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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 75: Beam 19
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Previous chapter: Chapter 74: Hastings 156
A clearly enraged Margaret took the lead.
“You followed us!”
Calmly, Beam opened his cigarette pack and placed one in his mouth, then found his lighter. He mumbled to Bron to take a surreptitious look around for any other surprises, then stepped forward and struck the flame. “Your point?” he replied to the girl as he released the first drag into the pristine air of that place.
“What right do you--”
“The right of a father to worry about his children,” Beam interrupted sternly. “I’m not your father, but I have children of my own, and your father is worried about you and asked me to help. So what right do you think you have to worry him, to run off and marry without at least giving him the opportunity to be present for his daughters’ weddings?”
“We’re in love,” she snapped.
“And that makes it all good,” Beam retorted. “Well, I don’t know whether your father would have approved these marriages in advance, but they appear to be done now, for better or worse, if you’ll excuse the turn of the phrase.”
“J.D.,” Bron’s voice came quietly but urgently from a point in space to his left. “I think you should know something.”
Beam turned to look toward the invisible source of the voice, and blew smoke out the side of his mouth toward the wedding party. He raised his eyebrows in response.
“The princes aren’t what they appear. They’re using some kind of magical disguise to hide the fact that they’re demons.”
“Interesting,” Beam said as he turned back toward the others. “So,” he continued, “when were you gentlemen going to reveal your true selves to your brides? I mean, I know that we all have secrets when we marry, and no one marries the person she thinks she’s marrying, but aren’t these disguises a bit extreme--and unnecessary now that the ceremony is complete?”
“What are you talking about?” Margaret demanded.
“I just think you should know that you are now lawfully married to demons, or at least to people who look like demons when their disguises are removed.”
“What is he talking about?” Margaret demanded, this time of her groom.
Abruptly the image of a handsome prince faded and was replaced by a tall muscular-looking humanoid whose body seemed formed more of smoke and flame than of solid matter. The other two similarly reformed into glowing flaming people; the one with Olivia had wings.
A shocked Margaret stepped back. “You’re--you’re a demon!”
“Let’s not get too hasty,” Beam said. “Where I’m from, that word has a lot of different meanings, and not all demons are bad. I mean, it doesn’t look good for these guys. They probably charmed you into loving them--I mean, really charmed, magically charmed--and used disguises to prevent you from seeing who they really are, they tricked you into marrying them without knowing they weren’t human. It’s possible that they genuinely fell in love with the three of you, but somehow I think that the fact that you’re princesses of the realm and whoever marries you become princes of the realm and inherits your father’s throne was a significant inducement--let’s call it an aphrodisiac. In one version of this story, they kill your father and take his throne, then rule the kingdom, maybe kill you as no longer necessary. But that’s a pessimistic view. Who knows? Maybe the fact that your marriage is a path to power in your world is merely incidental, and it just happened that the magic portal they created opened into the bedroom of three princesses who had no brother.”
The tallest of the demons, Margaret’s husband, spoke in an unearthly harsh voice. “You’ve said enough human.”
“Oh, I don’t think so. After all, I don’t particularly care that they married demons. They can’t have chosen worse spouses than I did. I always fall for the redheads, and they’re always trouble. But I think you should probably explain yourselves.”
The demon glared at Beam for a moment, then nodded.
“We are princes,” the tall one said, “princes of the realm of elemental fire--”
“So you’re efriit,” Beam interrupted. “Not demons.”
“You know of us?”
“Only by reputation,” he said, and thought it wasn’t really all that good a reputation, but decided not to say that. “So, why are you marrying human princesses?”
“We wish to expand our influence by forming alliances with humans. Humans form alliances through marriages.”
“Interesting. So the princesses, who sought to marry for love to avoid being political pawns of their father, instead became political pawns of the efriit.”
“What do you know of politics?” the efriiti snapped.
“Only that it’s mostly about lying and using people, getting them to believe you have their best interests in mind so you can get them to do what benefits you.”
Beam paused, smiling to himself that he had said something so clever--and deciding that it must have been pretty clever, because the efriiti wasn’t answering just yet.
“So your marriage is based on secrets and lies. That’s not a big deal to me; I’m pretty sure most of them are. You keep a secret; it gets out; she gets angry and acts all hurt, like she doesn’t have her own secrets. The cycle has begun, gentlemen. I hope you all enjoy married life. I think, though, that it’s time for us to mosey on back to the castle and let King Rex know that his daughters have been courted by princes from another realm, and they eloped last night and got married. I don’t know that he’ll be terribly pleased about that, but in my opinion you all saved him a couple of small fortunes on wedding costs, and they didn’t marry commoners, so maybe he’ll be pleased with his new alliances.”
Not waiting for a reply, he turned back toward the boat.
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 #300: Versers Challenged. 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: