People in the Mist
Going to see Heratin could have been very easy. He could have been at Father’s. He was not. I did not see him or any of his ladies the night before or this morning. Still, it took me just redirecting the portal in the front of the house for me to transfer to Heratin’s home.
No sooner did I step from the portal toward the grand mansion than I heard a lady exclaim, “OH! It’s the dark one! He is becoming so handsome!”
None of the soldiers or ladies asked me why I had come. The men stayed about their business. The ladies spoke cheerfully to me even as most also stayed at their tasks. Heratin as he came down a grand staircase did not ask me why I had come, but merely voiced a pleasant greeting.
I however admitted, “Orintious sent me.”
Heratin replied, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Still, we can go ahead and handle business, then maybe we can do more.”
Taking a moment to look at him as he approached, I shook his hand while having to admit, “I don’t know if you will like the topic or not.”
“Then we can learn more about each other. What is the topic, Vernallor?”
“Well, there are various types of greed. Let me see if the type you are speaking about interests me.”
Instead of escorting me to a room, he directed me back outside. Entering a garden where I saw no one working, I started into the research I had been doing. Heratin was known to talk, so I appreciated having him just listen. Coming to a finish, I could only hope I had supplied enough data for him to direct me toward an answer.
“What you are not realizing, Vernallor, is that they saw power. It is like going to some worlds and doing actual magic. They believe it is all tricks. To realize there is magic can drive men wild seeking it for themselves. Those of the world we are concerned with had the pieces of the trunk, but felt the legend was simply a story. In their minds the pieces of the trunk were simply artifacts of ancient artisans attempting to represent parts of the tale. To find them not only similar, but joining together, suddenly made things of the myth true. More than that, there was power there. Power that had remained even after a great deal of time. That is why you had to die, Vernallor. You were seen as someone who was going to keep that power to himself.”
I replied, “But I tried to explain.”
“No. You did not give them what they wanted. Everything you said was meaningless. You could have said whatever you wanted, but in the end all that mattered was that you gave them what they wanted.”
“Shouldn’t they have first attempted other methods. Simply attacking is wrong, evil.”
“No. It’s not.”
That response came a lot more confidently than I expected, causing me to respond, “What? How is it not?”
“You were working for Orintious. He is in it for the money. The one we went to speak to was a religious leader. If you weren’t going to give this power to them then it was reasonable to assume there would be another buyer that was not associated with any religion. Power of any kind certainly should be kept out of the hands of those who act against the gods.”
“That is not what he thought.”
I looked to Heratin. He simply stood there with a grin on his face. Noticing that I was looking at him, he smiled before asking a question.
“You were not expecting me to take issue with that?”
I thought for a moment, then said, “Maybe a redirection of the conversation.”
“Well, let me have you stay for the rest of the day and night. Not just to show you around, but to see what might come. I cannot speak for where we went, but here the gods are real. I am killed each year to rise again. My mother is Hera, and I do enjoy my time with Uncle Pluto and Aunt Proserpine. Your own sword was a gift of Uncle Neptune. Not only should you recognize the reality of the gods here, but their benevolent natures, at least toward you.”
“I don’t mind, but we should tell Father and Orintious, especially Father.”
He put a hand on my shoulder to direct me from the garden as he said, “Not a problem. As you know, I visit Father rather often. If I am not visiting, I still stay in contact. I will let him know where you are. As for Orintious, probably not.”
Heratin did contact Orintious. I believe he did it to simply put my mind at ease. While I did enjoy my visit, it must have been obvious that I was not completely comfortable. The people were very friendly, although there was a manner of behavior they considered proper and normal. I will not say that I thought otherwise, but for some reason I did not allow myself to fully relax. Seeing a lady attempt to keep my goblet filled had me believe they sought to get me drunk, and I pushed the glass from me. As it was then that Heratin contacted our older brother, I felt he only did so to try and put me at ease.
Spending time with a few of Heratin’s really old wives actually brought me the most enjoyment. They knew Normanie very well. She was the sibling after Heratin with me only having vague memories of her before she died. The elder ladies also related stories of my living brothers I had yet to hear. With these wives of Heratin I did not feel so constrained to follow certain behaviors, which allowed me to relax.
I could have had a woman join me for the night. There were offers. Marriage was a sacred rite on this world, but there were women who kept themselves uncommitted for various reasons. I did remember things about my week when the town celebrated Heratin again coming back from the dead. They were definitely pleasant memories, but I found myself not wanting to assimilate myself too deeply into the ways of this world.
Instead of sleeping I however wondered about what I did desire. I had enjoyed the week of food, drink, and physical satisfaction. I however had left it very much satisfied. Here I was however seeking another strange situation. I could not say this was a craving, but it did seem strange considering the intense desire others had for the things I was now passing up. Did that mean I was something different? I probably was, but I found enough similarities with the common people to make me question why I did not match them in other ways. I almost left my room to claim a lady, but instead I laid down and finally drifted off to sleep.
There was no groggy feeling as if I had awakened from a regular period of unconsciousness. I sat up in bed feeling very awake. It was still dark, but I could sense a lady in the room. Accepting that one of Heratin’s ladies, or simply a female servant, had come in to perform some duty, I was not alarmed. For some reason I was however shocked from my unconsciousness by her simple words.
“Most fear the unknown. Why do you seek to learn what it is?”
I found myself panting as if I had done something physically stressing. Getting out of bed, I went to a window and decided to go ahead and get up. After performing some necessities, I left my room to see about doing something I felt was necessary.
It surprised me to see Ochally. She was dressed as if heading outside. Asking about why she was up, she mentioned a garden where one needed to work at certain sections in the early morning or late evening due to the presence of some bee hives. After some pleasant conversation, I spoke to her of what had me moving about.
“How would I go about telling Heratin’s mother thanks?”
“You know where Heratin’s body rests while he is dead, Vernallor. That is the temple. Go there.” After thanking the young lady, she then added, “Although the best way to thank her is to come back with some sacrifice that is part of the bounty you received from her words.”
I liked Ochally. She was young and attractive, but she also enjoyed a more active life. It did not surprise me to find her going out to work on a garden. I did not doubt she would again join Heratin on an adventure. Simply believing Ochally would appreciate my words, I asked a question.
“How often does Hera give advice that results in a bounty?”
“Not very often.” I saw a glazed expression cross the lady’s face, then she said, “You are recognized as Heratin’s brother, Vernallor. You should not be surprised at being treated different than most.”
“I am not Hera’s child, Ochally. While I will not deny what you said, I also will not take the graciousness of the goddess lightly.”
“I told you where to go, Vernallor.”
After thanking Ochally, I left the mansion to head into Heracropolis. While it was still mostly dark, I saw people who were like the young wife of Heratin who felt a need to get their activities started. Turning onto a main road I saw lights on in the temple to Hera. It was mostly exposed to the elements with the columns only adding beauty in themselves and the bas-relief carvings and statues placed on top of them. After turning to see the building where I had first looked upon the temple, I headed to do what I felt was proper.
I stopped hearing an odd voice say, “A child of Galabur heading to show his appreciation for the inspiration to get himself killed. Orintious did that as well a few times. You can only hope to fare so well.”
Seeing a satyr sitting on top of a stone fence where a post provided some back relief, I said, “That is information as well. Thank you.”
Feeling that was enough, I started back on my way only to hear the clatter of hooves as the satyr ran before me. As I waited for him to speak, I studied him. He was not as tall as me, although had features that declared him to be much more mature. I had not even begun to shave, but his face showed stubble and a strong growth of hair on his chin. While he did wear a leather vest and belt on which were some pouches, nothing else. While there was a thick covering of hair on his lower body, it was not enough to cover his masculinity. That last fact had me no longer wanting to have any dealings with him, but he spoke before I could get around him to continue on my way.
“If the ladies enjoy something, shouldn’t you?”
I politely replied, “This is the home of a brother of mine. I will not disrespect this community by only thinking of it in one way, and I will not only come here for such a reason.”
Wondering if one of the ladies I refused last night was watching, I glanced around. Instead of curious people, I saw birds. They were not flying or otherwise making a scene. They were not the usual fowl who lived their lives around people, but included various predatory species that those in a community would only see in passing or far overhead. The glance had me grow suspicious, and looking at the satyr I sensed something about him.
“I believe you over-played your hand. I am going to speak to my brother’s mother, and will let her know one graciousness of her world I would desire is privacy.”
We both reacted suddenly hearing horses galloping toward us. I simply smiled. The satyr looked at me, then said something before disappearing.
“We will have our day.”
Vernallor begins to realize the problem is truly his to resolve.