People in the Mist

Chapter Twenty

There was a different feel to Orintious’ home and that of my other siblings.  I knew he would not like me saying it, but it felt a lot like Heratin’s estate.  In both there were people who were nice enough, although busy at their own tasks.  I tended to be left alone with the feeling of being heavily watched.  At Father’s I was left alone, although could sense him with the knowledge I could go to him.  What usually kept me from doing so was the history of being given lectures or tasks, so I set myself to going ahead and doing my assignments to assure nothing would prevent me from having fun in my own way.  It was hard finding things to do when I was with Konclond, but once I settled on something he could make it fun.  Normanie had children about her property, so I had played with them.  I could not say what I did with Sterrig was play, even though I now really saw little value in what we worked at.  Mochsha would speak on things I actually enjoyed talking about, and Nerframe was someone I simply liked having with me.  The only benefit to Orintious’s home was that the men would be active in things I felt I needed to know, so I would set myself to helping them while gaining what training I could.

Being around the mercenaries also put me in a position where they could talk with me, so I heard a man ask, “How much treasure do you think was buried with the couple?”

I replied, “So, we are going to become grave robbers?”

“Taking from the dead is better than taking from the living, as the dead won’t call the authorities on you.”

“So, you are willing to rob?  Maybe you should work for Sterrig instead of Orintious.”

There was laughter, surely because those around me knew my other brother, then one asked, “You really against grave robbing, Vernallor?”

I did pause to consider the point, then said, “I don’t see any honor in it.  However, I also do not see any reason to leave wealth with the dead.  I also know that you men are looking for ways to gain something from this mission.  Let's try to stay noble.  If you are making up your minds to be grave robbers, I really wish you would not go with us.”

“I don’t hear you speaking completely against it.”

Turning to face the man, I said, “I am speaking about trying to do the right thing.  Grave robbing is not the right thing.  There however is a lot to this, and what we find might have us consider the lines between right and wrong to have moved from simple black and white decisions.  I don’t know what we will find, and I don’t know the condition we will find things.  I however want it clearly stated that I am going on this mission to improve the honor of my reputation.  I am not going to rob a grave!”

It was not my brother, but Therper who asked, “Is that clear enough for you?”

I heard words of support along with the one that had been speaking apologizing.  That was one thing I did like about being among Orintious’ men.  I actually found them to be honorable people.  They did have personalities and personal situations that complicated their decisions, but when pressed on certain issues I usually heard words promoting the values I felt were proper.

We all stopped and turned when Orintious came from the house, and after stepping to a place where he felt all could hear him he said, “It will take us eight or nine days to get there.  Those days could be dangerous, but I want to arrive at Junorshy with them not having heard of us.  That does not mean they won’t recognize me or some of you by reputation, but we will be in their midst before they prepare for us.  That should be our only advantage.  Information can still be difficult to gain.  No way to actually know for certain.  Let me however stress again that there is no assured treasure, which means no profit, from this mission.  Without any reward, I cannot force you to stay with me, but I will hold you to your honor.  That means you do not back out in the midst of danger or without a clear statement of leaving.  Begaxy, your knowledge could help, so I would request your presence.  Everyone else, I leave to you.”

One of the men asked, “Sir, why are you going?”

“Never been to Junoshy.”  There were some chuckles.  “I have done things on that world, so it could help simply to let more people know I really exist.  Let me stress that I see nothing guaranteeing any treasure.  My father does own a piece of the trunk.  If not now, probably in the future, he could be bothered on this topic again.  Solving this could thus end up having some personal value.  That is why I am going.”

Lexonor said, “I believe there is treasure.  It is a belief that I doubt will be shaken until the end.  Thus, Orintious, you can depend on me.  Let me add that I don’t want you mad at me, so you can depend on me until the end.  I will finish this with you, then take off to claim my wealth on my own.”

“You do that, Lexonor, and I will agree any treasure you find to be yours.  I will however expect a share, as I did help you gain it.”

“I will abide with that.  I’m in.”

“Everyone else, if you don’t think twice about going then you are a fool.  I leave in the morning.”

Through the day I heard various statements from the men.  Some asked Orintious about projects he wanted done about his property.  Others spoke of taking time off to spend with family or research some of their own missions.  A few left speaking of needing supplies while assuring my brother they would be back by morning.  I however heard a number speak of changing their minds when Sterrig appeared and told Orintious that he would be going as well.

Of course my oldest surviving brother had to ask, “And why are you going, Sterrig?”

“Because it is not criminal,” my badger-like brother replied.  “Let’s be honest, Orintious.  My skills and the way my mind works are not applicable to a normal job.  Now, I have money, but lying around all day is not good.  There is honor in this.  If not, at least where we will be will not have any legal influence on things where I live.”

Minchell spoke from the porch of the house, “You need to stay with your wife, Sterrig.”

“No.  I need to be an honorable husband to my wife and a father for the child we have coming.  Lying around the house does not do that.  A job is what men are supposed to do, but I already said that a regular job is not something I will be good at.  A job like this I can be.”

Begaxy came from the barn to say, “Sir, I am not finding the support I really need.  Sterrig would be a help.”

Orintious allowed, “Okay.  Sterrig, you’re hired.  Minchell, would you please take time to visit Theria and assure things are going well with her?”

The lady replied, “Will be glad to do so.”

Sterrig then said, “Hold it!  I’m not hired.  I will put a stake in this.  After that last mission I really don’t need the money, but I do need the honor.”

Orintious stepped up to our brother to say, “I told my men that they do not back out in the midst of danger or without a clear statement of leaving.  If you are claiming a stake in this mission, that goes double for you.”

“As long as Vernallor is in, I’m in.  I spent more time baby-sitting him than you, Orintious.”

“You can punch him for saying that, Vernallor.”

Before anyone could laugh or I could say anything, Sterrig replied, “It’s true.  My point however is that the lad is going because he sees value in this mission.  He however still needs some training before Father will allow him to go off on his own.”

“You just got through admitting that your skills will not help in a normal job.”

“Do you believe Vernallor is going to end up working at some normal job?”

“I don’t see him being a criminal.”

I felt the need to speak up, “Begaxy said he could use Sterrig.  Also, in a town like Junorshy Sterrig might relate to the citizens better than the rest of us.”

Men voiced their support for my words, so Orintious lowered his voice as he said, “I have already accepted you, Sterrig.  However, my rules still hold.  You do not back out in the midst of danger or without a clear statement of leaving.  Also, if you leave then your stake gets left behind.”

Sterrig replied, “For once in my life I can actually afford to agree to those terms.  Now, what do you need?”

“Just be ready to leave in the morning.”

Minchell said, “I will have a room prepared for you, Sterrig.”

Sterrig turned to ask, “Begaxy, what do you need?”

The man replied, “Let’s talk about it, Sterrig.”

“You come as well, Vernallor.”

I had to ask, “Why me?”

“Because I need to know about this city we are going to.  If it is like you are saying, we cannot go in there single-minded in purpose.  Bartering takes a knowledge of a variety of things.  You have done all that studying, well let me hear what all you learned.”

With Sterrig having been one of my baby-sitters growing up, I was familiar with his ways.  While he was a number of decades older than me, I considered him a brother and not an elder.  Growing up I did not find myself seeing him as an example for my life, but I focused on Dechapper who was actually closer to my age so less of an elder.  I however had spent a lot of time with Sterrig while growing up, which had me accept that my familiarity with him would help Begaxy and others relate.

The ropes did not demand a lot of discussion, so soon enough Sterrig was questioning me about Junorshy.  It actually surprised me how much trivia data I had obtained and could still recall.  While I had done some serious study of the locale, usually I ignored data that did not apply to my focus.  I guess not knowing what I truly sought had me pay attention to things I usually would barely bother to read.  The discussion however took a turn after I proudly regurgitated a number of facts to Sterrig.

“There is no way.  Vernallor, there is no way a city like that could exist near our objective and not have it raided.”

Someone replied, “There isn’t supposed to be any treasure there.”

“What do you mean, ‘isn’t supposed to?’  Desperate men in desperate times turn to any potential source of revenue.  You cannot tell me it hasn’t ever been raided.”

We turned hearing Orintious demand, “Okay, Sterrig, so tell us about gaining our objective.  It has been raided – fine.  Why would they have taken what we are interested in, and what would they have done with it if it has?”

“It doesn’t matter.  I would say they know it.  People like that have everything placed and priced.  Once we come in asking, the place gets secured and a value is set according to how much they believe they can get out of us.”

“Okay, so you still in?”

“Hell, YES, I’m in!  You don’t get more desperate than I have been, and I know that type of thinking.  Plus, I am in a position I have never been in before.  I can pay.  I can wheedle and whine from years of experience, then I can pay.  Oh, I want to be there to see the look on that person’s face when I agree to his price.”

One of the mercenaries said, “There goes any hope of a profit.”

Orintious replied, “This is Sterrig we are talking about.  He’ll take more joy out of getting next to nothing for the price than looking at a person’s face when he pays a king’s ransom.”

As if the statement needed support, Sterrig said, “I do have a wife and kid, maybe more, to spend my money on.”

Another mercenary voiced, “I’m in.  Sterrig showed me on the last mission that he will go all the way.  I also believe he will find any treasure that happens to be there.”

Hearing a few more speak their agreement, Orintious said, “What do you know, Sterrig?  It might be worth my while to keep you around.”

And in traveling various thoughts are considered.