A Matter of Who I Am: Cp 35

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A Matter of Who I Am
Chapter Thirty-Five


We had not completely left the valley that evening. Marekel did deviate from a straight path to a place where he claimed a short, direct route to the final part of the journey could be made. I believe we all gained the impression that he hoped to avoid a serious onslaught of monsters. It did not happen, as we were attacked as we attempted to settle into our camp. We saw combat the next morning as we moved down to the river running through the bottom of the valley and in the water. Coming up the other side of the valley was without facing a threat, but we could not make it completely out before accepting that we needed to rest.

The next morning Marekel brought us to what we could tell was an ancient split in the mountain. The slope appeared as if once a crack that had filled up with rubble. The steepness of the ascent along with the shifting material made the climbing difficult. We had to release the horses with all of us accepting that they probably would not be there upon our return, although we did say prayers for the safety of the animals. There was a level spot barely large enough for us to camp, although Marekel was correct about it having a source of fresh water. Looking into the split all we saw was dry bare rock while smelling an odor that made us glad to have the blessing of fresh air.

As Ulemai and I came back from our time doing what we could to bathe in the small pool fed by a rushing stream of water, we stopped hearing Marekel ask a question. “Honored Jelnaya, tell me how old is that poem that speaks of the Spring of Cormorphin?”

I replied, “Well, being from Davelda you can assume it is at least seven hundred years old.” Hearing none of the immortals with us make a comment, I went ahead and gave a serious answer. “Professor Tiothin mentions an attempt to date the poem, and comes up with a date of about twenty-eight hundred years ago.”

“Yes. Close to three thousand is what I suspect as well. Our legends speak of a god falling in love with a mountain fairy. The problem, as maybe some here can identify with, is that the fairy was not immortal while the god certainly was. While some say the love was intense, it was doomed. There are versions of the story where the mountain fairy kills herself, but most allow that she died in a foolish attempt to gain immortality. The spring itself is said to have as its source the tears of the god who loved the mountain fairy, and it is due to the divine source that immortality may be obtained.”

I guess Marekel waited for comments, but after a short period of silence he continued. “I can say that the mountain is dead. You can look at the slopes and see a raw appearance unique to it. The plants that grow on it do not have the height, the color, or the health of other places. This split in the mountain has not healed. To have been present for any length of time, much less centuries, things should have happened to close this wound. Monsters are very prevalent here.”

Chering asked, “How many more days of travel to reach the spring?”

“Three. Let me say, if any survive the next two, they made it further than those that accompanied me before. I always prayed to my god to honor those who traveled with me previously, and I live my life hoping to honor them by being worthy of their sacrifice. To you I will give no less of an honor, although I am hoping not to stand alone in the final battle as I did before.”

It was Kandrid who said, “Since you have been this way before, and you are saying things should not have greatly changed, surely you can prepare us unlike the ones who previously went with you.”

We spent a lot of time listening to Marekel speak of his previous journey to the Spring of Cormorphin. Finding even his men to ask questions, I could not help but accept that many of the things he was saying was for the first time. I listened to Marekel speak of details he had yet to mention, although could not help but break from the discussion feeling I knew enough to prepare myself for the fights ahead.

Setting out my bedroll, I found Ulemai to come over to me and softly ask, “Jelnaya, will my gaining immortality also bless my child?”

“It could,” I replied, “but there is a lot to the Spring of Cormorphin that your husband cannot tell us. He did not go there last time to actually learn about it.”

“True. I know he wants me to become immortal. I want to continue to be his wife, so accept I need to gain that blessing. I am pregnant, though.”

“Honestly, Ulemai, you might already be immortal. You’re not that old. It is not until your body stops growing and in the cycle of life would begin to fail that you stop changing.”

We turned hearing someone approach. The reaction surely was not due to either of us being afraid. While I did not doubt the danger of our location, there was another concern we ladies were raised to treat seriously with life reinforcing. Seeing Sephex with a hand raised as if ready to cover his eyes, neither Ulemai nor I felt threatened.

Hearing us speak kindly, he asked, “Honored Jelnaya, do you have any advice on what type of magic to use in an area like this?”

One lesson my Grandfather Terish taught me was to ponder the reason for the question more than the question itself. My first thought was that I did not lead a life associated with magic. I however had to accept that I was probably the most experienced of the group in dealing with strange places. Considering that I would have allowed Sephex to be one that might also know about unusual locales, I accepted his question as him just turning to someone he felt could supply advice.

I answered, “Keep it elemental.”

Sephex replied, “Yes, the basic magic of that nature does work. I wanted a preservation aura to hold a specimen, but found the enchantment to be absorbed. Curious, I will admit that I cast a necromancy spell, but found the energy, best I can describe, to float until it dissipated. That had me wonder exactly what rules were at work here.”

Thinking over what he said, I had to comment, “Doesn’t exactly sound like this is a bad area.”

“No. Not something one would connote with really horrible monsters.”

“But someone like Namill – no offense intended, Baroness.”

Ulemai replied, “None taken. I want those with me to feel free to chase any idea or make use of any piece of evidence. Honestly, it sounded like you were calling my mother a good monster.”

“However events force us to treat Namill, let me say that the evidence is that she was not a monster. Exactly what she was, is, I hope we will be able to discover, hopefully by listening to your mother speak of her own history.”

“Thank you. Jelnaya, do you even know magic?”

The question did surprise me, but I answered. “I studied a lot with my Grandfather Terish. Those are lessons that my status with Fergush does not support, but I am often glad to have the knowledge.”

“Yes, okay.” She looked back to Sephex to say, “One must work with profane magic. Magic that is not associated with things divine, although that includes magic that works against the divine nature as well.” Her eyes moved between the two of us as she said, “I was a curious child, and caught Na – mother – working with some magic. She taught me some things. Marekel spoke against me advancing my knowledge, but I am also glad to have the knowledge.”

Sephex bowed while saying, “Thank you, both of you. Let me also say that I am pleased to find such open-mindedness and diversity in you. Thank you again.”

As he left, Ulemai turned to me to ask, “Do you ever wish to learn more?”

“No,” I answered. “I know the topic will require its own dedication and devotion to study. If I need to know magic, I know enough to ask questions and understand the answers. That is sufficient.” Wondering about the question, I added, “Marekel did not use magic the last time he went along this route.”

“No, but I found myself pleased with the memories of learning magic. If I get my mother back in my life, I thought to have her teach me more.”

“I won’t stop you from having dreams, but will ask that you acknowledge reality.”

We probably would have continued the topic. I did feel that Ulemai needed to release some of her feelings toward Namill. There was also a desire to learn more of what we assumed would be our eventual opponent. What had us drop the topic was the men suddenly erupting with exclamations and fast movement.

While I will admit to doing all I could to stay alert, I am surprised when I react to something I felt should have been beyond my senses. All I could credit my safety upon was my inherited quick reflexes. It was nothing more than a dollop of water, but I have to say that there was enough of the liquid to have possibly caught my eye. I reacted to something falling from above, and with the splash I drew NeverRose as a strange growth erupted.

Sephex erecting a shield of air above us I felt was a good defense. It did not prevent the creatures from coming upon us, but it did relegate them to the perimeter of our camp and not the middle of it. While our weapons did seem to be effective, I guess Sephex wanting to test the capabilities of his magic had him switch to attempting to present a good offense.

Having one of Marekel’s men suddenly overcome by a mass of whatever it was we were fighting had a number of us yell at the mage. Seeing the creatures come down in what appeared to be great drops of liquid had him try fire. In this case the opposite element did not cause harm. We spoke of them coming down initially near the fire, and others spoke of other evidence pointing to fire not being harmful. While we sought to help the one enveloped by the mass, Sephex apologized while speaking of attempting other spells.

We could not save the man, but we did learn how to fight the monsters. While Sephex did apologize, the truth was that only experience gave us the knowledge to save ourselves. We all said prayers over the man’s grave with me promising his spirit that his death was not just an event of the journey, but a sacrifice enabling the rest of us to live.

Helping others clean up, I heard Ulemai say, “That was not my mother.”

I replied, “No, although the truth is that in leaving us she chose creatures like that to live with.”

Marekel spoke to support that thought. “Indeed, Ulemai. However, it was from such a vile community that I pulled her. It was her desire to stay with you that had her leave this existence, and I hope in seeing you return she will again desire to leave such an accursed life.”

The young lady asked, “Did she know I was her child?”

I thought that a strange question, and the inflection in Marekel’s voice said he thought so as well. “Most certainly.”

“I was not just another of her possessions?”

“No. Her treasure was kept elsewhere. You were kept near where she rested in a most wonderfully enchanted flower.”

I had heard that part of the story, and I saw Ulemai nod as if she was glad to hear nothing being altered in what she had been told. “She never told me. She never told me she was my mother, but also that she did not like the life she had. She always said she made the choice to serve me, and I always gained the impression she was glad to be with me.”

“I gained that impression as well. However, I knew she burned with another calling. Let me say, my wife, that I am not committed to killing your mother. If there is a chance to again confront her, I will seek that chance to hopefully restore our family and her soul.”

I had to say, “I worship He-Who-Fights and not He-Who-Kills. Marekel can direct me to use different tactics, and I will comply. That however does not mean I will stop myself from killing her. The decision I make, any of us make, will be dependent upon the conditions we find ourselves put into.”

Chering said, “Yes. We cannot know the future, and should not live in regret of our past.”

Ulemai nodded while saying, “I would not think it a difficult choice. I cannot see how my mother would choose this life over that we had in Chaliger.”

“Evil is a bizarre mentality. While we tell others to stay away from evil, the truth is that it is often hard to recognize it. If you do regain your mother, Ulemai, do not have her explain, but just show her love and seek love from her.”

Marekel said, “Yes, Ulemai. That is what I have done all these years.”

The young lady replied, “You certainly did not treat her as a monster. Thank you, Marekel. I do love you, and promise to love my mother should she come back with us.”

“And with children about also giving her love, I feel confident we have a good dream to look forward to bringing into reality. Still, the facts are around us that we have a grand challenge ahead of us with no assurance of success.”

“Three days?”

“Possibly very long ones.”

I saw Ulemai’s hands go to her belly as she said, “They would be long already. Still, I am going through them with the hope of a better life ahead.” She then asked, “Who would I pray to for my mother’s soul?”

Seeing those of Chaliger circle for a time of respecting their deities, I had to kneel and give Fergush some devotion. It however surprised me to feel a hand on my shoulder other than my god. I looked to see those of Davelda kneeling with me. While I had no animosity toward their deity, I had to look with a questioning gaze at their presence.

Chering saw my glare, and said, “We might not be praying to the same person, but as our princess we will pray with you. After all, I believe we are praying for the same thing.”

I allowed, “Maybe not exactly, but close enough.”

“We came to assure that you would be a part of our lives. Not exactly in this manner, but we of Davelda have shown ourselves of being capable of learning and adapting.”

Vulge added, “And you are our princess. Just because you are immortal does not mean anything, as we are immortal as well.”

I had to smile as I replied, “Then I guess your Goddess is just going to have to get used to having Fergush in Her company.”

And Namill is still a part of this story.