The Depth of the Mists
Chapter One

After I signed my name again, Monquier said, “It is a sizable sum of money, Master Vernallor.  You say that you received payment from Orintious for your help on the mission where you rescued your sister, Mochsha.  Let me however say that it is not my business.  My business assures the integrity of the funds, and to what account they are to go.  The amount you are told is present in your account is thus a dependable fund.  As to whether a specific person or business paid you, you will need to go to them for verification of the receipt.  We will never reveal that information.  Note that some do not do business with us for that reason, while others, like your brother Sterrig, brags about us because we do handle financial matters in that manner.”

I replied, “You are an honored institution that has served my family for ages.  That is enough for me.”

We shook hands, then I left the small room where certain details had been handled.  As I stepped out, a minor official came to me with a rather heavy purse.  Someone who had been sitting and waiting for me rose to speak about what had been handed to me.

“That is not what I consider the proper bait for fishing, Vernallor.”

Dechapper was the brother ahead of me, but our family tie was the only thing in common.  His skin was brown, although not at all as dark as mine.  He was a rather blockish man over six feet in height, while I was only hoping to grow so tall.  His arms were rectangular as if metal girders made up his bones with me working to have my appendages look like I did more than read books all day.  His skull also showed corners, although on the top they were covered by a mass of what appeared to be mold even though everyone kindly called it hair.  The tight curly dark hair on my head did slightly resemble his, even though I could comb my growth while he could not.  It had taken me developing intellectually where I could think a little more maturely to appreciate Dechapper, but I now considered him to be a good friend.

I secured the purse to my person, then said, “You always said that I was using inferior equipment, Dechapper.  Well, let’s go buy some good equipment so I can prove to you that the reason I do not catch many is purely my own incompetence.”

“We are going to spend time around Mochsha’s property, Vernallor.  I do not know the waterways or what fish are even available.  I could end up looking incompetent also.”

“Then I also have enough to buy ourselves something to eat.”

He started us walking out of the financial institution, then said, “Don’t waste your money, Vernallor.  Thinking you’re rich is the best way to wind up not being rich.”

I softly returned, “I am rich, Dechapper.  I know that Orintious pays his men well, and that Father put in a bonus on top of the figure that Orintious gave him on the invoice, but I did not think Orintious paid his men that well.  Your institution however will not say from where the extra funds came.”

“No; we won’t.  Don’t even ask me, Vernallor.  Let me however say with some experience that it is almost assured that whoever put money into your account will want you to know who they are.”

“Okay, so we go shopping in blissful ignorance?”

Dechapper had met Mochsha, but really desired to find out more about her.  For him the lost sister was just a story and a picture on the wall.  To his credit he had quickly put some facts together when he arrived merely to perform an asset transfer.  He knew the name of the lady, but seeing her glow, then recognizing the presence of three brothers had him realize that the lady he was to authorize was his own sister.  Now that her situation had been resolved, Dechapper sought to finally get to spend time with the missing member of our family.

On the previous fishing trips I tended to use my brother’s equipment.  He had more than enough to share.  I was nothing but a lad, and he did not feel obligated to make me get my own stuff.  I was now barely a teenager, but had proven myself on the mission to rescue our lost sister.  I thus was feeling good about my advance into being an adult.  I did purchase some good equipment, but for lures and such Dechapper had me buy what he did not have in order for us to have a very diverse selection of weapons to use against the fish.

We had to go back to the financial institution in order to travel back to his home.  Dechapper did not live on the world where the main office of the bank was located, but as they served multiple realities that was not a problem.  He had found a world where there were people like him.  Unlike my older brother and sister, he did not care about finding his original family, but he did want a life where he was not an oddity.  He was telling me about ladies he had met as he gathered his fishing equipment, and once loaded we stepped back outside to a point where we could transfer to the home of the one we called Father.

The front rooms were empty, and I could sense that Father was busy back among the vast wealth of knowledge.  If he had been where we could speak to him, we certainly would have.  After a quick check of the front rooms however, we stepped back to the foyer and did what necessary to have the portal there transport us to the home of our sister.

It was a lady that threw herself upon me, but it was not my sister.  Nerframe was actually the house elf, a spirit-type being born with the erection of a dwelling.  She could appear as she wanted, but had originally taken on a male identity.  Nerframe had then been summoned and forced to do things by Mochsha’s uncle that had condemned himself to an existence as an entity of evil.  In seeking to win over his niece, he had taken a hat from the estate that enchanted a person to appear as a female if they were not.  Journals spoke of the men of the family using it to disguise themselves for getting into places they usually could not.  The reports spoke of them as only thinking it to present an illusion, not an actual change, so my uncle probably did not think much of it when he gave it to Nerframe to hopefully have him accepted by Mochsha.  The problem was that the house elf could appear as desired, which my uncle should have known since he demanded the creature to appear as it did.  For the house elf the magic to have it appear as female actually had Nerframe consider itself to be female, and when my sister gained the estate the house elf took on the full personality of being a lady.  She was barely over five feet high with black hair, but actually rather attractive, and I enjoyed the fact that I had become an object of devotion to her.

I was introducing Dechapper to Nerframe when my sister came down the stairs.  Mochsha was my height, although I had years of growing left to do.  Whether or not she had my dark skin I could not say, as she glowed with a variety of colors that she usually could control.  At the moment she was a brilliant green in color.  Her hair had the same tight curl as my own, although appeared as straw as she kept it rather long.  She did not need introducing to Dechapper, but rushed to hug him then me.

Mochsha said, “Vernallor can assure you that a lot of cleaning has been done, Dechapper, but the house still needs a lot of repairs.  I simply went ahead and hired a family as grounds keepers, but right now the land is hardly being bothered while our work stays steady fixing our homes.  I have hired or am preparing to hire special people for certain projects, but the house was abandoned for almost a century, so a lot of work needs to be done.”

He replied, “When on a fishing trip, I usually am just sitting around a campfire, Mochsha.  It is nice when Vernallor is with me, as I have someone to talk to.  Apologies to him, but I would like to talk with you.”

Since I had done some business, then we had gone shopping, there was no intent for Dechapper or me to fish this day.  Mochsha seemed glad to have visitors, as did Nerframe.  The house elf was not a servant with their kind usually simply taking pleasure in overseeing a normal household without interfering.  Nerframe however had been rescued by us, then realized that she was going to have a life with us, and decided to enjoy the interactions as one of us.  We had been told that she would probably return to being a quiet, unobserved spirit in the house after Mochsha passed, but with my sister immortal we all suspected that Nerframe would be a cheerful presence in the house for an extremely long time.

She was the one that asked, “You have met a lady and her parents, but not asked her anything serious?”

“No, Nerframe,” Dechapper replied, “as our family is quite abnormal.  My lady or her family actually have had no interactions with people different than them.  I am actually worried introducing them to my brothers.  Having a glowing sister is even more bizarre, and Father – well Father will be a revelation that has stressed a number of people.”

Our father was a type of tentacle being more like an octopus than any other type of normally encountered creature.  He actually had little that could be called a torso.  Mostly he had a large head from which came a number of tentacles.  A robe would usually be worn around him that gave some impression of him being human, but any actual inspection of his form would let the observer know that he was not.  While most of us children of Galabur were human in appearance, recent evidence indicated that probably none of us were.  To those that did not know of other worlds existing, much less other types of beings than themselves, the presence of father could be very disturbing.

Nerframe asked, “You have not told her?”

“Well, I’ve hinted, but I think she is worried that I have a genetic disease in the family that could be passed to the children.”

Mochsha said, “I guess you do, since your children will be calling me their aunt, Vernallor their uncle, and Father their grandfather.”

We all laughed, then Dechapper admitted, “I promised her that I would bring her to a family gathering, and if she could survive it I would speak to her of a joined future.”

“That is a wonderful strategy, Dechapper.  Well, actually, it is the usual strategy.”

We laughed again.  Mochsha then related stories of the dating history of men who were only pictures on the wall for Dechapper and me, but were the brothers ahead of her.  Another brother before her was Orintious, and she would occasionally include facts about his early history.  Those came only rarely with her apologizing after each.  It was very apparent that she admired Orintious.  Not only was he the first child of Galabur to be immortal, but Mochsha had felt another attachment to him.  Now knowing the two of them were from the same world and both the product of a fairy mother she felt justified to favor him.  Having been a part of the mission where Orintious and Mochsha learned the truths of their pasts, I stayed quiet while attempting to set each fact related firmly in my mind.  After laughing at another tale, we all realized the hour and called it a day.

Mochsha had known Dechapper and I would be coming, but we both accepted that she had not been able to fix up her house.  Seeing our beds supported by blocks and other signs of things needing repair about the house did not bother us.  We could tell that both Mochsha and Nerframe were however concerned about their poor presentation, but Dechapper told other stories of family members going through hard times that had the ladies accept that we more than understood the situation.

Nerframe stayed with me to assure that my belongings had places to go, then said, “I will leave you, Vernallor.  Sleep well.”

I knew she would go to sleep not long after dark, so had already passed her bedtime.  “Same with you, Nerframe.  I hope that you are comfortable in your usual place.”

“Oh, yes.”  She grew quiet, then said, “It is different being a lady.  I’m larger than I was, but it took only a little adjusting.  What is strange is, well, I have to not look.  As I was, I usually spent my time looking over my family.  I mean, I saw things, but they were just my family or guests.  Now, I see you men, and the ladies, differently.  It is strange being a lady, but this is still my house, and you are my family, so I will do what I can for you.”

I replied, “Nerframe, just stay a good person.”

“To my family, I will always be good.  Remember that, Vernallor.  A house elf will always be good to their family.”

“Well, you are now the house elf for a rather large and diverse family, so it might help to be good to most visitors to your home, especially the odd ones.”

She laughed, although the sounds quickly died.  “There were times the DeNachillims were scared, so I had a different opinion of visitors.  These are good times, and I can be good.  Now, good night, Vernallor.”

A pleasant fishing trip?  Maybe?