To Face the Ugly Deed
The professionalism of Makinor and Jelnaya awed me. I had killed animals and people, and gone on raids to simply cause mischief to others. Having to show our strength to keep others from attacking us was a normal. The men of our community treated those periods as intense fun whether we came back speaking of victory or losses. Both Makinor and Jelnaya showed enjoyment in what they were doing, but they kept a sober, professional attitude about their actions that definitely set my time with them in a separate category than what I did with my fellow townspeople.
Quafrey told me that the fighting gods would not have cooperated with her the way the Champions of She-Who-Loves and He-Who-Fights worked with each other. While they admitted to being opposed deities, they accepted the ways of each other. I felt there were points they would argue with each other, but they kept themselves from those topics. Jelnaya accepted that this mission was sponsored by a goddess of love, so looked to Makinor or me for making decisions. I found her more than willing to cooperate with us while still acting in her capacity as a champion of He-Who-Fights.
Bringing back Albroth I felt to be a major triumph of our mission. I traveled back with Jelnaya and Makinor proud of what had been accomplished. Those of my town however moved back with fear on their faces similar to those times when it was felt that what a raiding party did would inspire others to attack us instead of fear us. I found myself needing to stand near the tied-up body of Albroth while proclaiming the results of the mission.
“We need to know! There are things threatening us that we do not understand. Makinor, Jelnaya, and I have learned things, but Albroth said that we do not know half of it. Well, we felt safer listening to him here than over there.”
Assapri, the wife of our butcher, said, “They will be coming here now.”
“They were coming here already. We already defied them, so they would be coming anyway. What we did, was what we usually do. What we did was not against our ways. All we did was to make an attack of our own to warn them away. These people are more than just another community of people, but monsters, although I stayed true to who we are.”
Lord Felther said, “We can’t fight the Privileged, Nebard. They are much better fighters than we are.”
“That is why Quafrey sought Jelnaya. She is a much better fighter than they. The problem however is that we were going to lose against the Privileged. They were not going to simply make our lives better. They were using us to punish others that defied them, then they were going to use us in other ways. Those of us that continued to work with the Privileged would have ended up becoming one of them, a thing of evil. Quafrey answered the prayers of my mother, and a few other ladies, understanding that without any divine guidance and aid we were doomed.” Hearing murmuring, I stressed, “Jelnaya rescued the SOULS of those we recently took as wives! If we could have continued on our path, our souls would have been taken.”
“You cannot prove that.”
It bothered me to be challenged by Lord Felther. He had been one of those working with the Privileged, and the one that directed us during the raids. I felt he should have more of a reason than almost any of us to seek to gain information from Albroth. I heard the voice I now accepted as that of my goddess, and understood that I would have to challenge Lord Felther.
“Albroth is right there! My proof is bound before you!”
“And what do you say about that, young lady?”
It surprised me to have the elder turn to direct his question at another. I however stayed quiet and stepped back to allow Jelnaya to respond, as I had come to trust her. I saw the grin come to her face, and she looked to the elder as if he had fallen into her trap.
“It does not surprise me that you don’t want to do anything. If it was me, I would have already done things to find out about those horses.”
It felt good to hear Elder Thamoss support the lady, “Yes, Felther, those horses are not right.”
Lord Felther however replied, “What is happening here is not our ways.”
Hoping to keep things under control, I felt a need to speak, “Why aren’t these our ways? The raids were our ways. The taking of spoils were our ways. The wanting to do the right thing is our ways, or I at least was brought up to think they were.”
“What’s right in what you are doing? These who went with you are not our people.”
“And Albroth is? Jelnaya and Makinor went with me. Quafrey called these to us. Who is responsible for calling Albroth?”
“And who is Quafrey?”
It was my mother who said, “Felther? Oh, Felther, they took your soul, didn’t they?” I saw Lord Felther just quiver, then my mother asked, “Honored Jelnaya, could you look into Felther’s eyes and rescue him?”
She replied, “He gave up his willingly. I don’t know if I could. Nebard, what does Quafrey say about it?”
The female voice inside my head told me that I needed to see. Quafrey explained that I needed to have a relationship with her like Jelnaya had with He-Who-Fights. I had no idea how to do that. Not hearing any directions from the voice inside my head, I looked to the one that had asked me the question.
“Jelnaya, Quafrey told me that I needed to see, but I have no idea how to do that.”
She responded by acting to subdue Lord Felther. Before I could react, Jelnaya had grabbed the neck and one arm. She then twisted to cause Lord Felther to groan with pain while Makinor grabbed the elder’s other hand, secured it with a cord, then bound it to the other hand. Seeing it done, Jelnaya kicked the back of a knee to have Lord Felther drop partially to the ground.
“Okay, Nebard, look into his eyes.”
I saw the elder squirming, so knelt to try and accomplish the deed before Jelnaya or Makinor felt too much stress. Not only was Lord Felther attempting to get away from the other two divine champions, but also prevent me from looking into his eyes. I had to grab his head. It took squeezing the sides of his face to have him look at me with an expression of fear as I did my deed.
Finding myself in blackness, I stood attempting to make sense of my surroundings, although was glad to hear the words of my goddess. “This should be all you need to see, Nebard. Those that sell their soul lose it. In struggles of this kind, the costs can be eternal doom.”
Thinking of Jelnaya, I had to ask, “Is there a bottom where I could reach Lord Felther and restore him?”
“Is he worth it to you?”
“He is a member of my community. Shouldn’t that be enough?”
“No. I came because there are people in your community who promote me and my ways. I have no loyalty to your community, but only to certain people.” I guess she understood that I thought about a rebuttal, as she added, “Jelnaya is here because her god told her to come. You should be equally willing to go where I send you.”
“I believe Jelnaya’s god would have her go down.”
“He is a fighting spirit. I am loving.”
“Am I not to love the men of my community?”
I suddenly felt myself moving. I quickly thought about the words that exchanged between my goddess and me. Feeling that I was about to be tested in a manner I had yet to truly experience, I readied my weapon. Suddenly seeing a faint source of light, I also saw things in the air that I knew I would have to fight.
They appeared as large ducks carrying short swords and maces. Strangely, I found myself able to power my attacks while the creatures seemed to have trouble swinging their weapons while their wings worked to keep their flight stable. My problem was that I came upon each a little too quickly in my descent, but I did manage to drop a couple before having to worry about what appeared as my destination.
I came to a landing a lot easier than I expected. My rate of descent seemed fast to me. I however landed with only a slight bending of my knees.
The duck-like creatures did not come down to attack me. I thought of the strange skin of the horses as I felt my feet slip due to the carpet having a slickness to it. The walls of the room shimmered from what appeared to be a substance like a clear sap from a tree seeping from a cut. There were simple pieces of what appeared to be wooden furniture about the room. As if he was comfortable on what appeared to be nothing more than a wide bench with a back, Lord Felther rested with one lady on top of him and another on the floor before him. He looked at me as if I was unwelcomed. Keeping my eyes darting to catch any sign of being attacked, I spoke to him.
“Lord Felther, I have come to rescue you.”
“Why do I need rescuing?”
I stepped forward. Feeling a foot slip I again thought of the hair of the horses that had been gained. I reached for the lady kneeling before Lord Felther, and saw her turn to me with a most bizarre face. The eyes were large, but only black orbs. A gasp came from what I saw was a vertically operating mouth. I killed her out of shock, disgust, and a desire to rescue the elder.
He demanded, “Why did you do that?”
The face of the lady on him appeared normal, but her ears were wings. Her feet and hands were as flippers. Looking down, I saw the corpse of the one I killed flow into an oily substance that I felt explained the slippery texture of the floor. I thought to kill the remaining lady, but faced the elder hoping to get him to understand how wrong he had been.
“Lord Felther, you sold us out for this?”
He rose to a sitting position while holding the remaining lady in a loving manner. “Sold you out? Nebard, you will be able to gain this. What I have will be offered to all of you.”
“There is a lot wrong with this, Lord Felther. This is not a dream I would speak longingly about, but a nightmare that would keep me from wanting to return to sleep.”
“It will be better once there are others here, Nebard. This place will feel more and more like home. Just wait.”
I cried as I sent my blade forward. The face of Lord Felther distorted as I found my sword to easily enter his body. Seeing the lady move as if to attack, I found the blade to pass through what should have been flesh and bones to fatally cut through the torso of the one held. I cried, but to assure that I finished what I started I struck again to see Lord Felther turn to mist and this lady also flow as oil.
Feeling a hand grab the collar of my suit, I turned to see the smiling face of Quafrey. “Time to return, Nebard.”
I allowed her to lift me. The duck-like creatures were still flying around, but they did not come close. As everything became black around me, I sheathed my sword. In silence my goddess lifted me, and I breathed a thanks seeing myself again standing before the elder who now dropped to the ground dead.
The hands that now grabbed me were from Eashae telling me to come home and rest. I however pushed her away commanding her to let me do what I had to do. I did tell her that I loved her, but just needed time to understand things. I grabbed the clothes of Lord Felther, but seeing no life in his body I looked to another.
“Is this what you do, Jelnaya? Is this what you have to face? He should not have died, but he should have listened to me.”
She replied, “One benefit of a fighting spirit is that the reason for the fight tends to be explained. There is not love there, but business.” She turned to the other divine champion as she said, “Makinor will probably need to face situations like you faced.”
He said, “I would think it better to face decisions with those I am concerned for. I feel for you, Nebard, but I trust you made the right decision.”
I wanted to nod in agreement, but could not. A need to cry some more came through me. Turning to my wife, I however did not want to share my memories with her. I did not want her to face my horrors, and certainly not live with them. With no desire to prolong the threat upon my community, I sought an agreement of another type.
“What about the horses?”
Jelnaya asked, “Are you ready?”
“I want this to end. Yes, let’s go.”
“Oh, we can go, but I have some bad news for you. You are now a Champion of Quafrey. I am certain she will have other jobs for you.”
Thinking over the experience I had with the goddess, I replied, “I feel she cares for me. What about you?”
She smiled while saying, “Oh, Fergush and me get along rather well. I like the guy, and feel that he likes me. Just remember, both you and Makinor, that I will want love in my life one day.”
The other divine champion said, “And at present we will need to fight. Stay with us, Jelnaya.”
Nebard is learning, and he goes back to the horses to learn more.