The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Seventeen – Complete
Neselle: Dealing with the Aftermath

I felt it strange to notice no celebration as we stepped back in front of the gate to the corral of my original herd. We turned as a number of people spoke exclamations. Some rushed to us while others only watched from a distance. Elbery was present, although he mostly stayed with his cameraman while I spoke to my parents. While those of my original herd asked about my health, wolves asked about what we encountered, and it was to them I felt the need to answer.

“His name was Reclash. He fled back to the Goddess with Her telling us that he was just one of our problems. She said that there were too many to fight, but that we would have to overcome to have Her change us from what we are.”

One of the younger scholarly wolves asked, “Reclash? As in ‘clash again,’ or “kordech ot?’ I told you that was a name and not a reference to further violence.”

I did remember him saying such, although turned the boast back upon him. “Okay, Nabersh, so tell me how that helps us? What further guidance can you provide?” When he shied back instead of boasting some more, I said, “You provide us with your wisdom, and we will share ours with you. These are difficult times. We however have the Goddess once again active among us, but She is our Goddess and demands the respect that is due Her. She did not speak to us concerning what we knew, but of what She should mean to us. Our error was that in our time of need, we did not put our trust in Her.”

Elbery now stepped up to ask, “Lady Neselle, I would, of course, desire a further interview with you. Right now however, can you assure the people that it is over?”

I turned surely with exasperation showing in my features. I felt that he had not been listening. What made the feeling very difficult with me was that I needed Elbery to get the general public to listen. In turning to him I saw a very young lad. My own body had not just matured, but my perception of what a man was had changed as well. I still recognized Elbery, and felt him important in my life, but seeing him as a boy had me soften my features and speak calmly.

“Over? No. I just told you that our Goddess said that there were too many to fight. We were on a vast plain filled with beings of all types. We did not defeat anything, but only gained the honor of having our Goddess come out to speak. I know that some of you would consider such a major victory in itself, although I got the message that I could listen to Her speak for days and still want Her to say more. I told Her that we knew so little, then listened as She told us that we knew enough.”

I moved up to hug Elbery. Once we stood basically face-to-face, but now I had the growth of maturity while he still possessed the body of a child. He was at work attempting to provide information to the public, so uncomfortable with my act. I however thought it necessary, although after doing it I explained my action.

“You have very tough job, Elbery. There are too many for me, Althery, Jelnaya, Lebranaut, and all others to fight. You are going to be overwhelmed with things to talk about, but you need to keep your focus on our Goddess. You fail in that, and you could be condemning us to worse than that virus that forced us to become animals.”

Probably attempting to save face, he said, “I know my job, Lady Neselle.”

“And I know mine, but we have to live this life together and work together as the holy book demands. I thus want you to know that I love you, Elbery. I want everyone to know that I love them. I want to send a message of us standing strong, as we have more than Berbishet or some pond beast coming against us this time.”

He smiled as if those words provided the comfort that I had disrupted by hugging him. I returned the smile as he closed the broadcast. Once the cameraman signaled that he was no longer transmitting, Elbery spoke as if he still felt some embarrassment from my action.

“Always something different with you, Lady Neselle. I was worried that Althery would attack me.”

Althery said, “Yes, I was thinking about it Elbery, but then Neselle would have attacked me.”

A number of people laughed. That was when I recognized that some of Elbery’s feeling of being uncomfortable came from his physical immaturity. His body had never craved the physical closeness that comes from the hormones driving a desire for the opposite sex. He had played with other females in simulations of what they felt a romantic period between adult humans would be, but suddenly being confronted with an expression of affection from a mature human woman sent him signals that he had no experience in dealing with. To him the feeling of me hugging him was the embarrassment of a youth having their parent show affection to them. Hearing the catcalls from others also still physically immature I felt embarrassed him more. I did not laugh as did others, but simply walked away from the people.

It was Jelnaya that ran up beside me. Having not really spent much time around her, I did not know her reason for being present. It took a moment of pause to realize that the men were not with us to have me sense something about her company. I nodded to her, then as she continued to walk beside me she explained what I actually had figured out.

“You’re not mad at Althery, but I still felt it best to have him help Lebranaut out of his armor than come with you. He might shadow us, but I will give you a moment to determine if you want him or me with you.”

“No, you are all right. I guess that I need to get to know you.”

“I guess.” She followed me for a period, then finally asked, “Do you have a destination? I mean, if you wanted to get away, we are passing up worlds.”

“No!” I blurted out turning to face her. “Don’t you understand? We are here on behalf of my Goddess. I want Her watching and listening. I need to know. I need Her guidance. I appreciate you, Jelnaya. Becoming a part of your family, becoming your aunt, is something I want to do. I just – I just don’t know.” I stopped and turned around to see that I had come to the outskirts of the city, and found myself commenting, “Maybe something will attack out here.”

“Now you are sounding like me.”

“Come on. You have knowledge that I don’t. What should I do? Those things we fought, those things I fought previously with Althery, Nurchirg, and those of our herd, they are what led my people, those of my world, into this degradation that caused so many to become animals. Those things, those things I have fought, others of my world worshipped instead of the Goddess – thought they would be more responsive, more caring, more understanding than the one that made everything. Am I thus wrong in killing them, or removing them? Why can’t I see their care, their compassion, their desire to be there and help? If I am not seeing what the others of my world see, how can I guide them from where they are? Tell me, Jelnaya, what should I do, and let me say now that I don’t believe fighting them to be the right answer.”

“Why not? That solution has brought you here to this moment in time. Right now you have a fine man, and I know that I am talking about my Uncle Althery, seeking your hand. Right now you are honored as someone who is fighting the proper fight. Right now you have the blessing of maturity and immortality that no one else human of your world has. Don’t question your successes, only question your strategies for your coming battles, because you cannot assure that they will be the same as those before.”

I looked at her strangely as I said, “I thought that was what I was doing.”

“No, changing strategies and simply being pacifistic are two entirely different things. Yes, you fight them. How you fight them is the question. I don’t fight everything, but I know fighting, and to understand things I will put it in a fighting context. I can be playful, instructive, inquisitive, and other things, but I usually chose a fighting interchange because I know it.”

Confused, I asked, “Can you say that another way?”

“Sure. Listen, you are up against divine beings. They have senses and knowledge beyond ours. Those traits however can work against them. You have a method of dealing with your problems, and you have to assume that they know it. You cannot just up and change habits, but you can broaden your range of methods of operating under your system.” Jelnaya appeared frustrated for a moment, then drew her weapon. “It is like a sword. The edge is here. You cannot move the edge. You cannot bring the point somewhere else along the length of metal. There is no changing the sword. However, you can change how you use the sword. There are different movements, and unless your opponent is as versatile as you, you can find yourself with the upper hand.”

“How can you be more versatile about reading books? That is about the only source of wisdom we have.”

Now Althery spoke to let us know that he had been shadowing us. “Stop reading them. The Goddess told you put your focus on Her. You are looking for lost knowledge to regain the past. The Goddess told you, and your own history tells you, that such was and is a dead end. You need to focus on the future.”

It was Jelnaya that asked, “And how does Neselle do that?”

“Answer the questions. Don’t try and find the answers, but just answer them.”

I asked, “What questions?”

“Well, I would say the hard ones – the ones you usually just avoid. State your conclusion about the proper forms for those of your world. Should they become centaurs? Should they become animal people like Kachevet? Should they return to being human?”

“That’s not my –“

“Make it your choice. Answer the question. Boldly speak your conclusion to your Goddess and other people. Force them to find their answers, then declare them. From the cacophony of voices, surely your Goddess will recognize that She is being recognized and that a better life for all of Her world would come by making Her decision.”

As I looked at both Jelnaya and Althery, I could not help but state, “I don’t believe that I am right to do such a thing.”

“Speak to Hanell and the others that you consult with. The Goddess knows the range of suppositions you will debate. Surely that can be one.”

I turned to see others looking at me. It was dark, but predators were out doing their job of maintaining the security. Some people just preferred staying up late, and they had come to listen. None of us were speaking softly, and I did not consider my words private at all. I thus did not let those observing bother me, but focused on what I felt that I needed to think about.

“I don’t know what my answer would be.”

“Why the hell not?” Althery blared back. “Here you are the only native mature woman, hopefully in love with one of the mature young men who took on the challenge to help your world, and you do not know what your answer would be? I would hope that it would be to stay who you are, a mature lady, and become my wife.”

That was true, and it took me a moment to work my mind beyond a simple agreement. “But that is not the answer for my world. I mean, it could be, but I hear too much against us returning to what we were. Staying partially animals, as centaurs or half-people like Kachevet, could be better.”

“Make them tell the Goddess their decision.” The way Althery moved his arm I could tell that he knew others were watching and listening to us. “You tell Her, and I would hope that you have been telling your Goddess, how pleased you are with what you are. You tell Her that you want to stay as you are, how joyful you will be as my wife, then live your life with me in wonderful contentment.”

The phrase ‘wonderful contentment’ seemed a little extreme, but I allowed the conversation to advance. “But what if the people have the Goddess decide otherwise?”

“The Goddess can decide however She desires. Not everyone is going to have the same desire, so it is going to come down to Her decision. I hate to say it, Neselle, but your fate is sealed. When you became an immortal, your path was set. When I become your husband, my path will be set as well. We will become part of those undying who play their part in directing this world. Unlike those we are facing however, we are not of divine origin. We know the joy, challenges, and pains of life. We should thus be much more understanding, compassionate, and able to guide than Berbishet, Minotaur, or the other divine agents. Hopefully, the people of your world will never desire to remove us from their lives.”

A pig stepped out to say, “No, Lady Neselle and Lord Althery, but what has the return of the drahabard have to do with things?”

I smiled at the young man as I asked, “Yes, Althery, what has the return of the drahabard have to do with things?”

“Personally, I don’t believe the return of the drahabard means anything, except to bring attention to the one that owns it. I think Kachavet was changed into that half-fox form merely to broaden the range of discussion in what the people of this world really want as their future. Of course, from my experience with the challenges of this world, we might be glad to have Kachevet and her drahabard with us.”

I looked to the pig as I performed a simple curtsey before saying, “We will surely take that into consideration as well. Still, I challenge you,” I had an arm move a hand through a wide arc to indicate all eavesdropping on the conversation, “to come to a decision and present your own conclusion to the Goddess. She wants us to look to Her, and as her creations we should be willing to obey.”

Back to Jelnaya as the story begins to pick back up.