A Wish for Hope
Grandfather Terish had a reputation of keeping those who traveled with him alive. Someone that was the result of a malevolent deity, who began his life assuring customers paid for their bread, and started his career once away from his world wiping out some of the toughest malicious creatures, was not known for killing those who traveled with him. Even Grandmother Straekin admitted her husband was one of the deadliest beings ever to have lived, but that she loved him. He was a wonderful person, and I loved him. I often wished that I had his reputation.
Besides almost everything, the one difference in my Grandfather Terish and me was that he would cheat. When put in a deadly situation, all options were considered viable. What had amazed me as I trained under him was that he mostly used basic deception when going against opponents. He had the knowledge to simply eliminate those that challenged him, but preferred the honor of gaining a victory others could understand, and that he could brag about with others giving him approval, than simply returning alive and with the treasure. I did enjoy listening to the stories Grandfather Terish would tell me, and I found one of my greatest joys to have him approving of the tales I would present to him.
On the mission that Vulge originally joined me, one of the immortals of Davelda did get killed, as well as another hero. Hearing the tale, others spoke of their amazement that more did not die. Instead of people speaking of their reluctance to go with me, I found some fame as others spoke of their appreciation of the honesty of my missions. Visiting Davelda, I watched one show where my adventures were compared to some of my Grandfather Terish’s with mine gaining the higher rating. Someone with the studio realized that I was on the planet, so called me for my own appraisal of their logic. I told them that I would rather have my Grandfather Terish’s reputation than my own, although I knew the things I was sent to do were in a different category than what he faced. Thinking on the seriousness of my situation it bothered me to have others in my company, as I did not want more people to be killed.
We entered a chamber mostly filled with water. A number of openings spilled their contents into this one. Instead of comments about the smells or quality of the water, Vulge and I spoke warnings of what threats might come. The lads helped me use the direction of the outflow to assure us moving toward the church, although being able to safely spend the time in the chamber had Abreyon ask a question.
“Are the monster fleeing?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I replied, “as I am going after them.”
“No, Honored Duchess, as we spoke on this. Whether the problem was you or something else, we would see it removed. You will not go alone.”
Nerbink said, “We knew you were an instrument of Fergush, so knew a deadly fight would be before us. Whether it was you, or some other threat, we set ourselves to besting it.”
“Me?” I had to ask. “Why me? I am an instrument of Fergush, but he is not malicious. Samayer definitely is not malicious. The fact I had to do things should have troubled you as much as it troubled me doing them.”
“There are tales of those of Fergush who would not gain Samayer’s approval.”
“I did not believe I had that type of reputation.”
Vulge said, “Be easy on the boys, Princess. The fact they are here speaks well of them.”
Abreyon replied, “Thank you for those words, Sir Vulge, but I accept that the honored duchess needs to learn about us just as we needed to learn about her.”
I moved to step into the passage we had determined went where I wanted to go while saying, “I however want it understood that this mission is not some usual task set by Fergush.”
“Yes, well, I have already claimed my success with him. This is for honor, certainly your honor, Honored Duchess.”
Nerbink stated, “Same here.”
I looked to Vulge, saw him smile, then looked back to the lads to say, “Assuming you survive to claim it, what would you do with it?”
“Brag about it.”
Abreyon answered, “I might seek more. Time will tell, Honored Duchess.”
Vulge said, “You, I will worry about.”
“You don’t want her married, Sir Vulge?”
“Oh, you need not worry about me. As long as you behave yourself, you have only Duchess Jelnaya to worry about. However, should you gain her approval what you should worry about is her father.”
I had to admit, “He was a little mean to those Loranda brought to him, but I feel it worked as Stimily has a lot more polite young men coming to see her. As for anyone you approve, Vulge, I would hope he would gain father’s approval as well.”
We might have spoken on my family, but I saw a cloud of what I could tell was cold from the crystalizing of what moisture was on the walls. While I knew the item helping keep some organization to my hair would protect me, I could not help but worry about the men. I took a couple of quick steps, then worked a spell to drain away the energy. Magic was present in the world I grew up on, so I had learned some with me actually suspecting my Grandfather Terish would have taught me more. It took concentration to keep the power being sapped, but I kept the process going hoping the men would prove themselves worth protecting. Seeing the cloud dissipate, it felt wonderful being able to tell the men had advanced successfully into combat.
Instead of more alligator creatures, I saw what appeared as women with boney hands and feet that ended in talons. While they would be a threat to most people, the men had armor protecting them and proved their weapons could do harm. I saw what was happening, then tried to consider where I was needed or what more needed to be done.
Seeing one move from Vulge to Nerbink, I felt there was another directing them. Wanting to get past the regular threats to the source of the trouble, I dashed forward. Nerbink found the extra threat to be removed as I came around him. I really did not mean to single out Vulge for help, but he was the one who responded to my action. Seeing him drop the monster on him, I told him to move to one of the lads even as I darted on.
There was a light ahead. Not a brilliant radiance, but in the complete darkness it was easily made out. As I however moved forward, I saw something rising from the water ahead.
The light was further on, but I considered what was attempting to confront me to be more than the men could handle. Not seeing a solid form, and knowing the problems with using a sword in water, I sheathed NeverRose and drew the drahaberd. When a surge of filthy liquid came upon me, I set the blades to receive a more substantial attack. From my experience with the weapon, I made certain movements to assure damage would be inflicted. Sensing something around my feet, I dropped to actually feel my actions effect something moving. Another upward surge of the water had me believe that the main body of the monster was rising, although the movement of someone else had me consider that the fight would have an unwanted casualty.
Finding myself able to breathe, I asked, “Esgalia, what are you doing here?”
“My answer is not on this world, but might be on the world this is from. I’m going with you.”
“What you said makes sense, but I want you to stay alive.”
“I’m not leaving you. I’m tired of running. I do not want to see my friends die, eaten, but want to see the end of those threatening us. I believe by staying with you I can do that.”
Seeing him stab at something, I got to work assuring the death of the creature. I had pulled the drahaberd because I expected a substantial attack in the midst of the surges of liquid. That really did not happen. Esgalia threw away pieces of wood and small masses of algae, which gave me the freedom to not worry about him. Doing what I could to determine the real threat, I accepted that I could do little until the water began draining back. My assumption was that the monster expected us to be concerned for our footing or worried about drowning. While Esgalia continued to stab at whatever he felt moving, I focused on recognizing the actual creature responsible for the situation.
I could swim, but the corridor was not large enough for me to lose contact with a surface. As for running out of breath, there was not enough water flowing through the passage to keep anyone drenched for long. Wanting to prove myself superior to the aquatic threat, I used my feet to propel myself along the appendage that I suspected of attacking after the next rush of liquid. It however did not move, so I changed my theory to it being used to secure the monster as it directed the liquid. Wanting to reduce the strength of the one causing the trouble, I dropped the lower blade of the drahaberd to have it slice through the outer layer of the tentacle. As expected, the water again began to rise, but I kept my feet moving through the channel with my legs working to propel me forward as fast as possible. Seeing another wall of water coming down the corridor, I set myself to the task of assuring the creature attempting to oppose me would face me in combat.
This time I plunged one end of the drahaberd through the tentacle and grinned feeling the divine blade sink into the stone floor. The edge pointed away from me, so it could not pull the tentacle back. I held on while again being immersed in water. When I rose from the liquid, I lifted the drahaberd intending to again work my way down the passage.
Seeing Esgalia turn after finding his dagger again only bother strands of a plant, I recognized that others had made their way to me. How the lads had managed to force their way down the corridor I did not know. I however looked to them recognizing that I would have to be concerned for others than myself and Esgalia.
The fight with the creature was not easy, although I also did not consider it dangerous. While the mass of tentacles did seem to have some control over the water, they really did not move with much precision or attack with a great amount of strength. Harming the appendages did not seem to affect the creature, except to reduce its ability to react to us. The fight ended after we had done enough to where the monster could no longer pose a threat enabling us to strike at the central body.
Abreyon said, “Honored Duchess, your hair glows.”
I replied, “I did not think there was enough light to have you see that effect.”
“Well, there was. What happened that you got that hair?”
“Fergush gave it to me. I tell people he wanted them to know just how dangerous I was.”
“Or how special. Gifts from the gods are an honor.”
Worried about another, I looked to the soaked form of Esgalia and asked, “How are you?”
He spewed, “Don’t worry about me.” I actually became concerned hearing him sob, but then he looked at me and said, “Thank you. I needed to fight. Running… running I left others behind. I always wished I could have fought, but I ran.”
“You’re welcome, but be careful. Leaving others behind because you did stand and fight can hurt as well.”
We all turned as a female voice said, “You cannot win, but I am still willing to let you join me.”
Nerbink started to make a reply, but I silenced him by raising a finger. He however looked at me with a desire to speak when the lady said something else. I accepted Nerbink needed an explanation, so softly asked a question.
“Are you going to fight it?”
“That’s why you don’t speak. You cannot let it trap you in its game. I might speak, but only to see if I can trap it into my scheme. I have no scheme however. There is no negotiation. I was brought here with the orders to slaughter. That thing either caused it, or is part of the problem. It will die.”
Abreyon supported me by saying, “And it seduced others, including Lokell. You can’t let it into your head, Nerbink.”
The other lad replied, “I understand. I just want to assure that we do not kill anyone we could save.”
I said, “I did not kill Lokell. If I feel there is any reason to save someone, I will try. However, we have passed the point of anyone worth saving being present.”
“I understand, Honored Duchess.”
“Your heart is right, but the situation isn’t. Help me get through this situation, and we can discuss how we believe things should be.”
Deception is how the monster expects to win with our heroes needing to prove themselves.