To Face the Ugly Deed
I saw something in the corpses of those we killed. Kept waiting for one of the men to mention it, but neither did. I wondered if it was because the ones we killed were male and unclothed. I would not deny that I was inexperienced in a certain way, but I also would not deny being curious. Men definitely lusted for a glimpse of a naked feminine form. I did not feel such a strong desire to look at the body of a man, but I found the sight fascinating when I gained opportunities. They were such different specimens in build and mentality that I could not help but wonder about spending a life with one. I looked at the masculine forms interested in how their avian alterations actually improved their lives. What I saw in those we killed was something I expected, although it actually hurt me to see evidence of it in the corpses.
Makinor stepped up to help me turn over a body even as he asked, “What are you looking for, Jelnaya? Treasure?”
Just hoping to get the man to look, I replied, “Anything of value.”
“Nothing. Nothing special about their feathers either.”
The feathers were not white. There was a thought that they might be, but just tainted by them using their own fecal matter. Even the spines had dreary brown and black stains that let me know that there was nothing pure about them.
Attempting to explain things, I said, “I am not as I was. Actually, it is just my hair that is different, but there are other things about me that I know is not like most people. Our close association with the gods affects us. It makes us better. It is not just my beauty, but my health and being able to show off the aspects of Fergush that has others look to me as I proclaim him. I would say the same of you, Makinor.”
“Thank you for the compliment.”
“That’s not my point, Makinor. Look at these. They’re gross. They look gross, and how they acted was gross. Why would anyone look to them and want to be like them?”
“Maybe they are forced to take a bath before they meet anyone.”
I actually hoped Onathia fussed at Makinor for saying something so dumb, but I kept myself on topic. “They have to lie. I can lie. Deception is a tactic, but it is not a way of life. There is a joy in watching an opponent realize that he has been fooled, but I do not like watching people continue to be deceived. Fergush is not a god of lies, and I will not live my life lying or allow others to live a life that is wrong. These people are living a lie, and part of something that will seek to entice others to commit themselves to a lie.”
“Onathia tells me that you are not going to like what I am to show you, but it is because of what you say that she wants you to see. I want to say that love is not a lie either. The problem is not that it becomes lost, goes away, or somehow becomes transferred to others, but that people stop working at having it in their lives. Just like your fighting skills, Jelnaya, you have to work at love.”
“That’s why I am worried about never becoming married, Makinor. My focus will stay on Fergush.”
“Love is not a single thing. I see in you a strong capacity to love more than one person, even if one of them is a god.”
That was a compliment, but all it got from me was a smile. I felt like pointing out the things I saw of the internal composition of the ones we killed, but gained the impression that Makinor would not appreciate, or fully understand, what I was saying. Muscles, lungs, and other organs needed to be studied in order to better manage combat and how to judge the condition of opponents. The Champion of Onathia had other concerns. I saw a smile from him when I simply indicated for him to start heading where he felt we needed to go.
Usually the places I had to go were deep underground or isolated ruins. The gods limited corruption in the hope it would die out, although where those evil found a supply of something to support the deviant behavior I was brought in to prevent the spread. Seeing the remnants of mountains in the distance I however saw what I feared. Those who started my family spoke of their travels on the world of my Grandfather Terish, who was the product of a most malevolent deity who only created so he could destroy. I found myself believing that we were on a world where such an entity had control, and actually felt like going to the elders of my family to tell them of this place.
Considering where my thoughts had gone, I had to ask, “Nebard, how much did your goddess know about me?”
He replied, “She knew I would not have the experience or talents to get this far, Jelnaya. She also knew that there would be fighting. I mean this type of fighting. You not only had the skills she needed, but the personality to work with others.”
“She knew more than that, Nebard.”
I really did not know how he would react to that accusation, but I felt a need to make it. I had met the malevolent deity that was responsible for my Grandfather Terish and Great-aunt Dirchein existing. At the time I spoke to Him simply to prove myself strong enough to stand beside my grandfather. Being a product of that past, Davelda that had its own supreme Goddess, as well as Emigalia with its variety of deities, I sometimes wondered about my own soul, especially since I had given it to a god from the world of the other side of my family. Nebard however acted as a normal man, and reacted by simply shrugging his shoulders as he gave a response.
“She says that she is pleased to have gained you, Jelnaya. You are everything she wanted.”
Memories of what I had experienced and had been told, I replied, “This is going to get bad.”
“Quafrey hopes you are up to it, Jelnaya.”
“I hope so as well. While there is some glory in simply facing certain opponents, I want to face those at the table before Fergush and brag that I claimed victory.”
“I just want to return to Eashae.”
“What?” I turned on Nebard to say, “No. You live to make Quafrey proud of accepting you. She has your soul, so she gains your focus. Yes, Eashae gets your love, but Quafrey has your life. Trust me, if you continue to live, you will find yourself going home.”
I saw a weak smile as he replied, “I understand what you are saying, Jelnaya, but my life is different from you. You have the background to see a larger picture. My life has been only of securing my community. We raided to keep others from attacking us. The Privilege did not speak of a grand civilization, but simply of enabling us to have benefits to improve what life we had. You have to understand that Eashae was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen. To have a wife like her was amazing, and the fact she was so accepting of me I could hardly believe. Doing this frightens me. Not only the fights, but the fact that I have no way to comprehend how my life is going to change.”
“You not only have to face it, Nebard, but help all those of your community face it as well. Sometimes the hardest part is to stay strong.”
Makinor said, “It is probably best that it was a goddess of love that responded to your need, Nebard. Quafrey should not only be concerned for you, but help you stay concerned for all those that will be just as resistant to the changes. Dealing with regular people can be a pain.”
I exchanged tales with Makinor about situations where we had problems in what we considered to be a normal day. I found it entertaining to hear how people would confront him out on the street just like they would do me. While my situations usually were a provocation of some kind, it was interesting in how dramatic his encounters could be. Honestly, I listened to Makinor thinking he had a better variety of tales than me.
It was in the range of actual assignments that I had the better stories. The missions Onathia sent him on seemed like what he did in his regular life only somewhere else. From fighting single foes and normal threats I would be sent against armies or fantastic beasts. The complications I faced were much more dramatic, and definitely had me display a wider range of capabilities than the assignments from Onathia.
After one exchange of stories, Makinor said, “Without you doing such fantastic things, Jelnaya, I doubt I would find any hope at all for leaving my rut.”
I replied, “I can have you talk with my Grandmother Straekin about ruts, Makinor. She was Empress of Davelda for over six hundred years basically fighting the same political battles with the same figures. Your life sounds a lot better than that.”
“But it still gets repetitive.”
“But you should enjoy it. Think of farmers. Think of anyone in the town you live in. It’s the same thing day after day. They find comfort in that. They get upset when something happens to make a day different.”
I waited for him to reply. The expressions that crossed his face indicated that he was thinking over my words. I actually felt he was discussing the topic with his goddess, or simply listening to a lecture from her. Finally, I found myself pleased with waiting, as I heard a development of the conversation and not just a reply.
“Their days can’t be alike, Jelnaya. With wives, with kids, each day is different.”
It was Nebard that countered that statement. “They really aren’t. I hear them speak of that being how life should be. Yes, there is change, but what happens is what they see as always have been happening. They are just experiencing what multitudes have experienced. Everyone grows up, gets married, have kids, works to support them, do things to teach them, then get old and die. Life is just going on with them as it has for so many others. There is no novelty in what happens with a spouse or the children. When they speak of the events, they find others to claim the same, so there is a feeling that everything is as it should be.”
I had to admit, “That is what I hear. The monsters I face are not creatures as they should be. The monsters we are facing are not creatures as they should be. Honestly, most people believe I should not be facing these threats, because they should not exist in the first place. They do not cheer my victories because they got to see a dramatic battle, but because they can return to their normal lives. While many will compliment me and give me a free sample of food, drink, or special service, what they are really glad about is that they are able to return to having life go on as it always has.”
Makinor said, “People are however different, Jelnaya. No one is the same. By seeing the interactions as normal people doing normal things, I really belittle the lives I encounter. I need to treat them as special. I will need to treat my wife and my children as unique creatures. By feeling that I am in a rut, I am saying that people are the same, and they come to me not wanting to hear that.”
Both Makinor and I turned when Nebard said, “The gods are different too.”
Hearing a period of silence, I had to say, “Well, yes.”
“We actually never considered them much different. If we considered praying to a god, all we thought about was who would help us. Yes, I knew Quafrey was a goddess of love, but honestly I did not care about that. Difficult deliveries, having mechanisms work to trap animals, and things like that were what I wanted. I really had not prayed to Quafrey about gaining a wife who would love me.”
“I guess she will be working on you about that.”
“Oh, she told me about the other gods and some of the things I will need to do. I was actually interested in meeting some of the deities, and some of the coming tasks sounds fun. I however am realizing that more than me meeting them, I am going to have to speak to others about them. I am going to have to get them to realize how the gods should be treated, what they probably will help with, and other things that up to now we really did not bother with.” Nebard chuckled before admitting, “I remember times we just went around shouting out various names hoping someone would help.”
Makinor said, “I would suspect it was in one of those periods that the Privileged came.”
“Probably so. Quafrey supports that belief.”
“Yes, Nebard, you cannot let that happen again.”
“I guess I am going to have my work cut out for me.”
I had to say, “Welcome to the reality of being a divine champion. Still, it’s a good life. I enjoy it.”
And they come to a place where the facts of their mission are revealed.