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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 15: Beam 45
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 14: Slade 157
“Well,” Beam began, “you’re the one who said he liked the fact that I get directly to the important things.” He was recalling their initial meeting, and hoped that the Amir would also. “So, Laban, it’s obvious to me that you want something from me, or at least hope to get something from me, and it would be a lot easier for me if I knew what it was.”
The Amir nodded. Beam had been hoping for something more substantial in response, but clenched his jaw to avoid releasing his impatience through words that might not be wise in the presence of a monarch who could order beheadings without appeal. After a moment he managed to choke back most of what he would have said, and reduced it to, “Well?”
“Ah,” the Amir responded. “I see. It was a question.”
Of course it was a question, you stupid--well, it would not do to say that. He simply nodded.
“It is not exactly that I want something from you,” the Amir continued. “It is rather that I have a problem and I am hoping that you might have an answer.”
Beam nodded. This could be simple, but somehow he didn’t think so. “O.K., let’s hear it.”
Laban shifted his position slightly, and a thoughtful look crossed his face, as if he were trying to think of where to begin. Then he apparently found a place, almost started, changed his mind, thought a bit more, and then started again.
“I am an ambitious man, James,” he said.
“Nothing wrong with that. What’s your ambition?”
“To the west is the Caliphate of the Twin Rivers. The Caliph is technically my better, but he has no sons, and whomever his daughter marries will probably become his successor.”
“And you’d like that to be you.”
“Well, yes, but His Potency does not like me.”
What’s not to like? Beam thought sarcastically, but only nodded.
“I have for several years now been supplying bandits in the wilderness between our territories, so that they could harass his borders and weaken his defenses.”
“You were hoping to build up to an invasion?”
“I could have gone that direction, but that was more the backup plan. Several Amirates have sworn fealty to the Caliph, and a direct attack on the Twin Rivers would be met with overwhelming force. I had rather hoped that the Caliph would see the wisdom of forming an alliance with me so we could quash the bandits together. In forming that alliance, I would marry his daughter and become heir apparent to the throne.”
“Sounds like a plan. What’s the problem?”
“Thus far it has not worked. I keep increasing the pressure. Dicalus graciously gifted me a Sparkler, a small fire elemental, to use against their herds and fields, but it seems the Caliph has acquired foreign mercenaries with unexpected abilities who have crushed my most recent bandit horde and somehow eliminated my Sparkler. Complicating it, there are rumors that the Princess has since been betrothed to her young cousin--a marriage could not occur for perhaps a decade, though, so there is still time for me to make the plan work, if I increase the pressure.”
“And you’re hoping that perhaps my team can be the core of the new bandits that actually push the pressure over the top and bring the alliance?”
Laban nodded. Beam thought.
“Someone has said that the definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I don’t know how true that might be, but I think it might be so in your case. You need a different plan.”
“And you have one?”
“Not yet, but I just heard the problem so give me a moment.” He smiled; Laban laughed.
“Of course. I should not expect you to solve a problem in a moment that I have been unable to solve for years.”
“I’m guessing that these other Amirs hold land surrounding the Caliph’s.”
“Yes. How does that matter?”
“Well, he has several metaphoric pillars of support, and if we can knock out one or two we weaken him. Your original plan has the flaw that they’ve already decided who the girl is going to marry, so you would need an overwhelming victory in which you killed the groom and probably the Caliph and married the girl--and you’re not going to get that unless you can quash morale and reduce his strength. So I think we need to look at a map of where these territories are, figure out which ones are vulnerable, and then do a bit of recon to decide which one to attack.”
“I knew you would be the answer. I will have my advisors prepare the maps for you immediately after dinner.”
“Of course, I expect that if I find the way to bring down one of those Amirs, I’ll get his territory. You’ll need a trusted ally in that place to organize the next assault.”
“Yes, that makes sense. So be it. You shall be Sheik.”
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 #323: Verser Crises. 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: