A Wish for Hope
Aunt Neselle was actually younger than me in actual age and physical age. When Uncle Althery first met her, she had been just twelve. Her world changed, basically rebuilt, their people at that age into animal hybrids that enabled their human tissues to mature to where their reproductive organs would actually work. As someone selected to be human, Neselle would have stayed physically twelve until the day she died. Something about her, no one considered it pure chance, had the Goddess of her world begin a series of events that resulted in a conversion of all the people. My aunt had gone through experiences even I could not imagine, even having been present for some, so while she had the attitude of someone ancient, she really was younger than me.
She had blonde hair that would appear yellow in certain lights. Of course her strands were not the bright yellow of some of mine, but a pleasant natural color that did look well on her. Her eyes were a lighter blue than mine, but there was something in them that let you know she had seen things beyond the normal human experience. I had as well, but I had a different perspective on things. I would brag on the awesome things I fought and killed while there were no words for some of the things she had dealt with.
On her world there would be a crowd around us. The people loved listening to my stories and what commentary she could provide. Unlike those of Davelda, Neselle did not repeat adages with the attitude of them having been proven true. She actually would lecture, but her experiences enabled her to present her points in a very entertaining way. As I said, she knew things that really could not be related with words, but there was a fascination in how she sometimes would try. People on her world would thus gather to hear my boasting and what words she would add.
She also did not travel alone. Neselle was not just a global celebrity, but the single representative of their sole deity. While the Goddess had become more apparent among the people, they treasured the one that had restored the relationship with the divine. She did not just ride a centaur, but there was a group with us. Wolves with human-like faces and front paws more like hands traveled around us. Hearing of the fox people, those of similar form rushed to be able to travel with our group. If the need to return had not been urgent, I knew more would have prepared themselves to travel as well.
Unlike the crowds that would gather on her world, I found those of my home stay away. Honestly, I could not completely fault them. My method of introducing myself had been rather bloody. I however hoped the sight of me with my Aunt Neselle and the animal people that massed around us would have them come out to meet me.
The centaur she rode stopped when she pulled on the reins, and I brought Rubber to a halt to hear my aunt exclaim, “It’s lovely, Jelnaya! And big. What’s it like inside?”
It had been night when I came upon the castle, so I never really got a good look at it. The next morning I mostly saw the carnage. The only clean place I found was in the barracks, as the men had left it to encounter me outside, and knowing the horrors I had faced within did not have me reenter the main building. No longer seeing the tents of the monarch about the castle grounds, I found myself wondering in what condition I would find the inside of my home.
The place was huge, although I found myself having to admit the beauty. There were not bland finished stones basically creating a wall with windows, balconies, and a large set of doors. Carvings could be seen in the faces of the blocks. A number of designs along with statuary was set in the two corners where grand wings angled forward from the front section. Niches for other stonework had been set between where sets of two windows were relatively close together and over balconies. While I had to admit the size of my home, I found myself pleased that I had not gained a building to live in that was boring to look at.
Those around us suddenly became alarmed hearing a horn sound and a mass of people come from the main building. Hearing cries of welcome, Aunt Neselle and I looked at each other with I believe both of us not expecting the words being used. Seeing Vulge with Chering step through in front of a large group of people to advance through the gatehouse, I suddenly realized who had come to visit.
I dropped from Rubber to rush into the arms of Vulge, then Chering. Of course I knew the large man would be present, but I fully held him responsible for calling upon his old ship mates to help restore my home. Hearing what happened brought me joy. Moving from the arms of the two men to greet the others from Davelda, I found them to start giving me a tour of my castle.
Stepping into the grand front room brought me delight. I spoke of the damage I had done, and listened as certain individuals spoke of their skills in making certain repairs. I mentioned the flagpole that had cracked when I fell to grab it, and saw the colors of one my baronies again being presented on a new length of wood. Another object I had done something with however was simply set with a bunch of other carved artistic works, and I stepped to get it while speaking my disapproval of finding it as I did.
“The gods will be honored.”
One of the men replied, “We don’t know your gods, Princess Jelnaya. I mean, we do, but not as those of this world would know them. We did not feel it right that we should try to restore these.”
“All I did was clean it, and I cannot say that I did the best job.”
A lady said, “You’re right, Princess Jelnaya. We brought with us all types of cleaning stuff. We’ll get on it. How about moving on to your rooms.”
“No,” I said turning. “There is somewhere else that concerns me.”
The one in yellow armor gained my focus as someone informed me, “Princess Jelnaya, we were not allowed to pass.”
I strode to the divine soldier to say, “I won’t go to sleep as long as you are there, so you –“
A hand of Aunt Neselle came on my shoulder as she said, “Jelnaya, I believe this is the reason you came for me.”
“No, it’s not,” I replied. “This is nothing like what I told you about.”
“Strange, as it is what I heard you say.”
Aunt Neselle was like that. She had a perception that I did not. While I could usually see things as they were, she saw things beyond the truth. I however usually found myself appreciating her company, as we did tend to agree on how to respond. I smiled hearing Aunt Neselle support my words in her directions to the divine soldier.
“You might as well move. I agree with my niece that there will be no rest in this place as long as what remains below is not cleansed.” As the divine soldier stepped to the side of the door, Aunt Neselle let me know that she did understand something about the entity, “Jelnaya, he is not a representative of Fergush.”
I replied, “No. Fergush has the color red. Samayer is yellow. This is a realm to Fergush’s wife.”
“So your hair is a combination of the two?”
“I really don’t think of it that way.”
“And yet it is.” She moved to grab the door handle while turning to command, “No one follows.”
“Wrong,” Vulge confidently said.
Chering also spoke his conviction to go with us. “I went with Princess Jelnaya to face monsters I really did not think could exist. I stood strong then, and will be at her side here as well. If she is not feeling safe in her own home, I will be there to comfort her.”
As the sound of other men spoke their determination to go with us, the voice of a female I knew well let it be known that not all would be allowed to pass. “The rest of you do not have the right type of weapons! Vulge, Chering, I assume you still have the weapons I gave you.”
The vice-captain admitted, “I returned mine, Empress. Vulge, I am going to have to count on you.”
“Jelnaya, Neselle, my husband and I are both available. If you would however that we loan our weapons to another, we will comply.”
I was proud to hear my aunt say the words that I wanted to proclaim, “Mother, Jelnaya faced what was down there alone. She has her drahaberd and sword on her, just as she did then. We should be safe enough. Vulge, you are not a hero, but simply one to give us the comfort of being able to focus on what we feel is important.”
The big man replied, “Princess Jelnaya, your aunt does not have a weapon.”
I had to admit, “And yet she can claim victories that even impress me.”
A wolf moved up to say, “Actually, she does have weapons.”
Neselle went to gain certain items from the back of the special animal while admitting, “I cannot say that I have practiced with them a lot. Still, having them with me should help put everyone at ease.”
As she put on the sword and a couple of daggers, the wolf that brought them asked, “Honored Jelnaya, you are not expecting to fight, are you?”
I replied, “This world is not like yours. No, I am not expecting to find the one I killed to have returned. The problem I went to Aunt Neselle to resolve is however one of corruption. That is what happened to your world, and what happened to this realm. In your case, and the one that I did bring to Aunt Neselle, the people became animals. As for this territory, I had to slaughter a whole lot of people. I do not want to go through that again, and I trust Aunt Neselle to help me do a proper cleansing.”
My aunt said, “Yes, Calnorn. That is why I came. Surely you listened as Jelnaya spoke of fox people?”
The wolf admitted, “I heard, but I am watching as well. It is my job to protect you, Honored Neselle.”
“Jelnaya was there for our world when we needed her. I will be there for her world when she needs me. Let me go see about repaying a favor. In the meantime, this is Jelnaya’s home. Relax as you would have her relax in our home. Those you see around us you should treat as family, for they will definitely let you know of our importance to them. This is not a place you should feel uncomfortable in.”
“Then I will apologize to Honored Jelnaya after you return. Until then, I will be at the door.”
I looked at the divine guardian to command, “Do not bother the wolves.”
The one in yellow replied, “Actually, I have been impressed with everything I heard. Wolves, your vigil will be appreciated.”
“You ready, Aunt Neselle, Vulge?”
The large man replied, “I’ll be right behind you, Princess Jelnaya. Princess Neselle, I’ll follow your lead as well.”
I looked at my aunt to ask, “You’re a princess too?”
She replied, “My husband is a son of Empress Straekin. You are second generation, Jelnaya. That makes me more of a princess than you.”
“Well, I’m now a duchess.”
“Pulling rank on me?”
More than willing to stay on the good side of the lady, I said, “You’ll always be my Aunt Neselle.”
“And you’ll be my niece. Now, we both are divine champions with a job to do.”
Back to the lower depths they will go.