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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 13: Hastings 190
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Previous chapter: Beam 59
Stirge was every bit as unappetizing as promised. Lauren wondered whether it was because it was wild and underfed, or whether all hemovores had this metallic taste--and then realized that the only hemovores in her past, apart from vampires, were ticks and mosquitoes.
There was still no sign of Tiras as she retired, and she cast the comfort bubble not because she was particularly uncomfortable but because she thought having a more comfortable temperature and humidity would be better for her. She hesitated to remove her armor, but in the end decided it would be better to sleep in her dry sweat suit than to wear the dirt of the day to bed. She did the critical part of the changing under the blankets, very much aware that her location both gave her clear sight of the entire camp and made her visible to everyone. Since it was selected in so unconsidered a manner, she took that to be accidental.
Reading by the light that still filled the room, she was preoccupied and didn’t hear Tiras approach until he was there.
“Pardon me, Lauren,” he said. “Could we see you in the command tent for a few minutes?”
She raised an eyebrow. She would not have guessed there was a “command tent”. However, she put on her sneakers as she said, “Certainly. Give me a moment, and then,” she tied the strings, “just lead the way.”
The command tent was already crowded with Sheegoka, who probably could have crowded it himself, Taz, and two others. Tiras offered her space on the floor to sit, and then also sat.
“First,” he said, “Introductions. This is my command staff, my second in command Sheegoka Noar Samurai, in command if I fly away for some reason and leader of second team and second squad; third in command, quartermaster, and leader of third squad Gojo Mupar, kensai to the kau sin ke in the art of chow en lai and student of the honored master Chan Yung Po; fourth, Malacon the Shining Legacy, leader of fourth squad; and Taz, who is my assistant leader of first squad in my absence. We have been discussing what to do with you.”
“Do with me?”
“Well, we’re on a mission, and a somewhat secret one. We have had to consider whether it is dangerous to take you with us, or whether you would be an asset. You appear to be a magician of significant power--that light spell alone was beyond anything of which we have ever heard. Yet your presence here is a mystery, and the question that vexes us is whether we can trust you.
“We have decided to do so; this is our situation. Some time back, up on the surface, we had a confrontation with a slaver caravan and in the process rescued a captive drow princess. We delivered her, and a number of other captives, back to the city of Darvania. Then she requested that I provide save passage for her home to her family and her kingdom, and since she was royalty in trouble I saw no alternatives. I went back to my people and told them that I would be traveling deep into the underdark, one of the most dangerous places known. I then offered to hire any who would come.
“I don’t know how experienced you are on caravan type missions, but it is typical to face hostiles, and frequently these hostiles carry objects of value. Those objects are probably the primary remuneration for the mission, although in this case there might be a reward from our princess’ father, who of course does not know we are coming. To most of those with us I have offered two percent of whatever we take; I reserve the right to increase that for individuals who take on greater responsibility, such as those in this tent. I am offering you two percent to become a member of my team. We would assign you to a squad and work out what you can do as we go. I think, though, that we’ve agreed that we can’t safely escort two ladies, so if you decline, then in the morning we will give you such assistance as we can and leave you here asking you not to follow us. As it is, our direction is into danger, so if you wish to get to safety you should go the other way.”
He smiled ironically at this last.
Lauren thought for a moment, but decided quickly. Tiras seemed honest and good, and what little she knew of samurai said they had a strict code of honor. “I accept,” she said.
Tiras appeared visibly to relax; Malacon might have looked chagrined.
“Good,” Tiras said. “Get some sleep, and we’ll work out the details in the morning. Now if you’ll excuse me, I missed dinner, and they’ve cleaned it up.”
“Oh! Well, dinner for five is a simple matter,” she said, and cast her create meal spell, providing a decent supper for the five of them. “You’ll need your own table service,” she said. “Enjoy”.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #357: Characters Connect. 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: