A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 29

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Twenty-Nine

(Jelnaya)

I rode along hearing Vulge call me Princess Jelnaya without voicing any complaint. In a way it did bother me, as it was my relationship with Fergush that I had set my life to reflect. Still, Vulge was from Davelda, a world that claimed a part of my history, and they had their Goddess that had proven Herself to care for Her people. Vulge could call me Princess Jelnaya, and I would not complain about it.

The other two from Davelda also began adding the title of princess to my name. Chering did it as a sign he no longer felt in command of the journey. I had rebutted him when he awoke to challenge me, then I had been the one to realize that Vulge’s life could be restored. I believe Kandrid began calling me Princess Jelnaya simply because he understood that Chering would wait for my orders instead of giving any of his own.

With those from Davelda no longer acting as if they were potential rivals for my hand, which I never considered them to be, Irgamy became more obviously interested in me. He however did not start pushing himself on me in a romantic fashion. He instead simply began having me tell him stories of things I had done, or those in my family had done. The process could not be called courtship, but I did feel that he was acting in a manner that would one day have me willing to accept his hand.

It did not help our spirits having a good day, but we set up camp as if knowing another threat would come upon us. Wisely, the men did not simply act to set up perimeters and otherwise just be on the defensive. They called to me to help them work on their combat skills to enable them to put up a better attack when faced with a threat.

Those of Chaliger spoke of their fighting deity. While it was my duty to promote Fergush, I would not be antagonistic or rude to those of other deities. There were five others with authority over Sennapre. On other worlds Fergush had no control. Being that I was on the world containing Chaliger, I accepted that other gods ruled and only accepted my presence in a display of their graciousness. Allowing the fighting deity of this world to declare himself through the promotion of soldiers of this world was something I had to allow, and only spoke enough of Fergush to keep the conversations going as we worked on routines.

As everyone began to relax with the clear intention of doing what they could to make use of the night, I stood and drank some wine. It did not bother me that there were problems with this mission. My life promoting a fighting spirit usually put me in dangerous situations. Surviving was what brought honor to myself and Fergush, and I had grown up being shown that most fights were won or lost before a battle. I thus felt it wise to spend time simply contemplating what might be the next challenge and how to prepare for it.

“Honored Jelnaya, could I spend time with you?”

I turned to see Marekel approach. Considering that he was the one responsible for this mission, I felt he had more than enough authority to command my time. Since he had been kind enough to use my proper title, I felt he deserved a taste of his own medicine and would hear me use his.

“Certainly, Baron.” Not knowing what he wanted to discuss, I went ahead and let him know what I was thinking about. “I see ambushes ahead.”

While he came beside me, his eyes looked out on the dark landscape. “Surely there are. I could not help but think the same when I first made this journey. It actually was not fear of them that had me do what I did.” He had a hand make a wavy, serpentine motion as he said, “The valley between those two mountains goes like this. I went straight. The travel was hard, but actually safe enough.”

I interrupted to say, “We cannot assume such this time.”

“No, but I can say I see no reason for us not to survive it. I also have to say that going that way put me right in line for the cleft that we need to take. I thus want to suggest that we do the same.”

There was no reason to speak against the suggestion, so I focused on what did concern me. “Don’t give me a simple answer, Marekel. What is different in your earlier journey and this one?”

“Our status. There was nothing special about Chaliger. It was just a minor land. There was no reason it was laid waste. There was no reason for the evil to think anyone would come from it. Honestly, the only reason I took on the mission was because I had nothing. I started off being angry more than anything. I had men, and a couple of the elder soldiers helped focus my spirit and teach me skills I had yet to learn. With their deaths my anger turned to resolve, and a passion to overcome filled me. I have honed those into a conviction that now drives me, but I know well that the evil we go to face is very aware of me. Last time it did not expect me to show up, and did not know me well enough to squash me. This time, it is looking for me and I have to assume knows things that could be my doom.”

“Well, let me say that I am not seeing armies. The monsters are powerful, but not the mass of opponents that could possibly wipe us out.”

“No. If we had armies, you can be certain that armies would rise up against them. What the surrounding lands see are just normal threats. Maybe a little stronger and more active than normal, but there are good times and bad times. Further, Chaliger is a minor land, so what political pressure I could put on other nobles to provide aid is small. I went to Davelda hoping their wisdom would give me what I would need to survive. To return with those like you is the blessing I prayed for.”

Accepting that I did need to show graciousness to other gods, I replied, “And your prayers were answered. Fergush sent me to Davelda to be there for your arrival. Still, I know my god does not have me face easy challenges.”

“No, which is why I came to you.” Marekel had his arm and the hand at the end of it straight as he said, “We will go in that direction. I made it years before, and while we might have to fight every step of the way it is the direct path to our objective. Don’t worry about the volcano, as we are not going to it.”

“Fighting every step of the way is nothing that troubles me.”

“Your man, Vulge, I cannot say I would recuperate like him. How about you?”

Accepting that Vulge was beginning to lose any sign of having been seriously damaged, I took a moment to consider things of my own body. “I cannot say. The stories of us divine champions have us either coming out mostly intact or not coming out at all. All I can say is that I will fight until I cannot fight. I will not passively go into the halls of Fergush, but will simply find myself there with the memory of the battle surpassing every fiber of my being.”

“My own history would say the same. Maybe if my body was treated life would stay in it and everything would mend, but my serious fights have not been where I could trust in others caring for me. I will fight to the last. If there is one advantage we have, the evil we go to face knows it. I left last time with tokens of victory, and this time I have more to fight for than last time.”

Knowing that we had others who were trusting on us, I said, “Well, remind your men that you survived the first time being nothing more than they are. I will tell them the same. I did not start out with the blessings I have now. I had a family to show me things, but I still had to prove myself. There is nothing special about being a girl, especially in a fight, but I got a fighting spirit to recognize me. Surely your men can see hope.”

“I am feeling hope. I saw what you did to prove yourself to others I would also consider better than me. Honored Jelnaya, I see why your god felt you worth his blessing. All I can say is that I hope the memory of Chaliger speaks well of me.”

“Don’t speak that way. Life has not stopped for those immortals I know, including these men from Davelda. If you again feel a need to leave Chaliger, return to Davelda and ask about those you have come to know. We would enjoy sharing old times with you, and should be more than willing to help again.”

“Indeed hope for the future is the best hope, and what we should have even when we have nothing else. Now, Honored Jelnaya, get some rest.”

I finished my wine, went about encouraging the men, then laid down to get rest. It would not have surprised me to be awakened by another attack. I however woke up pleased to have gained some hours of sleep, although seeing Vulge move to kneel in front of me had me feel that sometimes my work was not finished with accomplishing something good.

“Princess Jelnaya,” Vulge declared, “you now have a devotee.”

“I can’t have a devotee,” I replied. “I am a divine champion. I promote my god. If you are saying you see me, and not Fergush, then I have failed.”

“I cannot worship Fergush, Princess Jelnaya. My creator is Munulva. I will worship Her.”

“Then worship Her and leave me alone. I know Grandmother Straekin has always supported Munulva. She even had Grandfather Terish speak support for Her. My father worships Munulva. He met Her, and has always spoken positively of how he was treated by Her.”

“Princess Jelnaya –“

Chering strode up to say, “Listen to her, Vulge. You can adore her. She is pretty, successful, and she did save your life. There is every reason for you to adore her, but you have another path to devote yourself to.”

Vulge countered, “Not for this mission.”

I replied, “You’re not here to follow me, but to support Marekel. I am supporting Marekel. You don’t devote yourself to me. You don’t adore me. You simply stay committed.”

“You’re still my princess.”

“Okay, Vulge, I’m your princess. I’m the granddaughter of your empress. Now, we both have work to do.”

Still on his knees, Vulge then said, “Well, thank you, Princess Jelnaya, for assuring my restoration.”

Curious, I asked, “You did support my grandmother in your war, Vulge?”

“Oh, yes! I was in her Navy even then.”

“You still have the icon?”

He worked to pull it out a pocket. His problem was not his kneeling position, but the fact it was in a pocket beneath his armor and uniform. I saw others watching, so knelt to do what I could to make the activity private. When he held out the coin-like object bearing the symbol of Fergush, I had my hands do what they could to cover the one holding the icon.

I said, “Don’t toss it before me, Vulge. Just hand it to me. Assuming you are still alive at the end of this, just hand it to me. I will give you honor.”

“Well, Princess Jelnaya, could you just give me another kiss?”

I moved my hands to his face, and had our lips meet. I felt his form tense up, but he otherwise made no move. No hand came behind me to keep me close. When I finally had our lips part, I had no doubt in his words.

“If you ever need someone, Princess Jelnaya, you call on me. I might not support Fergush, but I will support you. Fergush can be assured that I will protect you and to help you with other acts for him.”

There was no way to argue with that, so I simply assured the man knew the standards I would demand. “Live, Vulge. Stay with this until the final fight. You do that, and you will gain honor. What you do after that, we will see. First, though, you need to keep living.”

“You got it, Princess Jelnaya.”

“Then get up. We got to get back to moving.”

And the serious revelation that has been hidden is revealed.