A Wish for Hope

Chapter Twenty
(Esgalia)

How I wished this situation would happen.  Our group needed someone like Honored Duchess Jelnaya.  She however clearly represented a god.  We had denied them in our lives.  What I remembered running from and what I saw us fighting I however could not think of anyone going against.  The fact that I was with a divine champion did not bother me.  What I however feared was needing someone of that standing with my own deity.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya definitely sought to end the evil that changed me, but made no promises of my restoration.  While I was glad to no longer be running, I feared her not pushing the situation to assure my transformation back into a human would happen.

She boldly advanced into the next room.  Since I felt certain Honored Duchess Jelnaya would rush forward into battle, I confidently took a position next to her.  The other men followed close behind, but they only intended to support her.  I felt a need to stand for my cause, so boldly advanced along with Honored Duchess Jelnaya hoping to take advantage of any opportunity to assure my own goal.

We stepped into the next room to find the soft radiance to reveal a lovely scene.  A soft layer of blankets and pillows presented a comfortable feeling.  The lady was very large, although she appeared well proportioned.  The other ladies appeared the right size, and they were naked while the large lady was draped in blankets   What troubled me was seeing hair on the ladies.  Not in any extreme amount, but enough to say that the females were not really caring for themselves.  There was something unkept and shaggy about them.

The large lady said a pleasant greeting, but Honored Duchess Jelnaya said nothing.  I expected her to attack, but she simply held her place.  The men also stayed silent, although I suspected they were waiting for Honored Duchess Jelnaya to make the first move.  The large lady finally ordered the naked ladies to step forward with refreshments, and it was then that Abreyon said something.

“Honored Duchess, what are we doing?”

It was Nerbink that answered, “She is waiting to see if she needs to kill us as well.”

“Oh?”

Honored Duchess Jelnaya said, “It’s not going to get any easier, Boys.  If you can’t handle this, you don’t need to be going further.”

Abreyon stepped up to the other side of the lady while saying, “Well, you tell Fergush or Samayer, whoever it is talking to you, that we have bested this challenge and will be with you overcoming the rest of this.”

She looked back, and I guess got a nod or some sign of approval from Nerbink as she asked, “Well, you ready?”

I did not hear a reply, but was actually surprised when one lady before us with a platter was beheaded.  Looking to see how best to follow, I saw the skull of another lady split from Vulge’s blade coming down upon her.  With both of the other men advancing to attack the ladies, I simply committed myself to following Honored Duchess Jelnaya as she moved toward the larger female.  Focused on not being a problem, I found myself surprised to be suddenly bathed in a bright radiance of red and yellow beams.

I heard exclamations from the men as they suddenly saw a change to the room.  There were no blankets, except for layers of algae and slime.  What had been a large lady now appeared as some type of great eel with lengthy arms instead of front fins.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya dove under an appendage to strike at the main body, although I struck at the appendage thinking to help protect her from an attack.  It however seemed that the monster was surprised by our actions, as it made an exclamation of not understanding what we were doing.

“You are turning down all that I can give you?”

It was Abreyon that declared, “All you gave us was death.”

I had turned to glance at him, but had to stop seeing what he had done.  Not only had he made the statement, but had made a strong strike with a foot at the flooring.  What I felt to be a rocky base to the growths covering things was shown to be bones.  I turned further however hearing the other lad ask something I did feel had some importance.

“Just how long has this been going on?”

Honored Duchess Jelnaya replied, “It ends now!”

“YES!  It ends.  However, why?  Why?”

“Listen, those are questions to be asked.  I won’t work against you looking for those answers.”

She continued to fight.  I found myself wanting to follow the conversation, but in looking back to Honored Duchess Jelnaya I saw her still fighting the large monster.  It did not move with any speed, but its skin was resisting her attempts to cut at it.  Seeing her continuing with the combat, I also felt a need to fight.

A hand came at me.  My strike was not on target, but without thinking I opened my mouth and bit.  Hearing a lady scream shocked me, although as I backed up I saw an opening to the chest.  I rushed forward and this time my hand directed the point of the blade into the front of the monster.

I backed away seeing the threat simply appear to flow down.  What had been strong and substantial appeared to be nothing more than fat and skin.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya moved in a way that I did not doubt she had made an effective strike at the same time as me.  She however then went to a strip of the remains that had once been an arm and looked at it.  Seeing her glace at me, I moved up simply with a desire to see what caught her interest.

Honored Duchess Jelnaya commanded, “Esgalia, open your mouth.”  I did as requested, then heard her say, “Those aren’t human teeth.”

“No, they’re not human teeth,” I almost said with anger.  “Not much of me is human.  I want to be human.”

“You don’t understand, Esgalia.  You hurt that thing.”

Making sense of what she was saying, I replied, “I’m not going to bite it again.”

“What you’re saying is that you don’t want to attack like a fox, or otherwise be a fox.”

Honestly, that was what I meant to say, so admitted, “Well, yes.”

“What I am saying is – don’t give up hope, Esgalia.  What I believe I am saying is that your transformation is still magical.  It’s not set.  You aren’t like you are, but actually under an enchantment.  A real fox, human, or fox-person could not hurt this thing.”

“So, I can be undone?”

“Maybe easier than I expected.  Why I did not notice it before, I cannot say.  Usually I am able to see things like that.”

I saw her then begin looking around.  Honored Duchess Jelnaya did dart to help one of the men with a creature that did not appear to be a naked lady at all, but as each fell she scanned the room as if worried about something else not being as it appeared.  I however found my own situation to have me worried about those in the room, so moved up to begin studying a fallen form.

Seeing Vulge glare at me, I explained, “I was wondering if these were once human.”

I believe the large man attempted to not make me feel bad when he replied, “Maybe they would have been better off if they had run instead of staying.”

“I am not wishing I would have stayed to help, or as a pet, but to fight.”

“Running away to fight another day is not something to be ashamed of.”

I turned to advance on Honored Duchess Jelnaya while asking, “Is that what you preach?”

It was Nerbink who answered, “No, but Samayer is the wife of Fergush.  Claiming her grace can have its own honor if you truly seek to gain your objective.  There is dishonor to claim Samayer only to flee a fight, but some are said to be wise because they understood a need for a momentary retreat.”

Honored Duchess Jelnaya nodded with approval as she said, “There is no honor in accepting defeat.  One is going to lose, eventually I will need to enter the Halls of Fergush, but the hope is to go out proving yourself in battle and not quivering with weakness.  If a fight is proving itself to be more than you can handle, admitting a need for a change of tactics is simply wise.  Fergush will discuss a battle with you, and will treat you kindly if you truly needed to leave.”

I had to ask, “So, is he telling you to treat me kindly?”

“What type of relationship do you think I have with him?”

Nerbink said, “She just told you that if she had been ordered to kill you, she would have.”

“That’s true for any god.”  I felt good seeing her come to look me over before saying, “I can treat you kindly, but I will not treat you kindly to simply make you feel better.  This is not a situation for treating someone kindly.  However, you are here and you are trying to help.  I will acknowledge that.”

I tried to think.  There had been some clarity in my reasoning, but I found myself feeling some agony as I tried to recall some things of my original life.  Finally, I had to ask Honored Duchess Jelnaya hoping her ability to think clearly would help me.

“Do you think my world has a fighting god?”

She replied, “I don’t know, but something made you important.”

I turned to look at the other men, and decided to ask some basic questions.  “Who does Vulge worship?”

“Munulva.  My father worships Her as well.  He met Her when he was young, and still thinks She is fantastic.  The actual world I was born on has eight gods.  They’re okay, but I liked this world better.”  When I looked at the other two, she said, “If you look, both have certain icons in certain places.  Those of this world attempting to rise above the norm will petition each god for a challenge.  Neither one has faced one from Onathia, but that is usually marriage, which is saved for last.  It wasn’t in my case, but I did discuss the topic with the goddess.  Both however have faced their challenge from Fergush, so I am assuming both are here on this mission for other reasons.”

Abreyon said, “There is a power vacuum in your realm right now, Honored Duchess.  I am hoping to help you fill it.”

Nerbink boldly admitted, “My family has a history of giving counsel to those here, and I am seeking to gain your trust.”

Honored Duchess Jelnaya smiled at me, then asked, “Do you have another question?”

It was not me, but Nerbink who replied, “I do.  Where do we go from here?”

“You don’t ask that,” Vulge said.  “I’m here because my Goddess, Munulva, told me it was a time to make a decision.  I’m here.  She did not command me to come here and be the chaperone for Princess Jelnaya.  That was not why I left the Navy.  I left because I knew what Princess Jelnaya does.  I knew to face her and the men who would come for her I would have to go places I did not want to go, meet people I honestly would rather not meet, and do things I would rather not do.  Well, I made my decision.  Princess, that is really all there is to it.”

Honored Duchess Jelnaya said, “When I told Fergush I wanted it all, I was speaking of Thiminy and Nehallum.  He knew that.  Well, I expect Phanigist to be like those places.  That means we will get people from other worlds, and I will travel to those worlds.  Abreyon and Nerbink, you are here.”

Abreyon was quick to say, “I’m in, Honored Duchess.”

I saw Nerbink move an icon from his breast down to below his belt before saying, “I’m in.”

Honored Duchess Jelnaya asked, “You saying you heard from Debogda?”

“He works with Samayer.  I believe you would know if I acted improperly.”

“I believe it is my decision who I have on my staff.  Debogda might assign certain positions, but beneath that we do have some control.”  She smiled, then said, “But you did say you were seeking to gain my trust.  Well, let’s call the challenge set on whether or not you get assigned.  Samayer can speak to He-Who-Assigns about whether you should be honored or not.  Right now it does not belong where you put it, but I have other issues to concern me at the moment.”

“I will best this.”

“Well, I am saying the same thing, but I really don’t know where we are going.”  Honored Duchess Jelnaya pointed up while saying, “That is where the wastes from the ladies’ quarters comes.  This was obviously just a good place for the monsters to live.  Where the important connection is, I however am going to have to look around.”

Again we check on Neselle as she deals with problems back in the castle.