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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 12: Slade 4
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 11, Hastings 4
The flaming apparition which stood before Slade and his companions spoke; it had a crackling hissing voice. "What do you propose? Do you think it is by accident that no one has released our enemy for so long a time? Or that we would stand by and let you do so?"
Torelle explained the situation with one word, more a curse than an explanation: "Efriit." He placed his hand on the hilt of his sword.
"We have no quarrel with you," Omigger declared strongly. "We wish to undo that which our ancestor did, and so free ourselves and our family from the curse."
"What do I care for mortals and their seed? Leave now, and you may keep your lives."
This sparked something in Slade. Robert Elvis Slade had died twice already. The first time it was from an electrical shock when he was trying to install a new high-speed CD player in his stereo. The second time he was hit by a stray shell from an automated weapon system while trying to strip parts off the chassis of a disabled vehicle. But despite being one of Odin's chosen warriors, training himself for battle at Ragnorak, he had never fallen in battle. And besides, if he died, he would merely awaken in another world, so this was not the time or place for cowardice.
"By the power of Thor I smite you!" he shouted, as he sprang forward and swung his mace into the smoky form. Whether by some force of will, some magic of his words, or some lucky chance, the mace found something solid, and impacted firmly. The efriit were caught off guard, and Torelle had time to draw his sword and knock over a table in front of him.
But the creature was stronger than Slade had imagined, and knocked him back into the wall. The match in his mouth ignited spontaneously from the sudden heat, and he blew it away from his face as he collapsed to the floor, winded and bruised. From there he saw the creatures throw streams of flame at his companions. Torelle used the table as a shield wall and doused himself with water from one of their skins; Omigger was deflecting the fire with an outstretched hand and an invisible wall. As for Filp, he was cowering behind a row of pots by the door. When the flame stream stopped, the fighter rushed forward brandishing his blade, and the wizard brought forth a spray of water which seemed to weaken the flaming beast but also filled the room with steam.
Shaking off the daze, it seemed to Slade that the battle was hopeless. If he was to help, it would have to be through something other than being pounded against the wall. But he got an idea, and the worst that could happen was that the efriit would notice him and turn their full force on stopping him, which would give the others a chance to do something. Meanwhile, the battle was a distraction, and the steam was good cover, and he crawled along the wall to the table. About twenty bottles stood there, and it was Omigger's best information that one of them contained the djinni. Slade quietly stood up and opened one.
The stopper made a noise coming out, but it was small compared to the sounds of battle behind him. But there was no djinni. For a moment Slade wondered if perhaps there was no djinni at all; but then, there were efriit here, and they were going to an awful lot of trouble to prevent the opening of a bunch of empty bottles. He tried another, and another, and a fourth. He glanced behind him, worried that his efforts would be discovered; but the fighter and the mage were holding the attention of their opponents quite admirably. A fifth bottle opened, but in his haste, he dropped it, and it crashed on the floor. Again he looked behind him.
The efriit had heard the crash. For a moment, human and elemental stared at each other, neither certain what to do next. Then the elemental rushed forward, and Slade, for lack of any other choice, grabbed a bottle and pulled the plug.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #20: Becoming Novel. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: