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

Silver Moon

Chapter 165, “Cowboys and Indians” , Sunday, January 22nd, 1882, 12:30 P.M.

After Leaving the soldiers, Chester walks over to Drover's Livery in search of Danby Jones. Chester see the man fixing a fence. "Mr. Jones. I want to talk to you." Jones comes over to Chester. The ex-solider asks, "What do you want?" Jones says, "Follow me." They walk into a nearby alley. "What do you know about the bank robbery last week, Danby? I don't like being shot at and a friend of mine was almost killed."

Jones replies, "You'd know more than me. You were there at the time, I wasn't. Believe me, I'm not involved with Deadeye Douglass. But since we're on that subject, has Silver Dollar talked to you about our plan yet?”

Chester answers, “And why should I believe you? You've been talking about stealing from the place. A short time later, the place gets robbed. Interesting, don't you think? And why are you still trying to rob the bank. After Deadeye got through with it, there can't be much left."

Jones says, “Deadeye didn't get much of anything, he took the dummy bags. Talk to our other partner, Silver Dollar Cook, he knows where the real money is hidden. Don't worry Chesty, you'll get your third of the take." Chester sighs and thinks to himself, “I don't think this guy can steal candy from a baby, much less a bank. But, I should tell the Condons, just in case.” He tells the man, "OK. OK, Jones. I'll ask Silver Dollar. Just don't start anything yet."

Chester decides to work off his frustration with Danby Jones by taking a ride out to the silver mine. How would I make it safe for the mine wagons? It'll take a few people. After doing a brief reconnaissance, he heads back to the city. Chester checks his pocket watch and sees he has some time to wash up before dinner. He goes up to his room, washes his face and changes his clothes.

Nanuet spent the first half of the day working in the grove. Several of the plants were not indigenous to the area so he spent much of his time studying them. After some time his stomach reminded him that food was a priority so he headed over to the El Parador for lunch.

While there for the mid-day meal, he overhears more talk about a clash between the Apache and soldiers. It pains him to hear this as it reopens memories of what happened to his family and tribe. "Kajika might know what is going on, and I did promise that I would do some speaking for the Apache. Maybe I should try and meet with him." Nanuet thinks to himself.

Nanuet thanks Dorita for another fine meal and makes sure to pay and leave a generous tip. He makes his way out of town towards the abandoned boarded up mine head. He calls for Maska. When she arrives he asks her to find and bring Kajika. Nanuet then finishes the journey and approaches the mine head looking for any signs of its current state of occupation.

Maska leads Nanuet off and into the hills. They travel for several miles until they come upon an Apache encampment. Nanuet sees ten mounted warriors, all with their faces painted for war. They are carrying bows but also have Springfield rifles strapped to their backs. Kajika is also among the group. He appears to be making something in a clay pot that looks to be a whitish paste.

Nanuet approaches cautiously and in plain sight making sure to show that he has no weapons in his hands. He approaches Kajika and asks "Master, we need to speak. I need to know what is happening between the Apache and the white men. Can we speak here?" Kajika says "Yes. Geronimo has put me in charge of these braves. They answer to me.”

The Shaman continues, “Two days ago the Army broke their agreement with the Apache. Morgana and Qualtaqa, the prior Ambassadors to the Apache, had made an arrangement several months ago where the soldiers and sheriff would stay out of the Chiricahua Mountains. Geronimo says that this is just another example of the white man's broken promises and treaties. I have urged caution, and for the time being the braves will be seen but will not attack unless provoked. But I fear it is only a matter of time until an another altercation occurs, and then Geronimo will then want to purge the humans from this land."

Nanuet nods his head in understanding. "Once again you have proven to be wise Kajika. If you tell me the details of the agreement made I will do what I can. I will speak to the soldiers about their violation of the agreement. I believe Storm was also knowledgeable about the situation so I will ask her for her guidance."

Kajika replies, “"The agreement pertained to the outlaws known as the James Gang. They robbed Promise City last summer. It was suspected that they would return to the area so Morgana had the Apache offer to apprehend them if these human attempted to go through the mountains. To avoid any misunderstandings the military and territorial authorities agreed to stay out of these mountains as well. This is our homeland, Geronimo only seeks for us to keep what is ours."

Nanuet replies, “So I speak the truth when I say the soldiers from Fort Huachuaca have entered your land, is that correct? Has there been violence and what is the reason that they give for entering the lands?” Kajika answers, "They did not explain their actions. They just entered our land and started shooting. The men ran but also fired back to deter the soldiers from following. We had wounded as did they. As to which Fortress they come from, we do not know."

Nanuet winces at the explanation by Kajika. He replies, "I will go and talk with the white man soldiers. Please continue to be patient, I know you will do your best. I will spend the rest of the day and night here with you and share with you my story of the earth spirit and begin this quest tomorrow if that is agreeable with you Master."

Kajika agrees. He very much wishes to hear the story of the Earth Spirit and what had happened to his blood brother. He tells Nanuet that he knew of Riley's death when it happened, due to their bond. He tells Nanuet not to grieve, that Riley had a tortured soul and in the end felt that he had made a difference.

Nanuet shares the evening meal with the Apache warriors and Kajika. He works on his knowledge of the Apache tongue while there and then after the meal he sits with Kajika and relays the story of the Earth Sprits, especially Riley's involvement. The two talk late into the night about Nanuet's story and Kajika tests Nanuet on some of his shaman skills. Eventually both begin to tire and they enter into their nightly meditation trance.

Back in town, feeling refreshed, Chester walks to the Lone Star. The others must already be there. He comes in through the front door and sees Comstock and the other soldiers. He looks around, but doesn't see Kate, Jake, or Ruby. Odd. I'd figure one of them would be around tonight. Where could they be? I'm sure they're fine. "Hi Bill. Ready to go back and defend the frontier?"

Comstock replies, "Yep. Although the frontier's getting smaller every day. Since the hunt didn't go so well, it'll be nice to get back to the fort." He adds with a grin, "Now how bought them cheap drinks you promised us?" "OK. I got it." Chester asks Harry Rote at the bar for a round of beers and a bottle of whiskey. "Put it on my tab, Mr. Rote. Jeff can tell you I'm good for it." He passes the drinks around, and the group settles down to tell more stories about frontier life.

Once Chester has several drinks in him, he starts to really talk. "I tell you, that Bill Cody is always hogging the limelight. I don't think he even got a shot off at the Chi… Chi… monster. That big game hunter, Jim McClushkey or something killed one of the heads and me and my friends got the rest. That was a fun fight."

Comstock and his friends press Chester for more details about the battle, especially the part about Cody not firing a shot. Chester replies, “"Well, you see, we'd been waiting for the thing on that mountain. I had this big gun, almost a cannon. I see the thing land in the woods. That's when my friend and I met you."

Chester takes a deep swallow of beer. "Anyway, the monster flies over the rest of my group. But, I had left the gun up there, so I couldn't shoot at it. I was dreadfully worried about them. I guess Riley picked the gun up and fired. He even hit it. Didn't think he could hit the broad side of a barn. Killed one of his own friends in a shootout some time ago. That's when you guys left to get bigger guns, right? Right. It flies away only to get one of its heads shot off by Big Jim. Name fits him.

"So my friend and I climb back to where we used to be. The beast comes back, but now I've got the gun. I let one fly, bang, right in the kisser. It falls to the ground and my Indian friend… You met him that night on the road… He shoots a few arrows into it, finishing it off. That gun's amazing. It fires these navy shells that really pack a punch." He lowers his voice to a whisper, "But you didn't hear that from me."

Whittemore slaps Chester on the back and says "Navy, what do they know about weapons! Army's where the action is!" Chester replies, "I'll drink to that. My temper got me thrown out on my ear. Punching out your sergeant will do that. He was a cruel man, though. I couldn't stand him any longer and bam, my career was over. Oh well. That's in the past."

The seven continue to drink until the Lone Star closes, they then stagger across the street and over to the Gay Lady Variety Hall and Saloon, which will still be open for a few more hours. Chester states, "It's great talking with fellow soldiers. My friends are dreadfully nice, but they are still civilians. But, I guess I am too, now. But back to more pleasant things."

The group stays at the Gay Lady until closing. Many toasts are made. Eventually, all good things come to an end. After much back-slapping and goodbyes, Chester leaves the group and returns to the El Parador. He lurches up the stairs and collapses into bed.

Chester wakes up late the next morning with an awful hangover. He staggers downstairs and Dorita takes one look at him and hands him something, exclaiming "Drink". He takes one sip and then spits it out, saying that it is the worst thing he has ever had to drink. She says "Drink, will get you back on feet. You need to be at bank job in ten minute."

He replies, "Not so loud, please. I'll have to skip breakfast, then. Sorry." Chester swallows the rest of the concoction and makes a face. Then he jogs to the bank, checking his pocket watch along the way. He makes it with a few minutes to spare. "Hi Mr. Condon, I'm feeling much better today." Luckily the late night makes Chester look like he was ill.

Frank Condon looks up at Chester and says "Are you sure that you are alright? You don't look so good. My brother Morgan went to check with you at your hotel on Saturday morning and the hotel owner said that you were in a bad way, that he hadn't seen you come out of your room since Thursday. Chester thinks to himself, “Didn't plan for that. I'll have to thank Dorita and Pedro.”

Condon says, “Look, Morgan will be by in a few minutes. We can handle the security until you're feeling better. Go take the day off. Take tomorrow off too, we'll see you on Thursday." Chester says, “Oh, OK. Thank you, Mr. Condon. Are you sure?" Condon replies, "Yes, yes. Don't come back until you're in perfect health."

Chester returns to the El Parador and thanks Pedro for helping him with the Condons. Pedro says "I didn't lie. On Saturday morning I say that last time I see you come out of room was Thursday. It was. I just didn't tell him you weren't inside after that.”

He laughs, "You're right. It wouldn't be good to lie to a banker. Sorry to put you on the spot like that." Chester goes back to his room and fetches the case containing the hand cannon. He walks to the gunsmith. He sees Pierre. "Hi, me again. Could you look at this for me? I was in the mountains shooting it and I dropped it. It looks like the barrel is dented."

Pierre brings Chester into the back room. He examines the gun thoroughly. He says, "It looks like it might be. You should get it fixed." Chester asks, "Can you do it? I know the gun's a custom job and all." Pierre replies, "Oh no, this is a Bailey made weapon. He alone should be the one to fix it. Nobody else could do justice to his craftsmanship."

Chester replies, "Dang. I think you said Bailey was in Mexico, when I stopped in before. Where exactly, if you know and will tell me? Do you think he would mind visitors?" Pierre answers, "Well, I wouldn't try sneaking up on him.” Chester comments, "I'll keep that in mind."

Pierre continues, “He has a place in the Sonora Province south of Arizona, along the Gulf of California. His home is in the Tepoca area, a day's ride south of the town of Desemboque. From here, that would be around 300 miles or so to the southwest." "That's a long journey. So I probably won't do that right away. Thanks." With that, Chester repacks the weapon, and drops it off at his room.

Nanuet returns to town mid-morning on Monday. He stop by the Lone Star. Jeff Mills and his construction crew are hard at work on the third floor but with Jeremiah Peck back Nanuet is no longer needed to help out. Niles Hoover tells Nanuet that Kate and Ruby will probably be coming back from Tombstone on the afternoon stage. He next heads over to the El Parador. Sanoma is busy helping Dorita get ready for the Monday lunch crowd.

Chester comes downstairs from up in his room and sits down at a table. Nanuet heads over and sits with Chester. "Good day Mr. Chester" he starts. "I know you have work and all, but I have a question to ask you. " He pauses and says "Wait, why are you not at work today?" "They still believe I am ill." Chester says with half a smirk. "I have off until Thursday. What's up?"

Nanuet says, "Well, I wanted to get your opinion about a situation involving soldiers. See, the Apache and the soldiers had a deal. The soldiers were to stay off Apache land and leave them alone, but lately for unknown reasons they have been coming to Apache lands. Geronimo is not happy and wishes to wage war against them and the other white men in the area. Kajika has bought some time, but it may not be long before Geronimo acts. Not so long ago I pledged to a friend, Storm the centaur, that I would take her duties of being a peacekeeper and negotiator upon myself.

Now you heard at the cave with the Earth Spirit that my duties had been fulfilled. The Apache are not my people, but they are still elves. I feel a sense of duty to them in some way. I am elven, they would never let me near the soldier's fort, but you were a soldier. Maybe you could help? Talk to the soldiers and find out why they are going on Apache land. If you think it is a crazy idea then just say so."

Before Chester can give an answer to Nanuet's question he looks up to see Billy Comstock and his five friends enter the El Parador. This surprises Chester at first, as they had planned to leave that morning. Then he notices how bleary-eyed and hung over they are and realizes that they woke up in as bad shape as he did. He gestures for them to come join him.

Chester says "You've all met my friend Nanuet before. I'm glad you gentlemen are still in town. We have a growing situation between the Army and Apache that we could use your assistance with." Elisah Whittemore replies "We heard about that. That's why we decided to wait until tomorrow to leave." Comstock says, "Yeah, we did a bit too much celebrating last night. We're not exactly at the top of our game right now. Since our route back to New Mexico takes us through the pass between the Apache's mountains we figure we'd better not attempt it until we are at our best in case of trouble."

Chester says, "Good thinking." He turns to Nanuet and says, "Billy and Elisha here are retired from the Army but the other four are still active, just on leave at the moment. If talking to the Army is what you need they could probably be of help. Captain Mizner here is the commanding officer of this group."

Andrew Mizner nods and introduces Nanuet by name to his three men Corporal Harrison Grier and Privates Gabriel Chapman and Charles Brookings. He says they are posted out at Fort Stanton in south-central New Mexico Territory, and that their Colonel Dudley was kind enough to grant them this leave to join up with his old friends for the hunt.

Nanuet states, “"The soldiers I need to speak to are at Fort Huachuaca. I am not sure where that lays in relation to where you have to travel to, but I would accept any help you are willing to offer. I have nothing to give you other than a chance to keep the peace and prevent a war between the Apache and the humans."

Mizner says, "I do not understand. If you are not even an Apache then what can you do to help prevent a war? And this Lieutenant Oscar Gamble who had the skirmish with the Apache is indeed is from Fort Huachuaca. I may outrank him but I have no jurisdiction here." Billings adds, "Their fort is near Sierra Vista, in the southwestern corner of this county. We are traveling to the northeast, the opposite direction as that."

Chester replies, "Dang. I was afraid of that. Well, can you come with us just today? I know it's a hassle, but I don't to see any more Indian Wars. Gamble has it in for me, so my going alone would be a tough task. A good ride will shake out some of those cobwebs." Mizner turns to Comstock and Whittemore and says, "What do you guys think? We didn't get a chance to win that hunt, but I think that stopping an Indian war would certainly be worthwhile."

"Don't you and your boys have to get back to Fort Stanton?" Whittemore asks. Mitzer replies, "Colonel Dudley is a reasonable guy and every officer in the American southwest remembers all the trouble Cochise caused for the Army and settlers. If a short detour to the other end of the county can avert a war, that would be great, but I'm still not sure how this one Indian who isn't even an Apache will make a difference?"

Nanuet replies, "I am friends with the Apache. I have met with Geronimo and have the authority from Geronimo to speak with the soldiers as an ambassador. I need your help so that I may approach the soldiers and discover why they have started trespassing on Apache land. I will go myself if it will cause you trouble. I was asking Chester for his advice, I do not want to cause any more trouble for anyone. I want to get going soon, it is a trip of about sixty-five miles I believe and the sooner I get there the better."

Silver Moon

Chapter 166, “Whacking a Hornet’s Nest ” , Sunday, January 22nd, 1882, 7:30 P.M.

Kate maintains her composure and replies, "Mr. Ringo, I said I only had two books in Tombstone. I made no mention of where I might have others. Let me be frank. I've spent all day dancing around people who are tying to say things without saying them. Can we blunt? What do you want from me?"

He lowers his voice so that the Sheriff doesn't hear him, and says "I saw you fifteen days ago, in fact at one point you passed within six feet of where I was at. What I want from you are my horse, my coat and my library. Are you prepared to return them to me?"

Kate dropped her voice to match his. "It's not within my power to give you the coat. I do not know which horse was yours, but I have several. If I have it, I will return it to you. If not, I'll either choose one for you, or if it is possible you can choose one yourself. And I will admit in my selfishness I'm loath to give up the books, beside the fact that I am sharing them with another.

What happened in those caves is something that a man in your profession must know is one of the risks. You steal, and when someone comes to make it stop, you are stolen from. I hope we can agree to hold no grudges. And as I don't plan to be chasing cattle rustlers again, I don't imagine you'll have any more trouble with me. Let me make this offer, books for information. You tell me how my husband died, and why the Earps hate you, and I'll collect 75 books to be returned to you."

Ringo says "No deal. My lawyer is getting me out of here tomorrow. I'm not going to go shooting off my mouth to the likes of you and blow that. The horse is a chestnut colored mare with a white spot to the left of her tail and the brand QxJ. And for the record, I paid $ 2,000 for the complete library and bookcases, they weren't stolen. I bought them directly from their owner, the Governor of a Mexican province."

She replies, "The likes of me? And what likes are you, pray tell? You keep things you lawfully bought in a bandits cave where no one would expect anything to have been lawfully acquired. I didn't see you with cattle rustlers, and the Sheriff says the Earps can never make a charge stick. Is it because you don't actually do anything, or only that you don't get caught?"

Ringo now speaks up louder, so that the Sheriff will also overhear "You didn't see me with any rustlers Mrs. Kale because I'm not one. As for how my things got in the cave, they were there long before any rustlers arrived. It's not my fault that the Cowboy Gang stumbled upon my secret storeroom. If you should come upon my missing horse please leave in the corral at the Papago Cash Store in Promise City, the owner Ike Sherman is a friend of mine."

"I'll be sure to do that," Kate said in a normal tone before dropping her voice again. "If I had the money I would pay you for the books, but I don't. And to remove them all would break someone's heart, and just today I promised to use them to teach someone. Please, at least tell me, do you know what happened to Tom? We must be able to come to some kind of arrangement," she finished, hoping he wouldn't notice the quiver in her voice.

He lowers his voice and says "I don't know exactly what happened to your husband, but since you're asking that means you've heard something other than what Marshall Earp is selling. There were five people at the table playing cards with him that night and I'd say that one of them was probably his killer. The Earps have been spreading rumors that I did it, but that's not true, and I'm willing to tell that to any priest that has the ability to detect truthfulness. So that leaves James Earp, Morgan Earp, Colby Tucker or Buckskin Frank Leslie. James wouldn't have done it, he's the only Earp worth keeping. But I wouldn't have put it past any of those other three. If I were to take a guess I'd say it was Leslie, but that's all it is, a guess."

"Thank you," Kate said simply. "If I have your horse, I'll return it, or give you another if not. And I'll see what I can do about the other things. I make no promises, but I'll try."

Jake says to Ruby while being dragged out of the Grand Hotel , "I don't play Faro. Too much luck involved, not enough skill. Faro dealers usually cheat to make money. Even the dealing boxes can be rigged." As he catches up even with her he continues. "Drinks are good. Except last time we were at the Oriental we met Leslie.... remember? Tom Kale spent his last night playing cards there too. Let's at least pretend to be careful."

Ruby stops short, making Jake stop too. "Yes, I remember, she says carefully. "But what are you doing here then? I mean, the last time we were here we ran out because of the Cowboy Gang. I came to help Kate, and Morgan Earp is the way to do that, unless we just go and grab her. But if he killed Tom he should pay for that, don't you think? I thought you wanted to talk to him about the $20's anyway? To tell you, I could care less about that. I want to get Kate, make sure she is safe and get out of here."

"Besides all that, I spend the last week lonely, bored, doing business crap, crawling around mountains with dragons, getting shot and oh, did I mention lonely? So, I don't particularly feel like acting careful. How about I leave the worrying to you, eh?"

Ruby and Jake head down the street. As they pass by the Cochice County Sheriff's Office and County Jail they can through the open windows of the well-lit office that Katherine is inside talking to somebody in a jail cell. Jake rolls his eyes at the same time as he sees Katherine. He puts a finger to her lips and then his. "Shhhh." He moves quietly over to the building ducking below the window to listen. He motions Ruby to do the same. Ruby rolls her eyes back at Jake and starts walking into the prison.

Jake leans back against the jailhouse shaking his head. He massages his temples while listening. Ruby saunters right into the prison and up to Kate, putting her arm around Kate's. "THERE you are, I've been looking for you everywhere..." "Ruby! You frightened me," Kate jumped. Ruby stops and glances at the prisoner. "Kate, do you know this guy?" Kate replies, "Only by reputation. I was just leaving."

Ruby states, "Only by reputation, huh? Is this one of those famous outlaws we keep hearing about?" Kate answers, "No, just another victim of the Earp's brand of selective justice. Let's go, I have a few more things to do tonight before bed." Ruby replies, "I'm sure you do. And I need a drink so let's plan on that too, ok?" Ruby turns Kate around by the arm and starts walking her out, but takes one look for her shoulder at Ringo, giving him a smile as she goes.

When they get outside, Ruby leads her to the side where she left Jake. "So, what else do we have to do tonight..." Jake interjects, "Oh, I think I'm all set. Perhaps we can find a hornets nest to whack or piss on a rattle snake." Jake tips his hat back on his head. "Whiskey sounds good."

Ruby innocently replies, "Jake, are you mad about something? Anyhow, I think we'll leave the pissing on rattlesnakes to you. Kate here mentioned she has some chores to do before bed time." Ruby turns to Kate, "So spill... what are you really doing here and what do we have to do tonight?"

"Jake, I'm glad you're back," Kate said first. She looked around as they walked away from the jail to make sure there was no one in earshot. "I need to go to the Oriental Saloon. A lot has happened today." Kate launched into the story of her day, her meeting with Tucker, her talk with Earp, and her talk with Ringo there in the jail. She started out slowly, but picked up speed as she went on until the words were tumbling out over each other.

She finally stopped walking and covered her face with her hands. "I don't know what to think anymore," she said with a catch in her voice. "But I know who knows the truth. And I want to hear it."

"Katherine." Jake stops her. "The cowboy gang AND the Earps are all a bunch of murderers and liars. The only difference is the badge. You can't necessarily believe what either of them tell you. There is one thing that bothers me, why would anyone leave their knife in a victim. Sounds like a frame up. Maybe not, maybe he panicked or got interrupted." Jake grabs her shoulders. "Look I'm not going to stop you, but even HE may not know the truth. Have you ever considered that? I know this all sounds cold to be talking about it this way. Consider what I said, and remember the truth is no good to you if you end up dead with it." He lets her go gently.

Kate answers, "I understand, Jake. But I think I have to do everything I can to know the truth. I don't think I could forgive myself if I didn't. Morgan Earp is the last stop. I don't know who's telling the truth and who's lying anymore. I need to speak with him. You don't have to come, either of you. This isn't your fight. And I don't want you risking your lives for this. This is the end of it, I promise. Whatever the outcome, after this I'll let it go."

Despite any advice from Ruby and Jake to the contrary, Kate is tunnel-visioned towards her goal and storms down the street to the Oriental Saloon. Kate starts to walk away. Ruby looks at the combination of annoyance and worry on Jake's face. She tells him, "Look, I wish we were all warm and snuggly having some fun in a cozy bed somewhere too. Geez, I'd take snuggly in an ally right now, but I came here to help Kate and that is what I'm going to do. I understand if you want to stay behind, and it's probably the smart thing to do." Ruby starts to walk away from Jake.

"Stop." Jake says to Ruby in a low and serious tone. "Do you really think I don't want to help Katherine?" Jake takes a step forward when Ruby stops and turns and gets right up close to her face. "Ya, so OK, sometimes I'm cautious. Other times not. But Silver Jake Cook stands by his friends. Period. Enough of that talk."

He takes a deep breath. "Woman, sometimes there is a better way to help than to run in like a charging bull. So think. Nobody is going to shoot Katherine in the Oriental Saloon. Are they going to respond differently to just her than the three of us? Ruby or Jake will change the mix. Jake Cook wears his Colt like he knows how to use it, that changes the threat level. All the Earps know that, whether they are afraid or not - and I don't expect they are. But it changes the tension level." He takes his hat off, runs his hand through his hair and take another deep breath before putting his hat back. "We don't stray far, and we don't let her into any dark places. Before you go storming in there, what are you going to do?"

Ruby takes a long stare at Jake. “Are you saying I shouldn’t go in there with her?” Ruby continues to stare at Jake but continues slowly, “If you tell me not to go, I won’t.” She breaks her stare from Jake and looks away. “You know she’s not used to dealing with these kinds of people or this kind of a situation.” Ruby pauses and sighs. “I don’t know what I was going to do. Just be there to back her up. I learned a new,” she leans in close and whispers in his ear, “spell, one that can read people’s thoughts.” She backs away from him. “Maybe that can help? Or maybe you’re right. Kate needs to do this alone.” Ruby kicks at some rocks. “Damn It! I’m not used to thinking about things like this.”

"Don’t get me wrong, I don't have a plan yet either. We won't be far though." He says "Let's get over there." As they start walking again. "How far does that" he whispers the next two words, "special ability work from? Could you get in there and not be seen and sort of listen in?" Jake's scratching his beard as the get close. "If Morgan or Virgil is in there I'm sure they won't tell her anything useful, but who knows what you might learn?" She replies, "I think I can start it outside then get in, I don't need to be too close to use it. You think I should try Virgil then if Morgan isn't there?"

"I know she's not used to this and may need help. Even if we knew the truth and could tell her, that wouldn't be good enough. Would it be for you? Ok, Ok, you or I would probably exact a different price." Jake says when Ruby's eyes go dark as the thought crosses her mind. "Maybe Katherine will surprise us." He stops talking as they get to the outside of the Oriental. "Tell me how I can help you." Ruby smiles at Jake. "That's for later..." She gives him a wink. "Oh, if I need you in there then I'll go like this," Ruby pushes her hair behind her ears. "Where will you be?"

"Yes, if no Morgan try Virgil. I don't know how to get in there and hide, there is no time. So I'll just stay as far back as I can and still see your head." Jake buttons up his duster and pulls the collars up and his hat down. He leaves the bottom half unbuttoned and loose enough to pull clear to access his Colt. "This wouldn't fool anybody for long. Good luck." He gives her a quick kiss.

Kate had walked in a spent a few minutes in the doorway surveying the room. There are eleven occupants, and two of them are Earps, but neither is Morgan. James Earp is standing behind the bar. Virgil Earp is at a table with two other men who she does not know. At the sight of her entering the saloon he stands up and walks in her direction, an angry look on his face. Katherine stands as tall as she can and looks Virgil in the eye.

Outside, Ruby kisses Jake back, then takes a quick peek in the door of the Saloon. She sees Kate and an angry Virgil, and some other random people around. She slips back outside and to the closest alley. "Jake stand in front of me, just in case." When he is in place Ruby closes her eyes and starts the incantation that Madge Duprey taught her. When she is done casting it, she walks into the Oriental Saloon, continuing her concentration. She stays very quiet and out of the way, but does get close enough to be able to use the spell on Virgil.

Virgil Earp walks up until he is within around a foot of Kate and bellows "Well, have you decided to tell me where Tucker is hiding?" "As I said earlier, sir, I cannot tell you what I do not know," Kate said, resisting the urge to back away from him. "You left before we could finish our conversation earlier. Since you weren't interested, I thought I'd continue it with your brother."

"Go right ahead," he says, and gestures to his brother James over behind the bar. "Clever, very clever," she said so only he could hear. "You know who I mean. We can have the conversation in private, or it can be very public. I think we can both agree that private would be better."

Kate walked away from Virgil and over to the bar. "Mr. Earp, I'm sure your brother has kept you in the know about what's happened today. You knew my husband, you're a good man. I've assured your brother Virgil that all I want is to talk and I'm willing to turn over my weapons to prove it. I know you can help me. Please, where is your brother Morgan?"

James Earp glances towards his brother who walks over to the bar. Virgil Earp slams the fist of his crippled hand down on the bar and loudly says to Kate "My deputy is currently busy with law enforcement duties. The Cowboy Gang robbed two Tombstone stagecoaches recently. Colby Tucker was named as part of that gang from the last robbery and you're hiding him from us. And don't you go lying to me again. I've been a lawman long enough to tell when somebody is withholding the truth. You know more about where Colby Tucker is than you're telling. I thought that I put you under house arrest over at the Grand Hotel, but if you'd rather have a cell with iron bars that can be arranged."

"House arrest? And I thought you were just concerned about my well being," Kate said sarcastically. "You've been lying to me for months! Why should I believe you want Colby Tucker for anything about a stage robbery? Why hadn't you already arrested him? You knew where to find him, I found him easily enough. Seems to me you didn't get interested until after I spoke to him. Explain that to me, and maybe we can get somewhere."

He says "We didn't find out until this afternoon that he was part of the gang. Oh, why should I waste my words. I don't have to explain anything to you. In case you haven't noticed I'm the one wearing the badge. This is your last warning. You either walk out that door and go back to your hotel room or I'm carting you off to jail for aiding and abetting a fugitive from justice."

Kate lifted her hand and rubbed her forehead. Her voice was tired as she spoke. "I don't know what's up or down anymore. Marshall, I don't want to go to jail, and I don't want to obstruct your work. You must realize how this all looks to me. I've been hearing all sorts of things about how Tom died. And enough of them fit together to make me suspicious. Then I go to see Colby Tucker to get Tom's box and the other man at the Ok Corral disappears. Mr. Tucker said then that he was a dead man, that he had been warned not to speak to me. He was afraid for his life.

Morgan was acting strange around me long before I saved his life, so your brother's explanation just doesn't fit. And I knew Tom's illness intimately, if he had been sick again, he wouldn't have been able to get out of bed to wire me. And if he had someone else do it for him, why not tell me he was ill and needed me? Marshall, I'm sorry. I don't know what to do. Would Tom have been friends with someone who would rob stages? I'll go back to the hotel, and I'll stay there until morning, but please, help me understand what's happening. Have Morgan come see me." She met Virgil's eyes, hoping he wouldn't haul her off quite yet.

Ruby had cast the spell. It was very different here than when she had trained with Madge. They had been alone in a large room with just the two of them and there were no other minds for her to reach other than the farm animals. There were several minds around her now and she was initially overwhelmed with an avalanche of emotions and feelings.

She began to focus and picked up her first surface thought. It was Jake's. That came as no real surprise given how linked they now were to each other. She picked up feelings rather than actual words. She felt that he was worried that Katherine might go or be taken out the back door while they were not watching her.

Ruby saw the people in the room and concentrated on them, blocking out Jake. Katherine was over by the bar arguing with Virgil Earp. Ruby attempted to focus on him but was temporarily overwhelmed by her emotions instead. She was a jumbled mix of emotions at the moment, defiance, fear, uncertainty, anger.

Ruby had to focus harder to tune Kate out and concentrate on the Marshall. For years now she had learned how to read people's body language but this was very different. First she picked up that he was extremely angry with Kate. He was also lying to her....about taking her to Jail. He had no plans to do that....because Johnny Ringo was there and he didn't want them to talk to each other. He hoped that she would agree to go back to Kate's Hotel. Ah, she just did. He's relaxing and more confident now. He's worried about his brother Morgan...who he sent to stay with friends in a farm out of town and told not to come back until morning. She just told him to have Morgan come see her...a cold day in Hades he thinks... The spell then ends.

Kate kept her eyes on Virgil's. "Nothing to say Marshall? Nothing at all? People are telling me a great deal with their silences today," she said before she turned around to head back towards the door. Once the spell ends, Ruby takes a moment to absorb it all in. Finally she adjusts her dress, fluffs her hair and confidently walks towards Kate.

Ruby exclaims, "There you are, I finally found you! I've been looking everywhere since the Marshals mentioned you were in town, well after one slight little detour," she laughs. Ruby walks over to Kate and takes her arm. "We have so much to talk about, why don't we go back to your hotel for the night, like Mr. Earp suggested. It'll be safer for all of us that way." Ruby turns and flips her hair at the men. "Gentlemen, thank you for keeping such a good eye on my friend here, and keeping her safe. I think I can keep an eye on her for the rest of the evening." Ruby looks to Kate. "Come on, Hon, let's go." She gives a slight nod of her head to Kate and tries to guide her out the door.

Kate let Ruby lead her out, glad for the moment to let someone else take over. "That bastard," she muttered as they reached the door. "House arrest? Who was under house arrest? Since when does 'I suggest for your own safety you don't leave this hotel tonight' mean house arrest? I knew it was a threat, but.... I don't know what to do Ruby, I'm out of ideas." "Come on, let's get out of here." Ruby walks out and takes Kate's hand. When she gets outside she nods to Jake and they make their way back to the Grand Hotel. "Let's go upstairs and I'll tell you some interesting things I found out."

Silver Moon

Chapter 167, “Earp’s Thoughts” , Sunday, January 22nd, 1882, 9:00 P.M.

Kate says, "We'll have to be quiet, we don't want to wake Ginnie. I told you about Ginnie, right? She helped me, and she needs someone....." Kate led Ruby and Jake up the stairs to her room, unlocked the door, and ushered them inside. "Uh, Ginnie?" Ruby says with furrowed brows. "Oh the kid. You'd better watch out for that kid, she has some very sticky fingers and I'm not sure you should trust her to not steal from you. Are you sure we should talk with her in here?"

Kate replies, "I know about the sticky fingers. She wanted to trade her help for mine, plus $20 for hers. She wanted me to put her on a train or stage or something out of Tombstone. Her story is a lot like mine in some ways. And once she trusted that I was not going to take advantage of her, or lie to her, she accepted my offer to teach her myself and gave back the money. I think we can help each other.

I told her the stealing stops now. If she needs something talk to me about it. I don't think she would steal from me at all, but old habits die hard, and until she trusts me more fully she might feel the need to build herself a little nest egg. As for talking in front of her, she already knows what I did for Mr. Tucker, and how I changed myself. Caught me doing it. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say."

The Grand Hotel certainly earned its name. Even though Kate had gotten one of the simpler rooms, it was still spacious and well furnished. The three sat down on the far side of the room from the cot. "What did you learn, Ruby?" Ruby walks over to where Ginnie is sleeping, checking to see if she is faking. "She stole from Mr. Tucker right in front of you. She also stole nice Mr. Nevers wallet last time I was here then took off. I wouldn't trust her, not yet anyway."

"From Mr. Tucker? But then he...." Kate stopped for a minute and shook her head. "I had given him enough to get to my parents in Boston. I guess I can now tell Virgil Earp honestly that I don't know where he is. I'll wire my parents anyway, in case he still manages to get there." She glanced over at Ginnie and sighed. "We're going to have to have a talk about that."

Ruby looks away from the child and back to Kate. "Well, Morgan Earp is not in town. He's on some farm outside of town somewhere. Virgil was not even close to throwing you in jail by the way, he doesn't want you talking to Johnny Ringo. So, what did the two of you chat about in there?" Ruby walks back over to the bed and sits next to Jake.

"I say we wait until morning, pretend like we are listening to them and hiding and will leave quietly, then look for Earp tomorrow. Unless Kate you have changed your mind. These Earps are serious and this could end up deadly for one or all of us. How badly do you want to know the truth? And what do you think Jake?" she says putting a hand on his thigh.

"I don't want to die, and more so, I don't want either of you hurt at all. But seeing Morgan Earp is the only thing that's been clear in my mind. I know you don't understand; I'm not sure I do. Nothing's been right since Tom died. I think I always knew something wasn't right with what they were telling me..... If I don't find out, I think some of me will just live here forever.

I still want to try. And if all else fails I'm coming back in two weeks anyway. I could disguise myself and find him that way then. I'm sure our teacher can put a more complete disguise in my hair clip."

Although holding their gazes, Jake is quiet for a minute, apparently thinking. "First we need to know where Morgan is staying. They will be watching us pretty closely and many folks in town will tell them if we are asking questions. Plus we don't have much time if we are going to be on the stage tomorrow." Jake stares at the young girl for a moment. "She's been getting by alone talking fast and picking pockets, eh. I wonder...."

He turns to Katherine. "How badly to you want to see Morgan Earp tomorrow? I don't see how we could manage that unless we start working on it tonight. There is one of us that they aren't watching closely. Besides, she may already know something. All we need her to do is help us find out where Morgan is hiding." He looks back to the girl but is talking to Katherine. "Are you willing to risk getting her involved or will you wait for another chance in the future?"

Ruby states, “Katherine, Virgil Earp will do anything he has to do to protect his family. I'm positive that killing me or Jake or you or even that kid is on that list if necessary. I know you don't want us to get hurt but I think we're getting pretty close to that area now. You're right, I don't understand what it feels like. I have had to worry about anyone but myself. You're the only one who knows if you can live with this or not. Maybe we should sleep on it and decide on the morning."

Kate looked down at Ginnie and shook her head. "No, there's nothing to sleep on. I can't risk any of you. I might be able to learn to live with not knowing, I couldn't live with knowing I got you killed. Tomorrow we go home. I hope you'll understand if I.... well, if I'm not.... if you don't see much of me for a while. I might need a few nights off." Kate stared down at her hands for a while, then sat down on the floor next to Tom's box and began looking through it. I haven't given up on finding the truth, I'll have to take my chances and try again later." She took her handkerchief and wiped her tears off the well-worn leather-folding frame in her hands.

Ruby sat on the floor next to Kate and put her arm around her. "You know you can take all the time you need, don't worry about that. And we're here if you need us. Will you be alright with this kid here?" Kate only nodded, which Ruby took as a cue. Kate was already gone into her thoughts. "We'll meet you in the morning then. Try to get some sleep, you need it." Ruby gives Kate a hug, and a kiss on the cheek then stands. "You ready Jake?" Jake nods and they leave Katherine to her thoughts.

Kate didn't stay on the floor long after Jake and Ruby left. She got herself up and got ready for bed, mechanically braiding her hair before she put on her nightgown. Tomorrow morning she would go out to Tom's grave, and then go back to Promise City. Katherine looked over at the young girl sleeping on the cot, then walked over and adjusted the blanket, making sure she was covered and warm. The bed sheets were cold when she climbed in. Kate curled herself up into a ball, wrapped her arms around the extra pillow, and waited for sleep to come.

Ginnie waited until the breathing from the bed was soft and regular and she knew the woman was asleep. It's amazing how readily she had convinced them that she had been asleep during their entire conversation. Three years on the streets made her wake at a pin drop or a change in the air and know when to stay perfectly still too.

It really seemed that the woman was willing to help her and it wasn't a trick. She'd have to keep an eye out for the other woman though, she already knew how Ginnie thought too well. Well, morning would come and things would change maybe actually for the better, if the Earps didn’t kill them all, so it was worth a shot... she could always run if she needed to. With that thought she snuggled tightly into the blankets and fell into the best sleep she had had for a very long time.

When they get downstairs Jake says to Ruby, "We never had that drink, want to have one here and then head back to the hotel?" “Yes, let’s have a drink or two. This is such a nice hotel after all, shame to not enjoy it.” While they enjoy their drinks Ruby flirts shamelessly with Jake, until he decides it’s time to leave. They start leisurely walking back to their hotel.

“I’ve been thinking,” Ruby smiles, “That you were right, about today. All week I’ve been thinking about you and I guess I was just surprised to see you and in the middle of the Earps questioning me, and trying to figure out who I was going to grab off that train. Well, I got sidetracked and didn’t tell you just how I felt. And I don’t want you to be misled or doubt how I feel. So…” Ruby stops them walking, turns to face Jake and stands close to him, taking his hands.

“Gods help me, but I am crazy about you. And all week all I could think about was missing you.” She puts her hands on the back of Jake’s neck and stands closer, locking eyes with him. “Wanting to be near you, to smell you and feel you next to me.” Ruby stands on her toes and gives him a long slow kiss. “And how much I wanted you to miss me and want to be near me and feel me too.”

“But what I was really thinking was how sexy you are and how all I really wanted was for you to…” Still standing on her toes, with her hands on Jake’s neck Ruby leans into him and whispers in his ear…. After she is done whispering Ruby pulls back a little from Jake. She cocks her head to one side and bites her lip, waiting for a response.

His nostrils flare just a hint as he inhales sharply and the edges of his lips just show a faint trace of his trademark grin. "Of all the people I have ever met, you are the only one to leave Silver Jake Cook speechless." He takes a step forward, wrapping is arms around her waist and returning a long passionate kiss. "Suddenly," He whispers to her, "our hotel room seems miles away." His eyes glance around the street but he remembers where he is. "#%&@! Earps." He mutters under his breath. "Come with me." He keeps one arm around her as they resume their way to the hotel, but at a quicker pace.

After what seems like an eternity to Jake, they make it back to their room. He locks the door, drops his coat, guns and shirt to the floor before resuming the passionate embrace he started in the street. As he kisses her neck and works his way down her shoulder, her loose strap falling away readily, he says in a very low voice, "I was wrong you know."

Ruby tenses just slightly at those words but doesn't respond. He finishes, "You ARE the most desirable woman in the Americas." She relaxes again and leans into him just before he reaches around with both hands and tears the back of her dress from the neck to the waist. "That dress doesn't do you justice." He says pushing it down and picking her up with both arms around her thighs. He takes her to the bed and they don't need to talk for some time.

The next morning, Ruby starts to wake as the light filters though the strange windows. She tries to get her eyes open but they are slow to respond. When she finally does get them half open she sees Jake staring back at her. The sheet is barely wrapped around them, more twisted than anything else, a reminder of the antics of the night before. A smile slowly forms on her face and she practically purrs as she leans closer to kiss Jake. “Last night was just amazing, Mr. Cook,” is all she says, kissing him again. She nestles her head between his shoulder and neck and throws her arm over him. No, she thinks, words will just not do.

Kate woke with the sheets wrapped tightly around her, and the bottom sheets pulled off the corners of the bed. She must have been tossing and turning, which made sense with the disturbing dreams she'd had. She rubbed her eyes and dragged herself up.

Ginnie was still curled up on the cot, so Katherine kept quiet as she dressed and fixed her hair. A trip to the cemetery was probably not something Ginnie would enjoy, but she'd been left alone long enough. If there was time perhaps they could get her some dresses. Ginnie needed breakfast first though. Katherine laid her hand on Ginnie's shoulder. "It's morning, dear, time to get up."

Ginnie's eyes popped open and she physically jumped out of bed ready to fight off what ever had caught her asleep. In a second she was wide-awake and realized where she was she relaxed her fists and straightened up. Ginnie was surprised that she had actually slept, the woman had gotten up and dressed and she hadn't waken her.

"I'll be ready in a minute Ma'am" with that she threw on her dress over the undershirt she had slept in, pulled on her socks and shoes in less than two minutes and braided her hair into two neat braids. "Ready Ma'am"

Nervous as a witch, Kate thought to herself as Ginnie jumped out of the bed. It would take time for her to feel safe. As Ginnie dressed Kate gathered her purse and got ready to go downstairs.
"Katherine or Kate will do just fine. I have some things to do this morning and you can come if you like. We'll talk about it while you eat. I never did ask, what is your last name?" She replies, "You can just call me Ginnie Ma'am. Shall we go?"

Kate replies, "Well, don't be surprised then if I introduce you to people with my last name. Hopefully we won't be questioned too closely about where you came from, but if we are I will likely say you are a relation of my late husband."

Downstairs in the restaurant Kate ordered tea for herself and a hearty breakfast for Ginnie. She explained that this morning she wanted to get a couple dresses for Ginnie, and then to go out to the cemetery. She offered to bring Ginnie back here before going to Tom's grave if she didn't want to go there. Ginnie replies, "No thank you Ma'am. I have two outfits, I don't need more than that. And I'm not going to accept money and things from you that I haven't earned. I appreciate the meal. We can go visit your husband now." "Kate says, as you like, dear, but I still think more than two dresses would be fine. And I think after you clean up after animals a few times you'll agree." Once the meal was over the two head out.

Jake and Ruby had fallen back asleep, but for the second time that day Ruby woke up slowly. There was a lot more noise coming from the street so Ruby knew it had to be mid morning. Jake was still sleeping and his snore told her that he was deeply sleeping at that. She smiles to her, it wasn't like they had gotten much sleep the night before. She quietly untangles herself from Jake and the sheets and gets out of bed. She reaches for her dress and as she puts it back on she remembers how it was removed and the condition it was in. She puts it on anyway, then gets a spare shirt from Jake's bag and puts that on over her dress. She gives Jake a kiss then heads out the door.

Ruby makes her way over to The Grand Hotel first to check on Kate. She goes up to her room and knocks, hoping Kate hadn't changed her mind about the Earps and was there. After there is no answer from the door to Kate's room Ruby uses some of her skills to get the door open. The bed hasn't been made and the box with Tom Kale's possessions is still inside the room, but neither Kate nor the girl are there.

Silver Moon

Chapter 168, “Morning in Tombstone” , Monday, January 23rd, 1882, 9:30 A.M.

Ruby heads back downstairs to check the restaurant. They aren't there either, but she does see Emery Shaw and one of his men having a late breakfast of steak and eggs. Ruby approaches the table that Emery Shaw is sitting at. "Good morning, Mr. Shaw. How are you enjoying your visit to Tombstone? Good I hope. You know, I still feel indebted to you for bringing me here." Ruby gives him a little hair flip and a smile.

He replies, "No, I should thank you Miss. West. I have had a wonderful time. It has been too long since I've had a night alone from my daughters. I love them dearly, but it has been a welcomed break. I trust that your visit has here has been promising. Now tell me my dear, when are you planning to head back? I plan to leave in an hour or so, between ten-thirty and eleven. You are welcome to join us if you wish."

"Mind if I sit for a bit, so I don't have to be standing over you?" Ruby asks. Maybe Kate will return soon, so I'll wait she thinks. Shaw replies, "Of course." so Ruby has a seat. "I'm not sure I will be leaving just yet, although I wish I could join you."

"As for your daughters, you mentioned yesterday something about Heath Barkley? If I might be so bold, they are intelligent women, but they are just that, women. You wouldn't want them to live their lives alone, without love, would you? Like the love you had in your late wife. Maybe it's time for you to let them go a bit. I think you should let them go to California." Ruby smiles at him, "Well chaperoned, of course. And it would give you some time to enjoy yourself too." Ruby finished up her small talk with Mr. Shaw and bid him farewell.

She headed out to the street and wandered around until she found a shop that sold dresses. She entered the store and browsed though the dresses, trying to guess what Jake would like the best. She eyed a green one, but then put it back. It just didn’t compare to the one she had at home. She chose a few and tried them on, finally choosing a cream-colored dress with matching cream embroidery. The top was tight and had very small tank straps that sat on the edge of her shoulders, and the bottom was the normal, no bustle. Not really a traveling dress, she laughed to herself, but it will do, especially since she didn’t have to ride her horse back home. She twirled around in the mirror checking herself out a few times before heading out to the counter to pay.

She is distracted on the way by the men’s clothes and she remembers hearing Jake mention he needed some clothes too. Knowing his size, she picks out a few pairs of pants and shirts for him. She finally makes her way up to the counter

As she fishes out her money to pay a beautiful wine colored velvet cloak catches her eye. Might help keep the dress clean she thinks, so she tries that on too and decides to buy it. She pays for her purchases and scoops them up with the ripped dress and Jake’s shirt and heads back to the hotel to drop them off.

Jake is still sleeping so Ruby quietly dumps her purchases on the table. She then takes a seat in the chair near the window, pulls her legs up to her chest and watches the people wandering around, waiting for Jake to wake up.

Katherine and Ginnie had left the Grand Hotel and walked to Tombstone's cemetery. Tom's grave was near the edge in the newer section. Once they got close Kate let go of Ginnie's hand and walked to the simple wooden marker that had been placed there. She knelt down and laid her hand on the earth.

"Tom, my dear, I hope you know how much I miss you. Things are very different from when I was last here." Kate took a deep breath and began to talk about her life in Promise City. About the El Parador and the Lone Star, about her new studies and about how her emotions had been all over the map. She then talked about the earth spirits and what had happened on the mountain, and then about yesterday in Tombstone, both about taking Ginnie to Promise City and about Morgan and Virgil Earp.

"When we were with Storm, I kept wishing I could talk with you again. I wish you could tell me what happened; why you're not here anymore. I'd like to think you're still watching over me. That no matter what happens, we are still together somehow. I know what you would say. You'd tell me that how you left this world doesn't matter. And I'll try to.... To let it go. I think you might be upset with me if I joined you there. I'm going to make you proud, I promise." Kate sat silently then for a long while. The shadows had moved noticeably by the time she got up and brushed off her skirt. She bent down and touched the marker. "I love you," she said quietly.

Ginnie listens as Kate pours her heart out to the grave and tells herself, “What in sweet Bridget's name have I gotten myself into?" She thinks as the woman talks about dragon spirits that are the land and dead centaurs that talk to her and saloons and new ranches with wood elfs and Indians and books and bandits and magic. She listens without really being close enough for anyone to believe that she could to hear what is going on so this crazy woman can speak freely. Ginnie says to herself, "She's either insane or things are about to get really exciting. Maybe I will need a new dress?"

A moment late Kate turned back to Ginnie and offered her a hand. The woman said, "Let's go back to the hotel. It won't be that much longer until it's time for the stage." Ginnie decided that it wasn't good to make crazy or powerful people mad. Ginnie wasn't really sure which one this woman was but obviously she was one of the two.

"Ma'am if we still have time I would like to get a little material and some thread to make a dress. I've been thinking about cleaning up after the horses and the things that I have will work but I will need something that doesn't smell like manure when I study so the books won't pick up the smell.
With that statement Ginnie decided not to run, at least until she really found out what was going on.

Kate says, "We still have time. Why don't we get enough for two dresses? We could just buy them ready made you know, but if you'd rather make them yourself that's up to you. After you've been in Promise City for a week or two you might decide that pants would be better for working in. But that's for later."

Kate had stayed long enough to in Tombstone to know a few places, so they were able to find a general store quickly. Although she would have liked to have gotten a few more things for Ginnie, she didn't want to make her uncomfortable or frightened, so for today she got only what Ginnie requested as well as some new petticoats for herself, as she'd torn hers up the day before.

Once the shopping was done they stopped for Ginnie's stage ticket and went back to the Grand Hotel. Back in the room they packed up their things and brought them down at lunchtime. Kate again drank tea as Ginnie ate lunch. "Is there anything you'd like to know, or tell me about? What you'd like to study perhaps?"

Ginnie looks at Kate with clear eyes that stare off into the distance before she answers. "What do I want to learn? Everything Ma'am. I don't want to spend the rest of my life making lace and taking things that aren‘t mine. I've taught myself to cipher a bit and I can read a little but only what I've been able to teach myself, my writings not bad but only words I know can't seem to get that ancient Greek stuff very well, and I haven't had much of a chance to work on it, I've spent a lot of time just trying to keep myself out of trouble.

I've had about three months of really going to school, the headmaster spent a lot of time trying to trip me up. There are not a lot of girls in the school and I don't think he liked the idea of me being there. I think he wanted me to quit but I didn't let him make me and no man's gonna switch me again. I'd like to learn some of the stuff you do and just learn everything if you know things people can't take advantage of you and you don't have to depend on anyone if you can take care of yourself. Life's safer that way although I'm racking up some pretty big debts to you but I promise I'll pay them all back somehow.”

Kate exclaims, "You've been trying Greek on your own? My dear, if you are getting anywhere with that at all, you're going to learn all I have to teach you in short order. I don't want you to worry about paying back debts, alright? You'll be doing that everyday. In teaching you I'll be refreshing my own knowledge as well. I'll have an extra hand to help with the ranch, and something to occupy my mind.

Let's see, I can teach you to speak, write, and read French. I can also teach you a great deal of history as well as chemistry, math, and writing. If you wish, I can also teach you to ride a horse, some basic horse training skills, and how to play the piano. And Promise City is working on getting a school up and running which you could attend when it's ready.

As for the other thing you referred to, my education has just begun. It may be some time before I'm ready to teach it, and it can be a burden as well as a blessing. But you've already learned how to be discreet.... We'll have to see. You might want to think about what you'll want to do to support yourself as an adult. Then we can tailor your education to it."

Ginnie replies, "Ma'am in all honesty I haven't been able to think about growing up as I never really thought I'd make it that far. I know that I want to do something so that I'll never have to be hungry again and I know that I want more than being a lace maker but other than that I haven't been able to think that far.”

"Well, for now then you can sample a little bit of everything. There's no need to make a decision right now," Kate smiled. "Most girls of twelve years old are trying to discover how to get out of studying. I always enjoyed it myself. I don't doubt you would have made it that far, you were taking care of yourself. But now you can concentrate on your learning. Have you been making lace to supplement your income?"

The girl says, “My whole family were lace makers. That's how we were able to make the money for the passage. I've been making lace for about six years. I started just by making simple chain designs but now I know about 100 patterns. I was beginning to design my own patterns before mama died. Here's some of the lace I was working on but selling it was drawing too much attention so I had to stop selling it I still make it though it's something I know and don't want to loose.” With that she pulls out a line of needle-tatted lace that Kate knows would rival the top Belgium laces that had been imported into Boston.

"Do you realize the quality of this work?" Kate asked, turning it over in her hands. "You may not want to be a lace maker, but you'd certainly support yourself easily doing it. If you really want to pay me back, you can continue doing this, and make some that I could send to my mother and my little nieces in Boston."

When Jake finally opens his eyes he sees Ruby looking out the window, her arms wrapped around her legs and her chin resting on her knee and looking like a daydreaming young girl rather than a woman. If I had any doubts about her being a woman thinks Jake last night would have dispelled them. Without moving he says "Nice Dress. I don't remember that one." He slowly sits up and stretches his torso, shoulders and finally extends his arms up and out ending with a large yawn. "What's for breakfast?" he asks with a broad smile.

Ruby lifts her head and looks at Jake. "Anything you want, Mr. Cook," Ruby smiles. "Are you ready to get up? I went and checked on Kate, she isn't in her room. I hope she isn't getting into trouble before we leave."

"As for the dress, the desire to get a new one suddenly came upon me," she laughs as she stands up and spins around. "You really like it? It seems to fit." As if on cue both straps fall off Ruby's shoulders. She walks over to the bed and sits next to Jake. She pushes some hair off his forehead. "It's time to go home."

"I won't argue there, let's get the hell out of this town." Jake puts the straps back up on Ruby's dress but they don't stay. He chuckles a bit and starts to get dressed. "I don't have to talk to Morgan, I hope I can find out about the serial numbers on the $20 bills from Warren. I also hoped Marshal Marshal", Jake makes a face and shakes his head, "would talk to us this morning. I don't feel like looking for him either. Don't want to seem too anxious." He packs everything he isn't wearing into his carpet bag, adjusts his gun belt and wiggles his Colt in the holster before saying, "I'll eat anywhere, but let's make sure we have a seat on the stage first. Let's get the hell out of Tombstone."

As Jake is getting dressed Ruby offers him his new clothes. “Hope you like them. I figured as long as I was there. Besides I need some new shirts to sleep in,” as she winks at him. Ruby helps Jake pack up the rest of his stuff. “Alright, first stop Wells Fargo office. Then the Palace to check on your $20 bills. And finally The Grand to pick up Kate. We can eat there.” Ruby takes one last look around the room with a smile before they head over to The Wells Fargo Office to buy their tickets.

Ruby and Jake buy their tickets for the stage. While there Ruby informs them she will have a horse to hitch to the back. She turns to Jake. “I’m going to the Grand to check on Kate. You can go to the Marshall’s office and check on your business or come with me, that is up to you. But I’m getting worried about Kate so I’m going there now.”

He says, "No, lets go to the Grand. Like I said before, I can get with Warren in Promise City. I don't need to chase down any Earps here." "Good idea," she smiles and takes Jake's hand. They walk over to the Grand, and see Kate having tea with Ginnie. "Morning Kate, and Ginnie is it?" Ruby gives her a knowing smile. "Mind if we join you for lunch?" Ruby doesn't wait for an answer before sitting. "Where did you go? I stopped by earlier..." When the waitress comes Ruby orders a big breakfast. "Kate, have you eaten?"

Kate replies, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you. I ah... I went to the cemetery this morning." She was quiet for a moment. "And then we picked up a few things. Now we're just waiting for the stage. Strange, in Promise City we have to rush to be ready, here it's wait."

"Are you feeling ok then?" Ruby looked sympathetically to her friend. "Yes, it's strange for me to want to get back somewhere. Usually it's how fast can I get away," she laughs. "Well, it's almost time for the stage so we can eat and leave. I hope our trip is a quiet one," as Ruby rolls her eyes. Breakfast shows up and Ruby starts eating and Kate is still just drinking her tea. "And you didn't answer me before if you ate or not. Eat this," she says pushing her toast to Kate. "You have to start eating now, you're getting too skinny." Kate shrugged. "I'm feeling about as ok as I expected to. And if I eat that I'll be sick in the coach and you don't want that."

Ruby exclaims, "Kate, your clothes are falling off you and you are pale, practically bones! You HAVE to start eating. This has been a rough few days, I'll admit, but once we get back you are going to start to eat. You're making me worry and I don't like to worry." Ruby lets the subject fall and she finishes her own breakfast. "Alright, we ready to go? Let's get to the stage."

As they walk, Ruby realizes that Kate is bringing the kid with them. She grabs her hand and walks them behind Jake and Ginnie a bit. "Kate, what are you doing with this kid? You really bringing her to Promise City?" Kate replies, "Yes, I really am. She needs someone, Ruby, and I promised I would help her. Don't worry, she's not going to rob me blind. If it makes you feel better, I'll ask Mr. Gonzales to keep my valuables in his rooms."

Ruby replies, "That's up to you. I just want you to be careful is all. You might not be in the best state of mind right now to be making big decisions like that. Don't worry, I'll keep my eye on her too." Ruby gives her friend hand a squeeze. "You have a big heart Mrs. Kale." They look up and are standing at the stage. "After you," Ruby gestures

Kate squeezed her friend’s hand and looked around for a moment. She wished she could turn her back on this town forever. But she would have to make this journey again in two weeks, and Tom would always be here. She sighed and got herself and Ginnie onto the stage with their few possessions. Kate leaned her head against the side of the coach and closed her eyes, waiting for the jerk and sway of the coach starting on it's way.

After Kate gets into the coach Ginnie looks at Ruby her eyes the color of cold steel. "If I was going to rob her blind it would have already been done and you know it. I know what you saw and I heard what she said. I know what she can do, and some of what you can do too. I know that the Marshal is after her and why. I know what she did for Colby Tucker and what's she's planning to do for me. If I wanted to cause trouble she'd be dead or in jail already and there wouldn't be anything left in that trunk of hers. She's giving me a chance and I'm taking it and not you or anyone is going take the chance of learning away from me" With that Ginnie hops up into the coach and put herself again the far door between the door and Kate making sure that there is no way anyone else is going to be able to sit near her.

The trip back to Promise City starts off uneventfully. That changes as they enter the southern part of the Dragoon mountain range. A group of thirty armed Apache line the hills to both sides of the stagecoach and look as though they are prepared to attack.

Silver Moon

Chapter 169, “Fort Huachuca”, Monday, January 23rd, 1882, 9:30 A.M.

Nanuet turns to Chester slowly "I am going to pack my things and get ready to leave. I have no expectations of you or your friends but I must leave soon. With that said Nanuet gets up from the table and heads toward the kitchen. He speaks with Dorita about getting some food prepared for the trip and gives her the money in advance. He then heads out to the grove and gathers his things quickly. He packs his saddlebags and checks his horse to be sure she is ready for the trip. Once that is done he heads back in and checks on the food preparations.

By the time Nanuet is ready he finds that Chester and his six soldier friends are already packed up and ready to go. Chester gives Nanuet a nod. "I, for one, wasn't going to let you ride there by yourself. Who knows what Gamble would have done. I fought in the Indian Wars with Gamble. He doesn't like the Indians, so he may be pushing things towards war on purpose."

Comstock says "We want to travel light and plan to come back this way so we've boarded our wagon and pack animals. We also have an extra horse with us for you Nanuet. All of our animals, and Chester’s, are trained to ride long distances, up to 80 miles in a single day in this western terrain, but yours is not. I'm not saying that you shouldn't bring yours, but when it tires you can then switch over to the other and let it go rider less. Shall we go?"

"I am humbled by your sense of duty my new friends" Nanuet says, offering his hand to each of the men. "I have noticed your horses and appreciate their durability and stamina. It is not so easy to find such a good mount around here. I will take your offer and ride your horse. ”

Mitzer has a map of Cochise and Pima Counties. He says that the most direct route would be west to Tombstone and from there on to Sierra Vista, but he advises against it given the apparent buildup of Apache along the Dragoon Mountains watching the road. Even with Nanuet along and the others not in uniform, the group still has the appearance of cavalry soldiers, so why go looking for trouble.

He suggest that they ride instead to the southwest of Promise City to the village of Webb, a small community around ten miles southeast of Tombstone. From there they could travel due west to Fort Huachuca, off the beaten track and between the towns of Tombstone and Bisbee. Going across open land rather than established roads will slow them down some, but the map doesn't show any mountains, wide rivers or other natural barriers and it would be the easiest way to avoid both Indians and soldiers along the way.” Nanuet states, “I agree with your plan of travel. To take the road to Tombstone would be a risk we don't need to take. We should get going, the light is not long this time of year."

The group rides off. Comstock tells Nanuet he chose wisely to leave his horse behind at the El Parador, as even rider less it would have slowed them down. They make good speed into the afternoon, reaching the village of Webb by 2:00 PM. It is little more than a General Store and a half dozen farmhouses grouped together along a secondary road. But it does have a good water source and both hay and grain are available for the horses, so they take a half-hour break for both the mounts and riders to revitalize.

An hour later into riding they reach the main road leading from Bisbee to Tombstone and are thankful that nobody is within sight at the time. They dismount and slowly walk their horses single file up to and across the road, taking the time to smooth out the single line of tracks afterwards, so it is not apparent that a group intersected.

They continue to ride on well into the evening, with stops along way at any good-sized hill to scout out and ensure that they are not being followed. By 9:00 PM they reach a river, which appears to be far wider than Mitzer's map would indicate, although that could be a result from being downriver from all of the prior week's rainy weather.

The map indicates that the Fort is twelve to fifteen miles further from the other side of the river depending upon exactly where they may be. Comstock points out the danger in attempting to ford an unfamiliar river at night. He suggests that they make camp here and attempt to cross the river. at dawn. Mitzer agrees, adding that "It is best not to approach a Fortress who aren't expecting you at night, especially if you have an Indian as part of your group."

"I agree. Getting you shot, Nanuet, will start a war really fast. I can take a middle watch." Chester unsaddles his horse and brushes it down. "I am going to agree with any plan that avoids me getting shot!" Nanuet says jokingly. In a more serious tone he says "I can take a long watch. I spent much time resting last night and only need four hours of sleep. Let me scout out the river while you prepare camp as I can see somewhat in the dark. "

Nanuet unmounts and then secures his borrowed steed. Before heading towards the river he tells the men. "My companion is a wolf, I am going to call to her while I am down at the river as to not spook the horses. If you see a she wolf, do not be afraid." With that he heads to the river to scout out any possible fords or crossings. Chester asks, "Do you think we can start a campfire?" Comstock advises against the idea of a campfire.

Nanuet does not find any fords along the river. The horses had ridden far faster than he was accustomed to. He has not been able to sense Maska's presence since shortly after they had left the village of Webb. He knew that Maska would be able to follow their scent, and when he last was with the wolf was still cloaked with invisibility, but their being apart still worried him.

Nanuet senses the wolf's presence again shortly after midnight and they are reunited again within the next twenty minutes. He feels that the pads on the wolf's paws are heavily worn, this trip being far more arduous than he had anticipated. He gives some freshly killed game to her to eat. He wakes Chester and informs him that it is time for his watch. Nanuet and Maska then curl up together.

It is six hours later when Nanuet is awakened by Chester. Surprisingly, Maska did not wake first upon Chester's approach, and Nanuet realizes that the fifty-five mile run was far harder on the animal than he had realized at first. Thankfully their trip today would be shorter and she was now well rested.

Comstock and Mitzer sit down to have breakfast and talk strategy with Nanuet and Chester while the other four split into pairs and each ride off both up and down river looking for the best place to cross. Mitzer says "Let me handle the talking until we are together with Captain Whitside, the Commanding Officer of the Fort. After that I will leave you to do the talking Nanuet. What approach are you thinking of?” Nanuet states, "I was thinking of the only approach that I know of. Honesty. I am here to find out why the soldiers are traveling those Apache lands. I am sure they have a reason and I don't plan to make accusations. "

Comstock states, “The unknown factor here is this Lieutenant Gamble. We don't know what Whitside's opinion of him is and if we play this wrong we will lose all of our credibility. Mr. Martin, what can you tell us about the man and your history with him?"

Chester replies, "Well, the lieutenant is a cruel man. I think he likes killing, especially Indians. Not long after I joined the Army, we were sent to Chicago during the Great Rail Strike. We were supposed to help keep the peace. A bunch of policemen were being pressed by a mob. We rode out to rescue them. The crowd was slow in leaving when Gamble gives the order to fire. So we did. Several people were killed. They just had clubs. It was horrible.

"When we were hunting the Sioux and Cheyenne in Kansas, he didn't like granting surrenders. Our lieutenant had to stop him from firing on fleeing elves many times. I couldn't stomach it anymore, so one day I punched him in the face. Spent a few months on the stockade and got dishonorably discharged."

Mitzer stokes his chin at hearing that. "Okay, we'd better play down that one then. I doubt that Captain Samuel Marmaduke Whitside would be tolerant of a man who was dishonorably discharged, regardless of the reason. He's career army, enlisted when he was barely old enough and was promoted to Sergeant Major even before the war. Spent most of the war in staff positions as aide to several of the top generals in Washington D.C.

After the war he was a made a Captain and given command of Troop B of the 6th Cavalry. He's been here in Arizona for the past six years, first a Fort Lowell and now Fort Huachuca. In fact, he started the Fort, he selected the site because it had fresh running water, an abundance of trees, excellent observation in three directions, and protective high ground for security. Officially it has been a camp rather than a permanent station, but he recently petitioned to have it officially receive 'Fort' designation."

He then turns to Nanuet and asks, "So, what tribe are you from and how is it that you now speak for the Apache?" Nanuet says, "I am of the Yavapi tribe. It is a smaller tribe and my people were forced to move onto reservations with the Apache, so I learned the language. As far as how I am able to speak for them, I lead a small group of my companions through their lands searching for some murderous bandits. It was then that I met and spoke with Geronimo and his shaman who is now my mentor. The person who was to be their ambassador had been killed, so I was given that task. Until now I had not seen a chance to fulfill that duty."

The other soldiers return and have found a spot to ford the river a half-mile to the south. The river is actually wider at that point but the bottom can be seen and it appears to be no more than four-feet deep. They still fasten up ropes between each of them and their mounts given the swift current. They eventually manage to get all eight of them across.

They ride on for the next ninety-minutes until they see their destination. A wooden stockade fort surrounds the great encampment ahead, although most of the buildings appear to be made of just canvas over wooden frames. There appear to be around fifty separate buildings and multiple corrals. They arrive and Captain Mitzer identifies himself and asks to be taken to the Fort's commander. As they travel through Nanuet and Chester note a large civilian population at the encampment as well, and also buildings with signage indicating both a church and a school, unusual sights for a temporary military encampment.

Nanuet, Chester and their six friends find their way into the command tent of Captain Whitside. Mitzer makes for some quick introduction, beginning with himself and his men. He then introduces Comstock, Whittemore and Martin as being former solders. Whitside says to Elisha, "Your reputation proceeds you Major Whittemore." He then turns to Chester and with a scowl says "As does yours Mr. Martin." Chester then hears the sound of the familiar snicker of Oscar Gamble from behind him.

Chester sighs. "I see the lieutenant has briefed you, Captain Whitside. Do you agree with him that the Indians are to be corralled like so many horses? I think that someone is causing trouble among the Apaches. It could lead to war." He gestures toward Nanuet. "This man here is an ambassador to the Apaches. Please, listen to him. Even if you consider me a deadbeat."

Captain Whitside stares directly at Chester and says "Sir, Indian policy is not for you or I to decide. The policy is set in Washington. If you have a problem with how Indians are dealt with I would suggest that you take it up with President Arthur.

What I do know is that this County has historically been a hot spot. This fortress is but one in a network of seventy US Army outposts stretching across the Southwest frontier. I personally selected this location for it. Back when there was the trouble with Cochise this area we are in now was their escape route across the border into Mexico. The savages would attack the homes of the law abiding settlers and then run across the border when the Army came to enforce the law. This fortress in this spot is a key element in a strategy to sever the Apaches' traditional escape route into Mexico, while still protecting settlers in the southern part of the young Arizona territory at the same time."

Mitzer says "Sir, you know of Fort Stanton. That is where my men and myself are from. The fortress is also strategically located, to monitor the Warm Springs Reservation where the Mescelaro Apache now live. This man Nanuet is of the Yavapai tribe. His people are at the San Carlo Indian Reservation along with the Western Apache. Both of those groups of Apache are confined under land set aside by the government. I have no problem with Government policy toward the Indians.

The issue at hand is not either of those tribes but of the one other group of Apache, the descendants of Cochise, who are in what they consider to be the land negotiated to them many years ago. The Chiricahua Apache wish to remain in the Chiricahua Mountain. An agreement had been reached where they would stay in the mountains and from human settlement provided that the army stayed out of the mountains. Your Lieutenant Gamble appears to have violated the delicate balance of that uneasy truce. This elf named Nanuet has been trusted by Cochise's successor, Geronimo, to negotiate with the appropriate Government representative, you, to reestablish the truce."

Whitside says "The agreement made three months ago was that the solders would stay out of the mountains if the Apache would prevent outlaws such as the James Gang from seeking refuge there. Lieutenant Gamble only entered those mountains because the Cowboy Gang did. If the Apache are to provide safe home to criminals then they are the ones who have violated the truce, not us."

Chester interjects, "What if another group went into the mountains in search of the Cowboy Gang? People not with the Army or the Apache. That way, someone is looking for the outlaws, but not stirring up the elves. Would that be OK, captain?" Whitside replies, "Ah, so you're confirming that the Cowboy Gang are being protected and harbored by the Chirichua Apace! I should have known that those redskins couldn't be trusted." Chester opens his mouth to reply, when Nanuet speaks.

Nanuet manages to hold back his temper although it takes almost all of his will. He then addresses the Captain in an even measured tone. "Captain Whitside, sir. We are confirming nothing. We have not been on Apache lands recently to know if the Cowboy Gang is there or not. If the Cowboy Gang enters their lands, but moves through or are chased away, is that still a problem?”
The Army commander exclaims, "Of course that's a problem! If the army is staying out and the Apache allow these criminals to use that land to escape, knowing that the Army can't chase them. So you ARE confirming that the Indians are working with the outlaws, as we suspected."

Nanuet says, “I believe what Mr. Chester is proposing is that a neutral party search the area when issues such as this arise to avoid trouble." Chester says, "Thank you, Nanuet." Whitside states, "A neutral party comprised of Indians and Army deserters like Martin, I think not. This is Army business and we will handle it our way."

Chester turns back to Whitside. "I have no idea if they're in Apache lands. What made you think the Cowboy Gang is there? Did anyone see them enter Apache territory?" Whitside turns to Lieutenant Gamble and says "What did you discover there?" Gamble replies, "We tracked the gang going thought those mountains. I also spoke to a prisoner in the County Jail, a Mr. Joseph Weems. He was part of the Cowboy Gang and confirmed that Geronimo allowed the gang free passage. Says that a gang member named Harvey Knowles is with Geronimo right now as his guest."

Nanuet listens to the soldiers speak. He focuses on remaining calm, summoning the vision of Storm in his mind and remembering Sonoma and Kajika's teachings about patience. He says, "Again you assume much. Who said that we were to be the party that would search? You seem to have your mind set on war, I am trying to work on a solution that will maintain the peace. No one can control who rides onto land. If you can give me a chance I will speak with Geronimo and see if he truly does harbor these men. I have no love for the Cowboy gang either, they have caused much distress to my companions and me. As I have accompanied the soldiers here to speak with you, can a few of your men accompany me to speak with Geronimo? I will assure their safety. Then they can report to you first hand what they see."

Captain Whitside says "Fine. I'll agree to those terms. If the Apache agree to keep the Cowboy gang and other outlaws out of the mountains then I'll keep my troops out of them as well." He then turns to the back of the room and says "Lieutenant Gamble, mount up. You and your men are riding back with these people."

Nanuet is pleased that at least they have agreed to check things out first. He asks, "How many men do you propose to send? I said only a few. I don't want to incite hostilities, I want to try and keep a peaceful understanding between the two groups."

Whitside replies "I'm sending a whole squadron. I'm told that the Apache are out in force, we have to show a position of strength to them! Gamble, take A Squadron with you and move out within the hour. I want to you at least make it to Tombstone by nightfall." "Yes Sir," Lieutenant Gamble replies and gives his Captain a crisp salute."

Silver Moon

Chapter 170, “Homecoming”, Monday, January 23rd, 1882, 3:00 P.M.

Looking out at the Apache Katherine slid across the seat toward Ginnie, thankful there was no one else on the stage. "Don't worry, this will protect you," Kate said and then began casting the Mage Armor spell, but targeting it on Ginnie. Kate says, "Let's hope they don't attack." Ginnie looks frantically around the coach for the smallest most hidden place she can come up with and tucks herself in covering herself and trying her best to be a very small target shaking with fear

Ruby had fallen fast sleep on Jake's shoulder. She felt him move for his gun and it woke her. She looked out the window and saw the Apache. "I don't think we need to worry, there were Apache surrounding Mr. Shaw and myself on the coach ride over but they didn't attack us. I guess they just want to let us know they are around." She looked at Kate and gave her a little nod towards Ginnie, so they wouldn't scare the kid.

Kate knelt down next to Ginnie and laid her hand on her shoulder. "Ruby's right, they have no reason to harm us. And I'll take care of you." She began to rub the girls shoulder. "We'll be alright."

Ginnie, do you know any songs? I looove to sing," Ruby says while looking out the window then back to the cowering Ginnie, "Now would be a great time to sing a song... But if you get scared, which I know you won't, there should be a spot you can fit." Ruby stands a lifts the seat in the coach, revealing the under seat, large enough for the small girl to fit. "Only if you need it." She sits back down and starts singing quietly, trying to calm the girl down.

Chuck Nevers pokes his down from above and tells those inside the coach "Keep your weapons down, we've ridden by these guys three times in the last two days and they haven't stopped us yet. Some of you know that we can get some extra speed from this rig if we have to but I'd rather not let them know that until it comes to needing it."

The stage continues onward. The Apache slowly ride closer but stop when they are still thirty feet from the roadway. When they pass from the area everyone gives a collective sigh of relief. The remaining trip back to Promise City is uneventful, arriving on Main Street in front of the Wells Fargo Office at around 5:45 P.M.

It actually takes Ginnie until the coach stops to realize that they are not going to be killed by Indians. She thinks that woman with the red hair was nuts thinking that singing would help! It would have just let the Indians know that there were women on the coach and given them a better reason to attack!

It seemed very strange for someone else to take care of her and Ginnie wasn't really sure what to do about it. At least here she should have a roof over her head. food and maybe a chance to really learn something. And the Ma'am Katherine was looking for simple lace in return for part of the debt. That was something Ginnie could handle easily but right now she needed to start a new life.

It was a relief to be back in Promise City. Kate gathered her things and dragged herself from the coach, then helped Ginnie down. The girl stepped out of the coach and looked around at her new home. Ruby follows Ginnie off the stage and leans over to whisper into her ear saying, “Kid, you don’t know anything about me. But I know that you aren’t as smart as you think you are and that comes from our little meeting that we had the last time I was in Tombstone. I knew you weren’t sleeping last night. But Kate trusts you to know her business and that is her decision.”

Ruby raises her eyebrow at Ginnie. “You know that I could have caused a lot of trouble for you, turned you into the law in Tombstone but I didn’t. I know what it’s like to have to take care of yourself and it’s not easy. No one, well, not any of us anyway, is going to take away your chance at learning. As a matter of fact, if you relax a bit, maybe you’ll even learn something from all of us. We can help each other. And you couldn’t have a better teacher than Kate. I always knew that Kate would be a teacher. But remember one thing,” Ruby leans back in her seat, “we will be keeping an eye on you.” Deciding that the lecture had gone on long enough Kate says, "All right Ruby, that's enough.”

"Are you going back to the El Parador or to the Lone Star?" Kate asked Ruby. "I'm going back to the Lone Star. I need a real nap in my own bed. Do you need help with anything?" Ruby tried not to look at the kid as she said that. Kate nodded no, so Ruby made her way back to the Lone Star with Jake in tow. As soon as they got in Jake was greeted by Niles and Job, who were preparing for the night. Ruby continued upstairs alone to their room, while Jake made small talk with them. She removed her dress, laid face down in bed and fell asleep.

Jake gets the latest news and stories, listening to what's said as well as what isn't. He helps himself to a welcome back drink and has a tour around, checks out the construction and finally locates Jeff Mills. Jake spends some time with him, making him feel good and listening in particular to what has been going on from his point of view. "It's good to be back, and I'm looking forward to tonight."

"This is the El Parador Hotel and Cantina Ginnie, I live here. For now anyway. It's a good place until I get a home of my own." Katherine guided the girl inside and found the proprietress. Ginnie, this is Dorita, she's in charge here. Dorita, this is Ginnie, she's going to be staying with me for a while. I wonder, might you have a room with two beds in it I could change to? Or a cot to put in my room if that's not possible?"

"Humph!" Dorita quickly sizes up Ginnie as she takes a look at Kate "First you no eat, now you bring home child that no eat! You both sit, eat, then we talk about room and cot and things." Dorita grabs both of Ginnie's hands stroking her thumbs over Ginnie's palms "You work hard already, you eat here, lots, now sit, we talk later, Sit!" with that she pushes Ginnie into a chair at a nearby table and stares down Kate until she follows suit.

A few minutes later Dorita brought two loaded plates and set them down at the table. "It isn't as if I haven't been feeding her, Dorita. But it takes more than two meals you know." Kate looked in dismay at the plate in front of her. Dorita's food was always good, but she could never tackle that plate. Ruby had been right though, she was getting thin; she couldn't even get her corset tight enough anymore. The laces were pulled as tight as they would go and it was still loose. She at least picked up her fork instead of pushing the plate away.

Ginnie sat down to her forth full meal in less than two days. she'd have eaten more than she normally had in a full week when she finished this overfull plate. This place that Ma'am Katherine stayed was nothing like she would have expected there were elves everywhere and none of them seemed angry or mean like the few elves she had met before. And Ma'am Katherine seemed to treat them like equals she even did as she was told by the woman from the kitchen Dorita but then again Ginnie didn't think anyone was likely to disobey that lady the price wouldn't be worth it. Ginnie was about to pick up her fork when she realized that she hadn't washed her hands and there was no way that she would ever break her promise to mama.

Ginnie says, "Excuse me but is there a place I can wash up before dinner?" Dorita took a second look at the child and pointed the way to the well in the back of the kitchen. Doirta tells Kate "Well she may no eat as much as she should but she have good manors now Kate you EAT no push food around put in mouth!"

Kate managed to eat perhaps a quarter of the food before her stomach seriously threatened to rebel. Ginnie attacked the plate with gusto when she returned and bolted it down quicker than Kate would have thought possible. When Ginnie reached the bottom of the plate Dorita came around again. "Well Dorita, what do you think? Is there a room with two beds I could rent? Oh, and is your Grandfather back yet?" Dorita replies, “No two bed rooms at moment, Pedro already move cot into your room. Grandfather no back yet."

Kate was worried for a moment until she realized that Mr. Gonzales probably had not moved Maggie by magic. The trip to Los Angeles and then staying for a few days to make sure she was settled would account for his absence. "Thank you, Dorita. Why don't we go up to my room and get you settled Ginnie? I have some very interesting books you can read for a while, I'd like to get some more sleep."

The two went up to Kate's room, and Kate showed Ginnie where she could put her things. "I'll introduce you to the others here later. I'm not going to work for the next few days, so we can work out when to work and when to study later on tonight. If you get hungry, you can go downstairs and ask Dorita. She'll put it on my bill. Will you be alright doing that?" The girl nods yes. Kate lies down for a nap.

After he finishes talking with Jeff Mills, Jake grabs his bag and heads upstairs. He opens the door to their room and stands on the threshold for a minute shaking his head. The noise of opening the door wakes Ruby who rubs her eyes and says, "I was tired, I hadn't been sleeping well while you were gone."

"No, I'm not shaking my head at you. It's me. I own a quarter of a damn saloon and I have my own room to go to where I don't have to pay rent." Jake whistles. "Who could have predicted that?" He closes the door and throws his bag on the floor before sitting down on the bed next to Ruby. "Who in Hades could have predicted that?" He laughs well naturedly.

Ruby slowly turns herself over, and Jake can tell she is still sleepy. “Who could have predicted any of this? Not me, not ever. But it’s ours, and it’s real, unless we are stuck in a dream. If that’s true, I don’t want to wake up.” She smiles and grabs the sheet, pulling it over herself. “So, are you going to tell me what happened in Tucson? Or is it a big secret?”

"Mostly I just used the time to catch up with O'Brien. Don't ever mention his name though, or tell anyone that Mr. Van Horne is a disguise. He's wanted for murder. Do you remember what I told you about the last time I saw him before Promise City? Apparently I killed the guy that tried to kill him. Now he's wanted for murder. Oh, and I did sell some of the jewelry." Jake rubs his beard. "We did talk about Adair." He tells her all O'Brien told him; the honest gambling, his travels and education, the killings of men and lovers, his being ambidextrous, not drinking alcohol, that O'Brien thought his staff was loyal, about Deacon Prosper McCoy and his wife, and finally about Jane "Little Britches" Boag. "Ruby dear, that loco wants to kill you just because you slapped him. Since he believes Baxter's rubbish, he wanted to kill your husband too."

Ruby is visibly upset to find out that Jake was shot at because Adair thinks they are married. “I’m really sorry I got you involved in this. That Adair is one crazy and evil man. I think I have to go and speak with him again, I don’t want you getting killed because of me, and I couldn’t bear it if that was what happened. Besides, if you were going to get killed for me you should at least actually be getting the benefit of being married to me, no?” Ruby laughs for a bit then drifts off into her thoughts. Jake sees her expression change, and she starts biting her lip and she looks away from him. “I guess I could, well, I mean, I could leave, I don’t want to leave but if it would solve the problem…Or we could leave together, go somewhere new, a fresh start…” Ruby pauses, then looks to Jake and their eyes meet, ‘But after we set all this up, with owning the Lone Star, and there are our friends, and you have the silver mine …” Ruby's voice trails off and the confusion is plain on her face.

"First off, don't you go to Adair thinking you can make any deal with him. He'll see that as being weak, agree to anything and use it against you." Jake gets up and starts to pace. "Second, if it gets to be time to leave we leave together. However, it isn't time to leave. He had surprise before. He doesn't now. I still think we can handle him. Third....." Jake stops pacing suddenly. "Benefits of being married?" A big smile grows on his face and he chuckles a few times. "I'm sorry girl, but I don't see how the benefits could be any better."

“I won’t go to Adair, you’re probably right about him. But Jake, we can’t give him another chance to shoot us like that. Although it sounds like Red thinks he might lay off a direct attack against us for a while. Do you think Van Horne will show back up? That would be a great benefit to us, we could find out what Adair is up to. Do you think he’ll go after any of our friends or the Lone Star?” Ruby still looks worried as she watches Jake pace around the room. “And if we leave we leave together,” Ruby repeats slowly. “I can do that, it’s a good plan.”

“So, what next? We start asking around for rumors of all Adair’s employees. I do have Mr. McCoy’s wallet, I think it’s time to look though it again. Maybe I should introduce myself to Miss. Boag? What else?”

While Ruby waits for Jake to answer she gives a big stretch, her long legs extending well beyond the edge of the sheet. Ruby starts to grin watching Jake watch her stretch. “There is only one benefit for people who are married and that benefit only comes if the people who are married are serious about it. In my experience there aren’t many people who are serious about it. But the ones that are serious, well, they have something very special and rare. And that is the fact that once that ring is on your finger you never ever have to share that person with anyone ever again and that person never ever has to worry about sharing you.”

"Er," Jake says with a slightly bewildered look on his face, "I don't think you'll be hearing me talking about all the happily married folks I know." He looks a bit uncomfortable for a moment but recovers and gives Ruby a half grin, "We will just have to keep each other occupied, and then there won't be time for sharing." He stops next to the bed and runs his finger up and down her exposed leg.

Ruby laughs hysterically for a moment and smiles at him again. “JAKE! Relax, you know I was only kidding with you. Happily ever after is only for fairy tales, they don’t happen to people like us. And don’t you be worrying, I don’t ever plan on getting married, ever. But I will agree to the not sharing you part, I told you that already. And the keeping each other occupied part, well, that has been working out mighty well so far.”

"Those are all fine ideas regarding Adair. If we can we should get papers that have his or any of his folks handwriting on it. I also want to start tracking his habits. Does he keep a schedule, where does he go and with who?" He goes back to pacing. "I don't know if he'll go after our friends, but probably not. He's not likely to burn down all the alcohol in town by going after the Lone Star. Unfortunately, we don't know how low he'll stoop. Expect the worst when it comes to him." Jake stops and sits again. "Perhaps the best revenge is a successful Lone Star."

"Let’s get started then, right away, gathering the information on Adair. Tomorrow.” Ruby bites on her finger for a moment before continuing. “A successful Lone Star, huh? Yeah that would really tick off Adair, wouldn’t it? Well, I was hoping we’d have that anyway. But I guess that’ll be another good benefit. We know what you can do to make the Lone Star more successful. What can I do to make the Lone Star more successful then?”

"You are kidding right?" He gently takes Ruby's face in his hand. "You are the face of the place. You bring them in, and keep them coming back. We sell them food and drink, and we take their money at the poker tables. It's Ruby West that makes them feel good about it. You just do what you do best. Keep them entertained and make each one feel special." He returns to lightly running his finger down her leg.

Ruby sighs, “I know, I’m the pretty face, the distraction, I know.” She looks away but only briefly before looking back to Jake with a small smile. “I can do that, make them feel special. You’re right, it is what I’m good at. But Jake,” Ruby sits up on her elbows, “You’re the only one who I really want to feel that way. So don’t start believing it’s true about anyone else then, OK?

"I'm hoping I can tell the difference between making a customer feel special and making someone feel real special." He gets up flexing his shoulders and arms. He turns rapidly facing the mirror and his Colt flies out of the holster aimed at his reflection. "You know I've never killed a man in jealousy, I wonder what it would be like?" He twirls the gun a few times rather flamboyantly and drops it back in place. He turns back to face Ruby, his face unreadable.

Then he laughs loudly. "I trust you." He wanders over to his travel bag and starts taking items out and putting them away or in a pile to be cleaned. "You certainly can be a distraction, but you got it backwards. They can go anywhere for food, drink and poker. If all of those are good, they will probably come back." Jake stops moving the clothes and looks at her. "They will happily open their pockets and wallets to spend time in a saloon where they feel at home. In that little place inside they go away thinking, 'what a great place, she knows my name, knows about me, sings the song I like when I come in and pays attention to me. So maybe I spent the rent money, I'll just have to work a little harder so I can go back.' Ruby West you are the main show, the rest of us are the distraction." He stares at her for a minute before looking away.

"I believe I told you about Caleb White, the old coot I met in Chicago? He once said to me," Jake's voice changes in an imitation of old and infirm man, "Silver Dollar, work is fine for killing time, but it's a shaky way to make a living." He snorts a little laugh. "Most of those folks just work hard to get by, then come in to a place like the Lone Star to live." He goes back to sorting clothes. "Why don't you stop me when I get all preachy like that?" He shakes his head and chuckles.

Ruby pulls herself out of bed with the sheet wrapped around her and she hops onto the dresser in front of Jake. “I don’t stop you because I like to hear you talk, preaching or not, that’s why. You are a wealth of wisdom and very good for my ego,” she gives him a big smile. “And now you went and got yourself involved in some actual work, Mr. Cook, and all because of me, what ever will you do?” Ruby laughs as she rests her arms on Jake’s shoulders. “We’ll give them some place to really live and we’ll give ourselves someplace to really live too.” She leans forward and gives Jake a slow kiss. She pulls away and looks at him before continuing, “And let’s not find out what it feels like to kill someone in jealousy, eh? We have enough problems,” she chuckles. “Now, what do you have planned for tonight? Besides, NOT killing someone out of jealousy?”

"I suppose I should start learning how to run a saloon." He puts his hands over hers on his shoulders. "I'll just pitch in and help with something so Niles and Job don't feel like it's all them. If it's all under control and there are enough folks, I'll run a game. More likely that'll happen on busier nights. Time to build the new Lone Star routine. Oh," he pulls away quickly and searches through the bottom of his bag. He retrieves a handful of items and stretches out his hands cupped together to her. He is holding six small glass containers of perfume.

“Yes,” Ruby laughs, “It’s your turn. I did the decision making last week! But it has been a while since you got to run a table.” Ruby watches curiously as Jake goes through his bag. He hands her the perfume and Ruby is genuinely surprised. “You really were thinking of me when you were away, weren’t you?” Ruby gives him a quick kiss and slides off the dresser. She plops down on the bed and opens a bottle to smell the aroma.

"Ah, wait, don't bother smelling them." Jake says laughing. "They're not for wearing." Ruby looks at him and scrunches her nose. "They are just cheap perfume bottles, remember I promised to get you some to throw at me. Wouldn't want you to waste your good perfume next time I need things thrown at me." Jake takes a couple of steps over and shrugs.

Ruby looks to Jake then back to the bottles, then she laughs. “Very well, Mr. Cook, bottles to throw then. Let’s hope you don’t do too many things that warrant it, but you’ve stocked me up, just in case.” Ruby gets off of bed and puts the bottles on the dresser.

Jake walks over and stands next to Ruby. He extends his empty hands, turns them over and turns them back holding a single bottle of perfume. "That trick is more impressive when the audience DOESN'T know how it's done." He opens the bottle, dabs some on his finger and runs his finger behind each of her ears and down her neck. He closes the bottle and places it on the dresser apart from the others. "Try not to confuse them when you are tossing."

Ruby looks up at Jake and smiles. “Especially since Mr. Gonzales isn’t here to clean it up.” Ruby stands on her toes and putting her hand behind Jake’s head gives him a kiss. “Thank you,” she whispers, before pulling herself away to get her clothes ready.

“Should we eat here tonight?” Ruby says while pulling her stockings up to her thighs. She grabs her underskirt and corset and wriggles them on. “I like the food at the El Parador too, though. I wonder if Sonoma is cooking for us again? And I wonder if Dorita found someone to cook and clean for us permanently?” Ruby glances around the room before grabbing her new cream dress. “Didn’t get to show it off enough,” she giggles throwing it over her head. “Will you help?” She turns her back to Jake and pulls her hair over her shoulder waiting for him to do up the back.

He ties up the back nice and slowly, delicately touching her while doing so. "I suppose we ought to find all that out. Let's dine at the Cantina and perhaps we'll see the others." “Good idea. How do I look?” Ruby spins around to face Jake. "Beautiful." “I’m ready then, so let’s go.” She takes him arm and they head out, letting Niles know they will be back shortly.

Silver Moon

Chapter 171, “Saloon Help”, Monday, January 23rd, 1882, 7:00 P.M.

Ruby and Jake make their way over to the El Parador. They grab a table and look for any of their friends, and Dorita so they can order. When she finally does come over they greet her pleasantly before barraging her with questions. “So, any chance you found someone to cook and clean for us? Your daughter is a wonderful cook but we just can’t take her away from her dream of the ranch. Plus we need someone full time who can also clean.” Ruby points her thumb to Jake. “Mr. Cook here is messy and doesn’t know how to do laundry,” Ruby says giggling.

Dorita says, "Yes, the last night I there, when that awful Mr. Whipple used the bad word at me, I bring Maria Fuente with me. I be teaching her to cook for half-year now. She not as good as Sonoma, but I teach Sonoma for half-century. But Maria hard working and want to try. She not want to keep being working girl here. Her brother Estaban no want her to either."

Ruby jumped out of her seat and threw her arms around Dorita. "You are the best at what you do! Is she here and can we talk to her? I'm sure she'll be great." Dorita leaves and goes over to Maria's room. She returns with the young wood elf, who takes a seat with Ruby and Jake. Dorita points first to Ruby and then Maria and exclaims, "You two talk, you offer job, you take it". She then points to Jake and says, "And you be quiet, men just mess things up." Dorita then walks way.

Ruby looks at Jake and snickers to herself then turns to Maria. “Ms. Fuente, Dorita tells me you are looking for a new profession. Luckily we have an opening and we’d like you to take it. We trust Dorita and we’re sure we can trust you too. We need someone to cook for lunch, dinner and us. The kitchen would be yours, you would be completely in charge. You would also be responsible for doing the shopping and keeping the kitchen stocked for us. We also need someone to do some cleaning.

We are building a third floor on our building so it would be three floors for you to do plus laundry. Not all the rooms are used every day though. We have someone there who can help, but he is a man and needs to be told what to do. I think you would want to stay here with your son and brother but we would be willing to offer you a room if you would like it.

Maria replies, “"I do not have a son, you thinking of Angelica. My brother and I both have our own rooms, he can stay here, I will go with you." Ruby asks, “What kind of pay were you looking for?” Maria answers, “Dorita said you would pay me fair. That is fine with me.”

Ruby states, “My apologies then, I was confused. You may come and stay with us and we will consider your room and board part of your salary. I have to warn you though, currently most of our rooms are filled with liquor, until we get the third floor built. So you might want to wait to move in, that is your choice. Do you have any other talents we should know about?”

Maria’s face turns red from that question and she says, "None that I want to take with me to this new job." Ruby smiles at her. "I only wanted to know if you could waitress or sing, or anything like that. Don't be ashamed of what you can do, it got you by right? And now you have something new to do and you can forget about that."

She replies, “I can't sing. I have no musical talents. My brother has tried to teach me but to no avail. But I can do waitress work, and tend bar, Dorita and Pedro have had me do that here on many occasions. I've also had experience before at midwifery, but haven't had much call for that around here." Ruby eyes get a bit wider. "Well, let's hope you have no use for it at our Saloon either."

She shakes off the thought and continues, "We might need you to waitress occasionally too, but mostly you will be in the kitchen and cleaning, morning or afternoon is up to you. So, how does $10 a week plus room and board sound to start?" Maria replies "That sounds good, but I'll have to check with Dorita to make sure that she agrees. She's not letting me leave here unless she approves of where I'm going to."

"Of course we didn't expect any less from Dorita." They watch Maria walk away and Ruby leans close to Jake. "Why would she need to check with Dorita when Dorita is the one who set this up?" Jake replies, "I don't know, maybe Dorita is the wise woman of all these Mexicans here." Jake leans in and whispers, "Or maybe Dorita and Pedro are running a slave labor operation and farming out all these people in town and amassing huge fortunes." Jake sits back and starts laughing. "or maybe not."

Ruby rolls her eyes and smacks Jake in the arm. "I was being serious and you're making fun of me! I'm trying very hard to do this you know." Ruby sits back in her chair with a pout on her face and her arms crossed over her chest, looking away from Jake. Maria returns and says "Dorita says that $ 10 a week plus room and board is a very fair price for a five-day work week. She says if you want a longer workweek it should be $ 2 a day more. And she wants me to keep my room here until the new floor is finished. She says that I can let Mr. Martin walk me back here at night with Kate."

Ruby turns and faces Maria again, ignoring Jake's smirk. "How about you start working 5 days, Tuesday to Saturday. So you have off Sunday and Monday. But Saturday is a late night, we need some food available later than the normal dinner and we would need some food cooked and available for Sunday and Monday. And if we are both happy with each other than maybe later down the road we can work out another arrangement. Is that agreeable to you?” Maria agrees to the terms and says that Ruby will not regret hiring her. She thanks both her and Jake and then hurries off back to her room.

After Maria scurries away Ruby crosses her arms again, still mad. Jake pulls her chair closer to his, “I was only teasing…” Ruby turns away from him. “Come on girl, I’m sorry…” Ruby turns even further away, putting her back to him. He pulls her hair over her shoulder and kisses her neck. “You did good, Ruby, don’t be mad at me,” and he continues to kiss her neck. She tries to pull away a little but Jake won’t let her and she gives in to his kisses. “Alright, alright, you know I can’t resist…” she says softly.

She turns and gives him a kiss. “Let’s eat so we can get back, ok?” She starts to eat her dinner. “But I did do good, didn’t I?” She smiles and keeps eating. "You did good, real good. I don't know what people really get paid for work around here, having never done too much." He puts on a grin. "We should probably find that out. Either way, you got us a cook and cleaner and I for one am mightily happy not to worry about that."

When they are done they head back to the Lone Star. Ruby makes a special effort that night to learn people’s names. She shares many drinks, flirting her way around the room. It’s almost time to start playing cards so Ruby approaches one of the tables waiting for a dealer. “So, who wants to play me while we wait for the dealer? No money, just a game to warm up. Actually, if I get beaten that person gets to choose any song they want me to sing, just for them. How does that sound?” Ruby has no problem finding a table full of players, mostly Tony Lucky's regulars. They are on the third hand when Tony arrives, looking a tad annoyed at Ruby.

“Oh, Tony is here. Let’s see, who won...” Ruby looks around the table at the men. Someone she had never seen before had won two out of the three hands. “Looks like you’re our winner for tonight.” There were a few groans around the table and Ruby laughs, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll do it again tomorrow night and you’ll just have to come back and try again.”

Ruby gets up from the table and stands in front of the new guy. “And you are…?” He stands also and pushes back his hat. He is tall, has dark hair and light blue eyes. He is dressed neatly and is wearing well-made clothes so Ruby guesses he has some kind of money. He reaches out his hand and with a strong grip says “Colin Turner.” Ruby takes his hand, “Pleasure to meet you Mr. Turner. Ruby West” “The pleasure is all mine, Miss West,” he responds looking her right in the eyes, not letting go of her hand. Ruby takes her hand back slowly. He is handsome, Ruby thinks, maybe when Kate is ready…

She asks, “Mr. Turner, I haven’t seen you around before. First time in the Lone Star?” “My first time in Promise City, I’m here on business.” “And what kind of business would that be?” Ruby asks curiously. “I won’t bore you with the details,” Turner responds. Ruby smiles at him. “Ok, keep your secrets then. So, have you decided on a song?” He takes a little step forward, “Surprise me.” Ruby keeps her smile on. “I will.” She pauses then starts to walk away but then turns her head over her shoulder, flipping her hair, “Good luck tonight.”

She walks over to the bar and gets herself a drink. Mr. Turner sits back down at the card table. Ruby looks around the room for Jake but doesn't see him. She glances back to Turner. There was something about him...

Jake comes in from outside where he had been standing in front welcoming those who were coming in and reminding those that weren't Ruby West was singing tonight. He scans the room making sure customers were happy and looking for things that didn't look right. He sees Ruby, and thinks 'She looks right'. He walks over. "Hey there partner." He puts his hands in his pockets and leans up against the wall near her. "How's our saloon doing tonight." He raises both eyebrows and punctuates it with a smile. "How do you like the sound of that?"

I like it, Mr. Cook," she says with a smile then adds quickly, "No, I LOVE it! It still seems unreal though." She leans over the bar, stretching, and pours Jake a whiskey. She slides it down the bar to him. "And we never properly celebrated. Care to make a toast before I sing?"

Jake raises his glass to Ruby. "May the Lone Star blossom and fulfill it's part of our dreams." She touches her glass to his and they drink. "My, you are eloquent tonight Mr. Cook." She steps forward and gives him a full on the lips kiss. "That was a nice toast." Stepping back she has another drink of whiskey and says "I've got to go to work" and bounds off to the stage.

Jake sees that no one is on the piano, "Crap, did we have a plan for a piano player tonight without Katherine?" Ruby is already too far away to hear him so he goes over, puts his drink on the piano and sits down. "I hope I know some of what she is going to sing." He knows the first song, struggles with the second, and is able to keep up on the third. Mostly he plays lightly and hopes the crowd is listening to her and not him. Ruby seems not to mind the marginal piano playing and seems to be enjoying herself and carrying the crowd.

"This one is for Mr. Turner." Ruby says and begins singing "Evening By the Moonlight". Jake doesn't know that one and gives up, hoping Ruby can handle that one a cappella. She manages flawlessly and pretends that it was planned that way. She bows to some light applause from the early crowd and a smile from Mr. Turner.

She walks over to Jake at the bar with a spring in her step and a sparkle in her eye. "You didn't seem to get any tips for playing, want to share mine?" "Heh. No thanks, if anyone had tipped me I would have been too embarrassed. You know how I hate charity." Jake sips his whiskey while Ruby laughs.

Ruby looks around and leans in to Jake and whispers, "I need a quick moment of privacy to do something special for practice." Jake nods and looks in the kitchen to make sure it's empty. Seeing that it is, he hangs around in front while she goes in. Inside, she takes a few deep breaths and sings the little ditty that is the key to the mind reading spell.

He stops Jeff Mills from going in a moment later, "She's fixing her dress and be out in a moment." Just a half-minute later out comes Ruby with a fixed smile but looking like she's preoccupied. Jake tries to keep that thought in his head. She turns to him and says, "I do? Oh." As she turns to walk through the crowd she stops abruptly, and turns back towards Jake with a giggle and mouths 'Stop that, don't distract me'.

After that Jake notices she is more conscious of her expression and seems to be able to slowly walk about the room without giving away she is concentrating on something else. A few minutes goes by and she wanders back over to Jake at the bar. She grabs the rest of her drink and tosses it down. "So.....?" Jake says to her quietly.

Sonoma comes into the El Parador late from the ranch where she has been working on the adobe house and laying plans for the barn . Dorita catches her as she is heading for her room "Kate no go to work tonight you go make some money for your ranch Maria going to be cooking there soon you be too busy now take this and go" with that Dorita shoves a flat bread in Sonoma’s hand and pushes her out the door

Sonoma heads to the Loan Star where Ruby is singing her heart out to a very soft version of what might be music that Jake is trying to play. She heads to the kitchen and waits until the set is finished throwing together some really quick meals shortly after she hits the floor to waitress Ruby heads into the kitchen and then comes out Sonoma waits until Ruby is near her to let her know that she is here and will play, wait or cook as needed

Ruby moves very close to Jake and talks to him softly “Well, a few men in here had the same idea you did, Mr. Cook, you naughty boys…” Ruby laughs, shaking her head. “Although I’m not going to tell you who, we don’t want to find out what we discussed earlier, do we?” Ruby runs her fingers over Jake’s cheek. ‘Well, I don’t anyway. Let’s see, what else? Um, that guy over there,” Ruby nods her head slightly in the direction of the corner, “Is thinking of stealing some tools from another camp cause he lost his. And, of course, lots of people want to beat us at poker. I’m going to have to keep practicing; I think this could be very useful for us, although I’ll have to learn how to, um, do it when we need it.”

Ruby looks up to see Sonoma come out of the kitchen. “Sonoma!” She walks over to the elf and gives her a hug. “I’m glad to see you. You are a big help to us here. I hope the ranch is doing well?” Ruby pauses and looks at Jake, sitting at the bar. He had that easy relaxed look on his face and was enjoying his whiskey. He just looked too comfortable. “Can you play for a while? I think Mr. Cook needs a break.” Sonoma replies, “Of course, that is what I am here for!” and heads to the piano. Ruby heads back to the stage and makes sure to start with one of Jake’s favorite songs. Every once in a while Sonoma would break into song, accompanying Ruby and the result made just about everyone take notice.

At a break in her playing Jake speaks to Sonoma "Hola amigo, como esta usted, Senorita Sonoma? Como le va a la granja?" ** Jakes broken Spanish for "Howdy pardner, how are you Miss Sonoma. How goes it at the ranch?" She just shakes her head and smiles. "Es mala mi pronunciation?" he asks. "Yes, your pronunciation is bad." She replies and tells him how to say it properly before she tells him her about her progress at the ranch.

Jake says "I appreciate you helping us out, keeping you from the ranch and all. Between that and working at the El Parador you must be very busy. I hope the ranch is operational soon that must be exciting for you." She tells him of her future plans before she goes back to playing. Jake covers security and lets Jeff Mills do the other work.

Jake goes up to the room before Ruby and finds a letter on the nightstand near the bed. It is labeled Mr. Cook. When he opens it he is surprised by the very neat and flowery handwriting and the thought occurs to him that it does not at all resemble Ruby’s normal scrawl. The letter reads:

Dear Jake,

If you are reading this by now you might realize that I am not here. Now don’t panic, I haven’t run away, I have simply gone on an extended adventure. You remember Reilly and his dreams? {the letter goes on to describe part of the story of the spirits that Jake as already heard from Ruby}

I am worried because this is not something I would get myself involved in and I feel lost, especially because you are not here. Of course, if you were here, you would talk us out of this craziness.

These days have been difficult. The past three nights I have had to do business things with the Lone Star. I don’t know what I am doing. I need you. Job doesn’t care he just cares about his poker game. Hoover is nice but also doesn’t have much experience with real saloons and keeps asking ME questions! We never figured out how to divide profits or employees or any of that so I've just been keeping it. Everyone wants to get paid! And I had to tell Jeff what to do with the 3rd floor. So I am trying to figure out how to save the world and run a saloon. I think I am in over my head now and I am getting nervous, not something I like doing (the work or the nervous).

The worst part is that I really do miss you. I have been alone for 2 ½ years and have been fine with it, mostly. I am good at being alone and taking care of myself. Then you come along and I only have had your companionship for 2 ½ weeks, yet it seems like so much longer to me. Our bed is cold and I am lonely. I want to feel your kiss on my lips, you wanting more and wanting me to give it to you, to feel your hands held tight on my hips guiding me, feel you warm next to me, your arms wrapped around me to keep me safe. I wear your shirt to bed because it smells like you and I can pretend for a moment you are here, wishing when I open my eyes you would be here watching me. I wonder if you are lonely and missing me too right now.

I guess you might just be with Red and not lonely, probably happy to have found him. But I can still hope the thought of me crossed your mind…and that your friend Red has not convinced you to some scheme that involves not returning to Promise City. You have been gone for 3 days and I am getting worried. I thought you would be back by now. I hope you haven’t found much trouble.

I feel like there is a possibility that I might not make it back and there are things I should say to you but instead I will trust that you already know.

Love Always,
Ruby {kissy lipstick mark}

PS I bought some guns like you had talked about. I took them and the supplies we bought together with me. I left you your backpack though. I also left you the shotgun you wanted sawed off (I think they did a good job), in case you need it (and I hope you don’t).

PPS I am keeping that kiss ready for when I see you…

Before he finishes reading Ruby comes bouncing in the room. "I had a lot of fun tonight, I think I sang really well. You know..." and stops abruptly when she sees Jake reading the letter.

He doesn't turn, his back is mostly towards her, and finishes reading. He folds the letter and places it on the nightstand. "Yes, you did sing really well. Having your own saloon seems to suit you." He takes off his gun belt and hangs it on the bedpost. He notices that she is biting her lip, "Obviously I did come back, and you did have that kiss ready, and you did manage to run the saloon and save the world. I am very impressed." Jake smiles gently and takes his lucky hat and throws it to her. "I guess I am a bit late, but getting that letter was a nice treat. I hope you still mean it. Somehow it does seem like we've known each other for more than 3 weeks doesn't it?" Jake reaches into his pocket and takes out something in a soft cloth. "Mother used to read fairy tales to me when I was very young, of course father didn't approve. I always wondered what you had to do to get your own princess." He starts to unfold the cloth. "I wasn't able to get a good price for all the jewelry, and I was thinking I'd keep this piece as my share and give the cash to the rest of you. It makes sense, since I am the only one with my own princess to put it on." as he finishes he removes the diamond studded gold tiara from the cloth.

“Yes I still mean it, all of it.” Ruby says softly. She starts to say something then stops. She looks down at Jake’s hat, twisting the edges in her hands. “I never believed in fairy tales before, or dreaming for the future, or wishing for foolish things, even just thinking things would be different this time. I hoped but I never thought they really would be. Things like that don’t happen to people like us, like me.” She pauses again before looking up at Jake. “But things have been different, and I know it’s because of you. So I guess you could say I have something to believe in now.” Ruby places Jake's hat on the bed, walks right up to Jake and stops in front of him. “So I’ll be your princess and you can be my knight in shining armor,” Ruby laughs. “I bet you never thought you’d hear those words, now did you?” She smiles at Jake before leaning in and giving him a slow sweet kiss.

"You know, this is turning out to be a promising year." Jake says caressing Ruby’s face. Ruby keeps smiling, puts the tiara on her head, takes Jake’s hand and leads him to bed.

[DM's Note: The new character introduced in this chaper, Colin Turner, is featured very prominently in our campaign's third module (our first run by a different DM). The Story Hour for that can be found at the following link:

Silver Moon

Chapter 172, “Good Day for a Hanging”, Monday, January 23rd, 1882, 9:30 P.M.

Kate only slept for an hour and a half. It was already late, and if she slept longer she wouldn't sleep tonight. Ginnie was settled on her cot with a book. She sat up comfortably on the bed. "I'm sorry to have left you to entertain yourself, but I do feel better now. Well, what do you think of the El Parador?"

She replies, “It is a very strange place with all the wood elves and such. The food is really good and the woman who runs the place seems nice but I don't think I would want to make her mad she reminds me a lot of my mama.”

Kate replies, "No one wants to make Dorita mad, dear. The elves who live here are in some ways just like everyone else, they want to live in peace. They don't give trouble, and try to avoid it coming to them. I like it here. Dorita and Pedro make their tenants their family. You'll learn that soon enough.”

The girl pauses and looks direction at Kate then says, “Ma'am, I've about half way thorough the book you gave me to read, "The Fifth Reader". I really like the pieces by Hans Christian Anderson and the fact that one of the writers was a woman Louisa May Alcott, I'm not too sure about this Mr. Cooper piece though I may need to read it again before I decide.”

Kate exclaims, “You're halfway through that book already? Tomorrow we'll have to sit down and find out how advanced you are in your reading and other skills. There's no use in us going over things you've already mastered. Now, what bothers you about the Cooper piece?" Kate encouraged Ginnie to put into words what she didn't like about the piece and discussed it with her. Then she asked her to tell about the other things she read, nothing how well she remembered and what comments she made, trying to gauge just how quickly this young student would outstrip her.

"You really want to know what I think? For real?" when Kate nods her head Ginnie starts to talk quickly, her hands waving as she speaks. "Well I found his use of a pocket handkerchief as the main narrator in the story unusual, however the form worked quite well for the story itself. The use of an inanimate object as the focus mainly allows for the author to provide the reader with the mindset and an observation involved and at the same time separate from the other characters in the story. His portrayal of most of the woman in the story however is focused on character weakness and limits their strengths providing them with a shallowness that doesn't allow for complete depth of individuality or complexity of development."

When she stops she looks at Kate and says "so what did you think of the story" and tilts her head to listen. Kate answers, "The portrayal of women is shallow. Considering the handkerchief was almost always in the possession of women, one would think it would have a greater insight into their strengths as well as their weaknesses. However, it is sad but true that many 'well bred' young ladies do not display a great deal of depth. I grew up in that world and I have seen it. Most girls are taught from early age to think less, not more. I was fortunate to not be one of them.

The use of the pocket-handkerchief also allows the reader to go into places in the story that choosing a character as a narrator would not allow. Had we followed say, Adrienne the whole story, we would have followed her travels across the Atlantic, her acquisition of employment, and so on, thereby robbing the story of much of the emotion of it's climax."

Ginnie states, “Another thing that bothered me about his story is the fact that he depended so much on detail and yet got so many things wrong when describing things. You harvest the best flax before it blooms otherwise the flowering itself weakens the stalk not allowing the threads to be as long. Retting in running water makes it so that the area doesn't smell as bad but it takes much longer to remove the unwanted material and the threads weaken because of the time spent in the moving water causing the strands to become brittle and tangle. And without breaking it on the hackle you can't get a fine enough thread for the type of linen he writes about.

If your going to base your story's main character on an item and make a large part of it the construction depend on the details then you really do need to make sure that they are right. Mama would never have allowed any of us to use flax prepared in that manor for our lace there would be to many joins and the outer casing would have created a very rough material. I did like the idea that the pocket handkerchief increases so greatly in value as its workmanship is recognized but it isn't very realistic.”

Kate answers, "Yes, when an author doesn't do their research it undercuts his credibility for the entire piece if the reader happens to be knowledgeable about the subject. The most important thing about education is not memorization, it's learning to think. It's discovering how to take in the information the world gives you, process it and see how it interacts with everything else you know, and applying it so you understand how the world around you works. In things like math and science there is a great deal of memorization and detail work, but it boils down to the same thing. You're going to do very well." They then both go to sleep.

Jake and Ruby are awakened on Tuesday morning by the sound of construction noises. Jake checks his recently won silver plated pocket watch and sees that it is only 7:00 AM. Jeff Mills won't be starting on the 3rd floor for another hour or two. He then notices that the sounds are coming from outside, a few blocks further west down Main Street. Ruby rolls over and smushes her face into Jake's chest. Moaning she whines, "What iiissss that??"

Jake rolls over too quickly and fall out of bed with a loud thump, followed by soft cussing. He pulls on his pants and stumbles to the window to look out. Jake sees a crowd of around a dozen people gathered around near the Wells Fargo corral two blocks west. He can't see what it is that they are working on.

Jake opens the window and sticks his head out for a better view, but gets nothing but cold air for his trouble. He pulls his head back in bumping it on the way and falls on the floor cussing again. "Mornings be damned!" He drags himself up and closes the window. "I can't see. What's next to the Wells Fargo corral?" Ruby rolls over onto her belly and hangs her arm off the bed. "The harness shop and the lot for the future schoolhouse. Across from that hardware shop and funeral parlor, I think. Come back to bed, it's too early."

"Hermes! I hope it's not the funeral parlor that needs enlarging." Jake states as he stumbles back to bed. Ruby giggles as Jake gets back in bed. She puts her hands on his face, "You are so clever Mr. Cook," and she kisses him. Jake and Ruby spend the next hour in bed but cannot get to sleep with the constant hammering. Just as they finally give in, and get up and dressed it ends. "Figures." Jake mutters. "Well I'm going to see anyway. You coming?" She answers, "Course. Then we eat."

They make their way downstairs and outside. They walk casually down that way. They get to the Wells Fargo corral and see that over on the municipal lot where the schoolhouse will someday be built a newly constructed gallows now stands. The workmen who just put it up are sitting on the edge of it sharing a pitcher of lemonade. Half a dozen people are standing around and two are seated in chairs facing the structure. Another man is checking ropes.

Ruby comments, "It must be time for Mrs. Yeats and Pinto Joe to pay for trying to kill you. But it may be wise to not stay around here and see if Deadeye or Shotgun Sally shows up." He replies, "You really think they got the rope sentence 'cause Silver Jake Cook got shot? More like they just picked the wrong judge for a bank robbery. I don't think Isby would have cared a wit if I got shot." Jake turns walks to one of the folks sitting in the chairs. "Is this bit of work for Mrs. Yeats and the Weems guy?"

The older man in one of the chairs says "A'yup. An Arizona Ranger rode into town last night with the news that the Governor rejected their appeal. Marshall Earp and Deputy Sheriff Hunter both want to get this over with as soon as possible. At high noon they both of them robbers drop."

Ruby shivers and rubs her neck. "I guess it serves them right, for getting caught. And no, I didn't think they were getting hanged for shooting you but they deserve it anyway. Do you want to be here?" No." Jake says loud enough for the others to hear. "They can do justice without me. I don't need the entertainment." Ruby could tell he was lying.

As they walk back. "Look around. If you were going to rescue them how would you do it? Would you wait for them to be on the platform with all the folks around? Or would you grab them as they walk out of jail. Or break in maybe ten minutes before the extra security gets there?" He stops and grabs her arm. "The question is are we safer if we stay out of it, or keep them from getting away. Could be nothing more happens today than a couple of outlaws get their necks stretched. I just don't know. Let's eat and think."

Ruby looks at Jake very seriously. "Do you think they have any reason to come after you? I refuse to let you get hurt today." "Today?" Jake says equally seriously. "No, they have no reason to come after me. If Pinto Joe gets away, well, I shot him and got him in this spot. And if he hangs, then Sally probably is not going to send me a birthday card." He starts walking again and taking Ruby with him. "Best thing that could happen is we stay inside and drink, Sally tries to rescue him, Wyatt shoots her, and Weems still drops." Jake laughs. "I wouldn't bet on that though. Let's eat at the Cantina. Maybe we'll see Katherine."

"Alright Jake." Ruby takes his hand tightly in hers and has a worried look on her face. They get to the Cantina and get a table. "You know, we might give everyone heart attacks by being up so early."

"Have you planned a grand opening, or re-opening, or under new management kind of thing for our saloon?" Jake asks while waiting for some food. Ruby is distracted from her worry by Jake comment and she laughs. "I guess I am the social director, right? I haven't yet but we should wait until the construction is done, obviously. Oh, a big party..." Ruby starts drifting off into her thoughts.

They get some food from Dorita and Ruby eats with enthusiasm. "What do you think?" Jake says. "Should we stay far away? Or should we get armed and watch from a distance, just in case we want to help out?" The look of worry immediately comes back on Ruby's face and she stops eating. "Well, they haven't asked us to help out. What happens if we do? Do we get in trouble for doing that?"

Ruby sighs. "I guess we'd better take care of this problem now instead of worrying about it for the future." "Um, well, maybe we do get in trouble for shooting them. I don't know what to do." Jake scratches his chin. Then he stops, gets a far away look and starts to smile. "I know that look. What is it?" Ruby says and takes a deep breath.

"Why don't we arm up and go see Warren. I can ask him about the serial numbers and you can hear what he thinks about it." Jake winks. "Then we can get a look at what the defenses are. Maybe we'll feel better if there are a lot of guns on the lawmen's side." "Ok, let's go do that," Ruby says hesitantly. She pushes her plate away and waits for Jake to finish. They go back to their room at the El Parador and pick up some weapons.

They head over to the Marshall's Office and Warren Earp is indeed the one on duty at the moment. But what surprises Ruby and Jake are the empty jail cells. Jake says, “Hi Warren. I'm a novice at this, but don't you need prisoners to have a hanging?"

The Deputy Marshall replies, "Hello Mr. Cook. Wyatt and I moved them over to the jail at the Deputy Sheriff's Office at dawn. That way when the time comes they only have to walk a block to the gallows rather than three blocks. We don't want to take any chances since Joe's girl Sally told him she'd be coming back for him."

Ruby nods. "That's a good idea. So you are expecting trouble then? I'm sure you have security well under control?" Warren says, "Hunter should. It's his responsibility. We work for the town not the County or Territory. We'll show up to watch the hanging and make sure that there's no trouble in town but it's his show now."

"Ruby, could you excuse us for a quick moment?" Jake smiles and motions out the door. He waits until she is outside and gives her a moment or two before he resumes speaking to Warren Earp. As soon as Jake asks Ruby to leave she nods and does. She makes her way to the ally and when she is sure no one is looking she casts her spell. She then waits out on the porch, trying to "listen" to what Warren is thinking inside. But the spell doesn't seem to work on him.

“So," Jake says quietly and speaking slowly, "were you able to find out anything about those serial numbers I gave you? I'd surely like to know who wanted to stop a bunch of miners and isn't worried about shooting a lawman."

He says, "Yeah, we asked in Tombstone about that. Seems a guy came in with $ 700 in assayed silver and wanted to turn it into cash. Was paid in the twenties. Turns out it was Lane Gifford, a prospector and part-time ranch who lived here in Promise City. Nobody's seen him around in over a week in either town.” Jake asks, “Did he have a working claim to have that silver?"

Earp replies, "Not that anybody knows of. But he pretty much kept to himself and was gone from town for long stretches, so he might have. Seems to be gone for good now. Packed up his tent and belongings." "Mighty strange, suspicious even. Did he have any friends in town, or business associates?" Jake is picking up the pace of the discussion. Earp replies, "Yeah, has one buddy he hung around with a lot. And that man has a noontime appointment with a rope."

Jake comments, "I guess that part makes sense. Supposedly Pinto was handing out those bills. Now what, any ideas?" Warren answers, "Not that I can think of. Wyatt and I tried to get him to talk last night after word came in about the appeals being turned down. He wouldn't budge. Still thinks he's going to be rescued by Deadeye and Sally."

Jake shakes his head. "Too bad. I guess I'll just stay out of the way then. If something does go bad today I wouldn't want to be caught in the crossfire. And I wouldn't want to be next on the platform cause I was helping out without a badge." Jake shakes his hand. "Good to see you again. Good luck today, gods be watching you." Jake turns to leave.

Jake goes out to the porch. "Sorry to keep you waiting Miss West." Takes her arm and escorts her back to the Lone Star. "I hope I asked good questions, trying to get him to think about different things. How'd you do?" She says, "Oh it didn't work for some reason. It's pretty new, and I still need to practice." They return to the Lone Star.

Meanwhile, approximately eighty miles to the southwest the Fort Huachuca commander has just ordered his men to ride out with Nanuet, Chester and their friends. Mitzer and Comstock exchange glances but realize that this is the best they can expect from this man so simply thank him. They leave along with their men, Chester and Nanuet to get their horses ready to ride. Comstock whispers to Nanuet "You'd better keep your wolf away on this trip back, those Ogrish troops will smell it at 100 yards and won't hesitate to kill it."

Chester says to Nanuet, "That's almost 200 troopers. This isn't good. Putting Gamble in charge only makes it worse. I hope the Apache don't overreact." Elisha Whittemore overhears Chester's comment to Nanuet and whispers "Keep it down. It's his fort, his rules. From what I heard there are at least fifty Apache in full war paint stalking the road between Tombstone and Promise City. If I were in this Captain's shoes I'd probably do the same thing. At least he's willing to consider an alternative to war. We need to keep them focused on that."

Chester whispers back, "I know, I know. I do remember that much. Just frustrated, that's all." Nanuet, Chester and the others get ready to go. Chester estimates that half the fortress is going with them. The group getting ready to depart is a little smaller than his estimate of 200, with 110 humans and 65 of ogrish blood. Only two are Sergeants, one of each race, with the only officer going along being Lieutenant Gamble.

The horses and ogremounts are all ready to go, with a rifle in each horse's saddlebag and a revolver in each saddle holster. Chester surveys the gathered host. He thinks to himself, “Well, the Indians won't have any problems finding us. I hope both sides talk first. Otherwise this whole area will be a lot more exciting.”

Silver Moon

Chapter 173, “Crowd Control”, Tuesday, January 24th, 1882, High Noon:

The morning in town was uneventful until it got close to the noontime hanging. Then the excitement picked up. Jake and Ruby continued to stay out of the way. Back at the El Parador, Kate slept rather late that morning. She and Ginnie went downstairs for a late breakfast and then Kate gave her a sizable stack of paper, asked her to read a fairly lengthy story, and then to write down her thoughts on it.

She then took the opportunity to go to Mary Kelly's and pick up the dress Ruby had given her more than a week ago. When she returned Ginnie was still busily reading, so Kate fetched a book and sat down in the Cantina to read. She wanted to go check for Mr. Gonzales, but surely he would come down when he got back. She made sure to check on Ginnie periodically but spent most of her day with her own reading.

Katherine looked up to see Conrad Booth standing next to her. "Sorry to disturb you," he said easily. "I thought we might walk over together?" "Over where?" Kate closed her book, marking her place with her finger. He says, "Over to the Wells Fargo corral. They've got the gibbet set up next door where the school house will be."

She says, "Certainly not. I have no intention of going to watch people die. And they put it up where the schoolhouse is going? So later children will have to go to school where someone died?" Kate shivered. "Indecent." "Of course. I just assumed you might be interested, seeing as you were in the bank when they robbed it," Booth said. "May I sit down?"

"I thought you were going to the hanging," Kate said flipping her book back open. He answers, "Like I said, I thought you might be interested." Dorita brought a lunch plate over to Kate after a few moments, and Kate decided it was easier to just eat some than argue with Dorita about it. The two began to dine while engaging in idle conversation.

Shortly before noon a crowd begins to enter the Lone Star for drinks, most of them complaining about something. Niles Hoover and Job Kane were down the street to watch the hanging and are at the very front of the group. Job tells Jake and Ruby "There wasn't any hanging. When the Arizona Ranger headed over to the Deputy Sheriff's Office all he found in was an empty building. Sheriff Hunter is gone, as are Weems and Yeats."

Niles says "The crowds were getting restless so I yelled out that drinks here were half price for the next half hour. That got a lot of them heading this way. Both of you will need to help out. Ruby, I know you don't usually sing until evening but you may want to start up to help keep these guys here after my half-price sale ends."

Job says to Harry Rote "Harry, run over to the El Parador and get Kate and Sonoma back here, we're going to need them." He walks over to Jake and Ruby and says, "Sorry for no advanced notice, but we had to improvise. This seemed like the best way to get a lunch crowd here again."

"What a good idea Mr. Hoover," Ruby says giving him a smile. "There are a few things, business decisions, we still need to make around here too. Now that Jake is back maybe after lunch we can discuss them?" She doesn't wait for his answer before continuing, "Good. We hired a new girl, Maria Fuentes, to run our kitchen and keep this place clean. I think she could keep Harry busy too, that is when you aren't. She will be moving in here once the Third floor is finished. Dorita trained her so I am sure she will work out just fine."

"Luckily I am in a very good mood so I won't mind singing for the lunch crowd." Ruby glances at Jake and winks at him, then makes her way to the stage, where she sits swinging her legs until there are enough people around to start singing.

Jake smiles his friendly smile and says, "Sure I'll help, that was fast thinking." Ruby, still swinging her legs like a schoolgirl, laughs at his sincerity. Jake takes orders, payment and fills them. Talking more to himself than to his partners "Old Red used to say to me 'It would be a pitiful thing if ye had ta work fer a living. Jacob me boy, use ye wits; the good Lord didn't give ye brains." After filling a few he says to Hoover, "What are folks saying happened? Where did they go?" Hoover replies, “Nobody knows.”

Conrad Booth was telling her about his games last Sunday and Kate was listening with only half an ear with Mr. Rote came in. "Mrs. Kale," he said approaching the table. "They sent me to bring you to the Lone Star. There was no hanging and Kane and Mr. Hoover told the crowd drinks were half-price. It's packed and we could really use the help. I'm supposed to bring Sonoma too."
Kate sighed. "I can come in a few minutes. I haven't seen Sonoma this morning; she might be out at the ranch. You can check with her mother in the kitchen. Excuse me, Mr. Booth."

She went up to her room and checked on Ginnie, giving her some more assignments. "Or if you want to get out of this room for a bit, you could come downstairs in a while and ask Dorita if there is anything you can help her with. Hopefully I won't be gone too long."

Ginnie shut the books handed Kate about twenty pages of written thoughts and headed down the stairs to the kitchen, watching where Kate went. "If things get boring around here" Ginnie thought "maybe I'll check out this town a little myself I'm getting kind of tired of playing with books all day.

Mr. Booth fell in step with Kate as she was leaving. "Half price drinks sound good to me," he shrugged, offering his arm. Kate took it and they quickly walked the short blocks to the Lone Star. The place is mobbed.

There is much speculation as to where the prisoners have gone to but nothing definite. A few people think that Deputy Sheriff Hunter was in on it but most feel that he is or was an honest man. Speculation varies as to whether he will be found dead or alive.

Kate began to wish she still had Maggie's bustle before long. This wasn't the usual crowd, and they were particularly excited. She alternated between playing for Ruby and serving, glad at least to see that Jake and Ruby's investment was doing well so far. Once it began to slow down, she stayed exclusively at the piano where at least her backside was safe.

Ruby manages to help keep the crowd and it doesn't begin to thin out until around 2:30. Job Kane picks a select group of people out from the crowd and then invites them to an invitation only poker game.

After singing a long set Ruby walks over to the bar to get a drink or three. She notices Job inviting players to a special poker game and thinks to herself that their idea of making private rooms upstairs is a good one. She catches Jake's eye and nods towards Niles, it was time to do some business. Jake meets up with Ruby as she gets to Niles away from the others in the room. "You handled that well Mr. Hoover." "Thanks" he replies. "I've never been one to pass up a good opportunity!"

Jake talks with them about the finances and partner sharing for the saloon. "So I am in agreement with what you and Ruby discussed earlier" The three of them agree that all the gamblers will continue to put in twenty-percent of their winnings, that some money from profits will be kept aside to cover day to day operations and unusual expenses, and partners will be allowed free room and board in addition to a percentage of profits based on their percentage of ownership.

"Now we just have to talk to Mr. Kane." Ruby says. "Later," Jake replies, "First I have to run to the bank. Then when I get back, let's get a nap, we didn't get enough sleep with that racket this morning and all this doing work stuff makes me tired." Jake confirms the money was transferred from Tucson, moved $200 to an account for Ruby, $400 each for Nanuet & Katherine. He gives Ruby $200 in cash.

Word gets around town that Deputy Sheriff Colin Hunter has been found. He was tied, gagged and bound with Bif Johnson and Alfredo Garcia inside Johnson's Barber Shop and Baths, the building next door to the Deputy Sheriff's Office. According to Hunter, a section of the wall between the two buildings magically vanished and Deadeye Douglas was standing in the Barber Shop with Hunter in his gun-sight.

He had come into that shop by the back door along with Shotgun Sally Fox and the Koonz brothers. They tied up Bif and his worker Alfredo and then used some type of magical device on the brick wall. After Hunter surrendered they tied him up, let out the two prisoners, and all left via the same back door. Interestingly enough, the part of the wall that vanished reappeared after ten minutes and appears to be the same as it has always been. By 3:45 PM everyone has left except for Job's poker players so the others decided to take a few hours break before the evening crowd arrives.

Meanwhile, the soldiers from Fort Huachuca ride quickly throughout the day making very good time. They stop for a quick bite of supper in Tombstone, filling every restaurant in town given the large number of soldier. Once the mounts are fed and rested they move on. By sunset they are into the lower Dragoon Mountains. The band rides into the mountains, not making any attempt to conceal its presence. An Apache patrol spots the group. One member rides away, while the rest approach slowly.

Nanuet move up to the front of the line and urges Lieutenant Gamble to let him talk to the Apache. Gamble says, "In English and with me, I don't want you signaling your redskin friends to massacre my men." Nanuet grits his teeth and moves forward alongside the Lieutenant.

Nanuet says, "Some of you know me, I am Kajika's friend. Go back and tell Geronimo that the white men will meet with him this evening under a flag of peace." The Apache move back, talk among themselves, and then ride back into the Dragoon Mountains. Gamble yells to the men "Okay boys, we ride on to Promise City."

As the group start to ride off Chester rides over to the human sergeants and says, "Why are we going there? Shouldn't we be looking for the bandits?" The man replies, "Son, we're going up into them Apache Mountains tonight and either make peace with those redskins or kill'em. The bandits can wait 'til after."

Chester asks, “Then why are heading into Promise City? I don't think any of the saloons can handle this many people." The sergeant says, "That's the closet town to them Apache Mountains. Look kid, if you don't have the stomach to help us kill those savages why don't you just stay in town." Chester answers, "What do you mean by that, Sarge? Gamble's not planning on double-crossing the Apaches, is he? That would be a bad idea."

The sergeant replies, “"Nah, the Captain's given the Lieutenant strict orders. First we try for the peace treaty. If they refuse we march them off to the reservation in San Carlos. And if they resist then we kill'em all. Nice and simple. Don't worry though, Lieutenant Gamble is good at convincing folks."

Chester says, "OK. Thanks. How do you like serving under the lieutenant?" "Great guy," the Sergeant replies. He then gestures to the ogre soldiers and says "Keeps them in their place, just as it should be."

Nanuet had been avoiding trying to listen in on Chester's conversation because he knows that he will only become enraged and may not be able to hold his temper again. When the group heads back towards Promise City he rides near Chester and asks, "Well friend, how do you think things look so far?"

He replies, "Not good, I'm afraid. This many troops will make the Apaches nervous. I just hope no one gets trigger-happy. That sergeant I spoke to told me that Gamble will try for a peace treaty first. But if there isn't one, he'll will try to force them onto a reservation or kill them."

Nanuet replies, "How kind of them, they will bring an intimidating military force into the mountains to talk 'peace' then kill them if they don't agree to be herded off like cattle to some barren wasteland. Why do white people think they own land and can do what they want with it and only they can determine who gets to live there. Then they rape the land and take all of it resources leaving it dead. My people may not be long for this world, but your people will be the end of it."

Nanuet begins to storm off, but then hesitates "I am sorry Mr. Chester, I know not all white men think the same as these soldiers, but this is a personal situation for me. I hope you can understand." Nanuet watches the men approach the town of Promise City.

Chester says, "Don't be sorry, Nanuet. I used to think that way, too. Now? Now, I'm starting to see what you mean. Just be back here by 10. We don't want to give Gamble and Whitside any excuses to follow through on their threat. Oh, and just call me Chester or Chet, if you like. No need for the 'Mister.'

In Promise City, things had started up again for the evening at the Lone Star at around 7:30 PM. Tony Lucky's table has arrived and got the game started. Maria arrived for her first night as cook and enthusiastically began making food out in the kitchen.

When the night starts, but before she starts to sing, Ruby takes Sonoma aside to speak to her. "Jake and I thought that you would be busy with the ranch so we hired Maria to run the kitchen. Your mother mentioned that she hasn't had much training though. We are wondering if you would consider staying on working here. We could use your various talents, your cooking to help Maria, your piano playing and singing and your waitressing ability. Because we have others to do the jobs the schedule can be flexible as needed for all of us. What do you think?" She agrees.

Things continued to be quiet for the first half hour until a group of around 180 cavalry soldiers, a large number of them ogres, ride into town and right down the center of Main Street. Lieutenant Gamble leads the group. He orders his men to hitch up their horses and ogremounts to whatever hitching posts are available on Main Street. The ogres are assigned the task of feeding and watering the horses. He tells all of his human troops to go find some supper. He yells down the lines "Be back in two hours, we ride out at ten-o’clock. And no more than two drinks for each soldier, I don't need any drunks on my hands."

Chester tells Nanuet, “I'd better get to the Lone Star. They're going to need my help." Nanuet nods. He then dismounts and carefully slips out to the abandoned mineshaft and makes his way inside, and starts a fire in the ceremonial fire ring.

The Lone Star immediately becomes mobbed with three-dozen soldiers heading inside in addition to the twenty or so patrons who were already there. Ruby says, "Oh, this is going to be fun," Ruby smiles and heads over to greet, flirt and get drinks for the soldiers. "Looks like I'm pouring drinks again." Jake says dejectedly as the soldiers roll in.

He helps Hoover try and keep up with the drinks. He asks the soldiers how long they are going to be in town and if there is anything else they can get for them? He keeps an eye open to make sure that they are not getting out of hand, and that the ladies are not being overly bothered by them.
He notices Chester come in and waves for him to come over during a short break between customers.

It takes a considerably long time once Nanuet attempts to summon the spirit of Storm for anything to happen. He wishes that Kajika was present to assist. Finally, the necklace begins to glow faintly and then a small amount of smoke begins to take form. The cloud is less distinct than ever before, barely resembling a centaur. She speaks but her voice is faint. She says, "Why do you call me Nanuet. My form is with the Earth Spirit, in the mountains of Utah. I have difficulty reaching you." He quickly explains his situation and asks for guidance.

She replies, "This is bad. It will be difficult to convince Geronimo to accept the human's terms. He will see his force, as being superior so will not be willing to compromise. Geronimo is not a patient man and his instinctive reaction will be with violence. He has nearly 1,000 warriors and knows the hills better than the soldiers. If fighting should erupt the elves would be victorious, but the retribution from the humans would be severe. It is doubtful that the Apace would continue to exist. From what you said the humans have stopped to rest. There is still time to get word to the Apache prior to the humans entering the mountains. But not you personally, as the humans seek for you to accompany them."

Nanuet asks of Maska and Storm says, "You and your companion are separated. She is tired from the long travel and has only now reached the Dragoon Mountains, over thirty miles from here. I can help you to send her a message. The cloud form moves to Nanuet and engulfs him. The necklace glows and he hears Storm in his head saying, "Tell her your thoughts, she will hear and understand."

Nanuet communicates, “"Maska, you must take this message to Kajika and Geronimo. Tell them that there are many soldiers coming, that I am with them and not to attack. The soldiers will talk peace. They only want the white men that hide on Apache lands. These white men have spilt blood and are evil men. The soldiers want to know that the Apache are not hiding the white men. If Geronimo attacks he may win this fight but many more soldiers will come, and they will keep coming until all Apache are gone. We must seek peace."

The cloud separates. "I must go,” she states. The cloud form then disappears. Nanuet now realizes he does not know which set of mountains Geronimo is in at the moment. They live in the Chiricahua Mountains but were watching the stagecoach over in the Dragoon Mountains. Maska is now at the Dragoon Mountains, twenty miles west of Promise City so will be able to get to them if they are there. However, if Geronimo has returned to the Chiricahua Mountains, ten miles east of Promise City, then somebody else will have to deliver the message as Maska would not be able to travel the distance to reach Geronimo or Kajika in time.

Silver Moon

Chapter 174, “Seeking Messengers”, Tuesday, January 24th, 1882, 8:45 P.M.

Jake exclaims, "How've you been Chester?" Then quietly. "I've been meaning to ask you if you have been able to do anything with Jones?" Chester replies, "Yeah, I had a talk with him. He's still got this idea that the three of us are going to do business. He doesn't know anything about the guys who shot us. I thought he had something to do with them, but now I don't think so. He's starting to get on my nerves, so I'm just going to tell the Condons."

"He has that affect on people." Jake says deadpan to Chester. "Look, let me talk to the Condons first. I'll tell them a story about keeping an eye on him but nothing more. Don't tell anybody that he asked me to help rob the bank, OK. Nobody talked to me about robbing a bank, not he, not you telling me about it. Clear?" Chester replies, "Clear. But, do it soon, before he finds someone else." Jake smiles and goes back to pouring for the next wave of thirsty soldiers.

Nanuet leaves the mine head and refastens the boards. Nanuet thinks hard about who he could send to the other mountains. He makes is way back to town and finds himself at Cornflower's home. He knocks on the door and waits for them to answer. He then quickly explains the situation and asks them, since they are friends with Kajika if they will go and deliver the message to Geronimo.

Jeremiah Peck has reservations about venturing off into the Apache territory at night. His main concern is for Cornflower rather than himself. She is Navajo, and while Kajika would know her Geronimo would not. He is also worried about the soldiers, to them an Indian is an Indian. Cornflower says "We will do this for you but my husband is correct. I do not wish to put his life at risk and he will not let me go without him. Is there anyone else who could accompany us for added protection?"

"I understand your reservations about going. I will find someone else." Nanuet wanders away not wanting to put them at unnecessary risk. He has no idea who would be willing to go that would be safe among the Apache. He knows time is running out, but other than himself going, which is out of the question if he is retain any amount of credibility with the soldiers, he does not know who he would send. His feet automatically bring him to the Lone Star and he heads inside.

Ruby sees Nanuet walk into the Lone Star. Knowing he doesn't normally feel comfortable in saloons she guesses there is a reason. She squeezes her way through the soldiers and over to him. "Good evening Nanuet. Care for a drink?" Nanuet nods. "Come to the bar, I'll get you something." Nanuet has a seat at the bar while Ruby goes behind the bar and stands next to Jake. She pours him a whiskey and hands it to him. "So, what's up?" she says smiling.

Nanuet downs the whiskey in one gulp, but puts his hand over the glass to indicate that he doesn't want another one. He explains the situation to Ruby, emphasizing that he must get a message to Geronimo before 10:00 but that he doesn't know where the Indian chief is. He explains how Maska is heading to the Dragoon Mountains, but Geronimo could be elsewhere in the Chiricahua Mountains, but that he is unable to deliver the message himself.

"Cornflower and her husband had said they would go, but they need protection. What protection can I offer them or anyone else against a thousand angry Apache warriors? I am not willing to send any of my friends into danger, especially after what happened to Storm. I don't know how I can get the message to the Chiricahua Mountains, so I hope they are there in the Dragoon and that Maska can get their in time."

Jake states, "Uh, Nanuet, YOU could defend them against 1,000 angry warriors? Is it the Apache they are worried about? Or is it the soldiers or Cowboy Gang?" Jake takes a deep breath and shakes his head. "This sounds bad. Do you have any token you could give to a messenger that they would recognize and allow passage to Geronimo? Does Cornflower have any idea where to go?"

Jake runs his hand over his beard a couple of times. "I owe you, at least a couple of times over. Give me some chance of success and I'll protect them, at least do what I can." Jake's eyes go unfocused as he thinks and continues to speak. "We need to sneak out of town otherwise the soldiers would think we are setting them up for an ambush with the Apache. We also need to know where to tell him to meet so that neither side feels like they are being setup. Do you really have a plan on what to do to keep both sides from killing each other?"

Chester drinks just coffee. He sees Nanuet and heads over to sit next to him. "Hey there. Got a plan?" Nanuet fingers the necklace around his neck. "Well, this could probably get you past the warriors if they recognize it as once belonging to them. They should know that it is Apache made even if they are not familiar with the exact necklace. Cornflower and her husband would be looking for protection from the Apache, she is a Navajo, but is friends with Kajika. The other Apache may not know her. The idea was to tell Geronimo what is going on. Let him know that the soldiers are only looking for the Cowboy gang and that they can discuss peace. He has to realize that even if there are only a few hundred soldiers now that there are many many more and if the soldiers are attacked they will come back and not stop until the Apache are no more.

There are messengers that are already telling Geronimo where to meet with the soldiers. Anyone trying to speak with him before the meeting with the soldiers would have to go to him. I am sure the warriors would spot anyone on their lands and after they see the necklace bring them straight to Geronimo. The trick is not being seen by the soldiers like you said. We wouldn't want them to think we are setting them up, that is why I cannot go. But all of this talk is ridiculous because I don't want my friends going. Look what happened to Storm, I can't put you into danger. Getting you out of danger you put yourself into is another thing."

A weak laugh escapes Nanuet's lips after that last comment but anyone who knows him can tell that he is very concerned..

Jake says, "So what happens if things go poorly between Geronimo and Gamble? We are safe here?" Jake says shaking his head. "Are you and Chester keeping Gamble in line? I mean, will you be able to keep him from intentionally making it go awry? We don't have much time. Somebody needs to get Cornflower through, and leave now. And somebody needs to keep Gamble from going crazy. You need to be at the head of the troops but Chester doesn't."

The soldiers have now been in town for around an hour. The ogre and half-ogre troops have been busy hauling hay and grain from Drover's Livery over to their mounts and water from Pine Creek. Looking out the front doors, Kate notices that the enterprising Dorita and Pedro, along with most of the other El Parador employees, are busy delivering trays of drinks out to Main Street to the otherwise busy ogrish troops. The ogres are appreciative and tip heavily for the personal service.

The human soldiers inside the Lone Star appear to be keeping to their two drink limit, but are taking their time consuming the second drinks. The place has now started to clear out some, a combination of regular customers getting away from the soldiers and soldiers finishing up their second drink and then heading over to either the Palace or Gay Lady for other entertainment. Around a dozen soldiers have stuck around to listen to Ruby and another dozen new soldiers have showed up, so the total number of patrons is now back to what it is on a usual busy night. Kate notices that the soldiers are surprisingly well behaved, with not a one attempting to pinch her.

As Kate moved around the room she noticed Ruby, Jake, Chester and Nanuet with their heads close together. As soon as she could, she made her way over to the group. "Is something wrong?" she asked quietly.

Nanuet and Jake rapidly filled her in on the situation. She pulled off her apron and folded it neatly. "I'll be ready in just a moment." The three just stared at her. "I promised Geronimo I would assist Nanuet in his duties. If Nanuet can't go, I should. They have met me before, hopefully they will know me. And let's face it, humans don't generally send women when they intend violence."

Nanuet replies, "Kate! You think Apache on the warpath care if you are a woman or not? You are not thinking like they think, you are thinking how the white man thinks. And Jake, can I keep Gamble in line? The man has a few hundred soldiers and a lot of firepower. The only thing I think that keeps Gamble in line is that he is a soldier and has orders to follow. I am not a diplomat, I am a scout and a novice shaman. I made a promise to Storm that I would take upon myself her diplomatic duties after she died for my cause. I did not see the need until I found out that Apache are lining the roads with warriors and soldiers are arming themselves for war. Would you be safe here if a war erupted? I doubt it. I don't even know if getting a message to Geronimo would help, is it worth the risk?"

Jake replies, "Either we do something about this or consider riding for Tucson." Jake puts his hand on Nanuet’s shoulder. "If we don't help you and it goes bad, you won't be coming home. And we won't have a home. Risks are something you deal with by changing the odds." Jake gives him a grin. "I don't like the idea of Katherine going out there, but she is right. Who else has met Geronimo? And she does have certain, ah, skills. She needs some help though. But it's not me."

Katherine looks startled at that. Jake continues, "I need to go with Nanuet and handle Gamble, or at least try. Fast talking isn't going to help with the Apache, but it might with Gamble." Jake turns to Chester. "What do you think, should you stay with Nanuet and keep antagonizing Gamble or go with Katherine? If you do you can't be seen by any soldiers because then they'd suspect you to be a traitor and ambush." Jake shrugs. "Any other ideas? And be quick about it, whoever is going with Cornflower needs to leave now."

Kate emphatically states, "It is worth the risk. Like you said, a war could erupt here and then none of us would be safe. I promised to help you and I'm going to do just that. They know me, I'll be alone... or maybe with one of our gentleman friends for an escort. I know the Apache will be watching, but they haven't been starting anything. The message may not help, but it certainly won't hurt."

Nanuet states, "Yes, you are right, we have to take a chance. Jake, I think you are the best person to handle Gamble, I know he won't listen to Chester or me, and probably not a woman either. Kate, has met Geronimo before and with the necklace hopefully they will bring her to him. I guess it is up to Chester who he wants to go with. Life around here is never dull for a moment is it?"

Jake asks, "If you give up the necklace, you won't be able to cast will you? Do you think with Cornflower and Katherine they'll need it to get through?" Nanuet replies, “I should be able to cast my own prayers... I just won't be able to use the necklace for healing. I guess honestly I have never tried my prayers without the necklace so I don't know for sure. I am just afraid that if we send them out there and some Apache warriors find them wandering around that they will not be happy to see a white woman, a Navajo woman and her white husband. I just figure the necklace would help them get to Geronimo or at least Kajika.”

Jeff Mills has been behind the bar and appeared to be busy mixing drinks and ignoring them, until he comes over and says "I can go with them. I'll help make sure none of the Indians harm them." He then laughs and says, "Besides, Jeremiah Peck is part of my work crew. I couldn't finish the top floor without him." He then adds, "But I'd have to stay out of sight if the soldiers show up. They hate me worse than they hate Chester."

Kate replies, "I'll be careful Nanuet, I promise," she said softly as he handed her the necklace. "Thank you Jeff. I appreciate it. I just need to go get dressed for riding. Why don't you get Cornflower and her husband and meet me at the El Parador. Will you need a horse?" Jeff says, "You can borrow a horse from me from Dorita. She said that she trusts me after what I did for Sonoma. Actually, you'd better get some for the Pecks to ride too, they had to borrow some last time. I'll meet you over at the Peck cabin. It's on the north side of town, around the middle."

Kate says, "I have two horses of my own over at the El Parador, I'll see if Dorita will lend two more. I'll see you soon." Kate looked over the bar at Ruby, then leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I'll be back in a few hours, I promise." Katherine looked at each face in turn, then hurried over to the El Parador.

Jake has been watching Ruby during the entire conversation, and she was trying hard not to let him notice she was biting her lip and looking worried. After they all wish Katherine and Jeff good luck he turns back to Ruby, "You know I don't want you to.... " He stops because she's not there. He asks Nanuet and Chester if they saw her leave but neither did.

"Damn!" Jake scratches his beard for a few seconds before he speaks again. "I'm going to go get my guns and I'll meet you two out in the street. Chester, you had better stay out of Gamble's way. The less aggravated he is the better. Keep an eye on him and his troops though, I have no experience with soldiering and don't know something suspicious from something normal. YOU need to make sure I know what is going on." Chester nods and Nanuet clasps Jake's hand looking worried.

"OK, Mr. Cook. My keeping out of Gamble's way will make him less angry, which will be good for talking. I'll keep my eye on all of them and let you know if something sneaky is going on."
Chester trots up to his room and gets his Spencer repeating rifle, plus some extra ammunition. Better safe than sorry.

Jake heads upstairs. He straps on his long barrel Colt on his left side, cross draw. He gathers up his new sawed-off shotgun and places it in a saddlebag with extra ammo for all his weapons. He grabs his shotgun and notices the repeater rifle and Ruby's shotgun is missing. He frowns and takes the other rifle. He searches through his other messy piles and smiles when he comes across some of the dynamite that Flint gave him. He holds it for a minute before he decides to put it in his other saddlebag. Finally he puts on his duster and hat, throws the saddlebags over his shoulder and heads out.

She hurried upstairs and put on her riding clothes and long dark jacket. It looked a bit funny as it was made to go over a dress, but it would be chilly riding. Downstairs she went into the kitchen and asked Dorita to borrow two horses, explaining that if anything happened, she would make sure they were replaced with horses from the ranch. "And I saw Ginnie downstairs. Could you make sure she gets to bed at a decent hour? And, ahh," she searched for a way to ask Dorita to see that Ginnie was cared for but didn't want to say that she might not come back. "Just make sure she's alright?"

After she spoke to Dorita, Kate went out to the stables and saddled the horses. She chose to ride her stallion as she knew Meribel was steady and would be fine for a less experienced rider. The stallion was still new to her and might need a firmer hand.

There were soldiers all over, so Kate avoided the main streets, staying to the edge of town until she came to the cabin Jeff had described. Honestly though, she wouldn't have been sure if she hadn't seen Jeff outside. "Are we ready?" she asked quietly. Jeremiah Peck and Cornflower are both prepared to move out. They join up with Jeff Mills and Kate, Jeff is armed with a wide variety of weapons, a shotgun, rifle and two revolvers. None are newer models, most looking to be Civil War vintage. The four ride east and into the Chiricahua Mountains. They estimate they have maybe a half-hour lead on the soldiers at this point.

When Nanuet sees Jake next he is riding his horse, rifle and shotgun in long holsters off each side of his saddle, his duster buttoned up and his hat tilted slightly forward. "Good evening Indian, fine night for a ride." Jake rides up next to him. "Before I forget, you have $400 in an account at the national bank from the trinkets we got from the rustler's cave. I'm hoping we and the bank are going to survive this little trouble with the Apaches." Jake smiles at Nanuet. "I went to a lot of trouble to get that money there for you."

Ruby arrives in front of the Lone Star on her horse and stops next to Jake and Nanuet. She is in her riding outfit, hair thrown up in a ponytail, fully outfitted to ride. She turns to Jake and picking up on his comment from twenty minutes earlier asks, "I know you don't want me to what?"

Silver Moon

Chapter 175, “Indian Country”, Tuesday, January 24th, 1882, 9:30 P.M.

Jake replies, "Get saddled up and ride with us....." Simultaneously they say to each other in a loud voice, "You know I don't want you out here getting shot at!" Chester saddles up and leads his horse to the front of the Lone Star.

He Sees to Nanuet ride up and says with a smile, "Alright, Mr. Ambassador. It's show time."
Nanuet replies, "Good evening Chester. Good Evening Mr. Jake, a fine night for a ride indeed. You have to mention money at a time like this?" Nanuet laughs. "Hope you didn't go through all that trouble just for me." He then notices Ruby, prepared to ride out with the men. "Miss Ruby, you don't need to come. I... I... I know I am wasting my breath though." Nanuet and Chester look like they wish they were someplace else.

Nanuet finally turns to Jake and says "But you are responsible for keeping an eye on her too, I hope you know that." Jake replies, “You are a thousand laughs tonight, Indian."

Jake kicks his horse forward and turns to Chester. "There's two theories to arguing' with a woman."
Chester says, "There are?" Jake replies, "Ya, and neither one works." Then he says over his shoulder. "Don't just sit there fuming at me, come on and keep up. Our Indian guide says I have to keep an eye on you." He pushes his hat back on his head. "The way I figure it, you'll save my ass again and I'll never hear the end of it."

She answers, "You should be so lucky..." Jake smiles broadly to her and says, "I DO have a lucky hat." and touches the brim. Ruby spurs her horse forward and rolls her eyes. "Why do I get the feeling you boys don't think I can handle myself?"

Nanuet spins on his horse and speaks to Ruby. He says, "I know you can handle yourself, I just wanted to give Jake something to do to keep him out of too much trouble." "Now you're asking for a miracle..." Everyone can see that now that things are moving forward Nanuet has relaxed and may even seem eager to take some action towards a resolution to this situation. Ruby says as she rides up next to Nanuet. "So, do you have a plan?"

"A plan? No I don't have a plan really. My goal is to get these two hotheads to talk and resolve what seems to be a simple issue without a war erupting. Hopefully Kate and the others will reach Geronimo first and talk some sense into him, and hopefully Jake here can keep Gamble from flying off the handle. Not sure about anything else."

"That's our plan, huh?" Jake scratches his chin. "You know I like. Elegant in it's simplicity. Nanuet facilitates the meeting, I keep Gamble from flying off the handle, and Ruby saves my ass. Well let's just enjoy the ride then." Jake smiles confidently at his companions "Oh, and don't forget Chester, he's got the eight or nine score troops covered." Chester grins back, "Yeah. No problem."

The soldiers mount up and move out. Chester falls back a bit, putting a short amount of distance between himself and Lieutenant Gamble. Jake and Ruby ride near the front alongside Nanuet and Comstock’s group. Of those six, the retired officers Billy Comstock and Elisha Whittemore are still in civilian attire, but during the short respite in town Mitzer and his three men have now changed into their United States Army uniforms.

The group rides along the south road out of town. Mitzer notices some concern in Nanuet’s facial expressions and asks Gamble where they are going. The Lieutenant replies, “To a defendable location along the outer edge of the mountain range. At night them Injuns can see better than we can, I wouldn’t want to risk riding into an ambush. We’ll set up camp at a place where we can guard against an attack and also keep a close eye on the mountains. If they decide to attack we’ll see them coming. If Geronimo really wants to talk peace they he’ll know where we are and can approach peacefully. Either way, we’ll be in position to ride into the mountains at dawn and deal with them.”

The group eventually branch off from the road and ride towards a large hill approximately a mile-and-a-half southeast of Promise City. The lightly wooded hillside rises up to a primarily flat plateau, 120 by 80 feet in size, and approximately 1,200 feet higher than the ground below it. The hill has fairly steep cliff sides on its north, northeast and eastern sides, at around a seventy-degree angle. From the plateau the cliff side gives an excellent view of the adjacent Chirachua Mountains to the northeast, east and southeast.

The remaining sides of the hills are less steep, the angles of ascent ranging from twenty to fifty degrees. The ogres are ordered to rope off two corrals on a couple of acres of land on the southwest side of the hill, one for horses and another for ogremounts. Along this corral area is a stream flowing westward from the mountains to the east. The land is mostly grass covered, with just enough trees for the soldiers to use to tie off the corral.

The soldiers start to retrieve canvas tents from their saddlebags. The orgres troops are ordered to pair off and pitch tents surrounding the hill, with each tent no more 500 feet and within sight of those to the left and right of it. Each pair of buffalo soldiers is instructed to have one on guard duty while his partner sleeps and to alternate during the night. The human soldiers are all ordered to make their camp on the plateau at the top of hill. Three human buglers are told to stand guard duty on the plateau while the other human troops are ordered to get some rest.

Nanuet is very familiar with this site. This hill with the plateau that the troops are on is the property of Hamilton Fisk. From this hill Nanuet can see the hillside known as Pete’s Ranch some four-tenths of a mile to the west. The land between these two hills is the 200-acre plot that is jointly owned by him, Sonoma and Kate, with the roped off corrals below holding the soldiers’ mounts being the easternmost edge of their property.

Comstock tells Chester, Jake, Nanuet and Ruby “I don’t care for how some of these soldiers are looking at Miss West. You had better camp near us for your own safety.” Chester says, "Thanks, Bill. Sorry, Ruby. I forgot all about that. Oh, Bill? Do you have a tent for Miss West? We hadn't planned on a bivouac. One of us will be able to guard her in camp to avoid any problems." "Sounds like a good idea, thanks" Jake tells him. He whispers to Ruby, "Please stay near me, between the two of us we don't have enough ammo to shoot all these lonely soldiers."
Kate had watched her companions as much as the landscape on the hurried ride to the mountains. It might have been necessary sometime during this night to display her talents, and she wasn't sure how they would feel about it. Her instincts said that Jeff would be okay, startled, but okay. The others were strangers. Well, that was a bridge she would have to burn when she came to it.

She led the three quietly to the place where they had crossed into Apache lands that day with the Cartwrights. "Jeff, make sure you keep your hands away from your weapons. Let's not start off on the wrong foot here. I'm sure we're being watched."

Katherine reached up and pulled the necklace from around her throat. She held it up high, letting it catch the moonlight. "Shouting to them is not my first choice. We don't have much time to wait, but let's see if they come to us before we go barreling in."

A dozen Apache warriors appear up near where the horses had been left. Four check the animals’ saddlebags and weapons, then lead the horses away. The other eight move forward. Four of these Apache are armed with Henry repeating riles. They stop on the hillside some 25 feet way from the quartet near the fire. Kate notices that each of these four is making eye contact with a different member of her party. They are holding but not pointing the rifles.

The other four move closer. One gestures for Kate and her party to lift up their hands. The Indians then move forward and pat down each of the four, apparently looking for concealed weapons. They then move back. A man dressed as a shaman, but not Nanuet's friend Kajika, steps forwards. He tosses powder into the fire, which creates a flash while saying words that Kate recognizes as the translation spell

He then says in words that Kate can understand for her to repeat what she had said earlier. She does so. He says, "You were present here before, these others were not. Who are they? Why do they accompany you? And why is it that Nanuet does not?"

Cornflower tells Kate softly "Your instincts are correct. We have been watched and followed for the last twenty minutes. Their numbers are increasing with each quarter mile that we travel." They soon reach the area where Geronimo had spoken to them before. A large fire is burning although the surrounding curved hillside is currently empty of occupants and nobody is anywhere near the fire. "What should we do?" Jeff asks.

"I'm not certain, but they have allowed us this far. I take it as a good sign." She slid down off the stallion's back and wrapped the reins around an outcropping of rock. "This is the place where Geronimo held council when I was last here. Since that is what we want, this is a good place to be. Let's go down to the fire. Leave your weapons here, they won't do us any good anyway."

The others dismounted and tied their horses. They walked slowly down near where the fire threw flickering patches of orange against the ground. Kate spoke in a normal tone of voice, knowing that this natural amphitheatre would carry it.

"I am Katherine Kale. I bring words from Nanuet, Geronimo's ambassador to the humans. I have made a pledge to assist him in that task and come to you in fulfillment of that promise. I seek council and time is short. Will you speak with me?"

"This is Jeff Mills, he accompanies me because it is not safe for me to ride out alone and he is a trusted friend. This is Cornflower of the Navajo, who comes because she would be known to Kajika, Nanuet's mentor. This man is Jeremiah Peck, husband to Cornflower. He accompanies us because he would not see his wife go into danger alone.

It would have been dangerous to many if Nanuet had come here tonight. As part of his duties he went to a fort of soldiers today to find out why they had broken the agreement by riding onto your lands. The soldiers gather in Promise City now, as I'm sure you know. They will come here to treat with Geronimo soon and Nanuet will be with them. If they had caught him coming to you they would have suspected ambush, so I have come in his stead.

I have more information about the soldiers and their intentions if you wish to hear it." "You should tell our chief," he states. The Indian walks away while the other seven remain. The four who had been with the group's horses soon return as well but stay near the top of the hill.

No more than five minutes pass until a larger group of three-dozen Apache warriors arrives, Geronimo among them. Kate does not see Kajika with this group. They climb down the hillside. Geronimo gestures for most to sit while he and one other warrior approach.

"I remember you," he says to Kate. "Why did our Ambassador send you to me?" "Great Chief," she nodded. She quickly repeated what she had already told the first warrior she'd spoken with, introducing the others and explaining why Nanuet could not come himself.

"It appears that the soldiers believe your people are protecting members of the Cowboy Gang here, and have learned that Knowles stays on your land. They followed members of the gang onto your land, considering the agreement already broken by your people. My understanding is that your people feel the soldiers broke the agreement, and I tend to agree as I don't believe you would be hiding members of the Cowboy Gang here.

The soldiers orders are to reestablish the peace if possible. If not, to move your people to a reservation, and if that cannot be accomplished to fight. Our worry is about the soldier in command. His name is Lieutenant Gamble, and he will follow his orders to the letter. However he is a cruel man who enjoys killing. He will follow his orders, but he will look for any excuse to declare peace impossible.

There is no doubt that your people would defeat his soldiers. But if all out war starts here the government will send soldiers until your people are completely wiped out. If it takes ten soldiers for every Apache, the government will send them. We were only about a half hour ahead of them, they will be here soon."

He replies "They appear to have stopped for the night. They are camped on a hill near your dwarven friend, around five miles from here. From what you have said I do not know if it would even be worth trying to talk with him. I have pledged to Knowles that he may live with us and I will not break my word. If these humans require him I will not wish to compromise, but do not want one man to be the catalyst for giving the humans an excuse to imprison us on a reservation. What do you suggest?"

She replies, "I would attempt negotiation. A violent confrontation is in no ones best interest. I do not want to see the Apache forced out of these mountains. From what I've been told Gamble will obey his orders, and he's been told to broker peace if at all possible. My understanding is that he wouldn't really care that you are elves, he just enjoys the chance to kill. He'd kill me just as quickly if he had an excuse.

It seems to me you just need something more attractive to offer than Knowles. Something they would rather have. The agreement was that the Apache would not allow outlaws to cross their lands if I understand correctly. Is there some way that could be expanded, something more you could offer without letting the soldiers on to your land?" Kate looks over to her companions. "Any thoughts?"

He replies, "I would be willing to keep all humans from my land. We only allowed Knowles and his friends to venture through our land because they offered us much needed food. Game has been scarce in the mountains for the last several months. We now know the reason why, the earth sprits had consumed it so there was none left for my people.

I do not trust this soldier you call Gamble. He was the one who fired upon my braves. Two would have perished if not for Kajika's healing abilities. I should negotiate for my people, but if I were to be killed there is no doubt in my mind what my warriors would do. They would avenge me. How can you guarantee my safety with these soldiers?"

She answers, "My skills are not great. I have some small teaching with magics, but nothing compared to what your own shaman can do. You can best secure your own safety by giving no indications to Gamble of any pending violence. To not allow you to be baited into anger, whatever incitements he may offer. The most important thing is for this conference to end without bloodshed on either side. I said it before, the Apache would win this battle, but more soldiers will come and they will keep coming until the Apache are gone.

I can't think of any way to help other than offering myself as a hostage. Gamble might not care, but he will be surrounded by others who would. I must admit, I'd like to save that option as a last resort. It will be difficult to explain why I was here, and Gamble would know that I am friends with Nanuet."

Kate was quiet for a moment, shaking her head. "I'm sorry, I'm in a bit over my head here, as I'm sure you can see. I will help you in any way I can. Jeff, Cornflower, Mr. Peck, any ideas?" They nod no.

Geronimo says "We can plan after I survey the situation better." The Apache warriors with Kate, Jeff, Jeremiah and Cornflower's horses bring them over. All of their weapons have been removed. Jeff stares and Geronimo who says "They will be returned when you leave the Mountains and not before." He gestures to Kate and says "I know this woman, I do not know the three of you."

The ride to the southwest for the next hour. Kate estimates that around 300 Apache warriors are with them. They stop and dismount in the forest of one of the westernmost mountains. Geronimo gestures for Kate to accompany him. Jeff says "I'm coming too." Geronimo says "No, just the woman." Jeff looks like he is going to protest until Kate signals that she is fine."

The climb up some natural rock formations that is almost stair-like in nature. They move out from the trees onto a rocky outcropping. From there they can both see the next hill a half-mile to the west and around 300 feet lower in elevation. There are no campfires but the moon provides enough light to make out the next hill. The plateau on top is filled with around sixty canvas tents. At the base of the hill they see large numbers of mounts and another ring of tents surrounding the hillside. Kate then recognizes the next hill further west as Pete's Ranch, and realizes that this is Fisk's Hill, at the edge of her ranch, where the soldiers are camped.

Silver Moon

Chapter 176, “Prelude to a Skirmish”, Tuesday, January 24th, 1882, 11:30 P.M.

Chester comments to Ruby, "Oh, I forgot you'd be the only woman in camp. Soldiers in the field don't get too many women visitors and those who do are, um, professionals. So don't go anywhere alone. I don't think there will be a problem, but it only takes one."

In response to Jake and Chester‘s comments Ruby replies, “Are you worried about me again? That’s very sweet.” She gives Jake a kiss on the cheek. “Sure, I’ll stay near you. It’s not like I planned on going for a hike in the wilderness or anything.” Jake gets the impression that Ruby is not very concerned.

Jake makes small talks with Chester and his army friends and watches for Gamble out of the corner of his eye. When he sees that the inspection of his troops will take Gamble to within earshot of them, Jake waits until he is close enough to overhear and says. "Captain Mitzner, It appears to me that the Lieutenant's men display exemplary discipline. It seemed that way to me in town too. I haven't had too much experience with military life, just watching the troop reviews on outings in Philadelphia with Uncle Blair. I'm sure those weren't battle hardened regulars, those were probably just parade ground trained, not like these men. What is your opinion?"

Mitzer picks up on where Jake is heading and expounds several sentences about how Lieutenant Gamble has done an excellent job of discipline with his men and should be proud of the troops he leads. The lieutenant thanks him and continues onward towards his troops.

Mitzner tells Jake and Chester, "My men can double up, we can give you a pair of two-man tents." He gets Chester two diamond-shaped canvas tents. Ruby says, "I'm sure I'll be just fine, what's everyone worried about?" He tells Chester "Just find a pair of saplings to break off to use as your tent poles." "I can do that!" Ruby starts looking around to see the best direction to find some saplings. Chester says, "Let me go with you. It'll be easier for me to break off enough sticks for the tents."

Nanuet refuses the offer of a tent. He explains that he is used to sleeping outdoors without one and that staying in one is uncomfortable for him. He spends a while looking over the land wondering what if any use he can get out of the fact that they are on the edge of the ranch that he owns with Kate and Sonoma. He scratches his head and remains deep in thought for many moments then returns to helping his companions set up their tents.

Jake watches Ruby and Chet wander off looking for tent poles. He says to Nanuet in a falsetto voice, "It’s not like I planned on going for a hike in the wilderness or anything looking for tent poles.” Jake shakes his head.

Ruby rolls her eyes at Chester. "It would take a lot more than one, believe me. But thanks for the concern. Let's go." Ruby follows Chester around looking for the right kind of branches. Not really knowing what to look for Ruby picks up some twig like branches here and there and Chester just keeps shaking his head and laughing. Finally he gathers enough for all of their tents and they return back to the site. Chester shows Ruby how to put the tents together but hers keeps collapsing, which she blames on the branches.

Jake says to Nanuet, "I think I'll try and visit the good Lieutenant, see if I can learn how to influence him. I know you told me to keep an eye on Ruby, but you'll have to cover for me for a little while." Nanuet says, "Hey, it could have been Sonoma. That girl can keep you on your toes. She would have had the forest cleared and would have food cooked for the whole army by now if she thought that was needed." Nanuet chuckles softly. "I'll keep an eye on the two of them. I think having an 'Injun' nearby is enough to keep the soldiers at bay."

When Ruby is done gathering branches she glances around and sees Nanuet sitting and watching the nearby hills. She wanders over to him. "What happened to Jake anyway? He's been gone a long time and it's getting late, time for bed."

Nanuet tears his eyes from the landscape to look at Ruby. "Jake is away being Jake. He is going to try that silver tongue of his on Gamble. Hope he knows what he's doing. But if I know Jake he could talk his way into and out of anything he gets himself into." She says, "Humm, I hope you're right, about Jake that is. That Gamble has a scary temper."

Nanuet turns his attention back to the landscape and tries to hide a smile. "Don't worry I am sure he will be back soon, I know how much you two value your 'bed time'." Ruby smiles mischievously. "Why Nanuet, are you being fresh?" Ruby cocks her head to one side waiting for the answer. "Being fresh? I am not quite sure I understand what you mean." Nanuet continues to try and fight the growing smile on his face, but he doesn't turn back to face the buxom saloon girl.

She answers, "Oh yes you know just what I mean. You elves enjoy bedtime more than any other race I've ever heard of. I knew this girl, an elf, who told me...well, taught me a few tricks. You have longer lives so you have more time to practice." Ruby giggles. "Oh I guess now is not the time for this discussion. Maybe tomorrow."

For the first time in quite a while, Nanuet’s face turns crimson in reaction to Ruby's remarks. "You generalize too much, I have met many humans whose exploits in the bedroom put my race to shame. But yes, we elves may know a trick or two." Ruby sits next to Nanuet and pulls her legs up to her chest. "I'm not saying you have crazy exploits but let's face it. One-hundred years is a long time to go without that kind of companionship"

It is hard though for humans to understand what it is like when you live for centuries. When we are young we spend that time learning about our surroundings and ourselves. That may include some of the 'exploits' that you speak of. Each of us also takes roles in our tribes though and some roles do not allow for much companionship. Were you trying to make a point?"

"Am I ever trying to make a point?" Ruby smiles at the elf before looking out over the hills to where he is looking. "Nope, no point at all." She puts her head in her lap and just sits with him for a while.

Chester pours himself a drink of water. "Let's hope he has better success than I did. It'll be a slaughter if there's a fight."

Jake reaches the area where the Lieutenant is camped, keeping in clear view and approaching the guards in an unthreatening and obvious way. "Just want to chat with your Lieutenant if he has a few minutes for me."

"Good evening Lieutenant Gamble, Jake Cook. We've met before. I was wondering what you thought of the situation? Being a business owner in town and part owner of a mine out there" Jake points in the direction of Fisk Mountain Mine, "it would cost me a lot of lost revenue if this breaks out into fighting. Believe me, I want to see the Cowboy Gang prevented from using Apache land as much as anybody but open war would be worse." "Don't worry, if fighting breaks out we'll win," Gamble replies. Jake nods and returns to the others.

Less than a mile away Kate is watching the solders’ encampment with Geronimo. Kate keeps her voice low as she speaks. "I know this area, a little at least. Nanuet, Flint and I, along with another, laid claim to the land just there," she said, trying to point out the borders of the land they had purchased. "They trespass on your land then," Geronimo states. He then says, "But this will allow you to now approach them, provided you ride out to then from the direction of your ranch."

She says, "It seems strange to say it to you. I feel as if the government had no right to sell it to us. But I cannot change the past by refusing to buy land. And in that location it had occurred to us that we could easily supply livestock to your people in the mountains. In a few years anyway after the herd is established.

This hill was purchased by Hamilton Fisk." Kate looked down at the encampment. "I knew how many there were, but they seem more camped out thus. I hadn't expected them to set up a camp out here. Perhaps we need a good neutral spot, where each group could clearly see their representatives but only a few would actually attend?"

He states, "I am told that your dwarven friend has a sizeable cave, which should suffice. We need to now deduce a way for you to suggest this meeting to the soldiers without it appearing that you are conspiring with the Apache." "Which I am," Kate said with a sudden smile. "I was seen by many of these soldiers in a saloon tonight, and I am known to be a comrade of Nanuet and Chester. I could easily explain knowing the situation, and offer use of the cave to expedite the soldiers leaving our land."

The Indian Chief looks to the sky and says, "We should wait for a few more hours. I will want Kajika to be present with me. It will take him and the warriors that he leads some more time to reach this location." She replies, "I have met Kajika, he gives wise council. I will gladly wait. It has been a long day, but sleep will have to wait a while longer."

Kajika arrives on site at around 2:00 A.M. with several hundred Apache warriors, most on foot rather than mounted. Geronimo instructs them all to rest and become mentally focused.

At 5:00 AM Geronimo receives a count from his scouts that there appear to be fewer than 200 mounts in the solder’s corrals. He decides to have a force just fewer than 400 mounted braves exit the forest at the base of the mountain. He has them lined up single file in a line stretching for a full half-mile. They are a third of a mile from the hill where the soldiers are situated. Kate is encourage to leave and ride the long way around to her ranch.

Before Kate leaves she asks, "Is there anything you need me to do when I get there? Oh, and the others. Would they come with me now, or leave after the conference. Jeff will be worried if he doesn't see me soon." Geronimo says, "I do not trust the others. They stay here. Bring the dwarf with you to the soldiers, they will not suspect him of working with us. It is your land, you have a right to be on it. Just as this is our land and we have a right to be here."

"So I go out to the soldiers with Flint and suggest the cave as a meeting place. I understand about the others, I hope Jeff does." Kate asked him to point out the long way again, and then for her horse. She led him down the mountainside and then rode toward Flint's cave. After she was out of pistol range of the Apache, she checked to see if her weapons had been returned.

A short while longer the first light of dawn come up from the east. The shadows from the mountain and trees initially shade the long line of Apache but as the sun begins to reach the horizon the half-mile long line of Indians are spotted from the plateau. The buglers all sound for the camp to awaken.

Chester wakes quickly. He reaches for his gunbelt even before he's fully conscious. Shouts of "Apaches" reach his ears. For a moment, the ex-soldier thinks he is back in Nebraska, but then he remembers that this is Arizona. Throwing off the blanket, Chester straps on his belt and crawls outside. He grabs a passing human soldier. "Corporal, what's going on?"

The man says, "The Indians are in a skirmish line down the hill. But they're not moving." The soldier rushes to his post and shoulders his rifle. Chester hustles to the other tent and shakes it. "Ruby. Mr. Cook. The Apaches are here." He turns to Nanuet, "Are you ready? I'll come with you, if you want."

Kate's saddlebags are still without any weapons. She arrives at Pete's Ranch. Flint is up on the top of his hill and waves to her. "Hey, what are all those soldiers doing over there? They woke me up with that trumpet playing of theirs, carries pretty far across the open terrain."

She tells him, "Soldiers went into the Apache's mountains a few days ago, they seem to be gearing up for some kind of confrontation. I think we'd prefer our ranch wasn't overrun by a war. Come on out with me. We can let them use the cave for a conference. I know, it sounds stupid, but I think there isn't much time."

Ruby turns over to Jake while slowly stretching. "You know, we had to get up early yesterday too," she says yawning. She sits up and mechanically puts two braids in her hair. She pokes Jake again then makes sure she is fully dressed before grabbing her guns and exiting the tent. 'What's going on Chester? Do the Apaches want to fight us?" she says sleepily.

"Ouch, stop poking me." Jake rolls over, "Can't that Geronimo attack at a civilized hour?" He sits up and stretches his back. "Next time we have a crisis, couldn't we do it where there is a decent bed to sleep in?" He shakes off the sleep and quickly gets dressed, weapons strapped on and finds his horse.

He says, "Ruby, I need to stay near Gamble and I'll probably need some help. I just wish I knew what I was gonna do.... come on." He leads his horse towards the direction of the Lieutenant’s campsite. Ruby says, You want me to still stay with you? Or you want me to stay with Chester or Nanuet." Ruby hurries after Jake trying to keep up with his measured pace to get his answer.

"With me. Everything depends on us keeping Gamble from starting something," He says back over his shoulder. He stops and let's her catch up. He leans in and whispers, "If you need to do something special, let's put the horses together and you can stand between them. I'm making it up as I go along." He starts moving again, "We'll have to rely on Katherine and Nanuet to keep the other side from hostilities."

"Special?" Ruby replies with a confused look on her face. "Oh special... yeah ok. I'm not sure I have much I can do though." Ruby keeps us with Jake as they near Gambles tent. "You don't really think they'll be fighting do you?" They stop when they get close to Gambles tent and wait to see what he is up to.

Gamble is watching the Indians through a pair of binoculars. "I don't see any with Chief or Shamen markings" he tells his Sergeant. "Lieutenant." Jake says just loud enough to be heard. "Do you mind if we tag along behind you during this? I'm sure my Uncle Blair back in Philadelphia would be pleased to hear from me about you and your men."

Gamble replies, "Tag along? We're not going anywhere at the moment. I picked this hill for a reason, a solid defense. If those Apache start a charge they'll be on the receiving end of a rifle barrage that they'll soon regret." Ruby pipes up, "But I thought we were trying to talk peace with them?"

Gamble answers, "Hard to talk at a third of a mile and it looks like they're here for trouble." "Well, then you have to send someone over, you know, the whole white flag thing..." Ruby gives Jake a confused look. He can almost read her thoughts saying.."I don't think this guy is here to negotiate anything..."

Jake turns his head and winks at Ruby before he looks back at Lieutenant Gamble. "As you said, you have the high ground. I doubt they'd attack. Besides the problem to solve is the Cowboy Gang. To get the Apache to agree to keep them out, which I'll bet they'd do. The hard part if finding someone who could verify that. You know, someone who the Apache would let on their land, and make sure that the Cowboy Gang isn't hiding there."

Jake looks out over the plain where the Apache are located. "I'm looking forward to the day when every one of those Cowboy Gang murderers either has a bullet between the eyes or is swinging from a rope." He turns and looks back at Gamble. "You know they won't accept any Army forces doing that, but you win the negotiation if you pick the folks you know will make sure those Indians are kept honest."

Nanuet has been absent during the early morning commotion. He arrives at the area where Ruby, Jake and Chester are speaking with Gamble. "Lieutenant Gamble, are you ready to start your peace negotiations now? I will ride out with those whom you wish to send so we can get started."

Billy Comstock steps forward and volunteers to ride out with Nanuet, stating "I'm not dressed as a soldier, they'd be less inclined to shoot." Gamble says, "Fine you ride with him, but I want one of my soldiers to go with you. Take Corporal Toby with you, he's my ranking Ogre."

Nanuet says, "Oh Lieutenant, I thought you would be attending the negotiations with us. I guess I understand that if you don't see the chief that you wouldn't go forward yourself. I will discuss with them a neutral site to have the peace talks." Nanuet waits for a reply from Gamble before heading the small party down from the plateau and out towards the Apache braves.

Gamble replies, "I just want to make sure this isn't a trap." Nanuet thinks to himself "Well how is sending a civilian, an Indian scout who is the Apache ambassador and one soldier going to tell you if this is a trap?" as he rides down with the other two towards the Apache braves. He makes sure that he and the others have no weapons in hand and that they ride in the open and slowly.

A half-mile to the west, Kate and Flint get their horses ready to ride. She has to talk him out of bringing along any dynamite. His suggestion of it however reminds her that they'd better move it to somewhere other than the cave prior to the negotiations. They find a safe spot in a smaller cave to hide it.

Kate helped Flint get up onto his horse and the rode over to the encampment. Once they were in sight they slowed a little bit, keeping their hands clearly visible. It would be suspicious for her to ride out and just start making suggestions. Katherine and Flint continue toward the line of soldiers, looking for Chester or Nanuet, who should be near Gamble.

After a few moments Kate saw three figures break away from the group, one of them she can easily recognize as Nanuet. "I hope we're not already too late," she said, nudging the stallion to walk a little faster, still looking for Chester or the others. Nanuet mumbles under his breath "What in Hades are they doing here?" He changes his course as little as possible to possibly intercept Kate and Flint in front of the Apache line. Nanuet also keeps an eye on Apache to see what their reaction is.

Kate tried to position herself and Flint so the meeting with Nanuet looked as if they were just passing one another. "It's alright. Geronimo wants us to suggest Flint's cave as a neutral meeting place. I'm going to suggest that to Gamble as the rancher on whose land his army is camped." Kate and Flint then rode on toward the soldiers. Kate and Flint She rides back towards the hill with the soldiers. Nanuet and his two companions ride forward towards the Apache.

Silver Moon

Chapter 177, “The Treaty”, Wednesday, January 25th, 1882, 6:15 A.M.

Jake and Ruby stay near the Lieutenant. Looking out from the hill towards the Indians the sun makes stark lines on the mountain and long shadows from the sporadic mesquite trees and saguaro cactus. "Ironic." Jake says quietly to Ruby, "All that rain has things greening up and the plants thing spring has come early. Nobody sees the green right now, do they?"

She blinks hard at him a couple of times and starts to say something when she sees him silently mouthing the words 'Ask me about Uncle Blair.’ "Uh, Jake." She starts hesitantly. "I hate to break your reverie." She speaks a little louder. "Who is this Uncle Blair you keep talking about?"

"He's my father’s brother." Jake pauses only a second. "Uncle Blair Cooke works as a staff member and advisor to the right honorable James Donald Cameron, Republican from the great State of Pennsylvania and a senior member of the armed services committee." He takes a moment to let that settle in, as Lieutenant Gamble is clearly listening.

Jake Continues, "He is the head clerk on Cameron's staff for issues on the United States Army. He processes the paperwork for the senator's approvals on military budgets, promotions, transfers, and the like." Jake smiles and nods a bit. "Uncle Blair and I were always close when I was younger, makes me keep in touch. He likes to hear about Army doings for real, he only gets to see the paperwork. Funny that it is so political. No one gets promoted unless they make the top of the piece of paper that Uncle Blair gives to Senator Cameron to sign." Down below, Kate and Flint ride on back toward the soldiers camped out on and around the hill.

Kate reached the soldiers. They do not stop her so she continues to riding boldly up to the encampment with Flint right behind her. A group of solders do stop her as she reaches the top. She exclaims, "I'd like to see the officer in charge, please," she said to the first soldier she came to. "Lieutenant Gamble, I believe." Chester waits in nervous anticipation as the parley group rides forward. He sees Kate and Flint approach. He says to himself, "Ah, they're coming from the ranch. I wonder what they had in mind?"

She is brought to Gamble who had been watching from the plateau. He exclaims, "Woman are you daft? Them Injuns could have kilt you! What do you think you're doing riding out in front of them!"? Flint rides up beside her and says "No problem Colonel, I was protecting her!"

"Thank you for your concern Lieutenant, but as Flint said, I was well protected," Kate said with a straight face. "As I'm sure you know, I am a friend of Nanuet, and he, Flint and I own some of the land you are encamped on. The Apache know that and are respectful of our rights to ride on our own land. My partner and I are concerned about hostilities breaking out on our ranch. I'd like to offer you the use of a cave on our land as a neutral setting to hold a conference with the Apache Chieftain."

He looks hesitant and glances at Jake. Jake catches Gamble's eye scrumptiously and gives him a slight jerk of his head before walking alone towards the back of the little group watching Nanuet. Gamble turns back to Kate. "Let's wait and see what those three find out" he states while pointing to where Nanuet is. She answers, "Of course. I must say, Lieutenant, I admire the steadiness of your men and your own restraint. I'm sure everyone in Promise City will be most grateful once peace is restored without bloodshed. It's been a bit nervous, I'm sure you understand." He thanks her.

Nanuet has slowly continued forward alongside the ogre Sergeant and Comstock. Once Nanuet and his two companions have stopped Kajika walks out to him with Maska at his side. Nanuet smiles slightly when he sees Kajika. "How is she?" Nanuet says, referring to his trustworthy canine companion. "She has done much traveling of late." Kajika replies, "But necessary. She reached me just in time. Geronimo was going to have the warriors surround the hill at its base. With Maska getting your message to me I was able to reach here in time and talk him into this approach instead."

Nanuet turns to Billy Comstock and Corporal Toby to make the introductions. "This is my mentor and Geronimo's shaman, his name is Kajika. Kajika, this is Mr. Comstock and Corporal Toby. We want to discuss a neutral meeting location where Geronimo and Gamble can discuss the reinstatement of the treaty." “Where would you suggest and how many participants for each side?" Kajika asks.

Nanuet thinks hard about this question. The site of Kate and Flint riding out from the ranch enters his mind. "I own part of a ranch nearby, there is a large cave that would work well I think. I am not sure about the number of negotiators from each side. How does four or five sound?"

Kajika says that the negotiators should be unarmed but that they probably should also have an armed guard for each negotiator. The guards could wait outside of the cave during the negotiations. He asks Nanuet to chose a final number, as he knows the size of the cave. He replies, "OK, if I must choose then I choose four and I agree to the armed guards. Are there any other terms we must decide. I am new to procedures of this type."

Kajika replies, "The four will not include you and the ranch owners, they are the hosts and you are the mediator. Make sure that the four chosen to negotiate for the humans have the authority to make the necessary commitments. Geronimo will not have the patience to renegotiate this treaty anytime soon."

Nanuet states, "Kajika, you are once again proving to be wise beyond measure. I will do as you ask. Can we agree upon a meeting time of noon? That will allow me time to return to the soldiers and discuss the plan with them and then I will return to you and guide your party to the cave. "

Kajika replies, "I would suggest sooner, perhaps two hours time. Longer could make both leaders suspect that the other is plotting against them. I also do not want to give Geronimo the time to listen to the counsel of those harboring war over peace." Nanuet states, "I will defer to your wisdom and experience in these matters. Two hours time it is then."

Ten quiet minutes have gone by up on the Plateau. Gamble begins to pace. He then notices Nanuet, Comstock and Toby riding back. He waits anxiously for them to return. Rather than leaving the mounts at the bottom of the hill they ride straight up to the plateau and over to Gamble before dismounting. Chester mutters, "Hmm. That was quick. Hope that's good news." Kate softly replies, "I'm sure it is. Their demeanor hasn't changed any. I'm sure they know as well as we that hostilities do no one any good."

The three ride up the hill to the plateau. Nanuet looks at Kate and then at Gamble. He takes a deep breath and then speaks. "I believe we have a suitable place for the meeting to take place. I own part of a ranch with this young lady" pointing at Kate "and a few others. It is nearby and would make it a neutral sight that is fairly close. They have agreed to four negotiators for each group. The negotiators would be unarmed but each is to be accompanied by an armed escort who would remain outside but near the cave. The meeting can commence in two hours. The hosts and myself as the mediator would also be in attendance. Do we have an accord?"

A few moments later Nanuet arrived and proposed his plan. Kate nodded as he spoke and waited to see what the nervous Gamble would do. Gamble says "That sounds good." He then glances toward Jake to see if he agrees with that decision. Captain Mitzer suggests that he also participate but adds "I will make it clear that you are the ranking officer for this County. But the Apache also travel across the border into New Mexico, so my agreement would also be useful."

Gamble send Corporal Toby to ride back down and prepare the mounts and his four best shooters as guards. He turns towards Jake and says "You should probably come along as well to let your relative know about this treaty." Jake says, "Bold move Lieutenant Gamble. I'd be honored to accompany you. I surely will tell my uncle of your success in negotiating." Jake nods his head several times.

Ruby has been listening silently to this whole exchange and watching Gamble intently. After he names Jake to accompany them, Ruby pulls him aside. She looks up at Jake with the worried look back on her face and says, "Listen, you know this guy is not exactly looking for peace. And I know you don't have much patience when it comes to men like him. I'm going to be sitting here worried about you getting killed by Geronimo but this is much bigger than that. The whole city is at stake. Please promise me you'll be careful?"

"I'll be careful. I'll try not to do anything too stupid." He gives her hand a squeeze. "Besides, I need to make Uncle Blair proud of me." he says with a wink. "Keep an eye on what is going on out here. If these guys get out of hand without their leaders that could be worse." "I will." She stands on her toes, gives him a kiss then hurries off with Kate.

Gamble puts his human Sergeant, George Ball, in charge of the plateau with orders that at the very first sign of betrayal from the Apache to move the mounts up nearer to the plateau and to also pull the ogre troops back. He then says, "If the Indians attack hold the hill until reinforcements can arrive. Have the buffalo soldiers hold the front line, try not to let any of the humans get killed.”

Nanuet says, "Kate and Flint, would you be so kind as to show the Lieutenant the way to the caves? I will do the same for the Apache. We will meet there shortly." Kate says, "Of course, Nanuet. Ruby, Mr. Martin, would you care to accompany us? I may need some help in getting the cave presentable for these gentlemen. Lieutenant, whenever you're ready." Nanuet says, "Sure thing, Katherine. I'm ready to go now. I can get my stuff later." Kate and Flint waited a few minutes as the Lieutenant gathered the men he wanted and then led them across the ranch to the cave where Flint had been living. Ruby and Chester then head over with Kate to the cave.

At the pre-appointed time the two groups gather at Flint's cave. Lieutenant Gamble brought along as his fourth negotiator a human corporal named Patterson who had surveying experience and brought with him maps of the area. Geronomo's negotiating team included himself, Kajika as well as sub-chiefs Naiche and Tazha, who were both sons of Chief Cochise.

Negotiations continue for over an hour. Things appear to be moving along well until Naiche brings up the previous week. He had been in charge of the group that Gamble had clashed with.
Patterson's presence proves to be a gift from the gods, as he uses the map to identify where the incident took place. Gamble had thought they were still in the Dos Cabezas Mountains at the time but had apparently wandered over into the Chirichua Mountains instead, thus both sides had felt that the other violated the treaty.

Gamble actually swallows his pride and apologizes, explaining that the mistake had been the fault of his orge scout who had been unsettled by what they thought was a zombie centaur a few hours prior to that. Jake nods at Gamble when he looks back at him, giving him silent encouragement for his openness.

Nanuet proposes a break for a few moments. He asks if everyone would like to step outside for some fresh air. He comments to his friends, "I think things are going well. There is even a reasonable explanation for that incident from last week. Hopefully we can continue to move forward after the break."

Kate replies, "I'm encouraged. Both sides seem to be listening, which I wasn't sure would happen. Although Jake seems to be having some influence here," she smiled, keeping her voice low. "'What did you tell that man?" Ruby relaxes significantly at the news that things are going well. "Oh you know, Jake is really good at influencing people." She smiles at him and yawns. "Maybe you should get back in there and keep at it."

During the break Nanuet is noticeably nervous. He is sweating heavily and pacing back and forth. He takes a long drink of water and then approaches Jake. "So Mr. Jake, things seem to be going well. Not sure if you have anything to do with Gamble's openness and willingness to negotiate but keep doing whatever you are doing." Nanuet then meets briefly with both sides asking if their is any requests before proceeding.

Jake says quietly "Don't be so friendly with me right now." and winks. then louder, "Well we still need some third party assurances regarding the Cowboy Gang. I'm sure Geronimo is an honorable man, but confidence needs to be built."

Negotiations continue for another hour. They agree that the mountain and rock formation known as Cochise Head will be used as the future boundary of the two mountain ranges. The Army agrees to remain totally out of the Chiricahua Mountain with the exception of being allowed to travel the east road to Galeyville and New Mexico through the mountain pass. The Apache agree to not allow any outlaws to travel through the mountains. Chester whispers to Ruby, "Wow. This is going well. I didn't think Gamble had it in him."

The problem then arises when Gamble names Harvey Knowles and says that applies to him as well. Geronimo is about to respond when Kajika stops him. Chester mutters, "Uh-oh. Who's this Knowles character?" "I'll tell you later," Ruby whispers back. Chester nods in reply. She thinks to herself, “I only hope I don't regret not killing him when I had the chance.”

A long pause follows. Kate watched the three men, Gamble, Geronimo and Kajika carefully. She was hostess here, not a negotiator, and she had no idea how to solve the problem of Knowles. He was essentially already a prisoner on Apache land, but Gamble might not accept that. She prayed that this one sticking point wouldn't derail everything and tried to think of a way to prevent it.
Jake leans into Gamble and whispers. "I have met Knowles. I let him live. Keep that to yourself. He is not a big risk. Just get a commitment that Knowles only leaves the Apache territory if they turn him into you."

Geronimo says, "Knowles is a tracker who helped our people when they were in great need. We owe him a debt and have offered him sanctuary. He is now part of our tribe. He no longer associates with the humans."

Gamble takes Jake's advice and says, "Then you must agree that he will remain with you. He is to have no contact with other humans and if he should seek to leave the mountains he is be turned over to the Army. If we find him outside of the mountains then the treaty is over." Kajika and Geronimo discuss this in the Apache's language. Geronimo says "It is agreed. Knowles will not be able to leave the mountains without our knowledge."

With that the treaty negotiations are concluded. Patterson begins to write up three copies of the documents with Jake's assistance. The eight negotiators all sign the documents. Kajika keeps one, Gamble has Patterson keep one, and the third is given to Jake who is instructed by Gamble "Have one of the lawyers in town review and sign this, then file it with the County Clerk." Jake shakes Gamble's hand firmly. "Yes sir Lieutenant."

Nanuet breaths an audible sigh of relief. "Excellent job men, your honor won the day today. I commend everyone involved." As the men start leaving the cave Ruby runs up to Jake and throws her arms around him. "You did so good! I told you, you are so smart!" She gives him a big kiss then a hug before letting him go.

Then she turns to Nanuet, "And you did a great job too," she says giving him a much smaller kiss. She breaths a sigh of relief. "And I was worried..." she says to herself walking out of the cave. Kate slumped against the back of the cave, exhausted from lack of sleep. The others were on their way out, but she would have to go back to the mountains after they were gone to get Jeff and the others. She pushed herself back up and followed the others.

Nanuet says, "Kate, I can tell you are tired. Head back with the others. I don't need sleep, I can go back to the mountains and get Jeff, Cornflower and Jeremiah. Besides, I should probably spend some time with Kajika." She says, "Thank you, Nanuet. Don't forget Tom's pistol and my Derringer as well. And tell the Chief how pleased I am that it all turned out well."

Chester walks up to Gamble. "Lieutenant, I am surprised. I admit I thought this wasn't going to get done. I was wrong. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm sorry. You've served the country well." Then he salutes the man.

Chester catches up to Nanuet. "Mighty fine job, there, Nanuet. How's it feel?" He replies, "Honestly I am not sure that it has all sunken in yet. I thought I was way over my head here, but with everyone's help we got it done. I guess it feels great! I have gained a lot of knowledge with this experience. Sorry Chet, if you will excuse me, I have to go now, there are some people who need an escort back from the Apache camp."

Ruby announces to no one in particular, "Can we go home now? I'd like to get some rest today, I have a saloon to run after all." Nanuet rides out with the Apache so that he can escort Jeff and the others back to Promise City. He makes sure to retrieve Kate's personal items as well. On the ride he spends as much time with Kajika as possible, discussing the days events.

Both teams of negotiators return to their forces. The Apache ride back into the mountains. The soldier pack up and decide to ride directly back to Tombstone and then Fort Huachuca. Comstock and his group offer to ride back to Promise City with the others, feeling far more comfortable now about riding east back to New Mexico. They say they will leave this day, not wanting to tempt fate. By noon the hill and surrounding land are all totally free of people once again, each group having gone their separate ways.

On the ride back to Promise City after they are clear of the Army soldiers Jake spits from his horse. "If I had to compliment Gamble one more time I was SURE I was going to vomit." He shakes visibly a couple of times. "Gods, I need a drink!" She says, "Oh but you did such a good job, I am really impressed." Ruby looks at Jake with admiration. "Anyway, I'm tired now so let's go get some rest."

Before Jake ends up at the Lone Star he brings the treaty to Mitchel Berg, and explains what has happened. Jake lets Katherine know about the money she has in the National Bank. Jake and Ruby get to the Lone Star and fall right into bed.

Once they get back to Promise City, Kate took the time to take care of the stallion before stumbling up the stairs to her room. She managed to tell Ginnie that she was free to do as she liked today and to get her boots off before she laid down and fell asleep.

Silver Moon

Chapter 178, "Epilogue", Thursday, January 26th until Wednesday, March 8th 1882:

Work continued on the 3rd floor of the Lone Star Dance Hall and Saloon and was eventually completed, making it the tallest building in Promise City. The owners and employees who resided there then moved up to the top floor and converted some of the 2nd floor rooms into private gambling and party rooms. Niles Hoover consolidated his liquor storage into a single 2nd floor room, the one closest to the staircase, having replaced the furniture in that room with custom made shelves to maximize the storage capacity. All except for a flat $ 100 each week per partner of the saloon’s profits were reinvested into the construction efforts.

Ruby continued on her quest to get to know all the patrons, their names, favorite songs and drinks they like. With the duplication of skills among the owners, gamblers, singers, waitresses, cooks, pianists, bartenders and bouncers a schedule was worked out where each employee and owner had either two or three days off during each week, although everybody tended to work on both Friday and Saturday nights. Stanley and Helen Barker continued their Saturday night piano concert/poker game, alternating locations each week between the Lone Star and the Comique.

The feud between the Lone Star and Palace saloons has quieted down, due mostly to Niles Hoover having become a co-owner of the Lone Star but partially due to Jake Cook having joined the Merchant’s Association. Jake mails several letters regarding both personal and business matters. Ruby and Jake continued to gather information on Adair and Baxter. Ruby’s two little boyfriends were also able to find out Adair’s schedule for her. Ruby also had a few chance encounters with one of Adair’s saloon girls. The Promise City Herald has done poorly, now publishing a four-page paper only every week-to-ten days, with the Palace Saloon and Frye’s Harness Shop and Bootmaker as its only remaining advertisers. Typesetter Josiah Young now also works for Duncan Frye.

In mid-February Manuel Gonzales returned from his extended visit to California. He had remained there as a guest of the city’s former Mayor James Toberman, helping out with the philanthropic ventures. He remained until his South American friends arrived to assist with recruiting wood elvan labor to help with the construction. The South Americans had been delayed getting to Los Angeles due to their volunteering to escort a pair of earth spirits to Canada. Both Kate and Ruby resumed their studies with Gonzales, practicing the casting of new spells. Ginnie attempts to invite herself along for these lessons but is overruled by Kate. So Ginnie spends the time of Kate’s lessons checking out Promise City.

Ruby also continued her bardic training with Madge Duprey, who was grateful to Ruby for taking Clarisse Townsend off her hands. The sixteen-year-old girl had lived a very sheltered life and when orphaned the previous year moved out to live with her cousin Julia Barbeau, a singer and dancer at the Gay Lady Variety Hall and Saloon. That saloon’s evening atmosphere was far too rowdy and raunchy for an innocent girl like Clarisse, who possessed a fine singing voice but was an atrocious dancer. So Madge and Julia initially arranged for her to waitress for the Gay Lady’s lunch and dinner crowds and then sent her back to the Promise City Hotel to spend the evenings alone in her room reading. Finding the girl new employment singing at both the Lone Star and Comique was a welcomed change for her.

Pete’s Ranch continued to grow. This was largely due to the Apache showing their gratitude for the owner’s efforts with both the earth sprits and negotiating peace with the army. During this time frame the Apache provided the ranch with fourteen wild mustangs as well as thirty-two rustled cattle that had been abandoned by the Cowboy Gang in Apache territory. Deputy Sheriff Hunter was only able to identify six of these cattle as having Cochice County ranch brands so Pete’s Ranch was allowed to keep the others. Sonoma, Nanuet, Kate and Ginnie continued to work on their 200-acre plot, preparing parts of it for spring planting and building a total of four adobe structures. Sonoma also spends several nights a week working at the Lone Star.

Kate worked out a balance between working the ranch, teaching the girl Ginnie, having her own lessons, and working at the Lone Star. All of the fencing on the ranch was completed. Kate located the horse that Johnny Ringo had described and left it for him in town where it was soon picked up. Jake rode out to visit the ranchers every week, on the way practice horse riding, target shooting and other skills. Ruby joined him for several of these visits. A friendship seemed to be developing between Kate and Conrad Booth, although true to his word to Jake it remained on a purely platonic level.

Kate traveled to Tombstone in early February to put Tom’s marker in place. There was no confrontation with Morgan Earp as he had returned to California. Kate received a letter from Boston indicating that a friend of hers had recently come to join them.

Chester continued to work at Condon’s Bank while spending his Wednesday’s helping Zack Morand and Jake with security arrangements for their mining operations, which included hiring guards for them. He warned Frank Condon about Danby Jones but was assured by the boss that Jones was a trusted employee. He spent many evenings at the Lone Star, working as a combination bouncer/bartender/waiter on the nights that Jeff Mills had off. Ruby kept encouraging Chet to loosen up a bit, saying that she wanted to see him having some fun! He spent much of his time at the Lone Star listening to Clarisse Townsend sing, but hasn’t worked up the nerve yet to ask her out on a date.

The Fisk Mountain Mine operations were still barely getting started, with most of this time spent on developing the mine infrastructure. All of the ore that had been initially blasted down had been hauled to town and smelted, earning Jake a little under $ 2,000 after expenses. Jake had attempted to bring Jeff Mills with him out to the Fisk Mountain Mine but Jeff kept declining, stating that he needed to focus on the 3rd floor construction instead. Once that was done Jeff then threw himself into the project of moving Lacey’s General Store, disassembling the walls and putting the building back up at the store’s new location on South Street where both the Liquor and Grain stores previously stood. Jeff has now started to plan out the expansion of the Lone Star into the vacant lot behind it.

In late January the Circuit Judge in Tombstone declared that there was insufficient evidence to charge Johnny Ringo with the stagecoach robbery. In February evidence surfaced linking suspected cattle rustler Pony Deal to the crime and the Earps sent a posse out to find him, which failed to do so. No other word has surfaced about the Cowboy Gang. In early March, “Deadeye” Douglas was spotted in Cheyenne, Wyoming shortly after a middle-of-the-night bank robbery. He was reported to have been in the company of two human males, three human females and an elvan Indian.

And the halfling reporter Chumbley starts hanging out at the Lone Star, much to the annoyance of the owner Jake Cook.

This concludes
“Revenge, Renewal and the Promise of a New Year”
the 1st module of our western campaign.

The story continues directly into our 2nd Module: "Wizards, Whiskey and Wonderful Things"

Thank you to all of the players for a truly enjoyable game.

Silver Moon

This was the first module in the four-module Wild West campaign that ran from August 2004 until April 2007.
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Queen of Everything
I just finished rereading this game/ story. Almost 10 years later and it still has all the magic it did back then. I laughed and laughed at ALL the characters antics. We had such an incredible mix of players and a very dedicated GM. We made quite a bunch!

Thank you again Silvermoon, for running such a fantastic game. I know I have said it before but with our 10 year anniversary approaching, I will say it again. This game literally saved my life that first year. So much fun and joy has come from this little game day game you started. I wonder if you ever imagined how far it would go?


Queen of Everything
And of course, the crazy bunch that made this game what it was. SO much thanks to orchid blossom, kafitrar, kriskrafts, and dire wolf. I hope I spelled your user names right because I recall our real names, from our real friendships that came from this. Orchid, especially, has become one of my very best friends.

And finally, to barad, Jake, I don't think I've ever seen a story hour or even a GAME with a better matched pair of characters. It was always fun and exciting getting to play Ruby up against Jake and having him there really helped me develop my character into what she is today. So thanks for all the fun <3

Everyone put in such an enormous amount of time, energy and love into "just a game" to make it become the special thing that it was. It may not be obvious from the outside but anyone who participated knows what an amazing thing this became.

I can not believe it's been almost 10 years. Crazy!
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Silver Moon

This is 1st module in the four-module "Wild West" PBP Campaign. Referenced in the current posted chapter of the follow-up "AGELESS" Campaign so bumped for easier finding.