It Only a Dream Can Be
Hearing that we had arrived, Master Lossurp did not fall into a heap seeking to relax as he done at the last few stops, but only panted while griping, “Honored Duchess Jelnaya, you brought us here? This is a waste.”
I had to agree that it did not appear as much. Tall stalks of some type of grass grew through a hedge of thickets. In the center I saw the remains of a stone tower that had partially begun to fall over. I had to admit the tilt would not provide any comfortable place to rest. Seeing Princess Jelnaya move through a break in the thorny plants, I had to allow that things were not really as they appeared.
Seeing me with her, she explained, “You have to look for places like this. Cricket houses are rather apparent from certain things, although actual derelicts are much more abundant. There is also the fact that some cricket houses appear rather decent. What will let you know a place is a cricket house is this box near a large door.”
While the door was much larger than what most would have on their home, it still appeared as a neglected piece of reinforced wood stuck in a collapsing frame. The box Princess Jelnaya indicated however appeared in good condition with ornate carvings easily made out in the wood. She lifted a panel to show more artwork inside, then made some motions. Suddenly the stones around the door shifted to indicate that we could now open the portal and enter.
Looking through the doorway, I saw marvelous purple tiles on the walls and ceiling. The risers of the staircase down were of a polished stone that appeared gold in color. As I tried to make out patterns that indicated some type of artwork worked into the surrounding material, Princess Jelnaya stepped through the doorway and called out.
The one that looked up the staircase had an odd round face with two strange ears between which a strong growth of light-brown hair started. He appeared thin, although his height might have been responsible for that impression. His hands appeared large as he bowed, and after curtseying Jelnaya went a little further down the staircase before turning to make an introduction.
“Inchell, this is Krachern. He believes himself to be a horse person, even though I have told him that I know horse people and he is not like them. Krachern, there is a man by the name of Makinor you might want to learn who he is. The lad is just with me, as is Inchell.”
I did curtsey before proceeding down, and I guess because I was going to be a fellow resident Krachern asked, “And where are you from, Inchell?”
I answered, “Davelda.”
“Oh. I see, so you are one of the thorns that pricks those of Jelnaya’s family.”
“We are trying to become better.”
He did appear slightly like a walking horse when I came to his side. His head had a rounded front as if the jowls of a horse were pushed back to have the head appear more of a face. The thick hair grew down his neck, and had been allowed to flow down his back a bit. The hands and feet could be said to resemble hoofs. I also saw a tail like that of a horse.
As if he expected my reply, Krachern looked to the other lady to ask, “Is the lad also from Davelda? I hear that others than your family are now producing children there.”
Princess Jelnaya answered, “No, but from the world that Inchell is presently pricking. The man is from Sennapre, and is a Champion of She-Who-Loves. He has been learning to deal with situations out in the omniverse, so it is possible you could meet him again.”
Any further conversation was stopped by Master Lossurp coming in and loudly expressing his pleasure in what he saw. After introducing him to Krachern, Princess Jelnaya took us on a tour of the residence. It was what I would consider a quality accommodation, although on the outside it had a very dilapidated appearance. The only problem with the residence was that we were going to have to prepare our own meals, although Princess Jelnaya showed us that there were some provisions even as she added what we had brought. Master Lossurp did not complain about being given chores, but seemed pleased to do so now that he knew there was indeed a good place to rest once he was finished.
It was interesting listening to Krachern speak of his reason for being here. It seemed that he did not have the successful reputation of others I knew of. While he showed off some items of questionable value, Krachern spoke of pride in his success.
“These things were guarded, Jelnaya. Shadowy dog-like monsters that took me some time to figure out how to kill. I actually spent some time there recuperating from the fight and looking around for some sign of a possible extra room. Right now I am doing all I can to assure proper provenance when I take them back to my sponsor. The committee should reward me for what the items represent if not for any real value.”
The lady asked, “And how is the work looking?”
“Best I can tell, this is indeed what I went for. It just does not live up to its reputation.”
“Knowing who sponsors you, it is possibly just going to be placed in some museum display case.”
“Yes, and all that interests them are the mundane items that were a part of legends. I however keep hoping to find some truly spectacular item of power that is more than simply proof of a legend once existing.” As if hoping for a better story, he asked, “What brings you out here, Jelnaya?”
“This prickly lady from Davelda. She is seeking her own legend, but is worried that she does not have what it will take to get it.”
When eyes turned to me, I said, “I am looking for Negredell.”
Krachern replied, “The place of repetition. How much do you know of it?”
“I believe I know where it is. My problem, the one that had me seek Princess Jelnaya, is that it will not be easy to reach, and I feared not having what it would take to reach it.”
“But to reach it is despair.”
Feeling that the horse person had indeed heard of the place, I replied, “Not if you can reach it at a moment of success.”
“That is not how the stories of it goes.”
“That is why I sought Princess Jelnaya.”
“Still, you do not sound like a woman from Davelda, but just another dreamer from anywhere else.”
Master Lossurp interrupted the exchange to ask, “Krachern, you know of Negredell?”
The horse person answered, “Yes. As Jelnaya said, I am sponsored by a group of historians, actually a college. I am what I am because I sought my own discoveries of certain legends. My life has not been completely composed of unspectacular results. Anyway, in compiling stories of legendary places from my world and others, I have read of Negredell.”
“So, it is not a myth?”
“That requires a complicated answer. Some are not, although for most worlds they are all nothing but stories. What I do, what those Jelnaya can tell you about does, is scour the odd references for any clue that might contain a possibility of substance.”
Jelnaya added, “And what Krachern found might only be a modest duplicate of the actual legend, so with that evidence he might find the world with the spectacular, legendary history.”
“That is true.”
We spent a good period of time simply talking, then headed to bed. As someone who had just spent time sleeping on thin futons, a simple bed, and a night on the ground, I found the mattress in the room to be highly comfortable. Feeling I would sleep for a good period, I laid down and quickly passed into slumber.
It bothered me that I would have to kill. I had learned enough of the world to accept that. They were not a simple society of feudal lands, but a complex management of governments. I was going to have to deal with various officials as I passed borders, then possibly others as I sought to get to the place where I felt I could find what I sought. I could easily imagine things breaking down forcing me to make life or death decisions, and I really did not want to have to kill someone over something as basic as finding my way to a new location.
Princess Jelnaya was correct however. If I was truly determined to make my way to Negredell, I needed the attitude that I would make the decision to kill someone. That did not mean I would have to, but in my heart, in my fiber, I would need to already have that issue settled. Princess Jelnaya had done certain deeds, and while not proud of the action she held her head high with the fact she had stayed true to her commitment.
My father had not believed Empress Straekin would do as she promised. She had committed herself to the war, and forced situations that had really tragic results. My father felt she only wanted the power, but I had come to see she had really wanted something good for everyone and was willing to make the sacrifices to gain it.
I rose from my covers to think over my situation. It pained me to think I was only facing this crisis now. The weight of what I was attempting just did not seem worthy of ending the life of someone. The only option however was to go back home and to the rut that I had been calling my life. Thinking that to be sentencing myself to a dismal eternity, I rose from the bed with the determination to succeed.
Coming into the main chamber, I saw Princess Jelnaya working with an outfit and asked her, “Don’t you ever sleep?”
She replied, “You allowed me to sleep all through the night before.”
“How often do you do that?”
“No fun sleeping. Still, I have a nice apartment and bedroom. Usually I can do things without bothering other people, although what I do usually is not sleeping.”
“Well, I’m glad to be able to spend time with you.” I then sat down and said, “I really don’t know why this bothers me. I fought on the wrong side of the war. I killed people who I realize would now be my friends. These people I kill will never be a part of my life.”
“If you are not killing them for pleasure then I hope you are killing them for a reason.”
“Yes, well, that is what I am trying to say.”
“Then they should be dying for a reason. That is where I put it. I try to make certain those I go up against understand the situation. I am not killing them for fun. No one has to die in a fight. If I kill you then you made that as a condition for your defeat. If I wanted to sit down, but someone was saying that I could only sit down if I killed them then I did not kill them over some petty desire but they got themselves killed over some petty reason.”
I really wanted to argue with those words. Princess Jelnaya did not force me to respond, but put her attention back on her clothes. She effectively gave me time to think over what she had said. Finding myself unable to argue with her, I simply let her know my appreciation.
“Thank you, Princess Jelnaya. I do want to spar with you a little more, but you can take Lossurp and me back.”
To me the question came out of the blue, so I could only ask, “Pardon?”
“Why would someone from Davelda want an eternity of repeated successes? You don’t need money. You don’t need anything. What successes?”
We both turned hearing Master Lossurp ask, “They don’t need money?”
Princess Jelnaya replied, “When time is money, and people have unlimited time, money becomes meaningless.”
I had to defend myself while saying, “Children are returning to Davelda. They will need money.”
“Why? I don’t need money. There has not been one business that would take my money. They charge foreigners, but there is a privileged restitution system that is a fancy way of saying that the funds are absorbed by the government.”
“Terish has all that gold.”
“So tell me, Davelda, what is going to happen to all that gold? It is not like Grandfather Terish will have to spend it to live with my Grandmother Straekin. Of all the gripes my Grandfather Terish might make about Davelda, being forced to pay for things is not one of them.”
She was correct. I suddenly had to think on things. Seeing Krachern move into the room bothered me, and I wondered if anyone actually slept. Trying to support my own train of thoughts, I looked to Princess Jelnaya and asked her whether another fact I thought I had to support my decision would prove correct.
“I thought the gold would be divided up between the children.”
Princess Jelnaya replied, “They’re all wealthy. My father married into a family business that makes more money than many governments that purchase from him. Aunt Endullae’s husband lost his duchy, but they are now in Thiminy training their oldest son to take over the kingdom. Aunt Debbish is a queen. Aunt Chemiana has a prospering land. Uncle Althery is the husband to the divine champion of an all-powerful Goddess. The gold was actually a promise to Sauton, but once he dies there is actually little practical use for so much precious metal.”
“But I know there are groups interested in the gold.”
“Even Grandfather Terish acknowledges that there could be historic value in the gold. The coins have writing and symbols that could be of some importance. He has spent his life looking for lost mysteries and treasures, and the wealth he gained on those missions could provide further substantiation and clues of where he went and what he did. The items might have details that could also make them more valuable than the precious metal they are made of. There are a number that want to catalog the wealth Sauton protects. As for simply the value of the metal – what would you do with it?”
I had to stop and think about my plans. While the facts Princess Jelnaya stated were true, the fact was I saw things again being listed with a value. I would again have to consider what I spent my meager paycheck upon. The truth however was that I had not drawn anything for centuries. At first there was some confusion when we stopped worrying about having to afford certain items of luxury. There had been a run on jewelry and fancy clothes, but they quickly became of meager value as it was shown that they could be mass produced just like other items. I remembered returning to my bunk accepting that my military service was the only thing I valued. Over the centuries my duties however became very repetitive, and I thought a lot about what I would do if things changed on Davelda. Seeing everyone looking at me caused me to worry about speaking, but sensing Princess Jelnaya would unravel things I went ahead and confessed to my plans.
“I was going to be on top of the crime wave of Davelda.”
And with that idea shot down, other plans start to be made.