To Face the Ugly Deed
I moved forward thinking of a conversation I once had with my Great-uncle Ferrigote. He was the one who historically worshipped Fergush. While he and my Grandfather Terish, who had been only a boy when they first met, traveled through other worlds battling all types of threats, Great-uncle Ferrigote had continued to perform certain little rites. When he returned to Sennapre, he found Fergush to have recognized his devotion. That history of my great-uncle had me seek advice about my own actions when out on my own.
“Before the great assembly of grand fighters,” I proclaimed, “I will have things to brag about they will have to honor as things they did not do.”
Great-uncle Ferrigote did not smile as he looked at me and said, “As a soldier, I hate those people bragging. They are usually speaking of something terribly stupid they did with an attitude that I should feel ashamed because I would not act so dumb. Honestly, Jelnaya, most men, the elder men, will look at you with the gaze of someone listening to crazy talk. There is pride, a lot of pride, in simply doing what one is supposed to do.”
There were more conversations on that topic, as I found Fergush directing me to do some fantastic things. What I learned was that the things my god told me to do I really could not brag about. In the end, what I had done was simply what I was supposed to do. It was when I went off on my own and did something no one else wanted to do that I truly could brag. I however found myself to rush to do them not simply for the honor I would gain at the table of my god, but because after telling my great-uncle my latest story I found him to open up on things of his fantastic life that he did not tell anyone else.
Makinor pulled me out of my thoughts by saying, “We were advised not to get the taint of Hell upon us, Jelnaya.”
I kept walking as I replied, “Do you believe Fergush is going to allow any taint on me? You already noted that there were no scars on my body.”
He moved up to walk beside me while commenting, “I actually believed you of Fergush would go around bragging on your scars.”
“Why? Because you of Onathia go around bragging about what perfumes you had smelled at such an intimate level that they became a part of your body?”
“You do wear perfume. Did Fergush pick it out?”
“You want to know what I was thinking about, Makinor?” I turned my head enough to see him nod, then said, “The only things I can truly brag about are the things I do on my own. If Fergush tells me to do something, however fantastic it seems, I do it simply because he told me to. It is only when I go beyond his commands, or go off on my own, that I can truly brag. As for my perfume, I picked it out myself. I do shop for certain things, and perfume is one of them.”
“Well, I –“
I shot out a hand to silence him. I then quickly returned to the pace I had been walking at. Nebard was the one who mentioned seeing what I did. When I shot out a hand to silence him, he however was wise enough to whisper a question that actually had merit.
“Exactly what are we listening for, Jelnaya?”
I answered, “Whether or not they know the demon is gone. Whether or not the demon is gone. Whether or not we should have any belief that we can restore these people.”
“The demon is not with them, but… you’re right. They don’t know the demon is gone.”
Makinor asked, “How do we not kill them?”
I replied, “Why don’t I let you two champions of love goddess do the fighting.”
Nebard said, “I will do what I can to not make fatal attacks.”
“I doubt you will have to worry about it. In this terrain, any attacks that grounds them is probably deadly. Even if they could make a living working crops or something, I would say those would be who the demon sucks the souls of.”
“What you said really made no sense.”
Thinking over my words, I allowed that I possibly had not been clear. “What I said is any attack will be perceived by them as fatal. I suspect as soon as we show ourselves as not being taken out, and that they don’t have the support of the demon, they will flee. Those grounded will be scared to death enough that we should be able to deal with them.”
“Okay. I can work with that.”
As Nebard directed Makinor to take a front position, the Champion of Onathia asked, “Jelnaya, are you really going to sit this fight out?”
“I believe it is best if she does.”
I said, “I’m back here, Makinor. You’ll be all right. Keeping you alive is something to brag about.”
Makinor gave me the impression he wanted to make a remark, but he wisely turned when Nebard warned him of the approaching bird people. Both sought to attack the legs or wings of the opponents, but their wide strokes on incoming threats usually ended with some type of torso attack. Feeling our objective would not be met, I gave my own instruction for a tactic to use on the bird people.
“Make a formal bow, Makinor.”
He actually did it. I honestly expected some question or comment from him. I however saw his back bend forward, so I quickly acted to put my plan into action.
I jumped to pull my knees back up in time to make another upward motion on Makinor’s shoulders. As I went up, I sliced through a wing of one opponent. Coming down, I cut through the thigh of another. The one losing a flight appendage definitely came down, and Nebard stepped forward to make an upward grab that pulled the other to the ground.
Seeing what I did suddenly seemed to inspire Makinor. As I planned my next action, I saw the polished armor suddenly lift. He grabbed the foot of one who came in for an attack, then as it flapped its feathered arms to keep from descending he somehow gained a little more height to swing an arm and have his sword cut through a wing. As he finished his maneuver, I had to smile at Makinor even as I said words I hoped would be encouraging.
“Do it again.”
He turned to the opponents even as he said, “It would take the right movement. I was lucky to see the right moment that time.”
“That is when you start making movements seeing how they affect the actions of your oppositions. I cannot say there are any dependable motions, but you start to learn things about how they look at you. You watch experienced fighters, and they are judging their opposition more than preparing certain routines. You practice the routines so they come naturally. What you have to concern yourself in a conflict is setting things up so your training can actually be put to use.”
We were in the midst of battle, so I said all that while darting around. The men might have considered me dancing while the bird people, also male, probably thought of me as merely dodging their attacks. I however saw one drop as if to swoop me up in his clawed feet, and yelled at Makinor to attack. He darted not really needing to jump to repeat his attack. I cannot say for certain, but I feel that the combination of seeing me mostly play with them while working with Makinor, Nebard holding his own, and no support from the demon caused the remaining bird people to rush away from battle.
Thirteen bird people were dead, but four were still alive. Makinor boldly went to one and stared at his face. I cannot say what I actually detected about the action. I could not fault him for his boldness, but he still seemed half-hearted about actually achieving a result. I went up to another one and stared into his eyes. Realizing what I saw, I turned to have Makinor understand what we had discussed about the bird people.
“If you are not committed, I am.”
With a blank expression and not one that spoke to me of actually wanting an answer, Makinor replied, “What?”
I actually checked the weapons on my person, then grabbed the one Makinor had looked into the eyes of. What he had surely seen, as it is what I had seen, was blackness. I however remembered my action to save the girls. There was also the memory of going after Lord Felther. I actually wondered if I was falling as I spoke the name of my god while checking the weapons on my person.
It was a female voice that said, “I have you, Jelnaya.”
I replied, “Go easy on Makinor, Onathia. He really does not have the mentality for this, but he is not running scared either.”
“You however should know that there is a difference in a lack of shame and a need for honor.”
“Sometimes those in charge have to grant that those who do not run deserve the honor of staying in the fight.”
Suddenly I was over a vast bog of what looked like tar. Before me what appeared as a great goose moved about as if attempting to make a nest from the black substance. Seeing me it suddenly worked to free each wide and flat foot in a quick action to rush upon me. Since I knew I was dealing with the person’s soul, something that should be divine, I pulled my drahaberd. Somehow recognizing what it was, it suddenly stopped, falling down in the process, and in lifting itself up it looked to me and spoke.
“Are you here to kill me?”
I replied, “You don’t look like you need freeing. I had to free others.”
“No. No. I’m free. If only I could lay an egg, I could return to a normal life, except with the authority of having overcome so much.”
“Lay an egg? Don’t you need a girl to do that?”
“Yes, but surely someone will become female. We need a female, as we need an egg. Surely someone will become female.”
I actually looked around to see if any others were nearby before asking, “Become female? How do you expect one of the males to become female?”
“Ascrennith changed us into wolves, horses, Privileged, then into bird creatures. Surely he could change us into females.”
“You were not a real wolf, horse, or even returned to being a real person when you were a Privilege. The demon might have you appear female, but that is not what you would be.”
“You don’t know how powerful Ascrennith is.”
I laughed while saying, “You don’t know how stupid you are.”
No sooner did I lift my gaze, than I felt myself rising through the blackness. Returning to my body, I saw Makinor simply look at me before again taking the head of one of the bird men and looking into his eyes. Nebard came to stand beside me as I waited for Makinor to give his report. Seeing the bird man he was staring at suddenly die, I felt I knew what had happened with his encounter.
He spewed, “That one did not deserve to live.”
I replied, “If you say so, Makinor.”
“If I say so?”
Nebard said, “He’s dead, so I assume you had to make some type of decision.”
Makinor asked, “Why did you allow yours to live, Jelnaya?”
I replied, “Who said I was going to allow it to live? I simply came back to discuss things with you. I however will let it be known that I, a Champion of He-Who-is-all-for-blood-and-gore, let mine live while the Champion of She-Who-is-all-sweet-and-kind destroyed the soul of his.”
“You cannot tell me it was better to allow it to live.”
“Tell me, Makinor, what did you accomplish? What did you gain? What are you going to brag about?”
“IT DID NOT DESERVE TO LIVE!”
I felt a hand of Nebard on a shoulder before he said, “I will agree with my fellow divine champion of a love goddess. Go ahead, Makinor, and kill the others. They are all equally deserving.”
Almost in shock, Makinor asked, “What is going on here?”
I said, “Standing on principles. If you believe what you said, Makinor, do it.”
Nebard turned as if to go while saying, “I believe I got this divine champion thing figured out. Thank you, Jelnaya. I think your lessons have helped me a lot.”
Worried more about what Nebard would do, I turned to follow him, although I had to turn back when Makinor asked, “What about these?”
I said, “The decision was made.”
“You expect me to do it?”
“If I had been the one to make the decision, I would have done it.”
The body of Makinor slumped showing complete dejection. He then went and humanely made a quick action ending the life of each. Actually feeling glad that Makinor was continuing to stay in the battle, I went to do what I knew was the next thing to be done.
And they face the main community of bird people.