly explained her still-attractive figure.
Tiffany finally arrived at the Central Police Station. She parked her bicycle and looked at the sprawling complex, feeling satisfaction her husband soon would be in charge of the entire building and everyone in it. Vladik had moved up very quickly and was very well liked in the National Police. Of course, having his father as Prime Minister didn't hurt, but Vladik had moved up mostly by his own merits. He had a bright future.
Tiffany walked up the two flights of stairs to Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna's Office, which had been the office of the Prime Minister when he still was Kim's mentor. The Spokeswoman was digging through some files, pulling out the folders of some foreign clients who had trials scheduled for that morning. Tiffany, now in her official position as Criminal Adjunct Walker-Dukovna, knelt in front of Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna and touched her forehead to the floor.
"Good morning, Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna, I am pleased to see you have safely returned."
"Good morning, Criminal # 98946. I too, am pleased to see you. Please rise and we'll get started."
Apart from the formal greeting, Kim and Tiffany talked in a perfectly normal manner. Tiffany officially was Kim's assistant, however the truth was she almost was a Spokeswoman herself. She and Kim shared some clients, but Tiffany also had several clients of her own. Both of them were specializing in foreigners and drug cases, given that so many foreigners now were entering Danubia and unfortunately some of them were not taking the country's drug laws seriously. Tiffany had the same law degree as Kim, but was not a Spokeswoman in full standing because she remained a convicted criminal. Tiffany's status as a criminal, however, did not prevent her from appearing in court and arguing cases.
That particular morning there was a trial pending for a group of Canadians caught with several kilograms of hashish. The case would be complicated because they were various ages and it was not clear the hashish belonged to all of them. There were interviews to conduct and a convoluted truth to straighten out. The arraignment committee, the same three dour individuals who had interviewed Kim nearly 11 years before, would be hearing the case before sending it to trial. In their old age the three had little patience for dealing with criminals who had not been properly interviewed by their Spokespersons.
Momentarily a group of scared, naked young Canadians would be brought to the office in handcuffs and forced to kneel on the floor. There would be a trial, there would be collarings and switchings, and then there would be redemption... hopefully. Kim and Tiffany would have to guide the Canadians, just like Spokesman Dukov had guided Kim and Kim had guided Tiffany.
The day would be a routine workday, but Kim knew that in one way it was a momentous one as well. In the moment of quiet that preceded the entry of the new clients, Kim needed to remind Tiffany of something important, a promise from a long time ago, now fulfilled.
"Tiffany, I got a question for you. Do you remember what day it is today?"
Tiffany thought for a second, "My God, today's my 30th birthday! I totally forgot!"
"Yeah. I remembered, 'cause it's what I promised you, isn't it? Your 30th birthday. So you made it."
Tiffany badly wanted to hug Kim, but knew she couldn't because it would break protocol. For a moment her emotions overwhelmed her. Finally, she responded, "Thank you, Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna. Thank you for... giving me my 30th..."
"And many more birthdays ahead of you, don't you think?"
"Yeah... I'm sure of it. Many more ahead..."
There was a loud knock on the outer office door, announcing the arrival of the new clients and their police escort. It was the beginning of another long day in court.
(the stuff that didn’t make it into the novel)
Readers have commented and asked me questions about my imaginary country, the Grand Duchy of Upper Danubia. Here are some details to give you an idea of what this imaginary society is like, of what I envisioned when I created it.
I want to emphasize that Upper Danubia is not my personal vision of "Utopia". Instead, my fictional country is a literary effort to create a society that is not perfect, but one that is plausible and interesting, and also very different from any real society that exists in Europe today. There are many details about the culture and values of the Danubians that I would like if I had to actually live there in real life, but there are also many injustices and social restrictions that I would find hard to accept.
Morality, Sexuality, and Protocol
Verbal Insults in Danubian Society
Courtship, Marriage and Family
Danubian social values and fashion trends
Braided Hair and "A Woman's Honor"
The Danubian legal concept of "custody"
The Danubian Pillory
The final years of Tiffany Walker-Dukovna
The country has a population of roughly 5 million people, all of them ethnic Danubians. In terms of size, its land area would be roughly the same as the territory occupied by Slovakia. The country is landlocked, with the only major trade route to the outside world being along the fictional East Danube River. Upper Danubia is cut off from its neighbors by mountains to the north and east, and by thick forests to the south. The only way in or out of the country is through major railroad and highway border crossings near the river, or through a single airport located near the capitol. As far as links to the outside world, that's about it.
The only large Danubian city is the capitol, Danube City. Of course, in Danubian it would be called "Danubik Mostk", but I always refer to it as Danube City in my narrative. Danube City has a population of roughly 800,000 people. The only other sizable city in the country is the eastern provincial capitol of Rika Chorna, with a population of 350,000. No other city in Upper Danubia exceeds 200,000 residents.
There are two major geographical regions in Upper Danubia: the Eastern Valley and the Danube Valley. The Danube Valley is the older section of Upper Danubia, settled for over 3,000 years by ethnic Danubians. The eastern section of the country was settled after 1512 by refugees from Lower Danubia fleeing the Ottoman Empire. Separating the eastern and western halves of the country is a range of low-lying heavily forested mountains. The central mountains contain the only sizable body of water in Upper Danubia, the Rika Chorna Reservoir.
Danubian is supposed to be a unique European language, such as Basque. In reality I based many of the made-up Danubian words on actual words I know from Russian and Ukrainian. Danubian is not supposed to be a Slavic language, but I borrowed some words and altered them to make up the phrases of Danubian dialogue that appear in the story. The same goes for characters' names. Most Danubian names are based on real eastern European names, simply because I wanted them to sound at least somewhat realistic.
Like most European countries, class played a huge role in Upper Danubia’s social development until the late 1700’s. Included in these classes were the Grand Duke and his Court, the "Outer Nobility", the Danubian Church, various guilds, and two classes of criminals. However, the Grand Duke’s Reform of 1780 reduced the number of formal social classes to just three: Public Officials, Common Citizens, and Criminals. For a while members of the nobility were considered Public Officials, but after 1830 only persons actually holding a paid government position were Public Officials.
The formal class system is an anachronism and causes some confusion, since a police officer fresh out of the National Police Academy is a Public Official, while an established business owner is a "Common Citizen" and thus in theory socially inferior. Even more confusing was the status of three of Kim’s university professors, who, although working in a position normally held by Public Officials, also were convicted criminals serving long sentences and wearing collars. The unspoken protocol of Kim and her classmates was to ignore the criminal status of the professors and treat them as Public Officials, even on the days they show up to class with welts from a judicial switching.
Morality and Protocol are extremely important elements of every Danubian's daily life. Protocol is a loose translation of the Danubian term "haráshkt jettít" which is perhaps better translated as "the proper way to live". Protocol determines how Danubians of different classes greet and interact with each other, how family members and in-laws greet and interact with each other, and the correct daily behavior of a person within his or her place in society. The rules are very specific, and a person who ignores them will "lose honor" and be shunned by his peers.
The issue about public morality that tends to confuse foreign visitors in Upper Danubia is public nudity. Most Danubians are not particularly modest about their bodies. Danubian women, like their male counterparts, typically sleep, sunbathe, swim, and exercise nude. During warmer days in the school year it is common to see classes of naked high school or university students jogging in public parks or performing calisthenics in groups segregated by sex. During the summer it also is common to see middle-aged and older people gardening in the nude, or during the hottest part of the day, wearing nothing but work shoes and a traditional wide brim farmer's hat.
To a Danubian the sole purpose of clothing is to protect the body from the elements. Going naked in public is permitted in Upper Danubia and, in fact, is required at all public beaches and swimming pools. Being naked in public is a required condition of any criminal sentence. Nudity also is required during all gym classes and swimming sessions in Danubian public schools.
The presence of naked bodies in public is not an indication of loose morality in Upper Danubia, but instead a different definition of morality. Being naked is not viewed as a sexual act, but wearing a swimsuit, provocative clothing, or any other item designed to draw attention to a person's body is. To wear expensive items, or dress to draw attention to oneself is considered a sin by the Danubian Church and inappropriate for the country's values. For example, the only accepted jewelry for women is engagement jewelry. Danubian women do not wear earrings or bracelets, and men do not wear jewelry at all. Make-up, deodorant, and perfume also are items that are rarely seen among the Danubians.
In the 1920's swimsuits temporarily became popular among young women who were wearing them to flirt with young men. Danubian priests were offended by the use of such clothing as a means to flirt, and viewed the swimsuits as much more provocative than the naked body. Furthermore, in a nation concerned about maintaining its values and cultural identity, swimsuits were looked upon as an unwelcome foreign influence. The result was a law passed in 1931 that made importing, producing, selling, or wearing all swimwear and most athletic clothing illegal.
Danubians place a huge importance on the traditional family. Young men and women are under great pressure from parents and peers to marry by the time they are 24. Family formation is part of a person's "path in life". As a result of the social pressure, there is almost no tolerance for "alternative lifestyles", which makes life extremely difficult for anyone unable to fill the society's expectations of family living.
A reader asked me about homosexual relationships in Upper Danubia. Homosexuality among Danubians exists, but is not tolerated nor sanctioned by either the society or the Church. As a result, the country's homosexuals and lesbians must endure a 90-minute train trip from Danube City to cross the southern border where they can meet and socialize. Immediately on the other side of border there are several bars and discos frequented by Danubian gays and lesbians. Prior to Vladim Dukov's government, the gay bars also were frequented by the Danubian Secret Police. One of Prime Minister Dukov's reforms was to order the Secret Police to stop collecting information about the bar patrons and to destroy all records about gays and lesbians collected prior to his administration. He did not approve of gay relationships, but he argued that it was not the role of the government to enforce protocol on Danubians socializing outside the country. Prime Minister Dukov's views on homosexuals, although conservative by US standards, were quite tolerant by Danubian standards and were met with resistance from many of the religious leaders who had supported his candidacy and his other government programs.
The worst humiliation for an average Danubian is to have his or her genitals touched by a person of the same sex. For example, Danubian doctors are always the opposite sex from their patients. Men are seen by female doctors and women patients by male doctors, to prevent the shame of having the patient's genitals examined or touched by another man or another woman. The younger Danubian male police officers who were fondling male criminals prior to Vladim Dukov's reforms were doing so not for sexual gratification, but to inflict the worst form of humiliation on their victims. When Malka Chorno touched and aroused Kimberly Lee prior to her second punishment, what she actually was doing was insulting Kim as a woman. At the time Kim did not know enough about Danubian culture to understand she was being insulted, nor comprehend Officer Chorno's true intentions.
The most common verbal Danubian insult is the adjective "dishonored". To call someone "dishonored" is to declare that person contemptible and pathetic. It is an insult frequently used by a person of higher social status against one of lower social status. For example, it is common for a police officer to insult a criminal by calling him a "dishonored little bastard". Also, poor preparation or poor performance can earn a person the term "dishonored". A high school coach, if truly annoyed by a student’s performance on the playing field, might call him a "dishonored sloth" or say "your laziness has dishonored you". To call someone "dishonored" insinuates a demand for altering personal behavior. A person who is accused of being "dishonored" is expected to change to regain his honor and his place in society.
In Danubian culture, to call someone "dishonored" is not nearly as bad as calling someone a "liar". If a Danubian dares to call another person a "liar", he needs to base that accusation on fact or on a specific incident. "Liar" is not a term taken lightly in Danubian culture.
The absolute worst verbal insult a Danubian can use against another person is "dishonored liar". The statement has a much stronger meaning than anything that could be expressed with words in Western culture. To be called a "dishonored liar" goes way beyond a taunt: it is an utter condemnation of a person’s soul and a statement of absolute contempt. To use such a strong term signals that, in the eyes of the person making the statement, the person being accused is spiritually dead, there never can be forgiveness, and no further relationship or interaction can ever take place.
A Danubian would never call another person a "dishonored liar" without a very good reason. For example, Vladik Dukov’s ex-fiancé felt justified using the term on him only after she actually witnessed him making love to another woman. Regardless of her suspicions, she never would have dared to call him a "dishonored liar" before being absolutely sure he was cheating on her. To hear the term used on him devastated Vladik much more than being caught, because it was true. He had lied to his fiancé, and in doing so dishonored himself before his father’s household and the Creator.
If the words "dishonored liar" are spoken in a personal dispute, the society demands that someone involved in the incident immediately report to a member of the Danubian Clergy and request permission to perform public penance. Once the shock of the confrontation with his ex-fiancé wore off, Vladik knew that the only way he could begin restoring his honor was to present himself at the Temple of the Ancients and surrender custody of himself to the Danubian Church.
If it turns out the accusation is false, then the person making the statement must submit to public penance instead. Falsely accusing someone of lying is a very serious matter. During the Middle Ages a false accusation was considered a capital offense, although the victim of the false accusation had the right to commute the sentence if the offender was willing to serve him as a collared slave. In the more tolerant and lax society of modern Danubia, the only result of a false accusation is a period of public penance lasting several years.
Education, childhood, and adolescence in Danubian society
Danubians are considered underage until they complete high school. Normally teenagers complete high school shortly after their eighteenth birthday. For becoming an adult, what matters is not on what date a person’s eighteenth birthday falls, but the accomplishment of getting the high school diploma. To obtain the diploma is crucial in a person’s Path in Life, because the diploma declares that its holder has completed the training necessary to exercise the full rights of a free citizen. Without a diploma, a person cannot marry, vote, hold property, or travel outside the country. Danubian teenagers, no matter how rebellious they might want to be, never drop out of school because without a diploma, their society will not allow them to function as adults.
There are three phases of a young person’s Path in Life prior to graduation from high school. Those are: early childhood, late childhood, and adolescence. Early childhood covers the period from a person’s birth to their entry in grade school at age six. Late childhood covers the first seven years of a child’s time in school, from age six to age 13. Once a young teenager enters the eighth form in school (or “grade” in the US), that person officially becomes an adolescent.
Danubian children have a relatively easy life during the years leading up their thirteenth birthday. They are expected to follow protocol, but usually are spoiled and have few responsibilities. Parents and teachers never hit or physically punish young children, with a single exception. If a child behaves violently towards other children or family members; both the school and the parents will tie the offender’s hands and write “dishonored” on his forehead. Any potential bullies can expect to be restrained and publicly humiliated, so bullying in Danubian schools is extremely rare.
Life for a young person in Danubia changes radically the week before he or she enters the eighth form. There is one final care-free summer, but at the end of August young teens must report to the Church closest to their house for a week of lectures, religious ceremonies, and indoctrination rituals that celebrate the passage into adolescence. The transition is a very serious one, because starting in the eighth form, all Danubians are expected to quit acting like children and start acting like adults. At the end of the rituals, each newly-inducted adolescent is required to formally present a favorite toy to a younger relative, to symbolize the abandonment of childhood and the passing of time.
Children do not do chores and are not subject to corporal punishments. Once a person becomes an adolescent, that changes. Parents are expected to train their adolescent offspring to perform all the tasks necessary to maintain a house, with the expectation that within a year the teenager could completely run a household should it be necessary. Schools greatly increase workloads, physical exercise intensifies, religious training intensifies, and adolescents participate in national ceremonies.
In Danubia there is no such thing as a “youth culture”. Children and adolescents aspire to become adults and respected members of society, so the idea of allowing separate pop cultures for adults and teenagers would be considered a threat to the country’s core values and an offense against the will of the Creator.
Dating is important in the lives of Danubian teenagers. Teenagers can have relationships from the moment they pass the initiation ceremony, but any relationship must be sanctioned by both sets of parents. As with everything else, dating has a strict protocol that requires partners to treat each other honorably and with respect. The purpose of dating is not to have fun, but instead to allow teenagers to practice the social skills needed for marriage. If a teenager starts dating, the goal of such a relationship is to search for a “proper partner” for one’s future Path in Life. Sexual contact is not encouraged, but is not such a taboo as it is in other cultures. To deal with the reality of sex; Danubian schools, the Church, and parents are responsible for sexual education and pregnancy prevention. Abortion is not legal in Danubia, but contraceptives are readily available.
The most important change from childhood to adolescence is corporal punishment. Danubian children are not subject to corporal punishment, but adolescents most definitely are. Both schools and parents can administer corporal punishment for rebellious behavior, with a maximum severity of 25 strokes of the switch. If a high school student is subjected to a switching, normally the punishment starts with a formal hearing in the director’s office that is similar to a trial. If the director and the teacher agree that the student should be switched, his or her classmates are assembled in the gym or the school cafeteria and the offender is ordered to strip. The director normally offers the offender the chance to cooperate, which spares the humiliation of having to be handcuffed. To avoid the dishonor of being presented to the other students in handcuffs, most offenders cooperate. The offender is then escorted naked and presented to the other students, and must stand quietly while the director reads the offense. Once the offense is announced the student is required to lie across a chair for punishment, which can range from 10 to 25 strokes. When the punishment is over, the student must stand up and turn away from his or her classmates to allow everyone to see the welts. Switchings in Danubian high schools are fairly common. In a school of 400 students (which is the average size of a school), during a typical month two or three students receive formal punishments.
Teenagers also can be punished at home by their parents, but it is considered dishonorable to punish anyone, especially an adolescent, out of anger. As with school punishments, there is a proper protocol for punishments at home. If parents want to punish a teenager, normally both parents and the adolescent will first go to the nearest Church and talk to a member of the Clergy. For the teenager to be punished, both parents and the Clergy member must agree that a switching is the best way to handle the offense. Upon receiving permission from the Church, the parents borrow a switch and return home with the teenager. The offender then undresses and lies across a chair for punishment. Once the punishment is completed, the teenager is required to return the switch to the Church and is not allowed to get dressed until that task is completed.
Vladim Dukov’s handling of Anyia’s temper tantrums over her school uniform was not typical of Danubian parenting. He avoided taking her to see his Priest, precisely because he knew that his daughter’s behavior would have guaranteed the Church sanctioning a switching. Instead, he merely threatened her, wanting to give her one last chance to back down. Had Anyia not calmed down he would have felt obligated to take her to the Clergy to sanction a punishment. Maritza disagreed with Vladim’s handling of the situation, because she was convinced that Anyia needed to be switched.
Young people may meet at school, church, or work, or they can be introduced by their parents, as was the case with Vladik Dukov and his first fiancée. Courtship normally is a two-to-three year process, with the expectation that the first year is "dating" before the formal proposal, and the second year is "serious engagement" after the proposal. Choosing the correct partner is extremely important because the Danubian Church does not permit divorce. It is expected a couple getting married have taken the time to know each other well enough to understand what they are getting into.
The couple must formally court each other's parents. No proper young Danubian woman may spend time alone with a young man who has not had dinner at the house of her parents or guardian. A courtship normally begins when a young woman asks her parents to invite a young man to a formal dinner on Sunday afternoon. If the parents approve of him, the daughter may begin seeing him alone, as long as he returns to her house for dinner once a week. If the parents withdraw permission for the suitor to come over for dinner, then the relationship is suspended. In such cases the daughter has the right to demand an explanation from her parents, which must be reasonable and specific. The young woman also may consult with a priest who can attempt to arbitrate, but if her parents insist on denying the suitor permission to sit at her table, she will obey and end the relationship.
Once the young man has the approval of the young woman's parents, then he must seek his own parents' approval of his girlfriend. This once again is done through dinners. The young man's parents also have the right to deny a young woman permission to sit at their table, but in practice denials from the man's parents are very rare.
The final stage of a courtship is a formal proposal. A Danubian man proposes by giving his future fiancée three articles of jewelry: a ring, a traditional necklace, and a silver hair comb. The man presents the items one by one. If accepted the couple is formally engaged. If she accepts the items the woman must wear them to show herself as committed to the marriage.
Throughout most of their history, Danubian women wore off-white linen dresses and men wore gray linen pants with dark linen tunics. During the winter women wore shawls and men wore outer tunics. Both sexes wore sandals at home and in the city, but put on heavy boots while working in the fields. Public officials wore clothing similar to clothing used by common citizens, but with a gold griffin embroidered on the chest.
By the time Kimberly Lee and her friends went to Danube City as tourists, very few people were wearing traditional clothing on a daily basis. Casual and business styles were not very different from clothing worn in Western Europe, although Danubian clothes tended to be more simple and straightforward.
Danubian fashion underwent a profound change starting around 1970. Until 1970, almost all women wore traditional dresses and men wore either suits or tunics whenever in public. However, as the population increased and the price of Danubian linen went up, middle and working-class people began wearing imported cotton clothing and reserving their dresses and tunics for formal use. By 1980 Danubian factories were producing casual dresses for summer and denim clothing for winter. Many politicians in the Party of the Duchy lamented the change, but the truth was that traditional linen had become too expensive for daily use. The new fashion was due to economic necessity, not a transition in over-all values.
Danubians' attitude towards wearing underwear is ambiguous and largely depends on a person's situation. Men normally do not wear underwear unless dressed in an expensive business suit they want to keep clean. It is common for women dressed in casual clothing not to wear underwear, especially if en route to the beach, a pool, a picnic, or any other physical activity. Women normally wear panties while dressed for work, but bras are completely optional.
Public schools are much stricter; underwear is a required part of the school uniform for both boys and girls. However, boys normally ignore the rule about underwear if they feel safe that no one is going to check under their pants. Girls usually obey the rule (at least about wearing panties) because their skirts make it much more likely they will be caught if not properly dressed underneath.
Tattoos and piercings are completely unheard of in Danubia, because permanently marking the human body for decoration is considered a serious sacrilege against the Creator. Only once did Kimberly Lee ever hear about a Danubian who got a tattoo. The culprit was a university student who spent a year on scholarship in Belgium and returned with a medium sized tattoo on one of his upper arms. Upon returning to Danube City, the man was arrested by the Secret Police, stripped of his Danubian citizenship, and ordered to leave the country immediately. Following his expulsion, his parents and two sisters considered their household dishonored, and presented themselves to the Temple to perform public penance to atone for the disgrace he had brought upon them. The case caused a sensation in the Danubian press and horrified the Clergy. There was general sympathy for the dishonored family, but no one argued that they shouldn’t perform public penance for their son’s actions.
The tradition of women’s hair braiding goes back to the origins of the Danubian nation. Since the emergence of the Danubians as an ethnic group, braided hair has been an important part of the national identity of Danubian women. 2,500-year-old frescoes and wall carvings portray Danubian women with their hair braided in the traditional manner. In a chronicle of his travels northward written in 350 BC, a Greek explorer described Danubia as a "barbaric land of arrogant and immodest women all dressed in long white robes and all wearing tightly braided hair". Christian missionaries from Constantinople described the Danubians with nearly identical words 1000 years later.
Proper hair is much more important to the average Danubian than clothing. Tightly braided hair is considered essential to a "woman’s honor". While appearing naked in public is no big deal to a Danubian woman, to appear in public without having her hair properly braided is a considered a horrible disgrace and a severe violation of protocol. The importance of a woman’s braids holds true even for sentenced criminals. The Ministry of Justice might deny a convicted woman the right to wear clothing, but would not think of denying her the dignity of keeping her hair properly braided.
In traditional Danubian village society, the first braiding marked a female Danubian’s passage from a girl to a woman eligible for marriage. Before the advent of universal education during the early 20th Century, the first braiding always was given to a young woman by her parents as one of her 15th birthday presents, along with a new linen dress, gardening tools, a cow, and a set of dishes.
Urbanization and universal education changed the custom of braiding. In contemporary Danubian society a girl is not allowed to braid her hair until she has finished high school. Braiding became a young woman’s graduation gift instead of a gift for her 15th birthday. The day before graduation the school principal issues legal certificates to all female seniors permitting them to braid their hair for the final ceremony. High school graduations thus are very emotional events for parents, because not only are their daughters graduating, but also they are presenting themselves in public as adults with their hair braided for the very first time.
Women need assistance to braid their hair properly. Hair braiding is an important bonding ritual between Danubian females. For example, when Anyia Dukov agreed to braid Kimberly Lee’s hair, she was granting her American housemate an important gesture of friendship. The women of "Socrates’ Mistresses" always braided each other’s hair before performances. All of the singers agreed that fixing each other’s hair before going on stage greatly helped them overcome stage-fright.
Normally women wash and re-braid their hair each Saturday afternoon. Because it is considered improper for a man (even a husband) to see a woman with unbraided hair, husbands and sons usually leave home while the women are washing and re-arranging their hair. Saturday afternoons are when high schools have their soccer tournaments. The games give men and boys expelled from their houses something to do while the women are fixing their hair.
Just as it is shocking for foreign tourists to see Danubians naked in public, it is equally shocking for Danubians to see foreign women with unbraided hair. Over time the sight of foreigners with unbraided hair became less of a concern to the residents of Danube City and Rika Chorna as the number of foreign visitors increased. However, that never became true for the rest of the country. If a female tourist visits a village or one of the smaller provincial capitols, she can expect to be constantly stared at if her hair is not done up properly.
If a foreign woman plans to spend more than a couple of weeks in Danubia, her hosts eventually will pressure her to braid her hair. Kimberly Lee did not braid her hair until she had been in Upper Danubia for nearly seven months, but that was partly because her hair was too short to braid during the summer she was sentenced. When she finally did ask Anyia to braid her hair, everyone in Kim’s life was enthusiastic about the change.
During her first year in Danube City, Jennifer Thompson did not braid her hair because she still was in high school. However, when she graduated she attended the ceremony with her hair properly done up alongside her classmates. After the experience of being switched by her counselor in the school gym, she knew better than to outwardly challenge the values of her host country.
"Custody" is a key concept in the Danubian legal system. A person deemed undesirable by the Danubian courts automatically is placed under the custody of another person, who has the right to tell him what to do and is legally responsible for his behavior. A Danubian criminal officially is placed under the custody of his or her Spokesperson upon being sentenced. The Spokesperson becomes the criminal's legal supervisor and holds rights similar to the rights a parent has over an under-aged child. A Spokesperson has the right and duty to supervise everything a criminal under his custody does. The Spokesperson can grant or deny permission for a criminal to change jobs, study, have personal relationships, and conduct purchases. The criminal normally kneels before speaking to a Spokesperson, given the importance the custodian has in his or her life. The punishment for any disobedience against a Spokesperson is for the court to double the length of the criminal's sentence.
The Spokesperson has the authority to tell a criminal where he can live. In practice, most criminals return to live with their families. The only time a Spokesperson would order a criminal to live away from home is when the official believes the criminal's family is a contributing factor to his behavior. Having criminals remain at home is the cheapest and most practical way to house them and keep track of them. Living at home also provides the Danubian government with a means to inflict punishment not only on the criminal, but also the criminal's relatives. Having a member of the household forced to live naked and collared brings public shame upon the entire family, which is considered a serious violation of Danubian social protocol. In many cases a criminal's family will not allow him to eat at the table, but instead make him sit alone in the kitchen during meals. It also is quite common for family members to force a criminal to kneel when talking to them, given the social stigma he brought against the household.
The Spokesperson is required to officially surrender custody of a criminal during a switching. For the duration of the corporal punishment, the police officer holds temporary custody over the criminal, which is why a Spokesperson is powerless to assist a client while he is on the switching table. On the occasion Officer Vladik Dukov took control of the eight women from Eloisa's group, what he did was secure custody to prevent them from being placed under the custody of officers who wanted to abuse them.
When most people think about custody they are thinking about Spokespersons and convicted criminals. However, criminals are not the only people who can lose the ability to run their own lives unsupervised. Danubian law states that anyone with an identified addiction has forfeited any rights to exercise free will, and thus must surrender custody to another person. The most common example of non-criminal custody is an alcoholic who is placed under the custody of his wife. In such cases the wife assumes the role of the alcoholic's Spokesperson and must periodically report to the court about her husband's progress. The wife can run the life of her husband and even request judicial punishment if he disobeys her. Danubian men have a very strong incentive not to become alcoholics.
A final note on criminal sentencing. A reader asked me what happens in a situation where a person actually enjoys being naked in public and periodically switched. What if the person is a masochist and enjoys the conditions of a sentence? The answer is that in Upper Danubia there is no such person. The social stigma of being a criminal and the embarrassment it brings on the family far outweighs any possible enjoyment the subject might feel from being constantly naked. As for the switchings... the pain, the terror, and the utter humiliation go way beyond what a typical masochist might find enjoyable.
A person who wants to be publicly naked would have the option of performing public penance. Penance does not carry the same social stigma against one's family that being a convicted criminal carries and has no corporal punishment. However, a person wishing to perform public penance must discuss his situation with a priest, given that he is surrendering custody of himself to the Danubian Church as long as he is wearing a Temple collar.
Earlier in Upper Danubia’s history, collaring was not the only way criminals were punished. Prior to the early 1900's, the Danubian police frequently used pillories to punish petty criminals whose crimes were not serious enough to warrant a formal sentence. The Danubian pillory was different from the ones used in England. Instead of restraining the offender’s head and hands, the Danubian version was designed to force the criminal to stand with his or her arms and legs spread, leaving their body completely exposed to passersby. The offender was stripped and restrained, usually for about 8 hours or so on Market Day.
In this picture, taken in a provincial town in 1937, a young woman was accused of stealing a teapot from a market stall and restrained for seven hours in the main square. Besides being naked, the culprit's braids were undone and her hair loosened. In traditional Danubian society, the worst humiliation a woman could be subjected to was having her hair loosened in public. Having her hair loosened was even worse than being stripped naked.
If a criminal was subjected to the pillory, usually he or she was not switched. However, the humiliation was considered just as bad or worse than wearing a collar. Normally a person subjected to the pillory was expected to perform public penance for several weeks following the punishment.
The major cities quit using pillories after World War I. However, many villages continued to use them until the introduction of electronic monitoring of collared criminals during the 1970’s. The last pillory sentence was given to a village shoplifter in 1978.
As foreign tourism became popular during the Dukov administration, interest in Danubian history, including pillories, renewed an interest in old judicial practices. Several towns frequented by tourists rebuilt their pillories, complete with the original chains and cuffs. Guides dressed in nineteenth century police uniforms explained the tradition to visitors.
Tourists could experience the pillory for themselves, by volunteering to get undressed and be restrained for 30 minutes. For many foreigners it was an intensely erotic experience to be chained naked and immobilized for a half an hour, completely exposed in a public location while crowds took their picture. Pillories became so popular with tourists that Danubian guidebooks always mentioned which towns had reconstructed pillories open to the public.
A reader became interested in the fate of my character Tiffany Walker following the completion of her thirty-five year sentence. He asked me how, after spending most of her life naked and collared, she would adapt to life following her release. Of course, at age 56, Tiffany’s two sons would be fully-grown and have children of their own, while her custodian Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna would be approaching retirement age. So what fate awaited Tiffany following her release?
The way I envision Tiffany’s life unfolding during her final years is as follows:
At the time of her release her husband Vladik Dukov was the Director of the Danubian National Police, after working his way up through various positions as a cop. During the administration of his father, Vladik became the Chief of Police for Danube City, and shortly before his father retired, Director of the entire Danubian police force. From that position he moved up to becoming the Minister of Defense, largely due to his father’s lasting influence on Danubia’s politics. However, Vladik always saw himself as a cop, and within a couple of years left the cabinet to return to his job with the National Police where he finished out his career.
As for Tiffany, she spent three decades working directly under her Spokeswoman and taking orders from her. She felt perfectly comfortable with her position in Danubian society as a criminal and official assistant to her Spokeswoman. Tiffany’s role in Kim’s office was mostly supportive, but Kim’s job would have been much more difficult without having another American as her assistant. Tiffany also had some clients of her own and was raising two sons, so she felt useful in life.
The prospect of not being under the custody of her Spokeswoman terrified Tiffany as her release date approached. She felt that she was not suited to live without a custodian, so she began to search for a solution to her situation. She did not feel confident placing herself under the custody of her husband, because she felt that Vladik was too close to her to control her behavior, discipline her, and keep her out of trouble.
Tiffany finally settled her dilemma by placing herself under the custody of the Danubian Church. On the day of her release, she made special arrangements to not receive the traditional dress, but instead to exchange her criminal’s collar for a Temple penance collar. The day of her release a priest accompanied her to the courthouse and collared her as soon as her criminal’s collar was taken off. Tiffany immediately went from being a criminal to performing public penance. The court officially transferred her custody from Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna to the Danubian Church.
Tiffany’s professional life and her work relationship with Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna faded after she put on the Temple collar. She continued to work with the clients she already had, but took no new ones. Instead she spent more and more of her time at the Temple of the Ancients in religious training, with the goal of becoming a Temple Attendant.
Upon retiring from his post at the Danubian National Police, her husband Vladik Dukov joined her. The couple handed over their house and retirement savings to their sons, took a vow of poverty, and spent the rest of their lives sleeping on a mat on the Temple floor. (They never considered turning over their house to the Danubian Church, because the religion does not allow members taking a vow of personal poverty to dispossess their children.) The couple remained in the Temple during the final years of their lives, permitted to leave only to see their sons, grandchildren, and growing number of great-grandchildren during holidays and family reunions.
King Vladik and the Judicial Reforms of 1524
A Duke instead of a King
"Wood Nymphs" - Female guerilla archers
Maritza's research and the Great Fire of 1755
Prior to the rule of King Vladik the Defender in the early 16th Century, an offender was convicted of a crime by his local village council, collared by the village blacksmith, and then became subject to the person who had accused him. Village elders who, in many cases were handpicked by the area’s most important landlords, issued the convictions.
It goes without saying that such a system was vulnerable to abuses. It was common for wealthier persons to falsely accuse villagers or tenants of crimes, have them convicted and collared, and then utilize them as slaves. The abuse became worse in the late 15th Century when the custodians of convicted criminals began selling them as real slaves to neighboring countries. As the abuse became more common, the Royal Family became concerned that the country could become depopulated if too many criminals were sold abroad. There was debate within the Royal Court over how to stop the practice, but given the power of the southern landlords, nothing much could be done until 1502, the year of the first invasion from the Ottoman Empire.
The first Ottoman invasion completely altered the balance of power in the kingdom. Upon finding out that a large Ottoman force was marching northward to attack the Danubian Kingdom, King Vladik and his small army rode south. Their purpose was not to confront the Turks on open land where they faced certain defeat, but instead to organize a massive evacuation of the entire southern half of the Danubian Kingdom to the comparative safety of the north. Prior to the King's arrival, the southern part of the kingdom had been panic stricken about the pending invasion. The tenants and villagers were more than happy to join their King and flee northward, as were many lower caste knights who knew anything about Ottoman warfare. Under the leadership of the King, the lower classes revolted against the landlords, burnt their property, and fled into the forest. The evacuation of Lower Danubia destroyed the southern landowners as a social class within days. The southern landlords were left with neither land nor tenants, and thus their power was completely eliminated.
As the southern refugees crowded the valley around Danube City, the question arose over what to do about all the convicted criminals among them. The King now had his opportunity to put an end to the de facto slavery system. He simply declared that all displaced criminals were under the custody of the Crown, since it made no sense to keep them accountable to landowners that no longer had any land and to the elders of villages that no longer existed. During the brief interlude of peace following the first Turkish invasion, the King ordered all displaced criminals from the south to be rounded up and sent to live in guarded dormitories near Danube City.
With nearly half of the criminals in the country now under his control, the King’s next step was to figure out which ones were wrongly convicted of crimes and order them freed. He asked the Danubian Church to assign 20 priests to interview criminals and separate innocent people from ones who had truly committed crimes. King Vladik's purpose was not entirely altruistic, because he desperately needed more soldiers for his army. Any criminal wrongly convicted and willing to fight in the impending campaign against the Holy Roman Empire would be offered freedom. When the Turks invaded a second time, the offer of freedom was extended to any displaced criminal willing to fight in the Danubian Army.
By 1520 King Vladik had successfully fought four military campaigns, but with each war the number of men available to defend the kingdom had diminished. He needed more soldiers, and realized that criminals in the custody of the country's northern landlords could provide him with a much-needed group of new military recruits. He set about creating a new legal system to justify taking control of all remaining criminals in Upper Danubia, but his effort was interrupted by yet another invasion.
King Vladik finally issued the new judicial code in 1524, which was a far-reaching set of laws that consolidated power under the Crown. Among the reforms was an edict stating that the private custody of criminals had been abolished throughout the kingdom, and that all criminals had to travel to Danube City to place themselves under the custody and protection of the King. He appointed 10 advisors to replace the 20 priests to interview the newly acquired criminals to determine guilt or innocence. Those 10 men became Upper Danubia's first Spokesmen for the Criminals. They rode with detachments of soldiers to enforce the edict, and long columns of naked, collared criminals streamed towards the capitol and King Vladik's dormitories. The edict also created the national Danubian judicial system, abolishing the right of village counsels to conduct trials and issue sentences. After 1524 the only person who had the right to issue a sentence or order a criminal collared was an authorized representative of the Crown.
By the late 1520's the Danubian government became completely unconcerned about the criminals' pasts. Worried about another invasion, King Vladik simply ordered all criminals, even recently convicted ones, to train as soldiers while Danubian scouts nervously patrolled the forests bordering the now lost provinces of Lower Danubia. The feared invasion finally came in 1531. Nearly all of the country's remaining criminals, along with the King, his heir, and 80 percent of the country's men of military age, died in the forests south of Danube City fiercely defending the kingdom. The country itself survived, but just barely. However, the legal system created by King Vladik remained in place, as did the idea of keeping all criminals under the custody of the Crown.
The dormitory system for housing criminals remained in place throughout most of the 16th and 17th Centuries, due to fears of more invasions. However, over time the government tired of having to house and feed large numbers of criminals if there was no military necessity for doing so. In 1710, the Grand Duke established the Danube City collar-zone and allowed criminals to live with their families, but under the supervision of their Spokesmen. In 1780 the dormitories finally were torn down and the stones used to construct a new Parliament building.
King Vladik the Defender was killed in battle in 1531, during the final and most serious invasion of the country from the south. Nearly 70 percent of King Vladik’s soldiers died in a series of fierce battles as the invaders slowly made their way through the forests towards Danube City. Finally, the king’s only son, together with his son-in-law, rallied the survivors of the Danubian Army for one last attack to prevent the invaders from escaping the forests and besieging Danube City. King Vladik’s son was killed, and his son-in-law crippled, but the Danubians won the battle.
The nation was stricken with grief, given that King Vladik and his only son were dead. The only living heirs to the throne were the King’s daughter and her wounded husband. When offered the crown the dead King’s son-in-law responded:
"I will rule, if that is what you wish. However, I have no right to be called King. Our true King has died defending our people, and I will leave his throne vacant so perhaps he can watch over us from the land of the dead."
King Vladik’s son-in-law took the title of Grand Duke of Upper Danubia. From that point on the Danubian Royal Family always referred to themselves as Dukes instead of Kings.
In 1531, following the six military invasions that were successfully repelled by King Vladik, the Danubian Kingdom was a very different place than it had been prior to 1499, the year he took the crown. The most obvious change was the loss of the fertile manors of Lower Danubia and the transfer of nearly half the country’s population to the much less fertile Eastern Valley. Another obvious change, especially in the region surrounding Danube City, was the absence of men. King Vladik’s six military campaigns had decimated the male population, leaving barely 10 percent of all men of military age still alive. Of the survivors many, including the Grand Duke, were so badly crippled from battle that they were unable to perform normal chores. The situation was so extreme that the area around Danube City became known as "The Valley of Women".
The Grand Duke, quite reasonably, was concerned about yet another attack from either the Ottoman or the Holy Roman Empire. Were such an attack to take place there was almost no one available to defend the kingdom except a few Royal bodyguards and the women of the Central Valley. The new ruler felt unable to rely on the villagers of the Eastern Valley, who were in the process of reconstituting the society they formerly had in Lower Danubia. The crippled Grand Duke and his female subjects were largely on their own.
Like his father-in-law, the Grand Duke was a shrewd military planner who was willing to discard social rules and long-held assumptions to defend his kingdom. He understood that the Central Valley would be most vulnerable for about a 15-year period, the time needed for a new generation of boys to grow up and re-build the Danubian Royal Army. That meant the women of the Central Valley would have to do two things to save the country that were taboo for European women in the 16th Century: take up arms to defend the Kingdom, and bear children without husbands.
In 1533 the Grand Duke issued several edicts. The most important was to open a series of government positions to women, including city guards, tax collectors, scribes, horse breeders, and archers. The next edict allowed women to buy and inherit property. A third edict eliminated the legal stigma of having children out of wedlock. A final edict, issued by the now ex-communicated Danubian Clergy, opened the Priesthood to women. 1533 marked the year that Danubian women achieved a temporary legal status that came very close to that of Danubian men.
By 1534, groups of raiders from neighboring countries were attacking some of the country’s outlying villages to test the Kingdom’s defenses. The Grand Duke responded by ordering several newly-ordained Priestesses and survivors of King Vladik’s military command to organize the villagers to defend themselves.
The Priestesses and ex-soldiers decided to ignore any women who had children. Instead they concentrated on recruiting teenaged girls and organized them into bands of guerrilla archers. The girls were organized into squads of about eight fighters each, taught how to shoot arrows in rapid succession, live in the wild for extended periods of time, and move about quickly in the forests.
Officially the female guerillas were called "Daughters of the Crown", but unofficially they came to be known as "Wood Nymphs", or simply "Nymphs". A Nymph always began her service at age 15, immediately after mother braided her hair. Priestesses pledged the girls secretly, and once a group of eight girls was sworn in, they left their village to spend the next three years of their lives in the woods. Before they departed their home village, the girls were sworn to complete secrecy; not even parents were allowed to know about a Nymph’s pending service. Nymphs always served away from their home village, to prevent their families from interfering with their military duties.
The Nymphs relied on fast movement through the trees and very sudden hit and run attacks against foreign raiding parties. Nymphs usually attacked at dusk, although they could attack anytime their squad leader thought there was an opportunity to inflict casualties on an enemy and escape. The most common attack was to fire a bunch of arrows from an ambush and then quickly disappear into the woods. After attacking the girls immediately fled. Hand-to-hand combat had to be avoided if at all possible, since the Nymphs wore no armor and were not expected to match the strength of their male opponents. Often several squads of Nymphs set up a series of ambushes, hoping to goad raiding parties to pursue them deeper and deeper into the forest. Sneaking up on sleeping opponents or distracted sentries and stabbing them was also very common, but much more risky.
Nymphs usually wore nothing but a short leather skirt, boots, and wristbands. To minimize detection during combat they often painted their faces and upper bodies green. They carried nothing with them except a dagger, arrows, and either a long bow or a crossbow. Traveling as lightly as possible was crucial to escaping their armored opponents. They quickly dodged through trees, jumped into streams or lakes, scampered up rocks, or fled into caves and tunnels, so they had to keep their hands free and their bodies unencumbered. Even the longbows were designed to aid in a quick escape, because they could easily be broken and discarded if their owners needed to drop them to flee. Each longbow had a small lever embedded in the center frame that, if pressed hard enough, split the wood and rendered it useless to the enemy.
The Nymphs understood that under no circumstances could they be taken alive. If a Nymph thought she was about to be captured, she was trained to quickly slit her wrists or her neck with small sharp blades embedded in each wristband. If a Nymph saw that a companion had been captured, she was trained to shoot an arrow into her fellow Nymph before fleeing. The Nymphs' squad leader always carefully planned the escape route before launching an attack, so forced suicides were relatively rare. As for capture, there was no recorded history of a Nymph ever being captured alive.
A typical squad of Nymphs lived in the woods for a total of three years, from age 15 to age 18. The Danubian Wood Nymphs were the closest thing Europe had to an Amazonian culture. They lived off the land most of the time, only occasionally going to a Priest’s house for food or to pick up winter clothing. The teenagers were entirely self-sufficient and their lives revolved around constant hit-and-run attacks during the summer and trying to survive in the wild during the winter. At the end of three years the squad returned to its members’ home village and each young veteran received the title to a plot of land as a reward for her service.
For about 10 years the Nymphs were the Grand Duke’s only line of defense against both foreign raiders and rebellious village elders from the Eastern Valley. However, the Grand Duke never intended to have women fighting for him any longer than was absolutely necessary. The Nymphs’ importance diminished over time, along with the temporary leading role of women in Danubian society. As a new generation of boys grew up and began receiving formal military training, the Grand Duke reconstituted the Royal Army. Armored soldiers again patrolled the southern woods while other teams of young Danubian men retrieved the huge Turkish siege cannons abandoned during King Vladik’s attacks and mounted them on Danube City’s walls. Within a generation Upper Danubia was ready to defend itself in a more traditional manner. By 1555 far fewer girls were being recruited to fight for the Duchy. By 1565 the Nymphs as a military force had vanished completely and became nothing more than a memory and a source of stories for older single women in the villages to pass along to their families.
With the return of men to lead Danubian society during the 1560's, women lost much of their temporary equality, not to regain until the 20th Century. However, the legacy of the Nymphs did have permanent benefits for Danubian women. After 1534, Danubians never regarded women as "the weaker sex", because for nearly 30 years young women had the chance to defend the Duchy and prove themselves in combat. Danubian women also attained permanent property rights as a result of the Nymphs’ landholdings, centuries ahead of women in most other countries. Another legacy of the Nymphs was the Danubian custom of female Royal Guards, who later became female Police Officers during the judicial reforms of 1780.
A very important institution where women permanently attained equal rights was in the Priesthood of the Danubian Church. By 1560 the number of Priests and Priestesses was equal. In that year the Church mandated that all Clergy members had to be married to other Clergy members and work as husband-wife teams. Women became full participants in the Church hierarchy and from the mid-1500's onward the Danubian Church played a key role in raising the literacy rates for Danubian females.
In Danubian society professional historians are held in very high esteem. Danubian religious beliefs and the veneration of ancestors explain why a good historian is held in higher regard in the Duchy than in most other countries. Danubians are obsessed with understanding everything possible about the country’s past, because their Priests believe that it is necessary to have a complete understanding of the conditions under which a person’s ancestors lived to enhance the spiritual bonds between the living and the dead. Without being able to accurately visualize what life was like many years ago, it is impossible for the living to have visions, and it is through visions that the dead communicate with the living.
Maritza Ortskt-Dukovna spent her professional life as a historian and researcher of Danubian history. At the relatively young age of 30 she joined the Guild of the Ancients, which is the most competitive and highest-ranking group of historians in Danube City. She was a respected professional by the time her husband became Prime Minister, but there was nothing particularly exceptional about her work. Her main interest focused on the century following the death of King Vladik the Defender and examining how Danubian society evolved following the traumatic years of the Ottoman invasions.
About five years after her husband became Prime Minister, Maritza’s career took a dramatic turn when she traveled to Vienna. Her original goal was to research the lives of two Danubian barons who participated in defending Vienna during the Turkish siege of 1683.
While looking though a collection of antique maps of city planners, she found several unpublished maps of Danube City in Viennese archives. When she examined them in detail she discovered something truly shocking. Among the Danube City maps were several drafts of the city plan of the Danubian capitol approved by the Grand Duke after the Great Fire of 1755.
The problem with the maps was their date: 1753. Maritza realized the city plans had been drawn up at least two years before fire leveled the Danubian capitol. There was no doubt about it. Those maps clearly were early drafts the city plan later approved by the Grand Duke in the fall of 1755, less than a month after fire destroyed every wooden building within the city walls.
Maritza realized she had just made a discovery; that if true, would be a horrible shock to her country’s understanding of what happened during the Great Fire of 1755. What the maps indicated was that the Grand Duke had been planning to rebuild Danube City years before its destruction actually took place. The question was; how could he have known in 1753 that the Danubian capitol would need to be rebuilt?
The Great Fire of 1755 took place on a hot windy night at the height of harvest season, when most of the city’s residents were outside the city gates working the fields. The flames quickly swept through the tightly packed wooden buildings, blown downwind from rooftop to rooftop by hot gusts. As soon as the fire started, the Grand Duke ordered his soldiers to evacuate everyone still inside the city, instead of attempting to combat the flames. Most remaining residents escaped over the city walls, using ladders and supply baskets that just happened to be there. Others escaped by crossing the Rika Chorna River, in small boats that, once again, just happened to be tied to the shore. It was a true miracle that almost no one was killed in the fire, given that every wooden structure in the city was destroyed within three hours.
In spite of the devastation, residents did not go hungry that winter, because the entire harvest was kept in new warehouses that had been constructed outside the city walls in 1754. As for building materials, that was not a problem either because there were huge piles of bricks, stone, and lumber that were being collected for a planned expansion of the city wall. As the smoke cleared from the ruined city, the Grand Duke announced that his subjects were free to take building materials for their own needs and that the wall project would have to be postponed. The only condition he set was that residents could not rebuild inside the old walled city because it needed to be cleared of debris.
The Danubians always thought that the Ancients had protected them in 1755. Their capitol lay in ruins, but they had plenty of food and construction materials to build a new and better city outside the old one. There was no starvation and the Grand Duke’s generosity with the building materials assured that most people were back in houses before the weather really got cold. How lucky that the fire took place precisely at the moment all those supplies had been collected!
There was another "stroke of fortune" during the fire. The nation’s archives were being temporarily stored in the Temple of the Ancients, instead of their usual location near the main city cathedral. The Grand Duke recently had ordered all religious artifacts to be taken there as well, over the objections of the Clergy, who were offended at the thought of the Temple being used as a warehouse. Both the Temple and the cathedral survived the fire intact, but the wooden archive buildings were leveled. How lucky those buildings were empty and all those documents and artifacts weren’t lost! Or was it really luck?
While the residents were occupied with building their new houses, teams of
Austrian architects laid out a new capitol and a grid-style street system for
the area inside the Old City Wall. Those Viennese certainly knew what they were
doing: they had a new city plan ready within days of arriving. The Grand Duke
and his planners seemed to know exactly where to put the new buildings and
could visualize what the city would look like once it was reconstructed. By
1756 the new streets already were being laid out.
By 1790 the new Danube City was completed. Wide boulevards and graceful stone government buildings had replaced the narrow streets and ramshackle wooden residences of the old city. There was no mention of building a new city wall, but most of the old one was kept intact to separate the government ministries from the businesses and residences outside. The new city was much more comfortable and spread out than the old one. Everyone agreed that the fire, and the way the Grand Duke handled it, had been a Gift from the Ancients.
The more Maritza thought about it, the more she realized everything that happened during 1755 indicated the destruction of Danube City was deliberate. The miraculously low number of casualties, the fact that there just happened to be huge piles of building materials collected outside the city walls, the fact that the Grand Duke already had ordered the construction of several warehouses for grain on the other side of the Rika Chorna River, the preservation of the archives, and the timing of the fire were all suspect.
Maritza spent four months in Vienna instead of her planned two weeks, carefully sorting through correspondence and city plans. What she found was not reassuring, because apart from more sets of blueprints she found several letters from the Grand Duke written in 1754 and early 1755. One letter was an attempt to force the architects to lower their fees, and another asked how much stone would be needed for two planned ministry buildings. Then she found the following passage, in the Grand Duke’s handwriting, in a letter addressed to an Austrian friend in 1754:
"This city is a pit of sickness and darkness, an offense to the Ancients and to the Creator. I trust that this is the last Christmas I must look out upon the unsightly rooftops and smoky fog that smother our people. I long for the day this foul landscape is swept from my vision, that I may look out from my window and see beauty and harmony, not chaos and despair. May the Ancients make this the last winter I behold this obscene labyrinth of rotting wood and garbage."
There was a final detail that convinced Maritza that the wall-construction plan was a ruse. She had found multiple blueprints of Danube City that predated the fire by two years, but no one in either Vienna or Danube City ever had seen a blueprint of the touted expansion of the city walls. She concluded that such a plan never existed.
By the time she returned to Danubia, there no longer was any doubt in Maritza’s mind. The Grand Duke wanted old Danube City destroyed and swept from his sight, but had to ensure that his subjects were available to build him the new city that he wanted. He spent two years planning the project, making sure he could rid himself of the old city, but keep his subjects healthy and content enough to build its successor. Hence the careful collection of food and building supplies, the fire at precisely the moment most residents were absent, the well-planned evacuation of those who remained, and the "generosity" that won him the hearts of the city’s displaced population.
The Great Fire of 1755 was no accident. It had been carefully planned and deliberately set, for no other reason than the Grand Duke did not like the way his city appeared.
Master-Historian Maritza Ortskt-Dukovna presented her findings in a packed auditorium at the National University in Danube City. As she expected, her audience was shocked and outraged, because she was calling into question the nation’s understanding of one of the most significant events of its history. To defile the name of the Grand Duke, considered the most visionary member of the Royal Family since King Vladik...how dare she, even if she was the Prime Minister’s wife?
To her shocked audience Maritza simply replied:
"This is what I found, and this is how my training as a historian forced me to interpret it. I am as troubled by it as anyone else sitting in this room. I challenge you to prove me wrong. If you can prove me wrong, it would set my heart at ease, because I didn’t want to believe it myself. But, as I stated, these are my findings, and this is how I am forced to interpret them."
Unfortunately for the reputation of the Grand Duke, none of Maritza’s fellow historians was able to find any evidence contradicting what she discovered during her four-month stay in Vienna. Documents from the Danube City archives, interpreted through the new information coming out of Vienna, seemed to support her theory that the fire of 1755 had been deliberately set. Within two years most historians in Danubia reluctantly accepted the new interpretation of the Great Fire of 1755.
Once her theory became accepted as fact, Maritza quipped: "We can’t be too hard on the Grand Duke. After-all, his deception did give us a nicer city."
Vladim Dukov as a politicial leader
Vladim Dukov's Sentence
Spokesman Dukov's knowledge of foreigners and the trial of Kimberly Lee
"Vladim the Extortionist"
Mega-Town Associates & the failed coup
Dukov as Danubia's Prime Minister
US foreign policy analysts, journalists, and political commentators usually described Prime Minister Vladim Dukov as a cerebral and complex political figure, a leader whose motives for doing things were not always clear. He did not operate from any recognizable ideology, nor was he interested in any material gain from his position apart from taking his normal salary as Prime Minister. He seemed full of contradictions: a reformer leading a conservative party, a former revolutionary and defense attorney who drew his support from his country's oldest and most traditional institutions, a quiet man who was a ruthless negotiator.
The truth was that Dukov's ideology and goals for his country were extremely simple. Danubia's Prime Minister was fixated on the long-term survival of his country's society and the well-being of his constituents. He did not seek "greatness" for Upper Danubia, but rather the more realistic hope that it could be a decent place for its people to live and work. His policies pursued a sustainable society, one that could renew its resources and maintain a pleasant life for its people over a long period of time. He felt that preserving the values of his country was the reason the Creator had placed him in his position as the Danubian leader. He felt obligated to please the Creator by pursuing policies that would safeguard Danubian society.
The Prime Minister knew it was inevitable that modern life would force the destruction of much of his country's culture and traditions. "The Path of his Life" was to preserve as much as possible, to minimize the damage by having his nation adapt to an increasingly hostile and invasive world. The government would have to make sacrifices, in the same way King Vladik had to cede half of the Danubian Kingdom without a fight to save the other half. Dukov and his ministers looked at their nation’s situation in the same way a homeowner facing the loss of a house would approach deciding what could be saved and what would have to be abandoned.
At the beginning of his time in office, other world leaders tended to underestimate Dukov. He rose to power not because he really wanted to, but because the "Old Guard" of the conservative party understood that he was the most competent person available to handle the job of leading the government. He became the leader of a small and very unsophisticated country. He had no prior experience as an elected official, nothing in his resumé apart from 20 years working as a criminal defense attorney. However, precisely because of his professional background Dukov had a very broad understanding of politics and human nature. Throughout his life he was in constant contact with people from the entire social spectrum of his society, ranging from criminals and police officers to judges and provincial politicians. Of all the people who could have been selected as a candidate for Prime Minister, Dukov probably had more practical experience working with others and a deeper understanding of his fellow Danubians than anyone else. He was well-versed in the country's legal system, knew its history, and was accustomed to arguing and negotiating with judges and prosecutors in court on a daily basis. As anyone who challenged him soon learned, his past, his ability to form an opinion and defend it, and his broad knowledge of life in general made him a formidable opponent.
While in office Dukov always spoke the truth as he saw it, and expected everyone around him to speak the truth as well. He did not like to be surrounded by people who agreed with him just to please him, but instead by people who were experienced in their duties and could clearly express their opinions on policy matters. He was especially adamant that any bad news be reported to him immediately, so he could deal with problems right away. Everyone in Dukov's government liked him as a person, because he never raised his voice to a subordinate, not even to lower-level staff members. He expected to be saluted and spoken to with respect at all times, but also he was respectful to public employees, always calling them by their title before using their name. As for his personal popularity, the only concern he had was whether he and his cabinet were popular enough to do their job competently.
While in office Dukov never forgot where he came from, and continued to live a rather ordinary personal life. He drew his paycheck and lived off that income, but never sought to use his position for any financial gain apart from his regular salary and anticipated retirement. He lived in the Prime Minister's residence out of convenience, but planned to go back to his own house as soon as he left office. In Vladim Dukov's life there was very little pomp and ceremony, apart from what was required by national traditions. He was not a person to waste public resources on himself, and was perfectly content to ride around in a normal police van if he needed to go anywhere in Danube City. He relied on ordinary officers of the National Police for protection. The Danubian Prime Minister would have been horrified at the expense and hassle associated with transporting the U.S. President and his entourage.
Vladim and Maritza Ortskt-Dukovna grew up in the 1970’s, a period of political instability in Upper Danubia. The generation who had run the country since 1945 was retiring or dying off and at that time many young people were hoping to change the country’s society and political direction. The most important political movement challenging the established leaders was the Danubian Revolutionary Front, of which Vladim and Maritza were members.
The DRF envisioned a socialist regime and a flat rejection of foreign capitalism. The party also envisioned a social revolution and close ties to the Soviet Union, which ultimately led to its downfall. The Grand Duke finally ordered the Danubian Secret Police to dissolve the DRF and arrest its leaders in 1973, using its ties to the Soviet Union to justify his actions. All DRF members who had traveled to the Soviet Union were detained and faced charges of insurrection.
In 1973, Vladim Dukov and Maritza Ortskt, both of whom were DRF youth organizers and had Soviet visa stamps in the passports, received five-year sentences and were subjected to judicial switchings every four months. Life soon became even harder for the couple because Maritza’s parents blamed Vladim for getting her in trouble. Because they were not yet married, her parents denied him permission to sit at their table. To ensure she was not able to see him, Maritza's parents moved her to Rika Chorna and requested that her custody be transferred to a Spokesman in that city.
Maritza and Vladim did not see each other for three years. However, they corresponded by letters that were passed through their respective local Priests. Danubian protocol permitted such correspondence. Even if her parents objected, she was permitted to exchange letters with Vladim via the Church, as long as both Priests approved of the letters’ contents.
Vladim’s sufferings as a convicted criminal, his constant contact with his Priest, his isolation from Maritza, and his eventual realization that the DRF was indeed little more than a front organization for the Soviet Union, pushed him to seek out the meaning of his life and what it meant to be a Danubian. He first studied political philosophy, but then settled on law, with the goal of becoming a Spokesman for criminals like himself. Along with his legal studies, Vladim decided to complete the entire English program at the National University and left college speaking fluent English. Maritza, meanwhile, concentrated on studying Danubian history at the Provincial University of Rika Chorna. Later her knowledge of history would help her future husband form his political philosophy.
Nearly four years after she was sentenced, Maritza’s parents relented in their opposition to her relationship with Vladim. At the urging of her Priest, they requested that her Spokesman transfer her back to the Danube City collar-zone so she could see her fiancée. Finally, after not seeing Maritza for three years, Vladim returned to her father’s table and started taking her to the Socrates Club. The couple spent the final year of their sentence completing their university degrees and preparing for their future. Only one day after his sentence ended, Apprentice Vladim Dukov was formally sworn in as a Spokesman for the Criminal. The following week Vladim and Maritza Dukov got married.
For nearly 20 years Spokesman Vladim Dukov handled criminal cases in Danube City, holding custody over an average of about 80 clients at any given time. At first he was no different from other young Spokespersons, taking simple cases involving petty criminals. However, over time his personal interest in foreign legal systems and international events, along with his knowledge of English and his experience traveling to Moscow and Western Europe, set him apart as the Spokesman most familiar with the outside world. Soon prosecutors and judges began assigning him all of the more unusual cases, including suspected drug users, foreigners, smugglers, and bank fraud defendants. As he struggled to conduct the research needed to deal with the diverse cases of his unusual clients, his practical knowledge of the world continued to expand. Whenever the Danubian government needed to send a legal delegation abroad, Vladim always went along to translate and serve as a liaison to foreign officials. By the time Kim became his client he already had visited the United States three times, along with innumerable trips to Canada and other countries in Europe.
Maritza, as a professor and the editor of a Danubian historical journal, expanded her husband’s knowledge even more by talking to him about the country’s past. Shortly before Kim traveled to Danube City with Tiffany and Susan, Vladim helped his wife and two of her students edit and publish the recently discovered diaries of King Vladik’s personal scribe. The renewed interest in King Vladik’s reign profoundly affected the personal philosophy of Vladim Dukov and his over-all view of the world. By the time Kim became Dukov’s client, his intellectual potential extended way beyond simply continuing his career as a Spokesman. Everyone in his life knew that. It seemed that he was the only person who didn’t know it yet.
Because of the taboo against lying in Upper Danubia, Danubian prosecutors have a hard time dealing with foreigners coming from societies where lying is not such a big deal. When Tiffany Walker and Susan Taylor flatly stated they knew nothing about Kimberly Lee’s stash of marijuana, the arraignment panel believed them because its members had little experience interviewing non-Danubians. The prosecutor did have his suspicions about Tiffany and Susan, but wanted to avoid a complicated trial. Thus he decided not to challenge the arraignment panel’s ruling, and authorized the release of Kim’s two friends.
Because he was considered the Ministry of Justice’s only "expert" in dealing with non-Danubians, Spokesman Dukov was incensed that two out of the three foreigners arrested for the marijuana incident had not been brought to his office. Had the prosecutor allowed the Spokesman to first talk to Tiffany and Susan before expelling them from the country, he would have understood that there was no way Kim’s friends could not have known about her stash of marijuana. He would have frightened all three young women into telling the truth by explaining the consequences of committing perjury during trial in Upper Danubia. Then he would have added:
"I will not lie in court on your behalf, and I will not allow you to dishonor yourselves or each other by lying. You will confront what you have done with honor, you will tell the truth with honor, and you will face the consequences of your actions with honor. I will only help you if you understand that you are not to dishonor yourselves with deceit."
From that point Dukov would have gone to trial recommending the three Americans be sentenced for possession but requested that all other charges be dropped. The possession charge would have resulted in five-year sentences for all three culprits, but Dukov would have argued for leniency by asking the court for a reduction. Had Kim and her friends been convicted together, it is likely Dukov would have managed to reduce their time wearing the criminal’s collar to four years instead of five. More importantly, he would have tried to negotiate fewer switchings, knowing that, for a foreigner, a switching was a truly horrific event. Dukov, like most Spokespersons, was more concerned about limiting the total number of corporal punishments than the length of his clients’ sentences, and he would have exchanged a longer sentence for fewer switchings.
When the American Kimberly Lee was placed on trial by herself, Spokesman Vladim Dukov revealed that Tiffany and Susan had lied and betrayed their companion to escape the country. Their behavior totally shocked the entire court and elicited immediate sympathy for the young drug addict who was so shamefully treated by her loathsome companions. Only Vladim Dukov understood that Tiffany and Susan’s actions were fairly common for non-Danubians, and that foreigners are not always truthful when they speak. During the trial he did not belabor that point, because he felt sorry for Kim and was determined to use the courtroom's shocked reaction to her friends' behavior to get her a light sentence.
Prime Minister Vladim Dukov transformed the Party of the Duchy from an aristocratic party to a nationalist party during and after the campaign that brought him to power. Upon entering the Danubian Parliament he discovered the deputies of the Greater Danubian Progressive Party had negotiated several secret deals with other governments and multi-national companies that were not mentioned during the campaign. One of those deals was to build a major trucking route across the eastern part of Upper Danubia that would pass through Rika Chorna and exit through a pass along the mountainous northern border. The EU considered the route an important north-south trade link between its member nations. The logging project in eastern Upper Danubia would provide the money to build the highway.
Upon finding out about the project Dukov responded to its foreign backers: "You need this highway, we don’t. I’m not spending the Duchy’s money on something we don’t need." Other European leaders warned Dukov not to cancel the road building project or Upper Danubia’s membership in the EU would be jeopardized. Dukov responded by formally withdrawing Upper Danubia’s request to join the EU.
Upper Danubia’s neighbors needed the road more than Upper Danubia needed the EU. When it became apparent that Dukov’s withdrawal was serious and not just a bargaining tactic, neighboring governments began offering concessions to Upper Danubia to bring Dukov back to the negotiating table. Dukov still was not convinced his country needed or would benefit from a large road, but over time was willing to listen to proposals.
In the end Dukov did finally approve the road. It had to be built completely with foreign money, but using only Danubian workers and subject to Danubian labor and safety standards. Upper Danubia could charge tolls and keep half the toll money. All trucks were subject to Danubian inspections and customs laws. Finally, only Danubians could own businesses near the entry and exit points of the road. In the end, a road that would have cost Upper Danubia its forest reserves instead was built at no expense to the country at all, but with huge benefits to the eastern provinces.
Dukov’s second act of "extortion" came once the upgrade to the Rika Chorna Reservoir was finished. The country’s hydro-electric capacity increased three-fold, just in time for a major rise in world-wide oil prices. Dukov sold electricity to neighboring countries at an exorbitant rate, fattening the coffers of Danube City at the expense of other nations. When confronted by reporters at a press conference about the electricity charges Dukov responded:
"You chose the path of buying cars and buying the gas to fill them. We chose the path of electricity and living in harmony with our resources. Now, because of the path you have chosen, the Ancients have given us your money."
Mega-Town Associates is by far the largest corporation operating in the US. The company started out as a discount retailer, taking over nearly 60% of the US retail market with its Mega-Mart discount stores by 1985. During the late 1980’s, Mega-Town expanded its operations to selling gas and took over several oil companies. From importing and selling oil, the company expanded into running chemical plants. Mega-Town bought several banks to finance its other activities, which by 1995 included advertising. With its advertising revenue, Mega-Town Associates bought two national television networks and a controlling interest in the largest chain of US radio stations. By the early 21st Century, Mega-Town Associates was actively trying to take direct control of the world’s remaining natural resources.
The CEO’s of Mega-Town Associates had a very clear agenda, one which they openly pursued through their corporate expansion. The company’s CEO’s hoped to obtain a controlling interest in every important economic activity in the world, and through its control of the world economy seek to control the world’s political leaders. The idea was not only to take over political institutions, but to launch a massive campaign to reshape human society and values around the needs of global corporate capitalism. By the time Vladim Dukov rose to power in Upper Danubia, Mega-Town Associates enforced its world-wide agenda with a 15,000 member private army. The private army boasted military helicopters, missiles, combat vehicles, and a large assortment of small arms.
Seizing Upper Danubia’s forest reserves was only a small part of a much bigger project to control global wood production. At issue in Upper Danubia was not only the forest, but also a controlling interest in a proposed land link between the northern and southern parts of Eastern Europe. To control Upper Danubia would allow Mega-Town to control all north-south commerce in that part of the world. It was the fight over Danubian natural resources that brought the company’s ambitions in conflict with the nationalist government of Vladim Dukov. The company’s CEO’s felt entitled to take what they wanted from the region, and were indignant that someone like Dukov could so seriously complicate their plans.
The CEO’s who organized the take-over of Upper Danubia were a small group operating independently of the main corporate structure. To everyone on the outside, it seemed that they running a rogue operation, but that was not really true. Mega-Town as a group always disassociated itself from any particular coup plot. There was an informal agreement among Mega-Town CEO’s that any failed plot would be blamed on its organizers and the company as a whole would be shielded from liability. Prior to the Upper Danubian project, there had been a couple of failed coup attempts in other parts of the world, along with many successful ones. In the cases of failure, the organizers "owned" any fallout, but the company as a whole always moved forward.
The plan to take over Upper Danubia followed a blueprint that had allowed Mega-Town to take over the governments of four African countries, three Latin American countries, and a few others in Asia and Oceania. The only detail that set the Danubia project apart from previous operations was the idea of taking over two countries simultaneously; Upper Danubia and its southern neighbor. The plan included killing the political and military leaders of both countries and installing governments lead by people secretly receiving paychecks from the company. In other words, the idea was to have both countries directly run by paid employees of Mega-Town Associates. In both countries Mega-Town already had local leaders ready to take over the governments.
Had the Mega-Town plan to attack Dukov’s government gone as expected, the main target of the mercenaries would have been the Danubian National Police. Two of the primary physical targets of the attackers would have been the National Police Headquarters in Danube City and the National Police Academy. The plan focused on first hitting the buildings with nerve gas and then taking them, along with the National Parliament, by 200 heavily-armed men. Police stations in the provincial capitols would have been taken simultaneously by smaller groups of assailants and their occupants killed. The plan would have killed about half of the Danubian police force outright, with the anticipation that the survivors would be too scattered to mount a successful counterattack. The mercenaries anticipated later dispatching the primitive Danubian Army with ease, because they had a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters at their disposal.
To counter the invasion, Upper Danubia had a 5,000-member regular army, 5,000 army reservists, 10,000 civil defense volunteers, and about 15,000 police officers. The numerical superiority of the Danubian forces was off-set by their lack of modern combat equipment. The Danubians had some helicopters for their military, but they were old and equipped for disaster relief, not combat. Furthermore, many of those helicopters were grounded because they had been damaged during firefighting operations two years before and were lacking repair parts. As for fighter aircraft, the country had a single squadron of British jets that were nearly 30 years old. During a surprise attack the air force would not have been able to get the planes in the air in time to defend the country. However, the advanced warning allowed the Danubian Air Force to prepare the aircraft for use, and by the night of April 20th the squadron was ready for operations.
The Mega-Town plan had one serious vulnerability, one that the Danubians and their neighbors ultimately exploited to foil it. There were only enough mercenaries to attack one country at a time, which meant that the coup participants had to cross the border into Danubian territory from their initial staging areas. That involved moving about 800 men and their equipment north on the morning of April 21. Dukov’s military advisors decided to arrest the mercenaries as they entered the country, with the intent of capturing as many as possible away from major Danubian population centers. The mercenaries would be scattered and in many cases separated from their heavy weapons. Of course no one in the Mega-Town operation knew that Dukov already had learned about the plot, and thus were not really prepared to engage in large-scale combat on the 21st.
On the night of April 20th, 4,000 police offers, 3,000 soldiers, and 3,000 reservists traveled in small groups to the southern border on buses, vans, and trains dressed in civilian clothing. They were told that they were to participate in a nighttime training exercise. It was not until they were deployed that they learned their true mission; to spread out along the border and intercept small groups of foreigners crossing into the country.
The arrests began about 3:00 in the morning. In a few cases there were firefights, and in other instances mercenaries managed to flee back south. In cases of mercenaries escaping the dragnet, the Danubians radioed their positions to their southern neighbors. By 6:00 am about 500 of the 800 mercenaries had been successfully intercepted and detained, about 350 by the Danubians, and about 150 immediately south of the border by the neighboring country.
There were three pitched battles between Danubians and Mega-Town mercenaries on April 21st. The biggest skirmish took place at sunrise 40 kilometers south of Danube City. The location was a clandestine airstrip being used as a supply drop and staging area for the pending attack on the Danubian capitol. The Danubians attacked the strip with 1,000 troops and their entire air force, confronting 300 mercenaries who were guarding and off-loading weapons. The battle on the ground was a serious engagement, because the Danubians, in spite of their superior numbers, were out-gunned.
The attack began with an aerial assault on the runway to strafe and disable the aircraft. The initial shootout caused the downing of two Danubian helicopters, but also disabled all but two of the mercenaries' Blackhawks. The surviving Blackhawks managed to get airborne, but the pilots then realized they were up against the entire decrepit Danubian Air Force. There was a dogfight that resulted in the downing of one of the Blackhawks and a Danubian fighter jet. The surviving Blackhawk managed to fly over the East Danube River and escape. That escape was the mercenaries' only victory that day.
The remaining Danubian aircraft continued to strafe and bomb the enemy positions while the 1,000 soldiers, now reinforced with nearly 500 police officers and reservists, slowly fought their way towards the airstrip. The commander of the airstrip operation desperately radioed for help, not knowing that most of his associates already had been arrested. The Danubians recorded the broadcasts and later used them as evidence during the trials. Finally, when it became evident no help was coming, the airstrip command surrendered. That battle cost 52 mercenaries and 29 Danubians their lives and was the most significant engagement of the coup.
While the battle for the airstrip was going on, Danubian police officers fought to dislodge about 70 armed foreigners who had taken the railroad station and nearby governor’s palace in Rika Chorna. Unlike the airstrip fight, the Rika Chorna battle was never in doubt. Hundreds of National Police Officers surrounded the two buildings and after a couple of hours the mercenaries surrendered.
Dukov did not declare a National State of Emergency until sunrise, because he did not want to alert any foreigners still trying to cross the border that their plot had been compromised. However, as soon as he declared the emergency, the National Police quickly set up roadblocks around the capitol and began fortifying all important government buildings and bridges. Within a few minutes the capitol was completely ready for combat, which fortunately never came.
By noon the military operations were largely over. Danubian police vans were transporting foreign prisoners to Danube City and the National Police had roadblocks and patrols around the country manned by groups of reservists and volunteers. The entire country now was mobilized to defend itself. With the arrests of the foreigners largely completed, the National Police began securing the numerous arms caches around Danube City and arresting Danubian collaborators.
Late in the afternoon there was a third battle, long after the rest of the country had been secured. Of all the events of that traumatic day, the third battle was the one that captured the imaginations of the Danubians. A roadblock of manned by a group of farmers and two old police officers was set up in the eastern part of the country in a spot where no one expected any mercenaries to cross. They were surprised when four armored Humvees moving southward attacked their position in order to escape the country. With nothing more than hunting rifles and two police pistols the farmers held off the mercenaries until other volunteers from their village arrived to help. For nearly an hour the entire village battled the four Humvees, losing the two police officers and six of the volunteers. Finally a Danubian helicopter arrived and blew up two of the Humvees. The crews of the other two vehicles surrendered.
A small group of uneducated, terrified middle-aged farmers battling hardened mercenaries and winning gave the Danubian government and the enemies of Mega-Town Associates the image they needed to completely humiliate the company. The surviving villagers were invited to Danube City the week following the coup to meet Dukov and be formally honored. The international press picked up on the story and the soon the farmers became important symbols of global resistance to the goals of the Mega-Town CEO’s.
The government decided the best place to keep the coup participants was in the basement of the heavily fortified National Police Station in Danube City. The mercenaries’ weapons were stored there as well, but all ammunition for the coup was taken to the National Military Academy and later distributed to Danubian Army units.
The failed coup was a complete setback for long-term goals of Mega-Town Associates. Other coup attempts had failed, but none as spectacularly as the one against Upper Danubia and its southern neighbor. There was no way the company could keep anything secret about the coup because the Danubians had captured documents and communications equipment along with many of the prisoners. On top of the new documents were the original CD’s and recordings provided earlier by Jason Schmidt that had alerted Dukov about the coup in the first place. When Jason volunteered to testify at the trials, there was nothing the company could do to refute what had happened or its role in the coup.
The documents, testimony, news coverage, and subsequent trials brought out many details about Mega-Town’s plans to control the world through seizing its resources. The resulting scandal was a public relations disaster that ruined the careers of several executives and their contacts in the US State and Commerce Departments. The company was too large and influential to be destroyed by the crisis, but its CEO’s did have to abandon many of their tactics and spend time and resources to rehabilitate their public image. From that point forward anything Mega-Town did was viewed with skepticism and suspicion, which forced its leaders to lie low for several years and temper their ambitions.
Even as prisoners and weapons continued to arrive at the National Police Station, Dukov’s thoughts moved ahead to using the failed coup to Upper Danubia’s advantage. Privately, he was furious at the mercenaries and shared the public’s desire that they all be shot. However, he knew that the foreigners really no longer mattered now that they were detained and that executing them would be stupid.
What the Prime Minister needed to do instead was take advantage of the coup to create international sympathy for his county. He then would use that sympathy to obtain concessions in international agreements and treaties. During the weeks following the coup, Dukov's cabinet ministers quickly fanned out across Europe and approached other leaders to renegotiate several stalled treaties, demanding concessions in exchange for not executing mercenaries. With the international media sympathetic to the Danubians, Dukov pressed his advantage and obtained, among other things, much better conditions for Upper Danubia's entry into the European Union. The coup and Dukov's handling of the aftermath solidified the Prime Minister's control over his country and Upper Danubia's wider influence in Eastern Europe.
During the first years of his government, the Prime Minister scored some huge
foreign policy successes. The most significant success was to formalize and
secure the nation's southern border and re-claim some small strips of territory
still inhabited mostly by ethnic Danubians. The border treaty allowed the
country to enter into a formal alliance with one of its neighbors for the first
time in its history and ended its long-standing diplomatic isolation. Following
the Mega-Town coup the Danubians pressed for international recognition and
acceptance of the nation's judicial practices and social values. As revenue
from electricity generation and tourism increased, Danubia built up its foreign
reserves and eventually became an important regional banking center.
Living standards rapidly increased during Dukov's time in office, financed first by the road project in the east, and later by tourism, banking, and electricity. The Danubians did have to change, modernize, and become part of the world. The most significant change took place in the countryside. Agriculture became much less important and the decline of the traditional village economy became Danubia's most important social problem. Fortunately the government had the resources to fund schools and technical institutes throughout the rural areas, which reduced the need for young people to leave their homes to get education. Still, the egalitarian small farmer society of the villages began to disappear as the older farmers died off and their descendants moved on to other careers and sold their land. The farms consolidated and within a decade a way of life that had existed for 3000 years came to an end. It had to be that way, and fortunately many villages were able to transform without becoming depopulated. However, everyone, including the Prime Minister himself, lamented the loss.
The outward appearance and architecture of Danube City and Rika Chorna did not change much during Dukov's time in office. Any building constructed before 1920 was protected from demolition. However, while kept intact on the outside, most buildings were remodeled on the inside. During much of the administration the streets were torn up as new sewer and water supply projects were installed and the nation's electrical grid modernized. The construction did not cause as much chaos as it would have had the Danubians been reliant on cars. It was very easy for the bicyclists to ride around the torn-up streets and life continued as normal.
The prohibition on private cars remained in place throughout the Dukov years. By the time he left office the number of Danubian-registered vehicles had only risen slightly. There were more urban businesses that owned delivery vehicles, but that increase was off-set by the declining number of farmers eligible to own trucks to move their produce.
The Danubian policy against privately owned vehicles became a major source of conflict between the country's government and foreign interests. During the years immediately before Vladim Dukov became Prime Minister, the US and the EU were pressuring the Danubians to remove their restrictions against privately owned cars. During his negotiations with the EU Dukov's predecessor agreed to lift the ban and allow private cars to be sold in the Duchy. Dukov immediately re-imposed the ban upon entering office and refused to discuss the matter further. He cited plenty of reasons for the ban, which included pollution, traffic jams, the loss of peace and pedestrian safety in the capitol, and a loss of social equality on the streets. There were the issues of road construction, which the Danubian government could not afford, and the trade imbalance that would result from purchasing and maintaining hundreds of thousands of foreign-produced cars. There was the concern over handling and storing gasoline, as well as the issue of what to do with junked cars when their owners no longer wanted them.
To Dukov, the topic allowing cars into his country was forbidden. If anyone brought the subject up in treaty or trade negotiations, he and his ministers got into the habit of simply standing up and leaving the room. Throughout his 18-year tenure as Prime Minister, on that issue Dukov never budged or compromised.
The Dukov government launched an aggressive public relations campaign against privately owned cars as soon as his opponents began claiming that he was denying his citizens their rights. Danubians soon became familiar with pictures of oil spills, smoggy cities, huge dirty parking lots, massive auto graveyards, and injured pedestrians as Dukov waged his personal war against cars. The campaign convinced the public that Danubia would become a huge junkyard if privately owned cars were ever allowed. Dukov's scare tactics worked, because there was never much public demand for cars during the time he was in office.
Dukov was well-aware of some of the new threats facing his country and acted aggressively to counteract them. One issue affecting most of Eastern Europe that never really affected the Danubians was drug abuse. Being such a closed society helped the Danubians control illegal drugs, but it also helped that the government took the threat very seriously.
Dukov did not relax his country's tough anti-drug laws during his administration. Quite the contrary, he instituted mandatory drug-testing for all high school and university students, as well as for the military, tourism operators, hotel employees, and anyone returning from a trip abroad. Drug testing became a routine part of clearing Customs; no one could get a re-entry stamp in his or her passport until urine and blood samples were collected. The country was heavily indoctrinated against both drugs and drug users through television ads, school programs, and Temple sermons. The media ran aggressive anti-drug ads and branded anyone selling drugs as an Enemy of the Ancients. The government made sure that there was a huge social stigma against drug use and counted with the full support of the Danubian Church.
Dukov stayed in office a total of 18 years. Everyone agreed that his government had been the most successful since the reign of King Vladik. A generation of Danubians had grown up not remembering the times before he became Prime Minister, so his retirement shocked many younger citizens. However, after nearly two decades in office he was ready to retire and leave running the country to his younger subordinates. When they begged him to continue, he used a medical exam stating he was susceptible to a heart attack as justification to leave his post. When he left office he left politics completely, refusing even to attend conventions of the Party of the Duchy. He stated:
"I am not a politician. I never wanted to be a politician, but that was what the Ancients called upon me to do for a period of time. That time has ended. The Ancients now have given me the chance to rest, and that is the Path of my Life. I will rest, and others must lead."
Dukov did not rest, however. He fulfilled a lifetime goal by writing a detailed history of the development of Danubian law during the 20th Century. Upon finishing that project, he helped his wife Maritza write a history about Upper Danubia during the years following the death of King Vladik in 1531. He never wrote his own political memoirs, but made himself and his personal library available to assist anyone, Danubian or foreigner, conducting a serious research project about his government.
Among the researchers helped by Vladim Dukov was a young professor by the name of Annette Dolkiv. The young woman was the daughter of Engineer Sergekt Dolkiv and Spokeswoman Kimberly Lee-Dolkivna.
Annette was 24 years old, a few years older than her mother had been when Dukov first saw her kneeling in his office. How quickly time goes by, he thought to himself. I've always thought of Kimberly as being so young, and yet, it won't be much longer before she retires. How quickly our lives pass us by...how quickly the time comes when we must present ourselves to the Creator and hold up our mirrors...
Dukov quickly pushed that thought from his mind. He sat down with Professor Dolkiv, looked over her research, and prepared to answer her questions.
The Danubian concept of the Supreme Being
The Danubian Concept of the Afterlife
Two Worlds, Holy Sites, and the purpose of Death Marches
The Danubian world-view and other religions
The Danubian Church and scientific discovery
The Danubian Church and the sanctity of the human body
The Danubian Church and law enforcement
The lives of Danubian Priests and Priestesses
Historical and doctrinal developments of the Danubian Church
The Danubians have a monotheistic religion, which they refer to as the "Danubian Church" or the "Faith of the Ancients". Although in theory the Danubians are Christian, by the end of the 20th Century the majority of what they believed came from ideas that predated the country’s official conversion to Christianity in 850 AD.
The Danubians refer to God as "The Creator". Before everything, even before time, light, and matter, there was the Creator. The Creator is much greater than human comprehension and, unlike the Judeo-Christian God, does not have any human characteristics such as anger. To attempt to apply earthly traits to the Creator such as names, emotion, or gender, is considered a serious insult to the Danubian deity, because human traits are limitations that are restricted to "the physical Earth". However, because the Creator intended for humans to inhabit the Physical Earth, the Creator cares about the well-being of humans and will respond to prayer and public penance.
Opposite of "The Creator" is "The Destroyer". The relationship between the Creator and the Destroyer is somewhat similar to the relationship between Judeo-Christian God and Satan, but there are significant differences. The Danubian religion teaches that in the Physical World creation cannot exist without destruction, just as life cannot exist without death. The Destroyer brings death to the world, which is necessary to make room for new life. Danubians are not taught to hate the Destroyer, because destruction is an integral and necessary part of the Cosmos. However they deeply fear the suffering that the Destroyer is capable of inflicting and seek deliverance through prayer, public penance, and visions. Only the Creator can grant a living entity or an inanimate object (such as a Temple) protection from the Destroyer.
Both the Creator and the Destroyer communicate through visions. The Danubian Church believes that visions are what connect the Spiritual World to the Physical World and what give believers guidance to illuminate the Path of Life. An undamaged soul, healthy body, and accurate knowledge of the world are crucial to having truthful visions. A person that is knowledgeable about the world and has good intentions will enjoy visions granted by the Creator. A person blessed with a vision from the Creator is obligated to act on that vision, but often will seek assistance from a member of the Clergy to interpret its meaning and make sure it is indeed a vision from the Creator, and not a false one from the Destroyer.
An ignorant person or a person with an unhealthy body or damaged soul also can have visions, but those will be false images from the Destroyer. For example, a national leader with a damaged soul might receive a vision of glory, wealth, and power that would prompt him to lead his country to war. The false vision of a glorious war, if enacted, will bring suffering and destruction to the nation and disgrace and death to the leader. The Danubians often cite the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler the best example of a damaged soul with earthly power who received and acted upon false visions from the Destroyer. The CEO’s from Mega-Town Associates and their ambition to seize Upper Danubia’s forests for financial gain is another example of damaged souls in pursuit of a false vision.
The Creator and the Destroyer co-exist and counter-balance each other in the Physical World, but the Destroyer has no presence in the Spiritual World. All souls, both good (whole) and evil (damaged), travel to the Realm of the Creator upon death (which Danubians refer to as "the release of the body"). Upon entering the Realm of the Creator, human souls surrender their physical bodies back to the Earth and are forever liberated from the influences of the Destroyer.
The Danubian Clergy does not claim to have an accurate idea about the specific conditions facing souls in the Afterlife. However, upon separation from their earthly bodies, all souls enter a single place, the Realm of the Creator. There is no separating of "saved" and "condemned" souls, nor is there any concept of a separate Heaven and Hell. Thus the Danubian Church avoids the theological problem of attempting to specify what exactly qualifies a soul to enter Heaven.
Upon facing the Creator all souls must come to terms with the consequences of their behavior in the Physical World. The ancient Danubian scriptures mention that the Realm of the Creator also is the Realm of Absolute Truth. In the Afterlife all the Earth’s secrets are revealed, all mysteries resolved, and all questions asked throughout life answered. To fully comprehend the way he was during the Physical Life, every follower of the Danubian Church is buried with a special mirror provided by the Temple. Upon separation from the physical body, the human soul holds the mirror up to the Creator, and every action from his life is reflected back as part of the soul’s exposure to the Absolute Truth. Each person sees himself for what he truly was during his sojourn in the material world, because a person’s Afterlife is a reflection of his physical life on Earth. In the Afterlife every soul must face the consequences, both good and evil, of every action taken while in possession of a body in the Physical World. Danubians assume that a person who followed the will of the Creator will enjoy a more pleasant Afterlife than one who lived in defiance of the Creator. However, what that actually means is determined by the Creator and is beyond human comprehension.
The Danubians do not believe in ghosts, but they believe that souls exposed to the Absolute Truth periodically get permission from the Creator to travel back to the Physical World and communicate to the living through visions. Usually such communication is very difficult, but there are special ancient places, such as the Sacred Ground of the Guardian Spirits behind Danube City’s Temple of the Ancients, where the Spiritual World is more closely connected to the Physical World and the dead more easily can communicate with the living. Living Danubians are eager to receive visions and guidance from the dead, so they frequently make pilgrimages to Holy Sites to pray for enlightenment that can guide their actions in the Physical World.
For a Danubian seeking divine guidance, even more important than visiting Holy Sites is the annual Fall Equinox Festival, or the Day of the Dead. The Fall Equinox, the day the Northern Hemisphere begins its journey into the depths of winter, is when the channels of communication between the Spiritual and Physical Worlds are much stronger than at any other time of the year. The long death of winter is rapidly descending over Danubia, so during the country’s passage into cold and darkness people must reflect on what it means to still be alive and part of the Physical World.
During the Day of the Dead, the Danubian Church calls upon the most humble and suffering members of society, convicted criminals and persons performing public penance, to offer their bodies to allow the dead to re-enter the Physical World and communicate with worshipers. The offering of the humble is done through a two-night torchlight procession. In ancient times slaves marched as well, but formal slavery was abolished after the country’s official conversion to Christianity.
The Danubian Church does not claim to be a universalistic religion and there is no systematic effort or desire to convert non-Danubians. The Danubians are aware that their religion only exists within the borders of a single country and are able to accept that fact as the will of the Creator. Instead, what the Danubian Clergy believes is that the Physical World and the Spiritual World are separated, but in the Danubian territory the separation between the two worlds is much less than it is anywhere else. Because the rest of the Physical World suffers from a greater degree of separation from the Realm of Absolute Truth, the Creator allowed other religions to arise outside the Danubian nation. Why that should be is a question Danubian Clergy members do not pretend to understand.
There is no perceived calling for the Danubians to try to change the minds or faith of outsiders. If an outsider becomes interested in the Danubian Church and wants to convert and practice the Danubian religion, the Clergy will educate that person in ancient scripture and accept him into the Church. Normally an outsider wishing to join the Danubian Church needs to prove his determination by performing public penance before he can be accepted as a full member. Kimberly Lee’s sister Cynthia performed public penance and converted the year after Kim and Sergekt got married and subsequently returned to her home in the United States, for example. However, the Path of her Life was to safeguard the Land of the Ancients. Just a few months after converting she fullfilled her Path in Life by returning to Danubia with the information Vladim Dukov needed to counter the Mega-Town coup that was provided by Jason Schmidt. Once that task was completed, the Creator forced her to permanently settle among her fellow believers and live out her physical life in Danubia.
Freedom of religion is not a part of Danubian culture and there is no tolerance for other faiths within the nation’s territory. All Danubians, even the most liberal and educated, agree that outside religions have no place in the Duchy. Foreign missionaries and proselytizing are strictly prohibited and punishable with 10-year sentences. Any Danubian converting to another religion must leave the country to practice it.
Unlike Judeo-Christianity, the Danubian faith does not have a detailed "Creation Story" for the Physical World. The Danubians believe that the Creator made and fine-tuned the Physical Earth long before the first humans arrived to inhabit it. The Danubians never attempted to guess how old the Earth was or how long it took to create, because such knowledge was considered "the divine secret of the Creator and part of the Absolute Truth". To speculate about the age of the Physical Earth without any evidence would have been considered sin.
When fossils were discovered and the Theory of Evolution appeared during the 19th Century to challenge Christian concepts about the Earth’s creation, the Danubian Church was the only religion that did not see evolution as a threat to its core beliefs. The Clergy already accepted that the Earth had existed long before the first people and that the Creator had spent many years preparing the Physical World for human habitation. The Clergy viewed evolution not as a threat to their faith, but instead as a possible explanation of how that ancient process might have taken place and the method by which the Creator prepared the planet. Even extinction made sense to the Danubian Clergy, because the death of species fit nicely with the concept of oblivion brought about by the Destroyer.
As more information about the Earth’s pre-human past became common knowledge though scientific discovery, the Danubian Clergy accepted it with total enthusiasm. It turned out that through revealing fossils to humans, the Creator was blessing the world with a portion of the Absolute Truth. The Creator had shown confidence in people by granting them knowledge of a time that was outside the human experience, but apparently not beyond human comprehension.
During the late 20th Century the Danubians became much more certain about their religious beliefs while the rest of Europe lost its faith in the supernatural. As scientific discovery undermined the creation accounts of other religions, the Danubians were convinced that their own view of the Cosmos and the relationship between humans, the passage of time, and the Physical World had been vindicated.
Yes indeed, the Earth is much older than humans and took a very long time to create. Yes, the planet’s violent history proves that the Creator and the Destroyer fiercely fought each other while destroying and recreating the world into what we see today. To think...we now have proof that the Destroyer wiped out entire continents with ice sheets, and floods, and volcanic eruptions, and even struck down the planet with meteors, but the Creator always restored the planet and restored life... Yes, that’s what we’ve been saying all along...
Proper custodianship of the human body is central to Danubian theology. The Danubian Church teaches that every human being consists of a soul, which is immortal, and a physical body, which is a gift temporarily provided to each soul by the Creator. The human body is the Creator’s covenant with the Earth, lent to allow human souls to travel through the Physical World and interact with other human souls. Because each body is "on loan" from the Creator, it is the sacred obligation of every person to care for his or her body as carefully as possible.
The Danubian belief in the sanctity of the human body is important for understanding how Danubians live their daily lives. Physical health is a moral obligation, so Danubians are careful to exercise and eat nutritious food. To eat unhealthy food purely for the pleasure of taste is considered sin. For example, junk food is not available in the Danubian Republic, because eating non-nutritious items that damage the body is considered an offense against the Creator. Mistreatment of the human body also is the reason why the use of intoxicants is so savagely condemned by the Danubian clergy. The idea of injecting oneself with heroin, smoking meth, or snorting cocaine horrifies the average Danubian.
The same harsh judgment applies to lifestyles that allow the premature deterioration of the body, such as the American "couch potato". Likewise, foreign practices such as tattoos, cosmetic surgery, and piercing for jewelry are considered acts of vandalism against the body, which ultimately is the property of the Creator. The only surgery permitted in the country is what is needed to safeguard or enhance a person’s health. The prohibition against altering the body for the purpose of vanity extends to dyeing hair and using make-up. If the Creator gave a woman brown hair for example, for her to change the color to blond would be considered an act of defiance and overt rejection of the Creator’s gift to her soul. Equally abhorrent to Danubians are religious practices of other faiths such as self-flagellation and fasting that inflict lasting damage on the Creator’s gift to the soul. During the Middle Ages aversion to Roman Catholic penance rites became a major source of conflict between the Danubian Clergy and the Vatican.
Danubian religion teaches that the only purpose of clothing is to protect the body from injury or physical discomfort. The Creator gave humans the knowledge to create clothing to help people shield their bodies from the harsh conditions of winter. To wear clothing for any other purpose is considered vanity and an act of sin. Especially sinful is to wear clothing that alters the body’s appearance or causes physical discomfort, examples being items such as corsets or high-healed shoes.
The Danubian Clergy teaches that the fashion industry is nothing more than the Destroyer’s effort to encourage humans to deface and reject the Creator’s gift to the soul. Danubians refer to the emphasis that foreigners place on clothing as "the evil worship of cloth". Seekers of wealth have brainwashed the public to venerate clothing instead of the human body, and in doing so have created a sinful culture that requires people to pour large amounts of money into material possessions for the sake of public approval.
Many outsiders and critics of Danubian society perceive a contradiction between the Danubian Church’s attitude towards caring for the physical body and the government’s use of corporal punishment to discipline convicted criminals. For the Church there is no such contradiction, because the religion considers physical pain, prolonged exposure, and public humiliation as necessary to re-orient a damaged soul and give the criminal the opportunity to find the Correct Path in Life. Upon conviction, the criminal progresses through the shock of the initial punishment to a period of prolonged suffering. From suffering the criminal experiences remorse, and from remorse the criminal can reflect on the consequences of having a damaged soul and acting on the false ideas promoted by the Destroyer. From that point the criminal is ready to seek redemption and re-enter society as a normal citizen. Both the Church and the government argue that unless a criminal undergoes intense trial and suffering, he will never feel compelled to ask the Creator for redemption and change his Path in Life.
Danubian clergy members are well-educated. In modern times to become a Clergy member an aspirant must graduate from high school and master all academic subjects before starting Seminary. Apart from Biblical Studies, Scriptural Studies, and theology, Danubian seminary instructors teach history, writing skills and oratory, psychology and counseling, social sciences and economics, comparative religions, and the fundamentals of Danubian criminal law. Apart from the academic topics, Seminary students need to become fluent in archaic Danubian and are required to memorize ancient Danubian religious writings. A prospective clergy member must understand the past and be able visualize how people lived throughout history.
Danubian clergy members take a vow of poverty upon entering the Seminary. Seminary students, men and women alike, own nothing but a single black prayer robe, which must last the entire four-year program. If the robe wears out or is damaged, the Seminary student may not replace it. If a Seminary student’s robe cannot be worn anymore, that student must remain naked throughout the remainder of his or her studies. To avoid unnecessary wear and tear on their prayer robes, Seminary students routinely perform Public Penance during the warmer parts of the year. Upon swearing in, new Priests and Priestesses burn their Seminary clothing and are issued Temple garments; black robes for men and black dresses for women. Clergy members must wear their garments at all times when in public. Unlike the prayer robe of Seminary students, the outfits of Clergy members must be replaced whenever they show signs of wear and tear. However, a Priest or Priestess may only be issued one outfit at a time. At no time may a member of the Danubian Clergy wear any clothing other than the official religious garment.
Members of the Danubian Clergy do not practice celibacy. In fact, to become a full member of the Clergy, a Seminary student is first required to find a "proper partner" of the opposite sex. Priests and Priestesses marry each other, normally serve together in the same Temple, and bear children to set an example of haráshkt jettít. Younger children live in the Priests’ quarters with their parents, while older children live with relatives. To prevent nepotism and hereditary privileges, the first generation of children of Clergy members are not allowed to follow their parents into the priesthood.
Support from family members is important for Priests and Priestesses to properly perform their duties. When a person becomes a Priest or Priestess, the Church expects the family to support the Clergy member with meals, child rearing, and the few material needs he or she might have throughout life. Usually that is not a problem because any household that has a Priest or Priestess as a member is honored and considered blessed by the Creator. The school-aged children of Clergy members normally live with relatives. Also, because food is not allowed in any Danubian holy site, Priests and Priestesses normally eat at the houses of the relatives that are taking care of their children, but must return to the Temple to sleep.
The Danubians were Pagan until about 850 AD. The native religion envisioned a Creator and ancestral spirits, so the conversion to Roman Catholicism with a Deity and Saints was relatively easy. However, that easy conversion, along with the country's isolation, allowed the Danubians to develop their own interpretation of Christianity, one heavily influenced by ancestor worship. Danubia's conversion to Christianity was not as complete as in other countries, which allowed the Priests to develop their own interpretation of the Afterlife and definition of sin and morality.
In spite of the heretical nature of Danubian Christianity, the only major threat to the Danubian Church came in 1504 and 1516, when the Holy Roman Empire attempted to invade the country and impose the Inquisition. The two Holy Roman attacks were among six invasions successfully repelled by King Vladik the Defender during the early 1500s. As a result the Counter-Reformation never was imposed in Upper Danubia and the country’s church continued to develop separately from churches in surrounding countries.
When Danubians officially converted to Christianity, the Pagan concept of the Realm of the Creator merged with the Christian concept of Heaven. The idea of passing through Purgatory to enter Heaven also became accepted among Danubians and remained part of the faith until the early 20th Century.
However, there was no equivalent in Pagan Danubian philosophy for Hell. While it was easy enough to recast the Destroyer as Satan, the Danubians could not accept the idea that Satan had any presence in the Spiritual World or any control over souls once they were separated from their physical bodies. The concept of being "separated from God" makes no sense to a Danubian. Upon physical death all souls return to face the Creator and dwell in the Realm of Absolute Truth, so how could there be any partitioning of souls into a separate Heaven and Hell?
The mixed reception to core Christian beliefs also applied to the Danubian acceptance of Saints, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. The Danubians accepted the Saints with no problem, because the role of Saints closely matched that of the Spirits of the Dead. The role of Jesus presented more of a problem. The Danubian Pagan religion did not have any concept of Original Sin, and thus the ideas of "Salvation from Sin" and a "Savior" did not fit. Also Danubian theology rejected the idea of "the Son of God", because...why would the Creator have a son? How was it possible that the Creator could be reduced to a mortal human body and be seen and executed by other humans?
In spite of 500 years of frustrated efforts by visiting bishops to make them understand the difference between Jesus Christ and the Saints, the Danubians stubbornly insisted on treating Jesus as little more than any other Saint. The only exception to the limited role of Jesus was Easter, where the commemoration of death and suffering appealed to the Danubian mindset. The Danubian Clergy incorporated the Day of the Dead practices into Good Friday, so during the Middle Ages there was a second annual Day of the Dead ceremony during the spring that corresponded with Easter.
Yet another source of frustration for visiting bishops was the fact the Temple of the Ancients remained intact and continued to be actively used by Danubian Priests, although it had been renamed "The Dwelling of the Saints." In 1250 AD the Danubians reluctantly agreed to build a large Cathedral in Danube City to replace the Temple. The Cathedral was completed in 1337, but the planned demolition of the Temple never took place. Instead the two buildings took on separate roles in the Danubian religion. The Cathedral was used for formal religious services, while the Temple continued to be used by ordinary worshippers praying to individual Saints.
There was a brief period in history during which Danubian Christianity began evolving to more closely resemble mainstream Christianity that existed throughout the rest of Europe at the time. During the 15th Century the religious transformation was particularly evident in the southern provinces of Lower Danubia, which had greater contact with the outside world than Danube City and the Rika Chorna Valley. The Pagan influence of Danube City was waning in the south, especially after the Bishop of Danubia moved from Danubikt Mostk to Sumy Ris in 1460. The main Seminary moved to Sumy Ris in 1471. Ultimately the southern bishops and the nobles hoped to make Sumy Ris the new religious and political capitol of the Danubian Kingdom, replace the Royal Family residing in Danubikt Mostk, and take over the entire country.
In 1496 the Bishop of Sumy Ris ordered the arrest of four Priests that had traveled from Danube City, tried them for heresy, and ordered them burned at the stake. Although the four Priests were the only people ever executed in the Danubian Kingdom for heresy, Danubian historians believe that was likely that the Bishop was planning more such trials and executions to consolidate his power. Letters written by several Priests from Sumy Ris and preserved in the National Archives indicated that the Bishop intended to completely replace the priesthood of Danube City, once enough new priests were trained in the recently founded Sumy Ris Seminary.
The Ottoman invasion of 1502 abruptly halted the transformation of the Danubian Church and the growing importance of Sumy Ris. The section of the Danubian Kingdom that was most influenced by the outside world also was the part that was overrun by Ottoman troops and had to be evacuated by the Crown. Because the invasion threatened to destroy his power, the Bishop of Sumy Ris vehemently objected to the King’s plan to abandon the southern provinces. Ignoring the Bishop and the southern region’s most important nobles, King Vladik proceeded with the evacuation, skirmishing with Turkish scouts and escorting long columns of panic-stricken peasants towards escape routes through the densely forested mountains. When the King disregarded the Bishop’s demand to halt the evacuation and confront the main Ottoman army, the Bishop excommunicated him and everyone else fleeing northward.
By the time King Vladik was excommunicated, Ottoman troops already had captured Lower Danubia and were rapidly closing in on Sumy Ris, which was the only southern city still under Danubian control. The King ordered the city to evacuate, but the Bishop and his supporters refused. King Vladik did not push the issue. If the Bishop and his followers wanted to commit suicide by trying to resist the Turks in an indefensible location, so be it. King Vladik pulled his own troops out of the city, departing with several hundred local women, children, and collared criminals. Those departing knew that everyone remaining in Sumy Ris would be dead within a few days. When the Ottomans took the city, they burned the Seminary, massacred everyone inside, and hung the Bishop and several nobles over the city gate. By pure good fortune the city’s historical church survived intact.
The excommunication of the King and the death of the Bishop of Sumy Ris abruptly cut the ties between the Danubian Church and the outside world. The priests that had been training to take over the Cathedral in Danube City died along with everyone else remaining in the southern capitol, and with them died the prospect that mainstream Christianity would be imposed in the northern part of the Danubian Kingdom. Not one member of Lower Danubia’s new religious hierarchy survived to challenge the more traditional Priests still working in Danube City. After the invasions of the early 1500’s ended, the Danubians, safely hidden behind their protective curtain of forests and mountains, would develop a religion in isolation that better suited their circumstances.
Over the next five centuries the nation slowly reverted to its pre-Christian faith. Along with the slow abandonment of Christian theology and practices, the Clergy also abandoned items of worship used during the Middle Ages. The process was gradual and took place over several centuries. As the collection of statues of Saints in the Temple deteriorated they were not replaced, over time crucifixes became little more than objects of curiosity, and in 1638 the Clergy sold off the Cathedral’s gold to buy a printing press and two looms. Between 1780 and 1942 the doctrine of the Danubian Church changed very little, but during that time the Clergy opened numerous schools to raise the literacy rate and religious composers produced most of the nation’s best-known classical and hymnal music.
By 1970, young Priests wanted the Danubian Church to return to its ancient roots and lead a national revival of Danubian society. The Church needed to draw upon the rich past of the Danubian Kingdom to understand what the Creator wanted for the country’s future. In 1974 the Danubian Church’s new Supreme Council issued a major revision of the religion’s official doctrine, which included, among many other things, restoring the Temple of the Ancients as the country’s most important religious center and reviving the Pagan Festival of the Summer Solstice as an important religious holiday. The changes excited many young Danubians because the Church became much more nationalistic and more rooted in Danubian, as opposed to Christian traditions.
By end of the 20th Century Upper Danubia was less Christian than at any time since 850 AD, but remained quite religious. When Kimberly Lee traveled to Danube City the country's priests were openly embracing the nation's Pagan past and re-incorporating pre-Christian beliefs and customs into the national religion. However, in embracing older religious values Danubians became completely intolerant of any foreign religions being introduced in their territory. Shortly before Kim traveled to Upper Danubia with Tiffany and Susan, the Danubian Parliament passed legislation formally outlawing the practice of any religion not present in Upper Danubia before 1940. Essentially the law banned every religion other then the Danubian Church.
Prime Minister Vladim Dukov, as a Danubian nationalist, left the law in place during his government to "protect national institutions and values." As a result five US missionaries who ignored the law were put on trial, collared, and received 10-year sentences during the Dukov Administration. Two of the missionaries were included among Spokeswoman Lee-Dolkivna’s clients, while the other three were assigned to her colleague Tatiana and restricted to the Rika Chorna collar-zone.