The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Nineteen – Part One
Neselle: Alternate Histories
I did find it relieving that no monsters surrounded us. While I accepted that Jelnaya could hold her on in a fight, she did not present the comfort of providing the mass carnage that the elder men of our herd could perform. I however accepted that one did not need to face a monster to be threatened. As if a trapped rat, I looked for a method of escaping my predicament.
Jelnaya however calmly scanned the white nothingness around her. She had the same manners as Althery, in that both were descended from Lord Terish. Jelnaya was a further generation removed, although even I had heard that some traits skipped generations. The same anxious desire for quick actions usually did drive the lady even as it powered Althery, so I looked with wonder as she simply stood still.
I heard her gasp, then her head spun. I found an amused expression come to her face upon seeing me. I definitely did not have a calm countenance. She appeared to mimic the manners of Lord Terish in considering how to best explain something others might not be able to even comprehend. Finally, I heard her explain herself.
“We have to be useful. Just rushing back would be defiant, and that would not be helpful.”
Not feeling able to do anything, I asked, “How can we helpful here?”
Jelnaya pointed while saying, “We could learn about the drahabard.”
“No. Kachevet’s grandmother.”
I could not help but look around as I asked, “You can see Kachevet’s grandmother?”
“Yes. She is crying over remains what I believe are remains of her children, although she is praying for Kachevet. I think it would be useful to go there.”
“Yes, Jelnaya, as we can at least bring her some comfort.”
It took Jelnaya a little more than the usual movements to step from whatever reality we had been placed. I actually seldom noticed any special actions before those of my herd moved between worlds. In this situation however Jelnaya had to do some things that I considered to be working some kind of magic before I noticed a portal open.
The eyes of an old lady were wide as I stepped into the room before her. I turned to check on Jelnaya, and found her setting an item on a piece of furniture. Not wanting the old lady to be scared, I spoke to explain things to her.
“We come as friends of your granddaughter, Kachevet. She is well, but I feel was sent as an answer to prophecy. We however want to speak to you first before we form any conclusions.”
The old lady knelt before asking, “Are you angels?”
Jelnaya replied, “Why would you think that? You did not send your granddaughter to a divine realm. You did not send her to die.”
“Okay, so we are not angels. We are people caught up in events, and Kachevet is now caught up in those events as well. We need to learn why you did what you did.”
The old lady rose, then moved up as if having a hard time seeing us. I let her touch my face. Jelnaya was not so passive, but did notice a pair of glasses set on a table near where the lady had been crying. When handed the spectacles, the old lady moved close, although this time I could tell that she could see us.
“You are not animals.”
Jelnaya returned, “That is our problem. You should not know about the animals. The stories of the drahabard are before Neselle’s people resorted to becoming animals.”
“No. There had to be an animal – a fox.”
I was the one that asked, “Why? Tell us your story.”
Men opened the door with them taking up weapons upon seeing us. I could tell that most were wounded however. Jelnaya had her hand go to the hilt of her blade, but I accepted that she also saw the condition of those who readied to fight us. The old lady however signaled for the men to put down their weapons as she introduced us.
“These two ladies have come to ask me about Kachevet. They want to hear my story.”
One of the men, one of the younger men, said, “Your story?”
I quickly replied, “What happened is not right. The story of the drahabard is old, very old. Us becoming animals is only a few centuries ago. To know about the drahabard is not to know about our fate as animals. To know about us becoming animals is not to know about the drahabard.”
Another man, a slightly older man asked, “What is this about animals? You are not animals.”
“No. I was the single person in my group to be allowed to stay human. Jelnaya is from a family of an even other world. My world is however again at crisis, and I want to know the right thing to do.”
The old lady said, “Let them hear my story. It won’t hurt to let me tell my story.”
One of the elder man replied, “They might need to tell us one of their own.”
Jelnaya asked, “Any reason we can’t sit and tell stories? Are the raiders set to return?”
“No.” He waved his hand to indicate what was about the room as he said, “We were doing what we could to mourn our dead while praying for those who were taken. Tomorrow we bury them.”
“We have two days, so if you need time or help.”
“No.” He signaled to others as he said, “Each of us can mourn as we see fit. If Hanarla feels it is best to tell her story, none of us will stop her from telling her story.”
“Thank you,” I said before explaining to Jelnaya, “we need to warn everyone before the second day, so they can prepare.”
She replied, “The story will be your expertise, Neselle. If they needed someone to work or fight, that would be mine.”
The old lady signaled us to sit. I did see chairs, although none particularly close. Jelnaya moved to get the pieces of furniture with a couple of men moving to help. The old lady commented to the men that we were angels, so to get some wine. I looked to Jelnaya, and saw her shrug after setting down a chair for me to sit in.
Some of the men also moved chairs close to listen. Ladies brought carafes of wine, and some light pastries. Most of them stayed close as well I assumed to listen, although they would respond should a man state a desire.
Finally, the old lady began. “The angel ladies are correct. The drahabard is very ancient. The one I had was not the original, as we all know that it exist in the Temple of Chalactantin off past the Belertall Moor.”
A man said, “I have seen it.”
“Yes, as did my father’s father grandfather, who made the one we have.”
Jelnaya interrupted to ask, “Was it an exact duplicate? I worked with the weapon that Kachevet had, and it was a little ungainly. Still, it was a wonderfully balanced weapon.”
The old lady looked to the man that spoke about having seen the original, and he said, “Hanarla’s is a little short. I remember the original being longer, much wider than a man.” He set his hands apart about in what I estimated to be about four and a half feet. “The blades also curved around the ends, so a thrust would cut and not just pierce.”
To hopefully get the old lady back to talking, I said, “Our histories say that the original person to use the drahabard was a fighter by the name of Achonor.”
Everyone went quiet as the old lady replied, “No, we don’t know an Achonor. Rabonoch, the son of our war god, gained the drahabard he said from the mouth of a fox. Rabonoch was being tested by his father, but found the constant assault of opponents boring. The son was –“
A man coughed. A few others had ladies refill their wine glasses. A very old man took a bite of a pastry, then spoke as if to help the old lady remember her place in the story.
“Hanarla, I believe that Rabonoch gained the drahabard from the mouth of a fox.”
While I would have preferred hearing the entire story, especially since it spoke of divine beings, I stayed quiet at the skipping of sections allowing that I could ask questions later. At least the interruption let me know that someone would speak should the old lady say something improper. I thus waited politely for the old lady to again tell her story.
“Rabonoch was about to face the two-tailed snake, Orclappir. The sword Irtellip was failing, as when it struck one tail of Orclappir the other would heal. Rabonoch called to his mother for help, and it was then that a fox came up bringing the drahabard to Rabonoch in its mouth. It took practice, and I am told that Rabonoch came close to dying before figuring out how to properly wield the strange weapon. While a sword would have to be brought from one scaly length to strike the other, for only by killing both tails could Orclappir truly be slain, the drahabard could simply be swung back and forth and in such a short period of time, as Rabonoch was Voliath’s – the war god – son, so a very good fighter who could move his weapon very fast, that one tail could not entirely heal by the time it was struck again. In such a manner Rabonoch killed Orclappir.”
Jelnaya asked me in a very soft voice, “You don’t know of an Orclappir?”
We had gathered close to hear the old lady, so all paused as I answered, “No, but we don’t have a god of war either.”
A man sitting next to me asked, “Who do you pray to before combat if you do not have a god of war?”
It was Jelnaya that responded, “So, was your town decimated because the raiders did pray to the god of war, or did your praying to some god of crops make you an easy target to the raiders who did pray to the god war?”
Hoping to cut off any strong words, I said, “My world has a single god, a Goddess, and she rules all. We often do not understand Her ways, but we are learning to trust Her.”
An elder man said, “If the god of war bestowed an easy life, the raiders would not need to bother us. The blessings of crops and children makes our life pleasant, although we do have to fear the raiders. There is a balance.”
Jelnaya actually thanked the man for those words. I guess that it did help to understand some of the culture of the people. The elderly man nodded in appreciation to Jelnaya, then told Hanarla to continue.
“It is known that Rabonoch used the drahabard on other occasions. Some say that if he had brought it in the fight against the Meskayonch Serpent that he would have prevailed. They only say that because Orclappir and Meskayonch were both snakes, although the tales clearly present each as having separate strengths and weaknesses. In any event, Rabonoch did not take the drahabard, and died in the battle, which is why we still have it today.”
I said more than asked, “So this tale is historical.”
“Yes, which is why I did to Kachevet, my own granddaughter, what I did.”
Instead of me, it was the elder gentleman that asked, “What did you do, Hanarla?”
Life-changing decisions will need to be made.