It Only a Dream Can Be
Bechorei did collapse in the bed made for her near the fire after eating. I kept the first watch telling the others it was not my place to find Negredell. As I was putting away my things preparing to wake up Inchell, Bechorei rose from the blankets we had provided for her.
She said, “Jelnaya, excuse me, but with Terish being your grandfather, can you estimate how long I was trapped?”
I replied, “Grandfather Terish was in his eighties when he first went to Davelda. He is about two-hundred thirty now. That means about a hundred fifty years.”
“So, his wife is immortal?”
“Everyone on Davelda is immortal. Well, was immortal, as they are again having children. It’s a long story, but Inchell is over seven hundred years old.”
“How old is Makinor?”
I could not help but smile as I answered, “Fifty-two.”
“He’s not immortal?”
She moved to a place close to me, and softly said, “I cannot say. I was twenty-eight when I came here. I was far too old to seek a man, but I had a rough life. I however was told that my grace was a beauty that surpassed time. According to certain claims, Negredell is supposed to offer immortality. It’s complicated, but I came on a quest to master my grace.”
“Makinor is a good man, but he is a man serving a goddess of love. He saw her, and did not look at another lady the same. That is a fault, considering that almost everyone else looks to Onathia for a spouse. Considering that I am even looking to her for a husband, I have been working on Makinor, but it seems Onathia has been working on him as well.”
“I see. So he sees me as a possible wife?”
Accepting my own part in the drama, I replied, “I will apologize if you desire someone else or no one, as I did give him a hard time when we found you. It seemed a little too coincidental.”
“I understand. I just do not know how to deal with him.”
“That’s easy. You were looking for Negredell. It’s right there – somewhere. Go with Inchell and find it. Once we can say that the honor is ours, and tell others what the place really is, let Makinor and me take you home. Whether or not something happens, let it happen over time.”
“That is a grace worthy of my honor.”
While I appreciated what she said, I felt the need to work on the personality issue. “Listen, my god is He-Who-Fights. Makinor’s goddess is opposed to my god. That does not mean that we hate each other, but simply see things from two totally different perspectives. That however could mean that if you like Makinor, me and you might not see eye-to-eye. Don’t get angry at me, and accept what I say to you is not spoken in anger. Makinor and I are friends, so you can learn to deal with me as well.”
She smiled, then asked, “Could you help me gain some clean clothes?”
Bechorei was slightly shorter than me, and not with my build. I would have woken Inchell, except that she did not tend to wear dresses. Bechorei definitely appeared to have some elegance. Thinking of my Great-aunt Dirchein, I went to my saddlebags and found a dress I would consider appropriate.
I waited for the lady to move from the water available for a bath. I did not wake anyone, as I felt the need for Bechorei to restore herself privately. She came from the small pool looking a lot better than I would have in the gown. People, especially men, did compliment my feminine form, but I would not appear half as happy as she did in the garment. When the lady offered to help prepare a breakfast, I told her that I would help her find something to eat as it was still late.
Seeing someone stir, I said, “You can spend time with Bechorei, Makinor. She is awake, but in need to reset her internal clock. You can keep watch while speaking with her, but if she mentions feeling tired you better let her lie back down.”
Certainly noticing the glare he directed at me, Bechorei said, “Jelnaya said that her god and your goddess were opposed, but that you were friends.”
Makinor replied, “She takes some getting used to, but you can trust her. When things are getting desperate, she is a breath of fresh air. She also comes from a family that travels through the omniverse, so a welcome companion when far from one’s world.”
“Well, help me pass the time. Surely you can fill me in on some things, at least things about yourself.”
“I can do that. Jelnaya, get some rest. Onathia says that you should be needed, which means I want you rested.”
While I wanted to hear what the two would say to each other, I guess Onathia did not want me eavesdropping. I found sleep to come upon me quickly. All I can say is that I did not wake up to Bechorei and Makinor arguing. I came to hearing Krachern say something to another lady.
“Inchell, look over your notes. Negredell is there, so we could simply stumble upon it. Any clue you can now recognize from what we have learned however could help, as it has avoided discovery for so long.”
She replied, “Let me freshen up. What do you have planned for breakfast?”
“Out of eggs, but the nearby thermal vents had me think of something. Found it, but the local variety does not have it tasting like I remember. Still, not bad and I am not sick from eating a portion.”
As I got up, the others began to stir as well. Soon we were all speaking of what he hoped to do. Of course the major topic was finding Negredell, but there were comments about also keeping a watch for the military. Seeing the others quickly working to get themselves ready for a day of activity, I felt we should manage to achieve our objective.
Bechorei worked to learn about us as we started this day. I accepted that our introductions last night were not enough to truly explain how we came together. Inchell used one set of titles, Lossurp another, while the rest of us clearly had the attitude of being equals. Bechorei spoke of finding it cute that Inchell called me princess, as if I was a youth, while she and the others actually considered me one of the most experienced members of the group.
As I expected, everyone was ready to go find Negredell as soon as there was enough light to see through the trees. Inchell spoke of things she felt needed to be checked with Bechorei speaking of what clues she had followed. As the two planned on their tactics, I however spoke a command to one I saw preparing to head through the trees.
“Makinor, you stay with me.” Seeing him simply glare at me, I explained, “Inchell and Bechorei are the ones actually looking for the place, so the ones that should find it. Lossurp is the native, so it really would not hurt us if he found it. Krachern is a recognized historian, so one to assure provenance when Negredell gets found. You and me are hired help, so we can watch over the camp.
He looked at me for a moment, then bowed before saying, “Your words do make sense, Jelnaya, although they were unexpected.”
“Part of a fight is to constantly evaluate your situation. Come on, help me clean the cooking utensils.”
There were a few comments before the others headed out. I guess to give them time to move off, Makinor stayed silent as he helped me. He then made a comment as we looked about the camp for other chores that needed to be done.
“I expected you to keep me with Bechorei.”
“Onathia said that she trusted me with your heart. I doubt she would have said that if she simply expected me to force the lady upon you.”
He was silent for a moment, then said, “It was what I expected. May I ask what your plans are?”
“I have no plans, Makinor. I have no idea about Negredell. Let’s put our focus there. Yes, talk to Bechorei. There will be meals, and other occasions to start building a relationship with her. Further, I would not be surprised if she is questioning the others about you. If she shows interest in you, I might decide to prod you toward her.”
I guess Makinor accepted what I said, as he began to work about the camp without any problem. Knowing Negredell was in the area, we had not planned to completely pack away our items. I did not bother the man allowing the possibility that Onathia was giving the man some instructions. I accepted he was not being a problem, so quietly did what things I felt needed to be done.
We both turned when Krachern rushed into camp asking, “Where is our ax?”
I replied, “There is one in the gear of Lossurp’s horse.”
“We found it, but there are a number of trees in the way.”
As Krachern moved off with the ax, I looked to Makinor and said, “Chopping trees is exhausting work. I guess we can go help.”
We moved in the direction Krachern headed. Makinor suddenly dropped, and I moved up to see a rift perpendicular to the direction of the grand split not that far away. No signs of water, even erosion, could be seen, although the amount of plants was enough to hide the split in the land. I could hear Krachern starting to work with the ax, although looked with Makinor for a good place to descend thinking to use my weapons to clear out some of the regular growths.
I heard Inchell ask, “Jelnaya, can you get the horses in here? We will need them to move the trees.”
It took me pulling my sword and cutting away a good amount of the obscuring foliage. Finding a spot where I felt the animals could descend, I went for them. By the time I came back with Rubber and Vista I could hear the cracks of one of the trees beginning to fall. Makinor gained some rope, but handed it to Krachern accepting the command to take the ax and begin working on another tree. I could not help but feel hope even as I had the horses pulling away one obstacle to reaching our objective.
After pulling away another tree, I came back to have Inchell say, “Jelnaya, can you have the horses pull easy? We have the door, but it’s not budging. That really should not be surprising considering how long they have been there, but we don’t want to break them either.”
I simply looked to Rubber and asked, “Do you understand?”
Seeing the animal move its head up and down, I went to inspect what they claimed to be a door. There was definitely a stone seal etched with symbols that appeared more as obscure artwork than anything to actually be deciphered. There was not really a latch, but I saw Krachern and Bechorei working a web of rope to safely secure a length to the decorated door.
I already had straps working to have the two horses from Davelda working together. Instead of a tree, this time there was simply a rope secured to the straps. I then gave the horses some instructions.
“We are not wanting to harm anything. Ease into pulling, and expect to hear commands.”
The horses had their heads go up and down. I then heard Inchell telling me to start the animals pulling. I felt the tension as the horses could be seen to put their weights into tugging on the line.
I was ready for something to happen. Whispering to the horses to keep a constant pressure, I accepted that at any moment I would yelling for them to halt. What I did not expect was to hear a grinding of rock along with a scream and a blaze of orange-brown light. Having the horses stop, I rushed back hoping those that knew of Negredell had been ready for what happened.
Both of the other ladies were frozen in place, as was Lossurp. I did not feel it was anything unnatural, but them being shocked by what happened. Noticing Makinor rush forward, I saw a man kneeling on the ground. Both of the ladies started moving forward as the Champion of Onathia helped the figure up.
The man actually tried to push the seal back into place as he said, “That place is dangerous. I know you are going to open it, but give me some time.”
Actually recognizing the voice, I asked, “Krachern?”
“Hello, Jelnaya. I don’t believe you knew me before I was transformed into a horse person.”
“No. I remember on our first meeting telling you that you were not the way you should be.”
“And I agreed. Now, I am as I should be.”
I had to admit that Krachern looked the way he had described himself. He was rather tall with a healthy physique. The eyes and a few other details helped me accept the man as Krachern, although I had to ask a question I knew he would ask of others.
“A purging,” he replied. “It felt malicious, but it burned at what I found repulsive in myself as well. That is what I believe saved me. I was as angry at what was being found wrong in me as whatever force was acting within me I felt wanted to accuse of some wrong. I wanted what was wrong with me removed, and demanded, pleaded, for that to happen. There was completely no resistance to the purging done, and that is what I believe kept my own soul from being devoured.”
Bechorei said, “Or preserved as I was.”
“You did not speak of being purged.”
“I am a Grace. If my soul is not cleansed, I am not able to serve. Further, I came here in serving my grace, so felt myself fulfilled in gaining the power of Negredell.”
Makinor asked, “What does it mean that you are a Grace? Are you a champion of you god?”
“I am a living expression of my god, Zanoxin. All that others would say that a man could not be, we are to show that he can embody those traits as well. The female deity, Lemoshei, has the Virtues. All that others would say a woman could not be, they are to show that she can embody those traits as well.”
I had to laugh while saying, “Makinor worships a female deity while Bechorei worships a male one.”
Makinor quickly replied, “As do you.”
“I hope she gets along with Zanoxin as well as I get along with Fergush. You however seem to have a problem with Onathia.”
Bechorei quickly said, “I heard a number of the Virtues speak of similar problems. Makinor however is surrounded by a trust, a friendship, in both his goddess and those of you, who also promote deities. The faults I hear of him speak of his virtues, and that should be honored.”
I went up to put a hand on his chest while saying, “She’s speaking up for you. Be careful.”
He softly replied, “I am trusting in you, Jelnaya.”
“You better be speaking to Onathia about that.”
“I would not trust you if I didn’t hear her voice.”
I could tell by his eyes that Bechorei had noticed our little exchange. Interested in what Makinor might do, I simply watched him. He straightened his posture, then stayed quiet. Not hearing anything from Bechorei, I decided to move events along.
Turning to find Inchell, I asked, “What do we do now?”
She replied, “Well, what has happened is nothing like what I expected. If you don’t mind, I would like to go back over my notes.”
Krachern said, “Splendid! That would give me time to make my notes.”
“WHAT?” Lossurp exclaimed. “Negredell is right there!”
Even with my fast reflexes, I found myself not responding when the lad rushed to the great door. While it had taken two horses to help Krachern crack the seal, the youthful form of Lossurp set himself, tugged, and the stone panel moved. While there was no scream, the bright orange-brown glow disturbed me I now responded to dart to the lad, but found the reflexes of another to have also acted.
The hand of Makinor on my shoulder stopped me as he said, “You are not one who needs to go, Jelnaya. I would hope I am not either, but let me prove myself.”
We both looked as Inchell rushed to the door. I again wanted to move, but the grip of Makinor was firm. When he released, he was already moving to go with Inchell. I would have still rushed to them, but the voice of Fergush was stern.
“That is not a fight, Jelnaya. Any victory they claim is not one to brag about in my halls.”
“So,” I grumbled, “what am I to do?”
“Why, wait for the fight.”
But first the truth of Negredell will be presented.