Without a Light I See

Chapter Seventeen

My mother actually watched Jelnaya.  I found the confidence and intelligence of the lady almost intimidating.  Watching her I could tell why other men had not gained her hand.  She was at a level almost no other lady could match, and far beyond the simple graces most men looked for.  In the exchanges with her great-uncle and great-aunt however I could tell that she had others guiding and motivating her.  Not really feeling that I had done anything legendary to make me worthy of someone like Jelnaya, I waited for what my mother might say.

Grabbing my arm to direct me back to my room, she said, “I assume you fought with her.”

I replied, “She is a Champion of He-Who-Fights.  It is her energy level that astounds me.  She fought and fought, then she comes back and does what we saw.  I don’t know if I can match that.”

Mother stayed silent until closing the door to my room, then said, “She will be worth it, Potorly.  It however will force you to be more than you have been up to now.”

“I am not ashamed of what I have been, Mother, but I will admit that I have not been anything great.  I did help people.  My actions have not spoiled my place with Honored Duchess Jelnaya, but I cannot say that I am worthy of going forward with her.”

“You are worthy, but you are going to have to step up.”

Afraid that again my mother would avoid a certain topic, I said, “You have yet to tell me what I am, Mother.  Father did not raise me as a fairy, but he never explained why.  I finally got upset with the contradictions, and left on my own.”

“And you did well.  As you said, there is no shame in you.”

“What am I, Mother?”

“In the morning.  Before Honored Duchess Jelnaya goes out to the sparring field, you need to come with me.”  I only nodded, but instead of staying on topic Mother brought up something else.  “I have new clothes for you to try on.”

The fashion of the clothes was nothing I had worn.  The materials were leaves and bark, but the cut was more of a wealthy farmer.  There were flower petals worked into the cloth with them providing a sense of color.  Accepting that I had not gone about putting together a quality wardrobe, I decided I had no other choice but to see how I was accepted in the clothes Mother had made.

Stepping out to the balcony around the main room, I heard the voice of Baron Ferrigote say, “Tell me about yourself, Potorly.”

“I really can’t tell you about myself.”  I saw the man hand me a mug with what I could smell to be something hard, and took it while saying, “Mother said she would tell me in the morning.  All I can say is that I was raised in the Nevaire by my father.  Got fed up with my life there, and left to go about doing good deeds around Etrasky.  I brought Lerdiyo to you simply because someone asked me to.  It was supposed to be nothing more than another good deed.”

The eyes of Baron Ferrigote indicated that he noticed I had not taken a drink, although he said something else.  “I am told Onathia is behind your association with Jelnaya.  That says there is something to you.”

“Jelnaya is very pretty, and I like her.  I mean watching her and listening to her.  There is a fascination in simply being able to be in her presence.  That level of constant energy is however not how I have been living my life."

”Well, it’s natural to her.  Fergush only changed her hair, but he did that just to assure everyone did not think it was just her, even though it really is.  Her confidence and drive would have been there even without the god.  If you ask Fergush about her, he says that he just likes watching her.”

I could not help but take a drink before saying, “I fully understand.”  Noticing the flavor in my mouth, I had to ask, “Brandy?”

“Just seeing if you even taste the stuff you are drinking.”

Understanding what the man said, and the reason for his concern, I said, “I’m not a drunk.  It is just up to now I had no demands on my life.  I could afford to spend time drunk, and actually felt the period to be a reward for some of the things I did.  I mean, doing good deeds doesn’t really pay.  People would buy you drinks, so I drank.”

“A wife, much less one like Jelnaya, will put demands on your life, but let me say it is worth it.”

“I can accept that.  If I give up on her, I will certainly envy the man who gets her.  Still courting her.  If I change my mind, it will be after I see what my mother tells me.”

“Well, if you stay in the family, you will learn about my wife.  Of course, you will learn about her from Jelnaya, which means you will either be biased or have more conversations with me while watching the two interact with each other.  What you want to drink at the meal?”

I finished the contents in my glass, then asked, “Do I have a choice?”

“With my wife you will always have a choice.  You will have a choice with Jelnaya as well, but she just will expect you to get something else if you want something else.  My wife will want to know your preference ahead of time.”

“A regular ale."

“I prefer the dark ones, but no reason to cover the taste of the food.  Good choice.”

Feeling that I had gained some acceptance with this man, I asked, “Will getting to know Jelnaya’s father and grandfather be so easy?”

“Terish?  Probably.  If Fergush agrees with you, Terish will just assure Jelnaya is not having problems with you.  Straekin will do the same.  Now, Venicht, Jelnaya’s father, might be rough.  The pride he has in her is enormous.  Of course, the reverse is true as well, so Jelnaya will probably treat your introduction to Venicht very seriously.  She will probably coach you on that one.”

“How about her mother?”

“Don’t take this wrong, but you could well go on wondering if the lady even exists.  Nothing wrong with her.  Amelia is a fantastic lady, but the bond between her husband and oldest daughter is very strong.  Once Jelnaya figured out moving through the omniverse, she started visiting her father wherever he was and I don’t believe ever went home unless Venicht was there.”

Hearing something, I felt the need to admit, “I really don’t go moving between worlds.”

“Well, that changes as soon as you commit to Jelnaya.”

“You mean stuff like what we just did will become normal.”

“I have a home on this world, but usually my wife and I are traveling.  When you add stuff like what we just did to Jelnaya just visiting family and friends, yes, I believe you will find your time in this castle to be relatively small.”

I saw Jelnaya come down the stairs, and smiled seeing her turn to me.  There was no fashion to her hair, but the red and yellow locks just made her face appear pretty.  I did not doubt there were cosmetics to help the appearance, but I did not care.  The body was adorned in one of the bulkier garments of those of high status, but she had a grace that had one only see her as she glided to where she was going.  Having Jelnaya come to me, even though she traded affection with Baron Ferrigote I felt she had come to me, I could not help but smile having her in my presence.

After both of us told her how wonderful she appeared, Jelnaya said, “Hush, both of you.  I am only doing this for Great-aunt Dirchein.”

Baron Ferrigote replied, “I believe you have a grandmother and aunts that will tell you that a person of your rank is supposed to dress that way.”

“It was Grandmother Straekin and my aunts that told me how to alter the patterns to make them less restrictive.  I don’t believe my great-aunt has sought that advice.”

“I believe she considers those alterations to make the dresses of lesser status.”

“I was with Grandmother Straekin and Aunt Debbish talking on the subject, and the agreement was made not to tell her we did those alterations on all our outfits.  That includes the one I am wearing now.”

I had to interject, “Baron Ferrigote told me that you did go around visiting.”

“And I will go with you to the Nevaire.”

“Oh, and a regular ale for the meal.”

Her smile changed to that of a grin, then she said, “My great-uncle likes dark beer, so I am having a dark beer.  Of course, since we are having fish, Great-aunt Dirchein will have a white wine.”

“Is there a problem with what we are having?”

“No.  She’s a devotee to She-Who-Serves, so will see that you are served what you want.  Great-aunt Dirchein however does like doing things properly.”  She had a finger go in front of the elder man’s face as she said, “You know, she got very bad about things during her last pregnancy.  I was too young to notice or remember anything of her time with Nuchirg, and really was not around enough when she was with Thellard.  I however heard Aunt Neselle speak about it.  I did take notice when she was with Anterre.”

He replied, “Well, we do nothing to prevent things, so you could be right.  She however has not told me anything, so I would say she is just trying to make a good impression.”

“This is not your first visit.  The impression has already been made.”

“For Potorly and Oprillot.”  I saw his eyes dart around, then he added, “Or the fey and the attendants for the lad.”

Jelnaya had him present his arm, then told me to follow.  I watched clearly understanding that he was not some relative she only contacted due to a need.  She was comfortable with him.  If she made a joke or comment, he understood or could quickly place the associations.  Jelnaya further did not just know him, but his children and others of his land.  As I followed her I did not just want her in my life, but I wanted her life.

I found a servant directing me to one side of the room.  My mother was there, so I did not feel out of place.  She however did not take a seat, but simply came to me let me know why the servant was having me sit in this location.

“Potorly, this is where active suitors are placed.  I was told to have Honored Duchess Jelnaya tell you about her Uncle Althery should you question this assignment.”

I immediately raised my hand to get the attention of the ruling lady, and asked her about the story.  Jelnaya gracefully did what was necessary to start the meal, then began a story of her being in Nehallum along with the lady that was now her aunt and the younger brother to her father.  It seemed that Baron Ferrigote and Baroness Dirchein were also in their castle at that time, as they spoke to help relate the tale.  I did laugh at the story, but the warmth in her presentation of the people had me wonder about my own relationship with my family.

Leaving the meal, I returned to my room only to hear my mother say, “She seems to be a cheerful person.”

I replied, “I want to rush to her balcony to have her tell me about each of those people.  I bet she can tell me recent events in the lives of each.”  I then glared at my mother while saying, “I never knew you existed, and now you are telling me that I will probably never see my father again.”

“Potorly –“

“No.  I can’t present my family to her.  I really cannot tell her any stories.  I left, and I have not returned since I left.”

“Potorly –“

“No.”  I fought back tears as I asked, “What can I offer a lady like that?”

“Are you even going to go to her?”

Those words had been softly spoken, and I did try to sound calm as I asked, “And what should I do when there?”

“Read poetry to her, or something.”

She suddenly had a pleased expression, and signaled a sprite who came up saying he had a book about a historic romance.  Since I had not read it, there was no way I could claim a favorite passage.  In thinking about Jelnaya, I however understood the demands she would place on me.  I wanted her so badly that I felt something within me telling me to commit.  Having the desire and the capabilities were two different things.  I turned to go to my room feeling despair, but then I realized what I could do and with a pleased expression signaled for my mother to come to me.

I commanded, “Check my appearance.”

She did some things, so I trusted her when she said that I looked fine.  Moving out to the main room, I saw Vulge step out.  Jelnaya had a very large home, so it would have taken time to move around to her balcony.  That was not the way to go, because there were walls separating the grounds into sections for private gardens or occupations necessary to the operation of such a large estate.  The night before I had needed to be directed through the castle to come out in the proper place, and tonight I heard Vulge a few times bark that I had taken a wrong turn.  I trusted his words, and only stopped at a door having to tell myself that I would be fine.

As I approached the balcony, Jelnaya was already out speaking with Oprillot, although I was glad to hear her say, “I was wondering if you would show.”

“Yes,” I replied, “as I did not know what to say.  It then came to me that with you being a Champion of Fergush that there was a topic I could possibly cover with you that might not be appropriate for any other.”

“And what is that?”

I drew my sword, then held it high while saying, “This is Viprekor.  I actually did my family, or at least my father, wrong in taking it.  I am the only child that I know of, so it probably will be mine one day.  Father sent no one after it, and Mother has not said anything about me doing wrong in taking it.  It is not a minor weapon.  As you know, it has strong enchantment.  It also has a strong history.”

She listened as I spoke of my sword.  I saw what I felt was enchantment in her gaze as I went through certain actions while telling about certain battles.  In telling the stories, I realized that I did have history.  The events I mentioned were those of my ancestors.  In speaking of my sword, I realized I was actually providing evidence of my own worth.

I stood confident as she pulled her sword and said, “The man that had NeverRose made was a king.  Its light design and length were to have it more ceremonial.  It was never used in battle, although some who challenged the king found that it had been enchanted to give it strength.  I tell everyone that it is NeverRose, but meant to always be a thorn.  Those are not my words, but actually come from the history of the weapon.  NeverRose kept the king alive, and he died an old man.  His son however did not desire the weapon, but honored it and his father by burying it with him.  In seeking a weapon like the one used by my Grandfather Terish, I learned of NeverRose.  I broke into the crypt, and promised the corpse holding it that I would not use the weapon ceremonially.  The light design and length help me fight men, and it is not treated as an object of beauty.”

She put the sword back in its sheath, then said, “My bow is a good one.  It is enchanted, but I don’t know its history.  I was with my Grandfather Terish, and we found ourselves in the middle of a war.  It was the first time I fought masses of people, and learned a lot.  I had fought gangs and groups, but for the first time I challenged a great company of men.  After the battle, Granfather Terish simply asked me if I needed a bow.  I did, so went to get the weapon he indicated.  Why it was not used in the battle, I do not know, although it was carried by an officer and not those of the artillery.  Like I said, I do not know its history, but it is a good bow.

“You will have to wait to learn the story of the drahaberd.  I can almost promise you that you will hear the story as my Aunt Neselle and I sit in the middle of a grand arena.  The story of the drahaberd is the tale of her world, and why her people are as they are.  I no longer carry that drahaberd, but now carry one made by Fergush for me.  The reason I carry one however is due to my aid of Aunt Neselle and her world, and it was in that struggle that I was claimed by Fergush to be one of his champions.  It is a grand tale, and people will come a great distance to hear us tell it.”

I just stood pleased that she accepted my topic of conversation, although was elated when she said, “Yes, Potorly, you can talk of things like that with me.”

“I was given a book said to be a historic romance,” I replied, “although I have not read it yet.  I however desired very much to come to you.  Songs and poetry are not really my thing.  I do good deeds, Jelnaya.  That is how I have been living my life.  Telling you of things like that I however find to be minor, or bragging, so I am looking for other things.”

“This is my realm, Potorly, so anything you do will probably be reported to me.  I will not claim tales of helping my people to be minor, but it might be old news.”

I thought about what she said, and found myself having to admit, “I would say the same for most verses or songs presented to you.”

“You are correct.  I guess if there is something you did that you feel a desire to speak to me about, I could be entertained by your rendition of events.”

Actually feeling something, I admitted, “I believe simply coming here and staring at you to be highly improper.”

“It certainly would be.”

“So I will continue to find something to talk about.  Look forward to further moments with you, Jelnaya.”

And Potorly learns his history.