The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Twenty-Two – Complete
Jelnaya: A Strange New Life

Screams sounded. One was from Lebranaut, and I saw him change his direction. The man was slightly large in size, which in his armor made him a rather grand figure. I struck with the drahabard to clear myself a space in which I could turn and appraise the situation. The weapon was a little heavy, and not balanced as other weapons, but I found it to work in a defensive manner better than most others. Honestly, for battle against a multitude of opponents I considered it a very good weapon. In single combat, I still felt it to have problems that a sword did not. I accepted that it was still susceptible to someone doing the same stunt I performed on Kachevet when she first directed the blade toward me, although I had other weapons on my person to use if I lost the drahabard. In mass situations, however it enabled every movement to be deadly. It proved itself to be definitely enchanted, as it sliced through the divine creatures in a manner that I knew caused them to worry about their existences. Considering the intensity of the combat, I found it strange when after a series of strikes I managed to safely turn and seek the source of the screams.

While I saw a number of predators gathered where Lebranaut cleared a path to reach, I found myself wondering about the situation. I spun only to realize that what I noticed was the huge form of the starfish-like creature disappearing. It was about time as far I was concerned, as Lebranaut and I had done some major damage to it. I began working to remove more of the divine monsters from the arena floor in order to make my way to where the others were gathered.

Before I could reach the place, I heard the voice of Uncle Althery over the speakers say, “You stupid, stupid, people. Neselle told you to trust the Goddess. Now, are you going to do that?”

I believe I heard others say what the projecting voice of Lebranaut from his helmet made very audible, “There’s no body.”

“And there shouldn’t be. What is not happening, which should be happening, is that we do not have youths being changed into animals. That could be a problem, but that is also something you should have contingencies to handle.” Althery made motions to a camera to assure that those watching understood he meant them. “The question however is, are you also going to put your trust in the Goddess?”

The voice of Elbery now came over the speaker, which did not surprise me as I knew his job would have him in the announcement booth. “How do we do that?”

“I don’t know. I’m not Neselle, but I am committed to her and the Goddess. Her words were for us, for you, to trust the Goddess. I thus have to say that we simply trust the Goddess.”

I guess that the two were speaking to the mass audience, and not simply us on the field, although I felt the following words of Althery to help even me. “It would be one thing if we had Neselle’s bloody corpse down on the field. I would still trust the Goddess to care for Neselle, as it would seem silly to me for the Goddess to grant her immortality and then have her killed. I want to say that I would still stand firm on what I am saying. I believe that did not happen however because you, I mean the people of this world, have such a record of not standing firm. Well, this time you have clearly before you the divine struggle being waged over your decision. Now, you need to decide how you will deal with it.”

On the field the wolves called to Hanell and told her to go help Uncle Althery, as she had studied the religious texts to a deep level. While my uncle was saying some good words, they felt the wisdom of Hanell would help him speak proper statements. I saw the others indicate the remaining monsters about the field, and turned to finish my job. Lebranaut also turned to battle the creatures. While he responded to instructions made to him, I wondered just how well he could hear in the armor as I heard the conversation in the announcer booth continue.

Elbery asked, “But what can we do?”

“I really do not know,” Althery replied. “The history I know would tell you to wait. The question even I ponder is how long? Reading the accounts of when your world decided to change itself into animals, there is a sense that the Goddess would have waited until the last ancient ancestor was gasping their final breaths before acting. I look at the processes you use however, and realize the amount of time to conceive, construct, perfect, and put into service, then consider that your ancestors really did not wait long at all before putting their trust in their science and not the Goddess.”

The voice of Hanell now came over the speakers. “That has been my conclusion as well. I don’t believe our ancestors ever considered putting their faith in the Goddess. Once they realized the problem before them, which they believed was a result of their science, they sought science to resolve it. We now know however that there are other forces at work in our lives, and they are things we cannot truly fight on our own. Berbishet was defeated, but he continues to appear. The others also are only driven back to the divine realm, and not truly removed from being a future threat. Only the Goddess has control over their existences, and our own once we are dead, so we need to have faith in Her at some point. I would say that we need to do it now.”

Whatever portal had allowed the monsters into our reality was now closed. I once again came to a clear space, and used the moment of peace to listen. The religious discussion continued, which made attempting to gain the information I desired rather difficult. From what I could perceive, and the calm manner of the public conversation and the demeanor of the native human predators I allowed that there were not monsters disturbing the peace elsewhere. I thus set myself to completely removing what monsters remained.

As I looked around for any threat, I heard Lebranaut say, “Nice hair. How did you manage that shining effect?”

I had no idea about any shining effect, so skipped replying to that. “Fergush gave me the hair. Honestly, I felt that I radiated the fact that I was dangerous already. I just have to assume that Fergush expects me to become even more dangerous.”

“Did well with that weapon.”

Lebranaut and I were discussing the merits of the drahabard when the voice of Althery came over the speaker in a more direct fashion than simply the broadcast of the religious discussion. “Jelnaya, would you come up here to the booth?”

I was on the field, and when I looked up to the announcers’ booth I really did not see a direct way up. One of the tigers however called my name and pointed toward an opening. When I began to head in that direction, he went to all fours, like a real tiger, and started moving ahead of me to assure that I did not get lost on my way up.

Entering the booth, I heard Althery ask a question that Lebranaut had asked earlier, “What is with that hair, Jelnaya?”

I saw a cameraman with his instrument clearly recording my image. There was thus no doubt in my mind that I was now part of the public broadcast. Elbery directing me to a seat helped verify that fact. I thus spoke to my uncle in a manner that I was certain made it apparent that my words were not personal.

“The drahabard is a weapon. It seems that it was brought from this world to another by a fox. That is why Kachevet is a fox. From what Aunt Neselle and I learned, there are a number of interactions between various deities. We both know that Fergush is part of the divine conversation, so upon gaining the weapon he wanted some commitment to the determination to use it. I have no complaint with Fergush, only about certain attitudes of those who serve him, and after a simple agreement I accepted his dominance in my life. He gave me the hair. I told Lebranaut that I felt it was already apparent that I was dangerous, so I guess Fergush expects me to be even more dangerous.”

“I believe that I was the one that told Genory that you would eat him alive.”

“Well, Great-uncle Ferrigote eventually found Dirchein, so I am expecting to one day find someone that will warm my cold, cold heart. We will just have to see how many possible candidates the hair chases away.”

That comment seemed to please both my uncle and Elbery, as they both had a smile even as the one that appeared as a boy asked, “What do you know about where Lady Neselle is right now?”

“I know where we were. Aunt Neselle and I were taken by Berbishet and set in a separate reality where we were told that those of this world were going to have to make our decision without us. Instead of staying still, I saw the still active portal that had managed to bring Kachevet here. We thus went to her world, met her uncle and grandmother, and had a rather interesting discussion.”

Althery asked, “Aunt Neselle?”

“Yes, Uncle Althery, is there something wrong with that?”

His face was enjoyable to watch as he replied, “Uh, no.”

“Good. I liked her. She was fun to be with.”

Elbery saved my uncle from further embarrassment by putting the conversation back on topic. “So, Lady Jelnaya, you would say that Lady Neselle has once again been secluded in some separate reality.”

“Yes. My impression is that your Goddess wants your world to make up your own mind without any guidance. You have seen the evidence from a number of perspectives. Your science works. You can trust in it. Your world is not a bad one, so there really is no harm in continuing as you have. You however have also been made aware of other dominating influences. You can thus make a proper decision.”

“But we don’t know what will happen to us.”

“Right. Which part of ‘trust the Goddess’ are you having problems with?”

It was Hanell that said, “And as Lady Jelnaya pointed out, we can choose not to trust the Goddess.”

Elbery said, “Well, after four hundred years, I believe that most of us would like a better system than what we have.”

“I believe it would be worse if after four hundred years we would choose to have another system than what our Goddess has planned for us.”

I said, “Yes, which is probably the reason for my hair. My herd, the family that Uncle Althery and I are a part of, are led by immortals. My paternal grandparents along with Great-uncle Ferrigote and Great-aunt Dirchein, are immortals. I thus had examples to go by in speaking to Fergush about my service to him. I want what they have, but that meant the blessings along with the work. I did not refuse or belittle the struggles that Great-uncle Ferrigote and Grandfather Terish overcame. I however also know the truth of Grandfather Terish’s cavern of gold, the great dragon that guards it, and the prosperity of Thiminy. Great-uncle Ferrigote also has a good life. I want that – I want that so bad, but I accept that I have a lot to accomplish before getting it. They did not have the guidance that I have, or the knowledge of what they would eventually gain. I do, so to handicap me he gave me this hair. I accept it, and will go out and face what trials present themselves to me.”

Hanell picked up on what I was saying. “Yes, we have that guidance as well. What we do not have is knowledge of what we can obtain. It is part of our propaganda that in going back to being humans we will return to the aggressive people our histories state us as once being. Maybe our centuries of being animals has taught us, matured us, so that we can live a future in harmony. Being half-animals, centaurs as Lady Neselle likes to imagine, or creatures like the fox lady, Kachevet, might however be the best for us. All we can say is that our world is at peace with us as animals, and I fear that its security will keep us turned away from the Goddess.”

Elbery countered, “No, as now we are certain of Her presence. Even if we continue as we are, She will not be denied. That I feel we can promise, so I am hopeful of our future.”

Uncle Althery said, “A decision is going to have to be made. I am here for Neselle, and all the rest of those of this world. However, I am certain that I am not to be affected, so will simply be able to help mediate any discussions.”

“Yes, we will need you for that, Lord Althery, as even I, and the rest of us that are human, will also have to join in this decision. Honestly, I cannot presently make a decision, although I feel led to pray about why.”

You need not worry, as Neselle will not be forgotten.