To Solidify the Mist: Cp20

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To Solidify the Mist
Chapter Twenty

We heard the hoof beats that evening, and turned with all of us checking for the location of our weapons. I had removed my sword belt, but was putting it on when the same rider rode into camp. I believe that he understood we trusted our weapons to speak for us, as he turned in his saddle to reach for a rather full sack.

“I brought wine.”

Orintious said, “We have our own, thanks. But bring what you want to drink, as we are not going to share.”

“Ah, you’re right, it’s poisoned. You guys don’t miss a trick.”

“Incompetence is not a trick.”

Soldiers laughed at that with the man staying in the saddle as he asked, “Well, where should I start?”

Heratin answered, “You can leave as far as we are concerned.”

“Ah, Alls-friend, you aren’t that friendly, but at least I know your name.” The man saw crossbows aimed in his direction, so quickly said, “You’re right, you’re right, I have some introductions of my own to make. Okay, from the top. Oh courageous challengers of things hidden and deadly, I am Nerframe, the general lackey of one known as Derchallog the Terrible. Only through lies and trickery was he forced to remove himself from graces usually a part of normal people. As a being of darkness he now must go through life, but really is not a bad person. Most of his reputation is completely undeserved. He asks that he be granted an audience to discuss a truce.”

Silence ruled for a time, then Heratin said, “Okay, if that’s all, you can go now.”

“Wait!” The rider now dropped to the ground. “What is it going to take with you guys?”

Orintious answered, “Well, poisoned wine is not it. Attacking us is not it.”

“My lord did not start the attack!”

“He might want to go and take lessons on diplomacy. We can wait, as we have things to be doing ourselves.”

Nerframe reached to pull a bottle from the sack. He used his teeth to pull out the cork. I watched as he took a long swig from the bottle, although found his reaction to have me further believe in his incompetence.

Making a real disgusted face, he said, “I really need to choose a better tasting poison next time. Okay, let me see if I can advance things at least a little ways. I really have nothing else to say, so let me just start with a question. You, that lady there, the glowing one, is your sister?”

Orintious asked, “Why was your lord down in that hole?”

“What?”

“Why was your lord down in that hole?”

“Well, I’m really not authorized to say, but it seems that I am doomed either way, and I am glad to have something to work with. I really am. So, okay, let me see, why was my lord down in that hole.”

Orintious pointed at one of his soldiers, and a crossbow bolt flew. The man in black quickly turned his hand to have the bottle take the blow. As pieces of glass shattered with smoke rising from where the liquid landed on the ground, I saw a hand reach for another bottle as if expecting another bolt to fly.

“Hey! I can be killed?”

Orintious returned, “Only one way to find out if you’re lying or not.”

I believe the man really did not understand what my older brother said, as Nerframe did not react until Orintious began to move a hand to signal another soldier. “Wait! You don’t understand. It’s a complicated story, and some things my lord only wants revealed by himself.”

“Well, it is my opinion to reduce him to only having that option.”

This time Nerframe acted quick as if fully understanding the meaning of the words. “Wait! That glowing lady is his daughter. He learned of her, and wanted her for his own. He was under pressure from the goody-goodies that originally stole things from him, so thought to pass the time developing a relationship with his daughter.”

Orintious replied, “Well, I have to give you credit there. What you said tells me that your lord hired the right guy to represent him. It seems that both of you are incompetent.”

“Wait! Are you saying that you know who her father is?”

“Yes. Same as my father.”

“And who is your father?”

Orintious paused, but I felt as able to answer the question as well as the older brother. “Galabur.”

“Galabur?” The man moved to his horse, and as he regained the saddle he said, “My lord is presently recuperating. Would you be willing to discuss things with him tomorrow evening?”

Orintious answered, “Don’t know. You have not given us a good presentation of him.”

“Yes, well, good night.”

As he rode off, a number of comments were made by the soldiers. Everyone went quiet as Orintious came over to Mochsha. While he spoke quietly, the soldiers did their best to make out what he said.

“It seems that I had better parents than you.”

She replied, “I will never hold that against you. If anything, I will love Galabur even more.” She turned to another brother to ask, “Heratin, if I am a product of something so vile, how am I as I am?”

The middle brother returned, “Why are you asking me? If Hera thought she could produce a child like me with her husband, she would have done so. I would thus have to say bad things about you, Mochsha.”

I said, “I believe he gave us some understanding of what you are, Mochsha.” All my siblings looked to me, so I paused to assure my words before saying them. “The black thing, Derchallog –“

“The terribly incompetent.”

Sounded good to me. “The terribly incompetent, said that he had been tricked out of aspects of himself. I would thus say that your light was once a part of him. He probably thought you would turn to look, look to him, because you are a part of him – I mean more than any child has traits from their parents.”

Mochsha said, “I really feel no attachment to him.”

Orintious replied, “We have good evidence that we are being lied to, Mochsha. Sorry, Vernallor. I know that it probably is a well thought out theory, but I am not going to trust any conclusion, even hypothetical, that is based on what we have been told. My mother told us to head to the ocean, and I consider her words to have infinitely more value than what Derchallog the Terribly Incompetent or his henchman has told us.”

“I understand, Orintious.”

“Thank you, Mochsha.” The older brother then turned to say, “All right, men, stay alert! I know the idiot left speaking of tomorrow night, but all of us know what a liar he is. Thus, let’s keep the high ground, both morally and tactically. Be at your best, do your best, and I will try to pay you the best!”

Cheers sounded, then the men returned to their regular duties. I had learned enough of the routine to understand what I should be doing. As I turned to my duties, I however felt the arms of Mochsha go around me.

“I heard what you said, Vernallor.” She kissed me, then repeated, “I heard what you said. You’re possibly right, but I’m hoping you’re not. Still, we need to be honest with each other, so I don’t want you feeling bad that you said what you did. As brother and sister we have a future with each other. We can talk about our good and bad decisions later. At the moment, we need the freedom, the sense of obligation, to say what we are thinking. I want you to know that I heard what you said, and I still love you and I still want to hear anything else you have to say.”

“I’m glad that we rescued you, Mochsha. I’m glad you are not just a pink picture on father’s wall. Don’t run off alone again, okay?”

“I’m going to remind you of those words when I come to you speaking of running off somewhere, and you give me some excuse.”

Since I really did not know, I had to ask, “Is that what happened?”

“That is really what happened. Orintious was working twine to create a really long length of rope for some descent he had planned. Heratin was in his early days of becoming the person Hera wanted him to become, so was under some obligation. I really however did not think I would encounter any trouble, so I took off on my own.”

From a distance the voice of the older brother said, “I told you wait a while, Mochsha.”

While her color again turned a pure radiance, she looked to me to say, “He’s right, but I also really did not expect trouble.”

I asked, “So, if I tell you to wait until I finish whatever I am doing, will you wait?”

“Yes, Vernallor – and you too, Orintious – I will wait.”

It was the older brother that replied, “Sounds like you learned a lesson, Mochsha.”

The rest of the evening I listened as my older siblings spoke of their previous times together. I gained the impression that Mochsha really did not have much interaction with Orintious. Just like I found him in my life, she tended to find the older brother keeping to himself. Unlike me, she would bother him when he was about Father’s home, so they had developed a relationship beyond a simple acknowledgement of belonging to the same family. To Mochsha, Heratin was the younger brother, and she had many stories of him growing up. What was fun was listening to him admit to everything she said, and the two laughing at the antics.

What was different in my sister’s recollection of our family and my own were the mortal siblings. There were two brothers between her and Orintious with one dead and one very close to it before I was born. Since the birth of Heratin there was another sister and two brothers before I joined the family. I remember going to Normanie’s funeral, but I found that I knew a different two aging male siblings than Mochsha.

It was Ochally that was able to relate to having different ages of people of similar status. While she had not belonged to Heratin for long, she had been with him during the week that I was enjoying the pleasures available in Heracropolis. She spoke of Heratin having some slaves that were getting up in age. Three had died in childbirth, but others were speaking of coming to the end of their normal lives. She spoke of staying around Heratin as long as she could, but accepted that pregnancy and the pains of age would one day keep her home. I did enjoy speaking with her, and I guess she also was pleased I would listen as she sat next to me to softly ask a question.

“Do you think that you are immortal, Vernallor?”

“I have no way of knowing,” I replied. “I might be like you and just traveling while I can.”

“Well, let me tell you that Heratin is glad you are with us. He says that you are a good buffer between him and Orintious.”

I had to admit, “Orintious does speak of Heratin being a pain, but he also speaks of him as being a trusted brother.”

“Well, Heratin says that it helps having you for Orintious to talk with. The man seems to get along with you, and Heratin likes you as well. Heratin says that it would help if you continue to travel with them.”

Ochally might have had a connection to an older brother, but I had the years of being a part of the family. “Heratin does not travel much. He tends to stay in Heracropolis, where you ladies are, or with Father.”

“Well, I don’t know about that. All I know is what I have been hearing. Since Heratin and Orintious is immortal, I am hoping that you are immortal as well.”

“Why Father found an interest in me, I cannot say. All I hope is that I learn, as I would like to know myself why I am interesting.”

She pecked me on a cheek, then said, “I cannot tell you either, but I can say that I like you and Heratin likes you. That is enough for me.”

Another confrontation with Dechallog the Terribly Incompetent reveals some truth.