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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 82: Kondor 200
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Previous chapter: Slade 195
As Kondor had surmised, ‘three days’ proved to be the same as ‘the day after tomorrow’. However, he had the foresight to be ready for this, having packed all their belongings and extended his formal thanks and farewells to the Caliph and others in the capital. Zeke was also ready, and Leah had not really brought all that much with her.
He was only mildly surprised when he and Zeke were presented with horses, realizing that if you couldn’t travel by water this was the usual next choice. There were also several camels and some men, apparently slaves, they called ‘bearers’. What did surprise--and bother--him was that four of these ‘bearers’ would be carrying a palanquin in which Leah would be riding. He had been trying to ignore the fact that much of the caliphate ran on slave power, but the idea that they would carry his wife seemed asking more of them than he considered conscionable. Still, he did not wish to make too much of a fuss about their ways of doing things.
Once they were underway, he moved close to Mohammed. His horseback riding was still improving, but, he thought, probably still looked to be that of an amateur.
“Leah doesn’t ride?” he more asked than said. Mohammed startled, and then answered.
“Goodness, she probably rides better than I. She is excellent on a horse.”
Kondor nodded, trying to decide how to proceed.
“So, why do we have four men carry her in that--that litter?”
“The palanquin? It is appropriate for her station. For one thing, it hides her beauty from the prying eyes of anyone we might encounter, and traveling these roads there could be quite some variety of people--merchants, slavers, even bandits. For another, it is a long hard ride through rough lands, and we will be tired from the journey; it is better for her to arrive refreshed, ready to serve as Allah intended. I would not ask her to tire herself on a horse; I would not ask you to allow her to do so.”
Kondor decided that somewhere in there there might actually be a good reason, although he was not certain what it was. It certainly was the case that riding was already tiring him, but then, he was still a novice rider. He assumed that as one improved at the skill it became easier. That was so with many things he had learned.
“So,” the Amir ventured, “I gather you have some unusual eating habits.”
“Me?” Kondor wasn’t sure what he meant.
“You eat a lot of oranges.”
“Oh, yes.” He forgot that he had not explained this. “I generally don’t drink water, wine, or beer. Health reasons.”
“You object to the juice of the grape?”
“Oh, no, grapes are fine, as long as the juice is fresh. I object to the fermentation process that turns the juice to wine.”
“It certainly gives the juice a different flavor,” Mohammed offered.
“Yes, and an intoxicating effect. It is also known to contain a mild poison, which our bodies can manage in small quantities but which over time or in large amounts can be fatal. You probably are not in too much danger from it, and I have used the poison in a more concentrated form as a medicine, but I prefer not to drink it.”
“I see. Well, grapes will be in season for a while, so we will ensure that you have these. Oranges, I fear, do not grow well in our region.”
The subject having exhausted itself, Kondor looked for another. “How long are we expecting to travel?”
Mohammed looked at the sky.
“It will be nearly dark when we reach the palace. I have sent word ahead for the servants to prepare a late supper for us, and to make sure your rooms are ready.”
Kondor wondered whether there would be food before then. The custom seemed to be to eat two meals a day, a substantial breakfast and a mid-afternoon dinner. Would this late supper replace the late meal, or would they stop to eat on the journey? Perhaps the late meal was required because they would be eating light on the road.
Well, that would unfold. For the moment, all he could do was travel with the group. He fell back and looked for Zeke.
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: