People in the Mist
I rode today with Crinorra holding the book as she sat in front of me. I read the text to her with both of us making comments. She did have a good grasp of the fundamentals of magic. While some natural talent had to have been the reason for someone to allow a slave girl to gain lessons in arcane practices, the fact she had actually spent time to set the instructions in her mind spoke well for her. I listened to Crinorra as she spoke to develop some things said in the book, and felt we would have a good life together.
When the terrain became too difficult for us to read from the book, I had her tell me about her life. Her elf blood had blessed her with a slightly longer life span, but not as much as I expected. She was actually older in years than I was. Her human mother had done what she could for her, including some instructions in magic, but being a slave herself there really was little to offer. That magic training however had proven to work against her, as she gained a value having the one who originally owned her to sell her. The slavers had done what they could to enhance her value, so she had spent time going through magic lessons by other slaves. I found some satisfaction learning I was her first master, and had no resistance in telling her I planned to keep her.
Actually feeling it had been a good day, it caught my attention when Sterrig fumed about having a different opinion. “Come on, Orintious. You cannot tell me they buried the elephant way out here. This travel is much too difficult. Now imagine us having to go this way carrying an elephant carcass even without the weight of its trunk.”
The older brother replied, “You read the same books I did, or at least should have.”
I went ahead and admitted I would be pulled into the conversation by saying, “They fought. I am assuming where they were interred was near where they were at the end of the battle.”
“I gained that impression as well.”
Sterrig continued to fume. “LOOK WHERE WE ARE! LOOK WHERE WE ARE GOING!”
“It was not a little scuffle.”
Orintious went to get the text, then read the final fight while pointing in the direction of certain locations mentioned. Clearly what was presented as a simple exchange of blows somehow covered miles in distance. The text however spoke of military regiments moving and some exchanges from opposing forces needing to agree to work together, which supported the places mentioned as really being affected by the battle. Orintious thus let it be known that the location where we were going was indeed the final site of the conflict.
I felt put on the spot when Sterrig demanded, “Come on, Vernallor, make sense of this.”
Having to agree with Orintious, I said what I could. “The only sense I could make of it was that there was something more than just a rampaging magic elephant. The people involved, I am talking about the two about to be married, were not normal. They were more than heroic. Exactly what, well we need to find where they were placed to find out.” Hoping to settle the issue, I looked to Queen Lonarey as I said, “Which is why we don’t need the trunk. The true power, the true threat, is not the elephant.”
She said, “Surely, Sterrig, you were in the planning for this mission.”
My middle brother replied, “Yes, I was. Still, one needs to reevaluate plans as new evidence presents itself. I consider the view to be evidence we had not considered.”
Orintious asked, “And what type of view were you thinking about when the map said the middle of a mountain range?”
“A lot more gentle slopes. Terrain you could actually move through.”
“He has me there. Maybe there were roads back then. Vernallor, you mentioned there possibly being a smugglers’ route. Is that possible?”
I replied, “Possible? Yes. I would assume, especially since the locals did not challenge me.”
Queen Lonarey said, “It is possible, and I would like to find it if it exists. These however are some rugged mountains, and as far as I know have always been.”
“Feel free to let us know your own theory of the crypt when we are going around complaining about not finding it.”
Sterrig caught me off-guard by asking, “Well, how much is that magic stuff helping you?”
“Well, uh, I brought it because I felt it might. There is a spell or two we can try when closer.”
“Two more days?”
I believe Orintious intended to come to my aid by saying, “In two days we will be doing all we can to evaluate what is around us. Hopefully, we can use regular methods to make our discovery. Considering that these are strange mountains, give us two more days.”
Queen Lonarey said, “I have my own research, and I am not questioning our direction of travel.”
“Does that settle your mind, Sterrig?”
“No,” the middle brother said, “because that means any other schemer or devious person in that city we just left could have come out here and found what we are looking for.”
Amelgo said, “Let me say that I have not been thinking along the same line as Vernallor. Still, it was my intent to seek out anyone interested in lost treasures in these mountains. No one mentioned anything. The opinion I gained was that this place we are going to was cleaned out not that long after it was left alone.”
Orintious asked, “How about your own research, Sterrig? Or did you simply have a night of conning people out of their money?”
The middle brother replied, “No one spoke of anything of worth being in these mountains, except for some comments about being interested in a smuggling route.”
I said, “If you fish with Dechapper, you will get lectured about staying at a fishing spot until you are sure of what’s beneath the water.”
Orintious seemed pleased to say, “That is what we needed: advice from an absent brother. We get to our spot, then fish it.”
Amelgo asked, “Do you mind if I look over your tackle box, Vernallor.”
“I most certainly do,” I replied, “as I have only one type of lure. Let me work with it. I also have my own protégé to train. It could be that the both of us will be looking to you when you are the one to catch something.”
Those words had my older brother start us focusing on finding a spot to settle for the end of the day. Once a good campsite had been obtained, I started Crinorra on an assignment, then settled back to think about some of the things said. I did close my eyes, but opened them hearing my older brother say something to my slave.
“Leave him alone. He’s my head man. I need him thinking.”
I looked to my girl, then to my brother. “I gave her an assignment. She should have been at it.”
“This life is new to her, Vernallor. She was just curious about you.”
“Sterrig had valid points, but I was going over things one more time to assure we had already covered them.”
“Hear that, Crinorra? I told you he was my head man. You let him sit there and think.”
She replied, “Yes, Lord Orintious.” As he walked off, she said to me, “The work was getting boring.”
“Oh?” I replied. “When do you plan on no longer having to write?”
There was a perplexed expression on her face as she admitted, “Never.”
“So put the work in to develop the foundation for a lifetime of good work.” After she had told me that she understood, then sat back to work, I admitted, “I am just repeating the same things Father said to me. You are actually older than me, Crinorra. Admittedly, I don’t have elf blood to have stretched out my childhood. Go through the lessons, especially if you need them. As you show me you are able to do things properly, we can allow things to advance.”
“I need them, my lord. Lord Orintious was correct. I had stopped working simply being curious about you.”
“I will not fault you for that. Now, back to work.”
I actually ended the night checking a number of things I had written during my journey, pages I had placed in my journal, and books I had brought with me. Everything however supported what we were doing. While I accepted that we might find ourselves thinking different after our present line of thought was proven wrong, at the moment all the things we had considered spoke of us doing the right thing.
The next day there were actually few opportunities for Crinorra and me to read. The terrain was very difficult. While Sterrig’s argument held true that where we were going was not anywhere someone should have carried an elephant, it did help our mentality that whatever was put at our destination should not have been disturbed. I spent the day with Crinorra looking at the scenery when we had opportunities not to worry about simply the ground beneath us.
We actually made camp a little early, as the men spotted game. While the hunt was successful, moving across the terrain was difficult. We waited for them, and soon after their return we saw a small lake. Feeling time with a good source of water and good food would help us and the mounts, Orintious allowed that we could go ahead and make camp.
Once again Queen Lonarey had taken Crinorra to do certain activities. I had no problems with my girl going with the lady. I in fact considered it a fault in my life I had no other ladies for Crinorra to have access to. While there were ladies for my slave to associate with, none of them were a constant in my life she could look to for daily guidance. Thinking those thoughts had me consider my future as well as that of Crinorra, and when she returned to sit next to me I accepted her presence as a part of my life.
I tried to settle with her, actually interested if she would disturb me. While she did not speak of being mistreated by the slavers, I had heard enough stories to worry about her actual mentality. With her next to me I still settled and gained a state where I could think on what evidence I felt needed to be studied again.
The thump disturbed me. What troubled me more was that I did not physically react. I somehow found myself moving, but not in a physical manner. Another thump caused me to seek the direction. In turning, again not my body, I suddenly could detect a number of voices. They did not cry for help, but hearing cries of pain I tried to listen for some indication of the trouble. With another thump I found the voices to become even louder, then I found something else disturb me.
I intended to point, but my body simply slumped forward. For some reason my vocal chords did not respond, but only soft sounds like coughs came from my throat. I heard Crinorra scream, and that seemed to return my control. I managed to point while saying a warning.
“Something is coming!”
And there is a fight.