The Depth of the Mists
What Sterrig said did worry me. As I went to him, I however saw Theria rush upon him. I watched as she did an inspection of him. When they traded affection, I saw Sterrig look to me and I knew to speak.
“I worry about you as well. If you want privacy, this is the wrong place. It however is important that we have a real appraisal of your condition.”
The eyes of Sterrig could be seen to look around, so I accepted I was not the only one watching as he replied, “You might need to give us a little privacy if you want a complete appraisal.”
“I stood in the water. I did not dive in it. I guess I should check my feet.”
“Are you saying I lied?”
Evidence could not lie. One however could misread it with the results being a wrong conclusion. Taking off things so I could look at my feet would actually not solve any problem. I however knew to push things with Sterrig, as he would lie hoping others would not challenge his evidence.
I lifted my feet to pull off my boots while saying, “Maybe the changes you noticed are simply from taking a bath.”
Hearing others chuckle, Sterrig said, “I am not calling for a stop, Vernallor.”
“I didn’t hear anyone else do so either.”
“But some were probably thinking it. They need to face the risk.”
I stayed silent while continuing to reveal my feet. The words from Sterrig actually made sense to me. I would even say he was doing a good thing. Seeing Orintious show up, I hoped he would take over the situation. He actually had the experience and authority. What I was however learning was that he really did not have the experience in dealing with people. Leading a group of mercenaries had provided him with some knowledge of handling the problems of others, but only from an outside perspective. Orintious had never had a girlfriend. While he had ladies in his life, they were either sisters or slaves with duties more as obedient maids than partners in life. He also had stayed out of family matters, so had only limited experience dealing with personalities other than those associated with his mercenary life. As my shoes came off revealing nothing altered in the attire or my lower appendages, I knew to keep the focus of Sterrig.
While contemplating whether it would be good to let my boots and socks dry, or accept they would just get wet again I admitted, “We do need to face the continuing risk. We have overcome the spire and the problem with the barrier around this island. We however need to face the reality of that whirlpool, the problem of a similar barrier around other islands, and then whatever other difficulties might arise. However,” I put strength in my voice as I said, “the problems with a little itch or bleaching of our hair and body should not stop us.”
The sounds of the men around us agreeing with what I said did not bring me joy. I knew the one I had to get to affirm my words was Sterrig. Luckily, I was the younger brother. I had grown up not being able to physically overcome him, but having to make my case to Father about our conflicts. One good thing about our parent was that you could not lie to him. Whatever Sterrig had been doing had to be honestly related. In advancing our disagreements to matters more than childish selfishness and obstinacy, I had to learn to explain things to Father so that he could appreciate my reasoning, as the more mature statements from Sterrig would carry weight. I thus patiently waited for what he might say and if I would agree.
I saw him look to Theria, then he broke from her to say to me, “This is not a puzzle for glory or wealth, or even to rescue someone. This is a matter of an entirely different nature, and these men are going to have to come to terms with that.”
I replied, “Gold is wealth.”
“It’s the purishorten that should be bothering these others.”
Actually agreeing, I asked, “Is that why you were determined to come here?”
“If Theria would come with me. She has not led a respectable life either, Vernallor. It would do me no good to seek to change my life to only have her do me wrong. I don’t need that. I also did not need the gold only to have someone steal it from me. She needed to commit herself to the same thing I did. Whether the purishorten was real or not, the trials, the people with us, and maybe the gold would let me know whether she was truly going to be the one or not.”
The lady said, “I can accept that. I have to also say that the same applies to me. I am seeing what is important to Sterrig. Both of us have a past that will not let us join, but with a shared experience like this we can see the determination in each other to make a new life.” Her hands went to Sterrig as she said, “We will need to speak about moving. We can go to another part of the world, or maybe another world completely.”
“We can speak to Father about that when we get back.”
Orintious attempted to set the present tone of the discussion by saying, “Well, right now we are not interested in whether the two of you fall in love or not. What we need to know is if you are really going to be an asset to this mission.”
Sterrig had his voice sound strong as he replied, “We will pull our weight.”
“That goes for Theria.as well.”
The lady said, “You just heard Sterrig say that he was worried about me stealing his gold. If I can carry that weight, I can do you want me to do.”
“Prove it. Vernallor, keep thinking, but I need you to prove yourself as well.”
I defiantly replied, “No.”
“Oh, I will. The men know that I will work with them. They also know my youth, so have been good about assuring certain directions or assignments. I have not argued with them, or refused to do what they asked of me. What you however need to do is work with Sterrig. You should know him a lot better than I do. If not, and it is possible you don’t, then you need to get to know him. He’s our brother. Further, he is going through something you need to consider as well. You are wanting to change your life. You are speaking of hopefully finding a lady. Well, this adventure will affect you, but not on her. You need to understand what Sterrig is saying, what he is feeling, and what he is considering in making a life with Theria. I am sure the same will be true for me one day, and I would hope to have good examples to guide my thoughts on the matter.”
There were chuckles as Orintious asked me, “Are you saying that I need to get advice on romance from Sterrig?”
“He taught us other tricks. If he can now show us the way to gain a lasting honest relationship with a woman, well good for him.”
“What do you say on the matter, Sterrig?”
The middle brother with us replied, “You can be a pain in the ass as well, Orintious.”
“Well, my men know that I will pull my weight. I am going to work with them to assure a plan for moving from this island to another. Vernallor is developing into a good head man, but he is right about being there with me doing what is necessary. I need you to do the same, both of you.”
Theria said, “I’m committed. Not just to getting through this place, not just to find whatever treasure is here, but to you men as well. Sterrig, yes, I am willing to commit to him as well. Orintious, Vernallor, I accept that if I commit to Sterrig that I need to accept the two of you in my life as well. Still, I am with all of you as a part of this mission, and that my place is not as eye candy or female companionship. I am here as one of you, and I will pull my place as one of you.”
Orintious took over the conversation to assure everyone knew our situation and what difficulties we needed to overcome. I saw him look at me a few times. While I waited for what orders would come, I found myself having to believe Orintious was instead wanting to push Sterrig and Theria off on me, but stopping himself from doing so.
When the older brother finally told the couple to stay with him, I felt a good decision had been made. What I had heard from Sterrig and Theria sounded positive to me, I really could not claim any knowledge about a relationship between a man and a woman. While I certainly had some thoughts, I accepted a complete lack of any real experience. I did wonder about things between the couple with it surprising me when they came to me instead of moving off with Orintious.
Sterrig asked, “Vernallor, you really do not think my fur is lighter in color?”
I held a hand next to his while saying, “It certainly is not as dark as my skin.”
“Sterrig, I have been stuck in the house up to recently. While Father keeps things lit to assure no problem in reading, I cannot say that the lighting has been ideal to bring out colors. I certainly cannot say that what I have seen of your fur has stayed the same moving from the houses to outside to whatever is actually the source of light for this place.”
While both looked toward what seemed to be sun through the mist, it was Theria that replied, “I do see Vernallor’s point.”
Sterrig said, “Okay. I will drop that issue. However, I did feel something gritting passing through my fur and clothes to my skin. That white crap is not gritty at all. What could the grit be except crystals of purishorten?”
I had no reluctance in replying, “Gold. It could be fine particles of gold. For all we know, purishorten could dissolve in water. We however know there is gold here, small pieces of gold, so there could be fine particles of gold in the water.”
“I should have considered that.”
Theria said, “Makes me want you to take a shower, but while we have falling water we have nothing to collect any fine particles of gold.”
Sterrig looked to me as he said, “Then I guess I will put off taking a bath until I can get home.”
“I’m going to have to get in the water.”
There might have been further remarks, but one of the mercenaries came up to ask me if I was all right. When I replied that I was, he reminded Sterrig and Theria that they were supposed to work with Orintious. With me reminding the couple that I made that recommendation, they smiled and told the mercenary that they would follow him.
And they set off to reach another island.