To Face the Ugly Deed
We rode away from the active sanctuary with my two companions speaking of being glad that they went. For them the experience focused their search, which they considered a good thing. I however did not really consider any of my questions answered, as I only found myself asking new ones. I rode back to the desecrated temple wishing that I spent time asking questions.
The voice of my goddess said, “Do not worry about Eashae, Nebard. She is fine.”
I replied, “She’s from this world.”
“Yes, Nebard. Not that community, but from one on this world.”
“So I could have been presented with information.”
“No. Allow your wife to be your wife. Allow her to become just as much a part of your reality as that horse.”
Those words did not satisfy me, and I let my goddess know it by stating, “It’s not a horse.”
“The words from Pordarrish were good. They need to be become horses.” I felt all the tension in my body to drain away as Quafrey then said, “I love you, Nebard.”
I found myself needing to say, “I’m sorry, Quafrey.”
“For what, Nebard? You have not refused to act. You have not dishonored me. Talking to me is what you should do. If you have problems or questions, you should direct them to me.”
“I am not like Jelnaya or Makinor. I do not have a relationship with you like they do with their gods. I do not have the attitude to my work the way they do.”
“They are from another world, so grew up with a different set of traditions. As to a relationship, we are developing that. As to the way you think and act, I know your people, Nebard. You are acting as I feel you should. I am not troubled by you.”
Thinking of one I did still feel troubled for, I asked, “And Eashae?”
“You did not take her in a manner improper. The actions from you young men will probably cause me to have to allow men from another community to raid your town in order to provide the young ladies with husbands. As gods it is sometimes necessary for us to make up for the rash actions of youths, but I assure you that I will do what I can to limit the harm. As for your wife, she is your wife. Pordarrish assured you of that.”
“Will she know what Pordarrish did?”
“Probably not in a manner you will notice. She made certain promises to you, Nebard, and what you will see is her keeping her promises. What you however should also see is her accepting your ways and settling into her life with all the joy of truly feeling it is her life. While your children will certainly be told some things, they will be taught your ways and raised as proper youths in your community.”
I found my companions slowing down as we came around certain warnings. Just as I had been speaking with my goddess, I found Jelnaya to be speaking to her god. Her conversation was not on her home, but on finding the path to the Privileged. She was discussing things about moving between planes, what she had noticed earlier, and other details hoping to gain the proper insight. I looked to see Makinor not speaking to another, but simply paying attention to what the lady said. As she slowed down to a near stop on the temple grounds, I heard her ask a question after looking at her companions.
“Makinor, is Onathia listening in to what Fergush is telling me?”
He replied, “I assume she is, Jelnaya, as she is telling me to listen to you.”
“Okay, so how much are you understanding?”
“Not a thing, but I am trusting you to figure this out.”
“Nebard, I need you to be paying attention as well.”
I felt shock in being mentioned, although quickly replied, “I trust you as well, Jelnaya, although I was speaking with Quafrey. You said that she had precedence with me.”
“That I did. I however also know that the two of you do not have experience in dealing with other worlds. As you have learned, our status is recognized. Gods, even the most minor ones, are on a level we really cannot comprehend. Even my Grandfather Terish will speak of not being able to truly understand things divine, and he has been in divine realms directly before the awesome presence of a God. I have been in a divine realm, but was stopped before I strode before such a grand confrontation.”
“So, what should I have been paying attention to?”
“Things about where we should be going.”
Those words had be seek to recall the flow of the conversation. All I actually had to reference was her words, as I could not hear the voice of her god. Accepting we were on the grounds of what had been a church, I spoke words of where I thought a path here might lead us.
“Do you need to find a way to Hell, as what should be here is a closed route to Heaven?”
“No,” She answered. “I told you before that I was seeing into Hell. These were demons active here. The Privileged are not demons, but agents for them. Consider them as possessed, but as willingly possessed. The demons have not taken over the bodies, but were allowed to infuse the bodies. That means those who become Privileged are basically human bodies with the essence of demons as its souls.” She patted her mount while saying, “That is actually the next step the horses would take. After killing someone, they will be considered to have gone so far down the path to corruption that they will succumb to allowing demons take them over. Their souls will be devoured. That is why when the Privileged were killed I saw the portal open. It was not the usual process of a soul simply returning to its place, but of the host demon returning to its place, which is a more detectable process. However, there is nothing new about demons seeking to seduce humans to do evil. What is different here is the depth of evil. We need to find the root of the evil, and going into Hell is not the path to take. What we need to find is a route to a world that appears like Hell.”
Makinor replied, “So, what you are saying is you want our help to recognize when we are about to step into Hell. If it is a Hell, we don’t go. If it however is not a Hell, we go.”
“Right. I will go after what I feel is an agent, and as has already been learned, it might be fleeing back to Hell. What we want is the world where the Privileged actually came from.”
I had to suggest, “Well, just make it a point not to chase a demon.”
She dismounted while replying, “But we are chasing demons. The Privileged are basically demons.”
Makinor asked, “But their bodies aren’t. They can’t take the bodies into Hell.”
“Did Onathia say that?”
“What? Uh, no. Sorry, Jelnaya.”
She moved up to pat the man on a cheek before saying, “Now you know my problem. We get to following our own train of thought, or determination, and we can go wrong. We need to work with each other.”
He reached out and hugged the lady while replying, “Of course.”
Still thinking on my own conversation with my own goddess, I asked, “Are the demons from this world?”
Jelnaya replied, “That is what I believe is the real problem here. Whatever happened managed to get cooperation from demons from various worlds. Usually, divine entities stay with their own realities. One of the problems I face, and which many other divine champions cannot face, is being in places where there is no contact with our deities. Demons, angels, all those creatures of metaphysical origin usually are products of that sphere. Get a demon away from its reality, and it actually has no substance. It just dissolves.”
Makinor asked, “So, what are we really looking at here, Jelnaya?”
“Power. The range of control being worked here is great. We’re going to have bragging rights if we bring this down, Makinor. Expect that invitation to join Fergush’s table.”
I had to say what I felt was obvious. “There is no one here.”
“But there was. They were watching us from here. Considering how one grenade killed them, I suspect they felt themselves safe here. This was a base of operations. Still, this was once a temple to a god, so the one behind our opposition had power and time on his side. Time can work to our advantage as well, but we are going to have to worry about the power.”
Makinor said, “So, since this was a base of operations, you were expecting others to come here after completing their missions.”
“Right. Not being troubled however brings up the need to go to them.”
“So, what did you and Fergush decide upon?”
She moved away, then started pointing. I listened as she spoke of directions even as her hand indicated places up into the sky or down into the ground. Jelnaya then moved back to us while saying something other than a conclusion.
“I really should be doing this in the chamber where we entered. Directions through the omniverse are not sensible. Grandfather Terish went insane seeking to learn how everything fit. If that was the chamber they used for observation, maybe that lecture would make sense in there.”
I patted my mount, but feeling the strange nature of its hide I had to ask, “Where are the horses from?”
Makinor commented, “Well, we know they are not from this world.”
Jelnaya admitted, “That is a good question, Nebard. Considering how far down the path of corruption they had gone, there should be a desire for the one directing this to finish their corruption.
I asked, “When are the souls eaten?”
“That is actually another good question. We however have three sources of advice on things divine, so probably should spend time speaking to them instead of each other.”
Makinor said, “Jelnaya, I assume you are going to speak to Fergush about how to fight.”
“Oh? So are you going to speak to Onathia about how to pucker up your lips to better smooch what you are going up against?”
I could not help but snort to that comment, as I did find it funny. Makinor however showed no sign of finding the words humorous. He in fact looked to me with an expression of annoyance at what I did. It did help me understand his thoughts when he worked to ask another question.
“Jelnaya, are you saying that you don’t talk about fighting with Fergush?”
“No,” she answered. “Of course I brag on my fights, but that is mostly done simply to proclaim him. My god is He-Who-Fights, but my relationship with him is not at such a basic level. I want more to my life than just fighting, and we often talk about other things in my life.”
There was a period of silence, then Jelnaya went back to talking. “I guess you cannot do things the way I can. You cannot just go around having serious relationships with people. Especially, I guess, with the men. I can. I go around testing my fighting techniques with others. I learn in the process, and not just teach. I have developed my fighting styles from interacting with others, and not from discussing the topic with Fergush. He came to me because I was successful, yet giving him honor while seeking advice on other things. Actually, love. When Fergush first indicated his intentions to claim me I had come to him wanting him to direct me as a family friend.”
Seeing Makinor look to me, I said, “You were there. I was also dealing with my life of needing to show love, and not really seeking a relationship with Quafrey.”
“Yes,” Makinor softly admitted, “I was there.
Hearing that, I made a connection of a different kind. “Jelnaya, they were watching us, but you said they were only agents for another. Surely they were reporting to it.”
I had to smile seeing her come to pat me on a cheek before saying, “That is a good thought, Nebard. Come on, let’s go check out that auditorium a little closer.”
It takes thought, but the next portal is found.