Of Men and Love in General: Cp10A

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The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Ten – Part One

Jelnaya: An Improper Courtship

I wished that my grandfather was closer. Walking through the halls to my room I felt a need to study exactly who the one-in-a-thousand were. I did remember Grandfather Terish speaking about them as he told me about Fergush and the other gods of this world. His intent was to let me know about failure, and how some gods did have methods to assure that all were given some chance at eternal happiness. I now felt a need to know more, and the tension at having him days away, at best, would not leave my mind.

The fine clothes came off my body, and I put on a suit of basic armor. I then went out into the soldier’s courtyard. A couple stepped out speaking of willing to go up against me, but I told them it was best if they did not. They were determined, and I quickly let them know that I was not in the mood for simple practice by having them flee the practice arena in fear of being hurt. I was grateful in a way to see my great-uncle step before me also in a suit of basic armor, but I first stated my recognition of him as being important in my life.

“I know this is your home world, Great-uncle, but my grandfather always knew things of this world better than you.”

“Hell, Terish knows everything better than me, except for the bodies of those I took to bed. One thing we never shared. Still, Jelnaya, I lived my life under the watchful eye of Fergush, and it was due to me that the two of us gained his honor. I see that as being your problem. You are wondering if you want to live it.”

Not in the mood to just take the words from anyone, I sought my own inner council before speaking. “I feel that I either live it, or I have to put on the finery and settle to a life of waiting on a husband and raising children.”

“Children demand their time even from us men, Jelnaya. I am right now with you.”

“Yes, but – I want it all! I want what you have, what grandfather and grandmother have, EVERYTHING!” The tension in my body still did not release even as I made what I felt was an honest confession. “I think I am scaring myself.”

My elder’s words continued to be spoken calmly. “That’s wise. If there is one thing Fergush can hold over your head that he could not over mine, it is that you know. My life, Terish’s life, and the lives of other immortals are known to you. Ours are not simple stories.”

“Yes, but… but – but your stories have worked out so well. I am looking from the other side, Great-uncle. I see the work and the potential failure. I also see the cheerful faces of your wife, of grandmother, and of my aunts. There is happiness in being a wife and mother. I just… I just – I just want it all.”

“Dirchein has her own story, Jelnaya, and the same with Straekin. None of your aunts are immortal. What you also have to face is that both my wife and the wife of Terish have centuries of existence before us men came into their lives. My service to Fergush was for forty years, and I got tricked into now making it over two hundred. That is what you are looking at, Jelnaya, centuries at the least. I am standing before you with you saying that you want everything I got, yet I know that my story is not over. I could turn around and again be facing deadly combat over some matter of obscure importance. That is what I have, Jelnaya, and honestly what Terish has as well. Our immortal lives could simple go down recorded in the annals of history as a long one, but still just a blip in the history of everything.”

I actually felt my body calming, although considered it would tense right back up if I did not get an answer to my next question. “What do you know about the one-in-a-thousand?”

“It’s a scare story, Jelnaya. A true one, but still something told to soldiers to keep them in line. It might be an honor to be the one-in-a-thousand, but there is no honor in being among the thousand to begin with. You don’t sign up hoping to be the one that comes through. It is a condemnation of your soul to be found in that hall of Debogda, because it is Samayer that sends you there. She-who-survives is telling each and every one of the thousand that they will not survive. Debogda, he-who-assigns, sets the field of battle without any real concern for whether or not it can be achieved. The reasons that the gods concern themselves with the one-in-a-thousand is what comes through is a tortured soul that really cannot fend for itself. History does not record any of the one-in-a-thousand as making any worth of their lives. Truly, no soldier should want to be that man.”

Attempting to make sense of what I was told, I asked, “But he is not a monster?”

“No. Why? You thinking of dating that man?”

“I am thinking that he is what I need in my life. I am thinking that he might give me a perspective that could help me. I definitely do not feel that Neselle would like him.” To assure that my great-uncle did not take my words too far, I added, “I do not plan on making any promises.”

I actually saw a smile come to his face while saying, “No, Neselle would not like him. You would do yourself well to spend time with her, Jelnaya. She has a story of her own, and is living it. Althery is doing himself right by setting her as his goal.”

I found the tension begin to leave my body as I admitted, “Fergush told me to go to Althery, so I do plan on joining him and Neselle.”

“Okay, good then.” There was a pause, then he asked, “Are we done? I mean, we have been here with armor and weapons the whole time.”

I simply smiled and made my attack. With my mind more at ease about things, I gave my great-uncle a better sparring match than I originally felt would be possible. When word came for supper, we both broke complimenting the other for a fine time.

Of course, I needed to completely change my clothes. Honestly, I needed a bath, but I only did what I felt was necessary to make me presentable. In one of my usual dresses – not one truly declaring my status as a member of the noble family – I entered the main dining room.

Uncle Althery approached with Eight-Fourteen, who I had to admit was better dressed than me. “Bresnaw, this is my niece, Jelnaya. As you should have learned, the world is just safer when she dresses like this.”

“She is still quite lovely.” Eight-Fourteen had a nice strong voice, although it did lack cadence. “Jelnaya, I am pleased to see you again.”

Great-aunt Dirchein had to make a show. “Jelnaya, I could have come up with something better than that. My castle might be new, so without the centuries of storage from which to pull clothes, but surely I could have something close to fitting you.”

I looked around, then said, “I do not see an orchestra, so there won’t be dancing, Great-aunt Dirchein.” Seeing her expression as if she was about to scold me, I quickly said, “I can go to my room, and you can send me a plate.”

She did not hush. “You have at least one man interested in you, Jelnaya.”

“I took him on earlier, Great-aunt Dirchein –“

Uncle Althery added for me, “When she was wearing a fine dress.”

The golden lady turned to fuss at another, “Althery!”

An arm of my uncle went around my shoulders as he replied, “Jelnaya has the spunk I need, Aunt Dirchein.” Before she could respond, he said, “I don’t have the best of reputations either.”

The voice of another lady declared, “Yes, you do, Althery. At least with me.”

I looked down to see the female wolf, and wondered about her presence although Uncle Althery seemed not bothered by her at all. “Dearest Hanell, what type of impression has Jelnaya made on you?”

“Under normal circumstances, I would be alarmed. However, I listened as she spoke with Neselle. Jelnaya does have a clear head. Considering that she is making her life among unusual circumstances, and has the reputation that she has, I must speak in her favor.”

“Stand down, Aunt Dirchein. If Hanell speaks in favor of Jelnaya, you cannot say anything to discredit her.”

The features of the golden lady showed the muscles of her face to be very tense, but she then calmly said, “I would still prefer having those of my family looking their best.”

Eight-Fourteen came to my support by saying, “She is very lovely. I cannot complain.”

We all turned to see Great-uncle Ferrigote approach to calmly say, “You are dealing with Terish’s side of the family, Dirchein.”

“Yes, my lord,” the golden lady replied. “I had already lost the battle, but was just attempting to save face.”

“Jelnaya –“

I quickly replied, “Yes, Great-uncle Ferrigote.”

“Make certain that you spend time with my wife’s tailors, so they can get your measurements. You are still growing, and I believe they have changed since your last visit.”

I curtsied in reply. Great-uncle Ferrigote simply nodded in return, then held out his arm to gain the company of his wife. I then moved with Uncle Althery to a seat at the table next to Neselle.

She smiled at me, then asked, “Althery supports you, but how about the rest of your side of the family?”

“I grew up around them. I really did not learn about this side until I pulled stunts around Castle Davelda. Great-uncle Ferrigote took up my education as he did with Uncle Althery.”

“You got into trouble with those of Davelda?”

“Not really. They had an exercise room, and I would go there at night instead of my bedroom. I was determined to prepare myself for this life. Really, I did not cause any trouble, except that I did not spend my free time sitting around reading, playing games, or doing anything else they thought a young girl should be doing.”

From further down the main table, the voice of Great-uncle Ferrigote supported me. “Truly, Neselle. Jelnaya came with me fuming at the indignity of those of Davelda for having me come get her. She had not done anything wrong, and was very upset at those of Davelda for acting as if she did. I put Althery to work around the castle to force him to see the need for developing his knowledge of math and science. Jelnaya had me think of her grandfather as she took off to prove herself against challenges. Really, a good kid, but not one to rest or play.”

I replied, “I enjoy my life. I consider myself having fun.”

While others chuckled or made comments among themselves, Neselle whispered to me, “Your dress will be fine for my world.”

“I’m ready to go.”

“I have not been the one holding us up. It’s my home, and I do like going back. Maybe with the arrival of the one-in-a-thousand, we can finally get started.”

Some more time between Jelnaya and Bresnaw follows.