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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 78: Brown 78
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 77: Slade 74
Landi did learn to walk and to talk pretty much on schedule, and with Derek's encouragement learned to fly early in life. In fact, Derek encouraged him in many ways, telling him that as he grew older he was going to want to be strong as well as smart, and that he could work on those things now while he was younger to get a head start on them.
The tree was a bit more crowded that winter, as they had to have more food and room for Landi to practice walking; but it was also warmer for it, so no one complained. The distance between them, Derek realized, would mean they would never really be playmates. Whatever Derek was doing would take Landi years to learn, and by then Derek would be doing something else.
Twelve years old was a milestone in Derek's mind; it was the age he had achieved as a human before he entered the verse. It came and went with as much, or as little, ceremony as any other year. It was his thirteenth birthday to which his parents gave serious attention. Here they said he had crossed the threshold to adulthood, and should begin planning his life. He thought this a bit early; as a human, he didn't expect to have to start planning his life until he was finishing high school, which was a lot of years away at that age. More difficult, he didn't yet know how to deal with the human problem in a non-violent way.
He had an idea, though. It was an idea that had lain dormant in his memory for too many years.
His idea required that he find his old equipment. He didn't need all of it; but the sense of scriff that told him where it was didn't tell him what was where. He would have to track down each source individually. There were three of them. One was right here, not far from the clearing. That was the place to start.
He went alone. He was old enough now that his parents wouldn't worry about him being away for a few hours, as long as he was back by nightfall–which in the summer was quite late in the day. He knew there would be many problems. The fact that none of it had moved in so long suggested that it was buried. That did not bode well, as some of it would have rotted in the ground after so many years. It couldn't be helped. He would have to replace the clothes. What he needed may have survived. Beyond that, even if he managed to dig it up, it would be huge compared to his small body. He was an exceptionally strong sprite, and dared to believe that he could pick up the things he had carried years before, at least individually. But they were not going to be easy to carry, and would be at least awkward. Then he didn't know where he could put them. It wasn't like they would even fit in the tree, even if he could just bring them home and tell his parents he found them in the woods. They would certainly be upset by the laser rifle, as it would look like a gun. He needed a place to keep them where they would be unseen and protected, but available to him when he needed them. To this end, he built a shelter in a secluded ravine, huge by spritish standards, which he hoped would contain it all.
His first guesses were right. He had to do quite a bit of digging to determine what was there, and these were the things he had been wearing and carrying when the bubble burst. His clothes were rotted away; but remarkably the other things were in good shape. He was able to recover his laser rifle, his laptop and tools and parts, and the power cells. The small backpack bookbag, being largely waterproofed and weather resistant, had protected its rather meager contents. The frying pan and butcher knife had rusted, but he thought he could probably save them given the opportunity. All these things he moved to his hiding place. They were important, and he needed them; but they were not the things he needed now.
The second place was quite a few miles distant. He found he could not get there and back in a day, and so it waited a year until he could persuade his parents to let him trek out on an overnight journey. This got him where he wanted to be, but it was not what he hoped to find. It was, in a sense, the jackpot. His bicycle, the large backpack he got from Bill, the sleeping gear, his change of clothing, video games–the bulk of his possessions–were all there. They had been buried in dry sandy soil, and were little damaged, as well as easy to recover. It took a long time to pack everything into the bicycle baskets, and even longer to figure out how to move the vehicle the many miles back into the woods to reach his hiding place. He had to reorganize everything once he got it there, as the bicycle was the largest object he owned, and would not fit unless he put it away first.
Yet the one thing he sought was not there. It would be by itself, in the third location. This might be so far away as to be outside the homeland of the sprites. He couldn't suggest this to his parents, as he knew they would not let him go. He needed to find this, though, because it was his one hope for solving the sprites' problem. Somehow he needed to get them to let him go on this journey, without explaining too much to them.
The only thing he could think to do was to tell them the truth; but he couldn't tell them the truth. He could only tell them part of it. He told them that he was going to try to deliver the sprites from the oppression of the humans, but that to do this he was going to have to go on a long journey, by himself, and seek something to which The King would guide him. He couldn't say what it was, but he would know it when he found it. He did not know how long he would be gone, or how far he would travel; but he did know which direction he had to go.
They were reluctant; this was expected. They talked about it for several days. Lelach thought he was too young to make any such journey; Morani said he hadn't heard of anything like it in the holy writ. To his father, Derek pointed out that no two stories in the writ were the same, or even all that similar. The fact that his story was not a copy of something that happened to someone else made it more likely. To his mother, all he could say was that he would be very careful, but that he believed his destiny would bring him back–it was not his time to die.
After most of a week, they agreed that he could go. He gathered a few things for his journey, including his bow and arrows, and set out in the direction he was drawn. His course took him through unending woods. He could at first not remember a world in which there was such a forest. Even in the world that had been destroyed, there were roads that broke the wilderness. He remembered, eventually, the swamp in which he'd spent a couple days. There was only one road there, and only one building; but he had found both swiftly. Here he traveled for days, sometimes passing other sprites, often seeing woodland animals, but never coming out of the woods.
He reached his destination on the fifth day. The thing he sought was not buried. It had appeared inside the hollow of a tree. After checking to be certain it was not an occupied tree, he easily entered it and drew out the large leather case that once fit on his waist. Within there were still ten of the darts he sought, each tipped with the poisonous quill of the porcuperson, a venom that rendered its victims unconscious but did not kill. This was his answer for the sprites. He knew he had much work to do. Chemistry was only a minor interest of his when he was studying. He somehow thought he'd have better luck creating an electronic stun gun than duplicating this drug. An electronic stun gun was not an option; a tranquilizing drug was possible. He didn't know how he was going to begin to analyze it, but now he had his sample and that was the right place to start.
As he emerged from the tree, he froze. There was movement in the forest, of a sort he had never seen before. The creatures who walked mere feet from him were far too big for sprites; yet they were not the monolithic humans. They could only be, Derek thought, elves. He had followed his guiding sense, but it had carried him into the ancient lands of the elves, the people from whom Tonathel had delivered them untold generations before.
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 #191: Versers Travel. 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: