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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 16: Slade 97
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Previous chapter: Chapter 15: Brown 103
Slade thought about it only for a moment; bringing peace was not something he had considered, but now that he considered it, it didn't sound right to him.
"You might not have noticed," he said, "but I'm not generally listed among the peacemakers. I'm quite a fighter, but not much for talk."
"Not meaning to offend m'lord, your skill with your tongue has stood you in good stead before. Why, in your trial before King Morgan you defeated your enemy entirely by the use of words. Why should this be different?"
"I certainly won that, didn't I?" Slade mused. "But then, the outcome of that was that they went to war, wasn't it?"
"And how did you win that war?" Shella demanded. "You stood on the battlements and talked, and the armies of Prince Acquivar surrendered."
Joe cut in. "I'm impressed. How did you manage this?"
"Well, actually, I was trying to bluff Acquivar into surrendering by threatening to kill his wife, and he called my bluff--but his wife didn't take that well, and spilled his whole dirty secret in front of his entire army. After they heard they were fighting to defend a cheat and a murderer, he sort of lost control of them."
"So you were lucky."
"Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, it worked, just not the way I expected."
"He wasn't lucky. He was brilliant," Shella said. Slade smiled, feeling a bit of blush rise in his cheeks.
"Anyway," he said, "I guess I've done some talking; but I still don't see myself as a peacemaker."
"And I've done a fair amount of killing," Joe replied, "but have never considered myself a warrior. Maybe we both have to stop defining ourselves by the roles we play, and consider instead how to do the best we can with what we face."
Slade nodded. Joe made a lot of sense, as usual.
"So, where do we start?"
Joe turned, and started pacing in the narrow room.
"We're going to have to find out what is really happening here. What is at stake? Who is the aggressor? What was the impetus for the fight? All we know at the moment, really, is that people are fighting, and that they are aligned very much according to race. I'm sure both sides think they're right. It's not going to be easy."
"Yeah, and I'll bet it gets a lot harder when you add to it that we're already supposed to know, so we can't easily ask anyone. That, and that anywhere you can walk safely they'll shoot me on sight, and the same the other way around."
Joe nodded. "All of that is true. One step at a time, though. Tomorrow we'll have to scout a bit outside and see whether that tells us more."
At that moment, there was another knock on the door. "Yeah?" Slade called.
"I've brought food," a rather annoyed voice responded. "Do you want it?"
"Oh--yeah, please. Here, let me come help."
"I'll get it, m'lord," Shella said, and before he could object she had reached the door.
"You sure?" he asked.
"Of course I'm sure," and she opened the door. "Thank you so much for your kindness, m'lord," she said to the soldier, who was pushing a wheeled cart with a few trays on it.
"Yeah, whatever," the man said; then it appeared he saw Joe, and changed his attitude completely, snapping to attention.
"I beg your pardon, sir; I did not realize you were present."
"At ease, soldier," Joe said.
"Will you, er--where should I take your tray, sir?"
"I'll have it in my room," he said, and turned to Slade. "There's no need for me to disturb you two further. If you need me, you know where I am."
"Right," Slade said. "I'm sure we'll be fine." He rose and helped Shella with the trays. Joe left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Well," Slade said, "I guess this is dinner. Let's dig in and make the best of it."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #218: Versers Resume. 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: