The Depth of the Mists
I had to ask, “You know what it means?”
Sterrig had the look that he did not want to say, but as his brother he could think of no reason to stay silent. “Sure. Itchy lake to the south.”
“What you do with an itch? You scratch it. South – back. Lake? Well, that gets obscure. Anyway, it means ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ That was all you were telling that evil book. You were saying that if he would help you that you would help him.”
I thought about what he said, then replied, “Well, it worked.”
“Yeah, as we dastardly types usually feel that we can get the advantage. I mean, the good guys are actually going for an even exchange, and we’re not. What it also means is that I can depend on someone else to get me out. I have a plan.”
We both turned to the door, as the footsteps were rather loud. Seeing Orintious did not surprise me. He looked at me, winked, then stepped into the room.
“I see that you have not yet convinced Vernallor to start packing.”
Sterrig returned, “How many of your men are packing?”
“Each and every one of them.”
“Now you are lying.”
“You might be surprised. Mochsha gets twenty-five percent off the top. Vernallor gets fifteen. Father gets five, and you get five. The other fifty percent is split up as equal shares to everyone that goes.”
It actually surprised me to hear Sterrig say, “Deal,” although he quickly added, “now how long are you going to attempt to stall me?”
“I got rope, and I mean good rope. My men have ideas about how to assure some safety on the rocks.”
“None of that will work.”
The words from Sterrig came out as a grumble, but Orintious kept his voice sounding positive as he said, “Listen, the boards worked to keep the line from cutting on Dechapper’s rescue, so we think a few other ideas might work as well. I got good men, Sterrig, and they know the bonus, and in this situation the whole paycheck, depends on success. Trust me, they can be as greedy as you.”
“That might not be a good thing. Now,” Sterrig tapped on Orintious’ chest as he asked, “how long are you going to attempt to stall me?”
“None, Sterrig. The portal is right now in Dechapper’s front lawn. It is a nuisance and threat to his daily life. Further, it could be a problem to others. Morning, I promise.”
With an expression of complete disbelief on his face, Sterrig said, “None? Morning?”
“Sterrig, I don’t have the reputation I have by turning down jobs. I also don’t have the wealth I have, or my men have, by letting some disturbing facts bother us. We look at the evidence, and determine what we need for success.”
“What makes you think you can succeed?”
Orintious laughed, then said, “Why, the knowledge of who was planning to go. We fought Decholl. Worse, we fought big, bad, and evil Decholl. No offense to Mochsha’s father, but if he and Decholl thought they could make it, we know we can.”
I had to admit, “He really wasn’t that big of a threat.”
Sterrig still had an expression of disbelief, but turned to move to his desk in order to get a notebook and tore out a page. “These are the things I thought I would need.”
Orintious looked at the sheet of paper, then said, “All right, Sterrig, translate this chicken-scratch for me and I will see that you get it.”
I left the brothers to work out the details while I went back to my room to do some of my own work. Feeling there would be a lot of activity about the house, I choose the mathematic text. The formulas could be done in a step-by-step manner that enabled me to easily pick back up in working the solution after being interrupted. Not wanting to miss some development in events, I sat down in the front room to do my work.
Sterrig spoke of trusting Orintious. After sitting down and eating, he disappeared into his room and I assumed caught up on his sleep. That is what I told Heratin when he came in asking about Sterrig, and my divine brother did nothing to disturb him.
Father seemed surprised to find me actually at work at my studies. I however proudly showed him my work. It was as we discussed a rather complex equation that we both looked up surprised when the front portal to the house activated and a female voice timidly spoke Sterrig’s name.
Feeling one of Father’s tentacles tap me on a shoulder, I got up and advanced to the foyer. What I saw was a being similar to Sterrig. I really could not say the feminine traits were obvious, but there were enough to help me associate her appearance to her voice. I did not advance, but upon her seeing me I simply supplied some information.
“He’s been sleeping all day, so it should be allowed that I could wake him.”
She advanced on me while saying, “The dark skin, the youth, you must be Vernallor.”
She rushed upon me and held me. At least, she acted like she held me. I felt her hands move about my form as she spoke.
“I’m Theria. Sterrig and I have been rather close. He however lately has gotten real strange, and I found myself really worried about him. He then told me that he was going away, and… and I had to check on him.”
She broke from me, although showed shock when I said, “You can have both those items. One is just a pen, and we have lots of those about the house. I mean, Father is a librarian and writing notes does help one remember what you read. The other is just a piece of candy.”
I did not want to make her possibly feel bad by stating that I easily noticed, but instead said, “Sterrig is one of my older brothers, and he has taught me some things.”
“I told him that he would make a good father, but those words would just make him go quiet.”
“If you would follow me, we can check on him together.”
I did check to see if Father had remained. He understood that his tentacled form was distressing to most people. Father however was present, so I hoped for the best as I made an introduction.
“Theria, this is my father, Sterrig’s father, and a number of others claim him as well. This is Lord Galabur.”
She hugged me this time without her hands moving about me, then let go to advance toward my father. I noticed that she went to all fours the way Sterrig would do. As Father made a simple greeting, she rose before bowing.
“I was told of you. Sterrig always said that you were the reason he never took me to his home, but I felt there were other reasons.”
Father replied, “Sterrig does seem to be in a state of self-analyzation. I would hope that he will be glad to see you, although cannot promise.”
I stepped up to say, “Theria, if you will follow me.”
She came to me while looking around before admitting, “It is a nice house.”
“Well, there are a lot of us children, and we do get important visitors. Growing up here is a little intimidating at times. Still, we seem to come out all right.”
“You’re very polite.”
“No reason not to be. Once we get to know each other, we might figure out how to relate a little less formally. Sterrig is one of the brothers I did enjoy spending time with while growing up. You will find that we are rather at ease with each other. For instance, I have no problem with waking his sleeping ass up.”
I stepped up, then opened the door to Sterrig’s room. He yelled my name as I turned on the light. I simply let him know that he had a visitor. Theria called out Sterrig’s name as she rushed passed me, and while interested in what might happen I went ahead and closed the door.
I turned to see Chanona, one of Heratin’s ladies, ask me, “Are you hungry?”
Seeing Father float back to the front room, I answered, “I believe you were called out to assure things went well for Sterrig’s lady.”
“No reason not to make enough to feed everyone.”
Before I could reply, Heratin asked, “You just took the lady to Sterrig’s room?”
I answered, “She was taking things from off my person, so I felt it safer to limit her access to Sterrig’s stuff.”
“That’s rich. Well, it is getting close to suppertime. Since I am interested in how things are going to develop, I am going to have my ladies prepare a large meal.”
Reading something into what he said and how he said it, I asked, “You’re not going?”
“Ah, well I have nothing to gain. I am the son of a major goddess, so purishorten is not going to do me any good. As for gold, I have access to a rather large supply of it as well. Why are you going, Vernallor?”
“One, I’m curious. I also feel that I am supposed to go. I could be wrong on that, but I feel that something will have me go in some fashion. It does help me to know that Orintious and his men are going. I feel that most situations will be handled by them.”
Heratin directed me back to the front room as he said, “I believe Orintious and his men are encouraged by you going. What problems they might have trouble with, they feel you could direct them. You did well on the last mission, Vernallor.”
“I personally feel that a lot of it was luck.”
“Well, whether you provide more luck, or find yourself able to provide something more substantial, they will again come back pleased with your presence.”
Father seconded Heratin’s words, then had us sit and discuss things. As we often mentioned among us children, he had us go over all our steps with the probable outcomes considered and the actual outcome dissected. While we did not want the discussion on the last adventure, on this one I thought the conversation had merit and paid attention to what Father would say.
I was not the only one who turned hearing sounds from the hallway, and we all heard Sterrig say, “Theria will be going with us.”
Heratin asked, “He has told you of the danger?”
She simply replied, “I’m going.”
The front door opened and Orintious said, “I’m glad that I did not bring Minchell with me, or she would probably declare that she would go as well.”
Heratin and I laughed at that, remembering the lady’s determination to expand her relationship with her master. Minchell was now more of a presence in his life, but her age did not allow her to stay as active as her immortal owner. I actually found myself wishing that she had come with her master, although was glad that my sister was with him.
By the time we had introduced Theria to Orintious and Mochsha, Dechapper came in from work. Sterrig’s lady showed no distress in meeting such a variety of people. Hearing Heratin’s ladies say that they had a meal prepared, we all moved to the table speaking of a hope to learn more of Theria.
It becomes accepted that they are going to risk their lives and take on the adventure.