Chapter Two – Complete
Neselle: Althery Comes to the Courtship

I listened to the young men as they tried to impress me. One sang some old tunes in a strangely cheerful fashion that I found delightful. The other however proved that he had learned of me, as he spoke of theology and a tale that twisted a known divine rule in a rather curious fashion. Both of the young men however knew their efforts had been wasted when another entered the space beneath my balcony.

My relationship with Althery had continued. It changed in a way, because in my becoming immortal he recognized a need for such a goal for himself. He did not get foolish however, but methodically set himself to increasing his expertise and fame. It almost felt like we were exchanging places as he became the one showing up to speak of his actions while I was the one holding a stable occupation. Althery and I however always spoke of making a future together somehow trusting that things would work out.

He had the two other young men beat in looks. Althery stood about six feet with light-brown hair and pale blue eyes. His muscular physique declared a command of his body. It was his face that truly set him apart from the others however, as his glances told all that he knew things they would not wish to know. With a conviction that the other two men could not match, he boldly spoke the words they hoped to only imply in their presentations.

“I will have you, Neselle. You may finish your time here, but we will return to your world shortly.”

Hanell rose from her position near me to say, “We were hoping to present an index of names that we have referenced along with those we have yet to identify.”

“I would suspect that we will encounter one more.”

My parents were horses. Hanell was a wolf. As a predator species, she had a lifetime obligation to protect the grazing people from true predators. She had known me from a child, and when my life put me in danger she had stepped up to assure that I lived. She had also grown up in the remains of an ancient church. When Althery and Nuchirg found the old plans of the building they had realized that the treasury room was behind a wall. Instead of wealth, they had found documents. With those Hanell found herself able to study things of our forgotten Goddess before others could. She also found herself also in the position of guarding me, the one who somehow became the focus of all the events. Having lived her life, she no longer had a body that would bear children, and had a mind interested in matters of religion. She thus told my parents that they did not need to fear for their oldest daughter, as she would continue to watch over me.

The wolf raised herself to put her front legs on the railing of the balcony before asking, “What have you learned, Althery?”

“I do not want to take time from these young gentlemen. Dearest Neselle, you are a rare lady. It will not ever be right for me to keep you apart; only your love and devotion will I claim.”

Prince Genory, the second son of a count, and the one that had proven some knowledge of me said, “I share your opinion of this lady, Prince Althery. Please relate your news, as I hope as well to make Neselle my own.”

“You are not even worthy, but I will give you my reason for being the man for her.” He bowed to me, and with my signal to proceed he spoke to the other young men. “Lady Neselle is the one that met Prince Nuchirg of this very castle and me in our quest to prove ourselves to Fergush. With the help of Lady Neselle, we met the challenge set by the god and defeated it. It was on that mission that Lady Neselle became initially changed and put on her path to becoming a full lady. As my mother sought to help Lady Neselle, she became blessed to follow the path of all ladies. I have been there as this lady risked her very association with her family and world, and that is something neither of you two, or any other man, save Nuchirg, can match.”

Prince Genory interjected, “It is true that I cannot match you there, but I have no shame in starting my time with her at a disadvantage.”

“Oh, you are far more at a disadvantage than that. I told you that I met this lady on a mission for Fergush. Well, that god is not the one to claim my soul. Baron Ferrigote, whose castle this is and whom I call uncle, is however a strong devotee to that deity. I thus have no ill will to Fergush. I took on his mission, and bested it. I thus ended my association with Fergush on the best of terms. Lady Neselle comes from a world with a most powerful Goddess, and in accomplishing what I have on her world I hope that I have gained good graces with that deity. I however recognize that such is not enough to stand with this lady as an equal, much less as a husband. You, my friends, do not even rate that highly.”

“I will disagree with you on that point, Prince Althery. My father’s land has a temple unto Cloript, but Fergush has his respect as well. Since my older brother will claim the throne, I sought to make my own name. I thus challenged Fergush and Cloript, and bested their goals they set for me. I then turned to sweet Onathia for guidance, and she set Neselle as a most special prize. I learned what I could, and now I have seen this lady for myself. While I know that you have a history with her, I will say that I can match your boasting.”

I had to look at Prince Genory a little closer. He did not stand as tall as Althery, but I felt such was more of their present stances. He stood straight to display his conviction to achieve an objective. Prince Genory appeared relaxed, and I felt that if he came to attention he would probably match Althery. The darker hair and brown eyes of Prince Genory also had him appear more mature, but I was not certain if that was a good thing.

Althery said, “I have been busy these last few months. Knowing that I had a Goddess to impress, I went to another of equal rank. My mother’s world has such a divinity, and I sought her usually reclusive spirit. I don’t believe the people of my mother’s world treated my presence as seriously as I did, as most had me speak of matters of family and did not act as if my desire for a special wife was really something of importance.”

He moved to a bench and sat down. Both of the other young men stayed standing. I knew to wait on Althery, so held my position.

“I got frustrated, Neselle. My desire for you fueled my need to find a way to be worthy of you. I believe it was my desperation that had another deity turn to me, although it is a whispered warning in our family that we are watched. I know the stories of Terdeskollit. I even know that it is due to him that my mother could conceive and bare me. When I saw the horny flaming visage, I thus knew to face him and be wary, but to give him proper respect.

“He said, ‘Your father was given immortality to have the time to learn of me. He has done well. I was alone however, and the Goddess in control of the one you desire is not. You do not know the seriousness of the task you are setting for yourself.’

“I faced this terrible deity and asked, ‘Where have I failed?’

“Terdeskollit replied, ‘Take a lesson from your father, and accept that simply not acquiring a specific thing is not failure. A horse is a horse, and a wife is a wife.’

“I did not allow that answer to satisfy me. ‘The horse my father rides is not a horse, but a centaur. Before those, he chose the best of horses that could tolerate the movement between worlds. My father did not just gain a wife, but the empress of a world. Where do you rank Neselle in relation to that?’

“He answered, ‘Not as wise. I also cannot say that she is as pretty, but that is because I have come to know your mother, Althery. Your father made a good choice in Straekin, and I have come to appreciate her. Maybe in time I will come to think the same of Neselle.’ The presence of Terdeskollit fills one with dread, and having his gaze upon you can have you feel that your existence is about to end, but I stood and looked him in his blazing eyes before he told me, ‘Go to her, Althery. Return her to her world. Stand with her. If that harlot of a Goddess will not grant you a blessing, and that is all you lack in claiming Neselle, I will bestow upon you the boon that your father gained from another.’”

Hanell spewed out, “The Goddess is not a harlot.”

“I was quoting the malignant speech of the God that rules the original world of my father, Dear Hanell. While I accept your opinion, in return I ask that you accept the truthfulness of my words.”

Prince Genory said, “It is true that I have no god standing to make certain promises on my behalf. I however will prove myself able to pick up Lady Neselle’s standard should you have to drop it.”

Both Althery and Prince Genory turned to look at the other young man, who said, “Ah, no.” He bowed to me while saying, “Lady Neselle, I feel honored to have had some time with you. Thank you for your time. With your blessing, I will step back to allow others to prove themselves as worth the honor of becoming your husband or as only common fools. Thank you again. Prince Althery, Prince Genory, I wish you the best.”

All stopped as a strong voice rang out, “I heard that!”

Baron Ferrigote stepped out to meet the leaving young man. I believe that he was directed to a place where he could get food and a night of rest before traveling to his home. After shaking hands, the elder then moved toward my balcony.

“Althery, I will not question you. I heard what you said, and will check with Fergush about any response from me. You know that you have a place in my castle, and we can speak at meals or as we seek the other out. Genory, your home is about a week away, and I know that you did not come prepared for a journey.”

The dark haired young man replied, “Excuse me, Baron, but I did come prepared for being an extended time away from home. As you said, my home is about a week away. I packed more than an extra shirt.”

“Think about what you just said, and let me know where you feel yourself lacking. Expect me to change out your horse. Moving through the omniverse is not easy with its own dangers.”

Althery said, “You could have just told him to go home, Uncle Ferrigote.”

“I love Neselle enough not to force you upon her. The lady deserves a choice. I agree that you have the advantage, but the heart of a lady is not a trophy, but a blessing. However much you might earn it, many find the gift given to another.”

Baron Ferrigote did not stand as tall as Althery, although had a presence that made him seem larger. Baron Ferrigote had massive muscles. Althery had more of his father’s lean physique, although I knew the young man was quite strong.

He stood, bowed to Prince Genory, shook hands with his uncle, then turned to me to say, “I have just arrived after a long journey, Neselle. I accept that I have put you under a need to prepare yourself, so might need to give you time. Look forward to speaking with you. Dear Hanell, I am glad to see your presence, and hope to continue to earn your respect.”

I was pleased to hear an agreeable response from the female wolf. “Of course, Althery. You have done a lot of good for my world. I will not speak against you, but, I – well, I just don’t know.”

Althery had a nice smile. There was a warmth to it that made me seek ways to keep the expression on his face. I thus blew him a kiss, and was glad to see the smile as he bowed to me before leaving.

Prince Genory also made a sign of respect to me before saying, “I hope to also earn your friendship, if not love, Lady Neselle. Lady Hanell, let me say that I did not fully appreciate your presence upon coming to meet Lady Neselle. I apologize, and will recognize your worth from now on. I have a lot to learn, but it is my desire that you come to like what you learn about me. I will always treasure this first meeting, although hope to make it just the start of a lifetime of fond memories. Good night.”

Baron Ferrigote directed Prince Genory to the butler, then turned to me to say, “I was listening with my wife, Neselle. Dirchein thus knows. Expect her guidance. Good night.”

As everyone moved off, I walked from the balcony while asking Hanell, “What do you think?”

“I liked Althery from the start. He is also doing what I want him to do. I felt afraid when you gained immortality, Neselle, because I felt that our Goddess would put off our restoration for centuries more. The actions of Althery however make me believe that I will see an end of the game in my lifetime.”

Thinking about having another young man around me, I asked, “What about Prince Genory?”

“Maybe. I however have seen Althery work with you, and I have seen him stand up to the challenges of our world. I thus consider him deserving of you.”

Wanting the lady to understand that I did agree with her, I said, “I also like his mother and father. I have not met Prince Genory’s parents, but Althery’s parents have a history with me as well. I thus really would not mind becoming his wife.”

“Then let us see what he can do to gain your side, Lady Neselle. From what I can say of your past, it should be interesting at the least.”

There is another man that you need to come to know about.