Without a Light I See
Once the cloud of creatures disappeared, a number of armies came out of the surrounding areas giving my great-uncle the representation to get certain requests acted upon. As he had warned us, certain figures wanted to renegotiate the agreement. What was entertaining was knowing that he had padded what he told the officials, and I watched as he managed to end up allowing them to compromise on exactly what he had actually told those of the other world he would get them to bestow, except for a little extra he felt also needed to be awarded.
He gave a pouch of gold to each of my suitors, then one to me while asking, “No cavern under that grand castle of yours?”
I replied, “No dragon either.”
“Terish did some fantastic things. Glad to be a part of that story, and overjoyed to be able to claim you Dozzrine kids as part of my family. This was fun, Jelnaya.”
“You’re not going home with me?”
“Nope. I –“
“Ferrigote.” We both turned to the gold lady that was my great-aunt, and listened as she said, “Jelnaya is being courted by two young men that have definitely proven their qualities. She needs to be chaperoned.”
“Well, I have some more things to do before I can leave, and Jelnaya has a realm to get back to running.”
“Another day or two will not hurt. Fergush and Samayer will assure Phanigist stays secure as Remidda will assure them Jelnaya is being honorably detained.” In a way I doubted I would ever match, Great-aunt Dirchein fixed her gold eyes on her husband while saying, “I have made arrangements, my lord. Jelnaya should not complain.”
I had to ask, “Great-aunt Dirchein, since when do I not complain about what you do?”
“Do as I say, Jelnaya. You have two suitors. Allow them to have your focus.”
“If they want to marry me, I better hear them complain.”
“Jelnaya, they surely will have their focus on you. Now, come with me. I want to assure that you are worth the trouble those men go through.”
The smile on Great-uncle Ferrigote’s face really did not please me, but I would not argue with him unless I had a really good reason. Accepting he had taught his wife things about this world, I allowed her to direct me through the town as others worked to restore the things that had been ruined. Of course she had me change clothes into a most exquisite gown. She might have been happy wearing clothes of that type, but I really did not enjoy appearing as some delicate damsel. While I had no complaints about being a lady, I felt my feminine traits did not need such packaging to be noticed. Other things Great-aunt Dirchein had me do did not please me, but her gold body had done things I had yet to experience, so I gave her the respect she had earned.
I smiled widely when Oprillot, then Potorly, complained about things they had been told to do by my great-aunt. Of course, that meant I needed to treat both men with the honor of still being worthy as prospective holders of my hand. We suffered through the formal meal with us limiting our conversations with the military figures who had the distinction to gain the table. None of them sought my hand, but they did act as if wanting to assure a proper attitude while getting to know the youths that had been the ones to take on the monsters and win. My Great-aunt would set up meals in such a fashion. While I did not speak to complain about the less than romantic nature of the meal, I did smile to Oprillot and Potorly thinking of what we might speak about later.
The payment we received from Great-uncle Ferrigote was something he had arranged. Those leaders of Gaeskow however took over the dining experience with a presentation of awards. I really was gracious to them, as I knew the medals and remuneration had not been requested. While they really had not the time to put together anything special, I did my best to let those in the room know that what I received from them would be treasured.
I really did not like meetings in a garden. Those arranged times did not allow for the freedom of a balcony situation. Being above the men, the physical barrier actually gave a sense of separation that allowed for me and the men to feel safe whatever stunt we might perform. While there was something special about the closeness of meeting in a garden, we had to be careful about crossing certain lines under the obvious gazes of those chaperoning us.
Of course, Great-aunt Dirchein would not stay silent. “Now, Jelnaya, you really should provide time for you to dance with these young men. The people in your castle, if not your town, would probably enjoy the entertainment as well.”
I had reply, “Who said I would enjoy it?”
“Jelnaya, I know you will dance. Oprillot, see about what musicians Jelnaya has in her community. She will dance.”
The lad asked, “How about you showing up at one of your inns, Jelnaya? The Daughter’s Plate has a large room, and I know they will clear a space for dancing.”
“If I show up, which I have, I am before my people. I dance with the old men or those still boys, actual youths. Our relationship will have to go another step or two before I will dance with you, Potorly, or any other suitor in a common public setting.”
Great-aunt Dirchein again did not stay silent. “As you should, Jelnaya.”
I actually was pleased with Oprillot when he said, “But we have danced in combat together, Jelnaya.”
With a gracious tone hoping to keep my elder silent, I replied, “And I am out making myself available to spar. I am a divine champion of He-Who-Fights. Do not think I am unchaperoned in those times. Also, while it might help our relationship, the setting cannot be said to be romantic at all.”
Oprillot turned with me changing my focus when Potorly said, “But I fell in love with you, Jelnaya. Do not think that I was not concerned with a lady devoted to He-Who-Fights. In the midst of all the stress, all the horrors, all the ugliness of combat I found you just as lovely, your personality just as charming, and your mind just as clear. I don’t fear you in combat, which means I am not scared of being with you. All the stories I hear of the difficulties others face in marriage, I don’t fear them with you.”
The lad retorted, “Well, I don’t fear them either.”
“Yes? Well, I’m going to sing.”
“Going to sing?”
Potorly told me the title and author of the book he was reading. After relating some basics of the story, he mentioned that there was a poem supposedly being the lyrics to some song. In reading them aloud in some private moments during our travels he claimed to have found a tune, so to prove his lack of fear in my presence Potorly boldly stated that he was going to sing. As he stood in a manner to assure proper breath while looking at the book, Oprillot mentioned a point.
“You could lose Jelnaya with a bad performance.”
Potorly replied, “I doubt it. It will give us something to talk about. In fact, I fear a good performance in that others might start considering me a singer. I really do not want that reputation, especially with my mother.”
I had to ask, “You’re scared of your mother learning you can sing?”
“Yes. You’ll probably learn, Jelnaya. There is a lot of singing among the fey. With the odd bodies, dancing really is not that possible. Most of that is done in a singular fashion.”
I laughed as he did some really odd jigs that looked more like what people do when they rejoiced in something going right in their lives and not a social occasion with others when music was playing. He then launched into song. It helped that the book was from Sennapre, as I knew the language so could catch the rhymes and certain play on words. When he finished I wanted to praise him, but remembered things about what he said previously when he softly made a comment.
“Don’t expect me to do something like that too often.”
“Potorly,” I said, “that was good. Still, how many books have you read where there are lyrics included with the prose?”
“I might have run across them in one, maybe two, books previously.”
“Do it when you find one.”
“If you become my wife, I will consider that a command to ever obey, Jelnaya.”
While I also enjoyed what Oprillot did, I had to say that Potorly won the evening. Returning to my room with Great-aunt Dirchein, I found her to also speak in a manner of preferring my fey suitor. As was her nature however, she then had to spoil my enjoyment of the evening by saying something I really did not want to hear.
“I will need to speak to your parents, Jelnaya.”
I replied, “Now, Great-aunt Dirchein, I have basically just met these two. It’s a little early to make any plans.”
“I believe these two have proven themselves to have the merits that will have them survive the courtship with you, Jelnaya. Venicht and Amelia will need to be made aware.”
“You just haven’t visited them in a while.”
“As my husband said, I am glad to be able to call the Dozzrine children a part of my family. Yes, Jelnaya, Ferrigote and I have not visited your parents in a while, so I appreciate a reason to go to them.”
That enabled me to get the conversation on my aunts and uncle. I did visit them when I could. Of course Great-aunt Dirchein had to speak about her own children. I knew them as well, so we had a pleasant conversation until we split up to gain some rest.
Great-aunt Dirchein continued to dominate my times with Potorly and Oprillot as we traveled back to Phanigist. Coming back into my realm, I found a number of fey rush around us speaking of being glad to see Potorly. Oprillot did not have such grand company, but those who had accompanied him to my home did show a lot of relief to have him return. While my people welcomed me back, they had grown used to me needing to travel so showed little stress due to my absence. What pleased me was watching Great-aunt Dirchein put her focus on Vulge to assure he was properly chaperoning me.
I guess Merilay saw me pause in front of a statuette of Samayer to say a prayer, as when I entered my bedroom my maid said, “It seems that you survived with two suitors and your Great-aunt Dirchein.”
Trusting she would not say my words to others, I muttered, “I actually liked spending time with Potorly and Oprillot.”
“And yet you will tell everyone that you do love your great-aunt.”
“She is family.”
“The other side of the family, but I know just how close Ferrigote and Terish are. I also know how they have raised their children. Yes, Jelnaya, I do not doubt that you have always considered Ferrigote and his family a part of your own. Now, what about Potorly and Oprillot? All of Davelda wants to know. We’re family too. Your paternal grandmother is our empress. You are one of our princesses, and about the only that visits. We are interested.”
I did force a smile, as I knew that after leaving Davelda soon after being sent there for an education I had somehow continued to bother them. Those of that world had sought to court me. It was the crew of a battleship that had come to clean my castle after I had gained it. My marriage would be a topic of conversation to those of Davelda, so I gave my maid things to relate to those of that world.
Had a good evening. There were some matters my officials brought to my attention, but nothing prevented me from spending time with my suitors. There were more present in my parlor than just Vulge, but I did not let them bother me. After a pleasant time with Potorly and Oprillot, I spent the rest of the evening with my officials quizzing Vulge about developments in his relationship with Yenorma.
The next morning I went out to the sparring field to see Potorly present sitting on the ground reading a book. Oprillot however chanced stepping before me. After sending him to the ground, I looked to Potorly only to hear the lad explain.
“Different tactics, Jelnaya. He says that he is going to get you used to his presence, while I am going to keep you involved with me.”
I had to reply, “I know Potorly can fight, Oprillot. He came here as a hero defending someone. I however told him, and you, that I am not looking for another fighter. It might be what I am, but I am looking for someone to complement me, not duplicate me.”
“Still, I want you for my wife. I however want you to know that I am not expecting you to cook my meals, clean my laundry, and warm my bed. Okay, probably the latter.”
“Didn’t you say you could cook, Oprillot? How good are you at laundry?”
“All right, Jelnaya. The fight is on.”
Okay, I have the one that should have gone first finished. Now I need to make certain the third will be ready.