keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 55: Slade 66
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 54: Brown 71
They were now mounted, riding through the city, four of them with Saiman in the lead. Slade wondered how having horses would help. Surely they weren't going to vault the walls; but what were they going to do?
Before long he saw that they were approaching a gate in the wall. One of the guards gave the customary greeting.
"Halt! Who goes there?"
Saiman rode forward, answering as he approached them.
"I am Saiman, captain of patrols in this quadrant."
"Yes, sir. What do you wish, sir?"
"I thought I saw something, or someone, on the walls. I am taking a small party outside the city to search, in case someone is trying to enter or leave the city unlawfully by night. Will you open the gate?"
They looked at each other. "Sir, the gates are not opened at night."
"That is ordinarily so; and we could awaken the commander to ask permission. However, I am willing to take this authority on myself. I shall go outside with these men and search the walls along this area, perhaps also the surrounding grounds, and return to this gate when I am satisfied. You will open the gates for me now, before this culprit, if there is a culprit, is able to make good his escape."
Again they looked at each other. Apparently they were caught in that great trap in which all soldiers eventually find themselves: whether to follow the rules or to follow orders. It hung on a thread; and Slade knew better than to break that thread.
"I'm waiting," Saiman said.
"Yes, sir," one of them said, and proceeded to open the gate. His companion started to object, but apparently thought better of it.
"Thank you," Saiman said, and rode out of the city, Slade, Phasius, and Filp behind him. Slade thought how ironic it was that they had carefully sent their horses ahead because they did not think they could get them out of the city, and now were only able to get out of the city by borrowing horses. It worked, though. They were out.
Now it was time to find Shella. Slade was not certain whether this was the gate she was watching; he somehow thought not. He also realized that she would be looking for three men afoot, not four on horseback. This could complicate their rendezvous significantly.
"I must thank you for your help," Slade said.
"Don't," Saiman answered. "There is some risk to this even now. I shall have to remain out here some time, and then when I return I will have to tell them that I assigned you to watch the walls until daybreak. It will become particularly difficult if they report to someone that I assigned three men to watch the walls, and someone asks which three. But hopefully it will become one of those questions that disappear in the confusion that accompanies all such investigations. I may be commended for vigilance in investigating your escape; I may be beheaded for assisting your escape. But at least Phasius will make it to safety."
"We have to meet our companion," Slade began.
"Don't tell me how this will be done," the soldier answered. "I don't wish to be able to tell more than I already know. Phasius," he said, turning his attention to the priest, "I owed you my life. Consider the debt paid tonight." Looking back to Slade, he finished, "Release the horses when you find your friend; they will return to the city on their own, and be returned to the stables by those who find them." He wheeled his horse, and rode away along the walls.
"Nice guy," Filp said. "Too bad he really doesn't like us."
"Yeah, well," Slade said, "we really asked a lot of him tonight. I gather you did something for him once, Phasius; whatever it was, it must have been good."
"I try to do good for all I meet. It is the way of the gods."
"Sure," Slade said. "But this must have been really good."
He turned his horse in the opposite direction from that in which Saiman had gone, and started forward. "Come on," he called. "We've got to figure out where Shella is."
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 #180: Versers Focus. 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: