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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 85: Hastings 71
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Lauren spent the rest of the day and part of the evening settling in to her old home. It was spring, so she gathered wildflowers for her bedding and spread her blankets atop this. Then when she was suitably installed, she went to sleep.
With daybreak she conjured a bit of breakfast, and then decided to refresh her familiarity with the area by taking a leisurely walk through the woods back to town. She remembered that there were many dangers in the area, not the least of which was the possibility that the humans and the werewolves were not on good terms, so she wore her full plastic armor under her red robe, took a substantial collection of weapons, and carried her telekinetic capture rod partly to complete the outfit, but also for protection.
She had not gone far before she was aware she was being watched. She'd been in these woods often enough to have a pretty good guess in general who was watching. She had done the trick before, and it was worth trying again in a different way. She pushed a telepathic call through her mind, summoning the nearest werewolf, and almost immediately a young male stumbled out of the bushes.
"I am Laurelyn of Wandborough," she said in the ancient English she had learned from Merlin. "And you are?"
The boy knew the tongue, although he was a bit awkward in it. "You cannot be. She does not exist."
"Oh, I exist, all right. I've just been away for a while."
He seemed uncertain. "Can you prove that you are the Mystic of the Western Woods?"
Prove it? This could be interesting. Reaching out with her mind, she lifted him several feet off the ground. "I am all the proof I need. Go; tell the pack mother that I have returned. I have always been the friend of Adam's children, but never the enemy of Lilith's. I would not change that if it is not necessary."
And without waiting for his reply, she dropped him to the leafy floor, and turned away continuing toward town. "And don't dawdle," she called to him. "I don't wish to get in a fight with your people merely because they didn't know I was here."
She did not see him again.
The woods were not so familiar as they had been. Trees which remained from the days she recalled were few and far between, and had grown to unrecognizable proportions. Paths had shifted to accommodate new growth. Even the rocks were different, some removed, others less exposed as the humus rose around them. But she had a fair idea of her direction, and moved confidently over the ground. Hills, at least, were much the same, and with this information she traveled the terrain she had left a few years yet many centuries ago.
She struck the road not far from the southern end of the village, and so again followed its northwesterly course a few hundred feet to return to the sign at the edge of town. Here she stood, not certain why she had come, but looking over the once familiar village. It was true that not a building remained. However, the well had not changed much, and where she had seen a church built there was a church today, albeit a very different church. She advanced slowly, perhaps cautiously. A few of the townspeople noticed her, and spoke quietly to each other. She still couldn't guess when this was, but she was betting there wouldn't be a newspaper.
She walked straight into the heart of the village, and stood before what had been the tavern. It was now a blacksmith, but there was an inn not far from it. She stepped up to the well, and looked around her.
A girl, probably about twelve she thought, came over to her and spoke. It took a moment for Lauren to decipher what was said, as it sounded more like "Are a yo shay?" than anything else. But she worked it out in a moment, and replied.
"Am I who?"
But the girl didn't understand her words. Lauren reached out with the mind reading translation trick, and repeated her question. The girl answered.
"Are you the Mystic of the Western Woods, Laurelyn of Wandborough?"
Lauren laughed. "What do you know of Laurelyn of Wandborough?"
"I know what everybody knows. She lives in the woods not far from here, in a hidden cave. She taught about God and about Jesus, and helped us make friends with the forest people. And when demons attacked the town a long time ago, she used her magic to protect us from them."
That was a lot to know. "I'm impressed," Lauren said. "Are you still friends with the forest people?"
"Dad says that there aren't any forest people, and that you don't exist but are just a story someone made up. He says that if we have God and the sacraments, we don't need magic."
"Well, he is right that you don't need magic if you have God. But I was just talking to one of the forest people on my way here, so although they might not want people to know it, I can assure you that they do exist."
"That's what I thought. It seemed like somebody had to live in the woods, otherwise it would be a terrible waste of space."
It struck Lauren that although she could think of many reasons why woods were not a waste of space, that was probably a terribly perceptive idea for a twelve year old in this age. The teacher in her, that had been so much a part of her recent years, came to the fore.
"Do you know how to read?" Lauren asked.
"No, I don't know anybody who knows how to read," the girl said, "except Father Michael. Do you?"
"Oh yes. I could read very well by the time I was your age; maybe as well as Father Michael. Maybe you would like me to teach you."
"That sounds like fun. But what would I read?"
"I have some books. I can probably get more books, although I'm not sure just what I could find at the moment."
"What would I have to pay?"
"Father says that learning costs money."
"I suppose it usually does," Lauren said. "But I can usually take care of myself without money...."
"By using your magic?"
"Well, by using the gifts God gave me to take care of myself. And I think everyone should learn to read, especially when they are as bright as you."
"Well, I'd like to learn; but I have to get back to my chores now."
"Don't worry, I expect to be here for a while. We'll find time for learning." She watched the girl walk back toward the houses beyond the square. "Oh, and yes, my name is Laurelyn. What's your name?"
"I'm Bethany," she said. "Father says it's the name of a place in the Bible."
Lauren was so stunned by this she said nothing more.
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 #110: Character Redirects. 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: