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Stories from the Verse
In Verse Proportion
Chapter 112: Kondor 212
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Brown 230
Past their midday stop, they were on the way to the campsite when they entered a wider area, something like a valley or wide pass between two mountains. Kondor was leading them forward toward the far side, the infantry filtering out of the narrows behind him, his horsemen with him. He moved alongside the cartographer. “Just checking,” he said.
“Honored one,” the cartographer said, “nothing has changed since the last time you checked.”
“I know,” he said. “Call me nervous. I really don’t want anything to go--” and then it did. He was interrupted by the sound of horses galloping toward them across the open space, followed by additional infantry coming down from the hills. It was obviously an ambush.
Pulling his rifle from his shoulder, he took aim at one of the leaders, and squeezed the trigger.
The explosion of the shot echoed between the hills, and his horse panicked and reared. He was holding the rifle with both hands, and lost his seat, going off the horse to one side--but his left foot was still in the stirrup, and the panicking horse was dragging him over the dry stony ground away from the approaching enemy.
Foolishly, the first thing that passed through his mind was that he didn’t even know whether he had hit his target.
He managed to free his foot. He was badly battered, sore all over, and worried whether he might have hit his head too hard, but he was alive. He tried to focus on what was happening; he tried to sit.
He heard someone shout, “Kill the witch!” and he turned in the direction of the battle, but it was all dust and chaos. Then he found her, and saw someone draw a sword, probably a khopesh, across her waist. Before she could react, he struck her again, and she fell to the ground.
Kondor’s medical kit was strapped to his horse. The horse had perhaps stupidly but at least conveniently stopped about forty yards away; he raced to it, released the cords holding all his gear. Grabbing the kit, he turned and ran, limping from his own injuries, toward his fallen wife. Someone tried to attack him on the way, and he hit them with the kit, knocking them back and continuing his sprint.
He got there, but it was too late. It was obviously too late. The massive amount of blood on the ground around her was laced with bits of internal organs; her eyes were open and blank.
He closed her eyes. He knelt in the blood, momentarily in a stupor. Then he bent down atop her chest, and cried, wept, wailed. He knew she mattered to him, but he did not realize how much.
In a fury, he rose up onto his knees, drew his pistol, and started shooting. He hoped his targets were all the attackers, but at that moment he would have released his anger against anyone. Some were charging toward him, and he kept pulling the trigger until it started clicking, out of ammunition, one, two, three, four, it was useless. The swordsmen descended on him and struck him, two at once, and he collapsed, only to be struck again.
He was in a gray formless void. Suddenly someone was standing in front of him. He stared.
“Leah?” he said.
She spoke. “I wanted you to know that I’m all right. I love you, and I think I always will. Thank you for our time together. Also, I wanted to tell you that you’re wrong about the afterlife. Our spirits continue in the realm of the gods.”
She vanished, and the mist was replaced by a valley, green floor and rising stone sides.
He dropped his pistol, fell to the ground, and cried.
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 #452: Versers Ready. 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: