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Stories from the Verse
For Better or Verse
Chapter 107: Slade 84
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 106: Hastings 128
It did not take long for the soldiers to clear the few guards who watched from the castle walls; in that time, Slade and Shella reached the door to the barracks tower and made themselves comfortable. Watching the door was a necessary precaution, but no one passed through it. His two groups of five had combined somewhere near the front gate, and doubled back together to reach him.
He took a moment to explain the next part of the plan, and then led the way down the dark stairs of the barracks tower. Shella took the rear this time.
At the bottom of the steps, he quickly checked the break room and other areas of the barracks. As he had hoped, the enemy slept. On his signal, his ten soldiers spread through the common room in which a hundred beds were occupied by a scant thirty soldiers. Once everyone was in place, Slade spoke.
"Good morning, gentlemen. I know it's a bit earlier than you anticipated for your wakeup call, but the fact is that your castle has been captured in the night, and you should all consider yourselves prisoners of war. We are fully prepared to kill anyone who requires it of us, but we'd all rather you came quietly to King Morgan's new dungeon, where you can await his famously fair judgments. Please, feel free to pull on some pants, but don't make any sudden moves or draw any weapons, or your lives are forfeit."
The soldiers responded much as anticipated, groggily rising and dressing, surrendering themselves to their captors. Once all were ready, they were marched into the hall and down to the dungeon. Two of them, at Slade's instruction, raised the gate, and then they moved forward, down the ladder to the holding area, where after pulling up the ladder and closing the gate Slade left them.
"At this point," he said, "there will be someone on the main gate, but he won't be terribly wary or watchful. He needs to be captured, or killed. I think three of you can handle that without any trouble, even if there happens to be two there. Five need to head over to the servant's quarters and place them under house arrest, so they understand that they're not to be milling about out here without our clear and specific permission. The last two will come with me to find whoever is home, and gather them into the dining room where we can watch them, with particular attention to the Princess Odette. Shella, you're with us. Let's go."
Finding the bedrooms took a bit longer than Slade had planned; daylight was filtering in through the windows by the time he was ascending the stair that he knew would take him there. Still, the few who had stayed behind, including one elderly knight whose days of glory were long over, the prince's considerably younger brother, and a lady of whose identity Slade was uncertain beyond that she was not the princess, were all asleep when found, and given a moment to dress before being taken into custody. Finally the room in which the princess slept was located, and Slade stepped into it.
Odette was already awake. She sat on the side of the bed with a robe draped over her shoulders, inadequately covering the thin night dress she wore. As Slade entered the room, she spoke.
"I suppose you're going to attack me," she said. "After all, I am defenseless, and I don't imagine you've seen anyone as stunningly beautiful as I am."
Slade stared at her for a moment. Something in his mind said this was a trap; he just wasn’t clear how it was to be sprung.
"Shella?" he called. "I think I need you in here."
As Shella entered the room, Odette's face fell.
"Actually," Slade said, "although you're lovely, to be sure, I would have to say I've seen better, and am quite happy with what I've got. If you'll fix that robe, we'll all be more comfortable escorting you to the dining room to await King Morgan's verdict in your case."
Slade started to turn; but a quick movement caught the corner of his eye. His sword sprung from its scabbard and swept the flying dagger from the air, inches from Shella.
"That was not a good sign of your willingness to cooperate, Princess. I should let you know that I am not one of King Morgan's subjects, and do not share his reputation for fairness. To put it straight, I'll kill you if you cross me. I don't care who you are. Now, move."
The Princess, now weaponless, stormed from the room with a sulk on her face.
Once they had their prisoners settled in the dining room, Slade turned his attention to the matter of letting the king know their situation. He couldn't send one of his soldiers; apart from being rather short-handed, it was unlikely that a man could get through in the daylight, and by nightfall it would be too late. This was complicated by the fact that he was going to have to arrange for everyone to get some rest, and this before the castle was put under siege. He needed to get things organized quickly.
He placed one man on the gate, one with the servants, and one in the dining room. Then, with Shella's help, he set up an old bit of magic he'd done many years before. Writing a note on a bit of parchment, he performed the ritual and watched it disintegrate. "Hopefully," he said, "that will have reached Morgan's camp."
Shella was already using her mirror to check that. "It's there," she said. "I don't know when he'll find it, but it's out in the open, so he should see it when he comes back to his tent."
"Not more we can do, then," Slade said.
He conferred with the man in the dining room, and then he and Shella found a comfortable place to rest. The instructions he left suggested that those sleeping should be allowed a few hours, and then those on watch should trade with three of the sleepers so they, too, could rest, and finally the last four should be roused to take a third watch of several hours, so that everyone would be as rested as they could afford. Things were well in hand, for the moment. As long as those on watch kept alert, they should stay that way.
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: