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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 93: Beam 25
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Previous chapter: Chapter 92: Slade 150
Beam was not the first to awaken. He opened his eyes to see Dawn standing guard. Bob was also there, still asleep, and they were joined by two new people. One was familiar--Bron had come with them. Wherever they were, he expected Bron’s skills would be useful, both as blacksmith and as magician.
The other was the girl in the wedding dress. She was the one who had removed the dragon control ring from his finger and replaced it with the wedding band which, he noticed, was still there. This was trouble. Maybe he should just kill her before she woke up.
No, he thought. I need to find out who she is, and figure out why she’s here. I’ve got some serious gaps in my memory. They say alcohol will do that to you, but I didn’t really expect it to be as serious as that. She can’t possibly be so dangerous that Dawn can’t handle her.
Bob woke next. “Wheah” he began, but then apparently thought better of it and shifted to the telepathic communication he was using when they first met. Where we are?
“Don’t know yet, Bob,” Beam said. “I haven’t even looked around myself, beyond noticing that we seem to have a couple of new traveling companions.”
Yes. Bron blacksmith, Sophia witch.
A witch, he says, or thinks, or whatever it is he does when he projects his thoughts like that. That might explain some things, although as yet he wasn’t sure what. Meanwhile, Bron was awakening. The blacksmith looked around and said, “I guess it’s true.”
“What’s true?” Beam asked.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. You told me all about going from world to world, and I believed you, even envied you. But it’s one thing to hear you talk about it and another to see it.”
Yeah, tell me about it, Beam thought.
“So, Dawn,” he said, “what’s our situation.”
“We are inside a structure capable of withstanding severe bombardment, partially underground, reinforced concrete walls, internal power supply and utilities. I find no significant life forms larger than vermin in the immediate vicinity, but there is the sound of operational machinery within the complex somewhere.”
“So, bomb shelter? No, a bomb shelter would probably be completely underground. This would be a bunker, with an above ground section for observing and probably shooting at the enemy. Electric lights, we’ve got some technology. So, Bron, you now know about as much as I do. Wait, I think the bride is stirring.”
At that moment, the girl in white opened her eyes. From her position she was looking in the direction of Bron, but after a moment she started moving her gaze, first to Dawn standing guard over them, then to Bob floating a few feet above the ground where her gaze lingered a moment, then to James. She fixed him with a very dangerous stare, and cut loose with the kind of temper James had come to expect from redheads.
“And exactly what did you mean, ‘not again’? You told me you weren’t married.”
Thinking fast, James started looking for how to respond. “I’m not married. I was married, but she divorced me.”
“Divorced? She divorced you? How did she manage that--were her parents really rich and well-connected?”
“No, she just went to a lawyer, filed some papers, and next thing I knew I was divorced. Not that I’m objecting, although I never get to see my sons.”
“Yes, but just because you’re divorced, don’t you need special dispensation to remarry?”
“Not that I know. Anyway, there was a thing in the vows, something about until death do us part or something, and I think that happened.”
“What, she divorced you and then she died?”
“Actually, I think I died. It’s the best guess I have for what’s happened to me, as I keep surviving when I should be dead, so it must be that I’ve died and come back. My turn. Who are you?” He took out a cigarette and started to light it.
“Sir,” Dawn interrupted. “It is not advised to smoke in a potential combat zone; non-smoking enemy combatants can detect the smell.”
He nodded, and extinguished the flame, returning the cigarette to the pack and his attention to the redhead. “Try again. Who are you?”
She smiled a rather superior smile. “Missus James Donald Beam. I’m your wife.”
“I’m not sure whether that’s true. As I understand it, we’re not married until the marriage is consummated.”
She laughed loudly at this. “Consummated? Honey, you’ve been consummating since the day we met.”
He had to admit to himself that that sounded very like him. He was a bit sorry that he didn’t remember it, but then he thought there probably were a lot of girls he didn’t remember, having gotten himself more drunk than he got them before taking them somewhere private.
“O.K., so never mind that I think we all must have died when the dragon attacked, for now let’s assume you’re my wife. I don’t think I can call you ‘wife’. Bob says your name is Sophia and you’re a witch. I take it that he’s not using that word in a derogatory sense, although I suppose he might be.”
“No, I’m quite adept at the magic arts.”
“She’s actually pretty good,” Bron offered. “Much better than me.”
“So, does your magic tell you anything about where we are now?”
“Do you mean you swept us out of danger but don’t know where you took us?”
Beam laughed. “Yeah, I wish I’d done it. Of course you don’t get it; I’m still not sure whether I get it. It seems, though, that when I get killed I wind up waking up in another world, and it also seems that people attached to me in some way go with me. So welcome to wherever it is we are, and tell me what you know about it.”
She huffed, but apparently was convinced to try, waved her hands and said something, then hesitated, seemingly uncertain, and did it again. “Why isn’t it working?” she said more to herself, then repeated more loudly at him, “Why isn’t it working? What have you done to me?”
“I’ve no clue why it isn’t working. Bron?”
The blacksmith picked himself up, brushed himself off, and then pulled out a hammer from somewhere in his pack and ran a string of words Beam had heard him say before, then hit a rock. “My guess,” he said, “is that wherever we are, there isn’t much magic here.”
“I see. So why is it that Bob is able to float in the air and do his mind speaking thing?”
Bron shrugged. “My guess? It’s not magic, and whatever it is didn’t work well in my world but works well in this one.”
Beam nodded. “So,” he said, changing the subject, “why can’t I remember anything from the moment I put on the ring until she took it off?”
Bron visibly hesitated. “Well,” he stalled, “remember--remember that I told you I’d never made a magic ring before, and didn’t know whether it would work?”
“Right, right, so what happened?”
“Well, apparently it worked--sort of. You had complete control of the dragon, got it to do whatever you wanted, took over the kingdom pretty much, but you also seemed to lose yourself--you became a rather different person.”
“You didn’t drink, for one thing. And you didn’t smoke.”
“Sounds like I was the perfect good boy my wife always wanted me to be--the first wife,” he said, turning briefly to the redhead.
“Oh, you still had Dawn kill people who were a problem; and you had the dragon kill quite a few people, too.”
“All right, I’ll get the full story later. Right now--”
The redhead interrupted him. “You mean, you were using that stupid ring to control the dragon? You’re not a powerful wizard who enslaved that demon thing and the dragon?”
Beam smiled wickedly. “Sorry, sweetheart. Bron’s the magician. Bob’s not a demon but some kind of alien mentalist who joined me a couple worlds ago when we saved each other. Dawn is the incredible fighter. I’m just the party leader.”
“And a worthless nobody.”
“Oh, I don’t know that I’d say that if I were you. After all, you married me.”
“Yes, and I’m regretting it already.”
“So, what, do you want a divorce? Oh, I forgot--you don’t believe in divorce. Well, I guess for the moment you’re stuck with me. And without your magic, too.”
Despite the fact that he had been unhappy about discovering he was getting married, there was something very pleasing in the thought that she was stuck with him. He smiled again, showing his tobacco-stained teeth.
“Where was I? Oh, yeah. Bob, do your thing. Figure out where we are and what’s near us.”
Bob rose slightly higher, apparently quite pleased to have his powers back and enjoying their use, but that was fine as long as he was exploring the world around them. He did all right in the last world, all things considered. He’d do better in this one.
No big minds, he said.
Beam considered that to be not much information, but decided it was still useful. “So if I’m right that this is a bunker, somewhere there’s going to be weapons and ammo and other gear, not to mention food and beverage. It’s time to search, room by room. We’re looking for portable weapons, particularly guns--Dawn, show The Witch what guns look like.” Dawn waved both pistols in the air. “They take a lot of other shapes and sizes, but at least if you see something like that, you know to grab it. Oh, and bullets,” he pulled one out of a pocket, “look like this. Let’s go.”
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 #306: Versers Refocused. 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: