The Depth of the Mists
Chapter Four

It would have been an insult if Father had forced me to go back and research with him.  I let him know what I been shown and given, and he simply told me to let him know what I found out.  I did look over the journal in slow periods of the visit, but only after Father left did I really start to read it.  Mochsha and Nerframe let me sit comfortably.  As I did, I realized that I had worked through the night with Father, then spent the day with him and others, so drifted off to sleep.

I awoke to the sound of sudden movement, and saw Orintious attempting to adjust the position of a chair with his feet while holding a cup of coffee.  “Sorry, Vernallor.  You can drift back off, or go get you a cup of coffee.  If you want something to eat, well you might have to wait a while unless you fix it yourself.”

The blanket covering me was folded first, then I went and got myself a cup of coffee.  Seeing fruit available, I helped myself.  I then went back to where my older brother sat and asked him the question that was bothering me from the reading.

“Orintious, did Mochsha find a lot of rope somewhere?”

“I won’t say Mochsha found it, Vernallor, but a lot of rope was found.  There is a shack down in the common section.  The grounds keeper our sister hired went there seeing what tools were available for him.  There was a lot of rope.”

Hearing that, I picked up the journal and flipped to a page to assure my reading as I asked, “Have you ever heard of Kalceronna?”

“It means ‘veiled treasure,’ although I don’t exactly know the language it is from.  The word however is common among mercenaries like my group.  We will sometimes speak of Kalceronna to mean some mission where we think there is a chance at a good payoff, but there is really no evidence for it.  Sometimes the leader of a mercenary group will use the word to inspire the men to take a mission, and sometimes the term is used in a derogatory fashion to indicate that no one is seeing any profit in what they are doing.”  As I flipped through some pages, he asked, “You going to try and hire me?”

“Only with Father’s permission,” I answered.  “Listen, I got another word to throw at you:  Whochamitorrichar.”  I noted something when my brother repeated the term that I had only suspected when I read it, and let him know what I suspected.  “I believe that is a portal activation word.”

I suddenly had Orintious’ attention.  He did want to read the journal.  I handed it over while letting him know of the other things I considered important.  By the time Mochsha came down the stairs, Orintious and I were preparing to visit Father.

Our sister would not allow us to leave until we had some breakfast.  Orintious and I would have helped her, but Minchell and Nerframe showed up and had us men leave the kitchen.  We did try to explain things to the ladies, but as the plates were set on the table Mochsha simply spoke some words to Nerframe.

“See what you did?  Give men certain things, and they run off on you.”

Nerframe smiled, then said, “Remember, Vernallor, that the book came from this property.  What you find should thus be considered part of the property as well.”

Orintious replied, “Well, a percentage.”

I had to speak in support of Nerframe.  “I was given the glove, but her explanation stated a trust in me handling the item and not a true gift.  Listen, Nerframe, we are going to speak with Father.  We have not made any conclusions yet, and certainly have not found anything.”

“In other words, we might be back to ask if you are willing to fund our expedition.  I will admit that you deserve the first chance to stake a claim.”

Mochsha quickly replied, “I don’t have to take your word on things, but can trust Father on this one.  If you two come back with his approval, I will consider your plans to have some support.”

That satisfied all of us, so we spoke on a few other common topics until we had finished eating.  Orintious and I then traded some affection with the ladies.  With their good wishes, we were satisfied that we could chase our own topics for a time.

Father reminded me that the reason he had switched his residence was in order to have access to the documents that should apply to my mystery.  He listened to what I had found in the journal, then directed Orintious and me to a certain section of the vast expanse of literature.  Both of us knew the procedure, so set ourselves to work with the documents.

I was relieved to see Father approach with Minchell.  I had a feeling it was time to take a break, but felt that if I took a volume or two with me that I would collapse in my room.  Hoping that I could find that one clue that would at least have me feel that I was on the right track, I was working to convince myself to continue on.  Seeing Minchell, I knew that she would work on having Orintious spend time with her and felt that I could use the time allowing my mind to rest.

As my brother reacted to having his slave caress his shoulders, Father asked, “Have you two found anything?”

Orintious said, “Only what I already knew.  Not specifically, but the reference.  What was shown to Vernallor could well be the actual place.  It seems to have been revealed to others.  There however is nothing from someone actually going below.  How deep the mist is, or if there is treasure below, is completely unknown.”

I had to say, “I found a story by someone that claims to have gone below.  The story however just gets too fantastic and bizarre.  I marked some terms, but was hoping for some confirmation.”

“I want that document along with your notes, Vernallor.  You can look over my stuff.”

We moved back to the residence section of the building with Minchell saying that she would fix us both a good meal.  We both expressed our gratitude, then settled into chairs looking over the materials the other had thought might have some information of importance.  I was actually surprised at how many references Orintious had found, although could sympathize with him also not finding any confirmation of anything that might be useful.  We turned to the voice of another lady moving through the house.

“Has anyone seen Dechapper?”

Lekarry knew me.  She was then polite as I introduced Orintious and Minchell.  When she again asked her question, I yelled out something she should have known to do.

Upon hearing that Dechapper was missing, I could sense the power that radiated from Father before he arrived to ask, “Orintious, if I should ask for you to go down into the mist, what would you require?”

“I have men for work like that, Father.  However, if it involves going after Dechapper, I would also want to speak to Sterrig.  Something is not right, and Sterrig is the best for that.”

“He is getting old, Orintious.”

Sterrig was the brother before Dechapper.  Since there was approximately twenty years between us siblings, Sterrig was well over fifty.  Being of a race of animal people, it was a question how many years he actually had.  He however claimed to still be in his prime, but as I was advancing to my prime I could tell that Sterrig was losing his ability to challenge me.

Orintious said, “I have never trusted him in a fight, Father.  Sterrig still has his strength.”

“Then I will summon him.”  A tentacle then went around Lekarry as Father asked, “Minchell, is there enough for Lekarry?”

The one cooking answered, “I am used to others showing up when I have Orintious with me, and usually it is more men.  Thus, I cooked plenty.  There should be enough for Sterrig as well.”

“I will let him know.”

Orintious and I assured Lekarry that we had no problem eating the food Dechapper fixed, and he had not died eating the stuff we had served him.  She still showed uncertainty in taking her first bites.  As she was complimenting Minchell on the food, Orintious put his hand on his slave to keep her seated as another entered.

Sterrig was as unusual in appearance as Dechapper, although in a very different way.  While there were a number of worlds with intelligent animals, none of us were exactly certain what type of animal Sterrig was supposed to be.  His face appeared like that of a bear, but his body was covered in a loose, flabby fur-covered hide like a badger.  He would dress in tight clothes that hid things about his body, but would then unbutton his garments when he sensed trouble was about to happen.  Looking at him one would think he would be feisty in a fight, but not that he would trick you out of your possessions before you even felt threatened.  Orintious and Heratin had their stories of learning about Sterrig as he grew up while Dechapper and I had our tales of learning certain tricks from him as we grew up that he had perfected.

Orintious and I described the situation to Sterrig as he fixed himself a plate then began eating, as I expected however, he only heard one thing.  “You’re saying there is treasure down there?”

“No one claims to come back with it if there is,” the older brother replied.  “Considering that we have only wild stories from the one report of someone supposedly coming back, I would say there is certain death.”

“There is never certain death.  You and I both know that, Orintious.”

“Well, we’re both still here.  Listen, Sterrig, I just want you to look at the situation.  I got men,
but I need your cunning.”

He shifted his eyes to look at each of us, then said, “Sure, what’s the timetable on this?”

“Look it over, then you tell me.”

“You know me, Orintious.  I need money today – yesterday.”

I said, “All of this has connections to Mochsha’s estate, so you might need to be sweet on her to get anything.”

Orintious laughed, but Sterrig kept a straight face as he said, “Mochsha, the older sister I never met until recently.  She was gone by the time I came along.  I grew up with the attention from Normanie.  Still, I found Mochsha to be everything I was told about her.  I’ll figure her out.”

The older brother sought to explain the humor.  “Vernallor has fallen in favor with Mochsha’s house elf, and he does not want to lose the attention he gets from her.”

“Listen, Orintious, if you’re bringing in your men, I know there is money somewhere backing this expedition.  That is really all I need to know.  I’m in.”

The older brother then looked to Lekarry and asked, “Do you want to go?”

She seemed shocked, “Me?”

“We’re just going to look.  That should be safe enough.  Might as well find out more about what this family does.”

Minchell declared, “If she’s going, I’m going.”

Lekarry replied, “If she will go, I will go.”

I believe all three of us men said, “Women.”

The rescue of Dechapper does not end the matter.