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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 37: Brown 166
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 36: Hastings 146
The Caliph had just left the room as Slade was informing them of the situation, and Derek decided, somewhat abruptly, that he’d like to know more. He had used his sensory presence rather extensively in his sprite life to explore the human city, and so fairly easily jumped into the invisible body that gave him full information about his surroundings somewhere else. He formed it in the hall beyond the door, and quickly picked up the Caliph talking with the man at arms. Following their voices, he soon had them in view.
“No one knows, yes?”
“We have done our best to keep him hidden. The gate guard brought him here as directly as they could, and only the doctors have seen him.”
“What have they said?”
“That he will not live long; we must hurry, Your Potency.”
Derek was reminded that his speed in this form was almost unrestricted; the men seemed to be rushing, but keeping pace with them was a leisurely task. When they reached their destination, he passed through the doorway with them, and they closed the heavy door behind them. The room was lit by skylights, and there was fresh air flowing through. A man lay on a cot, surrounded by several others who seemed to be attending to him, providing him with something to drink, pouring water over him.
To Derek’s shock, the man was badly burned. His clothing was significantly burned away, and some of it clung to his seared flesh. The smell filled the room, and Derek turned down his olfactory connection, but still had a bitter aftertaste in his mouth.
“Can he speak?” the Caliph asked. Derek realized that he had shifted to Arabic; his own Arabic was not that good, but he could follow a conversation adequately.
“Not well, and not much longer, Potency,” one of the attendees, apparently doctors, said.
“Tell me what I need to know,” he said, apparently addressing the burned man.
“They ambushed us. They had some creature with them that breathed fire.”
The Master at Arms seemed to suggest some kind of creature, but it was a word Derek did not know; the messenger indicated that it was not that. The man said, “Small, but much fire.”
The man stopped talking.
“Make him as comfortable as you can,” the Caliph said, “and tell his family he died bravely. If he says anything else, let me know.”
Everyone stood in silence for a moment, and then the Caliph turned and left the room, followed by the Master at Arms. Derek stood, invisibly, for the moment horrified at the severity of the injury. He had once seen black and white photos of people who had survived the atomic blasts in Japan. This was like that, but in full color and three dimensions. He closed his real eyes, dropped the sensory presence, and tried not to be sick.
“Are you all right?” Joe said. He nodded, then shook his head.
“No,” he said, “but give me a minute and I will be.” He swallowed hard, then added, “Have you got anything for an upset stomach? I’ve just had a bit of a shock.”
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #284: Versers React. 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: