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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 88: Hastings 72
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Lauren walked slowly back through the woods toward her cave. She didn't want to be overly reliant on magic to find it, and she had a lot to consider. It could all be a coincidence, meeting a girl in Wandborough with the same name as the sorceress who had, some time in the future, claimed to have been her student. Yet that Bethany had been so certain—and although there were probably a dozen years of aging and half as many centuries of time between them, there was something of the woman in the girl. Lauren was about to teach the student from whom she had learned a fair amount herself.
She thought about the magic objects still in the pouch which Bethany had once given her. This Bethany would know nothing about them; even the objects from which they were made–the cat's eye marble, paper clip, six-sided die–would not exist for hundreds of years, she suspected. The acorn might, and the coin (which she no longer had); but Bethany would not yet know anything about them. It would be better not to mention them.
She was not entirely lost in thought on these things; she managed to find her way through the wood to her home. However, she was startled on reaching it. Someone was waiting, and she had been unaware of their presence until in their midst.
She scanned the faces, not quite human yet not entirely bestial, the wolf-men with whom she shared the forest. Finally she found the one she sought, proud, strong, neither very old nor very young, beautiful yet wild. This would be the leader.
"Pack mother?" she guessed. "I am honored by your presence."
"And I surprised by yours," she replied. "It has been many generations since Laurelyn of Wandborough has been seen in these woods."
"It has," Lauren answered. "It was some years after the fall of Arthur Pendragon that I was driven from this world, and now the Norman kings hold the throne. Yet I have returned."
"It is said of the Mystic that she killed twenty vampires herself before we could come to her aid."
"It is said of the daughters of Lilith that their bite will turn a man into a wolf. I do not believe everything I hear. Nor do I count the number that I have slain during the battle. The aid of the wolves saved the town; but the humans were already fighting that fight."
"It is also said of the Mystic that she was killed in that battle."
"And is it also said that Merlin is dead? I can assure you that my teacher is yet alive, but trapped in the realm of the dryads. In much the same way, I have been long alive, but am only now able to return home. But I can no more prove to you that I am Laurelyn of Wandborough than Horta can walk in the sunlight. I am my own proof, and if you won't accept me for what I claim, then accept me as who I seem to be."
"It is dangerous to trust strangers," the wolf said.
"It is dangerous to trust kin," Lauren replied. "Yet it is also necessary to trust beyond the measure of what is proved, or trustworthiness cannot be proved. The people of Wandborough still remember the day your people fought beside them; many think you a myth, but they still tell the story. That day you trusted me and they trusted me, and in coming together you were able to drive back the vampires that threatened the town."
The two stood in silence, each eyeing the other. Lauren wondered what the pack mother was thinking, but resisted the urge to read her mind.
"Why have you returned to these woods now?" the wolf asked.
It was hazardous to guess why she was anywhere, especially when she had just arrived. But this time she had an idea already. "There is a young girl in the village of Wandborough. She is bright, and believes in magic. I know that one day she will be a powerful sorceress and an enemy of the vampires. I'm here to start her on that course. That might not be the only reason I'm here, but it's a very important one."
"It is said that Laurelyn was a teacher. She taught my ancestral mother to walk the twilight better than any wolf in the wood."
"She was a good friend, who came to my aid when I needed her," Lauren said. "Her name was Garla."
The pack mother smiled. "Mine is Ferenna." And without another word, she left the glade by the cave, her pack following in silence.
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: