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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 42: Brown 167
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 41: Slade 142
The sun had not yet risen when Slade woke Derek. His consolation was that Slade had already awakened Shella, so breakfast was waiting. As soon as the sun lit the land, Morach was airborne, surveying the countryside.
The plan, as he understood it, was that he was to look for any signs of the marauding band from the air while Shella used her scrying spell to sweep outward on the ground and Joe searched the immediate ground for any kind of track he might be able to follow. Between the three of them, it was hoped they could pick up some idea of where the bandits went.
He puzzled over what he was looking for. After all, wherever the bandits went, they were there now. He might see their camp, but would he recognize it? He did notice that from up here the wilderness was not trackless. More or less straight lines could be seen, well-traveled paths that connected water holes and green patches, and worked their ways in all directions.
There was something else, but he wasnít sure what to make of it. He wished he could talk with Joe about it.
But then, it occurred to him, he probably could. After all, he was very good at telepathy by now, and chatted easily with Lauren and Bethany and even Shella. He had never connected with Joe--but decades ago on the space station he had read his mind, when Lauren was teaching them how to do it. If he could remember the flavor, or whatever you would call it, of Joeís mind, he should be able to connect with him.
Hey, Joe, itís me, Morach, he sent.
It took a moment, but an answer came. Morach? Oh, you mean Derek. I should have guessed you could do this.
Well, I mean Morach; if I think of myself as someone other than Morach, I might change, and that could be awkward at this altitude.
I can see that, Joe replied. So, Iím guessing you have something for me?
I think so, but Iím not sure what it means.
O.K., tell me what you see.
There are burnt patches all over the wilderness.
Yeah. Theyíre too big to be campfires, even bonfires, but theyíre not like whole towns. But youíre standing in one of the larger ones.
So you think these might be destroyed campsites of goat herders or something?
Thatís as good a guess as any. They have some creature that breathes fire, right?
You told us as much. We havenít seen it, but you saw the burned body.
Right. Iíd rather not remember. So Iím thinking that these charred patches must be places where the bandits and their fire beast attacked. Iím just not sure how that helps us.
Do you see a pattern?
A pattern? No--no, wait, maybe. There are a lot of them toward the northeast, and they tend to thin and spread as you move south and west. In the north they reach all the way to the edge of the valley, but go south far enough and I donít see any at all.
That gives us something. They would probably start close to home, wherever home is, and as they moved farther afield they spread out more. It wouldnít be intentional, and they probably wouldnít even be aware of it--theyíre going to notice encampments near their base much sooner than those some distance away. So Iíd say youíve accomplished something.
If you want to do more, Joe continued, you might head toward the densest area and see whether thereís anything on the ground that would hide a good-sized bandit camp. But donít take any risks. I donít have many sprite friends.
Derek smiled. Iíll do that, he sent. If you need me, Shella can contact me. With that he dropped the link and started flying toward the northeast.
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: