Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when the Sheriff of the small village of Nottingham was a man named Jericho Pale, a man out of time. Trying to discover the mastermind behind Nottingham’s recent goblin sieges, Pale and his allies sought out the Oracle of Teeth… who only by trickery did they escape alive with the knowledge they had gained!
Part Four (of Five)
It seemed that the only place that Sheriff Jericho Pale hung his hat was the room in which I had first encountered him. There was a building set aside as a gaol, but it mostly served to keep men who were deep in their cups from returning to their homes in that condition. I had taken a room in the public house as well, right next to Pale’s, so his comings and goings were well known to me. No, it was the table in the Sixth Shooter where Pale did his business, and that was where we found ourselves once again.
Since our adventure to the manor of the Oracle, Jericho seemed to have decided I was a friend and a de facto part of the motley team he called his “posse.” Of course, he also kept calling me “Itchy Dan,” but I took it as a reminder of Lady Abyrline’s law of humility.
While all of us deferred to the Sheriff’s authority, the young red-tufted girl named Eliza Day seemed to have decided that she was the leader of the posse. She couldn’t have been more than fourteen, as the blossoming into womanhood had yet to come upon her, but she ordered adults around as if born to it. Pale called her “Wild Rose,” and always with a bit of wistfulness.
The one who paid the most attention to the girl, however, was the young man, Hencher. An ex-apprentice to a Sylvan enchanter, he was pale and reedy, and I suspected that one good hard punch would knock him into the next village. It is not to my credit that beating upon the weak and scholarly is the first and clearest image that comes to my mind thinking about Hencher; it comes from nothing more than my own unforgivable past, not from anything wrong with the young magician himself. There was some unspoken promise between Hencher and Pale that kept two such dissimilar men together, but the nature of it had so far eluded my observations.
The final member of Pale’s posse was the elven lady Dorienne. Even an unworthy such as myself could see her affection for the gunslinger, but Pale kept her at an arm’s distance. This caused no small amount of pain for both of them, but deep in my own sinful heart it fanned an unworthy hope. If I myself was in love with her, I could do no more than Pale did; I had eschewed such comforts when I turned to the Lady of Peace for redemption. Such temptation was simply another trial I must bear with a repentant heart.
We had gathered at the corner table to discuss our next steps towards rooting out the hand behind the organized goblin attacks on our mutually adopted village, but before any ideas could be put forth, we were interrupted by a shaggy and lean dog who approached our table.
Looking up at us with an almost pleading look, the dog let out three whining barks.
“What is it, pup?” Eliza asked. “Is something wrong?”
The dog yipped twice.
A loud bark in response, the dog’s head nodding, tongue loose.
“Is there a goblin attack coming?”
The puppy jumped about in a circle, barking insistently.
“How many?” Eliza demanded, eyes wide. “One bark for a scouting party, two for an army!”
“Guys! We need to…” Eliza started.
I knelt next to the girl and the puppy. “Please, Eliza, let me.”
Cupping one hand under the dog’s muzzle, I petted it affectionately and prayed to the Lady of Peace for understanding of the slobbery tongue of the dog.
“What message do you bring us?” I asked, feeling only a little silly.
“Young master Timothy, the baker’s boy… he has fallen into their cistern and is in need of assistance,” the dog said. Its message passed, my ears closed once again to his canine palaver.
“There is a boy trapped in the baker’s well,” I reported.
Grumbling, Jericho Pale got to his feet. “Ah swear, if I have to fish that kid outta there one more time…”
“Need us to help?” Eliza asked, but the Sheriff waved her off.
“Day I can’t drop a rope down a hole and lift someone up with it is the day I hang up my badge.”
With that, the Sheriff moseyed out of the tavern, the dog yipping and following at his heels.
“You know,” Eliza said to me, “you take all the fun out of that.”
Her further excoriations against my methods were interrupted, though, by a man in a shadowy cloak and hood who had silently approached our table.
“Excuse me,” he said with an untrustworthy smile I recognized from my own youthful face. “But I couldn’t help but overhear…”
“One can always control their manners,” Dorienne said, her elven accent particularly pronounced.
“My pardons,” the shadowy man said. “But it seems that you were discussing the late unpleasantness with them gob folk. Am I right in that you also wish to eliminate those foul subhumans from our fine hamlet?”
“I’ve never seen you in this town before,” Eliza said.
The man put a shadowy hand into his shadowy hood and massaged his shadowy temples.
“Look, I’m trying to offer you a quest to go kill some goblins, okay?”
“Duly noted,” I offered diplomatically.
“There’s a band of them in the ruins of the Old North Tower. I saw them as I was heading down to Nottingham… and you seem like a group of travelers with mutually complimentary abilities who could probably handle a few random encounters with small groups of ill-armed gobs.”
“We are exactly that!” Hencher said with naive awe.
“So?” the shadowy man asked. “Do we have a deal?”
“A deal requires an arrangement for mutual advantage,” I said. “So far you have not explained what advantage either of us gains from this beyond a structure full of dead goblins.”
“Oh, sod this,” the man said, turning on one heel. “Told ‘im this was a stupid plan. Who recruits people in a damn alehouse anyway?” he muttered as he stormed out of the Sixth Shooter, slamming the swinging saloon doors behind him.
“Gee,” Eliza said, watching the doors swing back and forth in his absence. “Interesting how he tried to push us into confronting the goblins directly, huh?”
“And in a tower north of here, no less,” Dorienne added.
“Mere minutes after the Sheriff was called away on an errand,” I said.
“Wait,” Hencher said, eyes widening. “You mean you think that was a set-up?”
Eliza whacked him on the back of his head with an open hand.
“Follow him?” she asked.
With that she was already out of sight.
“I think the rest of us had better go check on Sheriff Pale,” I said.
A minute later, the table in the Sixth Shooter was empty.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.