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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 63: Slade 69
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Previous chapter: Chapter 62: Brown 73
The rest of the events of the day were a blur. There was a kiss, and a toast, and another kiss. Then there was a feast; and during the feast, more kissing. At some point, Filp promised to tell Torrence and the family of the wedding. All in a rush as sunset approached, the bride and groom were whisked away to the separate rooms in which they had stayed the night before, to change and pack for the road. Shella had given him a quick kiss as the maids pulled her from him, which had lingered on his lips a moment.
He tossed the fancy dress uniform on the bed and got back into his well-worn leathers. Gathering his few loose things back into his pack, he took one last look around the room. He reminded himself that he could use the scriff sense, and so find all the things that were his. Resting his active spirit, he determined that everything was close at hand.
They met again in the courtyard, where four horses were readied; and again they embraced before mounting. Filp and Phasius were already waiting.
"Come on," Filp said. "There's time for that later if we move now; and if we don't get moving now, we probably don't have later."
"Let them enjoy each other," Phasius said. "This is an important moment in their lives, and we have no right to rush them."
"Well, I think we have a right if it means getting us all killed."
Slade released Shella. "Filp's right; we've got to move before we're caught. Already they're probably coming our direction, and may even be ahead of us on the road. We've another day to the foot of the mountain, and a climb after that."
He mounted his horse with the memory of a lifetime of horsemanship, gave Shella a moment to get astride hers, and headed out the open gate into the evening air. Again moving around the far side of the city to avoid being noticed, he took them to the road and on toward the encroaching mountains.
They rode through a number of small towns which they had barely noticed on their first passing, stopping only once to water the horses and stretch their legs. It was here that Slade remembered the book in his pocket; a mild expletive escaped from his lips.
"What is the problem, child?" Phasius asked.
"Oh, I meant to give this to Cornel; and now it seems I've still got it."
"I'm sure he'll get it when his horses are returned."
"It's much too valuable to leave to that kind of chance. I've got to give it to someone who will know what to do with it."
"And what are they to do with it?"
Filp apparently had heard this much of the conversation, and chimed in. "They're supposed to bring down the reign of Acquivar. That's his confession of how he killed the princess, written in his own hand."
Phasius' eyes grew large, even in the dawn light. "How did you get him to write such a thing?"
"We didn't," Filp said. "He wrote it all on his own. We just happened to find it locked up in his treasury, and thought it needed to get out and get a bit of sunlight and fresh air. So we took it with us. Now, what's the best way for this book to see the light of day?"
"Keep it away from fire," Shella said. Slade laughed.
"Yeah, that's for certain."
"What are you planning to do with the horses when we reach our destination?"
"Actually, we hadn't planned that part out completely yet. But there's a peasant who owns a barn in the foothills where we're planning to sleep today, and I thought that I'd leave the horses with him. He apparently knows Cornel--he told us to go there. So he'll get the horses back."
"Give him the book," Phasius said. "I suspect he is the right person; otherwise you would have remembered it sooner."
It seemed a strange idea to Slade that his mistakes could be a form of divine guidance; but then, he didn't know enough about divine guidance to argue the point, and now had few alternatives.
"Right. We'll give it to him. I don't even know his name, but I'm sure he'll manage to care for it."
The rest of their journey was in silence. They passed a few wagons on the road, and Slade greeted them in a suitably friendly yet aloof manner which would leave them believing that a nobleman and his servants had passed.
There was more daylight than he would have liked when he reached the barn; but he was quite tired, and he had to meet with the peasant to pass the horses to him. The man was already in the field working, so this chore took longer than he expected. Eventually he found him.
"I need you to take care of something unanticipated."
"What is it, lord?"
"This book came into my possession. In the right hands, it will mean the end of Acquivar. It details how he killed the princess. But I don't know whose hands those are; I'm hoping that you do, or that you can at least find out."
As with Phasius, the man's eyes grew wide. "Yes, my lord. I will see to it."
"Thanks. I suppose you should also get these horses back to Charton rather quickly; it wouldn't do for you to be found with them here."
"I understand, my lord. I will begin today."
Slade hesitated, as if he should say something else. He could only think of one thing.
He returned to the barn. Phasius and Filp were settled into piles of grain on the floor.
"Where's Shella?" he asked.
Filp roused himself enough to answer. "We gave you the tower, seeing as it's your wedding night, or day, or whatever it is. Up that ladder, you'll find lots of hay, and a beautiful young girl who's been waiting for you for probably several years now."
Slade smiled. She had only been waiting an hour or so while he had dealt with the horses. But then, in a sense, they'd both been waiting all their lives for this moment. He climbed the ladder to the hayloft.
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 #183: Verser Transitions. 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: