To Face the Ugly Deed
I had traveled to other worlds, so had some sense of how other pantheons operated. Most deities cooperated with each other. What antagonism was displayed usually resulted from alternate opinions, but was tempered by the deities having a long understanding of each other. I found Nebard to have a deity that acted as if understanding she would be working in a vacuum with her champion not being able to rely on others in the pantheon to resolve issues other than love.
Moving to the barn where Lord Felther had placed his horse, I listened for others mentioning a war god. There was some crying over the death of the man, although no prayers to a god of death. While I could have simply not recognized certain symbols, I found the community to be self-reliant with it functioning due to the strength of the people and not on any divine blessings. The same attitude showed itself in Nebard, as he moved accepting that he would need to face the challenges whether it dealt with matters concerning his goddess of love or not.
He strode over to the horse with the determination to get the job done, but as his hands grabbed the mane I saw him let go say with a statement of disgust, “It might not help to simply kill one. I get the feeling it will die like a normal horse.”
I watched as he turned, saw his wife, then move to her to embrace and kiss her. A hand held her face while the other moved through her hair to the nape of her neck. He then kissed her again before stating a conclusion that seemed to be spoken with a sense of relief.
“You seem ever so much a real woman.”
One of the other men began to ask, “What else would –“ but became silent seeing a glance from Nebard that indicated a reason for him to fear otherwise.
Eashae said, “You are following the right path, Nebard. I promised you everything, and I am seeing nothing to have me regret that decision. I will always love you and your children.”
The voice of Nebard broke as he replied, “This is hard, Eashae.”
“No, Nebard, but it is necessary. I cannot say that I am good with animals, but I will learn to do what I can while you do what you must. It might be hard doing what Quafrey commands, what I desire, what our children will demand, and what the animals must have done for them, but I will help all I can. I understand that it will be necessary.”
“I love you, Eashae.”
He turned, drew his sword, then sent it into the chest of the horse. I really had not thought the local weapons to be strong enough to make such a cut. As it went through flesh and bone I however could tell that his sword had been blessed to be something more than a regular blade.
People gasped while commenting that the horse did not bleed as a normal animal. I watched as Nebard dipped a couple of fingers into the gray oily substance that seeped from the corpse, and smiled seeing the disgusted look on his face as he went to smell the liquid. People looked to me as Nebard then asked the question about some other animals.
“Were the wolves like this, Jelnaya?”
I answered, “No. Their bodies became reddish syrupy lumps.”
“What could explain this?”
Makinor replied, “They weren’t wolves.” As people laughed, he added, “And that was not a horse.”
One of the mature men said, “There is still that man, Nebard. How about we question him?”
Nebard turned to say, “Do you understand? We are fighting something beyond the normal. This is something requiring the aid and guidance of gods.”
It was an elder lady, I assume the mother of the one that spoke, who replied, “Yes, we understand. Do what you must, Nebard.”
He turned to leave the barn while simply telling me that he was going back to Albroth. I followed actually interested in how Nebard would handle the interrogation. I however was stopped as I stepped out of the barn with Makinor telling me that he did not trust the situation.
I replied, “What is there not to trust?”
“My goddess is of love, Jelnaya. This is not the way she does things.”
“I am not arguing that, Makinor, but I also see nothing that says Quafrey is part of a system like we have. Some ways will be different. I am not finding what he is doing to be those of hate.”
“No.” That confession appeared to calm Makinor, although then he said, “The problem is that what he is doing, what he had been doing, was not ways of love. Quafrey also did not go after me, or any other Champion of Onathia, or any other love goddess in all the other worlds. She went for you.”
“From what I have seen, I am needed.”
“Yes, I was going along with that as well. I however do not believe that killing the horses is the answer.”
The action of Nebard had not bothered me, but I allowed that it could Makinor. Sometimes I had needed to get a little extreme to force people to realize things. My own observation of the eyes of a horse had not caused me to gain any concern for them, and I felt Nebard’s demonstration had done a good job of convincing those of his community. Accepting that Makinor also had reservations to overcome, I suggested a way for him to face his own issues.
I said, “How about you look into the eyes of a horse?”
“Do you know where we could find another?”
“Actually, I do, and we probably need to go there.”
I had learned enough to know that there were two elders working with the young men. Makinor’s eyes went wide when I mentioned Lord Avell, so I felt he did remember the name. Neither one of us knew which house was his, so turned to two young people who seemed eager to meet us.
When asked, the lady told us to follow her. They were both younger than my physical age, so I felt them to be just a couple of youths who were sharing some time with each other. From the comments of the lad, I did remember him as being in the group that had shown up to challenge the skunk people. I also remembered rescuing the soul of the damsel. By the time the lady was having her husband open the door to the barn, I accepted them as involved members of the community.
Makinor had the larger body of a man, and showed off in having a hand grab the head of the horse before staring into its eyes. I felt a need to look fully upon the iris, but his frontal view seemed to be enough for him. I saw his body go translucent, so assumed he had gone in search of the soul of whatever was truly the animal. I then felt a hand push me as the voice of a lady gave a command.
“Go after him, Jelnaya!”
Makinor still had a hand holding the head of the horse steady, although I saw it not moving as well. He however had it looking up to his eyes, and I did not have the height. Thinking quickly, I grabbed a bucket, turned it over, then set it down to stand on it. Now with some extra height, I stared into the orb on the left side of the creature.
Considering the command I had received, I expected Makinor to be in worse shape than I found him. I descended to see him holding his own among a great mass of what appeared to be people moving on four legs and having boney tails. I gained the impression that they were only partially along a transformation to become horses. While Makinor had not yet fallen to the press of opponents, I found him very glad to have me drop in on the fight.
I took to the conflict yelling instructions to my fellow divine champion. There were different fighting styles for combating large groups, large opponents, and other situations. Due to the number of those coming against us, I really could not expect him to match my movements, so yelled instructions.
Breaking through a wall of four-legged humans, I saw Makinor breathing hard as he said, “I’m not dead yet.”
I went back to fighting while saying, “Onathia would be highly displeased with me if you were. Keep fighting, Makinor.”
Seeing him showing signs of fatigue, I did not move back into the mass of opponents. Allowing him to move as he felt able, I darted to protect the flanks he exposed. If I brag on the fight, it would not be in making more kills. What I would proclaim to the others that would listen was that I allowed the Champion of She-Who-Loves to continue to fight. Seeing the mass of opponents break off from the press around us, then flee, I moved to face Makinor.
Panting heavily, he said, “Let’s go.”
“No,” I replied. “What did you learn?”
“What? You saw them.”
“Yes, but did they just attack you, or was there a reason you started the fight?”
“They started it. They said that if they could claim a soul then they would be restored to humanity as a member of the Privileged.”
Hearing that, I told Makinor that we did need to go. I would have provided instruction, but he seemed able to initiate his own return to his body. Breaking my contact with the eye of the horse, I found the animal to collapse dead. Makinor smiled in looking at the corpse, then nodded when I mentioned a need to go check on the questioning of Albroth to see if what he said matched anything we had learned.
The lad that had brought us here asked, “What did you learn?”
Makinor looked to me instead of the lad when he said, “That this is not a simple problem. Killing Albroth really would not help us, but I doubt he will tell us the truth.”
I replied, “Think about what you have seen and heard, Makinor. This is a major problem dealing with people’s souls. Gods will act at this level. The fact that they have not means that things really have not advanced that far. We can gain our glory by stopping this now. However, be warned, the fact that it has gotten to this level means that gaining that glory will demand the best from you.”
The young man declared, “I will fight as well!”
“Enjoy that wife of yours. Love her. Trust me, as young as you are, you will find enough battles to come your way. If you were not married, I would however tell you to grab a good weapon and follow.”
Hearing Makinor support my words, the youth said, “I’m as good as Nebard.”
I replied, “Watch Nebard. Watch us. This is not a battle of honor. This is a battle of fear. There are better battles than this. Speaking as a Champion of He-Who-Fights, save yourself for the better fights.”
The young lady wrapped her arms about her husband while saying, “She is right, Priven. Save yourself for the better fights.”
He held her while saying, “I will continue to learn to fight. I will be ready for the next one.”
I replied, “Spar with Nebard. Those who are champions of love goddesses need the practice.”
Makinor simply admitted, “Indeed we do.”
Albroth does not help.