A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 20

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Twenty


I would wear a dress. My crystalline armor had a skirt around my thighs and not the leggings of a man. The fact that I was a lady did not bother me at all, and as a member of my gender I would wear a dress.

They were never the best gowns, but I did not wear drab garments. As someone with bright red and yellow hair, dark subdued colors just did not look good on me. White could only work with the right type of accessories. The type of clothes I chose to proclaim my relationship with my god and would work to have me look nice did have a sense of fashion, and men definitely stated their approval of my appearance. My Great-aunt Dirchein would always complain about my dresses, but that was due to me quickly wearing the garments out. Grandmother Straekin and my mother would always ask me about visiting tailors and getting new gowns, but what I selected was not the latest fashion or fanciest style.

It did not surprise me when Ulemai sent a dress for the evening meal. That was actually a standard action for the type of societies I visited. Those traveling could not assure their clothes would arrive in the best condition, and a local outfit assured that I would not appear completely odd. I put on the dress I was given, chose some of my own accessories to compliment it, then went to the evening meal.

The men spoke their appreciation of my appearance, and I behaved as I should. As stated, I was a guest and I had no problems with those I visited. A balladeer did seem to be having a problem with one of the songs, and feeling I knew it I decided to sing it with him. When I did things like that I knew some would complain, but this man seemed to agree with my choice of a key as his voice suddenly soared to blend with mine. He stated after we finished that he was suffering from something that stuffed up his head, so thanked me for helping him hear the right notes. Others spoke their appreciation of my voice, so I left the meal feeling that I had done well.

I stepped out into the courtyard the next morning to hear, “Baron Marekel said that you were a divine champion of a warrior god. Well, let’s see what you –“

Heads turned as he suddenly ended up on the ground. I had not even drawn a weapon, but simply made a quick advance ending with a foot to his chest. I was looking around for what weapons might be available to spar with when the man picked himself up from the ground.

“What is the name of your warrior god?”

I saw others coming near as I answered, “Fergush.”

“Baron Marekel said that you would spar with us – make us better.”

“I am not out here to play or put on a show. If you act like you think this is going to be some contest, you will end up back on the ground.”

I heard the voice of Irgamy say as he approached, “Jelnaya can actually be real sweet. Enjoyed your singing last night, dear lady.”

I saw that he had a type of javelin, so drew a dagger as I said, “For a sailing man, I guess you would be familiar with a harpoon.”

“It was one weapon I had not seen you work with.”

The soldier I had dropped spoke of having a few other odd weapons, so I put up my dagger and went to gain something like a javelin while saying, “Sounds good. I actually prefer a bow, as a lady I really do not have the strength for tossing a missile. If you are going to claim distance, it will surprise me if I win.”

“We have a couple more mornings of being here, Jelnaya. Let’s just get these guys used to you.” He threw his weapon and had it sink into the middle of a target, then said, “We can start slow this morning.”

I pointed to another target, waved a finger to assure that men moved out of the way, then tossed my projectile in the same manner as Irgamy. Noticing that I had also hit the middle of the wooden barrier, he had a soldier make a mark then threw another to have it sink where indicated. As the man I had first encountered made a mark on my target, I smiled at Irgamy before tossing mine using another style of powering the javelin. I could see in his eyes that he understood what I did, and watched him to see how he would attempt to best me.

Nesgrosh, one of Chering’s men, laughed when Irgamy started to simply throw another. The crewman had the size to confidently step up and grab the javelin before it was thrown. Negrosh did not have the tough-guy personality of the others. He used a more physical style of combat using his body, and I had to admit that he expertly disarmed Irgamy, took the projectile while seeking to match my stance, then made a throw that ended up not far from the mark made by a soldier.

Money began to be wagered as the men and I worked to match throwing techniques and not simply accuracy. Irgamy was correct that I did not use a javelin that often, so did not have the practiced confidence of other weapons. I however traveled, so had a familiarity with a number of ways of using various weapons. In a basic contest of accuracy, Irgamy and Negrosh would win, but I had them launch the projectiles in ways with which they were not familiar that could give me the victory.

It must be said that Chering did step up to make a few throws. While Irgamy did make some jokes about his lack of accuracy, I stayed quiet. The man simply let me know he was present. His style and accuracy were not bad, but they had none of the confidence and precision that would make him a viable contestant. If Chering would have presented himself as serious participant, I would have made jests, but quietly accepted his polite intrusion.

I stopped hearing the voice of Ulemai say, “Your grandmother said that you would not be a disruption. My husband said that what you did should have inspired his men to practice, and told me to thank you.”

After curtseying to Irgamy and Negrosh, I turned to the baroness to say, “I enjoyed the challenge. If it inspired the men, good. I however feel that the time was beneficial to me.”

“Well, I would like to command your time now.”

I looked to the men to say, “The baroness and I will be discussing a certain poem. She feels after six hundred pages of imagery and references that I will have something to speak about.”

Chering asked, “Do you have something to speak about, Jelnaya?”

“About the poem, not really. However, this is the world on which the Spring of Cormorphin actually exists, so I might be able to pull something useful from the baroness.”

“What would be the procedure, Jelnaya?”

The words from Chering came soft, so I picked up he wanted to be a part of the discussion while understanding certain limitations due to his gender. “If there is something of worth gained, I will discuss it with you guys later.”

“Could you also present the book to me? We are going to be here a couple of days.”

“Deal. More than willing to let you carry that tome around.” As the men laughed, I said to the baroness, “I would like time to freshen up.”

She replied, “Certainly, Jelnaya. Don’t take too long, as I already had the cooks prepare breakfast. If you must know, my husband left early to handle some business with our gentry.”

There were ladies in my family that enjoyed long baths. I certainly enjoyed spending time in water, but not necessarily bathing. A life with Irgamy on the high seas did not sound bad to me, although I did tend to get active enough that I felt a boat would become confining. I returned to my room to take off the simple leather outfit I had worn, do some necessary cleaning, then left in a nice dress to spend time with other ladies.

Grandfather Terish had let me know that Ulemai’s maid was a potential source of trouble. I definitely felt her responsible for a situation during our journey. What confused me was the complete trust in her from those of Chaliger. Only that one time did I sense any threat from her, but found the rest of the journey to have her as a calm, responsible member of our group. Seeing Ulemai’s maid open the door, I could not help but smile seeing a cheerful setting had been arranged for the social.

I did have a pleasant time with the baroness discussing the poem. She actually appreciated the references to other poems. Luckily, Professor Tiothan had included those verses in his over six hundred page tome, so I could read them to her. Knowing there were problems in the differences in language, I did my best to have my presentation declare the meter and any original rhyme. The baroness displayed pleasure in the conversation, and I felt that I gained a friend.

As we went to the door, she said, “Thank you, Jelnaya. Everyone told me that you could be a problem.”

I replied, “I don’t intend to be a problem, but I am not going to pretend to be darling damsel either. I like who I am. I like my life. I like Fergush. The problem results when other ladies are not willing to accept my personality.”

“I grew up under the care and supervision of my husband. I wished that I could do the things he does, as I do enjoy hearing him speak of the things he does. I really do not have the physique for it however.”

The baroness did have a delicate frame. I however could not say that mine was any better. My advantage had been having a grandfather who could move in ways that did not give larger, tougher opponents any method of truly hurting him. Having sparred with Marekel, I could understand why he had not taught his wife things of combat. While he was quick, he did trust in his muscle and mass to provide an edge in battle. I looked at the baroness and tried to offer advice.

“You would need to work at building what strength you can while learning to move. Combat can be a dance. Learn to move with the men, and you can find yourself recognizing when they are vulnerable.”

She pulled a dagger, then said, “Marekel told me to simply go around holding this. It is heavy.”

I pulled a number of the small blades from my person, then juggled them while saying, “It’s not the weight, but feeling comfortable with the object. You want your opponent to fear you more than the weapon.”

“Oh. That is something like what Marekel told me.”

As I caught the blades and returned them to my person, I said, “Those men that focus on making the killing stroke die, because they treat combat as an end game. I just enjoy the battle, and the longer it goes on the more fun I have. Killing people is not fun. It happens, but that is not why I go into combat. Fergush is not he-who-kills, but He-Who-Fights. If you don’t enjoy the fight, dying sometimes is not seen so bad.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“I honestly do not believe your husband wants you to die either. He is returning to the Spring of Cormorphin because of you. He gave you that dagger assuredly to enable you to protect yourself. What you do with it is not think about killing people, but simply about being glad you have it.”

“Yes!” I saw her swing it around, then say, “Thank you, Jelnaya.”

As I left to move back to my room, I heard the voice of my god say, “That was a fantastic thing you did, Jelnaya. I believe that little conversation with the baroness is what you will end up bragging about.”

I kept my voice soft as I replied, “If that is true then it should be a different story than most of those told at your table.”

“That is why I wanted you for my table, Jelnaya. Keep being the person you are. I’m proud of you.”

Even when Jelnaya is being nice she can give people problems.