People in the Mist
It did not surprise any of us to see a mostly bare slope where we suspected our objective to be. I did have the relief of the voices not growing to an unbearable din, although I could clearly tell they were behind the accumulated falls of rock and debris. While I heard a number speak of avalanches and rock slides having covered our objective, it did not surprise me when Orintious simply gave the order to his men to get to work.
As I prepared to do what I could with the men, Crinorra came to me to say, “My lord, there is a spell.”
“I know there is a spell,” I replied. “If our job was just to remove the material, I would consider using it. There is something evil back there however, so we stay cautious.”
It bothered me realizing Sterrig had heard. “Vernallor, just how effective do you feel that spell to be?”
“I’m not certain, but I am certain of the evil being present. I am more worried about releasing it, or doing something that ruins whatever is holding it.”
“Not going to argue with that. However, it is nice knowing certain options.”
Orintious said, “There is a difference in an option, and an act of desperation. Right now we are not desperate. However, Vernallor, there is nothing saying we can remove this covering safely. If it comes down to us risking our lives, I might have you answer Sterrig’s question.”
I felt the need to reply, “I am here preparing to work as well. If I feel like we can continue working then we will continue working. If I however agree that we are going to have trouble doing things the right way, I will check the specifics doing things the magic way.”
In a strong voice he proclaimed, “All right, you potentially lazy do-nothings, my youngest brother just claimed to be able to work that rock, dirt, and who knows what else without getting tired! He might not be man enough, but I dare any of you to show yourselves to be less of a man!”
There was laughter, then Begaxy came up to me speaking of what he saw in the slope. With all of us agreeing on a place to start our work with others set to watch for movement of the material above us, we set ourselves to the task. We worked until Begaxy called a halt, and with his knowledge of terrain he suggested a little use of magic to go ahead and collapse a potentially deadly part of the slope due to material that appeared very loose.
I did not like casting a spell so early in our work. However, I did see the potential for a large landslide that could harm those working. Accepting the need for the spell, I went to get the book on magic.
Of course Crinorra was with the text, and as I flipped pages I asked, “Do you think you could cast this spell?”
She replied, “Basic elemental magic is not that difficult. You also should not be conjuring anything.”
“No. I’m not conjuring anything. That I can assure you.”
“Yes. I might be able to cast it, and probably should.” I put my focus on her, and seeing my gaze she knew to explain. “I know you can cast it, my lord, but the amount of power you might release could be grand. I would not be able to control so much power, so it is probably safer if I do it.”
I did not know about her logic, but having bought the girl for a reason I asked, “Do you think you could? The concern really is not the amount of power, but the range at which you need to cast it. I don’t want you anywhere near where the material might come upon you.”
“Will you work with me, my lord?”
I quickly assured her that I would. As I went over the spell and its particular rules I could not help but be pleased with Crinorra. While not yet showing any signs of being a woman, she gave me every impression of being a female. Once I had her back in civilization, or simply with the other ladies in my family, I suspected she would do things to her appearance to further be a pleasant sight. Wondering just what type of relationship would develop between us, I did my best to assure her that my aid could be depended upon.
With her stating a confidence in being able to do what was necessary, I gave the order for everyone to back away from the slope. The spell was actually not complicated. As I told her, the difficulty was in getting the magic to act at a range and cover the necessary amount of land. Only for a moment the quality of the earth would gain the properties of water with the flow hopefully causing the detritus that had covered our objective to move on down. I did sense that she was able to do what was necessary, but not long after she started than I realized the problem we feared was indeed going to show itself.
Out of desperation I reached out to lay my hand over Crinorra’s active one. Matching her movements, I felt some of the power transfer to me. In this case, the energies she was evoking partially traveled through me. While I could sense her nervousness, I felt good when something I feared reached out to strike.
I cannot say that I worked a spell. I wanted to protect my slave, but cannot say how I achieved that. My act to take over the spell she was working somehow worked with my own desire to put me as the one the force struck. Suddenly, I found myself facing a being humanoid in basic form, but covered in what appeared as very spikey leaves. I looked upon a face with teeth that appeared as black crystals, eyes of a dull brown stone, and a visage that probably would have frightened Crinorra. I held my place and tried to smile as I thought of what to say.
“You should have kept yourself surrounded in darkness, as you are not that scary.”
In the voice I recognized, it asked, “Why am I facing you?”
“Because I am not the scary one, although you probably will disagree with that.”
Thinking to consider the spell I had Crinorra cast, I found myself able to sense something about the rock we had sought to release. Facing the entity, I did not feel the freedom to question exactly how I was able to sense what I did. All that passed through me was the pleasure I would gain by pulling off the stunt. I worked to smile broadly as I looked at the entity, then worked the rock to prove my superiority to the vile presence.
It screamed as it was pulled back to where it had been trapped. The noise was covered by the roar of rock and dirt. What however bothered me was that when I released the power I could not even hear the screams of the souls.
Orintious was the one who braved approaching while asking what others did in a more reserved manner, “What in Hell did you do, Vernallor?”
My slave mumbled, “I told you he was powerful.”
I looked to Crinorra, then to my oldest surviving brother to reply, “I should have opened up a way to our objective. The dark presence was going to overwhelm my slave, and I could not let that happen.”
There was a pause as we all examined our situation, and in the time the haze from the moving substrate began to clear. I wondered about what I had done seeing a dark mass ahead of me. As more of the haze cleared, I saw a path of stone leading to the large opening of a cave, and I wondered how I had managed that.
Orintious said, “Again, Vernallor, what in Hell did you do?”
Looking at the results, I replied, “I believe there was more to the spell than I realized. Anyway, it is your turn to be impressive.”
“Stay with me Vernallor.”
As he went about assuring his men were all right and understood certain things, Sterrig came up to ask, “What did you do, Vernallor?”
I replied, “Protected my slave. I felt the entity working along the source of power. Father did things with me like I did with her.”
“Father is a lot more knowledgeable and skilled than you are.”
“That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything.”
Queen Lonarey interrupted any building debate by saying, “I am agreeing with Crinorra. There is something more to you than I believe even you suspect, Vernallor. Still, well done.”
“We knew the entity was there. We know there should be sacrificed bodies. There also should be an elephant and at least two other interred. All I am doing is rising to the occasion. Hopefully, the rest of you can manage.”
“I am here to observe, Vernallor. I will however be glad to keep Crinorra with me.”
“No,” my slave replied. “I will stay with my lord.”
I commanded, “Don’t get in the way, Crinorra. If things turn dangerous, and they could well do so, I will send you back to Queen Lonarey.”
“I understand, my lord.”
From Orintious came the words, “I should be telling you the same, Vernallor.”
I replied, “But you won’t.”
“And why not?”
“Because you and I are developing a history of working with each other. Also, you are older than me, but we are still brothers. I just gained Crinorra, and she is my slave. I do not have the history or equality with her I have with you.”
“Yes, well, don’t think you have grown up that much, Vernallor.”
“That is in my thoughts as well,” I admitted. “I am wondering if Father would also say I have more growing to do, or if our situation would have him tell me that it is time for me grow up.”
“What would you say to that, Sterrig? A little of both?”
My middle brother said, “Yes, a little of both. Come on, both of you. Let’s see what there is to find.”
I allowed Orintious to lead the way across the path. Sterrig and Crinorra walked cautiously behind me. The collapsed material really was not deep around us, but there was enough present to provide a level area. The walkway was not high, although the fact it was present at all did seem disturbing. I had cast the spell that ended up creating the path, but the reason I felt the need to take over from my slave and what I faced had me agreeing with the others that there was a need to stay suspicious while advancing.
Orintious stopped. Hearing him call men to advance into protective positions to our right and left did concern me. Those behind me did ask what he was seeing, and I felt bad having to say that I could not yet perceive what was in the darkness of the cave. Orintious did not speak to answer the question, but when he saw his men in position he simply went back to advancing.
I actually felt a lot of things started making sense as I walked forward. What I saw was a large heavily tattooed white elephant without a trunk in a very prestigious position. Veskagren had not simply been defeated and buried, but put on display. Thick tiles of granite had been set on the floor with a mortar, then polished to present a unified surface. The walls were also of granite, but the pieces carved into the shapes of large columns clearly to be lovely functional devices to assure the integrity of the granite slabs laid to be the ceiling. I had no doubt that putting the trunk together would have indeed led people to this place, and looked around feeling other things I had read would make sense as well.
The markings on the skin of the elephant I felt needed to be studied, but hearing Orintious make an exclamation turned my attention to what was further in. Walking on I saw a large circular room. The outer perimeter was paneled with marble slabs bleached white and polished. To my right and left were large pieces carved with what I felt were religious symbols along with words. Ahead I assumed the same had existed, but it had been broken down with numerous desiccated corpses put in the opening. What gained my attention was however an inner circle of granite arches inside of which polished marble tiles were laid over the granite floor. In the middle was a clear crystal shell like a goblet turned over and the stem removed. Seeing a young lady on her knees with a grand silver sword going through her back and into the floor stopped me from advancing to study as I felt we needed to give attention to the warnings that had caused people to fear this place and those interred here.
Orintious turned to me and asked, “How much of this makes sense to you, Vernallor?”
“I doubt it matters,” I replied. “What I fear is us being forced to realize all the facts for ourselves.”
And problems are faced.