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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 98: Kondor 151
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Previous chapter: Chapter 97: Hastings 163
Kondor wondered what Slade was planning, or even if he was planning something. He had gathered them together--the five versers plus Derek’s fiancé Button Nose (so she was still called in the presence of others, to keep the identities of the entourage secret, and although he had heard all their names he had not quite yet connected any but the Princess Rathi). He had said no more than, “Now we question the entourage”--which Joe thought foolish since they had already been questioned and there didn’t seem to be much more to learn from them. However, they went to the quarters of the girls and were admitted freely. “O.K., girls,” Slade began, “we need to talk. Come on, gather ’round.” He waited as they did so.
“I’ve discussed this with the Caliph, and he’s agreed that you girls should be permitted to help on the rescue mission.”
“Rescue mission?” one of them said.
“Yes, we know who has Rathi, and we’re going to get her back, and you girls are going to help us do that--especially you, Sch’hery,” he said, pointing at her.
“Me?” she replied, trying to hide her nervousness under a laugh. “Why me?”
“Because you are the conspiracy’s insider. We know that you led the gang into that trap, and that your father is holding Rathi. We even have a pretty solid notion why, and a guess where.”
“I don’t know,” she said, clearly pushing down panic, “know what you’re, what you’re talking about.”
“Bilhah didn’t tell you about that scarf; you told Bilhah to say she did if asked, but you didn’t count on the fact that since we can read minds we can tell when people are lying to us. I’ve got three people here who can read your mind. I’ve got you dead to rights on having led the other girls into that alley where you knew the ambush was waiting. I can tell this to the Caliph, and he will inform your father that he has the choice between having you executed or having you tortured and executed, or I can tell the Caliph that your father coerced you into leading the princess there, you were unaware of the plan, and you risked your life to help us recover her. It’s your choice. Now, I figure he probably rushed her to his manor here in the city, because it was close and it would be difficult to get her out of the city and up river the day’s journey to his palace, but he might have decided to take that risk because once she’s there it would be that much harder to rescue her. So, which is it? Are we visiting the manor, or assaulting the palace?”
Scheherazade stared at him open-mouthed. Kondor realized that he was one of the three mind readers in the group, and nothing had been said to him to have him using that ability. Before he could decide to do so, though, Derek spoke.
“Got it,” he said. “She’s in town.”
“Good,” Slade said, not looking away from Scheherazade’s shocked face. “Now the question is whether you help us rescue her or remain a prisoner awaiting execution here while the rest of us go.”
“I,” she began, and paused, perhaps considering the problems that would arise when she betrayed her father, “I’ll help,” and she dropped her head. “I’m sorry. No one was supposed to be hurt.” This last seemed to be addressed to the girls.
“Yeah, well, they always say that, but then, you were trying to kidnap a member of the royal family surrounded by armed guards and trained protectors. Someone was going to get hurt. Come on, people, we have some planning to do; girls, please keep Sch’hery here, but try not to injure her too badly.”
Slade led them back to their quarters, and invited them into his room where he and Shella sat on the bed and indicated cushions for the others to sit.
“So,” Kondor asked, “have you given any thought to how we’re going to get Rathi out of the manor?”
“Quite a bit, actually,” Slade said. “Shella has confirmed that the place is simply covered in anti-scrying spells, which I suppose is not surprising; I’d bet we couldn’t scry into the palace from outside, although we can do it from inside. I haven’t had the chance to have Derek look--his scrying is psionic, and we don’t know whether the spells which block magical scrying also work against psionic.”
“Why wouldn’t they?” Kondor asked.
“For the same reason that they probably wouldn’t work against your surveillance gear: they’re designed to block magic, but wouldn’t block infrared viewing or audio reception. Psionics are different from magic, and although a spell might block both, it would either have to be designed intentionally do to that, or it would be an accident of design. In any case, I’m going to have him try to get something of a floorplan of the manor, and see if he can locate Rathi.
“Meanwhile, we’ll have Vashti here try to get a floorplan from Sch’hery, including where she thinks Rathi is. The duplication is worthwhile, because Derek might be blocked, Sch’hery might still lie, and if they match we’ve got solid confirmation.”
“So, how do we get in?” Zeke asked.
“I’m thinking through the front door?” Slade looked around. “This hinges on Sch’hery’s cooperation, to a significant degree, but also on the fact that we’re holding Bilhah so she can’t send a message. Sch’hery shows up at the manor accompanied by the other girls, and says that the Caliph gave her permission to visit her family as long as she’s accompanied by the entourage. Everyone knows that the entourage is always accompanied by four guards. We know that one of those guards is dead and two are severely injured; Joe and Zeke will don appropriate clothing over their gear to replace two of the guards. Derek has been seen with the entourage so regularly that by now probably no one will think twice about him coming with them arm-in-arm with Vash. Shella and I have gotten pretty good at insignificancy, so we’ll just tag along unnoticed.
“Once we’re inside, well, that depends on what we’ve learned. The objective is to get Rathi out of the building and back to the palace unharmed. She’s probably in guarded quarters in one of the towers, but until we know that we’re not going to be able to work out the inside details.
Apparently no one could think of anything.
“All right. Derek, see what you can do about a map of the manor. Everyone else, get ready.”
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 #310: Versers Mobilize. 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: