It Only a Dream Can Be

Chapter Thirty-One
(Inchell)

This morning Princess Jelnaya had us load Makinor’s horse with the bulk of supplies.  She then mounted Rubber while telling Master Lossurp to gain the back of his horse.  Instead of the two riding off, she had him show off his riding skills.  While we walked along the two were weaving around with their horses prancing in various manners.  Finally, I had to mumble a question about what Princess Jelnaya was doing.

Krachern replied, “She is seeing if Sheik Mujalla sends men to trail us.  Believe it or not, she intends to protect them as well as us.”

“Protect us from what?” I had to ask.  “A bear?”

“It won’t be a normal bear if it is.  We had a major religious discussion last night.  Do not believe that went unnoticed.”

“I thought you were not the religious one.”

“If you believe my association with Jelnaya has not affected me, you obviously do not respect her as much as you should.  She is an enigma to me.  Each time I have interacted with her, I returned to hear a number of lectures on the silliness of religion, and the foolishness of those who put their faith in the gods.  I want to believe, want to have what she has, but I just cannot find myself going along that path.  I however will during extended private periods pray to my gods for guidance, and they keep having Jelnaya come along.  Trust me, Inchell, something will happen requiring us to make a decision, probably one of the type that will challenge our divine protectors, although it is not them that will be the focus of the attack.  Since only one of us is local, the attack could well be upon those who shadow us.”

Thinking over what Krachern said, I had to admit, “Princess Jelnaya is spending time with Master Lossurp.”

“She has fun, but her attitude is one of extreme pleasure in her status.  To think she is goofing off is not to give her the respect of one who earned the devotion of a god.”

Makinor said, “Well, it’s not like that those steps reflect extensive time training the horses.  Well, maybe for Lossurp.  All she had to do was tell her horse to match the steps of the other horse.”

Krachern replied, “I will not deny the training or intelligence of the horses from Davelda.  Still, Jelnaya clearly has the training to ride.  She is not having trouble keeping her poise.”

“That is a point, and proper riding is not really something Fergush promotes.”  Suddenly Makinor lifted a hand to point as he said, “What is that?”

A number let him know it was a missile.  I found myself glad to witness the quick response time Princess Jelnaya inherited from her grandfather as she pulled her bow, strung it, then sent an arrow flying.  I really could not say what she intended the projectile to do.  When struck the missile deviated from its course, then exploded.

Military vehicles began advancing from behind us while using speakers to command us to hold our position.  Princess Jelnaya however told us to keep moving even as she commanded Rubber to take her back along the road.  I heard the skid of tires coming to a stop, then Princess Jelnaya speaking to the soldiers.

“I just showed you that we can protect ourselves.”

Partially over the speakers I heard an officer reply, “That was just an initial volley from a larger force.”

“I have defeated dragons and armies.  Don’t worry about us.”

I had not noticed Krachern move away, but heard his voice in the distance asking, “Why should there be others?”

Again partially over the speakers I heard, “Militant forces from Bernorra.  We are picking up chatter of them suspecting our movement into the mountain to be us attempting to invade.”

Jelnaya asked, “And them being close enough to fire missiles is not them attempting to invade?  Not allowing you to move through your mountains sounds like them claiming authority over your land.  If I started telling those of Wasall what they could and could not do on their mountain, they would at least have the Viscount of Letampton going to the king to speak against me.”

Another missile was noticed.  Again I saw an arrow from Jelnaya knock the missile from its course before exploding.  I then heard Lossurp yell his agreement when Princess Jelnaya stated her belief in how things should proceed.

“Men, I believe you should move on to resolve this insurgence from your neighbors.  While you handle the border dispute, we are going to return to our mission.”

While listening for what the military might say in response, I saw Princess Jelnaya ride back to us and say, “Inchell, see if you can find a good place to camp.  It might be best if we double-time it there and relax while the military handles the situation.”

Krachern came riding up, then said, “That is a good compromise, Jelnaya.”

I felt put on the spot, but dropped to the ground and pulled out the maps to make a decision.  We did have a planned itinerary, although without any real knowledge of the mountains or the actual location of Negredell things had not been set in stone.  Princess Jelnaya dismounted to look at the maps with me, but said nothing to force me into making a certain decision.

The men spoke of what they could see of the terrain when I mentioned what I felt was a reasonable objective.  I heard Princess Jelnaya call over Lossurp to help her move parcels from Makinor’s mount to his.  After I had agreement to our objective, I heard the other lady issue her own commands.

“Lossurp, stay with Inchell.  Makinor, mount up.”

The other divine champion did respond, although did ask, “What is your intention, Jelnaya?”

“I protected us from two missiles, but I know Onathia can protect us as well.”

“That’s your intention, Jelnaya?  Just to keep us safe?”

“What more you want, Makinor?”

I found it strange when the male divine champion closed on Princess Jelnaya to say at a volume I could barely hear, “As far as protection, nothing.  Stay alert, Jelnaya, as there could be other problems.”

She softly returned, “You don’t trust the military either?”

“My aspect is not the same as yours, Jelnaya.  I however can sense something, so I suspect you would not feel right about taking on the fight.”

I had moved up to better hear the words.  What I heard made me glad that I did.  Feeling the need to get in the middle of this conversation, I moved up to ask a question I felt would give me a perspective on what the divine champions were sensing.

“Makinor, are you suggesting that the show with the military is not as they said?”

He replied, “It was not the military that disrupted those missiles.  They were going to let them strike.”

Master Lossurp exclaimed, “Hey!  I thought no one was going to stop us.”

Princess Jelnaya did things to start us moving.  Krachern saw her actions, looked to me, then began doing what he could to help her.  Makinor started riding around our group in the manner Princess Jelnaya usually did, so I accepted that our safety was not assured.  As she kept us moving however, I felt that we would be adequately protected.

The acts of the two divine champions did not reduce my feeling of being in charge.  I kept checking the maps against what I felt were the marked landmarks.  The noise of aircraft overhead with the distant sound of vehicle engines troubled me.  What then disturbed me was hearing children, and worried about them I called over the two divine champions.

While Makinor did have an expression of concern, he looked to Princess Jelnaya who said, “They’re not our concern, Inchell.  This is not me being cruel.  This is me speaking as a noble in charge of a land.  Those people are the responsibility of those in charge of this land.  What I am saying is that the military, the one that was supposedly to protect us, should definitely work to protect them.”

The divine champion of She-Who-Loves then asked, “And what if they don’t?”

With an expression of being hurt, Princess Jelnaya replied, “This is not me being cruel.  If they don’t, Inchell is going to have to make up her mind whether she cares.  Those people, those innocent people, represent more than men, women, and children in trouble.  The fact we feel they are in danger has us recognizing something deep, malignant, and unworthy of our support.  Now, I don’t believe that.  The people have been nice.  Still, to act concerned for those people will put us involved in something that is much deeper than Negredell.”

I turned hearing Krachern say, “And it will cause us to detour from going to Negredell.”

Thinking over what I was told, I asked, “Princess Jelnaya, what would you do?”

She replied, “Me?  I am a Champion of Fergush.  I would seek my god’s direction.  As for you, Inchell, how important do you feel Negredell really is?”

Makinor said, “I must support Jelnaya.  As a Champion of She-Who-Loves, I often have to weigh the hearts of others in my decisions.  I have no illusion that having two people decide to join in a relationship will solve their problems.  In this case, Inchell, the hearts you must consider are those of this world.  Will they be better off with proof of Negredell or with this crisis resolved?”

Krachern added, “A crisis they have probably gone through a multitude of times.”

Princess Jelnaya spoke advice that I should have expected from her.  “Grandfather Terish, the husband of your empress, Inchell, would tell you to go for the treasure.  When you’re dealing with monsters, removing the treasure usually takes away what they are fighting for.”

I had to ask, “Are you saying the military is concerned about Negredell?”

“The only problem I have with that is coming up with a reason why.”

Krachern asked, “Jelnaya, are you equating the military with monsters?”

“What do you think my response will be either way?”

Worried about how the situation could escalate should we attack the military, I found myself glad to think of a response that came from my knowledge of Davelda.  “The people should not be a real concern.  They sound like people who simply came to a mountain stream to get away from their lives for a time.  They should be going home in a few hours at the latest.”

Seeing nods, I pointed out a trail that went around the pond where the sounds of the people came from.  It did help my mind that I had chosen another place to make camp for the night.  Hoping that those enjoying the water would actually leave before things become more intense, I gave the order to head for the trail.

While no instructions about how to progress were given by me, I found the demeanor of the others to change.  Instead of anyone acting as keeping an active watch of our perimeter, we moved in a line along the side of the trail closer to the rise of land.  Everything was quiet for a good period, although I never truly felt able to relax.  Seeing Princess Jelnaya take her bow back from Rubber and again string it, I moved to her wanting her to know she did not have to wait for orders.

“Princess Jelnaya, I do trust you.”

She replied, “I did go to the trouble to get a hunting license.  I cannot think of any legal reason for anyone to give us trouble, but I suspect they will.”

I thought about the scene earlier when she came out of the government building, then said, “Let Master Lossurp take the shot.”

Princess Jelnaya handed the bow to Master Lossurp.  I know he had practiced with the weapon on the earlier trip.  She signaled us to hold our position, then had the young man follow her off the trail just a short distance.  I found myself able to spot the deer, although the animals seem bothered by the presence of a small vehicle with a couple of soldiers in it.  I believe Princess Jelnaya gave some pointers to the lad simply to see if the military men would react, but seeing them stay calm she went ahead and tapped Master Lossurp in the manner of indicating for him to take the shot.

The flight of the arrow was good, at least it did strike the deer.  The animal did not drop, and I saw Princess Jelnaya take off after her prey.  The military men did react, but only to stand looking through binoculars with my concern of them taking up guns not gaining substance.  Telling the others that I suspected we would be having venison for supper, I signaled for us to return to moving.  Considering it good that the military held their position, I was glad that at least for the moment things seemed to stay peaceful.

The military does not go away.