People in the Mist

Chapter Thirteen

Of course Father did not lie to me.  I found Thursdeck waking me warning me that he received word of my needing to be ready within the hour.  I let my valet know that I would be with Father visiting Orintious, but that I did not expect to be gone that long.

As I did my best to get something on my stomach, Father entered the dining area and asked, “Vernallor, what plans do you have for your life?”

Not going to lie to him, I replied, “I am actually surprised you are even asking that question.  I expected to be put back on track with whatever education plans you had for me.”

“Your education was to help the development of your growing mind.  I believe that has been accomplished.  You are a rather intelligent young man.  Now, where are you considering to advance yourself?  It can be fanciful.  You are still young, Vernallor.  Still, if you have a dream I would be wrong not to help you achieve it.”

“It is fanciful, Father.  That is my problem.  I am seeking the reality.”  Father did not reply, but waited for me to say more.  “These last two missions with Orintious were fun.  I would keep doing it.”

“The reality is facing the danger, Vernallor.  I can have you meet those who take on missions like you just finished, and they have done well.  However, they are dangerous people.  Not that they are evil, greedy, or any other vile trait.  The danger is however there.  The danger was there in rescuing Mochsha, and it was there in that bubble universe.  You will need to become dangerous to take on that type of life.”

Feeling that I could advance the conversation, I reminded my father of a fact.  “I went to Davelda with Orintious.  That is where Thursdeck came to me.  Empress Straekin travels with her husband, Lord Terish, doing things like I want to do.  I enjoyed talking to her.”

“She is a fascinating lady.  A lot more intelligent than I would expect anyone of her background to be.  Terish is extremely bright, but Straekin can stand beside him.  Anyway, Vernallor, talk to Orintious about this.”

“You’re serious?”

“Oh, I am well aware of his methods.  He will start you on the path to become dangerous.”

Attempting to read into his words, I said, “You expect me to quit.”

“I have been raising you, Vernallor.  I believe I know some things about you.  Yes, I suspect you will quit, but I also expect the experience will teach you.  I will simply wait for your next plan for your future.”

“I like being with Orintious, and he has offered me a job.”

“Which we are going to check on.  Finish what you have, Vernallor, and let’s go.”

After gobbling down what I had left to eat and drink, I finished buttoning certain outer garments as I followed Father.  What I noticed was that those with Orintious were not all wearing the pastel and bold orange uniform.  Actually recognizing some of the men I understood the change that had come to the life of my oldest surviving brother.  He was working with commoners in developing the land instead of planning another mission.  Wondering about the future of my employment, I followed Father.

Those wearing Orintious’ uniform stepped up even as those in regular clothes gained their orders and left.  It was nice that they bowed to Father instead of just rushing off.  Knowing most of those that worked with Orintious, I wondered how the conversation would go.

One of those I knew had rank among the mercenaries asked, “Lord Galabur, where is the money?  It has to be there.”

Father replied, “You are wise to have Vernallor with you.  He figured out the important facts.  The answer to your question is that there is no money.”

Another man, one that did not appear to have any markings of rank on his uniform, asked, “Then what is there?  Vernallor, you can answer that.”

I replied, “What is there is what I want.  I want the fame of doing this.  However, it was sealed away.  Not just sealed away, but forgotten.  Dechapper, another of my brothers, gave me important advice.  He told me not to read history, but fantasy and folklore.  When I asked Father about continuing in this life you lead, he told me that I needed to become dangerous.  Thinking back on the two missions I went with you, danger was very much there.  Well, do you recommend this life for me?  If you do, I assume you will want me on this mission.”

Therper, Orintious’ chronicler, said, “The fantasy and folklore say it was not evil that was sealed away, Vernallor.  According to those accounts I read, it was due to evil that the trunk was sectioned up.  They did not want the good corrupted.  What happened was simply evidence that the threat of evil still remains.”

I heard approving and supporting comments from the men letting me know that they had also been doing research.  That had me want to ask them questions, but I knew that was a discussion for later.  Right now some basics needed to be handled.  I made the decision to stay on the topic presented.

“So, releasing the good will not be a wise thing?  There is no money in this, and if we reveal the location of something good to evil then there is no fame.  We will be forced to fight the evil, but our only reward will be to see the safety of what is good.  That however is something I would like to be known for doing.”

Orintious declared, “Listen to Vernallor!  It could be well to let this mission pass.”

Another of the mercenaries asked, “You learned nothing more, Vernallor?  Lord Galabur said that you had figured out the important facts.”

I replied, “I figured out enough that I had no shame in having Father tell me some things more.  He said that he had a book that would tell us what we wanted to know, but that he was going to speak to Orintious first.”

Father said, “I know you men.  Some of you will not care.  I however will.  I possess one of the pieces of the trunk, and I know where to get the others.  I was involved in seeing things were sealed away.  You will have to convince me that I will be doing the right thing to reveal what I know.”

One of the mercenaries spoke up to say, “But the pieces of the trunk are known.  They are real!”

Before he could say more, Orintious said, “But the story is still considered myth, legend.  The only thing that brought this to anyone’s attention is that the pieces of the trunk actually came together.  They really did not believe that would have happened.”

Actually attempting to answer other questions the men might ask, I stumbled upon a conclusion that I had to voice.  “Father, the problem with this mission is that it is not something we can take with us.  It is not treasure we can secure in our own vaults.  It is not ornate items we can display in our homes.  What we find will need to be left there with the fame of what we did needing to flow from that world to others.”

One of the men assured me, “The stories do flow, Vernallor.”

Father simply said, “Yes.”

Orintous asked, “Therper, how good of versions of the story do you have?”

The chronicler replied, “Fiction does not have the factual grounding of non-fiction.  Vernallor, how much of the history have you read?”

I answered, “A lot.  I got into the mindset of treating it like a mystery, and many of you know that I enjoy solving those.  If I had not needed a break and gone to Dechapper, I want to say that my only recourse would have been to check the folklore.”

“Orintious, can you get us maps?”

My oldest surviving brother replied, “Of course I can supply you with maps.  I have some personal stories of that world as well.”

“I have the journals, so surely read them.  Still, I believe with the help of Vernallor we can come up with a rough proposal.  With that we can either gain the support of Lord Galabur and have him release the information he is holding back, or look for another mission.”

Father said, “Sounds like an objective I can approve of.  I will wait to hear from you.  Orintious, I am leaving Vernallor with you.”

“He is familiar with the land, Father,” My oldest surviving brother replied.  “If he ends up back with Mochsha, or finds trouble in going that way, I will not be responsible.”

I quickly spoke, “I understand, Father.”

A tentacle came upon my shoulders as Father replied, “Good.  Still, Vernallor, you do need to gain confidence in being yourself.”

“Well, right now I have work to do.”

Sounds of agreement came from the men around me.  Orintious assured Father that he would watch after me.  Sounds of laughter however came from the men when my oldest surviving brother asked a question after Father left.

“Are you intending to make life hard on me, Vernallor?”

I replied, “Right now I don’t believe females will help us.  I however believe Dechapper might, although you can probably recommend some of your own men.”

“For what?”

“Greed.  What I have learned says that the priest was not interested in things holy.  They wanted something – something he was willing to kill for.  I can’t think like that.”

“Vernallor, you know that we are all mercenaries.  We work for the money.”

There was laughter to that statement, but I had my counter, “So why am I the one having to solve this?”

One of the mercenaries replied, “Kalceronna, Vernallor.  We, I mean Orintious,” there was some laughter at that, “can pay you a little to do the research.  What we are waiting for you to tell us is where is the treasure.”

“But that is just it!  I can tell you what the treasure is.  What I cannot tell you is the value.  I don’t see the greed, the desire, to go after it.  I definitely do not see the lust that will drive a man to kill.”

“Who here believes High Priest Morpokko was a kind, decent, all-around benevolent person?”  Seeing no one raise their hand or speak up, he then said, “Yeah, me neither.  Orintious, I do not know how to help the boy.”

My oldest surviving brother replied, “Well, I know enough not to send him to Sterrig.”  I expected more laughter, but there was only silence until he commanded, “Vernallor, go to Heratin.  He might not know about greed, but he does know about things like we are considering.  He also went with us that day.  You’re safe talking to him.”

I replied, “You told Father you would not be responsible if I took off to see Mochsha, but you have no problem with me going to see Heratin?”

“You spent a week partying in Heracropolis without being harmed or robbed.  Yes, I have no problem with you going to see Heratin, except for having to put up with Heratin.  That is a fate I would not assign to anyone, except another brother.  Go to Heratin, Vernallor.”

So Vernallor spends time with Heratin.