Without a Light I See

Chapter Sixteen

When I entered the castle, a guard by the front doors whispered, “Your great-aunt is up in your bedroom.”

I replied, “Devotee to Remidda, so be kind.”

“I remember her first visit, Honored Duchess.”

“So you know we both mean each other the best.”

Potorly asked, “Something I should know about?”

It was Great-uncle Ferrigote that answered, “You’ll learn.”

I signaled my steward to hold his position, then went to him to ask, “What room did you assign Lerdiyo?”

He replied, “It was a hard decision, Honored Duchess.  You have not placed any restrictions upon him, and he acted appropriately.  I thus did not put him in a watch, but a liberty.”

There were a number of ways a person could claim hospitality from me.  The hallways in the castle were assigned according to one’s status.  While I made certain all my rooms were good places to relax, there were reasons a bed in one location was not as special as a bed in another.  With one who had been isolated, I had worried that a wrong assumption had been made.  Accepting that proper hospitality had been shown, I looked for another potential problem.

“Queen Nichanay, there is a couple you need to meet.”

I had started up the risers of my main staircase as I said that, and Potorly’s mother came from a certain hallway to say, “I got word that my son was injured.”

From down below came the stern words, “You have no right, Mother.  All those years, and not one word from you.  I am just as much being a boy now as I was then, but I have learned to do without the care of my mother.”

“There were those that treated you, Son.  Please, allow them.”

I said, “Potorly, that is you mother.  For me, since I will be the one probably dealing with her – like going to her socials – be nice.”

The man replied, “Jelnaya, if you need me –“

“This should now be all family and politics of one form or another.  If a fight breaks out, I will assume you will learn of it.”

“Then, til supper?”

“By Fergush I hope this does not last so long, although it usually does.”

I saw the men who cared for Oprillot step out as the lad passed me saying, “That was fun.  Next time I hope to be the one to fight with you.”

“Don’t think I did not know you were there,” I replied.  “Also, don’t think your problems are any less than Potorly’s.”

“He is able to spend time working with his mother.  I am still without any method of resolving my own handicap.”

“Don’t give up.”

He bowed while saying, “I told you that I was enjoying this.  See you later, Jelnaya.”

As he left, I stopped to again scan my grand front room.  Turned my head to catch what views I could down my various hallways.  I found myself interrupted by Great-uncle Ferrigote who strode up the risers to stop and whisper a question.

“What is bothering you, Jelnaya?”

“I wasn’t really trained by you, Great-uncle,” I replied.  “As much time as I spent around Nehallum, I did all I could to learn from Grandfather Terish.”

“I still trust you to be a little rational about your paranoia.”

“It’s not paranoia, but knowing that I still don’t know things.  That’s what Grandfather Terish did.  He solved the puzzles.  When you met him, when he was nothing more than a boy, he already could speak to people, read things, work magic, as well as kill anything he felt was a threat.  As he traveled with you, he did not have to learn to fight.  He already could do that.  He worked at learning everything else.”

I heard the hiss of stress as he whispered, “What is bothering you, Jelnaya?”

“Where are the fairies?  Queen Nichanay came out, but only to get her son.  She did not greet me.  She did not even thank me when I assured Potorly went.  That was very un-fairy-like.”

As he took his grand sword in his hands, I saw the guards ready their weapons.  I felt that a good thing, but moved to the railing hoping to make out something even as I sought to figure out what to look for.  Having my great-uncle come beside me with his sword still in his hand, I spoke my thoughts.

“My drahaberd did not work.  That is why I suspected an evil deity, which of course had me think of Terdeskollit.  I did not even use it in the fight we just finished.  Potorly had a good weapon, but the fairies did not supply him with anything.  What we fought was not capable of being a problem in itself, but had to have been set into place by something much more powerful.  That has me continue to wonder what your man got involved with.”

From above I heard the voice of Great-aunt Dirchein say, “My lord, Remidda says that her blessing won’t help.”

Great-uncle Ferrigote replied, “Jelnaya is saying the same thing.  Keep talking, Jelnaya.”

I raised the volume of my voice, as I felt my soldiers needed to hear what I said next.  “This is a realm to Samayer.  As long as we stay true, we will survive.  I slaughtered people in this land, but they had abandoned her ways.  I am Fergush.  Those with me will fight.”  Sounds of agreement came from my great-uncle and my soldiers.  “No, Great-aunt Dirchein, Remidda does not have a blessing for this.”

From another hallway, I heard Potorly say, “Jelnaya, my mother wanted to protect me.  I told her the only way to protect me was to call off my desire for you, then I left.  What are we about to fight?”

Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “She’s figuring it out.  Just listen!”

Grandfather Terish once told me that the hardest realization was something you felt was a good assumption, as you then had to realize that your entire belief system was flawed.  When someone was in trouble and for some reason they had discounted the blessing of the gods, they turned to other questionable, although usually powerful, sources.  In most cases people would look for a type of magic they felt would make their troubles go away.  Demons had their supposed benefits, monsters others, and fey were considered useful in resolving certain problems.  Demons usually corrupted someone that came to them.  Monsters presented their own problems.  Fey however were usually benevolent in some manner, but could get really nasty when they felt mistreated.  They would curse a person with many stories of the cruelty of their condemnations.  They would also have contact with other esoteric creatures that resided in their territories.  My assumption had been an evil god, but I had to realize that the path Lerdiyo had traveled had him contact something powerful that the deities would not recognize as one of their own.

I stepped up on the railing, then said, “Go ahead and show yourself.  I will fight you, and might win.  Let me know the reason for the fight, and maybe we can claim victory in a different way.”

It appeared as a man.  The form was black and misty, so I could not make out any details.  He however was near my throne, and my grip on NeverRose tightened.  Instead of moving to claim my position of authority, it appeared to move toward me.

I barely heard, “You were wrong to release him.”

“BULL!” I declared.  “Those things plaguing him were bothering the lands and people around here.  You want him back; we can talk.  You feel that he deserves to be cursed, let’s work out something that will satisfy you and not bother the innocent.”

“You are protecting him.”

“Out of ignorance.  Out of a love for people, animals, and the land.  Is that wrong to you?  Do you consider it wrong to help those troubled?  Do you consider acts of concern to be something that must be removed?  For the record, I am not protecting him.  He is my guest, yes, but the reason is to help him resolve his situation.  Excuse me for being a decent, well-meaning person.  You want to bring charges against him, come properly and formally.  I do have the authority to listen, judge, determine a reasonable sentence, and see it enacted even if it is death.”

I felt I saw the entity suddenly dash toward the door.  With me not able to clearly see it move, it was comforting to hear my god tell me the being had fled.  Having Fergush add that it would be back did not surprise me.  I felt a hand of my great-uncle seeking to help me down from the railing, and as I descended I let him know he had work to do.

“Go speak to Lerdiyo.  He does consider himself your man.  As a traveler of worlds and a noble of this world, I expect you to provide substantial council to the man and to me when I need to determine things about him.”

Great-uncle Ferrigote put his large blade back in its place, then said, “I will do that, Jelnaya.  Just don’t allow me to miss supper.”

I kissed the man, then said, “Deal.”  I then pointed to another as I said, “Still in my good graces, Potorly.  I know of many that would not have passed a test like that.  Keep it up.”

He bowed, then said, “I will let mother know.”

After hoping something with my soldiers would distract me, I turned toward my apartment to say, “I guess I will spend time with you, Great-aunt Dirchein, as I am sure you have things to talk about.”

From the door to my apartment, I heard Merilay say, “She wants to inspect your nursery, Princess.”

“Nursery?”  Before my great-aunt could speak, I said, “That is a very premature, but understandable concern.  Come on, Great-aunt Dirchein.  Let’s go inspect the nursery.  I do however need to clean up first.”

As I moved up the stairs to the gold lady, she asked, “Have you done anything with it, Jelnaya?”

“No, although I am certain someone has bothered to keep it clean.  If not, I will assure you that I will get people on it.”

“What concerns me Jelnaya is that the items in there are from the family before you.  It helps a child growing up to have things of their own family.”

“Let’s not go ridiculing the past monarchs, Great-aunt Dirchein.  There is a history to this land that my children are going to have to accept as their own.  Still, speaking of my years as a child and the stories of the young antics of others in the family, there is no telling what the previous children here did to the things in the nursery.  Let’s go look and see what things are needed that our family can provide.”

I suddenly had the heavy body of my gold great-aunt hugging my armor plated form, although I smiled knowing her ways as she said, “Thank you, Jelnaya.”

“It’s something different, Great-aunt Dirchein.  Considering the mood I’m in, something different is probably a good thing.”

Coming to my apartment, Merilay said, “Those who care for your rooms do include the nursery, Princess.  I don’t believe they do much more than dust however.”

Great-aunt Dirchein replied, “That is true for most castles.  Children are a part of life, but even among those mortal childhood is not a permanent thing.  Jelnaya is right about her children becoming a part of the history of this realm.  Her father and his siblings are a part of the history of Thiminy even though neither Terish nor Straekin are actually from there.  My children are of the history of Nehallum.  Still, there is a bond of family that should also be a part of their lives.  That is what I want to assure is included.”

I had to say, “And I won’t fight you on that, Great-aunt Dirchein.  Come on.  Let me go get out of this armor and cleaned up, then we can spend time together.”

Potorly begins to realize his worth.