Things Happen for a Reason

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A Roadside Meeting of Brother Mesobians

An H&TE Story by Raphael de la Varga

Hazarda1.jpg Timothy elhue1.jpg

Pushing hard to remember where I was going, I skimmed by the Shadow where I abandoned Vic the Dick when I came upon Hwy 160; it 'pulled hard' in my mind, making me think I had found the right road and the right Shadow.

As the road rose to the Muleshoe turn off to Uptop I came up to a large turnout. I slowed down as I spotted a dozen people in military gear running for their lives back to the east as I passed them. Up ahead was a scene of serious violence; a dozen technical trucks were on fire and a tank had its turret laying beside it. There were perhaps a dozen bodies strewn about. At the head was an armored Hummer upside down.

A ways up front and pulled off into the pullout was a pristine Shelby Cobra GT 500; its side panels were vibrant and its paint highly polished. The hood was up and someone was bent over into it, working it appeared. Beside him, smoking a joint, was a man in an army field jacket and a fedora. He picked up a rusty samurai sword and a hand gun and started walking to the center of the road. Suddenly, music played loudly; 'Stand and Deliver' by Adam and the Ants.

I slowed my approach, dropped my yellow Harley with sidecar into neutral and coasted in, but left the engine running, I came to a stop about 50 feet away, my hands still on the handlebars. I called out over the music.

"Adam and the Ants! Nice!! That your mess!?" I asked, thumbing over my left shoulder with my left hand. "Those Military Types looked scared shitless!"

I chuckled out of humor, but mostly to cover my nervousness. The guy in the fedora walked a bit closer.

"You don't wear the orange and the horse symbol those idiots did and were not with them when they decided to steal our car. I am going to assume you are not with them. I'll leave the Phaser on stun out of respect."

He turned back towards the car, "Yo!!! We good to go or what? Did they piss on anything important?"

The other guy closed the hood. "Nope. Nothing that won't work itself out. What do you have there? Reinforcements?"

Fedora yelled, "Get over here! You are going to love the hell of of this. We got a fuckin' Mesobian on a trike. That can't be a coincidence. Three of us meeting on a road after a battle."

The man at the car walked over; bright blond hair and a blue goatee. "Well, well.... What brings you to this ass end of Shadow?"

I glanced to their foreheads and palms; I looked for the familiar symbol. Upon seeing it I also received some information in my head about who the man with the blue goatee was; a Mesobian, obviously, but also The King of Amber. I knew it was not Random... or at least not the Random of Amber as I knew of him. But I somehow knew the information was not wrong, and I knew of Shades and Shadows of Amber so a Shade or Shadow King of Amber was entirely possible, in an Infinite Multiverse filled with Infinite Possibility. I smiled broadly, shook my head then started laughing. I shook my head again with a smile, then I said, while still laughing a bit:

"It's no coincidence, I'm sure. But Luck had something to do with it." I chuckled. "And no, I am not with the Broncos. And you may have done me a favor, with all of this.” I said, pointing to the chaos on the highway. “I'll know soon enough. As for what brings me to this Ass End of Shadow; some unfinished business in a little town up ahead called Fort Garland... if this is indeed the correct Shadow. I used to live in a Shadow next door until everyone died from a Plague... well, nearly everyone. Avoid that place if you can... a day or so ago I dropped an angry Albino Drow Gangster Hitman there to rot or die, so I'm sure he's still hot." I laughed then looked at the car. "So, what brings you two this way through Shadow? And are you sure your car is alright? I am a mechanic."

Fedora looked to Blondie, Blondie said, "Sir, take a look under the hood and tell me if you can find anything broken. Come have a stout on us. I'm parched."

Blondie and Fedora turned their backs to me and walked casually over to the car. I put the bike in gear and pulled it up in front of the car and killed the engine. I got off the bike then looked to the sidecar.

"Poodle Boys, Out. Go Play. Be nice, they're friends." I point to Blondie and Fedora.

Fedora reached inside the Shelby as I looked through the windshield where I could see the top of beer taps, looking like the vehicle had a beer tap installed in the dashboard; I smiled at their style. Fedora then walked around to the back of the car with three large mugs, then to a grassy area on the right. He settled down.

"You called them Broncos. This is Colorado... Earth? Enough to have a sports team called that here?"

I walked to the front of the Shelby, popped the latch then looked under the hood, to see what I can see.

"Yes and yes." I call over to Fedora. "There was once a sports team with the same name and symbol here, but now they represent the Military of this newly formed Nation."

Looking under the hood I saw an engine beyond describing in perfect repair. I also saw a pair of short barrels; M37 anti-tank guns, linked, with a complicated automatic loading system. Looking in deeper I also saw interlocked M2 machine guns, one aiming out each side, but with pivot mechanisms that would allow the guns to fire forward. Looking at the underside of the hood I noticed a Rearden Steel contraption that looked like it raised up to catapult grenades. I then looked at the under carriage of the vehicle; it was a blue-green metal showing not a bit of wear and just the merest sheen of lubrication. Somehow I knew the frame was made of Rearden Steel. I remembered a game called Car Wars and realized this was an extraordinary Auto Duelist vehicle.

I looked over at the two with a smile and a look of awe on my face, they smiled in return. Fedora offered a beer by silently raising a mug in the air. I joined them in the grass, accepted the mug and took a drink. Then I started rolling up three joints, one for each of us. I pointed to their car.

"Nice set up. Gives me ideas for that Bad Boy over there." I pointed to my trike. "Already got an armored sidecar that was not designed to fit that bike. The Dwarves of this world have a Magic that manifests in things they repair, alter or make... and that bike was repaired and sidecar added by them. I'm hoping to get some more work done."

I chuckled then drank a bit more then, using a Fire Finger Cantrip, I lit up my joint and puffed it to life.

"And you two? Passing through or staying on a bit? Could be a lot of action here... FG is a hot topic on a lot of lips recently and could be a hot bed of action very soon."

Blondie looked to Fedora. Something passed between them.

"We tend to like going to exciting places” Blondie says. “We might stick around. Those guys seemed to think a hood up means they could just take our vehicle. When one of them shot Tim over there the game was on. Call me Hazarda. He's Timothy Elhue."

Tim nodded, "Never touch another man's ride without permission. Might as well be grabbing his dick. Bitch should have learned to duck better if he was going to go around grabbing people by the crotch. Think of it as evolution in action."

Hazarda nodded. "You have the Mesob mark too... Had it long?"

I paused to think, counted the actual days... so much had happened since the park in Tucson.

"Five days... maybe a week and a half. A LOT has happened really fast, but I've managed so far. Weird but fuckin' cool as all hell at the same time. Know what I mean?" I hit the joint, finish the stout then exhale the smoke.

"Oh... and you can call me Raphael... or Rafe if you like, most do. But when we get to Fort Garland... you can call me Mayor Raphael, if you like." I give them a wink and a wide smile. "As I said, a lot has happened in a very short time."

Hazarda replied, "Well, if you don't mind, I'll stick to Rafe. I don't use titles or ranks anymore; for personal reasons. I've held Rank in Shadow before and seen how irrelevant they are up close and personal. But if you have been in this Garland place less then a week I would guess 'Mayor' is a new title to you as well."

He chuckled then tossed his empty mug at the car. A long mechanical tentacle, like something Doc Ock might make, reached out and grabbed it in flight. Returning it to the car, I saw through the open door that the tentacle put the mug under a beer tap on the dashboard then filled it. The tentacle then came out of the car and threw the full mug at Hazarda's head; he caught it, not spilling a drop.

"You know that Stout really travels well."

TE said, then coughed around a puff of green smoke. Haz nodded at what was clearly an old joke. He responded with:

"Not as well as that batch of Bakersfield Pruno."

Haz turned to me and asked: "How did you come across your medallion? We got ours fleeing the destruction of the Universe only to discover our Universe was not one of the important Shades of the Primal Realm of Amber. Whoever gives them out gave them to us as a sort of 'get-out-of-the-end-of-the-universe-free / retirement-for-kings' package. Since then it's been one place or another. The medallion tugs... You'll find that out in time. Wants people with them to know each other. Wants people without the medallions to forget about them. But even Tolknor claims to never have met Mesob. Only one person we ever met had seen the guy."

"And one person who said he never met him I am damn sure is fibbing” TE said, “Smoky bastard thinks he owns every place not in bright glowing sunlight."

At the mention of the 'Smoky Bastard' I raised an eyebrow, knowing who they were referring to, but also knowing well enough to not mention his name.

"Yes” I replied to Hazarda as I rose. “Being one of the five Mayors of Fort Garland is new and having a title of any kind is new as well."

I headed to the car to get a refill. I didn't trust that the tentacle would catch the mug if I threw it, and didn't trust myself to catch a flying mug being flung at my head. I marveled at the interior of the car; it looked like a mix of cyberpunk and steampunk with two taps and a small microwave in the high tech dashboard that looked like it belonged on a starship. It was dazzling. As I looked around I felt a 'pull' in the direction of the trunk area, beneath it. My vision seemed to peel away layer upon layer until I had located the weapon systems, the drive systems... then I noticed that the seats turned in place and the back seat was sort of an Illusion. Glancing down into the Illusion I saw something inscribed into a large Rearden Steel plate that was bolted to the chassis; it was a glowing Inscription. I felt somehow that it was a Shadow of some Pattern but also somehow, something potent on its own. Strange to find it in a Shelby. After refilling I headed back, addressing them both.

"I found my Medallion on my home world, the Plague World I mentioned. It was after nearly everyone had already died. I think I got the Virus, had some early symptoms, so I left my home with my Poodle Boys with the intent of at least getting out of the city before I let the dogs loose before I died... if that was what was happening. I found the Medallion in a bush during a bad coughing fit that doubled me over. It seemed somehow familiar, but before I could study it further, it melted into me; I thought I was hallucinating from a high fever. I found myself wandering across town and found myself feeling a bit better as well. Obviously the Medallion was already at work, not that I knew it at the time."

I sat with them again and took a long slow drink while pondering if I should tell them about Slugger... perhaps later, I concluded.

"Then while on the road, on a different trike than that one, I ended up in Fort Garland, Colorado in record time coming from Tucson and in a different world. The time difference was my first clue... the Elven Script on a sign on the crude wall around the tiny town was the next... people talking about Orcs and Elves and something called The Change... then seeing an actual Dwarf, not little person, was just the clincher. It didn't take me more than a day to figure out what the fuck had happened... most of it anyway, and where I was, sort of. I figured out what the medallion was and started discovering its powers. Then events unfolded, I got involved, I tried to help out, I made friends and enemies quickly. I took some drastic measures to help buy the people of FG a little more time to prepare for the Shitstorm I am sure will come. And now I am heading back to see what I missed, do what I can to help them out, then head out to another Shadow where I have some friends waiting for my return."

I drank deeply, and finished with an 'aahh' sound. They listened to my tale, then the two nodded, with understanding. TE spoke first.

"Well, Shitstorms R Us!!!! We were on our way to help a friend with a shitstorm. Hazzy, do we have time for a detour for a month or so? Where was it we were going?"

Hazarda replied, "Westeros; a place called the Twins. That's what the Wall Water is for."

TE nodded. "Right. Kill some Lords, prevent a massacre by poisoning, join a Wolf Lord's army. We were supposed to be there for 5 or 6 months and the time ratio was the same as here. We got a spare month or two."

"So, want some muscle?” Hazarda asked. “We got... 45 days... Happy to indulge in your shitstorm."

"Well, HELL YES!" I said enthusiastically. "But... there are four other Mayors that have a say in the matter. However, if it comes down to it, I'll just hire you both as my personal bodyguards. Speaking of which... hiring you... what kind of 'pay' are you looking for, for this help you're offering? I mean... based upon what I saw in that killer Shelby you got, you seem to be able to get whatever you want, whenever and wherever you want. So... is it just for the fun? The adrenaline? Helping the weak and downtrodden because 'it's the right thing'? Just curious... wondering how much we Mesobians are alike by Nature or by Power Influence."

"First off...” Hazarda began, “You don't have enough blood to hire us. You could find a planet made of gold and it wouldn't be worth it. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world? Where would he put it? If something sounds like fun, we go. What do we find fun? Helping the weak and downtrodden because 'it's the right thing'. Sure, lets say that."

TE laughed then produced a cigar and lit it; a bright multicolored smoke wafted out when he exhaled.

"Bullshite. We help the weak and downtrodden not because its the right thing to do but because people downtodding on weak people are usually assholes and when you kill them they look so surprised. I know a gallant knight in fine magical plate armor; champion of the poor. Adored by the ladies. He was a Charmer and bedded women by the score, always left them smiling. A Hero on the Tourney Field, a Force of Nature on the Warfield. Stud in the bedchamber."

TE puffed again, then handed the colorful cigar over to me.

"He once told me that he was the way he was because good people never trained at war well enough to be any challenge and evil people always seemed to resent getting killed after spending their whole lives learning how to be good at killing people. He said fucking unwilling women was no fun because of all the crying, but grateful woman sucked like a garden hose. I can't argue with his reasoning. Good. Evil. It's all just marketing."

Hazarda thumbed his hand at TE. "He got his philosophy degree at Mac's Bar Junior College."

TE nodded. "Associate of Philosophy with a minor in Auto Mechanics and Volleyball."

I nodded my head and chuckled, took the offered cigar emitting multicolored smoke. I puffed on it heavily, held the smoke for just a moment, then exhaled, enjoying the flavor and the high-end buzz factor. Then I passed it on to Haz.

"I can't argue with your philosophy” I replied to Timothy Elhue. “And I agree, for the most part. I've always had an issue with bullies and assholes, and now that I can do something about it, I am. So, I accept your offer of help and I thank you both, personally and on behalf of the good people of Fort Garland."

I went on to tell them about the local and national, political and criminal, who's who and what's what of FG, to catch them up on what I knew of the situation so Haz and TE could better help us defend FG.

Hazarda sat with me and listened while TE went over to rifle the dead; he removed wallets, IDs, dog tags, weapons. He then levitated the bodies using a Star Trek looking levitation device to get them off the road, then he used the Star Trek-looking Phaser to eliminate the burning wreckage from the road and roadside.

"Tim likes cleaning up." Hazarda said, matter-of-factly.

"Gonna have to get me one of them multi-setting Phasers one day; handy."

I said it with a chuckle, but meant it in all seriousness. I finished my stout and stood, walked over to the car and set the mug on the trunk lid. I walked to my trike then whistled sharply three times, calling the dogs over to the sidecar as I looked the bike over and prepared for the last leg back to FG. Once the dogs were settled in the sidecar and Haz and Tim looked ready I said:

"Follow me in. If I drop back behind you, feel free to shoot anything in FRONT of you."

I started up the bike and headed out towards FG, and I didn't spare the horses, since the Shelby behind me could surely get there in half the time.

Along the way I used my Psyche to reach out to the environment around me in an attempt to 'feel' or 'sense' the resonance of that Shadow, to see if it WAS indeed the Shadow I should be in. As I came in from the east to Fort Garland every instinct I had, new as they were, told me I was in the right world. When I passed the hill I saw a fortified east gate that was larger than it was a couple of days ago. Riding up and slowing down, I saw gun barrels poking over the wall following me as I rode in. As I pulled up to a stop I saw Wrecker climb to the top of the wall, a dozen red dots pinned to me in the darkening light of dusk.

"Take the mask off or I swear your testicles will be pinned to the totem in front of the Indian antiques store!"

As I removed my helm and mask, Wrecker howled and jumped down, striding over to me rapidly.

"Open the gates!! HURRY!!! Damn, I'm glad to see you! Lets get you inside. There is a Bronco Column about 20 miles up the road. Did you pass them? We have been expecting them here any minute! Where's Slugger? Is the car with you? Oh please tell me she didn't buy it when you ditched Victor?"

"The two in the Shelby back there are friends, let them in too.” I began. “And the Broncos you are expecting have been dealt with, thanks to my new friends back there; they took them out back near Muleshoe turn off. Hop on; I'll tell you more as we head in."

I started rolling towards the gate then on inside, not really waiting for Wrecker to hop on as I wasn't moving that fast. Wrecker hopped on and sat side saddle on the bike.

"Slugger did take a bad hit” I continued, “and did lose her right eye, but she is alive and doing well; she is with some new friends of mine in another nearby world and far safer than here with me. I'm pretty sure I ditched Vic and his batch of Broncos in Plague World and I know they did not follow me to the next world I went to, nor back here, far as I can tell. Brought these two along to help out. You got me for about a month at most, them too. Let's talk with the Mayors and see what we can do. How are the new folks settling in? And Reggy and the new Orcs? And that Hank fellow?"

"Sorry to hear about Slugger” Wrecker replied. “Tough kid. Yeah, in the last month there has been some reorganizing. Can't say I like Hank better than Blister, but he gets shit done. He sent out about 40 cars and told the drivers they owed him 3 cars,working or non-working. Said he wanted wrecks and trailers more than anything else. In a week he had 300 wrecks for walls. He and the Hipster are thick as... well... Thieves. Tom got us in contact with the home office in Houston. He got 10 tankers in from the south. Refilled our tanks. Refilled the Conoco Station too. They also sent 4 rigs full of food. We didn't sign on the line but we are looking like going with Texas. The Broncos heard and sent a column. Candy saw them. Two parts. Strike team of technicals and a tank followed by troop carriers. She said they want the gas as much as the town.”

"Yeah. We got the rollers, not the troops" a glowing holographic image of Timothy Elhue said as it suddenly appeared sitting inside the side car. Wrecker almost jumped off of the bike. "Look, Rafe. If they got a spare bike I'll go eyeball the troops. Maybe toss a few thermal detonators to fuck the road up, slow them down."

Wrecker, who was holding onto my bike for stability asked: "Ah... Rafe? Friend of yours?"

I turned to the hologram of Timothy. "Yes, Tim, I got a three wheel trike in storage over near my RV across town, headed there now. Timothy Elhue, this is Wrecker. Wrecker, Timothy."

I turned to Wrecker. "Yeah, Timothy is a friend. The other is named Harzarda. They are both definitely friends. You say it's been a month since I ditched Vic...? Wow, helluva time differential from where I was. This is either a faster time world, or the one I was just in is slower; I have only been gone a couple of days, maybe a week at most."

When we got to the storage yard I slowed up and waited for H & TE to pull up along side. I tossed the keys to the trike and the lock to the storage container to TE.

"Should be fully fueled. And leave the container open, I need to get the trailer out. Wrecker, let TE know where to go and look, then meet me at my RV."

I signaled for Haz to follow me then headed to the campground next door and the RV I rented with a few goodies inside I definitely wanted to retrieve. The sight of Hazarda's ride drew much attention from the neighbors. He waved and followed me in.

"Home sweet home." I said to Haz with a sweep of my arms as I stopped my bike in front of the door and kill the engine. I got off the bike and headed for the door of the RV, key in one hand and .50 cal in the other, just in case.

"Nice place. Could use a paint job. Half occupancy. Thought there were a lot of new people. Nevermind. You've been gone so you know as much as I do..."

"I would assume the new arrivals have found more permanent places to live than an RV Park over the last month I have been gone...” I replied. “But personally, I rather like this location near the creek. Sure hope Woody hasn't rented the place out to someone else while I was away... but by the look of the place, I'd guess not. And you're right about the paint job."

I entered my rented RV, gun in hand, Made sure the place was clear, then checked for the case of Pappy and the case of grenades I left in the cupboards under the sink.

"The place is fairly roomy; got a bedroom in the back and the dining area and living room area convert into beds... assuming Woody doesn't have something to rent to you both for you to stay in while you're here, you could stay with me."

Finding that everything was the way I left it, I dropped my pack by the couch and pulled the opened bottle of Pappy and the box of Cohibas from my pack as well as a bag of reefer from my field jacket breast pocket. I then poured three rounds of Pappy into small plastic cups I took from the cupboard above the sink and left them on the table awaiting Wrecker's arrival. I sat down at the table and looked out the door at Hazarda.

"C'mon in. Have a seat. Wrecker will be here soon. Help yourself to the Pappy, but leave the Cohibas 'til Wrecker gets here."

I rolled up several joints, using the last of my rolling papers and put all but one in the half empty cigarette pack I pulled from the other breast pocket of my field jacket, then I left the pack on the table next to the cups. I lit up the one I had left out with a Fire Finger Cantrip, hit it long, then offered it to Haz.

"So whats the situation here?” Haz asked. “You got good Orcs and bad Orcs? You certainly had asshole truckers. Those guys got pretty eager to die. I usually am sort of a slap them rather then stab them kind of guy but fire a machine gun at me and its game time."

TE added, "That was evolution in action."

Haz noded, "Yep. Their guys are on fence posts but the vehicles are gone. Think the troop transports will stop and bury the bodies or come rolling in on fire?"

"Well, Wrecker here could tell you better, having lived with them for a month now...” I said as Wrecker arrived. “But, I would say, no; we have Orcs. Some do bad things for good reasons and others bad things for bad reasons, just like some Humans. And the Broncos are the Military for the Nation of Colorado, run by Organized Crime and led by a Vampire Politician. So... the situation is complicated and the Broncos are violent and volatile and love to seize property and goods and kill anyone that gets in their way. The town of FG doesn't want to be a part of Colorado but does have ties to Texas, another of the New Nations after the Change and it sounds like there may be an agreement soon. Is that right, Wrecker?"

I broke the seal on the box of Cohibas then opened it up and pulled out four of them, handing one to Wrecker first, then TE, then Haz. Wrecker poured a Pappy for himself and sipped half.

"Well, Blister's guys were probably assholes before The Change. A lot of Orcs were. A lot of Hank's Orcs seem to have been military, but not criminal. No idea how the split came. Hank's a bastard but I think we'll get along with him. Rodak and Christine will be here in a minute."

Wrecker turned to Hazarda and TE, then asked: "So, what were you guys before the Change?"

Hazarda stared at him sourly. TE chimed in. "He was a Car Salesmen specializing in used military vehicles. I was an international hitman and interior decorator. You have a wall made of junk vehicles and manned with hunting rifles. What you need is howitzers, M60s, grenade launchers and about a million rounds of ammunition. Ah... did you say, 'Vampire Politician'? And what were you? Fluffer for a San Francisco film studio?"

Hazarda snorted in his drink. "Ah... forgive Timothy Elhue. He was raised by wolves. Change? Humans becoming Orcs, Elves, Dwarves...." H looked to TE. "Shadowrun."

TE nodded. "Not Cyberpunk"

I looked to my Brother Mesobians and I smiled as I nodded my head.

"Ah, understanding. Yes. Shadowrun... or close enough. The Change took place around 6... no, 7 months ago now. And yes, a Vampire Politician... Don't recall his name at the moment, but he replaced the last Vampire Politician who went to a Shrine north of here and got his Undead ass tossed into a swimming pool of Holy Water by the Head Sister of the place. There is some Holy Water from those Sisters here in FG in case of Undead incursions."

I turned to address Wrecker. "Good to hear the Orcs are working out as well as they are. I knew Hank was an asshole and was unlikely to change, but I'm glad he's not a problem and I hope he remains that way. You said Rodak and Christine are on the way... what about Marco and Carl? And has Hank applied or earned a Mayor's Badge yet? And am I even still a Mayor? Or should I wait to ask all those questions?"

I dipped my Cohiba in my cup of Pappy then put that end in my mouth, lit up the other end with a Fire Finger, puffed hard, then inhaled and savored the flavor before exhaling with a smile.

"Well...” Wrecker began. “As for the Mayor business, its tricky... Hank will show up now that you are back. Marco and Carl are looking over supplies that just came in. Christine and Rodak are dealing with the influx of people. Alamosa is the County Seat and they are getting an influx of people from the Tribes. You'll have to ask Rodak about it. Its a sore subject between him and Carl. Carl's a native of Fort Garland. Us Arcos, Marko, you... we are all here sort of by accident."

Hazarda looked to me and said: "Look Rafe, lets be clear before these people get here. As far as they need to know we are here at your invitation. We ain't starting a family here. Any of them you want killed, let us know."

TE smiled then said: "Yeah. Though... Vampires.... them we'll kill for free."

"Timothy. Hazarda. I know you two are as temporary here as I am” I said, “And I will let the Town Leaders know as such. And there will be no need for any political assassinations in FG. Unless it is fully agreed upon by all the Mayors of Fort Garland." I said jokingly with a chuckle.

I took a puff of my Cohiba and sipped some Pappy. Oddly, for a moment, I felt like the stereotypical Slimy Politician or Low Level Bad Guy that thinks he's a Mid Level Bad Guy, what with all the expensive cigars and whiskey and talking of political assassinations. I shook my head then turned to Wrecker.

"I can understand Carl's sentiment... but The Times They Are A Changin'. And as I said from the beginning, my stay here is short term and my position as a Mayor is only temporary. I'm just here to help out, give FG a fighting chance before I move on to other things. Same with TE and Haz here. I hope Carl can understand what we are actually trying to do, as opposed to what he thinks we're trying to do."

I got up and got my pack, pulled out some dog food in a sealed baggie and headed outside. I dumped the food in three piles near the front door and then whistled softly three times. Then I headed to the back, flipped open a hatch, reattached the batteries, closed the hatch then headed back inside. Once inside I turned on the lights over the table and the couch areas, moved my pack to the bedroom and pulled out some more cups for the coming guests. I also opened all the roof vents and turned on the fan over the stove to help draw out the smoke from the cigars and joints.

"Rodak likes the place” Wrecker said. “We all had sort of a thing down in Houston. Guild. Running group. Each of us had specialties and we helped each other in them. I was good at demolition. Not explosives, just tearing things down. Gunner was a weapon's smith. Argile was an investor. Kip was a professor. We were all truckers too. A lot of money in it. When a bunch of us got out of the Army, Rodak convinced us all to go to Trucker School. We had older brothers, a few sisters like Candy. Rodak ran the guild. Planned our routes. The money let us buy houses, raise families, do other things like college. We owe it all to Rodak... But the Change... changed everything. We've been trapped here for 7 months. Longwang got us in touch with people back home. The question is do we stay here and make a go of Fort Garland, or return to Houston. Tom wants us to stay here. Promises arms, food. But there is Colorado. Colorado wants Fort Garland for some reason."

"Well, y'all could bring all y'alls' families here... those that survived and are willing; it will be rough going. But it sounds like your Guild had a good set of skills and connections... something like that could make Fort Garland a stronger community." I gave him a nod then gulped down the last of the Pappy in my cup then poured some more from the open bottle in the middle of the little table.

"As for why Colorado has a hard-on for FG? I'm not sure. There is farmland all around the area. There is a railroad line running east-west just south of town. And I seem to remember a small gravel quarry just outside of town to the west when I first arrived here." There was a long pause as I thought. "And if I recall correctly, there are the Sand Dunes north of here made of the purest Silica Sand on Earth... if that means anything. Just some factoid I recalled."

I shrugged then puffed and sipped some more, enjoying the flavor of each, but pondered why FG seemed so important.

"It could also be nothing more than Posturing and Ego; FG was a part of Colorado before The Change and should be after as well. The loss of FG could be embarrassing or make them look weak, and they wouldn't want that. But somehow, I think that would only be a small part of it... I agree that there has to be a reason, a big reason, why the new Leaders of Colorado are so interested in a tiny cross-roads town."

I drank then puffed then continued.

"But it is also quite odd that so many people suddenly started migrating from the surrounding areas to Fort Garland, considering Alamosa would seem a more logical place to move to... but instead, FG is drawing many people, increasing its size and strength and the interest of the New Nations. That, as I said before, I do find quite odd. But again, I know there is a reason, I just haven't figured out what it is yet."

Rodak and Christine arrived and Rodak was extremely glad to see me. Christine as well, though quietly. After introductions were made Rodak started in with his plans.

"I'm going to send Candy out to see what is going on with the troops. We have Broncos coming from the east, Indians from the west, and Texans from the south. Could get messy."

"Where do you want a bloody mess?" TE asked.

Rodak replied “East.”

Hazarda stood and finished his drink. "You folks have political issues. Tim and I will do a reconnaissance in force."

As they stood to go, Christine watched Hazarda with much interest. Hazarda then reached into the box of cohibas, pulled one out and smelled it, then seemed to think for a moment. He reached in and grabbed four more. Hazarda then did a production with his hands and I realized I was seeing actual High Order Conjuration as a thin wood box appeared.

"Arturo Fuente Anejo No.77... some call them the Shark. An aged dark maduro. Sweet, cognac infused, aged in cherry wood for 10 years. Then I put them in deep storage of course. Wise wizards have their own stashes for Conjuring from."

"How much is Rafe paying you?” Rodak asked. “No offense meant."

Hazarda smiled, producing a box of five Cohiba Black for me.

“No one can afford us. He convinced us of the righteousness of your cause. And of course the Coloradans tried stealing our car, which we took personally and complained to them about in person."

"Damn skippy we did." TE chimed in.

When Hazarda noticed a rise in Christine's eyebrows he smiled.

"No offense Mayor Christine. I didn't peg you as a cigar smoker... hmmmm... Druid/Alchemist/Chef/Doctor... tricky.... Ah.....yes... everyone has their vices... how about...."

A small glass bottle in the 5 gram range suddenly appeared in Hazarda's hand. He placed it on the table in front of Christine.

"Geshekan pharmaceutical cocaine. Enjoy."

The two left the RV, then jumped into the Shelby. They revved the motor as they drove off, kicking up gravel and a cloud of dust. I smiled and shook my head as I wonder what manner of mayhem I had gotten myself and my friends into.


  • About the Author
    • Raphael de la Varga is an Adventurer at heart and by profession. He leads a Band of Adventures on cross Shadow adventures, runs a tiny traveling circus and as well as being a Mesobian, he is also a Durfiro; currently a Spirt of Earth. Raphael sometimes resides at Castle Garland in the Shadow of Garland but spends his quiet time at Arco Station & Retreat in Alamond.