A Wish for Hope
There were very few lands that I did not feel had beauty. Both my father-in-law and Uncle Ferrigote settled in a place surrounded by mountains. They were both actually rather quiet individuals, so enjoyed the solitude their periodic isolated homes would provide. While Castle Davelda was situated on rolling plains, I knew my mother-in-law agreed to build a new home in the rocky foothills of a range of heights in order to give her husband some comfort. I had grown up around others, and as a divine champion felt it my duty to stay in the presence of people. Looking at the land around Jelnaya’s castle, I also felt she was to stay a public figure.
Walking along the walls around Jelnaya’s castle and nearby town I found myself liking her surroundings. It was hilly, but the ground was good for crops. There was a river with raised roadways and bridges stating that the flow could become heavy with nearby sections of land spending time covered with water. Walking along I found myself hoping Jelnaya liked the land, because I found myself desiring to return with my husband and children to visit.
“Ma’am?” I looked down to see a lady with a soldier, which surprised me as I had not seen any military. “Ma’am, who are you?”
I replied, “I am one of the aunts of Duchess Jelnaya. I married the younger brother of her father.”
“You’re responsible for the animal people?”
“Well, most. There are some fox people around here that I am not responsible for.”
“The centaurs helped with our farms. I wanted to know how long you would be here.”
The centaurs had spoken of moving about, and it pleased me to hear they had done something useful. “Jelnaya and I have a good friendship. I will be around as long as she needs me.”
“Does she have children?”
“Oh, no. I have no idea what your gods have planned for her in that manner. At the moment she does not have any serious suitors.”
“What about the children?”
The volume of her voice barely carried up to me on the wall. What really hit me however was the tone. Something in her body language also disturbed me. I thus dropped the volume of my voice, but set my words with weight as I commanded the soldier to keep the lady with him.
Since I found it strange that a soldier was even present, I did have a concern that no one would remain by the time I descended the wall then came around to where the conversation had occurred. As I made the journey, I saw others at a distance as if watching what transpired. While I certainly meant the lady no harm, I did have a concern for what I intended to do. Seeing the soldier and lady present as I came around a curve in the wall, I simply prayed that everything would work out well.
I put my arms around the lady, then told her to come with me, but she stopped me to ask, “What god do you worship?”
“I’m from another world,” I explained. “As you recognized, I come from a world of animal people.” I showed certain symbols on my clothes as I said, “I however am a divine champion. Fergush sent Althery and Nuchirg, both of whom Jelnaya will claim as relatives, to my world as a challenge. They helped us. I do not know the connection between Fergush and my Goddess, but whatever it was has become a strong relationship. Jelnaya was with me when she became a divine champion of Fergush, and I am ever willing to help her.”
I saw indecision on her face, but then she confided, “There were urchins who would help us in the fields. They stopped coming.”
Tugging on the lady, I let her know my intentions. “I am going to show you something horrible, but I feel that you need to see and talk about it with others. What happened does not need to happen again.”
There was worry on her face as she asked, “What are you going to show me?”
“I’m not going to tell you. I would if I could answer your question. If you don’t look, I won’t be able to answer your questions.”
The soldier said, “I believe Honored Neselle is going to show you the babies.”
Really not intending to hide what I was doing, I admitted, “Well, their bones. There were no bodies, and there was no meat on the bones. There were however a lot of bones.” While I had wrapped an arm around the lady, I found her to start crying upon me, so I explained some more. “It is hard fighting things you don’t understand, but even harder to fight things you don’t want to understand. That is what Jelnaya is doing. She will need help, and I am staying to help her. I however have my own duties, so I need some of the people here to know why she rules over you.”
The lady parted from me to wipe her eyes while indicating for me to start leading her, then as I began to do so she asked, “Is Jelnaya a good person?”
“A fabulous person, although she does take some getting used to. Still, my people love her. They got to watch as she fought the beasts while I did what was necessary to restore my people. She then helped them through certain debates on the righteousness of certain decisions. I named my first daughter after her, but she is not the only girl to gain that name as those of my world treasure her. Still, Jelnaya is my niece, so I should be able to name a girl after her.”
Some men from Davelda had a watch over the large gash dug into the soil. They really were not to keep people away, but only warn of the danger. Seeing the men bow as I advanced, those with me accepted that there would be no resistance to their presence. The lady went to kneel in front of one edge, then went to sobbing seeing the number of bones. I sought to comfort her by assuring her that a memorial of some kind would be built. The men from Davelda signaled that others were approaching, but before I could decide upon a reaction the lady tugged at my skirt to make a demand.
“This ground must be sanctified.”
“We need priests,” I replied. “Jelnaya mentioned a priest of Debogda being present with the king, and one of Cloript with the Baron of Astoch, but we have seen none other. This is a realm to Samayer, so I would assume priests to her would be present just as this soldier is present.”
“They had to sacrifice them first. There should be adult bones at the bottom.”
I looked to the men, and saw them agitated. I did not hear them speak, but from glances and possibly hand signals they decided upon who would have the duty of informing the others. As one of the men rushed off to the castle, I turned to the lady, although glanced at the soldier to let him know that I included him, to make a demand.
“We need to hear your story.”
The lady nodded, then I felt turned to finish a prayer. She then rose to signal for me to follow her. Checking on the wolves that usually watched over me, I noticed movement of different kinds as I walked with her. I saw men in the uniform of Davelda track me, although they must have relayed information as it was a lady who finally came to be seen shadowing me. Those of the local community at first kept a distance, but when the one leading me called to them they turned to approach.
When they came close she told them, “They need to know. They are doing what they can, but they do not know why they are needing to do it. Also, none of them worship our gods, and Jelnaya is Fergush and not Samayer.”
A man in normal clothes advanced to stridently ask, “Why don’t you worship our gods?”
I answered, “Because I am not from your world. I am from a world where the people are animals.”
“You would have to know our history to know why not. I however am here because Jelnaya is a part of our history. What I am doing is saying that I am willing to become part of your history. Jelnaya had to learn my history to help me, so I am telling you that I need to learn your history.”
Another man stepped up to say, “Those other people are not from our world either.”
“No, but they consider themselves family. They are not history, but family. Don’t you treat those from Davelda unkindly, or you will be dealing with my family and Jelnaya’s family.”
“Listen, we are not without our history. I am sorry about those who were ruling this realm, but don’t think your history restarts with Jelnaya. She is coming in with her history, which is responsible for her being worthy of gaining this realm. You are going to have to learn about her, and she is going to have to learn about you.”
I paused to allow someone to say something else, but no one spoke. Knowing that messages could be said without words, I looked around to notice things in the expressions and gazes of the people. They appeared indecisive with most glancing in a manner of wishing someone else would start speaking. As I considered what I might say to help get the people speaking, I heard the voice of an old lady begin to talk about what I really wanted to hear.
The story I was told did not speak of anything drastic occurring. What happened was the usual problem of someone feeling a desperate situation required an action that would normally not be considered. Once evil got a step into the society, it worked to spread. People spoke of recognizing the problem, but not reacting to it. It brought me relief to hear them lecture each other without me having to preach to them. There was also a comfort as a number accepted they only helped bring things to the point where a drastic resolution was necessary.
I had to say, “Once Jelnaya finishes her work, yours will start. She can guide, lead, and protect you, but she will also obey any instruction from Fergush, Samayer, and probably the other four gods. My aunt, her great-aunt, is a devotee to Remidda. Jelnaya and I have a good friendship with one man with a special relationship with Debogda. The reason for the fox people is due to a mission Jelnaya had with a Champion of Onathia. Cloript has contacted Jelnaya directly. What I am saying is that Jelnaya will support the gods, so the demand is for you to correct your lives so they will not again speak to Jelnaya against you.”
There were no responses to that lecture. What I saw in the faces was mostly fear. Attempting to get someone local to speak to me, I had a horrible thought. Considering the response of the lady at the edge of the mass grave, I asked a question in a general manner hoping not to sound like I was making an accusation.
“One of those babies were yours.”
No one spoke, but people started leaving. What I saw troubled me highly, as I felt there was resistance to the only solution I could imagine. I did not want them to go. Knowing Jelnaya would not stop, I went by some people to step outside to assure my words would be heard by as many as possible.
“You cannot escape the gods! If you are not going to recognize them, Jelnaya will not recognize you. She is your duchess, but if you are not going to recognize the gods of this world –“
“You don’t know the gods of this world!”
Determined to prove myself equal to the boldness of my niece, I declared, “I just told you I did! Jelnaya came to me because Fergush sent her and he even sent my husband to me. I worked to build a castle for my relatives who are devotees to Fergush and Remidda. Do not tell me that I don’t know your gods. What happened here however speaks of you not knowing your gods, and that is a far worse fault than me not knowing your gods.”
That was just the start. As the sole divine champion of my Goddess, I had to lead my entire world in matters of religion. Sermons, discussions, and even disciplinary lectures were a part of my normal life. I let those of this community see that side of me as I presented the evidence Jelnaya had told me, I had seen, and I knew from my own time on this world. It brought me some satisfaction to see the people stop to listen to me, and I ended my words feeling that them giving me some of their attention was a start to them improving.
I however knew I had done well when one man in a doorway collapsed to his knees to declare, “Why didn’t I make that lecture?”
Moving to him, I said, “To yourself, if no one else.”
“Truly.” His head went to the ground, and as I heard him sobbing others spoke of being willing to listen to him now to which he only said, “I can’t.”
“No,” I replied. “You must. Whatever standing you had with the gods, you still need to stand as someone determined to protect the souls of the people. While you might have lost status, you have not lost yourself. I have no standing here. I am a foreigner, someone from another world. Still, I have respect for your gods. I have respect for my niece. You should have more than respect for your gods, and for the people around here, and for those reasons, if none other, you should be willing to speak.”
Now he stood, and as he dusted himself off he admitted, “You’re right. I’m glad you came. I’m glad to hear what you are saying of our new duchess. It is only right, as it was the previous duchess that started this.”
“I would probably say that was part of the rationale that had them assign this realm to Jelnaya.”
“Well, I guess I need to pray for her, as she will probably end up meeting Duchess Tigella. I know she fed on the babies, and suspect the dark forces rewarded her.”
“I trust Jelnaya to handle that. All I can say is that you are making me want to wait for her to return, so I can hear her story.”
And we return to Jelnaya through the eyes of Esgalia.