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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 35: Slade 56
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Previous chapter: Chapter 34: Brown 66
They began to execute Shella's plan. There was a lot to do, and not a lot of time in which to do it.
Filp was sent to find a wagon. He said he could probably steal one easily enough; Slade said that would only complicate things, and gave him a bit of silver to use to buy something. He reminded him that what mattered was getting something they could abandon which would look natural with four horses drawing it. He promised to find something.
Meanwhile, Slade had to learn what he called a few tricks. Shella was not disposed to think of magic in terms of tricks. Her illusions and incantations were serious knowledge to her, not games of some sort. That had always been a difference between them, that she took magic seriously and he regarded it as an interesting diversion. When he was studying it, he worked at it mostly because he didn't want to seem like he was not so good as she. Now clearly she was the better. She didn't seem concerned with that, perhaps because there was so much she could not do, perhaps because Slade had gotten her started and she held him in some regard for that. Then again, it seemed that she had some regard for him that had little to do with his magic, or his other abilities, or anything else that he could name. It was as if she liked him, in a sense that he could not find, because it had nothing whatever to do with who he thought he was, yet everything to do with who he was. She didn't like him because he was one of Odin's chosen warriors, or because he was immortal, or lord of a castle, or her brother's liege, or her father's friend, or a wizard's student, or a competent thief, or her teacher, or the friend of a djinni. She liked him because he was Robert Elvis Slade; and while he somehow knew that it was true, he could not at all grasp what that meant.
The most important trick, that is, illusion, that Shella wanted him to learn was a simple spell that would make it appear that Phasius was still in his cell to anyone who looked in through the window in the door. It would have to be cast on the window, from the outside of the cell, while the priest was still inside; but if done right, it would mean that they wouldn't know he was gone until they opened the door. Since they would probably only open the door when they brought food, that meant that it wouldn't be until sometime the next day that they would discover his absence. It was a complicated bit of magic, and Slade had to go over it a few times before he had it right, but if it worked it would make a big difference.
They also packed both wine and water to take inside, along with some small bit of bread. Shella pointed out that there was no knowing how well or poorly he had been tended, and hunger and thirst would make it more difficult for the prisoner to do what he would have to do. It was going to be hard enough to get him out of the castle; if they had to carry him, it might be impossible.
Filp returned with the wagon, a rather simple wooden construction that fit the bill. He had already hitched the horses to it to draw it back to Lord Cammelmyre's. "But don't dally around the guards," he told Shella. "It doesn't take too many brains to see that these aren't draft horses."
Shella tossed her gear in the wagon, stripped off her robe to uncover an expensive and attractive riding outfit underneath, and replied, "I don't think they'll be looking at the horses, if I can help it. Now, anything you aren't going to take into the castle or need to get out of the city should go with me in the wagon. Saddles and tack, too. You don't want to be burdened with anything that's going to slow your escape, and I'm probably not going to have any trouble taking everything we need out of the city this afternoon."
Soon everything was in readiness.
"You'd better go," Slade said. "The later you pass out those gates, the more suspicious it will seem."
"I'm going now," she said, then, with concern on her face and in her voice, "take care of yourself; be careful."
"Yeah," he said. "You too." They held each others gaze a moment.
"And I'll be sure to take care of myself, too," Filp said, in a slightly sarcastic tone. "Don't mind me, I'll be fine."
"Of course you will, Filp," Slade said before breaking the gaze. "You're with me."
Shella laughed, and leapt up on the wagon.
"How will we find you?" Slade asked.
"Don't worry," she said. "I'll be watching for you, and I know I'll see you. Just find the right road, and we'll manage."
With that, she started the wagon, and left.
"Come on," Slade said. "There's still a lot for us to do."
"You got that right," Filp answered.
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 #174: Versers Achieve. 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: