The Depth of the Mists
I saw a rather special carriage sitting before the house with four horses set to pull it. The vehicle had the two-toned orange of Orintious, but I saw violet and white tassels tied at a number of places and blankets of those colors placed on the seat. While I did enjoy the affection from Nerframe, I looked to my sister with concern. She was in a very elaborate dress, and I felt that I would be out of place in the carriage.
I said, “Father did not tell me to dress better, Mochsha.”
She replied, “Baron Amonter is my superior, Vernallor. You are dressed fine. This however is my first time to go to his home, so I do want to make an impression.”
Still concerned, I had to ask, “Does he know why we are coming?”
“Yes, Vernallor. Admittedly, the request from Father came rather early, but the intent was not to force our presence. It was the baron who set the time. He said noon, the transition from morning to the second half of the day, would be the best time. If we leave now, we should be there on time. I hope Heratin’s ladies fed you.”
I assured my sister that they had. Orintious came from where he was working with some men, and spoke to Father and me as he helped my sister into the carriage. After again trading some affection with Nerframe, then shaking hands with Orintious, I settled next to father. Orintious climbed into the driver’s seat, and with assurance from Mochsha that all was well he started the horses moving.
It was fun speaking with Father, Mochsha, and Orintious. Of the three, only Father was someone I was used to speaking to. Orintious had always been one to simply show up at family gatherings. Until recently Mochsha had been nothing more than a picture on the wall. While I was now becoming used to speaking with both, there was still a lot of new things to learn about them. It seemed that Father also had things he wanted to discuss with both, but he kept his queries in the form of basic questions and did not prevent us from developing the probings into topics of conversation.
As we traveled through other properties, Mochsha and Orintious spoke of the crops and animals they saw. Both were presently living on what goods they could purchase, but were wanting to assure some self-sufficiency on their lands. We all spoke of what we liked to eat while seeing what those with already established farms were growing or raising on their properties.
While horns did sound as we closed on the castle, no sounds of alarm were heard and the gates stayed open. A number of people did wave to us as we drove up to the front of the baron’s home. I had to agree with Mochsha that we did seem welcomed when the doors to the castle opened with those that lived there stepping out with smiles on their faces.
The baron stopped, then bowed as he said, “Lord Galabur, I’m honored. I know you were the one that contacted me, but to actually gain your presence is an honor.”
Father floated from the carriage while saying, “I know the seriousness of what I requested, Baron Amonter. Your agreement was taken as an extreme sign of graciousness. Your welcome of my daughter and son further gain my gratitude. I would hope that you understand that in accepting them, you have accepted me as well.”
“Certainly, Lord Galabur. I however know that you have a place far above me.”
“No. You actually have many more lives trusting in your guidance than me.”
The compliments continued to pass back and forth as introductions were made. The baron had met all of us, except Father, but went through certain procedures as this was our first visit to his home. We also had not met his family. Many more comments passed between us, but the baron did move things along to the business that brought us.
He asked, “Lord Galabur, will it just be Mochsha and Vernallor with you?”
“Yes,” Father answered. “Mochsha because it was her father and uncle that I believe accessed the book before.”
“And Vernallor because he was the one who recognized the importance of certain things.”
“I have to say that I have found Vernallor to be quite astute in making sense of things. My son, Deladdock, is now of age where I feel he can learn of one of the vile things our home seeks to protect. I ask that he accompany us, but only as an observer. There are tests to gaining the stamina to resist the book, but the first is simply to understand the thing does exist.”
The lad was probably a couple of years younger than me. While I was starting to consider myself advancing into adulthood, the young noble showed no signs of gaining maturity. He however stood firm as my father looked him over. I cannot say what he saw in the lad, but I noticed him and his father showed some relief when approval was given.
“You are correct that his lessons need to start. I also need to learn things. What formalities do you wish for us to go through?”
The baron replied, “None. In fact, the more you prepare, the more it seems to delight in not providing any information. The best thing to do is simply go and face it.”
“Then, please, lead the way.”
Mochsha and Father had agreed not to ask about her father and uncle. While both were immensely curious about the relatives, it was felt that the time was still too soon to dredge up certain memories. Nerframe had helped Mochsha learn the names of the relatives whose portraits were found about the house, and with the help of journals some background of her family had been gained. The baron however started speaking of her father and uncle requesting access to the book, and neither Mochsha nor Father had him go silent.
After speaking for a time as we descended into narrow passages beneath the castle, Baron Amonter said, “I am sorry, Mochsha, but my grandfather did not suspect the evil that the two had planned. It is however one of the rules of Egromus that I cannot really deny others from accessing it. It is one of those horrible realities that if I actually tried to keep it sealed away, it would find a way of freeing itself. Only by giving access can I assure that it will stay confined. My grandfather certainly had the same problems when your father and uncle contacted him.”
My sister said, “The journals clearly speak of Uncle Decholl having the horrible plan in his mind when he returned to my father. I thus cannot blame the book, and certainly not your ancestor, Baron Amonter. In fact, if the book is responsible for them making certain assumptions, such as those things with tentacles being evil, then I must actually thank it.”
“Please, don’t do that. It does not need encouragement to lie.”
Father said, “A fact I fully understand.”
From a distance we heard, “Ah, someone thinks they understand.”
The voice was not very deep, but had a strange tone that I can only describe as sounding hollow. There was no echo to the words in the narrow stone passages. What I heard the voice say almost died even as the statements were spoken.
I noticed that the metal door set with silver icons I assumed to a deity was not locked. More large icons of silver were present on the stone walls. In the middle of the room hung a large tome. In height it was taller than me and almost as thick. Silver chains forming a loose netting kept the pages from opening wide, but the cover could move enough so that the pages could flutter as if acting as the mouth responsible for speaking the words I heard. Locks secured thick chains that hung from a great wooden beam that had been twisted. As we all passed through the door, the book known as Egromus spoke some more.
“And what is the purpose of this visit?”
Father answered, “Kalceronna.”
“Oh, well, I’m not telling.”
"Are you simply refusing to speak, or just refusing to speak on that topic?”
“I’m not telling.”
“Then I have to assume we can continue to bother you. Vernallor, if –“
Egromus interrupted to say, “Oh, good, I can talk to the boy.”
I replied, “I’m no longer a boy.”
“Of course, I’m sorry. Vernallor, is it?”
Not in the mood to be nice to a book, I replied, “It’ll do.”
“Don’t try to hide things from me, Boy. I have knowledge that make men beg me to reveal.”
“So I was led to assume.”
“Go ahead, or do you want to know about Kalceroma as well?”
Not wanting to simply be told things I already knew, I decided to go ahead and present some basic information. “It means ‘veiled treasure.’ I am told mercenaries use the term in various ways. I however have seen the Misty Peaks. I was wondering about what treasure might be veiled.”
“My name. It seems that no one else has named them.”
“Cleberrot. They are known as the Cleberrot Heights.”
I decided it best if I did not get pleased with one simple fact. “I like my name better. Not that it matters, as that was not something I cared to learn.”
“I won’t talk about that.”
Father had mentioned something to me, and now I felt it time to make use of that knowledge. “What if I said, ‘Whochamitorrichar?’”
“What is down there is something called purishorten, or the ‘Purest of the Pure.’ If you claim it, evil can never plague you or tempt you. Purishorten will cleanse the soul of any person.”
Mochsha asked, “So someone who sold their soul to evil could be restored?”
“It wasn’t that easy for him, now was it?”
The words from Egromus caught all of us by surprise. I glanced at my father and Mochsha, and found their eyes looking at me as well. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I quickly considered the words that might have the book supply more information.
“Definitely gaining wings was no advantage.”
Egromus replied, “Oh, yes, people think that if they can just get down. Once down, they can claim the treasure and celebrate as they work on gaining a way out.” The book laughed, then said, “You see, this is one thing I can speak truthfully about. Nobody has been able to return from down there. Nobody knows. Nobody knows what purishorten is. Whether I lie or tell the truth it doesn’t matter, because nobody knows!”
I quickly challenged Egromus by speaking of the text I had taken to Father. Considering the nature of the malignant object before me, I did not edit my words about the things I had read. From the lady having her bottom shaven to some acts mentioned rather crudely I let the book know that I had some knowledge of what I was speaking. I ended by detailing the ending of the text and the joy it spoke of those who traveled down.
Egromus said, “What you said is all a lie.”
“I believe you are responsible for that book being in the collection. I believe you gave it as an enticement to get them to go.”
“No. They already had it. They also asked me questions from that book. It is from that book that they got that word you used.”
“Wrong. I got the words from a journal. There was a map, and it directed me to the book.”
“Okay, while you’re calling me a liar, let me call you one. You said that you had been there.”
Mochsha declared, “Twice. Once probably due to nothing but curiosity, but the next to rescue a brother.”
Egromus went silent for a moment, then said, “I guess I’m the one that needs to be informed about things. Boy – Vernallor, scared?”
I answered, “For a brother. He feels that his great score is down there.”
“Answer a question for me.”
“No. I’m not telling you anything more.”
“Don’t play games with me, Boy! I cannot answer any question if you do not ask them. You came to me. Now apologize and agree to answer my question.”
I felt anger. I recognized the emotion as being something probably intended by the book. It however had tapped into my feelings of frustration, and I found myself becoming agitated in having to stay mentally ahead of this mentality. The feeling of a tentacle on my body helped me control my anger, and I felt relief hearing my father speak.
“Vernallor, apologize. Egromus, I will answer your question.”
No sooner did I make my apology than did the book say, “I know who you are, Galabur.”
“Then I can consider the question answered.”
“OH, NO YOU DON’T!”
Hearing Egromus scream out those words caused me to laugh. I quickly shut off the sounds, but the way it tried to turn in its confinement let me know that it understood what happened. It had gotten me agitated as I sought to mentally challenge it, but the sign of its own anger had me feel that the book was my equal. Wanting to laugh some more, I looked to father wondering what he might say.
He simply waited for Egromus to ask its question, which it eventually did. “What time of day is it outside?”
Father paused for only a moment before replying, “I believe rather strongly it is the same time of day as nighttime’s match for the descending of the Cleberrot Heights.”
“They tried that, and failed. That’s it. No more. Take them away, Amonter.”
The baron said, “I really do not have to obey it.”
Father replied, “No, thank you, Baron Amonter. Egromus, thank you for your time. Vernallor, Mochsha.”
Both my sister and I also thanked the book. It did not respond, but closed itself and hung lifeless as if only a normal inanimate object. We however considered our thanks to be an appropriate ending to our visit, so left with the baron without any indication of desiring to say more.
As we ascended the ancient stone steps, the baron said, “Let me warn all of you that everything it says could have been a lie.”
Father replied, “Yes, but it wants to be believed all the same. When it realized that we had information to check against its statements, it then realized that it would need to make better lies, which I am hoping required it to insert grains of truth.”
“Uh, Vernallor, which brother did you need to rescue?”
There was no reason not to tell the baron, so I did. “It was Dechapper that we needed to rescue. It is Sterrig that I fear will be lost.”
“I don’t know Sterrig, but in speaking with Orintious I did hear about him. I was glad to meet Dechapper the other day. He did not give me the impression of someone who would wander off on an adventure.”
“Well, he would if there was fishing involved.” I waited for some chuckles to be made. “There however wasn’t, but something attacked him. I believe a mystery desires its next victim.”
Father provided support for my words. “Yes, Baron. Our reason for being here was not simply curiosity. That is something my library is more than qualified to deal with. What had us come was to learn the quality of certain things others had learned from the source they had learned it. Thank you for allowing this.”
“I will support my vassals. Mochsha is reviving a property that has been nothing but a supply of rent for generations. Orintious is actually assuring rent on a property that has only been a drain on my wealth for some time. I feel obligated to help both, and I am also very pleased to meet you, Lord Galabur.”
Being shown into a parlor, we settled for a pleasant visit with Baron Amonter and his family. It was at this time that the heir the estate finally spoke. He was praised for remaining silent during the conversation with Egromus, then we let him talk about his experience. While Mochsha did let it be known that she wanted to return to her estate before the end of the day, the baron had us stay and visit with him for a long time.
Knowledge is one thing, and knowing what to do with it is another.