To Solidify the Mist: Cp16

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To Solidify the Mist
Chapter Sixteen

The darkness behind us grew in breadth, which made it appear to grow closer. Its height over the horizon did not seem to increase. The presence however did trouble us with the soldiers speaking of continuing to travel through the darkness of night to hopefully stay ahead of it.

What worked against the desire of those not wanting to stop was the success of a couple of scouts in killing fresh meat. We needed to find a place to process the carcasses, which had Orintious call for a camp when a good source of water was found. As a large fire was made to dry what meat we could not immediate eat, we also set up poles to dry the clothes that still dripped with water. The older brother stood out with some of his men clearly looking to the sky behind us, then he strode into camp to speak of on something I believe most of us were not wanting to think about.

“Mochsha, could whatever this is be following you? I mean, your glow. Sorry, but I cannot think of any reason why we should have anything’s attention.”

Heratin spoke in defense of our sister. “And what if it is true? Does that change anything?”

Mochsha said, “There is no reason to get angry, Heratin, although I agree with your questions. Orintious, I cannot stop being what I am.”

“No,” the older brother returned, “but I’m just trying to make sense of this, Mochsha. I mean – honestly, we have not attacked anything. We haven’t marched around attempting to get anyone or anything mad at us. I mean, I can understand whoever was holding you to be angered at your escape, but they were at fault in the first place. They should be relieved that we did not root out the entire sanctum.”

One of the elder soldiers, Mellurd, added, “And if you, Lady Mochsha, were being used to hold captive this greater evil, surely it should be glad to be released and not seeking you.”

Mochsha replied, “Definitely since I never gained the impression that it resented my presence. I did sense the presence of something evil, but never as something seeking to do me harm. It’s strange, but it always seemed content.”

Orintious said, “Well, it seems that we might learn the truth. Still, no reason to claim that as our fate. Listen, EVERYONE, we will be making an early start! This is not exactly in the hope of fleeing whatever is behind us. The terrain however is becoming rough. I suspect that we will be taking longer breaks starting tomorrow due to a need to recuperate after some hard climbs. Rest up.”

I then heard Mochsha turn to the middle brother to ask, “Heratin, do you sense anything special about my glow? I always thought of it as something like a fairy’s glow, which I felt was supported by what I found in doing the research into Orintious.”

“I might have divine blood, Mochsha, but there really is not anything great about it. I mean, Zeus has sired a number of offspring, and very of few of them became anything more than a braggart. Maybe mother could tell you something useful, but I am sorry that I can’t.”

I had to ask, “Mochsha, can you do anything with your aura? I remember that you turned red when those bat-like things attacked.”

It was Heratin that replied, “She can fly – float – not fall down.”

Mochsha smiled as she answered the question, “I have a few tricks, Vernallor, but none are anything major. As for those creatures, I basically just warded them away with you still needing to stay active as some did get to me. Heratin remembers Father working with me to get me to learn my tricks and master them, although what I mostly learned was not to put any trust in them.” Spoken as a mumble I believe to keep Heratin quiet, she added, “And none of my tricks helped me escape.”

I guess traveling upon wet ground wearing water-soaked clothes had worn me down, as I had no trouble going to sleep. Something disturbed me in the night, causing me to think others were busy with something. I could not determine if it was Ochally or Minchell around me. Considering that both of my older brothers had their slaves do some minor things for me, I accepted that they really did not mean to interrupt my sleep.

“Well, you are an interesting one.” It was a lady’s voice, but I could not place it. “Let me see what you will tell me.”

A sensation of my eyes opening, then looking through my head as it opened so wide that I could see sights extremely far away came over me. I then heard a gasp as the lady seemed to suddenly fall into me. The shock sent me rising from my bedroll with my eyes seeming to have to adjust from the bright campfire.

A soldier asked, “Is there a problem Master Vernallor?”

I stood up looking for where Orintious and Heratin slept. Both were slumbering peaceably with their slaves. I controlled my breathing, then looked to the glow of Mochsha. Not understanding, I moved to where I could think over what I accepted as a dream.

The soldier moved with me, so I tried to explain, “I had a strange dream.”

“That is obvious, Master Vernallor. What I would like for you to tell me is what about it disturbed you.”

“It just shocked me. I thought it was Ochally or Minchell.”

Realizing that I probably was not making sense, I slowed down to recount the dream. The soldier listened without making any comments. At the end after I had tried to make sense of my earlier actions, the soldier gave me his appraisal of my dream.

“I have definitely heard worse nightmares, Master Vernallor. If things were different, I might tell you to forget about it and go back to bed. Considering the strange nature of this mission however, I would ask that you allow me to inform Lord Orintious.”

“What? Of course.” Feeling no reason to not be honest with the man, I added, “I mean, I doubt I could stop you.”

“Well, I assumed that if you told me, ‘No,’ that you would have a reason for the command that I would have to take into account.”

“Well, you are off the hook there. Go ahead and tell him.”

The soldier chuckled for a moment, then asked, “Would you like something hard to drink? Coffee is for those of us staying up.”

I asked him the time, and he admitted that it would only be a couple of hours before waking us, as Orintious was serious about making an early start. Feeling that was a good thing, and that it would take most of those two hours to calm myself enough to get any more rest, I poured myself some coffee. I then moved away from the campfire. A soldier pointed out how the stars were blocked by something in the sky coming from behind us. He admitted that it could be a cloud, but that it had not been a cloud when the sky went dark and he doubted it would be a cloud when the sun again started lighting up the world. I asked him about any other concerns he felt would trouble us, and said that he hoped our problems would only come upon us one at a time.

Thinking over what I had experienced, I felt like claiming to have won my bet with Heratin. While I felt certain he would challenge it, as I knew I would challenge it, the idea did sound entertaining. Heratin had always been a fun figure in my life. He had an aloof quality about him, but it always managed to keep the things he did as something not personal, but directed to a wider audience. In the group he was a good contrast to the always proper Orintious, and I felt like supporting Heratin in providing some entertainment.

The thought again surfaced when about hour after us starting our march a female rider rushed upon us. It caught me by surprise to notice the same horse. The lady wore the same black outfit with a blue blouse beneath the leather. I fully expected the identical uniform to be a sign of her working for the same person as before, but the red wide-brimmed hat I felt to be an odd addition to the attire. I however thought of challenging Heratin, so calmly spoke to him about the person being a female.

“I believe I am owed a hundred.”

Heratin replied, “I don’t think so, Vernallor.” He then turned to a soldier to say, “I don’t remember the person wearing that hat previously.”

The man simply replied, “Yes, Sir, Heratin,” before removing his bow, stringing it, then taking an arrow and releasing it.

The hat flew off the head of the lady. She then went through contortions. The horse stayed steady, but the one on its back changed from being a lady to that of the man who had come upon us earlier.

Orintious strode toward the rider while saying, “Two of our ladies might be slaves, but let it be known that they are precious possessions. They are honored. They are loved. My men know to treat them with respect, and not to seek their grace as perverts!”

Heratin sent a soldier to gain the hat. The rider noticed the action, but from his shifting head I assumed that his deception being revealed had him unsure how to act. Seeing the soldier bring the hat to Orintious however let the visitor know that he needed to do something.

“I did not meet you last time, Sir. May I ask your name?”

Orintious replied, “Last time you did not give yours.”

“I am not anyone of important, so I thank you for asking.”

Heratin advanced to say, “Not anyone of importance? It seems to me that you are the only one of importance. Your lord should thus have some pleasure in your service.”

“Ah, Sir Heratin Alls-friend, yes, thank you. My name is Nerframe. No title or surname, but usually not called by my name either. While I can tell that my services as a man are really not needed, I still would like to be considered.”

“Not going to happen,” Orintious replied before pointing to the darkness. “Is that your master?”

“Ah, yes. It definitely is my intent to prepare you for meeting with him.”

“Our blades are kept sharp, and many of my men regularly say their prayers. I would say we are prepared.”

“You have no idea who you are up against.”

Orintious stepped up directly before the rider as he said, “Here is your hat. May you have joy wearing it while standing in front of a mirror.”

Laughter sounded from the soldiers, which almost drowned out me hearing the reply. “I wish you would have kept it, but it is not yours to have.”

“Yes, well let your master know that his affairs are not our affairs. While a meeting can be arranged, he should be willing to wait for our convenience. At present, we have other concerns on our mind.”

If the soldiers had not again fallen silent, I might have felt something was said by the rider. His mouth did open and close a few times. I guess he realized that anything he said would not have been effective, and he finally simply gave a command for his horse to move.

After the rider had gone a distance, Orintious turned to his men to say, “All right, I do not want it said that I am blind to what is behind us. However, we do have a purpose. Let me get this clear, I consider it of importance to find the mountain fairy that could be my mother. Now, let me also say that I understand that finding a mountain fairy could well be a troubling matter. I further want it understood that searching for a fairy and running from some dark entity could well be counter-productive. Honestly, though, if this dark presence is properly presented by this Nerframe, I doubt we will be overly troubled.” Orintious paused I believe to give his men time to respond, but hearing silence he continued. “We will not trouble ourselves with this dark entity. If he catches up with us, we will deal with him. My focus however was, and is, the location of the mountain fairy Immaderra. I also consider finding her to be the greater challenge. Is that clear?”

The soldiers voiced their obedience in unison, then Orintious said something that took me by surprise. “Heratin, your wager with Vernallor I consider to be a tie. He had the proper logic, but simply overestimated the amount of help available. For his youth I believe he did quite well, and should not be penalized.”

The middle brother replied, “I would agree, but now that I know he has the money I might seek to gain it from him in other ways.”

“He is still learning, so might lose some, but I suspect time will prove him as retaining his wealth just as I have retained mine. Be on your toes, Vernallor.”

“Even Father teaches that,” I replied.

“Indeed he does.”

The threat is real, but they can only hope their objective happens to be real as well.