People in the Mist

Chapter Twelve

I stepped out the building looking at the city around me.  There were worlds where magic and science did manage to coexist.  Most however tended to have a population very ignorant of the vast number of realities that actually somehow worked to also continue a separate path.  Even with the multi-universal institution operating in their midst, very few in the city would seriously consider the possibility of other realities.

Walking about I wondered if the reason I was not finding the couple was that they had gone to another reality.  I quickly discarded that hypothesis, as it did not explain the actions of the high priest.  It then hit me that he had not been seeking answers.  The only reason to attack was that he felt us to be a threat.  That meant he knew.  What he had hoped was that we really knew nothing definite, so could be dismissed after we naively presented certain pieces of evidence.  What I found myself wondering was what he could have learned that was worth killing those who had gained certain answers.

Suddenly I realized the value of what information I had gained.  All the research I was doing was in understanding something other than the facts I already knew.  I stopped in a shop and bought a notepad and pen.  Going to a café, I sat down and began to jot down the information that had almost gotten me and two brothers killed.

Returning to Eskrion Assimilations, I sat down and waited for Dechapper to get off work.  Since he did not live on this world, but one that had people like he was, I knew that he would be coming to the small chamber that held the portal.  Not worried about missing Dechapper, I sat and pondered what important piece of information I had avoided realizing it could get me killed.

I looked up hearing the voice of my brother say, “Vernallor, Lekarry will not be over tonight.  While things are advancing in our relationship, we are keeping things very proper.”

Standing, I said, “You know the value of things, Dechapper.  You also will keep your mouth shut.”

“Not with Father, Vernallor.”

“I’m not running from Father.  I just don’t want to run to him.  I might not figure this out on my own, but I want to claim that what I did I did it without him.  Without Orintious as well, since he is paying me.  Don’t want him claiming that he did the actual work for my paycheck.  I went to Sterrig, but if I go again he would probably demand a cut of what I am to get.”

“And how about me?”

I smiled while saying, “I don’t mind being the one to pay for a fishing trip.”

“Sounds like a deal, Vernallor.  Come on.”

About the only time I actually visited Dechapper’s house was coming back from a fishing trip.  At that time we would clean our catch and put things up.  I would then leave for Father’s.  I had never actually paid attention to the architecture and furnishings.  As Dechapper changed from his business clothes, I simply looked about his house.

I turned hearing him come back down the stairs, and heard him say, “Yes, Lekarry is starting to redecorate.  Some things do look girly.  Still, I’m glad I bought this house.  It is old, and supposedly has a ghost, but I have the money to make repairs and refurnish.  It has the size to accommodate a family, so should serve me well.”

Simply to get my brother talking, I asked, “Why would Father be interested in a banker?”

“You’re thinking wrong, Vernallor.  Why would someone take a baby and consider bringing him to Father?  Maybe there wasn’t anything special about me, but somebody was able to move between worlds to bring me to Father.  Same with you.  Same with all of us.”

“But he found you interesting.”

“But Father gets interested in all sorts of things.  Konklond was a dragon, Vernallor.  He wasn’t a special dragon, but just a dragon.  I really did not know Stuppirn, but no one claimed anything wonderful about him.  Yes, we have Orintious, Mochsha, and Heratin in our family, but most of us had basically normal lives.”

Wondering how far he was going to take his analogy, I asked, “Are you going to be happy here?”

“I believe I can be happy here.  Yes, it will be a normal life.  I’ll have a wife, kids, and grow old.  I’m sorry, Vernallor, but I have no higher goals than to have a happy normal life.”

Going to the refrigerator to get something to drink I said, “I don’t think I will, Dechapper.  There are things watching me.  I had someone assuring I had money.  Someone sent Thursdeck to me.  There is something, someone, expecting something from me.”

He had me grab something for him, then replied, “Well, I’m glad I’m the brother ahead of you.  I might be about twenty years older, but I’m still young enough to watch you through your formative years.  I’ll be here for you, Vernallor.”

“Well, my problem is that we were attacked for something I said.  Something I said was a threat.”  Having an idea, I had no reservation about saying it to Dechapper.  “Could it be that I did not collect all the pieces of the trunk?  They had found them enchanted to join back together, but only had four.  Father has one, and admitted he knew the location of the other pieces.  Could it be that I was attacked because I did not bring them?”

“Probably.  Think of it like this.  You know of an investment that will pay you ten times the value.  You however need at least a hundred dollars to take advantage of it, and you only have fifty.  Now, an honest man or a true friend will go to another asking for fifty with a promise of splitting the payoff.  A greedy man will not.  He will go to someone promising only a ten percent return, maybe double.  If the man will not go in for such a promise, especially the one of a double return, it could happen that the greedy man will think the other man knows of the investment and seeks to take full advantage of it himself.  At that point things could go bad.”

Thinking on what Dechapper said, I replied, “But we were not requested to bring the other pieces of the trunk.  He only asked for information, which I was ready to provide.”

“From what I heard, he did not give you a chance to do much.”

“No.  He didn’t.  He probably felt it best to go ahead and attack before the others heard what would probably sound like a reasonable request.”

My brother said, “If he had succeeded, only his version of what you could of said would be heard, and it would condemn you.”

“What you are saying is the problem is not in the history or the people that were involved, but with the trunk.  I cannot see that.  It’s just a protective spell on the trunk, and the name of the second daughter.”

Now it was Dechapper who paused to think.  “I have seen a number of investment opportunities, Vernallor.  The best ones are not regulated or assured.  Many have lost it all with the hope of a big score.  What drives those who invest is however the true stories of those who did get a big payday.  The high priest probably considered that the only reason you would not have focused on the trunk was that you had the same thoughts with them that he had.”  As if realizing that he had not really provided any help, Dechapper suggested, “What if the trunk could provide access, some key, to what was truly of value?”

“I don’t see how.”

“Well, honestly, Vernallor, if Father has the answer, you would be wrong not to go to him.  In fact, the reason they did not go to Father was probably because the high priest felt he would know what would be possible if they were brought together.  Father is known to give certain people lectures about their direction of research.”

Considering I had read all the histories, I had to admit that his suggestion did not satisfy my problems.  “I have not found anything speaking of the pieces of the trunk or even the couple that were to be married.  In fact, it seems that a whole number of people simply disappeared from the public records.”

“Probably because something like the trunk has been relegated to myth.  You might try reading the legends and folklore of that world.”

I flipped through my notes, then realized the value of what Dechapper just told me.  “That is another line of thought.  That gives me a reason to go to Father.  While there I might as well pick his brain on other ideas.”

“Don’t get too conniving, Vernallor.  Once people realize that is what you are doing, they will start to dislike you.”

“I am not being conniving, Dechapper.  I just realize that I need to prove myself, so I want to assure that is what people see me doing.  People should accept that I am willing to go to others for help, but not unable to figure things out for myself.”

“And I definitely see you at work attempting to make sense of what facts you have.  Okay, Vernallor, I’ll not lecture you.  However, I believe it is clear that I am watching you as well.”

Glad to have the conversation turn back to being friendly, I sought to keep things at that level by telling Dcchapper to let Lekarry know that I will show up for meals.  He replied that she was accepting of the family she would be marrying into, so I would always be welcome.  I then had him speak of what changes she wanted in the house, and it was a friendly conversation that entertained us both until I decided to leave.

Returning to the house, I found Thursdeck sitting in a chair with him rising as he said, “You are a lot more active than I realized.”

I replied, “Honestly, I do not like sitting around a house, although I cannot think of you having anything more to do if that is all I did.”

“My job will include managing the household to your satisfaction.  A butler will assure that guests and other business will not disrupt your day.  A steward assures that all matters of the estate are regulated, and no detail is overlooked concerning any business you might be involved in.  I am not saying that your affairs will grow to the state where you will need all three, but I saw no reason not to go ahead and inform you.”

“Thank you, but I see no need for any of that right now.”

“Well, my objective is that when you advance to where you do see a benefit in my service, we already have an understanding.”

“I guess I can give you credit there,” I had to admit.  “I’m going to see Father.  Whether or not I need you when I return I cannot say.”

Soon enough I was back in the stacks where I felt my father to be, and heard him say, “Simply tell me what you came to tell me, Vernallor.”

I replied, “I am not finding the answer I need to explain what happened.  Dechapper proposed that the truth might have been lost to legend, so for me to look to myth and folklore.”

“Have you considered simply leaving the people to their own?”

“No.  If this was a matter of people, it could surely be wise to consider the fight not our own.  This however is a matter of the leadership, the religious leadership, only supporting a single response.  Something is wrong, and I want to know what it is.”  Thinking of my place, I added, “Did you give that advice to Orintious?”

Father now started to come to me as he said, “No.  I have not spoken to Orintious.  It was Heratin who came to me, and I believe he did only because his wives told him to.”

Wanting him to know why I really wanted the information, I replied, “I still don’t understand why the priest attacked.  Should this happen again, I need the experience to possibly recognize it.”

“Orintious did not recognize it.”

“It was my information, what I said.”

A tentacle of Father fell on my shoulders, then he asked, “Why are you so determined not to ask for the pieces of the trunk?”

“Because I believe that is what they wanted, and because I believe I should not need to.  The facts, or at least the reasoning, should be present for me to find.”

“You are correct.  That is what they wanted.  I have the book that will give you the information you desire, however I will first check with Orintious.”

With the arrogance of believing this mystery was mine to discover, I asked, “Why?”

“Because there is no money in it.”

While I accepted that answer, I had to say, “I understand as far as Orintious is concerned.  Why not just a research assignment for me?  Why can’t I just know?”

“Then I will tell you.  Put the pieces of the trunk together and you find the elephant.  Find the elephant, and you find the couple.  It is the fear of finding the couple that had those ancients cut up the elephant’s trunk and disperse them.”

I thought for a moment, then said, “The reason you told me that is that Orintious will want to know other things.”

“Orintious, or his men, will want to know about a possible payoff.  It isn’t always money that they go after.”

Boldly I made the statement, “I want to go with you, Father.”

“I thought you would say that.  Get some good food and sleep, Vernallor.  I will assure that you are awake in time to prepare yourself.”

The thoughts to tackle the challenge start taking shape.