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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 41: Slade 59
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Previous chapter: Chapter 40: Hastings 107
"Wake up," Slade hissed. "We've got to move."
He had let Filp sleep, keeping himself awake and watchful, until the guards headed to the tower. Now they had to move, before they were discovered.
Filp seemed a bit disoriented, and Slade had to slap a hand over his mouth to keep him quiet. In a moment, he was ready, and the two scrambled through the common room and out the door into the hall.
"I don't suppose you checked this hall with that mirror before we rushed into it," Filp said.
"Didn't think of it."
"You've got to think more."
"Maybe; but then, the spell has probably run out, and it would take a moment to recast it, and we didn't really have much time in there. Not to mention that it wasn't exactly private, and I didn't want to wake our hosts."
Filp huffed. "Where now?"
Slade looked up and down the dark corridor. "You tell me," he said. "Where's the dungeon from here?"
Filp opened his mouth as if to object, but then closed it again. He shifted his feet along the floor a bit.
"It's that way, isn't it?"
"Well, that would have been my guess. Why?"
"Three things. First, we know that the front of the castle is over there, and the dungeon's not going to be in the front. Second, it makes good sense for the guards to be between the dungeon and the rest of the world, so we'd expect prisoners to be taken along here to get from the palace to the dungeon. Third–did you spot the third?"
"Yeah," Slade said. "The floor is sloped, very slightly, but enough that everything would drain toward the dungeon, from which it would drain into the earth. You'd want the flow to go that way; at least, you'd certainly not want it going the other way. But are we right?"
"We might be," Filp answered. "Of course, it's never certain; but I'd bet on it."
Slade drew his sword. "Then this is the way."
This way did descend rather quickly into the depths. The slightly sloped stone path gave way to stone steps. What was dark before was now by contrast noon. Slade could not see anything.
"So," Filp's voice echoed on the stones, "what do we do for light? We can't use fire."
"I know. Actually, I've been hesitant to try something, because I don't know whether it's actually fire or not."
In response, Slade produced a beam of light. "My old flashlight. Looks like when the Caliph recharged my blaster, he managed to get the batteries in this, too."
"So it's your magic, but you don't know how it works?"
"It's not really magic," he said. "It happens to be a machine that hasn't been invented yet in your world. As I keep trying to tell my friend Joe, there's a difference."
"I'll take your word for it. So, how does this machine work?"
"That's just the thing; I know, but I don't know. You'll remember that I once said it had lightening inside. Well, in a sense it does. We call it electricity. There's a wire, and the electricity goes through the wire, and the wire gets really hot, and it glows–like iron glows when you heat it on the forge."
"I thought iron glowed because there was fire in it."
Slade thought about that for a moment. "Maybe so, in some worlds. But there's no fire here, just electricity. The wire gets hot, and glows, but it doesn't burn, and neither does anything else. So I don't know whether it's fire or not. I think Omigger would say it had fire in it; I think Edison would say it didn't."
"The guy who made this machine."
Slade couldn't see Filp, but the sound of his voice suggested a shrug. "I guess he would know."
"Let's hope, anyway." He moved forward through the gloom. "One good thing about this darkness," he said.
"We can be pretty sure there aren't any guards on duty down here."
"Almost too bad, that," Filp said.
"If we could find a guard, we could threaten to kill him if he didn't tell us where Phasius is. Might even get a key from him."
At that moment they came alongside a heavy wooden door.
"Speaking of keys," Slade said, "you're probably faster at opening this sort of lock than I am. Let's find out what's here."
While Slade held the light, Filp examined the lock. "I don't think it's the dungeon," he said. "Not the right kind of lock, really. More the sort–yes, and there's another bolt. I'd say we'd like to get behind this door, but it's not why we came."
"Why? What is it?"
"Well, what do you guard besides your prisoners? Want to grab a little something to defray expenses?"
Before Slade could decide, Filp had the door open. His prediction had been correct. Here was the prince's collection of valuables.
"Well, I guess it couldn't hurt to look around a moment–as long as you don't think it's trapped."
"Yeah, good point. One of us should stay by the door."
Slade thought about that for a moment, too. He didn't want to risk Filp; on the other hand, this was his mission, and he had to see it through. Stealing a bit of treasure was not on the agenda. But Filp was right, they had some expenses in all this. In a sense, this was a battle in a larger war; and in war, it was usually the case that each side attempted to make the other pay the costs.
"Wait here," he said. "I'll take a look around. I've got the light anyway."
There was a lot in the room. As Slade panned the flashlight over it, he realized he was going to have to consider carefully what he took. A pocket full of coins wouldn't have so much value, but would likely not be traceable. Many of the more valuable objects here would be identifiable, things he could not spend or give to anyone here; more than that, things that would be missed, with the result that the prince would be seeking them. That wouldn't be a problem if he took them out of this world with him, but he didn't know for certain when he was leaving.
Small jewelry caught his fancy. In particular, he saw a chest containing mostly loose rings. From this he grabbed several, selectively, and shoved them in his pocket. He also took money, gold and silver coins that could be used to pay for things and bribe people along the way, enough to fill a good sized pouch.
As he turned back toward the door, the light hit something which immediately struck him as out of place. Returning his attention to it, he saw a book, a small leather covered diary of some sort, not old, not precious, not in any way valuable in the sense that these other treasures were valuable. He wondered why such a book would be here; he opened it.
Leafing through it, his mouth dropped open.
"This goes with us," he said.
"What is it?"
"Cornel will know what to do with it; at least, I hope he will."
"What is it?" Filp repeated.
"It's a confession. Prince Acquivar has recorded how and why he killed the princess, and was foolish enough to keep it locked in his treasury."
He slipped the book in his pocket.
"Let's go get Phasius."
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: