To Face the Ugly Deed
Nebard put a focus to our inspection of the small chamber where we entered this reality that gave the location importance. I did once ask Grandfather Terish how many realities there were. It was a really grand number. What kept me, and most others, from memorizing it was that it was not a round figure. It actually took Grandfather Terish a while to rattle off the answer, and I found myself saying what most did, which was the number was very large. What was even larger was the size of infinity compared to the worlds where life was prevalent. From almost every location one with special sight could see a multitude of connections, although mostly it was just the blackness of deep space with occasionally a dead world unable to support life. To actually find an option to another habitable environment was actually rare. As I explained some of this to Nebard, he asked about where to look for other worlds, and I saw the portal when I looked above the place we had entered.
He asked, “How do we get up there?”
I simply replied, “The problem is what do we do once we get up there. I can pretty much tell why they felt this was such a safe location. Just as portals can open into outer space or dead worlds, they can open up in the air. I have no way to tell how far is down.”
“My goddess took me up into the clouds and had me bathe in a cloud. Maybe I can fly.”
Considering the active connection I had with my god, I quickly replied, “Well, can you?”
“I don’t …”
“Why are you even pausing? Quafrey should have either told you, ‘Yes,’ or ‘No’.”
“I was worried about you and Makinor.”
I shook my head even as I let him know why I did not accept his excuse. “We have deities as well, so will have our own answers to the dilemma. However, if Quafrey grants you the ability to fly, you can simply move through the portal and check to see how high off the ground it is. Makinor and I can then either determine whether we are going to just jump through, or seek our deities for another solution.”
“Quafrey says that I cannot actually fly, although I do not need to be afraid of falling.”
Makinor asked, “What if we went up then broke through to the other side of the portal in order to look down?”
I replied, “They don’t work like that. The gods warp their realities for various reasons. That is why there is just a connection there, and not a constant presence. In the same manner, you have to go through in a certain direction. Don’t ask me to explain further, as a real understanding will drive one insane.”
My eyes did not move from looking to the ceiling where the portal existed. I would not doubt that I was considering any option to get through it. I however then realized that just as I could not easily pass, no one else could either. That had me look at the floor. I suddenly rushed back realizing what I was seeing on the ceiling.
I guess it was good that Makinor asked a question, as I readied my drahaberd not about to explain myself. “What are you doing, Jelnaya?”
“It’s there. Not just watching, but active. Look at the floor. This is where they transformed the people.”
He bent down to touch etchings on the floor, then said, “You don’t fight this alone, Jelnaya. Don’t let Fergush kill you.” When I glared at him, he rose to say, “This is not his mission.”
I went to get a chair as I said, “I can do this.”
Nebard helped me set the piece of furniture in place while saying, “I can as well.”
Makinor said, “Both of you are crazy. How will you get back?”
I replied, “Another way.” I then looked to Nebard to say, “I’m the fighter. I go first.”
He confidently stated, “I’ll be behind you.”
As I prepared myself, Makinor said, “Onathia, I’m depending on you to make me able to follow.”
Chair, font, then I launched myself up. I did a flip with the drahaberd set in a hand ready to slash at any resistance. Feeling a thickness affecting my movement, I adjusted my body. Suddenly, I was immersed in something vile. I had expected something powerful and not of earthly substance, which was why I had prepared the drahaberd. Whatever surrounded me I felt intended to quickly make me ineffective. It could not overcome the divine nature of my weapon however, and what little movement I managed with it I could tell hurt the entity. I then felt free hearing a scream from Nebard who had successfully launched himself into the battle.
What I was fighting suddenly came into view as I saw a strange glow. Just as my hair would shine in the midst of combat, it seemed that Makinor’s polished armor could redirect surrounding illumination as well. More than my bright red and yellow locks, it added a holy property to the rays that helped reveal the evil entity we were battling. Being able to see claws, tentacles, and eyes, I felt able to better direct my attacks. As if understanding that it was fighting a losing battle, the one we were in combat with dispersed.
Coming to the ground, I heard laughter. Of course I momentarily put my focus on landing. I hit the rough terrain and rolled glad for my armor, as the stones seemed to have sharp points and edges. I felt cuts on my hands and face as I rose from the ground.
Nebard appeared to float down, but Makinor landed with a solid stance that I felt would have broken the legs of a normal person before asking, “Are you all right, Jelnaya?”
“I’ll heal,” I replied.
He came to look me over, and as he did so he said, “Without scars, I hope.”
“One advantage of being a woman. Fergush wants to keep me as something attractive for him to look at.”
“Having a female deity, I guess I can claim the same. What do we do now?”
I looked around. Knowing that we had hurt the creature, I expected it to seek to defend itself by sending hordes of minions. Considering what I had seen, I did expect the entity to have amassed a number of the Privileged. The other option was that it had simply eaten the souls that rose up to join it, but I could not believe one so powerful had not sought to truly expand its influence by granting some the illusion of a closer relationship. I looked over the dry, ragged landscape attempting to notice the direction that would lead me to others or show from where others were coming.
Makinor said, “This way, Jelnaya.” Allowing that this was a mission for the love goddesses, I did not argue, although found him stopping me to look at me. “Yes, I can see your scratches already clearing up. Might want to wipe off the residue of blood.”
I started walking while saying, “You cannot say that we are not getting dirty. Look at this landscape.”
“Thank Onathia I have you to look at instead.”
I kept walking even as I glared at Makinor. He was taller than me, so easily matched my pace. I did not doubt that he watched me from inside his helmet. When I turned my eyes to watch the ground as I kept walking, Makinor decided to speak again.
“You are lovely, Jelnaya.” I kept walking, so he decided to try another tactic. “How can you like a life like this?”
I did reply to that. “I get to brag about being here, about crossing this horrid terrain, and defeating the evil that is here.”
“I cannot say that I can do that.”
He now found me in front of his face. “Then why are you here? I have those figures in my life. I have my Grandfather Terish and Great-uncle Ferrigote. What those two have faced and overcome set a bar that I am still working to overcome. Grandfather Terish has a centaur for his mount, because he saved her world from some evil worse than this one we are facing. Great-uncle Ferrigote conquered a world. There is then Grandmother Straekin who became Empress of a world. Yes, I carry a drahaberd given to me by deities of two worlds for what I did for them. Yes, I have the honor of other heroes, some who I respect highly. Still, my demand to Fergush was that I get it all. Not just the glories, but the stories that go with them. I earned my weapons, and my armor. I bet Onathia gave you that pretty suit you are wearing.”
Calmly, he replied, “Yes, she did, and up to this moment I was proud of it. Still, it was given to me simply because male devotees, much less champions, to Onathia are rare. The armor was in storage. When Onathia claimed me, she told the priests to take it out and give it to me.”
“I had just gained this armor when I went with Aunt Neselle to her world. It had been stuck in some dismal ruin. While magic, it still was stiff, showed a lack of some crystals and other problems, and really did not fit me at all. Still, I did what was necessary and came away with the respect of Aunt Neselle’s world and this drahaberd. It was those of her world who fixed this outfit of crystals for me.”
“What type of magic does it have?”
“Gaze attacks. Cannot fight if you cannot get to your opponent. I have something to protect me from energy attacks, something to protect me from other range attacks, and my armor protects me from gaze attacks. Some monsters just have to look at you, and with this armor they actually will avert their eyes.”
He signaled for me to start back to walking, and I matched his pace as he said, “I have never fought such a creature. Honestly, everything you have said has made me want you more, and had me realize that you are not mine to have. I don’t know whether to envy or pity the man that eventually gets you.”
“You better envy him, as I will love him.”
“Of course, although I often wonder if I could truly love a lady.”
“A Champion of She-Who-Loves who does not love someone.”
My words had been rather cruel, but I believe they forced Makinor to say something he had yet to reveal. “They take them. The other champions, the ladies, they claim a man. They just find one that they consider handsome, and take them expecting love to develop. I can’t do that. I want to go through the courtship. The ladies I advance upon however see me as a Champion of Onathia, and instead of seeing someone who will love them they see someone who will be going around playing matchmaker with others.”
Curious, I asked, “Is that what you do? I mean, I don’t. I want Onathia’s blessing, because I do want a loving relationship, but I am not really wanting her to play matchmaker. Some word of warning should there be a problem with a man, but if a man does not have the courage to face me then he won’t be for me.”
“I’m a man, Jelnaya. I do have the courage to face a lady. I am facing you. I however have to admit that you are about the only lady who has been willing to talk with me.”
“What has Onathia said about that?”
“She has me out here with you.”
“I guess you are a hopeless case.” I really did not want to be cruel, so quickly added, “There is a reason. Trust Onathia on that. Grandfather Terish found Grandmother Straekin. Great-uncle Ferrigote found his gold lady. Uncle Althey found Neselle. There is a perfect match for you, Makinor.”
“I doubt she is here.”
What was around us did not look like somewhere people would thrive, so I said, “But you are proving yourself out here. Give Onathia the confidence you can manage in an environment like this, and who knows where she might send you next.”
And our trio works on their own problems even as the advance on another objective.