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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 45: Hastings 58
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They reached Wandborough unopposed after that. Whether the vampires lost track of them or thought them beaten or just gave up trying to stop them Lauren couldn't guess.
They stayed at a local inn for several days, awaiting some sign that their quarry had entered the area; it didn't come. At first they thought the vampires just had not passed through the forest yet, but eventually they realized that their enemy feared them and either had hidden somewhere or changed direction. Apparently Tubrok was as leery of challenging one of Merlin's students openly as Merlin had been of confronting him. They agreed that Lauren would return to the woods to speak with the wolves, to see if they knew anything more.
The woods around Wandborough, like most of those in England, quickly became pristine, almost primeval; peasants, even hunters and woodcutters, did not venture into them far. She could easily become quite lost out here, she thought, without the aid of a bit of magic to find her direction. She did not go too deeply into the forest.
She had agreed with Sagrimore that finding a werewolf was the best plan. She had not mentioned that she had never attempted to find a werewolf before; they usually had found her. She pondered the problem as she walked; all problems had solutions, she thought, probably many solutions; and it was just a matter of finding one that worked for her. She had established telepathic links with two werewolves before; they were individuals, and yet they were more alike than not, as compared with the humans whose minds she had contacted. She had also used telepathy to play mind games with the vampire Gavin, and there was an inhuman quality about his mind, too, more so but also different than the wolves. In another direction, she had used a telepathic trick to put thoughts into the mind of a cult preacher–and it was more than that, more than just putting thoughts into his mind. She had compelled him to say things, things he truly believed but would not have said. She thought perhaps if she could find what it was about the minds of wolves that was peculiar to them and isolate the aspect of the suggestion mind power that was compelling, she might be able to send out a mental pulse that would bring a nearby werewolf to her.
Anyway, it was the best idea she'd had yet. Finding a large fallen log which looked a comfortable seat, she settled down, closed her eyes, found the fragments of mental extension she wanted, and put out a wordless telepathic call.
She didn't have to wait long before there was movement in the trees close at hand. Wolves were wary of people, she knew; they were probably more wary of wizards (certainly they should be). She would have to make the first move.
"I am Laurelyn Spellsbreath, pupil of Merlin, friend of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Lilith and enemy of the seed of Cain. I seek to speak with a child of Lilith, to know of movements through this forest."
A werewolf stepped from the trees, still some distance from her. It was more the wolf than Raal had ever been, but Lauren knew that the wolves could shift their appearance between the beast and the man to some degree.
"I am called Garla," she said. "What knowledge do you seek?"
"We entered the forest from a place the humans call Camelot, in pursuit of several vampires and their retinue. One of your people told us they seemed to be making for Wandborough. We have since twice encountered their minions on the road, but arriving at Wandborough we have lost their trail. I hoped that your people might know what has become of them."
Garla seemed uncertain. "I expect that we do; but I do not know that myself. If you wish, I shall travel to the pack mother and bring back what word she can give."
That was going to present a problem.
"Is there a place I can await your return? I can't just sit on this log for hours."
"It will be several days before I can return. But there is a cave near here which might suit you. It is not a castle, but is dry, and near running water, and not easily found. I shall show you."
Lauren stood and followed her guide. They moved swiftly through the wood, more swiftly than she had traveled the roads by wagon and horseback a few days before, and soon were in a quiet glen where a stand of evergreen bushes occluded the entrance to a cave.
"Oh, this is wonderful!" Lauren exclaimed, remembering the place she had shared with Merlin. "Would anyone mind if I lived here for a while?"
"The vampires sometimes use it to hide when they pass through our woods; we check it to keep them away."
"I will return to the inn to get my things, and come back. I will be here for the next week, unless I hear something about the vampires I seek or am needed elsewhere. Thank you for your kindness. Godspeed."
Garla was gone in a moment. Lauren looked at the cave, and the glen, and the stream, and thought this was a fine place for a sorceress to settle. Soon Camelot would fall, England would be plunged back into darkness, vampires would no doubt emerge to plunder in the confusion. From here she could strike back, maintaining safety away from the wars of men. She could cultivate that alliance with the wolves which had proved so valuable in the past–the future–the day she killed, or would kill, Horta.
She needed to get her things, and it was probably an hour or so back to the inn at Wandborough. Still, maybe there was another way. She had used the between before, the place some called the twilight and others hyperspace. She could do it again. Closing her eyes, she pictured the front of the inn at Wandborough. She could do this. Extending her left hand in front of her as she opened her eyes, she commanded, "Knock, and the door shall be opened to you." The mist appeared in front of her, and as she stepped into it the glade around her faded from view.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #89: Novel Confrontations. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: