Deus Ex Mechina

The very unpolished first chapters of a book about a man living in the western frontier, facing the law, strange magics that should not exist, and his own tarnation name. And a lot of generic tropes.

Zach McClellan

60 min.

Chapter one: A Day in the Generic Life

A dark figure crashed through the window of the saloon into the dusty street, releasing a grunt of pain. Jeers called out after him as he scrambled away.

“Teach that slimeball a lesson, Sloan!”

“He’ll think twice about cheating!”

“Wow, he had to have flown a good ten yards. What a sport!”

Great. Not only had he antagonized a group of angry giants, but they had a bunch of annoying sidekicks. Why were there always sidekicks? It made work so much harder.

The three men he had been playing poker with slowly and dramatically pushed through the swinging doors and posed for the gunfight. Everything was perfect. The sunlight glittered off of their guns in their holsters and their spurs, the afternoon light perfectly accenting their jawbones, which they held slightly clenched. They looked off towards the distant horizon, an expression of righteous determination. There was just one problem. They were idiots.

As they slowly and dramatically whipped their long coats back, allowing for easier access of the gun in the case of a quick draw, he rolled behind some barrels. This was not ideal. Today was Just Day, when the government had finally decided to do something about bandits and took back Fort Justin. The street was desolate, everyone celebrating at home or at the local festival, reducing chances of getting some good crossfire up. And he was sitting behind barrels of all things. Barrels! Of all the generic things to hide behind, it had to be barrels! He would never live this down. And all for one 4 of spades.

He peeked above the barrel and saw them glowering in his general direction. He had just robbed them of a dramatic shootout they could’ve bragged about to their lackys for days. One of the men motioned the other to go inside. A few seconds later, out tramped the entire population of the saloon, and they began to fan out. This was getting worse and worse.

The barrels he had hid behind were just across the street of the saloon, so it would take them about two seconds to find him. He always had been terrible at hide’m and find’m when he was a kid.

One of the leaders, Gunpowder Jones (self dubbed), began to walk toward the barrels, a smile of triumph of his face, a gleam of bloodlust in his eye. Right inconvenient, that.

A swift kick to a barrel sent it rolling, tumbling the man. A elbow to the head of the mighty Gunpowder Jones left him stunned. When Jones regained his sense, he found himself propped up, a gun to his head.

“Back it up, nice and easy now folks. I’d hate to hurt this very kind gentleman, but I have a seizure in my trigger finger occasionally. That’s right, that’s right. Just keep backing- DID I TELL YOU TO DROP YOUR WEAPONS? Pick your gun back up! Yes you! Pick it up and back away.” Idiots. This was not supposed to be the solution. That would be way too anticlimactic.

He backed up into the nearest shop, a two story general store, dragging Jones.

The door bolted and barricaded, and Jones gagged and bound, he took better stock of his surroundings. The store was closed for the day, due to the holiday, so he would face no opposition. He would probably get a bit of time before they decided to attack despite Jones, so he could plan a bit. He squinted, the few brilliant shafts of light making it through small chinks in the wall illuminating the airborne dust, but nothing else. There was no shelving, just items piled around the edges of the small room. The organized items would be up top. He found a candle and lit it, and was momentarily blinded. Were those… gunpowder kegs? What luck! He grinned. It wasn’t every day you had an excuse to use them and actually possessed them at a convenient time. There were some piles of rope, one of which he tied to his belt, more pistols, a bottle of rum, and some baked beans. He took them all, then began to lug the powder keg up to the second story. He made it up about two steps, give or take two (but mainly take).

“Wow, that was [gasp] very [gasp] hard. I need to reevaluate,” he gasped (as you probably noticed.)

“You’re pretty pathetic. I would pull my act together if I were you.”

“You know what, Gunpowder Jones? Your name is stupid! So there, take that! How are you talking anyway, I thought I gagged you!”

“You used like a shoelace or something. What was that supposed to do? And it is too a cool name! And your the one weirdly wearing leather gloves”

“It’s definitely not a cool name, and they help with dramatic exits using rope. But quit trying to change the subject. Your name is stupid. End of story.”

“Don’t make me roll over there and bite your ankles! AGHHHHHH!” With that ferocious battle cry, Jones began to wriggle towards him at an alarming rate. In about a minute, the attacker made it nearly four feet.

After a few minutes, he had developed a pretty good system of moving the barrel up the stairs, consisting of heaving it up a single stair then resting for said few minutes. At this rate he’d only take a few hours. Peachy. The door shuddered suddenly, dust raining from the ceiling. Quintuple time! He heaved it up several more steps, then had to stop. Well, to tarnation with that, he would have to do this old school style. Old school as in boring like old people, not old school like cool.

He kicked the barrel down the stairs, then sprinted up to the second level and yanked the window open and fastened the rope to one of the shelves. There were a lot of men crowded by the door, cheering as others pounded against it with the butts of their rifles. Wow, this was getting down right exciting! He yanked off his ragged shirt and tore a bit off, then popped open the bottle of alcohol, pouring a bit on it then stuffing the cloth into the neck of the bottle. Hopefully this was how you made them, but he honestly didn’t know. Any minute now…

Any minute now…

Any minute now…

Any minute now…

Wow, they were really bad at pounding down doors. Maybe he should’ve bothered with that powder keg after all. Just as he was considering going back to get it in hopes that dropping it on them would make them work faster, he heard a tell tale crack, and they all rushed in. He touched the clothe to the candle and watched it woosh into flame, then grabbed the rope and hopped out the window, landing a few feet below the window, feet braced against the wall. He heard a shout below, then white wash beside his foot exploded. Tarnation heck.

His hand released the bottle, and was rewarded with a lovely whooshing exploding sound. As he grabbed the rope in a firmer two handed grip, his smile could be contained no longer. This was downright invigorating. Then several explosions rippled against the white wash and pain blossomed in his right shoulder. He almost let go of the rope. He was still being shot at. Right. Grimacing, he kicked off the wall, letting the rope slide excruciatingly against his hands. Despite the gloves, the heat still burned. He heard the men shouting in the building.

The momentum of the fall sent him rolling behind the barrels he had hid behind previously. He stumbled up. Who had been shooting him? He noticed a black rifle barrel poke up from below the ledge of the saloon window, and began to sprint. Hopefully no one was just standing on the road ready to shoot him if he abandoned his cover. He saw the man's head pop up, then his eyes widen in fear as he noticed his target was about twenty feet away and his rifle was probably not loaded. He stared in disbelief as the cheater, the random man passing through town, ran toward him, without even pulling out his weapon. As he hurtled through the window and caught his head. His disbelief probably didn’t continue far past that though, because people typically struggle to do that once they are knocked unconscious.

The stranger took his cover and looked at the destruction he had caused. Smoke was billowing out the the store, the entrance completely encased in flame. He no longer heard shouting from that direction, so they had probably found a way out. But then where was everyone?

Grunting, he tugged the can of beans from his belt (it was wedged very tight), and tossed it out into the road. It exploded, and small dust clouds popped up all around it, gunshots echoing through the street. Wow. There were a LOT of people.

He heard Sloan, another one of the man he had played with, shout, “I recommend you come out. We know where you are, and you’ve got a pretty big debt to settle. It behooves you to come out before we settle it for you.”

“Did you seriously just say behooves? What is this, the royal palace?”

Silence. The first thing he had learned when playing with them was that they had very little sense of humor. They began to file out, standing in a line in the center of the street, facing the saloon where he hid. Very, very dramatic.

“Let’s get‘m, boys!”

Fire suddenly blossomed from the store behind them, the eruption tossing many some distance, shrapnel taking down others. Powder kegs. Always a lovely addition to any event.

Some screamed, and some just lied there. And a few raced toward the saloon.

The traveler reached for one of the pistols he had grabbed from the store. Gone. he must’ve dropped it somewhere during the escape from the window. Perhaps when he had been shot. That thought caused him to gasp in pain. He’d forgotten about the wound, and it did not appreciate being ignored. There was no time to bandage it now, though. He whipped out the only gun not lost, his gun, a custom made seven-shooter. He grimaced from the pain the motion caused to his shoulder, but the familiar weight soothed him. Armed and ready, he vaulted over the bar and waited.

He didn’t have to wait long. The men burst in, light streaming into the room, still full of smoke from their previous habitation of it. The door swung shut.

“He can’t of went far. He’s outgunned and desperate. Don’t hesitate, men.”

Hurrah. Who needed judges and juries anyways?

The room was large, tables spanning the entirety, with the counter he hid behind in the very back. The lamps barely penetrated the gloom, as did the light streaming through the broken window. They began to make their way through the tables, looking under them, but it was clear they were making their way back to his position. He’d have been an idiot not to hide there, and they knew it. Well, fortune favors the bold, he thought.

He jumped up and fired three shots, catching one enemy in the arm, and one in the thigh and foot. The others whipped around and let loose, forcing him to duck down and shattering bottles in the region his head had recently occupied. They knew his position, and he was pinned. Luckily, they hadn’t accounted for his epic skills.

He picked up a bottle and tossed in into the air. The crack of guns and and exploded bottle sounded in return. Immediately they stopped shooting, realising they had been deceived. And he struck. A shot struck a man’s shoulder, the only part of him visible behind the cover, and he yanked back the hammer once again, and blasted a man through a thin table he had propped up as shelter, then he jerked it back once more, hitting a man’s arm as he tried to shoot back from behind the cover. All this took place in about one second.

He was already crouched below the cover when they finally registered they had been hit and let out their cries.

“That was your sixth bullet. You’re out. Better to come now submissively, maybe the sentence won’t be too harsh. You don’t come, this ugly place may be your last sight. Come on out, you gave a hell of a fight.”

It’s amazing how often this strategy of counting bullets does not work. In fact, it fails spectacularly quite often. There was always that guy who had managed not to drop his extra guns, or reloaded his pistol, or something equally unsporting. This was one of those times.

The hunted stood up, his hands in the air, one loosely held the “unloaded” pistol. His young face, framed by wildly arranged short black hair, held an uncanny smile. It was quite enjoyable to be unnerving, in his humble opinion.

“Co- come out in the open. Nice and easy now.” The poor fool. A simple smile set his voice shaking.

BAM!

It was almost funny, the way literally every single man instantly dropped at the noise. He hadn’t aimed at anyone, of course. Shooting an unsuspecting person from point blank was just messed up. But this was enough of an advantage. He dove and rolled towards the man who had called for him to come out, coming out of the roll on one knee, and slamming the man’s head into the ground in one smooth motion. One out cold. Approximately six to go.

A swift kick snapped a table leg off. A well placed throw smacked one of the enemies attempting to sneak out from behind his barricade. A lung and slide, a slight thump, and one more was down.

The rest of the men followed suit, finding pool cues or removing table legs. Sure, they would attack a man four on one, but they weren’t complete strangers to honor. They wouldn’t fight pistol on club. The four men regrouped near the entrance as he stood up, dusting off his coat and wincing when he noticed his shoulder. Being shot was not fun. Well, he’d have time to complain when he was dead.

They ran at once, makeshift bludgeoning weapons held high. It was a terrifying sight. Up until he kicked a table at them, which caused one man to double over, clutching his stomach, and the rest to scatter. The three others approached more cautiously, the fourth lagging behind them. They tried to strike at the same time from three sides, but he threw his club at the one coming towards him face on, forcing him to jump out of the way. He caught the club at his left, tugging the man to the other side, in line with the swing to the other’s club, then kicked their legs from beneath them. He finished them by dropping, slamming his elbows into their stomachs. They wouldn’t be getting up for sometime.

A club slammed his shoulder as jumped up. His injured shoulder. His vision grew red a fuzzy. His entire existence seemed to become pure pain for that moment, excruciating bolts shooting throughout his body. The club caught him again, this time on the head, but he barely felt that in comparison. He struck his fist out blindly, catching the man’s knee. This sent him reeling back, and gave the visitor enough time to compose himself.

Two men only. He could do this. He charged toward the man who had clubbed his shoulder, slamming his jaw upward with his right fist, then kneeing him in the stomach, then caught the man's head as he doubled over. He slammed the head against his knee, and let the man drop. One more to go.

He looked around and made eye contact with the last one remaining. Fear. Carnal and wild. This man knew he had lost. He began to fumble his pistol out. Too late. The stranger had sprinted, rising onto the table in one smooth stride, and flung himself off, an outstretched foot catching the man’s head, flinging him back ward.

The man groaned, then coughed. “Who [cough] are you?” he groaned. “Where in Hell do they breed monsters like you?”

“I’m known through these parts as... Jackson Swiftfire.”

“That’s [cough] a really [cough] lame name.”

“You’re right. I actually made that up on the spot, but that doesn’t excuse it. That sounded really stupid, and I am really sorry.”

And with that, Stacy, the only criminal on this whole side of the continent with a girls name, walked out of the saloon and into the street.

Stacy whistled as he walked down a smaller road a few streets away from the fight. Yes, his shoulder hurt like tarnation, but he’d been through far worse.He passed an empty watering barrel, and heard a meowing issue from it. He veered his course, allowing him to peer in.

It was a splotchy orange and black, fat and sleek. Probably never seen a hard day in it’s petty life, but now trapped and helpless. It was trapped, alone. Helpless. He spat at it and kicked the barrel, then began to walk away and resume his whistling when he heard a gasping behind him.

He whipped around and saw a young child. Fear and sadness in his eyes, betrayal, even loathing. And a single tear leaked from his eye. He couldn’t have been over six. Stacy had just crushed this poor child’s dreams.

Stacy knelt down. “Kid, let me tell you something. There’s a lotta good things in this world. Cats ain’t one of them. Get yourself a dog or something.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a bag of coins, tossing it to the child, who flinched, then sniffled and let out a little smile, then scampered away to what was presumably his house.

Stacy resumed his whistling and began to turn around when he heard the distinctive click of a pistol being cocked.

“You, my good sir, are under arrest.”

He heard many more clicks. Peachy. Well, just another typical day in the generic life.

Chapter two: Tales of the Disillusioned

“Charles Scamwell, according to this very large poster we found, you are guilty of… disorder, resisting arrest, stealing, scamming, blackmailing, bribing, stealing chickens to create a aviary circus, co-”

“Objection, your honor: that charge is a fake, the officer who wrote that report was just bitter because I scammed him, blackmailed him, then resisted arrest and then attempted to bribe him with his own money.” The day had not been going well for Stacy. At least they hadn’t figured out his name yet.

“So you admit to doing those crimes?”

“Could I get a lawyer? This is illegal, isn’t it? Even for petty criminals like me?”
“You have one.” Stupid white wigged embodiment of all evil.

“I’m not sure the chicken with the hat is qualified, no matter how majestic he looks.” The piggish judge burst into giggles which he failed to hide. After a minute or two, he somewhat regained composure, only slightly red faced and out of breath.

“Can I at least read the rest of the list? 27 kills, 18 of which were cold blooded murder, and claiming to have a girl’s name to avoid consequences. I applaud your grit, even if you skirt some laws, he he he.” Stacy felt his face become hot. “We’ve got enough evidence to have you hung. You have a good deal of deaths on your name, and no one can get you out of all of those. And you managed to defeat over 40 men. Also, according to this poster calling you Stacy,” -Stacy breathed in sharply- “you’ve escaped incarceration 12 times. You’re not the kind of person we can leave sitting in a cell for weeks while we wait for a lawyer. You’ll be executed in two days.”

“Bu-but your honor-”

“Yay, I’m so glad it’s settled! Take him away, guards.”

Stacy was roughly yanked from his wooden seat, banging his knee on the table in the process. He dragged his feet as they yanked him from the brightly lit room, full of polished furniture and clean air, as they tugged him through the doorway. It swung shut with a resounding thud, the smooth and patterned oak silencing his pleas. And he was dragged into another world. The air was damp and musty, with a slight undertone of rot and decay. Occasional torches along the hallway did little to pierce the gloom. An occasional moan issued from the dark cells, foul caverns blocked by iron. This jail, Iron Justice (a rather overly dramatic name if you asked Stacy), resided in the town of Garrenberry, a few towns over from where he had gotten caught. This was the kind of place where they sent the worst of the worst criminals from all around this district, those who were decided to be unworthy of any better life, or those whose minds were completely lost. These could very well be his last sights.

He definitely was not deserving of this. He was hardly a criminal, more a… cleanser of stupidity. And he never scammed those who could not afford to scammed, nor those who did not deserve it. And twenty seven kills on a single false name? Ha! Sure, occasionally someone got caught in the crossfire or such, but those were normally the kinds of people who the government paid you to kill, bandits and the like. Someone had clearly been using his good fake name to get away scott free! When he escaped he would have to find “him”.

“Say, guards, how much does this job pay? It’s gotta be pretty high to deal with lowlifes like me, and these conditions. And I heard the hours aren’t great either.”

The one on his left muttered something intelligible. “What was that, chap?” Stacy said perkily. This could be easier than he thought.

“‘e said ‘shut up’, ya idiot,” the second guard said in a slurred accent, slightly drunk and probably from a nationality where he had taught himself a language he had made up with the most guttural sounds possible. “You don’t got no reason ta know, and we ain’t open ta no bribes from one who ain’t got a penny.”

Drats. This man was not going to be easy to work with. Not only was he an intolerable, but Stacy had almost no idea what he’d said.

He’d need to figure out how to isolate the other one. The quieter mutter showed he was weaker, which was supported by the fact the other one had seen the need to overshadow him and speak for both of them. Very well.

A short while later, after just a few shouts and threats, and a wee bit of bodily shoving, he was tossed into the cell and the door clanged behind him. Stacy landed on his hands and knees, which throbbed but were saved by a thin layer of hay that was strewn about the floor. These prisoners were not to be considered fellow men, but animals.

He went to sit on a seat that was near the back of his cell by his bead. Turned out it was actually a very old human.

“GAAAHHHH!” Stacy said calmly and collectively.

“AHHHHHH!” the old man replied somewhat less collectedly, clutching his chest.

“Just… uh… checking your reflexes. Ha ha. They’re in good condition, I suppose,” Stacy muttered in a completely dignified manner.

“I don’t think I have many days left in this wretched cell, and I don’t think you exactly added to them.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine. A little heart attack never hurt no one.”

“What did you get thrown in her for? Assaulting old defenseless men?”

“Nah. Cheated a wee bit in a game of poker, and a mere forty people tried to beat me up, so I had to beat them all up, and blew up a general store in the process. Then they blamed the whole thing on me, so here I am.”

The old man peered out of his dark corner, revealing a withered face, dirty and weathered, a massive beard outlining his strong features. He gazed toward Stacy, his bright blue eyes piercing into his soul.

“Stacy, is that you! Of all the luck! And I thought there was nothing good about this wretched place!” Was that… Jackson? How?

“How in tarnation did you end up in this half of heck?”

“Funny story. I waited at camp for about a day, but I had seen the smoke and heard an explosion, and I ran out of baked beans. I figured when you hadn’t come back that I should go investigate. Turned out I was standing by a wanted poster of myself when I asked the sheriff. He didn’t exactly appreciate the humor of the situation like I did. So here I am.”

“How many kills?”

“What?”

“How many kills were on your poster? I somehow had 27 on my Charles Scamwell name. I think someone has been impersonating me.”

“That’s weird. I forgot about that, but he said I had something around thirty five, and I’m such a bad shot one would think that number was a joke.” That was true. Jackson was a truly spectacularly bad shot. One time, he was trying to fend off a bear with a shotgun, and he accidentally shot down a small tree which fell on him. That particular tree was behind him prior to him shooting. That was the kind of thing you never lived down.

“I’m sorry father. I- I’m sorry I failed you… Gasp!” The old man croaked, staring at Stacy, then fell backwards. Stacy lept over him, and his eyes were glazed.

“Oh, gosh dang it, gosh dang it. Are you okay? Guards? Guards! I think he’s dyi-”

“What in tarnation are you doing, boy? I was about to die peacefully before you ruined that!”

“Gahhh… are you serious? You’re clearly not dead. You almost just stressed me to the point that I was older then you! Did you really just pretend to die? What are you, drunk or something? If so, where’d you get it? I’ll get this information from you, old man, if it’s the-”

“I was just practicing. Fine. I was just hoping if I acknowledged my failures, how I was a disappointment, I might be swept from this world sooner. It’s all that I deserve, I’m such a rotten wretch. Why, I am undeserving of even…” He went on for several minutes. This man, beneath his mask of sorrow and pain, was brimming to tell Stacy something. But what? It would probably be something about the magical city of Leonendid, with its shining chariots or something to that extent. But what the heck, best to let him leave this forsaken world happy.

“What happened? How did you end up here?” These were the kind of words you never said if you didn’t have ten hours, and NEVER EVER said in the presence of someone who was probably insane. And yet Stacy uttered them. With immense pain, yes, but he uttered them.

“When I was just a long boy, scarcely above your knee, my father, a right good man, honorable and true (why, there was this one time when this widow in our area, went by the name of Miss Wilma, lived back in the East for her whole life, she did, ‘fore she moved into our town with her husband. But anyway, she was still-” the wizened man saw Stacy expression of boredom with a slight hint of burning rage, and hurried on: “Well, anyways, as I was saying, my father told me this: ‘son, for generations, we have been tasked with protecting a secret.’ Well, it certainly was a great secret, I came to find out. I spent years searching for it. When I was about nine years old, I finally worked up enough courage to search his study. ‘Twas a wondrous place, his study. He used to sit there for hours, smoking his pipe and reading. Sometimes, I’d just crawl up on his lap and read with him, for hours on hours. Those are most of my memories of him, in fact. He was never around much, had a lot of work on the stagecoach.” Stacy could feel the tendrils creeping from the edges of the floor, slowly creeping up him, strangling every inch of him. “Well, he was gone, just for a week or two, had some meeting back back east, with some of the other family who were part of the business. Most of that side of my family never moved from where they landed on the new continent, the half that weren’t descended by the people who used to call themselves Indians, ‘fore we drove them off this continent. Well, I figured I could take advantage of that. I searched through many papers, and all the books he’d never let me read. Nothing. Not a single gal-darning thing. My deceit wasted. I got frustrated. Angry. The kind of anger of a primal beast, or that which the Raiders of Old felt as they charged into battle, the brutal furry which crushes all restraint. I ripped the drawers out of his desk, tossing the papers into the air then slamming the drawers onto the floor. They shattered, and I was full of satisfaction, a triumphant smugness of releasing my frustration, my hatred of how the secret was hid. And then I saw a paper that had slid out of one of the shattered drawers. There had been a secret pocket. That paper, he had bothered to hide it. That was it. It had to be. I gingerly picked it up, full of excitement and fright. Who knew what it could contain. The paper was old and leathery, yellowed with time, yet each letter was perfect, each exactly the same as all the others of its type. It was eery, how perfect it was. The spacing too. Everything was perfect...”

“And?” Stacy had heard far to much to be left in suspense.

“Nothing. There was nothing.”

“There had to have been something. Why else would you have told me it?”

“It was called ‘The Declaration of Independence of the United States of…’ then some place I never heard of. Mekaka or something. It then went on with this whole rant about how it had its rights and freedom, and gave this whole inspirational speech. It was worded oddly, too. Strange language. Well, when my father came home, he was furious. Dragged every single item in his library outside, and lit it. Every single last piece it contained. And when the inferno was over, he left. Walked down the road towards town, and never came back. I was crying the whole time, watching from the window as he became something inhuman. Five years later. That was the next time I heard anything about him. An old friend of his, man named charles, stopped by. Told us, me and my ma, he had been killed by bandits, and how he fought honorably and whatnot, and how he died regretting leaving us. Load of lies, I’ll tell ya. Well, after he delivered the news, he pulled me aside. Told me my father died handing him this letter, telling him to give it to me straight away. It was filled with bullet holes, most of it unreadable, soaked through with blood. I left that night. Couldn’t handle the pressure anymore. I had to be the man of the house since I was nine, work my bones off, all the while saying how I was no good and would probably leave, just like my rotten embezzling father. That night, it crushed the last hope in me. Gone. Incinerated, like that library those years before, incinerated in a massive burst and then… nothing. Nothing left. So I gave them what they wanted. I ran. Took no time at all till I was nothing but a typical scumbag living off of others hard work. Got thrown in here over thirty years ago.”

“What… what did it say?”

“You can try to read it yourself. Kept it all this time, though I don’t know why. Caused my nothing but pain. I guess maybe I felt I owed it to him, for driving him away…” The man turned, hiding the tears at the corner of his eyes, and fumbled in the desk at the far corner of the cell, a single unlit candle on top, and drew out an old grimy envelope. He trudged to Stacy, and gently placed it in his hands. It carried a strange weight, a physical weight in the room, a holy shrine to this man and his hardships.

And it shattered. “Don’t tell me you seriously believe this old man. He’s a pint shy of being the sands themselves. What a bunch of rubbish.”

“Just gathering information. It’s good to get a lay of the land.”

The fury, betrayal in the old man’s eyes almost crushed Stacy. He had used him, then tossed his story aside like it was nothing. He had tossed aside this man's soul, which he had just handed to him. But he could almost see a relief in that man's eyes, a reassurance that his betrayal of the so called family tradition was not that big, that he was not responsible for anything. He could almost imagine that by ignoring the story for the most part, he had brought a relief, freedom from a lifetime of guilt. That saved Stacy.
For the next five hours, he talked quietly with the old man, not about the letter, the secret, but about adventures, the old times. Better times. Four hours later, precisely (Stacy had noted when the guard’s shift occurred), the man began to cough, and when he finally stopped, it was because he was no longer breathing. He had passed on into the next life. He wept silently to himself. This poor man had lost everything so young, his fate decided by others. He died with nothing but a few adventures to tell and years of sorrow on his mind. And Stacy could almost see himself in that place.

How different was, really? Sure, he’d never known his father, never lost him in the first place, never had to deal with betraying some hollowed secret, but that was about it. He hid behind masks of humor and nonchalance, played the part of a roguishly handsome outlaw who was the most gentlemanly criminal you’d ever met, played the game of invulnerability. He pretended to be untouchable by men or law, but it was all a facade. One of these days, he wouldn’t get a convenient escape. For all he knew, that day could be in two days.

He thought about this for a good while. For over an hour. But how could it have been? He hadn’t seen the guard patrol pass once, and they came through every seven and a half minutes. He may have been oblivious, but he wasn’t that caught up in his soul searching, to miss something like that 8 times.There was something wrong. Very wrong.

Everyone seemed to have sensed it far before him, for there was utter and complete silence. And the torches must have burnt out some time, because there was almost complete darkness, with just a little leaking through the edge of the far door.

He sat intently, every breath sounding like a gale in this eerie silence. Occasionally someone would shift, causing him to tense up suddenly.

Finally, he heard something. Shots in the distance. They slowly grew closer, until he could hear shouts as well.It must be a raid on the bandits, a couple large bands coming together to raid the town. What else could cause this level of commotion. The noise continued to grow closer, as he crouched there in the darkness, the soft hay beneath his feet and the foul musty air smothering him.

And finally silence.

He heard a door thud somewhat nearby, then another one closer. Then a few more yells far closer this, three shots in rapid succession then a roaring crash, sending vibrations through the very stones of his cell.

Then finally the door into his hall, blinding them with illuminating brightness, rays of pure light. And in the center, a silhouette, framed perfectly. A tall, strong, majestic silhouette, a long tattered coat flapping behind him. Weaponless, but he carried himself with a power.

Chapter three: The Want of Gods

The man walked into the hall, half brightly illuminated, the other half still hidden in shadows.

He stared intently into the cell nearest him, on the same of the hall as Stacy. His face was mostly in shadows, but Stacy could see a strong jaw, a twisted sneers, and dark eyes. Suddenly, he raised his hands, red glowing light bursting around them, starting dim but within a second becoming almost blinding, and suddenly, a massive crash and a yell, and vibrations thudding through the walls and floor.

He… he had just shot something from his hand. Stacy was in shock. There had been a red glow growing in his hand. There had to be a logical explanation. Right? It could just be an explosive that glowed, and he took it out of a bag really discreetly… maybe?

The man spun and turned to the cell on the opposite side, and peered into its depths. The prisoner whimpered. And suddenly, a red light flashed, an explosion rang out, and the man moved on.

“Holy crap, holy crap, tanration heck. Tarnation. Heck,” Stacy muttered to himself. This was no man. This was a god. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen. Magic was something of suspicious maids, of strange hoboes, not… here. In the realm known as reality. Where people weren’t delusional. Had he lost it? This had to be some sick joke. Maybe it was from the oatmeal, which had been a sick joke of a meal. This had to be some transmogrified oatmeal induced hallucination. This couldn’t be real.

And yet here he was. At this rate, he didn’t have much time to plan. He would be second to last to be executed, with only Jackson after, but still, at this rate he maybe had a minute to plan. What was he going to do? In all his time, all his life threatening situations, he’d never had to face anything like this, anything that shouldn’t have existed. Maybe he should do nothing. Best to do nothing to embarrass himself as he became insane.

Another flash of light and a cry. A hint of a smile on the monsters face. This looked pretty dang real. Well, dignity was overrated anyways. But what could he do? Why was this happening?

His mind raced through possibilities. Another flash of red light. He was executing prisoners. But why? If he was just trying to build a name or inspire fear, he’d leave a few people to tell the tale, right? But Stacy couldn’t rely on that. He’d have made some sort of fearsome speech or something if that was his motive, right?

Another red flash.

So he was probably trying to kill them all. Couldn’t be for them witnessing anything, they’d have known nothing if he hadn’t come in and started blasting away. And everyone except him and Jackson had to have been in here for at least a couple months, long enough for them to have been hunted down and executed long ago. Maybe… no, that was ridiculous. He said he’d been here for twenty years. He would’ve been hunted down far before.

A red flash. The man had been begging and weeping as the explosion shook the cell. There were only two more cells between him and death.

That small smile. He was cruel. He was heartless. He enjoyed others suffering. And… purposeless. There was no reason for doing this. He was a psychopath, a monster feasting on fear and pain of others.

The thunder of the explosion in the cell next to his nearly deafened Stacy.

He was a god. And he was massacring caged men. He had to be pretty bored.

A glimmer of hope. And a red flash and roar as the man in the final cell between him and death breathed his last breath.

The man turned towards him. And for the first time, Stacy saw his face fully. Those eyes, there was nothing behind them, a complete void. No emotion. Even the slight smile on his lips didn’t carry into his eyes. There was nothing.

Stacy felt his words catch in his throat, and he mumbled something indecipherable.

“What was that?” The smile widened a wee bit. The voice was low and quiet, absolutely calm and in control. Tarnation. This would never work.

“I… I can hunt you down. I can fight you, maybe even kill you.” The man gave a hollow chuckle, then his hand began to glow red, the light seeming to flow from his very veins. “Come on, you’re standing here killing men who are defenseless for no reason whatsoever. No struggle, no challenge. No one can ever give that to you. No one can ever pose a threat, and you will never feel strife again, never feel conflict. That is, no one will ever if you kill them while they’re caged. But let me live, and you will.”

He tilted his foul head, his dark eyes glittering with intelligence as he considered. And perhaps… perhaps there was even a hint of emotion in his eyes. Anticipation, excitement.

Scary.

C’mon, c’mon. You have to. You need to. Please, please, you just have to, Stacy thought, hoping this man couldn’t sense his desperateness.

And then he whipped around towards the last cell, releasing the blast of red energy. The cell occupied by Jackson. He didn’t even have a chance to cry out. Stacy grunted and fell backwards, as though he had been punched in the stomach. Jackson, one of his only friends from childhood, loyal always, one of the few who had never betrayed him, was just… gone. Dead. And there was nothing he could’ve done to stop it.

“I’ll expect to see you soon. And if I don’t see you in, say, a fortnight, I expect you’ll be seeing me.” The man yanked the door to Stacy’s cell open, snapping the lock, and began to slowly walk from the room, his coat trailing behind him. One of the prison guards ran into the hall, seeing the man and then shooting at him twice. Both caught him in the chest. He stumbled back, but managed to stay on his feet. And then a red blast tossed the guard far into the next room, and the man began to walk forward again, at first stumbling a bit, but by the end of the hall completely returned to his previous gait.

He had just survived being shot twice in the chest, with minimal reaction. Stacy knew he should feel fear, terror from having to face a god, but there was just nothing. He just felt hollow. He sat in his cell. And he continued to sit there. And Kept sitting there for hours, remembering Jackson, the time he tried to rescue everyone from the jail when they had already been pardoned, or the time he had tried to swing in on a rope for an epic rescue but misjudged the length of the rope and ended up crashing into the ground. He tried to remember their laughter, their boastings, their something. He should feel grief, of a sort of nostalgic peace, or anything. Maybe that would come later.

He drifted between sleep and consciousness and a strange blurring of the two, sometimes feeling deep grief, other times just hollow. Yes, he’d had a lot of friends die, but those were usually the kind of friends where they were a little more likely to shoot your enemies then you. Jackson, though, he’d been like a brother. He’d been the only one to stay with Stacy after that nasty business with the family that ran the behind the scenes of the town Manillo.

A man crept through the jail building marveling at the destruction, the wantonly massacre. Each hall, full of cells, was empty, burn marks scattered about the inside of the cells. It was eery, the empty building, dark despite his bright torch, everything silent. Each time his steps made a noise, he almost jumped, and had to force himself not to turn around every other second to check for something following him. The building smelled dank and foul, and like death. He could almost smell the fear, hear their cries. Yet he continued on, searching each cell, his neck tingling the entire time. He crept into the trial room, the light of his torch not even spanning the width of the room, so that he could barely see the dark doorway of the final jail block. Just one more hall to check and he could leave this forsaken place. Why they’d trusted the word of a murderer who had destroyed the town and forced him to go, he had no idea. He pushed through the door, still partially opened. The torch lit a few feet in front of him. Each cell he looked into looked like all the others, the walls scorched, the hay on the ground singed, and no bodies. Five cells away from having check this whole place. Nothing. Four cells left. Nothing. Three cells left. Nothing. Shocker. What a waste of time. He turned to the second to last cell.

The door was somehow opened. And inside he saw a gaunt face, pale and masked in shadows, like a corpse. He felt everything go slack and tense all at once. There was a pause where he tried to force his limbs to move, which felt like an eternity but was probably only a second. He dropped the torch and ran. Blindly, he fumbled past the door, and ran to where the exit probably was. This was it. This was what the monster in human form had left for them. Yet another onslaught of death. It… it was probably chasing him. It could smell him. It would drink his blood. He began to scream. How could he escape this monster? He looked behind him. It was somewhere in the darkness behind him. And felt something cold slam against his front, knocking him down. Suddenly pain blossomed in his head, and he heard thunder, and the monster took him.

Stacy sat on the ground, brooding, when he heard a sound. He looked up and was blinded by the light of a torch. He tried to shield his eyes. Then, a scream and the torch dropped. He heard rapid steps, then a grunt and thud as the man ran into the door, then the rapid footsteps began to fade. And then screaming, and then… nothing. Eerie silence.

Stacy decided to leave quickly.

A minute later, he pushed through the last door, holding the torch, and was momentarily blinded by the light of midday. He really needed to start wearing a hat to block light or something.This was the second time in five minutes.

“Where’s Packard? What have you done with him? Who are you?”

“That would be Charles Scamwell. A murderer and dreg of society. And apparently the boon. I warned you guys this would be a bust. We’re lucky the place didn’t blow us all up.”

“Guys, what are you talk-”

“Might as well kill him. He’s probably already killed Packard.”

“Wait, hold up guys. Just calm down and tell me what’s ha-”

“Do we really want to anger him, though? What if he has similar powers?”

“So what do we do?”

“RUUUUNNN!!!”

The townspeople began to scatter, tripping over one another as they raced away from Stacy. This was going to be a long day.

“Hold up! Perhaps he knows something. Besides, would running really help to runh if he did have powers?” The people skidded to a stop, looking up at the judge dude with an abashment in their eyes. He had stood up on some nearby barrels to shout his message, so he loomed above everyone else. Despite his white wig being dirty and slightly askew, and his clothes being crumpled and torn, he looked mather majestic. And the fact that he still looked like an utter and completely spoiled child took away from the majesticness a wee bit as well, Stacy decided.

Now that they had calmed down slightly...

“WILL SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT IN TARNATION IS HAPPENING?!?” He was hoping that if he spoke really loudly, they might actually answer him. Perhaps he had overdone it a tad bit, though. Just a tad.

Most of them gaped in terror and huddled together, perhaps hoping the others would act as meat shields. The judge fell backwards off of his barrel after a good deal of arm waving and wobbling. A few of the crowd dove behind random cover. Things like overturned wagons or furniture, which must've been dragged out here for that purpose. There must’ve been an all out war here, for this kind of destruction.

After a few seconds, though, they realised he was only asking a question in a very dramatic manner. The men behind the barricades slowly stood back up, bushing the dust off themselves. The people who had cowered together began to untangle themselves. The judge pulled himself up using the barrel, only to realise he was missing his wig. He yelped and dove to the ground, yanking it onto his head, covering his short red hair.

Silence. Absolute silence, except for the sound of a crows wing cutting through the wind approximately 80 miles away. Each man looked up toward Stacy, terrified, and somewhat furious.

“Will you please inform me of what happened?”

The judge cleared his throat. He must be the general leader of this town as well, Stacy decided. He cleared his throat again. “I believe you are in no position to ask the questions. Tell us what you did with Packard, or else.” He nodded towards several of the men, the ones who were armed and had dove behind the barricades. They pointed the rifles threateningly, a glint of resilient defiance in their eyes, despite their tense grip and stance.

“Who is that?”

“Probably the man you recently murdered!” One man loudly muttered, then kind of jumped when he saw Stacey look towards him. This was certainly an imaginative bunch.

“Was he a jumpy, weird short man who wandered around a jail where a massacre recently occured?” This was too stupid. No way was this real, that sounded far too ridiculous when he said it for it to have a slight edge of truth. It was just some really weird dream or something. Stacey had to chuckle at the strangeness of mind. Soon he’d wake up, and none of this would’ve been real, and Jackson… Stacey felt his cheery face slacken as he remembered the loss of his friend. His only true friend. Not that it mattered, it was probably just a dream anyways. But Stacy felt no conviction behind those thoughts.

“So you admit to killing him?” Right. Back to the situation at hand. Stacy had to deal with a bunch of paranoid lunatics. The judge had spoken up after whispering in a hissing voice with several of the other men.

“Nope. Fairly sure I didn’t. Hard to keep track, but I’m fairly sure I didn’t.” Probably not the best idea to come off as an insane serial killer to these people, but he was pretty fed up with this. He had yet to be told a fraction of what was happening, where the man with magic had come from. And if he woke up before getting a good explanation, so help him…

Chapter four: Stuck with a Bunch of Paranoid Lunatics

“The second you know where he hid Packard’s body, kill him.” The judges very loud whisper to the men who were going with him back in the jail cell did very little to lighten Stacy’s mood.

“For the last time, I didn’t tarnation kill anyone!”

“[cough cough] heard that before [cough]”

“Whatever. Can we just go find him already?”

Stacy was going to have to lead them to this Packard character, though he had no idea where he was. They still refused to tell him what had happened, but he remained hopeful. If none of them got jumpy and shot him, that was.

He wasn’t optimistic about the last part.

Finally, a short darker skinned man returned with some torches, and Stacy set off, his expedition following slowly behind. The darkness, hardly noticeable to him just short while before, left him feeling powerless. If these men did turn on him, he’d have a hard time defending against them. Then again, they’d have a far harder time not getting in each other's way.

“And we’re just standing here in the entrance because…?” Stacy jumped, then grimaced. He couldn’t afford to get lost in thought like that. Especially at a time like this.

“Trying to get my bearings.” That sounded pretty lame, even for him.

“Ha, heard that before!” In the dim light, Stacy was barely able to see that it was the same person who had said that last time.

“Wow, sir, I am left stunned and speechless by your stunning repertoire of cleverly woven jabs! Please, use no more, for I fear that I shall be insulted beyond my ability to stand and I may very well go insane.” Silence. Pure, pristine silence.

Stacy promptly pivoted and started into the deep darkness, taking no time to see if the others followed.

After a few more seconds of silence, he heard seven pairs of boots tromping in his direction.

“Do you have any idea where he is? It seems like your wandering random halls.” Same smart aleck. He had to keep speaking up, when all the others were fine to passively follow the man they thought was a serial killer.

“You know what? I have something to tell you, ... what’s your name? Can I call you Wilma?”

“I’m Jonathen Smithers, and that’s the only name I got.”

“Anyway, Wilma Betty- can I call you Wilma Betty?- I didn’t kill this guy. I have no idea where in tarnation he is. I was sitting in my jail cell like a good boy, awaiting my execution in a prim manner, meditating on how my friend had just been exploded by some literal demon, and that guy just walked by my jail cell then ran away. I know nothing.”

“Then why are you leading us around the jail to find him?” This was said by a short slab of a man, his face resembling a brick, perhaps one that had been put into a building by a very, Very bad bricklayer. And then been dyed strange colors by some adolescent who wanted to pretend he was an anarchist.

“Because you made me at gunpoint, idiot!” The dull fellow looked dumbfounded at Stacy’s annoyance. Wilma just glowered at him. The elegant name was a good fit for him. It alone was enough to drive away Stacy’s annoyed air.

After a few more minutes of wandering, they came to a form draped against the ground. It appeared to be shaking, like one shivered after a particularly cold day, along with the slower movement of long, shuddering breaths. This man had clearly been through a rough day.

“Whaddaya think happenda him?” This was said by a thin, narrow faced man with darker skin, probably from one of the islands south of the New Land.

The first somewhat intelligent question he had received all day. “Well, judging by the very large dent in those cell bars right there at about his head height, I would guess he’s a really fast runner. Or likes running into walls repeatedly. It can’t be easy to do that much damage to bars like these,” Stacy mused, rapping lightly on the bars.

“Should… should we wake him up?” This was said by an older looking man, who looked quite nervous. He wiped the sweat off his brow, then repeated the act as soon as he released people had looked towards him.

“Well, I suppose we should.”

He bent down and lightly shook the man’s shoulder. Slowly, the man’s eyes flickered open… and widened… and suddenly he began to inhale air at an alarming rate…

An inhuman screech echoed through the silent halls, and the thud of seven pairs of boots landing after an extended jump was almost audible over the screech, which showed no signs of stopping. After a good number of seconds, the scream finally died down, and the man’s eyes suddenly glazed over and his head fell back to the ground.

“Well… that was… exciting. Someone likes to overreact.”

“Or maybe he just knows something we don’t!” Wilma Betty sure was a judgmental one.
“Do… do you think he’s… dead?” This was the shorter wider man again. If he could just shut his mouth for one minute…

“Let’s drag him back outside and have him woken up by someone who isn’t me. And then, I expect answers.”

A few minutes later, Stacey stepped outside and smiled as three of the men stumbled over each other as they carried the man. It and taken a bit of work to get them to do all the work, but as someone had probably said once, “All great problems can be solved by sitting down and thinking of how to avoid them.”

Honestly, probably no one had ever said. Which made Stacy feel all the more empowered. He had just tread on stones left unturned, swam through depths uncharted. Felt great after being locked up in a prison a bunch of people had died meaningless deaths in. Absolutely great. And then Wilma tripped on Slab, and they fell into a pile of dust in front of everyone, and that made it all the sweeter.

“Thank you for recovering Mr. Packard, Mr. Scamwell. You may now stand on trial for the death penalty.”

“Wha… uhh… what?”

Tarnation.

“What are my charges?”

“Same as before, including but not limited to: 27 murders, scamming, bribing, escaping incarceration, and now colluding with a demon to massacre us.”

“Wha- you think I helped that thing? He killed my tarnation best friend. He murdered random people for fun! I may not abide by every law, but that is outright sick. Wrong.”

“Then how did you survive?”

“Can I have a private word, Mr. Judge?” Stacy did his best to keep the disgust out of his voice.

“Gonna try an’ bribe him like you did the rest?” Wilma, may a thousand plagues rest upon thy ugly named head, Stacy thought with a glare.

“Why? Why are you trying to kill me? You know that I’m am not nearly at the top of the list of priorities. I haven’t even done anything to deserve an execution, most of those crimes are falsifications and you know it.” Whoopsy. That whisper got a bit closer to shouting then Stacy would’ve liked.

“Because moral is down. We’ve just undergone a massacre from some unknown force. They’re scared and lost. They need a good familiar execution to get them through this, to put them even the slightest at ease.” The judge didn’t look proud of that. In fact, Stacy could almost detect regret and sorrow in his eyes. Almost. But mostly just an unquenchable thirst for crushing innocent men to maintain his title.

Stacy groaned. This was not going to be as easy as he thought. Time to bring out his big gun argument. A one gauge shotgun of an argument, approximately the size of a battery cannon. Which is to say it was a regular cannon and not really a shotgun at all. But that changes nothing. This was the kind of argument to crush debates like this one that focuses on the distinction between shotguns and cannons. Which should honestly be quite obvious, might I add. Shame on you for not noticing.

“I’ll tell you what. You wanna know why he spared me? I promised to kill him. I told him I would hunt him down and kill him. And he must of been pretty unimpressed for your lousy show of a defense because he agreed. And if I haven’t attacked in two weeks, he’s gonna come looking for me. I don’t know about you, but to me someone like that isn’t someone you would want to steal entertainment from. In fact, I can see that going quite badly. So execute me. See what good that does. Or we can go out and fulfill justice, kill a real murderer, pay him back for the men you lost. Every. Last. One.” By the end, Stacy was shouting. Wow. That had sounded way more exciting then he had expected. He could almost here a dramatic orchestral playing in the background.

The men in the crowd whispered worriedly. And rightly so. He’d just spouted some pretty intimidating facts. The seemed to have a far better effect then his attempted bribery at the town where he caused the small fire.

“So, erm, what… exactly… are you proposing?” The judge looked thoroughly worried now. Pure fear leaked from his eyes. With maybe just a hint of terror.

“You send me with an expedition of men to hunt this man down and kill him. In doing so, we will avenge our fallen, prevent future murders, and fulfill justice. And when I win you owe me a pardon.”

“Is that all?” He groaned. The thought of letting Stacy go seemed to physically pain the judge.

“Also, you will owe your wig.”

“No. That is most certainly taking things to far. How do we know you won’t just run once you got a chance?”

“I sat in the jail cell for a day, and could’ve easily escaped anytime after he attacked. But I didn’t. And as long as he lives, he remains a threat to this town. Accept my offer, or you will surely burn.”

“Not much of a deal!” the judge spat. The wig had been to far.

“Very well. Men, get the hanging rope. Make sure not to put my corpse on too wide a display!”

“Fine.”

Stacy smiled. Life was looking up, though it’s view was slightly blocked by the inconvenience of him having to try and kill a immortal man with strange powers. Should be an interesting two weeks.

“Give me your best fighters, maybe five or so. Round up some supplies, and let’s get on the road. Hurry it up a bit, daylight's a wasting. Stop glaring at your commander, Wilma. This should be a right jolly adventure!”

Two hours, Stacy was regretting not going through with his threat of being hung as he slapped yet another mosquito. The mud squelched beneath his horses hooves, and the slow moving water nearby carried stenches best left untold. The sun was inching beneath the far horizon, yet a suitable place for camp wouldn’t be for a couple miles at least. The horses steady gait bounced him about at a very annoying rate that was enough to be jolting but not enough to show they were moving faster than three miles per hour. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

“Well this is wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. What a pleasure to be here in this lovely place at this lovely time with these lovely insects that want nothing more then to suck away your very souls!” The short slab man growled.

“The negativity isn’t helping, so just shut up, Borwen!” Believe it or not, Wilma was actually not quite the worst to have around. Yeah, Borwen, be quiet. Don’t be so negative. No one likes you. Get out of this country, Stacy mimicked in his mind, wishing he could wake up already. This dream was turning out to be quite a drudgerous pain.

“Are we there yet?” Packard whined, sounding like a child on the verge of tears.

“Does it look like we’re tarnation there, you tarnation three year old? We’re on a very thin peninsula of land surrounded by swamp! Yes, let’s camp right here! Let me just get my spare man of war ship for us to sleep on. Or maybe we could just pitch the tents in the water and hope they’re air tight. Well tarnation, why didn’t I think of that before? Genius, absolute genius.”

“We get it. We’re not there. Just lay off Packard a little, he’s had a hard day, okay? Just be quiet.”

“No, you be quiet, Wilma. I’ve ha-”

“Never call me that again.” It came out almost like a growl, his face scrunched into a murderous glare.

“Seriously, be quiet. You think this has been a great day for me? A magic serial killer shows up and murders my only friend, then I get put on trial for surviving, and the only way not to be murdered anyways is to go hunting for the super magical murderer. And now I’m stuck leading a bunch of idiots like you and I’m kind of wondering if I would’ve just been better off accepting my lot with the red explosions he shot at me.”

“You really think you were the only one who lost loved one to that man?” The man who Stacy had learned was named Juan Pueblo spoke this, his dark face cast in the dark shadows of later dusk. He probably from the central area of the new lands, judging from his heavy accent and his darker features. Those were the first words he had spoken. He didn’t speak again all that day.

There was very, very long and awkward pause, with no sound save it be the horses steady clop, until Borwen, bless his heart, finally broke it. “Just wonderin’ what’s with your weird language anyways?”

“I think I speak Old Imperial rather well. My ancestors and relatives in the old lands, my they rot in heck, would be proud to hear such honoring. Why, I don’t even speak Indian that much!” Of course, Stacey knew what he meant. It just seemed like an extended conversation would do more good.

“It’s not that, sir… It’s just that… ya know… you say kind of odd things sometimes.”

“No, I’m not sure I do know.”

“Ya know… things like… tarnation an’, and heck, and… ya know.” He seemed rather nervous. That was a pretty long speech for Borwen, though, so who could complain.

“No I tarnation don’t! I speak like every other tarnation human being!”

“Aha! See? You just did it there!” Borwen looked rather pleased that he noticed that. It was funny, he seemed just like a little kid trapped in a man’s body.

“I do nothing of the sort!”

“You could try something with a bit more umph, somethin’a like -”

“Language!” Cali’mahala, the islander man, looked slightly taken aback by being interrupted.

“Whadda bout -”

“Also language!” This time Stacy’s interruption just made Calima grin, like the grin of a dog that had just been scolded but was too content to care.

“Fine. How about something that just doesn’t make you sound so… stupid. Just use frick or something,” Wilma looked annoyed, but Stacy could detect a slight chuckle in his voice

“Gateway language!’

“Your a piece a work, ain’t ya.”

“You know it, Cali’machahuchacha”

“Just call me Cole.”

“Think I’ll pass on that generous offer.” Stacy kicked his horse forward from the group a ways. There had to be an area suitable for camp soon.

Three hours later, camp was approximately one sixteenth set up, but everyone was too tired to care.

“Do you think we should [yawn] take turns being on watch.” Stupid responsible Wilma.

“We don’t need a tarnation watch. What’s going to attack us? What we need is sleep.”

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About Zach McClellan

I'm a 15 year old who loves to write but rarely get's past half a chapter without giving up on the project. I mainly write fantasy, though I like to cross over between multiple genres somewhat. I hope you enjoy!