A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 13

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Thirteen

(Jelnaya)

I found myself completely enjoying my time with Irgamy. He was nothing like the other men that had come to court me. While others claiming some accomplishments had sought my hand, they were either arrogant louts or dreary dreamers. Irgamy had a personality that declared his successes were real, but also that a life with him would be fun.

He did not have the constant paranoia of my grandfather, but did have his drive to seek knowledge. I watched as Sephex would start moving around checking on the surroundings while Irgamy became fixated on a topic. Disturbing him did not gain his anger, but it did show just how removed he was from the world when focused on something. I played a joke on him a couple of times. Sephex saw what I was doing, and only smiled. Irgamy laughed when my prank shocked him back into reality, and when he finished his business he sought to put his attention on me with me enjoying his company. I found myself thinking that my grandfather might like this man, even as I accepted that Irgamy was making a positive impression on me.

My grandmother showed up to assure that the new arrivals were comfortable on her world. Irgamy spoke with her stating his amazement at what he had seen. He had heard of her from the tales of my grandfather, but had not really understood her accomplishments in relation to those of grandfather. Those words of course opened the man up to have him speak of his own ancestry with I believe grandmother as well as myself amazed to learn that he actually had noble blood and not simply acquired his status from his successes in life.

He was the third son of a count of a domain named Anervell. He had taken off to sea as an act of rebellion, although found his father sponsoring his station on board a military vessel. That had given him some privilege, but mostly gave him a favorable position when pirates were met. Irgamy spoke of sparring with his father, older brothers, and even soldiers about the castle growing up, so had a natural comfort with a sword. He found the pirates to be strong fighters, but not really good at finesse. On his second encounter with pirates he proved himself, and by the third was advancing in rank. He spoke of proudly looking his father in the eyes when he again returned to the land of Anervell.

In suffering through the politics to gain his commission from the official republic delegation, a situation arose upon learning that a couple of knights had been slain by a horrible monster of chaos. His noble blood gave Irgamy some rank when added to his service in the navy, and he found himself commanded to lead a company against the threat. Since the challenge was some manifestation of a primeval force, Sephex was put under Irgamy’s command. The mage did not have any status in court, although was known to give good council to those that advised the delegation. Irgamy and Sephex formed a bond on that mission that enabled their company to defeat the vile monster. When Irgamy gained his commission from the delegation, he found Sephex given permission to join him, and together the two took on other challenges that won them further renown.

After a period where the two of us parted to freshen up, I could tell that cameras followed us as gossips sought for juicy tidbits about Irgamy and I becoming a couple. It helped having Sephex and Dumourl with us, as I saw that I was not the only one who would pull pranks on Irgamy. He had a wonderful sense of humor, although his style of a joke was not a physical prank. Dumourl liked surprises of any kind, and would go for a practical joke as well as just an odd comment. Sephex seemed to enjoy attempting to trip Irgamy. I enjoyed doing things that would make some minor action of the man slightly difficult. He took all our actions with a smile staying on his face, although himself only showed a sense of fun in playing with words and riddles. It filled me with joy to find his fixation to include me when we studied the poem. It was actually part of my training as a lady to study poetry, so I easily traded humorous and practical statements concerning allusions, imagery, and word choices. Our fixation on each other I guess grew rather intense, as it took a foul smell to have us part.

I turned to see Dumourl smiling as he said, “I knew that candle would come in handy.”

A gloved hand coming down on top of the lit wick caused me to look to Chering. “You two have had enough time together, and I want it said that I am not relinquishing my own claim. I have not dropped my own admiration of this lady, Captain Irgamy. I am committed to being her champion on this adventure. I happen to also be a man of the sea.”

As Irgamy looked the man over, I filled him in on some details. “That is Vice Captain Chering of the Davelda Navy. You spoke to him the other night.”

Irgamy looked to me as he commented, “I still do not know what a vice captain is.”

Chering said, “Probably not, since you probably do not command any really big ships. I serve on vessels that could have your floating boat land on my crew’s dining table. The ships I serve on are just too big for the captain to manage, so he needs a vice captain.”

“If your captain could train a crew properly, he could trust them to do their jobs, and not need a toady to keep them in line.”

“We don’t train them at all. They get their training in the academy.”

“I run my ships the way I want things done. I thus train them.” Irgamy turned to me to ask, “Are the captains of the Davelda Navy that poor of seamen?”

Dumourl interjected, “I was thinking they were just desperate for company. It is not like the navy of Davelda has seen any action in a number of centuries. Their only excitement during a day is probably eating at that huge dining table.”

Chering did not act as if he had been slighted, but boldly declared, “I will prove to Lady Jelnaya that I am the better man. Not only have I proven myself to Empress Straekin, but I have others that will join me on this adventure.” I had yet to have a chance to make a comment, but had to give Chering credit for looking me in the eyes. “How many openings do you presently have? Three?”

Confidently, I replied, “There is you, Dumourl, Irgamy, and Sephex. Yes, that leaves three more openings. Let me however remind you and the others of Davelda that I am not of the quality of my grandfather. He can claim a reputation of taking on companions and returning with them still alive. While I do not have a deadly reputation, I would say that is merely from my tendency to travel alone. This journey does have risk. While I am hoping to come back bragging to Fergush of another success, those of you from Davelda risk finally having a conversation with your silent Goddess.”

“I know what I am risking, Jelnaya. What I hope to declare however is that I am not one of the stagnant statues of Davelda. I recognize that we have gained a wonderful blessing in learning of other worlds. The same skills that earned me the rank of vice captain will prove me well against other challenges, and I will make a name for myself that will have ladies, hopefully you, wanting me in their lives.”

“What about your companions? Why would they follow you to your death?”

A very large man stepped away from his place in the doorway. He made himself to be a fool in my opinion by guzzling a large mug of beer that he had been holding in his hand. He strode to my table however as if he had made the impression he desired.

“Because we want to prove something of ourselves as well. Chering is rather good in a fight, but I am very good in a fight. I am Vulge.”

I simply lifted my eyes as I calmly replied, “Oh, yeah? Do you want to hear how many big dumb brutes I have killed? Tell me how many large stupid idiots you see coming to visit our horse handlers? I not only predict that you will not return, but that you will meet your end rather quickly.”

“I ain’t dumb.”

I turned my head to look at Chering as I asked, “Are your other two choices brutes as well?”

The vice captain replied, “Listen, even your grandfather has to admit that we of Davelda are not afraid. Your grandmother thought nothing of traveling with him, and others showed no fear in challenging the great Terish Dozzrine to keep her from going with the man. We might have been thought of as stagnant statues, but our reputation was not as cowards.”

I now had to look at Irgamy as I admitted, “He does have a point there.”

He smiled, then looked to Chering to say, “Well, then, the lady has spoken in favor of you and your brute. I however believe that we still have two openings left. I would demand that we split the pair, but as I would not assure pay only Sephex and I left for this adventure. I thus have to give you the grace of calling in two other men.”

I spent a few hours getting to know my companions. Only Dumourl had any real history with me. Those of Davelda could claim knowing of me, as being of the imperial family news of me did get reported. I however did not know them, although I did expect word from my grandmother should any not be considered worthy companions. While I had been spending time with Irgamy and Sephex, there was still quite a bit about the pair that was brought out.

All the men had time on the dance floor with me. Chering and Irgamy did gain the most time, but I made certain to proposition each of the other men if they did not take the initiative. My excuse was to check how well I could move with them, but mostly it was to prevent Chering or Irgamy from thinking they held a confident position as my suitors. I did enjoy dancing, and all of the men proved that they were capable of allowing a lady to have some fun.

One advantage that Irgamy had over Chering was having a room in the castle. Honestly, he probably would have been given a room in the imperial domicile had he asked. As we left for the castle, he however simply reminded Irgamy that there would be no special treatment once we left with Marekel.

Instead of the usual soldier opening the doors late at night, it was my grandfather that let us into the castle. I rushed to my elder. His eyes told me that he noticed the alcohol on my breath, but his embrace was as strong and warm as I remembered. He shook hands with the men letting them know that he knew that they were treating me properly. We waved to the soldiers as we moved up the stairs into the more hospitable section of the building.

It was only simple conversations as we moved through the castle. Grandfather had me show him some of the recent dance moves, and we moved down a hallway doing a few routines together. The men were asked about how they preferred to waste their time. None of them mentioned dancing, but they all said that they enjoyed spending time with me. Irgamy and Sephex found my grandfather to usher Dumourl and me also inside their room, then he changed the topic of conversation.

“Listen, all of you, don’t trust the situation at all. Everything tends to support Marekel’s story, but even his tale does not explain some of the things about his wife or her maid. I would not trust Namill at all.”

Irgamy replied, “I often have to deal with some rather unscrupulous fellows.”

“And sometimes they are the best people to deal with, because their dishonesty makes them easy to manipulate. I am not telling you not to go, but to recognize the seriousness of this adventure.” I felt grandfather’s arms come around me as he said, “That especially includes you, Fruit. Fergush is not known to present simple challenges. Remember that he is a god, so something beyond his world that got his notice will be on a level slightly beyond simple human conflicts.”

I replied, “I understand, Grandfather.”

Dumourl declared, “I fully understand, Lord Terish. Trust me, my father would tell me the same thing if he were still alive. He also would not stop me however, but would remind me that he failed at his chance at immortality.”

“Slagell was a good man, and you have been a friend to Venicht and the rest of my family. I have no problems with you joining Fruit, Dumourl, although it will be a sad day to hear of either of you meeting your end.” Grandfather looked to the other men to add, “I will also be sorry to hear of any of you passing. Irgamy and Sephex make your names worthy of going into the future.”

Irgamy shook grandfather’s hand, then asked, “Lord Terish, what is the proper response to Fergush? I don’t know his religion, but I accept that coming under the leadership of Jelnaya I am taking part in his challenge. Thus, some knowledge of how to respond would be appreciated.”

I tried to soothe my companion by saying, “Don’t worry about Fergush.”

Grandfather however gave a more substantive reply. “He won’t supply aid, unless something turns unfavorable. He gave you, or Fruit, the challenge, not himself a babysitting job. Now, if your opponents suddenly raises the stakes, you might want to call to him. Honestly, though, I have found Fergush to supply help if he felt it was deserved. Thus, it is better to simply take on whatever comes, but never consider your situation hopeless. The usual response is simply to declare,” I had my voice join with that of my grandfather in saying, “Fergush, I will best this!”

Irgamy declared, “Then – Fergush, I will best this! Lord Terish, I will also gain the hand of your granddaughter.”

“Well, those are two large challenges, but I will wish you the best on both. Get some sleep, then start getting yourselves ready. Seriously, when you leave with Marekel, you will be on your own.”

We bid the men good night, then grandfather and I walked Dumourl to his room not that far down the hallway. He had me promise to spar with him the next morning, claiming that both of us needed to work the poison from our bodies. I told him that I would be groaning at whatever the hour, so once he got his cold-bloodied body moving he might as well get me moving as well. We shook hands, then grandfather began escorting me to my room.

Stepping into my large chamber, he said, “Seriously, Fruit, take this mission determined to stay at your best. I know that you are going with companions, and that is good. You need to however take a lesson from Dumourl’s father. He never gained immortality. Even in the groups that I associate with, immortality is not common. While you are immortal, there are a number going with you that are not. Don’t ever let down your guard.”

“I won’t, Grandfather, especially since I am traveling with men. I like Irgamy, but I promise that he will have to prove himself in other ways on this adventure.”

He hugged me, then moved to the door while saying, “When you return, you might have to listen to Ferrigote and me tell you of all the things Fergush had us do.”

“I think that I have heard most of them.”

“Then you are most certainly warned. Good night, Fruit.”

And more time with the men will be spent.