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Stories from the Verse
Con Verse Lea
Chapter 6: Beam 120
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Hastings 234
For supper they ate something cobbled together by Sophia from their supplies. After dinner, Beam excused himself to wander into the woods and relieve himself. It was by this time quite dark under the canopy.
He was still puzzling over the rice. What was so special about it that it had to be secured in a locked and fortified and guarded building? Did he not look hard enough? He knew that smugglers sometimes hid valuables in crates which contained ordinary products on top, but this didn’t seem to be like that. No, whatever the reason, they were guarding rice.
Readjusting his pants, he stared into the darkness. He thought he heard, or did he see, something move. It was woods. Woods were filled with creatures, bats, foxes, rabbits, bigger things like wolves and deer. It could have been anything.
As he started to turn back toward camp, something grabbed his neck. The half-century old lifetime smoker was quickly deprived of oxygen, and then consciousness, barely feeling himself collapse.
He awoke in a dimly-lit cave filled with people. The first thing he noticed was that the lights appeared to be electric, but powered by homemade batteries. Then his eyes scanned the people. All were wearing black, black sleeved shirts, black gloves, black pants, black footwear, even black head and face coverings which showed only their eyes. The word ‘ninja’ came to mind uninvited.
His attention was drawn to a man seated across the room, when he spoke louder than the background murmur, which in turn silenced itself in response.
“It seems our guest has awakened.”
He must have been groggier from the choke hold than he realized, because as he went to move his hands he realized they were tied behind his back. His feet, too, were hobbled, or shackled. “Given the circumstances of my visit,” he said, “I would have used the word ‘prisoner’. But guest certainly has a nice sound to it. I don’t believe we’ve been introduced?”
“Indeed, and that is the purpose of your visit. But, and meaning no disrespect, we do not give our names. I am afraid you will have to call me Grandfather.”
It was sounding more and more like--well, it didn’t really matter.
“I’m not uncomfortable with my name. I’m Beam. James Donald Beam, Emperor.”
The use of the title created something of a stir, but it quieted when Grandfather raised a hand.
“Emperor? How interesting. But first, I am very curious about your activities earlier this evening. You attacked a warehouse.”
Uh-oh. Was this their warehouse? No, these people did not at all appear to have anything to do with the guards there.
“Yes, we did. Why?”
“According to my people, three of you approached the warehouse and killed an entire detachment of soldiers, including three commanders, without taking injuries yourselves. That is a very impressive feat. Yet then you left, taking nothing at all from them.”
“There didn’t seem to be anything of value in the building. Not even their weapons seemed up to par with ours.”
“Nothing of value?” The grandfather seemed to puzzle over this for a moment, then asked, “Where are you from?”
“There is only one Emperor in the entire world, and I assure you that you are not he. And what can be more valuable than rice? Yet you find several tons of rice and leave it behind as having no value. What did you expect to find?”
“Well, we didn’t know. We were hoping for gold or silver or gems, but thinking maybe furs or artwork or tapestries--things that rich people own. Even printed money would have been good.”
“Decorations? You value decorations?”
When he put it that way, it did sound a bit silly.
“Well, as you noted, we’re not from around here. Where we come from, rice is a cheap commodity we buy at any food market. Money has value.”
“I must thank you,” Grandfather said after what seemed a thoughtful pause. “My people intended to raid that warehouse tonight, and we probably would have suffered casualties and escaped with a small portion of the treasure. However, because of you we were able to enter unimpeded and take everything. The people of our region will eat well over the next few weeks.”
Robin Hood, Beam thought.
“Also, I am persuaded that since you are here, and powerful, and no friend of the Premier, we must form an alliance and share information. We would not want to be in each other’s way.”
Beam shrugged. “An alliance doesn’t sound like a problem.”
“Excellent. You will marry my daughter, and I yours.”
“Whoa, wait a moment. First, I don’t have a daughter.”
“The girl who was fighting with you?”
“Not my daughter. In fact, not a girl, not even a person. Difficult to explain, but if the words biologically constructed killing machine mean anything to you, that’s about as close as I can get. She’s been with us for several years, and hasn’t aged a day, and if you touch her she’ll probably kill you before she removes your hand from her body. But I don’t think I can marry your daughter anyway. My wife would definitely object.”
“You could have another wife.”
“Well, I suspect Sophia will be here shortly, and you can ask her, but she’s a witch--and I say that in the kindest way--and rather possessive.”
“She cannot find us here.”
“Oh, she can find me anywhere.”
“Not here. No one has ever found our hideout.”
At that moment there was a stir by the entrance, and Dawn led the other four into view, a blood-stained knife in each hand, one apparently taken from one of the people who tried to stop her.
“You were saying? Sophie, darling. Meet Grandfather. He’s the leader of these--I guess outlaws is the best word. He wants me to marry his daughter, to form an alliance between us and them. I said I’d have to discuss it with you. Any thoughts, dear?”
“Oh, right,” the red-head began fiercely. “That’ll happen over my dead--”
“Duck!” Bob croaked, and Beam ducked. Sophie, however, did not, and collapsed, and vanished.
Beam looked over to where she had been standing.
“Boy, she is going to be furious.”
“It seems, Emperor James Donald Beam, that you are now a widower, and I see no impediment to you marrying my daughter.”
A black clad figure emerged from between Bron and Bob. Beam decided, despite the garb, that this was a teenaged girl, but obviously a highly skilled one.
“You have no idea,” he said mostly to himself, but then cleared his throat and turned back to Grandfather. “I guess my best choice here is to agree. When is the wedding?”
One of the other black-clad outlaws stepped forward. “Please unbind the Emperor, so he can take the hand of his bride.”
By the time the ropes were removed, the girl was beside him. She did not remove her mask, but removed one glove and took his hand.
“You are now husband and wife,” the outlaw said.
That was simple, Beam thought, but Grandfather spoke.
“We will of course provide you and your companions with accommodations for your wedding night.”
Well, he was in it now, and he wasn’t about to complain about a father who wanted him to sleep with his teenaged daughter. He would have to deal with Sophie later--much later, from all appearances. For now, this was the hand he had been dealt, and he was going to play it.
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 #460: Versers Reorganize. 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: