keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 61: Slade 20
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 60: Kondor 20
Shella proved an adept student of the magic arts. Slade was certain she had already surpassed him in ability within a year, although he thought little of his own abilities as a magician. He could still teach her a few things, although that was only because they were working from different books; and he learned far more from her than she from him, in his estimation. But he continued learning what he could. When something he tried succeeded, he would say, "Not bad, for an auto mechanic."
And that, he realized, was the difference. Like Omigger, Shella took the work seriously, and poured herself into it. To him, it was more of a hobby, a way to do interesting tricks which could prove useful. If faced with combat, he would draw his sword (only Torrence was a match for him around the castle now) or his mace. He saw himself as a fighter who had picked up a few skills from a thief and dabbled in a bit of wizardry. He never considered magic as a career. But Shella clearly did.
Shella also got the full explanation, as full as he could explain, of Slade's travels between worlds, why he didn't age, how he would die and come back to life elsewhere. She seemed to take it as just another sort of magic, never doubting his story.
Torrence, meanwhile, quickly and easily filled the job of lord of the manor. It was what Slade preferred; he always felt a bit phony acting the part of the noble, but to Torrence it was natural, he was born to it.
Slade and Shella took it upon themselves to try to find him a bride. After all, they decided, if he doesn't marry there won't be any line to inherit the castle. They started poking around for nearby families of low title with second or third daughters to marry off, and invited several, individually, to visit as Shella's guests. It wasn't how these things were done, but Slade wasn't about to saddle the boy with a wife without getting his opinion on the matter. And it only took about four or five girls before one of them caught the fancy of the lad. She sent word to her father that her return would be delayed, and spent much less time with Shella and more with Torrence. Soon they were talking seriously about family. Her father, misunderstanding the situation entirely, sent a messenger to ask Slade his intentions toward the girl; but he was quickly able to satisfy him, suggesting the marriage of the girl to his own heir. The arrangements were easily made, and a wedding held in the castle. It didn't have the same feeling as Filp's, but to Slade at least it seemed a lot less formal, less stilted, than Torelle's.
And after that, Slade spent even less time running the castle and the countryside. He saw his heir at meals and for weapons practice (and they did have to explain to the new wife why he seemed so young--elfish blood, of course, was the explanation). He would wander around the castle silently at night, picking the occasional lock, climbing a few walls here and there, and then return to the library to continue reading the books.
Late one night, he stumbled on something which really interested him. Shella had just stepped out of the room, so rather than wait for her to help him with it, he began the incantation. Holding the book in one hand, he began waving the other, pronouncing the strange words as he turned around, carefully following the instructions. Then he paused, uncertain what the next word was. Deciding, he spoke it, made the final movement, and closed the book.
For a moment there was nothing. Then there was something, a tickle inside, growing to a pain, a burning deep within, spreading outward. Light started pouring from his skin, and then fire; yet it didn't hurt so much as he'd have thought. Nonetheless, a low scream came from his mouth, and his body began to lift off the floor even as his toothpick dropped toward it. It was too much; he was beginning to disintegrate. He could see that his fingers were dissolving, and could no longer feel his feet. The pain became intense, the sort of pain he'd had the last time he died. He had botched in a big way.
It was a nice world, but it was about to disappear, maybe forever.
He saw Shella return to the door, and she looked at him. She threw him a kiss, and smiled as she waved with her fingers. Then everything vanished.
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 #43: Novel Worlds. 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: