The Depth of the Mists

Chapter Twenty-Five

Others put up resistance to doing anything with the crystals, but I argued in favor of doing everything we could.  I heard support upon saying that there better be more purishorten found as well as gold.  My conclusion that if we came back unable to tell anyone about the substance then no one would believe what crystals we had were really anything special.

A number put their fingers through the bowl and spoke of feeling a disturbing tingle.  No sores or other visible effects could be seen, so Sterrig’s claim of his fur being bleached was considered without support.  While some was placed in a container, tests were done with the crystals.  Finding them to dissolve in water, again Sterrig found one of his claims dismissed.  As he then spoke of there being particles of gold in the water, a number wondered about the reason for this small amount to be present.

Simply attempting to gain as many facts as possible, others looked at the bowl.  Considering it was gold, I did not act surprised that someone put their attention on it.  Hearing it mentioned there being writing on it, a number turned their attention away from the crystals.  Of course Sterrig had come to look, and was focusing on the gold, so it did not surprise me to hear him give a translation of what was on the bowl.

“Take it and go.”  I was grateful to hear him mention, “It is in the language of the words on the boulders, and not what was written on the gold sheet.”

Hearing another of the mercenaries report that a section of the prominence was without a flow of water and had what appeared to be grooves for handholds and footholds had us all go quiet.  Instead of anyone mentioning a desire to take what we had, I was grateful that only speculation on the importance of the evidence was discussed.  Some agreed that we were in the middle of some grand game.  Those who postulated that others might have made it here and left with this prize, being the source of what information we had on this place could not find support for their hypothesis.  No one spoke of having knowledge of a bowl of this type, and definitely there was no actual claim of purishorten existing.  The mercenaries spoke of resting while making their inspection of things around this island, although as they turned Sterrig had to voice his own conclusion.

“We take this with us.”

One of the mercenaries asked, “We put some purishorten in a container, Sterrig, so I guess you mean the bowl.”

“Of course I mean the bowl.  It’s gold.”

Theria moved up to say, “Of course he means the gold.”

When she grabbed the bowl, I guess she jarred the container.  I exclaimed with the others seeing a gold stopper drop from the bottom.  What crystals were still in the bowl fell on the lady with her screaming.  Instead of trying to set the container down, she attempted to hold onto it while jumping about and losing more of the substance inside.  I felt sorry for her seeing that as she tried to dump it one way the crystals still came out the other.  Collapsing on the ground speaking of pain, she still retained a hold on the bowl which had the final particles of the substance to land on her.

Of course, we wanted to help, but did not know how to touch her, and I saw some react as they contacted the crystals.  Theria’s sounds of pain started changing to a type of panting.  I then heard her say something rather surprising.

“This isn’t so bad.  No.  No, no, no.”  She shot up dumping the bowl to the ground, then pointed to Sterrig while screaming, “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Sterrig had one hand go to the bowl, but another reached as if to grab a crystal before it dissolved in the water flowing around us.  An expression of finding comfort crossed his features.  He then took off with the bowl to where he could scream at the lady.

“THERE WILL BE MORE!”  She spun, but he kept talking.  “More gold, but also more purishorten.  Whatever you are attempting to refuse or deny, there will be more of this stuff.  Here!  Take the bowl!  Leave!”

I felt hope seeing her pause, then reply, “Sterrig, this isn’t the life I chose, or you chose.  This is not where my hopes and dreams are.  There is more to wealth than comfort.  It’s a means to an end, but not to a normal life.  Those with wealth do not live what everyone else assumes to be a normal life.  I know that.”  I heard stress return to her voice as she declared, “That stuff is lying to you!”

It was Orintious that replied, “No, Theria, it’s not.  I hate to tell you, but the life you are speaking of is a normal life as well.  You are not speaking of becoming anyone special.  People who use wealth to gain power are also common.  I meet them all the time.  Some pay me to do things, and some I have to confront because I was paid to.  To have comfort, whether with wealth or without, is a rare thing.”

Sterrig picked up on the flow of the statement to say, “What I want is wealth and comfort.  To have a nice life with a wife and family.  We can live the life everyone else truly speaks of wanting.”

Theria replied, “Buy you a wife, Sterrig.  That is not the life I want.”

“If that is your decision.  Honestly, I would rather not buy one.  I would rather find one who is willing to be with me, but I don’t know if I have the time or connections.”  He then moved to hand the bowl to the oldest brother while saying, “I know I will get my share, and I feel certain after I pay off certain debts there will still be enough to buy a wife.”

Orintious replied, “That thing is heavy.  You carry it.  I trust you with it, Sterrig.”

One of the mercenaries said, “Go ahead and give it to Theria.  I suspect we will end this with us all loaded down with gold.”

The lady exclaimed, “I HATE ALL OF YOU!”  She then rushed off, but from a distance we then heard her yell, “NO, NO, NO, NO!”

We rushed to see what bothered her, although everyone came to a stop as the light that illuminated this place reflected off the presence of an abundance of gold on an island almost lost in the mist.  The way it sparkled gave the impression that it was not just a mass of the metal, but covered by purishorten.  What we found in the shelter was certainly only a meager token of what we truly had to gain.  Theria pointed, but as if everyone was not understanding she spoke some words.

“You do not understand what I went through.”

Sterrig replied, “I guess none of us ever will.  Life is not about shared experiences, although most of us hope to share our stories.  Also, every experience has its effects on those who go through it.  In that respect, you are not that different, Theria.”

“I hate you.”

Orintious began giving the orders to have his men repeat the steps that had us make it to this point in order to determine where we should go next.  Hearing a number speak of not expecting it to be easy to gain the next island helped me understand the silence when a whirlpool started in the place our experience told us to move to work through the current to gain our objective.  Orintious kept on his men to gather their evidence, as there had to be a method of achieving the goal.

Theria held her place, but as the men went about tossing in the lines to check on the currents she rose to ask, “Don’t you fear it?  That stuff is not going to allow you to stay as you are.”

Tornort, one of those working the fishing lines, replied, “And the gold will?  We are out here hoping to have the mission that will enable us to change.”

“NO!”  Theria rose to move to the man while saying, “Gold will let you buy what you want.  Objects, power, people, gold does not care.  This stuff, purishorten or whatever it is, is not going to let you make frivolous decisions.  It is going to have you do what it wants you to do.”

“Orintious makes us do what he wants us to do.  I trust him to have things work out well.”

Another mercenary, Akinst, said, “You seem to be able to fight the influence, Theria.  I thus believe I will have things my way.”

She spun to confront Sterrig and accuse him of thinking a certain way.  “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

He replied, “Purishorten does not command you, but cleanses your soul.  What you are thinking to be commands is what you really, deep down, want.”

“I gave up having a clean soul long ago.”

“I guess I did as well.”  Sterrig moved up and I saw Theria hold her position while listening to him.  “My problem is that life never gave me the opportunity to truly become corrupt.  Yes, there were things I could of done.  Honestly, if the payoff was anything near what I see in this mission, I would have gone there.  Some made promises, but I never had the confidence of success like I am facing here.  Since I would have sold my soul then, I see no problem with doing it now.”

“You’re a fool, Sterrig.  You know the type of world we live in.”

“I know what type of circles we have being involved with.  Well, I have no problem with walking away from that.  The place I choose to live will need to be among other people.  I might have to pay the taxes and follow the policies of those with the power, but I know from experience that they change.  Whatever propaganda they put out, I will live my life knowing it is the better life.”

Orintious stepped up to put a hand on Sterrig’s shoulder while saying, “And if things do go wrong, you know you can leave.  You have family, and we will love you no matter how much wealth you have.”

Sterrig did not appear too happy with those words, which was supported by the dry comment.  “Well, yes, we can leave.  If things get too bad, we can move somewhere else.”

Theria replied, “Give me time, Sterrig.”

It was Orintious who spoke.  “You have probably a little over an hour, Theria, before we get back in the boats.  Use the time however you think is best.”

I did not know about how things with Theria and Sterrig would end up.  I really knew nothing about women.  There had been no living sisters as I grew up.  I remembered Normanie, but she was old and I remembered going to her funeral more than spending time with her.  While I knew of Minchell, I really had not learned about her and her relationship with Orintious until the last mission.  Heratin had his ladies, but they never presented any of the problems I saw Theria forcing on Sterrig.  In the stories I read women were sometimes trouble, but the interactions were more entertaining than serious exchanges.  I found myself interested in what Sterrig was going through, although was intrigued when one of the mercenaries, Lexonor, made a comment when I looked to Theria huddling in a flow of water near a boat.

“Women.  If you think you might want to avoid them, go ahead and put that thought out of your head, Master Vernallor.  Nothing about them that makes them worth the trouble, but life isn’t life without them.”

Since my mind was attempting to make sense of the situation, I asked about something I heard.  “Can you buy them?”

“Of course you can buy them.  Hell, I’m a mercenary.  I’m in this for the money.  You can consider me as bought.  Of course, what you buy a man for is not the same as what you buy a woman for.”  I was glad he kept talking.  “The problem is that if you buy a woman, she accepts that you paid for her, and will expect you to continue to pay for her.  You get a good woman, one who is willing to commit to sharing her life with you, and she will stand by you even when you cannot pay.  That is the one that grows on you, and the one you actually become comfortable with.”

I had to ask, “Do you think Theria is that type of woman?”

“Every woman is that type of woman.  The problem is that she has to commit to being that type of woman.  That is what is going on right now.  She is seeing if Sterrig will commit to her even as she decides if she is going to commit to him.”

A number of issues start to put a lot of stress on our group.