Graphic for Without a Light I See

Without a Light I See

Chapter One
(Jelnaya)

My home of Phanigist was finally feeling like the place I wanted it to be.  The people accepted my traveling duties.  I would tell them where I was going, or what was having me leave, as I headed to my horse.  With the realm actually being to She-Who-Survives they knew to make do until my return, and I found myself actually feeling like coming back.

It did help that the king had accepted the change to the authority in this realm.  He was gracious in our first meeting, but there was some political resistance.  When I showed up a couple of times without all the pomp and circumstance of the other high nobles some had tried to speak against me.  The king however spoke of not wanting any deity mad at him, especially He-Who-Fights, so told everyone to accept me.

Honestly, I did try to follow tradition, but I considered it a type of play.  If I had business, I went and handled it.  The monarch actually came to understand that if he saw me out of all the fancy skirts, delicate accessories, and other paraphernalia that he needed to treat my presence with importance.  If I was however in the traditional dress of someone of my status and gender, he could simply smile as I suffered through the activities.

There were other gratuities allowed to me, but those were due to simply understanding that there were times one was better off not dealing with me.  To the southeast of my duchy was the Viscounty of Kelerp in the kingdom of Pechelko.  Fergush told me to go handle an incursion, so I rode off to do so.  On my way I saw the Army of Kelerp coming from the castle, but kept riding.  I guess the viscount expected me to come to him for some chat, as while fighting the invading army I noticed arrows flying very close to me.  I did have a magic brooch to protect me from missiles, although when on Sennapre usually my god assured that only direct attacks had a chance of hurting me.  There was a powerful undead seeking to spread its influence, so the fight took my skills and special equipment to handle.  Those of the local military that followed their orders to enter combat took heavy losses.  When I finally won, Fergush told me to simply go home.  I did pause on my way back to dismount and curtsey to the viscount, but he saw me only from a distance and I did not wait for any message from him.  A little over a month later a few ogres attacked the Barony of Abrimall in Kelerp with the local militaries finding the grace of He-Who-Fights to be with the monsters.  Soon after I had a major incursion from Kelerp to bring sacrifices to my church in Chetorly.  Samayer told me to be gracious when I had a visit from important ladies.  I found myself entertaining my queen along with the viscountesses of the various other realms of my kingdom and the Viscountess of Kelerp.  In the end everyone knew that I could be extremely nice and  play my part in socials, but that if I was acting in my capacity as a divine champion to simply let me do as I felt best.

At the start of this story I was not home.  Actually, I was not on the world of my realm.  I had lived in Phanigist long enough for others to recognize it as being the place to contact me.  When a strange man came before me to toss down a great suit of armor before asking for help, he had my attention.  I listened and agreed that he had the need, so at the start of this tale I was fighting somewhere completely separated from my home.

The armor had belonged to a minotaur.  The creatures had done more than figure out how to work metal with leather to give them good protection, they had also managed to train a species of great lizard to act as mounts.  That in itself provided a good fight, and as the Champion of He-Who-Fights it was enough to gain my cooperation.  One more thing however had been related, and as I took part in the battle I noticed things to indicate the oddity that put the fight into a really special category.  Coming up on a minotaur to rip him from his groin to gut, I stepped on his carcass to give me height in order to send my sword through the heart of another.  Using that corpse to provide another place for my feet, I sent NeverRose into the skull of a third minotaur.  Coming down I saw a really great serpent and set myself to make my way to it.

“NO, JELNAYA!  That’s not one you should kill.”

It was the voice of the one who informed me of this mission that yelled the order, so I gave it some attention.  With a quick decision I targeted some more minotaurs.  The serpent sent its fangs into a couple of the monsters, but I noticed their shocked expressions when it did so.  Understanding that a fight was not necessarily with weapons that caused direct harm, I worked to clear the area of those who might complicate matters as I dealt with a different type of deadly situation.  The one who informed me of this mission also made his way through a number of minotaurs to be with me when I faced the serpent.

NeverRose stayed in my hand as I asked, “And what is your name?”

“Berthior,” the great snake replied.

The one that had contacted me said, “He is the one who could make it to the treasury of these monsters.  He’s with me, Honored Jelnaya.”

“Treasury?” I asked.  “You did not tell me this was merely your desire to rob thieves.”

Berthior said, “Actually, Jelnaya, you are correct.  There is wealth here that belongs to people.  The minotaurs were taking from others, and we were seeking to take from them.  We will demand a fee, but a great amount will be returned.”

From a distance I heard another man sound out, “PROVE IT!”

The one that contacted me asked, “Did you ever have one of those days, Honored Jelnaya?”

I asked my own question, “Do you mean whether I had to decide if I actually had any honor?  Not in a long time.”

“How do you know those aren’t just other thieves?”

“You mean those showing matching colors on their armor?  Also, I happen to see a flag and a number of banners.  Most thieves do not want to be recognized.”

He attacked.  Considering that I had never sheathed NeverRose, his action did not catch me unarmed.  The fact I was speaking with him meant that I saw him attack in my direction.  I thus easily met his thrust and redirected it from me even as I moved to set myself up for an attack from the serpent.  Let me say that I had been fighting with the man, so knew his ability.  I however did not fear it.  A good fight was something I would ever look forward to.  I however had a number of concerns in this situation with the knowledge of possibly of being tricked into making a wrong move, which was something I did consider important.  One good defense was purely not being predictable, so I rolled and cut the cords attached to the back of the great snake.  Seeing what I did had the man stop his charge, and in his pause I saw an arrow sink into his back.  When the serpent struck, I had NeverRose set between its fangs as my other hand reached for the special two-bladed halberd on my back while I asked a question.

“Do you know the original weapon of this kind was made to fight a great snake?”

I heard a grating sound as it removed its teeth, so I knew Berthior was hurt when it replied, “Our story was not a complete lie.”

The drahaberd was actually a two-handed weapon, but I held it with one hand using it as a type of shield while I kept NeverRose in my right hand ready to strike.  Arrows bounced off the scales of the great snake, while the man picked up the breastplate of a fallen minotaur and worked to have it stay on his back to protect himself from missiles.  The sight of him needing time to adjust the extra weight had me set the large serpent as my victim should I make an attack.

Seeing one slither into the water and the other run, I simply held my place.  I had not seen any arrows come toward me, but I felt a need to determine more about my situation.  Seeing me still tensed and ready to strike, the one that rode up dropped from his mount to kneel in order to assure that I did not see him as a threat.

“Dear lady, we saw the glow from your hair.  We thank you for bringing our attention to this situation.  Whatever brought you to this battle, please ask and it shall be given to you.”

I replied, “I’m a divine champion of a deity named Fergush, He-Who-Fights.  I came because I was promised a good fight.  They made other promises, but I honestly came because I could tell it would be a good fight.”

“A lot of the money that was stolen was from my people.  A lot of those killed were my people.  I am here for vengeance.  I will pay you money, because its loss I consider well spent upon the one who helped end the lives of those who terrorized the people of my land.  Those seeking to profit from my loss will be hunted down.”

I heard what was said, but as a noble myself I focused on something I did not hear admitted.  “You must live apart from your people.  There is a lot I see here that speaks of you not watching for signs of trouble.”

“There was a war to the north.  Me and my better personnel were there.”

Accepting how things could get complicated for those in power, I said, “I guess I understand.  Yes, pay me what you will and I will let you see about those seeking to profit from you inaction.”

He rose to untie a purse while saying, “And if I don’t pay you, you will see to them and the treasure they have stolen.”

“There is a good bit of the treasure right there.  The snake wisely did not stay around to try and regain it.  Still, you are correct.  Not out of meanness or greed.  I just don’t know you or your people.  There are others I know, and the funds would see to their welfare.”

I saw him count out a few more coins before throwing me a small leather pouch.  “With those words, I will have us part in peace.  I however would like for you to remember me as Jahlock and this land as Ijelskie.”

I caught the collection of coins, and feeling some weight I replied, “Those you will be chasing contacted me.  You might do yourself well to learn how to do the same.  My name is Jelnaya.”

“Jelnaya…”

Understanding the tone of voice, I said, “Jelnaya Minella Dozzrine, divine champion of Fergush, and Duchess of Phanigist.”

“Unmarried?”

“I scare most men away, and the others decide upon more passive ladies.”

“My son is unmarried.”

Not the response I expected, although I had told the man it might be in his interest to learn how to contact me.  “How about a second son?  I’m not leaving Phanigist, and you surely expect your oldest to take over your lands.”

“My second is still quite young.”

“I’m immortal.  Tell him to seek never becoming old.”

“Immortal?  You have many immortal men where you come from?”  I found myself accepting that I was dealing with a world having a different type of relationship with the divine as he asked, “Maybe the land of the gods?”

“No, but I appreciate the attention from the men that do come.  Still, I hope one day to find the right man who can make my life complete.”

“I’m glad to have made your acquaintance, Honored Jelnaya.  Now, may we both leave in peace with a better hope for our future.”

After a curtsey and seeing a bow, I left to whistle for my horse.  I saw soldiers looting the bodies of the minotaurs, but did not let that trouble me.  Seeing Rubber run to me, I stopped only to hear the voice of my god.

“You were set up, Jelnaya.”

I had to ask, “In a bad way, Fergush?  The minotaurs did provide a fun fight.”

“And you gave me my honor.  No, probably not in a bad way.  Still, things are in motion that may not please you.  You have full liberty in handling it, although I will expect some commentary.”

“I see no reason why I would not speak to you.”

“Actually, I expect every reason why you would.  Stay alert, Jelnaya.  Now, go home.”

And the complication to this story is presented.