To Face the Ugly Deed
The arrow flew straight and sunk into the man’s neck. I would not say that I was scared, but there was a lot of risk should I become found. I had fought armies, and walked into a den of vicious monsters. Certain threats and mentalities did not bother me. This situation had me fear both, so I was being very cautious. I moved to assure no one targeted me in retracing the flight of the arrow, then set up to take down another potential threat.
Seeing another man drop gave me some confidence in that I was certain he had been the final sentry, although I still moved just in case there was another. Hearing nothing, I climbed on top of a rock to get a better view of the area. It was night, but the sky was clear and the bright yellow moon was full. I had not dressed in my suit of crystal armor to assure no one spotted a sparkle as I changed positions. While I kept to the shadows, I could see well enough to determine the movements of any man still alive.
The cave was nothing more than an area of complete blackness. I had to believe that they had light sources inside, but none of that radiation could be seen from the outside. The lady sparkled. They had given her necklaces, bracelets, and rings of precious metal set with highly polished stones. Even in the darkness I could make a loveliness in her form, but I knew it to be deceptive. The men had been charmed by their own machinations. They knew the threat of the one they created, although hoped by appeasing it they would be able to bask in the glory of their accomplishment. As she stepped from the cave and had her wings set themselves for flight, I changed the arrow I had for one better suited for one of her kind.
Just as the other projectiles had flown exactly where I desired, this one did as well. Not at her neck, as I knew it to be protected by skin that was actually of hard material. She was not soft as we ladies are often considered. That body would not be warm and yielding to any of the men I had killed. The death I provided had been a lot kinder than the fate she would have given them. The arrow pierced one almost transparent wing before sinking into the mass of hard muscle that powered it. Just as I desired, she came back to the ground where I could see to her end.
As I readied another arrow, I heard the sound of a large sword move before the noisy strides of a man in armor began advancing. I had to give the person credit for choosing the proper time to present himself. This was the major opponent. This fight would be the one worth bragging about. Coming when the sentries could have done to him what I did to them would have been suicidal. As the champion of a warrior god, I had to acknowledge that the man had waited until the proper moment to enter the battle. I sent another arrow into the back of the lady to assure that her wasp-like wings would not function and enable the lady to escape.
A gasp from my lips disrupted my readying of the next arrow. I knew the man. I knew him, his armor, and even his sword. This was no new devotee to Fergush hoping to start the relationship in a grand way, but an old, very old, devotee coming to once again prove himself to his deity. As my Great-uncle Ferrigote strode upon the monster I stood on the rock to assure that no other threats would present themselves, then decided how best to assure nothing would disrupt the actions of a man I greatly admired.
The lady had been created by a group of men actually desiring what they felt would be the perfect female. Somebody had drawn a womanly form with the traits of a wasp that made her very attractive. That had set in motion a number of research projects that had ended with the men torturing a female slave with the experiments they had conceived. What the men created was indeed a wasp-woman, but she was more insect than lady and definitely in no mood to satisfy them.
Her head did appear as a lady, but there was a shine to her cheeks and nose no lady would have wanted. Why she had not powdered the skin was that the glow was not from sweat or oils, but radiated the health of the chitin shell that held her features in a perfect feminine countenance. Her lips would not be soft, but could cut the skin of the man who sought her affection.
She wore a dress to cover a rise from her chest, although to also disguise the fact that it was not like a regular lady. There were no soft mounds there, but only a lifting curve of her hard exoskeleton. Her wide hips were due to a separation of her legs for a rear section. As a lady myself, I recognized things that could well fool a man. Very aware of the deception, I did not pause with alarm when the back of her skirt lifted from the action of a venomous stinger preparing to strike.
I changed out arrows again to assure that my attack would be effective. While the curve of the natural armor of this creature could work to deflect projectiles, it also had the weaknesses of protective shells I had encountered on other monsters. Further, this creature had a history of being designed by men, so could not boast of its blessings being perfect. I however accepted that the magic of her origin had not been limited to only give her beauty. The power of this lady’s creation could have given her arcane defenses, so I chose one of my better arrows that was itself enchanted to pierce through even grand wards.
Seeing her react in a manner that enabled my great-uncle to avoid suffering the venom, I thought about why I was here. The creation of this lady was performed by a group of men of whom none were young. The skills and talents enabling them to bring this wasp-woman into existence should have also provided the wisdom to have known the dangers. I could only believe their pride in their success had quickly turned to horror or the bliss of being charmed by their creation. The men however had friends and family that loved them. Women usually do not worship Fergush, but take up the devotion to the goddesses. The local shrine to He-Who-Fights was however suddenly filled by those who proclaimed the worship of his wife, She-Who-Survives, the one he worked with, She-Who-Serves, and even the one that opposed him, She-Who-Loves. Not wanting the divine ladies to find fault with him, Fergush sent me to handle the situation. The very man who was now in combat with the wasp-woman had taught me to know my enemy and not allow myself to be drawn into a losing position. I set another arrow to fly to the venomous rear section wondering if my great-uncle had felt my aim would assure him the victory.
I again heard the weight of armored steps and felt that some new champion to Fergush was now making his arrival. What I however saw was the polished metal of someone who had pride in a lengthy service to a deity usually opposed to combat. Where Great-uncle Ferrigote had protective attire composed of parts that had proven to provide a number of benefits, this new arrival had a suit obviously manufactured to be seen as a unified outfit. I recognized icons that had me accept he had not come to fight. The new champion at least did speak to my great-uncle, and while the words were too soft for me to hear I assumed they were about me when he looked up and around.
The one that spoke had the voice of one reaching his final years. “Do what you must, Jelnaya. I have been sent to care for those who remain.”
Not being a rude person, I had spoken to those of the other religions. One subject they would brag about was their own divine champions. From the sound of the voice, I felt certain this champion of Onathia, She-Who-Loves, was Makinor. Women did not usually worship Fergush, but I proved myself to him and gained the recognition as his divine champion. Men would usually only turn to Onathia during a certain period in their lives. Makinor however had done things to get the goddess of love to recognize him, and I felt would one day turn his attention to me even though our two deities were opposed.
I released another arrow to assure that my great-uncle could handle the combat before saying, “Makinor, I do try to find ways of accomplishing things that might bring some calm resolution.”
“Onathia told me that will not happen here. This is deeper than a mere threat. Do what you must, Jelnaya, then I ask that you attend me to do what more is required.”
Yes, I wanted to ask things of him. I however accepted that both Makinor and I had things to do. If I needed answers, I would seek them from Fergush. If anyone would face Onathia at this point in time, it would be my god. He would have to give assurances to the goddesses that the threat their devotees had brought to him had been eliminated. I released an arrow that flew near Makinor before sinking into the rear of the wasp-woman hopefully letting the other divine champion know that I had things to do before I could bother with asking any questions.
There was no joy in seeing another arrow strike into the rear of the wasp-woman. While my Great-uncle Ferrigote did still live, he also showed little success in his strikes. His large sword did not seem able to power its edge into the one before him. Her hardened curves turned the blade. While the mass of metal did also ward off attacks intended to harm him, I believe both of us waited for a good direct strike to pass through the form of the wasp-woman.
As my next arrow again caused the deadly insect-lady to react with pain, my great-uncle sent his sword up through the region between her legs. While I had disabled her wings, she now flew. It however brought me comfort to see internal fluids spray. That told me that Great-uncle Ferrigote’s strike had cut into the wasp-woman. Seeing what I felt was the perfect shot, I released my next arrow to pierce her chest.
Moving off the rock, I heard my great-uncle say, “Terish would again be telling me how my huge sword was not always the best weapon to use. You could have come on up, Jelnaya, as I feel your sword would have worked well.”
I approached while saying, “I would not take the battle from you, Great-uncle.”
“My honor would have been in spending time with you. I take pride in your service, Jelnaya.”
He was not that tall. Only the fact that he was a man gave him the height advantage. My Grandfather Terish was taller than Great-uncle Ferrigote, as was both my father and his brother. If I had been a man, I would at least have been tall enough to look Great-uncle Ferrigote in the eyes.
As he hugged me, he said, “If you would have been in battle, I also would have been able to see that hair of yours shine.”
I had bright yellow and red locks. My own thoughts were that Fergush had made certain everyone knew how dangerous I was. Others made their own comments about them, but I had never complained to my god about my hair. In battle the bright strands would use the available light to radiate their colors, and I accepted them as assuring that all recognized me and who I represented.
I replied, “Well, another time. What brings you here?”
“Actually, my wife – tomorrow is your birthday, Jelnaya.”
“My birthday? Great-uncle Ferrigote, I’m immortal.”
“Now, Jelnaya, Dirchein and I are immortal as well, and people keep checking on our ages. You’re our great-niece. We remember when you were born, Jelnaya. We were sorta-kinda nearby, and Dirchein felt like doing something special for you on your birthday.”
My great-aunt would do things like that. She was a lady of gold who tended to bring joy to all that encountered her. While she and I would have confrontations about the way we lived our lives, I loved her immensely. If Great-aunt Dirchein wanted to do something for me on my birthday, I would survive it.
I signaled for Great-uncle Ferrigote to join me as I entered the cave. The divine champion of She-Who-Loves followed silently with me appreciating him allowing me to spend some moments with my great-uncle. As I suspected, there were lamps further in. It might had been better if the place was completely dark, as I saw the reasons why Onathia had sent her own champion. Makinor spoke of the horrors here justifying the need to find new husbands for the ladies that came pleading to my god. Great-uncle Ferrigote helped me gather fallen limbs and branches along with the remains of all those I had killed. Makinor spoke of adding everything along the edges of the room to assure a total cleansing of the evil, and as I went to join him in moving the paraphernalia I found my eyes attracted to a book with a page open.
Reading the words, I picked up the journal while asking, “Did either of you men see anything in here associated with Debogda?”
My great-uncle went to one body and ripped off the lapel from the clothes on the corpse to show me an icon of He-Who-Assigns. Makinor then gained my attention to show me a small table with items to both Debogda and Onathia. The two deities were said to be married, although how that association worked with gods I could not say. Still, considering the intentions for creating the wasp-woman I had to allow that the men wanted some assurance she was assigned to them with love being a part of the relationship.
I said, “Makinor said that this was deeper than a mere threat. I’m going to do some visiting of my own, Great-uncle. If Great-aunt Dirchein is to do whatever she wants to do for me, she better be able to do it while traveling.”
My Great-uncle asked, “Well, where are we going?”
“Nerkeggon?” Great-uncle Ferrigote proved how much he traveled by saying, “That’s the duchy, Jelnaya. The county with the actual temple to Debogda is in Delchell.”
“I GET IT ALL!” I did not want to get angry, but I wanted him to know that I had not been as foolish with my life as those whose corpses we were about to set on fire. “I did not agree to a life of going from one battle to another. I get to enjoy time with my family and friends. I have a friend in Nerkeggon, and I am going to take the time to visit. Fergush promised me that my relationship with him was as a friend, and as a friend he should allow me to spend time with another friend.”
Makinor said, “I have things to do here, Jelnaya. Onathia tells me to bless your detour. We can meet in Delchell.”
I saw the smile on the bearded face of my Great-uncle Ferrigote as he said, “Well, honestly Jelnaya, with friends is a good place to have a birthday party.”
“Yes, come on. Great-aunt Dirchein knows Lebranaut as well, so I am sure that she will put up no resistance to the travel. Makinor, tell Onathia my gratitude for her blessing.”
An adventure that will mark the beginning of some major changes in Jelnaya's life.