This story is part of a project I've been working on for the last two or three years that started with a theory about how life could evolve on another world, and whether they could have more than two genders. The end result has three genders, and I hope to write several short stories about them. I call them Once Upon a Distant World Stories; because my father said I had Hans Christian Anderson beat for fairy tales when I told him about it. Here's hoping someone likes it.

In order to avoid confusion I will set the ground rules here. The three genders are referred to as womyn, male and woman. Womyn are referred to as her and she. Males are referred to as he and him. Woman are referred to as sha and har. Ghoulem are technically womyn, but should be considered intersex. Any child's parent is a parent. Any parent's child is a child. Any sibling is a sibling. Any parent's sibling is an aunt. Any sibling's child is a nephew. The same rules apply to mates. All marriages are made of units of three. No more than three and no less than three.

Once Upon a Distant World: Massaya's Quest
By LydaMae (RavenDove) Jeppesen

Copyright 2000 LydaMae Jeppesen

Massaya dressed carefully in the darkness of her palace room; cautious not to make a sound knowing her bodyguard Tun was a light sleeper. She had not left these rooms that had been hers since childhood in three days, not since her grandparent Aminas had died, but tomorrow they would come for her. She was not ready yet for the role of Dauphin. What was it she said to Tak'oro only moon-cycles ago? "When I am named Dauphin my life belongs no longer to me." In the morning doctors would come to implant her with tracking devices and health monitors. There was something she had to do before she would let them do that.

She ran her fingers over her sand colored clothes to make sure they were straight. Then picking up a roll of cloth from her bed she began wrapping her wrists to cover her intervenes shunts. They had been a part of her since she was a child. The blood disorder she had contracted years ago had made them necessary, but she hadn't thought much of them in years. Where she was going it was necessary to protect them. She tied leather gauntlets over the bandages and pulled her braid into a net then clipped the front band of the net in place.

She gathered up her pack and pulled a small ampule of clear fluid from it's hiding place. It was medalin, a potent sedative. She had stolen it during one of her trips to the doctor after Gavren's attempted coup. Being held hostage by him had left her with may questions. Questions that only the ancestors could answer. That was when she had decided to take the quest, but until now she either lacked courage or motivation. Now she had plenty of both.

She crept slowly into Tun's chamber. As she neared the bed her pack bumped a nearby table.

The ghoulem stirred, "Is that you Massaya?"

Massaya plunged the needle of the ampule deep into Tun's exposed arm. The bodyguard struggled a little at the sudden jab. "I'm sorry." she whispered to him. To be honest Tun was supposed to be a she, but Massaya had always felt that Tun had been born male before the rebirth of a ghoulem.

Ghoulem were chosen from the elite of the Security Force. They were then remade stronger and more durable for the job of protecting those in the line of the Monarchy. Always as a womyn though. Massaya had know Tun since the age of four and he hadn't changed much in seventeen years.

Once she was certain the medalin had taken effect she pulled out the needle recapped the ampule and dropped it on the floor. She didn't want the ghoulem punished for not sounding the alarm. She went to the computer terminal and keyed in the code to turn off the alarms in the secret passages.

Massaya made her way down to the escape air-cars. She stowed her gear and securing herself in the driver seat made ready for take-off. She pulled a multi-tool from her jacket pocket and popping a panel near her right knee, clipped the leads to the device that would alert palace security that the air-car was in use. Then she was gone.

As the suns rose slowly over the sacred lands Massaya walked on; her stolen air-car left behind at the perimeter.

In the light of dawn her features became more clear. Her hair was red, and the sides of her head were naturally bald to a point just above her eyebrows. Her eyes were blue-green, and a most vivid shade at that. Her pupils shaped like key-holes; a racial trait to be certain. On her left temple there was a symbol of two birds intertwined with each other to form a circle; one white and one black. It was the symbol of Anasa; as a descendant of the first Monarch she had received the tattoo upon reaching the age of inclusion at fourteen. Her clothes and gear were simple and of colors that easily blended with her surroundings.

She had rigged the homing signal to activate in a days time. Giving her that much of a head start. It would have to be enough. She knew she would walk into the canyons beyond the bacillaceae on her own, but if things went as planed she would likely need help to leave them.

Kissa had been summoned at mid-day when the two suns hung high over the city of Anasa. It was an attendant who had noticed the morning trays for Massaya and Tun untouched. Sha had knocked and when Tun did not answer sha notified security.

When Tun had been found so obviously drugged, those who knew of the decision to postpone the implanting due to Massaya's apparent grief for her grandparent Aminas regretted it. It was clear she had not been abducted. But why she would leave like this and where she would go were unclear.

"Do you have any idea where your child has gone?" Daya his womyn sibling asked.

"I am afraid most esteemed Monarch Designate that I can't know the Dauphin Designate's thoughts." He replied formally with a dour expression. Though he had his suspicions he did not dare say them for fear they may be true.

"Perhaps she has gone to seek the council of her good friend Tak'oro." Kissa's womyn mate Tetra offered.

"Guards have already been dispatched to Tak'oro's home only to find him alone in this time of mourning." Daya answered shaking her head. "The male said he had not seen her since the guards had taken Massaya and Tun from the University campus on the of day Aminas's passing. They were both inclined to believe him." Daya sighed heavily. "Hid did say that if he knows the Dauphin as well as he would like to think he hopes that she is found before she has a chance to do something stupid, but he would not be any clearer than that."

Massaya had reached the river of Tiba. She had hoped to pass the river by mid-day and was nearly a measure behind.

In her hurry to cross the river she barely noticed the little prick of a passing Teldas fish. The poison on the spines could kill in a matter of a measure. The pain was exquisite, calling her to lay her head in the shallows. The dream that was her life urging her on. She fought it staggering to the rocks of the shore. She fought ripping the gauntlet and swathes from her left wrist. Then grabbing a vile of anti-venom from her med-kit, she plunged the needle into her shunts' adapter struggling to twist the connecter before falling unconscious.

Kissa shook himself awake where he had dozed in the central planning room. His child knew peril. Massaya had gone to the Bacillaceae.

For more than half a measure Massaya lay shaking. When she finally knew her senses again she worked quickly. Restoring her wrappings and gauntlets, cleaning her self and changing her sand colored clothes for a jumpsuit the blue color of teystes flowers. She left her sand colored clothes with the tare up and the vile showing an a nearby rock. Then pulling on a dark cloak that would mask her life signs, she stumbled on long past dark finally collapsing into the sand.

Tetra and Kissa stood on the bank of river Tiba. Tetra clutched the discarded jumper shaking her head. Kissa picked up the vile noting the former contents as he looked back to where the abandoned air-car was. Tun and Tak'oro examined the marks left in the sand along with the Palace Security Force members.

As Nenado began to follow the stumbling tracks; Tetra turned to Kissa. "I will take these things and Tak'oro back with me. You take Tun with you and follow Nenado. She will no doubt lead you to Aya."

As she began to turn away Kissa spoke. "Take watch over Kem he has not handled this well."

"I will as a parent must and you take watch over the other."

Massaya had secured her pack below the outcropping she now stood on. She had prepared the sleep elixir from teystes flowers, and now she saw the storm on the horizon. It was coming, and now was the time. She sat down at the highest point on the outcropping and upbraided her hair; letting her red tresses free. Downing the elixir she lay back. Straightening the wrinkles in her blue jumpsuit; she closed her eyes. Now the waiting began.

Kissa, Tun and Nenado had tracked into the canyons beyond the bacillaceae. The eerie colored lightning of the sentient storm was almost over head.

Following the trail around a large boulder they finally caught site of her, but it was to late. She writhed in the air above an outcropping, wrapped in the lightning of the storm.

Kissa ran leaving the others behind. Tun and Nenado had to restrain him from trying to touch his child.

Massaya found herself in a place filled with light. It was as if the light had substance. A figure stepped out of the light to great her.

"My little Aya, but how you have grown."

Massaya could hardly believe. "Andron, parent, is it really you.?"

The figure took Massaya into har arms, "Of course child. Who else?"

Andron was Massaya's woman parent who had died many years before giving birth to her sibling Kem. "Oh how I've missed you." Massaya cried remembering. The days in the palace gardens. That night at the hospital when Kem had been born. Her own confusion at the funeral. Her first look at death.

Andron dried her child's tears. "I know Aya, but I have been with you through everything."

"I know, but Kem says I'm silly to think such a thing."

"It's far from silly Aya." Andron chided. "But now it is time for you to leave this place."

"But there is so much I want to ask you."

Andron let go receding into the light. "The future is not for me to reveal. You will know what to do when the time comes."

"How will I know?"

"You just will."

The light began to fade.

Tun had helped to catch Massaya when the storm had finally let her go. Now she tried feverishly to revive the Dauphin designate while Nenado tried to calm Kissa. Massaya coughed beginning to breath again. Tun secured an oxygen mask over Massaya's face; as the medical tech in the search party administered the appropriate drugs though one of the shunts in her arms.

"Her life signs are steadying." the tech said waving a sensor over her limp form.

"Is it safe to move her?" Kissa asked anxiously.

"As safe as it's going to get." the tech replied.

"We had better move before the storm comes back this way." Tun commented unfolding the stretcher they had brought with them.

Massaya could hear them speaking. She tried to talk; pulling the mask away from her face. She tried to call out.

On seeing movement Kissa knelt down beside her. "What is it Aya?"

"I saw Andron." she whispered weakly; lapsing back into unconsciousness.

Kissa held her hand tenderly. "I have no doubt you did."

*****Not The Beginning & Not The End*****