Without a Light I See
While I was told that the Delorset was high ground, I knew better than to expect a mountain. My association with fey had me learn that they were aware. They did not need the extreme or dramatic to assume a certain fact. While I took advantage of the clear area made from the removal of the hybrid trees, I actually accepted that I might not recognize what the fey considered high ground.
Actually seeing something had me mumble, “Well, that’s convenient.”
Oprillot asked, “What’s convenient?”
“The fey told me our target fled to the Delorset, which Potorly said was high ground. They didn’t mention that he had a castle there.” Thinking that I might have thought incorrectly, I asked, “Potorly, does your mother live in a castle?”
The man replied, “How would I know?” He then looked where I pointed, and after making an exclamation said, “No, Jelnaya, there is no structure like that in the Nevaire. I knew father was our king, but we lived in a rather modest house.”
“Why didn’t the one we met mention the castle?”
“I guess because he probably thought we had noticed that big imposing building.”
“I am going to assume he wants the place torn down.”
Potorly actually smiled as he asked, “So, you will fight to kill buildings?”
While I did see the humor, his response had me consider another option. “What I will do is take him at his word. He did not flee to the castle, but to the Delorset. We reconnoiter the castle looking for a cave, a glen, something like that.”
“If he is in something like that, we should have fey to direct us.”
“But we need to be looking for it. If we simply stride up to the castle, no fey is going to stop us.”
“Very good, Jelnaya. You’re right. Again, he probably assumed we saw this grand construction. If our objective was the castle, he would have said it was the castle.”
I turned to my other suitor and asked, “You hear that, Oprillot? We are going to the high ground without any intention of challenging the castle.”
The lad replied, “I am going with you, Jelnaya. Lead the way.”
My great-uncle strode up, and when I gave the instructions he said, “If he built that place and has it manned, I doubt any fey are on the Delorset. We are going to be on our own. Also, if he does have that castle manned, he could have sentries able to see us and warn the man.”
I replied, “We don’t have the time or attitude to truly be stealthy. However I do believe we can take him. If we can get his back in a corner, whether the castle or his special place of seclusion, we can gain victory.” I paused, then had to ask, “No words of caution or warning of being too confident?”
“I am not from Davelda, Jelnaya. I took you from that world fully understanding what you went through. I also am not from this world. I conquered it, so a little over-confident about this coming fight myself. I am from Sennapre, the same world you now call home. I worshipped Fergush long before you were even thought of. I am simply hoping this fight will be worth bragging about. Are you youngsters ready?”
After assuring him that we were, we set off. The ground was not level, but there were relatively clear places where we could assure our advance to a truly high spot and not simply going up a local rise of land. Actually catching a glimpse of the castle had me feel the devastation to this land. The structure was almost square in design. Even without the presence of carvings and statuary in the stones of my grand home, I felt my residence would have more dignity than the building I saw that I had to assume did at least have the quality of being functional. I stopped almost disbelieving that a fey realm could have a building so lacking of any inspirational design. Seeing the others come to a halt and look to me, I assured them that we did not want to go the castle before again setting off.
Not wanting to head to the structure clearly meant not following the road in my mind. Travel however was really constrained by the amount of foliage. Not wanting to get the local fey mad at me, I did not set myself to using my sword to clear a path. I moved aside those limbs or plants I could not go over or under. Hoping to spot a fey to direct me, I did everything I could to clearly state that my intentions were not to cause further harm to the surroundings.
While I did not see a fairy, sprite, or other member of the fey, I felt my efforts had paid off when a certain member of my group put a hand on a shoulder and said, “Jelnaya, this way.”
Potorly was fey, so I accepted that he either detected something I had not or was somehow informed in a manner I did not pick up on. I stepped in a manner of giving him the lead, and was pleased that he did not refuse the honor. I followed assuring myself that I had no problem being under the influence of a man. The god I worshipped was male. I was a high-noble, which meant I served directly under the king, a man. It was the men who started my grand family that I sought for instruction. I had no problems with allowing a man his place, and followed Potorly with no desire to take back over the lead.
Where the problem had always come was in how others reacted to the times I asserted my authority. Those of Davelda had gotten upset when I spent time exercising and doing things they felt a woman was not supposed to do. I started my life of having to fight battles facing men who felt they could dominate me simply because I was a female. Those that came before me thinking they were superior just because I was not a man had a problem with me.
Potorly was not condescending. He did stop at times to point out things. That had me accept that while he was not being informed, there were things about the foliage around us that he could recognize as indicators that I could not. I politely thanked Potorly for letting me know he was not simply barreling forward, and after the fourth time of doing that he whispered another fact to me.
“I can see in the dark. Can you?”
I replied, “I was taught to be confident in the dark. If I must see, I do know a spell.”
“Confident in the dark?”
“If you think I cannot kill you in the dark, you are wrong.”
“Are you going to kill him?”
He was confronting me on an issue. Actually, I appreciated that. Wondering how he would take my answer, I replied.
“I don’t know anything about him. If he directly threatens my life am not going to let him live. If he is aggressive, whether to me or any of you, he will die. If he seeks terms, or presents some rationale behind his actions, I will listen. At the moment I consider killing him to be a wise decision. I however allow that evidence might be presented to have me change my mind.”
“In other words you don’t know.”
“In other words, I am conceding that I am ignorant in certain areas. However, with the fey this guy is definitely wrong. If he does not seek to fill in those areas I am ignorant in, and especially if he tries to justify what he has done in this realm, he dies.”
For a moment I felt he would argue with my words, but instead he said, “Wow. I actually agree with that. I’ll point out where I believe he is, then you can take back the lead.”
I had to stress, “Fergush is not He-Who-Kills, but as his champion I do not usually get brought in to take on the friendly fights.”
“Samayer is She-Who-Survives, so I will often trust that I can chance some discussion. Still, you are right. This is not a friendly fight.” He took off, but it was not too far before he stopped to say, “The plants actually have separated. Follow the break. Jelnaya, you see that it is going to get dark?”
“I’m not going to show myself as weak. No light. However, I cannot believe the person that developed trees like we saw and built that castle has any magical gifts.”
I did not wait, but strode forward. What I saw was what could best be described as an erosion gorge in the rise of land. No active flow of water worked to continue the split and no growths worked to conceal it. I could not help but believe this break in the ground was a result of the actions to erect the blocks and slabs making up the castle above. As expected, there was a candle providing just enough light to provide some comfort, so I strode forward not needing to worry about fighting blind.
The man actually was more handsome than I expected. The distinguished uniform did not surprise me. Most who sought power desired the signs of having gained something special. One thing being a female denied me. People just expected us ladies to look nice. I knew men would go about in stuff that simply was functional. This man however not only had on what I would call an elegant dress uniform, but had combed his brown hair, shaved his face, and actually looked rather good.
He came erect, rubbed some wrinkles from his outfit, then asked, “They sent a woman?”
I replied, “They know who I am. You have the choice of having me kill you, or getting me not to kill you.”
“So, you’re their leader?”
“I’m not the one that needs to explain. Of all the history of this world, fairy realms have never made it into the archives.”
“So, now one has. Still, it shall go down as just another failure of Gaeskow. It’s dying.”
I reached for my wineskin, but found Potorly to tell me to use his. I did not see any reason for such a command. When he whispered that I was going to throw it to the man, I smiled although also nodded so the man behind me could see a response. Potorly then repeated that I needed to use his wineskin.
Tossing the container to the man, I said, “We are trying to save it. The grove is being removed. Your castle has got to go.”
The man had to have seen the actions of Potorly. I knew a number that would have been suspicious of any movements of switching out what was being offered. The man however pulled the stopper and took a drink before asking a question.
“Are you fey? Everything I did, nothing tried to stop me.”
I replied, “Me? No. There are some who will claim to have helped raise me, but I really was not in their influence for that long. As for stopping you, they can be cruel. Why they didn’t act against you is one of my questions.”
He took another drink, then asked, “With that red and yellow hair you are not fey?”
“You don’t know what the fey are, do you? If you knew what they are, and really believed it, you would fear this red and yellow hair.”
“I see the symbol of the emperor on you. What is the connection there?”
“Funny that you should ask, as the answer is the same as to your previous question.”
After taking another drink, he admitted, “This is a rather fruity wine. Almost think it is just juice, but I feel a strong influence. What is it?”
From behind me, Potorly answered, “Good wine. Before I started dating this lady, I drank stuff like that on most days. Most alcohol I don’t really like, but that I do. Glad you agree.”
“Okay. Are you going to introduce yourselves?”
“How about you first?”
“Oh. Sorry. I figured you knew who I was. General Colobirg.”
It did help my impression of the man to have him bow. I knew many who became boastful and nasty as they became intoxicated. It actually had me think good of him to find him still polite
Potorly then asked, “Why are you here?”
I answered, “Because everyone above is dead. The grove is dying. Like he said, this is another failure.”
General Colobirg did not bow, but took another drink then admitted, “The lady is right. Now, who are you?”
Someone told me to step aside that I did not question. I moved to allow my Great-uncle Ferrigote to stride forward. The fact he had been gone from Gaeskow for a long time along with General Colobirg becoming inebriated probably was the reason he was not recognized. My great-uncle did not answer the question asked, but spoke to provide the information I was earlier trying to see if the man knew.
“The fey are the divine agents to care for the land when it is free from any mortal influence. The key word there is divine. The lady’s red and yellow hair is not a special dye or magic, it is something a god did.”
“God?” General Colobirg took another swallow then said, “There are no gods.”
“Not here. The fey are divine, not celestial, but divine. You come in here denying the gods, and what is here is denied. We are not only having you remove your ungodly presence, but then consecrating things so the divine power can again move about here.”
“Well, whatever. Believe in the gods if you must. You are right about things dying. I thought here we could make a stand, maybe even fight back. We can’t however. Once this place is dead, the world will be past doomed.”
“What did you do?”
Now I saw a spark of inebriated meanness as General Colobirg replied, “What did I do? Well, I guess I did. Still, do you really think you could fight it?”
My great-uncle took a couple more steps forward before saying, “Normally I would tell you that I would let Jelnaya fight it and simply watch. Gaeskow I however will fight for myself. Now, what did you do?”
General Colobirg had to put a hand against the wall of the ravine we were in to keep himself erect as he looked around my great-uncle to ask, “You, girl? He says he would usually watch you fight it. Who are you?”
Great-uncle Ferrigote replied, “She’s an agent for a god.”
“Not an angel, but close enough. That girl can beat me in a fight, beat you in a fight, and probably beat whatever you are scared of in a fight. At least, if it was a simple fight. It’s not, is it.”
The man drank some more, then sat down to say, “No. The emperor, the one represented by that icon, did our world a favor. He actually brought a level of peace. Politics are still horrid, but the general population is at peace. Or was, as the damn political leaders are again working their influence. Thought I would make myself emperor, but I knew I did not have what it would take. I wanted an advantage, and sought it. If I could have controlled it, I probably could have established myself as the new emperor. Could not control it however.” His back slumped against the wall as he mumbled, “I doubt that pretty girl even has a chance. I’m tired.”
Great-uncle Ferrigote moved to stop him from collapsing to the ground, then asked, “Potorly, what did you give him?”
I replied, “Good wine. Got the man drunk.”
Potorly said, “Jelnaya told me that she needed a reason not to kill him. Well, she saw it. Alcohol brings out the worst in a person. I liked the fact I could get drunk and stay a good person. I have to say the same about that man. As he got drunk, he stayed a good man.” I felt a hand on my shoulder as Potorly declared, “Jelnaya, you would have been wrong to kill him.”
“And I didn’t kill him. I saw exactly what you said. However, I cannot say that I see what we should do now.”
Great-uncle Ferrigote said, “We fought to get here. What we had to fight did not give you any ideas? I would say we put an end to that threat.”
“That would be a good fight, but I want to brag about claiming a real victory. Grand-father Terish fought a threat like that, then went back for the treasure. There’s no treasure there. The treasure is somewhere else.”
“I was a part of that fight, Jelnaya. Still, you’re probably right. Those things are not creatures that would recognize or collect any treasure.”
“He said there were no gods. Now, we know that’s wrong, but we can also say with confidence that seeking something divine was not this man’s objective. We can also say with confidence those snakes are not what he wanted.”
I looked to Potorly, but it was Oprillot that said, “Lerdiyo went looking for Baron Ferrigote.”
My great-uncle replied, “To stop this threat, not those eel things. He found those on the way.” He then turned to me to say, “But he thought they were creations of Terdeskollit, a God. General Colobirt was not looking for anything divine. Still, we have one world, two worlds – give me some time. I might not be Terish, but I did learn some things all those years traveling with him.”
Potorly turned to me to say, “I gave the general my skin of wine. Let me see what you would have given him, Jelnaya.”
They now head to the castle.