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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 52: Hastings 180
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Previous chapter: Chapter 51: Slade 162
“So,” the emissary said, “I hear many stories about Doctor Kondor and Lieutenant Smith, and about Sir Robert and his wife, but nothing about you.”
Lauren smiled. “That would be because Doctor Kondor, Lieutenant Smith, Sir Robert, and Lady Shella are all twice heroes of the realm,” she said, “and I’m only a recent arrival and guest because I have worked with them elsewhere. Things have been pretty quiet around here since I’ve arrived, other than the murder of our friend Derek.”
“Well, he was killed while flying by someone who shot him from the ground.”
“Yes, I heard that he could fly. You don’t fly, do you?”
“Well, I do, but I don’t remember whether I have since I’ve arrived. I tend to do what needs to be done, and God gives me what I need to do it. But thus far here all I’ve done really is teach a few people some skills they’ll find useful. But I don’t really enjoy talking about myself, and I’m really interested in the visitors you have out east.”
“You seem to be full of questions,” she teased. “Two men, a woman, a girl, and a strange creature arrived probably within the past couple months, and have been welcomed as guests.”
“Oh! Yes, I have heard of them, but not met them.”
Lauren thought too late that she should have been reading his mind; but then, his heavily accented English, while technically very good, suggested that he did not usually think in that language, and she was no linguist.
“So what have you heard?”
“The one they call James is said to be, what is the right word? Arrogant?” Lauren nodded, and he continued. “He seems to believe himself invincible. He is also said to be a friend of the efriit. His wife, they say, is a sorceress of some skill, and the girl some take to be their daughter is said to be abnormal, but extremely good at killing. They travel with a rather burly but not terribly skilled man-at-arms, and as you say with a strange creature. It is said that the creature hears the thoughts of everyone around him, and can warn the others of danger before it happens. As I say, though, this is all palace gossip. They also say that the girl feels nothing and hears and sees everything, and she never eats, and that the creature eats only brains, so you cannot tell what is true and what is imagined in these rumors.”
“No, you can never tell with rumors. I myself have studied with wizards and priests, fought vampires and dragons, and flown among the stars, but it’s not nearly as fantastic as that makes it sound. In fact, one of my lessons that I teach my wizardry students is, it’s not what you can do but what they think you can do that makes the difference. Your respect is built on your reputation, and the more powerful they think you are, the more respect they have for you. What else do they say?”
“That their leader, the one called James, has the audacity to call the Amir by his given name, Laban, and the Amir permits this, and calls him James.”
“That is audacious. Any time I’ve heard them, Sir Robert and the Caliph address each other by titles. I suspect the Caliph would forgive him for addressing him by name (if we even knew his name), but Bob wouldn’t be so rude. So how powerful are they, really?”
“No one knows. Some in court think they are pretenders, and were it not that their leader is known to have consorted with an efriit prince I doubt they would have had so warm a welcome. They have yet to do anything that has been proven, although it is said they claim to have killed a flying monster somewhere in the wilderness. No one knows.”
No, I would guess not, she thought. You certainly don’t.
“Well, that’s certainly interesting. I’ve promised to meet with the others after dinner, so I’d better catch up with them. Maybe tomorrow we can talk more?”
“Perhaps. I shall not be staying much longer, I think, but I will be here for breakfast, certainly.”
“Then I shall look for you then.”
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 #338: Verser Missteps. 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: