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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 46: Hastings 201
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They had not gone far before they halted to rest and have a light lunch, and soon they resumed their journey across the open space that was the bottom of what Lauren considered a chasm, but in the sense that the Grand Canyon was one. They would apparently be traveling several miles today, and camping in the open space far from any wall. It struck her that the flyers clearly moved faster on the wing than the caravan did on its feet, since they had been able to search the perimeter of the cave in a few hours, but crossing it was going to take half a day plus more tomorrow. Of course there were four of them--she kept forgetting Anneth, who tended to sit quietly on Tiras’ shoulder most of the time--so if they split up they could have done the place fairly quickly.
It was an early lunch the next day, because they had reached the wall where they were going to exit the open space, and Tiras wanted to avoid for as long as possible having to eat in the tunnel somewhere. Because they had plenty of space, he said they should have a hot meal. There was again enough debris around that Lauren was able to find a rock suitable for a stovetop and heat it with her pyrogenesis so that Sheegoka’s squad could cook without a fire.
As she ate, Lauren noticed Tiras staring into the darkness above them. She gulped down the rest of her meal with a swig of water (it wasn’t the sort of food one savored) and picked herself up and approached him.
“Something bothering you?” she asked.
He nodded. “All this space,” he said. “You would expect something to live here--stirges, bats, spiders, rats, something. There is nothing but some fungi here and there. That worries me.”
Lauren shrugged. “Maybe the dragon comes down here and flies around from time to time. It’s a large enough space for that, he would have fit through the corridor we followed, and if the local creatures were aware of his occasional presence they would undoubtedly avoid being where he could eat them.”
Again he nodded. “Good theory. Of course, it might be something else, but with the dragon so close it’s unlikely. So far, though, we haven’t disturbed anything, and other than the peculiar absence of creatures there’s been no suggestion of anything here.”
“A mystery,” Lauren answered. “But one I think you won’t be able to answer today.”
“No,” he agreed. “We have our mission, and need to move forward. But keep your eyes open.
“In fact, I think maybe I’ll put you and Apatukwe on rear guard again. You make a good team.”
So it was done, and Lauren and the ranger were the last two to enter the tunnel, a smaller tunnel than the last one, probably too tight a fit for that dragon, but a bit confining after all the open space they had experienced.
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: