keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 117, Slade 39
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 116, Hastings 40
Slade was impressed with Kondor's ability to pick up a trail. The soldier took the lead, moving very quickly through the meadow grasses to the edge of a small river flowing into the lake. It was wide and shallow where they reached it, and Kondor led the way into it slowly, his eyes sweeping the far shore, and then sped up toward something he apparently saw. Once across the water, they did not move as quickly, but still advanced consistently. Memories of Torelle leading them through the tunnels of Corlander came to his mind.
Abruptly they stopped. Kondor was surveying the ground with more care, and raised a hand as if to hold them back. "The trail divides here," he said. "From what I can tell, this right hand track comes from the village, and has been traveled often, and in both directions; but this left track running closer to the lake is rarely used, but recently, and in the direction we're headed. I would say that's where they took Speckles."
Lauren agreed. Slade saw no reason why his opinion should matter at this point, but as they were looking at him he said, "Lead on," and Kondor did.
They crossed another path; this one was so well traveled that Slade could see it, and beyond it their own trail was better marked. Kondor looked at the ground for a few minutes here. "I would say that the path we didn't take at the last fork runs to the sparrow's nesting ground, and this path comes from there and leads down to their fishing ground at the lake. We're on a path which leads to the place of sacrifice, whatever it looks like. There will be another path from the village toward it ahead somewhere, I suspect." Without waiting for them to comment, he continued the hunt.
They moved more swiftly now. Slade realized that the birds had a significant head start--probably almost twelve hours. If they were going to rescue the parakeet before it was too late, they would have to travel faster than her captors, and hope that this sacrifice thing wasn't supposed to start immediately and that there would be enough ritual involved that they had time to get there before blood was drawn. Of course, he was assuming blood would be drawn. He began to wonder what they would find at the end of their quest. What kind of sacrifice was this? Did Lauren even get it right? Well, they would find out soon enough--and if there was going to be a fight, he wanted to be in the midst of it.
The trail soon turned away from the lake into the rockier rising ground of the mountains. Still Kondor moved steadily forward, almost racing along it now, and Slade scrambled to keep up.
The path climbed and grew harder and harsher, but it also became clearer and easier to follow. Before long it was a steep wide ledge between cliff face and cliff fall. Despite being in better shape than he had ever enjoyed in his life, Slade was feeling the weight of his weapons and the pack and tool box on his back. He wanted to ask for a break; but he was the warrior, he was the tough one Odin chose for Ragnorak, and he wasn't going to be the first to declare he was tired. Besides, Kondor was also burdened--the soldier had brought everything he owned, pack, duffel, medical kit, mace, guns, even his bedroll. I can keep going as long as he can, Slade told himself, and pushed on.
And then they stopped. Finally, Slade thought, a moment of rest. But it was not a moment of rest. It was the end of the trail. The mouth of a cave opened before them, and Kondor was checking his weapons.
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 #66: Character Quest. 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: