keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 18: Brown 163
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 17: Slade 138
Derek had almost forgotten what it was like just to fly and look down at the earth below. In his last couple of worlds, becoming Morach was always a tactical decision for the best combat advantage, and it wasn’t done often. Now he just enjoyed exercising his wings--so much in fact that he did a few aerobatic tricks, a corkscrew, a wingover, a loop, just because he could.
He then began circling outward from the palace. He took a good look at the window from which he had left, to be certain he knew where to return. Then he started to explore the lay of the land.
The palace was not built in the center of the city, but significantly closer to the river side. The city wall tracked along the banks for some distance, but then fell away creating a harbor district, but walls divided the harbor area from the main city, probably to provide defense against a naval assault. He also spotted what he took to be wind-powered pumping stations feeding river water into aqueducts which carried it into a large pond below and upstream of the castle--apparently a public watering hole, as women with very large pottery containers were taking water from it and walking away in all directions into the city.
The palace itself was enclosed in a smaller wall surrounding a courtyard, and traffic seemed to come through the same main gate through which they had entered, facing toward the desert. However, there was a smaller gate on the opposite side facing toward the river which did not seem to be in use and led into narrow streets and warehouses. Apparently this was the escape route, and he noticed that it could not be seen from the outside, perhaps covered over with plaster to blend into the wall.
In the outer city wall there were four gates, the large one through which they had entered and a similarly large one on the port side, with smaller ones facing up and downstream. Market areas tended to thrive just inside the gates, undoubtedly as goods were brought from the fields and the river to be sold to those within the city. He let his eyes trace paths through the mazes of streets. If they had to escape the city in a hurry, it would not be simple. He might have to direct them from the air.
Suddenly his eye picked up something below, moving, seemingly coming almost directly toward him. At first it confused him, but then he realized what it was.
It was a hawk.
He was its target.
This was serious. He had never faced a hawk, and he had neglected to bring his bow and arrows. Predatory birds in Morach’s world rarely bothered sprites because those that did were wounded or killed, the spritish prohibition against killing not applying to animals. He was trained in hand to hand combat, but against a powerful bird his own size that was hopeless--his own wings were frail, not so frail as those of a girl, but nothing compared to those of a hawk.
He sighted on the palace and dove to change position and get some momentum. He scanned for his window, but was on the wrong side of the building. There was a degree to which any window might do, but if he wound up in a restricted part of the castle he would have a hard time explaining himself. He wheeled to pass over the rooftop and reach his own side, climbing as he went, but he knew the bird was closing the gap. Straight out, and he couldn’t look back without losing speed, but he was now certain this was the right side.
He did a corkscrew, and as he dropped several yards he felt the pursuer pass above him. Coming out of it facing the right window, he began a powerdive toward it, then transformed mid-flight into Ferris, using his now larger size to discourage the very confused raptor and the larger wings to glide to his window and squeeze through it. There he transformed back into Derek, and rushed into the hall toward Slade’s room. “Bob! Bob!” he called, a bit breathlessly.
Slade emerged. “Problem?” he said.
“Maybe. Someone sent a hawk after Morach, and in order to escape I changed into Ferris in midair and landed on my window ledge. If I was observed, they might be sending someone here. Should we plead ignorance, or admit my identity?”
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 #277: Versers Resettle. 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: