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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 10: Slade 46
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 9: Hastings 98
Slade awoke in the most comfortable bed in memory, reluctant to abandon it; but the wondrous breakfast spread on the table across the room was sufficient enticement. He was soon enjoying something he had never imagined, a buffet-style breakfast in which everything was cooked to order. He paused only to wake his companions before piling his plate with three varieties of eggs, four kinds of pancakes, two different slices of French Toast, and seven or eight different breakfast meats including three types of sausages and a substantial quantity of bacon.
"How can you even think you could eat all that?" Shella asked, as she served herself a considerably more modest helping.
"Hey, we have a long and difficult adventure ahead of us, and we're going to need our strength. Who knows when we will be able to eat again at all, let alone as well as this?" Slade bit off a bite of ham. "Besides," he continued, mumbling around the meat, "it would be rude not to fully enjoy the hospitality of our host."
"That works for me," Filp said, stacking similar quantities on his own plate, which included samples of the various breads and toasts, lavishly spread with butter and preserves, which Slade had overlooked.
"Oh, I should try some of that," he said.
"You should," Filp answered.
"Why don't you just try to finish what you've got first," Shella scolded. "You're going to be too sick to get to the door, never mind go on a quest." She was working on a bowl of mixed fruit, what appeared to be sliced strawberries, peaches, and bananas, ladled with cream and sugar.
"Yeah, you're right," Slade said. "I'll come back for more when I'm done this."
He did not have more. He barely finished what he had taken. Only Shella had seconds (and, he thought, thirds); Filp left some of his unfinished. Slade found it necessary to rest a while after eating; he used the time to review and repack his belongings. However, he noticed that everything on the buffet had been sampled by one of them; the djinn knew what their friends enjoyed.
As he examined his gear, he realized that his kinetic blaster was fully charged. The djinn had somehow recharged the power pack. He checked the other power packs and found that they, two, were charged. He put the blaster on his belt, remembering the space ship on which he received it and thinking it would be a strange weapon to use in the rescue of a priest; but it was good to have, and good to know that the djinn had thought of such things.
It was time to explain their task to his companions.
"Obviously, we're not the caliph's only friends. He exists outside your universe, in a sense outside all the universes that are or might be, in the supernatural world, the realm of magic. From there he makes friends and allies with others in many worlds.
"One of those friends is in trouble, and has called on the caliph for help. The caliph has in turn called on us for help. It seems that two things make it difficult for him to do this himself, so he needs us. One is that in the universe in which we will be working, creatures from the magical worlds are not permitted to appear in solid form, as they did for us. The other is that the efriit are working with the man's enemies, and will oppose any action by the djinn. So we have to go to this other universe and find the fortress of someone named Acquivar, and then get a priest named Phasius out of there and out of Acquivar's territory to safety."
"I'm sorry," Filp said. "I was with you up to the part where you said we had to go to another universe. I've never done that."
"I know. I do it all the time. That's one of the reasons I'm here--I'm an immortal with the power to travel between universes, so I have the right to go to this one. I don't have the power to choose where I'm going; but the caliph has arranged for that, and when we pass through that door, it will be a one-way ticket to that other world."
"How do we get back? I'm not too keen on going into something I can't get out of."
"I'm sure Slade has that worked out," Shella said. "Right, Slade?"
"No clue, actually. Usually I stay in a world until something kills me, and then I go to another. If we succeed in this, I would expect the caliph will have some way of opening another door for us. If we fail, it won't be a problem."
"Won't be a problem?" Filp said. "You mean, we'll be dead, right?"
"I don't know what will happen, Filp. I've died quite a few times already, and it hasn't done me any harm. On a bet, I'd say that if you got killed, you'd come back here. After all, you are a friend and ally of the Caliph of the West Wind, and he lives in the realm of the spirits, and that's where you'd be going."
"Oh. Well, that's all right, then, isn't it?" Filp scowled. "You think I'd rather be here than alive?"
"Filp, did it never occur to you that you are going to die eventually?" Slade realized as soon as he said it that it was a harsh thing to say; but he had said it now, and there was nothing he could do about it but try to make sense of it. "You're not going to live forever. Wen is already gone, maybe here somewhere waiting for you. If we make it--and we have every reason to hope we can succeed, particularly since the caliph thinks we can--we'll worry about how to get you home then. If we don't make it, you get to go out with a bang instead of a whimper, in the midst of a great deed, or at least a valiant effort."
Filp frowned. "Iím not sure that's much comfort," he said, "but it seems I don't have much choice. Let's go."
Slade shouldered his pack. "Before we go, I think there are two things we should do."
"They are?" Shella asked.
"Well, the easy one is we should grab the rest of the bread and maybe some of the fruit and meat from the buffet, find something to pack it in--the meat will at least make a good lunch, and the bread should last a couple of days." Shella grabbed a cover off one of the beds and proceeded to gather the breads in it. Filp began poking at the meats, looking for a way to pack them.
"And the hard one?" he asked.
"We should go over each other's abilities, strengths and weaknesses, gear, whatever we've got. It will be a lot easier to solve the problems ahead if we all have a good idea of our resources. Then we can step through that door, knowing we're as ready as we're going to be."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #157: Versers Restart. 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: