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 To Know Storm and Calm: Part 3 (11 - 15)

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PostSubject: To Know Storm and Calm: Part 3 (11 - 15)   December 16th 2018, 8:02 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Eleven

(Hallith)

Slidell did not appear her best when I saw her this morning.  She was poaching some eggs, and I felt her hair and face had been affected by the steam from the boiling water.  I told her to go to the stream and take care of her appearance.  Slidell asked if I knew how to cook, and with my verification that I could assure that the meat did not burn and the eggs would not shrivel she left.

Ayither had her youth helping her appearance as she came to the fire while softly exclaiming, "Damn calm."

As she began to brush her hair, I asked, "Is there a problem?"

"Poached eggs.  They take time to cook, and really for no reason.  Why not just boil the things?  Less mess."

I looked at things, and began to flip the meat while saying, "You are not going to be made to wait for the eggs.  Everything has been time properly.  When the meat is ready, the eggs will be as well."

"I guess.  Why are you cooking?"

"Slidell did not look her best.  She had been keeping watch, so I figured she did not tend to herself while we slept.  I will also get involved in personal projects when on watch.  She is a lady however, so I sent her to the stream to freshen up."

"What?  She's calm.  She would..."  I turned hearing Slidell return, although was surprised by what Ayither declared.  "You were crying?"

Slidell replied, "It is not of your concern."

"You and Zergus –"

"No.  It was something Nemerry told me.  I found the lesson difficult, but I pressed myself to go through certain steps.  I will learn."  The lady went and gained a cosmetic pack from her supplies, then came to the fire to sit next to the other lady.  "Ayither, you are storm and I am not.  Thus, please answer as if I do not know.  Why do you fight?"

"I want my world to stay a good place.  I do not fight against you, Slidell, but against those evil."

"That is what Nemerry told me.  She mentioned that I do not fight with you.  She spoke of you being a good person.  She told me that I fought for good, and not for calm."

While I really did not believe in bothering women, I did interject, "I would hope that we all consider fighting for good to be the better fight."

Slidell turned to me to say, "Nemerry told me that you were at peace, Hallith, and that I should learn to be at peace."

"I don't think I am at peace.  I have just lived too long and seen too much.  It has to be something rather extreme to get me emotional about it."

"But you are also not set in your ways.  That is what Ayither complains about me.  To change I fear will present openings for storm to come into my life.  Nemerry is not storm, so her instructions trouble me."

Ayither said, "There is nothing wrong with storm.  I fight for good as well."

In seeing Slidell agree, I found myself comparing the two ladies.  They did not dress the same.  Ayither was barely dressed, as she was still in the simple gown she had slept in.  I enjoyed what I saw of her, and remembered liking her form even when armored.  While I had noticed Slidell's face slightly unkept, I found myself feeling one reason I noticed was the very conservative manner of her attire.  She had a more dignified appearance that easily showed defects.  Ayither's youthful countenance would look wonderful in spite of most mistreatment.  While both were champions of a deity, they did not dress the same or behave as if having similar backgrounds.  In comparing the two visually, I had to ask for some background information.

"Slidell, you are over a century in age.  Ayither, how long have you served Typhorsh?"

"Oh, a little over twenty years."

Slidell said, "Those of storm usually do not serve even that long.  Ayither deserves her honor."

I had to ask, "What's so bad about being a champion of storm?"

The question had been directed at Ayither, but it was Slidell that answered, "The very thing we of calm claim to trouble them:  their churning waters settle out.  The storm does not rage forever while the calm will continue."

Ayither said, "Usually it is marriage.  The men find a lady and the ladies find a man.  I like this life however.  Men are great, but I want one to join with me.  Of course, if that happens I could get pregnant, then need to settle down."

I had to say, "Well, you should travel with me.  I could introduce you to some ladies that manage.  One would be Pesloe, who was a Quartermaster with me.  I was once her bodyguard, so when she chose to join Anerth in taking on the great challenges in the name of Zetrullid I had to do so as well.  It was fun, and I am glad to still have Pesloe as a friend.  There is also Straekin.  I believe it might help you to meet other women who have provided families while maintaining their standing in facing the greater challenges."

Slidell asked, "Are they storm?"

"Pesloe?  Yes, she would be considered storm.  Cornispe is a good husband, but those two do not do anything halfway.  Straekin?  Maybe not.  There is a fire within her, but usually so well managed that she can appear calm."  Just wondering, I had to ask, "There are not any living women who represent a complete life while maintaining their aspect of storm."

Ayither rushed out the declaration, "No, although none of calm either.  Her and Zergus were both going to relinquish their standing as Champions of Nemerry."

Slidell admitted, "That is true.  Our reasoning however is that doing so shows the best of calm.  We go from champions of calm to champions of life without any true change in our nature or beliefs.  Unlike storm, which must compromise their nature and beliefs to settle into a community as proper citizens."

I had to allow that things were usually different.  "I could also ask my god for a release from my service.  Most immortals however are not like that.  They found a process or gained a blessing that remade them as something that would exist forever.  They are thus as fated to continue to live as most are to die.  Straekin will speak of once having the problem of the immortals of her world committing suicide in order to have some change come into their lives.  The fate of mortals however is not a bad thing.  Kierle showed me that.  She entered the halls of Aslerrida as magnificently as any immortal who served millennia in proper service.  I can only hope to have so much honor when I finally enter the realm of Zetrullid."

Ayither said, "You have her sound like she was a really special person."

"She spoke of only doing what she was supposed to do.  Kierle was a wonderful lady, and as a man I could not have asked for a better person to have in my life.  She went before Aslerrida demanding that the goddess now had a duty.  A mortal, a servant of a man, had the standing to lay claim to her goddess, her ultimate master, and actually have the deity respond.  Kierle was an amazing person.  I miss her."

I believe Slidell was going to say something, but Ayither rushed out, "I doubt I would have the conviction to face Typhorsh in such a manner."

Slidell now said, "Nor me with Nemerry."

I replied, "Well, I do not know what rules your deities have toward the omniverse, but after this mission I would be willing to show you ladies around.  I need to do some visiting, and you being with me would not be any trouble."

"I hear moving between worlds to be dangerous."

"Yes, but as a Quartermaster I faced the worst the omniverse had to offer.  The fights no longer bother me.  Even if they did, the friendships I have gained I consider worth the trouble."

Again probably before Slidell could, Ayither said, "I would hope that includes us."

I assured them both that it did.  The ladies let me know that the food was ready.  I had to admit that it was.  They thus yelled at Zergus to get moving while we prepared our portions.  Ayither showed an inclination to simply grab things and place them in her mouth, but actually did nothing more than grumble about the procedures of calm while helping Slidell prepare plates and our drinking vessels.  With both of us men and women around the campfire, we assured a blessing of the food and with three gods mentioned we ate feeling that there would be no trouble from what we ate.

After the meal, I began cleaning up and breaking camp only to hear Slidell say, "You did well with the food."

I replied, "Thank you for choosing such an easy course.  I can do poached eggs and fried meat."

"What do you normally fix?"

"If I have eggs, I will boil them in the water for my coffee.  The meat I will just cook directly over the fire."

Ayither said, "Hey, that is how I would cook my food.  Told you the Quartermasters were storm."

"It's just simple.  I'm not going to waste my morning fixing something that I am probably not going to taste.  Now, later in the day, depending on how the day goes, I might take the time to fix myself something."

Slidell asked me what I knew how to fix.  I mentioned some dishes.  She helped me clean and pack, speaking just enough to help me over rough spots where I just mimicked what I had been taught without really knowing what I was doing.  After she assured the identification of one dish, calling it something completely different than what I did, Slidell let me know something about the other lady in our group.

"Ayither would never fix anything like that."

That did not trouble me, but attempting to learn something I asked, "Would she enjoy it if someone did fix it for her?"

"What?"

"Okay, she would not fix it.  I get that.  I know she's storm, but I know other women who just do not like to cook.  They like to eat, so I was just wondering if she would like eating food like that.  I mean, I assume she could hire a cook."

Slidell raised her voice to assure that the other lady, who was with her horse near the stream, heard.  "Ayither, do you like to eat only simple food?"

"Food is food."

"Food is food."

Slidell repeated the words as if they were proof of what she was implying, but I let it known that I would not be so accepting of the evidence.  "Oh, come on, Ayither.  Don't you tell me that spices, and just the flavor from certain manners of preparation, are not noticed by you."

"What?  Yeah!"  She came away from her horse toward us while saying, "I have nothing against eating with calm.  Their food is good in its own way.  There is just more fun conversation with storm, which I feel makes the food seem better than it might actually be."

Seeing both ladies look to me, I went ahead and answered the question I felt they were asking.  "You eat with your mouth, so I don't enjoy talking while eating.  I enjoy the flavors of the meal.  Afterward, like now, when the mouth is not otherwise occupied, talking is enjoyed."

Ayither was quick to say, "Yeah, makes sense."

The was a slight nod to Slidell's head before she admitted, "I would agree.  I am enjoying having your company, Hallith."

I had to smile at both women while saying, "Same here.  This mission is not so bad.  When I return, I will need to visit an altar of Aslerrida and let her know my pleasure in this mission.  It might not please Kierle, but it should let her know that I learned something."

_________________
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 Twelve - Part One   December 21st 2018, 7:47 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Twelve – Part One

(Hallith)

It was nice traveling with the two ladies. I had traveled with women before, but never those intently interested in me. I was a big man, which some women did find attractive. My life of going around and facing great threats however had me always alone. Many females told me that if I sought to settle down, they would certainly desire me for a suitor. During my life I however only had the company of a lady that I had rescued and was returning to a place of safety, or those who had already claimed a husband and journeyed into dangerous places with him. Actually traveling with two unclaimed ladies who had chosen a life of combating evil and having them both interested in me was something I really did not know how to appreciate.

Kierle was not the first lady that I had. Some women I did feel shame in claiming. Others I felt would have sold themselves to a lesser man. None had been ladies that I considered having the honor of possibly being my life mate.

I had purchased Kierle for the night. At the time I was enjoying my first free evening from constant battle in over four centuries. Having a night of pleasure was something I considered a very rare opportunity, so treated myself to the lady that offered herself for sale. Kierle indeed made me feel that I had not wasted the money, but she also found a desire to stay with me. Finding her to be leaving town with me, it was no less than Anerth, the man that had originally convinced me and my companions to begin our life of constant battle, that purchased Kierle for me.

She had been a devotee of Aslerrida. The goddess had used the young lady to test my own beliefs, and Kierle proved herself to Aslerrida and me. I never could find fault in how Kierle treated me. While I was a devotee to Zetrullid, since gaining my slave I could not pass an altar of the fire goddess without giving some token of my honor.

I now found myself wanting to show some appreciation to this calm water goddess of this world and its storm air god. Both ladies were lovely, and each had an attitude that would have them accepting the life I had and still lived. I found myself not just glad to have them as traveling companions, but elated that they could be considered to be actual future partners for me.

Slidell appeared the oldest of two, and actually was by a number of decades. While she had the presence of someone mature, there was a pleasant nature to her that did not give me the feeling of being rigid in her philosophies. She did preach and act in a very structured manner, but she did not force such behavior on those around her. I felt that she would be a wonderful protector and teacher of the young while being a wonderful companion to me. I however heard Slidell speak of almost choosing to leave this life, so worried that once she took on the duties of wife and mother she would not desire to return to this wandering lifestyle.

Ayither gave me the feeling of her being young. She did not appear that old at all, and really did not act it either. She however had a depth to her personality that spoke of her decades of actual experience. She could sustain her time in combat. She could debate religious and philosophical theory. Neither was done in the methodical manner of Slidell, but Ayither could manage to pull a victory in both arenas. I liked her, but her behavior often had me feeling that she would not be a good mother.

Of the two it was Slidell that gave me the feeling of broadening her life to be a more complete lady and life partner. She would not spar against me to simply practice already perfected combat routines. Slidell sought to gain insights into various stances and weapon strikes that I had learned to help in certain abnormal situations. She would listen to debates on various topics, then sit beside me while others were occupied or sleeping in order to understand why her reasoning had either not been sufficient to solve our problems, or even why what she thought was an answer had not even been mentioned. It was these discussions that had me feeling that Slidell could end up being the desired lady for me.

Horns blew as we approached the city of Dethechar. With this not being my world, I had to rely on my companions for directions. Even Ayither, whose god had a temple in another town, spoke of Dethechar as being a good city for resting from travel. The horns however caused them to sit up in their saddles while their hands assured the location of their weapons.

There was an army camped before the gates. They however were not massed for a siege, but had tents set up in rows as if to look good while being an annoying presence. None of my companions at first made any sign of being troubled by the congregation of soldiers. Seeing them kneel as they came before them, I watched as Zergus and Slidell kept their eyes straight ahead even as Ayither looked to me as if I might be able to inform her about the actions of this army.

Passing through the gates were a number of soldiers on horseback. As I noticed a few more rush up from side streets, they dismounted to kneel before us. I felt it a good thing that these had blocked the road, as in not being able to pass through them my companions would need to speak of what all this was about.

One elder soldier with very elaborate armor I felt was that of a general lifted his gaze to say, "Champion Slidell, we are in need of you. Champion Zergus, we spoke of being pleased with your presence as well, but were told that any real decision would only come from Champion Slidell."

Zergus replied, "I am not storm. I thus took the time to realize my situation, and am now taking the time to address it. In any event, I would not speak against the honor gained by a fellow Champion of Nemerry."

Slidell was quick to add, "Although both of us would feel dishonor that the honor did not first go to Nemerry herself."

The general said, "Of course, and Nemerry should be given the highest honor. As Champions of Nemerry, we all recognize that you are greater than us. Further, we have word that you have gained the companionship of a legendary Quartermaster." I did not nod or otherwise acknowledge the words, nor did those that had traveled with me, but the general continued to speak. "Champion of Typhorsh, you are recognized as well, although it was due to suffering defeat at the gates to the realm of air that we have come here."

Slidell replied, "Ayither came to us with the preposterous claim that Thor had been slain."

"His influence has indeed been overcome. While he can surely still be counted among the number of gods and goddesses, his control over our world has been broken."

"And with Typhorsh also defeated, do you believe that you would have made the world a better place?"

"Do you not?"

I saw Slidell look around for the extent of her audience. There were soldiers from those camped outside the city gathered at the gate behind us to listen. Behind the horses were local citizens and probably those visiting watching and paying attention to what might be said. Clearly understanding that this was not a private discussion, Slidell raised her voice so that her audience could better hear her.

"I have heard words. Words that I thought I knew, and even used in my own speech. These words however now trouble me. I want to ask you of being nice, showing kindness, displaying graciousness, having a feeling of peace, as well as definitions of good and evil. Of that latter term, I was told by Nemerry that it was my duty to battle evil, and not storm. That is why I have accepted Ayither in my company. While Hallith of the Quartermasters claims not to be of storm, Ayither clearly is of storm, and she is my friend and not my enemy."

Without any sign of fear or hesitation, the general asked, "And what of her god?"

"What of Vulcan, Gesaha, and Phetosan? Fire and plants do not have calm and storm counterparts. What of the multitude of divinities beyond our small lives? Do you expect Neptune to have the oceans remain calm? Do you expect Rayell to have the sun shine a little cooler? Need I bring up matters concerning Mayune and Lunara or the gods even beyond the notice of our world?"

There was a pause. I however sensed tension in the bodies of the two ladies. I believe Slidell allowed a moment simply to assure that her words were sinking in. I had found her to be like that. Ayither would talk when she felt she had something to say. I thus cannot say why she stayed quiet. She however did respect Slidell, and would defer to the lady at times. The general however proved that he had already been engaged on the topics mentioned, as he jumped into the pause to take command of the conversation.

"Hallith of the Quartermasters, Champion Slidell stated that you were not storm."

I answered, "I am of a water god of another world. His name is Zetrullid. A better deity I have not found in all my travels. On my world we have discussions concerning the local source for water. Some will claim Redinnick should it come from the ground. Rain is sometimes said to be a gift from Nekeli, or even Bestolger should the drops be those that end a drought. Water itself however is recognized as being the aspect of Zetrullid. As for gentle rain, a ferocious storm, or even the great expanse of the ocean, my god has the power over it all."

"So, you could be of storm."

"So, I have faced armies even larger than yours and had the strength and energy to overcome."

His head turned enough to indicate that he had changed the one he spoke to. "Slidell, you do not have problems with Hallith?"

She answered, "I find him agreeable. He is nice. He shows kindness, and he is not evil. I have thus been glad to have him in my company."

I believe that the general was about to say more, but he stopped seeing the officers around him suddenly rise. He stayed kneeling, but turned his head to watch the men bow. His head shot around as did mine and I believe my companions upon hearing a cheer from the troops. As the officers had their mounts move aside, the general rose to say words to regain his authority.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

One officer, surely of less rank than the general, answered, "Allowing Champion Slidell to speak to her goddess. We respect Nemerry. We are supposedly fighting on the behalf of Nemerry. To keep Champion Slidell from gaining access to her goddess would be a crime, especially when we profess that her counsel will have her champions support us."

"We have been to the divine realms! We have overcome one god and lived after threatening another. What makes you believe that our words, our beliefs, are not substantial?"

Ayither said, "He sounds as if he is storm."

The general turned and took steps toward her with anger showing in his features. She dropped from her mount and with fast steps moved to stop in front of him. He glared at her. I could not see the face of Ayither, but from my little time with her I suspected she was smiling at him. His face continued to display anger as he spoke through his teeth.

"If we would have stormed through the gates of Hurria, you would have a different attitude."

"If Typhorsh needed me, he could have let me know. He didn't, so I have to assume he was not bothered by you. Honestly, I believe myself able to handle you myself."

"You're storm, so of course you have that belief. Audacity and foolishness are standard traits of those of storm."

Ayither broke from her focus on the general, to move about to assure all saw her and heard her. "When I heard of the defeat of Thor, I went to Sethanand. Let me admit before all that I was responsible for the desecration of his temple there. It bothered me that no one stopped me, and no divine reprimand came from my actions. Actually ashamed of what I did, and worried about its meaning, I went to Slidell and Zergus. I heard those that defeated Thor were devotees of Nemerry, so went to champions of the goddess. I also went to those I considered friends. Although they are calm and I am storm, we both fight against evil, and not each other, so I have come to like them, respect them, and willing to turn to them when in need of counsel."

The general loudly asked, "And why didn't you turn to your own god?"

"What makes you think that he did not approve of my decision? What makes you believe that he would be against me turning to champions of calm? Your actions state that you feel that our world would be better off without storm. Well, let me say that I do not believe, and have never heard my god say, that the world would be better off without calm."

"Well, storm, did you bother to ask Typhorsh?"

Ayither drew her sword and pointed it at the general while proclaiming, "I always speak to my god. As his champion, I always have his ear and grace. He is right now agreeing that I can take you on."

A voice from the gate loudly asked, "Champion Ayither, are you going with the others to the temple of Nemerry?"

"YES! THEY ARE MY FRIENDS! As for Nemerry, well, she is calm. I thus might fall asleep while their voices drone on, but I will sleep peacefully not afraid of being harmed."

Some laughter sounded, but it did not drown out the voice saying, "General Bethador, let them pass."

The expression on the face of the superior officer continued to show anger, but his body stepped away from Ayither. She sheathed her weapon, but held her position looking around her. Again moving to let all see and hear her, she spoke.

"I am not evil! I have helped in a multitude of ways to stop acts of evil, even aggression. I do not know what has you so upset with storm, but our ways are not those of evil. You are not making your world better by challenging us!"

No one said anything in response. I saw frustration in her features, especially when she turned to look at us. I saw her mouth move in a manner of whistling for her horse, but then she bowed with a sweep of her hand.

"Go ahead, Champions of Nemerry. I will gain my horse as you pass, and accompany you."

_________________
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PostSubject: Chapter Twelve - Part Two   December 26th 2018, 7:49 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Twelve – Part Two

(Hallith)

Both Slidell and Zergus nodded toward the Champion of Typhorsh, then had their mounts begin advancing. Ayither's horse did move along with us. She jumped into the saddle as it passed her, then looked toward me to softly ask a question.

"Are people this stupid on your world?"

I had to smile as I answered, "Yes, and the ways of the gods just as mysterious. My opinion is that these people really do not know what they have done, or what they are actually attempting to do."

"That is actually what Typhorsh is telling me as well. He however says that the focus is upon Nemerry, so I made a good decision in joining with Slidell. Strangely, he does not mention Zergus. Anyway, let's go see what Nemerry ends up saying."

There was an army company in place before the temple unto Nemerry. Seeing their colors and those of the flags I assumed that most were of the local military. There were soldiers dressed in a different manner with symbols similar to those Slidell and Zergus wore on their persons, so I gathered that the holy place had their own regular protectors. There was a loud sound as all those in armor knelt as we approached the temple.

The marble building had more substance than I felt proper. More than simply a place of declaration of a deity with a shrine where one could place their offerings and prayers, there were stables for horses, rooms for various purposes, and a number of people who moved about handling mundane affairs of life and not just those of the rites of the religion. As I dismounted while looking at the building, I noticed myself surrounded by those who felt our arrival to have some importance.

One man in thick robes covered by a number of gold and silver chains from which dangled all sorts of talismans slowly descended down the steps while saying, "Greetings. Nemerry spoke of your coming, but said little more. Champion Ayither, let me say that it is a pleasure to see you again."

The Champion of Typhorsh replied, "Yeah, I might worship a god of storm, but I do not worship one of stupidity. I never found that aspect to apply to those of Nemerry either."

"Gaining a compliment from a champion of storm I consider to be a high honor, although I must confess that it only strengthens my own resolve in my own methods of doing things."

"All you are going to do is greet us. You could have done that from the top step and saved us the time for you to walk down. I mean, we are just going to walk back up."

While the man continued to walk at a measured pace, his face smiled without any sign of annoyance in the words of Ayither. "Please, not without a proper blessing. While it is our ways, in these troubled times it is considered very necessary."

She shrugged, then moved to kneel beside Slidell and Zergus. I simply held my position. The priest advanced to those kneeling, then looked to me.

"Please, advance. You need not kneel, but I would have you present for the blessing."

I stepped up while saying, "I mean no disrespect. I just have my own gods, one in particular, that I give allegiance to."

The voice of Slidell came from her kneeling form, "I have found no fault in his claims to be from another world."

"The simple fact you allow him to travel with you unbound is enough for me. While I have the responsibility to give the blessing, Nemerry is the source of my power. It is she who decides whether someone is or is not blessed."

I had seen the rites of a multitude of deities. Some were nothing more than acts, while others had great displays. I did feel something after the priest went through a lengthy process, so accepted that some thanks to the deity would be proper. Zergus went prostrate after the rite was completed with strong words of praise for Nemerry, which I felt a little much for me.

As the slow progression up the steps began, Ayither moved back beside me to softly say, "I'm bored already. Are you?"

I softly replied, "It is new to me, so no."

"Are the rites to your god so damn boring?"

I almost gave a simple answer, but seeing that we were not moving quickly I instead decided to provide conversation. "You have seen me pray to my god. I can spend some time in the activity."

"Well there is nothing wrong in that. I like spending time talking to Typhorsh as well. I am talking though, not just droning away some chant."

"I heard the priest saying things. He did not simply spend time droning some chant."

She looked at me without saying anything for a time, then when I did not speak she provided some information. "Listen, they will take their sweet time through all this. I am going to get a room and get some rest. Do you want me to get you a room?"

"Do they have a pool? Nemerry is a water god, and I worship a water god. A place for bathing would be nice."

"That will be in your room. What they have over there," she pointed, "is just for meditation and such."

"Then, yes, a room would be nice. I will however probably bathe, change into regular clothes, then go by what I would hope is a natural source of water."

"Nemerry is usually considered peaceful rain, so what they have can be a basin. Over there is a natural spring however that rises in what they consider a calm manner, so you're in luck."

"Then I will be at peace. I hope that your rest is also peaceful." I thought for a moment then smiled as I said, "Unless your idea of a good rest is to toss and turn a lot."

She put a hand on my chest. I stopped with the feeling she wanted to say something, but she did not. She simply patted my chest for a moment, then decided on speaking.

"We might talk about that, later. Much later. Anyway, come with me and I will get us taken care of while those of Nemerry do what they feel they need to do."

The room I was shown to would have been considered nothing more than basic accommodations if not for the bath. It was large and tiled in a very elaborate manner that I assumed expressed a number of stories pertaining to the worship of Nemerry. The water drizzled down from a slot in the wall I guess to simulate a gentle rain. I did not bother studying the artwork, but simply cleaned myself off. After putting on some clothes that I felt would be appropriate for the setting and what I intended to do, I left the room to find the pool.

While stretching my legs after spending my time showing proper respect to Zetrullid, I heard Ayither say, "That did not take too long. Slidell and Zergus are still going through all their rites."

I repositioned my legs into a more comfortable arrangement as I replied, "Anerth, the priest of the Quartermasters can go on for hours in his prayers to Zetrullid. I never found the desire to bother my god for so long."

"Typhorsh can be fun to talk with, but, yes, no reason to simply waste his time. I think I like you."

"You have given me that impression."

She walked up to stand next to my sitting form while saying, "Yeah, but that is not why I'm here. I was really bothering Slidell. Something is however wrong between her and Zergus. You would not know about that?"

"No. They were already speaking of no longer being a couple upon my arrival. She put her focus on me I felt simply to prevent herself from giving Zergus too much time."

"Okay, so tell me what you do know." She sat down next to me. "Are you really looking for a wife? I heard you mention Kierle. How long were you married to her?"

"Wasn't married. She was just my slave. You can say it was more than that, but then you have to get into matters of the divine."

"Okay, so tell me how long the two of you were together."

"Thirty years. Kierle was a devotee of our fire goddess, Aslerrida. Three is a holy number to her. Three needs for a fire: fuel, air, spark. Three results from a fire: heat, light, ash."

I could have named more, but felt that I had done enough. Information about the gods of my pantheon were not important here on this world. I suspected that Ayither expected me to say more, as there was a few seconds of silence before she asked her next question.

"Okay, so, are you looking for a wife," I saw an amused expression as she turned her head to look into the temple proper while asking, "or another slave?"

"Kierle went into the halls of Aslerrida demanding for the goddess to give me a wife. Claimed for that not to happen would mean that Kierle had not done her job of teaching me what a normal life was. Aslerrida consented that such a gift might be provided here, but also warned me that it might not."

"Okay, well, in case you were wondering, I'm not looking. I however am wondering about that. I mean, most of us of storm do not last as long as I have. Our religion actually preaches against us taking on the status at such an early age, and almost preaches against doing it at all. There are histories of communities having all their youths take on the status of Champions of Typhorsh and almost losing entire generations."

Those words did get me curious about Ayither's history, although I tried not to pry. "Well, you seem to have done well."

"Yes, and I really do not see why others have a problem with being a divine champion. Still, it has been over twenty years, and I am finding myself question this life."

"I don't see why. I fought for over four hundred years for my god. I never heard a complaint or any praise, but a portal would open and have us go to the next threat. I fought and I fought. When there came a decision to actually go and face Zetrullid, I voted for it simply to hear him say something. Those words were enough for me, and I am still his champion."

"So, you would tell me to keep on doing what I am doing?"

Considering what I said, I had to admit, "I guess I would."

"Okay, I do like you. If Slidell and Zergus had a split, and she is considering you, why hasn't she bothered me about spending time with you? Is she serious or not?"

I actually felt Ayither would understand once clued in, so said, "I don't believe she knows. I believe the situation with Zergus is new, and she has her own ways."

"Oh, that is so true. Still, whatever you hear of those of us of storm and calm, Slidell is my friend. Never doubt that. If she tells me to back away from you, I will."

"Okay, but, considering what I told you, and having heard you agree, why would you even care?"

"I don't know, but I told you that I was questioning this life. Also, I don't go around lying. Thus, what I told General Bethador was the complete truth. I do speak to Typhorsh often. He speaks to me as well, and said that you might be an answer for me."

Again feeling that Ayither would better understand things than me, I said, "I feel that Nemerry told Slidell the same thing."

"Well, then, she is right now going through all the formal chit-chat with her deity. Let us then talk about other things until we can hear what exactly Nemerry has decided."

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PostSubject: Chapter Thirteen   December 31st 2018, 7:42 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Thirteen

(Slidell)

I came from my time really worried about what I would need to say. It helped me to see Ayither and Hallith talking with each other. Both were nicely dressed in something other than their armor. I really had not seen him in regular clothes. Even at night he would stay prepared for battle. Ayither would also stay dressed as if ever ready for combat, but as the wind would then change to regular clothes. Seeing them both in comfortable garments, I found myself able to come up with what to say.

"Hallith, Ayither, I feel that both of you should be getting hungry."

The Champion of Storm replied, "I cannot believe that anything is fully cooked."

I forced a smile while saying, "Yes, it is still early. Still, I can provide some appetizers."

Hallith said, "There is no rush. If you eat early, you get hungry late."

Ayither replied, "He's correct. You and Zergus helped fix my armor, but I guess that I need to spend time giving it a good going over."

I felt relieved gaining an opening to say what I felt was necessary. "I know that you have been here before, but I could walk with you to assure that you know where to gain certain supplies."

There was a fear that Hallith would join us. He however mentioned that he regularly cared for his armor, and the battles he had faced had not seriously damaged his attire. Pleased that I would be alone with Ayither, I told the man that I would see that some wine would be supplied to him. He thanked me, then I turned signaling for Ayither to join me.

She asked, "Where is Zergus?"

"He will not be accompanying us. He has concerns that he had been neglecting. That is something Nemerry spoke to me about Hallith. He had made it a part of his life to see to personal affairs. In fact, he is here because of his concern for things outside of his commitment to his god."

"I like him."

I could not help but smile at that statement. Ayither was like that. She would speak quickly. What I also had learned was that her words were honest revelations from her heart. While storm would rush into situations, even discussions, Ayither's quick statements always revealed a sweet, wonderful person.

I replied, "I believe you should."

"Listen, I know that you have been showing him attention."

"I was not lying in what I told the army earlier. I have been finding the grace of kindness, graciousness, and peace lacking in my life. The first two I can practice. The latter I am very unsure how to obtain, but I know that Hallith has peace. I have thus been looking to him for methods of obtaining peace for myself."

"It really hurts you to give up on Zergus, huh?"

There were times when Ayither's quick speech would bother me. I however never could fault her, as what she said had an honesty to it that caused me to respect her words. I turned to direct her to a private chamber. A priest was in there studying scripture, but seeing us enter he placed a mark in his book, excused himself, then left stating some pleasure in gaining time for a break. I did not care if his words were true or not, although accepted that they probably were, but indicated for Ayither to spend some time privately with me.

With the door closed, I said, "It does hurt to lose the friendship with Zergus. It also hurts me to realize that I am also lacking in what I consider to be virtues. My goddess is pleased that I have recognized my faults, but also agrees that Hallith will probably not be an answer in my life. She however has pressed me to support your relationship with him."

"Mine?"

"You have served Typhorsh for a lengthy period. While we of calm tend to remain, those of storm usually lose their drive quickly. Nemerry told me that Hallith had the properties, and the life, that could support your commitment to storm. You are a friend, Ayither. I would like to continue your friendship. In losing Zergus, I find myself looking into a future of service without any friends. Please, Ayither, allow me to support your relationship with Hallith."

She did not really look to me. Even if her eyes fixated on me, I saw in her countenance that her mind was focusing on other things. I felt relief that Ayither did not argue with me, but considered my words. I thus waited out the storm for what she would say to me.

"I have found that I like him, but I am not certain about saying more than that."

"Considering what I have learned of Zergus, let me say that you should not be quick to form such a commitment. I hope that you will agree to travel with us. If you do not mind, allow me to put my focus on Hallith. I thus can be the one to pry, to force certain types of behavior, and otherwise gain the information you might desire in determining your appreciation of Hallith."

"Where are we going?"

The question troubled me, as it was something I hoped to save discussing until we could dine together with Hallith. Ayither was storm however, and I had mentioned travel, so I allowed that a change of topic was not improper. I thought of how I could put our own discussion back to a topic of more personal troubles even as I answered the question.

"Other places. It should include the divine realms. The army here in Dethechar are not the only forces working to remove storm. Considering that you are storm, it is felt that you should be present."

"That is one of my questions, and one that Typhorsh has not answered. Where are the Champions of Thor?"

"Nemerry gave me a place for us to check on that." Hoping to regain control of the conversation, I said, "So I hope that you are not against coming with me."

"No, Slidell. In fact, that is about the only thing Typhorsh has been clear about."

I could not suppress a smile as I put the topic back where I wanted it. "Have you even asked him about Hallith?"

"I don't want to talk about that, Slidell." That was a strange thing for one of storm to say, so I remained quiet and allowed her to say more. "Yes, I have been considering men, but also stating my pleasure in this life."

"From what Nemerry told me, Hallith can offer you both. He is not lying when he speaks of knowing other women, one being another that stood by him as a Quartermaster, who have found both family and a life of renown. If he cannot show you that you should accept his heart, maybe he can show you how to find the heart of another."

"You said that you would help me?"

Storm would be one who would erupt should they become displeased with the flow of a conversation. Ayither had never been cruel. I still felt relief in hearing her words of acceptance. Hoping to keep her pleased with the flow of the conversation, I admitted a truth.

"And be a fellow student, Ayither. There are things that I need to learn, to perfect, myself."

"I told Hallith that I considered you a friend, Slidell. I told him that if you told me to back off, that I would."

"If you do not back off, Ayither, I will pester you for council. Zergus proved himself to have been doing things that are quite improper. My relationship with him thus did not develop as I hoped. Should you find yourself advancing with Hallith, there are things I would like to know."

"I will answer any question you ask."

No sooner did the words come from her mouth than her face turned red with embarrassment. Having actually given myself to Zergus, I could imagine what troubled her. While I did smile, I spoke words hoping to put Ayither at ease.

"I will not ask that one."

"He is a big man."

Trying hard to keep my face from showing my own embarrassment, I said, "And it seems that he was more than able to please a lady."

"Four children."

We both giggled. While I could not say that my own thoughts matched hers, it did feel nice going through what I considered a moment of connection with this lady of storm. I did consider Ayither a friend, however our relationship had been only as fellow divine champions and not as ladies. I thus laughed feeling that it was a start of a change for the better with both of us.

Ayither finally took a large breath to control herself before saying, "It should be fun. Hallith does seem to be a good man, so I am not against it."

I replied, "He is not unattractive."

"I have enjoyed speaking with him. I also feel that he might prove himself to be more storm than calm."

I had to nod my head while admitting, "That is not my problem. It is that as calm I am not accepting of acting in the manner of storm. As storm, you seem able to tolerate the calm."

"I just consider myself not as stuck-up as you."

I knew some in my circle that would take offense at such as statement, but one virtue I felt that I did have was honesty. "Yes, Ayither. I consider you nice, and gracious, which are two virtues that I will presently admit to lacking."

"Well, I do have my rough edges."

"Just you being storm is rough enough for me, but we have been friends. I am glad to say that, Ayither. If you find me doing something that risks our friendship, please speak to me about it."

"Considering what you are proposing, I will probably be speaking to you of a lot of stuff. I thus need you to be speaking to me as well. Don't keep it all bottled up inside you, Slidell."

I almost spoke my answer as quickly as one of storm, but found myself glad for pausing for calm. "Of course, but most of it will not be revealed in the presence of Hallith. Okay?"

"Sure, Slidell, I can agree to that."

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PostSubject: Chapter Fourteen   January 5th 2019, 7:52 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Fourteen

(Hallith)

It was seldom that I actually heard the voice of my god. Zetrullid seemed to have a confidence that I would go to the right places and do the right thing. As in the centuries I was a Quartermaster, portals would open before me should I need to be somewhere. As for doing the right thing, I sometimes wondered if Zetrullid even cared about what I did.

In the times I had spoken to him, he always claimed to have heard my prayers to him. I did not want to say that I did not believe him, but it comforted me when he could speak of specific prayers. It also helped my attitude about him to hear him speak of certain things I did as if he could watch my actions as well. Since the time of originally coming before Zetrullid, I had learned that he did indeed take an interest in me.

As a divine champion, I had met others. Most were on their own world, so had contact with their deity. I however gained the impression that most would not be allowed to travel to other worlds as I regularly did. One difference in me and other divine champions I had met was that their gods did not trust them out of their sights.

It thus seemed strange to me to have two divine champions giving me their attention. It had been nice while traveling, but I felt us being away from civilization and me being unfamiliar to them had the ladies acting just to learn things about me. Now that we were in a place with proper servants, and they had some knowledge of whom I was and how I acted, it seemed strange to still be given personal attention.

Once again it was Ayither that recognized certain things about the way I responded. "You are not used to this type of treatment, are you?"

"Not by those intending to do me good," I replied.

"Kierle never treated you like this?"

"No."

She looked at me. Ayither actually stopped to stare into my eyes. Whatever she saw must not have answered her questions, as she needed to ask.

"She was this most special lady, and she did not treat you like this?"

"Kierle did not need to."

"Did not... Hell! Slidell was the one telling me to do these things. How do you want to be treated, Hallith?"

Slidell suddenly said, "Well, I was just... just..."

She suddenly shot erect, then moved in a stately manner out of the room. Ayither moved to place a hand on my shoulder. She patted me, but did not apply any pressure. I still got the message not to move, but stay in my seat.

After a short pause, she said, "What Slidell was going to say was that she was having us treat you as she treated Zergus, or more properly as Zergus was wanting her to treat him. She however now knows just how much of a piece of crap he was. How do you want to be treated, Hallith?"

"Fairly."

She laughed, then looked at me while asking, "Has life treated you that badly?"

"I'm not complaining, but I don't want people complaining about me either. If the food is ready, sit down – eat."

"Let's give Slidell a few minutes."

"Can we at least fix her a plate?"

Ayither laughed some more, then said, "She's calm. I am positive she has a certain way for things to go on her plate. It is thus probably best if we let her fix her own plate."

"Well, she was fixing mine, and I have been with her a few days. Let me try."

I looked up from placing a certain helping of vegetables upon a plate to see Slidell. Without saying anything, I placed a sprig of what I felt was a green garnish stretching between the vegetables and the section of meat. I then checked where the cup and utensils were set before looking to Slidell and telling her to eat.

She glided to me in a very elegant manner, and in a very proper tone of voice she asked, "Why?"

I answered, "Because I do not want to be a problem. I enjoy what I am doing, and I would like for you to enjoy having me do things with you."

Ayither giggled, but Slidell kept her posture perfect as she asked another question. "Do you not like your place as a man?"

"I will not have you not liking your place as a woman. I cannot relax if I see you all busy, especially if you are busy on my account."

"I did not mind."

"And I did not mind. All's good. Now sit. I will sit, then we can eat."

"All right!" Ayither exclaimed. "Out calming the calm! Score one for Hallith."

Slidell did sit, although did ask, "Storm, are you going to eat with your fingers again?"

"You really do not have that type of food. I will thus probably just mix it up, then just move spoonfuls to my mouth while I continue to watch you two."

I moved to my seat while saying, "Oh, you don't watch people eat. Keep your eyes on your food to assure that you don't make a mess. Hopefully, between bites, we can manage to entertain each other by saying things."

Ayither noticed that we both looked at her. As if understanding, she put a helping of the various foods on her plate. Instead of taking a bite however, she asked a question.

"What are we going to talk about?"

Slidell answered, "Actually, there are things to talk about. Not exactly entertaining, but I do have instructions from Nemerry."

I said, "Not now. Let's not get serious while we are stuffing our faces."

Ayither replied, "Okay, but what do we talk about?"

"How about our clothes?"

Both ladies returned, "Our clothes?"

"Yes. We all are divine champions. We all have these icons, talismans, and just special symbols on our clothing. Well, let us tell each other what they are about."

Slidell looked at Ayither and asked, "You don't know do you?"

I felt it was obvious that I did not know, so silently waited for Ayither to reply, "Not really. Once you probably mention some things I will recall things, but right now I cannot really place anything. All I can do is look at them and say, 'Yep, that's Nemerry.'"

"Honestly, that is about all I can say about yours, except being Typhorsh in your case. Hallith, since your religion is unknown to both of us, how about starting?"

I did know the stories behind the things I wore. Anerth had repeated such information in the centuries I served with him as a Quartermaster. Further, in my few decades after leaving that specific calling I had heard others speak of the things of Zetrullid besides Anerth. There were differences in the renditions, which I discussed with him or even with Zetrullid. I thus could even provide some commentary on the stories I related to the ladies.

Ayither also could speak of her items. She did not provide commentary, but kept her tales to the basic facts. I did ask some questions, and found her able to provide the details. It was however on one of Slidell's items that the pleasant conversation broke down.

The Champion of Storm exclaimed, "YOU DON'T KNOW?"

Embarrassment showed on Slidell's face as she admitted, "It is just for my continuing of the battle for two days alone before reinforcements could arrive."

"But Nemerry allowed you to wear it. I mean, if it was for some minor accomplishment, it would be stored away when you moved somewhere else."

"It – it, whatever it is supposed to be, has something to do with the city."

"BUT IT IS ON YOUR BODY! Surely there is a reason Nemerry allows it to stay on your body!"

I saw Slidell's face clear up before she smiled and said, "It is an eagle –"

"HOLD IT! Nemerry told you that!"

"Well yes."

"So it doesn't count!"

I had to interject, "All right, Ayither. The purpose of our conversation was not to embarrass us. I have to side with Slidell that some things on our clothing could be sentimental."

"Yes, Hallith. It's still funny."

"The only reason I know most of the things on my body is that I had a priest to Zetrullid traveling with me repeatedly speaking on things of the religion. From what I have seen, you ladies do not have such a companion."

Slidell said, "No, Hallith. Thank you for the support. I remember the battle, but was so tired at the end of it that I really did not care about why they had designed the medal the way they did."

Ayither started to speak, "Oh, yeah, a lady of calm did not –"

I quickly interjected, "I remember battles like that. A few went on for days. We of the Quartermasters went from threat to threat, but the travel and time to realize the new threat gave us breaks. Just staying at the same fight for hour after hour, then day after day, could wear even us out. A couple I would appreciate having medals of having fought."

Slidell replied, "Thank you, Hallith."

We both smiled when Ayither said, "Yeah, Slidell, I'm sorry. Still, it was funny that you did not know."

"I may be calm, but that does not mean that I am all knowledgeable."

"Yes, but you can get pompous about the things you do know."

"I will apologize, Ayither, but I have already admitted that I have not been overly nice. I will work to improve."

After the meal, Slidell called for servants to take away our plates. It bothered me, as I saw acolytes and not actual servants doing the work. I however accepted that I was in her domain. The young priests were not spoken to rudely, and they showed no signs of mistreatment. They actually spoke of their pleasure in being able to serve us divine champions. Allowing Slidell to know certain procedures, I sat back and allowed her to direct things for our dessert.

The cookies were not as sweet as I would have preferred, but the tea was. I noticed that Ayither did not grab one of thin pieces of what I wanted to call bread. She also did not take a sip of the tea. Just to be polite I did both. I then looked to Slidell. She however acted as if nothing was improper. I chanced dipping my cookie into the tea, and finding it to taste all right. Not having Slidell reprimand me, or Ayither cheer, I continued feeling that the final taste of the two was agreeable.

As I heard the sound of the doors to our chamber close, Slidell said, "I hope there is nothing against me now speaking of business."

Ayither replied, "This was actually the first good meal I have had here, but you can go ahead and spoil it."

Before I could, Slidell said, "It is the life we lead. Even you should accept that, Storm."

"Go ahead, Slidell."

"Yes, well, we will have our work cut out for us. Our first act, which will prevent us from getting any immediate sleep, will be to decimate the army presently about our city."

"Oh, you could have told us that before. I mean, you made that wonderful speech for nothing."

"It seems that I did. Of course, at the time I felt the words to be important. In my conversation with Nemerry however, she revealed what needed to be done. My goddess however let it be known that attacking at night would be better than if we attacked during the day."

I had to say, "I assume not the town, but just the army."

"Of course, Hallith, as this town is dedicated to Nemerry as well."

"So your words possibly did have worth to the local citizens."

"Some priests valued my statements as well. I heard some comments, most pleasant, from them."

Ayither moved to look out a window, then said, "Okay, wipe out army. Can we get some sleep then?"

"No. There is a monastery to Thor up in the mountains. We go there. They should provide rest –"

Ayither injected, "Considering that they won't be going around praying to their god."

"I suspect that they will be. They are storm, and Nemerry made it clear that Thor is not dead. She is however uncertain whether they will look favorably upon you, Ayither."

"They better not fuss, or I will let them know just how rude Thor was when I entered his temple."

Slidell looked to me as she said, "I suspect that it will be hard to sleep with those of storm yelling at each other."

I said, "I would hope in all the yelling that some information about why Thor faked his own death will be related."

Ayither moved back to the table saying, "Yes, that would help my attitude with those guys as well."

Slidell said, "Yes, some answers and directions should come from there. I however am told things could get very serious."

"Well, yeah! Those of storm don't spend hours mumbling ritual statements. They will let us know what we need to know, and what they expect us to do about it."

"They are going to lie."

"What!"

I did not exclaim anything, but simply glared at Slidell. She paused as if waiting for Ayither to say some more. She however simply moved to sit back at the table and glare at Slidell as well.

She said, "Nemerry told me that they would lie. While I trust you very highly, Ayither, and also feel that I can trust Hallith, Nemerry told me not to trust those of Thor. In fact, I was told to definitely not go in the direction they suggested. Now, as for where we should go, that depends on what we feel is the proper direction."

Ayither stated, "Those of storm do not lie. We really cannot afford to."

"I was told those of Thor would lie. I guess they can afford to. Anyway, we can discuss our feelings about them and what they tell us after we have dealt with them."

I had to ask, "Ayither, is there any active relationship between Typhorsh and Thor? I mean you are both storm, but any real ties that might bias your perception of what they tell you?"

"No. You however have to understand that us of storm do not have the rules and regulations of calm. While that is a good thing, it really is not with us champions. We just get to claim our status. There is no test, no rules, no weeding out process. The life itself weeds out those undeserving."

Slidell said, "Ayither first came to me simply because I had been a champion for so long. While I did not find her appreciating my lessons, she did prove herself a good and trustworthy companion."

"Yes, Hallith." Hearing my name had me turn my eyes from Slidell to Ayither. "Any champion of storm we meet will probably be just some youth with the fire of ignorance, and not someone who is actually worthy of the status."

Slidell supported those words. "I believe that you will find Ayither rather unique as a champion of storm. She has qualities. Not only has that earned her my friendship, but I believe graced her with a superior standing in the eyes of Typhorsh."

I was still looking at Ayither. She smiled at me. I smiled back, then looked to the window.

"Should we attack now, or wait for most of them to retire to their tents?"

Ayither turned to Slidell to ask, "Yes. I don't believe calm or storm believes in just senseless killing."

"This will not be an easy battle. All the soldiers here have been into the divine realm. They are all more than your common military infantry. As divine champions we should have the advantage over most, although will probably not inflict the massive slaughter we could usually have happen. I am told that Nemerry will have her local protectors move through the town, then proceed through the gate. By then their aid in slaying the regular troops could be needed, as we should be facing the serious entities that actually felt they could challenge gods."

I was not against anything I heard. While it did not sound like the reason I was sent to this world, it did sound like the reason I was usually sent to a world. I also trusted these two ladies to know about the threats upon their world and how to respond to them. I thus listened to them and waited for their decision.

Ayither moved back to the window, then turned back to the table to ask, "How do you want to do this?"

Slidell replied, "As calm, I would probably suggest the same thing you would, Ayither. Simply stride out the temple and start the attack."

"You would move slower than me."

"Probably so. Any suggestions, Hallith?"

I thought about what I had seen of the city and the encampment of the army before replying, "Well, your wall is not that high."

Ayither exclaimed, "Yeah! That would have even Slidell coming down in the middle of things."

Slidell said, "You're not serious."

"You're just calm. Of course he is serious!"

I saw Slidell looking to me, and spoke to her. "Actually, I was. If we are to simply kill them, it is best if we start the fight with no warning."

Slidell asked, "The idea of slaughter does not trouble you?"

"Me? These are not my people. If the act does not trouble you, it won't trouble me. If it did trouble me, or I suspected it did you, it would be a matter for our gods to speak. It is however your goddess telling us to do this thing. As a divine champion as well, I know that I will obey my god without question. I will not have you spoiling your relationship with Nemerry."

"No, of course not. Thank you." Slidell then turned her head to ask the other lady, "What is Typhorsh telling you?"

"You heard me tell them then that Typhorsh told me I could take them. Well, let's go."

"We dressed for dinner and not battle. I am glad that I had us do so, as I did enjoy the meal. Hallith, thank you for the choice of topics. Now I suggest that we return to our rooms to change back into our armor and our full allotment of arms. While there, pack. Once our battle here is done, our mounts will be brought to us so we can ride on to the monastery."

No sooner did Slidell open the doors to our chambers, than priests made their presence known. She took a moment to let them know our plan. Nods were made, then one spoke my name and indicated that I should follow him. Remembering that my room had been in that direction, I followed.

While donning my armor I considered what I had been told. I especially focused on what had been said about those of Thor. If the devotees of one god could lie, I wondered about others. While I did sense that I could trust the two ladies with me, I worried about their own sources of information. I let Zetrullid know about my coming actions, and the reason for me to consider such a step. When I finished donning my armor, I knelt as I heard a voice I considered more important than any other.

"Do not concern yourself with this world, Hallith. Remember, you are not here due to me, but due to Aslerrida. Thus, yes, trust the ladies. If you find that you cannot trust them then leave this world to its fate."

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PostSubject: Chapter Fifteen   January 10th 2019, 7:40 am

To Know Storm and Calm
Chapter Fifteen

(Slidell)

I thought about the words from Hallith as I changed into my armor. It concerned me what he said about this world not being his. He was correct that he had no identification with those camped outside. Honestly, I did not either. I did not know them. Also, my goddess had told me to kill them, eradicate them, without remorse. I thus would slaughter them. What I would do would not be nice, gracious, or leave me with a feeling of peace.

"Why not?"

The words were a whisper. Even being alone in a room, I felt that I could possibly dismiss them. I did hear sounds, even phrases, through the stone walls. I thus could possibly discount what I heard as a voice distorted by the barriers. I however recognized the words as being from my goddess, and knelt even as I sought an answer.

"I am your champion, but not your executioner."

"Correct, but these will not be the first ones struck down by you. Why will doing my will not bring you peace."

"I... I..."

I found my words to fail me. Nemerry was correct. I had been told by her to kill others. At that time I understood the context. My memories of those periods were of helping others. Suddenly, feeling some conviction for my thoughts, I spoke.

"Why should I be the one to kill these? Why did Thor's army not do it when they advanced upon Asgalla? Why didn't Typhorsh's army rush from Hurria and destroy them? Why me?"

"You are involved in a matter concerning us gods. You cannot know our ways, so should suspect to be even further mystified when we are involved in some complication among ourselves. If we are not certain of how things will progress, what hope do you have? I have ordered you to kill this army, and obeying my will should bring you peace."

Suddenly, I felt a dam holding back emotions to break. "I was trying to develop traits that would make me nice. I was attempting to perfect those manners that would have me be gracious. I was trying to be a better person. This works against that."

"You claimed to see such traits in both of those presently your companions. One, happens to be of storm, but you claim her to have gifts you do not. When they heard your orders, they agreed. Hallith even did not have the voice of his god, but trusted you to really be speaking for me. Why should he be at peace, and you not?"

I thought upon those words, but, like storm, I spoke as soon as I felt I had an answer. "I believe he has already passed through this time."

"Possibly so. One of the reasons I allow him to travel with you. Now, get dressed. You need to do what I told you."

I had no more assured Nemerry that I would obey, and risen to finish donning my armor, than Ayither stormed into my room. "You're not ready, yet?" I saw her look to my face, then ask, "You were crying, again?"

Seeking calm, I replied, "Does it not trouble you that we are going to kill so many?"

"Not the first army I have wiped out. Listen, if you cannot handle it, Typhorsh told me I could."

I should have expected that response, so attempted to redirect her thoughts. "No, but, Ayither, are you at peace?"

"At peace? With what? Typhorsh is not fussing at me, so I am not complaining. He is my standard. If he is happy with me, I'm happy."

I found myself accepting her words. She was correct. I thus decided to ask about something else.

"Still finding Hallith attractive?"

"Yeah, he's interesting. Typhorsh told me that he had no problems with Hallith, but was watching even as I should. I was told that the stories he told were correct. It was a fire goddess seeking some resolution for him that brought him here. What Typhorsh told me however was that it was Nemerry that replied. Are you certain that you are not interested in him?"

It felt good being able to supply some wisdom to the younger champion. "I believe my goddess felt that I needed something, someone, to test my spirit, not to replace Zergus as a potential spouse. Hallith is doing that. It however seems that you are questioning your place in this world, so Hallith is being used by Typhorsh in another manner."

"Yes, and I have had to apologize to Typhorsh for not rushing upon Hallith. My god laughed at me, but said that a matter of the heart should not be rushed upon, even by those of storm."

"I must support your god there, Ayither. I almost moved too fast with Zergus, and I am calm."

"Ah, men."

She saw me checking my straps, so moved up to do her own inspection. Reminding her of the plant cords that had bound her metal pieces earlier, I checked out her armor. With us assuring each other of the quality of our garments, we turned to see Hallith outside the door waiting for us. We thus moved out of the room ready to perform as directed.

Since I had informed a priest of our strategy, we were directed away from the front entrance of the temple. There was an access into the wall surrounding the town, giving us an opening to stairs leading up to the battlements. Before we stepped out, the priest called to an acolyte who came to the top of the stairs holding robes.

The priest said, "I assume that you want to get into position without being spotted."

Ayither took one while saying, "Yeah, as running to the front of the town then jumping down might be a little foolish."

Hallith replied, "The walls are not that high, but I believe that tactic would be a little foolish. Although, you are air."

"Uh, yeah. Typhorsh?" There was only a momentary pause, then she said, "Okay, no reason for us to worry about the jump down. He however says that it is a rather lengthy run to the front of town."

The priest commented, "Then I guess the ladders will be unnecessary."

I found myself distracted in putting on my own robe by Ayither moving to pat Hallith while whispering, "Typhorsh complimented you on realizing that fact. I would have just jumped without concern, but it took a statement like that to gain the blessing for you and Slidell."

He replied, "That is one thing I have been learning over the last few decades. For over four hundred years it was just Zetrullid, and sometimes his influence was rather minor. Since returning to him, I have had to interact with others of my pantheon. I have thus learned that I could trust in blessings from other sources."

"Nemerry is water too, but with me you have air. When you are ready to start hacking into our foes, don't be afraid to jump."

"Tell him thanks."

I felt a need to say, "Yes, Ayither, the same for me."

"He says that you are both welcome. Now, let's get moving."

I believe it helped subdue Ayither's spirit to have soldiers inform us of things about the camp. While she had the confidence of her god telling her that she could take the army, I saw signs of her accepting that some facts could help us know how to act toward meeting the objective set by our deities. Ayither and I had some arguments early in her career about gaining such wisdom, and I saw in her behavior an acceptance of those lessons. I thus felt some satisfaction that I would also go into the future displaying a better attitude in having passed certain trials. Feeling that I would prove myself to my goddess, I looked with confidence toward the camp.

After an officer pointed out the tents of the leaders of the army, Ayither mumbled, "It really does not matter."

Hallith replied, "Yes, it matters. There is a larger battle, so it would help to gain some information. I am not saying that you do not kill them, but pay attention to the leaders as you do. There may be something you notice on their person, something you see them do, something you hear them say, that could help us in resolving other problems."

The officer, clearly a devotee of Nemerry, was quick to say, "Yes, Storm. I don't want to speak against assuring these people a quick, merciful death, but some attention to things might pay off."

Ayither looked to me, then mumbled, "What am I looking to you for? You would agree."

I replied, "I would hope that you accept that in the past you have found my advice to be correct."

"Are you going to argue with me about taking on this army?"

"No."

"Then I don't need to hear anything more."

Hallith said, "Now, you are sounding like a Quartermaster."

"Told you that you were storm."

He knelt to put his head on level with hers, then pointed while saying. "That fire looks like the center of the camp. You can go through those tents in that direction. I will go through there. Let us see who reaches the fire first."

"You got it. Even with your bigger sword, I will match you."

"Did Typhorsh tell you that?"

"No. He's laughing at me, but I will prove myself to both of you."

Hallith rose while saying, "You have already proven yourself to me. Don't be afraid to call for help. Same here. Neither one of us knows for certain how the battle will go. Even if I am storm, I fought for centuries with others. I know how to rely on others and have them rely on me."

I had to say, "Those are good words. Now, let's do what we must."

To prove myself to Ayither, I did jump. I appreciated that I did not land in the manner of storm. She rolled to come up with men collapsing. Hallith came down running with his large sword dropping the troops around him. Typhorsh proved his knowledge of my ways in having me land with a gentle step, allowing me to set the proper stance before beginning my fight as was my style.

It was a carnage. I however found myself not splattered by the blood of my victims. They just fell. Some had their internal essence settle as slime around my feet, but others simply collapsed as if they had been nothing more than puppets. I continued to attack those of this army finding myself accepting that I was doing the right thing, and not simply inflicting mass murder.

The one problem with our plan was the command to kill all the soldiers. It helped that those of the local military also supported the decrees of Nemerry. While the town did have a temple to my goddess, that did not mean the local rulers or citizens were devotees of Nemerry, or even of calm. They still recognized the authority of those divine, and when the plan was made known to them they came up with a method to help us assure success.

I however fought thinking the local military not to have much to do. The troops around me were not running. Usually, after an initial strong attack, most of the regular soldiers would realize that to oppose me was not wise. Feeling that most joined the military for the better pay, and obeyed whatever orders were given to them, I never felt any remorse in allowing the regular troops to run away. I would even normally stride through an army proclaiming who I was and what my mission was as an announcement for the normal people to flee. This time I just moved through the troops sending my blade through everyone without any thought of allowing the local military to have anything to do.

It however bothered me that I could not be nice. I would not be able to allow someone who gave me a proper fight to suddenly turn and flee. I would not be able to help a soldier who fell from some quick action going wrong, then yell at him to stay away from the conflict. It bothered me that the very qualities I felt a need to bring into my life would not be developed in this battle.

"All right!" Ayither's voice broke through the noise of combat. "Damn! Hallith, what are you doing here?"

"Just reminding you that you are not fighting alone."

Hearing the exchange between the other two divine champions brought me pleasure. I felt that Ayither and Hallith would make a good couple. They were not alike, but I felt the differences between them would help their relationship and not work against it. While I felt that Hallith was a better man than Zergus, some of the traits of the foreign champion did trouble me. I however could not help but smile with pleasure in hearing him speak with Ayither.

I felt myself forced back. The impact had me reset my stance, but otherwise did not disturb me. There were some large men in the number of soldiers around me. Nothing odd about that, or new, so I simply set myself to move back along the path I was taking and drop the one that had momentarily stopped me.

"I got you alone, girl! You will be mine!"

The man was massive. While the end of his weapon did seem to have an edge, the mass of metal appeared more as a large hammer. Without any concern, I checked for what opponents I had to my right and left before considering my strategy in dropping the great man.

I circled to the right killing soldiers just to check the maneuverability of the large opponent. Usually those of great size did not move very well. He however turned without showing any problem, although when he attacked I also saw a lack of concern for the soldiers that had surely gathered with him thinking to be safe in his presence. An opponent that had no concern for his own support personnel I felt needed to be killed, so I set my focus upon the large man.

"I fight for Nemerry, Girl. You will die for your heresy in attacking us."

While I did not converse in combat, it was normal for us of calm to relay information. "You saying it and Nemerry saying it are two different things to me. I believe you will learn that there is a difference as well."

He made a good attack. I will grant him that. He missed, but only because I recognized the control and direction of the swing. I stepped around a soldier to allow him to take the strike. While the large man again prepared, I killed a few more of his troops. He paused before making another attack, because I believe he recognized that I earned points on his last one.

"Are you becoming storm, Girl? The other one fighting us is storm. Not sure of the man, but your armor states a devotion to Nemerry. You should be with us."

Again I broke my silence to relay information. "I told you that you saying it and Nemerry saying it are two different things."

"Women, you never know what's good for you."

My response to that was to launch my own attack. He was not my first over-sized opponent. I had now seen him use his weapon, so had an idea about his tactics. I could not say that I made the best attack, but again I was not the one suffering a loss.

"Join me, Girl. It is the right thing to do."

"Really? Once again I believe you have the problem of what you are saying not matching what Nemerry is saying. Also," I felt a need to stress my point by killing a few more soldiers, "you don't fight as calm."

"Calm? You have a lot to learn, Girl."

"Yes, I have been realizing that. You know what, though? Already I have learned that improving certain virtues will not be done in this battle."

This time my strike was direct and effective. My blade went into the side of the large man, then sliced around to cut through his spine. Unlike the others around me, there was blood and internal organs that spilled upon his death. I did not pause to take any pleasure in seeing the great man drop, but turned to direct strikes at others around me.

Now I detected soldiers attempt to flee. Seeing arrows fly over my head to strike in the back of some of the troops, I kept my focus accepting the aid to bring this battle to the divinely ordered finish. Feeling the combat had now turned in my favor, I attempted to determine how best to finish the task before me.

There were others that sprayed me with blood and vile, but no more of great size. I felt that Ayither and Hallith fought a few over-sized opponents, but I faced no more. Some however that came against me did have some skill. I actually appreciated a solid fight. It was a change for the better from the carnage I inflicted on most of the soldiers. While a few had me recognize their skills, I found myself covered in their blood as they found out that I had a multitude of decades to perfect those things I knew.

It shocked me to hear Ayither screaming my name. She then laughed when I looked to her. I had to smile thinking of other battles where I became so focused on moving through my steps that I lost any recognition of those who were not opponents. There had been wars where I fell to my knees in thanking Nemerry for not having one of those fighting with me come before me. Ayither had found me in such a state previously, and I guess laughing with the memory she pointed in a direction for me to go.

When I again found myself without any opponents, I heard Hallith yell, "You can come over here, Slidell. There is enough for both of us."

There was, which hurt me as I felt that we should have slaughtered most of the troops by now. Having to move over bodies helped reinforce that fact. I however strode to Hallith recognizing that we all had done a lot, but there was much more to do. Attacking the mass of troops, I however felt a need to get a perspective on things I noticed about those I killed.

"Hallith, what do you make of these people not having the proper internal composition? We should be striding through a mire of blood and intestines."

"Yeah, they also don't seem like the regular type of undead minions I have encountered. I was hoping you or Ayither could tell me about the corpses. This is your world after all."

I found an answer supplied to me, and related it to Hallith. "Nemerry says that they did this to themselves, or had it done to them, so they could safely move through the divine realms. As divine champions, we will not have such worries. Those who bled were other divine champions, but I am not being told to whom."

"Considering that I have been in the halls of Aslerrida, I suspected that I had some special privilege."

That was a good statement, but I wanted to discuss the matter further. I found myself recalling that combat was not the place for conversation. Feeling that this was not a regular battle, I went ahead and spoke to Hallith.

"I know of tales where regular people have gone into the divine realms, but each speaks of concerns they had in making the journey."

"And I believe going there with the intent to wage war would present even further concerns."

"Uh, yes, I would believe so." It felt good coming to an understanding for the orders I was acting under. "I guess that is why they needed to be killed. They had already committed themselves. There was no redemption for them."

"If there is then we are sending them to it. Hope they are happy with their fates."

I had to agree. Realizing that we were again free from opponents, I moved with Hallith about the area taking on those left. We stopped at times as arrows flew to drop stragglers before we could get to them. At other times we paused to allow Ayither to have her fun with a group of opponents. After one such battle, I found her moving to us and had to agree that we had done our job.

She then said, "No rest for the weary, though."

I watched as she turned toward the city walls and issued a whistle. While a horse whinnied, I could tell that soldiers presently had control of our mounts. As she watched the men come to us, I had to ask a question.

"Has Typhorsh told you the way to the monastery?"

"Not really needed to, as I know the place."

"I do as well, but we are moving at night."

She moved over to Hallith to assure the foreigner would understand certain references. "Mayune presently sits in the direction we travel. Keep those stars in your focus, as the moon moves while the stars will not. By the time we are getting close, Lunara will move over our objective."

He replied, "I told you that I am used to working with others. I will follow you ladies."

"Good, as I like having you around. Now, mount up."

_________________
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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