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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 53: Slade 65
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Previous chapter: Chapter 52: Hastings 110
Well, Slade thought, it looks like we found a guard. The question is, is it the right one, that is, the right one guard out of however many are wandering around the city this time of night? Odds aren't good, he thought; but then, odds are never good, and we seem to be having an extraordinary bit of luck.
"Dreadfully sorry, good sir," Slade began. "We've gotten a bit turned around, I'm afraid, looking for our inn. My friend here had a bit too much to drink, and he's the one who was supposed to know his way around. But he suggested that a friend of his might help us get home--perhaps you know him, someone named, what was it, Salmon?"
"Saiman," Phasius corrected.
"Right, Saiman. You wouldn't happen to know where he is?"
"Actually," he said, "I know quite exactly where he is. I am Saiman. At what inn were you staying?"
Slade began moving closer, somewhat carefully, rather nonchalantly, as he spoke; his voice got quieter as he approached. "This actually is part of the problem, I guess. It's kind of silly really, but--you're going to laugh--but I don't know the name of the inn. Something really unusual, something out there, as they say. I can't tell you the name," he said, as he was now close enough to speak quietly, "because there actually is no inn, and we're hoping to find a way out of the city before daybreak, so that your friend can get to safety."
The other two had followed Slade, somewhat behind him, and were now coming closer.
"My friend?" Saiman said; then looking at the others, "Phasius? How?"
"Do not worry how, my friend," the priest replied. "The gods have sent deliverance; these men have been sent from a distant land, and are taking me to safety. But alas, I am too infirm to scale the walls, as they had hoped, and so I need your help."
"I'm not certain what I can do."
"Great," Filp said. "I guess we go over the walls anyway."
The soldier looked at him, thoughtfully. "You say you were planning to climb the walls to get out?"
"Actually," Slade said, "he's very good at that."
"Maybe I have an idea." Saiman stood still only a moment longer before turning sharply. "Come, follow me," he said, and started down what Slade would have guessed to be an alley at a very fast clip.
"Saiman," he said, "I'm all for speed in this; but Phasius has not been well, and won't be able to keep to this pace."
"Of course; I understand," he said, slowing significantly, but still moving rather quickly.
"It is all right, my friend," Phasius panted. "What we must do, we can do."
A light suddenly came on in Slade's mind.
"Is that scripture or something?" he asked.
"You know, holy writ, teachings of the faith, something like that. I'm kind of in an odd position. I'm one of Odin's chosen warriors, preparing for Ragnorak, but I don't really know the teachings of the faith beyond a few very broad outlines. In fact, I only recently heard that the giants are going to beat the gods in the end. I'm still on the side of the gods."
"Ah, I see, yes. Well, yes, that is something our faith teaches."
"What we must do, we can do. I like it."
"I don't believe it," Filp said.
"Nobody asked you," Slade answered.
"Yeah? Well, if you're one of Odin's warriors, why haven't we fought anyone yet?"
Phasius answered. "The true warrior knows to save his strength for the necessary battles."
"I like that, too," Slade said. "The true warrior knows to save his strength for the necessary battles. What else?"
By this time Phasius was panting pretty hard, though, and it was clear he wasn't going to be able to give the next lesson for a while yet. Slade could see that they had to rest soon, one way or another. Before he said anything, Saiman stopped. He was standing by a stable, talking to another guard. Slade held back, and held his companions back, too. There was no reason to be seen at this point. He tried to hear what Saiman was saying, but Filp whispered to him.
"What's he saying?"
"How should I know? I can't hear him with you talking."
"Right." He waited a moment. "So, what's he saying?"
But at that moment, Saiman and the other guard entered the stable.
"I have no idea," Slade said. "But I would guess we're about to do something almost as crazy as rescuing a priest from the well-built dungeons of the well-guarded castle of a potent monarch."
"Right. I should have guessed as much," Filp said, as Saiman returned leading four horses.
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: