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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 2: Kondor 137
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As he stepped through the postern gate, Joseph Wade Kondor began entertaining the possibility that he was dreaming. He had never dreamed so vividly, that he recalled, but so many improbable events had occurred to this point that his perceived reality was becoming implausible.
First there was the bomb exploding at Fort Porthos. That was not really improbable; he had been killed in explosions more often than any other way, and winding up in an unfamiliar desert was part of the whole verser package, traveling from universe to universe whenever he died. What was different this time was he brought someone with him, Lieutenant Ezekiel “Zeke” Smith, because when the bomb exploded Kondor had tried to shield the lieutenant by tackling him, and whether the Lieutenant had come along because the scriff in Kondor’s body that carried him from universe to universe had infected Zeke in the blast, or simply because Kondor was holding him at the moment he died, it seemed he now had a companion to whom he was trying to explain everything.
Then the Slades appeared--Sir Robert Elvis Lord Slade and his wife, the Lady Shella. He had landed in the same world as Bob Slade twice before, and the second time Shella was with him. Slade had been an auto mechanic originally, but had lived a couple decades as lord of a medieval castle in some sort of swords and sorcery world; he fancied himself an ally of a djinni. He and Shella both believed they could perform magic--not prestidigitation or scientific illusion, but real supernatural magic--and as much as Kondor did not believe in anything supernatural, the fact was that Shella seemed to be able to create a force wall protecting them from the heat and winds of the desert, and even more impressively to create food for them from nothing.
Then Derek appeared. Kondor and Slade had both met Derek Jacob Brown, but in different worlds. Kondor had seen Derek as a twelve-year-old computer genius who was honing his craft on what might have been a thirtieth century space station; since then the boy had somehow aged (versers did not age as a rule) and now appeared closer to seventeen, although short for his age, and Slade claimed that Derek could turn into a sprite, that is, a mythical fairy creature, which Derek did not deny, but Kondor had not yet seen it and was reserving judgment on the matter.
Derek and Shella both claimed to have been able to see a distant city on a riverbank in a valley some unknown distance but in an agreed direction, and so their quintet had walked that direction. Since they thought it better to travel at night and take shelter during the day, it was not surprising that they had arrived at the city in the dead of night--what Kondor would have made perhaps four in the morning, based on his star sightings and sunrise and sunset times. Slade had banged on the gate and shouted for someone’s attention, and then politely introduced himself with that string of titles he often flourished, titles that could not possibly have meaning outside the universe in which he got them but which seemed to impress gullible people anyway, and then the biggest shock came: as the gatekeeper opened the postern for them, he said that they had been expected.
Grasping for an explanation, it occurred to him that the high towers in the city were probably used for observation, perhaps of the stars but certainly also of the surrounding countryside. Still, the desert was atop a plateau, and although he hadn’t thought to look he thought it unlikely that any building in the city could be tall enough to see over the ridge into the sands beyond. They had only been able to see the city themselves a few hours ago; for someone to have spotted them since then and prepared to greet them was at least unlikely.
Perhaps it was only what the porter said to visitors who identified themselves with titles. After all, most important visitors would probably send a messenger ahead, and might be offended if the city officials were not aware that they were coming, so it would be better to say always that any such visitor was expected than to let any think he was not important enough for them to have prepared for his arrival.
Satisfied that he had found a suitable explanation, he determined that it must be the correct one, and dropped the subject. The porter and Slade were discussing accommodations.
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 #275: Versers Reorient. 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: