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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 105: Brown 87
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 104: Slade 83
The sun was rising as Derek emerged from the woods into the small city of the humans. This was good, as daylight would hide his glow and so make him less obvious as he moved about here. He did not wish to be killed on his way to make peace; it would be best if he could reach his destination unobserved.
He surveyed the city. It had the feeling of familiarity, as he had in a sense been here many times, viewing it in his mind's eye. Yet now as he moved through it, there was a lack of a sense of space. It was much larger than he had realized, but also something else: disproportionate. It was not the same as having been there. It was more like having seen an extensive guidebook with many photos and maps, or having seen movies of people living and traveling in the city; yet this, too, was different. It was a place he had visited unfettered by the limitations of his tiny body, through which he had moved at that speed that suited what he wished to see. It was now clear that he had at times leapt down several blocks in an instant, and other times lingered in one area. Getting the sense of distance was not so easy.
He reminded himself that he did not have to travel as humans did. The combination of the facts that he had been observing humans in this place for so long and that he once had been one, and perhaps also that sprites had no cities or anything akin to them, had caused him to think about travel within its boundaries in terms of following streets and alleys. That was not terribly spritish, he realized as he climbed above the rooftops. After all, public buildings were generally larger than private homes, and having seen the image of the one he wanted he shouldn't have too much trouble identifying it from the air. Soon enough he spotted it, and moved through the sky toward it. If anyone below saw him, he did not know it. At this moment he realized that the glow of his skin protected him, for he was not a dark spot in the sky which would appear a shadow, like a bird in the distance, but a speck of light which would fade against the bright background of the sunlit heavens. That which made his people easy to see at night and under the trees made them invisible in their native world of the daylit skies.
Even so, he readied one of his arrows. The ruler of this city, whatever title he bore, would have guards; the guards might attack a sprite for mere sport, even if they did not think him dangerous. He would need to be ready for that.
Reaching the building, which was something more of a mansion and office building than a castle or palace, he circled it. There were many open windows throughout the building. It made far more sense to enter this way than through the door; he hesitated only because in his clairvoyant explorations he had always used the door. There were always guards there; it had never mattered when he was not physically present, but now they would almost certainly want to stop him. A window made the most sense; he just had to find one which opened on an empty room or hall. This, too, proved simple enough, and he soon alighted on an unused desk in an unoccupied office of unclear function. Next, he had to find his way to the main room. That was where the king, or whatever he was, would be.
The door was closed. This was another obstacle he had not fully considered. Doorknobs were, relatively speaking, huge; it would take both hands to grasp one, and quite a bit of work to both turn and pull the right ways. He stowed the bow and arrow, and flew over to this new problem, wrapping arms around it and forcing his wings in a pattern designed to twist him sideways through the air. The knob turned easily enough; but the door did not pull open. He pressed harder, and it rattled.
It was bolted. He didn't have a key.
He flew back to the desk and sat on the edge. He could, of course, try another window; but this suggested that most rooms would either be occupied or locked, so he was going to have to deal with one problem or the other. Probably there was a way to deal with this one problem, if he gave it enough thought. He knew how locks worked. He'd picked his share of electronic ones over the years. This was a much simpler system, but didn't contain many elements that weren't in the more complex ones. It was just that with the more complex locks he tended to attack the more complex parts to override them. Here he had to think in simpler terms. He needed a lock pick, something he could slip into the lock to shift the mechanism, like a small bit of metal. Or did he? A thought came to him.
He flew over to the lock and rested his hand on it. Closing his eyes, he forwarded his mental view into the lock. It was dark, but he didn't really need to see it; he needed to image it. He shifted to a tactile sensation, feeling the shape of the parts within the door, and forming an image from those shapes. From this, he recognized the basic parts, the bolt, the lever, the stops, and began moving the mechanism, loosening the latch.
In a moment, it was clear. He again grabbed the knob, twisted his body, and soon had the door open. He was inside.
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 #202: Verser Confrontations. 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: