keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 36: Slade 12
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 35, Kondor 12
They'd been caught; the voice of the young soldier sounding from the darkness made that clear beyond doubt. Filp let go of the rope, and slowly stood. Slade held his hands out to his sides, and the two of them turned to face their captor.
The young man suddenly changed his demeanor completely. "Oh...oh, I am so terribly sorry, sire. We were told...."
"It's all right," Slade answered. "You've done well. Your liege and I were just testing the defenses."
Filp smiled. "That's right. You've done well; you're to be commended."
"But," stammered the young man, "I saw you leave. You were to be hunting in the forest."
"Well," Slade suggested, "it wouldn't be much of a surprise if you were expecting it. 'Guards, the two of us are going to go outside and attempt to break in, to see if you're ready for us.' What sort of test is that?"
"I see, sire."
Filp gave instructions. "Inform the chief of the watch that we have returned, and will be retiring for the night. We will decide what needs to be done for security in the morning."
In the morning, Slade began suggesting improvements. He considered several ideas involving loose stone or metal strips before he settled on a rather elaborate scheme to line the inside of the battlements with tin sheeting which would extend above the top of the wall into a curved crown, giving the grapple no place to grab. This had two other benefits. One was that a grapple striking the top of the wall would make a fairly loud clang which would echo along the length where the wall was straight, thus alerting the guards. The other was that it gave no easy handhold to the thief who was determined enough to climb the wall without such aid. He ordered tinsmiths hired from the surrounding area to do the work, and turned his attention to other points.
He was struck by how easily they had been able to move silently around the castle. He needed the place to make some noise. Inside all the doors leading to the roof, and on both sides of most of the important inside doors, he placed brass wind chimes, with strikers built into the doors so that when the door opened or closed, the chimes would be shaken. He had to build a couple of these himself, but once he had samples it was easy to get more built by the metal workers.
They also discussed with the castellan how to improve the guard using the same men. Although the castellan had organized a very good system, they were able to make a few suggestions.
After that, Slade told Filp to throw a party. They asked a few of the local merchants, including the innkeeper, to help with it (paying them handsomely), and invited the more prominent villagers to dine. "You need better public relations," he insisted. During dinner, Slade told tales of their adventure, focusing on the few moments when Filp had helped, but also those moments when he had showed his fear. The stories had the guests laughing, and put them at ease, and Filp soon joined in, telling of the deeds of the others, including how Slade had found the djinni just as they most needed it. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the conversation, and as Filp said goodbye to them, he encouraged each to come back sometime, and they invited him to be part of the village events. It wasn't every day they met a hero, and it was even more rare to find a hero who, like themselves, wasn't afraid to admit he had been afraid.
Slade stayed with his friend through the summer; it wasn't until one of his men observed that the roads would soon be worsening that he said his good-byes, invited his friend to visit, and took the road to Torelle's. Torelle, he knew, would be busy with family and affairs of state, but would feed and house him for a few days and take at least a feigned interest in his cousin Filp. He would be home before the snow fell; and he had learned lessons from his host about thieving and about security. He would practice the one and implement the other.
He wondered what he would do next summer.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #30: Novel Directions. 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: