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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 49: Slade 16
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Slade welcomed his unexpected guests warmly, immediately arranging quarters for them and their entourage and informing the household manager to plan additional food for an extended time. Then he showed them around and helped them settle before inviting them to dinner.
Torrence proved to be a good fighter and a good companion. He and Slade practiced in the courtyard almost every day, and Slade usually lost. They talked about how to run a castle, and how to be a nobleman. Slade was impressed with the young man's intellect (he was reminded that his father had surprised him in that regard once) and grasp of court management. Perhaps, he thought, there were flaws in the concept of primogeniture.
He was less certain what to do with Shella. She appeared at meals, and made conversation; but the only other girls in the building were the maids, so there wasn't much activity geared to her. Still, she was always pleasant, and never complained.
Sometime mid summer, Torrence started talking about her. Didn't Slade think she was pretty? Wasn't she sweet? She would make someone a good wife. At first, Slade was agreeing--she would make a good wife for someone. Then he realized where his young friend was headed.
"Oh, no," he said, "don't even go there."
"Go where?" the lad asked.
"I can't marry your sister. It won't happen."
"What's wrong with marrying my sister?"
"Nothing. She's going to make someone very happy. But it's not going to be me--I can't marry anybody."
He could see that the boy wasn't going to be easily put off. He was going to need to tell him more, but he didn't really have a good story.
"Look, I'm going to tell you something no one else knows. And you can't tell anyone else. Can we agree on that?"
The boy agreed.
"Your dad and your uncles all think that I was magically transported from some distant country, and I suppose that's not entirely false. But it's not somewhere--let's just say I can't go home. Home isn't in this world at all.
"Longer ago than you've been alive, I lived a life longer than yours. I was born in another world, a world which is very different from this one. We have--we had--machines that show pictures to people on the other side of the world, and other machines that carry people faster than any horse could run, and even machines that fly in the air. And then one day, when I was a few years older than you, I was installing a new CD player in a car stereo--oh, those are machines that make music without any people--and something went wrong, and I died. But the weird thing is I didn't stay dead. Odin picked me to be one of his chosen warriors, and I have no idea why. But I realized I had to learn what I could about fighting, and I figured that I must have been chosen for a reason, and I guessed that that reason had something to do with what I already had done. But all I really had ever done was become a decent auto mechanic, so I started thinking about building weapons from scrap parts of some machines I found in that world. And then I died again, hit by an exploding missile from a huge automatic war machine. But I'm not getting older--I should be as old as your dad, older than your Uncle Filp, and I haven't aged a day since the first time I died. And eventually I'll be killed again, but I won't stay dead, I'll start over in another world, or anyway that's what I think. And people will think I'm strange because I don't get older.
"It's not as nice as it sounds. I guess I'm glad I didn't stay dead. But I'm not looking forward to Ragnorak, the last battle, and in some ways I think I haven't done all I could to prepare for it. But getting married at this point is out of the question.
"Don't tell anybody; they'll think I'm crazy."
He couldn't tell whether Torrence thought he was crazy, but his guests stayed the rest of the summer, returning home as autumn encroached. And they promised they would return.
But the following spring there was a different gathering, a sadder journey. Omigger died.
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 #37: Character Diversity. 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: