To Face the Ugly Deed
Great-aunt Dirchein put up no resistance to traveling to see Lebranaut. Great-uncle Ferrigote knew the man as well, but it was his wife who wanted to give me a birthday party. I spoke with her about birthdays as we traveled to Nerkeggon, and being immortal as well she laughed saying that it was just an excuse to spend time with me.
I did point out that I tended to call Nehallum, my Great-uncle and Great-aunt’s estate, my home. He had devoted his life to Fergush long ago, and assured the god recognition on his property. With me taking on the status as a champion of the deity, I found Nehallum to be a good place to call my home.
While I did tend to spend time in her estate, we seldom saw each other due to the fact that my great-aunt and I did not enjoy the same things. What she planned as an entertaining day was usually a set of activities I would fight to avoid. Luckily, Nehallum was a large castle set in a grand internal plateau among a mountain range. Great-aunt Dirchein could enjoy her day while I had my own type of fun without either of us ever seeing the other.
We talked a lot of the directions we tended to head. Both my great-uncle and great-aunt frequently sought to discover the oddities of the omniverse. While my paternal grandfather would travel to find the mysteries that others had not resolved, my great-uncle and great-aunt only wanted to enjoy the splendors that could be found on other worlds. Being the champion of a warrior god, I would be sent to foreign and strange lands to take part in great battles or face serious threats and not to enjoy the scenery. Almost never did the directions of our journeys have us meet.
Nerkeggon was set on a mountain above a rocky section of land that gave the impression of the terrain wanting to be mountainous, but not lifting more than a hundred feet at most. The locals had made use of the bedrock to supply stones for erecting sturdy homes. They had also made carvings into the terrain resulting in some lovely sculptures but mostly a great amount of graffiti in the rocky land that would last through the ages.
My yellow and red hair did help identify me as a divine champion, although none could say I was out of place as the gods ruled over all the world of Sennapre. It was my great-uncle and great-aunt that had the status of nobility, so their presence in another land could be taken improperly. Great-aunt Dirchein was also made of gold, so easily recognized. She however powdered her skin, used cosmetics, and dressed conservatively so as not to be conspicuous. I had special crystal armor along with my brightly colored locks, so usually was identified. At present I had on a girlish outfit instead of my armor, but there was no way to hide my yellow and red hair.
The guards at the gate to the city signaled for us to stop with one stating, “Champion of Fergush, I hope you are not here to cause trouble.”
“I am,” I replied. “I am here to visit a friend, and hope to have a good visit.”
“And who might that be?”
From the other side of the rock fence that acted as the wall around the city came a voice saying, “Let Honored Jelnaya in, Footman. She’s not here to cause trouble.”
As I stretched my head to possibly identify the one that spoke, a man with the bearing of a lot of maturity stepped up to say, “The duke would appreciate that you visit his residence.”
I pointed to those with me while saying, “This is my great-uncle and great-aunt, who are the rulers of Nehallum. They will probably move on to the castle whether I do or not.”
“Mind if I go ahead and warn the duke and duchess?”
“Not at all. Assure him that I do remember meeting him, so am not unwilling to visit him as well.”
“Uh, Honored Jelnaya, just asking, but there is not another reason why you are in this kingdom?”
I did not recognize the man. The quality of his armor and the icons I saw presented on it told me that he was a knight of the land. I however had to give him credit for knowing me, so came up with a reply that I wondered if he would recognize its weight.
“If Debogda has not told him anything, I don’t see why I should.”
I guess he got the message, as I quickly heard the sounds of a horse riding off. I looked back to see Great-uncle Ferrigote paying the soldiers at the gate the loyalty tax. I guess he intended to assure those of the city that we did not mean them any trouble. Seeing the guards smile as they directed us to Lebranaut, I rode off hoping that the citizens of this town did not get any message of trouble.
We were directed near the wall. Great-uncle Ferrigote and I approached the location speaking of the pros and cons of having a major woodworking industry within the city. We both noticed the number of people actively engaged in various crafts, although I had to smile when I saw a boat being built near the wall.
Lebranaut was a large man. He stood over six feet with a powerful frame. I had come to know him as he returned from the halls of Debogda after suffering through the challenges of those who had been condemned for disobeying a direct order. The holy book of He-Who-Assigns spoke of the one-in-a-thousand, although all the conditions for a person to be assigned to that fate, much less succeed, were still vague. I however treasured the friendship with the special man, and smiled upon seeing the large figure set down the beam he had been lifting into place to act as the keel of the boat.
As he hugged me, Lebranaut said, “I am married now, Jelnaya. I have a baby, a girl. Please come see the ladies in my life.”
I cheerfully replied, “Sure, Lebranaut. Great-aunt Dirchein wants to give me a birthday party, and I had her wait until we arrived.”
He went to hug the lady of gold, then shake hands with the man she was married to. As we walked to his house, Lebranaut asked me how old I was. I asked him how old he was. He reminded me that he was very uncertain about how long he was in the halls of Debogda. I reminded him that I was a girl. He pulled me close to him to hug me again, then said something I really did not want to hear.
“I however am growing old, Jelnaya. You are not.”
“So let’s not talk of age,” I replied, “but only of our lives.”
His wife was also tall. She easily matched my Great-uncle Ferrigote in height. She however acted pleased with her husband, and visited with us eager to learn about those he spoke about as being his friends. Hearing of the desire of a birthday party, Lebranaut’s wife called out to some urchins to contact certain merchants.
Our little gathering did not stay private. I was a divine champion. My Great-uncle and Great-aunt were nobles that ruled a land deep within the mountain range, although usually allowed their eldest son to actually have command of the territory. Just as we knew Lebranaut, the duke also knew us and came with his family to have them meet us. The number of celebrities had the people also show up, and soon the gathering became a grand social.
It did not surprise me when Duke Cheyash took advantage of a calm in the party to ask me, “What had you come to this land, Jelnaya?”
I replied, “I will tell you the same thing I told that knight. If Debogda did not see fit to tell you, I won’t tell you either.”
“You tend to forget certain relationships between our deities, Jelnaya. Onathia might be opposed to He-Who-Fights, but she is joined with He-Who-Assigns. I know Makinor is in Delchell waiting for you.”
“Sorry to hear that.” I had to pause to assure that my words stayed at the need-to-know level. “It means a certain threat was more than a local problem. I will need to hear what Makinor says before I actually make any assumptions.”
“I sent a battalion to Delchell, Jelnaya. If you need military, it will be there for you. I know many of your battles are not that type of encounters, but I will not be at fault in case this is.”
Again I chose my words carefully. “That depends on whether we have an infestation or something involved with the type of magics used.”
“Let me hear your story, Jelnaya.”
Yes, that was a command from a high noble. While I served a deity, I still had to respect the society of this world. Duke Cheyash might have had authority, but he also knew me. In the situation where I became friends with Lebranaut, he had been there as the man’s sponsor. Duke Cheyash thus should have known that giving me a command did not usually produce the results desired.
As Lebranaut had pointed out, I had not aged since becoming a divine champion. Youth was something I still possessed. I also had the benefit of being female. My bright red and yellow hair, which was presently a little longer than I preferred, also brought attention to me. All my assets helped attract the attention of the men as I went into a narrative of my latest battle. Duke Cheyash should have clearly gained the impression that while I was obeying his order, what I provided was an entertaining version of events without any facts I felt did not need to be brought out.
I ended up spending the night in the duke’s castle, so he had other opportunities to try and get me to speak. It was actually a priest of Debogda in the noble’s residence that told him to stay silent. While I appreciated the words, I had to take advantage of the opportunity to learn something for myself.
“Keir, of what status has Debogda assigned to the battalion Duke Cheyash sent to Delchell?”
The priest replied, “It is not that type of mission, Honored Jelnaya. The words I have for you are not from He-Who-Assigns, but from She-Who-Loves. She has to honor her champion for wanting to go with you, but wants you to do your best to care for him.”
“Of course, as we might be opposed, but not at war. Still, I gained my status from my personality, and I have to assume the same with Makinor. Tell Debogda to warn his lady that antagonism of a personal nature could spoil any intentions of a positive nature.”
“Honored Jelnaya, I am told that you can consider Honored Makinor warned, although it is asked for you to be kind to him. Remember, it is not his desire to seek combat.”
“If Fergush was just a fight-and-be-damned deity, he would not have my devotion. Most of my conflicts are without weapons, although I worry that Makinor might lose those battles as well.”
The priest still had the distant look of one who was listening to other voices than those of us present, so I expected more of a response than, “Honored Makinor has been warned.”
Duke Cheyash then said, “Thank you for coming, Jelnaya. Let me however request your friendship in returning to let me know the extent of this mission.”
I replied, “Friendship? Of course, Duke Cheyash, as my agreement with Fergush is that I get it all. I had the blessing to come here because I had friends here. Also, let me assure you that I want my time with Makinor to go well, as one day I am hoping to have the graciousness of Onathia in my life.”
“I saw that in the time I spent in Nehallum with Lebranaut. You have my support, Jelnaya.”
Wives should have support from their husband, but when they are a little odd it takes time.