The Depth of the Mists
When I opened the door into the kitchen, I heard a chair shift then the voice of Sterrig ask, “That you, Vernallor?”
I walked on in to see my brother stepping from behind the door. “Yes, it’s me. Did you learn anything?”
“Yes, flying is right out. Those birds are just committing suicide. The mist will weigh down any wings, and seems to disperse magical energies as well.”
“But we managed easily enough where we were. The bird could have flown through another portal.”
“Or – what? What makes you think that?”
I started putting together on a plate some things to eat, then said, “I found a word: Whochamitorrichar. I think it is a portal activation.”
“The owl knew the portal was there?”
“If it was magic, divine, or a very intelligent bird, it could probably have done what was necessary to activate the portal. They certainly got to Dechapper’s world in some manner. I found the word in a journal from someone I feel was going to try the descent. Something tells me that they felt it was the method of escape. The only problem with that theory is that we would have to get to the bottom to test it.”
Sterrig waited for me to start eating before stating his conclusions. “Listen, Vernallor, we weren’t cold up there. It is extremely cold at the top of any mountain I know. There was not even any sign of it being cold. That tells me we were not that high up. Dechapper was on solid rock. You go further down, more solid rock. Solid rock will not have the difficulty of that layered surface, and we should be able to simply reach the bottom. Finally, everyone is saying there is treasure down there. I say we go for it.”
From down a hallway came the voice of Heratin, “You got to do better than that, Sterrig.”
I saw ladies come into the room. Heratin was the son of a goddess. He was not that tall, but had a very healthy body. He had the duty of dying and being revived each year, and as part of the ceremony gained a new lady upon his return to the living. They were not immortal, but very devoted. Heratin’s mother promoted the sanctity of marriage, so while there was not an actual husband/wife relationship between him and his ladies, he gave all those committed to him the best attention and concern. I did what I could to learn about Heratin’s ladies, and greeted each of the ones that came into the room.
They asked me about what I was eating. I heard a couple speak of what they felt a growing boy needed, then went into the kitchen. Heratin sat down at the table and began eating some stuff from my plate while saying what he could about the current situation.
“We just did a rescue of Mochsha. She was immortal, so could wait for us to figure things out. You’re not, Sterrig. We now had to rescue Dechapper, and needed you for that rescue. Without you, Sterrig, who is going to rescue you?”
Sterrig’s reply was, “After Vernallor eats, I’ll have his help doing some research. I agree with him. We’re close to figuring this thing out.”
“Really? Vernallor, what is your assessment of the situation?”
I swallowed the food in my mouth before answering. “We faced the birds on the rescue of Mochsha, then did what we could to avoid them. Your mother and your Uncle Poseidon, both greater gods, helped us. I’m not certain that I want to face this challenge without knowing what we are doing.”
“Point goes to little baby brother.”
Sterrig exclaimed, “He didn’t answer the question!”
“He did. He said that even if you made the descent that you would still be in over your head.”
“One problem at a time. Once we are down, we can look the situation over and come back up to resolve our next problem.”
I replied, “That is where you are wrong, Sterrig. As Heratin pointed out, we needed you for the rescue of Dechapper. If you are the one needing to be brought back up, who is going to bring you up?”
Heratin calmly said, “Point again to Vernallor.”
Sterrig stated, “Listen, I’ll get back up. I also say that the problem of walking away with the treasure is simply walking away.”
I countered that conclusion by saying, “Then why can’t we just walk in? Why can’t we just locate that world, and find a path to some place into the misty peaks?”
One of Heratin’s ladies sat a plate of food before him, but before he took a bite he asked, “Misty Peaks? Are you naming them, Vernallor?”
“Do I get a point for that?”
“Third point to Vernallor.”
Sterrig seemed upset as he said, “Listen, at some point you just have to take the chance. A few more facts, and I believe we can find that it is worth the risk.”
Another voice now came from down the hallway. “Name a fact that would lower the threshold beneath that of assured death.”
Sterrig made sounds, but really did not reply, so I did. “The name of a place at the bottom. The reason for there to actually be treasure down there. Some mention of the wildlife of that world, especially those who would be responsible for the death of those that traveled. Finally, how about some identification of the world itself? Heratin gave me a point for naming the place we have seen, and others have seen, but why am I the one naming it? Why hasn’t others?”
Heratin said, “Game to Vernallor. Sterrig, I would have given you extra points, as it seemed you would have been up against Vernallor and Dechapper, but I believe the game is beyond you even with that benefit.”
Sterrig replied, “Father should be able to at least identify the world for us.”
Now the voice of Father came from down the hallway. “But I can’t, Sterrig. That world is a mystery, a puzzle. It would be to the credit to anyone that resolves it. I am glad to presently have an active portal to it, but I can sense the connection fading. It is not a universe as those that make up my investigations, but a bubble that seems to shift positions among the multitude of realities.”
“What you are saying is that if I am going to take my chance, I need to take it now.”
“What your brothers are saying holds the greater weight, Sterrig.”
Sterrig stood to lean over the table and point a finger at me. “Come on, Vernallor. You won that game, now win mine. Give me a reason to go.”
I replied, “You? I cannot think of one reason for you to go. We have found no facts to support that there is a treasure there. My problem is that there seems to be someone, something, wanting me to go. The birds might not be personally going after me, but it sure seems so to me.”
“So, my reason to go is to protect you. I’ll take that.”
Dechapper said, “It seems that you are determined to go whatever we say.”
“Father, you said the portal was fading. How long do we have?”
Father replied, “I fear what Vernallor said is true. It wants someone to take on the challenge. It is waiting. For all I know, it will suddenly close as soon as you commit past a certain point.”
“Okay. Vernallor, are you still going on with the research?”
I answered, “I told you that I was taking this personally. Thus, I feel that I really better continue with the research.”
“All right! Now I got common sense working in my favor.”
While Sterrig began eating, those of us with food in our mouth almost choked while the others suppressed a sound of derision. Father settled to eat with us while mentioning the problem he had planned for the day. Dechapper spoke of going to work with the hope of continuing with the life he had. Heratin mentioned an interest in what was going on with the birds and the portal, so would be hanging around waiting for updates. Sterrig finished his plate, then rose to state his confidence in things going his way.
“See you in the stacks, Vernallor.”
“No,” I replied, “as I won’t be there, at least for a while.”
“If Mochsha’s ancestor was planning to go, there should be more than vague references in a journal, a glove left out for someone to take, and a lot of rope. I am going to see what else I might find.”
Father said, “I would agree with that, Vernallor. Wish that I could take a break and join you.”
“I can join you, Vernallor.” Heratin smiled as a few of his ladies spoke their support for the idea. “Visiting Mochsha sounds a lot better than hanging around here.”
Sterrig said, “Well, you better not take off to the Misty Peaks without me.”
I replied, “I am worried about you doing that.”
Father commented, “As am I.”
Sterrig said, “All right, I’m not that foolish. The fact that I’m not in jail proves that. We can talk later.”
We finished our meal, then wished each other a good day. Heratin told me that he needed to give his ladies time to prepare themselves for being around Mochsha’s less-than-developed property. I told him that I would let Mochsha know of his coming, then left to begin my day.
Again I had the door open and saw the smiling face of Nerframe. She told me it was early. I let her know that Dechapper was leaving for work, so I considered it safe to assume that Mochsha would be starting her day. Minchell let me know that Orintious expected his men to rise early, so would be moving about as well. When she offered me breakfast, I informed them of Heratin’s ladies taking care of us men at the house and that they would be by shortly. Having all the basics covered, I stepped across the threshold to have Nerframe come against me to trade some affection.
I did have some coffee with the others. When they heard the reason for my visit, Orintious said that he would join me after he did an inspection of his men. Mochsha spoke of cleaning the room, but Nerframe said that it was not a place for a lady. I told my sister that I would appreciate what cleaning supplies she could provide for me. Orintious asked about non-family members, and smiled hearing Nerframe admit that it had been allowed in times past. Knowing that I would not have to worry about cleaning the room alone, I finished my coffee ready to see what could be found.
Heratin arrived with his ladies as we rose from the table. He had them work with me in cleaning out the bedroom for the heir to the estate. By the time we had found the trap door, Orintious had a couple of his men helping as well. It again took a good tug to have the panel rise. The ladies assured us they would do what cleaning they could to the room while we men did what we needed to below.
While the dust from the cleaning did force me and the others to wear scarves over our faces, the restoration of the room seemed to bring out a positive spirit. I looked at the small library wondering exactly what the room had been used for, as the books I found were almost entirely raunchy erotic fiction. It was Heratin that however brought my attention to something revealed by the removal of the dust.
Both of my brothers spoke of the garments not being magic. The design of some tough leather covered by what appeared to be spider silk however told me that they had been crafted with extreme care for a purpose. What had me gasping with my brothers was however finding a map.
A comforting feeling came over me as I sat with Orintious and Heratin at the table to discuss what we had found. I gained the impression that the room was finally being used for its proper purpose. I wondered if my brothers also recognized the sensation as I discussed with them things found on the map. A notation at the top left of the document indicated that the drawing had been gained from a certain text, and having looked over the library I recognized the title. I gained the book, then after reading for a time let my brothers know about what I had found.
“This really is not something a lady would enjoy reading. It does sound like the place, but the clothes of the lady get shredded on the way down.” Reading a little further, I added, “And she gets shaved between the legs.” Simply curious, I asked, “Is that a good thing?”
Heratin replied, “Anything with a woman is a good thing. There is some pleasure in seeing what is beneath the hair.”
Orintious added, “And touching. Why aren’t his clothes shredded and body shaved?”
I could only reply, “You are going to force me to read this, aren’t you?”
“If you want to know what I am talking about, as I am definitely going to read it. I mean, if it is about that place.”
We laughed at that. I felt that we all had our reason for laughing. The truth was that I mostly laughed because they did, but there was also a feeling of embarrassment from some of the things I had read.
They continue to look for information.