The Depth of the Mists
Since the information we had gained about the Misty Peaks was from Mochsha’s estate, I stayed there for the night. Father went back to his libraries, but assured me that he would bring any further information that could be identified and located. Having settled into the poorly repaired bed that had been provided for my room in Mochsha’s house, I found myself surprised to be awakened by Sterrig.
“All right, Vernallor, what did you learn?”
I heard Nerframe say, “Sorry, Vernallor, but he is a brother.”
I mumbled, “It’s all right, Nerframe.” Rubbing my eyes, I asked, “Sterrig, why didn’t you ask Father?”
My brother replied, “He handed me a book and told me to bring it to you. Well, it was still early, so I read it first. Made no sense to me, but I suspected it would to you.”
“About the only real piece of information I trust is that the name of the Misty Peaks is really the Cleberrot Heights.”
“That doesn’t help me, Vernallor. Now, in case you think it is too damn early, Minchell is already up preparing breakfast for Orintious. She offered to fix me something, but I told her to fix you a major breakfast. I want you reading, Vernallor.”
Reading the book actually was something I wanted to do, but simply being agreeable to Sterrig was not. “Go set up a table out on the porch.”
“We are not in one of Father’s extra-planar houses, Sterrig. There are plants, and just a nice view outside.”
I heard Mochsha say, “A wonderful idea, Vernallor. There does seem to be a storm coming, so the day might not be so wonderful, but the incoming clouds are something to watch. Sterrig, if you ask Orintious or one of his men nicely, they might help you.”
It did not surprise me at all to hear the surprised sounds in Sterrig’s voice as he said, “Help me? Oh, I swear. Book’s right there, Vernallor.”
No one laughed as I heard Sterrig storm out the room. I simply put my head back on my pillow. There were indications of being amused in the voice of Mochsha as I heard her step into my room.
“I take it this is not the first time to be awakened by Sterrig.”
Since she would not know, I went ahead and admitted that I would get on up as I answered, “No. If Sterrig is in the middle of planning some caper, he feels that time is of the essence. Even when you get him to admit that certain parts cannot happen until later, he will fret and worry until the time arrives.”
“So, he is planning to go on down?”
“I guess so. Let me freshen up, and I will see what exactly Father sent to me.”
As I did what I felt I needed before putting on my clothes, I looked at the text. It surprised me not to see a journal. I also noted that it was not a kinky book on erotic situations. The sentences I read had me think the text was a mystery novel, my favorite genre for personal reading. After putting on my clothes, I went downstairs more than interested in reading the book.
As I passed through the front room, I saw Nerframe and commanded, “Go stick a piece of bread down Sterrig’s throat.” Strangely, she rushed out to the porch and tried to do just that, having Sterrig sputtering while asking the house elf was she was doing with me answering, “Keeping your damn mouth quiet while I read.”
He replied, “Listen, that’s not for pleasure!”
“Then pay me. Right now!” I saw the heads of Orintious’ men turn to me as I added, “If you’re not going to let me enjoy the book, pay me.”
“You could be all day, if not longer, reading that thing. I know you. You would try and solve the mystery. Well, –“
I quickly shouted, “FIVE HUNDRED! NOW!”
“I don’t have that much.”
“Didn’t Orintious just get through paying you?”
“I had bills, Vernallor.”
“Well, you’re about to get another.”
Sterrig got up as he said, “I’ll be checking on you, Vernallor.”
“My price will not go down. Listen, you want me to solve this thing. You want me studying every clue. You want me knowing every little detail of this book, so leave me alone.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
As Sterrig moved to the portal to take him back to Father’s house, Mochsha asked, “What was that about?”
I answered, “Sterrig was going to tell me the solution to the book. It’s a murder mystery.”
“Well, don’t you spout it out. If it’s good, I will want to read it.”
“Sorry, Mochsha, but Father sent it to me. I thus assume, which is why Sterrig was interested in it, that it has something to do with the Misty Peaks. I believe that we will be discussing it.” I did think to turn to another lady and say, “Thank you, Nerframe. He would have spouted out the solution as soon as I stepped out if you had not done what you did.”
The house elf replied, “I assumed there was a reason, Vernallor. I do trust you.”
Mochsha said, “And there was a reason. A rather entertaining one. Let me thank you for doing it as well, Nerframe.”
The house elf looked perplexed for a moment, then she giggled before asking, “I assume that you will be reading the book.”
I answered, “Yes, and I would appreciate keeping a cup of coffee available.”
My sister said, “Nerframe is not a servant, Vernallor. You are my brother though, and I do want to support you, so I will check on you.”
From out in the yard, I heard Orintious say, “If the ladies do not take care of you, Vernallor, I will assign a man to you. Might anyway just to keep Sterrig from bothering you.”
I replied, “Thanks, Orintious, because you should know that he will.”
“That I do. Ladies, this little spat between Vernallor and Sterrig is not the first one.
The door to the house opened, and as Minchell set a plate before me she said, “I am but a servant, Master Vernallor. While there are commands you are not to give to me, in most matters I will do all I can to obey. There will be coffee available all day.”
I replied, “Well, you were always in Heracropolis, so would not know about certain fights between me and Sterrig.”
“That is true, but I have been glad to finally learn about you, Master Vernallor, and the rest of my master’s family. These days here are very much better than those around the palace in Heracropolis. Unless Orintious calls me away, you can depend on my service.” She then rose to say, “Master, your breakfast will be coming out.”
Orintious thanked Minchell, then as he came to the porch he said, “All those ladies saying they are going to care for you, I guess you are going to have a wonderful time reading that book.”
I actually felt bad as I replied, “I actually hope that I enjoy the book. Father really did not bring it to me for entertainment.”
“Well, let me agree with Sterrig about wanting you to focus on gaining any information about our problem with that portal outside Dechapper’s house. I however also agree with you about the best way of doing that is getting all into the story. Just,” he lifted his head as Minchell brought out his plate, “you need a notebook and pen to write down anything you consider of importance.”
The lady said, “Of course,” but paused as Nerframe made it known, “This is my house. I will get the items for Vernallor, as I know where they are.”
I believe the kiss I received was to let Minchell know that everything was all right before the house elf rushed inside, but Orintious did the same to his lady I assumed to let his slave know that she was appreciated. I simply started eating while doing what I could to start reading the book. It thus surprised me to feel a kiss upon a cheek.
I looked to see Nerframe setting my notebook, journal, and pen down, then found her to put her mouth close to an ear to softly ask, “You don’t mind me doing that?”
My brother and sister were looking at me, but I tried to keep my reply low enough that they could not hear. “No, but you are a house elf.”
“That doesn’t keep me from liking people, Vernallor.”
“No.” Hoping I would not be causing myself trouble, I admitted, “I like you as well, Nerframe.”
She pecked me on the cheek, then went back inside the house. I looked to Mochsha trusting her to let me know if things were going improperly with Nerframe. My sister had gained texts on house elves, so I felt should be aware if things were not right with Nerframe. I had to conclude that the signs of affection were not any indication of trouble when Mochsha simply smiled at me.
I found myself really enjoying the day. Not only was the book good, but having three ladies tend to me as I spent time reading provided a wonderful additional level of pleasure. Seeing Heratin and some of his ladies suddenly come through the portal I felt could make the day become better, except that I saw him hold out a purse.
“My price has gone up to five thousand,” I said.
“Oh,” Heratin replied, “I’m not willing to loan Sterrig that much.”
“That’s what I was hoping.”
“Okay, so tell me what was worth five hundred to him?”
“You were supposed to tell me something, weren’t you?”
“Uh, yes,” I lifted a hand to assure he did not say it, and suddenly I saw his face brighten. “Oh, I know what this is. You and Sterrig in one of your classic little feuds. Okay, still, you can tell me what is worth five hundred. I mean, he usually is not paying you anything, although up to now you also were not big enough to put up a good fight with him.”
Heratin was correct. It took Father to break up a few of the conflicts between Sterrig and me. He usually got a stern lecture, as he was much older. I however got extra chores and had to listen to certain lessons repeated. My own memories had me tell Heratin a little fact I had picked up in my fights with Sterrig.
“I know to go for the face or feet, as that loose skin of his does protect his body.”
“Yes, that’s rich. Well, are you finding anything that would be worth five thousand to our brother?”
I flipped back in my notes as I answered, “No, not Sterrig, but maybe you.”
Finding the lines I was looking for, I quoted, “’I swear, Deyeldor, that even should I lace your drink with purishorten you would not be able to speak the truth.’” I then explained, “Purishorten is what Egromus said was down at the bottom of the Misty Peaks. It said it was something that would cleanse the soul of any evil. As a child of a goddess, you might be interested in the stuff. As for Sterrig, I cannot imagine him wanting it.”
“Well, he’s getting old, Vernallor. Many men do try and mend their ways at the end of their lives.”
I flipped pages in my notebook just to let Heratin know that I had jotted a number of references while saying, “There is a lot here, but not blatant. Like what I quoted you, they are slipped in as comments. There is also the problem of what Egromus said as being possible lies. I also have some notes that I feel do apply to the Misty Peaks even though they do not match what I was told.”
“Well, do you think you might be finished with the book by this evening?”
As one of Hertin’s ladies served him coffee then refilled my cup I said, “Nothing stopping me.”
And the journey starts to be planned.