A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 16

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Sixteen


I was going to the kitchen to get something for my daughter when I saw Jelnaya leave with a glass of something. She saw me, and changed her path to meet me. Understanding that she wanted to talk, I looked at the glass and made an assumption.

“Were you also desiring a glass of warm milk before going to bed?”

“What? Uh, no. Actually, this is very cold milk, a vanilla shake. I am going to bed however.”

I had never had anything cold when it was not cold outside. Honestly, cold things were enjoyed in those periods when the hearth had all the stones hot. The castle could actually become unpleasant as it fought the chill outside, and a little iced specialty could ease the sweltering conditions inside. The atmosphere in this castle was pleasant, but I still thought the idea of something cold to drink to fit my mood.

“Would those in the kitchen make one for me?”

“Sure. Just ask. Everyone in there is over seven hundred years old, so if they don’t know how to make something, it is about time that they learned.”

The smile grew on her face as she said that, then a slight chuckle. I gathered that it was a private joke, although the people of Davelda had been honest enough about their history. I sought to assure a smile on my face as I tried a joke of my own.

“Old dogs tend not to learn new tricks.”

“Yes, we children of Davelda try to say that, but actually they have done rather well adjusting. Everyone will admit that grandfather had a hard time forming a relationship with grandmother, but by the time my father came along the people of Davelda were accepting that they needed to come out of their ruts.”

Jelnaya had altered her course to come to me. I however knew that the best way to manage the flow of information was to control the conversation. I thus spoke quickly to alter the topic to something I desired to speak about.

“I heard that you were offered immortality, so why do you want to go with Marekel?”

“I was told to. See my red and yellow hair? I accepted a place as a champion of a god. I love that life, especially since Fergush, my god, accepted my terms for what that life could offer. Fergush told me to go to Davelda. I did and found you and your noble couple to arrive. I did not need more than that.”

Before I could continue to control the conversation, she said, “The question is why do I want those men to go with us. I don’t, but I told Fergush that I wanted it all. That means a husband and a life. I thus must give Irgamy, and he is the only one I am truly concerned about, the chance to prove himself as a companion.”

I had to smile as I asked, “So Vice-Captain Chering does not have a chance?”

Her face indicated some displeasure with my question. “You really should have been told that by now. What Davelda offers is all science. Their method of bestowing immortality reworks your reproductive organs. They have now figured out how to rescue eggs and sperm, but the number of children being born is still extremely limited. If I wanted a man from Davelda, I guess that I could deal with it. I however will desire a man who wants things to happen as they should, which means his body acting as it should.”

“And you are willing to risk your life for that?”

I thought my question would cause her to pause. Mentioning the seriousness of certain topics would have most people rethink their train of thought. Jelnaya however quickly returned her answer to my question.

“I have put it on the line for less. Yes, I am willing to risk my life for everything I consider life worth living. I want it all, and I know the cost of that.” I believe that she detected my surprise at her response, as she explained. “It’s an easy decision for me. Grandfather and grandmother are eternal, and I have heard both relate the tales of their early days. Not to have such stories of my own would lessen the respect that my children will have for me. I don’t want that. I want what my grandparents have, so I need the stories to go with the benefit. I want my grandchildren to be honored for having my blood in them, not for them having traces of the blood from my grandparents.”

I found myself thinking that I would enjoy killing this lady. She had the arrogance and simplistic dreams of Marekel, but not his size and strength. I thus felt able to overcome her. Her eyes looked at mine with me thinking that she assumed a different line of thought in me.

“What about you? No other servants are coming. Surely you are worried about yourself, if not about your baroness.”

I did have an answer that was honest enough without breaking my promise. “I was there when Marekel gained Ulemai. Someone had to care for the baby, and my service became permanent. I became tied to the child. Marekel could not make the journey without me. I however am hoping to gain some benefit as well.”

“I don’t see any reason to deny you, and would not fault you for taking an opportunity should we gain the spring.”

Whether that was kindness or just honesty, I made a gracious warning in reply. “You don’t know what you are getting yourself into.”

“I never do. The type of challenges that I take on are always those the regular people, including the military, are unable to handle. They can tell you what they can, but if they had a straight-forward solution then somebody would have chanced it instead of calling for help. I have survived, and I plan on doing so again.”

Attempting to put the lady in her place, I said, “But you are so young.”

“How can you say that?” Jelnaya almost spat out. “You are surrounded by immortals who look nothing like the centuries in years of their actual lives. Yes, I was young when I gained my immortality, but for a lady I had to make certain decisions while still young. I was facing a decision of gaining my immortality and living the life I wanted or going to my Aunt Debbish and accepting suitors to live my life as a wife and mother. Luckily, a situation came up that Fergush felt could be used to his advantage in gaining my soul. It worked, and I have not regretted it, but my appearance from that moment has been set.” I saw her reach for some strands from her head as she added, “It includes these red and yellow locks, but I have come to like them.”

Thinking back on my own life, and the anger that filled me in my early days, I asked, “Well, why did you ever start on such a path?”

“I really did not know all the options that were available for me. I did not want to be a mafia wife, but certain things on my native world are much more gender biased than on the male dominated worlds. When I was brought here to Davelda to begin that part of my education, they were all speaking of Uncle Althery and how he did not stay. I found myself realizing that he had paved the way for my own escape, so I took off with Great-uncle Ferrigote as well. I didn’t much like his ways, so took off with grandfather. While we had our confrontations, I really came to love my grandfather, and learned so much from him. I still turn to him instead of the other elders in my family.”

Finding myself unable to relate to the lady, I thanked her for her time. I felt that she would have said more, but heard another call her name. It was one of the men from Davelda going with us. I saw Jelnaya go to the large man, and without any hesitation trade a couple of jabs. He was playful, and acted as if her taps caused him pain even as she showed no discomfort from the touches that came to her. I had never been able to interact with a man in such a manner. Realizing that I could not find a method of relating to the lady, I turned to get my drink from the kitchen before moving back to my bedroom.

Thinking back on my own life, there might have been ways for me to put the fire of my own rebellion to better use. I might not have had relatives that traveled through worlds, but I had aunts and uncles that were considered rather eccentric. My family might not have been pleased to have learned that I had gone to spend time with them, but they would have tolerated it a lot better than the path I did take. At the time I felt joy in their cries of agony, and considered myself powerful in being able to kill them. The fire however never stopped burning, and I felt it within me even now.

Walking back to the room I however found myself considering something that Jelnaya said. She spoke of having never regretted her decision. The hatred, the ire, the strong fire of maliciousness that caused my body to feel like my internals were boiling began to surge within me. The almost freezing temperature of the milk shake did nothing to keep the base nature of my existence from revealing itself. Only by rushing back to my room and looking at the sleeping form of my daughter could I gain the mastery over what I truly was.

I regretted almost everything about my present situation. The only thing that continued to bring me joy was my daughter. I felt the transformation constrained by the promise again settle back into the closest thing I could consider to being calm. As usual, the voices then started to come. They did not like the fact that I stayed in a disguise. They wanted me to show myself as I truly was, and take the lives of all. This time it was not the fire of malevolent forces, but a driving desire to feast on the warm flesh and blood of those living. Where it failed, from the beginning its power over me had collapsed, was in the presence of my daughter. There was love there. There was a positive strength that enabled me to hold back the evil that now controlled my soul. The problem that it presented to me was that I would ever regret my life. Marekel had reinforced the fact that I had made a wrong decision when he came so close to beating me that day. Again it was the presence of my daughter that calmed my spirit and enabled me to make the bargain. She needed to live. She needed to live. She needed to live, or I would do something so horrible that I would end not just my existence, but that of my soul. I would regret that. Even in non-existence, complete non-existence, there would be a strong essence of regret that would cause me and all those I encountered to feel that their present situation was something horrible.

Moving to my bed, I fought the voices by reminding myself of something that they tried to deny. I had almost become defeated that day. The pact I formed with Marekel had been caused by my desperation. If I had died then he would have gained my daughter without constraints. He could have sold her into slavery, kept her as his own slave, or simply had her raised as a common urchin. While at times I considered the latter to have been the better option, I could not have my daughter grow up as someone of no status. She had to be someone of worth, of power, which meant that she needed to be the wife of Marekel. While the voices spoke of how much I should hate the man, the love that he constantly displayed to Ulemai I could not deny often matched my own.

The promise I made to Marekel had its limits. There was no way that the forces that seethed inside me would have allowed me to accept anything open-ended. The only reason I was still in my situation was that Marekel had proven himself much more benevolent and pure than I or the forces that made me into what I was could conceive.

I could not sleep. The voices would keep me awake. I however would deal with this time as I had many previous long nights before. I could not sleep, but I could find rest in my love for my daughter.

And our group begins to handle minor matters before leaving.