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 To Know Storm and Calm: Part 2 (7 - 10A)

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TerishD


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PostSubject: To Know Storm and Calm: Part 2 (7 - 10A)   November 16th 2018, 7:49 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Seven

(Slidell)

After saying my prayers that evening, Zergus spoke of wanting us to lie together.  He did it playfully, but also with the attitude that I would agree.  It was the tone of his voice that disagreed with me more than the history behind our relationship.  I expected some statement in return, but not one of anger.

"Slidell, we did it before.  Under these circumstances!  Why not?"

With my own tones stating how idiotic I thought his words were, I replied, "The baby was refused.  It was not done within a marriage.  We are holy champions, Zergus.  Some things may be forgiven with others, but not with us.  We both should have waited, and now we must wait."

"Damn!  I really need some release, Slidell."

Those words did not calm my attitude.  "I am not, and will not be, your release.  I will be your wife, so will allow you to share my life.  That is what a marriage is – a shared life."

"Your words, Slidell!"

"My words?"

It angered me that Zergus was attempting to blame me for what I felt was something out of my hands.  I had gone through the miscarriage, but the fact it happened should have caused Zergus to be troubled as well.  He was also a champion of calm, so should have been able to maintain his composure.  Attempting to make me into a mean person did not please me.

His words did not help my attitude.  "A man needs release."

I was still angry, but those words caused me to be confused as well.  "You have managed up to now."

The expression on his face told me things.  Hearing a soft voice verify a fact caused me to back away from the fire.  I felt impure.  I felt used.  We had been together for years, so it did not surprise me that he recognized the expression on my face.

"Slidell, I only did it when I needed to."

Having the soft words in my mind caused me to declare an accusation.  "WHORES?"

"No, why – damn, only at first."

"AT FIRST?"

"I have slaves."

"SLAVES?"

I could tell that he was frustrated.  That emotion I however considered to be a minor thing next to the feelings I had.  I watched as he sought for some words to say, but I could tell that he would not succeed at redeeming himself.

"The whores, yes, that was wrong.  I was drunk, and really did not know things.  Slaves are not improper.  There are rules –"

I interrupted him to let him know some things.  "We are holy warriors, Zergus.  When I shared myself with you, it was out of a feeling that I would ever share myself with you.  It was a feeling of honor to one that felt would share my life COMPLETELY with me."

"I am a man, Slidell."

"You will not be my man, Zergus."

I took off the things that he had given me.  As I released each, I threw them at him.  Considering that they were truly of precious metal, I could tell that they hurt him when they struck his form.  I did not care, as I felt them hurt me by simply being on my person.

Once done, and as he was picking them up, I declared, "I am going back to pray.  Now that I know, maybe Nemerry will speak to me."

I felt Zergus wanted to follow, but we did not interrupt our time in prayer.  While I felt that I now understood why Nemerry would not speak to him, I wondered why she would not speak to me.  Surely she could have told me.  It took work, but I calmed my mind before actually starting the prayer unto my goddess.

It shocked me to hear the soft, delicate words of my goddess.  "You will not like my answer.  I have not spoken, because I have not liked it either.  I however am watching, and I am seeing the reason this answer was given.  It is your heart, Slidell, so I will remain quiet on this matter."

"But, Nemerry, I am your champion.  I will submit to your authority."

"I will not condemn you, or have you feeling that you were condemned.  Zergus has been sliding into depravity, although trying to follow proper methods.  Maybe your refusal will have him turn to a better path.  In any event, I believe that you are right to turn from him.  It is still your heart, Slidell, and you and Zergus have been with each other for a long time."

Unsure about what I heard, I only managed to say, "I was hoping for a more normal life."

The laughter of Nemerry sounded like a fall of light rain.  While I usually considered such a response pleasant, my thoughts and attitude did not have me in a frame of mind where I could actually appreciate what I heard from the goddess.  I felt that Nemerry understood, although her words did not sound to me like something I could fully deal with.

"A normal life is what this is all about, Slidell.  Maybe you will understand."

I went back to the campfire attempting to make sense of the conversation.  Zergus stayed quiet.  When he saw me pull out the holy text, he however knew that something had happened.  He thus asked about the conversation.

I answered, "She said it was my heart, Zergus.  She however spoke as if I had another choice than you.  In fact, she did not speak well of you, but admitted there could be hope."

"So, what do you want me to do?"

"Change your life, Zergus.  I don't know how to tell you to do that.  I obviously do not know things about you, so cannot advise you."

"Tell me somewhere to start."

"Sounded to me like you had a lot to do, so just start."  I looked at him, then decided to let him know something else.  "Nemerry told me that she had another option for me.  When it comes – I assume when 'he' comes, you better be a gentleman about it.  Should that option fail, hopefully you can present yourself as someone I might consider."

Zergus was quiet for a time, but interrupted my perusal of the holy text to ask, "What are you attempting to read about?"

"What I should be looking for in a man.  Nemerry said that whatever we are involved in has something to do with what a normal life was.  I thus wanted to read what her books says a normal life is supposed to be."

"A normal life?  We are holy champions, Slidell.  We don't live a normal life."

"Yes, Nemerry laughed when I told her that I wanted a normal life.  Still, she has set rules, and I want to assure myself that I will follow them."  Actually wanting to think good of Zergus, I suggested, "It might help you to read her rules again."

"I read them rather often."

I could not keep myself from replying, "Looking for loopholes is not the proper manner of reading this book."

"You don't know what it is like being a man."

"Probably not, but I know what it is like being a woman.  I deal with it.  I am assuming that you have to deal with being a man.  The way I see it, I have been doing a better job of dealing with being a woman than you have being a man."

Things went quiet for a time.  I felt that was good, even as I felt frustrated by my reading of the holy text.  I did not see anything that applied to my thoughts.  In thinking about it, I could not even remember anything applying to what I felt was important.  It helped that only my flipping of pages disturbed the silence, but I knew that Zergus could not stay quiet for long.

"I have been reading the holy book, Slidell.  What are you looking for?"

"Being nice."

"Being nice?"

I felt that he should know, but spoke assuming that he had not felt the weight of things as I had.  "The reports of that other man who has been active against the minotaurs was that he was nice.  When I went to the roofs to get an appraisal of the situation, I saw him rescue a lass.  He then bothered to roll a ball and get a doll.  He was being nice.  In a heavy combat situation, he was being nice."

"Sounds like he is very calm.  Gesara?  Myriah?"

"He skewered two minotaurs on his sword, and used their bodies for protection while doing the things I said.  This is not a normal man."

It did not surprise me when he jumped to a conclusion.  "You think this is your other guy?"

Since it was the truth, I had to go ahead and allow an answer.  "Yes, I am thinking this is my other guy.  What I can tell already is that he is not anything like you, Zergus.  Nemerry was of the mind that I would not necessarily like him, which is how it was allowed that I might eventually give you another chance should you actually improve yourself."

"Meditations.  Specifically chapter four."

I trusted him to know the holy book, although upon flipping there I had to let him know that I knew the book as well.  "This is on maintaining a discipline with animals.  We use it in dealing with our mounts."

"Horses, children, the disciplines can be applied to both.  The lessons on staying calm under stress can apply to a number of things.  I assume they can deal with maintaining calm even under the stress of combat."

Wondering just how far Zergus' mentality had slipped from a proper path, I asked him about his reasoning.  "How about you?  Do you use these words in that fashion?"

"Same as you, Slidell.  I work at removing the threat with the attitude that the locals should be pleased at the removal of the stress.  We cannot be assured of their lives, so should leave it to them to restore their lives.  I guess that I am not nice.  Still, when dealing with communities that I know to be mostly devotees of Nemerry, I do try to be caring."  He then asked, "You did not recognize him?"

"No.  Did not recognize his weapon, style of dress, and was surprised to see how he acted in combat.  Whether or not he is the one, I am interested in meeting this man."

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PostSubject: Chapter Eight   November 21st 2018, 7:49 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Eight

(Slidell)

I wanted to look for the other man the next day, but we gained on the minotaurs. Zergus and I took to the minor battles only to realize that we had caught up with the main concentration of the monsters. We thus set ourselves to the extended conflict. The horns of armies could be heard, but their presence just seemed to compress the mass of minotaurs upon us. The fighting was heavy, but slowly we gained upon what we felt was the major threat.

The presence of the military kept our opponents wary. While it forced a number to retreat to our location, they still had the mentality of being oppressed by various groups. Their rage had only increased making them serious threats to those who confronted them. The minotaurs we came upon did not consider themselves to have superior numbers, although had a fire to tackle whatever opponents they faced. The storm did not bless those driven by it with rational tactics or consideration of how to apply defenses, which gave Zergus and me enough presence to maintain a superior position in combat.

It must also be said that our flank stayed relatively light. Once we advanced a ways toward what we hoped was our target, Zergus and I did not feel completely surrounded. We did indeed kill a number, but still felt the large gathering would have a number close up any hope of fleeing. I looked back a few times however to think that any survivors we found could flee through the relatively sparse showing of minotaurs behind us.

Other heroes fell that day. The horns from the military sounded out mournful tones indicating the loss of someone important. Always a reply came from another position to continue the assault. Zergus and I yelled rallying cries upon hearing the second call, as it meant we would continue to have support. I wondered about the 'nice' man, and looked to my rear wondering if he was responsible for the lack of antagonism from that direction. Fearing that if he fell Zergus and I would not find ourselves able to protect ourselves from the onslaught, I prayed for whoever might be behind us to also be blessed by Nemerry.

We came upon a group of five people who appeared most bizarre. They had horns growing out of their heads. Unlike the bovine creatures, these growths came from the forehead and curved over the heads. Their bodies appeared black and scaly with shiny sections of what appeared as oozing internal fluids, but unnatural as if their skins had been ever subjected to burning until it naturally grew in such a manner. As horrid as their bodies appeared, they rushed upon Zergus and me with great speed and strength.

These five used clearly practiced combat maneuvers. Unlike the minotaurs that mostly relied on their strength to overcome their opponents, these did not perform actions that could be turned against them. Zergus and I were champions of Nemerry, so had been granted special benefits that helped us in combat. Five to two against these opponents however seemed impossible to overcome, as their combat maneuvers clearly showed that they had practiced to be united in resisting threats against them.

A slight tension came to my stomach as I felt Zergus was going to meet his end. However, the one that was to make the fatal strike suddenly had a very perplexed expression come to its features. I am sure that my own countenance registered confusion when the head was tossed from his body. Zergus had focused upon another opponent, and as he made his maneuver I do not believe he understood that he had almost died.

The large man was not storm. He did not quickly move to another opponent. I saw him glance to Zergus and me as if assessing what type of maneuvers we were in the middle of. The large man then stepped around the one Zergus fought to ward off the attack of another while making an introduction.

"I am Hallith. I hope that you do not mind me joining your party."

As calm it was not our style to speak. Some statements to assure information was allowed, but casual conversation was something when no other duties were present. I guess Zergus felt it was important to gain some identification, as he asked a question.

"What god do you worship?"

"I am not from your world, but since you asked, Zetrullid. He is a water god. Not storm or calm, but just water."

I could not help but believe him. There was a pure fluidity in his movements. While a large man, he had a command of his body that was amazing. He wielded his large sword in a manner that showed control, even as he would often have his second hand go to the hilt to power a blow. He had brown eyes like that of a muddy pool. I could not help but feel slightly queasy when he moved to help me with one of my opponents.

Zergus asked, "Why are you here?"

That was not a question actually necessary to our battle, but while it showed Zergus to not be truly calm I was grateful that Hallith answered. "It's a story, a long one, so not one for battle. Short version is that the goddess of fire sent me."

While he did not move as if calm, the response reflected more calm than Zergus, and just to let Hallith know of my pleasure in his presence I decided to speak. "Four to three, three to three, and now two to three. Well, thank whoever for sending you."

"Long story excluded, I was not told specifically to come to you. Any reason why you two were left to fight this alone?"

I did not feel a need to respond to that question. We could converse after the fight. Zergus however responded with chatter as if he was storm.

"We're champions of Nemerry. Regular soldiers, regular men, would not survive."

"Well, just for the sake of conversation, wouldn't the regular soldiers or heroes see this as a chance to win their own position as a champion?"

'For the sake of conversation?' Did Hallith not realize that we were in combat? If he wanted to talk, he could have gone on and told us his story. Our voices however needed to be silenced in order to assure a proper passage of air through our bodies. Our concentration needed to be on maintaining our dominance in the deadly situation. Combat was not the time for conversation.

Zergus again supplied the answer, "Actually, it would be. Both Slidell and I gained our status from such actions. I guess none around us felt the calling."

"So, there is wisdom on this world."

I almost lost my flow of movement with that response. It did not sound like anything I would have expected. I believe that Zergus did lose his stream of movement, as Hallith switched to his opponent while a comment was made.

I believe Zergus sounded a laugh before saying, "Yes, I guess you could say that, at least with those of us that support the calm."

Speaking to hopefully restore some focus on the combat, as we had yet to drop either of the remaining two, I said, "The forces from Sentriy should be Typhorsh, but I do not feel his air."

The two men dropped their opponent, then as both moved to me Zergus commented, "Yes, strange."

Three to one, so our primary problem was in not hurting each other. Zergus and I had our maneuvers well practiced. Hallith however proved himself not to be a problem as he stepped back in a defensive position. I believe our opponent completely forgot about him as Zergus and I cooperated to remove the remaining threat. Stepping back to avoid our press, a shocked expression came to our opponent as a large sword came down through his spine.

My eyes went to Zergus concerned for his health. I however saw his focus upon Hallith as he removed his large blade from the corpse. I saw his eyes looking around as he went to wipe his sword on the hairy body of a minotaur, then he looked to us to ask a question other than our health.

"What now?"

Zergus answered, "The storm is over. We let those whose lives have concern for the locale to finish things as they would see fit. For us, we can allow our bodies to completely feel the calm."

"Sounds good. If you do not mind, I will join you. Or if you feel that I need to move on, please direct me."

I had to ask, "Why would we feel that you need to move on?"

"Not my world. I have no idea, but I will let you have authority."

Zergus told the man to follow us, then began walking out of the city. As Hallith followed, the two men began discussing the minotaurs. It seemed that he had gained some information, although spoke with Zergus to assure some facts.

The two then spoke of their respective gods. Hallith had a much simpler pantheon than I considered feasible. The universe was just too grand to allow myself to believe that a small number of entities could maintain it all. I knew of the seven gods that maintained our world, but also of others that had influence beyond our terrestrial environment.

When I called for gentle rain to wash over us and fill our containers, Hallith looked around as if wary of another threat. He did not rush out of the rain, as I had seen others opposed to Nemerry do. What bothered the man I felt was clearly of some matter other than the rain, so asked him about his concern.

He replied, "Just surprised that I am still here. For well over four hundred years I have gone from problem to problem." His voice grew soft as he added, "For the last few decades I have gone from problem to – 'home.'" The last word had an inflection added to it that made me think that I did not hear him properly. "Still, I never stayed."

Zergus said, "So, you are storm."

"No. I was a Quartermaster."

Zergus made an exclamation, but I was the one that spoke. "I know of the Quartermasters. They came through here over a century ago. From what I heard of them, they were considered storm."

"Oh, we were a group. Anerth, Chertish, Pesloe, and I would come upon a situation and handle it as quickly as we could."

I heard a number of stories from Hallith. He spoke while helping me start to cook. He spoke in helping Zergus find our mounts and tend to them. I believe he had Hallith speak of the event in our past when he came to our world, but I did not hear that story. However, the men were not arguing upon their return with Zergus not challenging the identity of Hallith. He was allowed to tell other stories as we ate and prepared for bed.

He continued to sit near the campfire, I believe still expecting to be summoned elsewhere. Thinking that he might have been sent for me, I put on some nice clothes, makeup, perfume, and set my hair in what I felt was a pleasant manner. Hallith however just looked into the fire.

Sitting near him, I had to ask, "Why are you no longer with the Quartermasters?"

"In our centuries of going from problem to problem, we met others who also traveled between worlds solving the troubles of others. Most were just of the world we entered, so could not move on with us. A few however were also able to travel the strange openings between worlds, and these would actually join with us for a time. They became our friends, although our time together was often not that long as we had a drive, a compulsion, a promise to keep fighting while they had other lives. Still, of this latter group were immortals that would come again. One of these was a man known as Cornispe. He sought a wife, and decided to learn of Pesloe. Cornispe managed to face our god, and from him gained a ring that would allow the lady of our group to marry him. With the help of another friend, he convinced us to go face our god about our lifestyle."

I really wanted Hallith to keep talking. With the combat over, now was the time for conversation. Interested in what I could learn of this man, I could not help but ask a question to hopefully start him again talking.

"Did Cornispe marry Pesloe?"

"Yes. Anerth stayed, as it was his belief and promise that actually established the Quartermasters. I will occasionally travel with him still. Chertish completely quit. Gave up his immortality. He still lives, but is growing old. Even though one would think that now he truly has things to speak badly about, he is actually a cheerful person. He really is not the same man who traveled with me for centuries."

He went quiet, so I had to prod him to speak of the one thing I wanted to know. "How about you?"

I now saw him focus his brown eyes upon me. Feeling him actually appraising my form, I could not help but smile. He smiled in return, but it did not last and his eyes turned back to the fire.

"I did not know about life. Everyone else was speaking of what they considered their life, either what they had or what they desired. I knew nothing about it. I simply waited for Zetrullid to tell me what he wanted for me to do next. Aslerrida however gave me a girl to teach me of life." Tears came to his eyes as he said, "She did that. As devoted as I am to Zetrullid, she showed her commitment to Aslerrida in teaching me of things I could not comprehend. When it came to an end, she challenged her goddess to now allow me to have a life. I was brought to the divine halls of the goddess of fire to deal with the strength of the love and commitment of my slave. Aslerrida finally conceded that an answer might be here. She however warned me that in knowing what something was, I should also know what it is not."

Considering my own situation, I had to gain some facts. "What was this slave's name?"

"Kierle."

"Did she give you children?"

"She was a slave, so not any proper offspring. Still, I learned of children with her. There were four: boy, girl, boy, girl."

No, I really was not pleased with that information, although I considered him in a better position than Zergus. "Do they love you?"

"They all proudly called me Sire. When I settled the affairs of the home I provided for Kierle, I assured that each had some blessing from me."

It seemed that the man had a lot of honor, which impressed me. "And what are you looking for now?"

"I tried to explain to Kierle that it was too soon. She had just died. I believe Aslerrida was attempting to say the same when she gave me the instructions she did. I believe that now that I know what a normal life is, I now am getting to relearn what type of life I truly have. Maybe in the future I will be able to blend the two."

"You spoke to Kierle after she died?"

He turned to look at me with the gaze of wondering what had been the problem with what he said previously, although I appreciated the calm manner of his words. "Yes. She was a true devotee of Aslerrida."

Hoping to provide some understanding of my question, I said, "Most here would not consider a slave worthy of being accepted by a god."

"We are all servants of the gods. A slave can often do more than a noble, as the slave understands what it is to truly serve."

Not words that I was used to hearing said. I thus went quiet thinking over them. Not being able to challenge the words, I decided to see what more I could learn of this man.

"Well, if you find nothing else here to keep you occupied, what do you plan on doing?"

"The one thing I really have not done, go visit friends. Might see if I can find Terish and Straekin. It is about time that I returned some of the graciousness they have shown to me. From there I might go visit others."

"Terish? Terish Dozzrine? The one that supposedly rides a centaur?"

He laughed as he nodded. "Yes, and they do get the recognition. I knew all of the centaurs. Terish saved their world from a horrible evil, and they serve in honor of what he did. Straekin is a wonderful lady, but she has to suffer with her husband as the centaurs usually get all the attention. Still, they are wonderful people to have as friends, and it is about time that I looked them up."

I did not want to admit that I did not believe those stories were about real people, so instead said, "It must be nice having friends like that."

"Friends." That word was said in rather mystifying way, then as if recognizing I was present he added, "It is amazing that I have managed to have any friends at all. Maybe among friends I can find what I will consider my 'normal' life." His tone changed as he then asked, "Are you staying up, or how do you and Zergus usually handle things at night?"

I could not help but smile as I found a way to say what I wanted. "As a friend, let me allow you to get some sleep. Thank you for your help. It would not trouble me to have you travel with us for a time."

"We can discuss that in the morning."

"Yes, please. It is good to get to know you, Hallith."

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Chapter Nine - Part One   November 26th 2018, 7:55 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Nine – Part One

(Hallith)

I got the impression the next morning that Zergus did not want me traveling with them. Slidell however did everything she could to assure that I would not rush off. She did not wear her armor, but a nice green dress. I have to say that she was very lovely. Her hair was brown, but in a lighter shade that glowed almost orange when in the sunlight. I felt that it did not appear to be a color of someone devoted to a water deity. Her blue eyes however almost wavered as if they were a sparkling stream beneath a clear sky. I almost did not want to travel with the couple, as I felt I was causing problems, but used to having my choices made for me I continued in order to give Zetrullid or Aslerrida time to let me know what they desired for me to do next.

We all stopped our preparations for leaving our camp upon hearing the sounds of a quickly moving steed. We were in mountainous surroundings, and the rocky substrate enabled noises to carry. Plants grew, mostly some tough grass, although we had camped where some hardy large-leafed trees sought the security of a constant water source on this high section of land. Feeling that we were not really protected by our surroundings, we did what we could to ready ourselves for whoever rushed toward our camp.

Slidell had dressed in a lovely outfit, so I understood her reaching for a shield. Zergus threw a saddle on his mount not just to provide some protective covering, but I felt to not make it apparent that he set one of his weapons in easy reach. I reached for my sword before moving to a place away from the others waiting for the wanderer to arrive.

“Zergus! Hail! Top of the day to you! Is Slidell with you?”

The voice was high pitched. While feminine, I got the impression that the one arriving was young. The large barded horse however came to a stop very abruptly, so the one that spoke had a good command of animals.

I did not see Slidell put down her shield as she stepped up behind Zergus before saying, “Aye, this is Slidell. Ayither, is that you?”

“Yes, Slidell." I saw what did appear as a young lady dressed in blue covered in a mesh of fine silver rings drop to the ground then move up in an unsteady manner. "Glad to know that you are all right. I will be gone now.”

“You’ll what?” The lady now moved from behind her fellow champion as she said, “Ayither, it is early, but we have plenty of minotaur meat. Somebody needs to help us eat it.”

“I'm not a cannibal.”

Since such would be my conclusion as well, I found myself liking this young lady. I however also knew the truth of the food. I thus chuckled as Slidell laughed before explaining things to the one that had arrived.

"I am not saying that we are eating minotaurs. I am saying that we took rations from some of their packs. They eat meat too. Found some large pieces of venison, and we prepared that."

Studying the young lady, it was rather apparent that she had been active for some time. Cords of plant fiber barely had the strength to hold sections of the metal chains on her body. The face that showed through a dented metal helmet declared that she had not bathed in at least a couple of days. I did not know what the young lady had gone through, but I felt the words of Slidell stated a friendship requiring her to see the arrival in better shape before allowing her to leave.

“Ayither, we have other things to eat if you are picky.”

She stepped up to Zergus to have her hands grab his arms. The one I now knew to be called Ayither looked into Zergus' face, then turned to Slidell. I expected the eyes of the one that had arrived to stay for a time on the lady, but Ayither instead quickly turned back to look at the man.

“Zergus, Slidell, you are both bright beacons of hope for this world. I however find myself wondering why you are here.”

The lady returned, “Finishing some business for King Gradden. We were considering heading to a nearby temple, although probably need to return to him.”

“He's not important anymore.”

I felt that I understood the reason for both of my present companions to sputter, “He… What?"

Ayither moved to the remains of the fire, and she took a bottle of wine from a saddlebag that sat there before taking a seat. “There are great things happening, and I expected the two of you to be involved.”

Slidell moved to sit near Ayither as she replied, “Well, we aren’t. Zergus and I were considering not to be involved at all anymore, but something came up in that regard.”

Ayither rose to grab an arm of the lady as while saying, “But that is why the two of you need to be involved. There are not two people more deserving and more able to make a wise decision.”

It was Zergus that replied, “A ‘wise’ decision? Most consider the two of us as being very unwise.” I saw him look to Slidell as he added, "Especially me."

"But both of you stopped those who committed the greatest of all sacrileges. At least, that is what we thought at the time, but those evil often show us that what we think are the depths of depravity are only the shallows of that swamp." Seeing none of us respond, Ayither let go of the lady's arm while boldly presenting some facts. “It is more than a rumor that a group is breaking through the grand barrier in the doorway to Elysium. They are going to Nemerry to have her declare to be the prime power over all. Word is that they destroyed Thor, and are going to promise Nemerry that the other gods will be reduced in power if not slain. The balance will be gone, but calm will triumph.”

I had heard Zergus and Slidell speak of being calm. I thus expected some statement of pleasure in what this young girl said. I however heard Slidell speak adages of wisdom.

“And what? Do they then expect for the deer to no longer fear the lions? Do they believe that no more storms will come, but only gentle rains? Nemerry supports this system just as Thor has done. I cannot believe that she will give in to the greed of becoming the one prime goddess. Such a thought should be beyond her.”

“What? Slidell! Don’t you want your children to grow up in a calm world?”

"As much as you want your children to grow up feeling the storm. I will ever support those that try to give children a good home, whether storm or calm. But I cannot believe either of us will have our children taught that there is no evil. They will need to make their own decisions about their lives just as we all have. I will instruct those I bare and give them my blessing, so hopefully they will become forces for calm, but to believe that there are not others instructing their children in vile acts will ever be folly.”

Ayither almost began to cry as she again had her arms grab the other lady before speaking to her face, “No, Slidell, there will be a new future. I cannot say if it will be a good future, but I have seen signs of the end of storm. It is said that the horrors that we have faced, that those before us have faced, will be no more. I however fear what type of future it might be.” Ayither's head then turned to stare at me even as she demanded words from another, “Zergus, explain it to her.”

“Explain what?” he returned. “Slidell can speak for me in certain matters. Ayither, what are you doing here?”

Again the eyes moved between the three of us as the young lady said, “I expected the two of you to have been summoned to lead in this conflict. If there are two more able to face the gods, especially Nemerry, it would be the both of you. When I heard however that you were out again doing deeds for our king, I thought things strange, so came to check on myself.”

“We both have sought to speak to Nemerry, and Slidell did just last night. However committed we are to Nemerry, we show no animosity to the other gods. I certainly will not say that we are anything special. We are not storm however, so you need to explain yourself Ayither.”

Slidell quickly took over speaking, “We have never been antagonistic to any god, and although you are storm you are my friend. If any deity has asked our help on a mission, and it did not conflict with our own beliefs, we went and did it. If Thor needed help, he could have asked for it. He might not like our methods, as we follow the ways of Nemerry, but we would obey his commands.”

Ayither said, “I went to Sethanand and personally destroyed Thor's altar there. He did not ask for your help. No words, no threats, nothing. I thus can say that he is indeed dead. The balance is already thrown in favor of calm. The world our children know will be a different one than we know.”

Slidell put her hands over her face as she asked, "What is it with strange ideas?" She then looked at the newcomer to say, “Ayither, we are not involved in this. At the moment, you need to remove yourself from whatever mission you are on as well. There is a pool over there. The water is cold, but it is clean. Take a bath. Zergus and I will fix your armor. Get some rest. Zergus and I were going to leave to return to give reports to those we feel deserve them. We however won’t leave you until you are again ready for travel.”

“The both of you are good people. I want a world filled with people like the two of you, although I would prefer having a community of those also storm. I am tired of battling foes, but I know my weariness will leave me. I will go with you, as I want to be there to hear when you are told of what changes are happening and how you are to support them."

Feeling a need to speak, I said, “Evil will still be there. Things might indeed be different, but they will be the same. Changing the gods will not change the people.”

I could tell that Ayither did not know me as she replied, “No. You will see. Things will be better.”

Slidell worked to change the subject as she said, “Well, Ayither, you cannot make any improvements until you improve yourself. Go take a bath.”

She worked to assure that Ayither had what she needed to care for herself. I watched both ladies as they did this. The voice of Slidell did not have the tones she used around me. I thought of Kierle as she dealt with our children once they gained enough of a mind to understand some logic. Zergus also watched the movements of the ladies in a manner that I could detect his nervousness. Trusting Slidell to do what was needed, or allowing that Zergus would know when things got out of hand, I moved out to a position where I could watch for any trouble.

It did not surprise me that once Ayither went into the water to take her bath that Zergus moved to challenge Slidell as she gave Ayither some privacy. "What is with you, Slidell? Surely you cannot allow yourself to take Ayither's words to heart."

“I do not know of her as being crazy. Ayither was always a type of a dreamer, but a strong confident companion all the same. We also have not heard anything about this recent mission. We did as told, but things were obviously more than that. The coming of Hallith, and the strange manner of those we fought with him, all speak to us being involved in something beyond the normal.”

Things went quiet for a moment, so I thought they had settled the matter between them, but then I heard Zergus ask, "What about Hallith? You believe he is your man?"

"I don't know, but I am allowing it. He seems to be in the same place I am, just coming from a different direction. Unlike you, he is not forcing himself upon me. Unlike you, I feel that he has been living his life in a proper manner. I thus am going to see if anything develops."

"Well, I think you're wrong, but I have to admit that he is not making any moves toward you, even with you dressing and acting as you are. Thus, even without your words, I would be in the wrong to confront him. I am watching however."

"I am sure that Nemerry is as well, Zergus. Now, let us give Ayither time. If you want to do anything, it might help for us to see to her armor. All of us right now are facing an uncertain future, but we must maintain calm. May those who watch us see the calm, even as we consider that we might be facing a storm."

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PostSubject: Chapter Nine - Part Two   December 1st 2018, 7:49 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Nine – Part Two

(Hallith)

I was glad that neither came out to where I kept watch. While I thought to act as if I had not heard the conversation, the fact that I had heard meant that I needed to consider the information. Slidell was lovely. While definitely a woman, she also had a presence that I felt could stand beside me. I had faced combat with her, and could not fault her skills. I had fought with other ladies. Pesloe stood with Anerth, Chertish, and me without any need to treat her as less of an equal. She now lived a life with Cornispe, and in no matter did one feel the other was unqualified. Slidell looked nothing like Pesloe, did not fight as Pesloe, and did not act as Pesloe. I still thought of being around Slidell and not thinking of her as I thought of any other woman save Pesloe.

The problem with such a thought was that I never made a move on the female member of the Quartermasters. She was my princess, and I was one of those given the duty of protecting her. Simply to serve with her I considered to be a high honor. She had once shared herself with me, but even in that time I was with my superior. My desire was to please her, but not in any romantic way. I treated her body with respect. It pleased me to hear her speak of the pleasure in the experience, and with the memory that I had performed to her satisfaction I went on more than happy to continue. I never heard her speak of any problems with my behavior afterward, although I felt she became a little more trusting of my movements around her even in the most trying of battles.

What Kierle had taught me however was that I did not want a wife that would fight beside me. What Cornispe, Terish, and others had however demonstrated was that I would need such a lady to join my life. The home, the children, the things that a lady provided in a normal life did not completely apply to an immortal life. Those couples who had gone on to a prolonged existence blended their lives in a much deeper manner than those of a normal life. The men also settled in a home when their wives were in certain times, but then the ladies traveled and fought when the desire to wander again became an option to their husbands. I thus considered all that I had been taught, and pondered how I might apply those lessons to Slidell.

I came out of my thoughts hearing Ayither ask, "Who is that man with you, Zergus? I do not know him, and his horse is not of a breed from around here."

"That is Hallith, once of the Quartermasters."

"Who?"

I heard movement toward me and turned understanding that Ayither felt that she could get some facts directly from a source. She stopped where she could clearly see me. I allowed her to study my form even as I looked to her. Youth blared in her face, although I clearly saw signs of the coming woman in her form. I thought of Kierle and how she was also young when I first gained her. Ayither's hair had a paleness to it that had it appear as straw when disturbed by a breeze. Her eyes also gleamed with a paleness, I would say gray, that had me think of her as something less than substantial. Seeming to come to a conclusion, Ayither spoke, although I could not be certain she voiced her actual belief about me.

"Halliith of the Quartermasters."

Not knowing what else to say, I replied, "Yes. I heard that you are Ayither, but not really much more about you except that Zergus and Slidell do seem to trust you."

Ayither now moved up to shake my hand. She had on another blue gown that I felt was the replacement blouse for the one that had been under the metal mail acting as her armor. A skirt did cover her lower body, but appeared as a nicely dyed basic garment for protecting her modesty around a military camp. The hair was long enough to cover the middle of her back. There was no fashion to the strands, but Ayither's youth had her tresses appear elegant along with her face that had almost no cosmetics. I saw no sign of respect or fear as she moved up to me with her hand out.

"Ayither, Champion of Typhorsh, who I have heard is now slated for death. Exactly how that is to be managed, I cannot say, but what I have heard of Thor does not speak well of my own god. What do you think of the matter that gods can be killed?"

I did shake her hand in a polite manner, then said, "I would highly doubt it, but they have their own preferences and goals that I feel are often more convoluted than we could conceive."

"Convoluted? Huh? But then that would imply –"

I interrupted her to say, "Don't challenge me on such paths of logic. I am not considered a dummy, but none come to me seeking to have me answer perplexing problems either. I am honored that I have been considered by others to be someone that can learn, but none come to learn from me."

"And yet, you are." Not seeing me respond to that, she said, "It is said in the story we have of you that you, the Quartermasters, are storm. Being that I am a Champion of Typhorsh, strong wind, I have often wanted to meet you."

"Our god, my god, is Zetrullid, a water deity. I served him for over four hundred years with honor having never met him. Now that I have, I serve him with even more devotion."

"I see that you are with Zergus and Slidell, two Champions of Nemerry. Their goddess is a water deity, but that of the gentle rain. Does that mean that you are not storm?"

"I will speak of religion. Zetrullid is water, but we feud with those of Nekeli, the air, or Redinnick, the earth, as to its source. We will find those who give Nekeli or Redinnick honor for supplying water, and speak unto them for ignoring the grace of the water itself."

We stood and spoke of religious matters for a time. I believe Ayither went from being suspicious of me, to being elated in simply speaking with me. Her questions and puzzles did not get deep, but stayed upon matters of perspective with other aspects of our lives. I liked such discussions. I used to allow such conversations to be the focus of Anerth, but in spending time on my own world I found myself enjoying those topics for myself. I thus cheerfully allowed time to pass while speaking with Ayither.

She finally asked, "What brought you here, Hallith?"

"Aslerrida, the goddess of fire, said that there might be something here for me, although she also said that in knowing what something was I should know what it is not."

"Gods! They are perplexing enough, but when they are not your god their statements can be almost contradictory."

From where we had our camp the voice of Zergus said, "If you two have said enough, we can get going. You seem to have recuperated, Ayither."

I heard Slidell giggle before saying, "We were listening."

Ayither turned from me to head back to the others before saying, "You mentioned heading to a temple; I assume of Nemerry. That should have you going to Dethechar. King Gradden and our home however is in Mermonnor."

Slidell replied, " Mermonnor is two days beyond Dethechar. Whether we stop in Mermonnor depends on what more we learn in Dethechar or along the way."

"Typhorsh is in Tahormon. I ask if what we learn speaks ill of things with my god, that we turn toward there."

I had not followed Ayither, so could only assume the pause was of the three looking at each other for body movement before Zergus said, "Okay, if we learn something of that nature. Are you certain that you are ready for more travel, Ayither?"

"I'm storm, so of course I am ready. I will admit that Slidell was correct. A bath and some food was needed. Still, those are done, so I am ready to move on."

Slidell asked, "Are you ready, Hallith?"

"Of course," I replied. "Nothing has happened since I was preparing this morning."

Ayither said, "He's storm. He is just being polite to you two of Nemerry."

The lady replied, "But, Ayither, being polite is an aspect of being calm."

"The way you insult me and my god, I don't see why I consider you friends."

The young lady kept up her tirade, although I saw her helping Slidell finish picking up things. I thought of the very foul mouth of Chertish, but how dependable he had been as a companion. Ayither would speak slander, but not with words that would be disagreeable in themselves. Her youth also had me take her statements with a lot less seriousness. Slidell did not show any hesitation in having her help, and Zergus did not show or speak any irritation.

I listened while Ayither and Zergus spoke of the route they planned on taking and what problems they felt could erupt along the way. Just as I had seen minotaurs, it seemed that the ecology of this world had a number of half-human creatures. Feeling a need to learn what could be a normal threat and what might be abnormal, I quietly rode along and listened to the conversation.

The topic under discussion suddenly took a turn as Ayither said, "I am getting some chilly vibes between you and Zergus, Slidell. Did he do something?"

It was the man that replied, "Yes, I did. Hallith presently has the chance at her."

"Whoa, is that true, Hallith?"

I answered, "I do not know that much about her."

"Well, let me fill you in. Slidell is the oldest of five children of a General Nurlelo of Paston. With the two immediately younger than her being boys, not only did her father dote on her, but he included her in the training he gave to his boys. Before she knew the ways of a woman, she had seen combat. Such is also true of me, but I am storm. Slidell was raised into a family of calm, so that fact is important for her while is laughed at for me. It is said that she was a wild thing. While the energy of storm served her well, her father took her across the battlefields and let her see the other side of the storm. With his guidance Slidell took on the training of calm. My father speaks of his grandfather being on the battlefield the day her lessons revealed themselves as having fully saturated the essence of Slidell. He was only a soldier facing an army of janni. The magic of those opponents had my father admitting his grandfather spoke of being as scared as a rabbit in a small burrow trying to dig it deeper before the snout of the wolf could be forced down upon him. He speaks of praying for the storm to fill him, but that the wind had died within him as he was just having to survive the onslaught. The rain started and the janni began to fall back from the regular soldiers. My father says that his grandfather could not regain his wind even as he heard the janni screaming. There was not a revival of the storm. The rain did not increase in fury, but settled softly on the battlefield. That day Slidell ended the threat and was proclaimed a Champion of Nemerry."

She said, "That is basically the truth as Ayither would know it. It happened over a hundred years ago. What is your story, Hallith?"

"I was not yet twenty." Feeling relaxed, I found my mind following a path other than answering the question. "There was then over four hundred years as a Quartermaster. It has since been a few decades. I guess that I am approaching five hundred."

Only silence passed as I considered just how old I was, so I knew to speak when I came back from my thoughts. "I was the second son of the protectorate of the gentry, Lord Abelash. My father had risen in rank to that of a major, but felt that to be extent of his advancement in the military. He thus took on the job of protecting an outer holding, and I came into my manhood being trained for battle with my older brother and other boys of the holding. Pesloe was my princess. She was the second daughter, so not with any real standing other than just having noble blood. To try and give herself some standing, she worked with the military. It was as she led a patrol near my land that a group of harpies sought to gain human food. I moved upon the bird ladies to protect the people I knew even as Pesloe attempted to rally her own soldiers to fight them. The harpies have a song that will however astound the listener, and it seemed that the king had placed those with simple minds, he said 'dedicated minds' when I met him, in the service of his daughter. They were all listening fixated on the song when I came to her. It must be said that I did not go to her rescue. She was holding her own, but was still glad to see another join her. I fought with Pesloe that day, and afterward was awarded a place as one of her bodyguards. Through other battles with her I became authorized to ever shadow the princess, so I was present with her as she met Anerth, then Chertish. I was in those battles where we felt that we could do more with our lives, and joined them when they challenged Zetrullid with the promise to ever use our gifts to fight for those in danger from the most vile of threats."

Zergus asked, "And you are still in that service?"

"Yes, although not as a Quartermaster, although Anerth still considers me of that standing. He has called me a number of times to return to him, and I have always answered. Still, when I finally returned to face my god, I realized that the other gods put their attention upon me. Anerth was strong in his commitment, and he would not waver. Pesloe was being courted by Cornispe with her needing to determine if she would focus upon him, which she did. Chertish had his own issues, but it was at a deeper level than mine. Aslerrida gave me a most special gift. Nekeli gave me a most special means of instruction, and although Redinnick was there he did not speak against it. Kakellar and Bestolger provided what guidance they could. When I finally met my god, it seemed that I had been set along a different path. It is actually due to that path that I am now here."

"Could that path include marriage with Slidell?"

With such a direct question, there was no way to avoid either the truth or a lie. "It could, although it could be Ayither as well, or someone else, or no one else. It was stressed to me that it was my heart. I assume it will be Slidell's, or whoever's, heart as well. I also know that I am immortal, so it will do us both wrong to jump to any conclusions or rush any courtship."

I actually expected a response from a lady, as I knew both were listening, but it was Zergus who said, "I believe that is wise."

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PostSubject: Chapter Ten - Part One   December 6th 2018, 7:50 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Ten – Part One

(Slidell)

Compared to Zergus, Hallith was completely the better man. The only problem with him was that he was not a champion of my goddess. He however seemed to present the attitude of my beliefs better than Zergus. While he maintained control in most matters, it seemed that he had a storm for female gratuities. Hallith however spoke of ladies in a most gentle manner. I could sense that he knew of love, and did not see the female form as just a provider of release. He did not consider himself to have limits, but I found his behavior to be comforting in that his actions did not force me to leave the constraints of the calm I felt to dominate my own life.

Zergus did have the better looks. He kept his sideburns long and his mustache trimmed. I had seen such concern for his appearance as a proclamation of his commitment to calm, but now knew that they reflected his desire to tempt us ladies. Hallith shaved his face and assured that his body stayed clean, but otherwise did not concern himself with his appearance. I found myself agreeing that while looks did have their importance in showing ourselves to others, seeking to have others enticed to us was not something we wanted.

Sparring with Hallith I found to be highly enjoyable. One maneuver he tried to suggest to me I felt to be that of storm. He thus called over Ayither. Hallith took my weapon, then repeatedly dropped our champion of storm. Ayither could not help but get incensed with a determination to overcome the maneuver. I laughed as she kept ending up on the ground, or with the point of my sword touching her body, and ended up accepting the training as being applicable to me.

It further bothered Ayither that we had the blessing of Nemerry as we traveled, but no sign of Typhorsh. The clouds did not rush through the sky. The trees did not shake their leaves. I saw her once set her horse to gallop, but her hair did not flow behind her. When she paused, I saw her look back to us with a strong expression of worry possibly about the status of Typhorsh.

Suddenly, a strong breeze passed through our area. We all turned our heads in the direction it went, and saw a group of thare flies. I felt that Ayither would be further troubled by the monsters, as they represented corruptions of air. She indeed did prove herself as a force for cleansing our world of impurities in signaling her mount to race toward the threat. I felt a breeze as I also had my mount rush me through the distance toward the monsters.

Thare flies could gain height, but their thirst for blood would not have them go high or stay up there for long. They were definitely creatures that I felt represented storm. I saw Ayither however stop her movements to simply stare. I turned in the direction she faced to see Hallith stepping upon the saddle of his mount. He kept his stance low while directing his horse, then rose to send his blade through a thare fly that had gained some height.

"Don't tell me you are not storm!" Ayither yelled.

He dropped enough to keep himself steady as his steed made another maneuver, then after killing another monster that had moved up he dropped back down then said, "I am not stupid. Allowing them the advantage could end up hurting us."

Ayither yelped with pain as two thare flies attacked her. I held back a smile, as losing focus was a trait of storm. I kept to my own fight in seeing her return to the combat. Her movements were a flurry of actions. I still felt that she overcame her opponents by the luck of having one of her attacks actually manage to strike a vital area. Whatever method she used, assuming she actually had a plan to her strikes, it worked to kill the two thare flies and one more.

She then spun to stop, and I chanced to look in the direction of her focus. As expected, Hallith was busy with thare flies. He was now down off the saddle, but still near the animal. Should a thare fly seek some height, he used the mount to increase his already stately frame and continue the attack. I had to stop my own maneuvers seeing Ayither simply stride over to where Hallith continued to keep his focus on the battle.

"Would you consider me for your hand?"

Ayither said that as she ignored the threats around her. Although storm, she had a calm about her as she watched Hallith. He continued the fight in a methodical manner displaying calm, but freely spoke as if being a servant of storm.

"I would not refuse your consideration of me. I however am not feeling that it is the time for me to gain a normal life."

A thare fly came down upon her. As storm, she quickly reacted and killed it. She then came upon Hallith, chanced patting the man on the back, then laughed while jumping against his body to use it as a surface to brace against for a thrust upon a thare fly bothering the man.

I returned to the fight. After killing a couple more, I turned looking for other threats. Zergus was stopped watching something. I looked to see Hallith and Ayither moving in way that had their bodies flowing with each other as they fought the remaining thare flies.

The sight did have me consider that the two made a pair. A desire came over me to have myself move with Hallith, but I did not see how. My training and fighting style just would not enable me to feel safe with a companion so close. While I did enter combat with others, the tactics were to position ourselves so that the opponents were the ones that found themselves close to us. Both Hallith and Ayither moved while keeping themselves aware of each other and the surrounding threats. She was storm, so I could accept her feeling comfortable not being assured of what actions she might need to make next. Hallith however simply acted as if his centuries of life had given him so many options for how to proceed that he was comfortable with whatever steps were necessary to continue the attack and not bother the young lady with him. While the dance had me think of the two as a pair, I had to consider that the storm of Ayither would move on.

At the end of the battle, she jumped on him to kiss him. He held her. While he did share affection with her, it appeared to me more of him responding to her buoyant spirit. Hallith set her back down gently, then calmly moved toward Zergus and me to assure that all particulars of the battle had come to an end.

Zergus replied, "You cannot eat those, so it is best to just leave them. There are other creatures that would appreciate not having to fight for their meal."

Hallith asked, "Good things?"

I felt that was a proper question, so answered, "Yes, well, normal things. Their corruption is of air," I could not help but add, "storm, and that passes with their death. What is left will not harm those that see the corpses as food."

Ayither probably also could not help but chirp, "There is bad in calm as well."

It actually brought me pleasure to hear Zergus say, "Which speaks against it being a good thing that there are those seeking the death of storm. We should move on toward Dethechar where we can get advice."

Ayither moved with Hallith toward his horse as she said, "I want to learn how to do those stunts with a horse."

He replied, "It takes training the horse."

I thought those words were exceedingly funny, especially when the young lady exclaimed, "Train the horse? All it did was move."

"It can feel you on its back. Start doing strange things, and it will react. You thus have to get it used to you doing certain stunts, and trusting that what it does will not cause you or it to suffer harm."

I could not keep myself from saying, "I doubt Ayither keeps any horse for long."

She retorted, "I don't kill them. I just don't get picky about the horse I get being the same one that I dropped off."

Hallith said, "You buy your own saddle and tack. Buy good stuff with color and detail work that lets everyone know that it is your equipment. They then also believe that you paid good money for your horse, so make certain that you get it back along with the gear."

"You mean that you didn't pay good money for your horse?"

"No. I have friends who gave it to me, but I have had it long enough that it has paid off going through certain lessons with it. I don't really train them, but just to have something to do I will spend time with my mounts." Hallith went quiet for a time, then said, "My children liked being around horses. I spent time with them teaching my horse tricks and just teaching them simply how to ride. Those were some good days."

"Well, could you teach me?"

"You know how to ride. I told you, you have to train the horse."

I had to bury my face in a saddle bag as if looking for something in order to hide my laughter. Ayither was trying to get Hallith interested in her, but her actions of storm just did not seem to blend with his movements or personality at all. I thus found her attempts quite humorous, and often had to turn my head to hide my laughter.

I considered things about the manners of Hallith as the day progressed. I also thought of my own life. I really had not kept myself pure, although at the time I felt that I was giving myself to the man who would have me. Hallith also did not speak of keeping himself pure, but what he said and how he acted declared that he had put certain dalliances in the past. His god had allowed a goddess to direct him in certain ways, and the time had not simply taught the man but enabled him to present himself in a pure manner that I felt myself to lack.

Wondering about myself, and how well I might manage with Hallith, I went to him after we had established our camp. "Would you mind performing some combat maneuvers with me?"

He looked me over as if to decide on what I might be desiring, although then calmly asked, "What type of maneuvers?"

"Those like you did with Ayither."

"Go take a stance."

His hand did direct me toward an open area. His words however stated nothing specific. Wondering what type of instructions I would receive, I went to the open area and set myself in a normal opening position.

Hallith came and took the same stance facing me, then started his body moving while making a statement. "You will then move like this."

Since he was correct, I answered, "Yes."

"Okay."

He then moved over to take a position with his body near mine, then commanded, "Move slowly."

I obeyed. As I flowed through my motions I heard him also moving while making comments. I however noticed what he was doing. I further could tell how his presence limited my possible actions. I thus had to stop to make a statement.

"It is not the best way to fight."

"Usually not, but often you do what you can."

"So, what type of maneuvers do you recommend in such a circumstance?"

Him shrugging did not surprise me. Hallith was not fully calm. His response however did not speak of him being storm.

"That is why you practice with others. You learn how they move and they learn how you move. You then become comfortable in each other's presence."

Thinking that I would find fault with him, I said, "But you and Ayirther were very comfortable fighting with each other earlier today."

"She's small. I could thus basically let her have low ground while I kept my attacks high. If I was stuck with Zergus, I would work to keep my back to his. Considering the way you move, which is like the way he moves, I would probably use the same style with you."

In attempting to rationalize what he said, I finally concluded, "You have fought with many people."

"And in many different circumstances. I am used to having no idea about what I will be fighting or where the battle will occur. I can tell that is the not the way with you. You have a confidence of knowing your potential enemies and being familiar with the terrain in which you will battle them."

"The knowledge helps me maintain the calm."

"I am sorry, but I feel that is one thing Kierle taught me. Normal is not being assured of the future, but being assured of your place in the future. She was my slave, and showed me what to expect of her, of children, and how things would adjust to events and weather. She knew nothing. She did not know when I would arrive, how long I would be with her, or anything else. She was just as surprised by learning she was pregnant as I was to being told. There were days all I could do with her was be with her and speak with her. There were all sorts of days. I never knew how a day would go, and she didn't either. She showed me life however, a normal life, and I believe she did a magnificent job."

I could not help but say, "To me, you speak of storm."

"Maybe I would be better with Ayither."

I excused myself feeling troubled by the words. I found myself wondering about my own life. I did feel some confidence in each day. Even when things did not go as expected, I knew how to react and manage. If I became completely mystified, I sought some privacy to pray to my goddess or seek advice from someone I trusted. I however could tell that Hallith was secure in his place no matter what circumstances might present themselves to him. He was as much in control with me as he was with Ayither. Honestly, however, I felt she was as much uneasy with him at times as I was myself. Wondering if either of us should trouble ourselves with developing our relationship with Hallith, I excused myself to do those things I felt was necessary at the end of a busy day.

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