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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 26: Kondor 159
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 25: Slade 158
Kondor had forgotten that Lauren had been a teacher. She explained what happened to Derek and Vashti so well that the Amir decided to proclaim that they died heroes defending the realm, and so hold a memorial service for them. At first it struck him as strange, because it had been explained that they were not dead but simply gone from this world, but then he realized that this was not different from what many religious people wrongly believed about their own loved ones, that they had gone to another world, and that such services often were not held to honor the dead so much as to comfort the living. In this case it really was true that Derek and Vashti were alive but elsewhere, that they were probably never going to return, and that their family and friends would miss them. A time of mourning for their departure made sense, something like a going-away party after the guests of honor had gone.
Many of the guests rose to speak of Vashti, recounting their memories of the girl from childhood through her recent wedding and their hopes for her future. It fell to Kondor and Lauren to speak of Derek, and Lauren had much to share on that, as she knew him well not only from time spent together in three previous worlds but from long conversations about his family and his past. She had shown genuine interest in who he was. Still, she left a good part of the events surrounding the spaceship adventure to him, which was where he originally met the boy, and he shared a good part of that, including Derek’s willingness to sacrifice the good life he had there as one of their top computer people in order to save that world from disaster.
Since Lauren had told Slade that the ceremony was scheduled, Slade apparently decided (or perhaps acceded to the pressures of the group) that he and Shella would bring Calipha Rathi and the other girls for the one day. Lauren served as their unique object in the courtyard (and Zeke commented that he couldn’t imagine anyone anywhere looked quite like her in full armor) and so greeted them and got them accommodated comfortably. Even Sch’hery and Ketty came, although Leah had left the city for her father’s estates and couldn’t be reached. There was no happy reunion, though. Relationships between Rathi and Sch’hery were a bit strained; whether it was despite or because of the fact that the former had been betrothed to the latter’s little brother Kondor was not quite certain. Of course, the fact that Sch’hery’s father had made her part of the plot that kidnapped Rathi, and that in their successful rescue Zeke had killed him, probably did not have people overly endeared toward each other.
Slade and his wife added to the stories about Derek, although most of what they knew had already been told by either Lauren or himself, save for a short time fighting vampires in the future after Lauren had left them.
The ceremony of mourning lasted four days, but the Calipha and her entourage arrived early on the second and left before sunset. The Amir thanked her for coming, and also thanked the five Amira accompanying her, and watched them depart.
Kondor would have liked to have been able to see more of the countryside. He was satisfied that men in the watchtowers were on alert, and he made the climb and peered through his binoculars several times during the day, but because he was one of the few who knew Derek well, he was regarded one of the bereaved, and people expected to be able to give consolation to him. He tried to be gracious in this regard. His eleven previous deaths and new lives had perhaps weakened his ability to grieve, particularly for other versers whom he knew were alive somewhere else, continuing their experiences in other worlds. He found himself comforting them more than the other way, with his assurances that Vashti was alive with Derek in another world. Slade, too, comforted them, and the more, as he shared his experience visiting the Caliph of the West Wind (one world Kondor could not really fathom, but he was confident there was a reasonable explanation for it) and his certainty that the spirit realm was just as real as this one, and the couple would certainly find their way there eventually.
There was also plenty of the Amir’s excellent food, and others were overindulging on the beer and wine with varying effects none of which Kondor perceived as desirable. He tried to keep stocked on the fresh fruit, grabbing some whenever it was brought out, as it was a popular menu item which vanished quickly.
Zeke kept telling people that he hadn’t known either of them very well, having only met them a couple months before, but that they had proven themselves brave and resourceful and he wished them the best wherever they were now.
Lauren had confirmed that the unidentified versers had gone to the eastern city; the evidence strongly suggested that they were connected. Kondor and Slade agreed that something was happening there, and that it did not bode well for the future here. For the moment, Kondor and Zeke would remain here with Lauren, and Slade and Shella would return to the Caliph, keeping in touch telepathically until such time as they knew more.
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 #327: 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: