A Wish for Hope

Chapter Ten
(Esgalia)

When the two ladies came out from below, they then went above to speak to the man and woman who were in charge of those from Davelda.  What I learned was that the lady, Empress Straekin, was truly the one they gave allegiance to, but all gave respect to her husband.  Honestly, I noticed that he directed any commands to the people through his wife, but they responded in a manner that gave honor to him while simply obeying Empress Straekin.  Everyone wondered what the two ladies wanted to speak about with the couple, but stayed about their work while the four along with Vulge went into a private room to talk.

The one in yellow returned to in front of the door.  I had noticed him, but something about him I could tell was different than others.  Wondering who he was, I first asked the others.  Hearing them say he was an angel, I had to move to him.  He noticed me approach the door, and spoke making an assumption of my reason to advance.

“Stop!  What is beyond is not for general access.  Only the honored duchess or those authorized by her may pass.”

I listened to what he said, then replied, “I am not interested in what is beyond, but in you.”

“I am a divine agent for the goddess Samayer.”

“They said you were an angel.”

“Angel, yes, you can say that.”

That was a concession I did not expect.  Something within me tried to deny the existence of deities.  I however felt a pull from a sense of being correct about their existence.  When the Privileged came to us, I felt an understanding that things were not in accordance to our gods.  Something however compelled me to take part anyway.  Something – I found myself unable to remember what.  There was resistance within me somehow forcing my mind from certain thoughts until I concluded the possible answer somehow dealt with who I had been.  Whatever happened, it ended with the Privileged getting angry and putting into motion the steps that had us change into what we were now.  Finding some actual proof of a divine existence was not what I expected, but I felt a need to strengthen my belief in the higher reality.

I had to ask, “Well, as an angel, what special powers do you have?”

“Special powers?  I am not here to do special things, but just represent my goddess.  I was told to guard that door, so I do.”

“But, you’re an angel.  You work with a god.”

“I tend to stay busy in the divine realm.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya is someone that works in the physical realm.”

The information did help me form a distinction between the one before me and the lady, although I sought a clarification.  “I was told she could change us back.”

"I know nothing of your situation.  Still, Jelnaya has proven herself as able to make things happen.”

Strangely, in the presence of this creature I felt able to think like a man, although the reality of being partly an animal was very apparent as well.  With the help of the tea, and possibly the aura of the divine being, I felt mostly human.  All I could remember of the transformation was of something being very wrong.  Forcing my mind to try and recall the events of becoming partly fox did not hurt, but neither could I bring up anything of the experience.  What came to mind was it being when a strange breeze passed that we actually felt ourselves suddenly revert to being animals.  As poor as that memory was, it was very clear that afterward we found ourselves ostracized by others.  Until then we basically felt isolated from those around us, but after that strange wind others came to tell us we needed to leave.  When a priest, best I could recall, arrived speaking of our gods, someone named Jelnaya and our salvation being dependent upon her, I did not expect him to actually be able to send us from our world.

I saw the eyes of the angel lift, so it did not surprise me when someone came behind me.  Lord Terish did not interrupt, but simply stood near me.  As I sought to determine what more I could say, I appreciated when he asked a question of the angel.

“Brutheyer, is Esgalia presenting you with a problem?”

The angel answered, “No, Lord Terish.  I believe he just had questions.”

I felt a hand on my shoulder as the man said, “Esgalia, I honestly do not know how your situation involves Jelnaya.  According to what she has told me, your problem should have been stabilized.”

Those words got me angry, so I spewed, “We were changed into animals.”

“I made the tea for you, so you should assume that some recognition of your situation has occurred.  Give us time, Esgalia.  Do you understand where you are?”

“Where I am?”

“My granddaughter just acquired this realm after eradicating all the people between a church of the goddess this angel represents and this castle.  Not only is there the problem of all the carnage, but the reason for the carnage.  Jelnaya and Neselle have just found strong evidence for why the deaths were necessary.  Jelnaya has to come to terms with what has been done, what she has done, and what she needs to do.  She knows you are here, but at present you are not a major concern.”

“But I don’t want to live as an animal!”

In a very stern manner, Lord Terish said, “I made you the tea.  Things are happening.  Decisions are being made.  Things are being learned.  Sorry, Esgalia, but you need to relax and let us do our job.”

I pointed to the angel, “But surely gods have the power to resolve the situation.”

From a distance I heard Honored Duchess Jelnaya say, “If you believed in the gods, the Privileged would not have been able to trouble you.”

“And how would you know about that?”

“Kertoll went with me.  It just so happened that we spoke a little with each other.”

I saw him curled up with his wife on a divan against a far wall.  While he did rise, I felt a need to save face.  I thus stepped out to bow while apologizing.

“I’m sorry, Honored Duchess.  I forgot.  I am just so ready to return to being human.”

“Yes, well, I’m not promising you that.  Honestly, it is better if you speak to Kertoll and hear his side of the discussions.  Let me also introduce you to Minorvy, Savorro, Havelna, and Loprotell.”  I saw four fox people who looked more proper than those of my group advance to bow or curtsey, although Honored Duchess Jelnaya only paused for a short period before saying, “I want to personally consider your problem self-inflicted, although I have to say the same is the problem here.  Something does seem to tie the two problems together, but I will admit to putting my focus on the problem here.  Still, Esgalia, I am not going to get mad at you if you stay involved.”  She turned back to speak to one at the top of the stairs, “Vulge, you consider Esgalia, or some other member of his group, as a member of any party I desire to be put together to resolve my situation.”

The large man replied, “I will do so, Princess.”

“Okay, now, Brutheyer, there is a man from Davelda by the name of Chering.  He will be assigning people to start cleaning up below.”  The man moved up to the angel as Honored Duchess Jelnaya continued to speak. “Brutheyer, you are to allow anyone he designates to pass.  Any concern you have, including the feeling that there is no longer any need to guard the door, I would ask that you bring it to me or my Aunt Neselle and not just Samayer.”

The angel replied, “I am actually under those orders from the goddess, Honored Duchess.”

“Well, good.  People of Davelda, thank you.  I… I… I am really overwhelmed at the moment.  Let me say that I don’t like any of this.  My god is Fergush, He-Who-Fights, but there is nothing obvious to fight at the moment.  However, this is not a case of survival.  This might be a realm to She-Who-Survives, but that is not our problem.  Our problem is rising above this, and I don’t mean by living our lives better or any other adages you from Davelda might want to state.  There is a problem.  It is not ‘there was a problem,’ but there is a problem.  It needs to be determined, and eliminated.  Give me some time.  I am going to move about and just look things over.  If you need something, sure, I’ll do what I can, but I would ask time to just get a sense of things around here.”

I found Kertoll, his wife, and the four Honored Duchess Jelnaya introduced to move to me as those working in the castle spoke things to the honored duchess from a distance or directly as she moved past them.  Those fox-people that came back with Honored Duchess Jelnaya had more poise, I felt they had more control, than I felt able to do with my own body.  I had been a person dealing with securities, someone people trusted with their money and valuables.  I was not a fighter, and felt that I had reached this place because I sought to run.  In business I kept the money safe and secure.  I felt there was really no threat to the finances that I was paid to secure, but only to my life and the life of my employees.  Those thoughts bothered me for some reason, although I did not know why.  When trouble made itself known – I was a fox person then even though I felt I should have realized things sooner – my concern had been to simply flee in order for the authorities to not need to worry about innocents.  I had done nothing but run, although it bothered me every time I dropped to four legs to do so.  I felt those that came with Honored Duchess Jelnaya would continue to use two legs like a normal person, so wondered if it would be my fate to end up like them.

It did not help my attitude when one of the new arrivals, I believe his name was Havelna, said, “I was informed that there was a special tea to help you.  The matters we discuss might get rather complex, so if you need some we can wait.”

Veransh hugged her husband while saying, “I’ll get you some.”

While I did not like it, I admitted some for me would be appreciated before saying, “Veransh, if you see Keleaf, let her know to join me.”

When she left, Havelna introduced himself and those with him before saying, “We are as we are because we, our ancestors, sought answers from another source than our Goddess.  Strangely, we were human.  We were those who were denied the transformation into animals.  While we had lives as children, our small bodies could do things those who became animals were not able to do.  When the Goddess finally restored our bodies, she however declared that we had made our decision to live as animals.  Those of us who were still human were transformed into fox people.”

I said, “You look better made than us.”

“Let me apologize if you take my words wrong, but what you said was a compliment.  We were made by our Goddess.  You weren’t designed by a god.  I would almost feel insulted if you did have bodies as well designed as ours.”

Kertoll admitted, “I have already heard most of this, Esgalia.  I agree with it.”

“Yes, and he had to take what I have to say with the commentary of Honored Jelnaya.  She can be a little brutal in what she says.  Still, she is one of those who helped our champion, so we give her our honor.  Honestly, Honored Jelnaya is a wonderful lady, but she can be rough.”

I had to say, “I keep trying to recall our transformation.  I really cannot remember, but something tells me they used a machine to transform us.”

“We used machines to transform our own people.  Now, we do things in the proper way.  We who are foxes have kits, and those of the other races breed true as well.”

I saw smiles between the couples.  While I could tell the ladies from the men, I still wondered about the hair covering their bodies.  It then hit me that they would also have children covered in hair, and that had me feel angry even as I saw the smiles from my wife and Veransh bringing us a tray of cups and a pitcher I felt certain would be more of the special tea.

I felt I said rougher than I should have, “I do not want to be like this.  I do not want children like this.  I want to be like I was.”

It was one of the ladies, Loprotell, that replied, “But you weren’t as you were, Esgalia.  I mean, you were, but you were not acting as you should.  What you have to accept is that your fate need not be a curse.  I will admit that it took some adjusting to being fox people, but we have found our lives to be good.”

The other lady, Savorro, added, “And we are now living our lives in recognition of our Goddess.  That is one thing you should focus upon, Esgalia.  You are as you are because there was no divine guidance in your lives.  The Privileged were powered by a major demon.  If you had a deity watching over you, that demon would not have been able to work its mischief.  We have powerful agents seeking to influence our world, but Honored Neselle showed us how deceived we had become.  She helped us see past the lies.  You are going to have to understand the reality of the divine, and the need for their help to have you live the lives you should, as human, fox people, or however things are determined.”

It was my wife that replied, “What you are saying is that we need to return to our world.”

“That is your present difficulty.  There are problems here.  Honored Jelnaya is facing, has faced, a serious problem in what is to be her home.  What however seems to be in common both here and with you is apostasy.  I would suggest that while our honored ladies work to restore the focus on the local deities, you work among yourselves to determine how you are going to acknowledge the divine.”

Kertoll said, “That is the other thing I had to listen to on the journey, Esgalia.  I was given numerous lectures on various religions.”

All four of the others smiled, although it was Havelna that explained.  “We traveled with two divine champions.  They were not only lecturing us and Kertoll, but themselves.  They were seeking answers among each other, although I will admit that it sounded to us like a series of lectures.  I feel it was our Goddess stressing upon our souls the importance of what was being said.”

“I have come to accept it was the same with me.  Esgalia, it was a demon that transformed us.  I heard the story from Honored Duchess Jelnaya, and have no doubt that it was a demon behind the work of the Privileged.  That person in yellow is an angel.  I have no doubt about that.  If there are demons and angels, there are gods.  We need to seek our answer from the divine.”

While I could not argue with what was said, I still felt the need to stress my own history.  “I dealt with money and tangible assets.  I did not put my faith in something esoteric.  I did not want my clients to be trusting in something esoteric.  We are not here because of something esoteric.”

“You are damn wrong,” my wife said.  “Esgalia, some of our escapes were nothing but miraculous.”

“No.  No.  No.  I am not someone a god would give a damn about.  I did not give a damn about them.  I am here because I did everything I could do to get away.  I did… I did some things no deity could approve of.”

It was Veransh that admitted, “Yes, Esgalia, maybe you did.  Maybe they did not care about you, but us and simply used you.  However, you are here with us.  For some reason you have another chance.  I would suggest you take it.”

Jelnaya is working at resolving some of her own issues.