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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 110: Slade 152
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Previous chapter: Chapter 109: Hastings 167
Slade was waiting for something else to go wrong. It had gone too smoothly, he thought; his luck was good, but not this good. Still, the two groups managed to reconnect in the hallway on the second floor by the tower, fairly certain that Princess Rathi was being held one floor above them.
“So, what’s the plan?” Kondor asked him.
“Good question,” he said. “Any suggestions?”
Derek said, “Let me have a look, see what the situation is, and he closed his eyes. Almost immediately he continued, “A dozen stairs wind around the wall of the tower, and there are two guards in front of a heavy locked door,” he paused, “and passing through the door, there are two guards in the room. The room contains a small bed, a table, a chair, and a window. She’s seated on the bed at the moment. I think if we create too much noise taking out the guards in front, we’re going to have a much tougher time taking out the guards inside.
“I’ve never read her mind, so I can’t contact her.”
“Is the door locked?” Slade asked.
“Oh! Hadn’t thought of that. Let me look. It does have a lock; it’s pretty dark inside it, but I’d say--yes, the bolt is thrown.”
“That means I’m going to have to pick it when we get there; the outside guards probably don’t have a key, only the inside guards.”
“Well, give me a moment here,” and Derek wrinkled his forehead like he was concentrating. “I’ve done this before--yes, there it is, the door is now unlocked.”
“I am going to have to learn how to do that,” Slade said. “All right, that leaves the guards. If we’re not going to kill them, you’re going to have to take them out. Which form, do you think?”
“I’ve had a lot of luck as Morach,” he said. “Button Nose will bring my gear?” He looked at her, and she smiled and nodded. “I’ll be able to take out the guards, but opening the door is a challenge, requiring both hands, which makes me vulnerable once it’s open, so you’ll have to catch up with me.”
“How do we do that?” Zeke asked.
Joe answered, “We stay just far enough back that we can see him; he sticks to the outside wall of the stairs as he flies up. When he reaches the floor, he drops down and cuts toward the guards, and we’ll know he’s succeeded when the second body hits the floor.”
“O.K., that’s the plan,” Slade agreed. “Derek?”
Slade still marveled at seeing Derek transform into his smaller forms, but in a couple minutes the boy was ready, armed with his bow and arrows, and headed for the stairway. “Here’s hoping this works,” his tiny voice said.
“Usually it’s ladies first,” Slade said, “but this time I’d say girls in the back. Joe, Zeke, with me, and ready to fight in case this thing goes wrong.”
They crept up the stairs, keeping Derek in view. The boy was moving slowly, and Slade wasn’t sure why but thought that was better because they would be hard pressed to move both quickly and quietly in a group this size.
Derek dropped and cut over, and Slade held up a hand and paused. Listening, he heard what he guessed was an Arabic expletive, then one body dropped, and then another. He took the stairs three at a time to reach the landing, then grabbed the doorknob. The door was indeed unlocked. “Do your stuff, kid, we’re right behind you,” he said, and opened the door for Derek to fly through.
He waited a couple beats, but when he heard the first body fall he figured the second was on its way, and led the team into the room. They were a bit crowded.
Rathi seemed quite surprised. “What are you doing here?” she asked, jumping to her feet.
“We’re the cavalry,” Slade said. Since that got a puzzled look, he said, “We’re here to rescue you.”
“I think trouble’s coming,” Joe said. He apparently had turned on that listening gear of his. “What’s the exit plan?”
Slade glanced around the room. “All right, Shella, it’s time to take us home.”
She put her back to the door and faced the center of the room, signaling for people to move out to the sides. Then she performed her ritual--but nothing happened. There was no mist.
“Is there a problem?” Slade asked.
Shella tried again.
“I’m afraid so, my lord. I think the castle must be shielded against teleporting.”
“Shielded against teleporting? Why would they even bother to do that?”
“Well, it might be incidental. If they shielded it against visits from elementals, that would mean blocking gates to supernatural realms--”
“And since the between is a step outside the natural world, it would be, I got it. O.K., alternatives?”
Zeke had already braced himself against the door; there was a bang as someone hit it from the other side. “Think quickly,” he said. “I don’t know whether the door will give out first, or me.”
There was a moment in which no one said anything, and then Derek spoke; he had at some point transformed back to being Derek. “It looks like it’s up to me again. Bob, get everyone else out of here, and bring Button Nose back to me safely. Princess, you’re going for a ride.” With that, he transformed into the gargoyle form while walking toward the window. “Come on.”
“I never got to go for a ride,” Button Nose complained.
“Well, I’m sure you will, but this is an emergency.” He set the Princess in the window, grabbed her around the waist, and pushed them both out into the air. Slade heard her scream, but didn’t have time to watch. He was going to have to trust that Derek knew what he was doing, and could get the girl to safety. This time it was his turn to face the army.
“Get ready,” he said, turning his back to the window, drawing his sword, and facing the door.
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 #313: Verser Solutions. 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: