The Depth of the Mists
I did tell Orintious about my vision with the creator of this reality. His comments showed a greater perspective on the topic, although offered no suggestion that I could not have proposed myself. Orintious did however ask me a question that took me by surprise.
“Vernallor, do you believe there is a question you could have asked him that would help us?”
A number of things did cross my mind, but they would only have supported my own beliefs. Considering how far we had come, I felt most of the needed information had been gained. While I did not doubt further problems would be presented, I had no way to ask a question in a manner of gaining a useful answer. The only thing that crossed my mind, was assuring my oldest brother of what I found myself believing.
“I believe he answered my question. I definitely gained the impression that he was not malicious. He would not simply act to stop us.” I then had to ask, “Do you believe Father would know the person?”
“I believe Father has been doing all he could to learn of this place. Everything there is to be known, Father will probably know when we come back to him.”
Not being able to argue with that statement, I asked, “Well, are we ready?”
With those who stayed up with me speaking of finding no fault in the evidence gained by those who worked with Orintious, we took the boats from the configuration of providing shelter. They were checked for any problems. With all of us speaking of finding no reason this crossing should have any problems, we set out to hopefully reach our objective.
Luckily, those who set the course for this passage knew about the whirlpool. The size and strength of the vortex did try to have us feel despair, but the conviction of having planned for its presence kept us powering our strokes. While some spoke of their concern about the location of the final island having been distorted as had the previous island, we set our minds to reaching it while avoiding the danger of the whirlpool.
Seeing the island with the white crystals covering items of gold filled us all with elation. Orintious and others yelled themselves hoarse keeping the men to the oars working. I believe they would have anyway, as those with him always showed themselves as truly being professional. While I understood their eagerness in reaching the wealth, I kept at my task feeling confident the others were also doing all they could to have us reach the island.
It bothered finding a barrier around this island. From the distance there had not appeared to be one. What we however found was a lack of water flowing, so nothing to cause the turbulence and mist. The barrier was still present however, and yells sounded of a need to come upon this island as we had approached the others.
Those tossing the anchors over to the shore found them easily gain purchase. A different sound from those that attacked the barrier is what gained our attention. Instead of simply removing some of the white goop, quantities of gold were part of the levee surrounding this island. Luckily, the anchors also latched onto items of gold gave us the time to deal with the new situation and make it to the shore.
Of course none of the gold removed was thrown away. We thus had an amount of wealth before stepping among a grand expanse of the metal. Rushing to get even more gold, men began to cry. A few needed to be restrained as they began to beat themselves, most with their hands with a few repeatedly sending their heads against one of the containers of the white crystals although a couple tried to inflict harm with their own weapons. Those of us with some degree of control over ourselves wondered what was going on even as we looked over the ground covered with gold.
Seeing Sterrig and Theria crying as they held each other I felt was a good thing. Neither actually said anything, at least not loud enough for me to hear. They however did show affection for each other, which I considered the best thing for them.
Orintious just sat on a pedestal of gold, but as he helped me secure some of his men inflicting harm on themselves I turned to him feeling he still had some control over his mind. “Do you think this white stuff is purishorten?”
He replied, “I had already been attempting to straighten out my life, Vernallor. Having a mountain fairy as a mother, I knew to hold myself to certain standards if I was to meet her again. Hoping to claim a wife, I again sought to correct things in my life. Even with all the steps I have taken I believe I am feeling what my men are going through, Vernallor. That means I would also agree that this is purishorten around us.”
From a distance came the sound of the great duck saying, “They will get over it. I cried and cried. Not just for the evils I had done, but for what I had done to myself. I magically transformed myself into this form feeling I could best this place. The purity of this land would not however allow for things to be done halfway. Maybe if I had gone for a normal duck, something I could have done with my own magic, but I went for something large and powerful that could fight against certain forces. The rite I performed used this land and things from this land, and the transformation was complete and total. I however did not realize it at the time. I waited for the magic to be dispelled so I could take on what I feel is the final challenge, or set of challenges, and to this day I wait.” A wing was extended out to indicate me as the creature said, “This one said I could gain a share of the treasure.”
Orintious replied, “Vernallor is one who could give that authorization. It seems that there is plenty to share.”
“I’m Orintious, the oldest surviving child of Galabur. These are my men. The two furry ones are my brother, Sterrig, and his lady friend.”
“They seem to be affected.”
I saw my oldest brother wink to me before replying to the great bird, “I just finished telling Vernallor that I feel it is my recent history that has helped me keep my head. What is your name? It would help if I had a name to go along with the share in the dividing of treasure.”
“Cleripetus. There are titles to my name, but I doubt they are more than just boasting now. I don’t hear you using titles, so I guess I won’t either.”
“Do you have any sense of how long you have been here?”
I saw the shoulders manage a shrug before saying, “A long time. I want to say less than ten years, but it might be more.”
“Why haven’t you solved this place?”
“There’s a door. I have managed to open it, but it is not a large door. All I can see down a flight of steps is a table. What the challenge is, or even if there is one, I cannot say. One belief is that you simply sign your name, then you are able to leave with what you carry. I guess my hope is that with the completion of this reality it will all fade away, which will include the magic that keeps me in this form. Once back as I was, I can return to my life. Save my share of treasure, as I will try to find you.”
I said, “If you know of Eskrion Assimilations, they will be the one to have your share in security.”
“I actually do know of them. Finding myself with friends is a future I did not expect. Please, think of me when you find yourself being claimed as heroes.”
Orintious looked to me and asked, “You don’t feel anything, Vernallor?”
“I’ve been mostly sitting around a house for the start of my life,” I replied. “I doubt what I have done with you has troubled my soul.”
Cleripetus asked, “How old are you, Vernallor?”
“Oh, the blessing of youth. You stay true to yourself, Vernallor. I doubt you yet know yourself, but the evidence is around you of what life might cost you.”
From a distance we heard a man say, “Sir! I’m ready!”
Orintious returned, “From your experience, how long would we have to wait for the others?”
I saw Rogensk as he said, “There is honor in serving with you, Orintious. While we do take on more militaristic assignments, you still keep our missions as clean as possible. We don’t just go around killing or causing mischief. It is not what I did with you that troubles me, but things I did on my time off.”
My oldest brother interrupted him to say, “I was not seeking a compliment.”
“Oh, sorry, Sir. Anyway, I am courting a girl, and I was doing things to gain the advantage over others also seeking her hand. Strangely, that had me also take into account my past. Life just does not stop however. Killed one of my rivals with a prank. Accidentally, but that is what really troubled me, Sir. I know some of the others really have a lot to consider. It might be a time waiting for everyone.”
“Yes, as I know what some of the others do in their off time. I was telling my brother and Cleripetus that my recent history had me come to terms with things, so I am dealing with what I feel rather well.”
“That might be what is troubling some, Sir. While they are not now acting in a bad way, they really have not dealt with the things in their pasts. That might be especially true for some of the immortals, like those from Davelda, in your group.”
Orintious now took a moment to introduce Rogensk to the grand duck. The mercenary asked some personal questions, but Cleripetus did not refuse to answer. I learned that he had been married with children. I did not recognize things he said of his world or life, although a couple of comments from Orintious and Rogensk had me believe they had an idea on the man’s origins. I felt the conversation had been merely to pass the time, when Orintious looked around before asking the question I had been waiting for.
“Well, should we go ahead and check out the next challenge?”
As Rogensk and I spoke an affirmation, we found ourselves held back by Sterrig coming to us. “Hey! What are you sit… ting a…” It was obvious that he saw the grand duck in our presence, and in looking around I felt he gained an answer to his question, because he asked about something else. “Are you discussing how to divide the treasure?”
I assumed the quack from Cleripetus was actually a laugh, then he said, “Come here.”
Orintious interjected, “That is Sterrig. He is also one of my brothers.”
A more formal introduction passed between the two, then Cleripetus began waddling. His flat feet handled the surface of gold works to hold the white crystals of purishorten a lot better than us. Where he brought us was to a place where the crystals and gold had been removed. What we saw was just a depression of gold, as if what was intended was a huge pool to hold the purishorten. Attempting to get a grasp on what I was seeing, I listened as Cleripetus spoke to Sterrig.
“I will calmly wait on my share of the treasure.”
Sterrig went to all four of his appendages as he slid to the bottom from where he asked, “You mean the entire internal composition of this place is gold?”
“Wings are not the best appendages for working tools. Still, over time I have done what I could. As you can see, there is no sign of the layer of gold giving out.” Cleripetus then turned to Orintious to say, “The stairs down are gold with the ground around the passage of gold.”
The depression was not smooth, so Sterrig easily managed to climb out. Still on all fours, he rushed back in the direction we had come. Curious, I followed. Seeing Sterrig rush to Theria I felt a need to stay back, although I heard what was said.
“Theria, we’re rich. We can pay our debts and live life like we want. We don’t have to share. You go your way, and I’ll go mine. All I ask is that we do enough to let the child know we are its parents. Can we agree on that, Theria?”
I barely heard the lady reply, “I… I don’t know.”
“Then give me the child. That is all I am going to ask.”
She threw herself on Sterrig, but not to attack. I saw hands grip his skin, although I knew my brother was not being hurt. While he wore clothes in a fashion that had him appear to have normal flesh, furry in his case, covering his bones, I knew his skin was actually very loose on his body. He wrapped his arms around her, and I felt good seeing her accept his presence. I saw Theria squirm as if to merge with Sterrig as I heard her say some more.
“I’m not as good as you, Sterrig.”
My brother’s voice was easily heard to say, “Me? Theria, I am far from a good person. The only thing keeping me from crying over my sins is that I was a failure. I never really had anything work for me. Whatever crimes I committed, I had to admit to my wrongs as I had to deal with my poverty. You succeeded at some things. You have things to brag about.”
“I’m not bragging about them, Sterrig.”
“Well, I’ll brag about you, Theria. You become my wife, you help me raise the children, and you will hear me brag on you.”
“I cannot kill the child, Sterrig. I also cannot leave it without a mother. As for other children, I guess I will have to say the same.”
There was only a momentary pause before Sterrig asked, “So, that’s a yes?”
The lady planted some kisses on his neck and face before saying, “I guess it is.”
I saw Sterrig look to us as he declared, “Hey! It seems I will have a wife.”
Of course we complimented him. While we spoke friendly words to Theria, we also let her know that she would need to be a part of our varied family. Of course she agreed, although as things got said I saw Sterrig begin looking around.
“Vernallor,” he asked, “how do we leave this place?”
I replied, “We were about to check on the final challenges when you interrupted us.”
“Well, can we go get it done? I am getting kind of anxious; you know.”
Orintious said, “Vernallor, tell Sterrig that as a wedding present you will let him solve it.”
I looked to Sterrig, and seeing him look to me I allowed, “I will let you tell me the answer should you happen to get it before I do.”
Of course the next challenge is not easy either.