It Only a Dream Can Be
I could only assume that Makinor did nothing with his horse except ride it around. Vista was definitely not a stupid animal, but did not have the practiced grace of Rubber. Some of Sheik Mujalla’s horses could perform at a level equal to Makinor’s mount, but none could rival mine.
The master of the estate said, “You must work with your horse a lot.”
I replied, “I just keep it in my life. Rubber not only brings me places, but usually sees what I do when I get there. When a challenge to perform comes, it knows that I will meet it, and as my horse it accepts that it should as well.”
“That is what I tell people. A good horse is a friend. To see it as an animal is to belittle its true value.”
Of course I agreed with him. I could have developed the topic by mentioning those that did not have an active lifestyle, but I wanted to hear what our host felt led to say. He simply passed some time in small talk, and finally he said something I felt that truly troubled him.
“My wife is speaking to Sha Inchell inside. Don’t you want to join them?”
“Nope,” I answered. “Inchell has her own demons to face, and I have ridiculed her enough.”
“But it deals with where you are going.”
“My relationship with my deity is fine. I’m here solely for support.”
“And what type of support do you expect to provide?”
That was a good question, and hoping to get an answer I said what I could. “I was needed to propel Inchell to simply commit to the journey. The opinion was then I would be needed to rescue them from what it was believed Negredell was. There was also the opinion that the place would be guarded. Now the information points to neither really being necessary, so I am just trying to keep everyone from giving up.”
“And why would they give up?”
I felt that was a dumb question. “Because no one else has made it. It’s still there, and no one has claimed its discovery. Everyone throughout the ages has given up.”
The man nodded, then said, “Then I will give you my blessing. Please, Honored Duchess, make yourself at home.”
As he left, a young lady wearing a very elegant riding outfit came up to say, “Honored Duchess, I will care for your horses.”
“You can help,” I replied, “but Rubber is as he is because I do care for him.”
“How about the other two horses?”
“You can help with them. The one like mine is named Vista, and is owned by a Champion of She-Who-Loves. Be gentle with it. The one native to this land is that of the young man with me.”
Lossurp stepped up to say, “It is from my father’s estate. I am Master Lossurp of House Sevalla of the district of Sheik Brelask in Decogrend.”
The young lady curtsied, then said, “I am Miss Demithay of House Lemicon, my father’s house, here in Uvillorsh.”
“I know the horses, so I can help you. You know those in the stables and the other horses, surely, so I will appreciate your presence.”
While those on the property could surely be considered to provide some level of chaperoning, I understood my status gave me the necessary authority to stop the young people from acting in an inappropriate manner. Lossurp definitely acted favorably to Demithay. She did not appear older than him, and was no better at hiding her pleasure in having his attention. I chaperoned the two by staying with Rubber and using my actions with him as a standard for how the young people should be working with the other horses.
The youths mentioned my stern attitude, but I was really watching them wondering about myself. I did want a man in my life. I never did pick on my sisters or others in my family for the strange things they did and said about the opposite sex, as I accepted I would do the same one day. Being a Champion of Fergush did not make me immune to the presence of men. I faced them in manners most ladies did not, but there were still stories of my periods of courtship that had me sounding cute. While I had my opinions of certain interactions with potential suitors, I watched the youths actually wondering about my own actions should I find a man who I truly liked.
When the young lady was called away to perform other duties, Lossurp came to me and asked, “Don’t you want a man in your life, Honored Duchess?”
I replied, “It will happen. You however forget that I am immortal, Lossurp. When I get a man, I will have a man in my life for an extremely long time. I can wait.”
“Oh, yes. Well, I hope you find a good one.”
“I have gods speaking for me, Lossurp. If I don’t get a good man, the gods will hear me speak to them.”
“Well, I cannot say the same.”
Not really wanting him to start getting his hopes up on the local girl, I said, “Listen, Lossurp, there are gods active. Stay on your best behavior. If you do like Demithay, put your hopes on courting her later.” Hoping to make sure the advice sunk into the young man’s head, I added, “Plus, I thought you had a girl back home.”
“Cherine?” I nodded. “There are other guys after her.”
“Well, return home and see how much status this mission gives you. You might find yourself popular with the ladies when you get back.”
He nodded, then offered his arm. I looked about, but had to admit that the youths had done the work necessary for the animals. Accepting that I had given Rubber his care, I took the arm and allowed Lossurp to escort me into the house.
Once in the building I was taken by the lady of the estate. She tried to get me involved in the talk she had been having with Inchell about Negredell, but I let her know that I did not need to hear what was said. That had the lady of the house ask about her perception of me.
“Surely, Honored Duchess Jelnaya, as a priestess you would like to hear about any religious matters.”
I replied, “I am not a priestess. I am a divine champion. It is not my place to lead services, preach sermons, or make decisions. I can do all three, but my true calling is simply to go about showing others the glory of serving Fergush. I believe I do that well, at least I don’t hear Fergush complaining about me.”
“Don’t you care?”
Inchell said, “I wanted Princess Jelnaya because I needed her attitude. She had given me that and more. As she said, Fergush does not complain about her, and I have no reason to complain either.”
I said, “No buts. No priestess or priest would do what I do. While I could do what they do, and I have as the leader of my realm, I cannot say that I do the rites justice. I do what I feel is right. The majority of those in the congregation are my people, so they forgive me.”
“But there are rules.”
“And I do those. I have read the holy books. I know what certain requirements are. Further, I have seen certain rites since I left Davelda for Sennapre before Nehallum was built. It’s not that I don’t know the rites, but participating and leading are two separate things.”
I believe Inchell was attempting to give me an out when she suggested, “Princess Jelnaya, isn’t your realm to Samayer, and not Fergush.”
“I have read the holy books. Also, the gods are real. I am not antagonistic to the other deities, as at some level they all are important. If I am in the area when some rite is being done, I will attend. When my people warn me about a certain holy day of Samayer coming up, I pick up the books to familiarize myself with it. That however does not mean I am the best at it.”
The lady of the house said, “Our gods are not like that.”
No, she was not going to get me to stand down with those words. “And Negredell is there. You could be assuring your own worthiness, but you’re not. We’re, well Inchell is going to find it. When she does, your souls will be even more at stake for you not seeking the ways of your deities.”
I barely heard, “I told Inchell where it is.”
Inchell said, “And what she said basically agreed with my own directions.”
“We have done so well up to now without it.”
I had to comment, “I am going to wait and see what your gods have to say about that.”
Not wanting to get into an argument, I left. Moving through the house I saw Krachern and Makinor with some elder men. They asked to have me join them. In stopping to consider the offer, I was presented with a glass of brandy. I believe Krachern noticed my mood when I asked for tea. Not wanting to get into any serious discussion, I was glad when his words were softly spoken.
“The religion here is very different. I also felt you would drink alcohol.”
“The people aren’t different,” I replied, “and I am not in the best mood right now. I was a part of Aunt Neselle’s world when they faced their Goddess. I had to obey my own god concerning the actions of people who lived in my realm before I claimed it. I know the foolishness of a people thinking they had a good way. I also know how drastic the decision of the gods can be.”
Makinor proved that he had been studying my history as he said, “I believe your hair, your commitment to Fergush, and your first drahaberd are a result of that.”
“Two of the three are the same thing, and I guess the drahaberd is now as well. I mean I would not have my present drahaberd if I had not started using the first drahaberd, but my present drahaberd was gift from Fergush.”
“What I want to say, Jelnaya, is that I agree with you. The people made a mistake in turning from Negredell, and stayed at fault in never seeking to learn the truth of it. That was the point I was trying to make to these men.”
Hearing sounds of agreement from those around me actually improved my mood. It also started a flood of stories and information of the place. It seemed that a strong religious zeal had survived in the local culture. It was possible that it was a recent surge in the mentality of the people, but what I was told dated back to have me believe a solid core of belief had existed with the people for untold generations. Hearing the stories really did not supply any additional clues to Negredell, but it did help me believe that the discovery this time would not be a singular event lost to history.
I believe the lady of the house intended to call us to supper, but she instead said, “Honored Duchess Jelnaya, I thought you weren’t interested.”
“No,” I replied. “I thought you weren’t interested. I felt you were simply going to provide information from some hobby of yours. What these men have revealed is that there is an actual interest in what we are attempting.”
“What you heard were just myths and folklore. What I was going to tell are facts.”
Krachern noticeably stifled a laugh. Being a rather large person, and a slightly odd looking one at that, his act caused a number to look at him. He did a slight bow, then spoke to explain his act.
“Nothing is fact until the fact of the matter is established. Without Negredell, everything said on the topic is myth and folklore.”
The lady of the estate sternly replied, “What I have are facts.”
“And I am certain Inchell appreciated what you had to say.” Krachern indicated Makinor and me as he said, “What we have here are two divine champions. They will seek the answers, but not necessarily facts. I assure you, dear lady, that I will do all I can to establish the facts. With the proof available, hopefully you will then seek to find the answers that you allowed to remain silent all these ages.”
“Honored Duchess Jelnaya said she was not a priestess.”
“And yet she had us men speaking of your gods for the last many minutes. No, Jelnaya is no priestess, but she is something blessed by the divine. I am glad to have her as a friend, as I would hate to have her as an enemy.”
I had to interject, “And yet you were wanting me to go visit your sponsors at your college.”
Krachern kept his eyes on the lady of the house. “Jelnaya does not relent in her calling. When Inchell summoned Jelnaya to come to her, the fact Negredell would be found was basically assured. The fact you need to find, all of you need to find, is how you are going to respond when we come back speaking of success.”
It was the lord of the estate who said, “I would have to say he is correct. Now, if you don’t mind, let us go turn our attention to some good food.”
And the journey to Negredell starts to have problems.