The Depth of the Mists
One of the mercenaries stepped up to take the object out of Sterrig’s hand. While I did catch a moment of a golden reflection, whatever had been found could not be large. Sterrig watched as the man inspected the small piece of metal before speaking a conclusion.
“I will grant you this is gold, but it really does not say anything. I cannot tell if this is something from an object or a stray piece of the metal from some lode moving with the current.”
I expected Sterrig to demand the sliver of gold back, so was surprised when he turned to me to command, “Vernallor, give me your sword.”
While I did have my hands move to undo my belt, I would have asked the same question I heard from Orintious. “Hold it, Sterrig. What do you need Vernallor’s sword for?”
“It enables its bearer to breathe water. I’m going in.”
“No, it’s not. We have rope. Secure a rope to me.”
I felt my oldest brother put a hand on my shoulder as he said, “We have no idea of the current or how many more of these creatures are out there. Fishing equipment is coming. Let us spend time casting and learn something of the water beyond the shore.”
Theria said, “That is the sensible thing to do, Sterrig. We’re here. There is no reason to rush.”
Sterrig replied, “There has to be. This is not a regular world. This is a trap, a puzzle. It wanted a victim, and if we stay it will claim it. We have to stay active.”
Orintious cautioned, “If you rush forward, Sterrig, I believe this place will claim its victim. We have been sensibly advancing, and I believe our success speaks of the wisdom of that tactic.”
One of the mercenaries said, “Sterrig, I have a device that enables me to breathe underwater. I also have experience in fighting underwater. I used those skills in the last mission with your brothers. I was thinking like you, but I also know to wait for some practical knowledge of what could be waiting.”
“The fishing equipment should be on its way down right now, Sterrig. Please, just wait.”
To stress that request, I stated, “You’re not getting my sword.”
Sterrig replied, “Are you willing to kill me?”
“At least I keep my sword. If you die out there, I could possibly lose my sword.”
“It doesn’t matter. I can swim. I will reach it.”
Orintious stepped forward with his hand out while saying, “I will bet you a hundred you will find that you would not have.”
“We’re going to be exceedingly wealthy, Orintious. I will pay you the hundred just to see your face in realizing that it will not make any effective difference in your wealth.”
“I have over a hundred men to pay. I have a new property to establish. Trust me, I am expecting any wealth from this to disappear rather quickly.”
Sterrig stepped up and grabbed the hand of the older brother. “You stay in this with me. We can settle accounts after this.”
After shaking hands, Orintious spoke with Sterrig about some tests that could be done I became interested seeing nothing more than a rock tied to a rope produce some information. The rough surf was indeed shown to be strong, as it took a few men to maintain control of the rope. While the rushing water surely had some power, none of us suspected the pull toward what was beyond. I even had to put my hands to the rope in order for the men to pull the rock back to us through the surf. Upon retrieving the end of the line had to agree with a conclusion of the test stated by a mercenary.
"There is something there that the water is breaking against." He drew his sword as he exclaimed, "It's not just a pile of rock!"
The man was stopped to have a rope tied to him. He was then allowed to advance as he did not plan on diving into the water beyond. While a number of us warned the man about the pull, he let us know what maneuver he intended to make. Sterrig thought the action was good, so supported him in gaining our approval. With us having a good hold on the line, we gave him a go. I watched as he simply challenged the cascade of water coming from the prominence to strike at what caused it to churn instead of simply flowing into a larger body. The man plunged his sword into the turbulence, then worked his own strength along with us pulling on the rope to return with his weapon.
Seeing the same white substance we found in the monster on the weapon, I heard the obvious question asked, "Is this purishorten?"
Theria stepped up to touch it as she said, "It does not seem to be like salt."
Sterrig added, "And it is not being held in bowls of gold." He then turned to the surf as he asked, "Could we however move it? Scoop it up and clear a way?"
As if liking what he heard, a mercenary declared, "Shovel!"
While others spoke of the fishing gear arriving, I watched as a group set themselves to see if they could clear away a section of the material causing the churning surf. It was not that I was not interested in what those casting a line would find, but Sterrig stayed to do what he could in helping with the removal. As he was my brother, and taking a risk with his life, I felt it best to stay with the group.
Instead of hearing comments of what those with the fishing gear learned, I saw mercenaries gather around us as we began pulling material from the water to plop on the ground. The substance was disgusting in appearance. The homogenous white goop appeared just as unappealing as a white type of saturated clay as it had being part of the muscle tissue and stomach matter of the monsters. While it was a disgusting job, I felt the attitude among the group to be that we were doing more than simply seeking evidence, but actually working to enact something that would prove useful. Instead of a discussion of who would switch out with those becoming tired of the effort to fight the water and work free the material, comments sounded when Sterrig made a dash to something many desired.
The piece of metal was again no more than a sliver that could provide no clue of its source. It might have been a small fragment of a larger vein of the ore or some piece carried by an earlier victim of this land that had been mistreated by the rock and water. Its presence however did encourage the men to continue to work at the material. Sterrig and others searched through the muck already brought out and in finding a few more pieces of gold they encouraged those working to keep at the task to provide more of the metal along with a way to possibly check other islands.
One man was almost lost as water poured upon him when he made a clear break in the material. Like a hole in a dam, the water rushed through with the force doing all it could to increase the size of the passage. As we worked the rope securing him the tumult dissolved the material that had once held it. The rushing water seemed to take advantage of the route created, but as it passed it washed away more. Instead of finding more gold, as the man was returned to shore he stopped to watch with us as the entire barrier causing the disrupting foam of surf cleared away giving all a simple view of the mist beyond.
A soldier took out some coins, then went to hand them to Sterrig. He counted out the coins. While he did not do so out loud, I watched close enough to know that there were a hundred. When Sterrig looked with a questioning gaze, the soldier provided the answer.
“I have been on missions like this, Sir Sterrig. The answers don’t come until the end, but you are too tired to care. When I simply turn and walk away, I want you knowing that I paid you.”
My brother replied, “I haven’t made any bet with you.”
“Don’t think I’m not a part of this. I am making comments and seeking answers as well. Maybe I say something you will take as a wager. I don’t want you thinking bad about me when I turn and walk away.”
Orintious said, “Sterrig said we will make enough where a hundred will be small change.”
“I heard that, but those that want the money want every coin. Sir Sterrig, allow me to walk away in peace.”
Sterrig replied, “Since you are so willing to stake your money, earn it. What do we do now?”
“Think about it, Sir Sterrig. Everything we have done so far has been extremely dangerous, but actually obvious. Let me walk around this island, then I believe I can make my wager.”
Another mercenary said, “A wrong one, since you paid off.”
“That is for Sir Sterrig to decide. When I walk away, I would rather him feel a need to pay me than angry because I did not pay him.” The soldier turned while saying, “I am going to take my walk around this place.”
As he strode off, Sterrig asked, “Anyone else?” There was laughter, but my brother let it be known that he had other thoughts than those of greed. “No, I am just wondering if he could have made that decision from being affected by purishorten.”
Another mercenary said, “No, but Clerro is just that way. He is one of those from Davelda. He’s already immortal, and claims to have had a good life. He is not here for the money.”
A different man added, “He would be one wanting to find the purishorten however.”
Hearing a number of voices agree, Sterrig said, “Then let me go with the man,” before taking off.
I guess seeing me continue to stand had Orintious ask, “What are your thoughts, Vernallor?”
I considered the question allowing that I had not moved, then said, “One intending to trap someone does not keep using the same type of trap. We had a full circle to choose in coming down, but Dechapper happen to fall along the point where a ledge happened to be. It might have been luck. I am also considering that ledges could be found in any direction. Still, I am wondering what might be different about our present situation and how might we be trapped.”
“Those are good thoughts, Vernallor. I suggest you make another circuit of the island as well. I believe even you know that Sterrig can make bad decisions.”
I had to chuckle as others laughed, as I did know about Sterrig. Feeling that I knew him well enough to figure out what he would consider the best option, I started walking seeking the evidence to support or challenge him. Knowing that I had a large amount of funds at my disposal, I accepted that I might need to lay my own money down to convince Sterrig to make another decision than the one he felt best.
Another barrier down, another problem revealed.