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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 23: Slade 8
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 22, Hastings 8
Autumn was encroaching, and upon his return Slade began applying the lessons of statecraft and organization he had learned watching Torelle. He held court, settling disputes of local peasants (there were fewer here than in the valley, but as a landowner he was sought for these matters). By the time he thought to travel again, the early snows had arrived. After months of boredom these gave way to the muddy roads of spring, so it was almost half a year before the auto mechanic feudal lord ventured from home again.
He did ride to visit Torelle, and to see the baby. They talked over dinner, Torelle filled with his title and his peasants and his government and his dynasty, his wife quiet and respectful, and Slade mostly listening.
"So, have you heard anything from Omigger and Filp?" Slade asked.
"Oh, no, not since the wedding. But then that was less than a year ago, and no bad news has arrived, so I'm sure they are fine."
"Well, Omigger told me where he lived, and I thought I'd visit him. Is there a message or anything you'd like me to take?"
"Indeed, tell him of the wonderful things happening here, of my son and the restoration of our family title and all that I have built."
Slade said he would, although inside he doubted the wizard would much care. He stayed two days, and then continued his journey.
It was several days farther to reach Omigger's domain. The building was different from Torelle's and Slade's, with several separate tall defensible towers and a high wall around an open yard. Stopping near the gate, Slade called to request admittance.
"I am Slade, requesting audience with my friend and colleague Omigger."
But the guards did not recognize his name. They asked that he wait, while their liege was located and asked his decision on the matter. "I can't believe he forgot to tell them to expect me," Slade said to his guards. "I guess it's true about wizards being absent-minded."
But Omigger came immediately to greet him at the gate, and escorted them inside. "I am so glad you came. It will be pleasant to have news. Come, you must freshen up, and dine with me."
Omigger led him to a room. It was a bit dusty. Slade realized that things were very different here than they were at Torelle's. The castle guard seemed to be on their posts, but they didn't look sharp, and they weren't training in the courtyard or escorting guests. As to the household staff--well, so far he had seen no evidence that there was a household staff. His own room hadn't been made up (although of course he was an unexpected guest), and no one came to show him to the dining room. He wandered the halls for some time looking for it, and when he arrived he sat alone for awhile.
His host finally appeared, rushed and apologetic. "I am so sorry. I have been immersed in this fascinating book, and lost track of time."
"It's all right," Slade replied. "Dinner doesn't seem to be ready anyway."
For a moment Omigger looked puzzled; and then he laughed. "Oh, dear boy! Dinner is ready when we are." And then, with a long unintelligible sentence, a single complete turn of his body, and a wave of both hands, he covered the table with food. "So, what would you like? Shall we start with the ham or the lamb? Or perhaps the salad suits you?" And he began filling a plate for himself, and sat at the end of the table. "So," he mumbled through a full mouth, "what news do you bring?"
Slade piled his plate like he was at a church pot-luck dinner or an all-you-can-eat buffet, sampling a bit of everything. He began telling about Torelle, the baby, and all he had learned while there. He told about some of what he had done himself. Before he'd finished his plate, he'd run out of news.
"So, have you heard from Filp?" he asked.
"No," said Omigger. "You're the first visitor I've had, the first person I've seen since the wedding, apart from my guard."
"I'd have thought with your ability, you'd know all about each of us--you know, watching or something, what do they call it?"
"Scrying? I guess I could do that; I hadn't thought of it. Of course, it's not all it's cracked up to be. I could see what's happening at Torelle's, but really only what he's doing at the moment I get a chance to look. I could watch for weeks, whenever I had a moment, and never see the baby or anything unless I knew to look for a baby. And the time it would take to really get an idea of what was happening--I've got my studies."
"I guess you have to keep your priorities straight," Slade suggested. He choked back any suggestion of sarcasm, apparently effectively.
"Oh, absolutely. It's nice to know what friends are doing, but you can't let something like that take time away from the important things. I have learned so much in the past year," and the wizard earnestly talked of arcane powers and hidden mysteries while Slade quietly ate his meal. The food, at least, was well worth the trip.
After dinner, Omigger insisted on showing his study. Slade couldn't remember seeing so many books in one place which wasn't a bookstore or public library (and thought he'd probably seen a few of them less well stocked). Books stood on shelves, were stacked on tables, were piled on the floor, lay open on chairs. His host encouraged him to enjoy them. "Oh, but can you read?" he asked.
"Oh, yeah. I finished high school." Slade knew that his friend would have no idea what that meant, but he enjoyed the way his friends ignored what they didn't understand.
"Excellent. Here, start with this one--it's an excellent primer on the magic arts. Keep it; I have another.
Slade held the book for a moment, but Omigger was back to his studies. He opened it, and paged through it gingerly. Then he found the first page, and began reading.
At first he thought it was as dull as a history text; then no, at least history books told a story and were filled with interesting characters. This was more like--more like a math book. There were no numbers, but it was filled with theorems and formulae and proofs. He thought it was some of the dullest reading he had attempted since, well, since forever. He glared at his host; but the wizard was immersed in some complex volume, oblivious to his presence.
Looking around, he found a chair on which none of the stacked books were opened to save a page. He shifted the books to the floor, and settled down to do some heavy reading. After a few hours, he decided he was tired. "Well, I think I'll get some sleep."
Omigger didn't look up.
"Well, good night."
"Oh--oh, yes. Good night, my boy." Slade started to leave. "Oh! Take the book with you. Really--I have another. In fact, keep it."
Well, it wasn't Slade's idea of good reading material, but it might be useful. It would make a good doorstop or paperweight, and the pages could be used for tinder, if nothing else. And maybe someday he might have insomnia; this would be a sure cure for that. "Thanks," he said, without emotion. Omigger sort of waved; he had already returned to his reading.
And so it continued over the next week. When Slade awoke, he found fresh bread and cheese on the sideboard in the dining room, and Omigger already immersed in his studies. The wizard took a break and joined him for dinner in the afternoon, asked Slade about his reading, and excitedly told of his own learning. By the third day, the young verser was spending his mornings in the courtyard, encouraging the guard to help him with his swordsmanship and getting them to practice with each other. But after a week he recognized that he could do as much at home. He said goodbye to his host, packed his belongings and gathered his men, and left.
He spent two nights in the comfort of Torelle's castle, but was home before the summer crops were ready.
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 #25: Novel Changes. 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: