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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 95: Brown 175
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 94: Hastings 162
Derek returned to his room, and dawdled a bit. He knew why he was dawdling, sort of. He wanted Bob to arrange the house arrest before he talked to Bilhah, so that she couldn’t slip away and alert the kidnappers to the plan. He also wanted Shella to have time to talk with Vashti before he saw her again, to explain what was really involved in marrying him and so becoming a verser like him.
He excused his delay by trying to think through what he was going to say to Bilhah--and what he wanted to have with him when he did. He donned the dart apron; if she ran, he would probably want to dart her. He also tucked Morach’s bow and arrows in his pocket, because if things got very difficult he could probably fight better as the sprite, or at least be able to stop people without killing anyone.
He sat and thought for a moment. Getting married was a big step, one he had not taken once before. He could see himself spending centuries with Vashti; that wasn’t the problem. It was really more that he would be condemning her to spend those centuries with him, to leave her home and travel the universes, going to worlds she could not at this point even imagine, sometimes fighting for their lives, sometimes fighting for other people’s lives.
He could live with her being the one who was fighting alongside him. He only hoped that she could live with that, too. And hey, in his last world his biggest problem was that he was always lonely. Somehow he thought, or at least hoped and believed, he would not be so lonely if she were with him.
It was really up to her, though.
Finally he picked himself up and headed toward the quarters of the entourage.
The girls shared a large room, not unlike the guest house in which he had stayed upon arrival, with individual beds spread around the area, curtained with lace and silk for something resembling privacy. He had never been there; that line had been drawn, and men were not permitted in that room but for the guards who stayed at the door and only entered if there was trouble. Today, though, Bob would have arranged for them to have full access to the girls. Derek would go there to pick up Vash, and Vash would help him find Bilhah so they could question her.
On his arrival, the guards were reluctant to let him enter, so he called. “Button Nose, I’m here.” He half expected the girls to come to the door all together and giggling; by now they knew he had proposed and she had accepted, but then, it had been a few days so they were settling down, and the kidnapping had made everyone somber. As Vashti emerged from the room, she was clearly in a somber mood.
“Hi,” Derek said.
“Hi,” she answered, and smiled somewhat sadly.
“Where do we find Bilhah?” he asked. She nodded, so he continued, “What’s wrong?”
She started walking, and he kept pace with her. “No children,” she said.
“Shella says that there’s no known case of a verser--that’s what she said you call yourselves?”
“Yes, versers is a common word.”
“There’s no known case of a verser having a child. We could get married, but we couldn’t really have a family.”
Derek stopped walking. “I didn’t know that,” he said.
“No?” she said, stopping a few steps ahead of him.
He resumed slowly and she joined him. “Well, when Lauren taught me about the verse, I was all of twelve years old and not expected to get older. She probably didn’t think it was ever going to matter. Then when I unexpectedly did get older, she probably didn’t realize she hadn’t taught me about that. Does it matter?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, I always thought I would marry and have children. I know some people don’t have children, but, well, you expect to be like your parents, and of course my parents had children.” She smiled at this, recognizing the joke.
“Look,” he said more seriously, “I didn’t have a choice about becoming a verser. It happened to me entirely by accident. The same is true of Bob and Joe and Lauren, and I gather Zeke. Shella chose to marry Bob, and so become a verser. I don’t think she knew what she was choosing, other than that she was choosing to go with him, to be with him forever. I wanted you to understand that, to know what you were choosing. It’s probably not often going to be a life where we have our own house and live like regular people. Sometimes we’re going to be trying to survive in the jungle, or in strange worlds with unknown dangers. Sometimes we’re going to die, but we always come back to life somewhere else. Sometimes that’s painful. I have to do it, because I’m a verser. I get lonely, even when there are other people around, because I’m different from everyone else. I would like to do it with you, but I don’t want to drag you into something you’re going to hate, because I wouldn’t want you to hate me for it.”
“This is it,” she said.
“The maid’s quarters. This is where Bilhah should be.”
“Oh, right. O.K., we need to get her to tell us whether she told Sch’hery where to find the scarf, without her realizing that it matters. Your Arabic is much better than mine, so you question her; I’ll try to read her mind, to see if I can tell whether she’s lying.”
She approached the guard, and shifting to Arabic said that she needed to see Bilhah, maid of Scheherazade. The guard nodded, and let them through.
“Billy,” Vash called, and several of the maids looked their direction; it took Derek a moment to decide which one was Bilhah, as Vash gestured for one to come, and one of them did. He focused on her, and was soon tapped into her mind.
“That scarf you saw,” Vash asked, “did the dealer have anything in green?”
What scarf? Bilhah wondered, but stared blankly. As Derek had hoped, when she was addressed in Arabic, she thought in Arabic.
“You know, yesterday morning when you told Sch’hery that you saw a scarf in the market that looked like the one Keturah lost? I was hoping to find a green scarf, and thought maybe you’d noticed one there.”
“Oh,” Bilhah responded, and she was grasping for how to answer. “No, Amira, I only saw the one. I mean, he had other scarves, but I was not looking at them.”
“Thank you,” Derek said in Arabic, and with a nod to Vashti he turned to leave.
“Thank you, Billie,” Vash said. “You have been most helpful.”
As they reached the hall, Derek said, “Well, I’m pretty sure she was lying. Your question surprised her; it wasn’t the question she had been told to expect. She didn’t connect it to the scarf, which suggests to me that she never told anyone about seeing a scarf, but was told to say she did if asked.”
“What was that she called you?”
“Something like Amira?”
“Oh, that! It’s my title. My father is an Amir, not as high in rank as Sch’hery’s father, but all of us are what you would probably call princesses, or maybe countesses or something. Princess Rathi is really Calipha, but in English it would be princess or maybe duchess.”
Derek shrugged. He should have realized that the girls surrounding the Princess would all be titled. They walked in silence for a few minutes, heading back toward Derek’s quarters.
“Yes,” she said.
“Yes, I will marry you. I would rather spend eternity with you even without children. But don’t tell my father. He wants grandchildren.”
Derek could not stop himself from smiling. Thank you, Lord, he thought.
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: