The Depth of the Mists

Chapter Twenty

It was some time later that a commotion gained my attention.  The fact that the noise rose above that of the rushing water bothered me.  Seeing Sterrig coming with a group of mercenaries set my mind at peace however, as I was planning for a confrontation with him.  Wondering how the conversation would go, I turned to give some attention to a brother.

The way the mercenaries acted, I sensed they had instigated this encounter even as Sterrig advanced to demand, “What are you looking at?”

I calmly answered, “The direction we need to go.”  Seeing the mercenaries move to look out over the water, I added, “I however cannot determine how we are going to get there.”

One of the mercenaries replied, “Lord Orintious sent for boats:  floatation skiffs designed to handle rough water.”

“It’s a pretty bad whirlpool out there.”

The water had been rather calm, but as if hearing itself introduced I watched with others as the water began to rush around in a circle.  As some commented on its size, I pointed out things about the movement of the water.  It bothered me that I had been left to notice this phenomena on my own.  Further, I seemed to be the only person attempting to rationalize what type of situation we were in and working on a method to find us a way out.  I however had to admit that they had been watching the water in some manner as they spoke of already noticing the various currents and features.

What they however spoke of catching their attention was the possibility of actually perceiving the distant spires we had spotted before descending.  While the vapor around us was thick, without the turbulence it was possible to see at a distance.  Further, the mist did move with sections less dense than others.  At times it was possible to catch an even further view of things, and they spoke of having been able to assure the sight of distant spires.

Sterrig was called up to speak on his plan, although in hearing it I could not help but mention a detail I felt he ignored.  “When the breach was made in the wall of whatever surrounded this isle, the water here forced its way out.  Whatever would have been on the other side would have been sent out to the main current and toward that whirlpool.”

A mercenary said, “We had already considered that, Master Vernallor.  What has been suggested as a solution was making our way to another isle and working our way around that whirlpool.”

“Have you discussed those plans with Orintious, or did Sterrig grab you as soon as you submitted an idea on how to gain another isle?”

Before any of the men could reply, Sterrig said, “It was a good plan, Vernallor.”

“No, it wasn’t,” I quickly replied.  “It was just the plan you wanted to hear.  We are not here due to good plans, but due to careful attention to the plans we came up with.  Don’t think things are going to go as easily as you think they should.”  I stepped up into the water as I said, “There was a dam right here.  Any plan to use the dam on that other isle as something to anchor onto is foolish.  Do you realize how quickly the dam around this island went away?”

It did not help my attitude hearing some of the men state that my observation did speak of a flaw in their plan.  I spoke of the strength of the currents, as even in the few feet I stepped out I could feel a definite tug from the water.  I also reminded them of the monsters we had fought.  Orintious showed up as I brought out problems with us needing to stay together while also dealing with the various threats, and it helped my attitude to have him say things to reinforce my words.

With the help of my oldest surviving brother, the men were put to work to compile the information we had in order to make a workable plan for moving from this island to another one.  He called upon those who had skills with the ropes to develop anchors that when launched over the turbulence would latch onto the rocks of the island.  Again having them realize the vertical layers did not provide the solid protuberances of other landscapes, they started speaking of other plans.  I did enjoy the conversations and problem solving sessions, although looked at Orintious as he returned from sending messages back up the spire wondering if he would have some information on our conclusions being able to be put into action.

He said, “I have four boats and more rope coming.  What more will I need, Vernallor?”

I asked, “You have had men fishing.  What have they learned that would help us decide on which island to head to?”

Orintious turned simply telling me to come, which meant to follow him.  Feeling that if we did not get the answer to our questions, men would be put to work to supply answers, I did move behind him.  When men turned at the bark from Orintious, I saw that they had a large piece of paper, I believe that had been used to wrap some food, on which they had begun a rough map of the island and what they had learned.

I was finding myself in agreement with a plan when yells sounded.  It actually did not take me by surprise to find the source of the alarm to be at the point on the shore where the whirlpool formed.  I came to look out over the waves working to make sense of what I could perceive out in the mist.  Speaking with others, I traded information on what could be discerned and slowly found ourselves coming to an agreement aided by the figure coming through the mist where we could see it better.

Where the dragon was partially insubstantial, as if a creation of the surrounding air, this creature was dark.  Unlike the creature we fought on the adventure with my sister, there was no black aura around it.  The mist did swirl around it, but I felt the movement of the vapor was reasonable from the flapping of great wings.  We ended up not calling this creature a dragon, but a grand mummified duck that somehow continued to maintain an existence.

Our description of the creature appeared to be correct as we watched it fly closer.  Orintious had us move back to the grand height we had descended speaking of the projection preventing the monster from flying over it.  The great creature would have to swerve, land, or show us some other maneuver if it sought to come close.

It did swerve the first time.  While there was some laughter from those who had concluded it looked like a great duck, I clearly noted things that were different about it.  If it had feathers, they had been coated with some substance.  The body appeared to be of fur, although when it moved it showed lifted sections instead of the fine strands of animals.  The wings were composed of long thin panels as if the vane of the feathers never separated   The sound as it swerved to avoid the projection of rock gave me the impression of rocks rolling down a slope and not something moving through the air.

“Join my doom.”

Almost did not recognize that anything had been said.  Only by hearing others repeat the words did I realize they had actually been voiced and were not a figment of my mind finding some sense in the noise of water, others moving, and the strange creature flying over.  I looked out over the water hoping to recognize from where it might have come, although responded to what I clearly heard said by Orintious.

“That thing will be coming back around.  Hold your positions!”

While it might have been supposition by my oldest brother, I fully agreed with the statement.  I guess no one else thought different, not even Sterrig, as I saw no one move.  There was some talk about attacking the creature, although had to agree that the statement had not been a threat.  When it came around the second time I felt it checked to see if we were going to attack.  On the third time I heard some wonder if might need to attack as the creature came in close to the surface of the water.

Seeing the beak break the surface had me think that it was going to feed.  While we had not been recently threatened by one of the monsters in the water, I felt that might be the only source of food for those stuck here.  None among my group had tried eating the white goop, but without any other source of nutrition I allowed it might be considered.  What we saw however was not the beak of the creature grab anything, but disturb a boulder before flapping its winds and soaring off.

After waiting for a time to see if the creature would return, we set out to judge for ourselves the importance of the rock.  What we all mentioned was that the boulder had been round, more like a grand pebble than anything that would result from a piece of the known bedrock.  No one spoke any theory about why the rock would be important, although all acted as if they wanted to know.

It took a number of us to pull the mercenary back to the shore with him collapsing with fatigue before saying, “You need to go down, Sir.  It has something written on it, I feel certain.”

Orintious turned to say, “Sterrig, you go down.”

“ME?” my other brother asked.

“You were earlier speaking of challenging the current.  Well, you can not only find out what was written, but decide just how well you might have survived if we had let you go off with Vernallor’s sword.”

“I don’t know if you really want me to have the knowledge of that.”

I actually had to agree with that statement, although the words from Orintious I found to put things into a proper perspective.  “I assume you are old enough to make a good decision based on actual knowledge.  If not, I might have to question your relationship with Theria.”

“I don’t know if Vernallor will give up his sword to me.”

Orintious pulled something from within his uniform as he replied, “Vernallor does not have to.  I had Heratin send me this.  While I get along no better with him than I do with you, you are both brothers.  From one annoying brother to another, I give you a method of breathing water.”

Theria took the length of cloth from Orintious, and as she put it on Sterrig he allowed, “All right, I’ll go down.  Just remember, I did not ask to do this.”

Honestly, I knew Sterrig enough to understand that he really had no reservation about going into the water.  I would have felt all that fur to have him want to stay dry.  He however had never shown any fear of water.  In spite of our rather deadly surroundings, I did not doubt him earlier when he spoke of diving over the barrier to challenge the larger body of water.  Sterrig assured the rope was secure, kissed Theria, then went into the surf showing so reservation about going under the surface.

He came back up also showing fatigue, but instead of speaking about the rock he asked about the one that went down before him.  Seeing the man still sitting down, Sterrig went over and had the man lift his head.  A gauntlet on the man was then taken off, and after comparing it to his own paw-like hand Sterrig spoke a conclusion.

“It’s in the water.  Purishorten is in the water.”

Theria and others challenged his statement.  A few more joined with me in just asking for evidence of the conclusion.  Sterrig displayed no annoyance in having his statement challenged.

“My fur is lighter in color, but there is also some ease to certain movements that I had been blaming on age.”

One mercenary questioned, “After only a dip of a few minutes?”

Sterrig lifted his voice as he declared, “I’m warning all of you.  Don’t go any further if you don’t want to be affected.”

Orintious quickly added, “You will not lose your share of the treasure.”  As if it needed to said, he said, “We all saw the gold, Sterrig.”

“Don’t think wealth does not change a person.  I’m going.  Oh, what was said below was:
Half from now will be eaten / Half will die on the way
I will meet with the one / Laughing at what he might say”

“It’s not like we have not been giving you warnings.  What I said still stands.”

A mercenary replied, “Sir, we have not discounted anything said.  All I want to say is that now that we know of this creature being present, and thinking back to the threat of the dragon, I would like to propose certain changes in how we load the boats.”

Most people fear the unknown, but known fears are usually truly dangerous.