The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Five – Complete
Jelnaya: No Thoughts of Courtship

The monster did have the high ground, but had to have been acting on instincts and not intelligence. I had not been directly fighting it. Most of my only attempts to stop the creature were by zipping arrows in its direction. While I had inherited rather good reflexes, the animal was fast. What it should have realized however was that it had not killed me yet, and I was not running from it.

My horse snorted and froze, but I had already noticed the creature. With ease my sword came out of the sheath. I did not go for a thrust, as the animal had proven itself able to move and contort its body around a point. I set the blade lengthwise, then secured myself. It did not matter to sharpened metal whether I applied the force or my opponent did. A front leg had been extended to slash through my body, and I held myself steady to assure the force from the descending animal would fully meet the blade. The horse snorted again as the creature fell in front of it without one of its legs.

Yelling in pain, the monster took off down the slope. Determined not to lose the kill, I dropped from my mount and took off after the animal. The creature had been faster than me, but now it was in pain and without one appendage. It had a body better designed for darting through the uneven terrain with the scraggly growths, some of which were barbed. I however trusted in my armor that was to protect me from crafted weapons to prevent the harm from those grown. I yelled as some scrapes did come to my body or I hit something that forced a part of my form to stop suddenly, but did not let any minor harm keep me from following my prey.

I saw the monster dart into an old tree trunk, and ran to it screaming, “You will not get away!”

My grandfather fought dragons. My father sold weapons for eliminating large cities. I thus had the equipment and training for tackling things heavily protected. While the creature probably felt itself safe, I rushed upon the remains of a long dead tree and sent my sword through it. I heard a cat-like scream as the monster realized that the fight continued.

I kept one hand moving the sword through the hardened remains of long dead wood. When a head darted from a hole the creature realized that the work did not take all my power or my best appendage. A dagger in my primary hand slammed down and through the skull.

Air was pumped in and out of my lungs, but training with my grandfather had taught me the wisdom of paranoia. My eyes continued to dart around. It was not a fear of my surroundings that had me rise however, but a curiosity in where I was. The monster had not fled further up the slopes, but down to this marshy sump. This was nothing like the areas where the threats from the creature had come. Suddenly realizing why it had been able to stay hidden, I slowed my breathing and thought back to other things that I had been taught.

I moved around the edge of the actual dismal accumulation of water looking for other hiding places. Kicking over a log, I saw snakes. I held my position, and the reptiles proved that they had some intelligence by slithering off. I hacked through a pile of old brush and saw rabbits fleeing. I like rabbit, but today I was not hunting for rabbit. I took swipes at trees. Those still living could afford to lose some bark and an inch or so of wood. It was as one old trunk toppled that I heard what I was trying to reveal. I stopped just causing trouble, but suddenly moved with a very clear purpose.

There was not only another monster, but I caught the sounds of young. My grandfather got into trouble once for telling people that he had gone back for the treasure. They thought that the stupidest decision he had ever made. Those of us in the family however heard his side of the story, which was that if he had not gone after the treasure the monsters would have returned and the troubles of the people would have continued. Only by removing the treasure would any future threats be prevented. I watched the protective monster understanding that I would have to overcome it so I could also remove the source of future trouble.

The fight was easier and much more difficult than the previous challenge. This monster was protecting its young, so did not relent in its determination to kill me. It however also did not attempt to flee, so I did not have to concern myself with it suddenly racing off. It was more powerful than me, but it did not have protection from my attacks. I had also learned not to thrust. The creature had a nimbleness that enabled it to avoid a lunge. While a wide hacking swing was not considered to display any skill, the monster could not dodge completely around such a wide arc. It would see the opening and rush upon me, but the cut it suffered from the dagger in my other hand reduced the difficulty of making my next attack.

Some of the young thought to flee, but were as unskilled in finding a good hiding place as they were in fighting. I killed them all. I did look for treasure, but nothing about my experience with the creatures stated that they thought of collecting wealth.

It was as I gathered parts of the monsters to prove my success that I wondered about what I was going to do with my life. While I had again done a heroic deed, I knew that the reward I sought was still out of my reach. I thus considered how to make the most of my success.

I did not return to those that had sent me on this mission. Their threat was now dealt with, and I really did not need their accolades. I considered seeking praise from another, and with a determination to succeed I directed my horse to travel along another path.

My father had not sought to learn the skills to move between worlds. He had depended on the horses that those on grandmother’s world raised to enable our trips to visit his family. My siblings enjoyed the luxuries of the world our parents called home, and would complain about their lack when away. I however looked in wonder at the things those other realities had. I then sought time with my grandfather, and fell in love with his ability to see even stranger sights. I had him teach me things that few in our family sought to learn, and almost none in other families ever gained a chance to discover. What I feared was losing my freedom to move between worlds, and hoping that I might learn another secret I began to put my plan into motion.

It took a couple of days, but finally I returned to a place that I knew well. The large castle set in the midst of mountains was a lovely structure. Not as fantastically beautiful as that of my grandmother, it was however a place that I could call home. Those that came to meet me as I rode through the gate greeted me in a manner that stated they knew me well.

“Lady Jelnaya,” the castellan said, “welcome to Nehallurn. Are you planning to stay?”

“Yes and no, Norickal. I am going over to that shrine. Don’t unload my horse until I give the word.”

“Certainly, Lady Jelnaya.”

I took the sack holding the parts from the monsters, then strode to the shrine. Great-uncle Ferrigote had always worshipped Fergush. It was that deity that he and my grandfather credited with bestowing them with immortality. Such was a gift that I wanted for myself – that I needed for myself, or else I would have to make other plans with my life. Wanting to come to a decision, I threw the sack upon the small altar before making a statement.

“I didn’t do this for you, Fergush, but I want you to know that I did do it. I went after one, then realized that I could clear out the monsters. I however am getting up in years. For a lady, I have to make certain decisions now, or gain certain benefits. I am not asking, Fergush. Yes, you gave the gift of immortality to Great-uncle Ferrigote and my grandfather, but I am not pleading for you to give the blessing to me. I am here simply because you are not considered an enemy. Great-uncle Ferrigote has no shame in giving his devotion to you. My grandfather speaks of you as a friend. I am thus here asking for advice from a family friend. I need that, Fergush, and I feel that I could do no worse than ask.”

“Go to your Uncle Althery, Jelnaya.”

A sense of rebellion that was proving very prevalent among those of my mother’s family surfaced. “I don’t want what…” Realizing to whom I was speaking, I fell to my knees while pleading, “I am so sorry, Fergush. Thank you. Yes, I will go to Uncle Althery.”

I felt a large hand on my back, and air disturbed my hair as the voice spoke. “As a family friend, Jelnaya, you should trust me. Go to Althery. You are not the only one seeking that gift, and both of you have good reasons. Both of you are also making your own names, and seeking your own glory. The challenge will not be easy, but I will say that its achievement will be worthy of a blessing.”

“I will take on the challenge, Fergush, and I will best it. You might not have my devotion, but you will hear me speaking of you positively. You will be proud of me.”

“It is strange, but I get more respect from the children, and grandchildren, of Terish than I do from the offspring of my own Ferrigote. You have my approval, Jelnaya. Go and make me proud of you. Make me glad to be a friend of your family.”

While I had evidence of a physical presence, I did not rise seeking to gain visual assurance of what had happened. I saw that the sack was gone, and that was enough for me. I strode back to my horse while making certain plans.

“Norickal!” He had not gone far, and as he rushed to me I began speaking of my plans. “I am to head to Uncle Althery. I have been gone for a while however, so will take time to freshen myself, my clothes, and my supplies. Allow my horse to eat as much as it can, then rest without being disturbed.”

“Of course, Lady Jelnaya, but Prince Althery is here.” Before I could turn to the castle, he looked at me strangely while asking a question. “Did Fergush give you a message for him?”

“No, he spoke to me and gave me advice. If you don’t seek his guidance, then shame on you.”

The man did not appear pleased with my words, which was supported by his reply. “I don’t consider him to provide the guidance that I seek for my life.”

“He accepted my words and gave me advice along the lines I asked. Sounds like the type of person I would consider a friend. I don’t know how you plan on spending eternity, but spending it with a friend sounds good.”

“I have already promised Baron Ferrigote that I would look to Fergush should Samayer gain my displeasure. At present however, I am still devoted to Samayer.”

I told him to care for my horse and bring my luggage to my room. He promised that he would. I then turned to the castle to get something to eat before doing what I could to prepare for what challenge might come. Uncle Althery might be present, but I suspected something would come in the way of our meeting. I had heard enough stories about Fergush to know that his assignments were often not easy, but most of those also spoke of the pride of those that took them on and succeeded. Definitely wanting my own tale to have a positive ending, I checked over my belongings assuring that I would be prepared as possible for whatever troubles might beset me.

And the story gets set into motion as Jelnaya speaks with Althery.