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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 79: Brown 173
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Previous chapter: Chapter 78: Beam 20
The day really started right after breakfast. As the girls dragged Derek out of the buffet room into the hallway, Princess Pink Cheeks said to Princess Elf Ears, “Oh, this morning my maid Billy said she saw a scarf just like the one you lost, in a stall in the market.”
“Oh, oh, oh, oh,” Princess Elf Ears reacted. “Oh, let’s do go shopping this morning, see whether it’s really there.”
“Of course, you know how bad Bilhah is at fashion, but she told me where to find it. I’ll go.”
“Oh, yes,” Princess Chin Dimple said, “Do, let’s. It looks like a beautiful morning, and it will probably be hot this afternoon.”
“It’s always hot in the afternoon,” Princess Green Eyes volunteered. “But I could use a new bracelet.”
And thus within minutes they had decided to dress for the market and head out to see what they could find. Derek decided to grab his dart apron, chain, and butcher knife, just because he didn’t want to go out without weapons, and soon the eight of them were headed out the palace gate, accompanied by the four burly guards assigned to protect them.
They meandered a bit, with Princess Pink Cheeks looking for the stand with the particular scarf, the girls stopping here and there, the guards trying to keep them from getting too far apart from each other. Derek walked with his arm around Princess Button Nose, who seemed content to watch the others and just walk with him.
“I’d buy you something,” he said, “but I don’t even know what you use for money in this city.”
“Oh--well, gold and silver coins, mostly, but for us everything gets billed to the palace. We can pretty much buy whatever we want, but if we spend too much we get scolded.”
“Yeah, I’m afraid I’m not rich--not yet, anyway. Bob got his wealth from a djinni, and Joe got his mostly from a pirate ship, but I haven’t done anything that would make me rich yet.”
“There it is!” Princess Elf Ears squealed, and ran down the street. Two of the guards hurried after her, then one of them stopped and looked back, appearing uncertain what to do.
That’s when it all turned sideways.
Several men stepped from the crowd. One of them grabbed Princess Bronzy, and the others started drawing swords from their sashes. “Not good,” Derek said, but suddenly Princess Lashes leapt on the back of the man holding Princess Bronzy, got an arm around his neck, and started shouting at him.
Derek yanked a dart from his apron. It was not an ideal situation, as people were moving in all directions, but as he started running toward the fight he knew Princess Button Nose was running with him. This was, after all, the reason they trained, so that if they were attacked they could fight back.
He bounded forward until he was sure of a clear shot. It would be a difficult shot, as between the fact that he was holding Princess Bronzy in front of him and Princess Lashes was clinging to his neck from behind, there wasn’t a spot Derek could target that was guaranteed not to be blocked abruptly by one of the girls. Still, he went for the upper part of the arm that ran across Princess Bronzy, and sank the dart into it. The large man swooned; Princess Bronzy stomped one of his feet, and the three of them went down in a heap.
It was Princess Lashes who yelled, “Circle”, a defensive formation they had practiced. Princess Elf Ears was running back to the group, and Princess Lashes was shifting the bulky assailant off Princess Bronzy and helping her to her feet. Princess Button Nose rushed to join the others, and in a moment they formed a ring, all facing outward. Derek remained in the crowd, watching, trying to figure out how to help without being in the way. He wished he’d brought Morach’s bow and arrows; with them he could fly through the midst of the attackers bringing them down. He was going to have to fight this with his knife; the chain would be too difficult in the crowded quarters.
The men with swords moved toward the ring, but seemed reluctant to attack. Then several others moved between them, and engaged the girls hand-to-hand. Derek couldn’t help but feel a bit proud with how well they were defending themselves, and noted that the guards were fighting the armed men around the outside--but it was also clear that whoever planned this ambush had a pretty good idea how many of them there were, and had sent at least twice that number against them. It was also clear that all the men on both sides were considerably larger than he was; several of the girls were taller (and he would not say that they were heavier). He was very uncertain as to what he could do; however, he knew he needed help.
Joe, he sent, finding the mind of his friend, I’m with the princesses in the market. We’re being attacked. I don’t know that we can win; I’m sure we’re going to have casualties.
Where are you? Joe answered.
Not sure. Probably not more than five minutes from the palace in a market area. You’ll have to track me by scriff.
Right, he replied. Hang on, help’s coming.
As he watched, the circle started coming apart; the girls were being wedged away from each other. One of the armed attackers had been put down by the guards, but one of the guards now was also down.
He had no idea what he was going to do, but he had to do something. With the knife in his good hand, he charged into the fray and started slashing at the unarmed attackers going for the princesses. He wounded one, who fell back, so he wounded another, and since this one turned to attack him, he struck again, and left the man on the ground. He lunged into another, who dodged the attack and struck him on the shoulder with both hands. He absorbed the blow by rolling that direction, and slashed the man’s chest as he went. However, he was now on the ground.
He heard Princess Button Nose shout, “Derek”, and turned to see as she leapt between one of the armed attackers and him. The stroke that was headed for him caught her, rather solidly, and she went down. Rolling to his feet, he used the lunging attack he had first used long ago on Montressor, plunging the knife into the belly of the attacker, who blanched, fell backwards, and went down hard.
It was all chaos, but he shut it all out and dropped beside Princess Button Nose. She was seriously injured; he did not think she could live more than a couple minutes. The little bit of first aid Joe had taught him was worthless here. He had no psionic abilities that he could use for this. Button Nose was dying in his arms.
She opened her eyes and tried weakly to smile at him, but he knew she wasn’t going to make it. “Don’t talk,” he said. “The doctor is on his way.”
He didn’t know whether Joe could do anything; he didn’t even know if Joe would make it. He had to do something.
There was only one thing he could think to do. He was a sprite; many sprites believed that he had been sent by The King to deliver them, and he had succeeded in doing so. Yet if the King had called on him to do something for Him, then surely he could call on the King.
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: