The House of Yeel
Author:Michael McCloskey

Chapter 9: Under the Green Sky





When Jymoor emerged from the magical gate the first thing she noticed was the sky.

“Lord Yeel! What have you done to the sky? It’s green!”

She stared in wonder. White and gray clouds drifted lazily through the deep green heavens. She finally examined the ground, covered in gray rock with a few stubborn plants growing here and there in the niches. She couldn’t see far, as they were surrounded by large outcroppings of rough gray rock. A six-legged lizard darted for cover, startled by their movements.

“This is another world, Jymoor. I’ve done nothing special to it. The atmosphere here has different properties, which results in reflected radiation of different frequencies—”

“Is this where the teachers you spoke of live? Are they human?”

“Yes, I hope to get you the training you need here. That other question is more difficult to answer than you might imagine.”

“Well, what now?”

“Follow me, Your Knightship,” Yeel said. “I shall lead us through this strange world and deduce the location of those we seek.”

“Deduce? Oh no! You mean you didn’t remember this place?”

“I remember a great deal of it…the important parts, I assure you. There are a few particulars, however, which—”

“Lead on, Yeel,” directed Jymoor. She no longer feared addressing Yeel in this way. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she realized the moon armor had done this. Somehow it increased her perception of her stature…made her feel important, like a noble. Perhaps if she fulfilled her knightly duties well, Yeel might come to see her as an equal, or maybe even an intimate companion. Jymoor dared to hope she would become closer to the Great Yeel.

Yeel moved forward through the broken terrain. He seemed to be uncertain at first, but after a moment started to move down the slope. Their path twisted left and then right as they avoided the huge boulders that thrust up through the ground.

They walked around a rise of stone and Jymoor saw a green ocean ahead, a vast calm expanse of water that mirrored the color of the sky. Only a dim line in the distance marked where the sea met the horizon. An isthmus of land extended out into the sea, connecting to a massive rocky island with a grey stone fortress perched atop it. The place had tall, smooth walls which angled gently inward. The fortress culminated in four crenelated peaks. The landscape felt so surreal that at first she had a hard time establishing its size.

Jymoor peered at the fortress for a moment, trying to catch a glimpse of any natives. She did see forms moving about on the battlements, but from this distance she could hardly tell what they looked like. If they were humans, the fortress was large indeed, perhaps three or four hundred paces on its front side.

“Um, Lord Yeel? Is that the place we seek?”

“What? Hmm? What place do you speak of? Please, do tell me. Describe that which you have designated but for which I cannot determine the association. Perhaps then I will be able to answer your query.”

“That rocky fortress by the sea,” Jymoor said, pointing.

“Oh. That that. You can see it? That’s exactly the that where we need to go. Could you lead us there? By there I mean to that. I’m afraid my eyesight is not that good here. And that last that was not that that. It was a regular that.”

“Um. You can’t see the ocean? Or the fortress?”

“I’m sorry, but I can only remember the dwelling you speak of,” Yeel said, moving toward the ocean. “I realized there would be a greater chance of finding the water by moving downhill.”

Jymoor raised an eyebrow. Apparently, another unexpected weakness of the Great Yeel.

“I can see it clearly,” she reported. “I do have sharp eyes…that’s one of the reasons I became a scout. I think I see people on the walls; I hope they’re friendly.”

“Absolutely. Yes. Without a doubt, we will be received warmly. Don’t worry, Your Knightship. I’m sure it’s fine. Unless things have changed. In which case the danger could be extreme!”

Jymoor stepped up to Yeel and they continued side by side toward the cape. After a few minutes, they joined a broken road of ancient stones that meandered toward the fortress. Jymoor saw the plants had long runners of bluish green that wriggled over and around the stones, seeking the soil. She inhaled a deep lungful of the damp air. It had a different quality to it, something that she couldn’t identify.

“The air here is different, somehow.”

“Yes, the atmosphere’s composition is not like that of your world. It holds very interesting properties which I have studied for quite some time. You’ll find it hinders your movements yet provides more energy. It also creates the potential for…unique acoustical experiences. Perhaps its most remarkable feature is simply that you can breathe it at all. Given how different it really is from the air you’re used to inhaling, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if it had been deadly to humans.”

“But of course it would not have affected you?”

“Oh. Well, my exchange rate is such that, I mean, well, it might well have affected me adversely as well. But it does not. Are we approaching that castle you spotted? We must find shelter here before the morning. It’s dangerous to be outside here, at certain times of the day.”

Jymoor looked at their destination again. She began to get a feel for how huge the fortress really was. The place grew larger with each step, until she began to think of the place as a city. They headed toward a massive stone bridge, apparently the only entrance to the island fortress.

Jymoor saw a lone person, or some kind of humanoid, awaiting them on the bridge. A male, she decided. He held a long spear in one graceful hand. The man wore a multifaceted outfit of copper-colored cloth. His skin looked slightly green in the distance, but she couldn’t tell if it was from the light.

They walked closer. The man before them looked human enough to Jymoor. She expected Yeel would introduce them at any moment. She wondered what their greeting would be. Would they raise their hands to each other? Would they clasp hands? Did the man even speak their language? Was it even a man?

Yeel stopped and turned to her.

“I know one here named Vot. I must go speak with him,” Yeel said. “Please speak with that man. Tell him you’re with me, and he’ll treat you kindly. Don’t worry. We’ll make progress on our goal while we’re here. These are kind folk, and no harm will come to you.”

Yeel moved away to one side, to the edge of the bridge. Jymoor wanted to ask Yeel more questions, but she let him leave. She could take care of herself, she decided. An instant later she wondered if the armor had decided for her.

The wizard descended a side ramp in an eerily smooth motion. His head did not bob in the manner of one taking steps. Jymoor blinked. Magic?

She turned to regard the harpoon-bearing man who waited patiently at the end of the bridge. He met her gaze calmly. She decided his skin was slightly green, but it suited his smooth, narrow face and curly hair. His weapon looked as if its sharp tip had been created from a plant spine or perhaps a water creature. The tip was translucent, perhaps hollow. She felt certain it wasn’t made of copper or iron.

Jymoor removed her helm to let him see her own face. Did his visage soften slightly when he saw she was a woman? She could not be sure. She strode across the bridge to meet him. Behind the eerie stranger, the giant fortress rose up, dwarfing both of them.

“I’m Jymoor. I serve as the Crescent Knight, friend of the mighty Yeel,” Jymoor said, bowing slightly to the stranger. “Can you understand?”

“Hello, Jymoor. Welcome to Ascara-home,” the man said. He held up a three-fingered hand in greeting. “I am Legrach.”

“You speak my language…you have only…you have fewer fingers than I,” Jymoor stammered.

“Artaxiad took the smallest finger from our hands, in punishment for some perceived failure on our part,” Legrach explained. “Despite her powers, even Vot cannot restore us.”

“Vot. Yeel spoke of him, said he was going to see him.”

Legrach laughed. “Vot is a she-goddess. She brings us life. It’s funny to hear her spoken of as a man.”

“Well, Yeel did so.”

“A mistake, I assure you. Vot lives here with us, beneath the city. She takes care of us.”

“What is this place? How did you come to live here?”

“It is a long story…our scribes read of events long past. An evil man of great power, named Artaxiad, ruled our ancestors with an iron hand. He committed terrible atrocities against us but we could not fight him.”

“So this Vot must have saved you?”

“Yes, she helped us overthrow him. We can speak of this more once inside. I’ve been tasked with looking after your needs. Would you like to see where you’ll be staying?”

“Yes, thank you.”





***





Yeel moved serenely through the undertunnels of smooth polished coral. Bits of Jymoor’s conversation chased after him, carried far in the unique air of Ascara-home. It was said on some days you could catch words spoken the day before, although Yeel suspected that was an exaggeration. He had himself only perceived sounds emitted hours before at the most.

As he made his way lower, the water rose, at first splashing only against his foot, then rising farther up his trunk. There was no salt; the water of this world contained few impurities. The Ascarans drank directly from their ocean’s waters and enjoyed the mild currents which swept away their waste and kept them warm year around.

Vot had chosen their home well.

Yeel came to the fountain room. Like his own such room, the ceiling rose high overhead, allowing the fountain to rise in tiers, forming pools of decreasing size as they ascended. The walls held a beautiful polish, reflecting the whirls of the water in their shining surfaces.

He searched the pool for children. He spotted them one by one, counting a total of three of the transparent beings swimming gently through the clear water.

Yeel turned and saw another watching him. Vot’s rubbery cone of veined green flesh slid up to the fountain, making gentle waves in the water that covered the floor.

“You aren’t fooling anyone, Yeel,” said Vot, in Yeel’s own tongue. “I can see it is you who have come to my water. There in the flow you will see that I have three beautiful children growing. Two more than the last time you came to Ascara-home. Which was long ago, I might add with no small degree of hurt.”

Yeel realized that he had been projecting the image of a human by force of habit. He let down his guard, allowing all eyes to see him as he really appeared.

“It’s with tremendous pleasure that I again experience your company. It has been a great deal of time since my last memory of you. I had not intended to hide my true nature, but merely had become accustomed to projecting a human image, and I continued to do so on momentum alone. As for my long absence, it was the doing of Faverhind of the Meridalae. The group succeeded in imprisoning me in my home. But finally I’ve been freed by a human knight and enlisted in a cause I couldn’t refuse.”

“It’s only a matter of time until the Meridalae realize you have escaped their trap and send forces to deal with you. This time they may decide to terminate your existence rather than limit it. Your human friend may end up defunct as well. Perhaps you should both stay here with me, and together we can plan a way to defeat them. Surely given a century of careful study we can find a solution.”

“Unfortunately, the matter must be addressed in a hurried fashion,” Yeel said. “The libraries of my companion’s people are in danger. A large number of invaders whose ideology does not highly value caches of knowledge have entered their lands. Large repositories of books, scrolls, and miscellaneous cultural treasures are threatened on a short timescale.”

“I’m afraid my army is busy here,” Vot said. “We’re no strangers to violence. Each year the Meridalae send a menace to threaten me. We can teach your companion what we know of the Lore of Battle, and I can spare an honor guard of perhaps ten warriors.”

Yeel waved a tentacle wildly in the air, indicating his appreciation. “Thank you so much for your hospitality. Shall we share an eye for the eve, and speak of times long past? I’m sure by now we each have three or four new memories to share.”

“Of course,” Vot replied, plucking an eye from her ridge. Yeel copied the maneuver and removed one of his fresh eyes with a tentacle.

“I must have a pot of preservative glue somewhere nearby,” Vot said. “I believe I would put it into a green vase, since it is green itself and functions to keep our eyes new and green.”

“Perhaps this one?” Yeel asked, moving toward a large green container on a delicately carved side table of bone or ivory.

“Ah yes, that would work. Or else it is a trap, meant to slice off the tentacle of an unwanted visitor who investigated it.”

Yeel paused, dangling his detached eye carefully over the opening.

“Ah, but I would have to leave some marker of its danger for myself. The table appears to be an innocent carving of entwined tangelars, which I remember are graceful, harmless beasts. So it must be safe. Besides, I might have remembered any potentially lethal trap.”

“I find your reasoning sound,” Yeel replied, and dropped his eye into the vase. “Hmm. Yes, it looks like ordinary eye glue. Of course, I cannot smell it, but I think we found it.”

“Unless the Tangelars were there to lure a victim into believing it to be harmless,” Vot added. “Ah, but you have it now!”

Yeel plucked his glued eye out of the vase with the slender end of a tentacle and gently attached it to Vot’s ridge. Ascara-mother Vot followed suit, dipping her own eye and gluing it to Yeel’s ridge in the same careful manner.





***





“When it rains, doesn’t the water come in through these holes?”

Jymoor walked behind Legrach through the stone walls of the fortress. She pointed out one of the openings in the walls that brought in light. As far as she could tell, the light came from the sun outside.

Legrach gave her a puzzled look. Then he seemed to resolve his confusion.

“Ah. I think you mean when the air is heavy with water? We cannot seal the whole fortress off. You must go into your room, and wait until the morning’s water has come out of the air. Out here in the halls, you’d be washed away, suffocated.”

“Wow. I had no idea. Yeel said something about the air being different here. I guess your rainstorms are harsh.”

Jymoor studied the walls. The stone looked clean, but the surface was rough and held a greenish tint like everything else on this world. She hadn’t seen a single decoration or piece of furniture since they came into the gate.

Legrach came to a bluish curtain and brought his hand to it. The fabric folded back as if by magic, moving aside at his touch. Jymoor stared at the curtain as it bunched up against the walls around a wooden door it had concealed. She couldn’t see any runner or rod that held the curtain up.

“What is this? Is it alive?”

“No, it’s only a water net. It keeps the morning’s water out of your room.”

Legrach pushed the wooden door forward and stepped through, beckoning for Jymoor to follow. At first it was dark, then a light grew. Jymoor couldn’t understand what the source was. She saw that Legrach held some kind of lantern or torch, except that its entire surface glowed even though he held it directly in his hand.

When she saw the interior, she gasped. The room was crammed with colorful items. Every square inch of the wall held a tapestry, cabinets, or pegs for hanging containers. Only a small path that led to the center of the room was clear for walking.

“Oh! Well…you keep your possessions in here safe from the water?”

“Yes,” Legrach said. He looked somewhat amused by her ignorance of this place. “Is it not so where you’re from?”

“We keep many things indoors. But a roof is the most important part since we don’t have any water nets.”

“The air doesn’t weep in the morning?”

“Sometimes water falls from the air. But our roofs keep it out. It falls straight to the ground. And it can happen at any time, not just in the morning.”

Legrach looked interested and skeptical at the same time.

“Yeel and Vot know of strange worlds. You’re from one of those, I suppose,” he said. “We’ll try to make you feel welcome, Jymoor. You should know that in the final time before morning, you must be in here behind your water net, or you’ll drown.”

“Thanks for the warning. Anything else I should know about? Do you have lethal predators here? I assume that any wild animals are kept out of the fortress?”

Once again Legrach looked troubled. “Animals? There are only lizards and insects above the sea. If you don’t go near the ocean without a native, you’ll be safe from wild creatures.” For a moment he looked like he was going to ask about the creatures on her world, but he didn’t.

“Hmm. Your world has its own dangers, it seems,” Jymoor said. “Back on my world, I was almost eaten by monsters several times trying to find the Far Coast. But I stood in the rain several times and never came near to drowning once.”

Legrach shook his head. “Strange.”

They stood close in the cluttered room. Jymoor’s eyes fell upon a spiral shell full of small white spheres supported above the height of the single table by a slender rod of metal.

“What are those?” she asked.

“They light the way,” Legrach said, holding up his glowing ball. He slipped the ball into a metal cage hanging from one of the wall pegs. “We get them from the water. Plants growing in the sea use them to attract fish to eat.”

“Oh.”

“Speaking of eating, if you want food, it’s there in that wall shutter.”

“Thank you for the offer. Maybe I should try just a bit of the food here, and see if I can eat it?”

“Sure.”

Jymoor carefully opened the wooden container mounted on the wall which Legrach had indicated. Inside, she found a collection of reddish string and a bowl of water. She saw slices of silvery flesh inside the water.

“Must be fish?” she asked.

“Fish and plants from the sea,” Legrach said.

Jymoor took a bit of the string and smelled it. It had a spicy odor unfamiliar to her. She plucked a bit out and tasted it. The flavor was less spicy than the smell and pleasant enough. The string melted in her mouth.

“Seems very good. I should wait and make sure it doesn’t disturb my stomach just in case.”

“As you please,” Legrach said.

“Thank you.”

“So, tell me about this Artaxiad. He built this fortress?”

“No. Artaxiad of the Meridalae ruled over us on the mainland. Vot created this water-fortress, which we call Ascara-home, as a place to base our challenge to his power.”

Jymoor leaned forward. “You said of the Meridalae? Artaxiad was of the Meridalae?”

“Yes. He ruled this world for them.”

“When I came to seek Yeel’s aid, he had to defeat a member of that order just to leave his fantastic home,” Jymoor said. “They had trapped Yeel there for a long time.”

Legrach nodded. “The Meridalae attempt to spread their influence across every world they find. They still attack us here from time to time. Vot has given us our freedom and nurtures our people. Only through her, and others of her kind such as Yeel, can we hope to throw off the yoke of the Meridalae wherever men may live.”

“Wherever men may live,” she echoed. “I didn’t realize there were other worlds with people on them until I met Yeel. Do you know of my world? Do you know of the nation of Riken?”

Legrach shook his head.

“How many worlds are there?”

“Ask Vot. She has mentioned at least four or five in my presence. But I have never dared to ask her to share her great knowledge with me.”

“All the better to catch an erlak with,” a harsh voice erupted from behind her.

“What?” she said, turning to see the speaker.

“You couldn’t catch an erlak given a thousand such harpoons!” another voice said playfully.

“Who is that?” Jymoor couldn’t see anyone in the chamber, although the clutter was so dense she supposed someone may have eluded detection. She looked at the door, expecting the speakers to walk in at any moment.

Legrach laughed. “What does it matter? They’re long gone by now.”

“What? I don’t understand. Ghosts speak within these walls?”

“Ghosts…only the ghosts of recent conversations. Sometimes the words of others carry through the air. How else could I speak with you now?”

“Well, yes, but…” Jymoor looked all around. She didn’t see anyone else. “How recent was that conversation?”

“At most a day ago,” Legrach said, smiling. “Please take no offense, but talking with you is like talking to a child! I know, though, it’s only because you’re new to this world.”

“I understand. Thank you for telling me about your home.”

“I’m glad to help you. I hope, also, that you will be able to help us. Are you female?”

Jymoor’s eyes bulged a bit.

“Oh. Yes, actually I am…”

“I thought so! Will you bring us many babies? We need more warriors to fight the Meridalae!”

Jymoor’s mouth quivered a bit.

“I…well I…perhaps I should discuss that with Yeel and Vot first?”

“Of course. Their wisdom can be trusted,” Legrach said. “I can leave you alone to become accustomed to the room if you wish.”

“Oh. I assumed this is…Oh. Do we stay together here in your room?”

“The room is not mine. I do sometimes sleep here. You are to stay here for now. Unless the room is not pleasing.”

“Whose stuff is all this?”

“It belonged to Artaxiad, but now it belongs to the people of Ascara-home.”

“A powerful man stayed in such a small room? Perhaps space is limited here because you all have to live in the fortress?”

“I didn’t mean just this room. I meant everything. What used to belong to Artaxiad now belongs to us. Vot did not want it for herself, though of course, if she should ever ask for anything, we would gladly provide it.”

“I need no time alone. Can you train me to be a knight?”

“I don’t know how to be a knight. I could train you to be a fisherman or a warrior.”

“Yes. A warrior. That’s what I hope to learn,” Jymoor said.

“I can train you. Though I think your time is best spent bringing us infant warriors.”

“We’ll have to talk about that with Yeel.”

“Very well. I can begin your training tomorrow, then.”

“What weapons do you know?”

“This, the fenlar,” Legrach said, showing Jymoor the harpoon he carried.

Jymoor took the weapon and held it. It was very light, lighter even than a wooden spear, Jymoor thought. The pointed end must be hollow, she decided.

“How did you make this?”

“Vot told us of them,” Legrach said. “They grow on a large sea predator we sometimes hunt. We can also find discarded ones in carcasses it has fed upon. The tip is very sharp. We fill it with venom which Vot makes for us.”

“It does feel like a quick weapon, and deadly too, if poisoned. Though I was hoping to also learn the sword and lance, or perhaps even the mace, since I’m to take on a role in my homeland as a knight…or at least a leader of knights.”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Trust me, with this armor I’m stronger than I look. I could wield a mace.”

“I don’t know those weapons,” Legrach said.

Jymoor drew her short sword and handed it over.

“This is the sword,” she said.

Legrach looked it over, checking its edges. He nodded.

“I have seen these, or ones like them, much larger, in the hands of our enemies,” he said. “The Quan. They often fight for the Meridalae. They’re larger than you.”

“They live on the mainland?”

Legrach shook his head. “They don’t come from here. Like you, they come from other places. Brought by the Meridalae.”

“How long will Yeel be gone? Do you know where Vot and Yeel are?”

“I don’t know. But we can go to the feasting room and wait for them.”

“Okay.”

Legrach led the way out. He opened the wooden doors, revealing the closed water net beyond. The touch of his hand made the net retreat, sliding away like a slug retreating from flame. They returned to the empty stone hallway.

Three men with greenish skin walked in the passage. The eyes of the strangers lingered upon Jymoor as they passed. She decided it was natural enough for them to stare at an obvious stranger with skin of a different color. Perhaps they had never seen anyone from her world before.

Legrach took her through the corridors. They took several turns and passed many water nets. Other than the nets the passageways looked abandoned, since they were devoid of any furniture or decoration. They passed a group of open stone windows lined up on one side of the passage.

Jymoor paused to peek out one of the stone windows. The sea lay far below, rolling in a slow wind. She caught sight of a shadowy form moving below the water for a moment, then it was gone. She wondered what a whale from this world might look like. Legrach had said she would be safe from monsters if she stayed out of the ocean. That implied that the water creatures here might be dangerous.

They walked through another water net into a large chamber. Jymoor immediately identified it as a dining room. A massive table of worn green stone dominated the center, running long enough to hold twenty on each side.

A pleasant smell filled the air. Jymoor saw a door without a net.

“The kitchen must be that way. I can smell something cooking.”

Legrach nodded. “The meal is of yranthan and stid. Creatures from the sea. Vot provides for us mostly from the sea.”

Jymoor heard a sound, like a scraping of leather on smooth stone. She turned and saw Yeel step into the chamber, with a beautiful woman behind him. The woman had long greenish hair and a narrow face like Legrach, though she stood much taller, at exactly Yeel’s height. She wore a flowing dress of some unknown fibrous material of the now familiar copperish hue. Surely this was Vot.

Jymoor looked at the woman, first in open curiosity, and then with a sense of dread. Did Yeel favor the company of Vot? Would she be able to pursue him if this amazing woman already held his heart?

“I trust you have found Ascara-home to your liking?” Yeel said to Jymoor. “This is Vot.”

Jymoor bowed before Vot.

“Hello. Yeel tells me you seek our aid,” Vot said in a strong voice.

“Well…Yeel thought it best I accompany him here…”

“We will do our best to help you though Ascara-home is at war here in our world, so we cannot spare much.”

Other men entered the chamber and took places at the table. They looked like warriors. Still more men brought in food and set it about the table. It looked to Jymoor like two kinds of fish and a variety of sea plants.

“This is the yranthan. Perhaps you should try it first. It is milder than the stid,” Legrach said, indicating the dishes.

Jymoor looked around the table at the other guests. Suddenly it struck her that she and Vot were the only females present. Her face suddenly flushed.

She turned to Legrach and spoke in a low voice.

“Should I be here? Is Vot the only woman allowed to dine here?”

“There is no rule,” Legrach said.

“Then why don’t the other women sit here too?”

“There are only you and Vot,” Legrach said.

“Oh,” Jymoor said, trivializing her confusion. “Perhaps that is why you’re so eager for children.”

“Of course,” Legrach said. “Vot can only bring us ten or twenty each time.”

Jymoor coughed on her food.

“What?”

“Yes. She brings us many, but we need many to fight the Quan.”

“You have no women? Aren’t any of the children female?”

Legrach shook his head. “Vot brings us only warriors for the battle. No women.”

Vot overheard the conversation and looked over toward Jymoor and Legrach.

“So you are a temporary traveling companion of Yeel’s,” Vot said.

“I’m an extremely close companion to Yeel,” Jymoor answered quickly. “We are nearly inseparable, after what we’ve been through together!”

Vot smiled.

“Ah. Yes, it is amazing the friendships that can be formed through shared adversity.”

“Friendship? The word hardly does our relationship justice!” Jymoor said. “Why, it was I who released Yeel from his imprisonment!” Jymoor added. She looked pleadingly at Yeel.

“It is true,” Yeel said. “I hope we can continue to work together.”

Jymoor accepted Yeel’s verification eagerly. She smiled defiantly toward Vot.

“Can Jymoor bring us infant soldiers?” Legrach said. “She said it might be discussed over dinner.”

Jymoor’s victory face fled.

“That’s probably not a good idea,” Vot said.

“Yes, she doesn’t have that capability,” Yeel said.

Jymoor opened her mouth to agree, then closed it, then opened it again to disagree, then fell silent, trying to decide which was worse: being enlisted as a baby maker or being seen as useless.

“Isn’t she is female? Aren’t females involved with babies on her world as well?” persisted Legrach.

“Yes, but I’ll serve a greater and more immediately useful role as a leader of our soldiers,” Jymoor said.

“I don’t think so,” Legrach said. “One fighter is good, but the hundreds of children you could bring would be the greater contribution, on the whole.”

Jymoor looked at Legrach again, confused.

“She could not give you that many,” Yeel said. “Her fertility is less than Vot’s. She could bring perhaps a dozen at most.”

A cloud grew over Jymoor’s face. Legrach nodded.

“A dozen at a time is less than Vot, true, but—”

“No! A dozen total! In her lifetime!” explained Vot.

Legrach’s eyebrows rose.

“Oh. I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I should have realized. Of course, Vot is exceptional; look at everything she’s done for us. She is the reason Ascara-home even exists! I should not have expected such lofty things from you, Jymoor.”

Jymoor’s jaw set in anger. Her face turned red.

“I am not Vot. This is not my home. Yet I play an important role in the future of my nation, together with Yeel, we plan to turn away the horde—”

“Yeel belongs here with me,” Vot said.

“He is pledged to my cause,” Jymoor fired back.

“He cannot change the migrational patterns of your entire planet. What is happening to your world is an expected process of friction between indigenous cultures that need to evolve in conflict so that the natural order can work itself out.”

“I should be able to help you both,” Yeel said.

An awkward silence grew at the table. Finally, Jymoor tried a different tack.

“Legrach has offered to train me to be a warrior although the fenlar, the weapon he uses, is not a knightly weapon on my world.”

“Ah. It is good to learn these skills anyway,” Yeel said. “There’s some carry over between various athletic pursuits. However, I think given the state of warfare on your own world, and your leadership position there, I’d best find you a sword master as well. I’m sure one of our travel companions from the garden will teach you the sword!”

“But they believe me to be…they don’t know about Avorn.”

“Ah. Yes. Don’t worry. I’ll find someone upon whose discretion we can rely. Remember, it’s the armor that is constant, the user changes every decade or so.”

Jymoor finished eating what she could, then remained quiet. Vot and her warriors talked a bit, though Jymoor couldn’t catch the meaning of their words.

After the meal Legrach took her back to the room she’d seen earlier. He showed her how to operate the water net, as simple as a touch, then left her alone in the room to sleep.

“I guess I won’t be Yeel’s guest tonight,” she said to herself.

Jymoor started to take the moon armor off.

She knew some of the strength given by the smooth pearly plates of armor would leave her once she took it off, but she needed to rest well. Even though her skin had started to callous from the support straps, she couldn’t leave the armor on every minute of every day.

But separating herself from the moon armor had an even greater effect on her mood. As soon as the breastplate fell off her chest, she felt another weight, a weight of despair, settle onto her. What chance did she have with Yeel, she a lowly scout, sent to him almost as a sacrifice, when Yeel interacted with peers such as Vot? And what chance did she have to learn to take the place of the Crescent Knight, to lead her people to victory against the barbarians?

The dark emotions became overwhelming. Jymoor curled up in the dark room, surrounded by strange sounds and scents, and cried herself to sleep.





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