Without a Light I See

Chapter Twenty-Seven

    Potorly took my mug, refilled it with coffee, flavored it as I tended to fix it, then handed it back to me while saying, “I expect life with you to be fun.  As little sleep as you get, there should be time for other activities.”
    There were other men about, so I concentrated to assure that I spoke only in the language of Sennapre.  “I am also told it is fun.  What I am also told is that it can be more fun when not done in the bed.”
    He sat down beside me, then softly said, “So, you will speak on the topic.”
    “It is too early in our relationship, but I will not put any restrictions on you.”
    “Restrictions, no.  Demands, yes.”
    I felt a need to let him know I was not pleased with that response.  “You are seeking my hand, Potorly.  I am only letting you know who I am.  If you see a life with me as having demands, go away.”
    “A life without demands is not a life.  I am letting you know that I recognize what you are, and I am willing to dedicate myself to that.  Not just in words, but in deeds.  When do we start moving, Jelnaya?”
    “When the old folks get up.”
    From a distance I heard the grumble, “I heard that, Jelnaya.”
    There was movement as a female voice said, “I’ll start fixing breakfast shortly.”
    I replied, “Yenorma is already at it, Great-aunt Dirchein.”
    “I guess we are getting old, husband.”
    My Great-uncle Ferrigote grumbled, “You say that again in reference to someone from Davelda, and I will start polishing your skin.”
    “That might be fun.”
    I concentrated to assure that I only spoke in the language of Sennapre before saying, “I told you that I was told it was fun.”
    Before Potorly could reply, Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “I heard and understood that, Jelnaya.  Get your and that boy’s mind on the coming battle.”
    I began detailing what I could tell about our instructions being obeyed.  The surrounding rises of land were covered in trees, so I could not really see the position or status of the cannon placements.  I only knew some had been moved by watching distant lights.  What I had assumed was that the instructions would either be followed completely or not at all.
    Coming from where he washed up, then put on his armor, Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “Don’t tell me you stayed up all night, Jelnaya.”
    I replied, “I got some sleep.  Nothing bothers me about this coming battle.  I still don’t see it as anything to brag about, but simply something necessary to be done.”
    “Maybe not brag about it, but we will stand proud as we acknowledge we did it.  It should be a good fight.”
    “And I did get rested up for it.  We should be good.”
    “How about your boys?”
    I smiled at the man beside me as I said, “Potorly is in his armor and trading comments with me.  Should be good.  Oprillot is still sleeping –“
    “No, I’m not,” the lad’s voice came from a distance.  “I’ll be in armor soon enough.”
    “Well, after we get some good food, we can start.”
    I politely listened as Lerdiyo, Squire Isaprom, and the other local people spoke their apologies for not going with us.  They promised to support us.  They admitted they would be at a distance behind us, although ready to supply any aid.  I however smiled when one of those with Squire Isaprom had a surprised tone when he asked a question.
    “She’s going?”
    Great-uncle Ferrigote replied, “I did not marry a cook.”
    Potorly said, “He simply wanted someone to keep things warm for him.”
    “All right, Boy, it is comments like that having me glad my niece has a chaperone with her.”
    Great-aunt Dirchein did have a suit of armor.  Her body being of gold did not damage easily, but she traveled understanding that there were threats that could do more than the teeth or claws of animals.  What she put on was a dainty outfit of leather layered with only a thin coating of ornately etched metal, but I knew it to be enchanted to protect Great-aunt Dirchein’s metal physique from being marred.
    We took off riding.  While the fight would be too dangerous for our horses, they could at least get us near the threat without being already weary.  We advanced along the road, as there was not enough light to see our way through the forested terrain.  Once the rays of the sun were coming over the heights around us, we then had our vision disrupted by blasts of dirt from the cannons.  Finding the distortion to start spreading out, we stopped riding and prepared to do what we had to in order to gain our objective.
    The fight proved itself to be as boring as I suspected.  Battling armies had its fun, as every person was different.  How they took the training, which weapons they prepared, their own skill sets, all created a level of unpredictability that kept the challenge in the conflict.  Animals usually had limited behaviors, so most could trust in certain attacks to gain fresh meat to eat.  Monsters could present challenges, as one never tended to know what created them or how, so their powers and defenses needed to be figured out.  We however had already determined things of these creatures, and in the fight I did not find any diversity to make what we did interesting.
    The dust in the air did seem to help.  Great-uncle Ferrigote did things with rocks and chunks of dirt to test the truth of earth being the creatures’ weakness.  Finding it true, he changed out his weapons telling me to use my drahaberd and give my smoke dagger to one of the men.  I handed it to Potorly saying he had the height, but I could only hope he had the energy.  The man yelled out the name of She-Who-Survives, then launched himself into the air to begin wounding the monsters.
    I could tell Potorly was being stressed by what he was doing, but I saw him work to smile every time he saw me looking at him.  The drahaberd stayed busy, as I kept seeing markings in the air indicating where there were openings into the almost invisible creatures.  I could tell that we were reducing the number when Great-uncle Ferrigote moved in a manner that had me pause so I could hear him speak.
    “Let the lad give you some refreshment, Jelnaya, then go to work finishing them.”
    I looked to Oprillot, and seeing him advance I said, “Using the drahaberd does give this fight a good standing, but still not that enjoyable.”
    The lad said, “That is a pretty weapon.  Up to now I have only seen it up close when covered in a pink wrap.”
    It was Great-uncle Ferrigote who said, “Of course the weapon is pretty.  It was made for Jelnaya by Fergush.”
    “I know it is divine.”
    The liquid my great-aunt had Remidda bless did restore some fatigue my immortal body had not managed to dispel, then I handed the flask back to the lad while saying, “The first one I had was divine as well, but made by the Goddess of my Aunt Neselle’s world.  Fergush saw my success with that one, and decided I needed one from him.”
    “The muck covering your crystal armor definitely says that you are killing the monsters with it.  Keep at it, Jelnaya.  I’m here giving what support I can.”
    “I can see that, Oprillot.  Keep at it.”  Then in a stronger voice I declared, “Let’s best this!”
    Great-uncle Ferrigote must have had his weapon blessed by Remidda, as I saw those he struck spew their internal organs just as those I sunk my drahaberd into.  When I moved near the bent-over form of Potorly, he controlled his gasps of air enough to assure me that if one was found not wounded he would be back into action.  I assured him that we would best this, and he simply waved with a hand while he sought to regain his breath.
    When we finally were able to rest, Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “Just drink what you have.  We need to keep moving.”
    It was Vulge that asked, “And why is that?”
    “Because those military squads manning those cannons will now be coming into the town to assess things.  We cannot be distracted by them.  We need to stay ahead of them.”
    “So, this isn’t going back for the treasure, but going for the win.”
    I would not trouble the man for knowing something from the history of Davelda dealing with my side of the family, but I did feel the need to assure an understanding.  “This is simply doing what we came to do now that we can do it.”
    Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “Right.  What my niece said.  Now, come on.”
    While we did start moving, we were still on foot.  It was not surprising that those riding horses were able to catch up with us.  We however stopped accepting that the reason they were able to easily come up behind was that they also knew our destination.  While we still felt a need to stay moving, we did pause to answer a question from Squire Isaprom.
    “Emperor, those manning the cannons are now moving to the city.  What should we tell them?”
    I replied, “Thanks.”
    Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “Isaprom, I need you, Lerdiyo, or someone who can direct us and make certain we see what had you come for me and get into all this trouble.”
    Isaprom replied, “Well, we sent Lerdiyo to you because he could explain things.”
    “He got us to come here.  Lerdiyo, can you explain things we find here?”
    Lerdiyo answered, “Better than Squire Isaprom.  Actually, he is just hired help.”
    Isaprom said, “Well, I have been studying things since he left.  At least, I studied things until those monsters showed up.”
    I had to say, “But you were coming back.”
    Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “He was coming back to capitalize on the military being present.  You or I would call it war profiteering.”
    Squire Isaprom calmly replied, “With the people gone, and a crisis situation, there is a chance to gain an advantage in authority and prestige.  Considering I did have faith in our emperor returning and resolving the problem, which had definitely become something major, I did seek to improve my status.”
    Vulge asked, “Princess, is that legal?  Sounds like something you did.”
    Great-uncle replied before I could.  “Her authority was sanctioned by the gods, not by laws.”
    I added, “Remember, Vulge, I told you that I was not duchess of Phanigist until Debogda said I was the duchess of Phanigist.  If I had been using legalities to gain my duchy, I would not have been assigned the authority.”
    Yenorma commanded, “Okay, Vulge, apologize.”
    The man had been around me long enough to reply, “If I needed to apologize, she would have told me to apologize.  Honestly, I would have been at fault if I had not asked, but merely acted on my assumption.”
    Great-uncle Ferrigote asked, “Jelnaya, did you actually manage to teach someone from Davelda something?”
    I replied, “I simply made the answer sound like one of their adages, and you know how they love to recite those things.”
    “All right, Lerdiyo, we need to stay at work.  Lead the way.”

And some questions get answered.