The third Neselle story -
Chapter Nine – Part Two
Jelnaya: Strangers and Possibilities
As Neselle and I stepped into the hallway, Timurly said, “Ah, good, although I will need to send word that the two of you are ready so soon.”
A guard nearby came to attention with Timurly stepping to the door next to the soldier while naming one of the gardens. Usually the initial meeting with a prospective suitor was nothing more than a quick introduction. Great-aunt Dirchein however enjoyed making the best of any situation. It had been a nice day outside, so having the formality in a garden was acceptable. I saw the guard race off to have the suitor ready, although appreciated having Neselle match my pace to not be too far behind the soldier.
We stepped into the garden to have Great-aunt Dirchein cheerfully announce our arrival. She usually was a buoyant positive person, although I suspected the manner of speaking to be another warning to someone to be on the alert. Since this was only an official introduction, I stayed quiet while planning to bring out some truths of the suitor later.
Neselle and I both stopped upon seeing a powerful man in a fine suit standing beside an elder man dressed as a member of nobility. The younger man was tall with a physique that was not as obviously muscular as Great-uncle Ferrigote, although I sensed it had at least as much strength. He wore a basic set of clothes that did not appear to fit him properly. Very curious about who we were about to meet, Neselle and I glided forward.
Great-aunt Dirchein came out to the two of us, then moved forward as if we needed directions. I traded glances of wonder with Neselle as we heard the golden lady speak of us. The men had to have traveled a long distance, so should have had some idea about who they would meet. We had no idea about who might show up, so followed the noble lady wondering when we would learn about the one hearing about us.
The elder man was introduced as a Duke Cheyash from a realm almost a month away. The one next to him took glances at us, but stood firm with his face appearing as if he wanted to cry. Really annoyed at having a certain introduction postponed further, I did my best to wait out the events.
It was the elder man that spoke at the end of our introduction. “To have such distinguished ladies was more than I expected. Let me say, Lady Neselle and Lady Jelnaya that no name was provided by Onathia.”
“Hold it,” I said. “Your clothes have icons to Debogda.”
“Yes, my realm honors ‘he-who-assigns,’ but it is clear in our teachings that Debogda makes his life with Onathia. She also works with Cloript, and considering we were magically transported most of the way I feel that all six of our gods are somehow involved in this meeting.”
Continuing to make myself dominant, I replied, “Well, the lord of this castle gives honor to Fergush with my Great-aunt Dirchein a devotee of Remidda. I cannot say how Samayer will enter the discussion, but I do not want her slighted.”
“Of course not, as she is the one that works with Debogda to assure that all manage to find success in their place.” He suddenly seemed to have forgotten what he had to say, so I had my eyes move to the tall, powerful figure attempting to hold a stoic pose. “Oh, yes, well – I was told to bring him to this castle. He likes to sing to ladies however, so I have been introducing him as a suitor.”
Neselle said, “That is fine, and not unusual, but it helps if I know who it is that is singing to me.”
“His name is Bresnaw Eight-Fourteen.”
I believe that Neselle and I both said, “Eight-Fourteen?”
“He is the one in a thousand. Why my realm was gifted to receive the man, I cannot say. We were honored however, and took it upon ourselves to give him a place.”
“Hold it,” I again interrupted the man’s words. “My grandfather constantly works with things of legend, and does hold respect for Fergush. I thus know of the ones called ‘one-in-a-thousand.’” I walked up to the man and tapped him on the chest as I asked, “You can fight?”
“I.. I... I…” The duke handed the man a handkerchief, and while wiping his eyes he said, “I am dangerous to spar with.”
“Yes, well, so am I. What type of weapon do you prefer?”
Great-aunt Dirchein said my name in a scolding tone, but I ignored her to point out guards at various places around the perimeter of the garden. Bresnaw seemed very unsure of himself, but found the eyes of the elders looking at me and not him. He thus felt free to point to a soldier holding a broadsword. I called him over, then spoke to a guard at another position to get such a weapon from one of his comrades I noticed at station in a hallway.
As Bresnaw Eight-Fourteen checked the balance of his weapon, he said, “I did not dress for sparring.”
“In case you have strange ideas, I’m not dressed for sparring either. Properly using a weapon demands more than simply hacking with it. I want to see just how much actual training comes from your divine battles.”
“I am much bigger than you.”
“Oh, you only fought things your size? I have fought a dragon, and those aren’t small. You don’t scare me.”
The man looked around as if scared, then set his eyes on me as he said, “I have never fought a woman.”
“Then I will accept that I have the advantage, as I have fought men. I will try to go easy on you.”
I set the attack only to find his block poorly done. As I considered making a conciliatory statement about him not being prepared, he moved to put the attack on me. My grandfather and Great-aunt Dirchein have very good reflexes. The deity of their world was so malicious that only those with exceptional reaction times and skills survived. I had inherited good reaction time, which usually gave me an advantage in battle. I however barely managed to bring my blade around to meet his attack. He was big, and strong, but I had learned how to redirect the power. I still would have been hurt had I not moved my body away from the direction of the attack.
The guy did not have that much technique in his manner of handling his weapon. I had the advantage there. He could however put more power in an attack than even what I had experienced going against my Great-uncle Ferrigote. What amazed me was Bresnaw’s ability to move. He could jump, tumble, spin, and recover from something on the ground or area causing a misstep almost faster than me. Realizing that we were both letting the simple act of making a first impression go a little too far, I used my training with weapons to end the combat.
As he looked at his broken sword, I tossed down the blade that I had ruined while saying, “Okay, Eight-Fourteen, I believe that you are one-in-a-thousand. Nice to meet you.”
He just looked at me, and with a tone almost of awe he asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m Jelnaya, granddaughter of Terish Dozzrine, the great-niece of the rulers of this estate, and someone who is determined to match the greatness of her ancestors. My grandmother said that I could achieve greatness because of the blood that flowed in me, and I told her that my grandchildren would know that they could achieve greatness because my blood flowed in them. You might be one-in-a-thousand, but I just matched you, so you better stop thinking that you are anything special.”
The man went erect, then his eyes looked slightly up and to a side as he said, “Hafrentasha, please, is there no way that I can learn my name?” I saw tears begin to flow from his eyes before he said, “Oh, of course – thank you, Hafrentasha.” He reached into a pocket to pull out the handkerchief he had been given earlier, then spoke to me as he wiped his eyes. “Dear Jelnaya, I ask to gain your audience tonight to sing my song. At that time I will let you know my name. It is strange, but I knew it all along.”
I looked to Neselle to say, “You have two suitors, but I will be satisfied with one. I hope that you do not mind.”
“No, although Althery might want to come watch if you are going to fight again.”
Great-aunt Dirchein again tried to sound as if she was scolding us by saying, “Neselle, Jelnaya.”
She was however interrupted by Duke Cheyash saying, “This home truly glorifies Fergush.”
I replied, “There is no shame in honoring Fergush.”
“No, I did not mean to imply that there was. Look forward to learning more about you, Lady Jelnaya.” He turned to the other lady to say, “Lady Neselle, thank you for your time.”
I watched as Great-aunt Dirchein escorted the men out of the garden, then turned as my Great-uncle approached. He stopped to overtly indicate that he noticed some damage to some plants and planters. Seeing me simply stand and wait for his approach, he went ahead and advanced to say what was on his mind.
“You need to be careful, Jelnaya. The gods will concern themselves with the one that comes through the ordeals set for those who deserve no honor. He has a strange status with the future of most others who return with this distinction only gaining glory in gaining no glory at all.”
“Then I have set him the challenge.”
He looked at me for a time before saying, “Do you like him?”
“He has potential, but I am not slowing down, Great-uncle. If he wants me, it will take more than singing me a song.”
“Of course, but there is also a difference in playing hard to get and simply being a bitch. If you give the man a chance at you, you better have the attitude that he might succeed – because he just might accomplish the impossible goals that you set.”
I cannot say what expressions showed on my face as I thought over a number of responses, although I quickly fell back to my personal standard. “Maybe, but that means that he better not step in the way of me accomplishing my own goals. If he is still there at that time, I would do wrong to completely deny him.”
“As you said, the challenge will be set before him. Up until now, I think the man was lost in the memories of his own torment. I believe that you awoke his original nature. Remember your place, Jelnaya, and watch the man to see what type of man he truly is.”
I considered what to say in return, but had to speak when I realized a fact. “Great-uncle, I don’t hear you warning me away from him.”
“Your grandfather married the empress of a world. I found a lady of gold and married her. You are now going after the one-in-a-thousand, or seeing if he will take on the challenge of going after you. No, Jelnaya, I am not warning you away from him. I however am saying that you better be as happy with your choice.”
“I have made no promises yet, Great-uncle. Let us see how well he can sing.”
“I am here if you need me, Jelnaya.”
He bent over to kiss me, then did the same with Neselle. I then watched as he left the garden. Seeing him bow, I noticed the wolf that was with Neselle come toward her with the young lady bending down to greet her.
I did not understand the smile Neselle directed at me, but her words spoken loud enough for me to hear did help. “No, Hanell, I do not believe that Jelnaya would like Genory.”
Really not caring, I replied, “You can still send him to me. He might end up being more interesting than one-in-a-thousand.”
“Well, I’m glad to be part of your herd, Jelnaya. Hope to spend more time with you later.”
And Jelnaya continues to try and stay dominant.