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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 130: Brown 95
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Previous chapter: Chapter 129: Hastings 136
Even as he fell, Derek's mind went in many directions. He knew that apart from wind resistance--of which this body afforded very little--his speed was increasing at about eleven miles per hour each second. In five seconds he could fall two hundred feet, and if the ground was there he would hit it at almost fifty-five miles per hour--highway speeds. He didn't even consider his options. There was only one person who could save him now, and his mind turned to that person. Ferris Hoffman was the person he needed; he closed his eyes as he thought of the strange winged midget, and soon felt the wind in his wings. The magical suit Bethany had prepared formed around him, and he shifted his weight to do a corkscrew spiral, a controlled drop to whatever bottom there was below him. He still held the laser rifle; the last power pack was in it. His feet found something solid, and tentatively he let his weight down on this dark floor.
It was a magical hole of some sort; it might not even be in the same part of the universe at the bottom that it was at the top. Looking up at a ring of light far above him, he doubted such a hole could be a real place, although he knew even as he thought it that he was using that word real in a rather prejudicial manner. Clearly this was a real place; he was here. Clearly it was physical, as he'd nearly splattered on the bottom. It was a real place in some other reality; that was about as well as he could say it.
That said, he had to find a way to get back to his companions. Already he'd lost time getting down here safely. From the look of the enemy, his friends needed him--not that he added that much to the fight, but that every ounce of aid was going to matter, and that included his ounce.
How, though, could he get back to the fight?
There was a level at which the answer seemed obvious. He should become Theian Toreinu Morach, and fly up out of this hole. Sure, it was at least a hundred yards deep, maybe twice that, but for Morach's flying skills this would be no challenge at all. Yet there was a problem. His laser rifle was down here. Morach was strong, and could carry the heavy gun some distance--but he probably couldn't lift it so far straight up. Even if he could, Morach was only about fifteen inches tall, and would not be able to aim and fire so large a weapon effectively. The weapon was larger than he was, and by the time he could change back to Derek he'd have been shot several times, he expected. He could not turn into Morach and take the gun with him. Up there, though, what did he have? There was a knife, a frying pan, a chain, some porcuperson darts, and his spritish bow and arrows. None of them were especially good weapons for fighting vampire commandos and wizards; but they were all the weapons he had.
Besides, it had been a few minutes. He could always hope that they'd won by now.
It took a moment for his body to shift into that of the sprite, and again he felt the magical clothing forming itself to him. The glow of his skin now illumined the area immediately around him, and he rose up, up, toward the open top.
As he emerged, he saw the worst thing he could possibly have seen. Lauren was clinging to Tubrok, while Tubrok was bursting into flame. He saw pain and determination mixed in her face, which somehow expressed to him that she knew the joy that was set before her was worth the pain she had to endure for it. She was leaving. He would meet her again, but probably not in this world. The flame grew brighter. Lauren's body was consumed; one of the two vampire wizards and two of their commandos were dragged into the conflagration and consumed. It grew too bright to view; Derek turned away, and flew over to his pack. He ripped open the Velcro side flap and tossed the quiver of fletched skewers on his shoulder, grabbing up the bow into his hand. Then he turned back to see the fading fires.
Tubrok was still there. Lauren was gone, but Tubrok lived.
Bob had collapsed to the floor. He seemed to be gasping for air. Shella was rushing to him, and Bethany was calling out some sort of spell which was focused on protecting them. Merlin was struggling with three commandos, blocking and battling with some sort of short range spells that took the place of sword fighting. Tubrok was staggering to his feet, clearly hurt by Lauren's magic, but not finished.
As the vampire mage stood, he raised his arms and started pronouncing a line of filth so foul Derek expected it would slay them all. He was no wizard, and had little idea what this would do, but the very fact that Tubrok could still use magic meant they were in trouble. He didn't have many options, but he was going to have to use one. He grabbed an arrow and drove himself forward with as much force as he could, directly at the monster. As Tubrok's eyes found him, he loosed the arrow, which flew forward forcefully and struck in the vampire's cheek.
Derek had been aiming for the mouth; he was disappointed to have hit the cheek. Tubrok, though, stopped chanting, in the middle of a word. Twice, thrice, four times he seemed to try to continue. Then he fell forward, on his face, driving the missile through his cheek into his head, and vanished.
Derek whirled toward the other wizard vampire, but it apparently had seen enough, as it fled back through the fiery passage before he could take the shot. His next shot stuck in the strange armor of one of the vampires, and as it looked to it, Merlin was able to land a fatal blow. Then, with Tubrok gone, it was only a few seconds before Shella was able to restore clarity to Merlin's glass walls, and those vampires who were not quick enough flee into the darkness were dispelled like bad dreams in the light of day.
Derek wanted to say something. He wanted to cheer the victory. He didn't; nor did anyone else. They had lost Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings, Laurelyn Spellsbreath, Laurelyn of Wandborough, Mystic of the Western Woods. She had been the angel God had sent to this task; they, even Merlin, had been her assistants. Now she was gone.
"But," he said in his small spritish voice, "she did it. Tubrok is gone; the central power of the vampires has been broken."
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 #209: Versers Victorious. 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: