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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 21: Slade 7
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 20, Hastings 7
"Castellan, please hire some household staff, particularly a cook and kitchen staff so that the mess sergeant need not handle meals for my guests on a regular basis. Meanwhile, let him know that I will need dinner here tonight. If any from the house of Corlander visit, they are to be shown every reasonable courtesy. Oh, and be mindful of the fact that I am a friend and ally of the djinn, and particularly of the Caliph of the West Wind, and am to be informed immediately should emissaries arrive from his court."
Slade was pleased with himself for having so well remembered Torelle's words. After a couple days at the warrior's castle, it was agreed that each should move on to his own home and at least get settled and established. The djinni had carried him to his very quickly, and although he was not quite certain how to get back to Torelle, he was confident that he would be able to get directions to the Corlander ancestral home from someone.
He took a leisurely tour of his new home, realizing that it would probably take weeks to become fully familiar with all the nooks and crannies. He did, however, find his treasure room. It seemed to be very full of gold, silver, and precious stones; but he had no idea how to quantify it. He thought it was more than could be spent in several lifetimes. Of course he could be here for several lifetimes, and he might have to explain that at some point. But that was not yet a problem.
He took a few weeks to explore, and to enjoy his castle. He had comfortable furnishings, fine clothes, precious tableware; the staff and soldiers were helpful and attentive. But over time he realized how empty the place was. There was no one here who thought him an equal, who would sit and eat with him and talk as a friend. Being the lord of the manor was a lonely existence.
But, he thought, it must also be so for my companions. He would visit them. He would start with Torelle. First, he had at least a vague notion of where Torelle's castle was located and was reasonably sure that others would be able to help him find it. Second, he had an excuse to visit the fighter--they had begun lessons in combat, and it would be good to continue these. Who knows? Maybe he would even learn to use a sword.
So after a few weeks he informed the castellan that he intended to make an extended visit to his friend Torelle of Corlander. The castellan said he would make the arrangements.
The arrangements included providing horses, detailing a few men to accompany him, and packing supplies for the road. It was all ready in two days, which everyone other than Slade said was quite hasty. Slade realized that horses were the normal means of transport in this world, but he'd never ridden one, and it was something else he should learn. Meanwhile, he determined to watch his protectors and to try to copy their technique, so as not to be quite so sore at the end of the day.
He was very sore by the end of the day anyway; but there was nothing for him to do. The men pitched camp, prepared food, and tended to his needs. He was even provided with a simple straw mattress for the night, and a roomy tent. It was far more comfortable than the dungeon floors of his adventure, but far from his bed in the castle. He awoke sore from the ride and sore from the ground, but after breakfast continued his journey.
It was three uneventful nights on the ground before he reached the familiar valley on the fourth day. Riding up to the gates of the rebuilt castle, he called the guard and asked to be admitted. He was soon inside, and being greeted by his friend.
"Hey, Torelle, sorry to drop in on you like this. I would have called, but your number isn't listed."
Torelle had long ago stopped reacting to his friend's strange comments. "I am so glad you came. You must meet my bride, and stay for the wedding."
"Torelle! I had no idea! Who is she, and when did you meet her?"
"I meet her tonight, and the wedding will be at the end of the week. She is the third daughter of the Duke of Ralcath, and it is a good match."
"Uh-huh. I guess. So, is she pretty?"
"Her father assures me that she is the very flower of beauty, and will be a strong healthy mother for my heirs."
"So, like, you've written to her or something? Do you love her?"
Torelle's face took a very puzzled look. "You do ask the strangest questions." But then, convinced that the question was quite serious, he continued, "I will be sure to do so, and I trust she will love me."
"Well, I don't get it. But I was hoping to stay for a while anyway, and get a few more lessons in how to fight."
"Certainly, we will include time for that. I will assign some of my men to train you."
Slade thought that if he wanted to be trained by men, he had his own men. He wanted to spend time with his friend, but at the moment his friend was rather busy. He would stay for the wedding, learn a little about fighting, steal a bit of time with Torelle, and return home in perhaps a month or two.
The wedding was lavish, the bride lovely (although she seemed young to Slade), and the party grand. Omigger and Filp had received invitations, so Slade had the opportunity to talk with them, and to discover where they lived and promise to visit them sometime after he had learned a bit from Torelle. They looked forward to his visit.
The festivities lasted a few days, and then faded as the families departed. Slade began spending more time with soldiers, and although he was learning combat techniques he wasn't spending much time with his friend. They had dinner together each afternoon, along with Torelle's new wife; but the fighter had immersed himself in the business of being a lord, attending to taxation, care of the land, treatment of the peasants, and settling of disputes. There was every reason to believe his ancestral title would be recognized, and in fact it was after a number of weeks. Slade accepted invitations to attend court and meetings and other activities of his host, and he frequently did (and learned much from them), but at these times Torelle was very much focused on the business at hand, and not on relaxing with his old companion.
After a few months, it was announced that her ladyship was with child, and Slade realized that he was an outsider here. He persuaded Torelle to review his progress as a fighter, and then announced that he would have to return home to attend to his own business, but would try to return after the birth of the child.
Two days later he was on the road home, and before a week had elapsed, he stepped through his own gates again.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #25: Novel Changes. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: