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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 41: Slade 142
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Previous chapter: Chapter 40: Hastings 147
As the ferry carried them across the lower river, Slade reveled in anticipation. He was headed into battle--a small battle, he expected, but he was commanding a crack group of troops.
They had been given horses, good swift light horses trained to desert combat, but only he and Shella were comfortable on them. Derek had argued that he would be fine on his mountain bike, but Slade insisted that they bring the bike on the wagon and learn to ride the horses, because the terrain might not work for the bicycle. Kondor seemed to be leery of the animal, and Zeke simply said that he’d never had the interest or opportunity to try one, but he was game for anything and thought this might be worth trying.
They had had to wait by the river until sunrise, as the ferryman wouldn’t cross even in the light of dawn. Slade thought it a bit foolish, since it meant they were headed into the sun, but he wasn’t going to argue the man’s business. In addition to their guide they had a drover to care for the wagon, and a teamster to help him. The Caliph had offered more servants, but Slade said he didn’t want to have to worry about the lives of too many non-combatants.
They reached the site of the ambush as the sun was vanishing behind them.
“Shella,” Slade said, “set up the shelter and conjure us a bit of food. Joe, you should take the first watch, because you’ve got that night vision. Wake me around midnight, and Zeke, expect me to awaken you before dawn.”
“What about me?” Derek asked.
“You’ll be doing recon in the morning,” Slade said, “and I’ll want you fresh. Shella, too, although she’ll be doing hers with the scrying spell. We need to get a handle on where these bandits went from here. Joe’s a good tracker, but the more input we can give him the better the outcome.”
“What do you want me to do now?” Zeke asked.
Slade shrugged. “For the moment, keep eyes open while making camp. I don’t really expect them to strike tonight, but we’d look terribly foolish if they did and we weren’t ready. Otherwise, try to relax and get ready to sleep. I expect we’ll be traveling in the heat of the day tomorrow, and we’ll want to get as much rest before then as we can without letting down our guard.”
He noticed Kondor looking at him.
“What?” he said.
“I don’t know,” Kondor answered. “This just doesn’t seem like you.”
“I know. I was thinking the same thing. But then, I think when people expect you to be a responsible leader, you sort of try to play the role. It’s been a long ride out here, and while you were complaining about the discomforts of riding a horse, I was trying to figure out how we do this. I still don’t have the answer to that, but I think I know how we start.”
“Dinner’s ready,” Shella called, and everyone gathered inside the invisible magic bubble. The three servants were a bit frightened by it, but when they saw the food they settled into eating quickly enough.
As they settled down to sleep, Slade again went over his ideas--he hesitated to call them plans even to himself--and fell asleep wondering whether he had overlooked anything significant.
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: