A Wish for Hope

Chapter Thirty-One
(Esgalia)

I clasped the shimmering coin in my hand glad to have physical proof of my experience.  There was no longer any thick covering of fur on my body.  My face was back to being mine with the stubble of a beard actually making me feel good in needing to shave.  My clothes were torn, but that was no proof.  I had in my hand not just an object supposedly from another world, but something able to summon someone that nobody could claim to be an actor.  For once in my life I could speak to others of my experiences and have them believe me.

There was no real evidence of my gods.  What I felt, saw, and otherwise considered proof was laughed at, ridiculed, and disproved by others.  While Honored Jelnaya was a champion of a god other than my own, she was real evidence of something beyond the practical beliefs of most people.

Scared I might lose the icon, I almost chanced asking for another.  I however had handled a number of unique artifacts, so put it in a pocket with confidence in keeping it with me.  Feeling able to complete the mission with the bonus of having support for my story, I finished packing what few belongings I had.

Going to Honored Jelnaya to tell her I was ready, I saw the icons on her clothing.  There was the one over her heart that she would pull at times to perform some action, but there were others about her clothes.  I found a smile come to my face remembering the name of her deity, then stopped realizing why I reacted as I did.  My world had reduced all our gods to only one, and then most did not bother to even pay respect to that construct.  It was part of my job to only authorize representations of any one deity that showed it as being an aspect of our greater philosophy we had rationalized to truly be the force that created and watched over our world.  Honored Jelnaya however did not worship a supreme complex entity, but a singular personality she presented as being very real.

I did not doubt that seeing me sit to hold my head in my hands troubled the others, and hearing the lady approach I turned to looked at her while saying, “I’m all right, Honored Jelnaya.  I am just remembering, and what I am recalling are my own faults.  Like you, I was directed by my superiors to do something wrong.  Like you, I am hoping that something good will result.  Unlike you however, my superiors were men and not gods.”

“Well, I still want to assure you are ready for what might happen.”

I stood while replying, “I feel that whatever happens, I can face it with a clear conscious.  Honestly, I doubt I could say that about me as a fox person.”

A smile came to my face as she again approached to tap me on the nose while commanding, “Keep your head clear.  We might need you.”

I grabbed to hug her while saying, “I was right to seek you.  I did need you, Honored Jelnaya.”  I released her to say, “We can talk later.  I will let you know things as I find myself considering certain memories as being important.  Right now, I am just getting used to the jumble of concepts that I once considered rational thoughts.  Still, I feel more than capable to continue at the level of my old fox mentality.  Let’s go, Honored Jelnaya.”

Seeing the expression on Vulge’s face, I was glad to hear the lady say, “He’s good.  The rest of you better be good, because I am opening the portal.”

There were a couple of things still left out, but the lads quickly picked them up while telling the lady they were ready.  I saw her look around, then watched as she performed some actions.  Making out the shimmering circle I found myself amazed to be in the presence of real magic.  Most people I dealt with would not believe I had traveled to other worlds, much less having passed between realities due to the actions of magic.  Attempting to really brag of what I experienced, I asked a question of the lady before passing through the shimmering circle.

“Honored Jelnaya, is what you did to open this portal divine magic?”

She shook her head while answering, “No, Esgalia.  It would take a bit to explain, but I just consider it practical magic.”

I passed through the portal shaking my head with the concept of there being something one could call practical magic.  My church considered any magic, just the word actually, to be evil.  To approach any of the priests with my experiences with magic would not be a wise action.  I passed through however unable to doubt that I was now someplace completely different, although wondering how to relate the experience to others.

It shocked me to recognize the place with it helping my attitude to hear Abreyon say, “I guess they ran out of foxes.”

Indeed there were numerous pens of rabbits.  I remembered a number of cages with foxes in them.  What I also recalled was the use of certain metal poles.  The chains connecting the manacles that bound us were set to have us in a line, and I looked around thinking if I could now see a way of having avoided what happened to me.  I saw Abreyon at the pens, and actually appreciated his question.

“Should I release them?”

Honored Jelnaya replied, “I don’t see why.  We might want rabbit to eat.”  I appreciated her then asking, “Do you recognize this place, Esgalia?”

“Yes, Honored Jelnaya,” I answered, although I then supplied the information I felt she needed to know.  “This is not my world.”

She drew her sword while saying, “No.  The similar machine I saw was also not on the world of those I was helping.  It also was close to a community of the Privileged.”

A shot rang out.  I believe Honored Jelnaya deflected the bullet it with her sword, but whether she did or some other action caused the effect I noticed did not really matter.  The lady took off toward those that attacked.  I followed the other men who rushed off behind her.  The next shot was followed by a scream, and I knew the combat had begun.

While Nerbink and Vulge attacked with their swords, I saw Abreyon try to use one of the guns our opponents carried.  Seeing him attempting to figure out how to use it, Honored Jelnaya picked one up.  Her weapon sounded in regular bursts, although the young man did not show much control.  He finally threw down his weapon to draw his sword while asking a question of the lady.

“Honored Duchess, just how much practice have you had with those weapons?”

She replied, “I told you, Abreyon, that my father’s company makes weapons like that and worse.  I grew up handling all types of guns.”

“Well, they’re not as easy to use as you make it look.”

“No, and my sword has never run out of ammo.  Still, I consider part of my duty to stay proficient with all types of weapons.”

Jelnaya and the men kept fighting even as an amplified voice rang out, “Who are you?  Listen, we can talk.”

I asked, “Did you talk to the Privileged, Honored Jelnaya?”

“Well, at the time I did not know what I was going up against.  Also, I had others with me that had been working with the Privileged, so not really convinced of their corruption.  This time I am with you, so you tell me if we need to talk.”

Suddenly a flash of light and smoke went off before us, and a very large humanoid creature with horns, teeth more like spikes, and talons for nails appeared before us.  He lifted an arm as if it would block Honored Jelnaya’s attack, but screamed when the edge of her sword bit into bone.  I believe it then worked to attack with more control and skill, but while Honored Jelnaya proved herself able to block his attacks he had nothing that would stop her.  Everything went quiet when a flash of light and smoke signaled the threat to be gone.

The lady then yelled out, “I guess you still feel like talking!”

An amplified voice replied, “Impressive.  I guess we had better talk.”

She turned to softly say, “Okay, let me give you specifics.  There should not be women, and only a limited number of animals.  These might not be Privileged, but I expect a lot to be the same.”

Vulge asked, “You telling us to keep fighting?”

“Yes.  While there might be things to learn, I can assure you that relenting will be a wrong thing to do.  Remember, Esgalia’s people were deceived.  We cannot trust what those here will say, so should keep in mind what we have learned to be true.  As far as I am concerned, that means we keep fighting.”

I said, “Yes.  We cannot allow them to continue.”

“You’re coming with me, Esgalia.  I know things, but you know things of these beings.  I might need you to supply some information.”

Abreyon said, “We will keep up the fight.”

“The Privileged were not good fighters.  They trusted in what had been done to them, but found themselves unable to stop me.”

Nerbink said, “Like that demon.”

I saw the lady signal to me as she said, “Prove yourselves.  Esgalia and I will be seeing what might be necessary to pull a complete win.”

The men took off, then I followed Honored Jelnaya as she advanced while saying, “Okay, talk!”

From speakers I heard the man ask, “Who are you?”

“Someone who doesn’t really feel that talking will solve anything!”  She then whispered, “Esgalia, do you see cameras?”

“Yes, I’m watching you,” the amplified voice replied.  “Where did you get that yellow and red hair?”

“From Fergush, He-Who-Fights.”

“Don’t know him.”

“Really?  You expected to hear the name of someone you knew?”

I was pointing out cameras and speakers to the lady.  She in turn let me know she was looking for receivers, as neither one of us saw cables.  Honored Jelnaya also let me know where the other men were moving.  She however spun to point in the direction we had come as she made an observation.

“They had all those rabbits.”

The amplified voice said, “Yes.  Ah, the lady is smart.  All those rabbits, and she is trying to find me, but if she does, all those people will be killed.”

I saw her smile at me as she pointed and said, “There.”

The sight shocked me, but I managed to softly reply, “Yes.  I remember that place.”

Over threats from the man she rushed to a rather large house.  What appeared to be men showed themselves and readied guns.  They however twitched in response to whatever Honored Jelnaya threw at them.  The pieces of metal did not appear large, and I saw none of the men collapse in death, but they were affected enough that she managed to rush upon them safely.

Seeing me step up to one of the men, who again showed no signs of bleeding or damage like a normal body, she called my name and tossed me a gun saying that it was loaded while the one I was reaching for was almost out of ammo.  I had no idea how she would know, but I had to admit the weapon she sent to me had a full magazine.  As I turned to see if there was another man attempting to protect the house, I heard the voice of the man who had been speaking above us without being amplified.

“Who are you?”

Honored Jelnaya replied, “Well, how familiar are you with the Privileged?”

“They were nothing compared to us.”

“I plan on having you discuss that with them.”

“Jelnaya.”  Seeing the lady curtsey, he then said, “I have someone who wants to meet you.”

A black smoke came from the house.  I did not know how to respond, but felt fear seeing a jet of darkness that I somehow sensed had a creature inside it.  When I lifted my gun to fire, I felt the hands of Honored Jelnaya on my back.  I found myself somehow calmly focusing on the center of the black smoke as I heard her words.

“Fergush, I ask that you bless Esgalia’s willingness to stay in the fight.”

Actually, the closest thing to a gun I had used was a nail gun.  That tool however did require a steady hand.  I felt a sense of control and power, something flowing through me and not simply the sensation of the bullets leaving the barrel.  The dark mist suddenly dispersed as a black form fell to the ground.  It actually brought me some joy to have the lady hug me from the rear, then come around to peck me on the cheek.  Instead of then speaking to the man above, she suddenly darted to a door of the house telling me to follow.

And the fight continues.