A Wish for Hope
I was weary coming upon the outer gates of a castle. My body had been stressed, but that was not truly my problem. Having to gain this position by taking on an army, armies – more than one, troubled me, as I did not feel at ease attacking, then killing soldiers. Eliminating those I felt needed to be protecting the people disturbed me. I did not challenge my god, but reaching the castle I hoped for some sense to be made of my actions.
Yells sounded as men who felt they were safe saw the counter-balances move and the gates open. Hearing the voice of my deity tell me to continue my work caused me a moment of discomfort, then I rushed ahead to obey. I saw men fall as arrows pierced their bodies. The projectiles I knew were meant for me, but my god did not allow them to strike his champion. I did have a device to protect me from missiles, but it took active concentration to have it do more than simply slow them down. My deity was known as He-Who-Fights, and he let me know that I was not to pause by keeping me safe from those who sought to avoid combat by attacking from a distance. Instead of recognizing my divine authorization to slay those before me, the men I saw yelled out things as if to enact tactics that would stop me.
A strange sound had me glance toward the main building, and seeing the movement of odd shapes on the outer stone walls brought me relief. When I found a moment to catch my breath, I knelt to apologize to Fergush for having some doubt of the quality of this mission. A sound of others had me accept that the fight continued, although I sensed that I could properly use a different tactic.
I had two primary weapons. Well, I guess my bow counted as a third, although I also had daggers and other various devices for diversity. Usually, I would draw my long saber, named NeverRose, and that was what I had been primarily using. I however sheathed it while my left hand reached on my back for a large weapon. I however found it odd not to feel its presence. The actual sensation was that it dropped, so I spun to retrieve it. What I saw was a man in red armor who handed me a weapon that appeared as the one I wanted except it was wrapped in pink cloth.
He said, “Honored Jelnaya, the drahaberd has indeed served you well. Fergush has made one for you.”
I took the weapon while saying, “Don’t lose that one.”
“I understand its importance. You wanted a holy weapon. This one definitely has an origin from a source completely divine. You also wanted something to perform mass slaughter in tight conditions. Trust that Fergush understood the benefits of the drahaberd. Now, fight!”
I did unwrap the weapon handed to me, and paid attention to my location as the pink strip floated to the ground as I assumed the cloth to be as holy as the weapon. That little conversation gave time for my opposition to move upon me, although it should have also had them understand my authority in coming here. As the pink cloth drifted to the ground, I grabbed the handle between two curving shining blades. I attacked in the manner one does with a drahaberd, and found the maneuvers I had used with the previous one to work well with the one I was just now given. The weapon I accepted as indeed being of grand quality as I blessed it with the blood of people.
The special two-bladed halberd did give me the benefit of making every movement deadly. A sword could be used in a number of methods both offensively and defensively. The first time I encountered a drahaberd, I easily disarmed the person using it. Against multiple opponents intent on getting close and personal, the drahaberd was a wonderful weapon. In a situation where movement and skill would be required, a sword would do a better job of keeping you alive. Finding myself in the middle of a throng of opponents, it helped having a weapon that kept every movement deadly.
One thing I did like about the drahaberd, including this one my god gave me, was that one could get lost in the combat. You had to continue to think with a sword. With a drahaberd one could just stay in the spirit of inflicting harm enjoying the glory of being something terrifying. With my physical form already being far past any normal limitations, it helped my mind to relax and enjoy the bliss of sensations from my body having to find the capacities to continue to strike with the drahabard.
Dropping my first plague-wight, those black things I saw moving on the walls of the castle, caught me by surprise. Actually glad not to have killed another living soul, I spun to kill the other people around me. I then set myself upon the plague-wights with the joy of having no remorse in seeing them die.
While I had been active for a long time, I found my spirit to improve entering the castle. It did bother me killing people. Having only monsters, including people who had already died but still moved due to malevolent energies, to threaten me actually eased my mind, which helped relax my body. As if refreshed, I stayed active in taking on the opponents inside the edifice.
Having a divine weapon, the plague-wights and undead were easily dealt with. My sword did have some enchantments, one performed with the aid of a priest, but mostly had been enhanced simply to assure I could hurt whatever I went up against. In this fight the drahaberd proved itself, and I kept it in my hands as its divine nature I felt also fit the reason for this mission.
Not only the lack of living people helped my attitude as I fought, but passing an object of devotion to Samayer that had been defiled let me know the extent of the wrong I was avenging. While finding evil forces disrespecting the deities was not abnormal, again I had my thoughts turn to the people I had to kill. Really not liking having done the acts, I pulled a banner down, then used it to clean the object before stating a prayer.
“Samayer, please, get angry at your husband and not me. I see the horrors that have overtaken this land, but to have it extend to those possibly innocent and those who would usually work to protect the people is a little extreme. Still, I am Fergush’s, so please direct your displeasure to him.”
No answer came to that. Normally the deities of this world were responsive. It was usual for me to spend a good portion of my day trading comments with Fergush. I actually expected him to respond to my prayer even though I had directed it to his wife. No reply however came, although in seeing another set of monsters I knew to return to the fight.
I found only the usual foul presences in the chambers of the prime rulers. Striding from what had been elegant rooms, I heard movement and rushed to a railing to see a powerful entity at a door down at the lower level. Accepting that I had gone in the wrong direction looking for the source of the malignancy, I jumped over the railing to grab a flag pole. Hearing it crack, which was unexpected because I am not a big girl, I swung to have a hand catch on the bottom of a niche holding a small statue, then dropped to land on top of a large work of marble, and from that I rushed upon the foul presence that had revealed itself.
The fights now were now more involved, and I began switching out the use of the drahaberd with my sword. Even after a length of time, I still found myself enjoying an exchange with an experienced opponent. Some my sword did not really harm, and I still faced large groups of opponents, so there were occasions where I went back to using the drahaberd.
Years of battling foes on this world and others helped me keep my sanity as I moved upon the source of the malignancy. Not only had I gone through previous periods of continual fighting, but I had faced things most people would prefer not to even believe existed. A skeleton surrounded by a barely translucent form of what had been his body displayed a strong capacity for magic. While my headpiece protected me from energy attacks, I felt most strikes dissipated because the source of the arcane power was something my god would not tolerate. Just as the arrows from those in the castle courtyard were not allowed to impact me, the malignant spells did nothing to stop my own advance.
The drahaberd was needed to harm the monster that I could only assume had once been a man. It however had grown in size as well as power, and I found the divine weapon to not be enough to end the threat. Understanding I was battling something that had tapped a source of energy that could gain the attention of gods, I worked to clear my head and find the weakness that would enable me to win the day. Finally, I took a chance on sending the drahaberd completely into a fatty section of the great entity. With the gift from my god within the monster, I found the cuts from my sword to be effective and sinking its blade into a vital area I gained victory in the death of the opponent I considered the true source of the evil I had been sent to eliminate.
As I went through the disgusting activity of retrieving the drahaberd, I said, “Fergush, if there are others to kill, all I ask is that you direct me.”
It was a female voice that replied, “No, Jelnaya. You have proven yourself. Relax.”
I knelt to show recognition of a deity I had no relationship with, but also wanted to honor. “Where am I? I started at one of your churches, Samayer, but I moved beyond the territory of the county.”
“You have cleared the castle of the Duchy of Phanigist.”
“The duchy?” Understanding this had been the home of a high noble, I asked, “And I had no help?”
“None, Jelnaya. Fergush and I discussed this situation with me actually not believing his faith in you. You see, Jelnaya, you and my husband do not have the usual arrangement. It seems that you are his friend.”
Not wanting for there to be any misunderstanding, I said, “Well, I originally went to him claiming him as a family friend. Still, I knew what I was doing when I accepted my place as his champion.”
“If you are my husband’s friend, Jelnaya, then you are my friend as well. Further, there is another pact between the two of you.”
Understanding, I calmly replied, “I claimed that only because he had given the gift to another.”
“Well, as a friend and as the wife of the god you serve, I find you deserving of the honor you have gained. Jelnaya, now, you have work to do. This is your castle, and you need to start making this your home.”
“Hold it.” If Samayer was claiming my friendship, I felt she needed to learn things about me. “You said this was a duchy. It has responsibilities. Not only does this land have domains in its control, but it is directly responsible to the king.”
“Are you going to hold out to be Queen Jelnaya?”
The words troubled me, so I did not immediately reply. Seeing wealth around me kept me silent for a period longer. I then began thinking over my actions, and finally found some words to say.
“There is going to need to be a lot of effort to rebuild. My service is to Fergush first.”
“You are not at fault here, Jelnaya, so the bulk of the work will not be yours to do. You do however have a reputation to establish. This was a fabulous start, but more work will be coming to you.”
I started to sit down, but the stench was so foul I moved up to the front room of the castle. I stepped outside, then looked back at the edifice to get a view of my home. As I did, I could not help but remind myself of one of my demands from Fergush. I told him that I wanted it all. Grandfather Terish took Thiminy after slaughtering the military and corrupt king that held it. Great-uncle Ferrigote conquered an entire world, then came back to this one to claim a parcel of land and dare anyone to threaten him. I now had a similar story as well. My rank was now that of a duchess. Wondering if I was going to like having a home, much less a castle as a residence, I sat down thinking about where I might get a bath and a clean place to sleep.
Of course things are not finished, as there are complications.