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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 33: Slade 55
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Their host was cordial and provided all the appropriate amenities; but he was also distant, dissociating himself with them as much as possible. He checked to ensure that they were served an adequate breakfast (which was, in fact, quite good), but did not join them for the meal. This did not bother Slade, although it seemed to annoy Filp, who was sometimes sensitive about the attitudes noblemen displayed toward him.
"You know," Slade said, "he doesn't know you were ever anything other than a nobleman."
"I guess," the retired thief responded. "It's still annoying. It's like he thinks he's too good for us."
"He has his reasons," Shella said, "and they're actually rather good ones, for that."
They spoke little at breakfast, largely because they were not certain whether the servants would repeat what they said, or to whom. After eating, they found a quiet room in which to discuss plans.
"I think we don't have much time," Slade began. "Arnot is not comfortable with our presence here, so we've got to do the job and get out as quickly as we can. I think we don't have beds for tomorrow night, and that suggests that tonight or tomorrow we have to act."
"Yeah, but we don't really know what we're doing, at least, not yet," Filp said.
"You've got that right," Slade answered. "As I see it, first we've got to get, er, him, out of the castle; that probably means at least one of us has to get in to the castle to do it, 'cause he's not going to walk out on his own. Then we've got to get four of us, plus four horses, out of the city. The gates are going to be locked and guarded all night, and watched during the day; and if they discover that, um, he's missing, they'll probably lock down the gates during the day, or at least check everyone that passes through them. It's then a day's ride to, let's say, our next stop; I don't mean to suggest that that part is easy, because it isn't, but at least we don't have a lot of figuring out to do for it.
"We always knew we had the problem of getting in and out of the castle; the real problem seems to be getting out of the city. I don't see how we do it."
Everyone sat quietly, thinking.
"You sure do pick the tough ones, don't you?" Filp said, and again everyone was quiet.
"Maybe," Shella said, "maybe we've got things in the wrong order. Maybe we don't have to do it that way."
"What do you mean?" Filp objected. "Of course we've got to do it in that order. Do you think we can ride to Charton first, and then breaků."
"Careful what you say," Slade interrupted. "You don't know who's listening."
"Anyway, the idea is absurd."
"No," Shella insisted, "it isn't. Think about it. You're already planning to get Phasius out over the castle wall. It wouldn't be that much more trouble to get him out over the city wall, too, would it? The gate guards aren't going to be looking for us, or for horses; they're going to be looking for Phasius."
"But we can't get the horses over the wall, silly girl," Filp said.
"He's right," Slade said. "We need the horses to stay ahead of the search."
"That's why we've got the order wrong." Shella leaned toward them. "Look, you two didn't want to take me into the castle anyway. There's not much I could do there that I couldn't teach you to do; maybe I could do it better, but you could do it, certainly. So I teach you some magic that will help delay the discovery. Then we pick up a cheap wagon with harness for four horses, and sometime this afternoon I drive it out the gate and up the road a bit, until I've got some cover or some excuse to stop. Tonight you two get inside, get our friend, and then go over one wall and the other, and meet me outside. We ride to our first resting place, probably arriving sometime late tomorrow morning, get food, rest, and fresh horses. It would work."
Filp and Slade stared at her.
"You know, Filp," Slade said, "I think that just might work."
"As you said, Slade, maybe it was a good thing she came along with us."
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: