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Black Rock at Bad Day II

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#1 Guest_MorningGlory_*

Posted 28 November 2004 - 01:38 PM

Black Rock at Bad Day

Rated PG-13: Violence, Language, Horseplay

Chapter II

“Calm down, Miss Jaheira,” The Sheriff said soothingly. Without asking, she reached and took Chambers full shot glass and downed the whiskey in one gulp. Everyone blinked in surprise. “Who’s here, Miss Jaheira?” the Sheriff asked.

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Jonny. Jonny the Kid,” she replied hoarsely, a look of terror on her face. “I’m.. I’m sure of it. I… I… saw the cloud of dust from the back of the house out on the road west. I.. I.. know I glimpsed his black horse with the peytral across its breast. I.. I ran all the way down here.” Chambers refilled the glass and handed it to her. She nodded her thanks then swilled it the second time in one swallow. The Sheriff looked at Chambers.

“Sort of Jonny’s calling card. His black horse has an ornate breastplate of mithril and leather. He’s got this strange leather skullcap that matches it. Peculiar-looking,” he shook his head. “No one’s ever seen him without it. We don’t know if it covers up some deformity or if it’s supposed to be magic, but no one’s ever got close enough to tell,” he explained. “He always travels with his crazy sister Bodhi and usually two others.” He turned his attention back to the beautiful half-elf in front of him.

“Now, Miss Jaheira, you just stay here and Deputy Delryn and I will just have a little look-see. Ranger Valygar is here – he still lives at your place, doesn’t he? You know him, and this nice gentleman’s name is Paris Chambers, and they’re going to sit with you until we get back. Okay?” He glanced quickly at Chambers and Valygar demanding their cooperation. They nodded with immediate approval. “And, you just stay put, you hear? Don’t need you running hysterical in the street if Jonny is someplace around.”

She reached up and clenched the lapels of his leather vest in her small hands. “Sheriff, you have to do something about that demon from hell,” she pleaded. “I.. I.. can’t go on living like this, knowing he is riding the range free after what he did to Khalid. You must find him and put an end to this torment.” Her eyes began to well with tears and her voice trembled. “Every time I go and put flowers on Khalid’s grave, I swear to him and myself that I will see the day when justice is finally served and his killer is up on Boot Hill – even if I have to track him down and kill him with my bare hands.” The hatred echoed dramatically in her voice as she pulled on the Sheriff’s vest and the tears rolled in rivulets down her cheeks.

“You just calm yourself, Miss Jaheira, and leave Jonny to us,” he said and gently took her hands into his. “And, I don’t want you getting any crazy ideas of trying to avenge Khalid’s death on your own, now. We’ll get him. One way or the other. We always do,” said Sheriff Keldorn reassuringly. He gently put his arm around her shoulders and led her to a nearby table, the others followed. Pulling the chair out for her, she wearily plopped down and began dabbing at the silent tears with the lacy handkerchief retrieved from the cuff of her long dress sleeve.

“Just don’t you worry none, ma’am,” the Sheriff repeated as he bent and gently patted her small slender shoulder then turned his attention to Chambers and Valygar as they sat in the other two chairs. “You boys do me a favor and keep Miss Jaheira company here while Ano and I go look around. Jonny has an inclination for slipping into town without nobody seeing him. Likes to take up a spot and hide until he feels it’s time to make his grand entrance, so to speak -- kind of a splashy arrogant son-of-a-bitch that way. We’ll just go take a look and see if we can find any sign of him. About time we did our afternoon rounds anyway, right Ano?” The young deputy nervously nodded in agreement as he unconsciously fingered the butt of his holstered gun. “And, if there’s gonna be trouble, I guess we should start getting as many of the townfolk in here as possible. Don’t want any stragglers getting shot up and killed for no reason other than they were in Jonny’s way.”

“With the storm brewing, that might not be a bad idea anyway,” Valygar added. “It might just be safer all the way around.”

“You’re right, Val,” nodded the Sheriff then straightened as he turned to Delryn. “Yep, well, let’s go then, Ano, and see what hand the fates have dealt for us today.” The young deputy nodded. Keldorn again turned to the two men at the table. “We’ll be back in a short while, and if we aren’t….well, one of you might want to try ridin’ over to Ribald Junction for help as soon as it’s possible. If it isn’t too late.” There was a decidedly ominous tone to the Sheriff’s voice -- more than just concern about his and the Deputy’s personal safety.

“What exactly are you saying, Sheriff?” Chambers asked picking up on the something more that the Sheriff was trying to say.

“When Jonny rode out of here two months ago, he vowed he would return and wipe Bad Day from the map. The people that heard him said he laughed and said he was going to make ‘Bad Day’ into a ‘Bad Nightmare’, only because he could. And, if he’s back now, I reckon he may be thinking he’s gonna make good on his threat. And, if that is the case, we are gonna need all the help we can get to stop him.” His voice was somber and his face expressionless. Chambers shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“We’re burning daylight, Ano, and there isn’t much left. Best we get to it,” he said and the three remaining at the table watched as the Sheriff and Deputy walked toward the door and out into the beginnings of the late afternoon dust storm. They all offered a silent prayer to their gods for the men’s safe return.

“Miss Jaheira, Val and I here were going to have a little supper. A sort of celebration for my good fortune at the card table,” Chambers began, trying to lighten the very abysmal look on her beautiful face. “Won’t you join us in a nice steak dinner and by the time we’re finished, maybe Sheriff Keldorn will be back with some news.”

She emptied the remainder of the bottle into her shot glass. “I am not in the mood to eat. As for a celebration…the only thing I want to celebrate is the death of Jonny the Kid,” she said as she tried to wash down the bitterness in her voice with a gulp of the brown liquid.

“Well, let me order you something anyway,” Chambers said. “And when it arrives, you can either join us if you wish, or not, okay?”

“He’s right, Miss Jaheira,” interjected Val and leaned over to pat her hand. “You really should have something to eat. It’s not good to drink that whiskey on an empty stomach.”

She looked at the glass then at Valygar, her eyes softening at the dark ranger. “I suppose you are right, Valygar. I.. I don’t want to lose my senses in case the Sheriff finds Jonny. I’m the only witness to Khalid’s killing and I can’t afford to jeopardize that now.”

It was settled. Chambers went to the bar and ordered three steak dinners from Bernard and another bottle.

“That’ll be 1 coin and that includes the grub,” said Bernard and Chambers dropped two coins on the bar.

“One for you, my friend,” said Chambers and winked. “Oh, Bernard… Do you have anything back there in case you might need to defend yourself?” Chambers was naturally concerned in case the trouble with Jonny ended up in the Coronet. Bernard let loose with a laugh that would have rivaled any that Larry could have come up with.

“You wound me, Chambers!” he bellowed as he brought out a monstrous short-barreled shotgun and laid it on the bar. It was elegantly simple with a small mithril inlay on the beautiful wooden stock. Chambers noted a rune carved into the butt of the stock as well as matching runes into the metal of both barrels. Strangely, it lacked both a sight as well as a loading chamber for the shells. “A little something I picked up in my younger days for a favor I done for Gond during the Time of Troubles. He done me right and gifted it to me. Made it with his own two hands, he did.” He snickered. “Never runs out of shots and I don’t have to have perfect aim.” He pointed to the runes. “I never have to do anything but point and pull the trigger. I call it the ‘Equalizer’.” He patted it lovingly. “That baby can take down a fire giant at 20 paces, my friend,” he said and Chambers could see it wasn’t an idle boast. Bernard patted it again and returned it under the bar.

A round of raucous laughter and loud voices from one of the tables by the piano caught both Bernard and Chambers’ attention. A half-elf male was surrounded by a bevy of the ladies not otherwise occupied as well as Haery and several other male patrons.

“Who’s that?” Chambers asked curiously.

“That there is Judge Theodur W. Hickok,” Bernard said in answer to Chambers’ question and nodded toward the table. “Or, I guess I should say he used to be a judge. He use to ride the circuit over west of here, near the border, but he got himself in a heap of trouble with the authorities back in Athkatla -- or so he says. Don’t know what he did, but he pissed them off bad enough that they took his judgin’ duties away from him. Said something about maybe openin’ up a lawyering office here in town, or something.” He paused a moment and nodded. “He’s got the room next to yours upstairs. Ain’t been here but a couple of days, but he climbed into that rye bottle when he arrived and he ain’t climbed out of it yet. Yep, he was tellin’ me his tale of woe just this past night.” He again shook his head. “Well, let me get your grub order into the kitchen. Cook’s probably just now stokin’ up the coals, so she can get this meat a cookin’.” Bernard turned to go to the back kitchen.

As Chambers returned to his table, he watched the former judge command his audience’s full attention with his charisma. A practiced story-teller with skills a lawyer or a judge would need in this territory, he thought as he sat down. The brief thought of ‘why Bad Day’ crossed his mind.

The meals arrived and it didn’t take much cajoling to encourage Miss Jaheira to eat along with the two men. She began to relax and Chambers wondered if it was the company or the whiskey that contributed to her slight lift in mood. It seemed momentarily lightened.

“What do you do, Mr. Chambers?” she asked, catching him off guard with her sudden personal inquiry.

“Not much, ma’am. A little adventuring, a little card playing now and then,” he smiled.

“You’re a drifter, then,” she replied as she cut another bite-size piece from the tender porterhouse steak on her plate. She looked up at him before she popped the chunk into her perfectly shaped mouth. “No roots -- then you’re a drifter, Mr. Chambers.” Chambers watched Val move uneasily in his chair.

“Well, ma’am,” he began, “I just never found the right place to settle down. I guess the road just keeps calling my name.”

“My Khalid and I were once drifters, so to speak, in the service of the Harpers,” she volunteered. “It was a hard life, then one day we came to Bad Day. It wasn’t as big then as it is now. But we had a parting of the ways with the Harpers and decided to put down roots here – as good a place as any, and Khalid seemed happy here. We bought a little ranch west of here. Thought we could raise some cattle, maybe cultivate a few acres for some crops.” Her eyes grew wistful as she stared off into the distance recalling their plans. “And we finally talked of having children – a real family.” She interrupted her musing to pop a bite of carrot into her mouth.

“Then about two years ago, on a clear spring afternoon, that all changed,” she continued then looked directly into Chambers’ dark eyes. “Jonny the Kid rode up to our ranch. Khalid was out in the barn tending to some stock and I was in the ranch house alone. He and his demon bandits burst in on me first – I didn’t know who he was then. Jonny looked around then quickly decided there was nothing of value to take except me.” She paused and Chambers wondered if she was going to continue with this all-too-familiar tale shared by many frontier women. She turned her gaze to her plate.

“He ordered me to take off my clothes and I refused, so he had his evil demon sister rip them from my body as he laughed and watched. She took some of the shreds and gagged my mouth and with others she tied my hands behind my back. Then he ordered her to hold me while he would have his way with me.” She paused again and took a deep breath. “I..I was naked and this beast had his hands on me and was ready to take me to him when I heard Khalid at the front door. Jonny had just enough time to grab his gun as Khalid reached the kitchen to see me writhing naked and bound on our kitchen table. Jonny shot him and killed him instantly.”

Chambers watched, his heart aching for this woman as the tears began again. “Then, by Silvanus, an almost-miracle happened. Jonny looked at me and sneered at me. ‘I don’t want a half-breed,’ he said. Then he motioned to his sister and the other one to let go as he pulled up his trousers and again strapped on his gun belt. ‘What about her?’ his sister asked. ‘Leave her,’ he sneered again. ‘The half-breed isn’t worth the bullet to kill her.’” She again dabbed at the stream of silent tears with her handkerchief. “So they left me on my kitchen table.”

She again turned to Chambers, her green eyes now blazing. “I tell you this so that you understand why I hate this man. He not only took my beloved husband from me, but he took our dreams and our life together. And.. and he defiled me. I will not rest until his flesh has fed the coyote and his bones are cleaned by the vultures.” Anything else she might have added was interrupted by the saloon doors opening. It was the Sheriff and Deputy Ano. A large cloud of dust followed them in as they closed it behind them.

“We found him,” Keldorn nodded. “He’s holed up in your house, Miss Jaheira. Must be waitin’ for you to return.”

“How did you find him so quickly, Sheriff?” Valygar asked.

“Er, Chambers’ horse,” he replied and looked at Chambers. “He, er.. told us where he was.” Everyone looked at Chambers.

“Ah, yes. I gather you spoke with Larry,” Chambers smiled and nodded, a bit embarrassed at the revelation.

“He said his name was Lila.. Lilacor?” The Sheriff’s voice said he still wasn’t quite sure if he had had a conversation with a horse. “If Ano hadn’t been there, I might have thought I was hallucinating.”

“No, Sheriff. You were not hallucinating. Larry, er.. Lilacor, is a talking horse. He just doesn’t do it much around strangers,” he attempted to explain.

“Well, we were looking in Korgan’s barn and I said something to Ano about finding Jonny and I heard this voice say, ‘Well, I know where he is’. I thought it was Ano or Korgan at first, but Korgan was passed out with an empty whiskey bottle over on a pile of hay, and Ano was over on the other side of the anvil by the furnace. Then Larry introduced himself and told me he saw them sneak behind Miss Jaheira’s house and put their horses in the small barn, and then went into the house through the back door. I asked him how did he know it was Jonny and he said he knew Jonny’s horse. That the two of them went back a long ways and he recognized him through a knothole in the outside wall of his stall.” The Sheriff stood still shaking his head in disbelief. “Then I had him repeat the information to Ano. Just so I would know I wasn’t getting a little soft in the head here thinking I was listening to a horse talk.” Ano nodded.

“Yes, Larry told me the exact same thing,” Ano nodded.

“Well, if Larry said it was Jonny, and he said he knows his horse, then you can take it to the bank, Sheriff,” said Chambers. “Larry has his shortcomings, but lying isn’t among them.” The Sheriff nodded and was relieved to know he hadn’t imagined it all.

“Okay, we best get a bunch of us and be getting over there and see if we can catch him by surprise. It might be the only chance we get,” said Keldorn. He turned to Valygar. “You still as good with those fancy guns of yours, Val?”

“You bet, Sheriff. I can still shoot the eye out of a sidewinder at 20 paces,” Val smiled from ear to ear. “I would be most proud if you would allow me to accompany you.”

“How ‘bout you, Chambers. You any good with that thing? If you’re half as good with it as you are with a hand of poker, I’d be mighty grateful if you could help. We don’t have too many good hands with a gun in this town. Least right now, most aren’t very sober, either,” he noted of the saloon’s male patrons.

“I’m with you, Sheriff,” Chambers nodded. “And, yes, I’m pretty good with ol’ Crom here.”

“I want to come, Sheriff,” Miss Jaheira pleaded anxiously.

“No, ma’am. You are not.” He was emphatic but gentle. “You are going to stay here and tend to the bar for Bernard, because I’m going to get him and Hendak to go with us, too, understood?” he replied. Chambers shot him a quizzical look. “She’s honest, she can count out money, and she’s sober. It’s the only way Bernard will go with us. I already know before I even ask him. He takes his job here very seriously,” the Sheriff explained, and then sighed as he walked over to the bar and negotiated with Bernard for his assistance. A minute later both Bernard and Hendak stood at the table with the group, Bernard with the Equalizer in hand.

“Miss Jaheira, I have promised Bernard that you will take good care of his bar here while we go round up Jonny and his gang,” Keldorn said. She nodded reluctantly and rose from her chair.

“If that is what it will take, Sheriff, then I will gladly do it,” she said, apparently seeing the uselessness of arguing that she accompany them.

“Ma’am,” Chambers turned to her. “I promise you, we will bring him in. Dead, or alive, I don’t think any of us really cares. But, I promise you we will capture him one way or the other.” He picked up her small hand and softly placed a kiss on the back of it.

“Th..Thank you, Mr. Chambers. And, Mr. Chambers, I am sorry I was so short with you before,” she began to explain rather apologetically. “It’s just…”

“No need to apologize, ma’am,” he said putting his hat on his head. “You just don’t fret that pretty little head, and we’ll be back directly.”

“Do be careful,” she said softly then looked at the group of men. “Today is not a good day to die.” They all solemnly nodded, donned their hats and turned for the door.

Boot heels clicked and spurs rattled as she watched them step into the last throes of daylight being churned by the every increasing dust storm. She offered up a prayer to Silvanus for their protection as she reluctantly went to assume her temporary place behind the bar.

She thought of how many spells for healing she had – just in case they might be needed later, then decided to send Tyrl out into the dust to get Doc Aerie. After some concerted whining on his part and a few not-so-veiled threats on her part, Tyrl left in search of Bad Day’s only certified physician with explicit instructions to return her to the Coronet.

In the meantime, the Sheriff and his makeshift posse slipped inside Korgan’s barn. Korgan still lay snoring loudly on the pile of hay. Larry had taken up temporary residence in the next stall and was in the throes of making the young gray filly’s tail ‘stand on end’. One last lunge as the men approached and he quickly dismounted.

“For cripes sakes,” he whinnied loudly at them. “Can’t a horse get a little privacy around here, or are all of you so hard up that you have to get your jollies from watching the animals (expletive)?!? That was just our third time and we were finally getting’ the hang of it. And, I think she might have been a virgin, but I haven’t had a chance to ask her yet. It’s been so long you know, and…” He continued to mumble to himself.

“Fast Eddie isn’t going to like that,” snickered Ano, quickly followed by Sheriff Keldorn. “That’s his gray filly, Marissa.” The group of men howled in laughter. It was bad enough that Chambers had cleaned him of his bank. But if he knew Chamber’s horse had deflowered his little filly, he would have been even more enraged.

“Well, I guess if you guys don’t tell her owner, then I won’t,” winked Larry, not knowing what the real joke was. “Anyway, what are you guys doing here, other than peeping at two horses (expletive).”

Chambers was laughing the hardest and momentarily caught his breath. “We’re going in after Jonny the Kid. Is he still across the street?”

“Now, just how am I suppose to know that, smart man,” Larry huffed. “Can’t you see I was a little occupied here? I didn’t know I was suppose to keep an eye peeled for the varmit, or while I was stickin’ it to young Marissa there, I most surely would have been watching out for him.” He gave them all a double snort of disgust.

“Well, then, did you see anything,” Chambers said.

“Well, as her beautiful tail went up into the air –“ he began but Chambers interrupted him

“Larry! Help us out here!! Lives are in danger, maybe including yours,” he pleaded.

“Okay.. okay. No, all I saw was when they put their mounts in that small barn and I know they haven’t moved them. And, I saw three people go into the house through the back door. So if they’re not still in there, they’re loose on foot.”

“Thank you, Larry. That is all we wanted to know. You can, er, resume what you were doing.”

“I’m not in the habit of performing for group enjoyment – at least not without payment,” he replied sharply then whinnied. “I’ll get back to business as soon as you men leave. Anyway, I wouldn’t want any of you getting envious and creating performance anxieties in your own minds.” He followed the sarcasm with a raucous horselaugh.

The men left the libidinous horse to his own designs and walked back to the front of the barn.

“What do we do now, Sheriff,” Val asked.

“Okay, you, Ano and I will take the front. Chambers, you and Bernard and Hendak sneak around to the side over there and get yourselves nestled in that row of tall shrubs by the barn. That way, if they make a run for their horses, you can cut ‘em off. And if they don’t stop when you tell them to? Shoot to kill. I really want to bring that son-of-a-bitch to trial, but if he leaves us no choice, then we kill him.”

The plan was made. Chambers, Bernard and Hendak managed to get out and around the back of Korgan’s barn then dash across the street behind Miss Jaheira’s barn. No one from the house could have seen them approach as they settled against the backside of a short hedge lining the carriage drive to the barn. They had a perfectly clear view of the back door leading out onto the porch.

The Sheriff, Deputy Delryn, and Valygar approached the front of house, also aided in part by Miss Jaheira’s gardening skills. Several large flowering bushes along with the storm’s thick dust provided cover for them as they wound their way to the front porch.

The muffled sounds of loud voices and shouting could be heard from where Chambers was. Then two shots rang from the front of the house. A split second later the back door flew open and out ran two figures. Bernard raised the Equalizer before Chambers or Hendak could even take aim and two deafening shotgun blasts rang out, one after the other through the thick swirling dust. Both figures’ arms flew back from the impact and instantly fell on the ground. Larry had said there were three and only one remained. He didn’t have to wait long.

The third figure, a tall man, came running out screaming. “Bodhi!!!” It was a loud, long mournful scream. It was the kind of scream that a brother would make for his dying sister. The three moved quickly from their blind and came upon the man as he held his barely conscious sister in his arms. He was openly weeping as he clutched her to him.

“Jonaleth,” she whispered then closed her eyes. Instantly her remains turned into a dark gray dust that swirled and blended into the blowing sand. Still on his knees, the man reached up, as if to grab at any bit that might remain.

“Bodhi… Oh, my sweet sister, Bodhi,” he cried mournfully.

Ano ran up behind him and yelled to Hendak. “Quick. Help me get these anti-magic cuffs on him.” Hendak wasted no time in holding the shock-ridden elf as Ano pulled Jonny’s hands behind his back. “There. All secure now,” he smiled and nodded.

“How did you do that, Bernard?” Chambers asked, assuming by that time that Jonny’s sister and the other gang member were vampires, and couldn’t be summarily killed by just any thing.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” snickered Bernard. “I never seen it work before, but The Equalizer just knows what kind of shot it takes to kill whatever enemy it’s pointin’ at. Look.” He bent down and picked up a small wooden pellet. “See? Wood shot. Exactly what the doctor ordered for killin’ vampires.”

“Where’s the Sheriff and Val?” Chambers asked, suddenly remembering the two shots he had heard earlier.

“Sheriff Keldorn got winged in the shoulder. He’s alright, but Val is with him. We need to get him to Doc Aerie, though. It’s just a little bit more than I can heal,” he explained a little embarrassed. “And I need to get the prisoner secured over at the jail. Chambers, if you and Val would take Sheriff back to the Coronet, I would sincerely appreciate it.”

“I’d be happy to, Ano,” he replied. Chambers watched as the Deputy took charge.

“And, Hendak, if you and Bernard would accompany me and the prisoner to the jail, I would be most grateful. I don’t suspect I will need any help in getting him into the anti-magic cell, but if I do, I’d feel better if you two were with me. Just in case.” The two men nodded and helped Ano get the sobbing elf to his feet. Chambers headed toward the front of the house.

“Your deputy did a fine job, Sheriff,” said Chambers. “Jonny is in custody and Ano, Hendak and Bernard are hauling him off to the jail right now.” The Sheriff lay on the ground with his right shoulder bloodied. “Now, how are you? Looks like one of them nicked you a good one, huh?” He looked at Val hoping to get the real low-down on Keldorn’s situation.

“It’s just a flesh wound,” the Sheriff protested and started to get up on his own. “Not the first time I have spilled a little blood in the line of duty.”

“It’s a little bit more than a flesh wound,” Valygar smiled, “but I think he will live until we can get him back to the Coronet and send for the Doc. In the meantime Miss Jaheira can probably help.”

“Then what are we doing waiting around here in this dust storm for?” Chambers smiled. “Let’s get back to the Coronet. The whiskey’s on me!” Even Keldorn laughed.

An hour later, Doc Aerie had healed Sheriff Keldorn, Jonny the Kid was safely in the town jail, and the group of men had reassembled around a table as Miss Jaheira poured each a shot of the Coronet’s finest whiskey.

“There’ll be a hangin’ tomorrow,” she said and raised her glass.

“Now, Miss Jaheira. You know I can’t do that,” said Keldorn.

“You can’t, but I can,” she said, green eyes flashing. “And I am sure I can get many a good soul in this town to help me.”

“Ma’am, we have to all abide by the law,” he began. “He has to have a fair trial.”

“A fair trial!!” she shouted. “Like the one he gave me? Like the one he gave Khalid?”

“Just calm down, Miss Jaheira. It’s the law and I am sworn to uphold the law. And there is nothing I can do about it,” he explained.

“Then what do we do? Do we wait for a judge? Do we wait for his lawyer?” she said impatiently.

“Well, we have a judge here,” offered Bernard hesitantly and nodded towards Theo Hickok, still holding his own court over by the piano. “Although it looks like it might take a day to sober him up.” Everyone turned and eyed the now disheveled former Judge as he precariously balanced a lady on each knee, each of his hands firmly wrapped around each of their derrieres. Haery was playing a lively tune and a small chorus continued to rise up from their crowded table.

“Very well,” snorted Miss Jaheira. “Then it will be so. And what else do we need to start this trial, Sheriff?”

“The accused is entitled to fair representation. In other words he needs to have someone to do his lawyering for him.”

“I might be able to assist,” came a slightly accented voice from a nearby table. Everyone turned to see the back of the man who had spoken. He slowly turned around in his chair and smiled. But it wasn’t a friendly smile. It was a sneering, ugly smile as he locked eyes with Miss Jaheira. Chambers noticed she instantly froze in her tracks.

“And, sir, who might you be?” Keldorn asked.

“ I am Baron Ployer, and I believe that I can persuade Jonny to allow me to represent him. I am a lawyer and I was also acquainted with the deceased, Khalid, as well as his lovely wife, Jaheira, from many years ago.” The smile grew even more evil.

Chambers looked from Miss Jaheira to Ployer, then back again. He did not like this. There was something very wrong here and he did not like this at all. It was one of those feelings that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. No, this wasn’t good.

Miss Jaheira quickly regained her composure. “Yes, Sheriff, Baron Ployer is a lawyer, or rather, he was a lawyer, before he was brought to justice by the Harpers for dealing in the slave trade. Khalid and I were the ones who caught him and brought him to the authorities where he vowed vengeance against us for ruining him. It would appear that would be his motive for wanting to help Jonny.”

“I only want to assist Jonny because the law prescribes it, lovely lady,” he sneered. “And if you do not accept me as his representative, then you will have to wait until someone suitable is brought from Athkatla, and we all know that could take weeks, even months.”

The Sheriff looked at Miss Jaheira and then at Ployer. She never took her stare from the wicked man’s face. “Very well, Sheriff. If Jonny agrees to allow Ployer to represent him, and I vouch for his credentials on my oath as a Harper, will that suffice as proper defense?”

“Well, it’s highly irregular,” Keldorn scratched his bearded chin, “but I think that would hold up in the higher courts.”

“Very well,” she said tersely but satisfied. “Then I have a judge to sober up between now and tomorrow afternoon when we shall begin this trial. If you gentlemen will excuse me.”

She marched over to the table where the last chorus of the song was just being sung.

“Judge Theodur W. Hickok?” she asked in a loud strong voice, her hands firmly on her hips, elbows out.

“Why, yes, you beautiful woman,” he laughed. “I am the honorable Theodur -hic- W. Hickok. And what may I do for you?”

She unceremoniously shoved the two elfin females balanced on his knees into the floor and grabbed him by his slightly pointed ear.

“You will come with me. You are due at trial tomorrow afternoon and there is much preparation, the least of which is getting you cleaned up and sober,” she said sharply and pulled him up from his chair by his ear. He repeatedly winced with pain as she began to lead him across the floor to the door. Chambers noted that in his near drunken state, it was difficult for the young man to keep up with her without losing his ear. He wanted to laugh, but he didn’t dare for fear she might retaliate.

“Bernard!” she yelled across the room when she reached the door. The saloon immediately quieted. “Have something send his things over to my house, if you please, and the sooner the better. And if you see him back in here before the trial is over, no liquor of any sort. You send him to my house, do you hear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” replied the big bartender. She may have only been half his size, but he was smart not to argue with her, thought Chambers. Very smart, indeed.

“And she isn’t going be too pleased about that smashed-in front door, either,” added Valygar and winced. “Think I might stay here tonight, Bernard, if you have a room.”


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