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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 46: Slade 143
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Previous chapter: Chapter 45: Kondor 144
It had been a long hard ride across the wilderness, but as the tired horses drank the water conjured by Shella and saddle-sore Joe and Zeke tried to rest, Slade talked with Derek about the wadi, now about a mile away. They were in a slight hollow covered by a few rocks, and would probably remain hidden overnight since they did not need a fire. Slade was a bit leery of fire as it was, and was glad they didn’t have to cook their food or keep themselves warm.
It was difficult to say where the western end of the wadi was, as it seemed to widen into a shallow pond that perhaps meant water a couple inches deep over miles of grassland. It might at times have emptied into the river, now miles to their west, but usually soaked into the ground or evaporated, at least that amount that was not consumed by thirsty animals and plants. It occurred to Slade that the higher incidence of burned campsites toward the northwest might simply be because goat herders drove their flocks toward the water, so there had been more targets in that part of the wilderness. He wondered whether there was a southern wadi. If not, then certainly those who made their nomadic homes in the wilderness here would travel toward the water during the wet season.
Still, it was the best guess they had for where a bandit camp might be.
“So,” Derek asked, “should we get into the gully and travel up inside it, or try to move along its edge?”
Slade bit his lip as he pondered this. If the bandits were smart, they would have watchmen certainly in all directions, but particularly along the southern edge of the wadi and downstream from their camp. The camp would have to be at a point along the watercourse that was deep enough to obscure them from distant observers, wide enough to provide room for the whole group, dry enough for a campsite but wet enough to provide water. It wasn’t going to be too near this end, but this was where they were.
“I hate to say it,” Slade said, “but I think we have to get to the north side of the gully and come up it that way. They’ll be expecting attackers from the south and west; we want to come at them from the north. I wish we could come at them from the northeast, but we can’t get there without following the wadi, and if we’re following the wadi we’re going to encounter them before we’re east of them.”
“Anyway, I can’t think of another way to do it.”
Derek tilted his head. “Maybe I can. Let me think on it.”
“Anyway,” Slade said, “we don’t want to be hit in our sleep, so it’s double watches tonight. Joe,” he called somewhat louder, “Zeke, I want you two on the first watch. Hmmm, this is going to be tricky. We’ve only got five of us, and I want two people all night, but I need everyone to get enough sleep as well. Suggestions?”
“Yeah,” Zeke said. “I slept last night. Let me watch for six hours. Joe can watch for four, and then he’ll wake Derek, who can watch for four hours. I’ll wake you after you’ve slept six hours, and that will give me four hours, and when Derek wakes Shella he can get two more hours sleep. Everyone sleeps for six hours, except sleepyhead over there gets eight, and Derek’s six hours come in a block of four and a block of two, and I’ll make due with four because I slept through last night. Workable?”
“I think so,” Slade said. “Better run it by me again.”
“What, you think I can do that twice?” Zeke laughed, and everyone laughed with him, but then he managed to explain the plan again, and everyone agreed it was workable.
“So, dinner, and shelter, and sleep with watches,” Slade said, and so the night began.
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: