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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 85: Hastings 121
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Previous chapter: Chapter 84: Brown 80
It took a moment for Bethany to respond. It occurred to Lauren that she might be interrupting something. She had heard remarks about the tyranny of the telephone, the way in which this technological convenience came to dominate life. People who would never interrupt you if they could see you were busy wouldn't even ask if it was a bad moment when they got you on the phone. She'd had appointments with doctors and lawyers when she was spending good money for a few minutes of their time but they were on the phone to someone else who called. It was in some ways a terribly inconvenient convenience. Yet she now saw that her telepathy outstripped that many times over. With the phone, if she was washing the dishes or down in the basement, she could ignore it. With telepathy, maybe she wouldn't hear it if she was asleep--but she wasn't certain of that, as she rarely found herself on that end.
Bethany's thoughts came back. Laurelyn? Out of the city already? That was fast. Where are you?
She wasn't certain how to explain that. I'm in the pasture behind a farmers market and auction in South Jersey called Cowtown. I'm not sure how to explain where that is, other than that it's on Route Forty maybe ten to fifteen miles from Delaware near a small town called Woodstown. Does that help? What else do you need to know? Where are you coming from?
Again it was quiet. Bethany?
A robed figure appeared on the other side of the corral. Lauren noticed it so abruptly she was not certain whether it had emerged from the small stand of trees close at hand or merely materialized by the fence. "How did you ever manage to get here?" it called as it walked toward her. It was Bethany.
"Me? I took the Speedline and caught a tube bus. How did you get here?"
"I shop here all the time. It's one of the few places in the world where merchants will still barter goods for goods, sometimes services, and it's rather difficult for us enemies of the state to have that electronic credit that passes for money around here."
"Which doesn't answer how you got here, but I'm really glad to see you. You know, I don't even know what year it is."
"I came through hyperspace. I think you use to call it the twilight or the between or something? I finally learned how to do it. I'm not sure exactly what year it is, either. I think it's around twenty-three eighty, but the vampires got rid of the old calendar and replaced it with a new one. It's ninety-seven A. N., that's Anno Novum, or something like that, my Latin was never any good. It means--"
"New Year," Lauren interrupted. "I like the staff." Bethany was carrying a thin brass bar which split to three prongs at one end and supported a dark blue shiny ball in a decorative cage on the other. Lauren was trying to remember where she'd seen such a thing.
"Do you like it? I picked it up at Wal-Mart when they were going out of business. It seemed just the thing for a magic staff, and I've gotten good use out of it since."
"It's a lawn ornament, isn't it?"
"Yes, well, you know me."
"I'm beginning to think maybe I do. So, where to from here?"
"Follow me," the still young ancient sorceress said, and started walking back toward the fence. She called out a few words in a language Lauren did not know, and the familiar gray mist appeared. Lauren entered the mist behind Bethany, and kept her mind clear. An unfamiliar image appeared before them as they moved forward, and then as Bethany came to a halt it hardened into reality. They were in the woods.
"So," Bethany asked, "where have you been all this time?"
Lauren smiled. "You know that time doesn't work like that for me. Everything gets so completely out of order. I've spent the last century or so alone on a tropical island, working out and practicing and preparing for I don't know what. Before that, I was on some space colony for a week or so. The last thing before that," she paused, trying to remember, and then looked at Bethany. "I was teaching you in Wandborough. Confusing, isn't it?"
"You forgot about meeting me in Philadelphia," Bethany said.
"No, I didn't. You see, before I met you in Wandborough I met Derek in a place a lot like earth, but destroyed by a cataclysm of some kind, and before that Merlin was teaching me in Camelot--when I first came to Wandborough and became the legend you knew. I was living with some bird people before that, and it was before the bird people that I was in Philadelphia with you."
"That's really weird. Why do you do it that way?"
Lauren laughed. "I don't really do it that way. It's just the way it happens to me. I'm a verser. When I'm killed, I come to life in another world. If there's a way to control it, I haven't figured it out yet. In fact, I haven't yet figured out how to know where I am when I get there, until I get to talk to people. Speaking of where I am," she said, looking around, "where are we now?"
This time Bethany laughed. "Actually, we're about a hundred yards or so from your old home. A couple centuries ago the woods outside Wandborough were threatened, but I managed to mobilize a coalition of the good people of the city with the Green Party and some environmental groups and so preserve a substantial piece of the werewolf homeland. I've been living in your cave pretty much since then. So I guess I should say welcome home, but I don't know if it will look at all familiar to you.
It did look familiar, but at the same time was very different from what Lauren remembered. Still, they had lived here together more years ago than either could count, and it would make a fine home for them now. It was outside, it was in werewolf territory, and it was comfortable.
"We'll have to let the wolves know I'm here," she said. "I don't want any misunderstanding there. I've always liked the wolves, and they've always been my allies. Let's make sure there won't be any problems."
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 #191: Versers Travel. 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: