Meldrick's Tales, Chapter 8 "Stand and Deliver"
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Meldrick the Elder
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Knight of Zantarni
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Thu Dec 06, 2007 7:46 pm



Chapter 8

“Stand and Deliver!”

Meldrick smiled as he walked out side the south gates of Edingtol, remembering back to a time he had almost visited Edingtol with the Caravan.

He sat on a big rock near the river, listening to the soft rush of the waters and muttered to himself, not realizing that a few people who had been fishing in the river had seen him and had started to gather around the rock.

- - - - - - - - - -

Meldrick was excited, Mother Marla had come to him when they had stopped for the night outside of Delcontos and had asked him to catch the coach to Taagian and to meet with Helga, the bee keeper, to pick up a dozen jars of her Taagian Royal Jelly. He knew that it was a big responsibility, especially when she had given him the pouch of gold he needed to make the purchase with. He smiled as he packed his pack with the gear he would need and then put his favorite skeleton handled dagger in his belt.

Mother Marla kissed his forehead and had wished him luck as the Caravan had headed off towards Edingtol. He was scheduled to meet them when they returned to Delcontos in a week. He waved as they left and then headed off to the Overland Coach Office to purchase his ticket, which he did with no problem.

He sat on the waiting bench and dozed a bit until he was awakened by the Station Master and told his Coach was here. Meldrick thanked the Station Master and boarded the coach, placing his pack under the seat. He then checked to see who he was riding with.

The next person to enter the coach was a bit drunk, from the way he moved and smelled, he placed a small satchel under his seat and collapsed in the seat across from him.

Next appeared a man of status, who held a kerchief to his nose, who looked first to the drunk and then to Meldrick. Sighing he sat down at the far end of the bench seat from Meldrick. He did not look very happy to be in the company of a drunk or an elf.

As the driver yelled, “LAST CALL! Coach to Stonebridge and beyond.”

Meldrick sighed as no one else got on the coach. He looked at the company and shook his head, thinking to himself, no one interesting to even talk to. He looked at the martinet sitting next to him, wondering why a person of position would be riding a coach, but the man’s demeanor kept him from asking.

He then look to the drunkard, he was a man who appeared to be maybe 10 years older than him. His hair was disheveled and his clothes were dirty, as if he had slept in them in the streets. Meldrick shook his head wondering what could possibly have driven the man to this state.

As he was pondering the prospects of a boring trip, he heard someone yell for the coach to stop and as the driver complied, a couple entered the coach, laughing and smiling, till they saw that the only place for two to sit was next to the drunk. Meldrick noticed their dilemma and decided to move to that side of the coach, taking his pack and slipping it under the seat.

The couple thanked him as the lady sat at the window side and the man sat between her and the man of status, who had perked up a bit at the entrance of the young lady, though he looked peeved when the man sat next to him instead of the lady.

The man held the lady’s hand, gently rubbing it, “We’ve been just married”, he said.

Meldrick was the first to say ‘congratulations’. The drunk looked up and lifted a small flask to his lips in a sort of salute, “another fine woman taken off the market and another gentleman on his way to doom and drudgery.” He chuckled as he had another drink.

The man of status looked down upon the couple, “and I suppose you are both off on your honeymoon?”

The couple ignored his tone and the toast of the drunkard and smiled, “We are off to the hot springs at Taagian, to cleanse our souls and to start are new life together.”

The drunkard mumbled something unintelligible and the man of station just “humphed”.

Meldrick smiled, “I too, am going to Taagian, but for business, not for pleasure.”

“What business would the likes of you have in Taagian, gypsy? Looking for children to steal?” the man of status said, making the word gypsy sound like something extremely distasteful.

Meldrick touched his hand to the handle of his skeleton handled dagger, “I know not who you are, good sir, but I am Meldrick of the Gypsy Elves and you have not the right to impugn my intentions, my business or my people.”

He felt a hand touch his on the handle of the dagger. Meldrick looked into the eyes of the drunkard . . . eyes that were clearer than a drunkard’s should be . . . the drunkard just shook his head. For some unknown reason, Meldrick relaxed and took his hand from his weapon.

“Just as I thought, a coward too . . . it’s a good thing you listened to your drunk friend, or you would have tasted the steel of Count Pierre de Calle.” He leaned back in his seat and while twirling his mustache as he eyed the young bride.

Meldrick could tell the lady was a bit uncomfortable, as her husband said, “since we have had introductions of a sort, I am Roland Evers and this is my wife, Tess.” Tess bowed a little as Roland held her hand tightly. “I am a blacksmith, my wife is a healer.”

Meldrick smiled while the count smirked as if he was aware of a private joke that no one knew but himself.

“And I am John Dark, “the drunkard said as he removed his hat and bowed with a flourish, half falling out of his seat. Meldrick and the couple chuckled while the count sneered.

After that there were some pleasantries exchanged and everyone fell into the rhythm of the coach as it made its way to Stonebridge.

As Meldrick half dozed, he had wondered at the ‘drunkard’ and his act . . . and he knew it was an act, for those eyes were as clear or clearer than his own as they stared into his. And there was something else, his name . . . John Dark, had a familiar ring to it . . . “John Dark . . . “ he thought to himself, “John Dark . . . Johnny Dark . . . Johnny Darkstar!” He looked to the now sleeping drunkard, could it be that this was Johnny Darkstar . . . the Highwayman? Meldrick looked at him again as he stirred just as the coachman yelled, “STONEBRIDGE! Stonebridge, we will have a 30 minute layover and then be off to Taagian.”

Everyone stirred, Roland and Tess were smiling as they cuddled together. Even the count seemed to be happy for the rest stop.

The coach pulled into the station and everyone debarked from the coach, The Evers headed off to find something to eat, while the Count headed to the nearest Tavern for libations. Meldrick grabbed his pack and moved out to sit on the benches of the station as he saw John Dark walking towards the stables. He walked straight and true, without a hint of a stagger.

Meldrick thought of following him, but then thought better of it. He settled for buying an apple from a street vendor and sat down to eat it.

Thirty minutes went by quickly, Meldrick smiled as he saw the Evers coming back, they also smiled as they boarded the coach, Meldrick joined them on their side of the coach after Roland asked him to.

The count entered, appearing none too happy that Meldrick had taken his seat, but then brightened as he sat across from Tess.

Two more men entered and sat beside the count, Meldrick had a bad feeling about these men, they had the look of thug about them. He looked to the count, who was talking softly to the one sitting next to him. Meldrick sighed and looked to the Evers, who had cuddled together and seemed to be ignoring the rest of the passengers.

The coachman called last call and Meldrick realized that John Dark was not coming back.

As the coach headed out, Meldrick vowed to himself that if the Count was up to no good, that he would do all he could to protect the married couple.

As the coach continued on its way towards Taagian, the count and the other two travelers told stories of their sexual conquests, and the count talked of the old practice of “Prima Nocta” “First Night” when royalty had the right to deflower a bride on her wedding night.

Roland looked to the count and held Tess’ hand tightly. “That practice was done away with a long time ago.”

The count looked to him, “Perhaps, but when I reclaim my family’s lands around Taagian, I may just re-instate it.” He chuckled and looked Tess up and down as if she were a piece of meat.

The air in the cabin of the coach was getting very tense as the coach turned off onto the road to Taagian, they stopped as a voice was heard ringing out loud.

“STAND AND DELIVER FER JOHNNY DARKSTAR WAITS FOR NO MAN!” Meldrick looked out of his window and there in the road ahead, was a man dressed all in black, his cape flowing about him. In his right hand was flintlock pistol with a silver- inlay ebony stock, another just like it was tucked in his waistband, while in his left was a silver 8-shot pepperbox and he sat astride the blackest horse that Meldrick had ever seen; its eyes were red as embers.

“Coachman, throw down the strongbox and get yer passengers out of their seats.” The coachman complied and threw down the strongbox as Meldrick and the others climbed out of the cabin of the coach.

Johnny Darkstar and his horse moved over to look over the passengers, just as one of the goons that had been talking to Count de Calle made a move inside of his longcoat.

Johnny chuckled, “Now there Billy Noth, ye best be a-looking fer yer change purse, because if anything other than gold comes out in yer hand, ye’ll be dead where ye stand.”

Billy looked up at Johnny Darkstar, as he slowly removed his hand from inside his longcoat, “H-h-how do you know my name?”

Johnny Darkstar laughed, “I know many things Billy . . . I know that yerself and yer friend Tom Monahan there, were hired by this so-called count, to kidnap the lovely Tess Evers here.” He tipped his hat at the Lady.

Billy looked to Tom and then to the count. Tess moved closer to her husband, Roland as Meldrick stared at the trio.

“You know that I shall have you hunted down and hung like the cur you are, highwayman.” The count stood with his hands on his hips, glaring at Johnny Darkstar.

Johnny chuckled again and touch the tip of his cap, “Beg yer pardon yer highness, but ye’ll be in no position to be orderin’ anyone to hunt anyone down as ye’ll be on the run yerself, as the new Count of Taagian, will no doubt want to get his hands on ye.”

Count De Calle looked at Johnny Darkstar, “What do you mean the new Count of Taagian…I am the new Count?” He looked up at the horseman, a puzzled look on his face.

“Yes the new Count . . . Count Roland Evers!” Both Roland and Pierre looked at Johnny, not fully understanding what he had just said.

“How can this. . .this . . . blacksmith usurp my position from me? I have the papers . . . the proof of my claim!”

Johnny Darkstar looked to the strongbox and smiled, “Driver, would ye be so kind as to open the strongbox?”

The driver looked up to the highwayman, “I’m sorry, Mr. Darkstar, the company doesn’t give us the keys.”

Johnny nodded, “I understand, I just don’t want to chance any damages a bullet could make.” He was about to dismount when Meldrick spoke.

“Mr. Darkstar, I can open the lock.”

Pierre de Calle sneered, “Damn gypsy . . .”

“Be still yer mouth, good sir, if ye knows what’s good fer ye.” Johnny glared at the ex-count, the spoke to the gypsy elf, “If ye think ye can open it, give it a try young elf, twould be greatly appreciated.”

Meldrick smiled and turned to the Lady Tess, “If you don’t mind?” he said as he took a hairpin from her hair and moved to the strongbox. Lightly bending the hairpin, he worked with quick and practiced agility, unlocking the lock and then opening the strongbox. He looked up at Johnny Darkstar and smiled, “Is there anything else I can do for you good sir?”

The highwayman smiled at the speed in which Meldrick had dispatched the lock, “Yes, if ye would be so kind as to take that official-looking packet of the top of the contents and hand it to Count Roland.”

Meldrick did as he was told. Roland accepted the packet and looked from Johnny Darkstar to Pierre de Calle and then to his wife, Tess.

“What is this, good sir?” he said as he looked to Johnny Darkstar.

“That, my good sir, be yer papers of Title and Authority. If ye open them, ye will see that they say that the bearer of these papers are ceded the title of Count of Taagian and entitled to all the lands and privileges of that title.”

“Those are rightfully mine . . .give them back to me!” Pierre de Calle cried out and started move towards Roland as a shot rang out, hitting the dirt at the feet of Pierre de Calle.

Quickly switching flintlocks as Johnny Darkstar spoke, “Ye’ll not touch a hair on Roland or Tess’s head, ye vile creature. Ye talk of rights and ye would have kidnapped the fair Tess? Be glad I don’t just kill ye here and now.”

Meldrick had again moved closer to Roland and Tess, his hand resting on the handle of his skeleton handled dagger. Lady Tess laid her hand on his shoulder and softly shook her head.

“I am done playing with ye, Pierre de Calle, take Billy and Tom and be out of my sight . . . and if ye try to come back to Taagian, I will not be so merciful.”

Tom Monahan and Billy Noth needed no further prompting as they started of down the road back towards Stonebridge. Pierre de Calle glared at Johnny Darkstar, “You’ve made a very powerful enemy today Darkstar . . “ and then turning to Roland, “And I am not done with you, I will have my title back!”

Roland stepped forward and landed a perfect right hand on the jaw of Pierre de Calle and he dropped to the ground.

“If you show your face in the lands around Taagian, again, I will have you tied to a cross to feed the crows.” Roland shook as he talked, trying to keep a hold of his anger. Lady Tess moved to her husband and caressed his shoulder and he relaxed a little.

Pierre scrambled to his feet and slowly moved to follow Billy and Tom, glaring at Johnny Darkstar.

Johnny had put his guns away and reached down to shake Roland’s hand and then to take and kiss Tess’ hand, “Count, Countess take the papers to the Taagian city elders, they will truly recognize ye as the rightful ruler of these lands . . . all I ask is that ye not be seduced by the evil side of power.”

He turned in his saddle and looked down upon Meldrick, “That be some skill ye have with the locks, melad, be ye sure ye wouldn’t like to join me?”

Meldrick smiled, “That is a tempting offer Mr. Darkstar, but right now I have a duty to my tribe, perhaps another time.” He reached up and shook the highwayman’s hand.

Johnny laughed and shook his hand vigorously, then twirled about and headed out at a full gallop shouting back over his shoulder, “Next time ye hear ‘Stand and Deliver” do as the Highwayman says.” And as he rode away his laughter trailed behind.

- - - - - - - -

Meldrick remembered the rest of the trip as uneventful, except the city’s declaration of fealty to its new count and countess. He had collected the Royal Jelly from the Lady Helga and that on his way back into Stonebridge he had seen the bodies of three men hanging . . . nameless thieves was the story he heard . . . he had recognized them of course, but never said anything to anyone as to their identities.

- - - - - - -

Meldrick hadn’t realized so many had been listening, a few even whispered about Meldrick knowing the Highwayman, Johnny Darkstar, as children were heard singing . . .

“Stand and deliver
The highwayman said.
Stand and deliver
Or ye’ll surely be dead

Johnny Darkstar rode out of the night
Robbing coaches on the overland trail
No one dared face the wrath of his might
As he took both strongboxes and mail

Stand and deliver
The highwayman said.
Stand and deliver
Or ye’ll surely be dead.

Astride his steed Nightmare, dark as the night
His guns aimed and ready, a smile on his face
Ladies would swoon, men tremble with fright
Taking the goods and away he would race.

Stand and deliver
The highwayman said
Stand and deliver
Or ye’ll surely be dead!

Yes, stand and deliver
The highwayman said.
Stand and deliver
“BANG!” or ye’ll surely be dead”

The children laughed as they all fell to the ground as Meldrick remembered the man that they sang of . . . . .

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Sit back and I'll tell you tales of Faeries and dragons.
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Fri Dec 07, 2007 9:00 pm
Is it just me or didja change outfits? xD

This is very well written, and i envy your writing skillz. ">>
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Meldrick the Elder
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Knight of Zantarni
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Wed Dec 12, 2007 10:10 am
Meldrick smiles and bows, "I thank you for your kind words."
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Sit back and I'll tell you tales of Faeries and dragons.
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Thu Jan 31, 2008 4:57 am
"Once again, you leave me in awe of your tales, Sir Meldrick. I love hearing of them, as you've lived such an amazing life!" Selena laughed softly, listening to the song from the children.
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