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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 94: Hastings 74
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Lauren was convinced that there was a reason for her to be here. Twice she had been in this world–once in the future, once in the past. Both times she had united humans and wolves against the vampire threat. She had killed vampires both times, but did not fare as well the second time as she did the first. Somewhere out there was a very ancient and powerful vampire, and even if she could not destroy his minion Horta for several centuries yet, she could finish the master.
She paused at this thought. After all, Merlin was not completely certain of his own ability to defeat Tubrok. An antediluvian was a powerful creature indeed, particularly a vampire wizard. Her years, now measured in centuries, were a drop in the bucket against this monster. Still, she could not help thinking that perhaps she had come back at this time to find him and destroy him.
The humans were little help. Many would not speak to her at all, fearful that she might be connected to the powers of darkness. Often when she came to town she used her power to block their minds, so she could travel the roads unnoticed until she reached her destination. Of those who would speak to her, the sensible ones generally did not believe there were vampires, and the ones who did believe had such fantastic tales to tell of their encounters with the creatures that she was forced to discount the rest. So she turned her attention to the wolves. These, at least, gave her real and reliable information; but they knew precious little. Of the battle which the humans had relegated to the status of myth the wolves had only folklore. Responding to the call of their friend, the Mystic of the Western Woods, they came to the aid of the humans. The mystic was killed, but the vampires were driven off, many of them destroyed. None of the line of Lilith nor the heirs of Eve were killed, and injuries among them were mostly minor. Which of the vampires fell there was not known to them, nor what became of those who fled.
It was still thought that vampires held the southern country, but if so they remained well hidden. They had emerged during the wars, perhaps, but during such times of confusion it is difficult to be certain. They could have settled anywhere since then. Few traveled south from Wandborough, and fewer yet returned. It seemed the best guess that there were places to the south in which they were hiding; Lauren would go there.
She would not go their yet. She had her pupil to attend, and Bethany was beginning to show the promise Lauren anticipated. Beginning with simple prayers, Lauren taught her to call on the power of God and to expect answers. Her own example was no doubt encouraging to the girl, demonstrating that God would indeed answer the believer, and slowly the girl grew in faith and power.
She also asked difficult questions.
"Where did you learn all of this?"
That was a tough one. "Many places, actually. I learned some of it in another world, other things in another time–it is difficult to understand, because some of the things I learned in the future, but to me it is like the past, because I already lived through it."
"So, you're like Merlin. You remember the future."
"I suppose I am like Merlin—but neither of us is quite like that. I remember part of the future because I lived in it; but I also lived in the past. Now I am living in your time, and learning more as well as teaching you. But I don't know what will happen tomorrow, because I have not yet lived through tomorrow."
"What happened to him, anyway?"
"Merlin. How did he die?"
That was another tough one.
"I don't know that he ever did die. He was taken prisoner by a dryad, a tree sprite named Nimue. He may still be her prisoner, somewhere in the edges of the supernatural realm where such spirits exist."
"So, he's trapped inside a tree somewhere?"
That didn't sound right either, but it sounded close.
"He was trapped by a tree spirit. I suppose in a sense he is inside a tree; but the realm of the spirits is not really like the realm in which people and trees exist. You can get a sense of that from your self. You see with your eyes, and you hear with your ears, but where are your thoughts and your feelings? Are they really just inside you, or is there a sense in which your body is like a portal, connecting your spirit to the material world around you? In the same way, the tree is like the portal to the spirit world. Merlin may have gone through the tree, but he's not in the tree–at least, if you cut the tree open, you wouldn't find his body inside it. Does that make sense?"
"I guess. So, where is this tree?"
"Oh, I never saw it. I couldn't even tell you what sort of tree it was. It's somewhere in the southeast, near Camelot, but I never knew more specifically than that."
"Did you know King Arthur?"
"I met him. I didn't know him well."
"What was he like?"
"In many ways he was like the stories you hear about him. He was just and honest, and did his best to make a better world during his time. He had some good ideas, and for a while made them work."
"Where is Camelot?"
"Where was Camelot, you mean. It has been gone for hundreds of years. But hundreds of years ago, I followed a road from Camelot which brought me north and west through the woods of the wolves to reach Wandborough, and I suppose if you found that road and followed it east and south you would get there. I don't know whether I'd know it if I saw it. Even in the time I was here, it changed greatly. I think there is probably nothing there today; if there were, archaeologists of the future would have identified it."
"What's an are-key-ologist?"
"Someone who studies the places where people lived hundreds and thousands of years before them. They help us know, for example, that the stories we read in the Bible are about real people in real places. But I don't think there will be any of them for several hundred years yet, so you don't have to know that just now."
As Bethany's questions seemed to have been answered for the moment, Lauren returned to her current chores–cooking. Merlin had taught her to slice through objects with the force of her will, creating an invisible blade that could cut bread, or slice vegetables, or clean fish. In the past she would have shied away from using her psionics or her magic for menial purposes, reserving them for moments when she was involved in what she termed the physical manifestation of spiritual warfare. Now she found that by using these skills in ordinary ways frequently, she got better at them. She realized that this was in some ways very much like her faith. One sometimes had to face the crises, come to grips with whether or not one really believed; but between those times one was always practicing believing–or disbelieving–in so many little ways. The fool says in his heart that there is no God, she mused. It isn't that he actually says God does not exist, but that he acts as if God isn't there. It was how one chose in the little things that set one up, as it were, to choose in the big things. In a sense, she was always practicing her faith. There was sense in always practicing her magic.
She brought the invisible blade down solidly, and took the head off a fish. The more she used this, the more power and control she had with it. Very like practicing the lessons she had long ago learned from Raiden, her martial arts teacher, she was strengthening her mental and spiritual muscles.
"Will Merlin ever return?" Bethany's question brought Lauren back from her thoughts.
"Come back out of the tree?"
Lauren blinked; a half-remembered discussion from years before filtered through her mind. "I don't know. Hundreds of years in the future he had not yet returned, or if he had no one knew it. He once said that one day I might free him. But he was not certain, and he was not always right."
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 #113: Character Movements. 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: