keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 40: Beam 50
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 39: Brown 185
Beam thought it took a terribly long time to get the information from the Caliphate, and wondered whether the C.I.A. would have managed to obtain it more quickly. However, he realized that the C.I.A. had a lot of advantages that just weren’t available in medieval Arabia--and probably also a lot of obstacles that weren’t problems here. So it wasn’t really a question he could answer. Eventually their spy returned. He had visited Amira Scheherazade of the Northeast River Amirate, and had spent several days there. His pretext was that the Amir of the Eastern Mountains was considering marrying, and she was high on the list of eligible girls. He spent a couple days discussing unimportant matters, and then in conversation said he had heard rumors of some powerful foreigners visiting the Caliph, and wondered if they were true. From this he was able to learn a great deal about them.
“So what did you learn?” Beam asked. Laban interrupted.
“If you please, James,” he said, “this is my spy, and I will question him.”
“Of course,” the white-haired man replied, trying to hide his impatience.
“So,” Laban said, “what did you learn?”
Pride is a hard thing to swallow, but somehow Beam managed it.
“There were five mercenaries, and then six,” the spy said. “The one she knew best was called Derek, and he seemed the most magical. He was able to transform into a small flying creature called a sprite, and in that form to fly quite impressively--people would watch him from the windows of the palace for afternoon entertainment. He was a twice-honored Hero of the Realm who married Amira Vashti of the Southern River Amirate before being killed. There was a memorial held for him.”
“This, then, is the one we eliminated,” Beam said. “That helps.”
“Indeed, but the others also sound formidable. The leader of the group is variously called Sir Robert, Lord Slade, and Bob.” Beam glanced at Bob when his name was mentioned. Well, it was a common name; that’s why he chose it, sort of. “He is said to be a warrior in service to a god somewhere, and to be a friend of a djinn lord. In sparring he always bests any fighter in the palace, frequently two or three at once. His wife, the Lady Shella, is a talented sorceress, and it is said that the two of them can pass among their enemies unnoticed. She also is credited with destroying a fire elemental when they attacked bandits in the wilderness.”
“O.K., so the leader is a fighter and his wife a sorceress, and they have the ability to become invisible if they want. Go on.”
“They are accompanied by a pair of trained fighters who wield magic missile weapons of some sort, which make a sound like thunder and throw stones with incredible force and speed. These are named ‘Joe’ and ‘Zeke’, and Joe is also a doctor whose medical knowledge exceeds the wise men of the Caliphate.”
“So that’s five, with one already eliminated, but you seemed to suggest that there were six?”
“Yes. Most recently, after Scheherazade left the palace, they were joined by a woman named Lauren. They had frequently spoken of her prior to this, and all of them hold her in a kind of awe, as if she were better at everything than any of them were. Scheherazade only met her briefly, and her only impression was that she was kind of nice and kind of bossy, telling everyone what to do. She hears that this Lauren is helping train the girls in their weaponless combat techniques, but as she has not been there she cannot say more than that.”
“Wait--who is being trained in weaponless combat techniques?”
“It is apparently part of the Caliph’s defense of his daughter. She and her closest friends have daily classes in how to fight if necessary. They are not part of the military, properly, but are more like special bodyguards for the Calipha, who also has a contingent of military guards. But that was not what we wanted to know, so I did not pursue that.”
“O.K., so what else did you learn about this Lauren person?”
“Not much. She is alleged to be a potent fighter and a powerful sorceress, more than equal to any of the others, although specific details of her abilities are unknown to the Amira, again as she only met the woman briefly.”
Beam nodded. “Well, it’s a start--more than a start, it’s a solid base of information. We know that there are five of them, three of whom are mostly fighters, one of whom is a magician, and the fifth a wild card that can do seemingly anything. I’d like to know more about her, particularly, although having information about all of them would be useful. We’re all going to have to think about this for a bit, and if anyone has any ideas, we’ll get together to share them again.”
The Amir was glaring at him. Yes, he had taken over the meeting, but then, the spy was his idea, and he was the one who was going to use this information, so it made sense for him to ask the questions. If the Amir was unhappy with that, well, the Amir was dependent on him for assistance here, and should accept that this was the way he was going to run things. After all, there wasn’t much they could do about him. If they decided to execute or assassinate him, Bob would know, and Dawn would prevent it, and while Laban was certainly useful as a tool to get him into a position of wealth and power, he wasn’t indispensable.
Right now it was time to work through the intel and see if there were any weaknesses to exploit.
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: