Without a Light I See

Chapter Nineteen
(Jelnaya)

I saw the heads of my guards turn.  Oprillot rushed up to stand beside me.  Not being able to see anything had me listen, and I heard a faint sound like that of tiny bells.  I moved to look where my guards were gazing.  Seeing an odd suit of glittering metal had me move to the stairs.  As I did so, one of my elder guards came to me to identify what we were looking at.

“The armor of the Nevaire.  Your suitor seems to be more than he was claiming.”

I replied, “I suspected that, as his mother is the queen.”

“Really, Honored Duchess?  Potorly appeared too human.  We were actually only suspecting the fairy queen to be sponsoring him.  The fey do strange things.”

“Fergush was not complaining about the men Onathia sent to me, so I suspected something special about them.”  I then raised my voice to say, “I guess you found some clothes you can fight in.”

Potorly replied, “Mother said it should complement your crystal suit.”

“What is that?  Is it a rock?”

“It is made from the magic of the Nevaire.  Jelnaya, if any doubt my status to court you, let me say that I am the heir to the Nevaire.”

My only problem with what he said was that he was saying it now.  “Should that concern me?”

“No, and I say that with the allowance it is something we can discuss.”  He dropped the volume of his voice to say, “You should know that I went with my mother this morning.”

“Seems you got things straight between you two.  Glad to hear it.”

“It’s still something to discuss.”

“Whatever you might want to talk about.  Still, we have business to discuss right now.”

I directed Potorly down the stairs to a table.  My Great-aunt Dirchein went to him, so I moved to the dais to take a seat in my throne.  As I did, Great-uncle Ferrigote made a soft comment.

“You think he can fight in that outfit?”

I replied, “My problem with fairies is that you cannot trust them.  Not that they lie, but their motives are almost always rather peculiar.  As long he stays trustworthy, I’ll see where things go.”

As Potorly finally finished speaking to my great-aunt and came to take a seat, he asked, “How many are going with us?”

“You, Oprillot, me, Lerdiyo, Great-aunt Dirchein and Great-uncle Ferrigote.  The rest are here for any policy instructions I might need to give before we leave.  That is why I took my throne.  Keeps my mind on being official.”

“You said that anywhere you and Baron Ferrigote went there would be a fight.”

My great-uncle replied, “There is a difference in a fight and a war.”

We all turned as another voice sounded from the stairs.  “Well, you can add me and Yenorma.”

I had to ask, “Are you certain, Vulge?”

“You have two suitors going, so I am going.”

“I have my great-uncle and great-aunt going as well, Vulge.  You can consider me chaperoned.”

As Vulge and Yenorma turned from the risers to come to a table, Vulge said, “That is Ferrigote, right?”

There was every reason Vulge should have known my great-uncle.  The primary reason was that he had visited my castle before.  The other was that Great-uncle Ferrigote had been in the news of Davelda a number of times.  We thus just waited for Vulge to make his point.

“That is the guy that made the rule that anyone that wants to join at the start of an adventure is to be allowed to join.”

I had to admit, “He has a point on that one,” although I did still wonder why Vulge was coming.

Great-uncle Ferrigote politely commanded, “Dirchein, would you be so kind as to assure those two get a good meal before we leave.”

Of course there were servants to do things, and after Great-aunt Dirchein and I made certain motions I said, “Remidda, Onathia, and Samayer.  It seems the men will be out-numbered on this mission.”

“Tell me when Fergush complains.”

“I have never heard him gripe about being in the presence of the goddesses.”

“He laughed at me when I was complaining about some of my wives.”  He then raised his voice to say, “And that is where we are going.  Where I had all those wives.  There is no telling who we are going to meet, or how they are going to react to me, to us.”

At this point my great-uncle went into the story of his association with Gaeskow.  Of course I listened again.  The stories of my Grandfather Terish and Great-uncle Ferrigote were not simple things.  Getting a complete rendition of the history would not happen.  Those of our family knew several versions of every tale with each bringing out certain facts that were lacking when told in a different way.  I knew of the discussion beneath the tree after sacking a large town where my Grandfather Terish and Great-uncle Ferrigote decided to go their separate ways, although they both continued to help the other when necessary.  My Grandfather Terish went along the path that led him to Davelda, to claim Thiminy, to gain the centaurs, to become insane with immense knowledge, and all the facets of the history of my side of the family that gained us our fame.  Great-uncle Ferrigote only went to conquer a world, but that was an accomplishment that really none could equal.  When he built Nehallum he only took the rank of baron as a statement that no one should trouble him.  Not only would they lose, but they would lose to someone of no status worthy of bragging about attacking in the first place.  I knew from my own association with Great-uncle Ferrigote that he was a man tired.  While he still loved the fight, he had fought more than his share.  I got the feeling a quiet evening with wife and children was what he had been fighting for, and was glad to finally have those moments of victory.  Grandfather Terish was still doing the things he had done for centuries, and I hoped my life would go as his.  I however listened to Great-uncle Ferrigote speak of his conquering of Gaeskow understanding I would hear the tale again at the grand table with Fergush knowing that even I could not equal its telling.

Once the history had been related, he said, “I’m glad to know we are not going to the world of Terdeskollit.  It is now inhabited by spider people.  While Terish says that they are not malicious, they are still spider people.”  There was some laughter, then my great-uncle returned to speaking.  “However, I do not know where we are going.  Lerdiyo got himself involved in something, and we are going to find out what it is and seek to resolve it.  Jelnaya and I promote Fergush, so will not back down from a fight.  My wife is a devotee to Remidda, so we should have some comfort.  Two men are here due to the working of Onathia, and that could be scarier than what we are going to face.”  Again there was some laughter.  “This realm is to Samayer, and I would not rule out her presence, although coming back simply surviving is not what I would call a successful mission.  Not going to speak for Debogda or Cloript, but it really should not matter as we are going to other worlds with other deities and we are just going to have deal with things.”

Vulge asked, “Baron, what is our objective?”

“Honestly, it is to get whatever is bothering Lerdiyo to leave the guy alone.  You could leave this to me, and you would be in your right.  Jelnaya is in this because she loves the fight, she is my niece, and this matter came to her.  I assume the rest of you are going because of her.  It might be a good adventure, might not.  Our present destination is Gaeskow and a historic site known for a period of apostasy.  Where things will go from there, we will just have to see.”

I turned hearing Lerdiyo say, “I’m ready, Emperor.”

“Take a seat and get something to eat.”

Those words were the cue for my Great-aunt Dirchein to start having the food served.  I left my throne to take a seat at a table.  There was not so much a formality, but I had been in control of things long enough for everyone to accept my absences.  Considering that Lerdiyo had been present for a few days, everyone knew that I would be going.  Matters had been brought to me that could not wait for my return.  I thought about what instructions I had given along with my own concerns.  As I ate the food I paused after swallowing bites to speak on those issues that came to mind.  As I had a final drink my advisors asked about things they considered important.  After all necessary words were spoken, I rose as the cue for us to leave.

It is not that I had a stable of horses from Davelda, but that I had people from Davelda regularly visiting.  I heard it said that I had more people from my Grandmother Straekin’s home in a year than ever visited her when in Thiminy.  I did not understand why they identified with a second generation child more than their empress or those of the first generation.  I had heard various reasons, but never actually accepted any of them.  In any event, beside Rubber and those my chaperone and his lady rode there were enough horses from Davelda available that all could ride on steeds familiar with moving between worlds.

There was always a pause after the first passing to another world, as some people needed to accept the fact that there were other realities.  I looked around at the group and saw them simply looking back at me.  I accepted that we could move on as Great-uncle Ferrigote made a comment.

“I believe we are good, Jelnaya.”

I simply replied, “I am trusting you for directions.  I will keep an eye out for game.”

Great-aunt Dirchein said, “We are heading to a cricket house, Jelnaya.  No need for your special kind of cooking.  The meat can be used to refresh the larder, and I will cook.”

“Of course, although I expected you to say that latter part.”

Yenorma said, “I will help your great-aunt cook, Princess Jelnaya.”

Oprillot asked, “Any special kind of game you are looking for, Jelnaya?”

I replied, “Something large enough to feed us.  I don’t know the route, so I cannot afford to spend time chasing rabbits, looking for squirrels, or bothering with other types of small game.”  He signaled his mount to rush ahead, but turned when I called him down.  “I said I don’t know the way.  Do you?”

“Oh.”

Great-uncle Ferrigote had his mount move up before saying, “See if you can spot the prey before Jelnaya or me.  With a group this size, you would think we would scare the game away.  We however tend to keep fresh meat with us.  What will give us a problem is that we really won’t be too long on any world, so stay alert.”

“Oh.  What’s a cricket house?”

“A nice place.  We’ll tell you more after you see one.  Now, fall back into place.”

The courtship does continue.