To Face the Ugly Deed
I did go check on Makinor. While I did believe what I told Nebard, I still allowed that the guy could have gotten into trouble. I found him next to a midden on his knees and crying. I knew that I would have to console Makinor, as I had not taken into account just how glaringly obvious certain problems would be.
Feeling that honesty was a good place to start, I said, “I told Nebard that you would not look.”
“We are going to have wipe these people out, Jelnaya.”
“It’s more complicated than that, Makinor. At least, that is my impression. Still, if that is what Onathia is telling you.”
He pointed to some things that he had seen as he replied, “They’re eating people, Jelnaya. Cannibals deserve nothing but death.”
“They’re just skins, Makinor. Those aren’t the bones, internal organs, and other detritus of dressing a body to be eaten.”
He wiped his eyes and began to rise as he asked, “What are you saying, Jelnaya?”
“What I told you, Makinor. There is something really horrible going on. What I told Nebard is that you would not look. I however explained to him that we are divine champions. Our souls are not ours. We can march into Hell. Well, Makinor, let me tell you that there are worst things in Hell than cannibals.”
“What can be worse?”
I stepped up to the man so he could hear me even with me hissing my words, “Think, Makinor. Think about what I said. We are divine champions. Our souls are not ours. Now, think about those in Nebard’s town. Other than Nebard, they are not divine champions. Their souls are not secure. They can be pulled into Hell with no recourse to their fates. There can be innocent people in Hell.”
“What evidence do you have for that?”
“When I looked at what was happening to those I was killing. I was thinking to find my way to their base of operations. I was thinking to find a den of iniquity, a chamber of thieves, something like that. I saw a massive expanse of evil. Remember that I spoke of having to annihilate a world? Well, what I was seeing was into Hell. I would not be eradicating a people, but clearing a Hell. In the halls of Fergush that would be something I doubt anyone else could brag about, but I do feel that I might have my limits.”
He looked down, then kicked the skins back under some trash as he asked, “Just how evil are these people?”
“Wrong question, Makinor. I agree with you that crossing the line into cannibalism is bad enough. They deserve death. The question we who worship He-Who-Fights ask is how grand is the battle going to be? Honestly, I’m past that. I no longer ask about the battle, but on how boldly I can brag. When I sit at Fergush’s table, I will be among a multitude of great fighters. Stories of great battles will be common. I want them to listen to me in awe of what I have done. When I brag of my victories, I want them to honor me. That is why I try to look past the battles, and into matters a little deeper with tactics not usually associated with a fighting spirit. I believe this is something that can gain me respect, and I am all in.”
Makinor just glared at me. I had no way of knowing what the man was thinking, but I faced him to let him know that I was not scared of anything he said. I have to say that I did not expect what Makinor finally told me.
“When I heard the stories of you, Jelnaya, I swore to Onathia that I could be just as great a figure as you. Fergush be damned, but I felt the call of Onathia to have the greater honor. I told her that I could match you in accomplishments. When she mentioned this mission, I jumped at the chance to prove myself superior to you.”
“Okay. I won’t have any shame in saying that I wiped out a Hell with the help of a Champion of Onathia. Honestly, I feel the boldness of my speech will only increase with that boast.”
He smiled, then asked, “Okay, Jelnaya, so where do I need to look?”
“You idiot,” I returned. “Look right where your eyes are focused.”
I pulled back out the skins and studied things about them. Makinor mumbled some things about thinking the act gross, but he did begin to work with me. I did not know how much hunting he had done, but I had skinned enough carcasses to recognize things about the hides. Showing certain things to Makinor had him begin to accept certain facts about the skins.
“So, they killed and ate the males. I guess they used the women as lures for Nebard’s people.”
“You’re not thinking deep enough, Makinor. I had to rescue the souls of those women. We’re not talking about normal slavery, or cannibalism.”
He began hiding the skins back under the pile as he said, “Yes, but we are talking about reasons to just kill these people.”
“You’re still not understanding, Makinor.” I paused to try and help him, although the only explanation I could give was from my own history. “You need to meet my Grandfather Terish. Not to shake his hand, but to speak to the centaur he rides. She will tell you why she serves him. He does not ride a centaur because he earned the right, or deserves the right, but so they will gain the opportunities to tell others about the devastation that almost overcame their world. They don’t want it to happen again. You kill a dragon, and there are more dragons. You remove an army, and there will be other armies. We don’t want this happening, at all. We are not here to kill those doing this, but to see if we can completely stop this from happening. That is what is worth bragging about, Makinor. If you want to truly be good, that is the level you are going to have to set as your standard.”
He just stared at me for a moment, then said, “I’m in.” That phrase was said softly as if talking to another, but then I heard him say my name. “Jelnaya, I’m in. When you tell this story, you had better sponsor my presence into the halls of Fergush, because I want to be there to brag with you.”
“Deal,” I replied, “but you have to understand my situation. I am going to need Onathia. To have everything, I will one day need a husband. I expect love in that relationship, so will expect the grace of Onathia in my marriage.”
“I can do nothing but honor those words, Jelnaya. Our deities might be opposed, but you are right that we need certain blessings to be complete. You are here for me, and I will be there for you. What would you suggest that we do now?”
“See what Nebard found, then listen to what our gods tell us. If it was just me, I would do a lot of reconnoitering. Honestly, I would suspect you with goddesses of love to desire that as well.”
“Honestly, Jelnaya, I am wanting to just slaughter these people.”
I did not make a sarcastic remark, because I actually wanted Makinor to feel good about making that confession. “Murder is wrong even when done in the name of a deity. I would agree that we are among the evil, but not all are evil. The others might be so involved, or so deceived, that we have to kill them, but there is nothing to brag about in killing the innocent.”
I saw him smile, then admit, “I actually felt that I would be the one to give you that lecture.”
“Well, now you know how strange things can get. Let’s go check on Nebard.”
While I had dressed in a suit of dark leather, clearly an outfit designed for non-social activities, Makinor appeared to be wearing a suit of black material. I actually thought of it as formal attire to be worn to a funeral. He moved in it rather well, and I was pleased that he did not concern himself with its appearance. He had been kneeling in a trash pile, he had actually gone upon the midden, so I felt certain he would need to clean his clothes later. He however did not bother with anything more than the basics upon leaving the wastes of the town. Seeing him put up no resistance to moving with me, I wondered if he would commission an outfit for stealth once returning to Sennapre.
I was heading back into town, but Makinor signaled for me to move with him in another direction. Allowing that the goddess of love could be providing information to her champion, I followed his lead. Finding myself on a worn path, I had to allow that the direction we were going was one regularly used by those in the community, so could be something helping explain an active affair of those we were spying upon.
I had been a little worried about Nebard, so was glad to see him where Makinor led me. What I did not expect was the presence of electronic machinery around what appeared to be an ancient ceremonial site. The worlds I frequented, as well as the one I called home, did not have high science. Realities that allowed for magic seldom also supported advance technologies, usually because the elemental particles were very different. If the basic substances were earth, air, fire, and water then there were no electrons, protons, and neutrons. My parents did live on a world of high science and magic, but each was tempered as one set of forces would often corrupt those that tried to develop the other set of properties. It helped that my ancestry had both sets of universes to provide experiences, but I knew my father often sat up late at night communicating with others seeking the right blend of magic and science to assure a desired result would consistently operate in a mechanism. I had not noticed any advanced technologies on Nebard’s world, so was not surprised that he asked Makinor and me about the strange boxes with the gauges, switches, dials, and blinking lights.
I replied, “This is something that will usually have me contact my father.”
Nebard asked, “Should we destroy them?”
“No, as they surely have blueprints to make others. If we are to destroy anything, it would be this altar and that arch. Rebuilding those would be a lot more difficult.”
The voice of another man said, “Yes, and something we cannot allow you to do.”
He lifted a rifle up to fire a shot at Nebard. One benefit of my weapons was that with training came the confidence to use them. Before he lifted the barrel of his rifle and aimed along its length, I gained a dagger in my hand and sent it into his gut.
As he bent over in pain, I moved up to pull the weapon from his hand, slammed the stock into his jaw, then fired the weapon to have its bullet destroy the neck of another man. Nebard had mentioned the superior strength and reaction times of those he called the Privileged, so I expected to have a good fight once the surprise of being opposed passed. Maybe they would have proven themselves to be good opponents had they come out expecting the quality of who had infiltrated their community. They however acted as if only prepared to deal with regular threats, and I took out all the men.
Worried that I might kill a source of information, I left one man with only a broken leg, although I had a cord about his neck as I asked, “Do I kill him?”
I had heard the sound of movement, but had asked my question hoping one of the love goddesses would be a little quick about supplying their champions with some directions. I had to remember that Quafrey seemed new to having an agent to represent her. Makinor did tell me that Onathia had no concern for the men, which had me simply spin and cause the one I was strangling to catch a bullet.
The one that shot sent another bullet. That was a wise move, except he did nothing to correct his aim. The one I held by the neck received another bullet while I dropped to pull a dagger from one of those dead and send it into the shoulder of the arm holding the gun.
As I moved up to perform a leg kick and send the man to the ground, Nebard said, “That’s Albroth. He can answer our questions.”
I had my sword at the ready as I watched the man while replying, “I believe we have all the answers we need.”
Albroth did look concerned even as he said, “You don’t know half of it. I can tell you a lot.”
“I don’t believe I give a damn about anything you could tell us.”
Makinor said, “Onathia says that you should give a damn, Jelnaya. Take him.” I flipped my sword to crack the skull of the bound man with the hilt of the weapon, then heard the Champion of She-Who-Loves command, “Destroy everything.”
Trying to get innocents to understand the threat is sometimes hard.