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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 72: Slade 148
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Slade entered the throne room somewhat uncertainly. He had requested this private audience with the Caliph at breakfast, and the ruler had been quite accommodating, suggesting they meet as soon as they were both finished eating. It was about as private as Slade could have hoped, with one guard at the door and another on the dais.
“Come in, my friend,” the Caliph called, rising from his throne and settling on the edge of the dais. “What is it that troubles you?”
Slade moved forward, beginning to talk loudly, but quieting as he approached. “I’m worried about Derek,” he said; “or more precisely, about the situation Derek has gotten into in connection with your daughter and her entourage.”
The Caliph shrugged. “What is to worry? Do you know something I do not?”
Slade thought there were probably many things he knew that the Caliph did not, some of them potentially relevant, but probably that was not the place to start. Instead, he said, “Derek is a lot of things, a lot of complicated things that come together in strange ways. However, one of them is that he is a seventeen-year-old boy. Your daughter and her companions are all teenaged girls, and at the moment seem a bit starry-eyed around him--”
“Oh, well, what then, star struck? Infatuated? Enamored? They seem to think he’s great. They aren’t entirely reasonable about him.”
“And you are concerned that he might take advantage of them?”
“I can’t say that I think he will, but I don’t know him well enough to say I know he won’t. We’ve fought together, and we’ve shared stories. I know he was almost married once, and that on another occasion he was quite taken by a girl about your daughter’s age. I’m not sure that he won’t try to seduce one of them; I’m equally not sure that they won’t try to seduce him. I certainly don’t want a problem.”
“Well, first, I am not worried. Derek has as much notion of which girl is my daughter as you do. He does not know any of their names, and calls them by nicknames he has devised--Princess Button Nose, Princess Pink Cheeks, and the like. There are seven girls, and thus one chance in seven that if he fell for one it would be my daughter. At the same time, she could do much worse than to marry a national hero, and he would have promise as a son-in-law and possible successor to my throne. If my daughter chose to marry him, I would not be displeased. If he married one of the other girls, I would count her fortunate.”
That would be complicated, Slade thought, but again he decided not to say anything.
“Meanwhile, my daughter has managed to add to her entourage a proven hero whom I am confident would defend her and her companions with his life, if necessary; and it costs me nothing, and introduces her to a boy I trust. There are not many boys in her life, my friend, because it is difficult to protect her identity and introduce her to people at the same time.”
Slade nodded. “Well, if you’re not worried about their relationship, I guess I shouldn’t, either. He seems to be a sensible kid. Thank you for your time.”
“I am at your disposal whenever you need me,” the Caliph said.
“That’s quite kind of you, Your Potency. Let me assure you that I am similarly at your disposal whenever you need me.”
“Wonderful. Well, I suspect there are citizens waiting for court.”
“Yes, I know how that is; I ran a fief myself for a while once. Let me not delay you further.” And with a polite bow, Slade turned and left the room.
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 #293: Versers Relate. 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: