People in the Mist

Chapter Thirty-Two

Sterrig came into the cavern, made an exclamation, then said, “This ain’t in any of the books.”

I had to admit, “While I believe we were given a rather complete history of the time, we were not told anything about this.”

Queen Lonarey admitted, “No.  Even I knew nothing of this.  This was not done quickly or out of need.”

“It had to be need, which is what bothers me.  Why did they need to do all this?”

“I agree with Vernallor,” Lexonor said.  “A lot of money was spent, but I don’t see anything to steal.  Someone had a reason for doing all of this.  I guess it was worth it.”

Orintious was looking over the bodies as he asked, “Vernallor, how bothered are you by the voices?”

Since he asked, I found myself surprised to answer, “Not at all.”

“Do you get a sense of them having gone quiet, or are you being prevented from hearing them?”

I actually appreciated that question, as it helped me focus on why I could not hear the souls.  With the bodies right there, I felt their presence should be overwhelming.  I however did not find the silence to indicate a barrier preventing the noise from coming to me.  While I did not believe my response would actually answer his question, out of respect for Orintious I voiced what conclusion I had.

“They are not being prevented.  The impression is that they went quiet.”

Sterrig said, “They are waiting to see what we are going to do.”

Orintious voiced what I also wanted to say, “I hope they understand just how ignorant we are.  I mean, we did come to deal with this place, but what we are seeing does not fit with any of the evidence we have gained.  While blundering forward is surely the wrong thing to do, setting ourselves to studying the evidence probably won’t satisfy the spirits.”  He then surprised me by commanding, “Your Majesty, send a warning to your people to stay back.”

She replied, “I thought you had concluded I did not have any people following.”

“What I concluded was that you were not stupid.  Thinking we would not notice anyone shadowing us would have been an insult.  You kept your people way back.  Now, send them a signal to stay back.”

She undid some buttons opening up the side of a sleeve, then did something with an ornate device set on her upper arm before saying, "General Adritholl, I am not being threatened and what I see does trouble me.  Presently I need you to hold your position."  She then said, "Orintious, they will advance a scout.”

Without any hesitation, my oldest surviving brother gave his own instructions.  “Gorrick, stay and wait for that scout.  Your queen might have said that she is not being threatened, but what she meant was that she was not being threatened by me.  However, I have the people who can fight this.  Your queen has not suffered harm so far, and I fully intend to keep her from suffering harm.  That company of regular soldiers, even if they are her best of the best, doesn’t have a chance.  Keep them back.”

One of the two men that had been accompanying the royal lady spoke her name in a questioning manner, to which she replied, “Gorrick, any reason to speak against Orintious?”

The man replied, “No, Your Majesty.”

“Then do as told.”

As the man left, Orintious asked, “Vernallor, any sense of how long we can stall here and look at things?”

I replied, “The entity was attacking.  While things are now quiet, I would assume the entity is waiting to see what we will do just as are the others.”

“So, not long?”

Sterrig spoke for me, “I believe that is what he said.  My question is do we walk over the corpses, or move them?”

“So, we assume our threat is back there?”

I asked, “Orintious, do you see an altar?”

“Good question, Vernallor.  The answer is, ‘No,’ but there are various methods of making a sacrifice.  I am going to chance examining one of the corpses.”

As I heard weapons drawn, I looked for Crinorra.  When she saw my eyes momentarily focus on her, she moved to my side.  I did not allow her to hold me, but assured that Crinora was close I did what I could to prepare for what might happen.

Hearing some sounds of disgust, it helped hearing Orintious report, “Heart cut out.”

Therper asked, “Any indications of what they did with it?  I have to agree with Vernallor and ask if you see an altar, or some place they might have burnt it?”

I heard others near my oldest surviving brother make sounds or comments, so was not surprised to hear Orintious report, “No altar, but there does seem to be a pile of hearts against an obsidian marker, gravestone, or other type of slab.”

“I assume cracked.”

There was a pause before Orintious replied, “Not really a good answer to that.  There is some carving, I would say writing.  The material is striated, but not any serious break in the material.  Whatever the entity is using to get out is not any substantial opening.  I would say that in the early days those here could contain the entity, but time has drained them while the evil has kept its strength.”

“So we can conclude that when they learned of a fault in the natural stone, they began sacrificing people to hold it back and kept doing so to assure a fresh guardian.”

“Cannot deny that line of thought.”

Queen Lonarey admitted, “That would match some of the history I know.”

I looked at one of the inscribed wall sections near me.  While I could not read it, I went over certain lessons my father had taught me about the written languages.  Accepting that my older brother had surely heard the same lectures, and had decades of experience dealing with various cultures, I decided to challenge him on what we were seeing.

“You said writing on that slab, Orintious.  Why can’t you read it?”

My oldest surviving brother replied, “I would say no one intended for it to be read.  Maybe divine runes.”

Crinorra had turned with me, and she said, “It is Nepranchik, my lord.  It is a coded form of Elvish.”

Orintious indicated he had heard by saying, “If your girl just told you she could read it then your purchase of her can be said to have been a good investment.”

“Knowing codes does help as a slave.  It will however take some time.”

“Do it with pen and paper,” I replied.  “I have four spots.  I have four names to properly identify."  Seeing her move to surely start to work, I said, "Orintious, I don’t know anything about where you are.  I am assuming the names are coded, because those that created this place did not want any of the regular people to know who was here.”

Queen Lonarey said, “With the elephant out front, they had to assume anyone finding this place would know something.  They did not want them speaking the names in a knowing way.”

Suddenly hearing the cry of an eagle had us all take notice.  I moved to my slave as an explosion sounded near the entrance.  Calls could be made out of the men outside sounding out that they were alive surely using the voices to indicate their positions.  We inside simply prepared as if understanding whatever had attacked would be coming to us, so we were all set to respond when we heard a man's voice speak.

“Veskagren, Nortelact, Neslare, and poor little Melarintha.  I am certain those are the four you know.  We will save that fifth one.  You should have killed these people days ago, Your Majesty.”

Queen Lonarey replied, “There are reasons I rule this land and you don’t, Morpokko.”

“The reason you rule this land, is because I let you.  You should have –“

He stopped talking because an arrow suddenly appeared in his throat with Amelgo saying, “You did not say we could not kill anyone, Orintious.  He also arrived attacking us, so we can say we acted in self defense.  I dropped his wards enough to have that special arrow get to him.”

Durkith admitted, “I released the arrow, Sir!”

Queen Lonarey said, “You should have just captured him, then we could have taken his heart and added it to the others.”

Orintious replied, “I am sure there is more to the process than that.  Still, we were treating this as if removing obstacles needed to be done.  We had no intentions of leaving things, much less a problem.  We had the royal lady warn her people.  If they did not take the warning seriously, the fault is theirs."  There was a pause of if my oldest surviving brother was waiting for the queen to respond, then he asked, Vernallor, are you sensing anything?”

I answered, “No, but will let you know if I do.”

“Lexonor, you’re here for the money, so guard the opening.  Amelgo, get Dukirth and come over here.  If you’re so quick to act, I got something for you to do.  Queen Lonarey, do I need to kill you now?”

She replied, “When Vernallor bought that slave girl I passed on, I decided I was dealing with people who I needed to treat with respect.  I will go outside and tell my troops to stand down if your men speak of them approaching.”

“No.  You will come over here with me.  You could step out and tell them to rush inside.  Not that I don’t trust and respect you, Your Majesty, but we are a little beyond that at the moment.”

“I have to agree.”

As the lady turned to move back to my oldest surviving brother, he said, “Vernallor, you keep doing what you are doing.  No complaints with you.”

I had to reply, “Orintious, even if Crinorra can translate the names, the one she is working on should be one of our couple.  It will not be who we feel is the threat.”

“I have no intention of chatting with it.  Still, if she proves successful, you know we have an option that we did not consider upon entering this place.”

In a whisper, I gave the command, “Crinorra, keep working.”

She softly replied, “Yes, my lord.”

As everyone went to their tasks, I simply looked around the room.  Nothing made sense to me.  While there was some pleasure in having substance to the things I had read, the evidence still did not satisfy my mind that the events truly occurred.  While the people were real, the way I found them spoke of the actual story being something completely different than what was recorded.  I looked at what I felt was the impaled body of Melarintha wondering why she had been killed and placed in the center of the room.

Taking a step toward the glass shell, I heard Sterrig ask, “Vernallor, what are you doing?”

I replied, “Wondering if it would be worse to break this covering around Melarintha or disturb that slab Orintious is interested in.”

Orintious said, “They sacrificed people to keep the entity in its place.”

“So there should be nothing bad in checking out Melarintha.  She is out here.”

“Toward what end, Vernallor?”

I really did not know.  In looking around, I saw the body of the priest.  Honestly, I felt his death was proper, but I also felt I understood his motivation.  I actually felt that I knew what he wanted from this place.  That thought had me consider Queen Lonarey, and feeling that I was close to being able to answer my oldest surviving brother I spoke my thoughts.

“What if you –“  I suddenly knew the right words to say, so shouted, “To keep Lexonor from coming back and claiming his treasure!”

A number of people made exclamations, but I clearly heard Sterrig command, “Vernallor, keep talking!”

“You are not just going to leave this place, Orintious.  You can’t just leave this place.  Say you go up to that slab and find the fault.  We then fix it and put this place to rest, or at least into some stable stasis.  Do you really think you could then leave?  Morpokko would not leave this place alone.  I doubt Lexonor would leave this place alone.  I would even say that Queen Lonarey has intentions for this place.”

“I sure as Hell have no intentions of leaving this place alone!”

Stepping back to look at me, I saw a mixture of anger and confusion showing on Orintious’ face, which really was not helped by Lexonor admitting, “There has to be something here.”

The oldest surviving brother drew his sword, then said, “I really thought we could simply leave this place.  It was obviously made to be a showcase.”

I replied, “To a history everyone has forgotten.  So this place is destroyed, who would care?”

Lexonor commanded, “Walk away, Orintious.  You will get your share.  I will promise you that.”

The oldest surviving brother declared, “Not with that entity still being a threat.”

I stated, “And I am not leaving Melarintha in her place either.”  I stepped onto the marble tiles as I said, “I believe she is as much of a threat as that entity.”

Queen Lonarey said, “Vernallor, that would not be a wise move.”

“Honestly, I doubt that.  Still, Orintious, it is your call.  What is going to be your decision?”

The problems do not get solved.