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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 79: Slade 194
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Kondor 198
The next morning the routine took a new turn, as after having the students spar with each other and giving them the mostly usual pointers, Slade practiced against the warfare professor. It had been a long time since he had been a novice on a weapon, and he wasn’t entirely certain whether a cape counted, but the professor talked him through its use. Meanwhile, he in turn helped the professor handle a short blade in his off hand. The bird was in fact left-handed, but so, Slade recalled, was Derek, although the boy was not near so good in primitive weapons. The class was officially dismissed, but most stayed to watch, to see what they could learn about both fighting techniques and also simply to watch the fight. This continued for several days. Slade never lost, but the professor often scored a point, and more rarely two, which Slade realized made the fight more interesting.
Sometime later in the week he and Shella stopped by the construction site. Work had been progressing. Two boilers had been installed in the cellar, which had a packed dirt floor but brick and mortar walls. Plumbing had begun, stairs installed, and there was framing for the living areas on the ground floor. It looked promising.
Meanwhile, the engineering department was progressing well. Most of the essential plumbing fixtures had been constructed, and the only difficulty at this point was devising a remote thermostat for the heating system. The telegraph was in operation on campus, and discussions were underway with government and business leaders interested in building an interconnected network or a private system. The right material for audio recording was proving elusive, but the concept had been demonstrated and the students were working on it.
Strolling with Shella across the campus after lunch one afternoon, Slade looked around. “I wonder,” he said, “what’s going to go wrong.”
“Wrong, m’lord?” she responded.
“So far this has been, well, not idyllic exactly but comfortable. We’re on our way to becoming wealthy industrialists within the educational world. We are fed regularly, they’re building us what might be the most comfortable home in this world at least for a while, and we can have pretty much whatever we want in exchange for a few ideas which really aren’t even ours, it’s just that we brought them here from somewhere they could not have gotten them. So, where’s the war?”
Shella nodded, as if she knew what he meant, and they walked several steps in silence before he continued.
“There’s always a war; Odin would not have brought me here if there wasn’t going to be a war.”
She continued silent.
“In the last world we were killed fighting that other verser. Before that, where were we? Oh, yeah, that world where the blacks and the whites had been fighting for generations. And before that we were helping Lauren defeat the vampires, and rescuing Phasius from Acquivar, and--well, you get the point. Wherever Odin sends me, he expects me to fight, to hone my skills for Ragnorak.”
There were several more steps, and then Shella spoke, perhaps a bit hesitantly.
“My lord, did you ever think that it might possibly be the case that you enter a world looking for a war, and eventually when one happens you conclude that that is why you’re there?”
Slade considered this for a moment before saying, “That’s silly.”
“No, think about it,” she said. “In the world in which we met, you had been involved in a very brief skirmish, at the end of a short adventure, in which you freed the djinn lord and it defeated the efriit. That was before I was born. It was then two decades of peace before you were killed, and that not even in a fighting accident. You made a mistake on a spell. Since then, sometimes you’ve landed in worlds in which it was obvious that you were sent to help in a war, and sometimes in which the war was happening and you landed in the middle of it, but sometimes things were peaceful for quite a while before something happened. Wars happen. If you stay somewhere long enough, there will probably be one. That doesn’t mean that Odin didn’t send you here to do something else--to help these people invent new things, maybe, or something you haven’t yet seen. Maybe some of these birds in your morning classes are going to become world champion swords, swords, swordbirds, or whatever, and you’re here to teach it. Does it always have to be a war?”
He nodded. She had a point. Indeed, it was entirely possible that he was here to help some other fighter prepare for Ragnorak. That would be different.
“You’re right, of course,” he said, “but I still think there’s going to be a war.”
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: