People in the Mist
The travel itself was nice. We did pass through one world where a blizzard raged, but we pushed ourselves and our horses to make to the next portal. The men kept an eye out for game, so we had fresh meat available for our meals. None of us could complain about the travel.
We however almost got excited with the prospect of purchasing slaves. I wondered about the whole process, although the idea of having a woman in my possession, and not one that simply worked for me, I felt to be a marvelous thing. Most of the other men seemed to have such thoughts as well. It however brought some sanity to our mentality when Orintious spoke about his own slave.
“Listen, a person is a person. Minchell might be my slave, but she is a woman. I have to care for her needs. I have to put up with her. If I tell her to go away, she must obey, but she is still my possession and I will still have to take her back in, either that or give her freedom without any return on what I spent for her. If there is any offspring, those are my children. Yes, they do not have the status of a child of my wife, but they are still my children. I also have to put up with the lady during her pregnancy and afterward. While some of you might seriously be thinking of buying a slave and not just having fun with the idea, I will not treat those people you buy as any less deserving of respect and honor.” I looked at him when he then asked, “Vernallor, are you really going to buy a slave?”
I replied, “I am feeling we might have to. That does not mean me, specifically. Still, to open certain minds you often need to open your purse.” When I heard chuckles, I went ahead and confided, “I got that quote from Sterrig.”
My animal brother quickly took up for himself, “Listen, Orintious, we are going to enter Junorshy in need of supplies. Doing that should show us as having money. We should then get offers on how to spend it.”
Orintious interjected, “I know how some of my men spend their money.”
“Well, it can provide answers.” There were some comments supporting that claim, then Sterrig said, “If we find ourselves actually believing the slavers might have answers then we need to go in with the serious attitude of purchasing a slave.”
“But why would Vernallor need to purchase a slave?”
“Because he is the one they focus upon. Because he is the one that might notice something the rest of us would not. There could be reasons why Vernallor needs to be the one to purchase the slave.”
“Okay. Vernallor, Sterrig is correct. Still, keep your mind on your shoulders and not in your pants.”
One of the men loudly commented, “Or in her panties.”
“Yes.” Orintious pointed a finger at me as he said, “We are on a mission, Vernallor. We are hoping to make money, not spend it. Let me also remind you,” now the finger moved about as he said, “all of you, that Junorshy is not the end of our journey. Our actual target is up in the mountains. Any people we purchase will need to be fed, clothed, and otherwise cared for during the travel. Let me also point out that it is taking us over a week to get to Junorshy. Coming back will not be any shorter.”
Therper then said, “And not just the travel back, but once you return you still own them, so will still be responsible for them.”
“Yes. Get your heads back on your shoulders, men.”
Lexonor stepped up to say, “I’m here for the money, so I am not looking to purchase anyone I will need to spend money on. Still, for sake of argument, what else could be available in town for us to spend money on?”
I answered, “Magic.” Seeing everyone put their attention on me, I went ahead and explained. “If our actual objective, which we are not certain of, is immortality then magic of other types will be present. I am claiming that priest that tried to kill Orintious, Heratin, and me learned arcane magic to enable him to take advantage of the immortality secret. If there is a lot of magic in the town, we might have a problem.”
“Who in our group knows magic? I mean, I know women, so can go to purchase a woman with some knowledge of what I am looking for. If we believe magic is our source of information, who can take up that subject?”
A few men did claim to have knowledge in that area. None of them had taken up the study to any serious level, but they had learned enough to do some harm or provide a real benefit. After a period of discussing with those men certain lines of thought of dealing with merchants of magic, Orintious worked at bringing the topic to a close.
“All right, I need you men thinking. Everything about Junorshy says we will be entering a den of thieves. Still, they have operated for a number of centuries without serious repercussions. That means we could be dealing with honorable thieves.” There were some chuckles to that. “We need to go in with our heads on our shoulders and all senses alert. Understood?”
Of course a chorus speaking an affirmative sounded. I then heard comments about the men assigning certain trains of thought to each other. I did not know whether it would be good that certain men would truly be thinking of interacting with the slavers with the attitude of actually making a purchase, especially when they started heading to me. I guess Orintious thought something of the same, and I was actually glad when his voice sounded.
“Vernallor, I got an assignment for you!” I began to rise as I stated my willingness to listen to him, but he headed to me indicating for the men around me to stay as well. “See if you can purchase a house elf.”
“What?” I said truly thinking the idea completely fanciful. “Is that even possible?”
“Let’s say I’ve heard rumors. Anyway, the request should get those slavers away from thinking of making a quick sale to possibly making a major transaction.”
Lexonor said, “I see the logic, Orintious. Vernallor, can you come up with some rational reason for us to make such a request?”
My older brother replied, “To Hell with a reason. We are going to find the body of a magical elephant and a couple somehow hidden from history. There is magic there, so play the magic angle with the slavers and see what they come back with.”
“I admitted I saw the logic, but we need to be able to play the request and not just make it.”
My own thoughts agreed with Lexonor, and I said so. “Yes. If someone does offer us a house elf, we need to have a plan of acting on it.”
Orintious ordered, “Work on it.”
As he moved off, I had to comment, “That is something I had not even considered.”
Durkith said, “I could build a house for a house elf. I was thinking about erecting a place before going after a wife. Need someone to keep it clean, so was thinking a slave would be a good idea.”
“If you build a house, it will have a house elf when completed. You do not go buy a house elf for your house.”
Lexonor asked, “Well, Vernallor, can you think of a reason for needing a house elf?”
“I guess I need to.”
“Listen, nothing really complicated about purchasing a slave. We can handle that. Orintious is correct. We need to get the slavers to consider us as something more than lazy horny men. Work on it.”
Accepting my assignment, I moved to refill my cup. Feeling a need to head to bed, I went to a bottle of wine. I saw Amelgo focused on a beetle as those who had also claimed some capabilities with magic watched. Wondering what assignment they had, I waited for an opening to speak.
Seeing the beetle fly off, Amelgo turned to me and said, “Binding spells are not as easy as some stories make them out to be.”
Since it was where my mind was, I asked, “Wanting to assure any slaves we purchase will stay at the camp?”
“Something kept things as they are. Immortality would keep them alive, but not in place.”
Another man, Nafleur, said, “Binding spells can also work as seals. Knowledge of them can help us undo them.”
“Makes sense,” I replied.
“Worried that the slave you buy might run off?”
It did bother me that he referred to what I had said, but I had been around these men enough not to get completely embarrassed. “My mind was on the particulars of having a slave.”
“Well, personally, I am not into binding my women.”
There was laughter to that, which did work to have me truly feel embarrassed. The feeling was made worse by me not able to make any comeback. It really did not help to find Orintious step up, as it even further embarrassed me to need his help.
“You’ll figure it out, Vernallor. Still, don’t buy a slave for your bed. Get your mind on what jobs you might have for that person.”
I mumbled, “I really do not keep Thursdeck loaded with work.”
"Good.” That word caused me to turn to him, although I was not pleased seeing a smile on his face. “I really do not want you buying a slave. Also, any merchant does not drive as hard of a bargain when he is dealing with someone who might walk away.”
Hearing support for the words from the men, I accepted that I had been given good advice. I then thought about the things I knew of our objective and where we were presently going. I found myself wanting to feel the confidence of us having enough options to handle whatever problem we might face. The trouble however left me with the concern that we were thinking of immediate difficulties and not what would come to the minds of those hoping to lock things away for ages and having their ideas work. While I allowed that we probably would have no problems with Junorshy, I set myself to contemplating what we troubles we might find ourselves presented with in the mountains. It was as I thought on that I heard words from Sterrig.
“All right, Vernallor. I do need you thinking, but you need your rest as well. Still have some days before us.”
Just because our history, I replied, “Why do you need me thinking?”
“Because I have a stake in this, in case you forgot.”
Not giving any indication of treating the words from Sterrig in the same way I would those of Orintious, I replied, “Okay, so tell me why you would seal something away?”
“That’s easy, so I don’t have to deal with it anymore. That’s it. If it is something like a terrible evil, it might be the best you can do. Still, you can live your life not having to deal with it. If it is treasure, you can go about your business feeling your wealth is secure.”
“It is very possible neither applies in this case.”
“No. I would say it is very possible the first applies. The problem with evil is that it can still be present. Evil is in how you act, not in what something is. Something that is truly evil wants to influence others to do evil acts. Junorshy is a city known for illicit behavior. I would say we will find the evil still in place because it could not be in a better place.”
Those words perplexed me, causing me to ask, “So we might find the evil not wanting to be released.”
“Oh, it wants to be released. It certainly feels it could do worst than what those people are doing. That means there is a reason it has not been released, and it might be something more than we expect.”
Again the evidence of our voices carrying became evident when Amelgo said, “And the evil might simply take pleasure in the futile attempts of those who want to release it.”
Sterrig supported those words as he said, “Yes, what answers we get might be those leading to our doom. However, Vernallor, let me worry about that. While I have not been a success, I have not been caught to suffer the penalties for my crimes. You worry about your line of research, and right now that means worry about having to think on too little sleep. Rest, then get back to work.”
And business is started.