Re Verse All; Chapter 49, Hastings 202

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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 49:  Hastings 202
Table of Contents
Previous chapter:  Beam 71

It occurred to Lauren that all this walking through caves would be rather boring if her life were a book.  It wasn’t boring.  It was an adventure, and the group was constantly on edge, constantly vigilant, aware that at any moment something might happen, something might attack, something might collapse, there might be an obstacle or a trap or an ambush.  For hours they walked without any such event.  They had dinner in a space where the path bent and there was a widening in the way, then camped there as well as they could manage, and continued after a light breakfast in the morning.  She noticed that the path was now definitely descending slightly, because her cart was pushing her forward as it responded to gravity by trying to roll down the slope.  They passed through more variations in the corridor, turns, bends, widenings, narrowings, but in the main they simply continued walking.  She frequently took her turn in the rear, which she didn’t mind.  It was not dull to be here, whatever it might sound like in the telling.

Also, she was learning more about her companions.  Zamphir was half-goblin, and a cleric of some sort connected to what she would have made ancient Celtic mythology.  Of more interest, apparently at one time there was a gate between this world and Earth, or some version of Earth (she had already known that there were parallel Earths, having fought vampires in one several times), and Apatukwe was a descendant of a Native American tribe who had come through at that time.  It was some years ago, and apparently remained open for several years, but Dan O’Malley, one of the fighters in Sheegoka’s squad, had also come through.  He was a soldier, infantry, in the United States Army, part of a detachment that had been repelling invaders from Darvonia.  Passing through the gate was very strange, he said, as most of their equipment stopped functioning, including guns, grenades, rocket launchers, but also radios, minesweepers, and other electronics of all sorts.  Whatever still worked was changed.  His M-16 (Lauren recognized it as the gun Joe Kondor used) stopped firing bullets, and stopped needing bullets, but began firing some sort of magic missile.  Its fire rate wasn’t as fast, but it never missed its intended target, although it usually took several hits to kill something.  Dan had apparently been thought to be dead, buried by his companions in the Blood Hills and then unburied by Tiras, who stumbled on the grave only to find that the body was still alive.  He had been with them since, the gate having closed stranding him in this universe.  Lauren empathized with that, having been locked out of her own home world, although she kept moving to new dimensions.

She took a particular interest in Coronelle, the drow princess.  The woman remained aloof, speaking to no one but Tiras himself, Sheegoka, whose family was apparently some sort of noble house, and Malacon, a knight.  Lauren’s efforts to befriend her were rebuffed more than once, but she kept trying.

As they were walking through one of the more open spaces, wide area and high ceiling, Lauren in the rear, suddenly something hit her in the back, surprising her and knocking her forward and off balance.  Her armor under her robe blocked it, but then the robe tightened around her shoulder, yanking her up off her feet and into the air.  Dangling from the sleeves, she tried to spin to see what was happening, but it was happening rather swiftly as she rose away from the group.

She engaged her telekinetic flight, which enabled her to control her facing and pull against the grip.  She was apparently at the end of a tentacle which must have a barbed point--she could see another like it waving around--that had failed to penetrate her armor but had hooked her robe.  It was fighting to pull her into a large toothy maw mounted on the cave wall something like a sea anemone scaled up and turned sideways.

She might be able to slip out of the robe, but it would mean losing the belt, her kau sin kes, her bow and quiver, the psionic weapons, and she wasn’t sure what else.  Besides, if it wasn’t too damaged she could repair the robe, and she’d hate to lose it.  Instead, she focused her mind on her chopping blade and targeted the tentacle a few feet away from her.  She hit it, and the creature flinched, but it was still intact.  Seeing another tentacle coming for her, she hit this one again and raised her shield, losing the blade in the bargain.  She had not hit the first tentacle in the same spot, so although she had weakened it she had not broken it--but the incoming tentacle was deflected by the shield, bouncing as it impacted with significant force.

Lauren wondered why she had never learned to use a bladed weapon; a kau sin ke wouldn’t cut through this, and battering it or strangling it did not seem likely to be effective attacks.  Trading the shield for the blade, she struck again, hitting the spot she had hit on the second blow, and the tentacle was severed.

She had not realized the degree to which her flying was pulling against the tentacle, and she sailed back at least fifteen or twenty feet before she managed to stabilize herself.  This proved a good thing, though, as the second tentacle swept through the air where she had been.  That same space was then filled with arrows and stones and similar missiles from the team below, which made short work of the creature.

Landing, she removed everything necessary to take off the robe, and then unhooked the barb from the back of it.  She examined the tear, which obviously had been worsened by the aerial struggle, but decided that when they made camp she could find her sewing kit and repair this.  Meanwhile she put it in the top of her wagon and replaced her weapons.  Inside she bet herself that Shella or Bethany probably had a spell that would do that repair, faster and better than her meager sewing skills, but she hadn’t ever thought to learn such a thing.

Gojo came over.  “Are you all right?” he asked.

“As far as I can tell.  It didn’t get through the armor.”

“You’re fortunate.  The barbs of cave anemones are poisoned, to put prey to sleep.  Be careful with the tentacle.”

I guess we’re not going to eat it, she thought.  That’s all right; she wasn’t really into sushi.  She wished she’d known before she had attempted to untangle it from the robe; she might have scratched herself, which could have been trouble.

“If you’re all right,” Tiras called, “we should continue.  I don’t like this cave, and that thing must eat something that frequents this space, so we want to be gone before we learn what it is.”

She nodded and returned to her place in the lines.

Next chapter:  Chapter 50:  Takano 29
Table of Contents

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 #370:  Characters Confront.  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:

Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel

Old Verses New

For Better or Verse

Spy Verses

Garden of Versers

Versers Versus Versers

Stories from the Verse Main Page

The Original Introduction to Stories from the Verse

Read the Stories

The Online Games

Books by the Author

Go to Other Links

M. J. Young Net

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