A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 2

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Two
(Namill)

I had been trying to comb my daughter’s long dark locks, but they flew in a cloud behind her when she jumped upon hearing the gates to the castle open. Her dark blue eyes constantly sought to gaze upon her husband, and her body did all it could to comply to his desires. I had promised that would happen, but often found myself so amazed that my part of the bargain had been fulfilled so easily. While I was annoyed at having to basically restart my work with her hair, I still moved with a calmness to the window my daughter looked through feeling that all was well.

She said, “Oh, Namill, he looks weary. Look at how he leans against that horse – uh, I have not seen that horse before.” Ulemai resisted the pull to her head to continue to look through the window as I worked on her locks. “He is saying something to the soldiers and laborers that are having them move different than normal. He must have a story.”

Attempting to gain some control over the situation, I said, “Certainly, my lady, but you need to finish working on your appearance.”

I saw a familiar distant gaze in her eyes as she spoke words that I had come to hear often, “He does not care.”

My words in response were also growing old to me. “The people care, my lady. You are not doing this for your husband, but for your people.”

“I won’t be going to them, but to my husband.”

“That is proper, my lady, but the people will still see. Your husband does many things because of his status and because of the people. It is thus only proper that you do the same.”

She moved to a chair while saying, “Well, hurry, because I want to be there when he comes in the door.”

I wanted to hug her. Ulemai was such a devoted wife. I could hug her while she was but a child, but as she moved from childhood the signs of affection she desired came only from Marekel. That was my promise, but Ulemai was my child. I never really gave up my claim to Ulemai, so could hug her, but fearing being the one to break a promise I did nothing to stand in the way of my daughter wanting to please her spouse.

She dressed herself in her own style of clothing. I had begun the fashion when she was but a child. She had not even been one year old when she became the wife of Marekel. I honestly expected him to abuse his rights to my daughter. He did, in a way, because she grew up adoring him. I actually expected a child before she reached puberty, but the naked play never went in that direction in her childhood years. When the time of a woman came upon her, she realized certain things about her husband, and I wondered why no child had yet been born. I expected the fashion of her youth to change upon reaching maturity, but the gown of crisp material now enhanced the gifts that were truly there. The covering of lacy gauze I actually intended to prevent Marekel from touching my child, but it never did. It however did come to reflect in others of the castle the distance that she had from them. It was a strange style, but had aged along with her.

I was with Ulemai in the foyer when the butler opened the door. Marekel was dirty. His dark leather cloak that he hung on a peg had a layer of mud drying upon it. He actually waved the butler from helping remove his boots, but told the man to get a towel for wiping the feet once free of the soggy leather coverings. In attempting to release certain laces, I saw that Marekel’s hands were layered with filth polished from attempts to brush it off. He allowed Ulemai’s lips to barely touch his before mentioning a need for a bath.

“Oh,” she replied, “and Namill got me all dressed up.”

“Ulemai, you probably need to stay dressed, because we will need to move about setting things in motion. We are to take a journey.”

“A journey!”

I had to ask, “Baron Marekel, are you sure?”

“You will, of course, attend. Thus, you may check things to assure that they are done right.”

I asked my question in a dignified manner, but my daughter blurted out the same words in an excited manner. “Where are we going?”

“I don’t know. I however have gained a most special horse, and I plan on making use of it. We will go wherever it takes us.”

“That old nag you brought in?”

Marekel had turned to begin walking up the stairs to his chambers, but his torso pivoted to look at his wife. I saw the man smile. While I really did not like admitting it, he loved my daughter. He thus took the time to respond to things she did and said.

“It is not a nag, but an old stallion. Let me say that part of my urgency in taking this journey is a fear the animal will die on us. I did not waste my money foolishly however, but assured that it could do what I desired. Still, yes, my wife, it is not the best example of its breed.”

I could tell that Ulemai wanted to hug her husband, but accepted his dirty state. She cheerfully took a place slightly behind him, as the size of the corridors was not enough for them to walk side-by-side without touching. I walked even further behind, but knew that he would hear and accept my words.

“Baron Marekel, do you think this journey is wise?”

He surprised me by stopping and turning. “Why, Namill? What have I done to support your displeasure?”

“Nothing, Baron Marekel, but I am concerned.”

“Yes, but, honestly, you should be as eager for this journey as I am.”

“Do you plan on breaking your promise?”

Even though wearied by whatever events had occurred that day, he pulled his form into a dignified proper stance before replying, “No, Namill, but hopefully enabling us to make new promises.”

“Why? Everything is in your favor.”

“No, it is not, but what I find at fault is not with our agreement. I love Ulemai. I want things better for us. That is all.”

My daughter chirped, “I love you too, Marekel.”

I saw the dark hair around his mouth show their roots as his lips stretched in a smile. “That should be more than an answer, Namill, and more than enough to earn your trust. Anyway, I felt the two of you could use some time away from the castle. Keeping you isolated here was not in our agreement, and at present the land can continue without its rulers. We thus have time to spend time together and learn more about what is possible.”

Wanting to assure an understanding between us, I said, “I don’t have to trust you, Marekel.”

“I have come to trust you, Namill. Honestly, without your presence, I might not think to take this journey. Hopefully, you will come to appreciate this trip, even though I am hoping to expand my influence. With your concern as my life, how can you find fault with that?”

“You were a fool then, and probably a fool now.”

He could not keep his eyes on me, but had to turn occasionally to look at his wife. That had been true ever since we made the bargain. In the beginning I had treated such glances as proof of the man’s demented nature. In the years before Ulemai matured, he however did not begin looking to other girls about the castle grounds. While I did not like the situation that I was in, I could tell that my daughter and her husband felt that they could not be happier. I thus turned my eyes to the floor, and felt satisfied to hear Marekel turn and begin his stride back to his room.

As Erband, Marekel’s valet, did the dirty job of undressing the man, Marekel told of his day. His mountainous holding did require work to track the progress of various gentry. While the freemen were under the obligation to pay certain tributes to Marekel, they eagerly sought other outlets for their goods. Being a local lad, I expected the same desire in Marekel to get around certain requirements of my presence, but held my place understanding that he did not risk breaking his promise. What I heard was again of him doing as required, even as he tried to enforce such a mentality into his people. I however still listened to his description of his activities during the day eager for some sign of Marekel acting improperly.

The valet interjected comments of things going as expected while Marekel mentioned certain things of his movements. Ulemai also said some things, even though she barely knew the people and really did not know the places. She moved about the castle freely enough, but once her foot touched the drawbridge over a deep gorge formed by an ancient split in the road, the entire stone prominence would rumble with the sound of soldiers moving into formation behind her. No one stopped her from going to certain nearby holdings or meadows, but the knowledge of the army that moved to watch over her safety usually kept her from making such a journey, and had prevented her from desiring to take longer trips. Erband really did not know some things first hand either, but dealt with Marekel’s business enough to be assured of how the reports would sound.

We all went quiet when the lord of the castle finally got to the part where things were not as expected. “This old hairy man. I want to say that he was a minotaur, but not so big. He looked like a human bull, not a minotaur at all. Might have been taller than me in his youth, but only his horns curling up now had him matching my height. If he was a bull, he would have been slaughtered years ago. Hair was mostly gray. He moved well however, although it was his horse that kept him from drowning.”

Erband asked, “Where was this?”

“Flaudeir.”

“The bog?”

Marekel pointed to his pile of clothes while asking, “Can’t you smell it?”

“That smells worse than a bog.”

“Yes, well you are probably smelling what the horse, the man, and maybe even me added to the aroma from the bog. I did set a rope, but none of us were light creatures. The strange hands of the man – he had to be some type of bull person – did help him grab the rocks to climb out, but getting the horse out was an experience.”

While Ulemai made sounds of wonder, the valet kept himself sounding dignified as he asked, “Baron, did you get the man’s name?”

“Degretet.”

“Never heard of him.”

“And I doubt that you will. He said that he was going to a place named Hilbriya, and that it was there.” Marekel pointed, then just looked at us with an odd expression. “He then asked if he owed me anything for the rescue. I was tired, and could tell that the man was tired, so simply sought time to talk. Since we had just taken the time to rescue the horse, and I saw its poor condition, I decided to ask about it. Degretet replied, ‘I don’t need it anymore, but it has been a help. If I had my way, I would send it home.’ I asked in reply where the horse called home, and the man replied, ‘Davelda.’”

I could not help but blurt out, “You cannot be serious.”

Ulemai chirped out, “Where is Davelda?”

“It doesn’t exist.”

Marekel replied, “Degretet said it does, and did things to convince me of it. So we are going.”

“WHAT?” I was close to breaking my promise as I demanded, “What could convince you of the horse being from Davelda?”

“Well, besides simply doing things with the horse that were convincing enough, Degretet then did something that let me know he was completely honest.”

“And what was that?”

“Remember when I said that Hilbriya was there.”

I saw Marekel point, but it was Ulemai that cheerfully answered, “Yes.”

“Well, that was where he went.”

And there is more to be done before the journey.