Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel; Chapter 41, Hastings 15

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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 41:  Hastings 15
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Chapter 40, Slade 13

By this time the police would have found the safe, signs of a fight, damage to the buildings, but no bodies and no people.  They would probably write it off as gang violence.  Father James had taken a few friends in Raal's cab to get medical treatment, and the rest had left in Jake Williams' car.  Lauren was airborne, floating over the rooftops, trying to find her way home.

Identifying home from the air was not so easy.  The biggest buildings were obvious, but Lauren had never considered how the city appeared from above.  Sighting on a few points, she angled toward her neighborhood and began hunting for roofs of row homes.  She quickly realized that Philadelphia was filled with row homes, and she had no clue what made hers different from all the others.  She needed an edge; she thought of one.  Reaching into the reading she remembered, she quoted, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened."

The effect was immediate; but it was also surprising.  There was a flash, almost like a camera bulb, and the night returned with Lauren no more certain of her destination than she had been; but now there was something else.  Flying alongside her, dressed in robes not unlike her own, but darker, was a girl who appeared to be in her mid twenties, carrying a wooden staff with a large crystal mounted in one end.  Almost as soon as Lauren saw her, the girl spoke excitedly, with a marked English accent.  "I know who you are!" she said.

Startled and unprepared for this, Lauren could only laugh; caught so off guard, she didn't realize that she was again quoting scripture as she spoke until after the words had left her mouth.  "Who do you say that I am?" she asked.

"You are Laurelyn of Wandborough, Mystic of the Western Woods."  She spoke the words abruptly, almost as if they were dragged from her; immediately she stammered, "I...I am sorry.  I know you don't want people to know."

Lauren didn't know whether to laugh again.  She couldn't possibly be this Laurelyn of Wandborough; but the name was so close to her own, and this girl was so certain of it, she wasn't prepared to argue.  "And what makes you certain I am this Mystic of the Western Woods?" she asked.

"You taught me everything I know!"  Lauren raised an eyebrow.  "Well, not everything," the girl continued; "I've learned much since you left.  I thought you had been killed."

"And you are?"

"Then it's true."

"What's true?"

"You are like Merlin; you remember the future, not the past."

Gee, wouldn't that make life easier, Lauren thought.  "It's more complicated than that," she said.

"I'm Bethany.  I was a peasant girl whom you took as your apprentice in 1461.  You taught me magic, and many secrets, and how to fight against the vampires.  Before you vanished, you told me to meet you in a city called Philadelphia in a place called Pennsylvania in a land not yet discovered on the far side of the ocean.  You said you would be here in the fall of 2005--and here you are!"

"Well," Lauren admitted, "I'm certainly here."

They flew together several minutes, Lauren not sure what to say and Bethany apparently waiting for some word.  Finally Lauren said, "Look, I've just come from a very nasty fight.  I've got to get home and clean up and stuff.  How can I find you later?"

Bethany's thoughts suddenly came into her mind.  Don't worry, I'll find you, they said.  Then the girl held out a small leather bag with a drawstring tied securely.  "This is for you," she said.  Lauren took it; she could feel several small objects inside.  Bethany smiled, and flew away.

Lauren managed to find her neighborhood, and landing on the street worked out her position and walked the rest of the way home.

Once inside, she sat at her kitchen table, and carefully poured out the contents of the bag onto a paper towel.  Without touching them, she examined them.  There was a gold coin with an image and inscription, a cat's eye marble, an acorn, a die, and a paperclip.  As she looked at the objects, she realized that this could be a test, a challenge of some sort, so she should grasp the significance somehow.  Were the objects related, or were they each significant individually?  What was the nature of the puzzle?  She needed to know more about them, but wasn't certain where or how to begin.

But there was one thing which came to mind.  She knew that psionic devices could be made to look like anything; perhaps magic was similar.  Taking each of the six objects (including the bag) in turn, she made an effort to focus her thoughts into each.  None responded in any way.

She stood up and paced the floor, walking around the table several times.  It was more likely that these were magical than mental, but she'd never encountered a magic object as far as she knew.  She needed to think of what it was about magic items which made them magical; she needed to find a way to detect that.

She'd once been told that magic came from the devil; but lately she had been using magic which she was certain came from God--and while Father James would probably hesitate to call such things "magic", it seemed to her to be the same thing.  Also, she could imagine in theory that there might be magic which didn't come from God or the devil; this was a different world, and clearly had some different rules.  But from where would such magic come?  More on point, how could she identify it?

She pondered this for quite a while, but could only find one answer that satisfied everything she knew.  Magic was a power, an energy, that came from somewhere outside the natural world.  God and the devil were both supernatural, in the sense that they existed beyond the bounds of the physical universe.  Magic must be a natural power from that realm, whatever or wherever it was.  So now she knew what she had to do:  check for some kind of energy within the objects which she didn't recognize.

Sitting down again, she tried to feel inside the structure of the table; most of the energies she needed to recognize would be there.  Then she examined the gold coin, and indeed there was some energy present unfamiliar to her.  She found the same energy in the acorn, the marble, the paperclip, and the die.  But the bag was different; the only way she could think to describe it was that it was like cold.  Why was that, she wondered.  An idea came to mind, and using the paper towel she carefully poured the five magical objects back into the pouch without touching them, and secured it.  Then she again detected for them; but the bag apparently blocked the energy.

That gave her another puzzle.  Why was Bethany carrying these five magic items around in a pouch which absorbed or blocked magic?  She did not have an answer yet; but she thought it best to keep them contained for the moment.

She suddenly realized that she had become so absorbed in her puzzle that she had forgotten her injuries.  Slipping the bag into a drawer for safety, she headed for the bathroom.  Her tattered robe was beyond repair; it would be for the trash now.  She no longer needed it for Gavin's sake, but there were other vampires to face in this city and she had no reason to believe they knew what she had done.  Besides, she had come to enjoy being the wizard, and if Bethany believed she was this other person, perhaps she could learn more about magic by continuing.  Another robe would replace this one.

Removing the armor and undergarments was difficult, as they stuck in the blood of her injuries.  The clothes would take quite a bit of laundering, but she would soak the plastic armor in the bath after she got washed.  Clean clothes and some bandaging followed, and soon she was resting.  In a few hours she was expected by Raiden for her lesson, and she shouldn't miss it if for no other reason than to reassure him that she survived.  But for the moment, she needed to rest.

Next chapter:  Chapter 42:  Kondor 14
Table of Contents

There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #33:  Novel Struggles.  Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.

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The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

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