keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 118, Kondor 39
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 117, Slade 39
"It's going to be dark in there," Kondor said, as he looked at the cave. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble in a wasted effort to make it look frightening. Several stalagmite-like rocks had been positioned like sharpened teeth to either side of the entrance, and glaring slanted eyes were chipped into the rock above it. As primitive as it was, this was apparently the entrance to some kind of shrine, and the route traveled by their quarry.
Lauren stepped in front of him, peering into the cave. He was going to stop her, to tell her it wasn't safe, but he realized what a chauvinistic notion that was, and that from her stories, laced as they were with nonsense about vampires and ghouls, it was clear that she had seen her share of battle and would not be an easy opponent. She was saying something--quoting something familiar, something about words and God and life and light. And suddenly the cave lit up, and she stepped inside.
Her psychic ability was impressive; Kondor thought he should ask her to try to teach him a few tricks. But right now he followed her inside, and heard Slade walking behind him.
There were no side tunnels, and it was not a very large cave. They walked about thirty yards through the strange light, and came to a blank wall. There were crushed bones that appeared to be large lizards and birds, not as large as the parakeet or sparrow people, but most of them bigger than the fare on which they had dined in the meadow. But there was no sign of the sparrow people or Speckles. He searched the floor for some clue, noting that the bones had been pushed to the sides. Finally he saw it.
"Well, it's not the end of the trail," he said, "but it might be for us. They went up this wall."
"How did they manage to carry Speckles up the wall?" Lauren asked.
"That I can't say. But they came in this cave, and climbed this wall out that opening above." He pointed to the patch of blue sky amidst the lit brown of the cavern ceiling. "The best we can do is go outside and look for an alternate route to the top of this area."
"We can do better," Bob Slade suddenly interrupted. Turning, Kondor saw that he had a grappling hook and length of rope with him. "I told you I trained with one of the best medieval thieves ever. I'm not so good as he was, but a wall like this should be no problem." The grapple sailed up toward the sky, and after pulling on it a couple times, Bob started climbing not the rope but the wall, using the rope as a safety. He scrambled up it swiftly, and then disappeared.
A moment later, his face returned. "The rope is secure. Lauren, I can pull you up."
"I can climb," she said, "If you can catch my rod." She tossed the long spear-like pole up javelin style, and swiftly drew herself up the rope hand over hand to the top.
"Now you, Joe. I think together we can haul you up."
He stared at the rope. It had been more years than he wanted to remember since boot camp, and he was heavily burdened; but he was not going to be shown up by a middle-aged mother and an auto mechanic. "I can do it," he said, slinging his M-16 back over his shoulder, and began the climb. It was every bit as difficult as he anticipated, his duffel and medical kit swaying, pulling him off balance, his mace and rifle threatening to slip off his shoulders, his backpack weighing him down. But he was determined, and he'd done this before, so he kept at it and in a couple minutes had cleared the top.
He sat and rested while Bob Slade drew up the rope and coiled it. "This will probably be more useful than I expected," Slade said, as he looped the line and connected it to his belt. "I'd better keep it handy. Well, Joe, which way from here?"
They were back in a patch of brush, and there was little that looked a clear path, but he was able to pick up a few markers, the odd footprint, displaced branches, and soon had them moving again.
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: