People in the Mist

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Having camped early, it was not completely night yet.  Even if it was I still felt the darkness could have been made out against the glow of celestial lights.  Crinorra spoke of being worried about me, but I knew my standing with the men around me was not as a great fighter.  Having given a warning, I assured my slave that we would be all right.

I did back up telling Crinorra to huddle with the horses.  Queen Lonarey called to her saying they could stay safe together.  I nodded while telling the two men with the monarch to simply do what they could.

I could not help but smile with the joke of once again drawing Irvachin without any possibility of using it to breathe water.  The almost transparent blade had proven itself to be strong enough to survive combat, but I still mostly wore it as only a ceremonial weapon.  I however knew it was not a joke, but could truly damage most who were enchanted against physical attacks.

A couple of Orintious’ men released arrows.  They must have been special shafts, because I doubted what was coming would be hurt by regular projectiles.  Seeing flashes in the coming darkness, Orintious sought some information.

“What did you sense, Vernallor?”

I knew I really had no information, but I did seek to tell my older brother what I could.  “Sounded like a very slow, measured heartbeat, then a lot of voices.”

It was Therper who asked, “A lot of voices?”

“I heard cries of pain.  When I tried to detect why, or where they were, I sensed the source of the heartbeat coming.”

Orintious said, “Men, you heard Vernallor!  Switch out if necessary!”

What my oldest surviving brother meant was that all of his men did not have special weapons.  All had good weapons, but not all had acquired those with exotic properties.  There was no such thing as a single magick that could affect all threats.  I watched as some men exchanged positions feeling their weapon might not be affective and allowing those who could do harm face what was coming.

No proclamation or demand was stated.  The entity simply rushed upon us.  Orintious and his men however did not let the advance overwhelm them.  He and Begaxy stepped to a side as they boldly met the entity.  It must have had some substance, because I saw the dark mass actually shift from that attack giving Narfleur and others the chance to make good initial strikes of their own.  No screams of pain or anger sounded, but there was no doubt in how Orintious and his men reacted that the fight was on.

I studied the blackness seeking for some human form, or possibly elephant, but could not make out any real body.  Orintious and his men acted as if there was a substantial presence, but I never heard a comment of detecting a head or any appendages.  When confident statements were made of gaining the upper hand, the blackness shot up.

Arrows again flew, but all they managed was to again cause sparks to flash.  We watched as the entity fled.  As a flash of sparks could be made out moving behind a ridge, Orintious yelled a question just to assure that he was correct.

“That is where we are going?”  I spoke with others that it was, causing Orintious to declare, “You lose the bet, Sterrig!”

While there was laughter, my middle brother showed no shame as he asked, “What in Hell was that?”

Others commented, but Therper clearly stated, “It did not reveal itself.”

“Vernallor, what in Hell was that?”

Since I had called the warning, I allowed that it might be possible for them to believe I knew something.  “I heard voices, Sterrig, a number of voices.  I believe this is what was behind the tragedy, and what they truly wanted to seal away.”

“Men, how well do you think you hurt it?”

It was not Orintious, but Begaxy who replied, “I believe we hurt it.  It did flee, and it did not laugh at us as it did so.”

Orintious’ men yelled out their own belief in their success.  My oldest bother however did not allow things to end there.  He checked those that fought with him to assure no serious wounds had been inflicted.  I heard some speak of burns, but nothing salves could not soothe.  Orintious verified things with each of his men, then came to me.

“All right, Vernallor, a full report.”

Having no reason to hide anything from him, I told everything I could.  He asked me about any spells I was casting.  When I told him none, he called out Crinorra to verify what I said.  I did feel a little annoyed at him doing that, but stayed quiet allowing him to maintain control.  After listening to me again tell everything I could, he asked a question as if I might still be hiding something from him.

“Could it have been your girl?”

“My girl?”  I looked at Crinorra, then fixed my eyes back on Orintious as I said, “And if it was, should I complain about it?”

She softly said, “It was not me, my lord.”

“Deal with Orintious,” I replied.  “You saw that he stepped up to fight.  Honor that.  Let him ask his questions.”

My oldest surviving brother said, “I’m done.  Just let me know if you come up with something.”

Narfleur declared, “And let us know if that thing wants to go another round with us!”

After another round of cheers, things again settled about camp.  I worked with Crinorra to assure our belongings were good.  As I again settled to consider things, she once more came close to me before repeating something.

“It was not me, my lord.”

I replied, “I touched something.  I don’t know how.  It really does not matter, although I believe the results were good.  For some reason the first girl I went to check on was not right for me.  I am sure of that, but why I cannot tell you.  We now know our destination is correct, although I again cannot tell you why the information was provided.  I will allow that it is me, Crinorra, but why it is me I cannot say.  I will need to think on that.”

“You are a very powerful person, my lord.  I will be glad to belong to you.”

“Well, I’m going to bed.  As a head man, I need my mind rested.”

I might have laid down, but I did not fall unconscious.  What had just occurred troubled me.  It was such an unusual experience that I needed to find some resolution before I could actually rest.  Certain that I had not used any magic, I tried to find some answer in the path of logic I had followed.  Strangely, I found myself able to feel a distant thump from the ground beneath me.  Again I sought to determine from where it came.  Worried that I might have again triggered whatever happened before, I sought to consciously learn more.

This time instead of finding the entity racing to me, I saw the land pass beneath me as I moved to the source of the disturbance.  No sooner did I get a sense of rushing through the mountains that I found myself approaching people.  A great multitude of people worked to press against something.  There was no door or wall, but they simply massed up as if to resist something.  They parted for me.  Strangely, I did not walk through them, but saw their legs as I felt myself crawling.  Instead of finding myself facing the entity, I saw it looking down on me.

It said, “You won’t keep me here.  You will even release me.”

“No.”

There was no feeling of dread as I said that, so I did not feel worried in turning my head to those around me.  They did not completely appear as people, but as substantial, physical beings.  They were mostly black forms with me gaining a sense of their humanity in their voices and what vague glimpses of how they once appeared somehow coming through the dark haze around them.  Interested in what they were doing, I looked back to the entity and noticed the disruption in an arcane ward that enabled the entity to get free.  Now feeling dread in knowing there was a present threat, I found myself wanting to restore the barrier.

Somehow I managed to recognize the runes used to contain the entity.  I worked to write them in the ground with my finger, but could not fully recreate them.  I felt something working against me.  Pounding on the ground attempting to get a certain mark to be formed, I recognized a voice.

“That is what they did before, and you just saw that it did not last!”

Suddenly I shot awake.  Crinorra was on my back doing her best to work healing magic.  Orintious and his men were around me.  Attempting to understand what happened, I shot a hand out to grab the leg of my slave.

“I’m not hurt, Crinorra.  Still, thanks.”

I rose using my arms to assure everyone stayed back.  Looking at the ground I saw that I had indeed been working to create certain runes.  I commanded my slave to bring me my journal.  Therper joined me in attempting to draw them, and as we worked I spoke to assure him that the experience had not been troubling for me.

“Those marks are supposed to be sealing wards.  They were what was used to keep that entity in place.”

Orintious said, “Considering we just fought it, I guess they did not work.”

“He did get free.  We hurt it enough that it returned, possibly because it could not presently go elsewhere.  My problem, what troubled me previously and this time, was a multitude of people.  That place was not left.  People were regularly sacrificed to keep that thing sealed.  There are a multitude of souls tied to that spot as well attempting to keep the ward from failing.”

Sterrig said, “We have not found any road, Vernallor.  For everything to have grown back, they must have stopped at some time in the past.”

“We however are going in the right direction.  We need to get back to moving in the morning.”

Orintious asked, “Will you make it until morning, Vernallor?”

I finished making my drawing along with what details I felt were necessary to have me recollect the experience, then said, “I don’t really understand, but I am very mentally drained at the moment.  I believe I will make it until morning simply from needing the rest.”

“Your slave was very worried about you.”

I pulled her close to me, then said, “And that is nothing for her to be ashamed about.  Still, not all experiences are threatening.  I did not work against what was happening, because I wanted to learn.  We, I, need to know.”

I am sure my oldest surviving brother was using my words when he knelt to look Crinorra in the eyes while saying, “Vernallor just said that he took on the fight.  You honor that.  He and I are different, but we will support each other.  You keep supporting him, and I will support you.”

“Yes, Lord Orintious.”

“Good.  Now, does anyone have problem with what we are doing?”  Hearing only negatives, he declared, “Then we are going to continue doing it!”

As everyone went back to what had they had been occupied with, I looked to Crinorra and asked, “Do you only know healing?  There are restorative spells.”

With her expression clearly showing no knowledge of what I said, she asked, “Would that have helped you?”

“In this case, no.  Still, it would have been the better spell to cast.  I obviously was not being hurt, but I can now feel the drain of the experience.”

“Do you have a book so I can learn those type of spells?”

“No.  Once we finish with this mission, you and I need to sit down and determine some things about your future.  Right now, just keep doing what you can.  I am finding myself glad that I bought you, so stay at it.”

And matters of what they might face are considered.