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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 37: Slade 57
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Previous chapter: Chapter 36: Hastings 106
Despite having given most of their gear to Shella, Filp and Slade were heavily laden as they reached the foot of the castle wall. This was partly because they weren't certain what they would need to get Phasius out of his cell, but partly because they had kept a few things to help get out of the city, and they didn't want to return to Lord Cammelmyre's with Phasius. Thus everything they would need until they rejoined Shella was with them now.
Filp had already surveyed the walls. Slade wished they had had time to study the guard movements, but then a single night of study wouldn't tell enough to matter particularly. They were going to have to do the best they could with what they had. Drawing out his shaving mirror, he pronounced a spell Shella had taught him; his reflection faded from view, to be replaced by a dark image.
"If I did that right, I should be looking at the stand behind the battlements up there. I don't see anyone right now; do you want to go now, or wait for the guard to pass?"
Filp shrugged. "I'm not sure as it matters, really. I'm quick, but I'm not so quick as that. Tell you what. I'll start up, you watch the mirror and the road. If there's someone coming above, pull the rope to the right, and if there's trouble below, pull it to the left. Either way, I'll wait until…I can't think what you should do when it's clear."
Slade thought for a moment. "I know," he said. "When it's clear, I'll pull it away from the wall, straight out."
The thief screwed up his face quite a bit, deeply marking his heavy wrinkles. "Yeah, I guess that would work. When I reach the top--"
"I'll see you, and then I'll pocket the mirror and follow you."
Filp didn't look happy with this. "I'm not sure I trust that mirror thing all that much. I mean, you might not be looking where you think, and even if you are you might not still be looking when I get to the top. Why don't I shake the rope or something?"
"You'll be shaking that rope quite a bit, just climbing it," Slade said. "I don't think I could tell the difference if you shook it on purpose."
It was clear Filp didn't particularly like this; but it was also clear he couldn't think of an alternative. Again he shrugged, and loaded his grapple into the oversized crossbow which fired it. "Well, let's see if we can get in at all." Carefully eyeing aim and angle, he stepped back several yards from the stone base and pulled the trigger.
The heavy rope uncoiled rapidly as it trailed behind the unfolding hooks. It then seemed to hang in the air ever so briefly until a faint clang somewhere above seemed to tell it to fall against the wall. Filp pulled in some slack, then tugged on it several times. With one final enigmatic look at Slade, he began crawling the wall.
Slade kept his eyes on the mirror and the road. A few minutes after Filp had begun his ascent, a gleam in the mirror suggested an armored man walking, and Slade moved the rope to the right to warn Filp. It was only a moment before the man had passed, and he sent the next signal. It did not happen again before he saw Filp's arm come over the top of the wall, followed by the rest of him.
It was now Slade's turn. Pocketing the mirror, he also tested the grapple. It could easily have been shifted or dislodged when Filp went over, and he was not so good on the walls as his mentor. Satisfied, he began the spider-like climb, going up the wall but keeping one hand on the rope at all times, using the rope as a safety for the wall and the wall as a safety for the rope, never completely relying on either as he made the ascent.
His mind went back to the first wall he ever scaled, the wall of Filp's castle. It had seemed to take an eternity then for either of them to reach the top. Whether this was an easier wall (and Slade thought perhaps this was not so high a castle) or they had more of a sense of urgency in the task, or whether they were just better at what they were doing after so many years, it did not take long for Slade to join his friend on the battlements.
Filp drew up the rope. Last time Slade saw him do this, he hid it. This time the thief was taking it along. They had agreed that they might have to leave from a different location than they arrived, as they had little knowledge of the castle floorplan.
Slade could read the question on Filp's face: which way now? He was not at all certain. His mirror, which he now drew from his pocket, could view the path ahead; but it could not choose the path for him. He needed to find a way down that would lead to the dungeons without traveling through occupied areas. That was not going to be easy, but it was necessary.
The mirror scanned ahead; there was a door in a tower. "This way," he said, and started through the night.
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 #174: Versers Achieve. 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: