The third Neselle story -
Of Men and Love in General
Chapter Fourteen – Part One
Jelnaya: Arriving at Gemord
I did feel that there was something strange about the minstrel, but I also had to allow that it actually spoke in his favor that he took on the challenge to travel with us. My father’s parents would often speak of those who joined them on their travels. Great-uncle Ferrigote and Great-aunt Dirchein traveled a lot, but not with the objectives of Grandfather Terish and Grandmother Straekin. They would decide upon a destination that had a purpose, and often others would hear and find themselves also having a desire to gain the knowledge being sought. My paternal grandparents did not come back speaking of the faults of their companions, but of the lessons they learned and how they developed in their personalities. I thus looked to Reclash wondering what I would think of him on the journey back.
It did seem like a change for the better when he started working with me to try and help Lebranaut restore his memories. I did not try and press the man, but as he revealed things of his nature I would quiz the man about how it might reveal things of his past. The minstrel was listening as I made some probes into the past of Lebranaut, and I believe attempted to help. When I felt that Reclash was getting a little too piercing with his inquiries, I sought to turn the conversation to having him share some of his memories.
“What? Well, uh, there is nothing special about me. I mean, I am not a one-in-a-thousand or anything. I do like to tell stories and sing.”
“So, did you grow up in the same kingdom as Genory?”
“No. I mean – no.” Yes, I was about to ask, so was pleased when Reclash went ahead and provided an answer. “I am told that I was born in a place called Ferderash. My parents must have moved around a lot, as I remember growing up as a castle urchin. Instead of fighting, I however would seek to entertain those who challenged me. The elders about my home agreed that I did not have the mentality for combat, so gave me training in music and storytelling. When I got old enough to think for myself and not get scolded for it, I decided to leave. Been traveling ever since.”
Nothing really sounded strange about his story. I however did not want Lebranaut to feel singled out for my probing into his past, so decided to stay focused on the minstrel. Not really knowing much about the man, I decided to simply gain some basic data.
“What had you in Genory’s home town? Any special festival, or just feeling a need to gain a new audience for your entertainment?”
“Well, yes, kinda, as the last city I was in really was not fitting my goals.” His head turned around as if to detect just how many people were listening before he said, “I felt that I needed a story to help establish myself, and hearing Prince Genory speak, although brag is probably the better word, about going and meeting Neselle I felt sounded like a story that would work in my favor.”
I again did not find anything overly suspicious in his words. All I could do was set the information in my mind to use as blocks to help pry further information from the man later. I thus spoke words on a different subject and directed at someone other than the minstrel.
“Should we get to Gemord tomorrow?”
Uncle Althery answered, “Yes, Jelnaya. We have been setting a slightly hard pace, which is better. If you travel at a normal rate, you either get there late or early. I am going to have us push ourselves a little this evening to get to the campsite that will have us arrive at the proper time. Neselle likes to speak to her parents before they go to work, then we can go about our business as they go about theirs.”
Neselle said, “Where I plan to go after visiting my original herd is to the den of the wolves of Hanell’s pack. If there are any newly found religious documents, they would know about them.”
Genory asked, “And what is our business?”
Uncle Althery answered, “I have no idea. Honestly, I will just stay with Neselle. Whatever we find as our challenge will usually be directed at her.”
Neselle said, “I have no idea either, but, yes, I am the recognized chosen one. It also should be of a religious, or divine, nature, and that is where I put my attention.”
I admitted, “Sounds like a plan. All right.”
The others spoke of agreeing with me. We thus settled back into our routine of allowing the distance to pass beneath us. Neselle however had to remind them of their agreement later in the day when she and Uncle Althery were speaking of continuing to travel while the others sought to go ahead and relax.
As with the night before, Uncle Althery went to check on things about the camp. I gained the impression that he stayed vigilant to safeguard Neselle. While Hanell was her official bodyguard, the wolf was elderly. I thus was not surprised to see her stay close to Neselle while my uncle was the one that actually went out to take on the threat. Uncle Althery did not act to speak against the capabilities of Hanell, although I could tell accepted his place as the actual protector of the young lady. He also did not challenge Genory to do the same, which in my mind told me that he did not consider the young man a serious candidate for Neselle’s hand. What I found unusual was on this night Althery settled on a rock along the perimeter of the camp and spoke of religion with Neselle and Hanell.
My uncle did not present himself as someone that really got deep on philosophical topics. I actually felt that he picked up a trait from his uncle in keeping a practical attitude in dealing with life, but actually having a strong core of wisdom from the life he had to lead. I listened as Uncle Althery proved himself able to speak knowledgeably with Neselle and Hanell as they discussed their topics in preparation for what they might encounter once in Gemord.
I entered the town the next day seeing things as it had been presented to me. Animals were moving about doing the work without human overseers. The homes and businesses were designed to accommodate animal forms. What humans I saw were young children with those acting as youths protected in the homes of animals while those moving about on their own acting in a methodical, distinguished manner of adults. I thus moved about town accepting what I had been told as true, so waited for guidance from those that had proven themselves to know the territory.
Neselle’s family were really horses. Other than the head, Hanell did appear as a wolf. Considering some stories I had heard of werewolves, I actually did not consider it too strange to have a human in a canine form. Seeing horses, a little more powerful than the animals from Davelda, with human-like heads however unnerved me, as I really did not consider such possible.
It was an equine introduced as an aunt to Neselle, although it seemed not actually related, that said, “Our town has grown used to adult humans, so you should be able to move about safely. If someone reacts, it is probably a visitor from another town.”
Neselle’s father added, “But many will still be curious about a new face. Be friendly, and all should go well. Note that the predators should support you if you do encounter trouble.” I heard him grumble something derogatory, then he said, “The ones that will probably not be interested in you, and not supply aid, are the very ones that should – the humans. Still, they are not all bad, and overall the humans do not cause trouble.”
I had to ask, “You mean that the humans do not care about the problems with your world?”
Neselle supplied the answer, “Remember that the humans, the adult humans, have not gone through any change. Their drives, both sexual and simply the demands of the body, stop at the age of twelve. They serve the society by assuring that it stays running, as the animal forms do have some limits. While they work around the animals, there is a separation in that a lot of what the animals feel they do not. They are not cruel, or stubborn, but just do not feel the urge to adapt or simply improve.”
“Can I simply go about your town?”
Neselle’s father replied, “Certainly. Like I said, most should not bother you with those that do simply wanting to meet a new face.”
Althery said, “I will be going with Neselle and Hanell to the wolves’ den. Jelnaya, I would say go to the coliseum first and get your bearings from there. Since it is the largest structure in town, it can help you assure your location in case you feel lost. Also, it is probably where you will spend the night.”
Actually curious, I asked, “Can we keep our mounts here?”
Laughter sounded at that question with Neselle’s father supplying the answer, “Certainly! We have horses, as there are some things the animals still do better,” others interjected comments about some tasks being beneath them, “and of course they are needed in the process that create those of us that are horse. We can provide a safe enclosure for your mounts and food.”
It was early in the day with me remembering the discussed time of our arrival was for Neselle to spend time with her family before they went to work. I sat on the metal fence around the corral studying my surroundings. It was so strange to see a city where the animal citizens did not duplicate the lives of men as I saw in so many cartoons. While most of those were actual humans, they had lives as the creatures they were. Neselle’s family pulled wagons and did other jobs one would associate with horses. The predator species did go around looking dangerous, although I found it odd to see the regular animals freely speak with the predators. Listening as all spoke of starting their work day, I considered how I might make productive use of my time.
Being that I was on the outer fence, I heard a number speak a farewell as they passed me going to their occupations, although it was Neselle’s mother that said, “Don’t be afraid, Jelnaya. We don’t bite.”
“I probably will walk about,” I replied. “I don’t know, but I imagined this place like the cartoons I watched growing up. This is not like those at all.”
“We still show them. We are not a technologically backward world, and we have movies, shows, and even cartoons. The new ones, those in the last centuries, do focus on animals, but actually most still use human actors, as we all do think of ourselves as humans.”
I nodded as I replied, “And you are as good of a people as Neselle and Hanell speak of you as being. I will help. I promise, but I do need to get my bearings so I don’t do something I shouldn’t.”
“Like I said, we don’t bite. Feel free to move around.”
Feeling that it was good advice, and what I was thinking about doing, I wished the lady well while dropping down from my perch. I did think to concern myself with not disrupting the movement of animals and people as they began their day, but also thought that trading greetings with the various citizens would help me become comfortable with my surroundings. Seeing Althery move with Neselle and Hanell along with Reclash and Genory, I informed them about what I would be doing.
Lebranaut said, “Lady Jelnaya, I will go with you. It sounds more interesting, and I cannot understand the language.”
I replied, “Most who live in the divine realms do gain an understanding of languages.”
“Well, I would not call what I did there as a life.”
“No, I guess not. As a lady, I guess that I should have an escort. Come on.”
And Jelnaya finds another stranger to Gemord.