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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 51: Slade 64
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There was a bit of a trick to opening the garden door; it proved even more of a trick to secure it behind them, secure in the certainty that the side they could not see looked much as it had before they had disturbed it. There was nothing more they could do about that than what they did; and they were out of the castle without having had to lower Phasius from the wall.
The night had been slipping past. Slade wished he knew the stars of this world well enough to know how long it would be until dawn. At the moment, however, what mattered was getting out of the city as quickly as possible. He imagined that they were just about on schedule; that is, although there had been some delays along the way these had been matched by those things which had gone smoothly, with the result that they were out of the castle in about the time they should have anticipated.
"Phasius," he said, "I believe you've got a plan to get us out of here."
"Oh, yes. I know someone who can get us out."
"Well," Slade said, "now would be the time."
"Oh--oh, yes, of course. Now would be the time. Very good. Follow me."
The cleric started down the alley in a very unsteady and uncertain manner which did not inspire confidence that he knew any way out of the city. Slade figured they were committed to this now, and he followed the slow progress. It was understandable that Phasius might need some time to get his bearings--after all, none of them knew there was a back door, let alone where it was. Something in Slade's mind wanted to rush him, to hurry them along so they would be out of the city; at the same time, it made no sense to worry about how long it was taking. Had they followed the original plan, they would be no closer to escape than they were, and would have the difficult problem of hoisting the priest over the walls still ahead of them.
Slade had lost track of their direction by the time Filp spoke quietly to him.
"Are you sure he knows where he's going?"
Slade had to admit it looked doubtful. As they moved, Phasius would stop and stare at buildings, alleys, roads, and sometimes nothing Slade could see. He gave the impression of someone genuinely lost seeking something familiar. On the other hand, how did one find directions in such a place? There were no road signs; at times it was questionable whether the space between buildings was even a road. No signs pointed to the next town, or the shopping center, or the Interstate, or even to the nearest church or hospital. It was the sort of place in which everyone was lost if they were somewhere they had not been before. You either recognized something by which you knew where you were, or you didn't. Phasius had the advantage; he might not know the city well, but he had been through it. Slade had never even been lost here, and had no better hope of finding his way than following Phasius.
"No, we're not sure," he said. "I don't have a better idea at the moment. See anything you recognize? Got a better idea?"
Filp may have looked around, or he may just have bit his lip; Slade didn't see. He responded a moment later, "No, I guess not. That doesn't make this a good idea, mind; I just don't have a better one, either."
It was about the fifth time that Phasius had halted what Slade would have called a leisurely pace to sit and catch his breath that Slade ventured to broach the subject.
"Not to rush you or anything, but what are we looking for?"
"Looking? Oh, yes, of course. I'm looking for a friend, Saiman. He is an officer of the guard, but a good man who will help."
Slade wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of seeking help from an officer of the guard. After all, the guards were the problem. They didn't want the guards to know Phasius was out, let alone where he was going. Asking one of their officers for directions, never mind assistance, did not seem the best plan.
"But I don't have a better one, either," he said to himself.
"I know what you mean," Filp answered.
"So, how do we find this Saiman? Where is he?"
"He patrols the eastern quarter of the city during the third and fourth watches of the night."
"You mean," Filp said, "We're wandering around the city hoping to find the guards?"
"Oh, well, yes, I suppose you could put it that way. One guard in particular, of course, but it's much the same."
"Were you going to talk to those Norn guys again?" Filp asked Slade.
"The fates are women," Phasius said.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Filp answered.
"Halt. Who is there?"
This voice was not one of theirs. Turning toward it, Slade saw a lone guard less than a few dozen yards away.
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 #180: Versers Focus. 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: