A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

Part 14

A Six Gun and the Queen of Light

By Mark Slade

Story Break Barbed

“What’s wrong, Nat?” Logan asked after he checked behind them, looking for riders on the trail.

“Nothing’s wrong,” Nat said. He flung his whip, caught the lead again. The horses bore down harder, dust kicking behind them. The moon was higher and brighter, the trail out in the badlands became even longer as they left the woods behind them. “Do you know where we’re going? Where does the line stop?”

Logan sighed, laid the rifle between himself and Nat. “She just said we would know where to stop when we got there.”

“Damn it!” Nat shook his head. “You get me in on your job, dangerous enough, don’t know the end of the job.”

“You can always stop the stage. I’ll let you have my horse, go back to Bedlam… if you’re scared.”

Nat snarled at Logan, called out to the horses. “Never said I was scared. Never said such.”

“Then stop your whining and finish the job. I’m closing my eyes. Wake me if there’s trouble.”

“Sure thing, boss,” Nat said sarcastically. “I can do the job, boss… I can do it quietly, too.”

“Then do just that, tenderfoot – quietly!” Logan pushed his hat down over his eyes – leaned back on a sack containing flour and coffee.

Nat looked at Logan and muttered an insult under his breath.

It was close to sunrise when they decided it was better to take a break. Soon, no bend from a river would exist in the badland – nothing but soil. For now, Genevieve and her servant could bathe, and the horses could revitalize their bodies through drink. Nat and Logan made camp. All could rest for a while. Later, food would be cooked: some bacon, some beans.

Genevieve had her bath. She dressed inside the stage. Logan had started the fire early. He was hungry and wanted coffee.

She came round to help. At first, he wasn’t up for conversation. The tension between him and Nat was much too visible to Genevieve. When she mentioned it he just gave her a dirty look.

“I assume that’s a taboo subject,” she said, tending to the bacon on the open fire.

Logan just shook his head. There was a short silence. He decided to be fair with her. After all, she was both his employer and the package to be delivered.

“How did you get by those guards?” He sat beside her on a log.

“As I said, we put them to sleep.” She smiled at him. It was a beautiful smile – the kind of smile you notice on your love’s face on a spring day, or the smile on a child at their first astonishment.

“You put something in their tea.”

“No,” Genevieve laughed. “My servant bowed her head and mustered enough energy to put six men in slumber.”

“No.” Logan snorted through his nose. Not one of his qualities he liked – to let folks see him laughing. “You’re joshing.”

Genevieve said nothing. Logan’s face changed. The smile disappeared.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

Genevieve shrugged. “I suppose I can tell you, now that we’re away from prying eyes and walls with ears.” She took the skillet from the fire, rolled a few strips of bacon on a plate. She loaded the skillet with more bacon before saying, “You won’t believe this!”

“Try me.”

“We are going to travel the distance of these badlands. You understand,” she said. Logan nodded. He was deep into her words. “When we reach the end, there will be a sphere of light – ”

“A what of light?”

“A ball… of light.”

“Oh. Why a ball?”

“Mr. Logan, please.”

“I’m sorry. Go on.”

“We shall have to enter that… ball of light. Inside, there is a city – a great metropolis. Hyderia it is called – a beautiful city with very tall buildings and majestic streets. Its people, although simple, could almost be considered barbaric compared to here. They are mostly good, but they are being ruled by evil – an evil that ousted me from my homeland to usurp my rule. His name is Moorcock.”

“And how in God’s name did he do this, this evil Moorcock?”

“I am being held by a spell he cast upon me. If ever, before five years, I am to return to Hyderia I shall wither away. The wind will carry my dust to the three hells under our great city. The spell ended last year. Every time I have run away from Graves, he has caught me, my servant punished in the cruelest ways… My guides have always died violent deaths.

“I needed someone just as violent as he… more cunning.”

Logan considered. He took his hat off, looked up at the sun that was scarring the sky. “Violent, you say? Cunning? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is certain, if I’m gonna die I’m taking as many with me as I can. I’m gonna get some rest. I suggest you do the same, Mrs. Graves.”

“Please, Mr. Logan. That is no longer my name. Genevieve will do.”

“Your majesty? Perhaps? I see… I will not make light of your situation, Ma’am. Get some rest, Genevieve.”

“Do you like working for Mrs. Graves?” Nat said to Nadia. She shrugged as she washed the dishes in the river. “You don’t say much.”

“I don’t have much to say,” she said. She wiped a plate with a worn-out piece of cloth.

“You been with her long?” “You ask too many questions.” The servant girl made a face. “What’s wrong with that? Asking is the only way to get answers to the truth.” “The truth is not always an easy pill to swallow.” “You should rest.” Nat smiled. “I rest when Mrs. Graves says to rest.” “Yeah? I do what I want.” “Even when Mr. Logan tells you what to do?” “He ain’t my boss!” Nat had a sour look on his face. “Nobody tells me what to do.” “I believe you… I’m not sure if you believe it.” Nat nodded – backed away from the servant girl. He saw Logan sleeping beside the stage, his head resting on his saddle and his hat pulled over his eyes. A tree shaded his body. His horse was close by eating grass. Nat watched him a few seconds longer. “Some friend you turned out to be,” he whispered to himself.

Out in the distance a blurry vision of a man staggered across the badlands towards them, weary, frail, dressed in all black. Nat watched this man as he drew closer. His clothes were tattered, dirty. “What the hell?” Nat said. He rushed to Logan, shook him awake. “Hey! Somebody’s coming yonder.” “What are you like, Nat. Are you going out of your mind? Nobody is going to be walking through these badlands.” Logan sat up, rubbed his eyes. “Then what’s that?” Nat pointed. Logan looked behind him, his mouth agape. “Wh… in tarnation is going on?” He got to his feet, found his gun belt hanging from a limb. “That fool’s got some explaining to do.” Logan strapped the gun belt on, waited confidently for the stranger to get closer. “You think he’s working for Graves?” “I don’t know, Nat. Maybe. Go warn Genevieve and her servant. Let them know everything is all right.” “Sure thing, Logan.”

The stranger stumbled toward the stage, barely keeping his balance. He’d been out in the hot sun, but his skin was bone-white. His eyes were big, bulging under the eyelids, veins straining in the bloodshot eye sockets. His broken, chapped lips were moving and the words he spoke to himself unintelligible. Logan cocked the hammer of his ‘Colt’. He pointed it at the stranger. “That’s far enough mister,” he said. Logan’s voice seemed to bring the man out of his daydream. The stranger laughed, tried hard to stand still. “I-uh-wish no one any harm my good man.” He ran a hand through his stone-white hair. “I’m only passing through this great land of yours.”

“What business do you have out here?” Logan’s voice created a loud echo across the silent badlands. Genevieve and Nadia watched the situation from inside the stage. Nat had the rifle. He stayed near the hitch of the stage. Nervously, he steadied the rifle on the stranger best he could. “My name is Glynnis… Lafferty, as I said – ” “You scouting for Graves?” “I’m afraid I don’t know a Mr. Graves. Would it be possible for me to fill my canteen?” Glynnis pulled out an imaginary canteen, showed it to Logan. Logan sighed, put his pistol away. He nodded. “If you’d like, Mr. Glynnis. Sorry about the questions and such.” “No offense taken.” Glynnis ran to the river bend, threw himself into it, laughing the whole trip.

Logan went over to the stage. He wiped sweat from his brow with a hand. Nat came over, still watching Glynnis. “Who is he?” Nat said with urgency. “You can put that down, Nat. I believe he’s harmless.” Logan then turned to Genevieve. “He’s not with Graves. He’s not with anyone, nor of sound mind.” “But you don’t know he’s not dangerous,” Genevieve said. She opened the door of the stage, waited for her servant to follow and shut it tight. “No ma’am. I think he’s a lost soul.” Logan fiddled with his gun, removing it and placing it back in the holster. “Where in God’s name did he come from?” Nat shook his head, listened to Glynnis having a grand old time in the river. “We should stay away from him. He has to move on. No stragglers,” Genevieve said. “What if he has nowhere else to go?” Logan leaned in toward her. “We can’t leave him out here. He’ll die.” “He’s come this far. He’ll be alright.” Genevieve moved from Logan’s presence. She walked past him then stopped, turned around. “He cannot enter the city with us. That’s all there is to it. Remember, I’m paying you.” Genevieve motioned for her servant to follow her. They went on to Glynnis. Nat stared at Logan then back to Genevieve. “What’s come over her?” “I don’t know,” Logan said. “I really don’t.” “Sir?” Genevieve called to Glynnis twice before he noticed her. He stopped flapping his arms in the river, nodded to her. “Ma’am. Beg your forgiveness. I’m a bit too happy to find water.” “I see that. I’m sure I would react the same way if I were without water. By the way, how long have you been out here?” Glynnis swam to ground, climbed out of the river bend. He stood up, his clothes dripping puddles underneath him. “It seems like… forever.” “Mm. Well, do you know where you are headed?” “Yes, Ma’am. The first reasonable town or village I come to.”

“I see. Well, we wondering if you’d like to sit and eat with us?” A slow smile crossed Glynnis’ face. “Yes ma’am… I surely would. It’s been awhile since I’ve eaten.”

“Come with us, you poor dear. Let the sun dry your clothes and have a bite,” Genevieve said, taking Glynnis by the arm.

The sky began to darken later that evening. The sun chose to slip into a short slumber. Nat and the servant girl were loading supplies back in the stage. During the meal, Genevieve never brought up leaving Glynnis. Logan waited but the subject never came up – even when he prodded her to the conversation.

Glynnis sat there watching Nat and the servant. Genevieve left the camp for the stage, looked back at him – maybe a final goodbye.

There was a sound in trees surrounding them. A low, hissing sound. The servant girl screamed. She saw the demon there, looking over a limb. Logan ran to the trees, his weapon drawn.

“Show yourself!” he demanded. Behind him, Logan could feel Nat not far. He heard Nat cock the rifle. “Come out from behind them trees tin horn!”

The demon hissed, gurgled, as it came from behind the tree – even giggled. “No reason for guns, gentlemen.” It was a type of demon called a Drago.

“What is that thing?” Genevieve put her hands to her mouth. Her servant grabbed Genevieve by the arm and pushed her into the stage.

“Nothing if it’s not hell spawn.” Nat fumbled his words. He tried to control his hands, keep the rifle still.

“I only want him… nothing more.” The Drago bowed, pointing.

Logan and Nat realized whom the demon was pointing at. Glynnis stood in that same line of sight, the exact same spot, his eyes stuck on the demon, mouth trembling.

“And if we don’t give him to you?” Logan asked.

“No!” The Drago hissed. “You must… you have to. I have been tracking this soul for years!”

“Glynnis?” Logan called out.

“Yes, Mr. Logan?”

“What happens if you don’t go with this thing?”

“I – I don’t really know – ”

“What did he do to warrant you putting him in Hell?”

The Drago smiled. “You really need to know? Well… this man… Glynnis-James-Glynnis came to the fine state of Virginia looking for a friend he had served jail time with in Pennsylvania. This friend had told him of the family he married into, including details of their wealthy shipping business. But the father-in-law hated him – was bound to cut him out of the wealth – so he and Glynnis here cooked up a plan. Glynnis got out of jail three weeks after his friend and came to the big house in Hampton. Only, Glynnis was supposed to kill the old man. He ended up killing everyone in the house… including his friend. Not able to live with what he’d done, Glynnis hung himself in his jail cell. And somehow since, he convinced one of my underlings to open up a crack in Hell so he could escape… and here we stand.”

“Is all that true, Glynnis?” Logan looked over his shoulder at Glynnis.

Still in the same spot, eyes glued to the demon, tears ran down his cheeks.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Logan said. “Run Glynnis!” Logan screamed.

Logan fired once. The bullet struck the Drago in the forehead. Blood dribbled from the half-dollar sized wound. It withdrew, hands curled, mouth slack-jawed. A high-pitched scream came from its black and blue lips. Glynnis was already a blurry figure in the distance out on the badlands.

“I’ll come for you.” The Drago pointed a gnarly finger at Logan. “After I catch him.” The wind picked up dust which then swirled around the demon. Once it settled, the demon was gone.

Logan staggered backwards a bit. He looked on at the trees in disbelief. Nat came up behind, sighed. Logan turned to him.

“Why’d you do it? Couldn’t we have just given him up?” Nat said.

“Yeah,” Logan said. “I could have. But, I think everybody needs a head start in a chase.”

“We should get going,” Genevieve said from the stage. “It’s nearing sunset.”

“She’s right.” Nat put his hand on Logan’s shoulder. Logan looked at him strangely. He said nothing, accepted that hand as a notion their friendship had been patched up.

“Let’s get this over with.” Logan moved toward the stage. “The sooner, the better.”

Nat climbed on top of the stage, offered a hand for Logan to climb up. Logan accepted without hesitation.

“No more adventures with you after this, Logan. “ Nat smiled at him. “It’s too tiring.”

For most of the night, the ride west was uneventful. Logan couldn’t help but feel this job was a mistake. And what he had done hours earlier, with Glynnis and the demon, was not the ace card he would have liked to have pulled from his sleeve. He wanted to convey this to Nat, but that too felt awkward.

Nat talked a lot that night – different from the last few on the stage. Logan wasn’t listening. He was thinking, thinking – perhaps too much.

Ever since coming to Bedlam, too much had happened that confused him. He could only react to them, not make the situation out in his favor.

Something deep stirred inside Logan. He didn’t feel himself body-wise, or in his head – a weakness he couldn’t let anyone see, Graves included.

The sun began to show through a patch of early morning twilight. A yellow, bright light shining out from the gray. The badlands were disappearing. It felt like they had arrived at the edge of the world. Faintly, a sphere appeared. Just as the gray was leaving, the bright light coming, a clear ball rested on the badlands, touching the sky. It was huge! And inside were distorted images of a city hustling and bustling, people coming and going.

The stagecoach carrying Genevieve Graves and her Servant Nadia came riding up on the horizon hard and fast. Beside them was Logan. His horse’s legs were a blur in the dust they kicked up.

And out of nowhere came hundreds of flying creatures, circling them. Logan’s horse rose up and neighed. The small humans with wings attacked: biting, scratching with claws. Their screams sounded like a high-pitched song.

“What the hell are these things?” Logan screamed. He tried to bat them down with his gun. Some he came into contact with swiftly, but they kept coming. Some even made it into the coach. Nadia created a small bubble, imprisoning several and sending the bubble flying toward the rising sun.

“They are harpies, Mr. Logan,” Genevieve called out. “They’re protecting the city of Hydria.”

“They’re a damned nuisance!” He kept swatting them down like flies.

A darkness came over them. The harpies dispersed. A thousand little dots flew across the sky and disappeared. Genevieve had become frozen, her face showed terrible pain. Her hands were entangled with each other. Nadia took hold of her Queen and comforted her.

“What the hell is going on?” Logan screamed.

Nat just pointed, stuttered. “Look!” His face went white.

Then Logan heard a clicking noise and he knew a gun was pointed at his head. He turned slowly and saw a man had the reins of his horse in one hand, a ‘Colt’ in the other. Behind the man were at least fifty plus men on horses with guns pointed at everyone. To the left of the men stood Graves. He was sneering, his arms folded.

“I’m not even going to negotiate with you,” Graves said. “You, the servant girl, and your crony there are in fact going to die. But I am willing to let you make peace with your maker. That does not include groveling of any kind, or begging for your life – backstabbing each other. You have five minutes for any prayer of any kind.”

Logan laughed. “You are long-winded.” Logan sniffed the air. “Something smells like it’s burning. I can tell you one thing. If I can walk into your compound and take your woman without spilling blood, I think I can get us safely past you and where we need to go… probably not without spilling blood. Damn! What the hell is burning?”

The sky was on fire. Clouds became balls of blazing flame, momentarily causing the air in the badlands to become unbearable to breathe. Logan nearly dropped to his knees but managed to hold on. Through blurred vision, he saw Graves’ men fall out. Nat struggled to stay conscious.

Strange. The immense heat didn’t bother Nadia and Genevieve, or Graves for that matter.

Graves took from his belt what looked like half an amulet that was glowing with a soft hue that bled into his hand.

The balls of fire broke apart, giving way to an invisible rain. The air became breathable again. Logan regained his vision just as everyone afflicted resumed their part in the drama. Graves’ men had put away their guns. They were in a trance, hunched forward, stuck in an attack stance.

A swirling, clear bubble appeared in the sky and drifted down, hovering just above Graves. A man in a white tunic resided inside this bubble. He sat in a lotus position, his hands folded in his lap. His ashen face wore a sick smile. Thin long strands hung just below his ears, flowed in and out for lack of gravity inside the bubble.

“Who the hell is this?” Logan shouted to Genevieve. He glanced at her twice before noticing she had the other half of the glowing amulet in her hands. Logan angrily took a few steps to the stagecoach. Nat joined him, nervously looking over his shoulder.

“Graves’ men look like they are ready for some sort of battle. But they ain’t moved once since that came.” Nat pointed to the bubble.

“This situation is getting stranger by the minute, Nat. She’s not telling us everything,” Logan said as they stood by the coach window. Logan leaned in, “are you, Mrs. Graves.”

“I’ve told you what you needed to know. Which is more than I should have.” Genevieve retorted. “You have no idea what powers you are dealing with.”

Logan laughed. “I know that you better fess up, woman. Or I’ll put a bullet in your pretty little head.”

“I’m not the enemy, Mr. Logan.” Genevieve showed him the half of the amulet. “I need the other half to enter my world, claim my right.”

“Who is he?” Logan pointed at the bubble.

Genevieve sighed. “Morecock, of course.”

“Who is this Morecock?” Nat looked bewildered. Logan shot him a glance that he was on his last nerve. “Well, hell!” Nat protested. “I have a right to know who we’re against.”

“He’s here to prevent us from entering Hyderia.” Nadia said, “the other world I told you we were from.”

“How long till your world opens up?” Logan asked.

“It will not make itself visible until I have the other half.”

“Is that all we gotta do?” Nat grabbed his rifle from the carriage seat. “Let’s end this, Logan. I’m getting homesick. I’m gonna bust his bubble.” Nat aimed his ‘Winchester’ at the bubble.

“Nat! No!” Logan screamed and pushed Nat’s arm just as he got a shot off. The bullet traveled at the speed of light and hit the bubble. It bounced off and ground just in front of the lead horse, causing the wagon to move slightly. The horse whinnied, jumped forward. Logan grabbed the horse with his hands, spoke softly in its ear. When the horse was calmed he turned to Nat, fists balled up, ready to strike.

Nat approached Logan, nostrils flared, ready to bawl him out when they were interrupted by strange growling. Nat looked over his shoulder and immediately dropped his ‘Winchester’. “Logan, Logan,” he blubbered, nervously pointing.

Logan’s eyes followed Nat’s finger. He gasped. “Damn it to hell,” he whispered.

Graves’ men were not men anymore. During the brief meeting with Genevieve and Nat’s silly debacle they had transformed into a gruesome horde. Twenty snarling, growling hordes were all lined up to tear everyone apart.

In an instant, the first three jumped at Logan. He drew his gun quick. The first bullet ripped through the horde’s left eye. It fell just short of Logan who took a few steps to the right to avoid the second. Logan fired his ‘Colt’ again and blew the top of the horde’s head. The third had already grabbed hold of Logan by the cuff of his shirt. Its fangs were deeply embedded in his wrist.

Logan screamed out in pain, fell to his knees. He pulled his arm from the horde’s fangs, tearing the skin like peeling bark from a dead tree. Blood ran down his arm and gun hand, forming a puddle of red on the barren ground.

Nat stepped forward. With a single shot from his ‘Winchester’, the horde dropped like a sack of potatoes. He rushed over to Logan and helped him to his feet. Logan threw his arm over Nat’s shoulder, began to walk with him when he felt strange.

Logan closed his eyes. There was a fierce pain throbbing in the center of his mind. He heard two voices whispering. Logan cried out, dropped his ‘Colt’. He clasped both ears with his hands. His body temperature rose to an unspeakable and dangerous high. Beads of sweat fell from his ashen face like raindrops. The voices became louder as they eventually fell in sync. His eyes had turned a golden yellow.

He fell on all fours, lifted his head straight up in the air and cried out again. His face contorted, nose and mouth grew into a snarling snout – large upper tusks extending from his top lip. Hair covered his changing body, which had already removed itself from Logan’s now torn and tattered clothing. His ears grew, became more flat, inches taller than his head. His hands, feet were now like a boar’s with claws.

Nat looked at the coach. He saw Genevieve and Nadia had their heads bowed, lips moving silently. “What are you two doing to him?!” he screamed at them. He started to rush the coach, but his attention turned to the two hordes running toward him. He aimed his ‘Winchester’ and fired. The horde leapt at him and caught the bullet in its chest, falling to the ground tripping the next one. It too fell. It struggled to gather itself and ran to Nat. He fired again. The bullet pierced the horde between the eyes.

The voices, intertwined, grew louder. The transformation was complete. Logan was now a horde, and the voices were directing his attacks.

Three more of Graves’ hordes had found their way to the coach. The horses were being attacked, one already fallen, being ripped apart by a horde. The other two were on either side of the coach, shaking it. Logan rushed them, taking the one horde on the left first. They tumbled over and over, biting, growling, clawing at each other until Logan had the horde pinned down by its neck. He ripped into its throat, spat out the deep red blood.

Logan pushed the dead horde out of his way, trotted over to the other hordes tormenting the horses. Nat cut the reins and the lines. The middle horse trampled a horde underfoot. All four hooves trekked across its head, leaving it to bleed to death.

Logan was in a wrestling match with another horde, claws slicing each other on the face and chest. A gun fired and the horde fell dead at Logan’s feet.

Nat was holding his revolver, grimacing.

Logan snarled, gave Nat a glimpse of his understanding to what just happened then carried on by running headlong into a group of ten hordes! There was the flutter of a thousand little wings at his ears. Logan stopped in his tracks – watched the harpies attack the rest of the horde.

Logan saw that Graves was vulnerable. He was trying to fend off harpies, shooting wildly, bullets zipping by their tiny wings. They would attack in packs of ten, biting and scratching Graves. The harpies lifted the other half of the Amulet from Graves’ neck. He screamed, fired until his gun was empty. Graves fell to his knees, awaiting the inevitable.

A stream of blue lightning descended from the sky and eradicated Graves, leaving him as nothing but a pile of dust that was carried away by a gentle wind.

Two harpies dragged the half of the amulet across the air and dropped it in Genevieve’s lap. She touched it and a bright white light consumed her. Nadia screamed as she was enveloped by the great light. Nadia and Genevieve became one again, a whole being, as they were always meant to be. Nat stood back from the stage – felt the heat on his face from the glowing aura of energy.

The stagecoach fell apart and the light emerged, floated high in the sky at an accelerated rate. The light illuminated the sky, blinding all whom were watching it ascend. The bubble melted away and the man who had been inside fell to the ground, trying to save his last breath.

Nat saw Logan passed out on the ground. No longer a horde, he was bruised, wounded, and completely naked.

“Logan?” Nat touched his back. He took the covering from the stage, wrapped it around Logan. “Doc’s gonna be mad at you,” Nat said, helping Logan into the last remains of the stage – which was a bare thread wagon. “This time you’re gonna have to pay him for his doctoring.”

Story Break Barbed


Nat awoke with the sound of the church bells ringing in his ears. He sat up in his bed, slow and groggy. He looked over to the other cot which Doc used for patients. The cot was empty. Nat jumped out of bed and looked out of the window. He didn’t see Logan’s horse.

Nat found his clothes on the floor, dressed as fast as he could. He didn’t like the idea that Logan had left without saying goodbye. He was going to ride out after him and give him a piece of his mind.

“No son of a bitch treats Nat that way. After everything I’ve done for him,” he muttered to himself.

Nat saw it sitting on Doc’s dresser – the silver dollar with the bullet hole. A note was under it:

“Take care, Nat If I need a partner again, I’ll send word for you.”

Nat felt this sinking feeling in his stomach. He didn’t know if it was because Logan was gone and he may never see him ever again, or the fact he found the man who had killed his father. Nat put the silver dollar in his pocket, put his hat on.

“Either way,” Nat thought, “the stables won’t keep.”

The End