A Wish for Hope
Nothing made sense, and having Fergush not giving me any answers did not help my mood at all. Supposedly I was now the Duchess of Phanigist, but other than a castle I had no evidence of it. I should have had representatives from the various domains I ruled over, but there were none. Being that a duchy had control over a county, which had a church, there should be priests, but there were none. One would suspect there would be administrators and a number of servants, but there were none. There should be military patrols making reports, but there were none. My mood was sour in not having anything to support my actual title.
I understood some reasons for a lack of personnel, as I had slaughtered armies and people. As I reviewed my actions, I still felt that others should have been spared. I could not imagine Samayer, or any deity, allowing the totality of any territory to descend into depravity. I almost cried at the thought of what I had done, although continued to remember the words from my god telling me to continue. When Samayer finally spoke, she did not berate me. Those facts let me know that there had to be a reason, although I still did not feel comforted.
Seeing someone enter through the gates, I moved from the barracks. One large man leading two horses surrounded by nine fox-people was not what I suspected. Stopping to realize that the man was Vulge confused me, as he did not belong in this place and especially not at this time. I had just conquered this realm. He had no way to know I was here. While I moved to the gates actually glad to see Vulge, it bothered me to have someone that I felt could not help me with my situation.
What stopped me was seeing the fox people. Vulge I could understand. While I definitely wanted to speak to him, the fact that he came with fox people troubled me.
Not hearing my god speak, I strode forward feeling that one thing that happened the day before provided me with a direction to go while also explaining the arrival of someone I trusted. “All right, Vulge, you’re in charge!”
He replied, “I’m in charge? In charge of what?”
“This. This is the castle of the Duchy of Phanigist. I am the duchess. The place is a mess. There are bodies that need to be buried and others burnt. Have these fox-people help you. Make the best decisions you can. I will be gone a few days, but an entire castle is yours. If you want water, that well over there is clean, but you can clean the others. If you want food, well the larders need cleaning as well.”
“Where are you going, Princess Jelnaya? If you are going to a man, I have the permission from your parents to chaperone you.”
“We can talk about that later. If you came to do that, well you came to the right place. Make yourself comfortable. Right now I am off to my Aunt Neselle’s. I told you, Vulge, that my adventures were not like those of my Grandfather Terish and your empress. If you wanted to read something like my adventures, you needed to read about my Uncle Althery and Aunt Neselle. While I am pretty certain where these guys are from, I know for certain Aunt Neselle rules over fox-people. Also, I had the drahaberd from her world taken from me and I was given a drahaberd from Fergush. Well, I made a promise to return the drahaberd when I would no longer use it. I am thus going to return her drahaberd while checking on things with her fox-people.”
One of the fox-people asked, “Will we be safe here?”
“I don’t see why not. Vulge, do you still have my icon?”
The large man replied, “Of course, Princess Jelnaya. I have treasured it.”
“That was the intent. Show it to people, and I doubt anyone will challenge you. Even Fergush and Samayer should support you. Of course, that means I am now Duchess Jelnaya. I might be a princess of Davelda, Vulge, but you are here and here I am now a duchess.”
I watched as Vulge started toward me. I trusted him. As a man from Davelda and someone that had joined me on a major mission, I trusted him with my life. I stood still as Vulge approached real close before saying what was on his mind.
“Princess Jelnaya, the angel that brought us here said that you were about to become great. He said that you had proven you were good, and were about to become great.”
“I’m a divine champion, Vulge. I have every intention of proving myself worthy of being recognized by a god. My problem is that I know I am not the only one. Aunt Neselle is a divine champion as well, and hers is not a fighting spirit. She has a Goddess as powerful as Munulva behind her. If I am going to be worthy of Aunt Neselle, I cannot be mediocre.”
Vulge then pointed and said, “That horse there, the amber one with black hair and tail, is yours.”
“I know, Vulge, I picked it out. It just needed some extra military training due to me having a life of fighting. Its name is Rubber. Another problem I have with Aunt Neselle is that she knows horses. Her parents were horses. I hope that horse can gain her approval.”
One of the fox people asked, “Her parents were horses?”
I looked to him to answer, “Yes. You are not from her world, but not this one either. The gods here really will not care about you. I could get some instructions, as I feel that I know something of your history. Still, you came to me instead of seeking to be restored in another manner. The best instructions for you will come from my Aunt Neselle. I have something divine to bring to her, so I can solve two problems by making the journey.”
“Was she a horse?”
“No, but your parents were not foxes, were they?”
“No.” The person then looked about, called out a name, then asked, “Can Kertoll, or his wife, go with you?”
I really did not know how to answer that question. I really knew nothing about these fox people. I had made assumptions, but had not done anything to verify facts. Hearing a distant rumble however let me know that I could take time to consider my thoughts.
I said, “Let me prepare my horse and think about it. Also, we have a situation that I want to see how it is handled.”
It surprised me that it was not one of the fox-people, but Vulge that asked, “What is that sound, Princess Jelnaya?”
“Are you going to fight it?”
“Hopefully they should understand that I have already taken on a number successfully. Still, I won’t leave you with all the fun. I’ll wait.”
It took time to gather my gear and prepare Rubber for the journey. The horse knew me, as I had spent time with it, but I let it know that it was going to have a rough first ride with me. I however told it things, and it nodded as if understanding what I said of the coming journey.
I suspected Vulge saw the coming army as he asked, “What is my status, Princess Jelnaya?”
Of course I asked, “What status do you want?”
“What I asked for, chaperone.”
“Tell them that.”
I continued to work with Rubber, although smiled when after a strong voice asked Vulge who he was, he answered, “Chaperone to Honored Duchess Jelnaya, Champion of Fergush, Princess of Davelda. She is a young lady, so should not see any man without some oversight.”
“Well, I hope as her king I am able to come before her.”
“King? Duchess Jelnaya, do you know this man?”
I moved to look at those who had advanced no more than my gate, then said, “No, Vulge, although that does not mean he is not who he says he is.” I then pointed to say, “You see that man with the gold icon at his breast?” I pulled my own icon to Fergush from a split in my garment over my heart to assure the reference. “He is a priest of Debogda, He-Who-Assigns. He works with Samayer, the wife of my god.”
“Right. I am not really duchess of this place until he declares it, although I doubt he presently wants to get into an argument with Samayer.”
The king dismounted while declaring, “From what I heard, you killed everyone in her church.”
“And the armies in-between. As a Champion of Fergush, I don’t want to argue with Samayer either.”
The priest stayed in his saddle while saying, “Debogda does admit you are the ruler of this realm, Honored Jelnaya. He however says that your work is not done.”
“Glad that we have an agreement. Vulge has my honor and the respect of Fergush. For your information, Your Majesty, Vulge comes from the world of my paternal grandmother. You can trust him.”
The king said, “Thank you for the information, Jelnaya.”
“I’m not mad at you, and I don’t want you mad at me. You however need to understand that I am a divine champion for Fergush. You do not rate, this land does not rate, next to his authority. Still, his wife gave me this realm, and I have relatives who rule and serve. I’ll learn to manage.”
“How long do you plan on being gone?”
My hands went through some motions as I worked out certain things, then I answered, “About a week. It should normally take me over two days to get there. Have a new horse, and to break it in I will be pushing it. Two days there. Aunt Neselle really should not hold me up, so two days there at the most. I might take three days back, but it depends on what I am told.”
“Can I assign people to clean up this place?”
“Can you assign people? No. Can you have people clean up this place? That would be very gracious of you.”
The priest continued to sit on his horse even as he asked, “What would you consider the priority in what needs to be done, Honored Duchess Jelnaya?”
I moved out to him while answering, “It hurt. It hurt killing people. It hurt killing priests, acolytes, soldiers, and all who came to be in my way. Fergush is not He-Who-Slaughters, but that is what I was told to do. This isn’t my land, well, this wasn’t my land. Still, I am a divine champion. I did what I did under the commands of Samayer. I assume she is sending priests to restore and cleanse things. That would be my priority. I would prefer getting some guidance from the goddess whose county I have in my land.”
“Those are good words, Honored Duchess. Go in peace, Jelnaya.”
The monarch said, “Chetorly, the county, is on the border with Mekont. I am worried about invasion.”
I replied, “Are you stupid? I just wiped out armies. By Fergush I will best whatever armies marches on this land.” I then had to ask, “What is the name of this land?”
“Grenare. I am King Relecky of Grenare. You are Honored Duchess Jelnaya of Phanigist. Under your authority is the County of Chetorly, whose ruler you killed as he led one of those armies against you. There are also the baronies of Astoch, Vytech, and Lecholt.”
“Honestly, I will work to secure this land and my authority. Still, at the moment I have other things on my mind.”
As if realizing the others on the castle grounds, the monarch asked, “What about these fox people?”
“You can wait on my report, Your Majesty. As of right now, they are one of my concerns.” I looked to another man to say, “Vulge, make sure they are treated nicely.”
The large man replied, “Will do, Duchess Jelnaya.”
The king said, “Obviously I have work to do as well. Glad to have met you, Jelnaya, and I look forward to having your presence in my land.”
Understanding the man’s importance in my life, I rushed up to peck him on a cheek before saying, “I really am sorry about the way we met. There will be better days, I promise.”
He hugged me while saying, “We will get used to each other. I assure you. Go in peace, Jelnaya.”
Of course there are issues that need to be dealt with.