To Solidify the Mist: Cp25

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To Solidify the Mist
Chapter Twenty-Five

The estate we gained for our rest was a nice mansion, although not nearly large enough for the soldiers. Still, they had a clear field with facilities that provided them with warm water. Considering that they gained the liberty to enjoy the town, as I stayed outside sparring with Orintious I gained the impression that most soldiers would not be spending much time about the mansion.

I thought of my week in Heracropolis as the men had trouble the next morning. Orintious did not bother them, but some tried to start a regularly day as if they had something to prove. I held myself back from laughing seeing a couple rush to where they could expel some stuff from their stomach when they tried to give a salute. I also held myself back from yelling for them to eat better, as that was the advice given to me after my week in Heracropolis.

“Are you coming with me, Vernallor?”

I turned to Orintious to ask, “Where are you going?”

“Town. Probably be bored out of your skull, but I am giving you the option to be bored out of your skull here or in town.”

Heratin came from the mansion while saying, “No need to be bored, Vernallor. You can go with me.”

The older brother turned to the middle brother to demand, “And why do you think that you might not be in over your head?”

“Because your men are in town. I will be checking up on them.”

“How about you go south, as I am planning on going north then moving toward the port.”

“Yes, I’m going south. Coming with me, Vernallor?”

Orintious stepped up to show that he was not yet finished. “What about Mochsha?”

“She was stuck in that dismal cell for decades, then drug all through mountainous wilderness. She needs some recuperating. Ochally is with her, as is Minchell. She should be fine.” I guess hoping to stop more questions from Orintious, Heratin kept talking. “I told the ladies that I would bring back something for lunch. By then Mochsha’s dresses should be ready, so I will escort her into town then.”

“What’s to the south?”

After sighing as a sign that he really was getting tired of the questions, Heratin answered, “Witches.”

“Witches?”

“Listen, would you believe me if I told you that I was as concerned about things as you are trying to act? We removed that curse on that girl yesterday, but her father came to Mochsha under the impression he was dealing with a witch. Why? Do the witches of this world go about glowing? I don’t know of one witch that glows.”

“I have to – Very good, Heratin. That is a wonderful line of thought. Honestly, Vernallor could probably help you. I will be getting some simple directions, so should be fine, especially after I pick up a couple of men to shadow me.”

As if knowing that I would chose him, Heratin began pulling me with him before Orintious could ask another question causing me to ask, “Are you really looking for witches?”

“We are still trying to keep the moral high ground to not spoil any interaction with fairies, so of course that is really what we are doing.”

I knew enough about Heratin to suspect an ulterior motive, so asked, “Are you expecting Nerframe to be there?”

“No.”

Considering what Heratin said, I had to ask, “Why are you thinking Orintious’ men will be there?”

“That is one lesson Father would have gotten really mad at me if you learned it during the festival, Heratin. It is something you are going to learn soon enough, but not on my watch – Okay?”

“What lesson is that?”

“Just how stupid we men can be if given a chance.”

I turned to point to the facility for the soldiers as I asked, “You mean getting sick isn’t stupid?”

“Oh, no. Trust me, you will soon enough be bragging about how sick you got yourself. I am talking about stuff you will not brag about. I am talking about doing deeds so stupid that you would rather go to your grave than tell anyone.”

“But surely Orintious’s men know better.”

“All men know better, Vernallor. Even you know better. What I am trusting is that Orintious’ men are wise enough to admit the stupid things they did. Pay attention, Vernallor, you might have things to learn. Just remember that I did not teach them to you, but Orintious’ men did.”

That last line was so typical from Heratin that I had to cheerfully turn to walk with him. He did not take me down the better alleys in the city. Honestly, he had done that with me before, but Heracropolis was a very well managed community. Considering things about our situation and the dirty appearance to the avenues we walked through, I did wonder about our safety. I however quickly wondered how Heratin knew things when I saw a group of Orintious’ men on the street.

My middle brother went up to a soldier and kicked him while asking, “All right, which house does she live in?”

A man other than the one Heratin kicked suddenly picked himself up while saying, “Don’t tell Orintious, Grace Heratin.”

“Oh, it’s Grace Heratin now. Hear that, Vernallor? These men that are usually so palsy-wowsy with you, now want you to think they are not worth you noticing them. They start using your titles and being real formal with you. I want all you men up, in formation, and WHAT HOUSE IS IT?”

A door opened with a rather withered old lady looking out and asking, “May I help young man? If you want to ask, let me tell you that these gentlemen got what they paid for.”

“That’s not my question. I want to know if you are a witch.”

“Can I help you?”

Heratin looked to me and asked, “Do you remember my point in coming this way?”

I did not mention that indeed the crone did not glow, but simply said, “Certainly.”

“Now, what is the next question? Come on, Vernallor.” Heratin then advanced to the old lady, handed her a couple of coins, then informed her, “The boy gets to ask a question.”

I really did not have a question, and the only one I could think of was, “Why couldn’t you remove a spell that a spider had cast? I mean even an old, experienced spider should not be a match for someone of your years and surely more advanced experiences.”

The old lady replied, “You always suspect the reason for the curse to be made. Curses are not always logical. It is not age and experience that gives them power, but the emotional state at the time of casting. Even something as small as a spider can have feelings, and that make the results a lot stronger than you realize. Before you take on a curse, you first have to concern yourself with why it was cast. If something so weak cast something so strong, it is best to suspect that it was just.”

I felt the answer was a good one, but as I began to ponder the words Heratin gave the lady another coin while saying, “That was a good answer. A lot more than I suspected.” He handed her another coin, then asked, “Do you still have their clothes?”

“Oh, yes – some. Let me check and get them all for you.”

Within a few minutes a number of doors opened with clothes being tossed out. I had to say a couple of ladies I felt might not have looked so bad last night. Most of them however did not. I however went about gathering the garments, then bringing them to the men who mostly just gathered them up in their arms. The couple who used the time to put on the clothes, Heratin told them to follow him while the others were sent marching back to the mansion.

It was actually one of the soldiers with us that directed us to the next group of men. These were coming out a door thanking the ladies. I felt they had a better evening, although they were looking a lot more distressed by the light of sun. It took some eye rubbing, then using a hand to shield his eyes from the natural light, before one of the men recognized my brother.

“Grace Heratin. You need not fear. We are all right.”

I chuckled with my brother before he replied, “It seems you guys had it rather rough. Enjoyed it?”

There was no laughter from them as the answer came, “We will claim to have done so.” One of the men began patting his body, then produced a piece of paper that he handed to the one that was speaking. “Here. This should keep any fault from being placed on us.”

Heratin read it, then said, “And here is your lesson, Vernallor.” He handed the paper to me. “It’s not stupid if you can come away with a prize.”

The paper had the words ‘Felter’s Point’ written on it, which caused me to ask, “So, do we take him to Orintious.”

“Oh, no,” the soldier replied, “Master Vernallor, but let us simply crawl back to the mansion. If you do that, we will let you evaluate the prize in your own time.”

Heratin told the men to move on. He even allowed the two that had been told to accompany us to return to the mansion. I then continued on with Heratin saying that he was not concerned whether we would find more of the soldiers or not.

We stopped as we saw a number of soldiers that were not wearing the colors of Orintious or looking like they had an evening of liberty the night before. As we stopped to consider our options, a man in very good clothes rode out on a horse.

He said, “There is word being spread about town that you are nothing but trouble.”

Heratin replied, “Oh, you can ignore that. I was spreading that rumor. Oh, I guess that means that I am trouble. Well, not the result I was really going for.”

The man said, “I am Viscount Precormin. This is my city. Who are you?”

“Heratin Alls-Friend.”

The man gave an expression of not truly agreeing with the answer as he asked, “Who’s the dark-skinned lad?”

“My brother, Vernallor.”

“So, Vernallor Alls-Friend?”

“Well, he hasn’t earned that. He has however earned the right to no longer be called Vernallor Ever-Annoying.”

Viscount Precormin dismounted, then said, “Such is the way with brothers. Have two myself. One is a general in my Navy. He heard it spread that it would be treason for you men to board a boat, so sent men wondering about you. Found himself surprised to hear that your men handled themselves well. I mean, we get sailors coming into our town often, so have definitely seen worse behavior.”

“Yes, well, our men are mercenaries. They do not handle themselves well, and they get fired.”

This time the man nodded before asking his next question. “Heard your sister gained the title to the DeNachillim estate. What position will you boys have?”

“Position? I have a position. Mochsha can have her house and land. Honestly, she should be safe enough, as our older brother, the one in charge of the mercenaries, plans on settling nearby.”

The man walked forward while asking, “Position? And what is your position, Heratin Alls-friend?”

“I am the child of the greater goddess, Hera, and as such I go through the death and rebirth each spring to show her control over all the facets of the life of men.”

“Never heard of the goddess Hera.”

“Every heard of Galabur?”

“Oh.” Viscount Precormin stopped, then bowed. “Now this makes sense. I do know of Galabur. There have been stories of a source of wisdom seeking wisdom himself, so taking children. They say that he was tricked, and given two children that would corrupt his soul. One was given over a century ago, a boy, with a girl given to him some time after.”

Heratin walked up to the man to where the two stood face-to-face, then asked, “You don’t know anything about Galabur, do you?”

“No.”

“He isn’t human. You check on the race of beings he belongs to, and they are not a good bunch. The way I hear it, the corruption done to Galabur has made him a good person. I know, Vernallor knows, Orintious knows, and Mochsha knows that Galabur has been a wonderful father.”

As if the words had no effect on him, Viscount Precormin asked, “What does the piece of paper say?”

“Felter’s Point. You see, we’re looking for an ocean fairy. I believe someone sought to stop us by not letting us take one of your vessels. The problem is that we really don’t need one of your vessels. If we go looking for her, she will be looking for us. I assume Felter’s Point will be a good place to look.”

“Fairies? You’re playing a dangerous game, Heratin Alls-Friend. I want none of it. I will spread the word that what was said is wrong, but also that the captain and crew that do take you on should be wary.”

Heratin stepped back, then said, “Thank you. Honestly, it was not supposed to be so dangerous. Mochsha is my sister however. Galabur is a good father, and those of us that claim him are also taught to claim each other. It is an odd family, but a loving one. We are there for Mochsha, and will see it through. You are thus correct, to work with us or against us puts you in harm’s way. Enjoy watching our doom or victory.”

“Just for your information, the Barony of Octugree is out to the north-east. The collapse of the DeNachillim estate really put it in distress. It would help that land, which is one of my holdings, to restore the property. Tell your sister that she has become the vassal of Baron Amonter, and indirectly one of my subjects. Once her matter is resolved, we would love to speak to her on this matter and other concerns of a more local nature. As for her brothers, from what I have seen I would love to learn more about you as well.”

“Sounds delicious.” Heratin put forth a hand, then took it back as he asked, “Why did you come to us? Orintious should be about the docks. He’s the older brother and the one in charge of the soldiers.”

“I did not want a fight. He might see my men and put his men on alert. What I heard about you said that you would be easier to intimidate. I now know better.” The viscount put out his hand. “I admit that I am in over my head. Thank you for the money you have spent with my people, and the time you have given me.”

Things worked out well, but there is no support for believing things will stay that way.