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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 12: Hastings 99
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Previous chapter: Chapter 11: Brown 59
The descent was markedly steeper than yesterday's climb had been. It was much more difficult travel, and the demand on her legs tiring. There were more shadows on this northern face of the slope, as she was often in the shade of the mountain itself. The vegetation was also different, sparser, perhaps, but favoring different trees.
Thus as she reached the beach, it was darker than it might have been on the southern shore. She would need to make camp once she found what she sought, and she watched for a decent place to do so as she walked.
The scriff sense brought her to a pole sticking out of a dune on the beach. It was the telekinetic capture rod. She was glad to have it back; but she wondered whether she was going to be able to retrieve her wagon. She looked toward the direction she felt, and saw that the straightest line made a rather difficult course across the steep northern slope of the volcano. This did not encourage her; but she would make those decisions in the morning.
She made a modest meal of her rations. Many of the trees had what appeared to be fruit growing on them, but she did not know what was safe to eat or how it should be prepared. There would be a certain irony to starving surrounded by abundance, but she was not in danger of starving yet. She would eventually have to try these foods; she wanted to have everything together first. Once she was settled, then she would work on the food problem. She was also drinking her fresh water, but there had been some streams on the island, and she hoped to find fresh water somewhere.
As it happened, fresh water proved not to be a problem. Buckets of it poured down on her in the middle of the night, driving her from the hollow in which she was sleeping and drenching her completely. The warm rain in the warm night air had more kinship to a shower than a rainstorm, she thought, and as it ended she looked for higher ground on which to spend the remainder of the night.
By the morning sun, the sky showed no signs of the night's rain; only the wet leaves and ground suggested anything.
She packed up to resume her quest. Now she had a rod in her hand, as a walking stick.
The prospect of crossing the steep side of the mountain was not inviting. It made more sense, she decided, to stick to the low ground and skirt the shoreline. Once she reached the point at which the sense led directly uphill she could take that route. Meanwhile, she would probably learn more of her situation by following the water. At least she would be better able to know whether it was in fact an island, and perhaps she could see whether there were tides of any significance.
The shore was a surprising mix of worlds. In places it had the familiar white sands of so many beaches. Other beaches sported the black sands of crushed volcanic rock. The coast at times tumbled in rocky rubble into the ocean, or rose in weathered cliff faces from a narrow strip of land. At one point she was forced to backtrack, as the low ground she had followed fell abruptly into deep water and there was no path to the high ground. It occurred to her that she might use her mental levitation power to ascend the wall, but as with the food she did not want to experiment until she was settled.
She camped again along the shoreline. The next day would take her inland, but she hoped it would not be far.
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 #164: Versers Proceed. 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: