The Depth of the Mists

Chapter Twenty-Four

The men begin speaking of what they would do next.  While they were getting wet from the water coming from the sky, they moved about as I felt they would during dry weather.  Wondering if they would propose going ahead and setting off, I came to a different opinion upon hearing Theria scream.  I saw the men rush off to her rescue and concluded they had stayed out in the weather to assure that she would be all right.

Moving around to watch the battle with some more of the aquatic monsters, I continued to ponder the evidence I felt applied to our situation.  Sterrig did join the combat, and I saw him move with Theria without any resistance.  Once the battle was over however, I wondered about their relationship as the lady then stormed off telling him to stay away.

I guess my place away from the fight and the sober expression on my face had her come near me to say, “If your parents did send you here, I hope you lay into them.”  After taking a couple more steps she however turned to say, “But don’t kill them.  I wish, I really wish, I even had a foster parent that I could speak of as being there for me.”

Attempting to make sense of her words, I replied, “But don’t you want your children to have a good parent, or two?  I liked Sterrig growing up.  I think he would be a good father.”

“But…  Listen, Vernallor, I really did not expect a family like this.  Sterrig did talk about you, but not in a loving, cheerful manner.  He spoke of you as being annoying, Orintious being annoying, really all of you as being annoying.  I had no idea about the love and support you are willing to provide.  I felt on an adventure like this there would be a lot squabbling.  That is not what I am finding at all, and… and it bothers me.”

“But that’s good, right.  I mean, wouldn’t you want a family like this?”

“No.  I mean I would, but –  Think about it, Vernallor.  What about your family?  The one that gave you all that money.  Could you think they want you back?  They however don’t want to take you from what you have.  You have it good.”

It was Sterrig that asked, “What has that to do with you and me becoming a loving couple and working to provide a safe, secure, and loving home for our children?”

“Would you really do that if you had money?  There are things I want to do, Sterrig.  What are you going to do with the money?”

Since I did have money, I felt qualified to say, “Well, I have no plans to commit crimes.”  Seeing Theria spin as if to confront me, I added, “I mean I would like to do good things with it.  Building a home with a wife and children sounds nice.”

“You’re young.”

Sterrig said, “And we’re not, Theria.  We should be even more concerned with settling in peace and security.”

“That’s not the life I have ever lived, Sterrig.  I didn’t believe you knew what you were talking about.”

“But it should be good that you see that I do know.”

“I’m not certain about that.”

As she again started moving off I heard a mercenary say, “Do you think on our next mission we could go after something that has us understand women?”

While I did appreciate the humor, it bothered me that no one followed her.  I considered it better if we watched over her instead of hoping we could hear her should she again yell.  I however trusted the men around me to know enough to understand how to deal with Theria, although it bothered me that she was not trying to work with us.

I did listen as Sterrig gained a number of suggestions about how to treat Theria.  He did not act like he respected anything told to him.  He simply moved to the shelter speaking of wanting to get out of the rain.  I listened expecting others to attempt to speak of their experiences in dealing with women, but they simply went back with him or turned to perform other actions.

Not enjoying being wet, I chose to move back under the boats.  The water on my body had me feel the fatigue of fighting two wearying boat rides.  I came in, took off most of my clothes, then covered myself with a blanket before attempting to gain a comfortable position.  Since I still felt some water on my body, I did not quickly drift off, so heard when Theria moved back under the boats.

She said, “Sterrig, are you going to get some sleep?”

He replied, “That is what Vernallor is doing, and I think it is a good idea.”

“Listen, I don’t know what to think.  I don’t want anyone worse than you.  I don’t want anyone better than you, such as those like your older brother and his men.”

Sterrig’s voice sounded distant as he replied, “I am hoping to become a better person, Theria.  Maybe not as far as Orintious, but I want to end my days with respect for me and my children.”

“Yes, well, that is really my problem, Sterrig.  I think I’m pregnant.  My attitude has nothing to do with the reality of purishorten.  I am having to come to terms with raising children, being a mother, and I guess a wife as well.  I had a horrible childhood, Sterrig.  I abandoned my earlier children.  I cannot say I will be a good mate for you.”

“Sounds like you are coming to terms with your future.  Listen, Theria, I am not forcing you.  You came with me.  I did not pull you in on this.  All I want to say is that if you do end up staying with me, that you commit to being my wife.”

There was a period of silence, then she asked, “What about the child?”

“I’m here, Theria, but I am not going to claim to be a wonderful parent either.  If you are going to be the mother, I would be willing to be the father if you are going to be my wife.”

“You think we are going to end up rich?”

“There is gold here, Theria.  We figure this place out, figure out how to get back home, and we come here to mine it if nothing else.  I have ideas on that.  As for us ending up with enough gold, there is never enough gold.”

She said, “You got that right,” then I heard what sounded like some affection being traded.

Hearing someone else come in, the two told the man to hand them a blanket.  When asked if they were making up with each other, both replied that now was not the time for division.  Hearing the two speak of saving any decision until after this mission was resolved, I found myself feeling able to get some sleep.

There was little wind with the storm, but that just meant it stayed for a good amount of time.  The period of hearing rain on the boat was long enough to give all of us plenty of sleep.  When the storm finally passed, we stepped outside to see almost no change in our surroundings.  With an attitude of simply returning to our plans, I heard a number speak of being glad the storm was over.

The water pouring off the height kept a flow over the rock slices, so the ground stayed wet.  The clouds of the leaving storm did as much to hide what might be in the distance as the mist that permeated this reality.  It did not surprise me to see the goop had been washed away, as not enough work had been done to complete the barrier for providing some dry space.  I felt certain it would have been washed away by the rain anyway.  While there was not a lot of wind, I checked the site of where there had been a shelter attempting to determine if it truly could have kept anyone dry and safe from the surrounding water.

A soldier, Corporal Stroping, said, “We’re moving the boats, Master Vernallor.  Time to go.”

I replied, “This still seems like a puzzle.”

“Yes, but one we are solving.  Back to work.”

Something that had been disturbing me suddenly revealed itself causing me to say, “We need to.”

“What’s that?”

“Think about what we are doing.  We could work our way back home, or I could call my father to get us home, and return claiming success.  What information we bring back would be worth gold to a number of people.  This place has a history, an ancient history, but has never had anything substantial written about it.  We have basically shown everyone how to solve this.  Yes, Orintious has you men, and you have the variety of necessary skills, but I know of others who could match what we are doing.  If we do not solve this ourselves, whatever we come back claiming will be lost in the annals of history.”

“Don’t you worry, Master Vernallor.  That’s the way Orintious chooses us and trains us.  We don’t get the bonus unless we complete the mission.  There might not be gold and purishorten waiting for us at the end, but there is a bonus.  Orintious pays us well, which means the bonus is worth the effort.  We’re in this, Master Vernallor, to the end.”

I heard those words repeated a number of times.  The corporal repeated our conversation to others, including Orintious, and a number assured me that they had no desire to quit until the end was reached.  While I did try to get others to ponder the details of what was around us, everyone simply repeated for us to trust in what had been working so far.

It helped not getting too deep in thought as we fought our way over a current.  Songs were sung with some shouting that they would not quit as we stressed our bodies to power us across another strong flow of water.  This one actually moved us in the direction we wanted to go, so some spoke of going with it, but my older brother commanded all to keep rowing across as what we had learned said nothing would be easy.  I felt some deserved to be berated when the island was seen quickly rushing upon us.  As we quickly worked to slow our rate of travel and prepare for the work to secure us before removing the barrier some complained about us not truly knowing where this island would be.  Orintious however reminded them of all our preparations, and I agreed with him about feeling some confidence in seeing we had predicted its existence.  I found myself repeating the words of us not quitting as I forced my mind keep its thoughts on nothing more than keeping muscles working in order to fight our boat into position to tackle this island.

While most showed signs of barely being able to support themselves coming to shore, I saw a number lift themselves to move to the column of rock that made up the center of this island.  Seeing what caused them to move, I also got my feet back under me to go with them.  Someone had built a small shelter of the native stone.  Seeing complete slabs caused me to eye the structure with suspicion.  Considering we had not been able to separate the rocks, even though they appeared to be in layers, I was wary of how this structure had been manufactured.  The men also acted with suspicion, and I gave them what support I could in inspecting the rocks of the supposed shelter.

After assuring themselves of there being no traps, some men worked to carefully lift the front panel to show us what was inside.  Only comments were made in seeing a gold bowl on top of a stack of smaller tiles, possibly the slag from working the larger panels to their present shape, had the men make a number of suggestions.  I heard a few repeat the phrases of caution they had made during the day of staying with the mission to the end.  Assuring myself there was nothing going to be set off should I advance, I stepped up to look inside the bowl.

Finding a white crystalline substance had me look again at things around me worried about a trap.  Hearing others identify the substance as purishorten did not ease my mind.  Nothing about this place looked proper, so I could not help but suspect the place as a trap.

One soldier touching the crystals jerked his hand back saying, “It does burn.”

It was not Orintious, but Therper who commanded, “Get some samples.”

“Sample?” I exclaimed.  “That is a sample!”

The mercenaries laughed.  I went on a rant how the substance should be all over the island, and not just in one little bowl.  I spoke about how we were working to gain fantastic wealth, which one little item of gold would not supply.  The mercenaries smiled and made statements of support, although none said anything to stop my rant.

What had me cease my flow of words was Orintious saying, “You’re right.  Still, Vernallor, all evidence needs to be judged for its importance.”  My love of mystery novels had me admit he was right, so I changed my attitude when he said, “Get to work.”

As usual, what is found is never enough.