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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 49: Kondor 58
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Kondor couldn't say how long he had stood staring at his own graven image when he heard a noise behind him and turned to look. An elderly man in blue clothes which looked like a uniform suddenly paled and collapsed on the floor.
He rushed to the man. He had left his medical kit by his bunk, and didn't have it with him; fortunately the man seemed to be all right and had merely fainted. He had been fortunate, and had not been visibly injured, so there seemed little to do for him–except perhaps to get out of the room before the man awoke and again saw the "ghost" he must seem. Besides, his equipment was somewhere else in the building, upstairs from the feeling he had. Hopefully he could collect it without triggering any alarms.
Knowing which direction he had to go and actually finding a path that led there were two very different things. It was apparent from the beginning that he had to go up; but that meant finding stairs or elevators which were not necessarily in the same direction as the equipment he sought. Add to that the problems of moving about in an unfamiliar building at night. He had to avoid galleries which were entirely dark, for fear of crashing into something or not finding an exit. He also avoided rooms with particularly valuable-looking exhibits, as these were most likely to have secondary alarms. He had to be watchful of doors, too, both for whether they were wired to alarm systems and whether they were self-locking such that he would not be able to return through them. Thus finding his way to the next floor was not easy.
In the process he decided that this was not earth. It was enough like earth in the obvious things, such as similar art and architecture, but there were major exhibits about such ancient cultures as the Pernicans, the Aurons, and the Verdi, and nothing about Egyptians, Mayans, or Mongols. Kondor was suddenly glad that his expertise was not in history. He had now studied the history of three separate worlds, and this was not one of them. He didn't know the history here.
Yet apparently he was the history here, or at least part of it. Collecting his gear from a room about ancient bird development, he unburdened himself of some of the gems and jewelry still packed into his clothing. Then he returned to the exhibit in which his image stood. Legend of the Vorgo it was called, and it recounted his story pretty much as he remembered it. The signs were a bit vague about who or what the enemy really was; clearly the modern curators and historians had advanced beyond the superstitions of the time, when everyone from the king's advisors to the common peasant believed they were battling the undead. The security guard, if that's what he was, had left by the time he returned, and he saw no reason to wander or to try to leave the building (which, he thought, would certainly trigger an alarm). When the museum opened, he would mix with visitors and find his way out an unwatched exit. They might have questions about his packs, but there was nothing here that he couldn't let them examine. Meanwhile, he took his time looking at the exhibit commemorating his last visit to this world.
What they knew about him intrigued him as much as what they didn't know. They had the name Jo-suede Candor, the way the locals had learned it, and obviously had some drawings or other images of him from which the statue had been designed. They knew that he had made the journey to take the vorgo from the cemetery where it had been hidden, and that he fought against the attacking armies. They credited his charge into the battlefield to destroy the enemy leadership (what in that day had been called spectres or ghosts) as the turning point in the war. Apparently the vorgo had made it back to the wall safely, and tales of his heroism and his tactics had been carried with it. They were a bit unclear about how Dimtri and Sowan and Talwin had summoned him from some supernatural realm to save them, but he didn't understand that, either. They also knew very little about the enemy beyond that it wasn't human, and were unaware of Sowan's remarkable psychic abilities.
Slowly it dawned on him. There was no mention of the power of the vorgo, or even why taking it had mattered. Kondor didn't know how or why it had worked, but he had seen this strange device draw into itself the power that held together the physical form of the odd gaseous creatures they called spectres. This display suggested that it had some forgotten symbolic value, as if he had been the hero in some deadly game of capture the flag.
As this dawned in his mind, dawn arrived outside; new light began filtering through the high windows. The world would soon awaken, and he would have to find his place within it.
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 #91: Novel Mysteries. 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: