Without a Light I See

Chapter Fourteen
(Jelnaya)

Oprillot was smart enough to realize that puns would not work for the same reason rhymes would not.  I believe his intent was to determine what type of humor I enjoyed.  What ended up was us discussing various languages.  It was not what I considered the most fun period of time, but it helped me see Oprillot as being mature, which was a good thing.

Potorly tried to get me to speak of sports.  Actually, I enjoyed almost any type of competition.  I tended not to play, because I would not commit my time to the activity.  If a game was starting, and I had nothing else to do, I would play.  Actually, I watched a number of group contests about my home, as I could usually do my business where I could also look on the activity.  While it was Potorly who started the conversation, I felt he was the one that actually knew little about the topic.

Both suitors were at the sparring field the next morning, and I believe it was seeing nothing special about my appearance there that had Oprillot rush up the stairs as I clanked coming down to get my breakfast.  “Honored Duchess, you’re wearing armor?  I mean armor armor, metal armor, I mean normal armor.”

Actually, very few had seen me wear this outfit, so I politely gave a full answer.  “Just because this is a duchy does not reduce its place as providing security to the kingdom.  I am a military leader.  I rank higher than a viscount because I also have a divine responsibility, but having a church in my realm does not reduce my secular duties.  This is the traditional armor of the rulers of Phanigist.  It is not the historic armor, because it was for a man.  I had this made for me.”

It was my steward who asked, “And the reason you are wearing it, Your Honored Grace?”

“Argrochet, you should remember my Great-aunt Dirchein.”

“I did not consider any of that serious.”

“Well, it wasn’t, but that is because we love each other.  She is as she is, and I do love her.  Instead of me spoiling another one of my really delicate dresses, I decided I would go about in this.”

Oprillot said, “Excuse me, Honored Duchess, but I am going to change.”

As the lad rushed off, Potorly stepped up to say, “This is the height of fashion for me.  Is that bad?”

“Not in my eyes,” I replied.  “As my husband, there are occasions when you will be required to conform to certain traditional fashions, but I can assure you that I do not like doing it either.”

My steward advised, “But she does.”

“And sometimes I do it for fun.”  I put out my hand while saying, “Potorly, will you escort my clanking form to the table?”

His eyes traveled about my protected body as he commented, “It is noisier than your crystal armor.”

“After I wear it a number of times, there will probably be ways to make alterations that will reduce the noise.  This however is supposed to be more show than actually practical.  Considering it was made according to the pieces of the historic male armor, I will probably never actually wear it except for show.”

“Well, I will do what I can to allow you to have your fun.”

Oprillot did not return in a suit of armor, but he had a breastplate, grieves, bracers, and a helmet.  It was a typical type of armor that provided some protection even as it allowed a lot of movement.  I preferred my crystal armor because it did not restrict my actions while protecting my entire body.  What Oprillot wore was good against a single opponent in front of you, but left you exposed from the side and rear, although I had to admit that he did look good.

Moving through the town, actually had a crime.  What was funny was the attitude of the bad guy when he realized that he was facing me.  He fell to his knees begging for forgiveness while actually chiding me for going about in something other than my usual outfits.  He claimed that the reason he committed the crime was because he did not think the person was me, so felt he could get away with the theft.

After getting approval from the crowd for the outfit, there were many who could remember the previous dukes wearing the suit in storage in my castle, I then asked if what I heard was a confession.  Those around me agreed that it had been.  The criminal, who had been caught in the act, admitted that he had spoken of performing the crime.  I thus handled the matter of sentencing him, then turned him over to serve his time.  As I had the crowd break up to return to their lives, I heard a few more mention their approval of my outfit.

We all reacted hearing a strange set of notes from a sentry on the town walls, which had me punch Potorly on a shoulder while saying, “I told them to blow like that.  Come on.”

He offered his arm while asking, “Family?”

“The side of my family that calls this world home.  You and Oprillot need to meet them.”

The lad said, “And I want to meet them.  Let’s go, sweet lady.”

We were already in the town, and near the gate as the criminal had been attempting to flee, but there was another already holding up a certain couple.  One of the officers in my service had been born in Nehallum, so had a reason to want to meet my great-uncle and great-aunt.  Seeing me pass through the gate, the man I highly respected waved and interrupted his conversation to ask a question.

“Where is this man from Gaeskow?”

The lady who even in a full dress and makeup could be seen to be of gold said, “I warned you, Ferrigote, there is another reason for us to be here.  Jelnaya, who is that you are willing to hold his arm?”

I introduced Potorly and Oprillot to my Great-uncle Ferrigote and Great-aunt Dirchein.  Neither were related, although both were.  The man was not overly tall, but had a powerful body.  He was the one that had devoted his life to Fergush, and carried the ways of the god through various worlds eventually resulting in my own acceptance of the deity.  Great-uncle Ferrigote took on a young deadly lad as a companion, and the two came to consider the other a brother.  While not really a blood relation, he and my Grandfather Terish spoke of a strong connection that had them keep their families united.  The lady did not even have blood as most knew it flow through her body.  She was a creation of gold that had been blessed with life.  Only a horrible world created by a malevolent deity could have allowed the practices that brought her into existence, but she was as wonderful a person as my Grandfather Terish who came from the same reality.  I loved both my Great-uncle Ferrigote and Great-aunt Dirchein, and tried to show it even as I introduced them to the two who were presently seeking to join my grand family.

Once certain particulars were handled, Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “Keep talking, Payorl.  Jelnaya, you can talk as well, but start leading us to this man from Gaeskow.  I hope I can leave the wagon here.”

Great-aunt Dirchein put up resistance.  “My lord.”

“Now, Dirchein, I did not say to stop talking.  We can however move as we do so.”

I knew the reason for my great-aunt to speak as she did, as I immediately switched to talking business.   I first commanded some soldiers to take the wagon to my stables.  I then told them to contact my steward who would handle bringing in their belongings to their room.  With that done, I started everyone walking while giving my great-uncle what information I could.

“It’s not him being from Gaeskow that is a problem, Great-uncle.  It is that he is plagued with creatures like gaunts.  The name of Terdeskollit did come up in the early conversations, but I do not believe He is responsible.”

Great-uncle Ferrigote asked, “Creatures of darkness?”

“Not as complete as gaunts, but more creatures not of light.  Using a weapon enchanted with light will just dispel gaunts with them returning when things go dark again.  One of the reasons for the prophetess Desiree, whose name I was supposed to have and who did grow the jelna fruit I was named after,” I added the information for my suitors, “to teach Grandfather Terish to fight in the dark was so he could protect himself from gaunts.  With these creatures using a weapon enchanted with light is not effective.  Neither are divine weapons from the outside, although we killed one once plunging a blessed weapon through an opening made with my smoke dagger.”

“You said, ‘plagued with them.’”

“The story is that they follow him.  If you don’t defeat them, they are a constant bother.  If you win the fight, you have a couple of days of peace before they attack again.  I thought I had managed to actually kill them using enchanted weapons once through the outer skin, but they returned.  After using a blessed weapon for the fatal strike, we feel one is dead with the other not yet having returned.”

Great-aunt Dirchein let it be known she was used to things with her husband and me by asking, “What have the gods said about it, Jelnaya?”

“I’m a champion of Fergush, Great-aunt Dirchein.  The glory is in achieving victory, not having it handed to you.”

“And we needed to meet these two men accompanying you.  Remidda is not giving me any information, Jelnaya, except that I should stay with you.”

Great-aunt Dirchein was a strong devotee to She-Who-Serves.  She had been originally made to work for a man in obtaining gold from a volcanic vent in an acidic lake.  It was a rather involved story leading to her discovery and recovery, but since waking up to have my great-uncle claim her she had accepted her place.  I loved my Great-aunt Dirchein, although it was her own service to a god of this world that was about the only thing we had in common.

I guess Lerdiyo heard the group of people coming in his direction.  It was possible that he was simply bored inside the shack so had come out for fresh air.  In any event, I saw Lerdiyo kneel as Great-uncle Ferrigote approached.

“Let’s hear your story.”

Great-aunt Dirchein brought out wine and some cookies as we listened to Lerdiyo.  I had heard most, but focused to catch the details or additions as the man informed the person he considered to have importance.  I still did not see the relevance in the story, so was glad when he mentioned getting something he had kept on his person.  Seeing Lerdiyo pull from his private area what appeared as a patch of gold cloth, Great-aunt Dirchein went back to her husband as he identified what had been brought out.

“I have shown you a number of items of gold that gave me evidence of you existing, Dirchein.  This was once part of a shirt.  I sold it when Terish identified it as a garment by an egotistical monarch, and not anything to do with a lady of gold.”

Lerdiyo asked, “Emperor, did you see the map?”

“Map?  It had been woven in a manner that gave the appearance of a dragon, but that was all.  I can see one of the legs on your piece.”

“It’s a piece of a map.”

“Trust me, if it had a map on it, Terish would have noticed.”  I saw my great-uncle pick up the piece of gold cloth, then turn it over and moved the surface as if to have light play off it.  “Okay, I can see part of a map.  Clearly done later.  It wasn’t there when I or Terish had it.  Why they cut up the shirt to make a map I cannot say.  What is the map to?”

“Peace.”

“Peace?”

“The answer.  The answer you never found.  The answer to what you only gave us momentarily.  Still, Emperor, you provided the stability to have some able to seek things others sought to prevent from happening.  The one that gave me this piece said they found it.”

Things were quiet for a moment, then Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “Okay.  There are holes in your story, but recognizing things was why I was called in.  Jelnaya, I want your people to take this man into custody.  You and me got a fight.  I assume you have one of those weapons you spoke about as being effective.”

I signaled to an officer, and watched as he pointed to a soldier I knew to be a really good fighter.  Great-uncle Ferrigote nodded as the dagger was handed to me.  As I watched to see what my great-uncle was going to do, I found myself distracted by Potorly.

“Jelnaya, will you bless my sword?”

My great-uncle asked, “If he fails at making the attack, will you need to recast it?”

I replied, “Maybe.  It depends on a number of factors.”

Oprillot said, “I would like my sword to be blessed as well, even though the monster usually attacks beyond my ability to reach.  I however can provide support.”

Great-uncle Ferrigote let me know, “I won’t stop either of them, Jelnaya.”

I saw both men look to me, and I had to state my own understanding of the situation.  “Telling either not to come would mean something I presently do not want to say.”

“Dirchein?”

My great-aunt replied, “The gods are with you.  Jelnaya, I will head to your castle.”

I said, “Potorly’s mother is a guest.  Maybe you could speak with her.”

“You know I am going to do more than that, Jelnaya.”

“As you said, Great-aunt Dirchein, the gods are active.  Considering Onathis is one of those active, I see no reason why Remidda cannot join Samayer in completing the trilogy of goddesses.”

“Then we can speak later, Jelnaya.  My lord, you know I will be speaking of you.”

Great-uncle Ferrigote replied, “You know my love will ever be with you.  Okay, youngsters, let’s go find trouble.”

And trouble is found.