The third Neselle story -
Chapter Nine – Part One
Jelnaya: Strangers and Possibilities
There was enough game around Great-uncle Ferrigote’s property that one usually did not have to hunt on other worlds. I knew about Althery taking his lady and another suitor on a hunt of lukaluka, but actually felt that assuming such creatures were a suitable challenge to demean the words of Fergush. I thus spent my morning speaking with Great-uncle Ferrigote about how to improve my armor and weapons. He agreed that my enchanted crystal would serve me well enough once it was better tailored for my form. It pleased me to hear that he approved of my sword, although supplied me with a dagger that barely existed in a physical state due to the amount and power of arcane energy infused into it. Knowing that a majority of the soldiers serving my great-uncle were from his conquered world of Gaeskow, I let them practice being able to handle different threats by sparring with them.
The lukaluka did not get hunted by those of Great-uncle Ferrigote’s estate very often. While there were natural predators and humans on that other world, neither actually hunted the large reptilian birds. I thus heard the soldiers mention that it was not unusual for one of the hunts of the animals to be highly productive. Althery, Genory, Neselle, and Hanell came back mentioning an encounter with a rather large flock, and found themselves actually having to care more about their mounts from the lukaluka chasing them than dodging and weaving around the natural foliage in trying to catch up with the prey. They returned to the castle with their mounts obviously weary, they themselves appearing disheveled from their own participation, and all four showing relief when the soldiers rushed to the travois carrying the carcasses speaking of being willing to prepare them for the evening meal.
We all turned as Great-uncle Ferrigote strode up, and considering that we had both done completely different things during the day I found Neselle as surprised as me to be called together. “Both of you ladies need to prepare yourself to be introduced to another suitor. I can see that the two of you have not been pining away the hours in your finery waiting for something to break your boredom, so will tell the men to relax.”
“Men?” I retorted.
The face of Great-uncle Ferrigote moved enough to show the hairs of his beard rippling before he replied, “This is a strange one, but I feel that it meets something I heard being said among you.”
Uncle Althery advanced to say, “The reason we were told to wait.”
“Stand down, Althery. You need to show the same courtesy to this one that you have displayed to Genory. Genory, I hope that I don’t have to say the same words to you.”
“No, Baron, but do not feel that I will relax in the presence of competition for Neselle’s hand.”
“I’ll be watching. Okay, ladies, you need to do what you must. Neselle, Althery, and Genory, let me state my thanks for the meat. Hanell, I am glad that you had to chaperone those three and not me. I might say more later, but that is enough for now.”
As Great-uncle Ferrigote turned back to his castle, Althery advanced to say, “Neselle, I will tend to Nathan. Trust that your horse will get the best of care. I might not talk to it as much as you do, but it will otherwise be treated well.”
Genory quickly said, “I will recite poetry in the presence of your steed, Dearest Neselle, as it should need to become used to the sound of my voice.”
As the two men traded verbal jabs at each other, Neselle smiled at me as if accepting my companionship for the walk to our rooms. I had to say that she was attractive. Her hair was more yellow with mine being more brown, but we both had it about the same length. Her eyes were much more of a blue color than my dark orbs. I had a more rounded face, and looked to her high cheekbones wishing that they were my own. The way she carried herself had me feeling that she could be a member of my family, so I smiled back at her as she asked me a question.
“Do you get many suitors?”
“Yes, if I stay anywhere. I travel a lot however, as I grew up not wanting to be a simple wife and mother.”
“I would have wanted that. Still do, but my fate was otherwise. I hear a lot of people comparing my life to that of Dame Straekin, Althery’s mother.”
“My grandmother,” I said to assure that she understood my relationship in the family. “I like my Grandmother Straekin, but I usually spend time with Grandfather Terish. He is the one that I want to be like.”
“Yes, he is a nice, nice man – kinda scary, but I do like him. Both he and Dame Straekin are very open and honest with me, and have done more things for me than can be explained by them just being potential in-laws. I don’t even know the parents of Genory.”
“Well, I haven’t had even one suitor speak of joining me on one of my adventures. If this Genory handles himself, I might take him off your hands.”
I expected a polite response, although found myself pleased when Neselle instead kept the conversation moving. “What about the one we are supposed to be introduced to?”
“You cannot talk about what you do not know, but only speak of speculation.” I looked at the passage we were moving through, then asked, “Where is your room?”
“Up here on the left.”
“This is the hallway for –“
“Family. This is my herd. Althery and Nuchirg actually have papers claiming me to be their property. I have never been treated as such, and as this section of the castle was being finished Baron Ferrigote came and had me choose my room accepting me as a member of his herd.”
Not wanting to get into a lengthy period of having her tell me her story, I simply commented, “Well, then, marrying Althery will be slightly redundant for you.”
“Maybe, but it is what happens on my world. You gain your fate, join your herd or pack, get a mate and start having children. Honestly, I feel that I have to marry Althery, and I don’t mind. I do like him. I don’t want to be rude to Genory, but he is not of my herd.”
I stopped at the door to my room, then said, “Let me find out about this Genory, and this other guy. I can take them off your hands. I can say that Uncle Althery likes you as well, so I wish you well.”
She moved up to look at my door. I saw the painted shield-shaped wooden slate on her door, and noticed that she looked at mine. I told her about what she was looking at.
“Neither one of us are married, so our symbols are that of our homes.”
“Mine is of my city. Yours however seems to be a mixture of things. I see the black cones of Thiminy from which hangs the banner of Davelda on one side. On the other I guess is the symbol from your mother’s side of the family.”
“Yes, well, their city. The family name is Kallespry, but they ended up with only daughters so the family name will now be Dozzrine. The city my family calls home is Kernovull.”
“But,” one of her hands reached up to touch the Dozzrine side of my shield, “you are of my herd, especially if I marry Althery.”
“Well, yes, as my father is Uncle Althery’s older brother. It is becoming a rather large family.”
She curtsied while saying, “I am glad to meet you, Jelnaya. If I marry Althery, what will you be in relation to me?”
“Niece.” I felt the need to restate a certain fact. “Althery is my uncle, as he and my father are brothers. You will thus become my aunt.”
“So, your father is Venicht?”
“He’s so serious. I did not like him that much.”
I had never heard my father speak of meeting this lady, but I had to admit that I did travel a lot. “He is a good father. While he did not choose an easy life, he did his best to spend time with his children. When I learned to move through the omniverse, I would surprise him by showing up at some of the unusual places where his work would bring him. I found that I liked him more in being able to share those times with him. If I fail on this mission, I will probably return to take over the family business.”
“On this mission? Oh, yes, Althery did say that you would be going with us. I will be glad to speak with you some more.”
“Same here, and don’t be worried about pushing Genory or this new guy off on me. I can handle it. I have dropped a number. You can be polite, but I can handle being mean.”
She then asked me about what I would be wearing. It caught me by surprise that this young lady who had gone with Uncle Althery and another man to hunt lukaluka would now chatter on the usual female topics. I gave vague answers, spoke of needing a bath, and such was enough to have us break for our preparations.
Great-aunt Dirchein sent a couple of her attendants to help me prepare to be introduced to the new suitor. I did not know why I had to put so much effort into meeting someone that I would quickly dismiss. Accepting that I had not looked my best for the previous evening meal, I allowed myself to be put into a special dress and my hair put up into a fancy style. Not feeling that the man would see the real me, I left my room accepting that he probably was not going to present himself as who he truly was either.
“Lady Jelnaya!” Timurly, the castle butler, shouted from down the hall. “I was coming to check on you and Lady Neselle.”
“Well, Great-aunt Dirchein sent a couple of her attendants to help me. Who does Neselle have helping her?”
“I believe the baroness sent someone to her as well.”
I just smiled at the man as I walked to Neselle’s door, knocked, then walked in. She had her hands out as if waiting for the polish on her fingernails to dry while a maid set the laces for a pair of shoes around her legs. Honestly, such designs were lovely, but hidden by our dresses, so I thought them a little silly. She and the almost human face of a wolf resting on the floor nearby smiled at me.
“Jelnaya,” the wolf asked, “is it time?”
“I guess, as the butler has come to check on us.”
Neselle said, “I should only need a few more minutes. That is a lovely dress.”
“I think it is mine. I remember having one like this made in Thiminy, then Great-aunt Dirchein having me pack some dresses to bring here should I visit.” I looked myself over, shrugged, then said, “Maybe not.”
“Well, it does look good on you.”
“I wonder if the men will notice.”
She began to rise while checking her own dress while saying, “Only one way to find out.”
Most probably expect the arrival of Bresnaw, but not Jelnaya's style of courtship.