The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Eighteen – Complete
Jelnaya: A Challenge Still Looms

The way Uncle Althery fumed the next morning I felt was cute. Even in the secluded back alley near the edge of the city, there had been a camera. Not only had others listened in, but our conversation had been recorded. Uncle Althery paced in his room as he complained about the commentary while the scene between him, Neselle, and me was played for public consumption.

I had actually been assigned a room with Great-aunt Dirchein. We both rose at the same time, although I considered going to Uncle Althery to ask about a period of sparring while the golden lady wanted to know what her nephew desired for breakfast. Uncle Althery had a room with Lebranaut, and the two were preparing themselves for the day upon our arrival. Instead of asking us to simply wait while they finished dressing themselves, my uncle had directed us to the monitor in his room for us to pass the time while watching the report.

Before I could say it, Great-aunt Dirchein said, “There is nothing bad in what was said, Althery.”

I commented, “He and Neselle are however considered married.”

“Uh, yes, even Elbery is saying that. I will make that change to your room assignments in my home.”

My uncle did not appear pleased at all as he said, “If Neselle does not speak against it, Aunt Dirchein, fine.”

“Why would she be against it?”

“For the same reason I do not care. Marriage was not what we were discussing last night. The focus should be on how the people want to live their lives. I would consider those to be the words of importance.”

“Oh. You have no control over other people, Althery.” The golden lady moved to the door while saying, “I am going to assure that you youngsters get something substantial to eat.”

After the lady left, Uncle Althery looked to me to say, “Youngsters. I go from being a married man to a youngster.”

I replied, “You forget who my father is. When Grandfather Terish and Grandmother Straekin come to visit my home, everyone has problems with such a young couple being the parents of my father. I have heard them referred to as youngsters.”

Uncle Althery spoke in a manner I believe of mimicking Neselle as he replied, “That is just part of the ways of us being from such an exotic herd.” He then spoke in a normal tone as he said, “I will be checking with Neselle, Jelnaya, as she has surely seen the report as well. If you want to spar with anyone, it might help to spend time with Kachevet. That drahabard of hers I believe will be brought into this situation somehow.”

Lebranaut stepped out from the bathroom, bowed to me, then said, “I will join you, Jelnaya.”

“Watch it,” Uncle Althery quipped, “as you two might next be identified as a couple.”

I replied, “At the moment I consider Lebranaut a better companion than Genory.” I then looked around the room before asking, “Where is he?”

“I don’t know, but I believe the next room down.”

“Well,” I turned to speak to the larger man, “Lebranaut, go check on Genory. I will go check on Kachevet. Surely both would like breakfast, and knowing Great-aunt Dirchein she will bring enough for all of us.”

I had visited the young lady the day before, so knew her room. Walking along I however felt a tension in the air. Attempting to place the source of my uneasiness, I noticed that there was a little more traffic than expected. I then stopped considering where I was. Having been told things of my surrounding, I walked up to a tiger patrolling the hallway.

“Excuse me, but what is the next event to be held here in the coliseum?”

“Lady Jelnaya, we have the game in a couple of days.”

“The game?”

Yes, I had been told about the game. It was the event where the children who were turning twelve, or had recently turned twelve, would find out what type of animal they would become. I looked at some deer passing pulling a cart to realize that it had calibration instruments, surely to check certain machines before having them perform their surgeries. Understanding that it was the game that everyone wanted stopped, even as they allowed that it provided the security of their civilization, I suddenly came to a conclusion.

“Tiger, Sir, relay to the kitchen that I will not be eating breakfast. At least not here. I am going to Neselle.” I started moving, then turned to yell, “And make certain Kachevet is awake!”

Not being in armor, although habit had me with my sword and few other dangerous items, I ran without any problem. The doors to the coliseum were open, and I passed by them at full speed. No one told me to stop. Animals were moving about either coming from their jobs or on their way to them, but I had the reflexes to adjust my steps to avoid them. I thus did not stop running until I reached the corral of Neselle’s original herd.

Being an advanced society, it did not surprise me to see her out waiting for me. I stopped before her, grabbed her arm, then pulled her away from others. She did not resist me, but waited for my words between gasps of air.

“Who could affect the games?”

“The games? No one has ever influenced the games, except – I guess – the Goddess.”

“But it is what you are wanting. You want an end of the games. You are wanting for some natural process to take over the problems of reproduction. You are wanting the games to be influenced. Everyone you are telling to pray will be praying for an end of the games.”

Neselle froze. I could tell that the mind was racing, but to concentrate on the fleeting processing of thoughts she had shut down all other movements. Considering that I was still catching my breath from my run, I did not mind waiting for Neselle to reach a conclusion.

She finally said, “We had not even considered that.”

I replied, “The games are in two days.”

“The game here. Still, we have determined that this city is the focus.” She then grabbed my arm while saying, “Come on.” I did not resist, although it did help to hear a destination. “We are going to the wolves. They serve a better breakfast for those of our kind anyway.”

She made some farewells with the horses, although as we moved away from the corral I had to ask, “’Those of our kind?’ You don’t consider yourself a horse anymore?”

“That is a fault of our world. A fault I, and probably everyone else, wants to fix. No, I am not a horse. I wanted to be a horse, because my parents are horses. That is something I see very wonderful in Althery’s family, of which you are a part. You are a family. A real family. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, I don’t have any of that. We use those terms, but they refer to only others of the same kind that were condemned to the same fate. I do know some of my real family, but as they have been changed they do not feel like family. I thus agree with what you said, Jelnaya – I don't consider myself a horse anymore.”

Hanell had joined us, and having not heard my words she had to ask, “What did she say?”

Neselle answered, “That everyone will be praying for an end of the games.”

“Well, yes, of course.”

To put the mind of the wolf on the right track, I said, “Something is going to target the game.”

“What? Why?”

I spun and dropped to stop Hanell while looking her in the eyes. “Because that is what happened. You did not put your trust in the Goddess, but started transforming people into animals. The game is going to be stopped to force you to make your decision.”

Clearly displaying an expression of not understanding, she replied, “But we are working on that.”

“Your Goddess wants Her respect. She does not want a vote, which is basically what you are promoting. You are telling everyone to pray to her for what they want, then have Her act according to the popular decision. She wants a firm committed response from the heart.”

Neselle countered, “You cannot have everyone agree.”

“They agreed to the game. They can agree on something else.”

A strange slightly high-pitched voice said, “Oh, no. Cannot allow this matter to go on.”

I felt myself struck by a force. Not hitting a solid surface actually did not bother me, as I had experienced enough exotic dimensions to understand methods of regaining my focus. Neselle continued to spin as if in air, so I told her to assert her thoughts on a direction as being solid. My own attention however did not concern itself with her, but with whatever had struck us.

My body shifted in what I could tell was my form adjusting to the position of a strange human-like being. My first thought was a scarecrow as it was tall, about half again as tall as me, thin, with a large roundish head. It was dressed in what appeared to be a suit of blue, although the lapels and cuffs were long, loose, and yellow. Its head was also slightly yellow in color. I drew my sword as I faced the being.

I guess that Neselle was able to make use of my advice, as I heard her say, “Berbishet, I defeated you.”

“I am not a monster, Neselle. I am also divine. I thus cannot be defeated. The Goddess took me from the conflict. Well, now she has released me.”

“Why? I’m helping her people.”

I gave the answer. “But it is time for the people to speak. You would lead them, Neselle. The Goddess does not want them led, but speaking from their hearts.”

Berbishet replied, “Yes, basically, that’s it. You know, the Goddess was warned about this. She was told that these outsiders would figure things out. While Her people mindlessly went through their lives, this family would work to do more than confront problems. She should have just left well enough alone.”

As if to support those words, Neselle said, “Althery is still where he can help the people.”

“Yes, and I will take him out as well. Now, you two ladies relax. I believe the Goddess will be providing refreshments.”

No sooner did Berbishet disappear than Neselle asked me, “You can get us out of this place?”

I looked around, and found myself relieved to reply, “Yes, I can. However, that would be the wrong move. If we leave, I feel certain that we will just be put back here, and probably sealed. We need to make our move good.”

And our ladies seek answers to make the right move.