The third Neselle story -
Chapter Ten – Part Two
Jelnaya: An Improper Courtship
The rest of the meal went the way formal arrangements usually did. Everyone spent their time doing their best to make the time enjoyable, then rushed off to have what they considered real entertainment. The food was good, so I left considering that the meal had not been a waste of time.
It did surprise me to see Great-aunt Dirchein rush to join me in a corridor, but arriving I accepted her explanation. “You have a suitor, Jelnaya. As your elder, I will attend.”
“One-in-a-thousand just said that he would sing to me.”
“He is still a man, and Duke Cheyash did have him introduced as a possible suitor. Thus, you need supervision.” I guess to keep me quiet, she said more. “Duke Cheyash said the song is something special.”
I could not help but reply, “We will find out soon enough.”
Gaining my room, the golden lady had me sit so she could work on my face. She put some combs and pins in my hair, had me wear fancy heavy earrings, as well as put a little more color to my face. I did not approve of any of it. The golden lady was however my elder, so I allowed her to do as she felt best even though it really did not concern me whether the man liked my appearance or not.
Eight-Fourteen of course appeared basically as he did at supper. Most men would do nothing more than pick up an instrument to provide some accompaniment to their voice. As with most ladies, I enjoyed simply talking, so would interrupt a performance to move on to the chatter. Eight-Fourteen approached very close to the balcony to where he was basically looking directly up at me, then just began singing.
Let me say that he had a fine voice. I knew many men that were nothing more than regular people until they began to sing, then you wondered if someone else was nearby singing for them. Eight-Fourteen’s regular speech came out with a projecting type of sound that let you know he had a strong set of lungs. I thus was not surprised at the quality of his singing voice, but listened with fascination at the story his music told.
At the end, after Great-aunt Dirchein and I had complimented him, Eight-Fourteen said, “Everyone asks of me a name. Bresnaw is recognized as just being a word for ‘horse’ in an ancient tongue, as it seems the term is used in a derogatory manner around laborers. If you noticed, the name of the captain of the vessel is Belatrine. I do not know why I put that name in my song. I do not feel that it is my name, but the name must have had some significance to me. If you don’t mind, dear Jelnaya, I would like to be called Belatrine.”
“Not if your own sense of self-consciousness would have you stop singing the song.”
“Uh, yeah, it would be rather odd.”
Duke Cheyash stepped up to say, “How about Lebranaut? It is the name of an ancestor of mine that was a sea captain.”
Eight-Fourteen looked to me to say, “With your approval.”
“My approval?” I replied. “Why does your name need my approval? Eight-Fourteen works for me.”
“I most certainly do not want to be called by a number anymore.”
“Well, how about being called Lebranaut?”
His eyes moved to me, to the duke, and to someplace where nobody was before he answered, “Lebranaut will do.”
Hoping to move the conversation along, I said, “Okay, Lebranaut, tell me about your idea for a day.”
“Idea for a day?”
“Yes, Lebranaut. You don’t remember your past. What you do remember is just alternating periods of rest and horrific battles. You have however returned to this world. What is your idea about how you would like to spend your day?”
“I like looking at the sky. Once the sky is dark, like now, I don’t consider anything to do but sleep, but I always go to bed hoping to be awake for when the sun again rises. The sun, the clouds, even rain, is enjoyable. Storms get a little extreme, but they pass.”
Nice, but again I felt a need to move the conversation along. “Okay, so you start your day looking at the sky. I guess end it as well. Go to bed when it gets completely dark. Uh, do you practice your singing through the day?”
His eyes lit up as he answered, “Well, yes. I do enjoy singing. I am learning a lot of songs. There is still a desire to create another one, but the truth is that I did not create the one I sing. I merely worked on the verses.”
“That is an important part of a song, Lebranaut. Without good words, you might as well just hum.” He simply bowed in acknowledgement, so again I had to move the conversation along. “I got the impression earlier that you did keep up your combat practice, or did I experience just the remnants of your memories of the grand battles?”
“I guess just remnants, dear Jelnaya. What little sparring I have done has had the men quickly back off. You are the first one capable of standing up to me.”
“This is not a normal family that lives in this castle, Lebranaut. You might want to try my Uncle Althery. If Uncle Nuchirg was around, that is Great-uncle Ferrigote’s and Great-aunt Dirchein’s first child, you could go against him. I worked out with Great-uncle Ferrigote after our earlier meeting. He will not just give you a good challenge, but will probably make you look bad. He is one of the few that can even claim an occasional victory over my grandfather.”
The eyes of the man dropped to look at the ground before he softly said, “I don’t know if I want to fight anymore.”
“Only fools think they can go through life without fighting, Lebranaut. The bigger fools are however those who like fighting. You pick your battles, but I was taught that you better be prepared to fight when you do make that decision. I am going after great things, so I know that the fights I will pick will not be simple affairs. I make it a part of my day to practice.”
The man did not appear to want to say anything, but I did catch him softly admitting, “I enjoyed the match with you earlier.”
“Yes, Lebranaut, I did as well.” Not going to make any promises, I considered how to move the conversation along. “You said that you were learning other songs. Do you read?”
“Not well. I have learned how to read music.”
Okay, dead end, so I tried again. “You have been traveling. How about fishing?”
“Duke Cheyash enjoys fishing, but he says that my singing scares the fish away.”
Running out of ideas, I suggested, “Well, then sing me another song, Lebranaut.”
He launched into a song that I could tell was a more popular tune. It had a clear chorus, and the lyrics were not as descriptive as those in his own performance. With the tune not as complex, I joined him on the third chorus of the song.
Lebranaut stopped with his body, especially his face, going rigid. He then turned and marched away. Duke Cheyash started to follow, then stopped to try and put the event into perspective.
“You are the first to sing with him, sweet Jelnaya. I believe he is simply embarrassed.”
“Tell him that if he is too embarrassed to speak to me again, it is his loss.”
The noble man bowed, then followed after Lebranaut. I watched them go, then turned to see my great-aunt looking at me. I curtsied to her, then moved into by bedroom.
I heard her follow me as she said, “I cannot fault you, Jelnaya. You were handling yourself very well, and I will never speak against something like joining in on a song.”
“Thank you, Great-aunt Dirchein. I really did not intend to hurt his feelings.”
“I know. Well, excuse me, but I am going to check on Neselle.”
I felt relief in no longer having to worry about my attire. Feeling a need to see how I could better prepare myself for what might be coming, I pulled out a shawl planning to go check out my great-uncle’s armory. Stepping outside I however found myself worried in hearing Neselle call my name.
“Bresnaw – “
“Lebranaut is now his name,” I interjected. “His song was about a crewman on a ship, and Duke Cheyash had an ancestor that was a ship captain. He is thus named after that man instead of the word for horse.”
“My family are horses,” Neselle replied. “I thus liked his name.”
I shrugged, then said, “Well, he seemed pleased to have decided upon another name.”
“Okay, well, anyway, he left when you sang with him?” All I did was nod, but she kept talking. “I am so glad that your room is on the other side of the wing, as it kept the volume down. He does have a nice voice.”
“Well, I’m going to check the armory for possibly good alternate weapons and armor than what I usually use. Never know when you might need to change things out. When do you plan on leaving?”
She looked confused before saying, “We were supposedly waiting for something. I assumed it was Bres – Lebranaut, but maybe not. If I get word that we can go, I guess the day after tomorrow. If not, maybe someone else will come.”
“Good. Consider me ready, but I am going to see if I can improve my preparations. What do you and Althery have?”
“We both have weapons and some armor pieces from either Baron Ferrigote or Lord Terish.”
“They do tend to keep the better arms and armor. I have been working on my own collection, but I cannot say that I found things of the quality that they have.”
She advanced to say, “I will go with you.”
Curious, I had to ask, “Do you fight?”
“My people see me as a religious leader, but to gain that position I have had to face divine beings and overcome them. Althery and Nurchirg have helped, your family has helped – and I mean both sides. I really like your grandmother.”
“Yes, Grandmother Straekin does have her good points. I really have trouble relating to her however. She is nothing like me, but every time I examine my life I find that she has exactly what I want. Grandfather Terish has his own way of providing instruction, but to get a lecture from Grandmother Straekin can be a learning experience. And don’t you challenge her. That long hair, lovely clothes, and perfect appearance hides a very responsive and skilled body. She put me in my place a few times.”
Neselle laughed before saying, “Althery tells stories like that as well.”
“And Uncle Althery had her as a mother, so grew up under her instructions. I have spent evenings listening to my father and Uncle Althery exchange notes about their treatment by their parents. My father is the oldest, and Althery is the last, and I find it odd how much those few years difference did effect my immortal grandparents.”
“I see your father in you. I found Venicht to be a very serious person, and there is a serious side to you.”
I could agree with that, but felt a need to provide my own perspective. “Father sells weapons of war. My mother’s family did that, and Grandfather Derrebt says that he saw in my father the understanding of what the weapons could do. While my father has made money at the business, the world has been relatively calm as far as wars are concerned. Some claim that my father is responsible for that as well.” I tried to smile as I added, “Anyway, it took me going out and facing the challenges of the omniverse to gain some understanding of my father. I now enjoy spending time with him.”
“It is nice getting to know you, Jelnaya. I look forward to learning more about you.”
“Same here.” Having no reason to be mean, I said, “I think you will make a fine aunt.”
She curtsied, then said, “Words like that will have me sending Genory to you.”
I laughed, then we spoke about the men until arriving at my great-uncle’s private armory. Neselle had a very different background than me, but I found her just as strong in her determination to succeed at a goal. More than glad to meet another successful lady, I spoke with her until we both felt it time to get some rest.
And a new character is introduced.