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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 68: Slade 71
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"They will come for us again," Phasius said. "Those were your words, but they are true. It is right to mourn the loss of your friend, but we must not do it here."
Slade wiped his face. "You're right, of course," he said, as he rose to his feet. "We've got to start up the mountain. They'll get cavalry, and we're on foot, so it's time to hurry." He scanned the battlefield. "That was good work with that earth stuff, Shella."
"Part of it was luck, my lord," she answered. "I've never had it work so well."
"Well, I'm glad it worked when you needed it. And Phasius, thanks for the prayer. I'm not sure how much to attribute to you, but apart from Filp," and he found he could not say more.
"Oh! Oh, yes, I see. Yes, we three are unscathed; that will help immensely. I won't take credit for it, but hope that in some small way my prayers may have assisted. You were all remarkable, worthy of Odin's blessing."
"Thanks," Slade smiled. Then he frowned. "I don't suppose we've got any breakfast, have we?"
"Nothing we can make quick enough here, my lord," Shella said. "But perhaps now that our presence is known we might stop at that inn and get something there. It would likely be quicker, and isn't going to reveal much that is not already known."
"Particularly by day," Slade agreed, "since they won't have a fire in the dining room. Let's do it."
Inside ten minutes they stepped through the door of the local inn where a few short days before they had witnessed the argument about Phasius. Almost immediately Slade regretted the choice. Slade and Shella entered first, and were apparently recognized, eyed with the suspicion accorded familiar strangers; but as Phasius followed, the room immediately hushed, and then buzzed with a subdued but nervous murmur. The innkeeper blanched.
"Phasius," he said. "It's not safe for you to be in here. Soldiers have already come seeking you, and they will return."
"Relax, good sir," Slade said. "We are not staying. We just wish a bit of your breakfast for the road. We will pay you well for it, although you may tell the soldiers we stole it if it will save your neck."
"Certainly if you prefer," Shella offered, "we are quite capable of stealing it, or indeed of dealing with you as we did with the thirty soldiers who thought to catch us sleeping."
This seemed to fix the man's uncertainty. "Please," he said, "take whatever you wish; I do not need to be paid for helping strangers in need."
"That is very thoughtful of you," Slade said; he placed three gold coins on the counter, and walked into the kitchen.
Shella and Phasius joined him there. "What do we want to grab?" Slade asked. "Bread, of course. I forget that this is the kind of world where everyone mostly eats bread. We don't have time to make eggs, but it looks like there's a bit of pork roasted there–I hope it's done enough, because I'd hate to get trichinosis from it, but it looks good."
"What is," Shella began, but didn't repeat the word.
"Trichinosis? It's a worm that lives in some pigs, and if you don't cook the pig really well, it can get into you. At least, that's what my mom always said. I never heard of it happening, but I've always been a bit worried about it. In fact, I think I'll skip the pig and go for the salad bar." By this, he indicated some fresh vegetables on a side board.
"I'll get those," Shella said. "You find a way to pack some bread."
"Sounds good," and Slade started loading his arms with loaves.
"That is surely more than we can eat," Phasius said. "Let us not waste the man's food."
Slade looked at what he'd grabbed. "You're right," he said. "We're already burdened; we don't need more than a day's worth. Got the vegetables? Let's go."
But at that moment Slade saw through the kitchen door someone coming into the other room from outside, someone dressed in the uniform of the guard.
"No, let's stop. Phasius, look to see if there's another door out of this kitchen."
"Indeed, I think that's an excellent idea." He moved back toward the hearth.
"We weren't thinking, my lord," Shella said. "There's always a fire in the kitchen."
He turned and looked at it. She was right; he forgot. He hoped that wasn't why the guards had come, but there was nothing to do about it now.
Phasius returned. "There is a door."
"Then let's use it," Slade replied. "Show me."
The door did not lead out, but in; it connected to the private rooms of the innkeeper. This was not exactly where Slade had hoped to go, and he felt a bit embarrassed, like imposing on the host. After a bit of hunting around, they managed to find the exit to the back yard, and were off to the woods beside the road, under cover.
"There's not too much left of the daylight," Slade said, "and we'll want to eat while it's light, in part so that we can hide by day and travel by night. But let's put some distance between us and the inn. The innkeeper's right; even if they don't come to the inn seeking us, they're bound to come for food and shelter, as the only place for miles where they can find it. We don't want to happen to be seen while we're eating."
Thus it was that they were settled half an hour later in a secluded grove just off the road enjoying carrots, parsley, and radishes with slightly less than fresh bread. Thus it was that they saw forty mounted guards ride up the road toward the border for which they were bound.
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 #186: Worlds Change. 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: