A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 22

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Twenty-Two


I re-entered the apartment for the ruling nobles only to hear Ulemai ask, “None, my lord?”

He replied, “You are more than free to check our storage and read the journals, Ulemai. I can say that the nursery should be a very well protected part of the castle. I feel certain that is where the previous ladies of this castle fled.”

“I have not yet found myself with child. Those at Davelda did say they felt they had helped, but only time will tell.”

“I understand, Ulemai. Let me also say that I did not simply rely upon things I heard, but went myself. Let me also say that I have been from the first reading the journals of those who ruled before us.”

I had to ask, “What is the problem?”

Ulemai turned to give an answer, “I saw Jelnaya wearing armor, and wondered if there was a suit made for a previous baroness.”

“She does have a lovely covering of crystals, but I do not see why you need something so elaborate. Would chain work?”

“I want what I wear to be pretty. Maybe if they were really fine chains.”

“Well, uh, could we go speak to her?”

Marekel replied, “I am sure that her answer would be the same as mine. A proper, and definitely a pretty, set of armor for Ulemai would take time.”

Ulemai began checking her appearance as she said, “We can at least ask. Still, as a champion of a warrior god she might have something, or know of something.”

“We have one more day.”

“I know, my lord, but it would not hurt to ask.”

I had to say, “And Jelnaya is a guest of this castle. Some graciousness should be expected from her.”

Marekel said, “Jelnaya has not been a troubling figure. Ulemai, I do not see why I should need to join you.”

The young lady replied, “No, my lord. Jelnaya was most social earlier, and she has been friendly with our soldiers. I am expecting no trouble, and maybe a good response.”

“Then I will trust you to handle your business.”

Ulemai confidently left her chambers to look for Jelnaya. This was my daughter’s home, and she had grown up completely trusting in the safety it could provide. Those who were visiting she had spent days around, and felt certain they meant her no harm. I did not follow Ulemai to protect her, but simply to assure that if she felt she needed something she could keep her focus while I looked for it.

It did not surprise either of us to learn that Jelnaya was in our library. There actually was not that many books in the castle. Most of the reading matter was an assortment of journals and diaries acquired by various methods, although these were considered good texts for instructing the young. Jelnaya was with the men who had joined her and both of our local sages discussing things of the history of Chaliger.

After the usual acknowledgements of her presence, Ulemai stammered, “Jelnaya… you’re… you are in a dress.”

There were chuckles even as Jelnaya replied, “The same outfit I wore at our social. I never changed out of it.”

“Yes, but – well, I was thinking to gain a suit of armor. I had Marekel look through our stores, but it seems that none of the past ladies of the castle took up fighting.”

“It takes training to be comfortable in armor. I would look to your hunters.”

“My hunters?”

The response from Jelnaya surprised me as much as Ulemai, so I listened with her to the words from the divine champion for an explanation. “Yes, Ulemai. They move around your wilderness seeking some safety from the terrain while also feeling able to meet what challenges might come upon them. It will probably be nothing more than some leather over some thick cloth, but it should be an outfit that can be quickly created for you.”

“Thank you, Jelnaya.”

“Just remember, Baroness, that nothing is perfect. Even if you did gain a suit of armor, you would need to stay wary and trust in those who are committed to your protection. Still, the fact that you are concerned for your safety I consider a good thing.”

“Yes. Thank you again, Jelnaya.”

The lady tapped one of the books on the table while saying, “I might serve He-Who-Fights, but one thing I was taught was that the battle is often won before the fight even starts. I am doing what I can to win this, and I am glad that you are doing the same.”

Hearing a couple of the soldiers at station in the room speak their agreement along with some of the men, I found myself becoming concerned. These were not fools. Marekel might not have known what he would gain in Davelda, but he knew to go looking for answers. He did not simply seek to rush back, and those who came with him were not spending the days eating and drinking while bragging of their ability to overcome any threats. I looked at the soldiers and realized that anything less than complete defeat for Marekel would not look well on me or my daughter.

In attempting my own return to power I found myself having to accept what it would cost me. It actually hurt to realize the wealth I now had. The treasure I had accumulated had been claimed by Marekel, although at the time I felt it could be regained with interest when I finally claimed his soul. While he had spent a lot of the gold and jewels on restoring the barony, I knew the prosperity of the land had not allowed my money to completely disappear. Still, I now had respect, a daughter, and I found myself accepting that the loss would result in a hole in my life.

I had to excuse myself. A desire to confront Marekel and once again gain a pact with him filled me, but I knew not to chance breaking the promise at this point. He had the advantage. Only by somehow regaining something close to what I had and removing members from the group traveling with my daughter could I hope to overcome having to live in a future completely counter to my nature. Finding myself excused, I sought a way to make plans I felt could restore any chance at achieving the fate I had so long ago desired.

Breathing deeply I could not help but admit the risk I would be taking. Something within me would not allow me to consider giving in to Marekel and allowing what he had started to come to fruition. Accepting that I had sold my soul to certain powers, even more than my soul, I understood that in living I could not allow my doom to passively come upon me. There had to be a fight. Hoping to come through it with something I could claim as a victory, I settled to study my situation and evaluate the risks.

I came from my thoughts hearing a commotion outside. I had to leave to find another chamber with a window that gave a good view of the practice field. I saw Ulemai with Jelnaya as they directed one of the castle hunters with some ladies that I assumed were the available seamstresses. The commotion was in having the armorer step up, because he claimed to know his business without needing some foreign lady to give him advice. Jelnaya had a soldier join her in a sparring circle, then go through certain attacks. She would call a stop, then point out things about where the soldier had his weapon and how her body could be hurt if it had not moved in a certain manner. She then would point out things in how the hunter was dressed. I listened to the commotion from the armorer, soldiers, and the seamstresses making comments to what Jelnaya or the hunter had to say wondering about the manner I should kill my own daughter.

The knowledge that she was alive however bothered me. I had not killed her. Thinking back there was no desire to have her follow me in my acts of darkness. If I had thought something of that future, I would have killed her. I had not killed her. That knowledge had me again consider my own plans for my future.

Marekel had trusted in my maternal instincts keeping me true to the promise. Recognizing my status, I accepted that indeed there was love in me for Ulemai. I had grown to even gain some acceptance of Marekel. He also loved my daughter. I had kept my promise out of spite hoping to find him the one in the wrong, but now I was having to accept the error in my plans.

I finally had to admit certain facts. I could not kill Ulemai. Someone else would have to do it. An accident was possible, but I would assure that any problem I created would not harm her. As for Marekel, I really could not kill him either. If I did, the promise was broken, but I would then have to face his supporters when I tried to fill the void. My only option was to work on killing those traveling with us, so I studied what facts I knew to plan what I could.

There was a desire to go ahead and kill someone. Not anyone major, but just to be responsible for a death. I however accepted that in the castle I could not get away with it. Marekel and Ulemai had created a solid relationship with their people. Whoever I slayed would be missed, and a search would be undertaken. Also, killing someone would break my promise, and at the moment that would not benefit me at all.

Ulemai sought me out to speak of the armor she was having made for her. Hearing her relate the commotion in the practice field had it all seem like fun. Of course no one had tried to hurt her. While some tried to control the orders given to them, she was familiar enough with the personalities to accept their gruffness or uninterested natures and give commands in a manner that would have them obey. What she tried to describe to me sounded much more elaborate than I felt could be done in a day, but I trusted the people to do what they could for Ulemai.

“Namill?” I spun to curtsey to let my daughter know that she could speak privately. “Do you believe becoming immortal is a good thing?”

One thing I learned of children was that it was best to provide an honest answer. “If life is good, you want it to last. When things turn sour, you can want it to all come to an end. When you no longer have the option of being part of the cycle of life, you can realize that your fate can end up being long and dreary.”

“I believe Marekel wants me to become immortal.”

“He considers life to be good with you, my lady. It is a compliment, although maybe not the best possible fate.”

“That is what those from Davelda say. They say that life can become slow and monotonous, and they knew of those who sought death as just something to make their lives better. They are not hoping to become immortal, but to gain a method of restoring their reproductive organs. It seems that they also have trouble producing babies.” She was not finished, but I waited understanding Ulemai had something she considered very personal to say. “If immortal, I could just be having baby after baby.”

She smiled hearing me laugh, and stayed still showing a desire to hear my words. “Ulemai, I have been telling you to enjoy your time with your husband. It will come to an end, and having your body with child is definitely one of those periods when you would be best to keep certain desires under control. There are things you can do to prevent pregnancy, but let’s not talk about that right now.”

“Should I consider getting another maid, one that I can allow to have time with my husband?”

“No, Ulemai, you keep Marekel focused on you. Trust me, that is one of the things that makes the man worthy of keeping him alive.”

Jelnaya has her own concerns for the coming mission.