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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 43: Hastings 200
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Beam 69
Tiras outlined a plan that explained how each person was expected to descend. What Lauren gathered was that some would be lowered on ropes, some would climb down the wall using the ropes for help, and some would fly or do something like flying to get to the bottom. She would move the three mules, one at a time, assisted by Annseff, who apparently had enough skill with mules to keep them calm (although they would have a sack over their heads) and also had a spell that would slow her fall so that Lauren could catch the beast and let Annseff catch herself if necessary.
For the first step they gathered all the long ropes they could find; they did not need the ropes from the tents, which saved a lot of work, but even tying together the long lengths they had (some hemp, some silk) they were only able to put together two long enough to reach the bottom. They lowered Sheegoka first, both because he was the heaviest and because he was estimated to be the best fighter, although either Tiras or Malacon might have contested that. Malacon was going to stand guard at the top and be the last lowered by rope, while Tiras would be able to help either of them if there were trouble.
Soon the last of those who needed to be lowered had reached the bottom, and while those who could climb down began their descent Lauren found Annseff already fitting a sack over the head of one of the mules.
“Part of me wants to put this over my own head,” she said. “I have no idea what this is going to be like, but if I’ve ever flown or levitated or anything, I don’t remember it.”
“Well,” Lauren answered, “as I told Tiras, the good news is I’ve never dropped anything or anyone that I was carrying. The caveat is that you might be the first.”
Annseff nodded, and took hold of the mule’s reins. “So how do you want to do this?
Lauren thought a moment, then said “Start walking him toward the edge. I think I can pick you up better if you keep lifting your feet. Stop before you go over, though, if I don’t pick you up first, and once I’ve got you stop walking.”
Nodding again, Annseff did as directed. Lauren already had the telekinetic forcefield rod, and aimed it at the pair, focusing her thought into the psionically sensitive glass-like device. In a moment she had scooped them into the bubble.
For my next trick, she thought, and picked herself up into the air while keeping part of her thought focused on the rod. It was working, so she moved with them out over the chasm, some distance from the wall so as not to interfere with the climbers, and then lowered herself and her burden to the floor beneath. She moved slowly, at a walking pace, so as not to risk hitting the ground too hard, so it took an interminable minute to get to the bottom. There she did her best to set Annseff and the mule on the ground before releasing the bubble.
“That’s one down,” she said, “if you’ll excuse the pun. I guess I have to carry you back up?”
“Yes,” she said, “but first I have to get the sack and deliver the mule to the people already down here, so give me a minute.”
Untying the cord on the sack, Annseff freed the animal’s head and led it the short distance to the rest of the party. Lauren took a moment to look at the climbers, who were various distances down the cliff face, but since they were using the same two ropes that was not surprising.
“Ready,” Annseff said, and Lauren snatched her up in the forcefield and headed for the top. She moved more swiftly going up than she had coming down, although she wasn’t sure why she was more comfortable doing so unless it was the fact that she wasn’t worried about dropping a mule loaded with equipment.
They moved the other two down similarly, and without incident, Lauren getting a bit more confident and so moving a bit faster with each trip. The last landing was a bit hard, as she had failed to slow as much as she should have, but they were all uninjured. She walked with Annseff and the mule back to meet the rest.
As she arrived, she saw that the last of the climbers had come down. At that point Tiras took off to the top of the cliff, where Nightstalker and Lurt were waiting, and a moment later the ropes fell. Sheegoka immediately organized people into separating and sorting the ropes to be returned to their individual owners or repacked on the mules so the journey could continue. The flyers descended rapidly, as one might expect from beings who had used wings for as long as they had used legs. It took several minutes for everyone to repack and reorganize, but soon Sheegoka was asking Tiras, “Which way?” and the group was reforming into its traveling ranks.
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 #367: Versers Encounter. 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: