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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 130: Hastings 85
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Taking Morgana's advice, Lauren and Bethany camped at the stream just south of a grove of oak trees. There was a certain forbidding look to these, Lauren thought, but she was not at all certain whether it was just the usual look of dark forest or if there was something more here. They created their protection bubbles, and settled in for the night. Lauren decided against a fire. Apart from the fact that vampires might see it, she thought the dryads would be less than welcoming of someone who smelled of smoke.
They agreed that they would fall back into the oak grove if they were overmatched, and hope that their attackers would be less welcome than they. Bethany was going to take the first watch, and wake Lauren after midnight to watch until dawn, and then they would move into the woods to continue their search.
Lauren lay awake for some time, staring at the stars and remembering. How did she get here? Her mind wandered back over her recent time in Wandborough, her concerns about finding the vampire Tubrok; then before that to the school she taught with Derek. She was here, in this world, before that, a student herself being taught to teach, and fighting vampires then. Before that she was in the parakeet world, surviving the severe winter, but also enjoying the idyllic summer. It was this world before that–she kept coming back to this place, as if she had some unfinished business here, or something she must do which spanned the centuries. Then she killed Horta and Jackson. Since then she had faced Horta, and died–but had taught the people to stand against the vampires, and so saved the little town in which Bethany was born. Perhaps her mission was merely to bring Bethany to the beginning of hers. Or perhaps it had something to do with saving Merlin.
She had not killed Tubrok; she had not done so yet, in future or past. Perhaps he was still out there, waiting for her to finish him. Perhaps Bethany was to be his nemesis. The poor girl. Lauren tried to imagine what it must have been like for her to see her mother as a vampire, and to deal the fatal blow. Yet Morgana had been right in so many ways at that moment. The beasts they fought were not the people they had once been, but demons, human spirits perhaps, but twisted beyond all humanity. Even when she attempted to read their minds and contact them telepathically, she could tell that they were different, inhuman in fundamental ways, and lacking in any human feeling but the most basal drives–even these perverted. At that moment Lauren had wondered why Morgana had not moved against the creature; now she could see that no one could have slain that monster but Bethany. For Bethany to have seen it slain before she had reconciled in her own mind that it had to be done would have led to tensions the girl might never resolve. If there was even the glimmer of hope that she might save her own mother, even a fragment of doubt that this creature was a monster, she would not forgive whoever took that step. Having accepted that her mother was no longer among the living, and dealt the fatal blow herself, she was free of that. Yet there was always something a bit flighty about the Bethany Lauren had met in the future, something that did not seem entirely to follow from the serious student she had been teaching. Perhaps now there was a pain in her life that she would never quite shake, and would bury under that flippancy. Bethany had enjoyed knowing that she could kill these monsters, but it had gone from fun to being deadly serious in those moments. To the Bethany of the future it was again fun. Did she do that because she was refusing to confront her own pain? Lauren considered that in the days ahead she would have to get Bethany to talk about it, to work through the horror of that moment. It was a twentieth century idea, but for all her travels Lauren was still a twentieth century girl at heart.
Vampire slaying was the furthest thing from her quest at present, yet seemed to occupy their time and attention. They were probably mere yards from the entrance to the prison which contained Merlin, very nearly having reached their goal. As to how she would release her mentor, she had no clue; there was a sense in which she never really expected to get this far. Yet if God intended for her to do this, He would show her how when it mattered. Meanwhile, even if she did not succeed, she had already killed quite a few vampires and ghouls–more than she had done since the attack on The Pit that night so long ago, and with far less help.
Night–it suddenly came to her that she was doing this all wrong. She sat up.
"Are you awake? You're supposed to be sleeping," the girl answered.
"I know; I was thinking, and I just remembered something important. I guess when you're as old as I am, the things you learned so long ago don't come back to you so quickly."
"If it's important, I guess I'd better learn it now."
"Yes. When you meet me in Philadelphia"–Bethany nodded, so clearly she remembered about Philadelphia–"I will be fighting vampires there. I learned then what I have forgotten–"
Bethany interrupted. "You learned something in the future, and don't remember it in the past? That's weird. Will that happen to me sometime?"
"I can't say it never will—but it doesn't happen to me because I'm a wizard. It happens because I'm a dimension traveler, which is something quite different from being a wizard. I was a dimension traveler first, and learned to be a wizard on my travels." It was not clear that Bethany understood this, but it wasn't the point Lauren wished to make, and she knew she could be all night explaining these things. "When I knew I was facing vampires then, I always stayed awake and worked at night. I slept by day, knowing that although I might be awakened attacked by ghouls or other evil creatures, the worst of them–the vampires–could only come at night, and I could be ready for them.
"Sleep well tonight, if you can. Tomorrow we enter the grove of the dryads in search of Merlin. I know that you will live; I have seen you in the future. But I don't know what will happen in there, or what we will do next. Perhaps we will go back to Morgana, or rush back to the werewolf country; either path will probably take us to safety. But once we are out of the grove, we should travel by night, so we are awake to face whatever dangers oppose us then. In this place, the day is the time to sleep."
"I'll remember that," Bethany answered. "So, do you think we'll go back to Morgana again? She was interesting; I'd like to get to know her better."
Although Lauren heard the question, she was already falling asleep so quickly now that she never formulated the answer in her own mind. It was almost as if she had been forbidden to sleep until she had delivered that thought to Bethany, and now was forbidden to stay awake any longer.
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 #128: Character Gatherings. 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: