It Only a Dream Can Be
I considered it strange to find Princess Jelnaya to be everything I had been told about her. I guess it helped that she was one of the few children who actually returned to Davelda occasionally, so information on her stayed factual and recent. While she did not speak well of us or our society, there was something within her that at least accepted she had roots on that world. While Lord Terish did say and do things acknowledging Davelda as the home of his children, considering that he had no world that could truly claim him, the truth was that none of his offspring found the world to their liking. The talk was even that those children now being born of couples on our planet wanted to flee to other places. Princess Jelnaya would return to spend time on Davelda, so we of that world did claim her, but I still found it strange to actually feel some connection to her.
There was an energy to her, but I had to agree that it was not destructive. For one who had devoted herself to a fighting spirit, she really was not aggressive, arrogant, or determined to dominate. Princess Jelnaya would not allow herself to be manipulated or subdued, but showed a clear acceptance of others having their own limits as well. I did not feel threatened by her. The energy from her could be felt in my apartment, but I had to agree that I enjoyed having her company.
It took Master Lossurp by surprise to have his older brother arrive with a satchel and other items for him. It seemed that Sheik Brelask had sent a command to the lad’s father to allow the travel. While I knew some resistance could be asserted concerning matters of one’s children, enough facts of the journey were related to give some importance to the orders. To assure things with Master Lossurp were as reported, his older brother spent time with him while providing the supplies he would surely need.
To actually be leaving felt strange for me. I had been on this world long enough to feel comfortable. I moved with Princess Jelnaya thinking that she and the other children might be correct about us elders of Davelda being ones who sought ruts. Master Lossurp seemed overjoyed to be leaving, but I could not believe I was returning to the mission that had brought me to this world.
I had not come by horse, and I knew to support Princess Jelnaya in not allowing just any animal to move between worlds. She and Makinor loaded their mounts letting them know simply to walk along with us. I knew that Master Lossurp had been brought up in a culture where the elite rode horses, but he calmly went with us without complaining about any lack of status. When we moved to another world he suddenly reacted with alarm realizing he had come to a place where the rules he had lived his life by no longer applied.
The fact that we were now surrounded by snow bothered me as much as Master Lossurp, but his reaction was much more dramatic. Princess Jelnaya just watched the lad for a time, then reached down to grab some accumulated frozen water. When she hit him with a ball of snow, he reacted in a manner that had me wonder if he was angry or scared.
He demanded, “What did you do that for?”
Princess Jelnaya replied, “Might as well have fun. I have no idea about weather conditions. We are going to have to deal with this for a number of miles. We can gripe and complain, or have some fun.”
I had to admit, “I didn’t dress for weather like this.”
“I usually deal with it by staying active. We can get moving, or have a snowball fight.”
“Well, I want to get out of this. Let’s start moving.”
Hearing the lad say the same, Princess Jelnaya replied, “Come on.”
She started out at a fast rate. A few miles of running was something I did regularly in the military. I did have to admit that I had not kept up the routine, but after centuries I felt a certain amount of muscle tone should have stayed with me. It did not surprise me that Princess Jelnaya was in shape. Makinor took the run without complaint, although Master Lossurp began to start griping soon after we started.
It did not take long for me to want to berate the lad. Princess Jelnaya however did not reduce her pace. She and Makinor expressed joy in the run, and the horses stayed with them. I decided to stay quiet, and soon Master Lossurp had to hush simply to keep the air necessary to continue fueling his body.
Wondering if Jelnaya actually knew this cold world, or cold part of this world, was present, I found her to yell, “Bear! Sticks!”
Master Lossurp stopped, and could only gasp as he said, “Sticks? You have weapons.”
“It’s a bear. Use a rock if you want something more substantial.”
When Princess Jelnaya said, ‘Stick,’ she did not mean a twig. She grabbed a fallen limb and looked silly attempting to lift it yelling at the bear to flee. I thought it was slightly amusing what she was doing, although moved to get a rock while asking a question.
“Do you have a strategy?”
“One distracts while the other attacks. We do have weapons if the situation gets desperate. Do you get in front of a charge or do you want me to do it?”
I thought for a moment, then decided to challenge the lady. “You’re the instructor. You get the first time, and I’ll decide whether or not I might handle the second.”
“Then let me see if I can give you a lesson.”
With Makinor helping her, Princess Jelnaya managed to break off a length. While it still appeared too heavy for her, she ran off with the piece held horizontally. There were situations where the surrounding trees presented problems with the length, but she deftly made adjustments while keeping up her pace. The bear had not run, and roared seeing her quickly approaching. I watched with concern as she spun to send one end upon the head. I really did not know what she was doing with it being obvious her ability to handle the large length was stressing her muscles. While surely heavy, the wood end came upon the animal rather slowly. It still attacked, and with it acting Princess Jelnaya did as well. I watched in amazement as she used the strike of the beast to help her body act as a fulcrum to propel the rest of the stick against its body. She flipped over the animal as it turned in the direction of the attack. Princess Jelnaya moved to grab the end that had been against the head, and with both arms held it to have the force of the swipe from the claw break the length of wood. She then set her end of the stick down while positioning the other to go beneath a front leg of the bear when it turned to attack her. Princess Jelnaya turned to me when the animal collapsed from the wood shaft impaling its body.
She whistled, and as Rubber went to her she asked, “Did you learn a lesson, Inchell?”
Makinor replied, “Tell me you knew what you were doing, Jelnaya.”
“The concern was not in what I was doing, but in what the bear might do. Same with monsters. It might not have worked, then I would have needed to be concerned with what Inchell might have done.”
I had to admit, “A stunt like that probably would not have given me the confidence to make a move. I am still flabbergasted at what I saw.”
“Then you’re not ready.”
I watched as she took a device of gold from over her heart. The top was the symbol of a sun over an anvil. The bottom was basically an equilateral triangle. It must have been sharp, as Princess Jelnaya used it to cut through the hide and muscle of the bear over its chest. The hand holding it then went between some ribs to come out with the heart. Only a piece of it was removed, which she held out while saying the name of her god. I watched with amazement as the sacrifice disappeared along with the blood from the operation.
As I helped her wrap the hind legs with a rope while Makinor threw the other end over the limb of a tree, Master Lossurp asked, “Are we eating bear?”
Princess Jelnaya replied, “I have no way of knowing.”
“But you’re skinning the bear.”
“So that was a stupid question.”
Makinor said, “Jelnaya does not cook if she can help it. Like she said, there is actually no way to know what we will be eating. Continue to pay attention.”
“But, if we are not going to eat the bear then why are you skinning it?”
“We will trade the bear for something to eat.”
“Don’t you have money?”
I replied, “We have bear. What we have here is probably worth a lot more than the price of a meal.”
Princess Jelnaya admitted, “Yes, especially if they try to get more than just the meat. Should end up with grain for the horses as well. Whatever else we get though will probably be left in the cricket house.”
“I thought it was two days away.”
“I figured we would be walking, not running. Still, let’s see how much trouble I have cooking.”
I had to say, “You didn’t expect me to be able to keep your pace.”
“You’re a Marine. Don’t tell me you couldn’t run.” I saw a cold expression come to her features as she said, “You don’t even know what you are looking for.”
“Show me, Princess Jelnaya. Please, show me.”
“I did, and we have bear. Next time you do not let me go first.”
Thinking on the situation, I had to ask, “But, how did you know?”
“Know? We were running through unknown territory. I didn’t know anything. I was however prepared for everything. Now, if I had chased that bear down, maybe I would have been in the wrong. I yelled at the bear, and did everything I could to let it know I was a threat. It still attacked. I was the threat. If I had run, I would have been saying that the bear was the threat. It wasn’t. I was.”
“Princess Jelnaya, I…”
I saw her smile. She knew I had just become scared. Princess Jelnaya was somewhere I really did not want to be, but where I had told her I wanted to go. I had seen others become people I did not like, and follow a path I did not want to walk. The weight of what I had asked came upon me, and I sat with the fear of not liking myself. I saw her continue to work with the bear, and finally found the courage to speak to her.
“I will need what you have, but it has destroyed so many.”
“You are talking to the granddaughter of your empress and Terish Dozzrine. They both walked the path. I have heard their stories. My own father faced your Goddess. In every case they were not alone. Grandmother Straekin speaks of the communications she had with the people of Davelda all those centuries she fought the council. She speaks of all she went through in dealing with my Grandfather Terish, but she had Great-uncle Ferrigote, Dathol, and others. Now you are out here walking her path, and you are asking for help and being given it. What in Hell are you afraid of?”
I had to admit, “Myself.”
“That sounds like someone from Davelda. All those centuries stuck in a rut, but you really liked it there. Go home, Inchell. Out here you are not going to like it.”
“No. I need this.” Looking for a spark of hope, I said, “You said they were not alone. Would you go with me?”
“Right now I’m going to say, ‘No,’ as I do not need what you are speaking about. In fact, it even scares me. I am having success, but it is directed by my god. This life I have is wonderful. Repetitive successes, assured repetitive successes, I believe that would take the fun out of my life.” I saw the glare of her intending her words to sink in deep as she said, “Although it does sound like something someone from Davelda would want. Their own special gold-plated rut.”
“Then while you are showing me what I will need, look and see if my goals are real. Can you do that, Princess Jelnaya?”
“I don’t know. Tell you what, you prove that you will work with me. Show me that spirit that helped you conquer Davelda.”
I softly admitted, “I was on the other side of the war. My side lost.”
“You want to keep it? This rut you have been living in for over the last seven hundred years, would you fight for it?”
“Yes. My father was wrong. Yes, I would and have been fighting for it.”
“Yes, well, Davelda is changing. Those wanting ruts are losing the battle.”
Those words got me angry, but instead of turning on the lady I said, “I’m cold, Princess Jelnaya. Can we get to another world?”
She spun the dagger in her hand, sheathed it, then released what was left of the carcass. Princess Jelnaya called over the men to help us load the parts of the bear. I noticed that the horses did not mind the meat being placed on their backs. When she again told us to move, I started running feeling the need to warm my body and cool my head.
And the last member of our cast makes his appearance.