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 Golden

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Join date : 2013-08-24

Golden Empty
PostSubject: Golden   Golden EmptySun Sep 01, 2019 5:40 am

It's time for a new challenge, and as the fruit ripens on the trees, and the leaves start to turn gold, it can be only one thing.
sun 1
Golden
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Time to give us your best take on the prompt, which can be literal, or metaphorical, gold. Don't forget to comment on last month's stories before you post, as comments are the only thanks our writers get.
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WichitaRed

WichitaRed

Posts : 195
Join date : 2014-01-02

Golden Empty
PostSubject: Re: Golden   Golden EmptyThu Sep 19, 2019 11:53 pm

Challenge: Golden by Wichita Red
 
 
“Hey!” Curry shouted, his saddle hanging from one hand as he pointed with his chin to the south. “Here, he comes.”
 
Wheat let go of the cinch strap he had been tightening, bellowing, “where you been?” His face so flushed it hid his worry from everything but his voice. “We were just saddling up to go search for you.”
 
His and Curry’s hollering had everyone looking toward Kyle and his pony, Strawberry, riding in, looking worn down to the bone.
 
Tossing his saddle up on the fence rail, Curry undid the rope halter, releasing his horse, even as the rest of the gang watched Kyle ride up.
 
Dropping an arm across the corral gate, Heyes shook his head at the pathetic sight Kyle and Strawberry presented, “had everyone worried.”
 
The loose, sloppy grin Kyle was known for made its appearance, “didn’t mean to.”
 
“Well, you did.” Heyes replied low, his black eyes glittering on the edge of anger, “what have I said about anyone just wandering off.”
 
“I didn’t wander, I had purpose.”
 
“And, that was?” Heyes asked, swinging the gate open, so the little flea-bitten roan could enter.
 
“Let me take care of my gal, and I will tell y’all.”
 
Heyes eyes slid to Curry who was folding his arms across his chest and settling back into his heels. “Way you look, has me thinking you got yourself chased by the law...” he glanced to the south, “you did not bring any of them dogs with you?”
 
“Oh, no...it weren’t the law at all.” Kyle chirped, more falling from his saddle than climbing down.
 
With a snort, Wheat grabbed Strawberry’s headstall, “I will take care of your horse.”
 
“Gee, Wheat that is real kind of you.” Kyle heaved out a long sigh, “I am awfully tired.”
 
By this time, every member of the Devil’s Hole had gathered near, and Lobo asked, “so where you been?”
 
Kyle peered up at the group of men, all taller than him, and sheepishly smiled. “I caught a buffalo.”
 
Haig wobbled his cigar up and down while shaking his head even as Hank snorted out a laugh.
 
I did catch a buffalo!”
 
“So, where is it?” Monahan asked, bumping into Olly who only shrugged.
 
“See, I was out lookin’ for some blackberry bushes, and this big ol’ herd of buffalo went stormin’ by me and Strawberry.” Kyle looked over at his mare, “She didn’t care none for ‘em and set to buckin’.” He shook his head, “she usually treats me better than that.”
 
Wheat had thrown the mare’s saddle on the fence and was rubbing her down, even as she sucked water from the trough.
 
“But I got her spun out of it, and we took off after them buffalo. They was just a runnin’ and we kept after ‘em.”
 
Haig pulled his cigar, releasing a stream of blue smoke, “so you working up to tellin’ us, you got lost chasin’ the herd.”
 
Kyle straightened, throwing his shoulders back, “I don’t never get lost, I was taught to track when I was just a boy.”
 
Coming out of the corral, Wheat took an appraisal of Kyle, “when did you eat last?”
 
“Been a mite.”
 
“I want to hear the rest of this,” Heyes said, pushing off the gate, and motioning to the bunkhouse. “Hardcase fetch him a bowl off the stove and a cup of coffee.”
 
“Why Heyes that is right kind of you.”
 
“We will see how kind you think, I am once I have heard all your tale.”
 
Kyle slumped a bit, following his fellow gang members to the chairs scattered along the bunkhouse’s porch, and took a seat in one. “I overtook them buffalo ‘bout sundown, I did.”
 
Curry nodded, leaning against one of the porch poles, behind Kyle, his motion inciting all the others to nod along.
 
Kyle grinned at his pals’ genuine interest. “When me and Strawberry overtook ‘em, those big cows had their tongues stickin’ out…” He held his arms wide, “…. why they was stickin’ out a dirt track mile.”
 
“If’n they were that tired, why did you not just shoot one and come on home?” Wheat asked, leaning forward and dropping his elbows on his knees, while eyeing Kyle, in an almost big brother fashion.
 
Kyle frowned, and looked down, “well, it were then I realized that when Strawberry did all that buckin’, she had shaken the tarnation out of me. I mean really did, cause...” He shrugged, sliding guilty eyes to the leader of the gang. “…I was a missin’ my shootin’ iron.”
 
Wheat shot to his feet and Kyle spun his way, having figured it would be Heyes who would rare up all angry, not his closest pal.
 
“You were out there without nothing?!?”
 
Mournfully, Kyle exhaled out, “I was.”
 
Throwing his hands up, Wheat plopped back on the chair so hard, it creaked under him, “Sometimes. . . sometimes you ain’t—”
 
“Now, don’t need to be goin’ on so, Wheat, I made it back all righty.”
 
Hardcase handed Kyle a bowl of stew, and the little man began shoveling it in his mouth, mumbling about how good it tasted.
 
Clearing his throat, Curry prompted, “Uh, Kyle?”
 
“Well, like I done had to admit, I up and lost my weapon. But, them buffalo they was just a standin’ there, so I took down my rope, and threw it on a lil’ heifer.”
 
At this, Heyes took off his hat, running a hand back through his hair before setting it back on.
 
“Boy, howdy, that heifer wasn’t as tired as I thought, cause she took off like a hornet had stung her. And, she was a-squallin’ and this big one it charged, all gruntin’ and snortin’ my way. So, I thought, it’d be best if I let the heifer go, but that rope was drawn so tight ‘bout my saddle horn.” Kyle shoved another mouthful of stew in, followed by a swig of coffee.
 
Rocking forward in his chair, Monahan cried, “well, what happened?”
 
“Oh! Well, I don’t rightly know why, but that big one just took on out after rest of that herd. See, when that lil’ heifer started bawlin’ the others just skedaddled. Bout that time, it came to me, ‘Kyle, how you gonna kill this varmint with your pistol missin’?’ Then I just knew there weren’t no way, so I got out my pocket knife.”
 
Wheat groaned, “The one I been telling you to replace.”
 
“My grand-pappy gave me that knife.”
 
“It has had its day.”
 
“I might concede you to be right there, Wheat.” Kyle took another drink, “cause I went to tryin’ to open the lil’ blade, cause it be the sharp one. But I couldn’t get it free. So, I gave up, Strawberry dancin’, the heifer jerkin’ us both ‘bout and all.”
 
Curry covered his mouth, smothering a brilliant smile but still seeing it in his eyes, Heyes sucked in his lower lip and looked to the floor.
 
“I opened the big blade.” Kyle grinned, “Difficulty was I could have made just as much headway, cuttin’ that rope with my finger, suppose yuse right Wheat, my grand-pappy’s knife just ain’t no good.”
 
At this, a snorted cough escaped Curry, and Kyle looked sharp up at him.
 
Swallowing and coughing, Curry motioned to his throat, “got a tickle.”
 
Kyle’s eyes narrowed skeptically, and he took another bite of the stew, continuing on through the mouthful, “Not knowin’ what else to do, I climbed down, preparin’ myself to take on that buffalo with no more than my muscles for weapons.”
 
A snorted choking cough escaped from several of the gang members this time, and Kyle shook his head around at them. “I ain’t gotta tell y’all this.”
 
Looking up, Heyes rolled out a slick, dimpled grin, “Oh, but, Kyle, we all want to hear it.”
 
Dragging the last of his roll around the inside of his empty bowl, Kyle purposely ignored the men surrounding him.
 
“Come on, Kyle, you know you want to spill it.” Kyle’s blue eyes rose to meet Hannibal Heyes’ most sincere smile, just as he cajoled, “You know you do.”
 
Popping the roll in his mouth, Kyle grinned around it. “See it took me a bit, but I managed to get ‘er down, had to get one hand under her jaw and the other on a horn, and...” He slapped his hands together, “...I threw ‘er, and I tied her up with that fancy sash Mizz Jenny done gave me to hold my britches up with. Tied ‘er just like I learned, back when, I worked on the four-y ranch. Then I needed that lil’ blade, and I still couldn’t get a hold of it.” He snorted through his nose sounding oddly mournful, “so I broke the big blade off my grand-pappy’s knife, yup broke it off, and used it to pry the lil’ blade out.” He looked big-eyed over at Wheat, “that be why I gotta concede you might be right.”
 
Wheat was pinching at the bridge of his nose, his face reddening as he struggled to conceal his laughter.
 
“I know it ain’t every day you hear you are right. But, do not be takin’ it so hard there, Wheat.”
 
“I am trying not to, Kyle, trying not to.”
 
“What happened then?” Hank asked, leaning eagerly forward.
 
“After I done slit ‘er throat, it came to me it would be a good idee to take ‘er hide. Show y’all.” Kyle nodded, “and a buffalo hide makes a right fine blanket.”
 
As a group, the Devil’s Hole glanced toward the corral, and Hardcase voiced what they were all thinking, “So where is it?”
 
“Your jumpin’ ahead on my story.” Kyle scolded, “I did skin ‘er, and let me say it were a terrible tedious task with that lil’ blade.” Kyle nodded like an old sage soothsayer, “it were pitch black by the time, I had that hide and two-good sized chunks of meat hooked to my saddle.”
 
At this, he looked over to Heyes, giving him a squeamish grin, “we done gone a good distance, and me and Strawberry was nearly dead for a drink. So, instead of comin’ back, we went searchin’ for a stream and that cool water, it never tasted so good. I reckon by then it were past midnight, so I pulled Stawberry’s bridle, so she could graze.” Kyle set to digging in his vest, and all watching knew his grubby hand would appear with a plug of tobacco. “Then I spread that hide down, hair up and wrapped the end of my rope about me a couple times, so Strawberry couldn’t wander off. And, I laid down on that hide and fell right to sleep.”
 
Having unwrapped his tobacco, they all watched as he ground a bite off, and waited as he worked the chunk down into something useable.
 
“Dangdest thing, I woke up covered head to toe in ants.”
 
Laughter burst from each man present, not one trying to hold it back.
 
Kyle spat into his empty coffee cup, “it were terrible, that fresh meat attracted them and they was eating it and me too.”
 
The laughter rose in volumes, and Kyle leaned back, his brows drawing low, “y’all is pitiful pals, just pitiful.”
 
Curry dropped a hand on his shoulder, “sorry, Kyle, but if it were one of us, you would be hacking just as loud.”
 
“Suppose you’re right.” Kyle spat again and then grinned broadly. “I freed myself of them pests and decided to move me and Strawberry downstream a ways, and this time, I left the hide on the saddle. Laid down in some tall grass and went right back to sleep. Now, I weren’t asleep more than an hour....” He shook his head with a frown. “.... when Strawberry lets go with a tremendous snort, and she struck out, at full speed, draggin’ me with ‘er. ‘Cause, I had wrapped the rope ‘bout myself again, like I always do.”
 
Low enough, that not everyone heard him, Heyes stoically said, “Seems I’ve informed you, plenty of times, that might not be the best way to field stake your horse.”
 
“Well, Strawberry ain’t never treated me that way before. And, luckily, I came loose after just a bit of draggin’.”
 
From above and behind Kyle, Curry set to snickering, so hard, he was shaking the porch pole he was leaning against.
 
“Now, Kid, that just ain’t funny, I could have been powerfully hurt.”
 
The laughter became harder and louder.
 
“Kid?!?!”
 
“Sorry, Kyle, just can’t get the image out of my mind of you being jerked awake and drug.” Curry wiped at his eyes, not noticing the look settling into Kyle’s features.
 
“Kyle!” Heyes barked, distracting the small man, whose anger had him puffing up worse than a banty rooster. “What happened next?”
 
“Well, Heyes, when I got to my feet, can you imagine how lonesome I felt out there all alone and afoot. I felt just like a little boy who had lost his way. Then there was this noise in my ear, and I turned, and it’s my Strawberry. See, she does care ‘bout me, she came right on back.” With a nod, he spat in his coffee cup. “She is one good mare, and I climbed back up on ‘er, and decided to not get off, till I got here.”
 
“So, where are the hide and meat?”
 
Kyle looked to Merkle who had until now not made a sound, and a goofy, lopsided grin filled Kyle’s face. “I done lost it. The ants got the meat, they all liked it so much, I didn’t want to take ‘em with me. And, when Strawberry ran off, she must of done some buckin’, again, ‘cause she didn’t bring the hide back with ‘er.”
 
While listening to this, Heyes had taken off his hat and was walking the crown in a circle through his long fingers, and when Kyle ceased speaking, he slanted an eye over to the outlaw. “So, you lost an eighteen-dollar Colt chasing buffalo and have nothing to show for it.”
 
Kyle’s eyes widened noticeably, and he nodded back to his leader. “I did.”
 
Shields jumped up, blurting, “Hellfire, that is the biggest load of bull I ever heard. I bet you was off playin’ poker in town, like you weren’t supposed to be, and lost your pistol in the pot!”
 
Kyle’s shoulders drooped, and his pale blue eyes shifted to the tear in his pants, and the scrapped skin he could see along his leg.
 
Wheat leapt up, turning on Shields, but before another word could be said, Curry pushed off the pole, his hard-blue eyes locked on Shields.
 
At his move, Kyle looked up, “Ya believe me, don’t ya, Kid?”
 
Curry remained focused on Shields until the man looked away, and then he smiled cheerfully down on the more disheveled, than usual, outlaw. “I do, and that is a tale, I shall recall for some time. Glad you made it back, Kyle.”
 
The others nodded and standing Heyes put his hat back on as a breeze whirled across the porch, spinning several stray aspen leaves.
 
Kyle looked to the Leader of the Devil’s Hole Gang, his expression that of a boy wanting approval. “You believe me, Heyes.”
 
“Course I do, Kyle, can’t think of anyone who could weave such a golden tale of woe, except maybe Shakespeare…” Releasing a smiling laugh, Heyes patted Kyle on the shoulder, “…and you ain’t him. Glad you made it back.”

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Wichita Red..."I'm not really a rebel, but I take chances. I have a good time and I live life the way I want to live it."
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Nebraska Wildfire

Nebraska Wildfire

Posts : 151
Join date : 2016-12-10
Location : The Sonoran Desert

Golden Empty
PostSubject: Re: Golden   Golden EmptyTue Sep 24, 2019 7:36 pm

Gold Dust


Whenever the Devil’s Hole Gang rode into town, things changed.  We went from a quiet out of the way hole in the wall to a lively little community.  The mercantile would sell more than it usually did in a month.  The livery would need to reorder hay and feed.  The two saloons would run out of the good stuff and close to all of the barely drinkable.  And we ladies at Madeleine’s Place would sleep for a week afterwards, and then go buy new dresses to have for the next time they blew into town.  


Needless to say, every time one of the few proper ladies that were around got it in her mind to have a meeting about finally electing a sheriff to keep peace in the town, her husband would quietly, or not so quietly, get her to drop the idea before any trouble was caused.  When it was pointed out that her comfortable life was often financed by the money brought into her husband’s business by the boys who came into town with Curry and Heyes, the subject was quickly dropped.


You could often hear the group of them thunder into town, the horses’ hooves kicking up a swirling storm of dust, and their deep throated laughter echoing through the streets, as they dismounted.  Sometimes they would make their way to the hotel first for a bath, or the saloon to cut the dust, but sometimes they’d burst into Maddie’s parlor, still covered in a thick coat of the desert sand that surrounded Crescent Junction.  Only their eyes and teeth would be shining out of the dust, with trickles of fresh sweat making tracks in their hair and faces once they slapped their hats against their swirling coats.


Some of the girls would wheedle the boys into taking a bath first, but others would just make certain any of their good dresses made it quickly to the floor and out of the way until some of the gold certain to flow from this group was starting to spread.  Some had favorites among the boys of Devil’s Hole.  Katie was fond of the bluster of Wheat Carlson, and Mary found the shyness of Kyle Murtry sweet.  Any of the girls were overjoyed when either Kid Curry or Hannibal Heyes graced them with their company for the night.


Sometimes Maddie had more girls in the house than boys from the Hole who showed up.  For this reason, most of them were quick to latch onto a companion for the night.  The shower of gold that came into the house from one of their visits made life easier for us all, but getting an extra gold piece or two personally made life even better.  Not only could Maddie turn away some of the rougher bunches who might show up, but it was always good to have money to buy a box of Swiss chocolates or French perfume, or a new dress when a client ripped up an old one.


Me, I usually held back.  Maddie always needed help pouring drinks and passing around sandwiches, and was thankful of my hesitation.  Besides, we both knew that before the night was over, I’d usually I end up with one or the other of the leaders of the gang from Devil’s Hole.  One of them usually held back to keep watch while his partner went up the stairs with the girls and the rest of the boys.  


If it was the Kid who stayed behind with Maddie and me, I’d go to make a fresh stack of pancakes and eggs, while he’d clean that gleaming Colt of his.  We’d exchange a few words while he cleaned the plate with a piece of toast or two, but mainly we’d let the silence of the night settle along with the dust that had swirled in the door with the boys from Devil’s Hole.


When Hannibal Heyes would eventually wander down the stairs, looking relaxed and yawning even while cajoling Maddie to make him a fresh pot of coffee, the Kid would meet my eyes.  Those blue jewels would capture my attention, just as his calloused hand would capture mine, pulling me to my feet and we’d trip lightly up the stairs.


This night however, it was Heyes himself who stayed down with me, while the Kid went up with Hannah.  Maddie went off to brew a pot of strong coffee, while Hannibal Heyes and I sat down to play the first of many games of black jack.  As in nights before, as his hands glided over the playing cards like a virtuoso playing a violin, he spun tale after tale.  He talked of banks they had robbed, trains they had stopped, and outlaws they had ridden with.


“Where are you from?” I asked him, when he had take a breath to gulp a swig of coffee.


He grimaced, I wasn’t certain if it was from the coffee or my question.  As Maddie always provided the best food and drink she could afford, I wondered if I had blundered.


“Nowhere that matters any more,” he finally replied, as I had let the silence of the night hover between us.  His eyes captured mine.  “Why’d you want to know?”  


I had forgotten for a moment how cautious both he and the Kid were.  “No reason, Mr. Heyes.”  I got up to freshen his cup of coffee, and add a bit to mine.  It might be a long night.  “Just making conversation.”


“Where are you from?”  His voice still held a trace of his wariness.


“New York City.”  I smiled as I saw some surprise in his face.  “I was born there.”  I broke my gaze away from his demanding eyes, and stared into the opaque glass of the front windows.  Then I looked back at him.  “My parents wanted away from the crowding and disease of the city, so we came out here when I was young.”   I looked down.  “The cholera got them when I was fifteen.”


“You been with Miss Madeleine since then?” he asked quietly.


I shook my head.  “My brother and I tried to keep the farm going for a year or so, for the younger ones.”


“You had other brothers and sisters?”


“Yeah, Sally was ten and Bobby just five when the measles took them.”  We were both silent and still for a while.  “After that Jay said it wasn’t worth the effort.  He went off to the silver strike up in Colorado.  For a while he sent what money he could.”  I found that I didn’t want to continue.  After a couple minutes, Heyes resumed dealing.  We played a couple of hands.


“We’re from Kansas.”  He said as he dealt me an ace and a king.  


“We?”


“The Kid and I.”  He won the next hand.


“Oh.”  We took a break and I brought him another sandwich.  “Did you two grow up together?”


He nodded as he took a bite and chewed.  I started to straighten out a table or two, putting out more food and drinks, as I expected some of the boys would be back down soon.  


“We’re cousins.”  He had dealt himself a hand of solitaire, but shuffled the cards back into the deck as I sat back down.


“I didn’t know that.”


He shrugged.  “Not something we advertise.”  His eyes met mine.  I smiled acknowledging the gift he had given me.


We played more blackjack until a couple of the boys wandered back down, and I got up to see to them.  Maddie came out of the back, with more of the good whiskey, and she captured Hannibal Heyes’ attention for a while, listening raptly at yet another one of his stories.  


I kept myself busy until I saw the Kid saunter down the stairs, yawning.  He ran his hand through his blond curls as I walked up to him and handed him a cup of fresh coffee.


“Thank you, Grace.”  He nodded and settled in a chair at the table where Maddie and Heyes were seated.


I made certain the boys had everything they wanted, so that I was more than ready when Hannibal Heyes tapped me on my shoulder and gently caught my hand, his dark eyes smiling down into mine.




 It was some time later that our discussion continued.  We were in my bed with me in his arms.


“Do you miss the city?” he asked quietly, his fingers dancing on my shoulder.


“No, not really.”  I stroked his chest.  “All I really remember is noise and lots of people.”


He nodded.  “The Kid went back to Philadelphia once, to visit some of his people.  I think he was glad he went, but told me it wasn’t somewhere he thought he’d want to live long term.”


He didn’t continue, so I closed my eyes and enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Soon enough, I knew he’d be gone.


“Do you still hear from your brother?”


I shook my head.


“Do you know where he went?”


“Cripple Creek.”


We were quiet for a few minutes.  Then to my surprise, he kissed my again and I was happy to spend some more time with him before the boys from Devil’s Hole rode back out of town.




It was a few months later that I received a letter from Colorado from my brother.  He hadn’t struck the mother-load, but he had found something even better, a shopkeeper who had a pretty daughter and no sons, who was doing land office business, selling supplies to the miners.  They had married and were expecting a child, so as his father-in-law needed help in the store, he had asked me to come join them in Lead.   As my brother honestly put it, with the mines producing as well as they were there, he was desperate enough for help not to ask too many questions about what my prior job had been.   


I looked up from the paper, out to the dusty street.  We hadn’t seen Curry or Heyes or their gang for some time.  We had heard that they were in Utah, or Montana.  Somehow, sometime, they must have gotten word to Cripple Creek and then to Lead, where my brother was now.  I wanted so desperately to thank them, but knew they’d want me to take this opportunity while I still could.  Maybe I could find a rich miner who wanted to marry.  I looked down at the letter once more time, smiling, thinking of the two very good outlaws, who really had owed me nothing more than what they would have already paid, before I went to talk to Mattie.
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MoulinP

MoulinP

Posts : 244
Join date : 2015-11-29
Age : 60
Location : Norfolk, England

Golden Empty
PostSubject: Re: Golden   Golden EmptyMon Sep 30, 2019 7:56 am

Just a little bit of fun that came to me.

“How long to the next town, Heyes?”


Heyes sniffed and dug out a map from the top pocket of his shirt. He brought his horse to a stop and studied the map.


“’Bout two, three miles I’d say.”


“Stop for a spell? Over there by that creek. I need to take care of business.”


“Sure.”


They swung their horses in that direction.


On reaching the creek, they were surprised to see a man sitting cross-legged with his head in his hands. Dressed in a three-piece suit and wearing a derby, albeit at an odd angle, he looked completely out of place. He looked up as they approached and smiled.


“Hallo,” he said, cheerfully.


Heyes and Curry looked at each other.


“Howdy,” said Heyes, cautiously but with a pleasant smile. “Mind if we water our horses?”


“Not at all. Go right ahead,” came the answer.


With another look, the partners dismounted in tandem. They lead their horses to the creek. Once settled, they looked around, Heyes with a frown. There didn’t seem to be another horse in sight. Or any form of transport for that matter.


“Excuse me, sir. Pardon me for asking but are you okay?”


“Yes thank you,” the man replied and gave a deep sigh, which implied perhaps there was something in his world that was NOT okay.


Heyes threw the reins of his horse to the Kid, who led both horses a little way over. Reluctant to face the stranger on his own, Heyes waited until both horses had settled with their noses in the creek. The Kid emerged from behind them and nodded to the brushes. Heyes smacked his lips. Ah, he’d forgotten why they had stopped in the first place. Heyes widened his eyes and tilted his head in the direction of the man.


The Kid looked back. You ask him, his look said. No you ask him, replied another look. You’re the one with the silver tongue! The one with the silver tongue rolled his eyes in resignation and turned towards the man. The Kid disappeared into the bushes.


Heyes deliberated paced up to the stranger. He looked down at him thoughtfully, hands on hips.


“Sure is a nice spot you have here,” he said, casually.


“Yes I think so,” the man agreed.


Heyes nodded with a tight-lipped smile.


“Is something wrong?” the man asked, with concern.


“No sir, not with us,” Heyes replied, glancing over to where the Kid had entered the bushes. He was feeling uncomfortable being on his own with the stranger. There was no reason why he should be. The man wasn’t threatening in anyway.


Heyes face took on a puzzled look.


“We were … well we, my partner and me, were wondering how you got here?” Heyes asked casually.


“Oh, I rode,” the man sighed. He had changed position and was now hugging his knees.


Heyes scanned the horizon for a horse.


“Don’t see a horse. Did it throw you?” he asked.


“No. They took him.” Another deep sigh.


“Who?”


“My friends.”


“Some friends,” the Kid grunted, as he reappeared.


“They just upped and left you did they?” Heyes asked, glancing at the Kid. “Just like that?”


“I don’t ride too well. They said I was holding them back.”


Heyes pursed his lips. The man didn’t look as though he was a natural horseman.


“Names Arthur King,” the man said and stuck out a hand to Heyes.


“Joshua Smith.”


“Thaddeus Jones.” After shaking hands, the Kid indicated the ground on Arthur’s left. “We’ve been in the saddle all day. Mind if we sit a spell?” He was already crossing his legs as he prepared to flop down.


“No go right ahead.”


Heyes sank to the ground more gracefully to his right. With a glance, he mirrored Arthur’s knee hugging stance. He had read somewhere that copying a person’s posture in order to get them to talk might work.


“Ya friends? Are they coming back for you?” the Kid asked.


Arthur grinned. “Yes of course. By sunset they said.”


Sunset was a few hours off. The partners swopped glances. Is he a fruitcake? No, I don’t think so.


“So you’re just … sitting here?” Heyes wanted clarification.


“Oh no, I’m waiting,” Arthur said, cheerfully.


Heyes looked doubtful. “How long have you been … waiting?” Heyes’ voice had deepened. He was imaging all sorts of implications if they left him here alone. Arthur King did not look like the type of man who could take care of himself alone in the wild.


“Since sunrise,” Arthur said, and then smiled at Heyes. “I don’t mind.”


“Well now Arthur.” Heyes drew himself closer. “My partner and me are heading for Clarkson. It’s about three miles in that direction.” He indicated the way they had been going. “We could take you in.”


“Sure,” agreed the Kid. “’Course it’d mean riding double.”


“Thank you. But my friends WILL be back.”


“What makes ya so sure?” The Kid was suspicious. “Ain’t too safe out here, a man such as yourself, all alone.”


“Oh, I’ll be perfectly alright. They wouldn’t have left me otherwise.”


“Like I said, what makes ya so sure?”


“This.”


From a side sheath, neither of them had seen, Arthur whipped out a stiletto. Heyes held his hands up to ward off any strike. The Kid went for his Colt.


“Woah, there Arthur!”


The blade of the stiletto was a curious golden colour. As Arthur made no further hostile moves both partners with a glance at each other relaxed a little.


“That’s quite a fancy looking weapon you have there,” Heyes commented with an uneasy smile and a gulp. After all, it was HIM the stiletto was waved at. The Kid holstered his gun but his hand hovered over the grip.


“Yes,” Arthur sighed. “It is a little over the top but I have to keep it with me. Since I pulled this from a stone three years ago, it appears no harm can come to me, or my companions. So you chaps are perfectly safe.” With a deft flick, he turned the stiletto round and offered the handle to Heyes. “Here.”
With a glance at the Kid, Heyes turned on his hip and tentatively grasped the hand. No sooner did he have it in his hand when, his hand dropped to the ground, trapping his fingers underneath in a crushing embrace. The stiletto suddenly weighed much more than a man could hold. Heyes yelled. His other hand, frantically clawing at the stiletto to free his fingers to no avail. He gasped at the Kid for help, who in turn was at a loss how to come to his partner’s aid. Before he could react, Arthur leaned forward and grasped the stiletto.


Arthur grinned. “Allow me.”


The stiletto appeared to be as light as a feather as he picked it up and returned it to his side sheath. Both partners gaped in astonishment. Heyes hurriedly pulled his glove off to look at his hurt hand. He expected to find his fingers broken and mangled. At least bruised but no. Nothing appeared wrong with his hand at all. Even the pain was gone. He flexed his fingers experimentally.


“I don’t understand,” he frowned.


“Neither do I,” admitted Arthur cheerfully. He shrugged. “Seems only I can pick it up.”


Heyes and Curry swopped glances. Both of them had seen the strange happening that shouldn’t have happened. But it had. Something definitely wasn’t right here.


“So er what are you and ya friends doing here, Arthur?” the Kid asked, casually. Heyes was still preoccupied with his hand.


“We’re on a quest.”


“A … quest?” The Kid looked at Heyes again, who had looked up in interest.


“Yes.”


“What sorta quest?” Heyes asked.


“To find Jenny.”


“Who’s Jenny?” The Kid was immediately concerned now there was a woman involved.


“Jenny Vive. We’re betrothed.” Arthur gave a pleased smile, and then sighed. “But she ran away. Or … possibly abducted. I’m not too sure.” He tightened his grip on his knees. “My friends and I are on a quest to find her.”


“An’ just who are these friends?” The Kid was naturally more suspicious than Heyes and sensed the likelihood that Arthur was being taken advantage of.


“Well now let me see.” Arthur rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “There’s Sir Vive, Jenny’s brother. He’s our guide, an expert in wilderness living. Then there’s Sir Cumferance. He’s a little too rotund for this type of quest but he’s widely travelled so we thought it was useful to bring him along anyway. Sir Cumspect is rather a taciturn chap but he’s Sir Cumferance’s twin brother so he had to come along as well. They go everywhere together, you see. Then we have Sir Fitt. He’s a very lean and active chap, always running races and throwing javelins and such. Our joker of the party is Sir Prise. He keeps us all entertained with his jolly japes. Last but not least, is Sir Lance Allott. He’s recently joined our merry band and I’m not sure about him at all. I think he knows where Jenny is but he’s not saying.”


Heyes rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Arthur,” he began, and then wondered how he might continue without sounding impolite. “Where d’you come from?”


“England.” He sounded surprised. “Can’t you tell by my accent?”


“Ye-ah,” the Kid nodded, still disbelieving everything the man said.


“Arthur does … well does home have a round table?” Heyes looked disgusted with himself at even suggesting the possibility.


Arthur frowned. “No. It’s oblong. Why?” Then he widened his eyes in realisation. “Ah no. I’m often mistaken for him but I’m not of course. He’s just a myth.”


The partners swopped unconvinced glances.


“Then how d’you explain a man called Arthur King, in company with a bunch of knights, being on a quest?” Heyes almost snapped. The ridiculousness of the situation was getting to him and seriously taxing his sense of order. He rubbed his forehead, a sure sign he was disturbed.


Arthur shrugged. “Coincidence I guess.”


“Coincidence?” the Kid said, astonished.


Arthur nodded. “Afraid so. Nothing more.”


“But the knife … the stiletto … I couldn’t hold it. Jus’ how d’ya explain that?” a clearly agitated Heyes asked, his diction slipping.


“Now that I can’t explain.” Arthur hugged his knees tighter.


“Ya said you pulled it from a stone three years ago. Where were ya at the time?” the Kid asked, now hugging his knees. Must be catching.


“Cornwall,” Arthur replied, simply.


The Kid looked at Heyes. “It’s in the far southwest of England,” Heyes wincing at having to do geography at a time like this.


“And the stone was jus’ sitting there?”


“Yes.”


“With the handle sticking outta it?”


“Yes.”


“An’ no one else had tried to pull it out?”


“Oh yes plenty of people have tried but no one succeeded.”


The Kid frowned. “But you did?”


“Yes.”


Heyes gave a loud groan. He was sitting cross legged with this head in his hands.


“There, there old chap don’t take on,” Arthur said, giving Heyes’ shoulder a sympathetic pat.


Heyes looked up. “You said … Jenny was missing, possibly kidnapped. Do your friends have any idea who she’s with?”


Arthur looked thoughtful. “They haven’t discussed it with me directly but I think I heard someone say the name Merlin.”


Heyes sat with his mouth open.


 “Arthur are you sure ya don’t have a round table at home?” the Kid asked, not fully following any of this but recognising that Heyes’ earlier question was significant.


“Yes quite sure.” Then he pursed his lips. “Hmmm.”


“What?” Heyes looked up, wide-eyed.


“I’ve just remembered. Years ago, my family did donate a round table to Winchester Castle. It hangs on the wall there. You can go and see it anytime.”


Another loud pitiful groan from Heyes and his head was back in his hands.


ASJASJASJASJ


Notes:
The Round Table that hangs in the Great Hall, the only surviving part of Winchester Castle, is dated using dendrochronology to the middle part of the 13th Century. However, the painting on it was down to Henry VIII, as it depicts himself at the top above his emblem, the Tudor Rose.
During the Middle Ages, festivals called round tables were celebrated throughout Europe in imitation of Arthur's court. These events featured jousting, dancing, and feasting, and in some cases, attending knights assumed the identities of Arthur's entourage.
I have of course invented my own knights for this purpose.

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Kid Curry and that other fella; Hannibal Heyes and whatsname
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