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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 29: Slade 53
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Previous chapter: Chapter 28: Hastings 104
"So, what is this dark thing about which you will only speak in daylight?"
Cornel of Charton had set an excellent breakfast for them, and Slade found that he was waking up as he enjoyed it. He was not, however, certain how to answer questions. Again Shella spoke for him.
"We have come a long distance for an audience with the priest named Phasius."
Cornel's face fell.
"I fear you have traveled in vain," he said. "Phasius has offended the Prince, and is not permitted visitors."
"We were made aware of that," she continued. "That has not discouraged us. We are wary of fire, as we have learned that Acquivar has made an alliance with its elementals. But we are prepared to see Phasius. His friend Majdi sent us."
Slade was not at all certain whether it had been wise of Shella to mention that name; but it seemed to have the desired effect on Cornel. His eyes widened, and his voice took on a tone of wonder.
"You have come to deliver him."
"We've come to try," Slade said. "We're pretty good at what we do, but success is never a certainty."
"It would help tremendously if we knew what resources were available here." Again, Shella took the bold route. "We have reason to believe that you are his friend, and could be counted on to help."
"Majdi told you this?"
"Actually," Slade volunteered, "we got it from a peasant in the foothills of the mountain. It's not entirely reliable, I suppose, but it was the best we had."
"Phasius helped my family through a terrible illness. I will certainly help him."
Shella continued. "We need places to stay, food to eat, water for our travels. If we can find a faster way to travel than afoot, that would help. We will need to stay out of sight as much as possible…."
"…but we are ready to fight when we have to," Slade finished the thought.
Cornel sat a moment in thought. Then he rose from the table. "Follow me," he said.
"Here it comes," Filp said. "Now we find out that it's all a trap." But Slade heard his soft footsteps behind as they went down the corridor and out the rear.
They were led to the stable. Here Cornel addressed the stablehand, naming four horses and asking their condition. "These good people," he said, "will need to borrow those horses for a few days. I expect that they will return here with them, and then they will need fresh horses, perhaps immediately." Turning his attention back to his guests, he said, "I hope these are suitable."
"Does Phasius ride?" Filp asked.
"Oh, yes. Not exceptionally well, you understand, but well enough."
"Then this is quite suitable."
"Thank you very much," Slade added. "We will return them, if we have life and freedom."
As Cornel walked away from the stable, he continued to talk. "Ride them today to the capital. I have there a cousin, Arnot Lord Cammelmyre, who will put you up for a few days at my request." He removed a ring from his finger. "I should give you this, so he will know you are from me; but if you are captured, how will you keep them from discovering my involvement?"
This seemed to be a matter of genuine concern for Cornel; but it was Filp who answered.
"That's easy. I'll carry the ring. If I'm captured, I'll insist that you gave it to me, and they will conclude that I stole it." Taking it, he found a finger on which it fit. "Don't worry. I'll return it. I've got much better in my stash back home."
Shortly after breakfast, they mounted and began riding what they expected would be the last leg of their journey toward Prince Acquivar and the imprisoned priest.
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: