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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 29: Takano 5
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 28: Brown 182
Fleeblegar left Tommy some bread and cheese he had packed for the trip, which was enough that she didn’t go to bed hungry, exactly. The lean-to was really not much more than a stand of trees whose branches had been woven together to create a canopy on three sides and overhead which was solid enough to block the breeze. The open side faced the trees, with a path leading around it to the open field. It was not so comfortable a bed as the couch had been, but wrapped in a blanket she slept on straw in a corner, and the warmth of the several horse bodies kept the chill away, and she was tired enough that her nervousness about being stepped on faded into sleep rather quickly.
In the morning she was served what was called a warm mash, raw oats soaked in hot water and molasses, which wasn’t exactly enjoyable but which did fill her stomach. She hoped she could digest it adequately. The centaurs were of the opinion that this was delicious and would provide plenty of energy for the day ahead. There were also apples, and she ate one of these; her hosts asked why she didn’t eat the core, but she shrugged and replied that people didn’t eat apple cores.
She noticed that they built their fires on raised stone platforms, which eliminated the need to bend down to reach them as Fleeblegar had done. These were in the open some distance from the lean-to, and since they apparently used straw for both kindling and bedding that was probably a reasonable precaution.
During the day the centaurs nibbled on grasses and wildflowers. Lancer asked her about her life, and she gave him answers he obviously did not really comprehend, but he nodded and asked good questions. She asked him about his life, and he told of his travels to places whose names had no meaning to her, but apparently he had seen mountains and deserts and waterfalls and lakes and even an ocean in the course of his journeys. He had never seen anything like a city, though, although he knew that dwarfs lived in compounds under the ground and elves in communities hidden in the trees. He had never before met a human, although there were legends of such creatures.
This stretched into enough days that she was getting sick of, and maybe sick on, regular meals of warm mash. Finally, though, an eagle was spotted, and they managed to catch its attention.
The eagle did not speak English. It did not speak at all, in the meaning Tommy would have attached to the word, but communicated in screeches and whistles and chirps which apparently Lancer understood. He introduced the eagle to Tommy as “Sharpness, or that’s the nearest translation I can make of it.”
“For his eyes?” Tommy asked.
“I thought for his beak and talons, but I didn’t ask.” Lancer then conversed with Sharpness for what was probably only about a minute, although it seemed interminably long; Tommy had much the same feeling she had when her parents and grandparents spoke with each other in Japanese. She had never learned Japanese, having really less interest in her cultural heritage than her parents thought she should (if Japan is such a great place, why did we leave?), although she knew very few words. Quite a few of her peers understood and even spoke Japanese better than she, including that boyfriend who had learned a working knowledge of the language from immersion in those cartoons they called “anime” as if a foreign-sounding name made them something more than just cartoons. If they were such good movies, why didn’t they use real actors and special effects?
Finally Lancer spoke to her. “I’m afraid,” he said, “that Sharpness has not seen any humans, although he asks if you’re sure you’re not a witch. He has seen witches, and you look very like one.”
She shook her head, trying not to take offense at being told she looked like a witch. After all, there was that movie with the pretty witch, so maybe not all witches are old and ugly--was that a line from that movie?
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a witch, but my parents aren’t witches or anything. We’re Presbyterians.”
Lancer’s face took a puzzled expression. “Presba--I don’t know that word.”
The shake of his head told her that he didn’t know that word, either.
“Anyway, not witches,” she appended. “Christians and witches have never really gotten along with each other.”
“Oh.” He appeared to be pondering something. “This does create a bit of a problem.”
“Well, Sharpness was suggesting that we should ask a witch. Whatever else might be said about them, witches do know things.”
Tomiko shrugged. “I guess. I mean, what harm could it do, and what else is there?”
Lancer smiled. “Well said,” he replied with a subdued enthusiasm. “Tomorrow we shall begin a journey to visit a witch.
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: