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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 10: Slade 137
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Previous chapter: Chapter 9: Hastings 139
Returning to the dais with a platter of food and a cup of warm beer (and thinking that ancient luxury could not manage cold beer), Slade set these down and removed the ruby bracelet from his wrist. Settling on one knee, he extended it toward the Caliph.
“Your Potency,” he began, “I would like to offer you this small token of our esteem and appreciation for your hospitality.”
“It is very kind of you, Lord Slade, and I assure you, entirely unnecessary.” However, by the way the Caliph’s manservant moved forward to accept the gift, Slade was certain that necessary or not, it was expected. He sat, and took up the conversation.
“Your city and your palace are quite beautiful. I know that I am very impressed, and expect the same can be said of my companions.” Shella here nodded agreement.
“We are pleased that you like it,” the Caliph answered. “I trust that your accommodations last night were comfortable?”
“Indeed, and not just because we’ve been sleeping on desert sand the past week.”
The Caliph nodded. “So, tell us of your journeys.”
“Well, I’m not much of a storyteller, but let me see what I can do. Before we came here, the Lady Shella and I were in a war-torn land in which two peoples seemed intent on hating each other. Doctor Kondor was there with us for a while, but then he was separated from us, and rejoined us in the desert not far from here.”
“And the boy?”
“No, Derek wasn’t there, but we had met previously in our travels, and he also found us in the desert.”
“Well, there’s not much more to tell.”
At this moment there was a squeal of laughter which distracted him, and he turned to see just beyond the far end of the dais a bevy of teenaged girls all dressed nearly the same, as far as he could tell. The Caliph noticed his attention.
“My daughter and her entourage. They are always together.”
Slade nodded and continued. “We shuttled back and forth between the two armies, trying with only some success to get people to see that they really were all people and should try to come to terms with each other, but it was just much too big a problem. We visited a unit commander on one side, and engaged him in discussion of the issues, but even though he was receptive to our points I doubt he was going to be able to get anyone else to agree.”
Slade continued talking about their visits with Colonel Mlambo and General Vargas, and how the two sides each dehumanized the other while he and his companions attempted to demonstrate that both sides were human. He avoided discussing their weaponry beyond that one side had much better weapons, and he completely avoided any mention of the scriff delivering them there or taking them away. However, over the course of the meal he managed to hit all the high points.
“I am fascinated,” the Caliph finally said, “and you must tell me more--but I am afraid that affairs of state beckon. Darius will see that you get settled and provide anything you need.” With that the Caliph rose, and everyone in the room rose, Slade scrambling to get to his feet. With a nod, the Caliph left the room, and most people also departed, although some returned to eating. Slade got a second cup of the warm beer to wash down the end of his platter, but although Darius said nothing and indicated no impatience, Slade felt as if he were keeping the man waiting. He finished the meal hastily, wiped his mouth and fingers on the provided towels, and rose to leave.
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: