People in the Mist
Those on horseback simply rode past me. I saw one holding a net, but there was no action to throw it. Just how much of what they did was from a command of Hera, or coincidence from some other activity, I did not know. I simply noticed that they took no action toward me, then started back to the temple.
As I walked up the steps, a priest advanced to ask, “What sacrifice have you brought?”
I replied, “I was not told to bring a sacrifice. I simply asked about telling Hera thanks, and was told to come here.”
A mature lady I recognized as one of Heratin’s wives stepped up to say, “And the goddess says that you are welcome, Vernallor.”
There was a moment of silence, then I said, “That was all I wanted to do.”
She curtsied, then said, “Will you attend me, Vernallor?”
“Of course, Shanophis.”
There were candles to set out, incense to light, and a few other simple chores she had me help her with. I felt nothing was too much for my sister-in-law, but freely spent time with her. We did speak about various things, but I accepted that in the temple we were on holy ground, so did not chatter on topics. As the light of the sun began to be disturbing to those looking in certain directions, Shanophis let me know the chores she wanted my help with had been done.
“Vernallor, you are facing the same problem as was true for Mochsha. As with her, the matter can wait, has waited, but really should not continue. There is a chance evil might win out.”
I replied, “I understand what you said, but the words will be repeated to Orintious. As to what I should do if he does not accept the mission, I cannot say at the moment.”
“If you return, bring a bird, preferably an owl, but a swan or goose is acceptable.”
“Of course. Again let me say my thanks to Hera.”
“And again you are welcome, Vernallor. Now, go. I will send word to Heratin, so don’t worry about him.”
I actually expected to run into Heratin on my way back to the portal. There was not a feeling that he kept checking on me, but only that his mother would tell her son things much more freely than she spoke to me. I however only saw commoners making deliveries or those with duties necessary for others to begin their day properly.
Nobody was in the front of Father’s house. I could sense him back in the stacks. Some of those who had access to the accumulated wisdom of our family paid off their debts by working to clean and do other duties, but without us children there was not much required to do. According to history there would be a new child in a number of years, but with me beginning to start my own life the front of Father’s house was becoming empty.
Orintious was busy outside his house when I arrived. He not only barked orders to keep his men and laborers active, but set an example as he labored at assuring a sturdy railing around the porch. As a greeting he spoke of entertaining family and guests the way Mochsha did at her home, and after he finished I let Orintious know the reason for my presence.
He then said, “Mochsha was our sister, Vernallor. The only ties we have to going on this mission is money, and I am not seeing any. Further, once people realize we are active they are going to assume our objective, which will present us with more problems.”
One of my brother’s officers, Mellurd, asked, “Do you have a destination, Vernallor? We definitely cannot afford to simply go searching around.”
I replied, “I’ve studied the history of that world, and I believe with some more study I can isolate a location. Honestly, I believe they have a good location of where to go, but also they think they need the complete trunk. There might be a reason for that, but simply seeing the place in question would answer some questions.”
Orintious said, “Well, it is my belief that we should simply drop the matter. I’m not going to pay you for doing that research, Vernallor.”
“I don’t believe you will have a choice, Orintious. Just as you gained word it was time to go after Mochsha, and just as the portal to that bubble universe kept opening I believe something will persist until we take on this challenge.”
“And what has you say that?”
I spoke of seeing the birds as I related the encounter with the satyr. The men I knew as mercenaries who worked with Orintious had me back up to speak of my reason for going to the temple. Once all had been related, my brother spoke his decision.
“Well, if you really believe that, get to work. Log your time. If you end up being right, I’ll pay you.”
One of the mercenaries said, “If you just feel confident you know the place, I would say some of us will go with you to check on it.”
“You have enough money to actually fund the mission, Vernallor. I would say that you might want to consider it.”
I replied, “I was not the one that originated this. You involved me.”
“I’m saying I’m not interested. You are saying that you are, or might need to be. Pick it up, Vernallor.”
The men around us spoke their agreement. I did not know what all would be required. I fully accepted that to be responsible for a mission meant more than money. There however was still the feeling that I would need to become involved. I looked to the men and spoke the only agreement I felt capable of doing.
“Let me go see if I can prove my boast of locating the place.” I looked to Orintious and mumbled, “I will also speak to Father.”
He replied, “I will not fault you for that, Vernallor.”
Coming back into the front of Father’s house, I saw Thursdeck who said, “I was beginning to wonder about you, Master Vernallor.”
I was about to reply, but I sensed a movement that I recognized as Father. He was not simply coming into the living portion of this edifice after a period of working with his resources, but rushing to assure a meeting. I sensed that he was worried about me, and wondering why I silently moved into the front room.
Father tried to have his usual calm demeanor, but I could easily tell he had a level of anxiety as he said, “Vernallor, I was wondering what was keeping you occupied.”
Still wondering about him, I replied, “I will take that book you mentioned.”
He had it on him. I watched as a tentacle simply slipped beneath his robe to gain it. Since I did not consider him to be able to read the future, it bothered me what he knew that I did not. Wondering just how much he would reveal, I went ahead and let him know a fact.
“Orintious told me that I probably should fund the coming mission.”
Father replied, “He had his mind on other things. While I would suggest to him that he needs to continue being the man he has been, I also know the needs of establishing a proper home. What are your thoughts?”
“My thoughts are that this has nothing to do with me. I did some research. That is all.”
“So, Vernallor, when did this become your adventure?”
“When Hera had Shanophis tell me that the situation we were considering was the same as Mochsha’s.”
Father moved to the dining table and set the book down at my usual place. He then pulled back the chair where I usually sat. After telling Thursdeck to fix us some tea, Father told me to sit.
As I did so, he said, “Let me admit that one of the pieces of the trunk is on her world. Hera would know.”
I replied, “And she is the one who transmitted the information about Mochsha.”
“I must honor the goddess. When she committed Heratin to me, she did not just accept me as his father, but this family.”
“I have found her world to be most accepting. Now, Father, about this mission.”
“The book is right there.”
I stood while saying, “So it is. Tell Thursdeck to send my tea to my room.”
Father looked at me, and I looked back waiting for him to ask, “There are no questions?”
“I have no idea what is going on, but right now I don’t care. I am not doing this research with a desire to head off on a mission. I am doing the research simply to find out what all of this is about. What I would like to know, and am very sure you can’t tell me, is if I am going to care when I finish reading this book.”
“Let me say, Vernallor, that I care and am interested in your conclusion on the matter.”
Seeing my valet, I told him to bring Father his glass of tea before taking the other to my room, then said, “Father, I am bothered by the fact that you are not the only one watching me. I don’t see the importance. I certainly did not intend to lead the life of an adventuring mercenary.”
“On the previous two missions, did you do it for the money?”
Father’s tentacled face did not show emotions in the usual manner for a human, but growing up with him I clearly saw a smile as he replied, “So, are you going to do this one simply for the money?”
“That is not my intent.”
“So, I am interested in your reasoning for why you are going on this mission.”
Exasperated, I replied, “You are assuming I will.”
“Yes, Vernallor, I am.”
“To do so, I will need to learn your reason for agreeing to seal this away, and finding it in error.”
“Possibly at the time I did it, and not simply at the present.”
Actually finding myself interested in what I would learn, I said, “I do hold you in higher regard than that, Father.”
“That is an honor every parent gains with most losing. There is a benefit to having the vast source of knowledge I possess, but I believe it has stopped me from actually experiencing the lessons others gained by directly facing certain problems. I however do have the wisdom to admit when I am wrong. Show that to me, Vernallor. Remember however that you will not just be showing me to have acted in error, but six others as well. They might not have the wisdom I am telling you that I will demonstrate. It is in that I feel I will regain any loss of status with you.”
I considered his words, then said, “Even with this book I have my work cut out for me.”
“That you do, Vernallor.”
“I might as well fund this mission, as I doubt Orintious will pay for all this research.”
Father moved to hold me with a couple of his tentacles as he replied, “As I said, Vernallor, make certain you care. It is in your conclusions that I will determine whether or not to I believe I did the right thing in providing aid.”
Actually wondering, I asked, “Did Orintious start out this way?”
“No, Vernallor. He started his life wanting the money.”
“And he kept on doing it.”
“Money is that way.” I saw Father shrug before admitting, “Knowledge is that way as well. Let’s see what ends up driving you, Vernallor. You will not disrespect me, and probably not Orintious, if you set your life on a more noble cause.”
“Can this offer that?”
“No, Vernallor, but you can offer that to yourself. What I will tell you is that this cause can possibly not work against any noble aspirations you might desire. I will not say anything more. Get to work.”
And Vernallor begins to truly make up his mind about what he is involved in.