Without a Light I See

Chapter Twenty-One
(Jelnaya)

I had no other option than to take a seat by the fire.  Actually, the situation was not unusual.  My status as a duchess did put me in charge of a military, although that meant a multitude of men who would do the necessary things about a camp.  I still had the responsibility of assuring orders were obeyed, discipline was maintained, and that I stayed aware of other matters within my realm.  With me presently having two suitors, I accepted my only real option was to look pretty.

We had left the unused meat in the larder of the cricket house.  That was a rule of a structure like that, which helped the magicks of the place stay active even should some come through in desperate need.  Accepting that we again needed fresh meat, I kept my eyes open for game.  When I spotted what I now knew to be a rather pleasant looking variety of pig, I thought at the time it was a goat, Potorly rode up beside me and took my bow from me.  He proved himself able to string it, some men could not, and released the arrow I handed him to have it make a good killing strike.  He and Oprillot took off to claim the animal and prepare it with Great-uncle Ferrigote rushing after them assuring the rest of us that they would find their way to our camp even though we had a couple of portals to pass through before reaching where we intended to stop for the day.  Not having to worry about meat, I simply rode along staying alert to assure the rest that they would be safe.

Coming into camp I took care of the horses.  Vulge took the saddlebags.  Coming from the animals I found camp already set up with Great-aunt Dirchein setting out our belongings.  Vulge showed up with some lengths of wood.  Lerdiyo helped him set up the spits for cooking some of the meat.  Yenorma found a place where she could prepare things for complementing our meal.  Realizing that I presently had nothing to do, I calmly took a seat by the fire.

Yenorma really did not have anything tough or time-consuming to do, so it did not surprise me to hear her say while coming to join me, “Vulge said you would not complain, Princess Jelnaya, but he would not tell me why.”

I replied, “He’s just been around me a few years.  Probably does not know why.”

“If you ask me,” Vulge said, “it’s because you are actually getting used to the fact that you are important.  You are no longer alone, but you are also not the kid.  Others are actually the ones who should be doing the work.”

“This is not my army I am with.  You are of my grandmother’s generation, Vulge.  You have every right to tell me to do things.  That is my Great-aunt Dirchein over there preparing to help Yenorma cook.  She has every right to tell me to do things.”

The lady of gold looked at me, and I could tell actually understood what I was doing when she asked, “Not liking being a prospective bride, Jelnaya?”

I looked at Yenorma and actually explained what I was up to.  “I am a divine champion.  Specifically, I am a divine champion of Fergush, He-Who-Fights.  My realm is not to Fergush, so it is common for there not to be a priest to Fergush.  I will lead whatever company I am with in a rite to the god.  My realm is to Samayer, so there does tend to be a priest to the goddess who handles those particulars.  There however are four other gods.  I tend to use my connection with the divine to assure there are no pressing considerations with the other gods.”  I showed her the icon in my hand and said, “I am presently doing something to check things with Debogda, He-Who-Assigns.”

Yenorma asked, “Does that apply out here?”

“Usually, no, but usually a mission through the omniverse is for its own reasons and I am with those of other beliefs.  However, you and Vulge are the only ones of a different faith.  Oprillot probably, although he has spoken of accepting the gods of Sennapre should I accept him.  Lerdiyo probably as well, but those that came with Great-uncle Ferrigote from Gaeskow switched over to our gods.”

Great-aunt Dirchein added, “And Lerdiyo was instrumental in bringing Potorly, a suitor, to Jelnaya.  That means the gods of Sennapre were active to direct Lerdiyo.”

Yenorma asked, “So, you took a seat to perform prayers?”

I replied, “Well, I wanted to make certain nothing was pressing before I took a bath.”  I smiled while adding, “There is almost always something that can be done, but some things should not be done too soon.”

My great-aunt said, “If you are taking a bath now, Jelnaya, wear a dress and do what you can with your looks.  You will be a lady around men, potential husbands.”

Finishing what I was doing without sensing any message, I got up accepting that I had to go ahead and step out of my armor.  There were times when around my military I noticed some watching me as if expecting to see resistance in me acting as a lady.  I had no problem with my gender.  I enjoyed being a female, but only resented the limitations certain garments and rules of society placed upon me.  I had difficulties to overcome due to being a woman, but so did men who were born with a lack of size.  It brought me pleasure seeing my skills drop those opponents who thought they were dealing with someone soft and weak.  I also found some amusement in watching large, strong men have problems in obeying the rules of proper behavior.  Accepting that I had more to my life than simply going from fight to fight, which is what I demanded from Fergush, I moved to my saddlebags to get what I needed to play my part as an eligible young lady.

Going to the small river, I noticed something that I felt would help me expend some energy.  Wondering if it would move off, I drew NeverRose and had it slice through the trunk of a young hardwood tree.  The enchanted blade helped me remove the limbs, then a dagger was put to work to give me a good point on one end.  Wondering about the creature that waited for prey to enter the water, I ended up removing the pommel, taking off the wrappings for the handle and the guard, then setting the blade into an end of the length of wood to make a spear.  Feeling able to remove the threat, I released some of my energy rushing along the bank of the river, jumping over the water, and coming down with the blade going through the body of the beast.

I came from the water coughing as a foul odor filled the air.  There was a desire to look to the river for further problems, but feeling a need to get away and restore myself I moved across the ground.  Barely managing to have my eyes make out the gold of my great-aunt, I did not attack as a body came upon me.

“Remidda, I present to you my great-niece, Jelnaya.  You should know her, as my love for her has me often speak of her.  She serves Fergush, but willingly does what she can for all around her.  Grant her relief from the vile fumes so that she can continue to serve and bless others.”

While there was not a fear of the toxins in the air overcoming me, I still felt a refreshing breeze clear up my nausea faster than I expected.  My eyes also focused to enable me to easily see the features of my great-aunt.  She smiled at me, then let me know that her goddess who promoted the acts of serving others had work for me.

“All right, Jelnaya, let’s get that body out of the water.  It’s no good bathing if the water you wash yourself in is foul.”

I did not argue even as I said, “I guess we cannot eat it.”

“I would very much doubt it.  It needs to be buried.  The men have been busy, so they will want to bathe as well.  I can bless Vulge if we need his strength, but let’s see what you and I can do.”

It was not Vulge who grabbed me as I worked at coming from the river with the carcass, but my great-uncle.  The monster either had a large air sack that I pierced in my attack, or an internal essence that reacted violently to the atmosphere.  The body had ruptured, so was not a compact corpse easily managed.  I found other hands grab sections of skin and lengths of appendages to help me pull the foul remains from the river.

As the men dragged the carcass away, I said, “The river has a good current, but I would still wait awhile before taking any water from it or bathing.”

Oprillot picked up the spear I had made, then asked, “You killed that thing with this?”

“The way it was lurking in the water, I felt a weapon like that to be the best.”  I took the weapon from him and began releasing the blade from the length of wood while saying, “I guess I will wait for the water to clear by fixing my dagger.”

“You can do that?”

“If you are going to use something, you should learn about it.”

I saw the lad smile as he replied, “Then I will help.”

Having the men actually pay attention as I showed them how I had made the spear caught me by surprise.  The process had not required a large degree of technical knowledge.  Due to the company my family owned and operated, I had learned a lot about the construction of weapons.  While I wanted to assume that the men simply wanted to interact with a lady, the questions they asked gave me the impression they really had never fixed or worked on the handle of a weapon to improve the grip or balance.

After the lesson Great-uncle Ferrigote gave his own instructions to the men as I went to take my bath.  I did scan the water wondering about the creature I killed.  While the men had looked over the section of the waterway as well, I wondered about what other odd wildlife might be present.  Assuring that I had one of my better daggers within reach, I went ahead and took my bath.

As I was putting on my gown, Yenorma came to take her bath and let me know, “The men are planning to do various things to entertain you.”

I had to ask, “The men?  Don’t you mean Potorly and Oprillot?”

She laughed, then said, “I believe your Great-uncle Ferrigote is planning something as well.  Vulge is staying quiet, but he might do something as well.  He and I are seriously courting.”

“I have been wondering about the two of you.  I actually expected another from Davelda, either a lady for Vulge or a man for you, to show up.”

“It is Munulva’s ways that there should be one man and one woman.  We are correcting things in our culture, especially in areas where we would be improper examples for the children.  Vulge and I were a couple back before the war.  Not married, but rather serious about one another.  Vulge came back, well all three that went with you on that mission to the Spring of Cormorpin did, rather a changed man.  He had a theophany from Munulva that sent him here.  Well, I did not have a theophany, but I felt compelled to return to my original commitment.  I would say the reason that others have not come is that they were compelled to return to those in their pasts.”

Actually wondering about the couple, I said, “Well, you are not yet blessed to have children.”

“We’re immortals, Princess Jelnaya.  There is no reason to rush things.  At the moment Vulge and I are just assuring each other that we can be a couple.”

“Well, I have been pleased having Vulge around.”

I could sense in her body language that she had something to say, and after a period she said it.  “He’s not the man he was, Princess Jelnaya.  I am not going to say that he is better, but he is someone I feel would commit to me and stay committed.  He was fun back then, but an alcoholic.  I was too at the time.”

“He holds his liquor well.  It is said that is the reason he and Chering got along.”

“He did back then too, so when I tell you that I would get him drunk, you should understand just how committed I was to him back them.”

I had to add, “And back then everything was not free.”

Yenorma simply smiled as she said, “Yes, Princess Jelnaya, back then everything was not free.  We had to pay for those drinks.”

Going back to camp I could tell that something was up.  Great-aunt Dirchein could not pass up a chance to do special things for people.  As a member of her family, I had often contested with her about whether I would be present for certain occasions and how I would present myself.  While I loved her immensely, I could not say that we always parted at peace with each other.  Accepting that I was a lady being courted by two gentlemen, and not really having any excuse to get away, I settled into a place at camp with the attitude of doing my best to have fun.

Potorly learns more about the mission and Jelnaya.