Without a Light I See
I heard all sorts of suggestions as I went out to court Jelnaya after the evening meal. The fairies had kept a constant watch over Oprillot, and came to report to me as well as my mother. While I did not know what to do, I did believe that if I followed their suggestions I would fail in courting Jelnaya.
Coming to the place beneath the balcony where the honored duchess would be waiting, I heard the lad tuning a harp so asked, “Are you going to sing to her?”
He replied, “Probably not. I have practiced to develop my voice, but it still sounds like a child. I can however play very well.” He looked at me, then asked, “What are you going to do?”
“Not a damn thing. I know you had a private interview with Jelnaya, but I have questions about you. While I will enjoy her presence, I actually came to learn about you.”
“So, you’re a man that studies his opposition.”
“No. I’m a man who knows he presently has the advantage. I brought a problem to Jelnaya. When her great-uncle shows up, I’m one who will be called in to provide comment, advice, and possibly speak of tactics to deal with the problem. I can possibly win my place with her then. As for right now, I actually have not decided in my heart whether to try to win Jelnaya. I believe everything that is said about her. I thought she was scary before I came here, and everything I have learned says that she is scary. Gorgeous and fun to be around. A lady I would love to claim, but she is going to cost the man that gets her. One thing I liked to do before coming here is getting drunk, and I have not yet given up on that vice.”
I was worried about how my mother would receive those words, considering they would be relayed by very biased fairies. I also could not yet admit to myself how honest my words were. Both those considerations had me rather nervous as I spoke, and seeing Vulge come out to the railing of the balcony only had me worried about how others would receive those words.
“Don’t mind me,” the large man said, “but Princess Jelnaya felt it would be rude to let you think that you were not being heard.”
Attempting to press my advantage while strengthening my resolve, I asked, “I am right, aren’t I, Vulge?”
“You said a lot, Potorly. I am not going to dissect your statements.”
My jaw dropped seeing a very lovely form stride to the railing to say, “But I will, simply to speak to you. What you need to concern yourself with, Potorly, is a family rule. It is not one that I hold myself to, but Great-uncle Ferrigote is the one who instituted that rule. With him coming, and possibly taking charge of this mission, the rule will stand.”
She stopped talking, so I had no choice but to ask, “And what rule is that, Jelnaya?”
It was Oprillot who replied, “I will also be allowed in the meetings, and on the journey.”
I momentarily glared at him, then had to ask, “You’re not a boy are you?”
“I already answered that in your presence.”
“Jelnaya, are events like this normal in your life?”
She replied, “Immortality did not come without a price. What I feel you need to face, Potorly, is that I was eager to gain the blessing knowing the price. What is more is that I am just as eager to continue to pay the price. This is the life I wanted. This is the life I demanded from Fergush. I don’t consider myself paying any price, but enjoying the blessings I sought to gain.”
“I see.” I looked to Oprillot to ask, “I guess you are willing as well.”
He replied, “Immortality is a gift. Why it did not come with maturity, I cannot say. There are those that speak against my condition, saying it was a type of death even though those of a religious nature have clearly stated that I am not a member of the undead. In any event, gaining the friendship of fellow immortals is a blessing whether I gain a wife or not.”
“That did not answer my question. Are you willing to pay the price?”
“I cannot say. There is certainly an eagerness to agree. I however have the concern it is my youth speaking, and not my true self. While I have trained my body and mind, this is still the body of a youngster, and some urges are from the immaturity of my physical form.”
I had to look up and admit, “I guess we are not the best couple of suitors to have come before you.”
“I don’t know,” Jelnaya replied, “as I have had some real losers.”
Vulge admitted, “Indeed she has.”
I cannot say that I had an idea, but my thoughts went in a certain direction and I just started talking. It was a story about a previous mission of mine. Nothing really special about it, but I felt it let the lady know about the life I had been living and some of the people I tended to help. It did please me to hear Jelnaya ask some questions. After spending the time with the lady’s attention, I found myself willing to allow Oprillot to see how his idea to entertain Jelnaya would work.
The lad could play the harp. He did not simply strum it or pick notes, but moved his little fingers quickly over the strings to create a lively tune. While he expressed a skill that I lacked, I found some hope when Jelnaya did not respond to the lad with praise.
“Is that the type of music you enjoy, Oprillot?”
“I enjoy the challenge of playing it, Jelnaya. It also is quite different than the children’s tunes others expect me to enjoy.” He paused I believe to allow us to comment, but when we did not he added, “I have to admit that it is the type of music I seek to find or write.”
“You wrote some?”
“Some of those steps are mine. I never actually wrote something complete, but simply include my own sections into the tunes of others. A few of the tunes I will play is considered more mine than someone else’s.”
I had to interject, “Drink while you work?”
The lad was quick to take advantage of my question, as he asked, “Do you drink, Jelnaya? I know I saw you have wine with your meals, but I am talking about in your daily activities. If I entered your parlor behind that balcony, would I find a glass of wine?”
She replied, “Not usually. You could, but right now there is tea.”
“I prefer tea as well. It however takes time to brew, so I usually just have plain water.”
“I consider water a drink when I am away from civilization. When I am around people, I will drink what they do. Seldom is it water. In my castle I prefer to have some type of wine, beer, or tea available.”
I listened as they discussed different types of tea and how to prepare it. That was not a topic I found interesting. If the topic had been alcohol, especially beer, I would have gladly interjected my comments and knowledge. Wondering if I should be proud of that, or how it would affect my standing with Jelnaya, I allowed the conversation on teas to go on.
Returning to my apartment, my mother confronted me in the front room saying, “Son, I will teach you about teas.”
“Mother, I don’t need to know about teas,” I sternly replied.
“Mother, I have no idea whether that conversation about teas had any importance or not. I have no idea whether I actually want to court Jelnaya or not.”
I found myself actually feeling anger, although my attitude might have simply been a high level of stress. “You did not raise me. Father did. He raised me to be a good person. Well, I am. Mother, I have been working to help people. Honestly, I enjoyed what I was doing. I was proud of myself. However, I was not raised to live in a castle, court ladies, or anything like what you are trying to have me do. Jelnaya is lovely. She is a wonderful lady. Spending time with her is no problem. However, I have no idea about how to take any desire to be with her as a husband any further than I have.”
“That is where I am trying to help, Son.”
“No; you’re not. You are trying to get me to succeed. The problem is that I am not certain that I want to succeed. Mother, if I wanted Jelnaya, really wanted her, I would bend over backwards to learn everything you have to teach. That however is not what you are trying to teach me, or what I have ever been taught. I have no understanding what type of woman I want. I really don’t know if I want Jelnaya.”
I saw the frustration on my mother’s face before she asked, “Son, why wouldn’t you want her?”
“Because I could not be the person I was. Mother, really, I was happy. I really would not mind getting this mission done and returning to that life.”
“You are a prince, Son. You should have higher aspirations.”
As if she was unfamiliar with my training, I replied, “Prince of fairies, Mother. Things out here in the human civilizations are not exactly the same.”
“Your father was supposed to instruct you, Son.”
“And he did. Let me say again, I was successful. I am here because I was successful. Someone came and got me because he knew I would be the right person for the job. I have a letter from the high nobles of the realm I lived in because they knew me by reputation. I am not here as a deadbeat, Mother. I am not here as someone who has failed at life. I am here trying to let you know things that you should have known as you should have been there in my life.”
I expected her to again try and state that she had been in my life. Actually, I cannot say why she did not. Maybe she had enough substantial experience to know that the tactic would not work. After fixing her gaze upon me for a time, she said something I did not expect, but actually found practical.
“Assume for the moment that you do want Jelnaya. How would you go about gaining her?”
After a moment of thought, I gave her an answer. “The matter with Lerdiyo is my matter. I was the one with the assignment, and that includes the letters from the Viscount and Viscountess of Tafferdeyn. When Jelnaya’s great-uncle shows up, I can claim a place with some distinction. Oprillot might be along as well, but the mission will be mine. On the journey I can prove my skills, my assets, and hopefully win over the lady with my charms.” Just to assure a line of thought with my mother, I kept speaking. “Fancy fingerwork with an instrument, quoting anything, all that will not work. Honestly, I feel she appreciated the story I told her. Well, I have plenty of stories like that, and I plan on gaining more. Further, I believe Jelnaya would enjoy being with me as I did so. I certainly cannot say that about her when Mr. Fifty-seven-year-old-boy works at developing another rift for his harp.”
I saw a smile show on her face before she said, “Certain lessons will still be presented to you, Potorly. Now, go to bed.”
Jelnaya spends time with her suitors.