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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 7: Slade 45
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 6: Hastings 97
Slade looked at the two people in the room, an old man and a young woman, and tried to find words. "I," he finally said, "I don't know which of you to hug first."
The man answered. "Well, I think it should probably be me, as I'd wager once you get your arms around my cousin you're not likely to let go any too soon."
Although he was considerably older than Slade remembered, this was one of the most important people in his life. This was one of his mentors, one of his teachers, one of his partners, perhaps the only person he had known since he left his own world whom he would have called a friend. This was the man who taught him the tricks of the thieving trade. This was Filp.
"How are you, old friend?" he asked.
"Well enough, all things considered."
"How is Wen?"
"She died, about four years ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"Yes, it's been lonely since then, and it's hard to enjoy things. I've got the boys running both castles now, and I just sort of rest and reminisce. Not much to do, really."
He turned to the girl. This was, perhaps, the girl he left behind. Daughter of the man who taught him to fight, sister of the boy he designated as the heir of his own castle and fortune, fellow student of the arcane secrets of magic, and the girl he once said he could never marry because of his crazy verser life, this was Shella. She was a few years older than she was, but not yet as old as the twenty-two years at which Slade had died. The last time he saw her, she was waving goodbye as he went up in flames from a miscast spell. He could hardly credit how good it was to see her again.
"You look," he started, "wonderful."
She smiled that incredible smile of hers, innocence and understanding, kindness and shrewdness, strength and vulnerability, all wrapped in one expression.
"You've done well for yourself, Slade," she said.
It took him a moment for that to connect in his mind.
"What, this?" he said. "No, this isn't mine. I'm a guest myself. It is gorgeous, though, isn't it?"
Filp furrowed his brow. "So, if this isn't yours, whose is it?"
"Welcome," Slade said, "to the home of the Caliph."
Filp's jaw dropped; but Shella spoke.
"Caliph? What Caliph?"
"It's rather a long story," Slade said. "I'm surprised, though, that no one ever told you."
"What does he want?" Filp asked.
"What does it matter?" Slade answered. "He gave you a wonderful life, provided wealth for your children and probably your great-great-grandchildren. Now he wants a favor."
"What does he want?" Filp repeated.
"It's only a little thing, really. Not a problem at all."
"What does he want?" Filp insisted.
"Excuse me?" Shella interrupted. "Who is this Caliph?"
Slade and Filp looked at her. Filp shrugged. "You tell her," he said. So Slade sat and began the tale. He told of his arrival in their world, deep in what he learned was the Dungeons of Corlander, how he stumbled through dark passages until he found a lit room, and then ultimately found his way out. Filp interrupted him. "When are you going to get to the story?"
"You tell it, then," Slade answered.
"Fine." Filp shifted in his seat, as if trying to think how to continue. "Anyway, a few years before you were born, your father, your Uncle Omigger, and me, we were going to go on this quest. It seems that a long time ago our great great something-or-other grandfather had trapped a djinni in a bottle, part of a war, and the djinn destroyed our home. We thought we might be able to rebuild if we could release the djinni from the bottle."
"They also knew they'd get wishes," Slade injected, "or at least, that was their hope."
"Well, yeah, that was part of it. Anyway, just as we're about to go in to the Dungeons of Corlander, this strange tall guy comes out. We were going to kill him, but then instead we found out that he'd been to a place that sounded like it might be where we needed to go, so we made a deal for him to take us back, and share whatever we found between the four of us."
Slade picked it up. "Eventually we got back to that room, and we had to fight some efriit, and it happened that I opened the bottle and released the djinni. He got rid of the efriit, and then said I got three wishes."
"Slade was brilliant," Filp said. "He managed to save all our lives, and make us all rich landowners."
"But the cost was that Filp and I, and your father and Omigger, are all allies of that djinni, who happens to be a very important and powerful djinn lord, the Caliph of the West Wind. And we are now in his palace, in a room he prepared for us, because he needs our help."
"I knew that was a stupid wish," Filp said. "Now see where it's got us."
"Well, it seemed like the thing to do at the time."
"So what do we have to do?" Shella asked.
Slade looked at the room. "Right now, we have to rest up, eat well, enjoy the hospitality of our host, and get ourselves ready for a quest. Tomorrow when we walk out that door into another universe, we'll worry about the next step."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with ten other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #157: Versers Restart. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: