Without a Light I See
Not only was Honored Duchess Jelnaya lovely, but I became enchanted by her even more in the cheerfulness of those around her. It was very apparent they liked having her around, which had me want her around me. The feeling was overwhelming in me to gain her, but I could not see how. Learning my mother was present and demanding a chaperone gave me hope to have some standing with this important lady, but I did not see how someone who abandoned me could now be my salvation.
The threat of Lerdiyo was not ignored, although no one actually considered him a problem. Those of the military actually spoke with joy about having a chance to prove themselves against an exotic adversary. I found it strange that Lerdiyo was being assigned to a small isolated house while I was being directed to the castle.
Honored Duchess Jelnaya’s home was a magnificent edifice. It had a stately presence, as it was constructed of blocks of cut stone. Basically a wall presented itself to those coming through the gate. What kept it from appearing imposing or boring was a multitude of various carvings worked into the rock. Statuary, not gargoyles but figures I considered historic or possibly of myth, were set in many places to enhance the designs. I looked at the edifice as we rode up feeling that a person could live here a lifetime before they lost their enchantment with the place.
I did see fairies. Tiny little flying creatures, a few did look like people although most appeared as odd insects, flittered around us. I heard some speak of me as Prince Potorly, but I actually considered fairies as annoying as the others.
Striding into the duchess’ home, I saw others that I also recognized as being of the fey. None of them I knew. Having grown up with my father, who was a member of such creatures, I felt some of the ones I considered family should be present. Not recognizing anyone, I gave attention to Honored Duchess Jelnaya as she strode into her home.
The grand front room had a unique look that took me some minutes to appreciate. The huge oval chamber first gave an impression of being a massive dining room without a fireplace. High braziers provided light from above while the metal radiated heat to those below. A large elegant staircase curved up to my right to the first floor with only slightly lesser risers allowing access to higher levels. Over the tables I saw along a wall a statue of a lady that I recognized as a representation of the goddess Samayer. Slightly left of her I could see an equally impressive carving of a man I could make out as the god Fergush. Between the two I could make out the top of a throne, which I learned was set on a dais with the two statues. Those with me had me follow Honored Duchess Jelnaya around a couple of rows of tables where there was a carpet leading to the noble’s official seat. Seeing doors to help me appreciate how the grand room was to function, I moved as directed even as I looked around fascinated.
“I would bid these guests a welcome,” Honored Duchess Jelnaya said at a strong volume, “but it seems that they have welcomed themselves. What is your appraisal of their presence, Nerbink?”
From behind the throne came the voice of a man saying, “The one claiming herself as Queen Nichanay has tried to be gracious, although has stressed the importance of her son. Let me simply say that we have trusted in Samayer to keep things from escalating.”
“Well, as the Champion of Fergush I guess we can have things escalate.” She turned to one standing near the dais, although appeared to have been sitting at one of tables, to speak to him even as she asked a question in a general fashion. “Is there anyone who can introduce my guests, as it seems the one I have gone to rescue cannot?”
What appeared to be a small man with ears that had short leafy branches growing from them stepped around the front of the tables to our right to where he was visible, but then asked, “Are you going to move to your throne, Honored Duchess?”
“Do you want me to move to my throne?”
The lady along the wall to the right I assumed was my mother softly said, “She’s right. It is a sign of graciousness that she is willing to handle things in a less formal manner. Go ahead, Derglous.”
The small man bowed to the lady, then bowed to Honored Duchess Jelnaya before saying, “Dear lady, I present to you Queen Nichanay of the Stolon of the Nevaire.”
Hearing that, I had to blurt out, “The Stolon? The Stolon is not far at all from the Corvee.”
The lady had hair of green from which leaves appeared to be a part of the growth from her head. The eyes were also green, although a little darker than mine. She did not appear old, although lines as if her skin was composed of bark gave some impression of wrinkles. Her dress crackled as if made up of dried leaves when she turned to reply to me.
“I have watched over you all your life, Potorly.”
“I never knew you were there. Father never spoke of you.”
“I am a queen, Potorly. I had my duties.” She then spoke of the part I was interested in. “Your father is noble as well, but had the lesser responsibility. I felt it was best that he raised you, and he did provide you with a good life.”
“So you felt you could ignore your duties of a mother? Why should I believe you?”
“I always felt you would be glad to finally realize your true worth.”
“Obviously not a very wise queen.”
She appeared to droop for only moment before straightening her poise and saying, “You are something more than either your father or me, Potorly. We did not have you in the normal manner. We wanted something more, something greater than either of us. You are not fairy, Potorly, although you are.”
“What do you mean?”
“Potorly, let us have this discussion in private. Please allow Derglous to finish his introductions. We are in the land of men, so must obey their formalities.”
Actually not trusting what I was hearing, I said, “I have been with Honored Duchess Jelnaya. I feel confident she will be less concerned with formalities and more concerned with courtesy and truth.”
“We must start somewhere. Derglous.”
The little man again bowed before saying, “Sorry for the interruption, Honored Duchess. Let me say that I am the steward of the Nevaire. While I cannot say that we have met, those who enter the Nevaire with the stated intention of some business will face me. You can thus find people who can verify my history. I have served those of the Nevaire for a very long time, and have no plans of leaving that post. My lady, Queen Nichanay of the Stolon of the Nevaire, comes to you requesting your graciousness in dealing with a matter of matrimony. It is desired that you consider Prince Potorly as a prospective husband.”
Yes, those words caught me by surprise, but it was Honored Duchess Jelnaya that spoke. “That is not a problem. I have no qualifications for those that want to seek my hand. It however is not in my interest to get involved in a dysfunctional family.”
The one claiming to be my mother said, “Give us some time, Your Honored Grace. May I request a room?”
“I’ll grant you an apartment. Honestly, I like Potorly. He’s attractive, and seems to have a history as a nice guy. The apartment is actually for him. As for you, I will wait to see what he says about you.”
Honored Duchess Jelnaya spoke of an apartment that seemed to have a balcony that looked over a garden, although seemed surprised by a comment from my mother as we began to move behind the castle steward, “Well, it seems that she does know her house. She did not simply allow the servants to choose an apartment for us.”
I had to ask, “Why and how did you choose her to be my potential bride?”
“You do not have that many options, Son. She is immortal and available. We can talk more once we have settled into the room.”
“I’m not yet certain I want to settle in a room with you.”
“Well, what do you want to do? You left your father taking Viprekor with you.”
Having left on my own, I had to ask, “What?”
“Viprekor. That sword.”
“Father said I could not protect myself in the world of men. I took the sword saying I could.”
“It was a good decision. I am told that you do handle the sword well.”
The steward opened a door. A rush of creatures, all fey, went into the room. I noticed some luggage, but did not ask where my mother had been staying. She waited for all to enter, then directed me into the apartment. I felt there were a number of reasons she should go first, but remembering that Honored Duchess Jelnaya said she considered this my room I went ahead through the door.
It was a nice spacious apartment. The mass of fairies tried to make the volume appear small, but I looked at the landscape paintings on the walls and artwork made from wood set in various places. My mother however stopped to close the door after entering the apartment, then directed my attention to two small statues set in niches.
“Samayer and Fergush, a divine married couple. A nice thing to find in the room.”
I replied, “This realm is to Samayer. I went to her church yesterday. Honored Duchess Jelnaya is a divine champion of Fergush. There was a statue of both out in the front room, and there is probably a pair in every room.”
“Still, it is nice. That is what your father and I tried to do with you. We are both immortals, Potorly. There is nothing for you to inherit. We could not deny you our gift, but we wanted something more from you. We found something, something special, and felt the powers of the gods through it. You definitely grew up as something different than us, but good all the same. I am sorry, Potorly, but you had no choice but to go out on your own. Still, you have worked to do well.”
“I knew I was fairy, so I was really scared of being too active in the world of men.”
“Fear not, Potorly.” She then turned and asked, “Can we just talk?”
I did not immediately answer, but thought about my life up to now. Suddenly I was being confronted with everything I had dreamed. There was a desire to speak to this woman claiming to be my mother. I however thought about something else that mattered to me, so I decided to present that as an answer.
“Mother, teach me what to say to a lady. I have no idea how to court Honored Duchess Jelnaya.”
I saw a smile come to her face. Suddenly she appeared very young. Her hair showed a brighter green and her skin lost the texture showing as wrinkles. I saw her curtsey to me, and her answer I felt would start making things better.
“I am very willing to speak with you on that topic, my son.”
It helped hearing my mother mention things in my childhood. While there was still anger in having her absence in my life, I found myself accepting there was some parental concern. She had spent time watching me. It almost hurt me that I had not noticed her. I tried to recall scenes where she might have been in the background, but I could not remember ever seeing her. From what stories she told of my childhood, I however had to admit they were her recollections and not tales she gained from others.
The instructions on courting a lady were fascinating. Most of what I was told I felt would not actually work on Honored Duchess Jelnaya, but at least it did provide a foundation for what she would expect from me. Mother did tell me to court the lady, although wanting information on something I went ahead and quoted a poem to my mother.
She replied, “That poem concerns your birth, Potorly. Your father and I did not have other children. It was understood that our purpose would prevent us from having regular fairy offspring. We however found a desire for a child that would help us control problems we had with our land. You needed a purpose as well, Potorly. When we realized what you could be, both of us spoke of joy in our child that would truly be something special.”
“Joy?” I countered. “You haven’t even been in my life.”
“But you have been with your father. You should know him well, Potorly. Well, I will be with you now. There will be times when you have both of us, but it is our nature for times to come and go. Your father’s time is going, and mine is beginning.”
She then kept talking. “That is why we want you with Honored Duchess Jelnaya. She has seen things, and can talk to you of that poem. She can relate to you, Potorly. She can bring joy to you, to me, and to the Nevaire. As strange as this might sound, you need her.”
Suddenly some words of the lady came back to mind. “I said that poem to her, Mother, and her response was that she hoped we would speak on that.”
“And did you?”
“No. Lerdiyo was a concern. I really did not know what to say to her.”
“Well, she will have her chaperone, but you can have one as well. I will go with you and listen.”
Accepting that we could both use help in dealing with Honored Duchess Jelnaya, I replied, “Yes, Mother, I believe that is a good idea.
Jelnaya handles affairs while seeking to learn more of Potorly.