To Face the Ugly Deed
Eashae made a promise. As things changed she did not renegotiate her commitment to me. She assured me of the depth of her promise. Even though I had done things I felt were demeaning to her, she declared her intentions to always allow me to trust in the promise she had made to me. I had to kneel and confess to Quafrey that I did not see her as my standard, but Eashae.
My goddess said, “Your wife did set a very high mark, Nebard. You are right to honor her. If I did not feel she was worth loving, I never would have accepted you. Still, Nebard, you are my champion, and that is something you and I will need to work out.”
“No. You are a goddess. I am, was, just a man. I will not have you set a lower standard than my own wife. I will prove myself to you just as Eashae is proving herself to me.”
“Nebard, this mission was just the first one to come along. You do not –“
“No. I get it. You are a god, my god. I will not fail you.” When my goddess again attempted to explain how she was pleased with me, I could not help but say, “No. I will not belittle myself. Eashae did not belittle herself. She proved herself to be more than a wife. She proved her love and commitment to me. Well, I will not belittle myself either. Whatever you set for me to do, I will. I am your champion.”
Quafrey finally spoke as if accepting my decision as she said, “I will ever love you, Nebard.”
Eashae was now pregnant, and I found myself wondering what would be the result of my commitment. “Will the taint of Hell come upon me?”
“No, Nebard. You need not ever fear where you go in my name.”
Satisfied, I said, “I am going to speak more with Jelnaya. There are things I see that maybe I need to do as well.”
I suddenly felt back in control of my body. Neither of my companions showed any sign of my absence. I gained the impression that my body had continued to walk. Jelnaya appeared lost in thought, probably speaking with her own god. Makinor just appeared to trudge along. Seeing the community ahead, I stopped my companions. Jelnaya’s body did not keep moving forward, but quickly turned to my action, and I asked her the question I told my goddess that I would.
“Jelnaya, you mentioned that you wore some protective items. Which items are not protective?”
She pulled a gold item from a slot over her heart, then said, “The sun rising over an anvil is the sign of Fergush. It’s gold, because I can afford gold. You can see the symbols elsewhere, but they are ornamental depending on what I am wearing. The triangular bottom portion is sharp so I can make certain sacrifices.”
Makinor turned to point to a gold icon also over the heart on his body. “Shield over a heart is the symbol of Onathia. The one here has a sharp triangular bottom portion, as there are sacrificial offerings I will do as well.”
“They do it when preparing food. I do it on a carcass I killed.”
I felt a need to explain. “I feel that I am going to have to do things like that. I mean, I have done things to worship Quafrey, but I feel a need to show off a little more professionally like the two of you.”
“Well, we have a culture that has developed the religions. It seems that your world has not done so much. Don’t get extreme, Nebard. Keep the focus on the gods and not the paraphernalia.”
Makinor said, “Well, the stuff does help the people, but it also confuses them when they don’t see you using the things they bought.” I saw him look to Jelnaya as he asked, “Do you have that problem?”
She chuckled while making some movement with her head indicating her seeing bird people coming from their community, although did answer the question. “I have kids coming to me thinking I will train them to fight. I quickly let them know that I don’t worship Cloript.”
“That’s strange, as I hear a number speaking of how you helped them, Jelnaya.”
“If you have a degree of experience, I will respect that. Someone has to be able to understand their faults to see what I show them. There are a number however that believe fighting is just taking a weapon in their hands and using it.”
“Some believe love is smooching, cuddling, and reading poetry.”
I saw her ready her drahaberd as she replied, “The one who loves me will not believe that. All three sound nice, but they are not what is going to be required to love me.”
“That I can believe.”
She then stepped up to declare, “All right, we were here having a nice friendly conversation! Why do we now need to kill you?”
I saw the group halt. Looking them over, I saw what I felt should be misery. They were not clothed. The feathers did not fully cover their bodies. They appeared more as comical mixtures of bird parts on a human form, and not as anything carefully designed for beauty and function. They did appear healthy, although I considered those before me were the ones who worked hard to manage life. Signs of ease or wealth were not apparent, so I wondered if the group truly felt good about themselves.
One in the lead asked, “What have we done to you?”
Jelnaya then said the words that I was coming to truly understand the weight of. “We represent gods. We are not here on a personal vendetta. We are merely functionaries doing as told. We are still human though, something you are not, so out of courtesy we will give you a chance to speak.”
A number spat while expressing their disbelief in gods. I expected Jelnaya to go on a lecture about the consequences of their turning their backs on the deities that created them, so her silence did concern me. It was however Makinor who asked a question as a number more of those before us spoke in support of doing things without the guidance or approval of the gods.
“Jelnaya, do we wipe these out.”
She replied, “They are not all here yet.”
I had to ask, “Not all here? How many are in this community?”
“Think, Nebard. What I am waiting for should not be a surprise to you.”
Having those before me begin various chants was not what clued me in. I actually thought about what others could be intended, and remembered that we were not chasing simply one demon. The focus had been on one particular entity, but I did accept that other malevolent beings could be active as well. Hearing the various chants just let me know that not a single threat were being called.
I however did feel the need to ask a question. “We do take them out?”
Jelnaya replied, “Everyone, and I hope to keep going. If you wait here, I’ll be back for you.”
“I believe Quafrey expects me to wait, but I understand what I am. Make sure I go with you.”
More would have been said, except the crowd suddenly rushed upon us. I fought finding the techniques used on raids to actually help me. The reckless flurry to do some damage was simulated by the strange advance of the bird people. Their wings were not good for handling weapons, and while the arms could power flight they were not designed to put force behind what was grasped in the available fingers. The extended length of the front appendages also made hitting a target in front of them rather difficult. I felt comfortable in the rush of the crowd, and freely hurt those who thought the demons would honor them.
Actually finding one of the malevolent entities before me had me change the manner of my attacks. Among the bird creatures I could make wide motions. With them not being good in combat or protected by garments, much less armor, I felt free to simply send my blade out to cause as much damage as possible. Seeing a dark mass move upon me I tightened up my stance feeling that this thing might be able to hurt me.
While I felt my strike on the demon was true, not sensing it to have been seriously harmed I appreciated some advice from Jelnaya. “Declare the name of you goddess.”
Without any hesitation, I struck while announcing, “For Quafrey!”
I guess Jelnaya saw my astounded look when a strange sound indicated the removal of the malevolent presence, as she again spoke some advice. “These aren’t major, so should not be any trouble.”
After attacking some more bird people, I found myself again close to our female champion and asked, “Why should the name of my goddess affect them? Are they from my world?”
“No,” Jelnaya replied. “You goddess is however divine, and these things have no power over that. If someone else yelled out the name of your goddess, they probably won’t gain a benefit. You however are divine, blessed by Quafrey, so you using her name will reinforce what holy influence is there.”
I watched as she seemed to dance with the drahaberd. A wing was sliced through, a demon was destroyed, another one was dissipated, then the spine and back of a bird person was separated. She stopped with her eyes looking at me as she spoke about what I should have been doing instead of watching her.
“We kill them all.”
We both turned hearing the sound of Makinor land hard, then panting as he asked, “How many demons are there?”
“How many have you killed?”
“I’ve killed three. I’m one up on you.”
Seeing Jelnaya rush off, I looked at Makinor to say, “I’ve only killed one, so you’re up on me.”
It really was not that bad of a battle. I found myself continuing to compare what I was doing with one of my raids. In this situation I was actually intending to harm, actually kill, and not simply taking what might be beneficial while leaving the fear of attacking in retaliation. I showed no hesitation to strike as I moved about doing what I felt necessary, and considered it a benefit that in this battle I was doing something truly good.
Jelnaya suddenly darted in front of me, then made a grab while saying, “By Fergush, you are simply too cute to allow you to get away.”
I could make out the movement of some type of deformed winged cat creature in the darkness that surrounded Jelnaya’s hand. She however used her other hand to make motions as if tickling the creature while speaking about how precious the thing appeared and what she planned on doing with it as her pet. The demon did all it could to get out of her grasp, although she continued to act as if it was some stray animal she was going to take home. I then noticed something, I really could not see what Jelnaya clearly made out, but with her eyes focused on something I saw the free hand grab a dagger and with a call to her god the malevolent creature was no longer present.
Again she noticed that I had watched, and provided some commentary. “My Aunt Neselle taught me that little trick. Her world actually does not have demons, so she is interested in where those that do plague her world are coming from.”
I had to admit, “I’m not sure I could do what you did effectively.”
“Aunt Neselle is a very nice person. What she does I felt would be more appropriate to a love goddess.”
“I also cannot see what you saw. All I can say is to remind you not to leave me behind.”
I actually saw what I could best describe as a puzzled expression cross her features before she said, “We still have work here to do.”
Actually concerned that Jelnaya would go off on her own, I shadowed her. In doing so I recognized her actions in the battle being different than mine. She was not treating the combat as fun, although there was indications she was enjoying herself. Instead of my wild swings, she however went against each set of opponents with a different technique that had her move through those before her in a manner that took out each with seemingly less effort than I exerted in killing one. After one group Jelnaya smiled at me while I panted to catch my breath.
She said, “If Quafrey has you fighting a lot, ask for permission to come to me. I can teach you how to work your weapon a little more efficiently.”
I replied, “This is how we did our raids. When we got tired, we left for home feeling we did enough.” I then added, “What we are doing now is something else.”
“Yes, what we are doing now is something else. There is no ‘doing enough.’ You either do it or you don’t.”
“I will need to see how my life is going to go. If there is going to be more of this, I will see if I can spend time with you.”
“Well, we’re about finished here. I’ll give you a breather then. Honestly, I feel things will happen that will give you a time to catch your breath. That will be it, however. Once the next part starts we cannot stop.” I heard her laugh hearing some bird people, then she said, “Really, there is no fun in stopping.”
And they do not stop.