A Wish for Hope

Chapter Twenty-One
(Neselle)

I was at the window to my room watching the sky while speaking to the centaurs down below.  My world had science and actually not much arcane magic, but being animals we had not developed the science the way other worlds had.  We had mass media, but with most of the population having forms better suited to a simpler type of life a large percentage did not stay inside to watch what was being shown.  Out on a world of mostly magic and very little science, it did not bother us to hold conversations while watching the sky.

The flash of red and yellow lasted long enough for all to notice it with one of the female centaurs asking, “Is Jelnaya in trouble, Honored Neselle?”

“No,” I answered, “although we still pray for her.  Fergush might be watching over her, but we want our Goddess to let him know that others than him care for her.”

From elsewhere, I assumed another window to another room in the castle, we heard, “We of Davelda pray for her as well.”

Some of my group did ask about the one that spoke.  Hearing the identification of one of the Navy people did not surprise me.  What did, and caused my group to go silent, was hearing a pounding on the door to my room.

There were three wolves with me.  Two came to stand in front of me while the other went with a rabbit to the door.  Recognizing the fox-lady that came through the opening caused none of the wolves to challenge her, although I felt we all wanted to know why she had come.

“What about Esgalia?”  Before I could respond, she explained, “I know he’s there because of me.”

She fell to the floor and cried.  I listened as she spoke of how cruelly she had treated her husband.  She wailed about having sent him to his death.  As if her words needed support, she spoke about how he had continued to try and show love to her even to the point of pulling her out of situations where other men and women had left their spouses.  I joined her on the floor, but let her speak and cry feeling the confession and release of emotions was the best thing for her.

Finally, I admitted, “I can only tell you about Esgalia due to my concern for my niece.  My Goddess does know Jelnaya, as she helped Her.  Jelnaya is a figure in our history.  Jelnaya is still well, and your husband is still with her.”

One of the fox people with me said, “Pray for him.”

The lady, I remembered her name as being Keleaf, replied, “How?  I only know the name of one god, and I know I did something to make her mad at me.  I don’t know enough about her to even apologize.”

I said, “The fact that you try should put an obligation on her, especially if your desire to turn back to her was her intention for what you have gone through.”

“This has been a horrible experience.”

“Then I am sorry.”

“For what?”

A tone of venom returned to her voice, but I calmly passed my hand to indicate those around me as I replied, “For being from a world of animals.”

“You’re not one.”

“It was a horrible experience.  Do you understand that in being selected to stay human I was condemned to not growing up?  I would have stayed a child all I my life.  With the coming of Althery and Nuchirg I was then processed to appear as a woman, even though physically I was a child.  Even though my own people changed me, they then ostracized me for being different.  More things happened to me, but I went through them all.  I’m glad that I did.  I’m sorry, because the only advice I have for you is to look with hope to the future however horrible your present experiences are.”

I cannot say that the lady appreciated what I said, so I was glad to hear another voice from the doorway.  “Yes, Keleaf.  We have to assume that there is a reason behind all that we have been through.”

Not just one, but a number of the alien fox people came through the door.  I had done enough with them to notice two couples.  One I recognized as Kertoll, the one that had come to my world with Jelnaya.  I had also come to know his wife, Veransh.  I heard my fox people identify the other couple as Obrinno and Denill.

The two ladies moved to comfort Keleaf.  I saw Kertoll look at the other men, then to me with an expression of not wanting to lecture the one already showing remorse.  Hoping to give him some confidence, or at least the comfort of going ahead and speaking, I said what I felt was necessary.

“When my world was facing their moment of decision, I worked to have them speak to our Goddess about what the decision should be.  While certain things were definitely in Her power to perform, I spoke to promote the belief that She did care about Her people.”

Veransh said, “We don’t –“  She suddenly stopped, then looked at me strangely before asking, “You don’t know the name of your Goddess?”

“A name would not change what She is.”

“Well, but...”  She looked to her husband to ask, “Kertoll, do we need to know the names of our gods?”

He replied, “Well, considering that we have more than one, I believe it could help.”

I saw my own people looking at me with the rabbit that had opened the door asking, “Do they need to know the names?”

Memories of my own experiences with deities passed through my mind.  Not just my learning of my own Goddess, but of the other deities claimed by those of my herd.  In none of the cases did the other gods introduce themselves to me.  Even though some directly helped me, their identities only became known from those of my herd who had knowledge of them.  Uncle Ferrigote and Jelnaya proclaimed Fergush.  Aunt Dirchein actively promoted Remidda.  Althery’s brother, parents, and all from Davelda worshipped Munulva.  Memories of my experiences in coming to a relationship with my own Goddess had me come to a conclusion concerning the question about the deities of this other world.

“Yes.  A god will not take an interest without interest being shown first.  Now, they can detect things we cannot, some inner desire, and will act on that.”

Obrinno asked, “But if we don’t know their names?”

“Then there needs to be that desire to know them.  However, I have found the deities of a pantheon tend to work together.  Even those who are opposed, or even antagonistic, have a history of some cooperation.”

All three of the ladies looked to me.  I could have said something, but I saw in their expressions that I really did not need to say anything.  All I had to do was wait for the ladies to admit what they did not want to say, or hear them deny any possibility of redemption.

Keleaf broke the silence by declaring, “I will not pray to Unnorry.”

“That is your decision to make,” I replied, “although I feel you are in a situation with few other options.”

I believe Obrinno was trying to provide an option when he said, “We could try making prayers to the other gods.”

It was his wife, who proposed, “We could pray to the gods here.”

Keleaf replied, “We would stay fox people.”

“No.  They don’t have animal people here.  They also became upset with the death of so many children.  Maybe they can understand your loss, and will change us back with the understanding that we are to worship them.”

I had to say, “Maybe if your story was so simple.  What happened here is horrible.  I am also willing to accept that what happened with you was beyond the norm.  Still, I can accept that you are held at fault –“

“AT FAULT?” Keleaf spewed while rising from the floor.

“It’s not the god’s fault.”

She glared at me.  Having raised children, I had seen a lot of angry looks.  With my youngsters, I had the maturity to simply deal with their attitudes and tantrums.  I saw the glare of Keleaf, and stood confident that my experience in dealing with religious matters would give me the strength to deal with the confrontation.

I accepted Obrinno was again attempting to support Keleaf when he said, “She’s just saying that because she is a divine champion.”

“That is correct,” I replied, “although I pity anyone who does not seek the favor of those divine.”

“Well, you should understand that some deities are not worth respecting.”

“No.  Some are not providing the path to the goals you desire, but most will desire the best for you.  All are however beings of much higher status, and we should do nothing less than acknowledge that.”

“And what would you suggest?”

That question I felt could be answered in a number of ways.  I however did not feel it was my place to lecture these people, and certainly did not think they would actually listen.  Looking at those who came, I found myself with a suggestion on how to address them.  The instructions bothered me, as I felt they would consider my words harsh.  I however accepted that I needed to follow my own advice, so I recognized the guidance of my Goddess and answered the question as directed.

“If this Unnorry did take action in your life, I would consider it a priority to seek some reconciliation with her.”

Silence came in response.  I felt no need to talk.  Having the others turn to look at Keleaf did not bother me.  I certainly felt she was the one who needed to make a response.

Kertoll kept his eyes on Keleaf even as he asked, “Honored Neselle, could I be the one to seek Unnorry?”

“Why?” I replied.  “Do you feel able to be an intermediary between Keleaf and the goddess?  Keleaf is one of your number, and the one with a real issue – not to mention a connection – with the deity.”

As if my words needed support, Lebidy, one of my fox people said, “Honored Neselle intercedes for us.”

Kertoll decided to suggest, “Maybe one of our ladies?”

I had to say, “I already said that I had done things.  I had committed myself to this life.  Not only did I not know what was coming, I had no idea of knowing.  I just committed.  The same with Jelnaya.  Listen to her family speak of her, and you will hear of her doing things to prepare for her life early on.  She committed, so when she went to Fergush he had no doubt about what she could offer him.  None of you have done that.”  I then found myself directed to admit, “Except Esgalia.  He is out there standing with Jelnaya.”

Keleaf went back to crying.  There was a period of silence where I saw my people and the foreign fox-people appear unsure about what to do.  Finally, Kertoll signaled to his wife before turning to speak to me.

“Honored Neselle, we should discuss this among ourselves.  Thank you for your time.”

I replied, “My time is not my own, but you are welcome all the same.”

“Pray for us.  Well, maybe you cannot pray for us, but Esgalia is with Jelnaya, and you said you could pray for her.  Do so for us as well.”

“I believe she will need my prayers, so will certainly do so.  Of course, I guess that means Esgalia will as well.  If Keleaf really cares for her husband, she however will need to come to some decision.”

“I am hoping we can help there.  Again, thank you.”

And we return to Esgalia and his own search.