A Wish for Hope
Vulge had been telling us to wait. The two lads complained about Honored Jelnaya fighting on her own, but the large man simply let it be known that he had no ability to pass between realities. He in fact mentioned that his job was to chaperone the lads, so they better be on their best behavior or he would speak bad about them. I listened to the exchange wondering if the baby Keleaf murdered was a boy or girl. I could not believe Vulge did not have children, as he did well in managing the lads. In watching him, I did not feel that we waited long at all before Honored Jelnaya returned.
He asked, “Had fun?”
“Yes, Vulge, I did,” Jelnaya answered. “I will do more if necessary, but I am not getting the impression I will really be needed.”
I stood up while saying, “It was never your fight, Honored Jelnaya. Still, thank you for coming.”
“Gods have their ways. After what I did to what is now my realm, this mission has actually helped me. I cannot say I am looking forward to going back, but I guess that is now my home. I’ll work on it. You work on making things right as well, Esgalia.”
“I’m ready, Honored Jelnaya.”
I had bowed to her, and I saw her curtsey as she replied, “It was a good fight. Hope you can say the same.”
“I won’t be able to do that. I’m not like you. Still, I’m ready.”
The lads had set things out to help them pass the time. We waited for them to gather their belongings. Once she was certain everyone was ready, she opened the portal for us to pass through.
Honored Jelnaya spoke with Vulge of what was present in the room. I actually understood what they discussed. Looking to the stone circle, then listening to the conversation, I could not help but ask verification of the purpose of the room.
“They summoned demons?”
Honored Jelnaya turned to say, “Just like the Privileged.”
“They summoned demons and obeyed them instead of the gods?”
Attempting to come to some rational understanding, I commented, “Well, at least we did not go that far.”
“Talk to my Aunt Neselle about that. Her world turned to science. I guess looking for you own answers is better than seeking your guidance from those who are prone to evil. My own life and experiences says both are bad.”
“Well, where do I need to go?”
“I was not allowed outside. The fights came to me.”
I looked to see large hanger doors and wondered what had kept Honored Jelnaya from passing through them. Any latch or locking mechanism would be on the inside. There was also a small portal for regular traffic, and I felt it should have been easily opened by her as well. I approached however to hear the faint sounds of screams, and stopped wondering what was truly outside.
Bringing out a hand, I used my fingers to track a count as I went down the list of gods. I knew them all. For some I stopped to recall certain artifacts pertaining to that deity I had been glad to find buyers for instead of destroying as the church recommended. We had twenty-four gods, and I named each of them while continuing to hear screams outside.
Looking back I could see that the others were waiting for me, but I could not take a step without first assuring that I would walk properly. “Pheridan, I know Eshatay did not speak of me needing to face you, but if I can help my wife…”
Fire danced around the seams of the small portal before opening, then I heard, “It is our hope that you help more than your wife.”
The sky through the door was filled with smoke. I stepped up to see people active in grueling labor that did not appear to be accomplishing anything. Some screamed for no apparent reason while others were visibly being tortured by creatures I could only assume were demonic in origin. I simply stood and looked out, although the words of Jelnaya let me know that she had gone through similar visions.
“Those with the Privileged were found in horrid conditions, but actually speaking of being pleased with their surroundings. At least these understand they are not better off.”
I had to ask, “Is this the fate of what awaits us after we die?”
“Of what awaits you? This is the physical realm. There actually is some hope here.”
I spun to look at the lady. She was not smiling. That had me take her words seriously. Turning back to look at the horrors before me, I then asked another question of the lady.
“Am I expected to preach to them?”
From around the corner of the building came the lithe form of Eshatay, and he ran up to look at me through the doorway before saying, “Not these, Esgalia. Come to me. You must pass through Pheridan.”
I did pass through the fiery doorway, but felt no heat. I collapsed to my knees, but the sensation was of overwhelming relief and not the pain of being burnt. I rose to still see the horrible scenes, and had to ask a question of the one I had come through the doorway to speak to.
“Is this to become my world?”
Eshatay asked, “Any reason it should not be?”
Feeling the weight of my decision, I answered, “Me.”
“Those people who purchased the artifacts, they have their reasons. Turn to them, but remember that you set up the purchases against the actual desires of the religious leaders. You have the contacts, Esgalia, but there are many who will question your motives. Still, you have a good reputation, so do not feel alone.”
“You fought so hard for her, Esgalia. I hope she truly understands how deeply she needs to love you. Go back to her, and a way home will be provided.”
Honored Jelnaya then asked, “Will I need to come back here?”
“No, Jelnaya. Pheridan is here, but we are both here for Esgalia. This world has its own deities. They have allowed your presence, but once you leave this world the portals will be shut down and no longer a threat to others. While I am sure others will seek you, it will be due to other problems. Go back the way you came.”
Walking back into the building, I joined Honored Jelnaya to see the consoles smoking. There was also a vibration in the floor. Understanding that we did not need to hang around, we waited for Honored Jelnaya to reopen the portal that brought us here.
Actually, we had not gone a great distance. It took some time to trace our path, but soon enough we were back in the church to Tithony. Attempting to recall all the twists and turns we had taken in our movement up from the lower level took some thought, but between us we managed to navigate back the way we had gone.
Those we had rescued were waiting for us in the sewers beneath the abandoned temple on her world, and Jelnaya led them through the passages. We found Lekoll still tied up, but he had moved against a wall. Considering we had stopped to rest, we were concerned with him waiting. He however spoke of an angel of Samayer assuring his survival, and we released him upon the promise he would never speak against the goddess again. Jelnaya spoke of her pleasure in being able to return successful, then directed us from the sewers.
We came out seeing no one. Speaking of being worried about the mentality of the people in the time we were gone, I could sense some anxiety in Honored Jelnaya. She looked around as if expecting to see people, but then whistled. Hearing the neighing of horses, Honored Jelnaya told those with us that it would be a long walk home, although she would give us what rest she could.
Leaving the church grounds, people did call to us. They had us wait for some fresh food to be brought. Lads rushed up to say that some men were readying wagons, and would transport the fox people back to Phanigist. The locals spoke of hearing good things from Honored Jelnaya’s castle, so spoke of a belief the church would be restored and other news as we ate.
It was close to dark by the time we made it back to Castle Phanigist. Many came out to see us as we rode the final mile or so. They did not cheer, but simply bowed or curtsied. Honored Jelnaya rode about speaking greetings to many. When horns sounded from her castle, she almost appeared disappointed.
Coming through the gates to the castle grounds, I saw more fox people than I remembered. While I knew some came with Honored Neselle, they were of a different type than my people. One however that I knew very well rushed up while I was still on my horse.
“Esgalia?” I simply dismounted and held her furry body while kissing her fox-like face. “What is going to become of us?”
I put an arm around her, then directed her back toward those of my world before saying, “His name is Pheridan. You will need to face him.”
I looked at Keleaf while admitting, “You cannot go to Unnorry until you face Pheridan.”
“I will… not… kill… our next baby.”
Almost with sorrow I said, “Keleaf.”
“I’m sorry I killed our first one.”
I turned to look her in the eyes as I confessed, “It will hurt, Keleaf, but you must do what is right.”
Kertoll asked, “What did you learn, Esgalia?”
“Horrors. Our world turned in a wrong direction. We will need to see it back on the right path. I know the church will be against us. I worked for the church, and they had done a very horrible thing. I wasn’t really working against them, although I was taking advantage of my position to save what I could. Still, there will be work to truly save our world. It was Eshatay that kept directing me to Honored Jelnaya. You probably do not remember him, but he is associated with Unnorry. I have work to do, but I hope to have all of you with me. The gods will be with us as well. It will be hard, but not to do so will lead our world to facing horrors I do not want to experience again.”
A lady I did not know asked, “When can we go home?”
I saw a flash, and turned to see a circle of fire. “Now.” I hugged Keleaf again and said, “I know it will hurt, but you have to do it.”
She replied, “I will. Esgalia, thank you. I did not deserve you rescuing me.”
“You were my wife, and still are.”
Keleaf threw herself on me. I kissed her not caring about the hair. I wanted my memory of her like this, as it would help me enjoy Keleaf when back the way she was.
I heard screams, gasps, and other exclamations as each passed through. Each of those of my group shook my hand or hugged me for what I did to get them to Honored Jelnaya. None denied hearing the sounds, but I was glad to listen to them speak of passing themselves.
After the last one stepped through, the circle turned to white and I heard Eshatay say I could now pass. I had to hug Honored Jelnaya and shake the hands of the men that had traveled and fought with me. With the joy of being able to return to the comfort of my life, I went through the circle.
There is one more chapter.