People in the Mist
Orintious was my older brother, and ever since I had really come to know him he had acted the part. I really did not grow up with him. I spent time with Konclond, Sterrig, and Dechapper, but never with Orintious. He stayed active as a special mercenary who went to various worlds and fought fantastic creatures. I saw him at times during family gatherings, but that had been it. Presently, there was some speculation whether it was simply the return of Mochsha or learning about his actual parents, but Orintious had changed to become a more sociable person. Ever since that journey where we rescued my lost sister, I found myself with an older brother who actually played the part.
He did not get upset in hearing our report of going to the slavers. He did ask me about the appearance of the ladies. I told him what I could, but admitted I mostly focused on the clothes. Lexonor and Begaxy did mention some things of their appearances Orintious then focused on something in our report he had not heard.
“Vernallor, you did not mention house elves.”
I admitted, “No. I’ll make certain I put that in my thoughts for tomorrow.”
“Sounds good. The fact that you did not return with a wench for your bed I am taking as a good thing. Keep doing good things. Sterrig, you now have to prove yourself.”
My middle brother replied, “I have a wife and a kid coming. I need the money, so I will do my best to come back with more of that.” Hearing chuckles, I saw my middle brother smile before asking, “Vernallor, any people like me up for sale?”
It was Therper that replied, “No. No elves either. That was what I was looking for. Honestly, all I saw were regular people.”
Lexonor commented, “I guess they have them out attempting to get them sold.”
“If they have any at all. Vernallor, put that in your thoughts as well. They already admitted they have records, so you can ask.”
I had to reply, “We cannot wait for one.”
Orintious scolded me by saying, “I really don’t want you buying a slave, Vernallor. We simply need the information.”
“Of course. Okay, I will consider that as well.”
Sterrig asked, “You are not planning on buying one?”
I saw Orintious watching as I admitted, “I believe I will have to should the conversation go in a certain direction or too far along one.”
My older brother said, “Then go intending to buy two. I know I am going to regret giving this advice, but listen to me. We do not want to give the impression of being fixated on a certain intent. Do not go tomorrow with your mind made up about interviewing only those two. Look for one for your bed.”
There were already men chuckling as Sterrig commented, “Looks like you could have a fun day tomorrow, Vernallor.”
Orintious said, “Let’s see what you come home with, Sterrig.”
We broke up to prepare for supper, but I went to someone I did consider to have some good advice. “Therper,” seeing him turn to me, I asked, “did you see a lady you would desire?”
He replied, “I really don’t need one.”
“How about we admitting that I don’t need one either?”
“You are correct,” he said after simply eyeing me for a moment. “Honestly, Master Vernallor, all ladies catch my eye.”
“I will be turning to you tomorrow to ask your opinion. Please form one.”
“Certainly. That actually sounds like a good strategy. Any particular parts you would like for me to take into consideration?”
Therper and I spent time speaking to each other about women. He never spoke of being married, although did mention children. Hearing him speak of one son actually joining Orintious’ troop, and dying on a mission, had me ask Therper about his age.
He replied, “I have some elf blood. I’m not going to live forever, but I have lived longer than most men. I have never attracted the eye of an elf lady. My grandfather was old when he took my mother, so I never met him. Being a bastard child, I also did not gain any inheritance when he died.”
I tried to pry by saying, “And yet you never married.”
“I chose worlds where a marital relationship was not important, but my ability to read was. For your information they were taken in actions against the city they were in when I was away. I lost them to war. I guess I could have gone after them, but I feared what atrocities I might have to do to regain them. I simply mourned for them and returned to this life.”
“Well, I assume you made a life with lovely women.”
“I will have an opinion for you, Master Vernallor, when you ask for one.”
We did speak some more, but in a more relaxed manner. By the time Sterrig was speaking of going out and visiting certain places I was comfortable with the idea of purchasing a slave. I however knew that there was a reason for playing the game. I thus went to my room to relax and consider what I felt could be the proper tactics to come back with needed information whether I had a slave or not.
Strangely, no one bothered me. I took a bath actually telling myself that it would be better having a lady waiting for me than a man. I however also accepted it would be a lot more embarrassing to do certain things when a female was watching. I did my best to turn my thoughts to only those concerns important to our mission, although found my mind wandering with me glad no one bothered me in those moments.
Waking up the next morning, I grabbed my notes and went out to the front room asking for coffee. I saw Vesnill also awake, but other than a nod he did not rise from his seat. I sat down and went over my notes while enjoying some quiet time before this day would get active.
While we were in a public building, it still surprised me to see the front door opened. The lady was in a very elegant dress. I expected others to come in with her, but she closed the door behind her. It then surprised me to have her focus on me.
“Vernallor, the fourteenth child of Lord Galabur.”
Seeing her curtsey, I rose and bowed while replying, “Queen Lonarey of Nuchistern. Let me say that we must compliment you on your choice of hotels, although it does perplex me why you stayed here and not at the castle.”
“The same reason you did. I had business and did not want to get bogged down in niceties. No bad feelings with Baron Storging, but to run a town like this he does require some really troubling social requirements.” She graciously took a seat across from where I had settled, then surprised me by asking for wine, and I guess saw my expression because she said, “I traveled hard to be here. I need to go to sleep. Still, Vernallor, I have to ask what slave are you expecting to purchase?”
I had been suspicious of who contacted her, but with her revealing some knowledge of our business I went ahead and answered the question. “The girl. The lady kept me asking ‘why,’ while with the girl I asked ‘why not?’”
From up the stairs I heard the voice of Orintious ask, “How old is this girl, Vernallor?”
I rose to formally introduce my older brother. “Queen Lonarey of Nuchistern, let me present my oldest surviving brother, Orintious.”
She stayed seated while saying, “I knew you were the fourteenth, Vernallor. I know Orintious is the sixth.”
“Yes, but the first time we met he did not seem to know who you were. I recognized what I needed to, but I had only information from my studies.”
Orintious approached while saying, “Which is why I am keeping Vernallor with me. Now, Vernallor, how old was this girl? For your information, my activities did not pay off at all.”
I replied, “I do not know. What I know is that –“
The door opened with Sterrig and others coming in along with some men I recognized as having the colors of Nuchistern. With his usual air of not worrying about other people, my middle brother came to me and sat down a heavy purse. He did look at the lady sitting across from me, but I was unsure of his assessment when he whispered to me.
“Buy your slave with this.”
I did not rise, but I did make an introduction. “Sterrig, the twefth child of Galabur, Queen Lonarey of Nuchistern had just inquired which slave I was going to buy. Did you overhear an answer for her?”
It was the lady who spoke. “Sterrig, it is nice to meet you. What about Heratin?”
Sterrig replied, “He had no reason to come.” His eyes passed between me and Queen Lonarey a few times before he answered my question. “The lady, although we thought that if the slaver switched the clothes with another that you might not notice.”
“Therper would,” I replied. “Still, I discounted her. If Queen Lonarey did not want her, she did not have the necessary skills. However, if Queen Lonarey saw promise in the girl, I believe we should see promise in her as well.”
Orintious said, “That means we will need to see about training her.”
“Remember what you told me? The girl should be able to focus on what areas of research we desire.”
Queen Lonarey admitted, “That was why I was looking at her.”
“We will still need to train her,” Orintious said. “Still, it is a more mature choice than I expected. Queen Lonarey, what has brought you back?”
“I want to go with you.”
“Go with us?”
“Don’t play games with me. I was there when you were running for your lives. You were thought to know something then. I am certain you know something now.” She then looked to me and said, “Vernallor, I can train your girl.”
I replied, “The topic is house elves.”
Smiling, I verified, “House elves. Spirit beings arising from the building of a permanent structure to house people.”
“We don’t have those here.”
“It is what happened. Neslare was possessed. Probably not a spirit being, but some type of that. I would say Veskagren was possessed as well.”
Queen Lonarey rose, then loudly said, “General Taskalger, I am going with these men. Choose two men, one an officer to go with me.” There was a sound through the door, she then turned to say, “Orintious, will you argue with me.”
Sterrig moved on the table to point down at the lady while saying, “I will argue with you. There is no payoff to this mission. The fact that idiots were willing to kill for this caused my youngest brother to look into what was worth the trouble. These men with us are believing we will find something, but that lad you are going to is here simply for the honor of proving himself superior. You however probably do see a payoff. You don’t get to join us unless you can make things equitable with us.”
“I assume you mean with money.”
“No, because I am assuming you are not in this for the money. What this was about was power, and I believe you are very eager to gain more of that."
I watched as the lady rose, but then noticed Orintious step behind me to say, “She can give you a title, Sterrig, but when would you use it?”
“Damn. Come on, Vernallor. Help me out.”
I said, “Sterrig, we will be in the company of a queen. Further, we will be in the company of the queen of those idiots that tried to kill us. Sounds like a win for me.”
Queen Loraney curtsied, then let us know, “I will promise to abide by your advice on the punishment those idiots deserve once you show me the truth of what they were attempting to release.”
My middle brother did not sound pleased as he asked, “Both of you are going to take that, aren’t you?”
Lexonor declared, “Our agreement stands!”
The lady asked, “And what agreement is that?”
I said, “First, Sterrig, that money you set before me is put in the common pot for gains of this mission. I will pay for the girl, or whoever I buy, myself. She is not to be shared, but my property, and I will not use group funds for her. Second, Queen Loraney, it was our problem in developing this mission that there would not be a payoff. Most of the men with us have the allowance to watch. Should they see a potential payoff, they may return to retrieve such on their own as long as they set aside a share to be distributed as further funds associated with this mission.”
She told me thanks, then let the men know they could call upon her should they get into trouble. As long as their actions were not terribly in violation of the law or the life of her citizens, she would pardon them. Lexonor replied that Orintious also held them accountable for their actions, and they did want a reputation of being better than a thief. With nods all around, Queen Loraney let the staff know she was ready for breakfast.
Stepping down to take a seat next to me, Sterrig looked at the lady and asked, “You’re drinking wine?”
She replied, “I traveled all night to get here. It would not help me to drink something that would keep me awake.”
“Same here.” He then signaled for wine, and as he received a glass he said, “You know, you might actually get along with us.”
And Vernallor does purchase a slave.