keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 39: Slade 58
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 38: Brown 67
"Why in the world did you bring us this way?"
"Hush," Slade said in response to Filp's somewhat loud hoarse whisper. "Do you want to wake them?"
The tower had taken them down from the battlements into the barracks, where there were probably scores of sleeping guards housed. The twosome had been trying to find their way quietly through to an exit. Part of the problem was that there was very little light; the other part of the problem is that everywhere there was light, it was the light of a flame in a lamp, and there were people near it.
"What do you suggest we do now?" Filp asked.
"What do you suggest?" Slade answered, and Filp stared at him.
"You're supposed to be the leader."
"Yeah, but you're supposed to help me. In fact, I'd wager that getting people out of castles was more your line."
They stared through the darkness, neither able to clearly see the other.
"I wish Shella was here," Slade said.
"She isn't. We'll have to figure something out without her."
Filp was, of course, right. They would have to find a way to do this without Shella's help.
He cast his mind back to his days as lord of a castle. It was a job he never fully appreciated or understood, and in fact he gradually abdicated the responsibilities to Shella's brother Torrence when the opportunity arose. Filp understood less of such things than he; he had had to organize Filp's people years ago so that his castle would function. This might be up to him.
"Let's slip into one of these side rooms, quietly, and rest."
"What? With all those guards?"
"They aren't going to wake up. We're going to sit quietly."
"And if someone comes in?"
"No, that doesn't happen, either. These guys in the main room? They're the next watch. They'll be there for a little while longer, finish eating, and then when it's time they'll go out the way we came in, and relieve the men on the walls."
"Who will then come down and come into these rooms and find us."
"No, they won't, because we won't be here. As soon as these men leave to climb the battlements, that room will be empty, and the barracks door unguarded. After all, they have no reason to guard the door between the barracks and the keep; they're only there because that's the common room for the guards. So that path will be empty, and that door unguarded, and then we're in the castle."
"And when we come back, we'll have to come back through that room full of guards?"
"Filp, if you got off work at midnight, would you sit up the rest of the night in some cold stone room doing nothing by lamplight? The men coming off will get something to eat and go to bed. Give them an hour, and that room will be completely empty, and will stay that way probably until dawn."
"Unless someone can't sleep."
"Well, that could happen. And that's where our skill becomes a bit more important. Do you have another plan?"
Filp did not say more. Slade waited for a word, then not hearing one he stepped into the barracks.
It could not be said to be quiet in the barracks. Many of the men were snoring, some rather loudly. It was a wonder that anyone who was not responsible for the racket could sleep through it. This was in their favor. Slade hoped that anyone who happened to be awake wouldn't hear the two stealthy visitors, or if they did would take them for their fellows perhaps returning from duty or latrine in the darkness. He found a space on the floor, and settled against a wall.
Now the battle was in staying awake. The snoring was loud, but it was monotonous; and like a yawn, it made one feel one's own fatigue. Slade realized how long it had been since he had climbed such a wall; he was going to have to climb down again, and then go over another. They had traveled long distances the past few days, afoot and mounted. He should be tired, and he was. He had earned the right to rest, but it was not yet time. Still, he should use this moment in the darkness to relax and recover. He took a deep breath, and let it out. He did this again, closing his eyes to wash away the soreness in them. He felt his pulse pounding in his feet as the blood ran through his legs, and in his mind started hearing the cadence of a drum, then the beat of a bass guitar, then some guitar riffs atop that.
He was startled from his daze by a loud noise beside him. Filp was snoring.
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: