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Black Rock at Bad Day III

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#1 Guest_MorningGlory_*

Posted 28 November 2004 - 01:42 PM

Black Rock at Bad Day

Rated PG-13: Violence, Language, Horseplay

Chapter III

Chambers couldn’t tell if the lovely elf’s halting manner of speech was as Bernard had described it – a stutter – or, if she was simply so uncomfortable being in such surroundings that her insecurities manifested themselves in such aberrant parlance. She had said little since sitting down with Miss Jaheira and the rest of the men after she had healed Sheriff Keldorn.

He could tell she was uncomfortable, feeling out-of-place in Bad Day’s only saloon. Such a den of iniquity it was, filled with loud, whiskey-swilling, ne’er-do-well wranglers and scantily clad ladies-of-the-evening fawning over the same drunken, and near-drunk, cowpokes. But he also sensed the miscast doctor had not hesitated when Miss Jaheira had sent Terl for her assistance. She had answered her call to duty as a healer and Minsc, who had just happened to ‘stop by’ her office minutes before Terl’s arrival, had accompanied her.

She was such a little waif of a thing, Chambers observed. In his mind, she wasn’t beautiful as was the vibrant widow of Khalid’s. That one had fire in her bones. But, this one was intriguing in her way, being very pretty and delicate with a little-girl, wide-eyed innocence about her. He had been truly amazed when he and Valygar had arrived with Keldorn and she had most ably issued orders to put him in one of the upstairs rooms, fetch hot water, then mended the wounded man in a very professional, yet gentle, caring way.

Minsc was the one who had quietly convinced her to stay for a while to enjoy a glass of sarsaparilla, as she had timidly explained to everyone that she didn’t imbibe in alcohol. And, the Sheriff did want to ‘thank’ her for patching him up, as it were. But as the minutes passed and the sweet cold drink was consumed, her uneasiness grew more apparent with her constant shifting in her chair.

“Minsc, I..I.. think I would like…like to go home, please,” said Miss Aerie as she stood. “That..that is.. if you don’t mind.. see..seeing me home. Before..before the..the rain starts.” Chambers also wondered if he was observing a slight blush to the pale elfin skin of the young physician as she glanced imploringly at the large tattooed man sitting to her left at the table.

“Boo and I will indeed escort you home,” said the big simple man as his face lit up with a grin spreading from ear to ear. “We will make sure there is no evil lurking in the shadows of the wind to hurt our wonderful Miss Doc Aerie.” He quickened to her aid in securing her cloak around her shoulders then grasped her medical bag before she had a chance to reach for it. Such a strange-looking couple, thought Chambers.

The men stood in respect for the good doctor as she and Minsc prepared to leave. “Now, Sher..Sheriff,” she began. “You..you just come by the office in… in… the morning.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will be there,” the grateful Sheriff nodded and smiled. “And thank you, Doc Aerie. I want to you to know I appreciate your helping me here, fixin’ me up, and all.”

“You’re very welcome, Sheriff,” she returned his smile shyly. “I.. I’m happy I.. I was here to assist.” Other goodnights were said and the two turned and walked toward the door out into the now dark, raging dust storm.

As he watched them disappear into the near black shroud of fine sand, Chambers wondered what had happened to the gentle giant to render him… well, rather ‘simple’. But he wasn’t so addled that he couldn’t run his huge ranch, and rather successfully from what he gathered of the general conversation that had trailed around the table. Horses, cattle – Minsc had it all at the Lazy Boo, his 1,000-acre spread named after his pet hamster just south of Bad Day. Chambers found the opportunity to ask Keldorn for a little insight on the big man who was so obviously infatuated with the small elfin doctor.

“He was one of the best bronco busters around –still is,” Sheriff Keldorn leaned back in his chair and began to explain to Chambers. “But a couple of years ago he was thrown by a wild mustang he was trying to break, and his head met up with a fence post on the way down. Hasn’t been quite right ever since. Just turned him a little different. Harmless enough, but since then he’s decided that there is this ‘evil’, as he calls it, and he has this calling of a sort that he’s gotta fight it when it rears its ugly head.” He paused to take a sip of whiskey. “I guess I can’t complain. I’ve had him in a couple of posses only because I couldn’t have kept him out if I had wanted to. Always spoutin’ something about kicking the butt of this ‘evil’. And, I have to say, he is one helluva fighter – saved my bacon more than once. Now when I need someone more than just the Deputy here, I usually just go get ol’ Minsc to help us out. He’s always willing to kick the hindquarters of ‘evil’. Well, just as long as we tell him that it’s ‘evil’ we happen to be chasing.” He chuckled at some almost forgotten memory then finished the last small swallow in his glass.

“Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m thinking about moseying on home and getting a good night’s sleep,” said Keldorn as he slowly rose from his chair. “It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow with the trial and all starting, and I’m not as young as I use to be. As much as I enjoy you all’s company, that bed of mine sure sounds good about now.” He laughed -- one of the few times in the past several hours Chambers had seen the Sheriff truly relaxed and less than serious. He settled his hat firmly on his head.

“Wait, Sheriff,” said Anomen, hurriedly grabbing his small pack and his tan suede hat. “I’ll walk as far as the jail with you. I need to check on the prisoner anyway.” Keldorn nodded then turned back to Chambers and Valygar.

“And I highly recommend having breakfast here. Do that myself, almost every morning. Bernard’s wife cooks in the mornings here and those biscuits she makes are lighter than a cloud on a soft spring morning. They almost make living in Bad Day worthwhile,” he chuckled then stuck out his hand to Chambers. “And I want to thank you Chambers for your help today. If you hadn’t been here, I doubt we would have caught that varmint. I guess I owe your horse an extra bucket of oats, too. Helping us locate them like he did.” He chuckled again and shook his head. “I’ll be damned… a talkin’ horse… and I thought I’d seen just about everything there was in Faerun.”

“I’ll convey your ‘thanks’, Sheriff,” grinned Chambers as he shook the lawman’s hand.

“Alrighty, Ano. Let’s go have a look at that no-good snake you got locked up in the jail. Make sure he hasn’t slithered through the anti-magic bars yet.” He turned back to Chambers. “You know, it always worries me to have such a powerful mage in custody. Just about anything could go wrong. Well, no use in borrowing trouble as my dear sweet wife used to say, gods rest her soul.” He sighed.

“Okay, Ano, let’s get moving here.” The Deputy nodded and shook everyone’s hand in turn and again thanked Chambers and Valygar for their help. They waved goodbye to Bernard and Hendak behind the bar then made their way to the door and into the dark swirling shadows of the blowing sand.

“Well, I guess I’d better get on down the street and ‘home’, too,” Valygar smiled.

“I thought you were going to stay here,” chuckled Chambers. “Rather than incur the possible wrath of Miss Jaheira for that broken door we left her.”

“She’ll probably have it back up on its hinges and repaired, and I’ll just blame it on Jonny,” he winked as he rose and plopped the old sweat-stained leather hat on his mass of tiny braids covering his head. “Say… Why don’t you come up and have breakfast with us in the morning? Miss Jaheira is a fine cook, although her biscuits aren’t as good as Miss Melody’s here. I could tell her to be expecting you.”

“I’d like to do that, Valygar. Give me a little time to size up that Judge beforehand. Make sure he’s going to be up to the task of trying that sidewinder,” he nodded. “That is, if you don’t think it would be an imposition, and you don’t think she would mind too terribly much.”

“Nah… She would be right pleased if you did, I am sure. Maybe you could stop by the mercantile across the street on your way up and bring a jar of jam with you. Miss Jaheira’s a proud woman, doesn’t take kindly to what she might think of as charity. But a little gift of sweets from someone coming for breakfast would be acceptable to her, if you get my meaning. Say… a little after sunrise?” he winked. Hard times for a gallant lady, thought Chambers. Being alone wasn’t easy for a man in this harsh land, much less a woman who was just getting by.

“That’s a good idea, Valygar. I’ll do just that,” said Chambers and shook the dark ranger’s hand before he left into the howling black wind. Chambers grabbed his bag-of-holding and hat and headed for the stairs. It had been a long, yet profitable day. He was ready for a good night’s sleep, and as he looked around at the remaining women, he thought for right now it would be alone.

Sometime during the night the rains came pummeling the roof atop the Silver Dollar Coronet and cleaned the air from the fury of the desert. But Chambers heard nothing of the raging finale of the storm. He was nestled peacefully in the recently fumigated featherbed, content with being right where he was, lost to a dream of a beautiful half-elfin woman he had met only hours before. A rooster calling the awakening dawn was the first he heard of the new day.

Yes, just as Valygar had predicted, he mused as he stood on the porch awaiting someone to answer his knock. The door had been re-hung on its hinges – either by her, or maybe Valygar had been ‘convinced’ to right the damage when he had returned the evening before.

“Miss Jaheira,” he smiled and removed his hat as the door opened and the lady of the house greeted him. She was just as beautiful standing in front of him, as she had been in his dream -- fresh, radiant, and the look of hope alive in her flashing green eyes.

“Mr. Chambers,” she smiled graciously. “How nice of you to join us. Do come in.” She held the door open wide for him to enter and as he passed close to her, he caught the sweet scent of lilies-of-the-valley. He paused inside the door and handed her the bag of purchases from his morning’s foray into the Mercantile. She cautiously peeked inside, smiling with anticipation. Three large jars of cloudberry jam, a large cloth sack of sugar, a large bag of coffee, a large round of imported cheese and a small golden box of exotic chocolates. “It’s.. it is very kind of you, Mr. Chambers, and much too generous” she blushed ever so slightly. “And, very unnecessary. You would have been just as welcome to my table had you brought nothing.”

“It’s nothing, ma’am,” he began. “Just a little something I picked up at Mr. Jansen’s Mercantile. My father taught me never to come calling empty-handed.” He was trying to minimize his gift with the hope she could, and would, accept it.

“So you met our distinguished Mr. Jansen, merchant extraordinaire, I gather,” she said, eyes twinkling with amusement then turned toward the kitchen.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, talking to her back as he followed. “Quite a colorful character, I must say, -- and quite the raconteur. I didn’t think I would ever escape the story of his Great Aunt Hildegarde.”

She laughed knowingly. “Yes, we have all be subjected to that one, and some of us on more than one occasion.”

The smell of freshly baked bread and fried meat and potatoes greeted him as they entered the kitchen. A large pan sizzled merrily on the stove in the far corner of the room as she quickly sat the bag down on the counter and hurried to attend to it. Valygar and Judge Theo both welcomed Chambers to the cozy round table draped with a bright red-and-white checkered tablecloth where they sat drinking tea from fine porcelain cups.

“You haven’t met the Honorable Theodur W. Hickok, Paris,” Valygar effected the introduction. “We’ve been getting acquainted here. The Judge was just telling me he is thinking of moving to Bad Day and opening his own law office here.”

The Judge nodded. “I presided over the district court in Laredo County until just recently, when I was forced into retirement from my position. The law is all I know, and Bad Day looks as good of a place as any,” he smiled wanly. “By the way, did I smell coffee in that bag Miss Jaheira was carrying?” he asked softly. Chambers noted he still looked a bit peaked from the previous night and was still wearing the same grimy clothes. Obviously, his half-elfin sense of smell wasn’t affected by his current state of a near hangover.

“Yes, your Honor,” Chambers said. “I was surprised to find the delicacy here in Bad Day, but Jansen seems to have just about one of everything in that store of his. I thought maybe Miss Jaheira would enjoy a change from tea. I know I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee in many a tenday!”

“And, I will make us a steaming pot momentarily,” she happily called over her shoulder as she continued to attend to the large pan of sausages and potatoes. The smells of the food and watching her so attentively labor over the stove made Chambers suddenly hungry. The thought of settling down quickly swept from his subconscious mind into the conscious realm. A thought about which he sometimes fantasized, but never seriously entertained for very long. He quickly turned his attention back to the Judge and Valygar as the Judge continued with snippets of his life on the bench. It wasn’t long and breakfast was soon served.

Hot fresh-baked bread with creamy yellow cheese and cloudberry jam, followed by a hearty mixture of sausage, potatoes and fresh eggs from the henhouse out back. They had all feasted heartily then washed it down with a total of two pots of the fresh aromatic coffee. Chambers thought the Judge looked decidedly better, the color in his face not as sallow as when he had first arrived. Valygar leaned back in his chair and patted a non-existent paunch.

“You outdid yourself, Miss Jaheira,” he complimented her. “Mighty fine meal, indeed. Fit for a king.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Chambers piped up. “Been a long time since I’ve been treated to a home-cooked meal. It was wonderful.”

“If it was wonderful, Mr. Chambers, it is only because of your generous contributions,” she smiled and blushed, something Chambers knew she was unaccustomed to doing. She rose from the table and reached for Chamber’s plate.

“Ma’am. We will clean up,” Chambers offered and gently touched her hand to interrupt her. Valygar and the Judge both looked at him. The looks on their faces said the same thing – it was fine if he wanted to opt for kitchen duty, but don’t volunteer them.

“Would you mind?” she paused. “If perhaps you and Valygar could do that for me, then I could take the Judge and get him cleaned up for the trial. Can’t have your knowledge of the law brought into question by the smell of whiskey on your clothes, Theo. And you could certainly use a hair cut as well.” She had turned to the juris half-elf and running her fingers through his dark brown hair, inspected the longish, unkempt wavy locks with an imposing familiarity. Chambers noticed she had dropped the formality of ‘Judge’, as well, when she spoke directly to him..

He also couldn’t help but smile at her unabashed scrutiny and Valygar almost giggled. They exchanged glances with the unspoken words they were glad it was the Judge who was the subject of the druidess’s attentive eye rather than themselves. “Yes, there is much to do and little time to accomplish it,” she said, more to herself than to anyone else.

“Then shall we get to it?” snickered Valygar as he rose and began to collect the dirty plates and utensils. Chambers quickly began to assist.

“Come with me, Theo,” she directed brusquely. “We need to get you out of those disgusting clothes and into a nice hot bath. You and Khalid were about the same size… I think I have some of his things left that will make you look presentable for the occasion.”

He instinctively covered his ear and winced. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied, waiting the possible assault.

She gently swatted at the hand protecting his ear. “And, I am sure I need not utilize such a tactic this morning to convince you of what must be done to complete your duty,” she sniffed in response to his reaction. Chambers and Valygar cleared their throats in unison, desperately trying to hold back the laughter then quickly moved toward the other side of the kitchen to the sink.

“Ma’am, I am totally capable of giving myself a bath,” Theo was trying to explain. “I am a grown man, and I am not quite sure if it is ethically allowable for you to do so anyway.” The two men snickered noiselessly as they listened to the Judge vainly trying to argue with the very determined druidess.

“There is no ethical problem, Theo. I am a Harper still and my word is bond. Plus I do not want to leave anything to chance. I promise I will be gentle and then after your bath…,” they heard her words trail off as she left the kitchen with the Honorable Theodur W. Hickok in tow. He had given up arguing with her and simply nodded to whatever she was saying.

“A female of great determination,” remarked Chambers as they watched them leave. Valygar handed him a plate to dry and glanced over his shoulder.

“That she is, my friend,” he chuckled. “A testament to her survival since Khalid passed away. I have the greatest of admiration and respect for her.”

“The greatest of admiration?” Chambers asked, wondering if Valygar had interests in her other than that of a landlord-tenant relationship.

“Not to worry, Paris,” he quickly interjected, sensing his friend’s unspoken question. “She isn’t my ‘type’, and I’ve been alone and on my own for so many years, I wouldn’t know what to do with a wife and frilly curtains.”

“Well you can certainly wash a mean dish, my friend,” Chambers chuckled as he watched the ranger, sleeves rolled up, scouring away in the soapy water. “You’d do any wife proud.”

“Watch your tongue, drifter,” Valygar smirked at the joke made by his friend. “When I was younger, I killed men for far less.” They both broke out in laughter. However, Chambers was intrigued by his new friend’s comment and wanted to ask, but didn’t.

“Valygar, would you please dispose of these?” Miss Jaheira entered the room just as they had finished. She carried a bag with her. “It’s Theo’s clothes. They are so disgusting I don’t believe even a resurrection spell at the local church could help them. Fortunately, he is close enough size to Khalid that he will be properly dressed and most presentable this afternoon. As soon as I get the rest of the filth off of him.” Chambers could tell she was all consumed with Jonny’s trial, the look of absorption deep in her eyes. She was going to do all she could to insure that it proceed properly and according to the laws of the land. In her mind, there was no question of the outcome.

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take them out back on my way to the foothills. There’s a den of young wolves I need to check on and make sure they survived the storm. Their mother was feeling a little peaked over the last few days and unable to hunt, and I need to take them a couple of jackrabbits so they don’t starve before she gets better and can feed them on her own. But I will be back in time for the trial,” he reassured her.

“Yes, we will need your testimony, Valygar,” she nodded then turned to Chambers to explain. “Valygar was the first one to our ranch house after.. after Khalid was killed. He just happened to be in the area and heard the commotion. He.. he rescued me then went for the Sheriff.” Watching her deep anguish spread across her face was more than he thought he could bear. It also made him remember his Father being shot down in cold blood by a hired gun. A silent shudder ran through him.

“Then I’ll go with you, Valygar, out to check on the momma wolf and her pups. I could use a little target practice anyway, seeing as how those jackrabbits will be out in droves after that rain last night,” said Chambers, quickly diverting the conversation.

“Why, thank you, Paris. I would enjoy the company,” replied Valygar as he took the bag from Miss Jaheira. “Now, you’re sure Judge Theo won’t mind?” he asked hesitantly.

“Judge Theo will be thankful he is rid of them once he is cleaned up,” she chuckled. “I left him singing to himself in a large tub of very hot soapy water, after which I am going to tame his long curly hair with my sharpened scissors. Anyway, I gave him no choice.” The two men again glanced at each other, both grateful to the gods it was him under her diligent care, and not either of them.


“Larry, this my friend Valygar,” Chambers introduced the ranger to the talking horse as he led him outside Korgan’s barn where Valygar awaited them. He was already in the saddle and ready to ride.

“Hmmm… nice to meet you, Val,” replied the horse and snorted his initial approval. “And what’s your mount’s name? I like to be on a first-name basis with my traveling companions, human and equine both.”

“Nice to meet you, too, Larry,” laughed Valygar. “And my gelding’s name is Bosco.”

“Yeah, I noticed he, er.. ‘it’ was a gelding,” snorted Larry. “Just couldn’t let things alone, could you Val? Had to deprive the poor sod of his gods-given right to be a male horse and the few pleasures afforded him.”

Valygar laughed as Chambers climbed into the saddle and jerked back on the reins. “Be nice, Larry,” he admonished him.

“Larry, someone else took Bosco’s fun away from him. I found him abandoned with a broken leg and left for dead out on the range about a year ago. I just happened to have enough healing potion with me and he and I have been good buddies since.” He leaned and briskly patted the pinto’s neck. The spotted horse whinnied in response as a short exchange of ‘horse talk’ ensued between the two animals.

“He confirmed your story, Val,” Larry finally said. “I guess you’re a good guy after all. Now where we goin’ to, Paris.”

“First, a little hunting and then a little delivery to a sick momma and her babies,” Chambers laughed as he planted his boot heels into Larry’s flanks.

“I should have known it was gonna be a (expletive) good deed,” Larry grumbled loudly as they took off with a start.


The female wolf was still a bit under the weather, but she and her pups had weathered the storm with no ill effects. Valygar delivered no less than six fat jackrabbits, still warm from the kill to her and she had licked his hand in appreciation and softly whined her grateful appreciation to him. Chambers watched in awe at the gentleness the ranger displayed as he inspected his temporary charge and her small mewling pups. It was equally amazing that the mother wolf actually allowed him to do so without taking his hand off, or worse. It reminded him of Doc Aerie the night before. Such tenderness in such a harsh land seemed most incongruous to him.

The ride back to town was filled with sightings of gray hawks and a couple of carrion vultures, all out for the hunt, as expertly explained by Chambers’ tour guide. They even stopped at Valygar’s behest to watch as one of the gray hawks streaked effortlessly toward the ground and then soared above them with a wriggling jackrabbit firmly in its talons, it’s graceful flight seamlessly uninterrupted or slowed in the catch. Chambers had seen this scenario played time and time again as he had crossed the desert. But like so many other things, he had never paid any attention until Valygar explained the hawk’s story of survival, pitting it against the story of the jackrabbit’s story of survival in this great wilderness. Bad Day was indeed very fortunate to have someone like Valygar, thought Chambers. Someone who took his rangering duties seriously, and watched out for the land, and its many inhabitants.

“Think I will go and get cleaned up,” Chambers said as they left Korgan’s barn after putting Larry back in his stall. “Might get Bernard to fill up that wash tub I have in my room and get some of this grit off of me.”

Valygar nodded. “Think I might just do the same. Wouldn’t do to get up on the stand without cleaning up a little.”

“By the way, I never asked, but exactly where will this trial take place?” asked Chambers. He had looked around but didn’t see any building that could accommodate such a number of people. Bad Day had a jail, but it didn’t have a town hall or a bona fide courthouse.

“Hendak has always closed down the bar and graciously offered the saloon for such things. His contribution to the ‘community’ as he says, although he always catches hell from Miss Viccy because it eats into her revenues as well. But that way it stays here and doesn’t have to go to the county seat. Otherwise, we would all have to haul over to Ribald’s Junction,” he explained, shaking his head at the prospect of the twelve-mile ride.

Chambers nodded. “Well, pardner, I’ll meet you back at the saloon in about an hour? Maybe we can rustle something to eat from the cook before the trial begins.”

Valygar agreed and the two parted company, Valygar crossing the street back to Miss Jaheira’s boarding house and Chambers in the direction of the Coronet.

It hadn’t taken much to convince Bernard to fill his tub with hot water. The rains from the night before had been collected and filled the large oaken barrels out back, and at least temporarily the Coronet was flush with excess water. At least until it was used or evaporated. Chambers luxuriated in the soapy, albeit slightly murky water. It felt good to get the road grime off of him and out of his thick dark hair. He pulled a fresh black suit and shirt from his bag-of-holding and proceeded to dress. He slipped the heavy silver-tipped bolo tie around his neck and tightened it up under his collar.

Funny, he thought. People dressed up for the damnest things – church, weddings, funerals, trials, and even hangings. He polished his boots to a clean glossy shine before he put them on then looked in the mirror as he combed his dark now-curly hair. Well, at least it’s clean, he thought, not being able to tame it into any semblance of order and refusing to use the greasy hair condiments. He wondered if he might get Miss Jaheira to trim it for him before he finally left town.

He walked down the stairs just as he saw Valygar come through the swinging saloon doors. He, too, had ‘dressed up’ for the occasion with soft suede pants and a lightly fringed jacket, a clean starched shirt underneath, undoubtedly the handiwork of Miss Jaheira’s little side business of washing and ironing clothes.

“Hungry?” he asked his friend as they met up at the bar.

“I think I’m still running on what we had for breakfast!” Valygar laughed. Bernard walked over to them drying a glass with what appeared to be the same bar rag he was using the previous day when Chambers arrived.

“Sorry, gentlemen, but I ain’t serving no liquor until the day’s proceedin’s have ended. Boss’ orders,” he nodded toward Hendak standing at the far end directing the reorganization of the tables and chairs to accommodate the trial.

“ Not a problem, Bernard,” Chambers nodded. “We’re not here to drink. We just want to get a good seat before they’re all taken. But if you have some sarsaparilla, Val and I would appreciate some to wet our whistle.” Bernard nodded and smiled as he retrieved the beverages for them.

It did not take long for the town’s volunteers to change the saloon into an almost respectable courtroom. Rows of chairs were lined up for those attending the trial; to the right a jury box was set up holding 12 chairs; a center front table to be the Honorable Judge Theo’s bench, and a small table directly in front of the viewing gallery for the defendant and his counsel. The witness chair was put to the right side of the ‘bench’ where the jurors would be able to closely watch and hear whoever was testifying. Another small table was placed on the opposite side of the ‘bench’ where, as Chambers thought, the Sheriff and Deputy would sit, with a full view of the crowd as well as the accused.

Chambers knew it would not be as formal as a proceeding in Athkatla, for example, but he also knew the rules of evidence and basic procedures would be the same. If anything, any Judge presiding over this type of court had a more onerous burden to seeing that justice was fairly served than in a bigger, more sophisticated court.

And, although there would be no ‘formal’ prosecutor as there would be in a big city, both he and Valygar had decided that Judge Theo would be more than competent and evenhanded in administering a fair trial -- one that higher-ups in the government would have no reason to overturn, whatever decision was rendered by the jury. Chambers privately pondered what Judge Theo could have done to piss them off so badly that they dismissed him from his duties but didn’t take away his right to practice his craft.

The two watched and chatted as the procession of townspeople began entering the Coronet, Valygar pointing out some of the town’s notables. Bernard had told them not to rush as he had taken the liberty of ‘reserving’ both them and Miss Jaheira a ‘ring-side’ seat. “You being witnesses and all to the shootout and the capture,” he explained, “you have to be up front when they call your name to testify.”

The time drew near and finally Sheriff Keldorn entered through the doors, accompanied by Deputy Delryn and Jonny the Kid, surrounded by a glowing bluish-gray orb. Undoubtedly, something to contain his magical powers, thought Chambers. Baron Ployer followed immediately behind, a large sheaf of papers in his hands.

A few more minutes and Miss Jaheira entered the saloon, accompanied by Judge Theo. A very different-looking Judge Theo than had left the saloon the night before. He and Miss Jaheira’s Khalid must have been the exact same size, thought Chambers, as he noticed how well the white linen suit fit the tall half-elf. With the grime gone and his hair trimmed into a more manageable length, he looked -- well, almost handsome. The crowd murmured and general whispering arose at their appearance.

“Is that the same man we had breakfast with this morning?” Valygar said, eyebrows raised.

“Appears to be, Val. Looks like Miss Jaheira has damn near pulled off a miracle, I’d say,” he replied as he watched them walk to the front of the makeshift courtroom, the Judge’s back straight and head held high. Yes, it looked as though Miss Jaheira had pulled off a complete transformation of the jurist as he walked with dignity to take his place at the bench.

“Time?” Valygar nodded to Chambers.

“Time.” Chambers returned the nod. They made their way to the two empty chairs adjacent to where Miss Jaheira had seated herself in the front row. Judge Theo took the bench and the Sheriff stood and looked around. He apparently was going to serve as bailiff and general peacekeeper and whatever else this trial didn’t have but would need.

“Alright. Alright,” said the Sheriff to the noisy gallery. “Time to settle down everyone. You men, take off your hats – there will no hat-wearin’ in a court of law. And, I’m gonna forewarn everyone right now. Any of you start acting up and being disrespectful, I am personally going to remove you from the premises. Do you all understand?” Hats were instantly removed as everyone nodded and murmured. “Good. Now, let’s get on with it.”

He paused for a moment then began the soliloquy heralding the opening of the proceedings. “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. I now declare the trial of the people versus Jonny the Kid, also known as Jonaleth Irenicus, for the murder of Khalid now in session. The Honorable Theodur W. Hickok now presiding.” The Sheriff turned and nodded to the Judge. The Judge cleared his throat and pounded on the table with his gavel.

“Very well,” he said then looked up at the defendant and the swarthy rotund man serving as his defense counsel. “And how does the defendant plead to the charges, er.. Baron Ployer, is it?”

“Yes, your honor,” the seedy-looking man stood up from his chair. “He pleads ‘not guilty’.”

A loud rumble erupted from the crowd and Judge Theo banged the gavel sharply. He furrowed his brow and looked across the sea of faces before him. “I will have none of that in my courtroom,” he boomed at them, taking them by surprise. “We have business to conduct here and no time for these interruptions. You get noisy, and I will personally escort you outside.” Chambers could see he meant it, and then there was a long pause. “Now that we all understand each other, let’s get on to business.”

Judge Theo turned his attention back to Ployer. “Not guilty?” he said dispassionately. Ployer nodded an affirmative.

“Yes, your honor. Not guilty.” This time the crowd refrained from showing their overwhelming displeasure.

“Very well,” said the Judge, “then I suppose we should get right to the task of selecting a jury.” Sheriff Keldorn reached over and handed him a long list of townfolk. Chambers watched intently as his Honor randomly called name after name and interviewed each with the same five questions:

“Are you acquainted with the defendant? Are you acquainted with Miss Jaheira? Do you have a prejudice against elves or half-elves? Do you believe you can render a fair and impartial verdict based on the evidence presented here? Do you believe in hanging?”

After fifteen interviews, Judge Theo finally had twelve good men and women he impaneled in the cordoned-off jury box. Chambers personally knew none of them, only what Bernard or Valygar had told him previously about some of them. Korgan’s wife, Mazzy, was there, as was Miss Immy, the town’s schoolmarm. Miss Viccy had been selected as well. A seeming bufflehead named Neeber, Bernard’s helper Terl, one of Miss Viccy’s girls, two ranch hands from different nearby spreads, and four Jansens rounded out the group that would hold Jonny’s life in their hands. The Judge had allowed the panel to briefly confer to select a jury foreperson with the honor being delegated to Miss Immy. “Well, she can read things and explain it to us,” Neeber had piped up to explain to the Judge.

“Very well, Mr. Neeber,” the judge snorted. “But sit down and no more outbursts. Do not speak unless I ask you a specific question. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” he nodded and resumed his seat next to Miss Immy.

“Are we ready to proceed?” Judge Theo looked up from scribing his transcript and perused the crowd. Everyone shook their head in agreement. “Sheriff, do you want to call the first witness?”

“Yes, your Honor,” nodded Keldorn as he stood. “I call Miss Jaheira to the stand.”

To Be Continued……

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