Aden of Aden

Chapter Twenty-Five

I entered the woods to have a vine around a tree fall then wrap itself around another tree presenting a length blocking my way.  Later probably could have broken the leafy strand, but I was in no mood to be hostile.  Accepting that the fairies would test me just as every other elder had, I had my steed come to a stop as I looked through the woods for someone to speak with.

A stag ran up.  It tried to appear as a scared animal, but I knew better.  There was no way I was going to attack it.  For one thing I expected some type of test, and with the vine moving to block my way I could not believe the animal was coincidental.  For another the only real weapon I had was the bow and special arrows, and I felt Dumourl would not appreciate me using one of the projectiles to simply gain some venison.

My mount snorted, and I patted its neck while saying, “We are dealing with fairies, Later.  Whatever we do, we will be at fault.  I am working under the assumption that if we do nothing, they might understand how rude they are being.”

The stag looked at me and said, “You killed Belconosk.  What more can you seek from life?”

I replied, “Princess Turponia was with me before the dragon showed itself.  She knows where I was going.  If that is what you want me to tell her, fine.  Have a good day.”

“You do not know what you have gotten yourself into.”

“Really?  You mean that I, someone from another world with other gods, other traditions, and other types of little people should be aware of everything in your past, present, and future?”

I really had not planned for my words to sound so sarcastic, so was relieved when the stag did speak instead of simply running off.  “Belconosk was not from this world either.”

“I have men seeking my hand.  Men not just from this world, but who are from around here.  Are you saying that I should leave them, or are you going to provide counsel to have me help them and consider being a part of your lives, your history, and have my offspring a part of your future?”

A bird with the dull red coat of a female cardinal flew down and landed on the vine, then asked, “What does your heart say about those men?”

“I do not want to live in a land of war.  I understand the demands of protecting a society and the politics of maintaining peace, but if you are saying that the men of this land will not be satisfied with a secure home and prosperous citizens then I will go back home.”

“It is not the men.  You see the men are proving themselves.  The king stood up to a dragon, even when he knew that certain death would be the outcome.  When he returned, the men rallied and brought about this victory.  The women did not.  They let the land stagnate and perpetuated the illusion of safety preferring a meager existence instead of allowing people to dream.”

The stag said, “Hope is simply having something good to believe in, Aden.  The women merely hoped to survive another day, and that is not a good life.  They failed us and the land in general.  Let them know that is where the evil still lurks.  I am sorry, Aden of Aden, but the fact that you are a female will have it involve you.”

“The men are worthy, Aden.  The one that gets you will love and adore you.  Still, do not give them your heart unless you feel the women will also rise to dream with the men.  Being alone, Aden, can make even a dream a dismal thing.”

Now the stag ran off.  The bird flew away and the vine released itself to only be a length of plant on the ground.  I did not bother to call out some final words.  At the moment I felt it wise to consider what was said.  I also had no doubt that I could again go to the altar should I feel the need to gain more information.  I thus simply signaled Later to move off and head back to the castle.

Coming from the forest I saw a number of men.  I did not see Dumourl, but recognized that it was just the local nobles, soldiers, and others that faced the recent struggle that waited for me.  They knelt as I rode to them, and feeling the men needed some comfort I stopped to pass along a message.

“The fairies have no fault with any of you.  They recognize that you rose to the challenge.  Belconosk however was not the real threat, but they told me that they did not consider you the problem in the land.”

Lechost rose to ask, “Did they let you know what we should face next?”

“No, but yes.  They told me I would have to face it, but not because of any fault with me.  They did not let me know what the problem was, but what they felt the problem to be.  I would like time to consider what they said.  While I can accept it, I cannot say that I agree with it.”

“Did they tell you to leave?”

“No, although told me that they understood if I felt I should.  If I decide to leave, I will tell you why.  If I decide to stay, please recognize that I am going to try and resolve the problem.”

Yelnoth now rose to declare, “We will support you, Aden of Aden!”

A chorus of voices roared their agreement forcing me to say, “I would admit that you might even understand, but that does not mean that you could help.”  I fought back tears as I said, “I wish my mother was here.”

I did not wipe my eyes, but signaled Later to take me back to the castle.  My thoughts did not improve as I crossed the distance.  To realize that I would have to deal with those older, wiser, and having a sense of accomplishment in lasting to this day bothered me.  I did not have the experience for this type of fight.  I also did not have anyone to turn to for advice.  The only reason having me desire to stay was the recognition of what I wanted to be.  I had left my home seeking to become a noble with a future of having princes and princesses call me mother.  To do that I would have to prove myself able to lead people.  While I had been thrust into a position where I could do just that, the enormity of the problem had me cry with the feeling of being unable to prove myself as worthy.

A number in the castle looked in alarm as I rushed with tears coming from my eyes to my apartment.  Hearing heavy footsteps behind me, I turned to see Dumourl.  Reaching the door to my apartment, I had to turn and tell him what I had told the other men.

“I don’t believe you can help.”

He handed me a cloth while saying, “That does not mean I won’t try.”

I wiped my eyes while saying, “There is another problem, the actual problem, coming, but it’s not your fight.”

“How did it become your fight?”

“I won’t tell you.  I however might have you take me home.”

“Will you explain on the way?”

Wondering just what type of conversation we might have, I agreed, “Yes, Dumourl, I will explain on the way.”

“Then upon you giving me the command, I will take you home.”

I entered the apartment to have Ludene curtsey and stay low as she said, “All know it was your arrow that fully prevented the monster from being a threat.”

Looking about, I admitted, “I want a beer.”

“A beer?”

“I have work to do.  At least, that is the mentality I believe I need to have.  Beer will help keep me with that attitude.”

Ludene rose while saying, “I will have to go get that.”

“No.”  I said that, then understood why as certain lessons came to mind.  “Ludene, do you feel that your servitude is justified?  Do you accept that your punishment, your enslavement, was the proper sentence for your crime?  Do you even believe you committed a crime?”

Her expression was one of being suspicious of my motives for asking as she replied, “I did a crime, yes, my lady.  I felt my servitude harsh, so did more, which of course only increased my punishment.  Serving you has not been harsh.”

The door opened and seeing Queen Tiolotha I commanded my slave to get the beer.  I wiped my eyes while correcting my posture to present a figure of strength.  Knowing what Queen Tiolotha would be asking, I prepared myself to do what I felt would be required of me.

She asked, “What has disturbed you, Aden of Aden?”

“You said you prayed to the fairies, gave them honor.  What they however indicated was that you did not listen to them.”

“They advocated defiance.  Doing that would have had us eradicated by Belconosk.”

“Go speak to them.  Now that the dragon is dead, see if they agree that you needed to wait for those able to actually fight the beast.  Surely the evidence of what all it took to challenge and kill Belconosk will enable a rational discussion of past decisions and actions.”

I sensed a tone of anger as she asked, “What did they tell you?”

“Why do you want to hear it from me?  This is not my world.  I do not understand the history, the people, the situations that caused you to do things.  I could not challenge the fairies.  I only listened.  What you did, you did.  I would even say that it worked.  If you cannot face the fairies with the strength of recent events, I can only leave you to your fate.”

“Fairies are not the most rational of creatures.”

“I know, but they are a part of the land.  They do have a purpose.  They do live among you.  As Queen, you need to take on their concerns no different than that of any other citizen of your realm.  Go, listen to them.  See if they will listen to you.  Something is coming – no, something is there, has been there, and will threaten your land again.  The fairies warned me, but I did not have the experience to do anything more than listen to them.  You have that experience, and the authority to set things in motion that probably should have already been set in motion.  I don’t know.  You should.  Go talk to them.”

She just glared at me for a time, then said, “I would like to have you with me.”

“No.  I was told not to get involved with a man should his land be involved in conflict.  If you will not face what is coming, then Lechost, and I am certain Yelnoth, will have their lands still stressed by forces.  That fact will have me go home.”

“I fear most of the land will leave with you.”  As if seeing a glimmer of hope, she said, “Lechost should be king.  What if I sent him?”

“I believe he will be told the same thing I was.  Yes, he might leave with me, although I cannot say abandoning his land will have him worthy to become my husband.”

“I will have to think on what you said, Aden of Aden.”  Seeing Ludene enter with a man carrying a small keg, Queen Tiolotha asked, “Beer?”

“I told my slave that I had work to do, and beer would keep me with the proper attitude.”  Just to assure that Queen Tiolotha understood the range of possibilities I accepted as potential activities, I added, “I might simply need to start packing.”

“Please entertain the possibility of being about other activities.”

Once those words were said, the noble lady left the room.  I looked to Ludene, and nodded to have her pour me a mug of beer.  The man who had brought the keg bowed before leaving.  I looked about the room, then drank from the mug while considering obeying the final words from the queen.

I said, “I probably could use a bath, but I suspect the men are already keeping those busy who supply the hot water.”

Ludene replied, “I saw no evidence of that.  I believe the men are still going about assuring the people that they can return to their lives.”

“Well, things are different with us women.  I cannot give them or the people hope if I am dirty.”

Aden goes to speak with Yelnoth's parents.