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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 7: Beam 43
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 6: Brown 179
They passed through village-like settlements comprised mostly of herdsmen and constructed of temporary housing--tents easily deconstructed and moved. The livestock was sheep and goats primarily, but also the occasional herd of pigs. Gradually the wild gave way to what Beam would have labeled subsistence farming, small plots of crops watered by streams coming down from nearing mountains. The paths ultimately gave way to something resembling a road, which was leading to a small walled town. The horseback riding was uncomfortable, but on balance he would not have preferred walking despite the fact that Dawn’s jog was well able to keep pace with the horses’ canter.
When they eventually reached the gate of the town, it stood open and there was a group of Arabs, or something like that, dressed in bright colors and wearing gaudy jewelry. He guessed they must be the nobles of the town, and as their escort slowed he was glad his horse had the sense to do the same. Someone dismounted and took hold of his horse’s head, which he took as indicating that he should dismount as well. This he did rather painfully and awkwardly, stumbling a bit as he got his feet supporting his weight again, and groaning quietly but audibly.
The man who had been leading the group was addressing one of the gaudier appareled of the welcoming party in some gibberish language, but since he abruptly said something that sounded very like “James Donald Beam”, he guessed he was being introduced and stepped forward. “Call me Beam. Sorry, I speak only English. What do I call you?”
“Only English?” replied the man who was apparently most important.
“Well, I took a year of French in high school, long forgotten, and I learned a few phrases in Spanish when I lived in Mexico for a while, but as far as conversation is concerned, English.”
“You should address the Amir as ‘Your Excellency’,” one of the guards said.
“Your excellency?” Beam repeated, somewhat disdainfully.
There was a pause, and then the Amir replied, “Nonsense. I am Amir Laban Fassad of the Eastern Mountain Amirate. You must call me Laban. After all, a friend of the great Efriiti Dicalus is an honored nobleman in our lands.”
“Pleased to meet you, Laban. This is my right-hand man Bron, my personal guard Dawn, my specialist Bob, and my wife Sophia. So, where do we rest, and when do we eat?”
“Ah, a man who gets to the important details first. That is good. Tabor, see that our friend Beam and his companions are settled in comfortable rooms, and alert the kitchen that five will be dining with us tonight.”
“Only three,” Beam said. “Dawn and Bob are on special diets, and don’t eat with the rest of us.”
“Oh? Very good, then, three extra places for dinner.”
The servant, probably an officer of some sort Beam thought, led them through the streets of what appeared a somewhat squalid medieval village, roads of mostly dirt, the frequent smell of raw sewage, filthy beggars who were discouraged only by the drawn sword of their guide. Soon they reached a large solid building Beam took for the home of the Amir, and were ushered inside.
“So, Tobor,” Beam asked, “is there anything special we should know about customs and expectations here?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, for example, are we expected to dress for dinner?”
The puzzled look on the man’s face demonstrated that he did not grasp the question even before he managed to stammer out the response, “D-do you mean that, that you would come to dinner--naked?”
Beam smiled. “I take that to be a no, then.” He relished the horrified look on the man’s face, but decided that his world view would be too parochial to recognize cultural expectations that might be different elsewhere, so he dropped the subject. “We’ll figure it out.”
They reached the guest wing of the manor, which was on the ground floor, and each of them was given his own room. Beam did not bother to suggest that this was not necessary; Sophia’s room was across the hall from his, and he thought there were some benefits to that, although he did not imagine for a moment that she would stay over there. He would have to tease her about it later. For now she followed him into his room as he began unloading and unpacking a bit.
“There will be two servants in the hall who understand English, if you need anything,” Tabor concluded. “Someone will call you for dinner in about an hour.”
“Thank you, my good man,” Beam said dismissively, and Tabor left.
“So,” Sophia asked, “do you trust him?”
“Tobor? He’s just doing his job.”
“Tabor, I think, is his name.”
“Tabor, Tobor, something like that.”
“But I didn’t mean him. Do you trust the Amir?”
“Ah, now that depends what you mean. He’s not going to kill us in our sleep, at least, not yet. He wants something from us. We, meanwhile, want something from him. I trust him to act in his own best interests; we just have to persuade him that those best interests include meeting our needs.”
Sophia nodded thoughtfully.
“Meanwhile,” Beam continued, “we don’t drop our guard. We don’t yet know the palace intrigues, and it’s possible that our presence here is a threat to someone else’s interests. If they’re good, the Amir isn’t aware of it, so we have to catch them with proof of their intent. But probably no one knows what to make of us yet, so at least for the present I think we’ve landed in a safe place. You?”
She appeared to be thinking.
“You’re probably right,” she said. “We should get Bob to tell us what he has already learned.”
“We should, but I’m tired and sore and dirty from the ride and the walk, and it appears that I have some wash water and towels over there, so I’m going to make use of them and then stretch out on the bed. I’ll wager your room is similarly equipped, and you might want to do the same, although if you want to stretch out on my bed it appears large enough to accommodate both of us.”
She nodded and slowly turned and left the room.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #319: Quiet Worlds. 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: