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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 19: Brown 181
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 18: Kondor 157
Although Vashti was kept rather busy by all the people who had long missed her, from family to friends to household servants, Derek found considerably less to do to occupy his time. Most of the men drank beer or wine and sat around talking when they weren’t doing whatever it was that constituted their jobs, but the subjects were mostly outside his own interests and knowledge. Some talked about crop yields and anticipated income and trade, some about wrestling matches and some team sport with which he was only vaguely familiar, some about girls. He had no interest in the conversations, and although he had come to drink beer and wine out of necessity he did not much care for either, and tended toward citrus fruits for drink.
They also occasionally played some rather complicated strategy board games, but he had never taken an interest in games that did not run on his computer or console, or indeed in many that could be run without those, and at this point thought that trying to learn how to play, and play well, a game he would never see again for centuries would be a waste of time. He sometimes watched others play, but couldn’t really follow what was happening, and noted that it was a gauge of just how bored he was. He considered asking someone to teach him, but thought soon enough they would be returning to the Caliphate and the people he knew.
Vashti still spent time with him, and the main birthday party was a wonderful feast. He made a comment about the absence of “a cake” which was misunderstood because there were lots of cakes, and this led to an explanation of the tradition of bringing out a birthday cake covered with candles, making a wish, and blowing to extinguish the flames. Someone suggested that it represented the djinn defeating the efriit, and Derek had never considered that possibility before but said only that he didn’t know why they did it, and didn’t think his parents knew, either. The response was that the priests would have known.
Still, he spent a fair amount of time lounging around by himself, frequently on shaded porches overlooking the town and viewing the land beyond, just relaxing, usually with a bowl of fruit such as grapes or figs.
He was relaxing thus one afternoon when he suddenly realized something was wrong. It so startled him that he tensed up and lost the feeling, and had to force himself again to relax, but indeed there it was. There was the feeling of another verser, toward the north upstream, which would be his friends at the palace. However, there was another feeling, another verser vector, pointing east across the fields and pastures--and from the angle, it was someone fairly close, within a few miles of the castle here.
He checked himself on that. He did not know how far this sense would reach, but it did penetrate walls and other solid objects, so if this world was a sphere (and in the back of his mind he realized that it didn’t have to be, it was only his assumption) then they could simply be so far away that the straight line passed through the planet itself. Having vaguely realized that his internal model of a world might not be multiversal, he thought there might be layers, continents below the ground and perhaps above the sky, with their own populations of creatures, their own ecosystems. Just because when he looked in the direction of the vector his eyes were looking at the distant ground did not mean that the target was on the ground.
Still, it was a possibility, and a fairly strong one, all things considered.
It occurred to him that it was at least possible that some of his friends had come to visit. After all, Bob had said that he’d like to come, but couldn’t decide who to take and who to leave. If he had made that decision, someone might have used a hyperspace gate to travel down here (and both Shella and Lauren could do that). He could sense that there was at least one verser still to the north, but not how many there were; and he couldn’t sense how many were now to the east. If they split up, someone might be coming to visit him.
Then again, they were not the only versers in the multiverse. It could be Merlin, or Omigger as Bob and Shella called him. Lauren had mentioned meeting other versers, and hearing about more. This could be someone else.
He should let Vashti know. He should also find out who it is.
“Vashti?” he called, but she wasn’t in earshot. He picked up his bowl of fruit and wandered out into the halls asking if anyone knew where she was. It was a big house--not as big as the Caliph’s palace, but only because it was not as tall. He finally found her in one of the many rooms in which the Amir entertained guests, talking with a collection of girlfriends who had come around to see her. “Vash? Got a minute?”
“Certainly, Love.” She came over to him. He spoke to her a bit more quietly.
“I’m sensing something--someone, another verser--out toward the east, and not more than a couple miles away, I think. I want to fly out and investigate, but I don’t want to worry anyone--after all, it could be someone we know. So I’m going to turn into Morach, take my arrows, and go have a look.”
She nodded. “Whatever you think.”
“Oh, and,” he shifted to telepathy, I’d better make sure I can reach you if I need to. Her surprised look reminded him that no one had mentally contacted her before, but it was, he recognized, an oversight, simply a matter of not having had the need when she was around. Once the channel is open, you can think back to me. Try it.
“Yes,” he said aloud, “exactly like that.”
He turned and headed for his room. Although he was wearing the magic suit and had the bow and arrows with him, he had several other items he didn’t want to carry while airborne or leave lying on a porch somewhere.
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: