A Wish for Hope

Chapter Twenty-Four
(Neselle)

I heard the excitement in the voices outside.  While I did not understand the emotion, I turned from speaking to some local people who had come from where they had been hiding to finally get some information in what had happened to see those from Davelda signal for me to take the throne.  I quickly brought the conversation to a close, then moved to where I could properly deal with the new matter coming from outside.

The man that entered the room first stopped to boldly ask, “Are you certain you can sit in that throne?”

I replied, “You can tell Jelnaya that I did so, but I would say that she would just laugh.”

“And who are you?”

“I’m her aunt.  I’m responsible for most of the animal-people, especially those not foxes.”

“Are you noble?”

“I’m responsible for an entire world.  I however do not have the demands or responsibilities of Jelnaya, but our differences have us enjoy the company of each other.  She came to me when presented with the situation here, and trusts me to see to things.  Do not however think that I am without guidance.  Like Jelnaya, I am a divine representative.  I however also have the guidance of Jelnaya’s grandparents, my in-laws, who are noble.”

The man turned to signal to those behind him, then advanced toward the throne.  I understood the commotion outside seeing more fox people come into the room.  When the man bowed to me, I was glad to be able to handle introductions.

“I am Baron Dedekan from Lecholt.  These fox people showed up speaking of needing to find Honored Jelnaya, who I am informed is now my superior.”

“I am Honored Neselle.  My husband is the younger brother of Jelnaya’s father.  Jelnaya helped me resolve the situation with my own world, and it was in those circumstances that she accepted the call from Fergush.  With her now involved in her own situation with her own land, I am more than honored to repay the debt.”  Hoping to put the man at ease, I added, “I will try to soften your own introduction to Jelnaya when she returns.  If you look at your flag, you will see that it hangs on a new flag pole.  Your land is already at fault for letting her down when she needed support.”

He did look, then turned to me to ask, “Did she put the other flag poles to a similar test?”

“She did not, but she does like to jest.  She is a rather cheerful person.”

“I have staff including those I would like to present as counselors.”

“You will not find any resistance from me.  In fact, I will support you as much as I can.  Let me say that you should find your rooms in a most horrible condition.  Bodies have been removed, and some basic cleaning has been done, but this is a large edifice.  What happened was far beyond what should be considered a reasonable situation.  As you come to terms with what you find, feel free to speak to me or others for comfort, advice, or even aid.”

He nodded, then signaled for groups of people to move, but then turned back to me to ask, “Why?”

I dropped my pleasant attitude to calmly say, “Let me warn you that I am a divine representative.  If you are looking for an answer, you might not like mine.”

“I fully understand that I am part of a duchy and not a viscounty.  The preaching of the gods, especially Samayer, has been a constant part of my life.  With that history behind me, I again ask, ‘Why?’”

“Because it was deserved.  Exactly what happened, I hope Jelnaya can return with words to have us all find some comfort.  I am of a people who sought their own answers, only to find themselves deceived.  Still, my Goddess did not eliminate us.  Something more horrible than people just being people happened here.  The fox people are due to something bad –“

“Yes,” Dedekan interjected.  “I was meaning to ask about them.”

“Well, what happened here is worse than what happened to them.  They are coming to Jelnaya because she ended the threat that initiated a great wrong.  The evil however was so expansive that others who had been on the fringe felt able to fill the vacuum and work their own form of corruption.  It was one of those groups that changed them, and I believe helped promote the horrors done here.  However, my niece is having to deal with something even worse.”  To try and give some foundation to what might be the answer to his question, I added, “We have finished burying a massive amount of baby bones.”

“What if I told you that they were not all our babies?”

“Samayer had Jelnaya slaughter people.  I will tell you that what happened was terrible.”  I rose to put strength in my voice as I declared, “I come from a world of animal people, because the people made that decision!  MY PEOPLE!  We however were not destroyed.  As the champion of my Goddess, let me say that I am glad I did not have to face the commands that Jelnaya did.”

Keeping his eyes on me, the baron asked, “Afroll, any words.”

A man dressed in robes replied, “None, my lord.  I will serve gladly.”

Dedekan introduced the one that was to be one of Jelnaya’s counselors.  When I had one of those from Davelda write down the man’s name, the baron presented others of importance in his entourage, including his oldest son.  As I was assuring Dedekan of the realm continuing to recognize his domain as a part of the family, we all turned when Keleaf ran into room demanding her own attention.

“YOU CAN”T HAVE THEM HERE!”

I saw some of my fox people come behind her, and hoping they could explain I simply replied, “I don’t believe it is your decision to make.”

Netally, one of my fox people, said, “Honored Neselle, the new arrivals, I mean the new fox people to arrive, simply began speaking of their pleasure in being here.  They spoke of something called residual grace, which means that after hiding for a time they were able to follow through the portal that Esgalia somehow opened.”

“The method Esgalia used, or how he was directed, is not a topic I have considered.  I was leaving that to Jelnaya to hopefully resolve along with other details.”

“Yes, Honored Neselle, but the new arrivals were speaking of a hidden presence.  They called it an angel.”

I looked to the baron and those with him, but seeing them not respond I went ahead and said, “Let the new arrivals know that they can speak to me, or that you will relate their words to me.”

“Of course, Honored Neselle.”

After thinking for a moment, I said, “Netally, go tell what you told me to my in-laws.  If something of that nature was present, they would surely be aware.”  Seeing Netally move to the stairs, I turned to another to say, “Keleaf, are you against any references to the gods of your world?”

She spewed, “They killed my baby.”

“What I am hearing has me not believe that.  Not that it matters, as I trust Jelnaya.  She will resolve things.  Not only that, but she, as do I, works for a deity.  The evidence of my own life along with the variety of missions that my niece becomes involved in says that the various divine authorities do interact.  Whether you like it or not, you being here will result in some resolution.”

From the top of the staircase, I heard the words of my father-in-law say, “Neselle, your words are good.  Unless your Goddess, or a deity of this word, sends you a different message, I would leave this matter to the return of Jelnaya.”

“Thank you, Father.  Keleaf, I would be considering your own thoughts.”

The lady glared at me, but turned to leave.  I saw Netarry coming back down the stairs, and thanked him.  Simply wanting to bring closure, I turned to speak to the one introduced as one of the advisors to the ruler of the realm.

“Counselor Afroll, you are more than welcome to start your employment.”

The man stepped up where he could bow, although then said, “I do not feel qualified in this matter.”

“Surely there are some historic matters of protocol or regulations on the book that you feel need to be addressed.”

“Matters of this type I would defer to whoever comes from Chetorly.”

“That is a domain devoted to a goddess, but the noble is not to be concerned with the religious matters.  It is part of the responsibility of this throne to see the larger picture, which would help in understanding any situation involving the gods.  I would hope that you have some devotion to Samayer, or one of the other five gods.  Considering that you are being presented as an advisor to this throne, and will hopefully be spending eternity in their presence, I would suggest you come up to speed on matters of the divine.”

The baron probably intended to support his subject as he said, “The last ruler, Duke Lequirm, had a more practical mentality in dealing with political matters.”

“Do I need to remind you of the recent history of this realm?”

“No, Honored Neselle.”

I made certain to direct my words at the one who would be serving in the castle.  “Counselor Afroll, let me stress again that this is a realm devoted to Samayer.  Jelnaya is a divine champion of Fergush.  If you are not capable, or do not want to be capable, of dealing with matters of the divine, I would suggest that you advise your baron of providing another to serve.”

The baron replied, “With words like that, I feel that I need to supply a priest.”

“With words like that, I feel that Jelnaya might need to fear the gods commanding her to purge more of her realm.”  Not willing to leave things at that point, I said more.  “While I love Jelnaya immensely, and do appreciate what she has done for my world, let me say that I am feeling I might need to make a home here.  If those sent to advise this throne are not going to recognize the gods then Jelnaya should fear her realm again falling into apostasy every time she is directed to travel.”

“Afroll, will you gain some competency in matters of this type?”

The counselor turned to say, “Baron?”

“Let me remind you that the counselor I had here is no longer living.  Honored Neselle is also correct.  Samayer has allowed her husband to supply a ruler who is directly involved in matters of the divine.  If you are not going to become qualified in dealing with esoteric topics, you probably do need to allow me to replace you with another.”

“Baron, I am to represent your domain in matters relating to how the duchess relates to her superior.  I did not consider that to be the gods.”

“Afroll, you were present when our king came to us.  He said that our realm had gone through a crisis, and the gods were demanding adjustments to be made.  If our king is understanding our situation, my advisor better understand as well.”

“Yes, Baron.”  The advisor turned to bow to me while saying, “I will see if I can find the notes of my predecessor.  With some history in how he had been serving, I will then seek to learn what I need in serving the future of this realm.”

I replied, “It is good to have the support of those who this throne should seek to support.  Working together, hopefully we can all look forward with hope to a good future.”

As they moved to go up the stairs, I saw an elegant lady coming down.  The men who had recently arrived genuflected upon learning who she was, but then moved on to check over their chambers.  I could not hear the exchange, so waited as the lady approached to hand me a glass of wine.

My mother-in-law said, “You have grown a lot since I first met you, Neselle.”

I replied, “Life has demanded it from me.  Not just my status, but children have worked to force a maturity upon me.”  She only smiled while taking a drink from her own glass, so in a conversational manner I asked, “Do you end days counting with your Goddess how many times you went from griping about your life to praising Her for your life?”

“I can’t say I have.  You have to remember that my Goddess is not the most talkative, so most of my prayers are rather formal.”

“Well, I don’t believe I could do all I do without the ability to hear my Goddess speak.”

“I can say that I also find you to be someone people enjoy speaking with.  That has me feel lacking, as I often consider that the reason my Goddess does not speak is that She does not enjoy speaking to those of Her world.”

While I appreciated the words, I felt a need to get actual advice from my mother-in-law.  “Do you think the reason these other fox people are not hearing a divine voice is because their gods do not like speaking or that their people are just no fun to talk to?”

“I am hearing the evidence that there is some divine guidance being supplied.  The reason they are not speaking is that the people don’t want to listen.  Why?  I pray for Jelnaya, as I am worried that is something she is going to have to learn.”

And Jelnaya does set out to learn more.