People in the Mist
Queen Loraney was completely entertained by Sterrig. It seemed that his grand winnings had not been gained from the most pleasant group of men. He had returned fully intending to get us out of town while still light outside. Queen Loraney assured Sterrig that she was the ultimate authority in the land, and would have everything quiet for us even as she agreed we needed to leave as soon as possible.
As I rose from the table, it did not surprise me to hear Orintious ask, “Vernallor, what if I said I was going with you?”
“I would tell you to go to Hell,” I returned. “This will be my slave that I purchase, so don’t annoy me.”
It was Begaxy that supported me by saying, “Therper and I were working with Vernallor from the first. If you are claiming to worry about him, you are insulting the two of us.”
Lexonor said, “The same goes with me. Also, with him declaring those funds of Sterrig’s to be common funds, I like the boy even more. Buy the one you want, Vernallor!”
After some affirmations, I told those who had gone with me to be ready when I came back down only to turn hearing the lady say, “Vernallor, do not doubt the integrity of the local military. If you yell for help, good people will show up to assist you.”
I replied, “Thank you, Your Majesty. Let me say in return I trust my brothers and those who travel with them. Sleep knowing that if your rest is disturbed, it is us fighting among ourselves and not anyone, no one at all, intending to do you wrong.”
Having prepared for what I wanted to do, I did not feel I took long. I however came down the stairs finding the three men going with me in better clothes than I had seen earlier. Feeling we would make a good impression, I set off to do what I intended.
Stepping out of the inn, I could tell a number of men were watching the place. Accepting the queen was present within, I did not feel alarmed. They did nothing to attract our attention, and all I could do was hope the men would not cause a scene by following us.
Coming to a tent, a man said, “A little early for business.”
I replied, “You mean your usual customer sleeps with them first instead of first assuring they can do a day of work.”
There was no laughter, not even a chuckle, but the man simply pulled back on a canvas sheet while asking, “Which one you want?”
“I’m not sure I want her. Let me look.”
“She’s probably sleeping.”
“I’ll wake her if necessary.”
The slaves were housed in a large common room. There were cots provided, as were blankets. The latter had me accept I would have to awaken the one I felt I might desire, but I first looked over the room to assure I could make her out.
It felt like a heartbeat. The resonance had me catch my breath, then look around to see if the others were reacting. My sight was suddenly clouded by a brownish haze, but instead of limiting my vision I found a view of the room as if I was moving through it. It stopped at a bed and I could tell what was in it had a problem. There was something malignant with the lady, something I did not want in my life. Making a statement that I would seek another, I found my senses to return to normal.
Indicating he had heard my conclusion, the one that brought us said, “Well, thank you for coming and giving one of these a second chance at possibly gaining a home.”
While I actually felt embarrassed, I tried to present a calm presence as I replied, “Well, the men with me were giving advice I felt a need to check out. I however believe they were wrong. Thank you for your graciousness.”
Stepping back outside, Lexonor asked, “Worried about spending your money?”
“Definitely worried about what I might get for my money.”
Therper commented, “Well said, Master Vernallor.”
The one that let us into the building I advanced toward said, “Lord Nelganot is still asleep, and I will need to awake him to actually transact business. I however can let you check things out.”
Not recognizing the man, I informed him, “The girl you had in the really nice dress yesterday is the one I came to see.”
A door opened with Lord Nelganot saying from the doorway, “He means Crinorra. Master Vernallor, I told you to bring money.”
I pulled a couple of gold coins from a pocket and held them out with my fingers while asking, “What makes you think I did not?”
“She will cost you a little more than that, but I can see you have a purse on your person. Go ahead and show him the girl, Dorven.”
The man named indicated for us to take a seat. I asked him about the coffeepot I saw on a stove. He shrugged. As I went to find a cup and help myself, Lord Nelganot came to assure I could find what I wanted while explaining that Dorven surely did not want to wake the others. He then mentioned a price. I explained that I saw potential, but was going to need to train the girl before I would see any real benefit in her, and used that logic to establish my offer. We were beginning to reconcile on a value when the man returned with the girl again in a pretty dress.
As she approached to work a curtsey, I approximated her age to possibly being ten. I however adjusted it way up seeing something with the ears and some definitely red strands among the brown locks. The concern I had for the strange experience to duplicate itself did not happen, so I had to conclude it was not with the business of slavery but something entirely with the other lady that truly disgusted me. Crinorra had lovely brown eyes, and as she looked to me she stayed quiet clearly giving the impression she was sizing me up.
I pulled a scroll from an inner pocket while saying, “Crinorra, I was led to believe that you have some skill with magic.” She still did not speak, which I actually felt was a good sign. “I gained that impression from the way you were dressed yesterday, then from actually speaking to the lady who you were dressed for.”
With a voice that showed some training, although still the voice of a girl, she said, “That was the queen.”
“Yes. If you go with me, you will find her in my company. Now, to have me feel that you are worth my money, I want you to read something. There is no reason you should be able to read it. I however am the son of a grand librarian, so there is a lot of reading in my life. I want to watch you as you try to make sense of this.”
I had her move to a table where I sat the small section of parchment down. I had worked to create the page, so could tell things in how she tried to make sense of the symbols. My value of the girl actually increased to the price range I would have to spend for her when she made a conclusion.
“There are magic runes among the strange letters.”
Nodding, I asked, “Can you work the spell?”
I could not tell anything special about her actions. I however felt something pulled from me. Suddenly, around us everything lifted from the floor and I noticed a strange glow from beneath my feet. Crinorra’s eyes went wide indicating she had never had such a special result, and not expecting the affect from such a simple spell I quickly acted to direct her on ending the magic.
As everything dropped back down, Lord Nelganot stated a value about three times that we were about to agree to, causing me to say, “You will need to train her. Are you willing to incur that expense?”
He calmed himself, then said he would stand firm on the upper number in the range we were previously discussing. I allowed that value to be acceptable. As he drew up the paperwork and I assured my ability to pay, I spoke to the girl.
“Right now I am still making plans for my life, but that means you can make plans as well. Speak to me. Now, you are going to meet a lot of strange and unusual people, and see a lot of strange and unusual things. Use those experiences as references for what you expect of yourself above what I will expect of you. If you do that, there is no telling what type of future you will have. Understood.”
She replied, “But you will still own me.”
“If that is where you keep our relationship, I will assume that is where you want our relationship. If you want more for yourself, there will be opportunities. However, I am spending good money for you, and expect to spend more, so expect a need to make your value in return should you desire your freedom.”
Lord Nelganot said, “That would be true for any master, Crinorra.”
She asked, “Lord Vernallor, will you have me sleep with you?”
I replied, “I’m young, and you are even younger. We can keep it innocent between us.” To hope she understood, I said, “We are going where it could be cold. No need to huddle alone for warmth. Once back among those I consider family, we can determine things.”
In a conversational voice, Lord Neganot asked, “Where are you heading?”
Since I had no idea how we could keep a fact secret, I replied, “Into the mountains. There is really no reason for this city to be so isolated. You’re hiding something here.” I smiled while coming up with the idea for a distraction. “It could be a pass. There could be money flowing in here from other sources, and your queen would like to find it.”
“And you expect this girl to help you?”
“No, but simply taking advantage of being here. Most merchants keep their better items back where only those with the money or experience can see them. I told you the girl will need to be trained. The first lesson however will simply be understanding the status of the one that bought her. If she thinks I am some rich dandy that stays around a castle, she needs to quickly realize how I made the money to purchase her."
He passed the ownership papers to me, then began collecting his funds while saying, “And huddling beneath some blankets out in the wilderness is a good way to assess things about her. May you both have good lives.”
After exiting the building then admitting we needed to purchase things for the girl, she said, “My lord, I have never done anything like what I did in there.”
I replied, “I found it strange as well. Still, you did more than simply recognize the runes, and that alone made you valuable to me. You also did not over-react, and that impressed me. Stay with me, Crinorra.”
While she was friendly enough with the men accompanying me, I found her to stay very close to me. I did not gain the impression she did not trust the men, but really accepted me as being her owner. She did speak an opinion when I asked her for one, but otherwise said little. She ate breakfast with us, although did not eat much. Being men, we did eat a good bit, and I was pleased to see her get another biscuit and prepare it before eating some more.
The men had actually not said much, but once back at the inn they had to tell Orintious everything. He listened, agreed with me on mentioning the suggestion that we might be looking for a pass in the mountains, all the while looking at Crinorra. After those who went with me finished their report, Orintious let me know his plans.
“Well, right now we are waiting for our night people to rise. Once they do so, we can see how much trouble it will be to travel.”
We turned as a lady said, “Considering that we will not be flying, it could be a lot of trouble.”
“When will you be ready, Your Majesty?”
“Soon enough, Orintious. Crinorra, I believe you will be happy to have been purchased by Vernallor. He has impressed me as a man with a lot of potential, and I agree that there is potential in you.”
I looked down as my girl softly said, “You were correct about traveling with the queen. Master Vernallor, you may do with me as you please.”
With the statement being made in a public setting, I tried to contain any responses by calmly replying, “I will not betray your trust, but we have things to learn. If you will accept that, we should get along with each other.”
“Yes, my lord. I accept.”
“Then let’s get ready to travel.”