Without a Light I See

Chapter Five
(Potorly)

She was lovely.  While I had heard of Honored Duchess Jelnaya, I did not expect such a beautiful creature.  While not small, she was far from being a large female specimen.  I definitely saw strength in her form, but she appeared as a delicate lady.  I had thought the bright red and yellow locks would give her a frightening countenance, but during combat they glowed giving her a lovely radiance and after the fight they settled around her head and along her back to help give color to her presence.

I watched as she took command of the situation, although never felt myself inferior to her.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya did not stress her status, but actually was rather friendly.  I felt the others allowed her to assume command simply being pleased to have such a wonderful lady in their lives.

After speaking to us, she waved and I saw a squad of those watching to move forward with the one in a really special suit of armor say, “Thank you, Honored Jelnaya.  I hope you are only here representing Fergush.”

“Well, Baron, I was assuming they were pilgrims to the church.  It seems not, and definitely not something political, unless you want to claim otherwise.”

“An officer with a regular patrol told me that Lord Potorly had a letter of introduction from the Viscount of Tafferdeyn.  The letter said they were traveling to you.”

“Then your graciousness will be reported to Fergush and King Relecky.”

The man dismounted, surely to get closer to the lady, although simply held out a hand while saying, “Please provide an update.”

She did shake his hand while saying, “If that is an invitation.”

“A warm one, Honored Jelnaya.”

“Well, considering the actual spy from Mekont reports to your king, I will make it a point to drop by.”

There were some more pleasantries said between the two.  I listened just enjoying hearing the cheerful manner in which she spoke.  While the man was obviously a noble, I found myself understanding that he was just a male wanting to spend as much time as possible with the lady.  Seeing him finally ride off, I found myself pleasantly reveling in the fact I would travel with her.

She had us load our packs on her horse, then she walked along with us with me wanting to speak to her.  “Where are you from, Honored Duchess?”

“I was born on a world called Emigaila,” she replied, “but I have blood from a variety of worlds.  Strangely, not from this one, although Great-uncle Ferrigote and my Grandfather Terish claim each other as brothers.”

“You’re not married?”

I felt stupid for asking that question, although she pleasantly laughed before saying, “If you have intentions, wait on them until we reach my castle.  Tonight we will be in Chetorly.  Until then, feel free to engage me in conversation as much as possible.”

“What?”  Still feeling like I was not proving myself the best at polite banter, I asked, “You don’t mind?”

“Why should I mind?  Hold it.  Let’s get this conversation where it should be.  Why are you here?  He’s from Gaeskow.  You started telling me your story earlier.  Well, this time I will listen.”

“I’ve been living with a gentry outside Etrasky for about three years.  Make my living, if you can call it a living, doing good deeds for the people.”

“Mercenary?”

Not wanting to sound like a common sell sword, I replied, “No.  I mean I don’t demand pay up front.  If they feed me, it is enough.  Lord Belkain had a small place, and he lets me use it.  I will work and do things to keep people from getting mad at me.  Lerdiyo somehow came to a Lord Genorll for some food and rest, and the man does try to help those men who are in trouble.  He recognized Lerdiyo as having a special problem, so came to me.  I mean, he has the responsibility of the ranch while I do not.”

“Okay, but you are going back?”

“Uh, well, uh, yes.  I mean, it is close to home.”

“I travel around, but have never heard of Corvee of the Nevaire.”

She remembered.  That simply amazed me.  Here I was barely managing the conversation and Honored Duchess Jelnaya had been setting all the facts in her mind.  Remembering certain promises I had made, especially those in the heat of anger, I made a cautious reply.

“Well, it is a little tricky to find.  Not really a big place.  It does exist though.”

“Your weapon is enchanted.”

Accepting that someone connected to He-Who-Fights would notice things about weapons, I replied, “Well, it’s a family heirloom.  I took it.  Probably got some family members mad at me when I did, but I have not done anything to spoil it or its reputation.”

She nodded, but I heard her simply say for us to keep walking as a mass of troops came riding toward us with one man wearing the finery of a general coming close before saying, “Honored Duchess, are there commands?”

The lady replied, “Something is going on with these men, so stay alert.  Count Yeloprag better have my apartment ready, because I am staying there tonight.  Still, I want my military on alert.”

We continued to walk even as the mass of troops broke off as the general yelled out orders.  I saw her glance about with me having to accept she was listening to what was said along with watching to assure the proper groups moved off according to their commands.  While there were differences in uniforms among the troops, I could not believe one so lovely had such a mind for handling the affairs of men.

Just wanting to say something, I found nothing better than to ask, “Did you always like to fight, Honored Duchess?”

“If not, I would not have this life.  Actually, I wanted to be like my Grandfather Terish.  He is deadly, but that is not really how people think about him.  I want the same for me.  While I do promote Fergush, I like the fact that others will see me in a different light.”

“Like a wife and mother?”

I felt horrible having said that, but she only smiled while replying, “I should be proud of my connection with a man, and of the life we provide for our children.  Children grow up however.  My living grandparents no longer have the concern of children, although speak of possibly having more.  My parents are at a place where they are at times seeing their house empty.  The man I marry will however stay in my life.”  I realized her eyes were deep blue as she focused on me while asking, “Are you immortal, Potorly?”

Worried about how she would take my words, I said them softly.  “I’m not mortal.
There was an age where the wind blew mellow
    Acorns only gathered in shadow
Animals sought comfort in each other
    No life was taken in the meadow

There was an age where ice would not form
    I warn you of this for your own good
Go my son and know that I love you
    For no reason other than I should”

“I assume we are going to speak on that.”

“I would hope not.”  Not wanting the conversation to go in a direction I could not support, I said, “My father was a fairy.  That I know.  I know little else, although I was told that I was to seek it.  They however never told me how, and I left my home in anger.  That is really all I can say.”

“Well, do you sing?  Do you quote other poems?  How do you court a lady?”

“I haven’t.  I guess I need to consider it.  You are very lovely.”

I have to admit that I felt embarrassed having said those words.  Having Lerdiyo with me, and us not traveling for the purpose of meeting ladies, I felt had me appearing improper.  I however found myself seeing the duchess in a completely different manner than I expected.  Hoping she would not embarrass me further by making fun of what I was saying, I looked to her.

“Then let me give you some advice.”  Amazed she was still speaking to me, I focused upon her wonderful face eager to watch her.  “Where I am bringing you is to my County of Chetorly.  There is a church to Samayer.  She is the wife of Fergush.  If you have any desire to have me for a wife, go there.”

Trying to keep things positive, I blurted out, “I’m not cursed.  I’m just part, maybe full, fairy.  I don’t really understand it.  Oh, and I worship Samayer.  I practice Remidda, but I worship Samayer.  Going to her church is not a problem.”

“There are a multitude of types of fairies.  I’m not going to try and understand.  You could end up just being one more man to seek me.”

“I didn’t seek you.  What I heard of you made you out to be scary.  I did not expect someone so lovely.”  In a soft voice I added, “I’m sorry if you are annoyed with me watching you.”

“I’m someone who usually has men seeking to harm me.  I am also a divine champion.  It is my job to be seen.  Feel free to watch all you want.  Touch, and bad things might happen.”

I went quiet seeing a mass of troops come from the castle.  This time they parted with a mounted group not in armor blocking our path.  One of those dismounted.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya had us just continue to walk.  When we came in the midst of the army, those mounted before us turned to ride to each side of the castle gatehouse while the one standing asked about our stay in his domain.

The lady replied, “At the moment I am saying we are simply going to stay the night.  These two men are guests, but I want them watched.  Something is about them, and I need to be warned should it manifest.  I do not want them limited in what they do, but should there be a reason to be alarmed I better be notified.”

He actually approached the lady and I watched as he hugged her.  They then began speaking of politics while walking through a town toward the castle.  When she mentioned me being from around Etrasky, they spoke of reports they had gained from the Kingdom of Tinoyork.  I found myself amazed that she remembered it said that I had a letter of introduction from Viscount Adegorn.  The count and Honored Jelnaya read the document while all of us continued to the castle.

Both of the nobles spoke to people as we moved through the town.  I watched with amazement seeing the count and even Honored Duchess Jelnaya cheerfully deal with the common citizens.  It awed me to hear simple conversations and not a number of problems being presented.  The words and responses were as if the people were used to seeing both nobles and simply including them in whatever was going on at the moment.  While members of the military did shadow us, none interfered in the interactions with the count or duchess.

Entering the castle, Lerdiyo and I were turned over to an official.  I stood transfixed watching the lady move off.  It astounded me to find her as a cheerful person, and not the serious battle-hardened woman I expected.  Hearing the official cough, I turned to him to let him know something I was told.

“Your Honored Duchess told me to go to the church.”

“Of course, but I would recommend a bath and change of clothes.”

It bothered me that I could no longer see the noble lady, so I stammered, “Uh, yes, I…”

“Don’t worry.  We often get pilgrims who had a rough journey.  Fresh clothes will be provided.  If you don’t mind, I will lead you to your rooms.”

I signaled him to begin walking, although no sooner did we begin moving than I asked, “How many years has she been your duchess?”

“Oh, not that many.  Her coming was most abrupt, but the change was ever so much for the better.  It’s not that we don’t know about the time before she came, but really prefer not to think about it.”

“I can’t believe she’s not married.”

The man appeared amused by my words as he replied, “Oh, she is a most independent spirit.  Think of a bird that does not want to be caged.  The man that seeks her will simply need to fly with her, and I know of no man able to do that.”

“I would imagine any man to want to do so.”

“I have not met the man who could.”

“Let me get that bath.  I need to go to the church.”

And Potorly learns more about himself.