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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 50: Brown 17
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 49: Kondor 58
"I should have known it was you," Derek said. Ralph looked suitably surprised.
"What do you mean, me?" Ralph answered. "You're the killer; you're the unknown stranger in our midst."
"Right, try to hide it. But I just figured it out."
"Figured what out?" Ralph said.
"I've been fooled by the other set of connections. Bob, the one who goes down to fish every morning, drowns in the lake. Pete, the archer, is shot with an arrow. Bill is killed with a wood axe–that's a stretch, but everyone knows how much he likes camping in the woods. And John, who works in the kitchen, is stabbed by a kitchen knife. But David doesn't fit the pattern."
"What happened to David?"
"Right. Like you don't know." But Ralph didn't look like he knew. "David is a lifeguard, a swimmer, and something of a leader. But being burned alive with gasoline doesn't have anything to do with any of that, even if it happens by the lifeguard shack."
Ralph seemed to be thinking about it. Suddenly the light came on in his eyes. "It's the game, isn't it?"
"That's what I figure. David was the wizard who was always throwing fireballs. The archer and the knight got killed with their own weapons. The thief got stabbed in the back, just as he'd have killed his imaginary victims. And the cleric...." David wasn't exactly sure how to say it. "The group's priest got baptized to death. And you did it."
"Me? Why me?"
"All this time they've been beating you at your own game. You're the dungeon maker, the guy they're trying to beat, and they always beat you. You decided to strike back, to prove to them that you were better than they are at the things they imagine themselves good at."
"That's ridiculous," Ralph answered. "That's not how the game works at all. I want them to win; that's what makes the game fun for everyone. I put a lot of effort into creating situations which will scare them, and make them feel like they're going to die, but which they can beat and they will beat. I'm on their side."
"So you say. But really, if it isn't you, who is it?"
"Yeah," said another voice, "who is it?" Michael came through the door; there was blood on his hand.
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: