To Solidify the Mist: Cp19

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To Solidify the Mist
Chapter Nineteen

We stepped out into the light of day with all of us stating some pleasure in not seeing part of the sky darkened. Some of the soldiers spoke of possibly not having to worry about the black presence, but Orintious assured them it would happen. He had not spoken of alternate strategies, I felt due to a belief that the one chasing us would be present. Considering how much of the sky it had covered when we entered the mountain, it was imaginable that it would now completely hide the sky from view. All we saw however was the usual light of the sun, but instead of marching on enjoying the day Orintious had us stop and discuss our situation.

I listened as the soldiers reasoned out that we had passed through the mountain. Hearing their logic concerning assuring our location compared to where we had been I found interesting. Speaking with Orintious about the details of choosing the best place to meet an opponent I also felt provided some good information on tactics. As the soldiers were speaking of what they could make out of the terrain ahead of us, I felt my older brother had a good grasp on how to plan our day.

Keeping a sense of direction became difficult in the confusing landscape presented by the multitude of peaks. While some did speak of the mountain fairy not being precise in saying that we would come out facing the direction to the ocean, no one wanted to state a conclusion that went against her words. There however was no clear direct route through the landscape, but we simply had to trust that working our way around the peaks would get us to where we were going.

Making camp that evening I could not help but assume that the soldiers expected the black presence to find us during the night. They lit torches along with a large campfire I believe to help cover the glow from Mochsha, but I found myself not really believing the one that had been following us actually perceived the light from my sister. If her radiance had any importance then she should not have been sealed away all these years. Some type of bird cage would have made more sense to me. I however let the soldiers do as they felt best, and I feel my reader should be pleased with the extra attention I was able to give to my penmanship.

The day again presented wonderful weather for travel. I found myself wondering with some soldiers if a mountain fairy had any control of the wind or clouds about their peaks. Of course they watched the sky for signs of the darkness, but our travel proceeded with the only difficulties due to the terrain.

My thoughts about there being something about Mochsha identifying her beside her glow was verified the next day. We were trudging up a slope wondering if we would be able to make out any sign of the mountains coming to an end and hopefully a coast when we reached the top. The way the blackness poured around the side of a mountain had me believe that Mochsha had already been identified before sight was gained.

There was no way a good position could be gained. The soldiers directed us back down toward what appeared to be a large meadow. We realized the reason for the lack of trees upon our boots splashing in a layer of water. The grass obviously grew fast enough in periods of low water to survive times of greater flows of liquid. The soldiers splashed through the marsh to gain the positions they desired for when the blackness arrived.

Again I had to realize that our distance was affected by vertical movements due to the slopes of the land. The entity however moved through the sky without any such concerns. While the distance between peaks seemed rather great to us, the movement of complete dark crossed to us in a very short amount of time.

The sky went black over us, then shifted to a gray cover as what appeared to be a layer of complete darkness descended to become a large bat-winged man. I noticed soldiers warn me and the ladies away from him, but worried about Mochsha had me move to my sister. He landed exactly where Orintious’ men had hoped he would with them confidently shifting their weapons to aim should he not act in a manner less than completely friendly.

“I have not figured you out,” the entity said in what sounded like a normal voice for a man given resonance and volume by some means. “My minion was trying to tell me that you were not scared of me, but you were not confrontational either. I mean, until now.”

Orintious said, “We are mercenaries, so have contracts to fill in order to be paid. Just completed one however, so our ledger has a line clear. We will thus listen to your offer.”

“Oh, that is a most splendid situation. Mercenaries – doing it for money. That I can understand. What is your price?”

“A number of my men have family, and we all dream of retirement. Still, we get the job done. There are a surprising number who are willing to speak of their desire not really caring what price I set.”

The features on the man were hidden by his form turning completely black, and as his wings again spread he said, “I don’t work that way.”

That response had the soldiers make their attacks. Missiles flew as men splashed through the marsh to prepare to flank the entity. He shrieked as the tips of quarrels sank into the darkness that seemed to be his skin. I saw the black expanse that I felt were his wings to move as if he sought to take to the air. Two of the soldiers however charged to send the pointed tips of halberds into the ebony spreads, then they worked to have their attacks make use of the edges of the weapons to tear holes.

It took me by surprise to see Heratin rush to aid the soldiers hoping to catch the entity in a net. It made sense to have Ochally rush to me. It however took me by surprise to hear her command me.

“Vernallor, you and Mochsha need to stay with me. I have the protection of –“

I saw soldiers fly as the body of the entity turned suddenly to point in my direction while saying, “NOT HER! She is mine!”

Orintious replied, “Oh, that is where you are so wrong. That is my sister, and we have some family plans that do not include you.”

I felt the arms of Mochsha come around me along with a blue glow as she said, “Stay with me, Vernallor.”

“Of course, Mochsha,” I said in return.”

“You are all fools!” the black bat-winged entity stated.

“I think not,” Orintious returned. “Family is worth defending for free.”

“Idiots!”

Right then a soldier felt that he had his opening, and rushed to send his sword into the belly of the entity. I believe he would have died, but one who had been trying to cut a wing ducked under while drawing his own short blade and managed to have it come up in time to stop the hand coming down. I could not see the attack, but the entity had his chest come out as if responding to an attack on his back. All the soldiers dropped as the opponent suddenly became a black mist that joined with the darkness above in moving away out of sight.

Orintious yelled, “Men, back in formation! That thing now knows we can hurt it, will hurt it, and are not going to stand around and let it talk us to death!”

There was some laughter as the men began moving. My older brother yelled over the sounds of the splashing for his men to sound off. Many praised the water in ways that let me know they had taken solid hits, but instead of feeling the impact of the ground they simply found themselves getting wet. As I helped Ochally get back control of the horses, I heard Orintious speak some pleasure in not losing another man before giving some instruction.

“Okay, we all know that Mr. Black,” he had to pause as some laughed at the name he used for the opponent, “lost this round.” Now he had to wait for sounds of cheers to die back down. “He now has two options: come back showing us just how strong he is or negotiate. I am completely ruling out any idea he will simply turn tail and run.” There was agreement to that decision. “Honestly, I know you guys could fight harder as well. You gave him a strong initial challenge, but I know that you have even deadlier options at your disposal. Still, what you used worked, so I believe we can defeat this guy. As for negotiation, I don’t know. None of what I believe are our real issues with this guy has even been put forth. All I can say is that I hope I am as ready for any parlay as you were with a fight.”

A soldier asked, “What about you, Heratin? What is your assessment?”

The middle brother replied, “Ah, my assessment doesn’t count. Let’s get a real unbiased observation. Vernallor, what are your thoughts on the battle?”

I had finished helping Ochally, so had only been watching and listening. I however felt that I was learning things, and not paying attention as someone with any experience. Feeling that Heratin was going to use my response as a means of helping me see some of the overall tactics being considered, I went ahead and gave an answer.

“He tried to get us to turn our attention on Mochsha. That did not happen. He will now seek to confront her directly. I would say at night, when his black presence would not be so noticeable.”

Heratin commented, “Whoa, not really what I expected.”

A soldier said, “I however agree with the boy – no offense, Master Vernallor. Still, we are keeping an active watch at night.”

Orintious replied, “What Vernallor said was that you need to do more than be alert, but stay ready to act. Just sounding an alarm will not be enough.”

Another soldier asked, “Double the watch, Sir?”

“Yes, but again not just to add the extra eyes. When trouble is found I expect weapons being put to work against it.”

A general agreement sounded from the soldiers. Orintious then gave the command for us to return to our march. He did authorize an early camp should a good location be found. When one soldier again spoke of the experience of only getting wet instead of impacting a hard, rocky surface, Heratin told him that he could make his bed in a wet area. A general agreement that dry ground did make a better bed sounded, although I found myself wondering exactly where the soldiers would decide to make camp.

Heratin came over to check on Ochally, then he turned to our sister to ask, “Mochsha, what were your plans with Vernallor?”

“If that being was going to take me again, I was going to bring Vernallor with me. Not only would he provide company, but I believe our young brother could have that the talent to get us free.”

“Well, he certainly is not like some of my non-brothers, those who have Zeus as a father, which I do not, nor Hera as a mother, as I do. Tales of them are of them being really strong. I doubt however that Vernallor is going to rip any cell doors out of their frame.”

Mochsha made a show of checking my upper arms for signs of muscles, and while I did work out I knew there was not enough strength to do as Heratin suggested. “I believe Vernallor could surprise us. He’s most perceptive. I believe that as he matures he will be able to see the truth of things as you do, Heratin.”

“You’re saying he might have divine blood as well?”

“I am. However, we all know Father, so can say that he is not like the rest of us.”

“What do you say to that, Vernallor?”

I certainly had been listening, so tried to find the right words to state my opinion. “What we are learning only supports what Father says. He says that there are things of interest in our pasts, but the reason he took us was that he found himself interested in our future. What Orintious learned did not present him with another family, but only some evidence about how to plan his future. I cannot imagine Mochsha coming to a different conclusion, although her background will direct her to a unique future as well. If I do have a divine parent, I doubt my future will be anything like yours, Heratin.”

It was Mochsha that spoke next. “See what I’m saying, Heratin? There is a wisdom in Vernallor. I think I would be better off keeping this brother with me.”

Heratin commented, “If I were Vernallor, I would not appreciate being chosen as a cellmate.”

I replied, “None of us intend for Mochsha to return to that cell. From what she is saying however, it would be a few years before I would be able to help her.”

Mochsha said, “Maybe, but a lot fewer than I was confined last time.”

There was a moment of silence, then Heratin replied, “Don’t you give up on Orintious or me, Mochsha. We are facing the problems that troubled you, and we will overcome them. I’m glad to have Vernallor in our company, but your other brothers have a lot of experience behind us. We should be more than enough to see this through.”

“Vernallor is my brother as well. I did not recognize his voice before, but I sensed he was my brother. I will not deny him, and believe that I will come to love him as much as I love you and Orintious.”

Hoping to settle an issue, I said, “If Mochsha does get taken again, I will see about getting her out. You and Orintious better be coming to the rescue.”

Heratin replied, “I was the one that opened her cell door.”

“I could do that as well. Sterrig taught me, and he said that he was the one that taught you.”

“Well, he gave me pointers. I mean, he’s the brother after Normanie, so I was well secure in my place by the time he came along. I can be a rascal, so had learned some tricks, but he took some time to let me know how to make opening a lock not a trick at all. Still, no telling what tricks he added in his lessons to you.”

“So trust me, I will get us out. You and Orintious just come to our rescue.”

Mochsha confidently asked, “Got that, Heratin?”

The middle brother answered, “I guess I do.”

Everyone stays active, so things will continue to develop.