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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 104: Brown 176
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Previous chapter: Chapter 103: Hastings 165
As Derek approached the front door of the Amir’s manor, he was ready for something to go wrong. He had his knife tucked into the chain around his waist, his apron with a dozen darts, and Morach’s bow with a quiver of twenty arrows. The hope was that they would be able to reach the Princess without trouble, but there were too many things that could go wrong, and the odds were better than even that more than one of them would. It also occurred to him that they had worked through dinnertime, and not eaten since breakfast. A tray had been brought to the girls in their room, so at least they had been fed, but his stomach was starting to complain.
A lot depended on Scheherazade. After all, she might be able to betray them with a word, even with a seemingly harmless ordinary word that told the guards there was trouble. She had to get them inside. He heard Bob and Shella each mumble something incomprehensible, and remembered that they were going to use magic to avoid being noticed at the entrance. The sun would be setting soon; he hoped they would be out before that.
“Good evening,” Sch’hery said in Arabic to the doorman. “I’m sure you’ve heard of the trouble in the market this morning. I asked the Caliph if I might come see my family, let them know I’m all right, and he said I could, but only if the entourage stays together. So here we are.”
The doorman, more soldier than servant, bowed and opened the door for them. The group poured in but were met by the Amir in the hallway. He addressed them in English. “Good evening,” he said. “It is good to see you, daughter, and to see that you are well. Because of the terrible news about this morning, I think it wise that I assign two of my own guards to you while you are here. I will make your people comfortable while they wait.”
Yes, there was the first Murphy: Joe and Zeke, the Master at Arms, and the regular guard would all be held here at the door. He might have to get them out, but for the moment better that he stick with the girls. He was, in a sense, their protector from within the group. He was also the only person who could take out a guard and leave him alive, which he was probably going to have to do.
“It’s all right,” Slade said; the guards did not seem to notice him. “We’ll let you know as the plan evolves.”
“How is mother?” Sch’hery asked.
“She is resting right now; you should see her later.”
“Yes. We will go to my room now.”
Her father nodded, and she led the way down the hall. The four guards, including Joe and Zeke, were left behind, and Derek could hear the Amir inviting them to follow him to a comfortable room in which to wait. He knew the scriff sense would lead him to them easily; he also knew that this was a hiccough they would have to overcome.
He noticed that inside the manor the guards wore a loose-fitting uniform with bare arms and calves, probably both for temperature and for freedom of movement. This was good, he thought. As they reached Sch’hery’s room, she invited them in, but left the guards on the door.
Settling inside, Bob asked, “So, what do we do about the guard problem?”
“Already have an answer,” Derek said. “I’ll need someone to open the door and distract them for a moment--maybe ask them a question--and then Morach can slip out and drug them. From there, I’ll need to fly back to get Joe and the others, but I’ll need someone to come with me to open the door.”
“Right. The question is, do the rest of us wait here, or go with you, or head for the Princess?”
Derek thought for a moment. “Well, if Shella comes with me and you take the others to rescue the princess,” he said, “I can find you; but I’ll need you to bring my other weapons, and you won’t have me to disable the guards on that door. So I guess it’s better for you to come with me, and once we’ve freed the others, I can contact Shella and let her know we’re moving, and she can bring the girls to meet us.”
Slade nodded. “Sch’hery,” he said, “in a moment you’re going to open the door and ask the guards whether it might be possible to get a bit of food. Tell them some of us missed dinner, and open the door enough that Derek can slip through at your feet.”
She looked at him. “Slip through at my feet? He’s short, but--”
Before she finished the thought, Derek was shrinking into Ferris. He pulled the bow and quiver from the pocket, and shifted again into Morach, and said, “I’m ready.” Sch’hery stared at him for a moment. He knew she had heard he could do this, but none of the girls had ever seen it. “We’d better do this; the longer we delay, the more difficult it becomes.”
Sch’hery nodded, and walked over to the door, Morach following her in short wing-assisted hops. She opened the door.
“Hi. We were wondering whether it might be possible,” and at that moment one of the guards looked down at his leg where a toothpick-sized arrow had just broken the skin. The other also looked down, and both saw Morach, but not soon enough to prevent the second arrow from finding the calf of the second guard. The second guard started to draw his sword, but was not quick enough, his companion already collapsing as he started to swoon.
“I should get some of that,” Bob said, and stared at them for a moment. “All right,” he said, “I’m afraid you ladies are going to have to drag these heavy bodies into the bedroom so they’re hidden, and Derek and I are going to have to go on our next mission. We’ll be back.”
“Vash,” Derek said, “gather my things for me so I can put them back on quickly.”
Bob and Derek then rushed down the hall in the direction they came, following the scriff sense that would lead them to Joe and Zeke.
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: