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Stories from the Verse
Con Verse Lea
Chapter 12: Beam 123
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Takano 62
They traveled what seemed several miles through the woods, but not on a straight course. Ashleigh was dressed as Viper, and was twice uncomfortable, once because she almost never traveled thus in daylight and again because she was always alone so she wouldn’t be spotted. However, Beam assured her that if anyone noticed her Dawn could kill them. He wasn’t entirely certain that she was comfortable with that. Eventually they reached an old tree in a secluded hollow, from which she withdrew what appeared to be a kimono and sandals. She changed into these and left everything identified with Viper, including her weapons, in a metal box hidden in a hollow in the tree. From there it was less than a mile to a small village.
The houses here were made of planks and shingles which all appeared to be rather crudely cut. Beam guessed there must be a sawmill somewhere. The foundations were mortared stonework. It struck him that these were mountains, so rocks and trees would be available building materials.
“How do you want to do this?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Bron and I have to eat. Dawn doesn’t eat, or drink. I think she gets her sustenance from sunlight. Bob eats only brains, but he feasted last night so he’ll probably be fine for a few days. The question is whether we should all go inside together or just you or at what point who should be introduced. After all, Dawn looks a little bit inhuman, and face it, Bob is the kind of creature people attack without question. It has happened.”
She thought about it.
“Will Dawn and Bob be all right in the woods there?”
“Probably. As long as no one attacks them.”
She nodded. “Let’s have them wait for us in the wood, and I’ll introduce you and your friend Bron to my mother and my brother, if he’s here, and get you some breakfast.”
“Let me grab this sack of rice I had Dawn toss in the weapons crawler. I figured we should bring something for your family.”
They entered through the back door into a small kitchen, what Beam would have said was somewhere between modern and primitive. It appeared to have running water in a sink, but a wood stove for food preparation and what he took to be an icebox rather than a refrigerator. There was a woman cleaning up, older than Sophia but younger than him, whom he took to be Ashleigh’s mother, confirmed as his bride addressed her.
“Good morning, mother.”
“Ashleigh!” the woman said, turning toward them in surprise. “Your father said you probably wouldn’t be home for at least a few days.”
“We didn’t really have any plans,” she said. “I got married last night, somewhat abruptly. This is my husband, Emperor James Donald Beam.”
“Emperor, is it?”
“James is good enough, ma’am,” he said politely.
“And his close friend, Bron Blacksmith.”
“Blacksmith? I’m sure we could use one.”
“I brought some tools, ma’am, but I’d need a forge to do any real work. That would take some building.”
“And what do you do?” she asked Beam.
“This and that, really. I’m sorry, ma’am, what should I call you? Do you prefer Mother, or Mom?”
“Oh, don’t be silly. Call me Amanda. You, too, Bron. So, how did you meet my daughter?”
He looked at Ashleigh and realized she was clueless what to say, so he pushed forward. “I think she saw me in the woods some distance from here and was impressed by me, don’t ask me why, so she kidnapped me and told me I was going to marry her. Your husband agreed with her choice, so here we are. They can be very persuasive.”
She laughed. “Yes, I do know that. Girls can be so impetuous, but she does take after her father. He showed up one day and said, ‘You’re going to marry me,’ and three days later the priest made it official. But I’ve never regretted it.”
“That’s encouraging,” Beam replied.
There was an awkward moment of silence before Ashleigh brought up their situation.
“Anyway, it seems that when I kidnapped him, I managed to lose his food supply somewhere in the woods, so we have nothing to eat this morning and were hoping you might be able to spare a bit of rice for breakfast.”
Again her mother laughed. “I spare rice? It appears you brought quite a bit with you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Beam said, “and I’m actually a decent cook, but I don’t do much with rice and I don’t have any pots or pans with me.”
“Well, set your things down, have a seat at the table, and I’ll get you some breakfast.”
Beam positioned himself where he could watch the cooking. Amanda began with a wok, into which she tossed some chopped bacon. Once it had fried a bit, she added some chopped scallion, a couple eggs which she immediately scrambled, some kind of fat or oil, a couple scoops of boiled rice which had been in a covered bowl in the ice box, and a heavy dose of honey. She rather expertly fried this up and was soon serving the only breakfast fried rice Beam could remember ever having.
“This is quite good,” he said, sipping the hot tea she delivered with it. “Thank you.”
“So what are your plans next?”
“Haven’t made any. We’re a long way from home, and I wasn’t actually expecting to get married, but I’m going to have to find a place for us to stay and a way to feed us. You mentioned needing a blacksmith. Is there a smithy around? Maybe Bron or I or both of us could get some work there.”
“So, why do they call you ‘Emperor’?”
“Long story. A while back I took over some unpopulated territory, and then a bunch of people moved into it and I told them that they could only stay if they followed my rules, and so I became their ruler. But the place we were living started to become unsafe, so I led them out of there to a better place and left them in the care of someone else, and came here.”
“I didn’t know Emperors could abdicate their responsibilities like that.”
“Well, everything is unusual about us. But the smithy?”
“It’s in the next village, actually. That’s about five miles up the mountain.”
“Maybe we’ll hike up there and see what we can find out. It’s a start, anyway. Bron?”
The burly blacksmith tried to swallow quickly and almost choked, but then managed to say, “Sounds like a good idea to me.”
“Excellent,” Beam said. “Is there more of this rice? It’s really very good.”
“Certainly. More tea?”
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: