The Depth of the Mists
We ended up eating out on the porch. By ‘we’ I mean everyone but Sterrig. Heratin’s ladies served us, but they hovered around the table making only quick dashes inside for whatever was needed. Orintious’s men started working on a flower bed directly in front of the porch working slowly so as not to make any noise that would prevent them from hearing our comments.
The treasure would be gold. Purishorten could only be contained in such a substance. The notes speculated that there must be a massive amount in the substrate of the world to enable it to pool, although allowed that the treasure would merely be in the containers brought by a multitude of those seeking the substance. We all wondered why anyone would have known to bring the precious metal, since we had no knowledge of what the world offered as treasure.
Orintious asked, “Was that information provided by Egromus?”
“No,” I answered. “It seems that Mochsha’s uncle had learned of the story in a religious sermon. It was a moral lesson on the depths one would need to fall to achieve greatness. Even at such depths however salvation was possible. Decholl went in search of the original story in the religious texts. It was with that information that he and Mochsha’s father first went to Egromus, and it seems the book gave them a way of summoning a portal to that world.”
“It could then be that Egromus simply supported the fiction.”
“Well, the portal worked, so they did assume other things told to them were true as well.”
Heratin commented, “Give a fool a rope, and he will figure out for himself how to hang himself with it.”
Mochsha said, “That is basically what you men are doing.”
One of Orintious’ men replied, “We have gone on missions with less information and death just as certain.”
My oldest brother countered, “The difference in this mission is that there is no turning back. Once down there is little hope of getting back up. I am alive because I do make certain of being able to retreat.”
We listened as stories were told of missions going wrong. I really had not heard that many of Orintious’ tales, and it seemed the others had not either. The older brother had not been the most social of us, and we all listened glad that he was now willing to share some of his stories.
I did continue to skim as he spoke, and once done I started reading aloud. “Decholl’s scheme is very risky, but if purishorten is available then we can be redeemed. May Leprecarven –“
Heratin asked, “Who?”
Orintious answered, “The god of wealth.”
“Okay, sorry Vernallor.”
I simply said, “It was nothing more than a plea for success.”
Nerframe interjected, “Sterrig is coming.”
We all went quiet, but Sterrig did not seem to notice anything unusual as he came to the table. “I’m going down.”
Orintious replied, “Now, Sterrig, you could not have read all that information already.”
“I read last night, most of the night, and what I am reading now is just getting repetitious. I know I can make it down. Dechapper proved that for me. Yes, he was cut up rather badly, but his body is not really built for climbing. I happen to be rather good at it.”
“And how do you get back up?”
“Don’t know if I want to come back up. Listen, I love all of you. Think well of me.”
We watched in silence as he moved to the portal. No sooner did he disappear than did Orintious activate his medallion to call Father. I sensed the sudden rush of power before a portal opened enabling our tentacled parent to come to us.
Father listened as Orintious, supported by the rest of us, told of the events of the morning. He listened to our concern for Sterrig. What Father said however took us by surprise.
“Vernallor, go speak to him.”
“Me?” I replied.
“You and Sterrig get along pretty well. He might talk to me, and trust that I will be listening, but I feel that you have the better chance.”
I looked at what I had in my hands, then asked, “Do I tell him about the journal?”
“No, and I doubt he will care if you do tell him. Just speak to him.”
I turned to hand the journal to Nerframe, but she pointed to Mochsha. I thus gave it to my sister. Hearing all wish me luck, I turned to head to the portal.
Sterrig turned surely hearing my footsteps approach his door, if not it opening, and said, “Take what you want, Vernallor. I’ll either come back so rich that I don’t care, or I won’t come back.”
“Why?” I asked. “Sterrig, we are trying to come up with a safe way.”
“Listen, Vernallor, it is working out for Orintious and Mochsha. I am glad for them. Dechapper, well, he has lived the right type of life. I am glad for him as well. Me, well, I never could keep a woman. I had a few, and probably have children, but I had the wrong type of life. Purishorten is what I need. Probably don’t have that many years left anyway. I don’t want to face any god right now. Purishorten is actually the treasure I desire.”
He picked up a book and threw it at me while saying, “This is what made up my mind. If you come back, if you rescue me, whatever, I hope to retreat to some monastery. I hope I can.”
Hoping to improve his attitude, I confided, “It’s gold. The treasure is gold.”
“Yeah, that’s what my book said. It said that it was just a lure however. Purishorten is the treasure. Those that make it down no longer want the gold, as they gain something much more valuable. The life I have led, well, I understand that.”
Father came behind me, then said, “Sterrig, you are not so low that you cannot hold your head high.”
“Yeah, I’ve covered my tracks pretty well, but gods can see. I cannot hold my head high with gods, Father. Purishorten can give me that.”
“But with your essence cleansed, surely you could then restart your life.”
“Where? People know me, Father. While the taint might not be on my soul, it will be on my past. Honestly, if I don’t spend my final years in a monastery, I might need to spend them in jail.”
Father floated past me to put his tentacles on Sterrig before saying, “It sounds like you are trying to cleanse your soul right now. I doubt you need purishorten.”
“Maybe not, but I need to go down. That’s the question, Father. Do I recognize the purishorten, or do I only see the gold?”
“Ah, I now recognize the place. Sterrig, don’t go anywhere. Vernallor, continue to speak with Sterrig.”
After Father floated out, Sterrig said, “Glad that they sent you, Vernallor. You and me have gotten along. Don’t know where Father got you, don’t know where or how he got any of us, but I recognized you from the start as being a good kid. Don’t you ever be ashamed of being a good kid, Vernallor. That’s my lesson, probably my final lesson, for you.”
I could only reply, “I don’t see why I ever would.”
“I wish I had thought like that way back when. Honestly, wished I thought that way now. Dechapper, Orintious, Mochsha, and probably you, all want lives other than I wanted. Even to the planning for this journey, I wanted the fame of infamy. I did not care how I got the money, but I wanted so much I could flaunt it. I don’t know, but in reading I realized that I had nothing to spend it on. Everything I wanted, I had. Women, yeah, I can get those. Food and drink, well I ain’t starving. Bed and a roof over my head, well Father has never kicked me out. I suddenly realized that I would be going down for the purishorten, and that bothered me. You know what I went to Mochsha’s for this morning? I went for her erotic books. You know what I realized? There ain’t nothing in those books I haven’t done. That got me to thinking, and I decided that I was going down.”
Father floated back into the room and presented Sterrig with a round book of some strange greenish leather. “Read this, please, before you take off. Let me admit that I will be contacting Orintious, as I am certain that at least some of his men will seek to join you.”
Sterrig did examine the book, then asked, “This is from your people?”
“Yes, actually from my people. I have come to consider their religion rather bizarre, although I also have to admit that most religions are perplexing in some manner. Still, the age of the Cleberrot Heights, and note that even we called them that, is vast in that they existed before my time. Be wary, Sterrig, as this challenge has existed for so long and has yet to be overcome.”
“Honestly, Father, that is one conclusion I have not gained. I feel others have, but also found the treasure not to be the thing they actually desired. It is only due to others not being able to accept the true worth of purishorten that they conceive of other endings to the story.”
“I have taught all of you to treasure the value of knowledge. Read this, Sterrig, as I go speak to Orintious and his men. Vernallor, you may decide your own path at this time.”
Sterrig said, “Go ahead and stay, Vernallor. Might as well admit that you are going with me.”
Father’s tentacles spread out in a sign of alarm as I asked, “What?”
“You’re a good kid, Vernallor. We bad guys always try to corrupt guys like you. I taught you all those tricks as you grew up. Well, that is one thing that is not in the record. There is not a story I found of a good person, someone that did not need purishorten, that went down. Those that go after the gold end up finding the purishorten. I feel if the gold is going to be claimed, we need someone going after the purishorten. The end result is that both are cleansed, and end up not bothering to come back. We need something who doesn’t need either to see that we come back.”
I replied, “I never held you at fault for teaching me those things, Sterrig.”
“Yeah, you’re a good kid. Still, just wait, Father is going to come back agreeing that you need to go. That is why the portal opened for you, Vernallor. It wants to corrupt the young and good.”
“I would counter that it opened to me because it wants to be solved.”
Father said, “Being as old as it is, either supposition could be true. Still, I find Sterrig’s conclusion very questionable, as I have no intentions of involving Vernallor further.”
I watched Father leave, then asked, “Sterrig, do you have a plan for getting back up?”
“Sure. You gave me that. Whochamitorrichar.”
And a new character is introduced.