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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 28: Hastings 195
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Someone joined them from the other side of the animals. Apatukwe barely glanced at the dark-skinned elf.
“Ah, Serona. I knew it would be you. I’m surprised it took them so long. Have you met Lauren?”
Lauren answered, “No, we haven’t met. Serona?”
“Lauren,” she replied in a rich contralto voice. “Of course everyone knows who you are, but that is not the same as knowing you.”
“And,” Lauren said, “there are quite a few people for me to get to know. So, why did Apatukwe expect you to join us on rear guard?”
Serona gave a nod, as if acknowledging something. “The orcs, and indeed most things that live in the underdark, have a sort of dark vision--they can see warm bodies at a distance. Because of that, they can follow us without using lights.”
“That makes sense,” Lauren acknowledged.
“My people have lived in the darkest depths of the underdark for millennia, and our dark vision is considerably better than most things that live in the dark.”
“So you’ve been sent to try to see what is following us.”
“Exactly. If you would be so kind as to cover your lamps,” she said. “I can’t see so far into the darkness if I’m standing in the light.”
Apatukwe closed the cover on his lantern, and Lauren gave the command for her magic lamp to extinguish. There was still some light from the group farther along the trail, but from how little it was Lauren guessed that they had been ordered to douse most of their lamps. Serona took a few steps toward the darkness.
“So what else is happening?” Apatukwe asked.
“They’ve sent Lurt and Nightstalker ahead to scout for trouble on the road. With the high ceilings they can move swiftly and avoid traps on the ground. Lurt can move very quietly, and while Nightstalker might not be the best backup for him, he can keep pace at least.”
There was a pause, and then Serona continued. “It seems we do indeed have orcs following us. I couldn’t be certain that they are the same orcs, but they stopped probably about the point at which they could see that we stopped, and they appear to be waiting for us to continue. At least, they aren’t settling down for lunch or making camp or anything of that sort, they’re just watching.”
“Which could mean,” Apatukwe suggested, “that they are following us and don’t want us to see them yet, or they are traveling the same direction but don’t want to encounter us by catching up on the path.”
There was silence.
“You know,” Apatukwe continued, “we can’t see if you nodded your head.”
“Sorry,” Serona replied. “The dark vision is so natural for me that I forget humans don’t have it.”
“Yeah, well, we seem to be the only intelligent race who doesn’t, although some of the halflings don’t have it, I think. So you can be excused the oversight.”
That was interesting, Lauren thought, and wondered if she could find a way to see warm bodies as they did. It would not have been much help, she realized, against the vampires, or probably their minions, but there were other things in the dark.
“So do we send a message to the front?” Apatukwe asked.
“No, they’re going to assume it’s the orcs unless they hear otherwise. I’ll just keep an eye on them. I hope you’re all right sitting in the dark.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Lauren said, “but I wish I’d taught myself a spell to conjure a chair.”
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 #361: Characters Explore. 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: