Without a Light I See
Jelnaya did not stop. I would accept that I knew that, but only seeing her at scheduled times about her castle I felt she was taking advantage of certain luxuries at other moments in her day. I watched as she had her horse move about. While the rest of us were adjusting to the rhythm of our mounts, she was having her steed circle us, rush up to check things about the terrain ahead, gallop back to assure nothing was coming along the path to our rear, then moving off to supposedly look for game until I saw her again riding around us. I suddenly heard a commotion only to hear Baron Ferrigote mention that Jelnaya had gone after our supper. While I appreciated the place we were brought to, she worked with her great-aunt to ready the meat from a large ox-like creature into sections to be cooked or stored. As I came out my room to relax in the front chamber, I saw her pass me going to her room from working with the horses. I then heard her say she was going down to take her bath. After cleaning herself, I suspected she was finally going to relax, but I heard her ask us men if any of us wanted to spar outside. I found myself having to return to my room accepting the constant activity of Jelnaya as who she was.
Taking out the icon of Samayer, I sat on the bed and said, “Goddess, She-Who-Survives, I don’t know if I want Jelnaya. She is lovely, but I cannot say that I ever will get a good look at her. She is successful, although the reasons for it I doubt I will ever be able to match. She knows her family, and I cannot say I will ever really know mine. I guess she is a lady who would complete me, but being everything I am not I cannot say is a good thing.”
There was actually a feeling of relief in hearing the soft voice of a lady reply, “It is your choice, Potorly.”
“No, which is my problem. I feel I am her choice. If you did not choose me then my parents, probably my mother, chose me.”
“Onathia chose you.”
Those words did have me think about where I wanted the conversation to go, although simply wanting to be honest I did not attempt to get complicated with what I said. “I don’t doubt that Jelnaya could love me. There is no doubt in my mind that she would love her husband. I however cannot imagine who I am being someone that could survive sharing her life.”
“I believe your mother is trying to get you to see who you have been is not who you truly are. She is not wanting you to survive, Potorly, but to live. They had dreams for you, and with Jelnaya you could live them.”
“I was not complaining about my life, Samayer.”
“I believe it was for the best this time came before you started for a lady on your own.” Before I could say anything else, she added, “I also believe that if you had continued along your path, you would have ended up wishing to be like Jelnaya. She does a lot of good, Potorly. I believe you would fulfill your own desires for a life by gaining her.”
Those words shocked me. Not only could I not argue with them, but they struck at the core of the person I did truly want to be. So far I had been the person who would help. It at first took me going about looking for those who were in trouble. I now had people coming to me. That last part had pleased me, but I accepted that my time of intoxication would be slowing due to me becoming more and more interrupted by others seeking my aid. The person I had been was already dying. Continuing along the path I had started, my own path that I had sought after leaving my father, I could see myself having to become an ever active agent for helping others. I would also have realized my immortality, my specialness, and found myself needing to plead to the gods for a special lady. Here was one being presented to me. One that could provide the life I would actually end up desiring for my own. Instead of doing my good deeds alone, I would have a companion that could give me those things I lacked. Shocked into again finding the desire for Jelnaya, I thanked Samayer while putting her icon back in its place near my heart.
The way Jelnaya looked at me the next morning when I went out to spar with her I sensed she understood a change in attitude with me. Oprillot was getting up from the ground, but she told him to step back. Seeing no one else ready to challenge her, I pulled my sword and rushed to attack her. Jelnaya did not have NeverRose in her hand, but showed no fear of me as she met my charge. I saw her smile with the attitude of having fun, but I kept my face from showing my own inner turmoil as I fought her.
I quickly realized I was not in a fight for my life, although survival was not guaranteed. From somewhere I however needed to find if I could rise to the challenge of this lady. The intense exchange of blows really did not bother me. I had gone up against thieves, assassins, and even those with military training. Jelnaya was at a level I however had not faced. The way I challenged her now was not in the manner of previously sparring with her. Her speed was fantastic. She knew maneuvers I had yet to realize existed. I stayed in the fight simply feeling the desperation of needing to survive, and somehow I did things that kept me on my feet.
The time of course did not last. Taking a moment to realize I was still in the fight, I found my face meeting the ground. As I felt her hand on my arm to help me up, I accepted that she was glad that I had at last sought to prove myself to her.
“At that level I might have to one day give you my honor.”
“I am not after your honor,” I said getting up. “I am after you.”
“Are you sure?”
Wondering what Fergush was telling her, I went ahead and let her know about my own divine conversation. “Not really, but Samayer told me I was heading in your direction. She said that if I had continued along the path I was going that I would end up wishing I was like you. She said you did a lot of good, Jelnaya, and that was what I was trying to do.”
“I don’t get drunk afterward.”
“Yes, well, my periods of intoxication were beginning to be interrupted anyway. I would have had to give them up. I however don’t see what you see, Jelnaya. Somehow you are seeing something in the calm periods that I don’t. If I can see it then I will be all over you. Right now, I am just doing what I can to assure that I can keep watching you.”
“I just enjoy what I do, Potorly.”
I had to smile, then bowed to her before admitting, “Yes, well, honestly, Jelnaya, that is my problem. I was enjoying my life. We are two such completely different people, but so alike as well. I don’t know if I will actually be happy with you, or you with me.”
“If you didn’t enjoy what we just did, Potorly, then you probably won’t.”
“Yes, well, actually, I did enjoy it. I just realized that you are not going to stop. I am not talking about you getting drunk, but simply stopping. I enjoyed coming back to my shack to spend time in quiet oblivion. I enjoy being able to stop.”
“So which is your life, Potorly? The doing good deeds or the stopping?”
I glared at her, then advanced upon her saying, “Up to this moment I thought it was both. The periods of quiet oblivion were my pay for doing the good deeds. Not a castle. Not wealth. I was happy. This life you live, Jelnaya, is not one I would have demanded of the gods. I actually went to Samayer asking if I could survive being with you, and I felt she was saying I would not survive without you. You however are not something I really want, so I am conflicted.”
She curtsied, then said, “Stay in the fight, Potorly.”
I bowed again, then turned to leave, although found Oprillot to step toward me and say, “I guess I still have hope.”
I replied, “You need to grow up. As you are, you are not going to survive her.”
“Yes. I have figured that out for myself. Still, once I do overcome that handicap I will be all over her.”
“What do you see in her?”
“A life. I have the decades of being alone you do not. I don’t see myself as having a life. What is scaring you is a dream for me. That is my advantage. I know my life is missing her. You aren’t there yet.”
Not being able to argue with those words, I simply replied, “Yes, but I have people pushing me who are telling me that. What were your people telling you?”
“That I need to find the answer to my eternal childhood. You see, the only thing in your way is yourself. Whether that is a larger obstacle than my physical situation I guess we will find out.”
“Honestly, I’m glad you’re a boy. If you were a man, I might give her to you.”
Oprillot held out his hand while saying, “Then as a friendly piece of advice, let me also tell you to stay in the fight.”
I shook his hand, although then turned to see a lady of gold holding a cup out to me. I stepped up to realize there was wine in the container. I did not take it, but looked into the eyes of the lady realizing that they were also of gold.
“What does Jelnaya drink?”
“Come on.” As if I might not, she added, “As her great-aunt I do have some liberties.”
I followed her into the strange structure. From the outside it appeared as a shack that had been abandoned and was now rotting away. Stepping inside one saw stone instead of wood, and strange materials that appeared to be new without any indication of time laying down dust, mildew, or other form of degradation. Following the lady into the building, I found her stop to hand the cup to another.
“Ferrigote, I need an empty one. Drink what is in this one. I want your cup.”
The man did not lift his eyes from reading a book. His wife simply put the container she held in the same place where he had set a cup. He did not tell her that he would do as she requested, but I gained the impression that he would. While a devotee to Fergush, he had not been fighting. During the day he had shown none of the activity of Jelnaya, although in his comments I found him able to understand her. I almost felt that he was the guide to the man others wanted me to be. The man had proven himself able to rise to the level of his niece, and had found a plateau up there that provided a sense of calm.
I followed Baroness Dirchein down a hall and through a doorway that brought me into a room where I could see the things of Jelnaya set about. Weapons were in a place. Garments were laid out. There was an organization to how she discarded certain things and prepared herself to use others. Actually, I assumed such behavior was normal for women. Looking to Baroness Dirchein, I found her moving to take a skin made to hold a liquid. I did not know how wrong we were, but accepting that as Jelnaya’s elders they could do things I drank from the cup the lady of gold handed to me.
“A little fruitier than I prefer,” I admitted. “Is this a tea?”
Baroness Dirchein answered, “Yes. If she wants to be calm, she will switch to a more substantial beverage. If not, she has found a drink of this type to enable her to keep going. She got that advice from both sides of her family. Still, Potorly, when I said, ‘calm,’ I did not mean stop. She does not stop.”
I admitted, “Yes. I am realizing that.”
“Her honor however is that she is not destructive. The gods, definitely Fergush, has blessed her, and she in turn brings blessing to others. She runs her duchy not only as the noble in charge, but as a religious leader as well. She stays in touch with family and friends. She also argues with me, but I am so glad to have Jelnaya in my family. You are correct, Potorly, you are going to have to decide that you are going to have to realize that marrying her will be an eternal commitment without pauses. If you gain moments to look around you however, you will find yourself amazed at the view.”
I finished what she poured for me, then said, “Thank you for the encouragement.”
“There is a difference between being a good man and a great man.”
“No, there’s not. I however believe there could be a difference in doing good things and doing great things. I would rather look back on my life having done good deeds than great ones.”
Baroness Dirchein smiled as said, “Then I believe you made the right decision in coming with us, Potorly. I definitely believe you could find yourself facing that decision. I hope you make the right choice.”
And Jelnaya continues to be courted.