Without a Light I See
I did not consider size to mean something about the quality of a fight. Whether an opponent was larger or smaller than me simply had me decide on different tactics. I expected a snake, or eel, something similar to the creatures we had been fighting. Seeing large canine-like monsters had me conclude that there would be no option for negotiation, so I advanced letting everyone know we had a fight.
Dogs, wolves, creatures of that type were really not that difficult to defend against or attack. The only thing that stymied most who went up against them was a desire not to hurt them. I understood, as they were usually commanded by others. However, canines were loyal, so would attack if ordered without any consideration for themselves. Understanding the creatures would fight until dead, I did not hesitate to take a killing stroke.
As I set up the second one, I saw its head suddenly removed from its body. Great-uncle Ferrigote used a grand blade. I knew Grandfather Terish would pick on him about the large weapon, but it was how Great-uncle Ferrigote preferred to fight. I would not speak against the grand sword, but as I set myself for the next monster I let him know that I considered him more than just a fellow combatant.
“Any clue about who raised these things?”
He replied, “The answer to that, Jelnaya, is that I did. I mean that as in history, not as in these. I promise you that I killed the monsters before leaving. Almost brought some to Nehallum, but I wanted a different attitude in my life on Sennapre. Now, just because I killed mine does not mean that others did not help themselves to some pups and raise them as well.”
“So, what does that mean? Is someone trying to make you look bad?”
“No, but it does mean I need to be here. Lerdiyo came looking for me. Whatever this is, it deals with Gaeskow, which I once ruled. In some manner they were attempting to either duplicate a part of my history or build on what I established. We might find out there is a strong connection to me, or it might be just in someone’s head. I however will stay to see this through. Might even take the mission from you, Niece.”
Definitely not willing to reduce my standing, I asked, “And why would I let you do that?”
“Because you have boys chasing you. I know you give them a hard time, but what they represent is something serious that you will need to truly focus upon. If this mission becomes something requiring time and logistics to manage, leave me to it.”
“They were sent by Onathia and Samayer. I am Fergush. They need to accept that.”
“Jelnaya, they were sent to make you into a wife and mother. You need to accept that.”
I did not respond to that. When I went silent, I expected to hear some comment from another. Being the two best fighters, Great-uncle Ferrigote and I had the lead position. No one was in range to hear us. Someone however I knew did pay attention to me, so I replied to him not caring whether my great-uncle heard or not.
“I might become a wife and mother, but I will not become Great-aunt Dirchein.”
Hearing my god laugh actually brought me comfort, although I could sense the same type of thought in the expected words from my great-uncle, “No, but she will expect you to visit.”
Finishing the last of the canine creatures, I turned listening to my surrounding while checking on the gazes of the others. I gained no impression of who had sent the monsters upon us, so hoped someone else had. I looked down as I heard Oprillot speak after checking some of the corpses.
“No tags, so no indication of who sent them. Still, who would plant a grove in a fey land?”
Potorly replied, “Humans. They just think that way, and the methods they have to care for the plants require them to do things like that. Fey do not think like humans, and have methods that do not require the destruction of other plants to benefit the ones preferred.”
I spun hearing a voice from a distance say, “There are good plants and bad plants. No reason to have the fey concern themselves with the bad plants.”
It surprised me to hear Potorly say something I was thinking, “You had to destroy good plants as well to create this grove.”
“Yes. You see my intent was to get this fairy land to reflect how I wanted the world. If I could change their nature, then a number of problems in the world would go away. I could have the world I wanted with it behaving as I wanted. What I desire is not to simply live in peace, but to live in pleasure.”
Oprillot declared, “You failed! The land is dying.”
“Failed? No. A set-back is not failure. Now, why are you people here?”
“We came to stop you. The world is suffering because of you.”
“Stop me? Surely you had loftier goals than that. As for the world, it is not suffering. It is changing. I am changing things. My goals are lofty.”
I studied the one that had stepped out where he could speak with us. He was massive. His physique was as muscular as my Great-uncle Ferrigote with a size almost half again as large. At his waist his form changed to a four-legged creature with thick paws for feet that had sturdy nails more like talons. While I sought to determine whether he was true in his form or had somehow adapted himself, I found Potorly to speak of having studied something else.
“Lofty. No fey would use a word like lofty.”
The one before us replied, “Well, I am definitely not fey.”
“No, but not what I expected either.” Potorly sheathed his sword as he took a couple of steps forward before saying, “I cannot say that my goals are lofty. I am nothing but a hero. Things are going bad, at least they are perceived as bad, and I came to set things right. If you have a better ‘right,’ I guess I could be persuaded. Let me hear what your lofty goals are. What is so lofty about trees that produce strawberries as fruit?”
“I like strawberries. Like I said, I want to live my life in pleasure. Reaching up and picking a strawberry from a limb would be pleasurable.”
“And an apple or pear is not?”
“You cannot simply take an apple or pear into your mouth the way you can a strawberry.”
Potorly looked back and shrugged. I gained the impression that he could not advance the conversation. Our opponent actually gave him a response he could not counter. I however looked at Potorly while sheathing NeverRose, then stepped to a tree and knelt to grab a handful of soil before saying what I felt was the next accusation.
“So, how can you succeed? The soil is going bad. This realm is dying. When people come to assert their authority, the fey leave. This is a fey land. It exists for the fey. With them gone, this land fails in its purpose. Your objectives here will fail. Your plan has failed.”
The being did not immediately respond, giving Potorly an opportunity to softy say, “Thank you.”
I replied, “We are in this together. There is no teaching of Fergush where it is said that the better battles are fought alone. I never demand to stand alone, and will never dishonor anyone seeking help. Just stay in the fight.”
The one across the way said, “This is a large area. I can try elsewhere. With success, the fey will return.”
Potorly replied, “Explain that to us. How, exactly, are you going to have the fey return?”
This time when the being failed to reply, I heard my great-uncle ask, “Jelnaya, can we simply attack?”
I simply asked, “We?”
With his grand blade at the ready, my great-uncle started forward. With the other being clearly having a superior physique, I watched to see how the battle would go. Seeing the opponent flee did surprise me. When Great-uncle Ferrigote turned back to look at us, it was however Lerdiyo who gave an explanation.
“Emperor, the fey would not have fought him. What he did to gain this place probably went according to his plans. He probably is not used to fighting.”
My great-uncle replied, “That’s not it.” I saw his eyes look to me as he said, “Jelnaya, you did not regain your sword. You were expecting him to run?”
While I would not deny I was surprised by his actions, I felt another reply would better set the proper attitude. “I saw no honor in fighting him. If he was allowed to advance his plans to this stage, I have to allow that killing him is not the solution.”
“Having him still active to work against us probably is not for the best.”
“No, but he would not be the first who made it necessary for me to kill him. That alone however would not solve our problem or give me something to brag about.” Acknowledging that I was not the one who advanced, I added, “Or for you to brag about.”
“So, what would you suggest?”
I thought for a moment, then asked, “Potorly, how dead is this realm? He mentioned that this place was large. Well, is it possible that the fey are still present somewhere?”
My fey suitor replied, “If the fey had completely left, this realm would have collapsed. They have to still be here somewhere.”
“How difficult would it be to find them? You are fey. I am a divine champion. We should be able to spot and not appear threatening.” I turned to my great-uncle to admit, “Might have to leave the rest of you.”
Oprillot made an exclamation of not liking what I said, but hushed when Great-uncle Ferrigote demanded, “Answer the question, Potorly.”
My fey suitor thought for a moment, then said, “I do not know the size of this realm or how extensive the area that creature has worked. Once away from his influence, I should be able to make contact.”
“So, in the meantime we need to be here chopping down trees?”
“Yes. In the meantime it would help to chop down the trees. They don’t belong here, and they are dying anyway.”
“Can we start a fire and make camp?”
While I hoped we would not be gone that long, I actually felt things needed to burn so was surprised when Potorly answered, “No. Go back out to start a fire or do anything of human behavior. A land like this can usually tolerate some activity, but the land is dying. It needs to begin healing.”
It did not surprise me to have Great-uncle Ferrigote say, “Jelnaya, if that guy shows back up, I will take him on.”
I assured my great-uncle, “You should know better than to think I will speak against a fight.” I considered my last few major missions, then said, “If you can, see if this is just a Gaeskow problem or if it is something more expansive. I don’t believe that being is from here.”
“I can work on that.”
“Okay. Oh, and I know that I am about to run off alone with a suitor. You are just going to have to tell Vulge that you had to trust Fergush to supervise me.”
“Honestly, Jelnaya, I trust you as well. You were always a good kid. Hell with those from Davelda. You always came back to me with your honor intact and proof of your deeds. You take Potorly and do what you need to.”
I had to admit, “It is still proper for me to be chaperoned. However, I am a divine champion first.” I turned to my fey suitor and asked, “You understand that?”
Oprillot chirped his own affirmation, but Potorly simply said, “If Fergush does not speak against me, you better not either.”
“Okay, so here’s your chance to prove yourself to Fergush. Let’s go.”
Potorly and Jelnaya do spend time with each other.