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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 52: Beam 13
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“Well, look at that,” Bron said, turning toward the entrance to the Bucket. “I thought we’d seen the back o’ him months ago.”
“Interesting,” Beam replied, then louder, “Good evening, Tom--can I call you Tom? Your drink is mead, right?” The room grew quiet rather quickly.
The centurion grimaced at the nickname, but did not comment. “I am here on behalf of King Rex--”
“Well, then, of course the first one is on the house. Come, have a seat.” Once the soldier had come close enough to the bar for ordinary conversation, Beam continued, “So, I thought we’d settled the matter.”
“Not exactly. My recollection is that we agreed to leave it unsettled for the present. The King would like to propose a settlement.”
“I’m listening.” He filled the stein with mead and pushed it closer to the soldier, who seemed oblivious to it as he composed his thoughts.
“The King has three daughters, no sons. In the normal course of events, the throne would eventually pass to the husband of his eldest daughter, Margaret. She is eighteen, and His Majesty is beginning to be concerned about finding her a suitable husband.”
“I can see where this is going, and the answer is no, thank you, I was married once before, and it was a mistake I’m not going to repeat any time soon.”
“Well, hear me out anyway. It seems that there is a problem at the castle. Every night the princesses enter their room and secure the door; there are guards on the door and in the courtyard beyond their windows. No one enters or leaves the room all night. Yet in the morning the girls are exhausted, their slippers are muddy, their nightclothes dirty and sometimes torn. They will say nothing of what has happened to them during the night. The King is certain some sort of witchcraft or wizardry is being used, and he is hoping to engage your services to determine what is happening, and hopefully how to stop it. He is willing to give you the hand of his eldest daughter and make you the designated heir to his throne, appoint you as regent over this part of the kingdom, and overlook any disagreements that may have arisen in the past, if you can accomplish this. If that is not satisfactory compensation, name your price, and I will see whether the King can meet it.”
The white-haired man stared at the centurion for a moment. “Now, that is intriguing, at least. Here, enjoy your drink for a few minutes while I discuss this with my associates. Dawn? Bob? Bron? Kitchen.” Without waiting for a response, he turned sharply and walked swiftly into the other room.
Once the others had caught up with him, he began, “I wish I knew what he was thinking.”
“Theee. Keeng,” Turbirb’durpa said.
“Oh,” the white-haired man responded. “You still hear everyone’s thoughts, don’t you?”
Turbirb’durpa nodded, or at least approximated a nod.
“You just can’t send your thoughts to us--which makes it less useful, but not entirely useless. I don’t suppose you,” he said, turning to Bron, “can read his mind?”
“What, listen to his thoughts?” Beam only had to raise his eyebrows to get Bron to continue. “Well, I know it’s been done, but I’ve never done it.”
“Could you learn?”
“Well, maybe. But then, if I could hear his thoughts I could hear anyone else’s thoughts, maybe easier, given that he’s a demon--”
“He’s not a demon, he’s what you might call an alien--a creature from another world.”
“O.K., but he’s clearly not a person--”
“He’s clearly not a human. He clearly is a person.”
“Fine. Do you want to know what I’m trying to say, or do you want to argue about words?”
“I just don’t want you dissing Bob.”
“Right. Sorry, Bob. Anyway, since he’s not human, it might be more difficult for me to understand his thoughts.”
“Maybe. But then, you say you could hear anyone’s thoughts. Bob, it seems, can hear everyone’s thoughts, all at once, over quite a large area, and if he thinks them in a language you can understand, we get a lot of information all at once. So the question is, can you do it?”
Bron hesitated, apparently uncertain.
“I’ll have to see what I can find out. I might be able to do this; I don’t know.”
“Three days to learn how to listen to Bob’s thoughts.”
“Yes. I’m intrigued by the princess problem, and would like to get the king off my back, so I’m seriously thinking that with you as my wizard and Bob as my mentalist and Dawn as my fighter, we can investigate this and see whether we can solve it.”
Bron chuckled. “Well, it will certainly be interesting. All right, in three days either it will work or I’ll have to think of something else.”
“Good. I’ll tell the centurion out there that we’ll be leaving here in four days to come look at the king’s problem. Everyone get ready for a road trip.”
Then the white-haired man walked out of the kitchen to give the message to the centurion.
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 #291: Versers in Action. 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: