People in the Mist
Orintious had only brought a horse for me. When Heratin told me that he was riding with me, I did not complain. I expected Orintious to lead us back to his house, but he instead directed his horse in another direction that led us to a portal to another world.
While I accepted the presence of a multitude of worlds somehow coexisting, I really had not studied the methods for moving between them. I knew that attempting to gain a true understanding of how the omniverse operated could send one insane, but there were many, including my oldest surviving brother, that had learned enough to navigate from one known location to another. It did not surprise me to find myself on another world coming into a strange city, but I really had no idea about where I was or what was requiring my presence.
Orintious slowed down to move beside me before saying, “This is a world of humans, but they have a really strange religion. The city is in the midst of a holy period, so be on your best behavior. We are accepted guests, but pay attention to certain things and be willing to go through certain formalities.”
I had to reply, “I don’t study religion, Orintious.”
“But you like mysteries.”
“Treat this as a mystery, Vernallor. It might not be your type of mystery, but it hopefully will intrigue you all the same.”
Heratin said, “It seems that our big brother is again turning to my youngest brother to have him solve the problem.”
Orintious replied, “I told him that he was being paid.”
“Yes, you did. Vernallor, let me advise you that next time to ask for your money up front.”
While I accepted the words as just a jest, I still replied, “I will only begin doing that after Orintious fails to pay me.”
The older brother said, “That was a good response, Vernallor. Come on, I want you to see this.”
If Orintious had not told me that the world was human, I might have suspected other races being present. There were elaborate outfits with a number of shafts supporting intricate lacey works. While other races than human could be underneath the costumes, what intrigued me was the actual deity or pantheon of gods that was being worshipped. There was nothing morbid in what I saw, although I felt the display indicated some belief in a spider deity. Wondering why Orintious had brought me, I looked about while trusting my steed to simply follow that of my older brother.
We moved through what appeared to be paths between all the activities. There were others with carts causing me to accept that not everyone could participate, even if the religion was followed by all the people of this world. Having a clear path, I found us quickly moving through the city to a large stone building with a number of statues before it and on the eaves of the roof.
As we dismounted, a number of men came with those in the lead taking the reins of our horses while a distinguished appearing group of elders approached with one having a full beard of gray hairs saying, “Orintious, it is good that you could come so quickly.”
My oldest surviving brother replied, “Well, I was in luck that Vernallor was where I could easily grab him.” As I bowed, Orintious continued, “Heratin, one of the brothers between Vernallor and me was also present, but he should not be a problem.”
“Ah, yes. Heratin Alls-friend is known to us. It is a pleasure to actually meet him.”
My second immortal brother replied, “Well, I’m glad I came. This world has been a bother to me on previous occasions, so my concern for Vernallor, my youngest brother, remains.”
“Well, then you have come at a proper time. We are now presenting the webs of memories, and will burn them this very night. On tomorrow, we would hope the harsh memories of your past association with us to be gone.”
“We shall see this very day. Now, can we proceed?”
All the elders turned in a manner that indicated for us to join them, and as we did the one that spoke earlier said, “Master Vernallor, Orintious spoke highly of you.”
I replied, “Well, I do enjoy a good mystery, and my desire to resolve them does have me try to be perceptive. I believe however that my luck to go with Orintious on some really bizarre adventures has simply allowed my fresh mind to see things he did not.”
“He also spoke of your eagerness to do some research. We believe that skill will benefit us. You see, Master Vernallor, this problem will require that along with access to your father. We feel certain that Lord Galabur has some pieces of what we desire.”
Heratin replied, “Using the lad to get to our father?”
Orintious was quick to say, “They could have used me, Heratin. Now, stay quiet and wait until you see what this is about before you start anything.”
It seemed that all the activity of the occasion was being done outdoors. Inside the building the people were not wearing fancy outfits, but acting as it they had regular duties. I did not want to get into the actual religion or even the culture of this world, so simply set myself to following those leading us. It seemed that what they considered important had nothing to do with what was going out outdoors, as they led us down stairs and through corridors deep beneath the building.
Considering the darkness of some of the passages, the room we were brought into was very well lit. The chamber was not overly large, but a large portion of the floor space was covered by display cases holding a variety of items. On a well-polished table I saw a length of something close to cylindrical almost as large as the span of a hand in diameter. Being able to see clearly, I approached the table looking at what I felt was writing tattooed on the fleshy length.
One of the elders, not the one that had been speaking, said, “This is part of the Trunk of Veskagren.”
I replied, “Some of the symbols are arcane runes, but there does appear to be writing.”
“It is one of the stranger tales in our histories. Veskagren was an elephant, a white elephant. It was to be the steed to carry Neslare, a very lovely maiden. Her father did not seek immortality for himself, or for his daughter, but for Veskagren. It seemed that he feared the white elephant to die in bringing his daughter to her husband, as the distance was great. He thus worked magic on Veskagren to preserve the animal. There are various tales of what was actually done to the elephant, although some evidence has come down to us. What is known is that the elephant fought bravely to protect the maiden against those that were against the union. By the time she came to the land of her spouse, Veskagren was driven with rage toward any who approached the young lady. It was Nortelact, the one who became her own husband, that had to stop Veskagren. He managed to win his way to his bride, and with his blade kissed by her the edge was able to slice through the tough hide of the elephant. That did not stop the animal however, but with another kiss he directed his sword upon the trunk of Veskagren. Something seemed to be sapped from the animal with the removal of a section of the trunk, so after having Neslare kiss his sword again he directed another attack upon the trunk. It is said that the trunk was sliced into seven pieces, although only four are known to exist. They have been separated for centuries, but we recently sponsored a special historic showing where three of the four were brought together. In setting up the display, we found two pieces to join. That produced not only enough of a reaction to make the showing popular, but resulted in a number calling for the fourth piece to be brought in. It also joined with the two, and you are looking at the three pieces with the fourth over there.”
I did appreciate the story, but had to ask, “What do you need me for?”
Another of the elders said, “There is writing on it that troubles us.”
Father did teach his children things about languages and how they were represented in the written word. His library did not only have texts from a multitude of worlds, but a great many were extremely old. There were however ways that my father could read them, and he tried to teach us a number of those tricks. I looked at the elephant trunk actually surprised to recognize it as such, then tried to see if I could make sense of any written words made into it.
The symbols that did not seem to be arcane runes to promote and retain magic energies appeared more stylized than simply scribing some text. I then noticed something else that I felt was important. While only three of the pieces fit together, I moved over to the fourth section of the trunk to check the writing there. I believe the others waited to hear what I would claim to see.
“There is a type of curse or enchantment. On top of it, however, I feel are the letters of a name.”
Orintious revealed that he had looked over the evidence before coming to me as he said, “Neslare, the bride, is what it is believed to say. The symbols are however wrong for that.”
“Is that important?”
The elder that had spoken first replied, “Yes, Master Vernallor, and even more so seeing the pieces reassemble themselves. If there is still life, or some active power, still in the trunk, and it is connected to Neslare then she might still be alive.”
Looking to my older brother, I asked, “And you are paying me for that?”
Orintious replied, “No, Vernallor, although you being able to say that much tells me that I should not be wasting my money on you. You like mysteries, and this is one. Something in the story is much more than what was handed down. We want you to solve it.”
“I won’t say that Father does not have books on this, but what should I be able to find that the historians here cannot? They know the actual history, and things about the people and countries involved.”
Another of the elders said, “True, but it seems we have been blinded by what we thought we knew. Some claimed it all to be myth, not real at all. Now we have the evidence that the story is true, and we want to find out just how true.”
Orintious said, “Work with Father and find out what you can. When you feel you have a conclusion, we can meet again with these elders hoping what you find will add to what they have.”
Considering that I did research on topics that had Father present me with texts from various civilizations, I allowed that this mystery was something I could do. I took out my journal and began taking what I considered important notes. Simply trying to gain as much basic information on the topic as possible, I asked what I felt was a fact I needed to know.
“You have the pieces of the trunk. Where is the body of the elephant?”
The elder that originally spoke to us replied, “There is no record of Veskagren being interred, or Neslare either. One of the reasons the story was considered just a myth.”
“So just information about their deaths could help?”
Hearing that answer, I felt it safe to say, “I would assume some information about more pieces of the trunk could help as well.”
“Actually, Vernallor, I believe you could be more than a help there. You see, Lord Galabur is said to be one of the holders of a piece of Veskagren. What we need to do is figure out a way to get him to restore the piece to us.”
And the research starts.