A Wish for Hope
Chapter Thirty-Six
(Jelnaya)

Everyone was looking at the ground having paused at the low point of a bow or curtsey when I turned to glance around after seeing Esgalia and his group leave.  My first thought was to berate those of Davelda and Genord for treating me in such a fashion.  I considered lecturing them about how I had not treated any of them in such a way.  Those of Davelda however watched me grow up.  While I really spent only a short period there in my youth, I did show up to speak to the horse handlers or my paternal grandparents.  I now had Vulge and Merilay in my service completely because I had come to accept their status in my life.  If anyone should be honored in my own advancement, those of Davelda could make the claim.  As for those of Aunt Neselle’s world, I had done things for them, and I was actually used to them treating me in such a manner.  I simply told everyone that I was all right, but they needed to rise as I was going into my home to get a bite to eat.

Coming to the doorway, Aunt Neselle stopped me to say, “I return the authority of this realm to you, Niece.”

I had to ask, “Anyone give you a hard time?”

“I took notes.  Do you want to discuss them?”

“I am hungry, and you are not Great-aunt Dirchein.”

There was a pleased expression on her face as she said, “Some of those of Davelda are rather good cooks, and they will care for you, Jelnaya.  You should know that.”

“Sorry for leaving you with them.”

She threw herself upon me.  Aunt Neselle was actually a little younger than me, so had not seen me grow up.  She however was someone I considered a close friend.  More than glad to enjoy the company of my aunt, I had her come with me as I told whoever was cooking to provide some food.

I actually expected more to have been done in my absence.  Finding the king to have sent a military squad to work on rebuilding my army sounded like the usual politics.  I told the priest of Samayer that the church was still empty except for corpses, and I did not like that at all.  If the gods could provide someone to watch over a simple shrine, they could get some worshippers to begin the necessary steps to rededicate a major holy place.  An argument ensued, I believe I was actually having an intense conversation with the goddess, but I held my ground and won the verbal contest.  Hearing that the temple would soon be back in operation, I turned to other matters that had been done in my absence.

Nerbink actually took a position behind my throne when I moved to it for some reason, and I looked at him to ask, “Are you certain?”

He seemed perplexed by the question, but after a few expressions he replied, “Yes.”

I looked to the clerk Aunt Neselle had been using and said, “Nerbink is a trusted advisor.”  I then looked and saw another standing over against a wall, and simply informed him, “I will handle any knighthoods later.  If you really want the position, go deal with that general the king sent.  I would rather get updates from you than him, although I will be speaking to him.”

He bowed and left.  I then remembered why I had come to the throne and made an official greeting to everyone.  At the finish the officials from my baronies that had arrived presented themselves to me.  The kid who wanted me to designate him as the mayor of my town of Chetorly got lectured.  In his case he did not have a deity to try and help him frame his arguments, so he walked away humiliated.  It was Nerbink who reminded the lad of decorum as he left.

“You bow to Her Honored Grace.”

I actually felt a little bad for the young man, but he turned to bow and apologized.  I then made certain he received another night in whatever room he had been placed.  As he again left, this time a little more politely, I turned to Nerbink and told him to see about getting some names for those whose positions I needed to fill in Chetorly.

As I handled all the business, I received the impression that a number did not expect me to sit and go through the details.  It was getting late, but I wanted to let those who had been supporting me know that I would not allow their efforts to be neglected.  If this was going to be my home, those present would need to learn to deal with me.  Finally, I gained a number of signals that enough business had been handled to get things started, and I made an official statement of ending my day.

Walking up the stairs to my room, which was on the top floor, I was stopped by Merilay who said, “Your parlor is down here, Honored Duchess.”

I had to ask, “I have suitors?”

“I would recommend that you go ahead and establish the routine.  You probably do not need to spend a lot of time in there, but only enough to assure that you will spend time there.”

Not being able to argue with that, I followed my maid to the room chosen as my place for handling socials.  The room was much more pink than red.  I stood and tried to come up with reasons to accept the way it was decorated, but just shook my head.  Not really wanting to berate people for doing a good job, if not gaining the results that would please me, I was glad to hear someone tuning a string instrument as it had me focus on something else.

Stepping out on the balcony to peer over the railing, I had to say, “Chering, I thought we already settled things between us.”

He looked up from where he was tuning a bass fiddle to say, “Hope springs eternal, Princess Jelnaya.  I could not return to Davelda without trying to woo you at least once.”

“So, you brought a bass fiddle from Davelda to make your romantic plea?”

“This is actually from your own castle, Jelnaya.  Strangely, considering its size, it was not damaged.  I have been lovingly restoring it, and hope that you seeing it in your orchestra will keep you thinking of me.”

“I guess that depends on how you play it.  Having me think to laugh every time I see it will not help you.”

I heard Vulge chuckle, and waved to him even as I heard Chering say, “You should know that I have a good voice, Jelnaya.”

With permission to perform, he went into a song I knew.  Usually I would sing along.  I however simply listened more to his playing of the bass fiddle than his performance of the song.

When he finished, I let him know a fact.  “I already heard you sing that one.”

Chering proved he knew how to deal with me, as he calmly replied, “I like that one.”

“Yes, but I have already spurned you, Chering.  If you want another chance, you need to try something else.  Surely after seven hundred years you learned another song.”

“I cannot say that I have been practicing others on the bass fiddle.”

“So, I have been gone all this time fighting corrupted people and demons, speaking to deities, along with putting up with young men and you have been hard at work learning one song you knew well?”

He looked up to me with an expression of disgust as he said, “I have been directing my people in cleaning up your castle.”

“And I thank you for that.  Trying to gain my hand will require you to get me to appreciate you in other ways.  Simply showing yourself as the typical stale old folk from Davelda will not help you, Chering.”

I believe he had something to say, but I heard laughter before some more men rushed to present themselves under the balcony.  They had other instruments, which they presented as also being restored from what was found in my castle.  It was not what I would call the best of ensembles, but they performed with an energy I did appreciate.  Finding me singing along with one song, the men ended speaking of their pleasure in helping to make my home someplace I would enjoy.

After thanking them, I then left the balcony and the parlor to move to my apartment.  I stepped through the doors actually pleased that I found nothing to remind me of my first visit.  The rooms had been cleaned with the floors polished to a clear shine.  I moved through my apartment mentioning some things that did not gain my approval, but accepted what Merilay told me.

“We did not even try to make these rooms reflect you, Princess Jelnaya.  We really could not recall you caring what a room looked like.  Even our empress and Princess Neselle could not speak of you requesting any type of decorations to your room.  There were some changes, but that was simply because of damage, some problem with cleaning, or just because we felt some combinations did not work.”

I had to admit, “I guess I need to think about some things I had yet to actually consider.  No need to rush about it.  As I find things I like, I’ll see about making changes.”  I then had to admit, “I never really had a place of my own.”

“And now you have an entire duchy.  I believe it will be fun seeing how things change.”

“You believe you can advise me, Merilay?”

“Now, Princess Jelnaya, I might be the same as I was over seven hundred years ago, but I know that things will definitely change.”  Before I could say more, she asked, “Are you ready for bed?”

I nodded, then moved to my bedroom.  I stepped through the doorway and decided I did not like this room at all.  One problem was that it did remind me of how the chamber appeared when I entered to kill what malicious entities had holed up in this part of the castle.  Another problem was that it appeared too manly.  This room was surely the historic bedroom for the prime male, and thinking those thoughts I turned to give orders to Merilay.

“Talk to Aunt Neselle and Grandmother Straekin.  Tell them I want pink.  I know Aunt Neselle will understand, but it was Grandmother Straekin that made the order for her.”

“Are you certain, Princess Jelnaya?”

I pointed to a small door while saying, “That is the room for the man.  I don’t want anyone entering this room and thinking someone other than a lady lives here.”

“Your husband might not appreciate that.”

“I’m not an old varnished piece of wood from Davelda.  I will make changes over time.”

Merilay simply looked at me, then asked, “Chering has no hope whatsoever, does he?”

“I told him that, but he is trying to be a friend.  I appreciate that from him.  I’m glad he did what he did, and all of you from Davelda I will thank for what you did.  Merilay, you make certain that if any of your crewmates mentions a request, that I hear about it.”

“I’m glad to now serve under your command, Honored Duchess.  Now, let’s see about ending our day.”

And next begins a very different story.