The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Twenty-One – Part One
Neselle: And We Return to the Coliseum
The change in Jelnaya was quite striking, even though it really was just an alteration in her hair color. The brown had given her a normal appearance. She had been rather attractive, and people would chance speaking to her even if they knew something of her personality. Now her hair radiated her special, and possibly dangerous, nature, and I wondered if it would make her lonely.
She looked at herself in a mirror, then set it down mumbling, “Men and what they think is attractive.” I saw her look around before saying with a much stronger voice, “The way back is blocked, Fergush.”
“Are you going to trust me?”
“If not then I am such a big liar and hypocrite that you should ever question your own judgments about who you choose.”
Jelnaya looked to those gazing at her in shock, then asked me if I was ready. I also looked to the old lady and Kachevet’s uncle, and accepting that they were only awed by what happened I concerned myself with what I felt was my own condition. There was something missing, so I told Jelnaya what I felt was a good option.
“Since you are to use the drahabard, could I have your sword?”
“It really is not as sharp as those common in the family, but it is good,” she said while undoing her belt. “I was wanting to spend time with Grandfather putting some basic enchantments upon it, but I guess that I can get another.”
Feeling offended, I replied, “I do know how to treat a weapon.”
“Yes, but we could be going up against some rather serious opposition, and I usually get something from Grandfather or Great-uncle Ferrigote before doing that in order to protect my sword.”
“I thought that was just so you would have a chance in Hell of hurting your opponents.”
Jelnaya glared at me. I was interested in just how her hair would change the level of intensity of her emotions. However intimidating the bright red and yellow locks might affect her countenance, seeing a smile on her face gave me the feeling that she was still a young lady that I would enjoy getting to know.
“Well, yes, that too. Come on, this is going to be tough.”
Wondering about what she knew, I asked, “What will we have to fight?”
“Ourselves. No direct route, so we will have to keep moving if we are to get there in time.”
“My family are horses, then I joined your herd. Neither are known for a relaxed lifestyle.”
“No, I guess not. So come on.”
I have spent time with the elders of my herd. Lord Terish was known for his knowledge. He would tell you things that had most listen with wonder. He would also quickly make decisions on what I would consider to be very difficult matters. Baron Ferrigote could do both as well, although had a more informative style of speech that did not make his tales or decisions seem as grand. Jelnaya did not give me the impression of either, but I could tell was acting under the instructions of another. Having lived with Baron Ferrigote, I knew quite a bit of the worship of Fergush, and followed Jelnaya accepting that she was following a source of authority already recognized as guiding an elder of my herd.
I really did not find the pace hard, so almost asked for a faster pace. We however entered a world where there was a strong rain with us having to be careful on slippery ground. We then moved to a very rocky landscape where choosing your steps was important both to protect the feet and to prevent being attacked by lurking animals. The varying stresses left me glad that I did not put all my energy into rushing forward.
Althery, Nuchirg, Genory, and others had mentioned taking on the challenges of Fergush and succeeding. While all would tell their stories relating the tasks before them, the tales were usually not of overly difficult opponents. All however spoke of their training and skills with most accepting that one not so prepared would not have succeeded. The pond beast of my world was about the worst monster I heard Fergush set as an objective, and I remember Althery and Nuchirg handling it without too much trouble. It was the added danger of Berbishet that had almost caused the two young men, and me, to die that day.
While I know that we traveled for well over a day, we had moments to rest. One world had a strange red fruit up in trees that Jelnaya told us to eat. It tasted quite sweet with her saying that such was the type of energy we needed and reminding me that Dirchein had us eating a more substantial meal that morning. As I enjoyed a moment of rest, I still felt a need to know about our travel.
“Do you think she knew?”
“Great-aunt Dirchein? No. I am not saying that she was not led, but she would not question such an instruction. Honestly, what we have gone through I felt could have been easily foreseen by someone with the knowledge of a god. It was because I however felt that I would get into situations that even Fergush could not be considered to know that had me demand our relationship be that of friends, as I will ask questions.” A hand then went to pull a lock of hair before her eyes as she added, “And I feared that my place would have me continue to have almost no regular friends.”
“You will always have family, Jelnaya.”
“Yes, and Grandfather and Great-uncle Ferrigote did not have that. I still don’t think this life will be easy. I however better get the rewards as well.” She lifted her head before screaming, “FERGUSH! I did not ask for ease, but for EVERYTHING!” I did not hear a response, but she suddenly went erect and looked to me to say, “We need to get back to moving.”
I checked myself, then said, “Lead the way, Niece.”
Red and yellow locks swirled as she spun to me, then she smiled. “Yes, Aunt Neselle.”
Again the pace probably could have been faster, but the altering terrain kept me glad to have some energy that could be directed toward something other than running. We had to climb a cliff, and swim a distance. We came to a field of brambles that Jelnaya said that we would just have to run through, and after doing what we could to protect our feet and legs we did.
Stepping into darkness lit up by bright lights caught me unaware. I found myself recognizing the arena of the coliseum, but the field of play was not for the game. A strange huge creature appearing as a starfish with butterfly wings bent over where a microphone had been set. Jelnaya rushed up to attack the being with the drahabard. As it reacted with shock to the cut, she stepped into the center of bright spotlights to inform the audience of the situation.
“YOU ARE BEING DECEIVED!”
The shouted words were one thing, but the bright beams caused her hair to appear to illuminate with red and yellow lights. Upon her lifting the drahabard, there was no doubt that the audience focused upon her from the thundering yells and applause. She did not bask in the adulation, but spun to again attack the entity. The audience however continued to shout their approval with the red and yellow shine of her hair making her actions very easy to follow.
The starfish being did not bleed, although I saw gashes in its body. The size of the creature made the wounds appear not very serious, although the fact that it did not manage an attack in return made it easy to believe that Jelnaya would win. The butterfly wings however began to flutter with sounds from the crowd agreeing with my wonder in how she would continue the fight with an aerial opponent. While the starfish did not react, I did upon hearing something from a section of the audience.
“NO! This fight will go on!”
I saw a mass of armor launch itself into the air. A grand sword flashed in the lights illuminating the arena. A wing was then struck and tore as the armored figure descended to the ground.
Wolves, lions, and tigers rushed to me, but it was the voice of a man over the speaker who caused me to react. “NESELLE! Direct the people!”
I had to turn from the fight in order to advance to the microphone. While I saw the predators worried about events around me, I tried to keep my features calm as I stepped into the spotlight. Having to trust Jelnaya and Lebranaut to handle the fight, I took a place in front of the microphone to face my own challenge.
“I honestly do not know what you were being told. Where Jelnaya and I have been however, we felt something improper was going to be done. The reason we were taken was claimed to keep us from influencing your decision. I accepted that. I have definitely studied all the religious material enough to have my own opinions. I have further visited other worlds, so could be said to have ideas not of here and our Goddess. I actually felt like it would be my place to wait things out.”
Even though a battle r raged against a divine entity, the crowd mostly was quiet. They were listening to me. I felt it to be a good thing, but also understood not to abuse my power. While I feared losing their attention to the fight, I kept my voice steady as I presented my facts.
“It was Jelnaya that mentioned if we could not help in one way, maybe we could help in others. I had to admit that simply waiting passively was not my idea of fun, and I do consider it my job to help my people however I can. I thus spoke with Jelnaya about what she thought we could do.”
A large appendage of the winged starfish entity came down close to me. I heard the crowd make a noise I hoped mostly in concern for me, although I allowed that it could have been for the mighty strikes of the two combatants. Jelnaya’s hair continued to radiate a glow of red and yellow around her. Lebranaut presented a rather exciting figure in his thick ornate armor. Considering how to keep the attention of the audience on me, I put some emphasis in my words.
“I know all of you should be aware of the presence of Kachevet and her carrying a weapon she claimed was the drahabard. I agreed with Jelnaya that if we could not help those of my world, we could go check on the situation of one from another.”
“NO!” came the voice of the starfish-like entity with what felt to be a psychic force upon my mind. “This cannot be happening.”
The crowd stood and roared. Jelnaya raced around to gain a position to strike what I assumed she considered the head of the entity. To put things in context, I strongly stated my counter to the words.
“YES! It is not your place to direct us! Not mine either, actually. Still, I have more of the perspective that you don’t. It is one of you that deceived us before. You do fill a place, as I could, in that we might have our decisions and opinion rule the day. That however is where the people go wrong – EACH TIME!” I yelled that to hopefully get the audience to understand. “It is to the Goddess that we should put our trust! The people should not look to you, Berbishet, or the others, or even me, but to the Goddess. Trust Her.”
“I will let you know my power and authority!”
As Jelnaya went to probably perform what she felt would be a fatal blow, a glow appeared around the starfish entity. It then stood as if restored to health. I fully expected Jelnaya to keep to her strike, but saw her pause.
From the glow suddenly rushed a number of the strange creatures I saw that time in our chase of Reclash. Instead of them simply being passive obstacles, they were now coming to do battle. Jelnaya and Lebranaut did set themselves for combat, but I became worried that they would be overwhelmed by opponents.
The fight continues with Neselle having to decide on the tactics she will use to guide her people.