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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 43: Beam 11
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Previous chapter: Chapter 42: Brown 167
Blacksmithing, even as an apprentice, was hot, heavy work, but Beam was not bothered by it. Although he had always preferred cooking when he could get it, his drinking tended to make such jobs short-lived, and so he had taken many other jobs over the decades--glass factory, sod farm, road crew, landscaping, construction, demolition, and other forms of manual labor requiring strong back and arms. Iron work was most like glasswork in many ways, but also like construction, so the skills were at least familiar.
He worked the afternoons. Bron wasn’t an early riser, and Beam still cooked in the evenings. They opened the smithy a bit after lunch, and late in the afternoon Beam left Bron to tidy while he went to the Bloody Bucket. Jeeves held the fort in the afternoon, and Bron caught up early in the evening for food and drink.
One afternoon as Bron was about to hammer a particularly difficult bit of work, Bean interrupted him. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Sometimes when you pick up the hammer, you run your finger over it in an odd way and mutter something to yourself before you start hammering. Is that some kind of good luck charm or something?”
“Oh, you noticed that?” Bron looked aside. “Well, please don’t mention it to anyone.”
“I’m not much for mentioning things to people, particularly when I don’t know what I’m talking about.” The white-haired man waited.
Bron shrugged. “I had an uncle who was a wizard, and when I was a boy he taught me few bits of magic. That one sort of blesses the hammer, so it will strike more accurately.”
“Wait--you’re a magician?”
“No, I’m not,” Bron huffed, “and that’s why I’d rather you didn’t mention it. I’m not supposed to do magic, and the wizards get really funny about people moving in on their business. I do a few things for myself, and don’t let anyone else know because if word got around I’d be in trouble.”
“Ah. Unions. I was in a union once. Don’t want to mess with them.”
“What’s a union?”
“Um--you’d probably call it a guild?”
“Oh. Aye, I guess it’s something like that. But of course they’re wizards, so you don’t want to cross them.”
“I can see that. So, what can you do?”
“Sir.” Dawn suddenly arrived at the entrance.
“We’ll pick this up later,” Beam said. “What is it, Dawn?”
“Soldiers, sir. Trained military forces, about a thousand, light armor, hand held and primitive missile weapons, approaching the area.”
“Sounds serious. How soon?”
“About an hour, sir.”
“What’s your assessment of our chances if it goes to combat?”
“Sir. I believe I would be able to eliminate twenty-three percent of the enemy before succumbing. You probably could eliminate another one point three percent. Turbirb’durpa might manage zero point two percent.”
“In other words, if it comes to that, we’re probably dead.”
“Well, I guess we need to find out what they want. Bron, any suggestions?”
“They’ll probably send an emissary under a flag of truce to discuss the situation before they attack.”
“Makes sense. I guess I’d better be ready to meet him. Come, Dawn. I think we’ll wait at the Bucket.”
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: