The Depth of the Mists
By the end of the day all three of us had read the book. Sterrig showed up, and we left him down in the room enjoying the text. I felt embarrassed as Orintious and Heratin discussed the book with the ladies, but they listened and asked questions as if they felt nothing embarrassing about what was said.
I had to ask, “Nerframe, would you mind if I took the book?”
She replied, “I did not mind you taking the other one, Vernallor.”
“Okay, but there has to be a better version. I’m not talking about the eroticism, but just a more factual account.”
Sterrig approached with the book in his hand as he said, “You have a whole library of this stuff down there, Mochsha. I’m going to have to plan a long visit.”
She replied, “If it entertains you, Sterrig.”
Without any indication of embarrassment he said, “Yes, it does. Still, I cannot believe you are accepting this, Vernallor. It leaves the couple down there having extreme fun. It has to be fiction.”
Orintious replied, “Vernallor was speaking of going to Father with the book and seeing if he had other editions with a more sensible presentation.”
“Yes, good thinking. I mean Father does what he can, but he has just too large of a library to make any general search less than a lifetime of research. Going to him with something very specific like this will heavily reduce the amount of possible material.”
Nerframe went to take the book from Sterrig, then handed it to me while asking, “You will stay for supper?”
We did stay for the meal. As Heratin’s youngest lady, Ochally, had shown me, those that served were just as connected to Hera as the one they were given to. With them in the house there was food and drink for all of us. While they would refer to themselves as slaves, I knew Heratin treated them as well as he could, as did the rest of us in the family. Of course, we treated Minchell well, and she had no other status than as the slave of Orintious. Still, we respected their service and enjoyed their company during the meal.
Coming back into Father’s house, I however found myself picked on by Sterrig. “I have to say, Vernallor, that Nerframe is cute.”
I chuckled. Heratin and his ladies did as well. I believe our calm responses confused Sterrig, as he tried to have his words cut deeper.
“If you were older you would understand what I was talking about, or if she wore less clothing.”
“She’s a house elf,” I replied.
“A really fine female house elf.”
Heratin came to my defense by stressing, “She’s a house elf, Sterrig. She can appear as she wants to appear. If she wanted to seduce Vernallor, she probably could. Although I’m not certain she would know exactly how to handle the situation.”
I detected some reasoning of what we were saying when Sterrig asked, “She appears as she wants to? So, she could appear as a man?”
“She originally did appear as a man,” I replied. “She was given that red hat to force a change into a female, and it really had an effect on her. She won’t give up the hat however, as it is magic, but she still is a house elf at the core.”
“Man, I was thinking she gave you the book because she wanted you to have ideas.”
“She gave me the book as a sign she trusted me.”
“Why the little –“ Sterrig wisely hushed upon seeing Heratin and his ladies glare at him. “Okay, Vernallor, what are you going to do with the book?”
“What I said I would do with it. I am taking it to Father.”
“Darn, as I was hoping to read it again.”
“I’m sure Father would tell you what section of the library to access.”
Sterrig told me that he was heading to bed. Heratin said the same, although I had a pleasant period exchanging some affection with his ladies. Hoping that Father would not keep me too long, I headed into the library.
I was glad to find that Father was not busy with anyone. He saw me coming, and from the flow of texts I could tell put things on hold while he spoke with me. When I gave him the book, he seemed intrigued even as he admitted it would indeed help him to isolate appropriate texts. Father then had a tentacle touch me in a manner letting me know that he had his own thoughts on my situation.
“I don’t think you are the focus, Vernallor. You are handling yourself well, however, so I also do not think whatever the purpose is behind this is antagonistic toward you. Still, be on your guard.”
“That logic does not explain the large amount of money put into my account, Father.”
“No, it doesn’t. Let’s see what type of books you gain, and the information they provide. The only way to find answers is to look for them.”
I was too tired to do anymore research, but wished Father a good night. He allowed that I had a busy day, and wished me a good rest warning that I might have some busy days ahead. I went back to my room feeling that the day had gone well, and I hoped with some sleep I would have some further success.
The next morning I saw a note set on my desk. Interested, I got out of bed to read it. Seeing the writing of my father say that I would need to go with him, I quickly refreshed myself and dressed eager to learn the purpose for the note.
Leaving my room, I found one of the researchers sitting at a small desk in an intersection of the hallway to say, “Get something to eat, Master Vernallor. Lord Galabur said that it would do no good to leave before Mochsha had prepared herself.”
Being given information in such a manner was only strange because it happened so seldom. The researchers did have chores, as they paid for their access to the library by performing certain duties. There was no reason they could not be given instructions to relay information, and I had often spoken to various individuals about their research simply to break the dullness of a day. Father however made it clear that he adopted us because of his interest in us, and reinforced the words by staying active in our lives. He did have work, so at times a researcher was given the task of relaying information, but it did not happen often.
I thanked the man, then headed to the main living area. The ladies Heratin had brought with him were in the kitchen, and requested my order. I saw the brother at the table with Dechapper. Wondering if they knew the reason behind the note, I sat down and asked them about their plans for the day. Dechapper simply spoke of going to work, but Heratin let me know what I was interested in as his ladies brought me food from the kitchen.
“I wish I could go with you, Vernallor. There are good things about being the child of a major goddess, but it also cuts me out of those things that are not divine. Where father is going to take you is definitely ungodly. While I would like to go, let me warn you to be careful.”
From down the hall I heard the voice of Father saying, “Indeed, Vernallor. Your search brought up a most interesting result. I am curious about this meeting, as there really are very few books of this type.”
Knowing the vastness of Father’s libraries, I was actually surprised by what was being suggested. “You mean that you do not own a copy of this book?”
“I cannot, Vernallor. A book of this type is completely dependent upon the world in which it exists. It also is a very poor source, because it is actually something evil. Still, Vernallor, it is possible to get information from it.”
“Where is this book?”
It was Dechapper that replied, “Mochsha’s baron has it. As strange as our adoption by Father might seem to us, there seems to be enough activity on that world to make it a focus. If I might remind you, the bank in that land knew about my company. I will want you to speak about what you witness, Vernallor.”
Heratin said, “Same here, Vernallor. Tell you what. Stay with Mochsha, and I will show up there to hear both of you speak of the experience.”
“And wait on me, because I want to hear this.”
Simply curious about what I would get to see, I had to ask, “Has Orintious seen a book like this?”
Father answered, “I don’t think so. Like I said, they are evil. Getting information from them is usually questionable. I know that I have never taken him. In fact, Vernallor, you will be my first. There are things I keep secret, and just other things I would prefer you to never know. This happens to be the latter.”
“Why do you think we will get information now?”
“That word you found, Vernallor, is not a portal key. It is the word Mochsha’s father and uncle used to get the book to reveal secrets. It could have been lying, or simply not telling them everything. The only way to learn is to go ourselves.”
While I felt some excitement in what I would be doing, my training did have me ask a sensible question. “Uh, any special preparations I should make?”
“No, Vernallor. Your innocence could have the book say things simply because it thinks it might sway you. My experience could have the book say things simply as a challenge to overcome my own moral fiber. The only way to face this book and come out with anything positive is to put it at a disadvantage. I believe we can do that, but it could also be when we speak to your siblings that we might be speaking of things we wished we had done differently.”
Heratin said, “I know you don’t want to come back a fool, Vernallor, but you are already old enough to remember a number of basic mistakes. Those lessons taught you things. At the worst, stand strong just considering it another lesson.”
Father had a tentacle wrap around me in a hug as he said, “And if I am the one made out to be a fool, don’t laugh at me until after we get away – please.”
And so they go to work with a most bizarre book.