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Stories from the Verse
Versers Versus Versers
Chapter 64: Beam 53
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On the way to his room after dinner, Beam stopped in the hall to talk with Bron; Sophia went ahead into his room. In a moment she was calling.
“Hang on,” he said to Bron, “let me see what she’s on about now.” Then more loudly he continued, “What’s what?”
“This paper. I’m sure it wasn’t here before dinner.”
“That’s silly. Who would leave paper in my room?”
“Well, it appears to be addressed to you.”
“Maybe one of the servants brought it,” Bron suggested. “You’ll never find out more about it if so, because as soon as you start asking they’ll all think they’re in trouble and so none of them will know anything.”
“You’re probably right there. All right,” then again louder, “all right, I’m coming, let me see it.”
It was a letter, on fine paper, addressed presumably to him as “Leader of the other versers.” Internally he objected to that; they were the other versers; his group were--well, he couldn’t think of a word for it, but they weren’t the others. He skimmed through the note, and before he’d finished he was calling.
“Bron, fetch Dawn. We need to have a meeting.”
“Should I get Bob, too?”
“I suspect Bob already knows that I want him, and will be here before you can figure out where he is.”
“Yes, he’s coming up the hall now.”
“You know what? Bob, let Dawn know we’re having a meeting in my room. That’s quicker. Come on in, Bron.”
As the group gathered, the white-haired man read over the letter several times, then read it aloud to the group: “‘To the leader of the other versers,’ which presumably is me, ‘greetings. We need to meet.’ What do you suppose he’s thinking? Does he expect the two of us to shoot it out like some western duel, or perhaps cross swords in a more medieval version of the same? I don’t see that happening. He continues, ‘I propose we do so at noon of the day following the night of the first sliver of the new moon’--why the moon? What has the moon to do with anything at all?”
Sophia ventured, “I’ve heard of some wizards whose power is linked to the phases of the moon. Mine is not, but it might be that theirs is, or that they think ours might be.”
“Maybe,” Bron said, “but any time I’ve heard of magic linked to moon phases, full moons were good and new moons were bad, so they would be trying to find a time when such magic doesn’t work well. Or maybe it’s just that the moon is the universal calendar. I think the new moon comes in maybe five days, which would give both sides enough time to get there.”
Somehow Beam didn’t think so. There was a reason for linking the time of the visit to the crescent moon; he just didn’t know what it was. He also wasn’t sure why Bron would know the current phase of the moon, but you never knew what Bron was likely to notice.
“O.K., he continues with a place, ‘in the wadi known locally as Sunrise Wadi.’ Anyone ever hear of that?” They all shook heads. “Well, we’re new here, probably someone in the castle knows where that is. It’s supposed to be ‘in the north of the wilderness between the two territories of our hosts, at what remains of the bandit camp which was destroyed there a few months ago.’ I remember Laban saying something about having had bandits attacked by the Caliph’s mercenaries, probably someone knows where that is--but why there?”
This time Bron spoke. “Sometimes magic is sensitive to place. I’ve heard of wizards tapping into something they call ley lines, and drawing magic from them. Always thought it was so much foolishness, but I’m not really a wizard.”
“Of course you are, Bron,” Beam said. “You ever hear of such a thing, Sophia?”
“Yes,” she replied, “but it’s a very limited branch of magic. It’s more likely that he wants to be able to connect with an element--the wadi is probably a good place for water elementals, and since Laban works with fire elementals they might think we’re weak against water.”
Beam nodded; that made sense. “Continuing, ‘I will be there then, unless I hear otherwise from you by such means as you have available.’ I don’t think we have any way of answering this letter in the time available--we could dispatch a rider to the Caliph’s castle, but presumably they will have left there before the rider could reach them. So the question is, are we going to risk this, or can we use this to our advantage?”
“Is that the end of the letter?” Bron asked.
“Well, no, he signs himself, ‘Yours, Sir Robert Elvis Lord Slade of Slade Manor, Friend and Ally of the Djinn and of the Caliph of the West Wind, Royal Advisor to the Caliphate of the Twin Rivers and twice-honored hero of that realm.’ I’d say he’s got a pretty pompous opinion of himself.”
Bron snickered. Everyone stared at Beam, who in turn stared at the letter. Finally Sophia spoke.
“So, what do we do?”
Beam shrugged. “Either we meet him or we don’t; that’s the first question. There are a lot of uncertainties here, and we’d probably be walking into a trap--but maybe we can turn the tables.”
He thought for a moment, then started giving instructions. “Bron, see if you can find out where this Sunrise Wadi is, and maybe how we find the destroyed bandit camp. Sophia, go see if you can learn exactly what day this is supposed to be.”
“What are you going to do?” Sophia asked.
“I’m going to talk with Laban. I’ve got an idea.”
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 #339: Verser Tensions. 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: