A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 25

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Twenty-Five

(Jelnaya)

No, I did not laugh at the men from Davelda. Irgamy, Sephex, and those from Chaliger noted the movement of the surface of the murky liquid and stayed away from the bog. That should have been a serious clue for the Navy men to keep from the place as well. I however also knew that Davelda did not have monsters. While there were large serious creatures on the world of my Grandmother Straekin, the word ‘monster’ was something relegated to fiction, which was why my Grandfather Terish had problems as he courted her. She however learned the perils of other worlds and why it took special weapons and armor to go against them. If she felt a need to berate me, I trusted her to explain why she felt I was at fault. I had learned things listening to her, although felt it would be the surviving men from Davelda who would end up having to admit their faults.

Having been around Marekel and Ulemai, I had to say that I did trust them. They were a very pleasant couple. Ulemai was very young. While she had grown up having the status of the noble lady, she still had an innocence to her actions that let you know that she was not any trouble. Marekel was almost the opposite. I trusted him simply because if he meant someone harm, they would be worried about him harming them.

My own concern had me speaking with Sephex about the wards he was casting. As we talked about certain possible threats, I heard my name called. Fergush let me know something, and without turning from Sephex I gave a command.

“Pick it up, Vulge.”

The big man’s deep voice replied, “I’m calling you out, Jelnaya.”

“I swear, Vulge, that I will have Grandmother Straekin laughing when I mention how you died. Now, pick it up.”

Irgamy had been paying attention to the discussion between me and his mage, so it did not surprise me when he asked, “You can do that, Jelnaya? You don’t have to fight him?”

“There is supposed to be honor in the battle. There is no honor when the desire is to prove something or commit suicide. Pick it up, Vulge.”

I could tell the man was obeying my command even as he said, “Could you just give me a good fight, Jelnaya? I need to get some of this tension out of me.”

It was Irgamy that replied, “Honored Jelnaya is doing something I consider important. Let me give you a fight, Vulge.”

“Am I going to have to worry about hurting you?”

“If you do then you should worry about whatever we are going to face hurting me. Let’s put that worry to rest.”

I was glad that Sephex spoke to cut our conversation short, as the contest between Irgamy and Vulge was heating up. It was an interesting battle to watch. Vulge was obviously just wanting to expend energy. Irgamy easily read the attacks, and allowed the big man to swipe at air or the ground. A few times he bothered to make a killing stroke, but the big man simply reset saying for the match to start again. I was glad when Chering finally spoke to call a halt.

“Let me see if I can give the man a fight, Vulge.”

As if to keep the men from Davelda from thinking clearly, Irgamy said, “Yes, let’s see if a vice-captain can stand up to a real captain.”

Chering proved himself to be a good swordsman. The exchanges were made often with neither man showing a clear advantage. I however found myself growing bored, so picked up some pebbles and tossed them with a high arc into the field of play. Irgamy scored a win when Chering reacted with confusion.

“Hey,” the vice-captain exclaimed, “what was that?”

Irgamy replied before I could, “Something unexpected. You know, what killed your man earlier.”

There was a moment of silence, then Vulge said, “He’s right, Chering. Jelnaya, do it again.”

I replied, “If I do it again, it will be expected.”

Chering had anger in this voice as he asked, “What are you doing, Jelnaya?”

“I don’t know. You figure it out.”

Chering stepped to me as if to make an accusation, but Vulge moved to slam a shoulder into his back. Chering stopped himself, then spun. Seeing the large man standing ready, Chering turned back to me with me ready to make a point.

“I am the divine champion for He-Who-Fights. I will fight you.”

Vulge said, “I believe you would be treated better if you fight me.”

“You can go ahead and let your anger have you take us both on.”

I actually felt Irgamy called things properly when he said, “Tell you what. We can go ahead and make you feel like an idiot. If you attack Jelnaya, I will work to defend her. That will put you up against three.”

It might have been the fact I was the only girl, but Chering looked to me to ask, “Explain this to me.”

“It’s simple,” I replied. “An immortal from Davelda died today. I am looking at another that is too stupid to realize why, but is determined to assure that it happens again.”

Vulge said, “And that about sums it up.”

Chering asked, “And how does throwing rocks help?”

I answered, “By providing experience. You are staring into the face of the unknown, Chering. You can either run from it, charge blindly into it, or prepare for it.”

The man bowed, then asked, “Okay, Jelnaya, besides throwing rocks, what other tactics could you use?”

“I don’t know. That is what I am trying to figure out. Right now, things like throwing rocks is something simple. Since it caught you off-guard, I’m glad I did it. However, I do not know if fighting dirty is actually what we need to expect. What happened to Negrosh wasn’t anything improper. One could say that he was a victim of a regular attack from a known threat. What I am suspecting is that we need to look at normal threats and take them a little more seriously than usual.”

“You are talking about becoming paranoid, like Terish.”

Vulge said before I did, “That man is still alive.”

I added, “And you should be able to see there are really dangers out there.”

Irgamy said, “And as vice-captain, you should have some experience in dealing with situations before the real captain has your butt for not dealing with it.”

The body of Chering lost a lot of its tension, then he sheathed his sword to apologize to all of us. After hearing the gracious replies, he then asked me how I would have dealt with the monster. I stepped up right against him while asking him how he would deal with me. The first time he ended up on the ground with a sword at his throat he felt like a fool. The second time he knew he was a fool. The third time he began to ask questions. It was not just Chering that ended up involved in the sparring, but by the time we all admitted to being tired I felt the whole group was better prepared for whatever we might face.

The next morning I actually expected a comment from Ulemai, but it was instead a man from Chaliger that said, “Wearing a dress today, Honored Jelnaya?”

It was Chering that replied, “I believe she is stating she is not scared.”

I allowed, “I am giving an opening, but I am a champion of He-Who-Fights whether I am in armor or not.”

“The weapons are on you.”

“Yes. Armor can give you a sense of survival, and sometimes it is best if you step out of it.”

It was the usually quiet Kandrid who said, “We will be watching your back, Jelnaya.”

“No. You guys usually watch my front.”

I heard some chuckles, but instead of compliments about my feminine assets, I was pleased to hear Vulge comment, “You’re not really expecting anything today.”

“I will not say that I don’t have reasons for wearing a dress, but only that on some days I feel it is best to remind those around me that I am a girl.”

Chering had been sharpening a dagger. His throw was not directly at me, so I could not fault him. I however reacted to dart in front of the path only to grab a stone and have it stop the flight of the blade. I then picked it up to have the dagger fly in front of Chering’s face before sinking into the trunk of a tree.

Amidst some comments, Vulge’s voice strongly declared, “A very deadly girl.”

I now heard the recognition from Ulemai that I expected earlier. “You’re not wearing armor, Jelnaya?”

Marekel however spoke strongly, “She does not need to wear armor, Ulemai. You however need practice with it, so you wear it.”

Vulge said, “Since you are showing yourself as a girl, Jelnaya, how about you cooking?”

“Sure,” I replied, “and how would you like your goose cooked?”

The men laughed. I did sometimes wonder about how certain phrases were translated by the special speech. While one did gain the ability to understand and be understood by intelligent creatures in moving through universes, those with a strong connection to deities also found themselves able to converse with others. When I gained my divine status I found others to accept what I was saying much clearer, and I listened to the laughter feeling certain everyone had recognized the humor in my reply.

I saw a number of eyes turn to me later in the day when a flock of geese was seen. More than willing to go along with the earlier humor, I began stringing my bow. A number of the men did as well. I then pulled a single arrow and held it up to show the fletchings. Seeing men return the gesture, the challenge was on. Three of the birds dropped from the sky. I ran with the men to get the carcasses, but kept my eyes open for something rushing to make its own attack.

It was not a normal mountain lion. My divine nature had me easily recognize the corrupted essence. Seeing it not target me, I still reacted due to not feeling like losing another man. I had not unstrung my bow, as I was hoping for something like the monster to attack. I came to a stop while pulling an arrow, then sent it into the neck of the corrupted mountain lion hoping to drop it just as I did the goose.

The monster did not die, but my attack did provide the moment of hesitation for the one from Chaliger being targeted to react. In meeting the threat, he provided seconds for others to come to his aid. By the time I arrived, the men were looking at the foul essence dripping from the monster’s fangs realizing that death could have again visited our group.

Vulge asked, “You were expecting this, weren’t you, Jelnaya?”

“Listen, I do respect you men from Davelda. As you make it clear when I show up, I got your blood in me. Negrosh had his skills. He was not a weak link. It was not a normal threat that took him.”

Jernst, one of the men from Chaliger, replied, “But this monster did not attack you, even though you were wearing only a dress.”

“What’s attacking is not picking specific prey, just convenient prey. All of us have to stay alert.”

All are experienced travelers, but there are still things that bother them.