"Revenge, Renewal and the Promise of a New Year" (Boot Hill/D&D) - Page 8





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    Chapter Sixty-four, “Conversations”, Sunday, January 8th, 1882:

    Chester says, "Thank you, Pedro." He goes to his room and sets down his bag. The saber and rifle go on top of the dresser. Gesturing at the sword, he says to the air, "I don't know why I'm still carrying that thing around with me… Habit, I guess. I should ask that Pedro about this building work Miss Ruby mentioned."

    Nanuet is taken aback by the question and sizes the man up as he rises from his seat. "Hello to you sir. I may know this Apache you seek, but my acquaintances are generally not the business of strangers. As you can see I was in the middle of a conversation." He looks back and smiles at Sonoma. "If you'll give me a minute maybe we can have a proper conversation including introductions."

    Nanuet turns back to Sonoma and says "The day is late now but if you have the chance tomorrow maybe you would accompany me on a walk? I have someone I would like you to meet. Your company was a pleasure this evening and the cobbler was outstanding, thank you Sonoma." She replies, “I enjoyed our evening also however with the people coming in I may need to get back to work I will talk to a friend of mine at the church about what we spoke of and see what I can do to help you. And I'd like to walk with you I need to go to the grocery tomorrow if your up...”

    She slips out of the seat and offers it to the man who began the conversation with Nanuet and begins to leave the table. Can I get you anything to eat or drink sir?

    Nanuet turns to the man who approached him and motions for him to sit at a nearby table. "Now sir, if I might acquire your name and an explanation of why you are interested in whom I might be acquainted with?' He begins by saying "Sorry about interrupting your conversation with the woman. This concerns her too.

    Riley says, “Look, the Apache named Kajika was...no make that is, things like that don't change....is my blood brother. I've been having these strange dreams since last Monday night. They have something to do with a centaur Indian woman. I'm really confused about them so I thought that Kajika could help." Nanuet replies, "I know Kajika and I believe I know the centaur that you speak of. Kajika is my teacher, my mentor. If we are thinking of the same centaur, then she was a companion of mine. Can you explain the dreams to me?"

    Riley says, "The woman centaur was leading me around a campfire, then into the Mountains. There was some sort of monstrous creature, its image was never clear, but the centaur was having us guard it. By us I mean myself, you the three people I was with on the stage, that Mexican woman you were sitting with and that woman who was playing the piano here earlier. We were protecting it against another group of monsters - giants, ogres and some large furry bear like creatures. I had another dream like that only we were protecting the monster against cowboys. Does that make any sense to you? So, how is Kajika? It's been almost eight years since I last saw him."

    "Kajika is in good health as far as I know. His wisdom runs deep and I am honored that he has chosen me to share some of that wisdom with. Maybe we should go visit him soon.

    This monster that you speak of, the one that you see us protecting in our dreams, I wish you had seen it more clearly. When I enter reverie this evening I will meditate on the subject and see if that brings forth any answers. If you don't mind, since you mentioned my companions in your dream I would like to fill them in on what you have mentioned to me." Nanuet thinks for a moment and says "Actually it might be better if you were to tell them yourself. Give me just a moment please."

    When Ruby got inside she saw Riley talking to Nanuet and thought "that guy really is nuts." She kept her eye on him while talking to Kate. She noticed Katherine sitting at the piano.

    She takes a deep breath, walks towards her and sits on the bench. “Hi Kate, How are you feeling today? I’m hope you had a good rest and slept off all that whiskey!” "I prefer not to talk about that," Kate answered matter-of-factly. "Jake left a note saying that Maggie wanted to see me, but he didn't way where you'd gone. I've been waiting for you. I need to talk to you and Jake about Maggie. Bring him up to my room when he's back. It won't take long."

    Kate left the piano and walked straight-backed up the stairs to her room. The pins in holding her hair were beginning to hurt. She pulled them out and let her hair fall loose. Then she picked up her book and sat curled on her bed to read and wait. “Oh crap,” thinks Ruby. Kate is mad. Ruby decided not to wait for Jake. Who knew how long he would be gone? Besides, Kate being mad would just make him fidgety. “I’d better deal with this now.” Ruby marched right up to Kate’s room and knocked.

    Jake arrived at the Marshall's office and Morgan Earp happily accepted the pie while he brought the other to Job. Jake gives Job a run down of what happened at the Lone Star. "I didn't make much either night, but at least I was ahead." Job tells Jake "Looks like you may have to take my place tomorrow night too, Judge Isby still isn't back in town. Look, this is important, one of the guys at my table each Monday is Travis Calhoun. He owns the brickyard and Tom's going to needing to ask him and Neil Cassidy for a good price on supplies to build that third floor." "Ah, sure. What exactly are you expecting here?"

    Job says "Oh, nothing dishonest. Just the little things to help influence a player, encourage him when you think he might have a good hand and discourage him when he might have a bad one. Call a break when he looks tired, don't call one when he's on a roll. That sort of things to keep in a good mood. Maybe even have Ruby sing a song especially for him too. He asks. "And I guess I am a little confused, were you and Tom needing me tonight?" Job replies, No, the Sunday night crowd is almost non-existent. I always take it as my night off, although I usually spend it somewhere a little more exciting than in here."

    "Well you'll be out soon Job." Jake gets up and motions to the Marshall that he is leaving. "I'll come back tomorrow if I can. I'm sure the Marshall will let me know about the trial, I am after all the other witness. Let us know if you need anything else." He waves goodnight to the Marshall, "I'll let Dorita know how much you liked the desert."

    “Kate, its Ruby. Jake might be gone a while, why don’t you let me in now?” "It's open," Kate said calmly. "We'll still have to wait for Jake, though. I don't know that I want to tell the story twice," she said as Ruby came in and closed the door behind her. "Have a seat." Ruby sits down on the edge of Kate's bed. She laughs to herself, the only time her room was this neat was before she was in it. "So, what did you do today? Anything exciting?"

    Kate replies, "Talked to Maggie, had a lesson with Mr. Gonzales, went to visit Job." She considered leaving it right there, but she knew that her frustration was really with herself, not Ruby. She had no right to be upset because Ruby and Jake hadn't told her where they were going.

    "I noticed something strange when I went to the Marshall's office," she said, finally putting down her book. "He noticed that someone came in, looked up, and then dropped his coffee. He tried to tell me visiting hours were over, and there aren't any official visiting hours. I did get to talk to Job for a few minutes, but I can't help but wonder why Morgan Earp didn't want to let me."

    Ruby replies, “Sounds like you had a busy day. I hoped you learned something good from Mr. Gonzales. I know you’ll do well with that. And you said you wanted to wait to tell me what Maggie said so we’ll wait for Jake…”

    Ruby proceeds cautiously. “I’m not sure why Morgan Earp wouldn’t want you to see Job. That sounds very strange.” Ruby notes this and guesses the reason but without proof… “I spent the day with Jake,” Ruby says blushing slightly. “We went to Tombstone actually. Then the stage got chased by bandits on the way home… well, I guess you don’t want to hear about it.”

    Kate says, "I assumed if you wanted me to know about your day, you would have let me know where you were going. Nanuet seemed to know, although I didn't ask. There was plenty of room in Jake's note to say." Kate paused. "I know it's not reasonable for me to expect you to tell me where you're going. I'm not your mother. But I don't like to be frightened. If you had been much later I would have been out looking for you when you got back, but I wouldn't have known where to start."

    “Why Katherine, are you mad at us?” Ruby tried to stifle a laugh. “I’m sorry; we didn’t mean to make you frightened. You were sleeping and we figured you needed the rest to recuperate from your exploits last night.” Ruby takes a breath. “We’re friends right? So I guess you have a right to wonder where we go. But you have to remember I’m not used to telling people what I’m up to every moment. Besides Kate, you might not want to know what I’m up to every moment.”

    Ruby throws herself back on Kate’s bed. “Oh but Kate, remember what I was saying about Jake? And getting myself into trouble with men like him?" Ruby sighs, "I think I’m in trouble…” Ruby was right of course, and Kate knew it. It hadn't occurred to her to tell them her plans for the day either. Private lives were private. "Just let me know the next time you plan to disappear for an entire day, alright? Just for the sake of my peace of mind."

    Kate laughed to herself and stroked Ruby's hair. "Now, about Jake. What kind of trouble are you in?" She knew already, of course. She'd known before Ruby had, but it was better to make Ruby talk about it. It seemed to be her day for counseling.

    Ruby says, “He’s very charming, don’t you think? And handsome in that rouge-ish sort of way.” Ruby sits up suddenly. “But the problem is I become agreeable to things I shouldn’t be agreeable to, you know what I mean? And I get so easily talked into things that aren’t good for a girl like me. Damnit!” Ruby collapses back on the bed. “Oh why did we meet him that day??” Ruby goes on and on talking about how great Jake is and Kate's ears perk up when she hears, "And I'm going to meet him for a drink later, just the two of us...".

    Kate replies, "Well then, when Jake gets here I'll try to make it quick." Kate waited a moment to speak again. "Listen to me, Ruby. You and Jake are the same kind of people I think. Just make sure you both have the same idea before you go too far. You know Ruby, we'll never get Jake up here if we don't know he's gotten back. Why don't you go downstairs and check?" Ruby got up off the bed and headed downstairs to check on Jake. Kate smiled to herself. As far as she was concerned, this was the kind of trouble Ruby needed.

    Chester heads downstairs to the bar. "Pedro, could I have a beer, please? By the way, I heard there might some building work here? Is that true?" Pedro tells Chester that he doesn't know anything about any construction, but it's possible that his wife Dorita is planning something and just hasn't told him yet. "Oh that's OK. Thanks for the beer" Chester pays for the drink and leaves a tip. Then he smacks himself in the head. Idiot! She said the Lone Star Saloon. Heh. Good thing I didn't drop her name. That would have been embarrassing.

    After he finishes the beer, he leaves the El Parador. After walking around town a bit, he sees a bar with that name on the sign. This must be the place. Chester walks inside and sits at the bar. "Barkeep, a beer please." While waiting for his beer, he looks around. When Tom serves him, Chester asks, "Excuse me. I heard that you might be looking for help building an addition to your place. Do you need a hired hand?" Tom Whipple says "My word gets around fast. I don't know if we'll be needing anyone else, we already have five guys for the project. But let me know where you're staying just in case." Chester looks downcast. "Oh, I see. I'm stopping at the El Parador. Do you know about any other place looking for men?" Whipple replies, “I think that the Breakheart mine is looking for mine workers. Driscoll's Tannery is also looking for help." Chester replies, "Thank you. I'll check them out tomorrow."



    Afterwards, he walks back to the El Parador. Riley is still sitting there. Chester joins him. "Well, Riley. What brings you to these parts? Other than dreams, that is. What did the dreams tell you?" Chester and Riley turn as a young teenage girl enters the El Parador. She looks to be around fifteen and is very pregnant. A toddler is following her. He has a stack of papers in her hand and yells out "Cowboy Gang Eliminated! Promise City Herald, only five-cents. Hot off the presses - Cowboy Gang Eliminated!" He calls over to her, "I'll take one of those."

    He pays the nickel and glances at the front page. The main story is what she was yelling, namely "Outlaw Gang Eliminated". The story details how a group of ranchers from Nevada known as the Cartwright family were driving 200 head of cattle back home and had 60 of them stolen by Ranchers. They left the rest of the herd at the Lazy S Ranch and backtracked the rustler's trail to their lair. A major shootout followed, leaving 21 rustlers dead, including the leader Curly Bill Brocious. There are also two follow-up stories related to it, one detailing the exploits of the Cowboy Gang and another about Curley Bill.

    Most of the rest of the four-page paper consists of advertisements for various stores and saloons around Promise City, including an ad taking up most of the back page for the Gay Lady Variety Hall and Saloon featuring the talents of the famous Madge Dupree from New Orleans singing and dancing to the music of Pepe Diderot.

    There are two more stories on the back page. One concerns an altercation at the Trail Dust Saloon, where the owner Dudley Yeats drew his gun on Town Marshall Wyatt Earp. The paper says that Yeats was wounded and in now in jail awaiting trial. The other story describes another altercation, this one at the Lone Star Dance Hall and Saloon where brewer Marvin Keach exchanged shots with gambler Job Kane. Both men are said to be in jail awaiting trial.

    Chester thinks, Whew. A lot of shootin' goin' on around here. I better be careful. Chester decides to repeat his unanswered question to Riley and says "How are you doin', Riley? What brings you to Promise City?"

    Jake heads back to the Cantina, looking for Elliot or any of his friends. A pregnant girl moves right up to Jake and says "Promise City Herald, only five cents! Outlaw Gang Eliminated!" "I'll take two. Here, I only have a dollar." He lies and gives her a silver dollar and walks away. He tucks the papers under his arm and scans the room. Ruby sees Jake across the room and walks over to him. "Kate wants to see us upstairs. I think she's pretty pissed off we left her out today. Said she was worried. Anyway, I think I got her mind off it by changing the subject." Jake replies, "OK, let's go see her. I mean, how bad can it be?" Ruby gives him the raised eyebrows, and he says "Fine. Don't tell me."

    Jake follows Ruby back to Katherine’s room. "I'm glad you're here," Kate said as Ruby and Jake came in. "Sit down." Kate started by filling Jake in on why she and Ruby had left the Lone Star the night before. "I met Maggie for lunch today, and told her why we left. She was very upset to say the least. I brought her back here before she could fall apart in public. A couple years ago, a couple of men cornered Maggie in an alley. You can imagine their intentions. She had her mother's wedding ring in her pocket, so she put it on and yelled how her husband Tom was within earshot, how he was a great marksman, and they had better leave her alone." Kate shuddered, thinking of how terrifying it must have been.

    "They did, thankfully. But that incident started a misunderstanding that has never been cleared up." Kate paused. "Tom and Maggie aren't married. They're brother and sister. After Maggie was attacked, people started talking about Tom's wife, and he thought it would be safer for her if people kept believing it. Flossie left the Lone Star because she wanted Tom to marry her. But their father insisted they keep up the charade. He believes if the town finds out no one will trust Tom to run an honest establishment."

    "I encouraged her to tell the truth, now, before their father gets here. Apparently they have to prove they can run a successful business before Tom can inherit the Lone Star in Denver. He doesn't want to lose that, so he's kept up the pretense. I thought you should know, if for no other reason than to know that Tom never cheated on Maggie. His watching me is still impolite, but it's not sinister in any way. I feel rather sorry for him, all he can do is look. But if either of you can think of a way to get them out of this...."

    Ruby sits there in shock for a few moments. Then she tries to stifle it, but she can't. She just starts laughing. "That would explain a lot." Jake is quiet for a moment. "In a way Tom's father is right." Ruby and Katherine look at him with some surprise. "If you want to run an honest gambling place, the image of honesty is everything."

    He walks around the room and strokes his beard. "Given the competition in the sleazy gambling places, they'd never make it without the honest reputation." He looks at both of them who still look a little incredulous. Jake guesses he was supposed to agree telling the truth and love conquers all was the best policy. "Sorry." He shrugs his shoulders.
    "Of course I do have a couple ideas." He says with his trademark grin. "Neither of which is completely honorable. Interested?"

    Ruby replies, "Jake, I am dying to know..." She lays down on Kate's bed and props up her head on her hand. Kate says, "I have a hard time seeing how lying about your relationship to protect your sister is a more egregious act of dishonesty than cheating on your wife. I saw what this is doing to Maggie. Honorable or not, any idea to get them out of this is welcome." Jake walks over and takes Katherine’s hand, gives it a squeeze and lets it go. He walks over to the wall and leans against it and puts his hands in his pockets. "Katherine Kale, I don't know if I am a bad influence on you or you are a good one on me." He looks at the ceiling a moment while stroking his beard.

    "If Tom's father suddenly died that would take the pressure off of Tom but not really resolve anything." Jake sees that Katherine’s eyes nearly pop out of her head and even Ruby's eyebrows are both arched. "Hold on, I'm not suggesting anything. Just reviewing the facts."

    "We could let the truth come out. But it is risky and a lot of work." Jake starts talking fast. "We'd have to start spreading rumors on how noble Tom was to protect his sister, get important folks on his side, convince gamblers that his integrity was more important that his honesty in the facts of marriage. Maybe get a newspaper write up, find the important town gossips, find the opinion leaders...." Jake pauses for a breath. "But it is still risky."

    He goes back to stroking his mustache. "Perhaps the best and simplest way is to continue the lie." Katherine’s eyes narrow as Jake says this. "No, not give up. I didn't say continue to lie. Continue THE lie. Get a divorce." Jake pushes his hat bat on his head at a rakish angle. "It's perfect. Tom already has the reputation as a cheater, and the gamblers are OK with that. So Maggie's had enough, demands a divorce and half the Lone Star. They work out a legal contract, agree to continue as business partners because of the money involved, everyone is happy." Jake spreads his arms apart with palms up. "What do you think?"

    Ruby exclaims, "Jake, that is a fabulous idea, get a divorce. That would solve this whole mess." Ruby looks up at him, obviously impressed. "Kate, you think Maggie would go for it? I'm sure Tom would be happy to be free." Kate says, "It does seem to solve the problem quite neatly. I don't know about here, but back East there is a serious stigma attached to divorce. It shouldn't be too bad on Tom, but a divorced woman is often looked down on. Still, it may be worth it to them. At least they would be free to live their own lives."

    "True," Says Jake, "But the two biggest problems for divorced women are finding work and getting a husband. She's not likely to get many suitors being married, and she is half owner of a Saloon. She'll just have to deal with the rest if she wants out." Jake adjusts his hat back straight and grins. "Any other colossal problems that need addressing?"

    It didn't look like Kate had anything else to discuss, not right now anyway. Ruby was happy their conversation was winding up. She was looking forward to having a drink with Jake and being alone with him. Then she heard a knock on the door.

 

  • #72
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    It's so cool to read the game squared away. Thanks, Silver Moon.

  • #73
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    Thanks Steve. Doing a Story Hour from a Play-by-post game takes considerably less typing but can be a challenge for the discussion board pages where the players' posts are spread back-and-forth over multiple pages (like the last chapter was). I've added Chester Martin to the cast in the opening post of the Story Hour and moved Sonoma from a Secondary to Primary character.

    Note, comments from other players as well as readers of this Story Hour are welcomed and appreciated.

    Chapter Sixty-five, “Riley’s Dreams”, Sunday, January 8th, 1882:

    A voice on the other side of the door says, and says "It's Nanuet, I need to speak with you." Ruby curses to herself. That drink would have to wait. "Come in Nanuet." When he enters she asks, "How was your day?" Then she sees the look of concern on his face. "Is there something wrong?" The elf says, "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt, but there is a guy downstairs who has said that he sees us in his dreams. Something about defending a monstrous creature from being attacked. I just figured you might want to hear about this since you three were also mentioned. He's downstairs if you have a moment, or if now is not a good time, I'll arrange for a meeting at another time."

    "Now is fine," Kate said. "We were just finishing up some business about the Lone Star. Just give me a moment." Kate pulled a black ribbon through her hair to hold it back and fetched her key. "This man says he's seen us in his dreams?" she asked Nanuet. "Do you believe him?" Nanuet replies, "Yes, I believe him. He knows about the Apache Shaman and about Storm. I am not sure what to think about what he says though, if he believes he is seeing our future or not. It made me nervous when he said that we were all in this dream as I have never met the man. I sense something odd about him, but I am not sure what it is."

    Ruby says, "Oh yes, that guy was on the coach with Jake and I. It's a bit eerie, but he described you perfectly Kate, even though he claims to never have met you." Kate states, "Seems there's a lot we haven't had a chance to talk about yet. But I think I can wait until tomorrow to hear about your trip. For now, let's go talk to this prophet." Kate followed the others out the door and locked it before she followed them down the stairs. Nanuet leads the group downstairs to where he left the strange man.

    He heads over to him and says, "Are these the people that you saw in your dream?” The man nods yes. Nanuet then says “Maybe we should go somewhere and talk." He approaches Sonoma. She tells him “My great grandfather has told me that things are about to change and I am to stay with you and your friends in what will be coming. Sonoma slips a very small slightly trembling hand into Nanuet’s and looks back over her shoulder at the old man who makes sure he catches the eyes and nods to all of his apprentices as he heads to his room. Ruby giggles at Nanuet and Sonoma holding hands.

    The others take a seat and there are now seven around the table: Chester, Jake, Katherine, Nanuet, Reily, Ruby and Sonoma. Introductions are made for those who had not met until now. Nanuet then suggests that Reily repeat what he had said earlier.

    The nervous man says "I've been having these strange dreams since last Monday night. They have something to do with a centaur Indian woman. Each of you was in the dream too, but it was the centaur and I who were the primary participants. She was leading me around a campfire, then into the Mountains. There was some sort of monstrous creature, its image was never clear, but the centaur was having us guard it. We were protecting it against another group of monsters - a pair of giants, a small group of ogres and some large furry bear like creatures. I had another dream on a different night that was almost the same, but in that one we were protecting the same monster against cowboys.

    I wish I knew more but this is all new to me. I have an Apache shaman friend who Nanuet also knows who I was coming here to see to find out what the dreams mean." He then looks to Nanuet and says, "The only one not here is the centaur. You said that she is a friend of yours. Maybe she could help, where is she?" Nanuet gives Sonoma’s hand a gentle squeeze and winks at Ruby before turning back to Riley to address him. "She no longer stands among the living. I may be able to contact her though. It's something I was taught how to do recently" he explains to his friends after receiving some odd looks.

    "Tonight during my reverie I will seek her guidance. Hopefully I will have some answers by tomorrow morning. I am still not sure how we are involved in this, so hopefully it will be made clearer. I am not sure what everyone's plans are for this evening, but I suggest we all get some well needed rest, it has been an eventful few days. I will be taking my rest tonight either in the stable loft or more likely the grove near the church if you should need me for anything."

    Chester stands up to greet everyone. "Chester Martin, at your service." Nanuet notices that the slender man is uncomfortable or embarrassed meeting him and Sonoma. "Reily, how did I end up in your dream? I didn't know I was comin' here until a couple days ago. And protectin' a monster to boot? Why would we do that?" Sonoma replies, “Perhaps because it needs to happen it is not unusual for people to see what needs to be it is a way to make it happen.” "Chester replies, "Interesting thought, Miss Sonoma. I guess this is all our fates." She answers, “It may be our fates but we will be the ones that make it happen or not just because a door is opened doesn’t mean you need to run through it.” Riley says, "Well, I have no idea what is happening. It's not like I wanted these dreams. If you can find something Nanuet I'd sure appreciate it."

    Jake is looking all around at the faces of the group assembled here trying to get some sense of how everyone is reacting. "I don't know what to do with what I have just heard. I don't know what you all expect now. What I do know is that those of us that were involved in helping the Cartwrights are in some real danger from the Cowboy Gang." He takes his hat off and scratches the top of his head and puts his hat back on.

    "When any of you figures out what this means to me, let me know. For now, Katherine please don't leave the hotel after dark alone. I don't think it is safe. If you can't find anyone else to go with you, no matter what you are doing, please come see me. You too Nanuet, don't underestimate the Cowboy Gang." Jake sees a mixture of reactions and concerns from the assembled men and women. "I have to work tomorrow, but I'll be down for breakfast before then. If there is more to talk about I'd be happy to join anyone in the morning. Perhaps a good night sleep will help." Jake gets up and steps away from the group, but stops a few feet away waiting for any responses. He meets Ruby's eyes quickly and gestures with his head upstairs.

    He then looks to the others and says "So, what is there to do in this town?" Ruby replies, "It's Sunday night and on Sunday nights we go to bed early," Ruby says seriously. "So, uh. Good night!" And she gets up and leaves. Ruby runs upstairs, takes off her dirty, torn dress and puts on a different one. She cleans her face and takes the "clip" out of her hair leaving it loose. She leaves her gun on her nightstand but takes Jake's to return to him. She checks herself out in the mirror and when she is satisfied she looks good she leaves her room and heads to Jake’s.

    Kate speaks up, "Well Mr. Riley, as Ruby said, it is Sunday night, and they are generally quiet from what I understand. I'm sure the saloons are open though, but you're most likely to find gambling rather than entertainment this evening. I've only been here for about a week, so I can't tell you much more." She was quiet for a moment, thinking about Jake's warning and Mr. Riley's strange dreams. Just when she'd thought things might settle down, new problems began, and she was too tired to even try to process them now. Instead Kate turned to Mr. Martin. "We know why Mr. Riley is here, why don't you tell us what brought you to Promise City?"

    Not much to tell. I came down here looking for work. Kansas was getting too dull. So I hop a train down to the Arizona Territory. I guess you're friends with Ruby and Jake. What do you know about them? It seems they're used to some... excitement. So you've been here a week? What brought you to Promise City, Miss Kate?"

    Strange how she was never prepared for that question, even though she knew it would come whenever she met another person. She swallowed. "I came from Massachusetts to meet my husband. He'd been ill back east and we decided to move out here where the weather would be better for him. He died three months ago in Tombstone, the day before I arrived. " Kate paused a moment to gather herself. "I stayed in Tombstone until last week. But it was time to move on. Promise City is close enough that I can visit him." Chester replies, “"I'm sorry to hear that. I should have recognized the black ribbon. You have my sympathies."

    Kate touched the black ribbon in her hair. "Thank you. I'm not surprised you didn't notice, I put aside my morning clothes a few days ago, I wear just a small bit of black now. You asked about Jake and Ruby. I met Ruby on the stage from Tombstone, and we met Jake a day or so later. I don't know that much about them as far as their history goes, but they do seem to be familiar with trouble, more so than myself anyway. But they're good people, I believe. They've been good friends to me this week." She pauses and then asks, “You said Kansas was getting too dull. What will you do when Arizona gets dull?"

    "It does seem like they are no strangers to trouble. And based on what I have gone through today, I don't think Arizona can get dull." He laughs. "I mean stagecoach robberies and dreams with me in it by someone I don't know. Who knows what's next." Kate replies, “"You sound as if you rather look forward to it. I will admit, a little excitement is better than sitting in a hotel room alone.” He says, "Well excitement usually means someone's trying to shoot you, so I don't really look forward to it. But it does break the day up.”

    She asks, “Would you mind if I took a look at your newspaper? I'd like to see what they have to say about the cowboy gang." He answers, "Sure thing. I think Jake mentioned something about them."

    Katherine reads through the paper. She concludes that Parker Baxter must have been relatively sober when he spoke to the Cartwrights, as the story is surprisingly accurate. There is no mention of her or Flint, and the only reference to Nanuet is a comment that Hoss Cartwright had made about hiring an Indian guide. The story about the Cowboy Gang is very similar to what Knowles had told them back in the cave.

    She says, "You heard Jake mention those of us who helped the Cartwrights. I'd take it as a kindness if you both kept that to yourselves," Kate says quietly to Mr. Riley and Mr. Martin. "They managed to keep our names out of this story, but there are others who may know. And since it seems we may be in each other's company for some time, it is probably best to try and keep the excitement to a minimum." Chester says, "I couldn't agree more. You have my word, for what's its worth."

    "Thank you." Kate stayed downstairs with the two men for another half-hour, speaking of small things. She spoke some about Massachusetts and the livery business there, but she mostly avoided talking much about her husband or the events that had led her here. Mr. Riley continued to be quiet, but Kate imagined if she were suddenly sitting with strangers she knew from a dream, she would be quiet as well. Finally she stood. "Gentlemen, I think I will go upstairs for a little while. I imagine I shall be back down in a bit. If I do not see you, I'm sure we'll see each other in the morning. Have a good evening."

    After Kate leaves, Chester remains at the table for awhile. He drinks his beer in silence, ordering another one after finishing the first. Riley is quiet as well. Chester thinks about what has happened today. He apparently has a major role in Fate's stage play, and Reily seems to be the stage manager. He decides to wait for Kate to come back. He waits about an hour and then decides to turn in, since he wants go be out early to look for a job.

    A human and a dwarf enter the Cantina and take a seat at one of the tables. The human goes up to the bar and asks Pedro "Have you seen Jake Cook this evening?" Pedro replies "He was here earlier but headed upstairs a while ago. Would your friend be interested in some Dwarven Ale? I have a small keg of it on hand." The human says, "I'm sure he would. And I'll have a tankard of beer." Pedro serves the drinks and the man returns to the table.

    Nanuet pulls Sonoma aside for a moment. "You have some wisdom for one so young. You are a surprising young woman Miss Sonoma. I am going to take my rest now. The church is right across the street, so I think I will head over there and see if it is alright if I stay in the grove they have outside. I will see you in the morning. Get some rest, if you are truly one of us now, you will need it." Nanuet says his parting words to the others that are still there and turns to head out. As he gets ready to leave he notices a man talking with Pedro and asking about Jake. Nanuet looks the man over to see if he recognizes him and sizes the man up, trying to get a feel for him. Nanuet is uncertain about the man. The man's dwarven companion has a very serious look on his face. Nanuet decides to delay his walk over to the church, and stays at the bar watching these men out of the corner of his eye.

    Nanuet finds a spot at the bar where he can keep an eye on the newcomers. He orders a tankard of beer so as not to seem too suspicious. He asks Pedro in a low voice "Ever seen the likes of them around here before?" Pedro replies "I think they are friends of Jake. Since yesterday they've been living out back under a wagon behind Grant Keebler's shed." Nanuet approaches the newcomers that Pedro identified as friends of Jake’s. He says, "If you are looking for Jake, he is busy. I am a friend of his, anything I can do for you?" Both men look and each other. The dwarf speaks "We need to talk to him. If he comes down tell him that we'll be waiting at the wagon." With that the two of them finish their drinks and leave.

    Nanuet is surprised by the brevity of the response and wonders what Jake has done now. He turns to Pedro and says "Pedro, can you do me a favor and just let Jake know that those men are looking for him the next time you see him. I am pretty sure that he doesn't want to be disturbed." With that, Nanuet heads out across the street to the church. He enters and looks to see if anyone is around.

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    Chapter Sixty-six, “A Drink of Kentucky Bourbon”, Sunday, January 8th, 1882:

    Ruby gets to Jake’s door, composes herself, knocks and then tries the door. It’s open, not to her surprise. She walks in and finds Jake sitting at the table near the window, leaning back casually, waiting for her. He motions for her to sit next to him and she does.

    Jake produces the half bottle of Kentucky Bourbon and pours two glasses. "This is the second best gift I've received this week" He hands one to Ruby and raises his in a toast "Here is to you Ruby West. Since I met you, I have been shot at and in trouble more often than any other week of my life. But I haven't enjoyed myself more... oh, I can't even remember when." Jake takes a sip, closes his eyes and say "Yes, very nice."

    “You know, Mr. Cook, I was going to say the same thing about you.” Ruby has a crooked smile on her face as she takes a sip, not taking her eyes off of Jake. Jake laughs, "You two crack me up, you and Katherine that is. We have Jake around to keep us safe. I'm beginning to think my job is to be target so you are free to shoot anyone who threatens you. And it works!

    “I suppose I should admit you have been doing a bit of babysitting this week. But it’s worked, hasn’t it? We’re both still safe, so I guess you’re doing a good job. But I’m not sure I like the idea of you being a target. If something happened to you… well, then who would watch out for us?” Ruby says playfully. “I didn’t know I was such a good shot, though. I usually like to avoid gunfights if I can.” Jake agrees, I'm with you on that. I just don't relish shedding blood."

    Jake does not bring up Ruby's short flight from Promise City but talks about the pile of cash. "You know I am supposed to be the scoundrel, but there we are putting cash in the pile and it's bad enough that I look like a piker next to your haul, but even honest Nanuet has managed to collect more cash than me." He starts laughing hard. "It's a good thing I don't have a self image problem."

    Ruby gets distracted by Jake’s comments. “You know,” she says slowly, “I’m not used to sharing anything with anyone. I’ve been on my own for a long time now and it’s been working…, mostly anyway. And that was more money than I could make honestly in a year. You didn’t see me take it from Curly Bill. And the real truth is that while I figure you might have some not so honorable stories from your past, Kate and Nanuet wouldn’t be all too happy about some of my, well, let’s just say talents, some of which you have seen up close. In case you haven’t guessed I don’t let myself get too close to people because then you have to answer to them. So I figured take the money and run. But I didn’t figure on getting out of town and realizing that maybe for once I needed something different.” Ruby pauses and smiles again. “And besides if I didn’t come back I wouldn’t have anyone to take me to repent.”

    There is a short silence and then Jake starts laughing hard again. "Repenting…," is all he manages to get out. After a minute he manages to wipe the tears from his eyes. "OK, so maybe being cured by the priest wasn't the wisest of ideas, but who could have known? I did get to meet Good Ruby and Bad Ruby. I don't know how those two women manage to live inside of you." He goes on about all the funny and dangerous things that happened during the good and bad episodes. "But aren't we a pair, both trying to steal the bouncers money at the Palace. I do believe it won't be the last time you get somewhere ahead of me."

    “Jake, you haven’t seen the bad Ruby yet…” Ruby says slyly. “It must have been rather amusing for you. I don’t particularly like having my emotions go all crazy on me. And I thought you didn’t like getting slapped… although I might have done that anyway.”

    “We’re a pair, alright, me and you. That bouncer didn’t have a chance. But what are you admitting to Jake? I’ve guessed that you might have some tricks up your sleeve but I can’t be positive, yet anyway. I have been watching you and you sure are good with your hands, cutting cards, using guns and undressing innocent women…”

    "There are few truly innocent women." Jake says in mock seriousness. "What do you want to know? That I can pick pockets as well as you? That I can palm cards? I already told you that I know how to use my gun. It's been five years since I left Philadelphia and I have managed to get by."

    "Oh, and Adair left you a message" Jake says taking another sip of the fine bourbon. "He complemented your voice and physical appearance. In this we agree." Ruby blushes while Jake raises his glass again with a sly grin and takes a sip. "He made some comment about Whipple's prudish ways or ideas or something and offered you a job. Well at the time I was dealing with Good Ruby, and then later there wasn't much time and then Bad Ruby... Well I never got around to tell you. Any case I imagine you two had a talk anyway. I didn't see that I needed to deliver the message right away. I really didn't want to be part of offering you a job of the whorin' kind."

    “Yes, Mr. Adair and I had a talk. I’m afraid I’m going to have to have another one with him too. I can’t have him being mad at the Whipples because of me. But I do appreciate you not selling me out. It hasn’t been the first time I’ve been offered a job of the sort and believe me I have been offered some ridiculous amounts of money. Can’t say I haven’t been tempted to make as much money in a night as I could in a year. Damn drunken rich men. But they make easy targets if you need some money,” she laughs. “Still, I used to dance more than I would sing, and in places like the Palace.” She ponders for a moment. “Would you pay money to see me dance Jake?” Ruby pours them both another drink.

    Jake stares hard at Ruby for a long moment. "I've paid good money to see women dance that were not half as desirable as you." He focuses on his glass as he swirls his bourbon around in it. "No."

    "No what?" she says slowly. Ruby waits for the answer almost impatiently. Jake says, "It doesn't seem right. I can't explain it. I mean, sure, I like the dance part. But, I don't know, you're different. The payin' part." “You think I’m different?” And desirable, she thinks to herself with some satisfaction. Silence falls between them. Ruby is trying to comprehend that maybe for once someone wasn’t trying to take advantage of her, maybe even looking out for her.

    Jake decides it’s a good time to change the subject. "You remember that guy on the stage ride out? The safe guy. We ought to look into that a bit if we have time. Not suggesting anything in particular, but knowledge is powerful. A body can't know too much about safes." She says, “Yes, he seemed very friendly and might give away something. But what would you like to know? I might have some experience with that.”

    He relies, "No, I meant around town. Just finding out where he'd been and we'd know who had safe work done. Interesting, you know something about safes...." Jake smiles and looks her in the eyes. "You know, I really wanted this to be a night where we just have some fun, not talk about our worries. I don't want to ruin the mood but I think we ought to talk about a couple of things, so we can prevent... well lets just say keep us all safe." “Keeping us safe is good.”

    "So about this coat... Someone just happens to mention to you in passing that it was enchanted with protective magic. I know that people come up to me all the time in the street and discuss the supernatural." He shakes his head. "Give me a little more credit, please. So I knew something was special about it. It was the only thing hanging on the coat rack that didn't have holes in it. So I didn't know it was Johnny Ringo's, if that is true. And I don't know exactly what it might do for me, but hey any help is welcome since I seem to have the target role." He gives a wry smile. "So it would be useful to know if I can dye it a different color or alter it in some way so it does not look like Johnny Ringo's coat. I don't need that kind of attention. And speaking of attention, who in Hades is watching me to find out if I am carrying magically enhanced items and reporting back to you?"

    “Ok you have to PROMISE that you won’t repeat what I’m going to tell you. I don’t know if I should be mentioning certain people’s abilities but I think I can trust you. Manuel Gonzales has some skill with magic. He has offered to teach Kate and me some things. Kate needs to read about magic in books. I can just do it, but I need a little guidance he says. Remember how I made those lights? I guess I can learn other things to do too. So he saw the coat the day we brought all the books up to him.” She thinks twice about the special room and decides not to tell Jake about it just yet. “He said the jacket would protect you, I would have to ask if can be altered. If it could I’m sure Mr. Gonzales would do it.”

    “And today I noticed that the horseshoes on the horses from the stage were glowing. So I’m guessing they are magic too. No horses could ride that fast naturally. I wanted to tell you about it but you were content to let me go off with Mr. Shaw.” Jake notices a slight pout on Ruby’s face.

    Ruby can tell Jake is thinking about serious things. "Out of all the trouble we may be in, I'm most worried about Johnny Ringo." Jake has a grim look. "He's mean and dangerous. I don't know if he's alive or not. But if he is alive he might be our biggest problem."

    “I don’t know much about Johnny Ringo but his friends are willing to come after us just because you have his coat, so that must be bad. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive either but anyway we in some deep trouble.” "Don't forget he has since talked to Billy Claibourne." Jake pauses again and lets out a long low breath. "And of course we need to decide if we tell Katherine... And I don't know how I feel about that. I would want to know. But I don't think comparing me to Katherine is quite right."

    “I think Katherine should know,” Ruby pauses, “…eventually. Right now it’s dangerous for her. Morgan Earp is acting all funny and if Kate finds out she might go confront him and that we both know would be bad. I think we should get more facts first. But I do think we’ll need some better alibi’s sneaking around. Kate is too smart for anything less.”

    “Now I thought you said we were going to have some fun or at least be relaxing.” Ruby moves closer in her chair to Jake, pulling her hair over her shoulder. “So, Jake, you said earlier the bourbon was the second best gift you’ve received this week. What’s the first?” Jake has an easy smile. "Just meeting you, Ruby West. Just meeting you."

    Ruby smiles back. "I'm glad you feel that way, Mr. Cook." She gets up and slides onto his lap, her dress bunching up above her knees. "This feels like it has been a very long week and for all the good and bad we're both still here. So…" She takes off his hat and pushes back a lock of stray hair from his forehead. "How long you planning on staying in Promise City?"

    "I hadn't really thought about it." He has a big smile on his face. "I don't think I am in any rush, I'm kinda liking it here." He puts his arms around her. "As long as it takes." “As long as it takes, huh?” Ruby puts her hand on Jake’s face and tilts it towards hers. Then she leans in, closes her eyes and gives him a long soft kiss. After a moment she falls back and opens her eyes. She whispers, “How was that, long enough? Or should we try again?” "Hmm. Your part was perfect. I don't think I got mine quite right yet though. We better try again." Ruby smiles, “You let me know when we get it right,” and she kisses him again.

    After some time goes by Ruby pulls away, Jake can tell she has something on her mind. She gives Jake a serious look, and he sees her biting her lip. “I hope you’re not planning on playing me like you play cards, dealing your hand then taking advantage of me. I’m not sure I could handle the disappointment.” Jake says, "I can honestly say playing cards is the last thing on my mind right now." Ruby laughs. “Ok, have it your way.” She pauses. “I guess then there is only one question left for you. Do you really want a good night’s sleep? Because if you do I’d better leave now.”

    He answers, "I can sleep when I'm old." Ruby considers what Jake just said and laughs again. “That you can, Mr. Cook. Now pour me another drink.” She holds her glass up. “And pour one for yourself too. You’re going to need it when I’m though with you…” "I'm happy to oblige." Jake says as he pours. He gently touches their glasses together with a quiet clink. "I'm sure not for the last time."

    “You are a gentleman and one with good taste,” she raises her glass, “Here’s to us, Jake and Ruby, and the right kind of trouble,” She drinks down her bourbon. “Now…” she leans into him and whispers in his ear, “Stop being a gentleman and take me to bed…” Jake takes the glasses and puts them away, then turns down the lamp and is more than happy to oblige.

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    Chapter Sixty-seven, “Teachers and Students”, Sunday, January 8th, 1882:

    Kate went upstairs to her room and fetched the box of jewels and pictures she'd found at the caves. She had forgotten to bring them earlier when she went to see Mr. Gonzales, and from what Sonoma said it was obvious the old gentleman knew something about what was to come. She hoped it wasn't too late to be disturbing him. Kate went into his room, exposed the door and went into his beautiful rooms. "Mr. Gonzales?" she called. Gonzalez joins her, coming out of the room that he had said was his bedchamber, attired in a wizard's robe that she suspects may also be his bedclothes. "Yes, my little sandpiper, how can I help you?" he asks.

    "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you. I had wanted to show you something and I forgot earlier." Kate paused a moment. "I admit I would have waited until tomorrow, but when you sent Sonoma to us.... I wondered why." Kate came over and placed the box in his hands. "I found this in the cattle rustlers caves. I wondered if you might be able to tell me anything about it. They seem to have been important people, people who might have been widely known."

    Gonzalez examines the jewelry. He tells her that one of the rings appears to be magical but that the others are not, although they all seem to be well made and valuable. He does not know any of the people in the photographs. He takes the pictures into his workshop and conducts a few experiments on the photographic paper without damaging them. He says that the specific paper and chemicals used were from some of the earlier photographic techniques and that the pictures are at least twenty years old, possibly older.

    He tells her that most of the books written in Spanish in the library that she had obtained list publication dates prior to the Civil War, so those books probably originally came from the same source as the books. He then spends a while examining the pile of paper money and says "Here is the answer". These bank notes show the engraving dates on them. The earliest of these is from 1825 and the latest from 1853. These are from different South American counties - Equator, Bolivia and Peru. He then shows her one of the oldest bills, an 1826 Bolivian note that has the picture on it with the caption 'President de Sucre'. "Does he look familiar?" Manuel asks. Kate looks at the note and recognizes the face as the man wearing the military uniform in one of the photographs.

    Kate exclaims, "Oh my. So this box belonged to someone in President de Sucre's family? What was it doing in a rustler’s hideout? The rustlers were too young to have gotten this from the source. The insides of that cave were very well appointed. This box was tucked behind all those books. Even the beds were ornamented." "I feel I shouldn't have this. It belonged to someone, it's part of their life, their memories. It doesn't belong with me."

    Manuel says "Well, we now have a name and a face. If he is still among the living I can use magic to determine his current whereabouts."

    Manuel first takes Katherine over to the library. She had not been in this room before and is amazed. All four walls are filled with marble shelves to hold books, going from floor to ceiling, around half of them filled. Small step stools are near the bookcases, and as Manuel steps on one he concentrates and it extends into a ladder of the appropriate height.

    He takes down a large tome with magical runes on the cover. He says "I keep my magical texts on the higher sheves....just in case. There is magic contained in these, which my apprentices should not attempt unless I am present. I say that not as a warning for you but for your friend, she has a curious nature about her." He returns with her into the other room and looks up a particular spell. He checks the 'recipe' for it and then gathers various components, which he places within a metal brazier.

    He then casts a spell and the brazier erupts into flame, with green smoke above. The flame then cease and within the brazier he and Katherine both see an image of the elf tending to a horse in a stable. Manuel casts another incantation and acts as though he is hearing something. Katherine watched fascinated as Mr. Gonzales cast the spell to locate President de Sucre. Someday I will be able to do this. The green smoke floated up and the imagine of an elf appeared. He speaks aloud...."He is in Mexico.....at a village known as Sahuaripa....at an inn known as the El Toro.....that is not his home.....he is traveling.....his destination is." Manuel then abruptly stops the spell and has a surprised look on his face.

    Everything about the spell seemed to freeze, as if it were waiting to see if it was still required. "What is it, Mr. Gonzales? Where is he going?" "Here. The El Parador Hotel and Cantina, here in Promise City. He will be here in three days time."

    'Here?" Kate ran her fingers over the box. "I will return this to him, of course. But why would he be coming here? Somehow I don't think it's to retrieve stolen property." He replies "I do not know. The spell is one of location, from it I cannot determine intent. But we will know soon enough."

    "I had another question for you," Kate said, still exploring the outside of the box with her fingertips. "Why did you tell Sonoma she was to stay with us? What's coming?" He replies, "For you I do not specifically know. My Granddaughter Dorita had concerns about your Indian friend Nanuet and his interest in my Great Granddaughter. I cast some informational spells to see what I could find out about him and received some odd answers. The magic indicated that he has only been alive for the last two days, which makes no sense at all. So I then cast spells regarding Sonoma and her future, and it indicated that her path and Nanuet's were linked in some way.”

    Kate waited to answer. The matter of Nanuet was a strange one, but they had known what had happened, and did not seem to hold it against him. "The Apache erased the memory of Nanuet from anyone who was not present, or is not his blood-kin," Kate began. She briefly explained their encounter with the Apache, including her own pledge to assist Nanuet, and the need for his disguise, including the fact that Mr. Gonzales had performed the disguising magic.

    “Beyond that I know not, some things can only be known as they occur," He concludes. She says, "It is those things that frighten me. So much has changed so quickly I hardly know where I am. Sometimes I think I should have returned to Boston. But there have been good things too," she said, smiling at the gentleman. "Like meeting you and your family. And learning about magic."

    Across the street, Nanuet sees no one in the church, so he quietly goes outside to the nearby grove. From there he concentrates and pictures the wolf, his new companion, in his mind. His consciousness wanders out over the nearby landscape until it reaches Maska. He calls to her using this mental connection, then sits down and waits for her to come to him.

    Several minutes pass before the wolf enters the grove and finds Nanuet. Nanuet kneels down and pets the wolf lovingly. "Very good Maska, very good." he says in Apache. Nanuet and the wolf play together for a few moments before Nanuet settles down and prepares himself for reverie. "Maska, guard!" he says, commanding the wolf to stand guard over him as he meditates. Although being an elf he doesn't sleep he still must rest his mind and enter the trance like state of reverie each night. Before he does Nanuet tries to recall what Kajika taught him and he searches the spirits for Storm Goldeneye. Storm stands on a green grass plain hair blowing in the wind.

    She says to him “Your choice and your changes have become more than I expected. You seem willing to do what needs to be done. I come to you with advice. Remember fear causes people to see evil if they do not understand what is there and fear is a power that people have used for centuries to control others. Do not expect everything to be as it is seen by others and follow the logical road to overcome your fears. Watch those that you trust they may see things in another way that they do not understand if you see through their eyes you can calm their minds.

    On your travels you will find things you may be able to use the tricks of the shaman that can be used to distract or as a weapon if needed. Copper dust and gun powder will create a green flash power that can blind for a short time but not cause true damage, a pouch of cactus needles can be placed in a pouch that will burst open in the face of another causing blindness and damage. Follow the energy web that all living things create take what you need to heal from the web and return it when there is more than you need. Remember, the raven is the trickster but he also saved the world by returning the sun. I will answer what questions you have with the information I know but there is much I can not tell you.”

    He states, “A man named Riley has come to Promise City because of his visions. He sees the company from the stage ride that you accompanied to Promise City where we met in his vision, including you.” Storm answers, “Kajika drew me to Riley on the same day that my physical body perished. His life as many parallels to your own. I do not know what the future has in store but I sense that he will be instrumental in helping to keep you alive to fulfill whatever destiny awaits you. You, in turn, will help to heal the blackness in his heart.”

    Nanuet says, “He sees us defending a creature he cannot name against other monsters and then a second time against humans. He names Kajika as a blood brother. Do you know of Riley or of the monster he sees us defending in his visions?" Storm answers, “A monster is in the eye of the beholder. I sense that there is a creature in this region that does not belong here. It has a spiritual connection to the elvan people but not the Apache. That is all that I am aware of at this time but I will continue to concentrate on this.” She then fades away. After Nanuet has his vision of Storm, he then enters his nightly reverie. During this time he revisits the memories of his life and refreshes his mind and body.

    Back at the El Parador, Katherine was undergoing an experience every bit as intimate and exhilarating as what was transpiring in Jake's room. She had never imagined the physical and mental sensations that channeling magic through her would create. While the experience was in no way sexual in nature that was the only comparative analogy she could make.

    Manuel Gonzales had begun with the various introductory spells. Before they had begun he said that he would teach her one or two, but once they had started she had an insatiable thirst to learn the next, and then the next, and then the next.

    They ran through his entire repertoire of spells for novice mages and she mastered them like a fish takes to water. There was no task that he could put to her that she did not grasp - within a matter of hours she could emit frost, create lights and flares, open and close doors, mend items, create sounds and even perform minor attempts at telekinesis.

    When they stopped she did not feel at all exhausted but rather felt elated. Manuel told her that the feeling was an adrenaline rush and would soon end but she would not have that. She told him of the past three months, how the only solace to her grief was found within a bottle, and how she desperately needed for this training to continue.

    Kate sat quietly and waited for his answer. For the first time in months her heart was beating. Since she’d lost Tom, while she smiled and even laughed, there had been a darkness she couldn’t lose, not even at the bottom of a bottle. There was joy in feeling the magic flow through her, something she never thought she’d feel again.

    He took a magical elixir, which he said would physically revitalize their bodies so that they could continue. She drank the oddly hued potion and felt as though she had just awoken from a full night's sleep, noticing a similar reaction in her teacher.

    Next he taught her about magic, how to detect it and then how to read magical script. He taught her the history of magical writings, that it was the ancient language of the people of Atlantis. Katherine had heard of the ancient lost kingdom from the writings of Homer. Manuel explained that the Iliad and the Odyssey were not the only writings of Homer. He had produced a third volume on the writings of Atlantis, a race of wizards who first channeled magic. Most copies of that manuscript had been destroyed during the wars fought between clerical and wizard magics. He explained how all magical books are written in that same secret script and how being found with such a book is usually punishable by death in most pro-Clerical countries. He concluded by teaching her how to inscribe magical runes.

    Manuel then said that a meal was in order before they continued any further. He cast a spell on the far end of his laboratory and a wood stove, pantry and ice chest appeared. He took from the box some chicken parts and prepared a cornmeal coating and then fried them up. He told her how cooking is similar to the creation of magical items, but even more satisfying in some ways, as the mundane is as important to life as the fantastic and how life must be balanced between the two.

    He poured her a sweet grape beverage from a wine bottle, which was tasty but totally devoid of alcohol. As they ate he told her that if they were to continue their relationship would change. He would not just be her teacher, as he was to Sonoma and would be to Ruby, but that he would become her mentor. He said that she had a special spark that he had not seen in many decades and how he would be honored to have an opportunity to fully teach her the gifts of magic.

    They finished the meal in silence, and for a moment Kate thought of how comforting it would be to sit at his feet and lay her head on his knee, as she had done with her father when she was a little girl. She felt very close to Manuel Gonzales just now. She had no doubt he would be a central figure in her life from now on.

    Following the meal he began instruction in her first true magical spells. He began with an enchantment spell used to magically turn one into a trusted ally. The spell would not control another but would make their perceptions of actions and suggestions be seen favorably. He said that he suspected that she would soon need this. He said that this particular spell was one that Sonoma had already mastered, and he speculated that Ruby had as well, so it was important for Kate to recognize and understand it if her companions chose to use such magic.

    The final spell that he taught her was one to create a magical field of protection around her, essentially a form of armor. He said that the spell had been around since the days of armored knights, but over the years had been modified to blend in with the attire as fashions had changed. In her case, when cast the armor would visually appear to be dark leather clothing, boots, pants, gloves, coat with the collar turned up and a hat, thus the only part of her that would not appear to be protected would be her face but the magic would even extend over it. He said that the magic would not stop a bullet fired point blank directly at her, but had the power to deflect those that would graze or cause minor injury. He said that he hoped that she would be studying with him for years to come, so learning that spell could help to make that possible, given the dangers that she and her companions found themselves in.

    He finished and said that he would teach her another spell on each of the next two days, but that now they both needed rest and to be revitalized with another elixir would not be wise. He headed back to his bedchamber and she departed the mansion.

    The cantina was dark and quiet as Katherine made her way back to her room. She entered, locked the door, and changed into her bedclothes. She was asleep within moments of her head hitting the pillow, and therefore missed seeing the first light of dawn now rising in the east.

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    Interlude Five: The Inn outside of Atlanta

    Meanwhile, approximately 1,700 miles east of Promise City, at a township outside of the city of Atlanta, Georgia.....


    Beauregard Aloysius Dodge sat upon the hillside with three of his half-ogre companions eating some of the hardtack and beef jerky that Jasper had prepared for them and washing it down with a jug of moonshine that they had stolen.

    They looked down at the town below, specifically at the inn. It was a four-story wooden structure with over 10,000 feet of space inside of it, just a tad shy in size of the main house back on the plantation. This particular inn had been built in 1793, and was one of the few older buildings in the area to have survived Sherman’s razing of Atlanta back during the war. The first floor of the inn consisted primarily of a large restaurant while the upper three floors housed the rooms for guests.

    Dodge and his companions had disembarked the train at the nearby station two hours earlier, the next train on their journey west not leaving until the following morning. They had lugged their many heavy trunks over to the inn to obtain lodgings for the night, only to be denied admittance by the owner. “Their kind are not allowed inside,” the proprietor said while gesturing to the half-ogres.

    There were no other inns within walking distance, so they then trudged their luggage out of the town and up the long hillside where they pitched their bedrolls under a tree. It looked to be clear night, little chance of rain, so a night beneath the stars would have to suffice. But Dodge was fuming. To him his companions were more than just former slaves, they were family. Two were half-brothers and the other two were his illegitimate sons. It angered him that a country simpleton like the innkeeper would make arbitrary rules against him and his kin. And Dodge was not one to stew in his anger.

    They sat back and watched as it began. The glass from windows of the restaurant blew out into the street followed by the gusts of wind and flames behind them, as the sounds of multiple explosions and screams filled the night air. The doors were then blown off from their hinges as more explosions followed. The pillars of flame rapidly rose up through the doors and windows, engulfing the vast building on all sides. A few of the guests managed to jump to safety from windows along the upper floors, but the vast majority of the hundred or so patrons perished as the flaming walls, floors, ceilings and roof began to collapse inward. Some horses managed to escape from the adjacent barn before the hay inside ignited and the flames spread throughout the structure.

    Fire wagons from the city soon reached the scene of carnage but there was little that they could do. A crowd gathered around the building, watching the remains of it burn into the night as a great bonfire. None of the people in the crowd looked back towards the hillside. If they had they would have seen the human and half-ogres watching with glee, pathological grins plastered onto their faces.

    The remaining half-ogre, the one who had been secretly trained as an ogre mage, soon returned to his companions. He held within his hand a long metal stick with magical runes upon it and said to the human, “Master Beau, I had to use up ten charges. It was really big.” The man smiled as he looked up at his half-brother and replied, “That’s fine Jabby, it was worth it. How many are left for when we get to Arizona?” The half-ogre looked down at some markings on the Wand of Fireballs and replied “Seventy-three”.

    End of Interlude
    Last edited by Silver Moon; Thursday, 23rd December, 2004 at 01:27 PM.

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    Chapter Sixty-eight, “Morning Business”, Monday, January 9th, 1882:

    Jake woke as the first light snack through the curtains. He eased out of bed and tucked his companion in snugly. He quietly went about dressing, and gathering his hat and gun belt went out of the room to finish. Once down stairs he gets enough warm breakfast and coffee to share and heads out to the ore wagon looking for Elliott or his partner.

    "Morning. I looked for you last night, but didn't see you. I went up stairs to rest a short bit, but once I was in bed I found that I just couldn't get out." Jake beams a toothy smile. "I feel good today." He says tapping his lucky hat down. "This should be a good day for you as well. Your first haul."

    Ralph Elliott says "Yes" in answer to Jake's question and then introduces him to his dwarven companion Torvald MacNaulty. The dwarf approaches Jake and looks him square in the eye. Jake can tell from the look that the dwarf is one serious customer. Torvald says, “I heard that you had a business proposition. Look, we don’t want another business partner in this. We just want the other partner we already have to not steal our well-earned shares. If you want to help us with the initial discussions we’ll be very willing to pay you for your time, but don’t be getting any ideas of becoming a silver millionaire from our shares.

    But if you’re looking to get in on this you should know that Fisk is the majority partner and I’m sure that he’s not interested in the daily management of a mine. Your best bet might be to negotiate something from from his 60% share. You’re in for a tough negotiation though, he’s not only a lawyer but one of the best gamblers in town.”

    With a reassuring smile, Jake has a short sip of the coffee and then watches it steam in the cool morning air for a moment. "You said you were worried about Fisk, go easy on me. All I have done is help you get your delivery back together. I don't recall that anyone has paid me." He looks back and forth between Elliott and MacNaulty. "And neither am I hounding you for it." He warms both his hands on the coffee mug. "You asked me about my background for some reason, so I offered my services. I'm not breaking your arm."

    Jake grins and shakes his head. He offers them more coffee. " You seem to have a lot of unspecified area's in your contract. Like everything after you remove the ore. And when and how payments are made. I already told you I don't want to run a mining operation. If you'd like to hire me to help in the negotiations, I'd be willing to consider it. Do you have enough cash to get this first load processed? What exactly were you thinking sneaking this load in?" Take grabs a sausage and eats it while listening.

    Elliott apologizes for his friend's manner saying, "Torvald has been all worked up ever since we found the silver. Listen, he wasn't there that night like Humphrey and I were. I appreciate what you did. It took us close to a day to get that load packed up and brought to town and unfortunately our imaginations got the better of us. In hindsight we never should have attempted that hill with our dilapidated rig and animals. It was a lapse in judgement, which is what prompted me to ask you to help with the negotiations with Fisk. He would have seen that we were rattled and tired and taken advantage of that fact. Obviously Torvald still is, but I've had a day-and-a-half to get my head in order.

    Look, If you don't want to help that's fine, I think I can handle it now. But if you're still interested I'll pay you for your time. You said you were a gambler. How much do you make on a good night? Mind you I'm not asking about the best night you've ever had, but a regular good night at the table. I'd probably be willing to match that. Humphrey and I are willing to pay you from our shares so don't worry about Torvald and our other friend. Jake replies, "I'm still interested in helping. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated Torvald's plain spoken honesty." Yeah right, thinks Jake. "Let's say a good night is $50."

    Elliott continues, “As for money, we won't have any until this first batch of ore is processed, but the yield is clearly higher than most around here so I doubt that Hubbard will have a problem doing it for anticipated credit. While we're on the subject of money. Today I headed over to both Drover’s Livery to see about repairing our broken wagon and also the Bar H Stables to check have him check the condition of our remaining draft horse. No surprise but both are old and worth next to nothing. While I was at those places I made some inquiries regarding a freight wagon and team. The rig, harnesses and team that you’ve loaned to us would cost around $ 3,000 new. I figure in the used condition these are they’re worth around half of that, so that’s what my partners and I are willing to pay you once we have the cash together."

    Jake replies, "I'm only part owner of the rig. Seems like a fair offer, we were planning on selling it. I'll clear it with the others today." Jake makes some more small talk and then heads back to see who is around having breakfast.

    Nanuet awakens to a beautiful day and a rumbling stomach. He plays with Maska for a bit and releases her to roam nearby outside of town. He also remembers Sonoma mentioning going with her today to the grocers. Nanuet gathers his few things and heads over to the El Parador for breakfast. He notices Chester there and greets him. He doesn't mention anything about the visions he saw. He eats a hearty breakfast then looks to speak with Pedro.

    "Good morning Pedro. Did Jake ever get in touch with those men who were looking for him? I just wanted to make sure everything was OK with that. And if you see Sonoma, please tell her that I am ready to go with her to the grocer when she is ready."

    "No, I missed Pedro" Jake says walking in to the end of the conversation from outside. "But I did just come from talking with the miners, if that's who you are referring to." Jake pats Nanuet on the back. Nanuet is startled when Jake pats him on the back. "Hey I was just asking about you." he stammers as he sees Jake continuing to walk.

    "I have an offer from the miners on the wagon and horses for $1,500. It sounds fair to me, want to accept it? Or would you rather shop around? I'll let you decide. Just let me know and I’ll tell them. I took the liberty of loaning them the wagon; they seemed to be in big trouble. I also thought it was a good way to find a buyer." Jake starts heading past Nanuet on his way. "Can you see if that is OK with the others? I'll see you later!" Jake is off twirling his hat on his fingertips.

    "Too many things going on at once." Nanuet thinks to himself. "Well, as I see the others I will ask them, don't think I am going to go out of my way though, and the wagon isn't even ready yet so I am in no hurry. Sounds like a fair deal to me, more than I expected; but then again I have never purchased a wagon before. Maybe I will go and visit the old dwarf today, see how his ranching idea is working out." Nanuet heads to the doorway to take in some fresh air and watch the people that wander by, waiting to see what Sonoma's plans are.

    Jake wanders through the Cantina still twirling his hat looking for Sonoma. Finding her he quickly unloads the torrent of thoughts in his head. "Buenos Diaz, Senorita. Could you see to whatever else the miners out back needs for food or drinks this morning on me? If you Ruby manages to come down to eat before lunch could you add some flowers from me? Do you have something I can have to leave Katherine a note?" He presses some money into her hands. "Oh, and if it wasn't too much trouble whenever we happen to bump into each other, could you and your family teach me Spanish? You know, a few phrases here and there. I'm a fast learner." He takes the paper and pen from her "Gracias." He pops the hat back on his head, quickly scribes a note and writes 'Katherine' on the outside and puts it in Sonoma's hands. "Muchas gracias." He gives her a pat on the hand, followed by a big grin and heads out the door.

    Sonoma shakes her head as Jake passes by her with his list and looks at the money he shoved into her hand it would cover not only what he asked for but most of the supplies that she would need to get for the day's meals plus a little left for her if she spent it wisely She looks around the cantina and sees Nanuet rising from his meal She says, "Are you ready to go? Just let me get the men out back some breakfast and we can be on our way... if that is all right with you?"

    The couple soon leaves the hotel and restaurant. Sonoma thought through Jake's request she might be able to extend the walk with Nanuet and keep more of the money if she picked the flowers herself. She says, “Do you remember where you found the flowers you gave me Jake asked me to get some for Ruby and I thought it might be nice to see where they grow.”

    Ruby woke with a start. She sat straight up in bed, almost in a panic. She looked around, recognized Jake’s room, let out a big sigh, and then relaxed. She smiled as the memories of last night came back to her and she lay back down in bed. She snuggled under the covers and wished Jake was still there. She guessed he was at the bank. Judging by the light and the noise on the street below it had to be mid morning already. She had so much she had to do today but at the moment all she wanted was to stay in bed. She could still smell Jake on the pillow so she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.

    Chester wakes up fairly early in the morning. Military discipline still retained its hold on him, even though he'd been out for a couple years. He dresses and cleans his gun. You take care of your weapon and it'll take care of you. After reloading it, leaving an empty chamber beneath the hammer, he holsters the Remington. The common room is fairly empty. He takes a table by the bar. Sonoma comes over and asks, "Good morning. What would you like for breakfast?" Chester replies, "Hello, I'd like some eggs and bacon with a glass of buttermilk, please." Sonoma returns with the meal. "Thank you miss. This'll be fine." He eats heartily and pays his bill. Leaving the El Parador, he heads to Driscoll's tannery. "Excuse me, sir. Are you looking for help? I don't have any experience, but am willing to learn."

    Mr. Driscoll looks up from his counter. "I'm sorry, son. I need someone with experience. I don't have time to train a new person from scratch." "Dang. OK. Thanks anyway. Do you know where the Breakheart mine is located?" Chester gets the directions from Mr. Driscoll. He leaves the shop and walks from the east side to the west side of town and arrives at the mine. Chester is then directed to a one-story brick building, which is the office to the Silverbell Mining Company, the parent company of the Breakheart Mine. A small man interviews him with eyeglasses named Earl Hogan, who is the clerk and assayer for the mining company.

    The clerk is disappointed by Cheater’s lack of prior experience but impressed with his military background. Hogan says "Well, you're in luck. We lost three miners last week so I'm not being all that picky. The job pays $ 12 a week for a six-day workweek. If you're interested in starting today for a half-day's wage show up at 1:00 PM, otherwise report to the minehead tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM."

    Jake has almost an hour extra time until he has to go to the bank, so he heads back to the prospectors and asks Ralph Elliott to take a walk with him. Jake confirms that Elliott has his deed with him and they head over to the law office of Mitchell Berg, a small single-story timber and adobe building on Allen Street next to Lacey's General Store.

    Berg hasn't officially opened for business yet but the building also serves as his home so he lets them in. Jake explains that his friend has a deed drawn up by Hamilton Fisk and would like a second opinion on it. Berg says that he normally charges $ 2 to draw up a deed, but since he isn't overly fond of his competitor offers to take a look at it for free. Elliott thanks him but insists on paying at least a dollar for the man's time and hands it over for examination. Berg confirms what Jake had concluded, that it appears to be solid but surprisingly makes no mention of how the Ore gets from Fisk Mountain to Promise City for processing.

    Berg says "I assume you must have found something, otherwise you wouldn't be bothering me half-a-year after the date on the deed. Fisk will want to draw up any other legal papers you need but don't let him. Heck, his even drawing this up was a conflict of interest since it was his own land. Check with Elton Hubbard, he'll tell you I'm an honest person to deal with." Jake replies, "Thanks Mr. Berg, I'll let the partners discuss this some more. I'm inclined to recommending your services. We'll come back later. Anything else Elliot?" Having nothing else to cover Jake and the miner leave the office.

    Outside in the street Jake says to Elliot, "Do you know Hubbard? Would you trust his recommendation? I'll ask around today about Berg and see what else I can find. I'll ask around about other services you may be needing. Let me know if there are people you are going to use and trust so I don't waste my time." Jake walks with him a bit. "I'll be at the Cantina just after dinner, and maybe in the afternoon too. I'll be dealing at the Lone Star tonight. Catch up with me and let me know how things go today. Good luck." Jake gives him a firm handshake. While in contact with him his less noble side realizes how easy it would be to take the deed from him. "Do you and your partners have copies of those deeds in safe places? If not, get it done." Jake arrives at the bank. The first two hours are very busy, which is not altogether surprising since the bank had been closed the prior two days. Jake keeps an eye on most customers but doesn't see anything to bother him.

    An hour later, when she woke again, she made herself get up. She threw on Jake’s shirt and as she grabbed her clothes, she noticed a note nearby with a dagger next to it. It said, "Good morning Ruby, I have some business to attend to, and will see you later. Perhaps you could evaluate this pretty knife with the other items? Stay out of trouble, or at least wait for me. Jake." Ruby smiled. Jake didn’t want to miss anything but as far as she was concerned Jake was the trouble.

    She took one last look around Jake’s room, left the gun he had let her borrow on the dresser and snuck back to her room. She wanted to tell Kate what happened but she had so much to do she didn’t think she had time so she was extra careful to be quiet. Kate was probably off reading anyway she told herself.

    Ruby argued with herself over what to do today as she dressed. She decided she wanted a bath so she would head there first. She wanted to see Judge Lacey and apologize for missing their lunch and not that she wanted to, but she would stop at the Palace Saloon and speak with Mr. Adair. She needed to get her gun back from the Marshall and she wanted to see Mr. Gonzales today too. Oh and most importantly, make a visit to Morgan Earp. Ruby guessed that will be even more unpleasant than her talk with Mr. Adair. She decides to head downstairs to grab a bite to eat before she heads out.

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    Interlude Six: The Reporter

    Meanwhile, approximately 800 miles to the northwest, at a posh San Francisco hotel…..


    San Francisco Examiner intern reporter William Randolph Hearst was home on semester break from Harvard and had been sent out on his first assignment. He surveyed the room as his colleague photographed the destruction. The man taking the pictures says, “Gads Willie, hard to believe that all this damage was done in such a short time. How did it happen?” Hearst replies, “Just take the pictures Tad, I’ll ask the questions.”.

    The reporter walks over to the man on the opposite side of the room, examining a broken pillar. Hearst asks him “Did you say that most of this was done by a pair of giants?” Sir Bainbridge W. Strafford, Manager of the Hathaway Grand Hotel, replies in his upper crust British accent “Yes sir. Each was as tall as three men atop each other. Their human companion stated that the tone from the whistle that our concierge used to signal the bellhops was a minor annoyance to them, which escalated as their visit progressed. What you see here is an expression of their displeasure.”

    Hearst just shakes his head in amazement as Stafford continues, “Most of the damage appears to be cosmetic in nature, but the support post that was knocked out has created some structural damage that will be rather costly for us to renovate. You can be assured that Mr. Phineas T. Barnum will be receiving an invoice for all of the related repair expenses.”

    “And where did they go next?” Hearst answers. Strafford answers “I believe that they were proceeding directly to the railroad station.” The reporter’s head jerks up with an alarmed look and he tells the photographer “Pack up Tad, and hurry.” “Why” the man replies. Hearst answers “Because trains use whistles too.”

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    Chapter Sixty-nine, “Afternoon Business”, Monday, January 9th, 1882:

    At the mining office Chester says, "Thank you, Mr. Hogan. I really appreciate this. I can go today. I just have to go back to my room to drop off my gun. I don't think I'll need it down in the mine." He looks at his pocket watch, taking note of the time. "Is the mine near here?" Getting an answer, he trots back to the El Parador to leave his gun. He thinks to himself “I heard mining was dangerous, but three men in a week? I better watch my step.”

    Ruby grabs a fast lunch then heads over for a bath. After her bath she stops in the General Store to see Mr. Lacey. She walks in and he is behind the counter wrapping up someone’s purchase. After the customer leaves she approaches him.

    “Hello, Mr. Lacey. Did you get my note yesterday? I left it under the door for you. I’m really sorry I couldn’t make lunch with you. You see, something very important came up and it had to be done right away. I’m sure you understand.” He smiles back at her and says in a casual tone "Nothing to worry about Miss. West, I understand that you have lots to do." She notes that there is no enthusiasm at all in his voice, nor do his eyes have the wide vibrant look that she saw in them on Friday night. She answers, “Can we make it another day perhaps? I did promise to make it up to you.” She smiles sweetly at him. "Perhaps." is all that he says in response to that question and comment.

    Ruby thought she should leave well enough alone, she didn't know why she had agreed to lunch with him in the first place. But she knew he was upset with her, and lonely. "Oh don't be mad at me, Mr. Lacey. I couldn't bare the thought. Now I have some things I need to buy, but not right now. So when I come back I expect you to have a new date in mind for us to share a meal. Don't disappointment me!" With that she heads out.

    Since it was getting late Ruby decided to use any excuse she could to avoid her chat with Mr. Adair. It could wait another day. No, next stop would be Mr. Gonzales. That she was looking forward to. She heads back to the Cantina.

    Shortly after noon Jake sees a familiar face as Neil Cassidy arrives to make a deposit. "Good Afternoon Mr. Cassidy." Says Jake with a friendly smile. "Aren't you going to leave some out for me to win back?" Jake just gives him a friendly wave and leaves him to his transaction.

    Cassidy replies, "Mr. Cook, what are you doing here?" "It's my day job," Jake replies. Cassidy laughs and says, "Okay, just make sure that the James Gang doesn't come back. Can't go losing my favorite dealer."

    When it is slow, Jake will deposit $300 of his own money in the bank. During the day he takes whatever opportunities he has with the bank owners or customers to find out what he can about the Lawyers Fisk and Berg. He discovers that Mitchell Berg is highly ethical and will not take cases to defend people who he feels are guilty of crimes. Fisk however, will take any case he can. Fisk also has the reputation of being a compulsive gambler.

    He's also curious to learn what he can about the silver mining and processing business in casual conversations, but most depositors that day are not involved directly with the business.

    Scarface Jones returns with the lunches. Morgan Condon gives him some money to go buy some paint and brushes. He returns with the supplies and a stepladder just before the bank closes at 3PM. Once the customers are gone Jones starts painting one of the interior walls. The counting is going on simultaneous to that and Jake keeps a close eye on the handyman.

    Kate didn't wake until the sun was well past it's zenith. She pushed her hands up above her head and stretched, releasing a long sigh. How strange it was to wake with a head not muddled by nightmares or alcohol. Strange and wonderful.

    Last night seemed like a dream. Had she really learned so much? Once they had started, it seemed impossible to stop learning. To be honest, it had surprised her how quickly her mind jumped forward to welcome the new knowledge. For the last months it had been sluggish, refusing to respond to much of anything.

    Kate slipped out of bed and padded across the floor in her bare feet, first feeling the cool smoothness of the wood floor, and then the sun-warmed texture of the woven rug. As she had yesterday, she looked at her face in the mirror.

    A different woman than yesterday looked back. Yesterday a woman with dark circles under her eyes and grief wrapped around her like a cloak had occupied that mirror. Today wide, bright eyes looked back from the glass. The shadow had receded. It was still there, but it no longer dominated. Kate hummed as she began to brush her hair, stroke after stroke until it shone in the sun. Then she braided and pinned it up in a softer style than usual.

    Kate dressed in a lovely cream dress with a layered skirt and vibrant purple trim. As she reached into the lid for the matching hat, her hand touched a small glass bottle. Why not? She pulled out the little bottle and applied the perfume behind her ears and in the hollow of her throat. The familiar aroma brought thoughts of Tom, and she smiled toward his picture.

    She pinned on her hat, picked up her letters to her family, and went humming downstairs to get a quick meal. Hopefully she could still make it to the post office. Kate sat at a table downstairs in the El Parador writing notes, with another note from Jake at her elbow. Dinner tonight with all of them, including Mr. Riley and Mr. Martin was a good idea, and if she'd risen earlier it would have been simple to arrange. The only thing she could think of to do was leave them all notes and hope they got them in time. She left the notes with Pedro with an apology for the trouble, and left for the post office.

    Katherine finishes her errand to the post office and then returns to the El Parador for another quick bite to eat. Ruby soon joins her and the two then head up to the room of Manuel Gonzales. The old elvan wizard says that he would like to teach Kate another spell that she might find useful, one to help put people to sleep, but before he does so he would like to teach his little bird Ruby a few pieces of magic as well.

    Ruby says, Mr. Gonzales, I brought up these items for you to look at. We found them in the cave and thought they might be of some use to us. Maybe when you have a chance you can look at them?" She shows him the piccolo, Jake's coat and the dagger from Jake's room. "I know you mentioned this jacket could protect but how does that work? Is there a way to change the appearance of it? There is someone I would like to keep safe," she says with a slight blush.

    "So I've noticed," he says with a mischievous grin. He then explains to her how magic is something that he personally can use but that he is a wizard which means that he has to first study his spells. As such, he has to guess in advance what spells might be needed. One such spell is used to identify the magic properties of items, however he has only studied one of that particular spell so could only identify a single item on this day. Of the three items that she has presented he asks her to choose which one she would like him to do this with.

    She then asks, "Oh, and why do you call us your little birds? I'm curious." He says "It is what I call all of my apprentices, as well as my daughters, granddaughters, great granddaughters and great great granddaughters. You are all my little birds, but each of you is unique so you are your own species of bird. Katherine is my sandpiper while you are my golden eagle."

    She replies, "How about you look at the jacket? Maybe tomorrow you can look at the other stuff." Ruby pauses in thought. "Why a golden eagle? I don't know anything about birds." Manuel smiles and says "Because the golden eagle is a bird that has a keen sense of observation just as you do. In fact, few other birds can match it's superb vision.

    It is also one of the more beautiful birds, standing out among other birds as one of majesty and grace. It makes sounds that can carry over long distances. It is also a bird that is very capable of defending itself." She says, "Well, that is a lovely compliment, but I'm not sure I could live up to all that."

    He has the ladies follow him into his workshop where he takes some colored dust from inside of a bucket and sprinkles it over the coat. He then casts a spell and they see light radiating from his hands and then encompassing the leather duster. Unlike other spells, this one ends quickly and the light fades.

    He tells the ladies "It is a Duster of Protection. It is similar to a magical armor spell that I taught last night to you my sandpiper. The difference is that anyone could wear this, not just a mage. It would afford the wearer protection from physical attacks and also stop some spells. While it would probably not stop a bullet fired directly into it from point blank it would deflect those that would otherwise graze or cause minor injury.

    As to changing it's appearance, if you were to cut or otherwise physically alter the coat you could cause it to lose its magical properties. Furthermore, the magical protections on it would make it resistant to natural dyes or minor color change spells. However, given some time I could probably create a magical dye that would hold. Ask your friend exactly what color he wishes it to be I and will start preparing the enchanted pigments." She states, “Am I that obvious Mr. Gonzales?" Ruby glanced at Kate. She hadn't had a chance yet to tell her what happened. How could the old elf know anyway? "I'll ask him tonight."

    Kate tried to suppress a grin and nodded at Ruby. Ruby and Jake had been dancing around each other for days. Subtly perhaps, but it was there. Kate doubted Mr. Gonzales was one to miss any clues, however. Suddenly she wondered what he had gathered about her.

    Sanoma returns from her day with Nanuet with a glow to her face a song in her voice and a smile that seems to stay well into the late afternoon. After catching up on her chores and placing the flowers on Ruby's bed with a note saying they are from Jake she heads to Manuel's room for her studies as she thinks she will have need of anything else he can teach her soon. Kate smiled at Sonoma she came glowing into her great-grandfathers workshop. One by one her new friends were pairing off, but Katherine didn't feel left out. She had discovered something else to love last night. "Did you have a good day?" Kate asked Sonoma as she came in. "You look as if you did. We were just getting started."


    It's around a quarter past four when the counting and painting are done and the bank is locked up for the day. Jake heads back to the Cantina and will spend a few minutes downstairs chatting with anyone he knows there before he goes back upstairs.

    Jake is in luck in that the gambler Conrad Booth is there having supper. Booth plays at the Long Branch Saloon, the same place where Hamilton Fisk plays. Booth tells Jake that Fisk doesn't normally play at his table, choosing to play with a dealer named Edsel Trask instead, but Booth has been around Fisk long enough to know him rather well. Booth's gut feeling about Fisk is that he is the type of lawyer and gambler who an analogy can be made to a snake or lizard. Really pushes the envelope on ethics or honesty, doesn't outright cheat due to the risk of getting caught, but probably would if he could get away with it.

    Jake heads up to his room. He finds the revolver that he had loaned to Ruby, and decides it is a good time to handle some business at the gunsmith. He takes the single and double action revolver with him and heads over to Pierre’s, and hopes Al Brower is there.

    "Hi Al," Jake greets the man who he's gambled with, "Introduce me to your gunsmith." He shows the man his prized single action fast draw Colt 45 peacemaker, and the similar weapon he recovered from the rustler's cave. "I want the fastest, most reliable pistol I can own. I had this worked over by a smith a while back. Do I have it already?"

    He also wants to trade the two extra pistols and holsters he brought in for a double action long barrel colt 45 with holster. "I don't care if it is new or not, just in good shape. And I don't want to carry two different cartridges." Pierre Jaquet is rather impressed with how well Jake has maintained his weapon, commenting that "Most people don't clean their weapons as often as they should. It is good to see someone who takes pride in maintaining one in peak condition."

    He does have a new long barrel colt 45 in stock. He says that he has doesn't have any used ones at the moment. Of the two pistols being traded in one is in better shape than the other. Pierre calculates the trade value, subtracts that from the cost of the colt, and charges Jake $ 10.00 for the balance. Pierre then gives him a cigar as well, with Al explaining "We also own the cigar store around the corner as well as this store and most of the Comique."

    Chester spends the afternoon at the Breakheart mine finding it to be very tiring work. His coworkers are all rugged men by the names of Alcorn Roony, Shamus O'Hara, Brian Kelso, Ajax Gormly, Rafe Dobbins and Nutly Bester. He is surprised to see that all of them are wearing side arms. He then finds out that the three who died were not killed in a mining accident, they were shot dead by Arcade's Gang who were apparently out to get one for what the men believes was a case of mistaken identity. He thinks “Wow. This burg is a dangerous place--even miners have to worry about getting shot.”

    Chester's muscles and back are hurting by the time 5PM rolls around and the workday ends. He heads back to the Cantina wondering if there might be some easier work elsewhere. Chester's clothes are covered in rock dust. He trudges up to his room and changes into fresh ones. Remembering what he learned at the mine, he straps on his gun. The ex-soldier heads downstairs for supper. Seeing some familiar faces, he walks over to Jake and Nanuet. "Good evening gentlemen. Can I sit wit' you?"

    Jake replies, "Hi Chester. We were just waiting for the ladies. Have a seat. You look tired."

    "Yep. I just spent a half-day at the Breakheart Mine. That's real back-breaking work. What have you two been up to today?" At the mention of working at the Breakheart Jake visibly winces. "My condolences." He takes out the cigar Al Brower gave him and offers it to Chester. "I've never acquired a taste for these foul things. Care to have this for your after dinner smoke? A man who works that hard ought to have some pleasure." Chester accepts the cigar. "Thank you kindly, Mr. Cook. I think a cigar is just what the doctor ordered."

    The man called Silver Jake Cook leans his chair back on two legs and props his feet on one of the empty chairs. "I had a few errands to run, did my stint at the Condon's bank and then went and bought myself a new long barrel Colt six shooter. No where near as destructive to my body as your job. Though I am getting pretty busy and if things work out right I may be giving up the bank job."

    "The bank? Are you a teller there? I'm not sure I'm cut out for the mining business." Chester says with some chagrin. "Teller?." Snorts Jake. "Hardly, I pass for what they call security. I'm the hired gun there." "Will the bank be looking for new people?" Asks Chester "I don't think so. But if I decide to give up the guard job I'll let you know." Then Chester turns to the other, "And you, Mr. Nanuet, what do you do for a living?" Jake chats with the two of them a while.

    Meanwhile, the women spend the entire afternoon with Gonzales. He begins Katherine, having her review the Dancing Lights, Daze, Detect Magic, Mage Hand, Prestidigitation and Charm Person spells. He then has Sanoma and Ruby try all of those. He then has Katherine work alone on her magical armor spell, while he gives Sanoma and Ruby the lecture about magical writings and an introductory lesson in that.

    He gives both Bards a lesson in how to "sing" magic, and they find that he has a rich tenor voice. He asks them to practice, while he goes and has a private conversation with Katherine.

    He then has the women come back together and teaches all three of them the spell that will put people or animals to sleep. By the time he concludes they are all tired and hungry and the three women head out and back to the Cantina to eat. They arrive to see Chester, Jake and Nanuet at one of the larger tables waiting for them. When the ladies arrive Jake stands to greet them. Chester stands as well.

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    Chapter 70, “Girl’s Talk”, Monday, January 9th, 1882:

    Ruby walks right up to Jake and smiles at him. She nods at the others and waits for Kate and Sonoma to be out of earshot and involved in other conversations. “I missed you this morning, when I woke up, I wished you were there. You must trust me to leave me alone in your room, although I guess there isn’t much left of yours for me to steal, huh?” She tugs on his coat. “How did you sleep?”

    Jake smiles warmly at her. "I had some business that I was supposed to take care of last night that I did first thing in the morning. Turns out I had something more important to do last night. I slept great." Jake takes his hat off and runs his hand through his hair. And then rhetorically, "That's an interesting question. Is there anything I have that you haven't stolen?" He puts his hat back on and then pulls out a chair for her to sit down.

    "Good afternoon, gentlemen, I trust you had a pleasant day," Kate said as she took a seat between Nanuet and Mr. Martin. Chester replies with a slight bow, "Good afternoon, Mrs. Kale. I worked a half-day over at the Breakheart mine. It's rough work, believe me. But, it's a job." He shrugs. "How was your day?" "Lovely, thank you." She looked at the faces of her friends and leaned over to Mr. Martin. "We seem to be the odd men out here, don't we?" she whispered with a little laugh.

    He looks at her a bit quizzically. Whispering back, he says, "What do you mean? I'm not sure I understand." "Oh, I just happened to notice that my companions seem to be pairing off,"she whispered before she raised her voice. "Mr. Riley isn't here? I left him a note." Chester replies "I haven't seen him since last night. He was still in the common room when I went to bed. Did you come back after I left?" She answers, "No, I'm sorry. I hope you didn't wait long, something came up."

    "Katherine Kale" Jake cocks his head slightly to one side with just the touch of a smile, "you are positively glowing today." She can tell by slight flexing of his nostrils that he has noticed her perfume. "Yes, something is different today." His smile widens and looks about the table. "If I may be so forward, we have the most beautiful women in Promise City arrayed around us and they are all positively radiant today. Well what ever it is, I for one am grateful."

    Jake asks Nanuet if he was able to ask the others about the wagon and learns he has not. "I am helping out these miners," He tells them all, "and it turns out they are in need of a good sturdy wagon. They offered us $1,500 for ours. I assume that is a fair price, should I sell it on our behalf?"

    Ruby states, I don't know anything about wagons, but that sounds like a lot of money for one. You should sell it. So... what does everyone have planned for tonight?" Ruby glances at Jake. "Maybe Nanuet, Sonoma, Mr. Martin and Mr. Riley, if he shows up, would like to join us at the Lone Star?" Chester states, "I would be honored, Miss West. Will you and Mrs. Kale be performing tonight?"

    Jake states "Hearing Ruby sing is well worth the trip, Mr. Martin," Kate encouraged him. "We'd be pleased to have you." "Thank you for the compliment, Jake, I had a good night. I doubt we'll be offered a better price for the wagon, we should sell it. Flint should be able to get a good deal of lumber for his new ranch. Perhaps I'll go out there tomorrow. It might be a good place for those shooting lessons we talked about, Jake."

    Ruby answers, "Oh, yes I will be singing. Kate doesn't sing but she plays the piano. Right now she serves the tables but I think that is below her." Ruby glances over to her friend. "I think she should be a teacher or something smart like that. It's been very exciting at the Lone Star recently. I hope you like excitement, Mr. Martin."

    Jake raises his eyebrows at the mention of everyone going to the Lone Star. I guess everything is mended with the Whipples. At least enough to go back in. He chuckles quietly. "I don't know if we'd have enough time after I get off from the bank tomorrow. But I'm not working Wednesday if that works."

    Ruby states, “I’m starving so let’s eat! We had a busy afternoon today, we…uh…well, we were busy.” Ruby realizes she doesn’t know if she can trust Mr. Martin with information about their “training”. Trying to change the subject, “Well, I have to go get my gun from the Marshal after dinner. Anyone care to join me? Oh and Kate did you talk to Maggie today? I thought you were going to.” Kate answers, No, I haven't. I got up quite late today. I thought I might go over early and speak to her. I'm not sure how well I can present the idea, but I"ll try. I'll go right after dinner." "She trusts you, you can do it. I'd be more concerned looking Tom in the face..." Ruby says laughing. Kate blushed and fiddled with her napkin. "Well, maybe I can use that to my advantage. I think he'll behave himself, Ruby," she laughed. "Apparently Maggie gave him a rather large piece of her mind."

    Conversation at dinner was light, and Kate found herself smiling through it, even with the prospect of talking to Tom Whipple afterwards. Without Mr. Riley there they really couldn't discuss his dreams, so any business of the wagon was quickly finished. Kate wasn't sure she'd make it back to the El Parador before it was time to begin work, so she would have to put the bustle cover on now. There was no way she could manage it alone in these skirts, so she asked Ruby to come upstairs with her.

    Kate shut the door with a quiet click and unbuttoned the top button of her dress. Ruby sprawled out on her bed and propped her head up on her hands. "You look very happy today," Kate laughed. “I am very happy today,” Ruby replied. “Today, for the first time in a long time, I woke up somewhere I wanted to be.” Ruby didn’t have to look at Kate to know she had a questioning look on her face. She wasn’t sure how her friend was going to take the news but she was dying to tell her anyway. “I woke up in Jake’s room.”

    Kate's face turned a deep crimson. "Ruby! I knew you were, well... interested. Last night you were both almost shouting that you wanted to be alone, but...so soon?" “So soon? We waited a week!” Ruby laughs at Kate’s shocked expression. “Kate, I’m kidding.” Ruby shrugged. “I don’t know, it just happened, not like it was planned or anything...” Ruby drifts off for a moment then continues softly, “But it was wonderful. It felt… different.”

    Kate sat on the bed next to her friend. "I don't have a lot of experience with this," she began slowly. "There was only Tom. But it seems it should be different. Jake isn't any other man, is he?" Ruby sighed. “I don’t know. Why should he be any different? They are all the same in my experience and will take advantage of you if you let them. But I wanted to stay and I never stay Kate,” she pauses, “Ever.” She gets a sly smile on her face. “Oh, but it was worth it…”

    "Then your experience is just a limited as mine. Not every man is out for an advantage. After all..." Kate paused, considering. "Tom still married me, even though we....well, you know," she finished blushing. Ruby says, “Oh my experience is not limited. Believe me, it’s not. I’m sure Jake is a happy boy today. It’s just I don’t ever stay afterwards… that’s when you can really get yourself into trouble.” Ruby pauses, then continues with a laugh, “But are you admitting to being a bad girl before you got married?” Ruby laughs. “I bet your family would love to know that. What would they think?” Ruby takes Kate’s hand. “Kate, those kinds of things don’t matter in my world.” Ruby gets serious. “And if there are men out there not trying to take advantage I haven’t found one yet. But…” Ruby sits up on her feet, “Jake was worth every second.”
    Sonoma excuses herself to help bring out their dinners.

    "Just don't get too set in your ideas. Jake may surprise you, in more ways then he did last night," she said with a mischievous little laugh. "Oh but Ruby, I had the most wonderful night last night as well. Of course, I spent my night with a much older man."

    Ruby arches her eyebrows. “And what is that all about? You do seem different today…” Kate answers, "I went back up to see Mr. Gonzales after you went upstairs last night. I was curious about him telling Sonoma to stay with us, and I wanted him to look at that box I got from the caves. He was getting ready for bed, poor man. I disturbed him I think. But he was very kind and agreed to teach me another spell. After that we just kept going. He wanted to stop after we finished the novice spells, but I've never felt anything like the magic. I didn't want it to stop. I didn't want to go back to my room and try to go to sleep alone. So we drank potions to refresh us and kept going. It was the most amazing thing.

    And it was good to tell someone, about Tom. I drank myself to sleep almost every night in Tombstone, did you know that? Ruby, I woke up this afternoon, and my head was clear. No hangover, no nightmares. Just this lightness. Like I'd found Katherine again."

    Ruby smiled. “I am good at reading people and I can tell he has taken a liking to you, Mr. Gonzales that is. Why wouldn’t he, you’re very smart and likable. He must get lonely after all having to hide his talents. And magic, well it is something isn’t it. Of course, I don’t know what it’s like to learn it out of a book but it is a very special feeling. Kinda tingly, no?” “Oh, but I didn’t know you drank every night Kate. I’m very sorry I should have guessed. You must be lonely and missing Tom so badly.”

    Ruby looked away. “You know I never really had friends to talk to, especially not girls. But I couldn’t wait to tell you about Jake. It’s a funny thing for me. And maybe you need to tell me about Tom. Or maybe you just need someone to tell you it’s going to be ok.” Ruby moves closer to Kate and hugs her. “I really hope it is going to be ok. And I’m glad you found something to believe in, we all need that to keep us going.” Ruby stroked Kate's hair as she had done for her earlier. She hoped her words helped and that Kate believed her.

    "Well, you have friends now, and I'm lucky to be one of them." Kate continued to lean against Ruby as she haltingly began to tell her about Tom. About how they'd met in his stables and their courtship over the course of two years. About his delight in poking fun at polite society even as he moved perfectly though it, his deep love of horses and how he taught her to train them, and even how they sometimes fought over going to church. "My mother's French, you know. When Papa went to the war, she stopped taking us, and when he returned he didn't force the issue. It drove Tom crazy how I wouldn't go."

    Kate pulled in a long, slow breath and sighed. "Thank you Ruby, I've been needing to do that for a long time." She sat up and smiled. "No matter how much it hurts, I wouldn't trade being with him for anything. And now it's time to start again, and maybe this new life can be just as wonderful in its own way." Ruby says, "Why not, Kate? That's what starting over is all about."

    Katherine pinned her hat on and adjusted the neckline of her dress, removing the high collar that choked her and clasping a necklace around her throat. Once the shocking bustle was in place the ladies went back downstairs and Kate headed to the Lone Star.

    Katherine arrives a the Lone Star. It is still early in the evening and there are only five customers inside, at two of the smaller tables eating dinner. She recognizes four of them, Stanley and Helen Barker at one table and Al Brower with Pierre Jaquet and another man. Maggie has just finished bringing food to both tables, Jeff Mills in standing behind the bar and she hears Tom Whipple out in the kitchen. Maggie checks with both tables to make sure that they have what they need.

    She then asks Katherine to join her upstairs for a brief chat. Once they get in Maggie’s room she says “I had a long talk with Tom. He’s physically and mentally spent and is ready to just walk away from this town and start over at this point.

    Tom went to the telegraph office this morning to wire Father not to come, but it was too late. There was a telegram waiting that Father sent from Pueblo, Colorado saying that they were already on their way. They apparently left Denver yesterday morning right after the church services. He expects to arrive here by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. He’ll be bringing Cousin Teddy and Teddy’s fiancé Alexis with him and wired to let us know we'll need an extra room available for her. Poor Job, he'll probably be out of jail only to have us then kick him out of his room."

    "I hope you won't be upset with me Maggie, but I have a suggestion for you. I thought it was important to tell Ruby and Jake what is happening. They would have been concerned about my returning here if they didn't know the truth. Jake made a very interesting suggestion. A bit radical, but it is an unusual situation. Rather than try to tell the truth, you could let it be known that you and Tom are getting a divorce. Say you each retain half-ownership and will continue on with the business. You still may not be able to be known as siblings, but you would be free."

    Maggie replies “Do you think that we haven’t already thought of that? Last year when the whole town was talking and Tom’s affair with Flossie we approached Judge Isby to obtain a divorce. He wouldn’t grant it. He told Tom to stop fooling around and for the two of us to work out our differences.”

    Kate answers, "Oh Maggie, I'm so sorry. I feel responsible. I know this happened long before I arrived here, but it seems what happened Saturday has brought it all to a head. There must be something we can do. Go to another town for the divorce perhaps?" Kate began to pace around the room. "I know you don't want to give up this business, and you shouldn't have to. I can't believe people would think worse of Tom for protecting his sister than they do for cheating on his wife."

    Maggie replies, "We can't go to another town. No other Judge would know us and would require seeing a Marriage License before granting it. And we can't get a license because we were never married. You're right about one thing, it has gotten worse. Tom is so angry and bitter, more so since I asked him about his feelings to Flossie. He indicated that he’d propose marriage to her right now if he could, but after all this time apart he’s sure that she would not accept.”

    "Maggie, what if you were to take on partners in the Lone Star?" Kate said suddenly. "For example, say I, and Jake and Ruby, if they're amenable, were to buy shares in it? We could buy enough to have the controlling interest. You said Tom was ready pick up and leave anyway. If we take over as the public owners, could you and Tom tell the truth? It would no longer be your reputation that mattered. You would continue running the business, of course, I don't have that kind of skill. After a time you could buy your interest back from us. Do you think it could work, or am I naive to believe it would make a difference?"

    She replies, "Well, Tom's ready to leave, but I don't think he'll go without me and I'm not going. He'd probably go back to Denver with Father if he could, but that would really but up to our Father. I'd say the real issue though is Flossie, although I don't know how we'd ever manage to get her and Tom back together to talk without the whole town finding out."

    Kate says, "I'm a little confused. Are you saying that if Tom knows Flossie will still have him, he'll do what? Just tell the truth and be done with it? Or go along with my idea? I'm sure we could manage to get them in the same place somehow." Maggie starts to cry "I don't know. It's all a mess. He won't even discuss it at this point. And if we get them together and she breaks his heart worse than it already is that will just make matters worse."

    Kate leaned down and put her arms around Maggie. "I'm not so sure about that. He needs to know if there is hope or not. If there isn't, he can finally get on with his life. It may be worse for a while, but it will be better in the end. I'll go down and talk to Tom." She stayed a few more minutes until Maggie was able to pull herself together a bit, then left the room and went down into the kitchen looking for Tom Whipple.

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