Without a Light I See

Chapter Eight
(Jelnaya)

I kept myself from smiling as Nerbink said, “Honestly, Your Honored Grace, it helped knowing your attitude on things.  As a realm unto Samayer, we might have tolerated the incursion of the fey.  You however represent Fergush, so add a fire to this land.  It was that spirit that had us repulse the dominating nature of Queen Nichanay.”

“Indeed, Honored Duchess,” Heroyu, an older man who had counseled the previous monarchs of this realm until he recognized the corruption and fled, replied, “I spoke against Nerbink – softly and personally of course, although could not act against him.  The people, your people, were definitely not of the attitude to concede to the intruders.”

Knowing how to play the game with my advisors, I asked, “Okay, Heroyu, now that you have graciously seen my people in action, what would you recommend as the way to proceed?”

“The king must know.”

That statement took me by surprise, so I could not help but retort, “What, Heroyu?  What must the king know?”

“Why your betrothal to Prince Potorly.”

“There is no betrothal, Heroyu.  I mean, how many men have come seeking my hand?  Let me say that he does get my reports.  The king speaks of laughing at what I had to say about those seeking my hand.”

“The status of Potorly’s mother does have weight, Honored Duchess.  At the moment you are betrothed to the man.”

I looked to Vulge, and I felt good that he knew things about the customs of this land.  “Both of you are right, Princess.  Queen Nichanay definitely presented her son in a formal manner, so a betrothal is in effect.  However, it is the lady that can determine the merit of her suitors.  You can put an end to the matrimony at any time.  With your word the betrothal is not in effect.”

That information had me believe it was time for my own revelation.  “Okay, well, all of you know my own consideration in this matter.  I do expect to be married one day, and I allow anyone coming as a suitor to have their time with me.  To let you know, Fergush is not against Potorly.  He says the man comes with the support of Onathia.  My own association with She-Who-Loves has me willing to accept him, but any actual marriage will not be sudden.  Let me also say that I was warned of a complication, so I expect another suitor to show up.  No, I do not need to inform the king.  He will be informed, as I do send him reports.  However, alarming him with word of a suitor will actually give Potorly support that I do not want to give him.  We proceed slowly in that arena.  My focus at present is with the other problem.  Vulge, I hate to say it, but you are going to be required.  Not that our relationship has you as a fellow fighter, but I can say that Potorly will be involved which will require your presence.”

“It is not like I have allowed my skills with combat to deteriorate, Princess.  I am your chaperone.  Just, if this thing does develop, your parents will need to be informed.”

I pointed at Heroyu as I said, “At that point I will consider this a betrothal.  Until then, Potorly is just another suitor.”

There were duties for my people.  My counselors of course had the responsibility to supply me with information, then passing down certain policies to those affected by them.  It did not trouble me at all to see a certain figure slip into the meeting, and having him speak let me know the man had his mind on his duties.

“Honored Duchess, considering that Prince Potorly arrived along with a recent problem, I feel he will seek to stay involved.  No offense to Vulge, but I feel a need to go with you.”

It was my chaperone that replied, “Abreyon, none of us know what is coming.  Stay alert with the other man, and I will stay alert over Potorly.  If we end up together, may we continue to work as one.”

Hearing agreement from others in the room, I said, “Honestly, if Potorly does not want to involve himself then he is probably not the man for me.  My husband is not going to be someone who rules in my absence.  This is a divine realm, and nothing about Potorly sets him as having the status with the gods that I do.  You might come to trust him, you better come to trust him before you give him your approval, but this realm stays to Samayer.  You just survive without me.”

My knight asked, “Honored Duchess, what are your priorities at present?”

“Surviving until my Great-uncle Ferrigote arrives.  The other matter involves him.  I hope to get information and possibly an agenda by the time he arrives, but I will do my best not to have things escalate.  He should be here in four days, so I feel that my realm dedicated to She-Who-Survives will not be stressed.”

We handled a few other matters, then broke to prepare ourselves for supper.  I noticed that a guard stationed at the doors handed Vulge a note as he exited.  Considering he was in my land as my chaperone, I was curious thinking the note actually applied to me.  He however had me break from a conversation with my steward to let me know he would be handling another matter.

“Princess, someone has arrived for me.”

I had to ask, “Someone from Davelda?”

“Yes, Princess.  Considering that you are her princess as well, she might feel able to accompany me.”

“I will not refuse anyone from Davelda, Vulge.  Which lady is it?”

“Yenorma.”  He smiled as he admitted, “She is actually a cook, Princess.  She has spoken a number of times of wanting to travel with you, as you do not cook.”

“You know the dangers of my missions, Vulge.  If she comes, I will assume her to be warned.”

“She has read the books and seen the movies as well, Princess, and of course my letters have said more.  Yes, you can consider her warned.”

“Then she has my blessing.  I’m going out, Vulge.  Expect to see both of you at the meal.”

Some say that men liked to gossip.  I never really came to consider it exactly correct.  While it was true they would talk about people, it was not in the manner I heard ladies talk.  Going out to the military field, I had a number of men seeking to spar with me.  As they put themselves to the test against me, they asked about the men I came back with.  I let them know almost all the facts pertaining to the situation with it understood that I was considering them warned about whatever might happen.  I also assumed that the words would be transmitted to others as the men gossiped among themselves.

I had a rather large home.  As with any building of its size there were back corridors and ways for people to move about without being seen.  I however considered myself a public figure, and it was my home, so I usually took the main routes.  Stepping out into the huge front room to ascend the large staircase up to my rooms, Vulge came up to me with a lady moving with him.

No one from Davelda appeared old.  While there were again children growing up with most not speaking of taking advantage of the immortality process, those I dealt with had lived over seven hundred years.  The lady most would consider to be in her twenties.  Her dark-brown hair flowed from her head in a manner of having recently been styled.  She had a healthy figure, although moved with grace.  I was polite as Vulge introduced us, although then let him know our polite exchange was not as it appeared.

“I know Yenorma, Vulge.  She was in Grandfather Terish’s library one time when I visited.  I really did not know there were cook books in there.”

The lady admitted, “I was looking for something exotic to prepare for Empress Straekin on her visit to our ship.  Considering there is a group seeking to move over the wealth of knowledge, it was easy to gain safe passage.”

“I told you then that the trick was not finding some exotic recipe, but gaining the spices.”

“What you did not consider was the town of Thiminy was right there.  Once I found the recipe, I went to the local people and found them able to provide what I desired.  The quantity I wanted gave them some trouble, but they did come through for me.”

I spoke enough with the lady to assure her that I was glad to have her in my home, then went to my room to prepare for supper.  While all the ladies in my family spoke of certain styles of dress at a formal meal, I made it clear that I considered nothing about my home to be formal.  If common farm laborers were present at meal time, they were as welcome as one of my generals.  I did put on one of my newer dresses, although that was common as I quickly wore out garments.  Could not do anything with my hair, although I did check my makeup before heading to supper.

After making a circuit of my front room speaking to those present, I found Queen Nichanay indicating something set at my place at the front table.  “Having something special prepared for you.”

What I saw was merely a pear salad, although I spoke as if knowing better.  “Do you believe I haven’t ever had fairy food?”

“If you had, you wouldn’t eat as I am told you do.”

“I eat because I am hungry.  You would be surprised what tastes fabulous when your belly is empty.  While I will enjoy what you set there, let me say that my preference is for something having meat in it.”

I actually was going to ask him, but Potorly stepped up to say, “I suspected such from a Champion of Fergush.  Honestly, the fruit and vegetables found outside the Nevaire are not as appealing, although the meat dishes usually are highly satisfying.”

His mother said, “I have not gotten a clear answer on whether or not you cook, Jelnaya.”

I replied, “If Potorly travels with me, he will learn the truth to that.  As for you, I will simply say that I have my own special style of cooking.”

“Is it heavy on the spices?”

“It is heavy on unpredictability.  You see, I kill and dress the animal then take it where others are cooking and trade my meat for what they have prepared.  Sometimes things are wonderful, but I usually find myself satisfied.”

With a disapproving expression, Queen Nichanay said, “So, you don’t cook.”

“I am not going to say that my husband and children will not ever taste my cooking, but it will be rare moments in their lives.”

“I might work to change that.”

“My husband will meet my mother and my aunts and hear them speak of all they tried to teach me.”

Those words had the lady speak to me of family.  Finding her to be a little vague on facts of her relations, I did not feel the need to say too much about my own.  My problem was that I considered my life an open book and my family as celebrities, so I continued to speak about them through the meal.

Potorly gets some personal time with Jelnaya.