The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Nineteen – Part Two
Neselle: Alternate Histories

The old lady replied, “I did nothing that countless others have not also done. The drahabard did not come of this world. It thus did not come free. Strangely, the price was not one usually associated with the exchange of things. Rabonoch did not have to give up anything or agree to fight another great monster. All that was asked was that a certain rite would be included in the worship of the war god. Rabonoch’s father considered it a minor thing, and felt that the rite was more an act of futility by those he would not bless. Indeed, it is a strange procedure, but it has stayed in our manuals and books, and it is followed.”

The elder man turned to look, I would say examine, Jelnaya and me before saying, “You are talking about the Return of Drahabard ritual?”

“Yes. It is a simple thing, normally, as one only is to proceed should certain conditions be met. Most do not have a drahabard, so it is not done at all. There are those with no young lady present, so the rite is not started. When Kachevet however came to me during the raid, I had both, so began the ritual.”

The old lady got up and moved to a small table. I recognized it and the object she lifted as what Jelnaya took a moment to concern herself with upon entering this world. Seeing her also looking as if wondering about the object, which appeared to be an ornate small mirror, I stayed quiet to listen to the old lady.

“This mirror is blessed. That should not be surprising, since it is used in a number of my rites. The start of the Return of Drahabard is however a blessing of a mirror. We are supposed to look for a flash. Many go on to the next step, as they imagine some natural shifting of light as proper. I however saw a definite glow, so proceeded to the next step. When I crushed the cloves, the water turned red. Upon every step the indicated results happened just as it read.”

One of the ladies asked, “And Kachevet became a fox?”

Jelnaya answered, “A fox lady. The change is mostly to her head, although she also has a tail. There might be other changes, but I just noticed the head and tail.”

I supplied more data. “Her hands and feet show some alteration, but not much.”

The elder man that had been speaking informed us, “She is my niece, so I am concerned about her.” He then turned to the old lady to ask, “Is this permanent?”

“Yes,” she answered before sobbing into her hands. “I sealed her. It all went as prescribed. As she was taken through the mirror, to assure that all would go well with her, I sealed her with my blood. I was worried about the magic not lasting with those on the other side not recognizing her. It has surely been so long for them as well.”

Jelnaya said, “Kachevet told me that she had been cursed by her grandmother. She however is not in pain or anything, and from what I heard I feel certain that my Grandfather Terish can undo the transformation.”

I decided to put the conversation back on what I considered the proper topic. “Your daughter has come at a most important time. I thus thank you. The form is most amazing. It is making my people think, and that is good. Instead of becoming animals, becoming animal-people, like Kachevet, could be an answer to our prayers.”

Those words caused the others to have me tell my own story. I spoke of our history mentally praising my Goddess for supplying me with the experience of dealing with those of other worlds. I thus knew how to say certain things without having to explain to people our technology or a lot about my culture. Those around me listened to my story, and I guess approved as most nodded with a very old man asking a question.

“How can we help?”

Jelnaya replied, “Hopefully, we have helped you. I know that the loss of granddaughter, a niece, a member of one’s family, hurts. You have lost so many in the recent raid that the additional loss of Kachevet surely weighs upon you. To know that she came to us without harm, and is being cared for, should bring you some comfort.”

The man that had identified him as Kachevet’s uncle said, “Yes, it does.”

“Neselle and I are here because we are not to help. She knows so much. It was felt by her Goddess that she might direct her people, and not simply promote a proper uplifting of desires. To assure that a true presentation of the thoughts of the people, whether in support of the Goddess or not, she was taken. I was taken because I would fight against those seeking to turn the people, to test their hearts. However, we both want the best, so came looking for ways to help in other manners. When I thought of Kachevet and her drahabard, I found myself noticing the portal from the enchanted mirror, so came here with Neselle.”

A lady asked, “Are you two sisters?”

The question was completely off topic, but I allowed that it would not hurt to supply an answer. “No. Actually, I am being courted by Jelnaya’s uncle, so I could end up being her aunt.”

“You look younger than her.”

“Actually,” I traded a smile with Jelnaya before saying, “I believe that I am younger than her. Jelnaya’s father is the older brother of the one courting me. Between them are three sisters. There was thus time for Jelnaya’s father to find a bride and give birth to her while my intended was still young.”

Jelnaya added, “Uncle Althery is only a few years older than me.”

Comments passed among the group about the ages of various children. I agreed with Jelnaya that it gave us time to enjoy the refreshments. We both made faces indicating our satisfaction with certain tastes as we tried various things set on trays. Finally, the comments ceased with the older of the elderly gentlemen saying something that was not about children.

“I want it said that we appreciate your coming and telling us of Kachevet. However, I do not know how we can help you.”

I began to say, “I do not –“ but Jelnaya said something more definite.

“I would like your graciousness. I am here sponsored by one that can be considered to be a war god. Fergush is a fighting spirit, and most who go to war do pray to him. Is there a way that I can learn more of your war god? Since it relates to my sponsor, and the drahabard was brought to his son, maybe I can find something that does help me see the path to take.”

He turned to ask, “Hanarla, can you help this young lady?”

“Certainly. Let me gather my things.”

As she took the mirror and other items that I considered were part of her prayers, I simply looked around the room. We had been calmly speaking amidst corpses. Most were set close side-by-side on the floor, although a number were on tables with a few lying along chairs. I noticed the calm nature of the various people as they moved out the room, and the scene bothered me.

I moved to whisper to Jelnaya, “Are raids like this common?”

“Common? No. If they become common, or the people simply have time to prepare, the people turn to those who can protect them. I have helped a time or two in such a situation. It helped having the training of Grandfather Terish and Great-uncle Ferrigote, as they taught me how to determine the strength and weaknesses of the opposition. If I had simply gone in to wipe out the invaders, I would not have survived.”

“But, so many were killed.”

“And that does not even indicate how many were taken captive, which was what the raiders were probably after.”

I fought back tears as I again looked about the room, then said, “And this is what some fear will return to my world. They say that we are better off as animals.”

“Strangely, you are.” I looked to Jelnaya, and I guess that she read my expression, because she explained her statement. “You heard Berbishet. The predators were supposed to be eating the prey. The congenial society you have should not have developed.”

“But, we don’t breed true. There are no actual predators, or prey. We are all human, at least until the game.”

“That is definitely a fear that your society has that most others do not. Most other worlds have people wanting things to change, so they can improve with most unable to believe that things could get worse. Yours is about the only society I know that could easily imagine a change being for the worse.”

I saw the old lady looking at us, but I did not care. “Jelnaya, I do not want this for my people.”

“I would think less of you if you did. Listen, Neselle, nothing in what I hear from you or those around you say that you are to become a judge and arbitrator of the law. You are to be a constant religious guide. The Goddess is not going to trust in people continuing to promote Her messages, but is going to entrust you with the eternal declaration of Her presence and Her ways. Even if your world does reduce itself to this, you need to stay above it. You will have Uncle Althery, and through him access to all of my herd. You marry Uncle Althery, and you are more than just a member of our herd. You will become my aunt, and I will consider you someone that I need to go help if she asks for it. Let me fight the battles, or others in the family who can fight, should you even feel a need to fight someone. I would however say that for most situations you will simply have the duty to watch.”

My voice broke as I felt myself beginning to cry while saying, “That would be hard.”

As if scolding me, she said, “Neselle, we are here to help prevent that from happening. According to what your Goddess said, we are both going to live for a long time. We might see a lot. However, let us not go forward assuming the worst.”

I pulled out a scarf and wiped my eyes while saying, “Of course. Thank you Jelnaya.”

The old lady said, “I was right. You are angels.”

While she tried to smile, I detected a disgusted appearance to Jelnaya. She however tried to sound pleasant while asking the old lady about where to go. As we followed her, Jelnaya whispered a question to me.

“Does Uncle Althery call you his angel?”

I giggled while answering, “No.”

“I didn’t think so, as it does not sound like him.”

Actually preferring the topic, I turned the question back on Jelnaya. “How about Lebranaut with you?”

“Our relationship really never got that far. I guess that it won’t now. Your Goddess said that he was only protected in the divine realm because of his armor. I doubt that he is immortal.”

“You two did seem to get along well together.”

“Well, I know that Uncle Althery mentioned me having a cold, cold heart, but I hope my time with Lebranaut proves that it can be warmed.”

I turned and wrapped my arms around Jelnaya as I said, “What you have proven is that I even so much more want to become a member of your herd. Please, Jelnaya, always consider my home as your own as well. Please, always come visit.”

And things pick back up as a decision is forced.