To Face the Ugly Deed
I sometimes wonder about the person I am. Among the champions of Fergush I am very different. Not just my gender, but my attitude. I serve my god because I actually like him. There is no sense of duty with me. I recognize who is in charge of our relationship, but I feel able to challenge him. I just seldom do, and never have at any true level of resistance. Why other divine champions do not have my attitude, I cannot say. It might be my up-bringing. Having a great-uncle who had stayed devoted to Fergush while traveling through other worlds, and a grandfather that also liked the deity probably helped. Having both also great heroes who worked to solve ancient riddles and defeat grand threats surely affected me. Somehow I had come to develop my own personality that just seemed to fit my life and relationship with Fergush, although there were times I wondered why no one else was like me.
After hearing Nebard state that he understood the situation, I felt that he would be directing us as I had. He however listened to my commands as if not understanding how I gained the wisdom to make the connections with various facts. He did speak of us needing to go back and prepare some things. I went through the work to assure that his commands got done in the limited time I felt we had. As I spent time with Nebard checking on our horses, I however found Makinor to head to me with a need to assure that he understood some things.
“Jelnaya, Onathia will not tell me about my chance at immortality. Why would that even be a question?”
I had to ask, “Why would it have even come up with you?”
“It really was just a comment, a joke, from me. Her response was not anything usual from her.”
Hearing him say that he would joke with Onathia had me feeling good about Makinor, although my own thoughts kept me from smiling. “I told you I saw into a Hell. That is not a place for mortals. I gained my immortality because I needed to challenge someone from a divine realm by following him into a divine realm. Would have come directly into the presence of the Goddess of that reality if I had not been stopped.”
“And where are we going?”
“Don’t know, but we chase this. If you need immortality to face this opponent, I expect not to face him alone. I might be the fighter of our group, but I am expecting that both of you will be there with me.”
“What do you advise?”
I spun to put a finger in Makinor’s face as I said, “Damn you! What do you think you do? What do you think I did?”
“You did not care.”
“Right. I went. I was the one that was stopped, because I was going. I would have strode before this awesome entity in sole control of everything if She had not stopped me.”
“Really, Jelnaya, I did not sign up for this. I… I… I really did not think about it.” I saw him turn his head away from me, then he went to lean against the side of a building as he went back to speaking. “It was fun. I enjoyed my life. Marriage, well, really I was thinking of it as the end. Wife, kids, some people who loved me to have with me when I died. I however am getting the sense that Onathia is not ready for me to die.”
“After you get some acceptance of things, come to me, Makinor. I can show you how to reach places to get away. It is strange how involved I get with people on some missions. I finish my assignments and sometimes just need to be alone to feel like facing people again.”
“It really does get that way for me, Jelnaya. I mean, I am not fighting, but the struggles of love can be just as draining.”
“I have the family estate on an island. There are pixies and a dragon about. I have a nymph to look over the house, and there are a couple of dryads on the island. It is as far away from reality for me as I can get and feel at home. I never stay there long, but it feels good to feel that I stayed there too long and that I need to get back to work.”
It surprised me to have the man come up to me, but I trusted him and waited for him to speak. “Are you sure you do not want to marry me, Jelnaya?”
“Give it a century, Makinor. If we find our deities not really directing our lives to others, maybe we can see if we really might be right for each other.”
“Hopefully in a century we would know.”
“At least have a better sense of how we get along.”
Both of us lifted our heads hearing a call from Nebard. The horses also lifted their heads as if understanding something. I did not doubt they were intelligent, but I looked to them wondering if they would be wise enough to keep themselves from being killed. I guess they were, as they dropped their heads and went back to acting as horses.
Moving through the city I did not feel was a matter of stealth, as I did not believe the ones returning were being that cautious. They probably felt the fact that we were not rushing upon them to mean we left or were sleeping. The other option was that they were jumping at any sound, so did not particularly do anything different when we approached. I also did not intend to encounter any remaining members of the Privileged, so only kept a slow pace and paused at times to assure I knew where those returning were heading. Having them suddenly disappear however did not have me feel that they had used stealth.
I had told Makinor to stay quiet as I moved about an area, so was annoyed when Nebard showed up to say, “This is the place, Jelnaya.”
I replied, “Give me some time. I know what to do, but it is more difficult than you realize.”
After what I told him, it troubled me to hear Makinor move, although I appreciated his words. “Onathia says that they are watching us, Jelnaya.”
“They are?” Hearing agreement, I changed the way I was attempting to notice things, and smiled seeing the shimmering of a portal. “Tell her thanks.”
Anyone going into a dangerous situation that limits their available weapons are fools. I had various daggers and other small instruments of death on my person. While I told everyone about NeverRose, always a thorn, I had other weapons. The other big one was the drahaberd, which was a special type of two-bladed halberd, or ax depending on your interpretation of the curved blade at each end, I used on special opponents. What most forgot was that I was a daughter of a manufacturer of major weapons, so I did have other devices of death to use should I feel the need. I was no fool, and in returning to the horses I gained from a saddlebag a weapon I felt I would use to give me an advantage.
Seeing the glow from the breech had me smile. Although a world away, the power of the grenade I threw showed itself to the men with me. I always thought it was strange how the very people who watched me dance in front of certain weapons would then warn me when I picked up certain items. My response always was to tell them that I was more dangerous. I believe most that heard it took the words with a grain of salt, as my family’s company made weapons of war. Father would brag about the killing potential of his products, and people bought them because they knew he was not overly exaggerating. I saw the glow, set the drahaberd in my hands, then advanced to prove that I was what was really dangerous.
The grenade was really not supposed to kill the people. My intent on using it was to destroy whatever trap they had set up. I moved through the smoke however finding bodies and not any serious weapons. I did not even find one of the self-targeting rapid-shot artillery pieces I found in the city and set up to use on the horde coming against us. As the cloud from the explosion cleared, I opened the breech so my companions could come to me.
The room we were in appeared to be a type of small auditorium. I doubted two hundred people could comfortably fit inside. From the way the bodies were found, I felt they had all gathered at the bottom to watch us through some arcane window. There was no sign of them being worried about us looking back, or throwing in a grenade. As I considered what type of larger structure this little auditorium might be a part of, I heard a comment from Nebard.
“Jelnaya, these are not showing any sword wounds.”
“No,” I answered. “They committed suicide.”
Makinor stifled a laugh, then said, “Suicide, Jelnaya?”
“They should have known how dangerous we were. They fact that they blinded themselves to our capabilities is the reason they are dead.” I checked a door by quickly opening it, but seeing the hallway beyond clear I had to say, “This is not adding up. From my perspective this is war. Nebard’s people are fighting back. Not only that, the opposition should see them as hiring mercenaries. I however do not see any similar build-up from these.”
“I would say that they never faced anyone like you.”
He might have meant it as a compliment, but my mind was not anywhere near those type of thoughts. “But resistance is resistance. Those that gain the advantage did so by certain means. They had to overcome odds. Their past should have them with some experience in dealing with threats. I am seeing none of that.”
“Can I tell you what Onathia is telling me?”
“Why couldn’t you, Makinor? When have I spoken against your goddess? Onathia and Fergush might be opposed, but I recognize her divine status.”
“Why did you ready the drahaberd?”
I actually felt that was a question a devotee to Fergush would ask, so looked to Makinor with a puzzled expression as I supplied the answer. “It is a dangerous weapon. It has some problems, but in fighting numbers or powerful opponents it is a wonderful weapon. Considering that I felt I could be going against both, I chose the drahaberd.”
“It is divine.”
“Which is why it is dangerous against those that might not be hurt by my sword.”
“Which is the type of fight we are fighting, or should be fighting.” I suddenly listened closely, as I felt Makinor was starting to figure things out. “Somebody pulls a stunt like what they did with Nebard’s people on Sennapre and you get us divine champions, or simply powerful heroes, responding. If we are not in the area, the people call to the gods and they send us. I would say the same with most of the worlds you frequent. You get called by gods, just as what happened to get you involved with Nebard. They are not just targeting places with poor defenses, but communities where their major faith is in themselves or their traditions.”
I gave him more time to speak, but finding him looking at me I spoke what I hoped would prod his line of thought. “Not the first time I faced the strong picking on the weak.”
“Not the first time the agents of Hell took advantage of those who had no hope of Heaven.” I saw him smile as he said, “You are the one who spoke of seeing into Hell. It was not the soul you were following, Jelnaya, but him. The ones behind this are demons, and the one directing could be one of the major ones.”
“You want an invitation to boast before the table of Fergush?”
“Yes, but I would rather make it wait. Let’s put some thought behind this, Jelnaya.”
There is a lot for them to think about.