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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 53: Kondor 145
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Previous chapter: Chapter 52: Beam 13
They waited through the heat of the day, and Kondor was uneasy about something, but not quite certain what. It had something to do with the fact that the plan depended so completely on the use of magic. Derek would contact Shella, and that was simple enough; he had been the recipient of telepathic messages from Derek and from Lauren before, and understood that to be a use of mental abilities most people had never developed. He himself had learned to read minds, and assumed that sending thoughts was a simple step from that, if you knew how to do it. So the communication wasn’t a problem. It’s just that Shella insisted--too strong a word, as she didn’t really argue the point, but it was the point she made--that she would be using magic to locate Derek, and then again use magic to create a path from here to him, through which all of them including the horses and wagon would pass.
He was growing accustomed to being dependent on Shella’s so-called ‘magic’. It fed them every day that they were outside the palace, and provided a shelter for them. He thought it must be more highly developed mental powers like the mind reading he had learned. The problem was that Shella insisted it wasn’t. Even when she used her mirror to see things far away, she insisted it was something different from what Derek did when he remotely viewed places in his mind. Complicating it, Lauren had always insisted on the same distinction, that some of her impressive abilities were mental powers, but others were power drawn from a supernatural dimension. Even Derek, who didn’t actually use any magic, insisted that it was different from the many psionic powers which he used.
The ramifications of that were somehow what bothered him.
He blamed part of it in his Aunt Zakiya. She always said that magic came from the devil, and he should stay away from it. He thought her advice wasted, because he was certain there was no such thing as magic, or a devil. Yet if she were right about there being magic, might she also be right that there was a devil, and that magic came from him? And if there were a devil, would there also have to be a god? Could you have a Devil without God? Could you have God without The Devil?
It was all nonsense. He always thought so. God, the Devil, magic--these were all ways of explaining what you couldn’t understand. Before Isaac Newton, people believed that the planets kept moving around the sun because angels were pushing them. After Newton’s laws of motion were published, they believed that the angels were what prevented the planets from shooting off into space. Since then, we understood the concept of gravity, and angels were no longer needed--he himself had a doctorate in the technological process of generating artificial gravity. You only needed God if you couldn’t be comfortable with the notion that there were things in the world you did not yet understand. He had the assurance that one day he would--he could live so long and visit enough places that he would understand time and space and gravity and mass and energy completely. He would, he expected, understand the natural laws that enabled people like Shella and Lauren to do whatever it was they did.
Besides, Aunt Zakiya’s answer was too simple. If she were right, well, what she believed Jesus did was magic, as much as what Shella did. Zakiya would have said that there wasn’t a difference between the psychic and the supernatural, that they were all tricks of the devil to deceive people, but the people who did them seemed to think they were different. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t, but Lauren was always quoting the Bible and preaching about Jesus, so if she got all her magic from the Devil, the Devil must be supporting Jesus. Maybe he was. Maybe he just liked to confuse people, make them believe all different and confusing things and then fight about it. To what end? How should he know?
No, it didn’t make sense. There was no devil, and no god, and whatever Shella was doing she was not drawing supernatural energy from a supernatural realm. Maybe there was some power he didn’t understand, that it wasn’t mental but came from something else, some other science unknown to him, but just because there was something people called magic did not mean there had to be a god.
Late in the afternoon Zeke told him that Shella had been contacted, and was looking for Derek with her mirror. Kondor helped pack the few things that made it camp, and readied himself. Slade suggested that they lead the horses through the portal, not knowing how they would react to it and being more willing to lose a horse than a man, so he kitted up with all his gear and saddled the horse simply for a place for the saddle.
Just after sunset Shella found him; it was easier to see him in the dusk, she said, and she focused on the image of him and his location in her mirror and performed some other ritual. An opaque gray-white mist appeared, and she seemed to be trying to stretch it to be large enough for the wagon. Then she stepped forward.
“We have to walk with her,” Slade said, “and lead the horses inside the mist, along with the wagon. Once we’re all inside, she can open the other end and lead us out.”
As he stepped into the mist, Kondor felt extremely uncomfortable, as if he were somewhere, not somewhere he shouldn’t be but right next to somewhere he shouldn’t be, like standing just outside the perimeter fence of a restricted area, being somewhere where someone was apt to ask why he was there. The horses, he noted, were remarkably calm, almost as if they’d have liked to stay there, and it took a bit of prodding to keep them moving forward.
Then a foggy figure of Derek, that is, Morach, appeared in front of them, and they walked toward it, stepping out of the mist into a real solid world in twilight with a glowing sprite sitting on a rock.
“What took you so long?” Morach asked, and then transformed into Ferris, and then into Derek.
“Well,” Slade answered, “you know how these shortcuts are. They’re never as short as you think they’re going to be. Seriously, though, thanks for the idea; it worked well. You O.K.?”
“Hungry and thirsty is all,” Derek replied, “and a bit tired from the trip. I hope Shella isn’t too tired to conjure some dinner and a place to rest.”
“Not at all,” she said. “You had the hard part. I just had to follow you.” With that, she started her food ritual, as Slade rushed to toss a blanket on the ground before dinner appeared and Derek started to help himself. Zeke produced the four plates and cups, and everyone was eating by the time Shella had called the shelter into existence.
“What now?” Kondor asked.
“Well, as much as I’d like to scout along the edge of the wadi during the night, Derek’s going to need to rest, and although the rest of us had an easy day, we should get at least a little sleep before we start. So eat, sleep, eat, and try to be moving before sunrise?”
“Sounds like a plan,” Kondor said. “Let me know what watch is mine.”
Slade, however, had just put food in his mouth, and probably hadn’t thought about watches yet, so everyone ate quietly.
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: