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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 38: Takano 6
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After another unappetizing breakfast of warm mash, Tommy began her journey sitting on Lancer’s back with the completely unreassuring assurance that it would be “only a few days”. She wasn’t sure whether she would call it riding, exactly, because she had no saddle and no reins and no--whatever those things were in which you put your feet--but was just sort of plopped atop the broad back of the centaur, straddling it.
It occurred to her that some people would think this place idyllic. She had met centaurs and a satyr, and heard that there were elves and dwarfs living nearby. People--using that word somewhat loosely--talked with birds, or at least with eagles, and probably with other animals. It was like something from a fairy tale, in some ways, a fantasy world not too unlike that book her grandfather read to her. There were even, apparently, witches, and she supposed they must be good witches, or at least not terribly evil ones, if Lancer thought it was a good idea to bring her to one. For her, it was just uncomfortable--the beds were uncomfortable, the food did not digest terribly well, and she could not decide whether it was worse riding on Lancer’s back and being swatted by branches that swung past his chest as he pushed through the woods, or trudging alongside his threateningly huge body over undergrowth-covered uneven ground. Fantasy worlds sounded so much more inviting in fantasy books than they actually were when you arrived.
She slept on the ground in clearings, wrapped in the blanket the horses had given her, using her own throw blanket as a pillow. For warmth she curled next to Lancer’s body; although he normally slept on his feet, he decided to lie down to provide her with something more than the thin horse blanket. They lit no fires, and the warm mash was now cold mash, which even Lancer admitted was neither as tasty nor as easy to digest.
In short, three days later as they reached a clearing at the base of what Lancer understated as a rocky hill, Tommy had had enough camping for a lifetime, and enough fantasy wilderness for several. Wearily, she dismounted from her steed, sore from the ride, from the ground, from her diet, and ready for a hot bath and a soft bed, neither of which loomed on the horizon. Here Lancer called toward the top of the hill.
“Good mother, I am Lancer of the Free Centaurs of the East Wood. I seek your aid on behalf of a lost traveler, a girl who does not know how she came here.”
They waited a very long minute, and then somewhere above someone emerged from the rock and looked down at them.
It was definitely not that beautiful shining good witch of that movie, but in fairness it wasn’t one of the ugly green-skinned wicked witches, either. Assuming this was the witch, she looked like an ordinary woman, neither beautiful nor ugly. It was obvious why the creatures here thought Tommy was a witch; one could not tell by looking. Nor did the voice sound either particularly musical nor particularly coarse, as it responded.
“Did you say, a girl?”
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 #333: Uncertain 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: