A Wish for Hope
I kicked stuff away from the practice area. It did help me not to see bodies, but I still felt troubled about what was now my home. While this realm might be devoted to She-Who-Survives, she had put in charge a Champion of He-Who-Fights. I needed the comfort of some simulated fighting, so cleared the practice area.
There were people moving about. With those of Davelda all being members of the Navy and serving on the same ship, they were dressed basically the same. Due to rank and duties there were some differences in the uniforms, although there was a lot in common in the attire. I did not seek to bother them. I was grateful for what they were doing. It however surprised me when a few people walked up with something being thrown to the ground before me.
Chering said, “It’s not an icon, Princess Jelnaya. I’m not trying to gain your honor, but just saying that it might do you good to have someone to spar against.”
What I saw were just some wooden simulations of weapons. What he had tossed down were just what I would consider to be short swords, but I saw others set down some pole arms with the blades and not just the handles of wood. As I picked up one of the simulated weapons, I asked a question of Chering.
“Didn’t I give you a blessed icon?”
He pulled the small medallion from a pocket. All that came with him spoke of seeing the shimmer of red and yellow that stated I had blessed it. He however put it back in his pocket while honestly admitting something about it.
“I cannot say I earned it. I mean, I understand why you felt willing to give it to me, but I cannot stand against you, Princess. All I can do is stand with you, and that is why I am here. I want you to know that I will stand with you.”
I replied, “You, anyone from Davelda, will be treated with respect. Even if you go around calling me princess when I am now a duchess.”
One of the others said, “You are our princess, Jelnaya.”
“Yes, I know. I deal with that every time I visit.”
Chering had learned something of actual combat in his journey with me. While he still did not prove himself as a great fighter, he held his own rather well. The others who stepped into the circle had various level of skills, although not any real experience in facing opponents such as me. While I accepted that every immortal from Davelda considered themselves veterans of a most terrible war, what they considered combat was not with the weapons those they brought out were to simulate.
During one break as another decided to spend time against me, I heard Vulge say, “Duchess, there are some people to meet you.”
I actually would have fussed at him if he would have called me princess. While he had just as much right as the others from Davelda, I felt he needed to stress my title to assure that those he presented to me understood my status. I did not want my chaperone to steal any respect from me. In accepting he had done properly, I looked at those that genuflected and considered what I should call them.
I said, “Yellow, red, and violet are the colors of Phanigist. As far as I am concerned, the red is for Fergush, although I recognize it is a color of Grenare as well. I see red and forest green, so I am assuming you are from Astoch.”
One rose, then bowed as he said, “I am no less than your baron, Honored Duchess Jelnaya. King Relecky told me to wait a week, but also informed me that you would be in need of staff.”
I replied, “I do need staff, but I am not yet to the point of assuring my own people. The problem that brought me here remains, and I will not start assigning positions until I am assured of my realm being safe. However, Baron…”
“Horgulse, Your Grace.”
“Horgulse, you need people. This is my home, but I want you to feel as much at home here as me. There are apartments assigned to you. I cannot say they have been cleaned yet. You should certainly be willing to assign your own staff and restore your place. If any of your people are as bold to seek to supply me with aid and counsel, I will hope to somehow acknowledge that.”
“How about me, Your Grace?”
As he said that he moved to gain a pole arm. I pointed to have one of those from Davelda toss me a similar weapon. The baron made a good opening attack, but as he sought to set up a second move I put him to the ground. He rose, then tried a different tactic only to find the point of my weapon at his throat. Fergush told me something as he immediately sought to try again. This time when I put the tip of my pole arm to his chest, I gave some advice.
“Don’t be stupid, Baron. If you are going to serve under me, you cannot be stupid.”
It helped my assessment of him that he admitted what I had been told. “A priest of Samayer told me that if I could best you then my domain would not be held at fault.”
“What the priest told you was that your domain was at fault. Don’t think you can cover your faults before the gods, Horgulse. I am not your superior first, but first I am a Champion of Fergush. I like the guy, and his wife said she likes me as well. If you are not on good relations with them, let me remind you how I came into power.”
The man turned to call another, which had me sternly say, “If he enters the circle, I will kill him and you with this wooden weapon. What I have seen has me in as ugly a mood as Samayer was when she had me enter this realm. These good people of Davelda here have been doing what they could to help me, but what you are attempting to do is remind me of why I am in my mood.”
I kept my face expressing my seriousness even as Horgulse showed fear as he said, “You don’t know my situation, Duchess.”
“Sure I do. Death.”
One dressed in robes said, “I would take her words seriously, Baron.”
Horgulse I guess tried to gain my compassion by saying, “We are not a rich land, Duchess.”
I replied, “Strange, as I have an angel of Samayer guarding my lower passages including my treasury. There is quite a lot in there. Also, it is ‘honored’ duchess. I told you that I was a Champion of Fergush first.”
“There won’t be any more funds after you rebuild.”
“Yes, well I got some bad news for you. It is something I already told you. I consider my highest obligation to Fergush. I am a divine champion of the god. I like my status. If you think I care about the money, I would have you consider the value of your life.” Thinking back on what I had been told, I looked at those in the baron’s party and found it not good that I had to ask, “Is there a priest of any of the six present?”
One in the back sounded out, “Cloript, Your Honored Grace.”
“Cloript? You better not tell me that you are in support of this idiot noble.”
“No, Your Honored Grace, although I was told to watch how you delivered your lesson to Baron Horgulse.”
“As far as I am concerned, there is no lesson to give. If you cannot learn from recent history, you are not worth instructing.”
I actually saw anger on the face of Baron Horgulse as he turned to those that came with him. The voice of the priest had come from the rear, I really had not been able to pick out the man. Maybe the baron knew who to look for, as he turned to me as if to pull his actual weapon.
When he dropped to kneel before me, I let him know a fact. “You were not going to win this. I have my Aunt Neselle with me. She is a divine champion of a major goddess that rules another world. Get both of us together, and you will be suffering from words and not just injuries to your body.”
He softly asked, “What would you have me do, Your Honored Grace?”
“You have a lot to do. This first meeting really has me thinking very little of you. Honestly, though, we do need to assure this realm stays financially solvent. I could use someone like you. However, doing things that gets the gods mad at you, especially the goddess that claims this realm as her own, is really extremely stupid. You had better apologize to her, probably do the same with the other five, then when you come back to me have the attitude of making everyone, including me and the gods, proud of you.”
The baron assured me that he would, then I dismissed him. As his company moved away, I saw the priest remain behind. He was a lot younger than I suspected, but I signaled for him to come to me as I had something to say.
“Keir, I know Cloript appeared before me, but I really could use some guidance from any of the six.”
“No, Honored Duchess, as I know you are being supplied with guidance directly. Also, those here at the moment have other deities to seek guidance from.”
He was correct, so I simply said, “Well, glad to see you.”
“You’re welcome, Your Honored Grace. Cloript wants me to assure you that he is available should you seek him, but feels your plate is full enough with wisdom without him loading you with his instructions.”
Feeling the tension of the last few minutes fade, I admitted, “Well, Fergush told me I could have killed the baron. What does Cloript have to say?”
“That you were wise to recognize the value of someone who does concern themselves with the prosperity of the realm. Also, he wants me to remind you that you were not instructed to march on Astoch.”
“Tell Cloript that those words were comforting.” I then turned to someone to command, “Chering, have some of your crew go with the priest to assure the quality of his room.”
As he did the duty, I realized that I probably needed to freshen myself for supper. Moving back inside the castle, I however found some ladies calling me over. Accepting the status of those of Davelda, they were all technically my elders, I considered it odd when they directed me up the stairs. Moving up the risers, I saw a couple of men go to open some very large and ornate doors. Passing over the threshold, I realized the real change that had come to my life.
One of the ladies stepped back through the doors as she said, “I will assure some hot water for your bath, Duchess.”
A lady that remained moved to indicate where I should go beyond a lovely foyer and the opening to an expansive front room as she admitted, “The clothes we found really were not your size, Princess Jelnaya. The usual storeroom for such garments should be below, so maybe in a few days we can have a wardrobe for you.”
I was glad to see my saddlebags, and moved to them as I said, “I really hate those garments.”
“Empress Straekin does not speak well of wearing them either. Still, she does.”
Remembering that I had first come here in removing the evil from this building, I looked around while saying, “You must have worked hard to restore this.”
“Those words actually made all the work worthwhile, Princess. We are glad to see you gaining so much success. The fact we were able to be here for you actually fills us with joy.” She saluted me while saying, “Princess, Duchess, if I may, I would be willing to be one of your attendants.”
Like I said, I consider those immortals of Davelda to be my elders, so I had to say, “It’s your decision. If you are serious, consider it your duty to hire others. No, I do not want all my attendants to be from Davelda.”
“Thank you. I will let you know how things develop.”
I looked at the bed. I then went to a small door to find the corridor to another bedroom. The larger room had not been completely cleaned, although there were plenty of signs that the work had started. I spoke of making this room mine, as I would be the prime ruler of this land. Whoever I married would have respect, but the gods who gave the realm to me would not have me decline my duties. My attendant, named Merilay, moved to the bed while asking a question.
“Just tell me, Princess Jelnaya, that you will be sleeping in here.”
Knowing that those of Davelda had a history with my Grandfather Terish, who did not like closed rooms, I replied, “I met Terdeskollit, and I would probably constantly fear for my life if he were my God. He’s not. Those who look after me I fully trust to care for me. Yes, I will sleep in here feeling safe.”
“This room will then become your own. Tomorrow, maybe, as I will need to check on things.”
“It’s okay. If the other room is to become the chamber for my husband, I probably should get used to it as well.”
There are still things to do in her castle.