Email: [email protected] TOMB HUNTER The Adventures of Larra Court Episode 1 Larra’s African Adventure Chapter 1 Larra’s Genesis Kyoto, Japan, March 1917 Larra Court held tightly to her father’s hand. It was spring and the cherry trees were in full bloom, filling the air with their fragrant perfume. Though only nine years old, she was well aware of the seriousness of the situation. For weeks her father had lain sick in their home, too weak to move. Now, he had ordered his servants to carry him from the house. Too frail to walk, he was carried in a sedan chair by four coolies. Larra walked beside him, straining to listen to his faltering voice. “Larra,” he gasped, “You know that I am dying. I feel I can tell you this because you have always shown an intelligence and maturity far beyond your years.” It was the news that she had feared. She swallowed hard. “Yes Father,” She replied quietly. “I a few days, perhaps less, I shall be gone, and you will have to care for yourself. I could turn you over to your relatives in England, but they are a weak and effete bunch that you are better off avoiding. In due time you will come of age and inherit my fortune. You will be well looked after, but I it is my desire that you be more than just another weak and compliant woman controlled by the hidebound restraints of nineteenth century conventions.” He paused, struggling for breath. “Put me down under the cherry tree,” he said in fluent Japanese. The litter bearers obeyed. “Sit by me Larra.” One of the litter bearers produced a small stool. Larra sat down folding her hands in her lap. She leaned toward her father. “This time of year is so beautiful,” he gasped. “I just had to see it once more.” For a few minutes father and daughter sat quietly beneath the brilliant cherry blossoms. Next to the trees was a canal, its languid waters reflecting the beautiful trees in all their springtime glory. Her father slowly turned to Larra once again. He reached out and once again took her hand. He gave it a small squeeze and spoke again. “Larra, I want you to grow up to be a woman of the new century. The twentieth century will see great change. I believe that women will have the opportunity to forsake their traditional roles and become more than mere handmaidens for their husbands. Your mother was a strong woman. Had she lived she would have been more than just my wife. I want you to be strong and able to take your place in a world that is dominated by men. Do you understand me my dear?” “Yes Father, I do.” She swallowed again, fighting back tears. Her father continued: “I do not wish your English relatives to manage your life. I know that they will not accept you. You do not remember your mother. She died when you were very young. But she was half-Asian. That was not agreeable to my family. You are one quarter Japanese and your prudish relatives will attempt to hide you away while at the same time depriving you of your inheritance. Accordingly, I have made special arrangements for you, but these arrangements require that you grant me my last request.” Here he paused again, struggling after such a long speech. A tear rolled down Larra’s cheek. Finding her voice she spoke. “I will do what you wish, Father.” “I know that you will my daughter, but I would like you to hear what it is before you promise.” “Yes Father,” she whispered. “I have arranged for you to be taken into the household of Lord Takeda. Tomorrow his servants will come for you. You will be trained in the way of the warrior. Your training will be especially hard, because the Japanese warrior code does not apply to women. Only because of my special relationship with Lord Takeda has he consented to train you as one of his sons.” Seeing her eyes widen in fear, Laura’s father placed his arm gently on hers. “Do not be afraid, Larra, he will not mistreat you. He will be a demanding but fair teacher. My days in Japan as part of the embassy have given me a great knowledge and admiration of Japanese culture. I believe the skills you will learn from Lord Takeda will be vital to your success in life.” Larra’s father stopped to gasp for air and then continued. “You will be allowed to continue your English education as well.” He smiled. “Your languages, your music, your equestrian pursuits.” You will have your horses and your lessons that you love so well.” “Now,” he wheezed, “Kiss me. I am very tired and I must return to our home. And you must prepare for tomorrow.” Slowly, they made their way back to the house. The next day Lord Takeda’s retainers came for her and her tutors. It was the last time she saw her father.