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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 131: Slade 154
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Slade was surprised to be summoned by the Caliph after dark. Things had been peaceful, even celebratory, and he couldn’t imagine what couldn’t wait until morning. However, being advisor to the Caliph required that sometimes he had to advise, so he quickly organized himself and went to give his advice. His first thought is he should advise the man not to disturb loyal and valuable subjects after hours, but reflecting that this was the first time he had ever done it, he decided not to mention that and instead assume it was important.
He was told that the meeting would be in the watchtower. He’d never actually been there, but Shella had scried the place and told him where it was and how to get there. It involved climbing a long spiral stairway, but since their quarters were upstairs already it was not quite so many steps as it might have been. He made the trek, and found the Caliph and a few other advisors already waiting.
“What seems to be the trouble?” he ventured.
“Ah, Lord Slade,” the Caliph said, “our viziers have spotted something flying toward us at high speed from the desert, and they cannot place it--it is unlike anything they have seen, in appearance something like a man pulling a chariot through the night sky.”
“A man pulling a chariot? That does sound peculiar. Can they show me?”
One of the men pointed to one of the mirrors, and it became foggy then clear, and he saw a somewhat distant view of the object in question. It had a familiar look to it. “Wait a minute,” he said more to himself than anyone else, and he closed his eyes and relaxed. There were the scriff traces from his wife, the other versers downstairs in their quarters, and now also another, out toward the desert.
“I think I know exactly what--or in this case who--that is. If your Potency will excuse me, I think my people will want to prepare to welcome an honored guest, a woman near and dear to us whom we’ve undoubtedly mentioned to you in our stories. Lauren is arriving.”
Taking leave from the Caliph, he raced down the stairs and back to the room. “Hey everyone,” he called, “Lauren’s on the way. I’m going to meet her at the gate. Who’s coming with me?”
There was a general clamor as everyone threw on decent clothing. Even Zeke was eager to meet the woman about whom he’d heard so much already. Slade heard Derek explaining to Vashti, “Remember how I said that these other versers are about as near family as I’ve got? Well, Lauren is closest of all; she’s something like our mother.”
Thus when Lauren reached the gate it was standing open, and Slade walked out and embraced her. “Welcome,” he said, “to the Twin Rivers Caliphate. I’ll introduce you to the Caliph tomorrow. They’re preparing a room for you. A lot has happened.”
“Yes,” Joe said, “you’ve missed a lot. I picked up a companion, Ezekiel Smith, Lauren Hastings.”
“Pleased to meet you, Ma’am; I’ve heard quite a bit about you.”
“Well, then, you have the advantage,” she replied.
“We destroyed a group of bandits in the wilderness,” Joe continued, “and rescued the Caliph’s daughter when she was kidnapped in the market. There’s been a state funeral, an investiture, and Derek got married just a couple days ago.”
“Married? Congratulations, Derek!”
“Yeah,” he said sheepishly. “Lauren, this is Amira Vashti, my wife; Vash, this is Lauren Elizabeth Meyers Hastings, no titles but then with her resume she doesn’t need them.”
“No titles? Derek, you’re forgetting.”
“Oh, I guess so. She’s also known as Laurelyn of Wandborough, Mystic of the Western Woods, and as Laurelyn Spellsbreath.”
“So,” Joe continued, “it appears you’ve missed everything.”
“Oh, I somehow doubt that,” Lauren answered.
“Yeah,” Slade said, “I’m with Lauren on this. If she’s here, it’s because she’s needed for something, and if we’re all here already, well--”
Lauren completed the thought: “It’s going to be something big.”
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 #316: A Gather World. 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: