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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 27: Slade 52
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"Forgive our late arrival," Slade said to the porter who came to the gate. "We are travelers, nobles from another country, who were told that we could find hospitality from Cornel of Charton. I am Lord Robert Elvis Slade, lord of Slade Manor. This is my good friend Lord Filp, of Filp Manor and Omigger Tower. The Lady Shella is his cousin, daughter of Baron Torelle of Corlander and sister to my own designated heir Torrence."
Slade was quite aware that none of those names or places would mean anything either to the porter or to his master; but in reciting them all he hoped to create the impression that they should mean something to them. It seemed to have some impact on the porter, who departed and promised to return momentarily.
Momentarily another came to the gate, a more elderly gentleman in the ancient sense of that word. He looked at the three travelers, and unbarred the gate.
"Please come in," he said. "It is late for dinner, I fear, but I can offer you a place to rest for the night and breakfast in the morning." He looked at them again. "You have no servants with you?"
Shella took over at this moment. "We are on a pilgrimage, lord; it did not seem to us proper to require that servants come on such a journey, so we are traveling without them."
"You have no horses?"
"Yeah," Filp muttered, "I've been complaining about that myself."
"It's a bit difficult to explain," Slade said. "We passed through a country in which horses are unknown, and so we did not bring the beasts with us, although we have missed having them."
"I have not heard of such a country," their host exclaimed. "Where could this be?"
"We will gladly speak more of it by daylight," Slade suggested. "Now we are tired from our journey."
He realized that this seemed a very weak excuse for not explaining themselves; he looked to Shella, and she picked up the thread.
"A wise man of our country once said, 'Do not speak of dark things at dark times or in dark places; dark things must be revealed in the light.'"
"There is wisdom in those words," Cornel said. "Come, then, and warm yourselves by the fire, while I find some ale and perhaps a bit of bread for your supper. My servants will need a few minutes to prepare your rooms. I take the Lady to be your wife?" This last was directed to Slade, much to his embarrassment. Again, she answered.
"I am his ward; my brother is heir to his estates. I am not wed."
"'Tis a waste of beauty, if I may be so bold as to say so. But why should so young a nobleman as yourself have designated an heir?"
"I am not so young as I appear," Slade said. "It is thought by some that I have elfish blood, as I do not show the years. I was a companion of the Lord Filp and his cousins, her father Baron Torelle of Corlander and the Lord Omigger, on a quest of some importance, before the Lady or her brothers were born, when the Lord Filp was about her age. Having no heir of my own, I asked the second son of my friend the Baron to take the responsibility, and he has stepped into the place in ways I never could." The ale arrived at this moment, and Slade took a deep draught. "But we will speak more in the morning. As the Lady reminds, dark things should not be spoken of at dark times."
The others assented to this, and drank the ale. It was a considerably smoother drink than they had shared at the inns at which they had recently stayed. The bread was not fresh, but it was not too stale, and easily softened by the dark liquid.
By the time they had finished this, the servants had returned to say the rooms were ready. Cornel personally escorted them, and checked to ensure everything was satisfactory. He promised that servants would call them for breakfast, and bid them each good night.
Filp came into Slade's room after things were quiet. "So, what do you think?" he asked.
"I think," Slade replied, "that the brazier in the corner gives the room a comfortable warmth, and wonder where the fire is which the coals were drawn from."
"Ah, yeah, that's a good point. There's one in my room, too. I guess I'll see you in the morning, and we can talk then."
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 #170: Versers Explore. 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: