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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 112: Hastings 79
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The next day, Lauren again used her magic to seek a path to Merlin. "This way," she said.
Bethany looked puzzled. "Are you sure that's the right way?" she asked. "It doesn't seem to be the way we were going yesterday."
"No, I guess I'm not sure it's the right way. But then, I'm not sure we were going the right way yesterday, either. I know that in another world I used this to find civilization, and I found such civilization as there was nearby, even though it was barely a village. I've never used it to find a person before, but it seemed to be working. Anyway, I don't have any better idea of how to find him."
Bethany shrugged, shouldered her share of the gear, and started walking. Lauren went along.
The path seemed easier than it had been. Always the road went up and down, but today it seemed to be going more down than up. That made walking easier, and it certainly made pulling the cart easier. For several hours they followed Lauren's feeling, as the sun climbed above the canopy.
By the time they stopped for lunch, the ground was getting soft.
"Was Nimue in a swamp?" Bethany asked.
"I don't think so," Lauren answered. "Why?"
"Well, I think we may be headed into a swamp or bog or something. There are a lot of cedar trees here, and they don't usually grow except close to the water. The ground is getting marshy, and I've seen skunk cabbage in the hollows. Unless Camelot was built in a fen, it's not around here."
Camelot was certainly not built in a fen. Like all good strongholds, it was built on high ground, a defensible position. Lauren knew that land could rise and fall over time, but to imagine that a small mountain could become a marsh in a mere few hundred years—well, it could be done by magic, she supposed, but there wasn't much reason to do it.
She rose, closed her eyes, raised her hands, and again spoke the words. "Seek and you will find: I seek a path to Merlin." Feeling that sense within herself, she opened her eyes.
She was facing an entirely different direction.
"This is not good," she said.
"What is happening?" Bethany asked.
"I have no idea." She thought for a moment. "Actually, that's not true. I have a lot of ideas; I just don't know how to tell which is correct."
"But you're the student, and perhaps it will be useful to see what the teacher does when she's stumped. I try to list as many possible answers as I can, and to see whether there's anything that would point me to the right one."
Bethany waited expectantly.
"It is, of course, possible that this bit of magic doesn't work at all. I've never done anything with it that would prove it conclusively, and it is one of my own. On the other hand, it has always seemed to work in the past.
"It is possible that for some reason it didn't work this time, or isn't working today, or maybe isn't working here. As to that, there's no good reason to think that any magic would not work near Camelot; it is the land of Merlin, probably the most magical place in the world. I see nothing about today that should make it different.
"So it might be that I failed to make it work this time. My magic doesn't work every time, as you know. Maybe it didn't work this time. But somehow–" she bit her lip pensively. "I would think that if the magic failed, I would not have any sense of where I should go. That isn't what happened this morning, and it isn't what happened now. I could imagine that once I might fail to do it right, and think I knew the right way. I can't imagine that I would fail twice and come up with the same feeling of knowing the right way both times, and be wrong both times–but as you observe, neither the way we have traveled this morning nor the direction that seems right now is the way we were headed yesterday. It doesn't make sense.
"That, unfortunately, leaves me one rather disturbing possibility."
"What's that?" Bethany said.
Lauren again bit her lip, and looked around the forest as if she expected to see someone. "The one thing that seems like it could be the answer is that someone is using magic to misdirect us."
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 #119: Character Projects. 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: