To Bless Those Deserving
Grandfather Terish had a reputation for bringing back alive those that traveled with him. I did not have that reputation. Of course, I fought completely different battles than he did. He sought obscure legends and items, so went up against things that thought they had an eternity of rest. My battles were often like this, wars among people. Soldiers and regular citizens ended up dead either due to duty or circumstance. It however gave me some pride that those traveling with me were still alive, and I considered what strategies I could set into motion that would assure they stayed among the living.
Attacking Pechend was the wrong thing to do. If I actually killed him, I could not assure victory. I actually needed him to stay alive. That meant the thing to do was to challenge Ubremander, so I headed in that direction.
Being a guest of the castle, and having not done anything to spoil my grace, no one stopped me from entering Ubremander’s quarters. I saw him donning some armor. Appreciating the site of a large man preparing himself for combat, I moved to stand against a wall. As a guest of the castle, and probably just being a woman, Ubremander did not let my presence go unnoticed.
“What do you have to say, Jelnaya?”
I replied in a casual fashion, “Steve’s fine, and the ladies are fine.”
“Good. Do you like my armor?”
I could lie, but I was not a divine champion of a god of lies, so I tended to say the truth. “I’m surprised that it fits.”
One of the military officers helping to work straps said, “Actually, it didn’t. Just got it back from the armorer. The detail work will need to be touched up later, but right now it is felt to be needed.”
“Pechend is not fighting with arrows and swords.”
Ubremander replied, “That is true, but it is a fight all the same, Jelnaya. The people should thus see me dressed for a fight.”
The officer stated, “I see you dressed in armor, Jelnaya.”
“True, but I might get hit by a stray attack from someone unskilled.” Not wanting anyone to focus on seeing something disrespectful in my words, I quickly added, “Do you want me to scare Pechend out for you?”
Ubremander answered, “No, Jelnaya. Pechend is my vassal. I will deal with him.”
Actually, that was exactly what I wanted. “As it should be. Let me wish you the best, Ubremander.”
“Jelnaya, I know that you have your own loyalties, but I am glad to have you with me. Don’t turn on me.”
“Honestly, Ubremander, that is far from my desire. If you would think about it, you would know why. If you see me attack, you should be able to trust that I have no intention of harming you or your people.”
We said some parting words, then I left. My problem now was where should I go. I felt things were where they needed to be. There was a concern for timing, but I had to allow that I had actually no control over that. I found myself wondering about the actions of the other divine champion, but could only hope she was in the town. Feeling that events needed to be contained within this castle, I left to find a position where I could easily move to either protect Doris or prevent Pechend from leaving.
Moving through the edifice, I found myself paying attention to the artwork. They were rather active scenes of historical or mythological significance. I found them very well done. Each had a good amount of detail. The characters had positions that enabled one to get a sense of what was their purpose. I however went to a window and looked at the city beyond, then back at a picture. Suddenly, I realized what I did not see about the castle. Honestly, it was something not present in the other castles that I knew, but I felt it needed to be present in this one. One thing nice about enchanted weapons, they cut through most materials rather easily. I thus went through the edifice making marks on the wall.
Some soldiers saw what I was doing, and gave a hearty cheer. I was asked to do a better job, so I spent time being a little neater with my work. While my movements through realities had enabled me to speak in a manner that all understood, the written word was beyond such a talent. The soldiers taught me how to form the letters to certain phrases I could only hint at the designs I was making. By the time we were finished the soldiers were quite pleased with my work, and I had a little more variety in my task.
I did not just go down the hallways making my marks. I did stop in some isolated areas to work at my skills in making the various statements. Finding other soldiers at stations about the castle, I would usually etch one of the phrases to assure that certain little artistic flares would not change one letter into another. While some officers did not like the idea of me defacing the walls, they really could not rule against the marks being made, and ended up cheering with the other soldiers seeing the finished product.
Seeing a large gathering of troops, I boldly strode up to perform my work. By then I felt that I had perfected some techniques, so gave them a list of things to choose from. I did gain the usual glances of possible disapproval as if questioning the act of defacing the walls, but again finding no fault with the end result a phrase was chosen. I guess that I had truly perfected some letters, as the soldiers began cheering even before I was finished. It all stopped however as the officer in charge called the troops to the ready.
I heard the voice of Pechend sound out the question, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
While continuing to work, I said, “This is not your castle, Pechend. Whatever ends up happening, this is not your castle.” I turned to point while adding, “Your castle is over there.”
The soldiers sounded a cheer. I turned to smile at them, but had to stop seeing Pechend. He did not have the size of Ubremander. While Pechend had done something to project his voice, he looked very human. I could tell that he had on padding, if not bandages, beneath his clothes. The thought was that I could indeed kill him should I attack, but instead I simply thanked the soldiers for their approval before returning to my work.
Pechend however sought to stop me by making another loud question. “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING?”
I kept to my work while saying, “Trying to rush things along, Pechend. Admit it, you’re too late. You have already lost.”
“I assure you that I will win.”
I turned just enough so the soldiers could think I was looking at them as I said, “He probably thinks that he is fighting with his looks, but let me say that you guys have him beat there hands down.”
While not a cheer, definite sounds of support for my words could be heard. Everyone then went quiet as I heard weapons readied. I quickly turned while grabbing a dagger while loudly speaking some words.
“Come on, Pechend. Let’s have this!”
He was clearly in the middle of casting a spell, but stopped to say, “You are clearly instigating the attack.”
“Yes, I am. It is something we divine champions of a warrior god do. We also tend to win.”
“Your only advantage is that you have the power of god behind you. You do not have my training or experience.”
“Yes, but my god does, and he says I can take you.”
He laid down a line of arcane fire. The soldiers could feel the heat, but really were not bothered. Those of water held their positions with only those of air giving a little ground. I felt like throwing my dagger just to let Pechend know the flames would not stop me, but I did not want to waste a good dagger. Honestly, as long as he kept his focus on me, I would play with him. I thus stepped up to the line to intimidate him some more.
I said, “Nice fire, but it’s not cold outside. I’d save that spell for a different time of year.”
He asked, “How would you like to die, Jelnaya?”
“With your heart in my hand. I’ll have the cooks at the grand feast my god has before him cook it for me.”
He actually sent an attack upon me. I thus had no choice but to throw my dagger at him. I felt a really hot force of air. It hurt, but I still smiled seeing him pull the hilt of my dagger from his lower right thigh. He actually tried to break my dagger by slamming it into a wall, but simply glared at me seeing the blade sink into the stone instead of breaking.
Pechend said, “You must have senses I was not aware of to have sent the dagger there. Even with its enchantments, it would not have hurt me elsewhere.”
Honestly, I just really did not want him dead. I also expected his protection to deflect the small weapon, so threw it somewhere a miss would not have looked so bad. Realizing that I had been successful pleased me, so I spoke really hoping to keep up the moral of the soldiers.
“Your problem, Pechend, is that you are not being crafty enough. With all your training and experience, you are rather predictable. Of course, it could be that I know men.”
I heard sounds from the soldiers indicating they liked what I said, although Pechend had to spoil my appreciation of the humor. “I assume there was something you did that had a warrior god take notice of a woman.”
The only thing that saved Pechend was the fact I had made up my mind that he would not die. I did lift my hand and have the drahabard come to me. Seeing that and the fact his wall of fire had not chased away the soldiers probably was the reason Pechend changed his strategy.
“I will leave you to your jobs.”
Only to taunt the man further, I said, “I hope you like moving about the castle. I etched my little things about Ubremander into a number of walls. This is his castle.”
“What is at stake is not the ownership of the castle, but who is the vassal of whom. Ubremander will be my subject. I will not be his.”
I had no reason to chase him. Seeing him limp from the pain in his thigh brought me enough satisfaction. While I did expect to see him again, I had learned enough about the castle to know how to move through some back passages and get where I felt I needed to be. For the moment, I had every reason to allow him to leave with some of his dignity.
Hearing the screams of battle however caused me concern. I actually did not know how to respond. While I did not want him dead, there was an acceptance that he would be killed. I had my plans for the method, but I could not work against the actions of others. This was not my world. Pechend was actually not my target. I however listened to the screams of those charging into battle wondering how to assure my objective would still be achieved.
I considered it strange for the soldiers around me to ask about a way of removing the magical fire. I reminded them that they held a passage. If Pechend was going to flee, they could assure that he would not gain safety in this direction. Any further discussion ceased as we listened to the directions of Ubremander. I reminded the men that they had a duty, so should hold to it while those with other orders did their jobs. The soldiers sounded their agreement, then asked me what I would be doing.
“In case you guys forgot, I am here to protect Doris,” I replied. “I will be moving to assure that things continue to go well with her.”
One soldier said, “If Pechend is there, Doris should be safe where she is.”
“Can’t be certain with magic. It’s obvious he was taking time to heal from earlier attacks, but Pechend might have been doing more. I need to check.”
“Well, thanks for you help, Honored Jelnaya.”
“You guys are more than welcome. It was fun.”
It should be obvious that things are not going to settle down.