To Face the Ugly Deed
Listening to Jelnaya and Makinor made me feel highly inferior. They had much broader range of experiences than I did. While Jelnaya did most of the bragging, the calm replies from Makinor let me know that he could relate to the things she spoke of while her words were much more than I could comprehend.
The only thing I had that they did not was a spouse. I was married, and they were not. Both of them had been given things by people and their deities, but neither one had gained a spouse.
The sorrow I felt for taking Eashae overwhelmed me, and I had to sit. The hard ground was cracked with rocks that seemed to have thorns, but I found a place where I could gain some comfort. Both of my companions realized I was no longer with them, and came back where I cried in sorrow.
When Makinor tried to offer me a cloth, I said, “I took her. I just took her. Yes, she made me promises, but it didn’t matter. I know it didn’t matter to most of the others with me. She was just a prize. I took her.”
The other champion of a goddess of love said, “And you are loving her.”
“Both of you did things to earn what you have. I killed people. I did nothing to gain blessings. I gained honor for doing something ugly and wrong.”
Jelnaya said, “Quafrey had you bathe so you would be able to be with her. The god of Eashae’s world erased her past so she could fully be your wife. Both are telling you not to look back, but to look forward.”
“Is that what you do, Jelnaya? You keep looking forward?”
“I guess. Listen, I tell both of you that I brag about what I do. That means I boldly tell others. I then listen to what they tell me. Sometimes they point out my mistakes. There was a period where I usually heard others speak of their amazement that I was still alive. I however took what they said and found what was useful toward helping me improve. You know what else? I recognized that the people I respected, admired, were also practicing and working to improve. However wonderful I thought certain people were, I realized that this life was a constant challenge and that I would never be so good I could relax. You’re a divine champion. You’re stuck working for a goddess. Stand up. Look ahead. Trust me, the scariest thing you might see is the path you have already traveled.”
Makinor said, “Which, I guess, is what Nebard is facing right now. Come on, Nebard, we got something evil and ugly to take on.”
“I’m glad you’re here. I need to hear what you say to each other.”
“What? We’re opposed. You should be hearing us give each other a hard time.”
I rose while smiling, as I had to say, “I hear friendship. You are not angry at each other, but attempting to get each other to understand things. I don’t have that. My gods don’t have relationships. They hardly interact with each other, much less the people. You two might be opposed, but I can tell your gods know and respect each other. I don’t have any of that, but I want it. Knowing it’s possible will, I hope, have me work with my gods toward making my world a better place.”
Jelnaya said, “Sounds like Quafrey is getting her champion. Come on, Nebard, back to moving.”
I had to ask, “Why are we going this way.”
“Because the Champion of She-Who-Loves said to go this way. This isn’t my mission.”
Makinor explained, “The entity fled in this direction. Also, there is a slight haze in this direction that my goddess says is a result of something we need to see.”
“I just thought I saw an indication of green possibly meaning plants. What Makinor said sounds like two good reasons to me, especially that part of Onathia feeling that it is an important direction to travel.”
I had to say, “See. The two of you are not really giving the other a hard time.”
“It would not win us any points if we just bickered. Trust me, I can be more hard-headed than someone who wants everyone to be happy and nice. If Makinor had not explained, or been explaining, I could have been very stubborn.”
Makinor said, “You obviously have no idea of the problems I have to usually face. Hard-headed and stubborn people I tend to face all the time.”
“You want me to be hard-headed and stubborn just to give you a chance to deal with me?”
I had to say, “See, I need something like the two of you right now. Now, you’re right, we need to keep moving.”
As we fell into a rhythm, Jelnaya said, “I wouldn’t do it, Nebard. If shown a barn full of men and told to choose the most handsome, I would have walked away. Honestly, I find something attractive in almost every man I meet. What I want is something that I cannot see in looking at a man. I am glad you and Eashae are working out, but I would not trust that to happen for me.”
Makinor took up the topic. “I have to agree with Jelnaya. I could have had a wife. Like I said, I lose them in the courtship. I am seeking some depth in the lady, and I just have not found that. I also would have turned away, because I also would not have felt that I would be able to detect what I truly felt would be beautiful in a lady.”
I had to say, “I admit that I was wrong in taking Eashae. She is wonderful, but I did not gain her in a proper fashion. Still, I will end up probably loving her more because of how she rose above such a demeaning start to our relationship.”
Jelnaya turned, then said, “I am not challenging your directions, Makinor, but they are coming from the direction I had chosen.”
He replied, “Of course you would have gotten us into a fight.”
“I am still waiting for the mission where I get into a deep, passionate, loving relationship.”
“That might have been intended as an insult, but I am honestly waiting for the same.”
I could not help but say, “Quafrey, do you hear those two? Will that be in my future?”
The voice of my goddess replied, “Probably not for a long time, Nebard. Still, what you are hearing are two people very secure in their personalities. If either one was less committed to their lives, there would be squabbling between them. I am pleased that you are being shown what is potentially possible in your life, but understand that this is but a moment in their careers. Most of the time they are alone doing what they need to do.”
I had to admit that I heard the two admitting to usually operating on their own. Jelnaya did speak of her family, but only in an advisory capacity. She regularly mentioned having to take time to go to them with her stories and listen to what advice or comments they could give. Makinor did not speak of even having people to exchange methods or simple conversations with. I had a home with people who loved me, and on whom my love would not be wasted. As I prepared for a fight, I found myself having to admit that I did not have it so bad.
What was coming were flying over the landscape. Considering the roughness of the ground and the sharp edges on the rocks, I could understand how those who lived here would adapt to moving through the air. As I considered how we might battle those flying toward us, I turned noticing Jelnaya put up her sword.
Seeing both Makinor and me look at her, she said, “They are going to want to talk.”
The Champion of Onathia replied, “You are as gracious as you are beautiful, Jelnaya. Still, I cannot imagine what they might say of any value.”
I spoke to support those words. “I have spoken to them, and found everything to be lies.”
“Quafrey went to get you, Jelnaya, and she knew you were not someone who would talk.”
She asked, “Is that what Quafrey is telling you, Nebard?”
I replied, “She is telling me that they will not fight fair, and we did not bring our bows.”
“I never carry many arrows with me anyway. Still, we have plenty of rocks.”
Makinor said, “And sharp rocks. You any good with a sling, Jelnaya?”
“I would normally be willing to take you on, Makinor, but I agree with Nebard that these things won’t fight fair. I will be using every trick I know, including throwing rocks, to bring the fight to them.” Instead of drawing her sword, I saw reach on her body to gain a dagger in each hand. “I will probably start by using these.”
While I had been in battles, the raids were nothing like this. Fighting people and animals were usually honest battles with surprise, advantage, and skill all being a part of who would end up the victor. I did have a knife on me, but it was more functional than the finely crafted and balanced small blades of Jelnaya. Seeing Makinor pull out a length of leather, then gather some rocks, let me know that he was also experienced in using alternate methods of battle than the usual weapons. While I found myself not fearing the coming conflict, I did wonder how I would be useful in it.
As the monsters closed, I first considered them to be bird people. As they came closer, I thought them almost comical. They were people with the features of birds. The extended feathered arms did not appear to be proper for their normal torso. The legs were not bird legs, although the feet were. While I never thought the animal people I fought to be improper, and only noticed the horses to be something else when I touched them, I considered those closing upon us to be mistakes that needed to be removed from existence.
The one in the lead did indeed stop its advance in a manner of possibly wanting to talk, but a dagger sprouted from its throat with Jelnaya rushing forward to jump in order to grab its leg. As she had her weight pull the monster down, she grabbed the dagger, then threw it at another when her feet touched the ground. Makinor slowly advanced while putting rocks in his leather strap and releasing them at various bird people. Not really having any other option for myself, I rushed forward and jumped at one I felt was low enough that I could reach it.
I did gain more height than I expected. The sensation was not of flight, but of not having gravity greatly affect me. Just as I had bathed in a cloud, I found I could launch myself up without worrying about immediately being forced back down or concerned with falling when I found myself at a height.
The monsters did try to put up a fight. Their attempts to dive upon us however were proven futile by all three of us. They found us eager to having them descend in reach of our primary weapons with most harmed to the point of being unable to rise back in the air. As gross as it might sound, I believe they defecated on their tail feathers before lifting their legs and flapping to spread the vile substance upon us. Instead of us being disgusted, or harmed, we took advantage of the pause to target the one making that action. Jelnaya threw daggers, Makinor used his sling to send rocks, and I just launched myself up to cut with my sword. While the monsters did what they could to fight us, we proved that we were the superior combatants.
Seeing a number fly off, Jelnaya said, “I want to chase them, only because I think where they are going I can find a source of water so I can take a bath and clean my armor.”
Makinor replied, “Your crystals do not show the filth the way my armor does.”
Both turned to me, then just chuckled. I had no special outfit, but what I wore declared the filth by having me appear dirty. Jelnaya still appeared basically as she did, although I could make out a dark substance in the cracks between the crystals. Makinor had a film over the shiny metal, although one could still tell the quality of his armor. My hunting outfit was nothing special with the filth making it appear of no worth. I chuckled as well at my appearance, although had to admit a truth.
“I would just want to wash it, as I really have nothing else to change into.”
Jelnaya asked, “How about where your goddess is directing us, Makinor?”
“The reason for her sending us there has nothing to do with water, much less taking a bath.”
“Well, just remember before complaining about how I smell that you should smell the same.”
Baths are not what our group considers important.