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Stories from the Verse
Chapter 112: Slade 126
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Lying on his back with his hands behind his head, Slade stared at the roof of the tent.
“So, what do you think of our host?” he asked Shella.
She snuggled closer under his arm. “Interesting man. Interesting ideas about honor and combat. Somehow, though, I don’t think he’s ever actually fought a duel.”
“No?” Slade thought a moment. “No, I would wager you’re right about that. He has high ideals about combat and duels, but they lack a sense of experience. He knows how he wants the world to be; he doesn’t know how it actually is.”
“Indeed, he would never guess that you could win a duel with a royal prince, only to have him strike as he falls and several of his henchmen put arrows in you. I’m sure he would have thought that most dishonorable.”
“Well, I thought it a bit unfair myself, but I’m sure that the henchmen were caught by Morgan’s men, and probably executed, so cheating didn’t work for them, at least.
“So, what do we do next?”
“I always follow you, my lord. But you said we were going to find Slade Manor.”
“Yes, I did. It’s not looking all that promising, but for the moment I suppose that’s still the goal. But I’m open to alternatives.”
They lay together in silence for a few minutes before Slade thought of something else to say.
“It’s funny, but somehow I’m reminded of a game called ‘solitaire’. I never understood the point of solitaire. I mean, who are you trying to beat?”
“I think, my lord, you’re trying to beat the Fates.”
“Oh, well, I’m not sure how good an idea that is. I’d rather have them on my side. Anyway, my cousin was trying to teach me this game. The thing I remember is it seems that in order to sort everything out you had to mix the colors together--every red card had to be next to a black card, and every black card by a red card. I’m somehow thinking that this world can’t be sorted out because we can’t get the blacks and whites mixed together.”
“So what do we do about that?”
“I have no idea. Shuffle the cards and deal again?”
Again they lay in silence.
“It’s funny,” Slade continued. “Here we are in the middle of a war, and we seem always to be completely safe. More than that, I haven’t even been in a fight. We wander around the battlefield and talk to people, and it certainly has been interesting, but it has never been dangerous. It’s not at all been like our adventures dethroning Aquivar. We were the troublemakers when we were killing vampires, but we saw a lot of action. This entire world is at war, but for us it’s the most peaceful place we’ve been.”
“It is odd, my lord.”
“Makes me wonder if I’m doing something wrong. But then, the parakeet world was peaceful, until the time came for action; and when I was in your world, the action was all at the beginning, and then there was a long stretch of quiet. So maybe this is just the quiet part.”
“Or maybe we’re doing something different here, my lord.”
Slade only nodded, and fell silent again.
“You know, it strikes me,” he continued, “whatever happens here, Wilson loses either way.”
“Loses, my lord?”
“Sure. If his side sticks to his notion of honorable combat with honorable weapons, the shades are sure to overrun them completely. But if they adopt the weapons and techniques of the shades--”
“He loses his belief in honorable combat, and has to accept a dishonorable victory if they win.”
“Or if they lose,” Slade continued, “he struggles with the question of whether they would have won had they not dishonored themselves with those superior dishonorable weapons. The gods smile on those who fight fairly, but I’m not sure that means we always win.”
“You do, my lord.”
Slade smiled in the darkness. “Yeah, but then, sometimes I die trying.”
Slade never remembered whether either of them said anything else, as they drifted off to sleep.
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 #265: Versers in Motion. 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: