by: Lewis H. Montaug1
The saga continues, with the reveal of an evil that draws near….
Catch up with The Badlands Saga by indulging in Part 1, The Sling-Shot….
Fernando Abbott gazed down fixedly at the yellowing map spread out before him. In one corner, holding down the maps curling edge, was a rust-flecked box of tin soldiers and figurines, their painted-on uniforms and stern-faced features chipped from years of handling. Fernando reached into the box and pulled out the Major, placing the soldier over a clustering of low-slung hills called the Broken Sisters.
“Here is where we came from, Esteban,” Fernando spoke to his son in his characteristic gravelly tone. “And here, here is where we are about now,” he explained, placing the General figurine on a winding road called Canyon Run. The road was impossibly long, stretching across two thirds of the map, before it ended abruptly at a wide river called Diablo Sun.
“But where are we going dad? Its been weeks since we left mom and my friends back home.”
“I do not know my son. That has not yet been revealed to me. But it is somewhere beyond the hills we call home, past the Badlands to the South and down the mighty River Diablo.”
“Are we to put on a performance when we get there? Have the people where we are going heard about Abbott & Son’s Traveling Circus and sent for us?”
“No Esteban. Where we are going the people have not heard of us. They are not like our kind back home in the hills. But they will get a performance when we arrive, I can promise you that. It will be a performance the likes of which they will never forget. Now, that is enough questions for tonight little man. It’s late and Augustus and I have to talk business.”
“Okay dad. But tomorrow I get to ask another one!”
“Sure little man. There are plenty of days left on our journey for your questions to find answers.”
Tousling his son’s hair with his long, bony fingers as they walked, Fernando led his son to the back of their dimly lit trailer. Esteban climbed easily into the top bunk fastened against the trailers wooden back wall and pulled the colorful blankets up around him. Fernando, now eye-level with his inquisitive son, leaned over and pressed his lips gently against Esteban’s forehead.
“Goodnight my little acrobat,” Fernando whispered.
“Goodnight my big lion tamer,” Esteban whispered, his eyes already half-closed as slumber took hold of him.
Esteban turned down the light of the rooms oil lantern until it barely registered a glow. Closing the door softly behind him, he made his way back down the short hallway to the trailers main room. As he walked, the trailer lurched heavily to the left, then back to the right, causing the usually balanced man to put his arm out to steady himself as he walked.
“Dios mio,” Fernando muttered under his breath. The jouney was getting rougher the further South they went, owing to the roads not being as well traveled here as they were up North. There simply weren’t an abundance of good enough reasons to cross the Badlands and because of this, the desert continually reclaimed the road.
Fernando slowly made his way back to the main room and as he entered, his brother-in-law Augustus rose from the large table with the unfurled map. He handed Fernando a tarnished silver mug of ale.
“Is he asleep?” Augustus asked.
“Yes. For now. I only hope these roads don’t get any worse or we’ll have to stop traveling by night so that we can all get some rest.”
“Esteban is not used to our life out on the road.”
“Yes. I know. His mother made it very clear to me that this trip would be hard for him. But every child must face that moment where they are no longer afraid of the world. That is why I brought him on this trip. He needs to grow up. To get away from the safety of the Broken Sister towns.”
“What have you told him?”
“Very little. He knows that we are going South. He knows that we are going somewhere we have not been before. That is all. But he’s inquisitive, like his mother. And like his uncle.” Fernando flashed his brother-in-law a warm smile.
“What of the reports from the kestrels we have sent to scout the towns ahead? Have you had a chance to read them all?”
“Yes. Most are routine. But one I find….troubling.” Fernando said, taking a long pull from his mug as he sat down in front of the map. He reached into the metal box and pulled out two weathered figurines. They were highwaymen. Rough-looking cowboys with six-shooters at each hip. He stared at the figures as he held them loosely in his hand.
“The report says that a young boy, maybe Fernando’s age, killed our highwaymen. How is that possible?”
“I do not know. It seems unlikely, but the report says it is so. The kestrels do not lie.”
“And what of this town on the outskirts of the Badlands where this happened? Are we to pass through it on our journey South?”
“Elmer City? Yes, we cannot avoid it. The town is the last outpost on the Canyon Road before we reach the river. We will need to resupply there if we are to continue South.”
“Then we are going to need to know a lot more about this boy before we arrive.”
Reaching into the box of rusting figurines, Fernando pulled out one that resembled a girl of about ten or eleven. She had a knapsack slung over her shoulder and a pair of sturdy worker boots on her feet. She was dressed in overalls and had a sly smirk upon her face as if she knew a deep, dark secret. Fernando’s eyes looked over the map as he traced their intended route with his finger. From their current location at the General, all the way until Elmer City, was a journey of several days, if not a week. He held the figurine of the young girl up to his face and stared intently at her. Then Fernando whispered a long series of dangerous words into her hollow metallic ear. He placed the figurine of the young girl upon the map, atop the words Elmer City, and then looked up at his brother-in-law Augustus.
“She will tell us all that we need to know about this troublesome boy before we arrive.
“Will he not see her coming, like he did with the highwaymen?”
“Not a chance with this one. She is very special. Very special indeed.”
To Be Continued…..
- Header art by Alexander Jansson. [↩]