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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 4: Brown 161
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 3: Beam 1
Derek watched as Bob Slade took charge of the situation, introducing them and gaining more than admittance, welcome to the strange Arabian city. He walked his bicycle through the small gate they called the postern, pack on his back, and let his eyes wander the dimly-lit streets. The gate guard was talking.
“His Potency the Caliph of the Twin River Valley has suggested that after your journey you would be most comfortable in this guest house, rather than make the trip through the streets to the palace tonight. He looks forward to meeting you tomorrow, whenever you have had opportunity to cleanse yourselves from the dust of your journeys.” He led them up a ramp through the door of a fine building.
The interior was primarily one large room. At least half a dozen couches of various sizes were scattered about, at least one the size of a king-sized bed, all with lace curtains in multiple layers that afforded the sort of privacy of a blurred image. What Derek took to be small tables but gradually realized doubled as chairs were similarly disarranged, and there were a few cabinets containing drinking vessels and other pottery. Their guide was still speaking. “You’ll find the baths through there, the latrines that way. The bakers have only just started their mornings, but in perhaps an hour fresh bread will be delivered, and before that a cask of wine.
“There will be a man outside the door, mostly so that if you need anything you can ask, also to discourage anyone from intruding on your privacy. Can I get you anything now?”
Bob said something about beer, but Derek had drifted away from the conversation. He was noticing that the bedding was silk, the framing of the furniture of ebony and mahogany, and in all the setting opulent, in an ancient sort of way. He had never been in a world quite like this, but it looked comfortable and he hoped he would enjoy it. He picked a couch, a smaller one apart from the others, and set his gear there. Then he decided to look at the bath.
There were two sets of double doors between the house and the bath, and even before he had opened the second he understood why: humid heat came from the room. Entering, he was faced with what appeared a small heated swimming pool, perhaps thirty feet square and ranging from two to four feet deep. At present no one was in the room but himself, but he noticed that there were doors on all eight walls of the octagonal space—apparently the baths were shared with adjacent houses. He thought he should get his bath soon, before the morning rush, but did not want to be in the way of his companions if they were thinking the same.
It occurred to him that he should practice his changes, not so much to see whether they worked—he had already established that they did—but to see whether the magic clothes which were supposed to change size to fit did so. He had arrived in this world as Theian Toreinu Morach, fifteen inch tall winged sprite, because that’s who he was when the Romanian operatives shot him (long story), and taking advantage of his ability to fly in that form he had surveyed the area around him before becoming the toddler-sized Ferris Hoffman and then his full five foot Derek Jacob Brown. In that form he had found and joined the others, and had donned his magic suit, but had not since attempted the morph. Taking advantage of the privacy of the bathhouse, he worked the changes backward, from Derek to Ferris to Morach, then forward again through Ferris to Derek. The suit performed satisfactorily.
He headed back through the doors, thinking that he would grab some of his grimier clothing and wash it while washing himself, and called to the room, “Anyone object if I grab the first bath?”
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: