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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 67: Slade 190
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Previous chapter: Kondor 194
Slade was soon observing matches between opponents of what he uncharitably thought were varying levels of inability. He seriously considered naming the first pair Stumbler and Clumsy, but decided that was not only unkind, it was unfair--they had come to him precisely because they needed to be trained, because they recognized their own need to improve. Besides, if his help was effective, they would improve, and the names would no longer apply. He delayed naming them.
Gradually the pairs improved. Swifty and Agile had done a good job not merely of matching them but of putting them in an order of increasing ability. It also became apparent to Slade’s trained eye that they all had marked similarities in their styles.
“Who taught you?” he asked. He realized he probably should have asked that before. Even if they were just a club, they probably had a faculty advisor. Swifty and Agile looked at each other, and Swifty spoke.
“Professor--” and once again the name didn’t translate.
“What does he teach? Physical education?”
“He teaches war--strategy, tactics, history of war, history of weapons.”
Scrunching one eyebrow in concern, Slade asked, “Your swordsmanship: is that a class?”
“Oh, no!” Agile was quick to say. “It’s an activity. The professor helps us learn how to fight with a variety of weapons. It’s not for credit.”
Slade nodded. He wondered whether this professor might be his kind of person, or that is, bird.
“Is it going to bother him, that I’m teaching you fighting techniques?”
“I don’t think so,” Swifty said, joined by an incomprehensible chorus of what Slade took to be agreement.
“Well, all the same, you let him know that you asked to work with me. I don’t want any misunderstandings.” Especially with someone proficient in several weapons. Slade would love to fight him, but for practice, not combat.
Slade was starting to get hungry, and indeed Shella had come outside looking for him, so he said, “That was excellent. Remember who your partners are. Tomorrow we’ll go through this again, and I’ll start giving you some pointers for how each of you can improve. Right now, I think my wife is waiting to go to breakfast.”
As he joined Shella, she asked, “Who are they?”
“Them? They’re my new class of warriors.” He smiled and put his arm around her for the walk to the cafeteria.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twenty other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #443: Versers Acclimate. 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: