The Kids Are All Wrong: Fear and Loathing
Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: Harling Pass
The dust from the dirt road kicked up past the women's ankles as they got closer to the middle of town. Inching forward, each glare from the individual townsperson got more intense. Some of the shop owners quickly turned their open signs to closed or even began to lock their doors. It was in great contrast to when Melisande was last in town five days ago, especially from when she first came into town thirteen days ago, when it seemed everyone was going out of their way to help her as Pauline.
They began to hear the not so quiet whispers.
"Back again with reinforcements!"
"How dare they come back!"
"They're ruining this town!"
"Is that...no. They took in that poor girl and brainwashed her!"
Melisande grumbled quietly. She could already tell this trip wasn't going to end well and turned to Ashrieda, "Whatever you wanted to get done here, make it quick."
Ashrieda looked at Melisande and grimaced. She was in as much of a hurry to get back out of town as Melisande was.
The flower shop was tiny, nothing more than a house that had been converted into a place of business. As soon as they approached the doorway a tiny younger woman rushed to close up shop. Ashrieda stuck her arm in the door and forced the door back open just in time. The woman squeaked and scurried back behind the counter.
"C-c-can I help you, misses?" she asked them tentatively, shaking like a leaf.
"...well...our poor friend has been very, very sick," Ashrieda said, looking pitiful. "And she can't get out of bed or anything. We were thinking some flowers would cheer her up real nice."
The young girl at the counter still shaking, eyed Ashrieda suspiciously and opened her mouth to scream. Melisande quickly forced tears in response, "Please...she does not have much time left. Sh---she's just a young girl who wanted adventure."
"Oh, of course, take a look. Why don't you take a seat?" Sitting down in a chair next to the door, Melisande began to go through the procedure to quit crying. Whatever Ashrieda's reaction was, she couldn't see it through the tears. Why flowers? It seemed like a message to a potential enemy, certainly not for that crowd of kids. As she began to ponder this, the door swung open, only to see a familiar face drag her to her feet, Davad.
"I---I'm here on behalf of the townspeople...to---to save Pauline from you evil pirates!" The hand holding his gun shook violently, "When Katherine said she saw someone aboard that ship that matched your description, I knew it was you!"
Melisande let some of her Leklian accent slip out, "I have no idea who you are. Who is Pauline?"
"It's true...the--they brainwashed you!" Melisande's comment meant to calm the situation, made it worse. He grabbed her and they began to struggle causing both of their guns to fall to the floor. The girl at the counter began to scream. Melisande normally could have tackled Davad alone, but already felt pain in her side as she struggled. She motioned to Ashrieda for help in a panic.
Ashrieda looked confused, but rushed over to help Melisande wrestle the kid to the floor. She retrieved the two guns, tossing Melisande hers and pointing the boy’s in his direction. The gun felt odd and unwieldy in her hand and she couldn't have done much with it, but of course the kids didn't know that. “Don’t move. Don’t even think about trying something stupid, or else.” Surely she wouldn't have to explain to the boy what ‘or else’ entailed, because killing kids was not her thing. Sure enough, he stayed where he was, staring at Melisande dazedly. She then turned to the screaming girl, “Shut up,” she hissed.
Immediately, the girl raised her hands in a submissive pose and quieted.
Whatever had happened, the jig was up. Everyone in town was on to what they were. It was a good thing that the captain had made them load of the wagons already, because they weren't going to be able to stick around much longer without a fight. Ashrieda sighed.
“Sorry about that,” she said to the girl, who by now looked like she was going to faint.
Quickly glancing around the room, Ashrieda’s eyes landed on two small pots of yellow desert poppies. “These will do,” she said, shoving Davad’s gun into her belt and picking up the two pots. “Aren't they darling? I think these will cheer her right up, don’t you, Ophis?”
“Her name is Pa--” the boy started, but Ashrieda cut him off. “Poor delusional bastard. How much?”
Melisande simply looked at Davad sadly. She noted when she was Pauline that he desperately wanted a girl to love and protect. While Pauline wanted to be protected, Melisande was proud in her ability to take care of herself. She thought about saying something, but decided it would just make the situation crumble.
“Take them!” the girl shrieked. “Just don’t kill us!”
Ashrieda shook her head. “No no, I couldn't. You've been very gracious, letting us in when no one would. Besides, it’d be a shame if you went back and told everyone that we robbed you at gunpoint, ain’t that right, Ophis?” Digging in her pocket, she lay two gold pieces on the counter.
It was beginning to grow dark. Handing one of the pots to Melisande, she peeked out the door. The girl’s screaming seemed to not have attracted any unneeded attention. Perhaps everyone was boarding up their doors and windows to keep the big bad pirates out. “Let’s get out of here before they kill us all.”
"Noted, Nellie. Try not to worry. I am sure the girl you care about is safe somewhere." Melisande then forced her best Merovingian, made a clicking noise with her mouth, and winked at the two scared civilians, "Au revior."
As they closed the door, Melisande made a mental note to write to Davad as Pauline when they got to Kanesville to say she was all right. Noticing the poppies in front of her face for the first time, she muttered, "Why flowers?"
Ashrieda turned to her with her mouth open when a sudden popping noise filled the air. Then another with a small poof of dust by her feet. A bullet. Looking at each other for confirmation, they began to run, bullets flying at them, when Melisande remembered a different way out of town, and silently pointed to Ashrieda the way. At least being stuck in town for nine days as Pauline meant she knew the town well.
Once they exited the town, getting closer to the ship and the group of children they left, their feet slowed to a walk. The sounds of crickets began to fill the air. Something – or someone – in the back of the crowd caught Ashrieda’s eye. The stranger from the dry goods shop was gazing, not at the two women, but at the poppies in their arms. A satisfied grin slowly spread across Ashrieda’s face. “Hello again, stranger!” she chirped as she and Melisande continued on their way.
The man stared at Ashrieda perturbed, and then gave some sort of signal to the teens. They made loud noises of disapproval and disappointment, but began to file away, some of them taking longing glances back at the ship.