Without a Light I See

Chapter Four
(Jelnaya)

I spun having Vulge actually get a strike past my defenses, although in resetting I found him leaning on his practice weapon instead of going for another attack.  “All right, Princess.  I know why I am off my game, but I did not believe you could be off your game.”

He was a large man, but that was not the reason he was out in the sparring field with me.  A number of my soldiers had taken on the challenge of learning from me.  I expected that of them, and made it a requirement of their service.  Vulge was here because he wanted to be, and having heard what he said I decided it was best to make a reply.

“I need to be at my best even when bothered by other things, Vulge.  You got a blow in.  Rather it you than someone actually intending to hurt me.  Still, I know to keep in practice.”

“Let’s go get something to eat, Princess.  Let’s just talk for a time.”

I waved off the soldiers that were standing around, and as I moved back into my castle I softly admitted, “I know a number of ladies tried throwing themselves at you, Vulge.”

“Yes, and that is my problem, but not.  I tried to speak about it with Merilay, but she did not help.  I mean, she and what few other ladies from Davelda come out into the omniverse really do not seek the things we men have.”

“Honestly, Vulge, it is not like that there are a lot of men like you.”

The problem with those from Davelda was that they had achieved their immortality with science.  A medical procedure reworked their reproductive organs to spur on the regeneration of their bodies.  While they became no longer affected by the passing of time, they also were sterile.  Davelda had come close to dying due to boredom with no one to replace those that committed suicide.

Vulge felt that he had gained a restoration of his reproductive organs.  The other two from Davelda that went with me on that adventure also spoke of that belief.  Actually, they knew things had been restored, as they had gone to their doctors to have certain tests run.  Their problem, the same problem Vulge was speaking of, was that any lady they sought to have a family with either could not, because they were sterile, or would die, because they were mortal.

He replied, “That just stresses that there are not any women, Princess.  I am out here as your chaperone, and actually hear people speak of possibilities for you.  No one comes to me speaking of ladies I should court.”

“Well, it’s not like the men that have come for me have been any winners.  If I was getting surrounded by worthwhile admirers, you might have a reason to feel bad.  Even with the possibility of options coming to me, you should feel comforted by the poor specimens I have had to waste my time on.”

I expected him to laugh, but he mumbled out the question, “Still, well, do you feel lonely, Princess Jelnaya?”

“No, Vulge, but I keep telling you that I don’t have anything like your history.  I have to tell Merilay that as well.  I left Davelda, then left Great-uncle Ferrigote.  I went off on my own, and proved myself.  That is what I fear, Vulge.  If a man cannot promise me to treasure what I am, I am not going to stay with him.”

“I however believe the gods here will find you someone, Princess.  I cannot say that about Munulva.”

“Now, Vulge, I believe your own history proves that Munulva does do things.  She just has her own way and timetable.”

I would have said more, but I saw one of my advisors rushing through a doorway, so waited to see what he considered of importance.  “Honored Duchess, we just got a signal from Chetorly.  Something requiring your attention.  Your horse should be saddled by the time you come out.”

The first thing I did was to check my clothes.  I did have garments to have me declaring my status as more than a normal lady, but it was common for me to wear something that appeared to have seen better days going out to the sparring field.  My lifestyle had me quickly spoil my elegant attire.  Feeling that I needed to change my clothes before leaving my castle, I decided to go ahead and wear my armor.

By the time I rushed to my room, put on the suit of crystal that I had proven as my major attire for dangerous situations, then come down I was informed that Rubber was waiting for me.  Some did ask me about preparations for the journey.  I reminded them that Chetorly was my domain, so I could expect hospitality from them.  I looked to a general and told him that it might help to have someone follow me.  With him saying he would be doing that, I climbed into the saddle of Rubber and rushed from my castle.

The first time I moved between Chetorly and what was now my home I made it while fighting a few armies.  Since then I had covered the distance walking, riding in a buggy, although usually I would be riding my horse.  It took a number of hours at any regular pace, but Rubber could make the distance at a full run.  I did not command him to go so fast, although did have him a set a gait that kept us moving.

As I hoped, it was not my military around Phanigist coming from behind that had me stop, but a squad from Chetorly that rode up letting me know about the situation.  “Honored Duchess, something is in the air coming from Mekont.  Knight Oveon has approached saying there are two men fighting something, but they are very uncertain what to do.”

I replied, “Okay.  Well, I’m moving on to the situation.  You tell the knight that his forces better not involve themselves.”

“I understand, Honored Duchess.”

Telling Rubber that we had a situation, he took off at a run.  My horse knew me.  It had a good life, but understood that there were days when it was going to have to perform at a level most mounts would not tolerate.  Rubber trusted me to know its limits, and took off willing to do his part.

I rode by the church and castle of my county seeing the military I had set down here prepared for trouble.  Farmers were in the fields, but I did not see any of them using animals.  That let me know that while the crops were being tended to, no serious work was being performed.  Wanting to restore the calm of regular life, I rode by listening to cheers.

It was pretty easy knowing when I was coming to the boundary of my realm, as no more of my military could be seen ahead of me.  Usually I could see soldiers of the other land acting to defend their kingdom, but I saw them moving back as if providing a path for me.  I had not traveled far when I did see something in the air.  It was not a creature or cloud, but some distortion was apparent.  Seeing those of the military keeping a distance even as two men worked at battling something while continuing to move, I raced forward wondering what type of fight I would join.

Rubber understood that at times he would need to take me into combat.  I had no intention of getting him hurt.  I however recognized a serious situation, and I felt I needed Rubber to give me the right initial attack for entering combat.

I sprung from the saddle to wildly swing NeverRose at whatever I felt I saw in the air.  There had been times I looked foolish, but no one could complain about me being afraid of entering combat.  I felt good actually feeling resistance to my swing, although in coming down I wondered what move to make next.  I tensed my legs while looking at the sky, and feeling assured of recognizing a disturbance in the air I sprung to attack again.

Making a series of repeated leaps did stress my legs, but I found myself actually glad to have a bedroom on the top floor of my castle.  Moving up and down the stairs, repeatedly on some days, did provide some good exercise.  I had no idea what I was fighting, but I could tell when I struck something and those times I did not.  Tensing my legs to make another leap, I found myself wondering just how good my attacks were as I felt I would need to continue to launch myself into the air.

Curious, I looked to the men and asked, “What are we fighting?”

One of the two replied, “Fear.”

“It’s doing a bad job.  I’m not scared.  Are you?”

The other man answered, “Scared of dropping from fatigue.”

The first one said, “Yes.”

Thinking of where the men were going, I switched out NeverRose for my drahaberd.  While there was a lot of difference in the two weapons, one advantage of the double-bladed weapons was its divine manufacture.  Actually did not like the weapon, but I had proven its usefulness in my life.  Thinking the battle would now change, I watched to choose my moment to again strike.

Finding myself thrown to the ground, I had to ask, “Fergush, divine weapons don’t work?”

I was already acting to switch my weapons as my god replied, “You know NeverRose does, Jelnaya.  Honestly, you are doing more than these men have, and they have survived up to now.”

My sword did provide some length to my attacks.  Being a lady, I did not have the size or strength of a man.  I had proven myself by thinking through my situations and being willing to go the distance to get them resolved.  While Fergush was correct about NeverRose inflicting harm, I wanted something that would give me a better sense of actually bringing the battle to an end.  I reached for one of my really special daggers, then again chose my moment to make my next attack.

Feeling some resistance from NeverRose, I worked to turn my body in order to direct the dagger at the distortion.  It bit into something.  Feeling I had chosen the proper weapon, I put power in the hand working the small blade in order to have it rip as I came back to the ground.  As I tensed my body to prepare for another leap, I looked at the distortion hoping to see some evidence of what the dagger had done.

Whatever I was attacking appeared to move quickly, as I could not track the wound I had caused.  Looking at the men, I realized it was being more annoying than deadly.  Fergush had told me on the previous matter that I was being set up.  Wondering if this problem connected to the earlier one, I focused my thoughts to handle this fight.  I did enjoy combat, so if I was being set up then someone had figured out how to entice me in a proper manner.  There was however danger in the situation, so I quickly decided to set myself to dealing with whatever was presenting itself as trouble.

While NeverRose gave me the impression it was hurting the monster, the next attack with the dagger actually opened up a wound that could be seen.  Having a point I could actually focus upon, and not just distortions where I needed to guess, helped me consider strategies.  It took timing, and probably some luck, but I managed to jump at the right moment to send NeverRose into a gash and felt proud seeing the blade sink into something.

There was a flash where I saw a type of serpent more like a river eel, although what caught my attention was one of the men saying, “I see what you did, Honored Duchess!  Let me –“

He jumped and struck.  I smiled seeing that he did intend for his blade to sink into a wound, although he missed.  I jumped to again strike with my dagger, and coming down to again have the monster reveal itself due to what I hoped was pain I gave some advice.

“You can’t think straight, but curve.  Think of striking something moving along a swiftly flowing stream.”

“Ah, YEAH!”

Yes, he struck good this time.  His blade obviously had some enchantment.  The other man did not really have a weapon, just a good piece of wood.  His attacks kept him from suffering damage, but that was about it.  The one that struck however revealed something I wanted to see, and I made my own exclamation as I leaped.

My dagger this time did not rip, but held.  It was a technique I had learned from my Grandfather Terish to use my enchanted small blades as climbing tools.  I would have them sink into rock or other materials to provide handholds.  Finding the technique to work with this creature, I lifted myself while changing my hold on NeverRose.  While I moved along with the monster, I kept my focus on maintaining my position and not on the moving sight of the land around me.  The point of my sword was directed to follow the dagger into the monster, and having struck near the head it did not surprise me to find the wound to be fatal.

Realizing that there would be no corpse, I ceased my panting to ask, “Who are you men?”

One attempted to bow, although fatigue had him collapse to kneel as he said, “Lord Potorly, Honored Duchess.  I have been staying near Etrasky, but I am from Corvee of the Nevaire.  I have been living off the graciousness of those who I have been helping.“

“I don’t need all of that.  I assume you are heading to the church.”

The other man said, “Ferrigote.  They said you are related to Emperor Ferrigote.”

“Emperor?  Only those from Gaeskow call him emperor.”

“Yes, Honored Duchess.  I am from Gaeskow.”

I pulled out a jeweled icon to Fergush from my boot, then did some things with it before saying, “This is Jelnaya.  Great-uncle Ferrigote –”

It was a lady that replied, “This is your great-aunt, Jelnaya.  What do you need?”

“I have someone here that claims to be from Gaeskow.”

It was the voice of my great-uncle that asked, “Where are you at, Jelnaya?”

“West of Chetorly at the moment, but I will be going home, slowly.”

“It is going to take us five days to get there, at least.  I’m not your grandfather, Jelnaya, and I have to consider my wife in my travels.”

I knew that he did not mean she was pregnant, although it was a possibility, but my great-aunt was a special creation of gold.  While she was a living creature, the arcane powers that worked to create her had their influence on her physiology.  Certain things about her had to be given concern as the physics of other worlds could influence her.  I loved my great-aunt deeply, so accepted that I would have to allow them time to travel.

I replied, “Five days will be fine.  Be waiting for you.”  Closing the connection, I pointed while saying, “Okay, both of you, we are going to that castle off in the distance.”

The one that claimed to be from Gaeskow said, “The monsters will come again.”

“Then Fergush will get the glory with his wife hopefully working to assure that we stay alive to enjoy some of the hospitalities my realm can provide.  Come on.”

And Potorly finds that Jelnaya is not scary.