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Quentin Cantrell

Characters
  • Content count

    26
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About Quentin Cantrell

  • Rank
    Lost Lake Ranch: Business Mgr.

Character Info

  • Profession
    Troubleshooter
  • Status
    Single
  • DOB
    05/07/1839
  • Age Range
    30s
  • Height
    6'
  • Hair color
    Black
  • Eye Color
    Hazel (green-brown)
  • Playby
    Pernell Roberts
  • OOC Alias
    Longshot

Recent Profile Visitors

199 profile views
  1. Quentin Cantrell

    Kalispell Fairgrounds Let Me At 'em !

    Quentin slowly clawed his way to his feet, laying about with his fists amidst the Evergreen hands. He made good progress with a few well placed punches and knees, even grabbing one hand and using him to plow an opening so he got some space after several breathless seconds. Quentin stood, panting hard, one hand on a knee as he was buffeted by the random struggling men. Suddenly a sharp pain lanced into his buttock and Quentin roared with pain at the unsuspected injury. He spun and grabbed a handful of fabric, fist coming back to deliver a blow before his eyes registered the identity of his assailant. "HARRIET?" Quentin said, voice still up from the pain. @Harriet Mercer
  2. Quentin Cantrell

    Planning: The Bear

    Quentin's expertise is hardly good for the games, unless there's a draw competition. He's a fine rifle shot, but I would think there are men who are better pure shots than him. If there's some kind of revolver contest he might be good. The only other thing would be if there was some kind of...prizefighting? the early kind with a ring and gloves? I know it existed back then. Up for suggestions.
  3. Quentin Cantrell

    Kalispell Fairgrounds All Work and No Play

    Quentin rode up to the edge of the meadow. He inhaled a deep breath of the air and watched the busy preparations. Quentin had only attended one of these festivals in the past when his time at the ranch right after Charleston had coincided with the occasion. He remembered it had been a great time. One thing he had not had to do before, was the preparations for the Festival and dance...and Quentin had to admit, this past week had worn him out. Ezra had an endless list of things that needed to be done before Saturday. Quentin looked around as he rode across the meadow, occasionally slowing to thread among the groups until he ended up near Shade. Quentin dismounted and sidled over to Shade. "So, have you seen Ezra this morning?" Quentin asked, eyes constantly moving in case the older man was nearby or approaching. Quentin brought his eyes back around to Shade. "What?..." Shade laughed, his deep blue eyes dancing in amusement. He enjoyed working outdoors but had to admit Ezra had worn him to the bone. Quentin was far from lazy, still, the Hales were quite the taskmasters! "Ezra stopped by a little while back, rode off toward town. I figure he's gone to terrorize the town council." Quentin visibly relaxed. "Good. I needed a break after the last few days." The younger man looked around at the busy groups of men and women working around the meadow. Spotting a familiar figure, Shade remembered another task he had in mind. After the incident with the men that had harassed the young Redmond girl, he had talked to Quentin about offering her part-time work as a babysitter and mentor to the twins. Right now, Harriet Mercer's younger sister was filling the role of the governess, but Shade thought she could use some time off or even just a break here and there. The twins were not mean or even badly spoiled, but they were little whirlwinds. "There's Aurelian Redmond. I want to ask him about Clara working for us before I forget," Shade said and pointed to where Aurelian was working with a group of men to unload the last of the lumber from the delivery wagon. Leading Quentin around the edge of the area staked out for the dance floor, Shade walked up to Redmond as he finished laying the last planks on the stack, "Mr. Redmond," he greeted the man pleasantly, "thank you for helping out this week. We could use a few men like you on the ranch." Quentin stood a little behind Shade and to the side. He nodded to the other man while Shade conducted his business. Idly he turned, keeping an eye peeled for Ezra's return. Aurelian wiped his hands on the sides of his trousers as he then glanced at the men, "Mr. Thornton, Mr. Cantrell, pleasure's all mine though my back and hands might disagree by tonight. So....you do a lot of floor laying at that ranch of yours?" It was all said was a grin of course. Shade grinned, "With Ezra, you never know what we'll be workin' on. And please, make it Shade." He nodded off toward the west in the direction of the rest of the ranch. "I was hoping to catch you before we started work here today. I'd like to ask your permission to offer Clara a job two or three days a week babysitting my wards. The judge mandated they be supervised at all times. We have a governess, but she needs time off." "Shade then, I'm Aurelian, but if that's too fancy for you, Aury is fine," Aurelian replied then listened to the man's unexpected offer. "A job? Babysitting for your children? Ahhh yes, I believe I met them at the general store when I met Mrs. Hale. Well, we would have to figure out arrangements as to how Clara would get to your place, but otherwise, I have no objections. Of course, I would like to hear Clara's thoughts on this but knowing her, she will jump at it." He left it unsaid the family could use any extra money they could get, and Clara was well aware of that too. Also, he had every confidence she could do the job properly. "Perhaps, if you can spare her, we can set her work days so she can stay at the ranch?" Shade said, his mind working to think out a solution that would work for the Redmonds and the twins. "Sage Miller's wife works at the ranch house, and they have a cabin not far from here." Shade indicated the nearest foothills. "I'm sure Mary and Sage would be glad to see that Clara gets back and forth safely." "Well..........I do admit, that girl does a lot of work for our family. The laundry, the cooking, the sewing, she is a gem, my Clara. And as you've seen she takes a big interest in the garden too. I do need her but as long as it's not too much time out of the week, I think I can spare her. As long as the Millers do not feel put upon for their part in this too," Aurelian seemed positive to this possibility and imagined Clara would jump at this also. "I figure a couple of days a week if both of you are agreeable. We'll arrange transportation so don't worry on that. In fact, if she rides and you approve, I have a little mare she can borrow. Thank you for considering it. Should I negotiate the rate of pay with Clara?" Shade grinned slightly at that, trying to imagine entering into a negotiation with the teen and figuring he'd lose in the end. "A couple of days.....sounds reasonable unless something comes up, one can never forecast such things," Aurelian nodded, "She does ride, she's actually very capable on a horse, I tease her that the horse doesn't know anybody is even on top. My one worry though is given the situation I am leery of her riding about on her own, you understand I hope." "Of course! All things considered, you're right to be cautious," Shade pulled off his hat and ran his bandana over his hair as he considered. "We'll offer the mare with the condition that she meets up with one or both of the Millers for the ride to and from the ranch house - at least until we all see how it works out." That seemed to be a good compromise. It would give Clara some control yet have her traveling in the company of reliable people. "And yes, you can work it with Clara then about wages.....I warn you, she can drive a hard bargain at times. Don't take it personal though, that's just her personality," Aurelian smiled. Shade grinned, "I'm looking forward to it. Thank you, Mr. Redmond - uh, Aurelian. I'll make the job offer to her the next time I see her and she can talk it over with you." Looking around the meadow, he spotted Ezra riding their way and winced, "Best get on that dance floor. The Old Man's on his way." Quentin's eyes widened. "Well, um...I need to be going. I have that...thing I have to be doing...very important...can't wait..." He then turned and moved around the side of a nearby wagon, glancing back occasionally... Ezra reined his big gelding in and then set him to a trot, circled the wagon and effectively cut Quentin off, "I think you're lost, Quentin. The dance floor is over that way," he gestured to where the men were working of the platform for the band. "Shade, boy! Get a move on or we'll be putting down planks while people dance." Shade's laugh at Quentin's escape attempt was abruptly cut off by Ezra's sharp-voiced order. "Play-time's over," he told Aurelian and grinned.
  4. Quentin Cantrell

    Neighbors: The Good and the Bad - Pt. 2

    Sage Miller had been an employee of Lost Lake Ranch almost as long as the Hales. He was a man with craggy good looks that had not changed overmuch in more than twenty years. His eyes were the most notable feature. They were a clear deep shade of sage green and the reason for his nickname. Truthfully, it had been so long since anyone had used his real name of Hieronymous that he probably wouldn't answer to it. Sage suited him. Mary, Sage's wife, worked in the main house as the head cook. She also nominally oversaw the cooks assigned to the bunkhouse and chuckwagon. He often joked that their marriage was so good because he worked nights and she worked days. In fact, the schedule suited both of them. Sage had always been a night owl, preferring to sleep during the day. He and Mary had the same days off, and he often had supper in the kitchen at the main house so he could eat with her and his kids. It was a life that suited both of them. The other nighthawks had dispersed to the washrooms to clean up after a long night in the saddle. As was his habit, Sage had waited until they were all ready to head out for their morning meal. He didn't believe in putting himself before his men. Seeing two strangers, Shade Thornton, Quentin Cantrell, and Deputy Marshal Cory seated at the table sent a murmur of unease through the gathered men. Ezra was always there to take Sage's report. Shade and Quentin usually rode out with Nick Hale and the day wranglers. So here was the rest of the ranch crew, the so-called nighthawks. Clara put down her fork and turned her head to watch them come in, sharp eyes taking in each one's face. One by one they all passed her test. She tried not to give anything away though while Shade then spoke to the assembled cowhands. Ezra deferred to Shade as the nighthawks approached the table. The shift in power from himself to the younger man was being done subtly so as not to disrupt the ranch's routines. "Sage," Shade said and nodded to the table, "everyone, please have a seat. No sense in letting your breakfasts get cold." Aurelian couldn't make an identification so he was dependent on Clara to do so but if any of the men glanced his way he simply nodded acknowledgement, not a hint of anger. He was beginning to believe they were not going to find the guilty men on this ranch because they did not work here at all. The one man had lied, more likely to throw off blame. Clara was going to be frustrated but he knew she would never settle for accusing an innocent person. He waited for everyone to settle in their seats before continuing. Shade watched each man for any hint of unease or guilt. He did not know the nighthawks as well as he did the day crew. Although Hannah received a few uneasy looks, the Redmonds only elicited a bit of curiosity on the faces of the men. "Most of you know Hannah Cory. This is Miss Clara Redmond and her father, Aurelian Redmond. They purchased the Sidwell homestead. Miss Clara had a run-in with a couple of men late yesterday. Deputy Marshal Cory wants to eliminate everyone from this ranch before investigating further." Shade's voice was cool and quiet, understated confidence in the innocence of the assembled men in its depths. Hannah gave the Redmonds an encouraging smile. Inwardly, she was impressed with the fact that Shade had not telegraphed anything to the men in his introductions. She had to reluctantly admit that his actions and reactions were not those of a man guilty of ordering the harassment of others. This case was not going to be as easy to solve as she had hoped. There was another large ranch in the immediate area. The Redmonds' property was bordered on the north by the Steelgraves' place, Evergreen Ranch. Explaining to them why she could not simply ride in and do the same thing there as they had done at Lost Lake was not a conversation she was looking forward to. "Miss Clara, are any of these men the ones that threatened you yesterday?" Hannah asked to the accompaniment of low sounds of consternation. It was another good indication that Sage and his night crew had had nothing to do with the incident. Clara didn't need to take a second look at any of them, she'd read their faces in detail upon their entry. She folded her hands and shook her head in the negative. "None of these men were there that day. Unless we have not seen everyone ............well....I was told a lie then," she spoke very calm and in clear tones then looked to Shade. "I apologize. I only went by what I had been told," she declared in all sincerity. "We are sorry we bothered you all," Aurelian quickly added. "There is no need to apologize and you are not a bother," Shade answered both Redmonds. "We try hard not to hire the type of men you were describing but we're not infallible. If a couple slipped by us, we needed to know." Aurelian nodded, those things can indeed happen. When you have a lot of apples in a barrel, a few might be rotten and not noticed til discovered. Quentin stepped over beside Shade. "If you would not mind, Miss Redmond, if you could describe these men we would be very happy to keep an eye out for them. It's possible they might pass through here or even make camp on our land if they are still in the area. If we encounter them I can promise you we will hold on to them until we can let Deputy Cory know they are here and she can bring you over to identify them. Regardless of them claiming to be working for us, I care more for the fact of what they did to you. They might try the same thing with another lady before they decide to move on." "I do not mind. As I told the deputy, I have their faces clearly etched in my mind," Clara agreed. There was a rumble of assent from the men around the table as Quentin raised his voice above the sound. "I mean it, boys...if you find a pair of strangers on our land, you hold them...I don't want to hear any stories of them having any accidents. Any vigilantes will be both in jail and without a job...right, Shade?" Shade nodded in agreement with Quentin, "I will make sure the day riders are aware as well. Once Deputy Cory has the drawings, we will post them here." He looked over at Clara and smiled, "It was very brave of you to report what happened. Not everyone would have. As tempted as any of us might be to deal with these men personally, we will let the law handle it." His voice was calm and adamant. It did not mean that if the scoundrels were found that they would make it to the jail totally unscathed. However, they could not hold a line if they allowed it to be crossed without consequences. Clara nodded, "They think they got the best of me but we will see." She then turned to Hannah but her words were meant for the whole group as she spoke clearly and calmly, rather like she was describing a scene out of some book than an actual incident and one in which she was the victim. "There were two of them as I said. They were nothing alike as far as looks. The younger one, the other called him Billy, he was the one who stole my clothing and the Dragoon. He looked to me at most only a few years older than me. But I realize looks can be deceiving for things like that. He was average height, thin, long face on him, long nose, too far away to see the color of his eyes, brown hair though. He could not grow a beard or mustache I believe. He did not sound educated." "The older one was shorter, stocky with an awful beard, he was possibly in his forties or even fifties. Big thick head, pushed in nose, again do not know his eye color. No woman would marry him for his looks, I can assure you that much," she then finished. "I will bring copies of the drawings here if I can make good enough sketches," Hannah said. "If not, we'll write up a good be on the lookout poster with detailed descriptions." Her earlier anger had dissipated. Everyone at Lost Lake was being cooperative and just as outraged as the Redmonds were. Of course, they could be putting on an act, but that seemed unlikely. She knew that the ranch had always encouraged long-term employment by offering living quarters for married men and men with families. Ezra had always been as discriminating as possible when hiring. Shade and Quentin walked the Redmonds and Hannah out. The goodbyes were far more affable than the greetings had been. Even Hannah seemed to have lost the edge to her anger at Shade over the past. Hannah vaulted onto her horse, reining the feisty gelding in as he jibbed at the bit. "Once the drawings are made, if I can do Miss Clara's description justice, I will send copies here." She paused and looked at both men, "Thank you." Watching the wagon draw away, Shade shook his head. His temper urged him to ride over to Evergreen and demand to see all of their hands. Logic kept him from following his instincts. That and the suspicion that Quentin would find a way to stop him.
  5. Quentin Cantrell

    Planning: The Bear

    Introduced in 1872 by The Sharps Rifle Company, .50-90 caliber was created to reliably kill buffalo with a single shot. That should do fine for a bear that big...the problem being that weight and barrel length will be a problem if it has managed to get to close quarters.
  6. Quentin Cantrell

    Planning: The Bear

    One thing people will have to keep in mind is the sheer monster size of this thing. Even men who may have encountered bears in the wild before will not be prepared for this thing's size. Most normal rifles of this time period would not penetrate deep enough to hit vital organs and black powder cartridges don't generate enough velocity and power to seriously damage something built as thick as he will be. Killing it will be very hard.
  7. Quentin Cantrell

    Travis Morgan

    | YYYY to YYYY (a. XX - XX) | Details
  8. Quentin Cantrell

    Alistair Fang

    May 18, 1823 Fang left at a Shaolin temple near Hong Kong. 1824 to 1834 (a. 1 - 11) Educated by the monks and began martial arts training. 1835 to 1845 (a. 12 - 22) 1836 (a. 13): Aids a young British officer during a skirmish. 1837 (a. 14): Adopted by Major Justin Alastair; begins formal English education. 1839 (a. 16): Baron Justin Alistair declares Fang the heir to his estates. 1841 (a. 18): Meets Franklin Mercer in London; becomes friends. 1843 (a. 20): Journeys to New Orleans to bail Mercer out of trouble; decides to remain. 1845 to 1855 (a. 22 - 32) 1845 (a. 22): Frank Mercer takes custody of his daughter after mother's death. Fang's perception of his friend, Frank Mercer, changes drastically after Frank's wife, Winnifred, dies and Frank learns she had made her own will leaving everything in trust to their daughter, Harriet. Frank's casual cruelty toward Harriet, the way he would speak to her, diminished him in Fang's eyes. He soon stepped in as the child's primary caregiver, caring for Harriet as if she were his own daughter. Legally, he could do little more. 1857 (a. 34) Fang returns to Savannah with Harriet. Shortly after Harriet's 16th birthday, Fang put his foot down and informed Frank that she needed to be in a normal school, preferably one for young ladies. Frank, seeing his opportunity to be rid of the child as she was of little use to him, agrees and goes one step further. He goes with Fang to the law firm that administers Harriet's trust and signs custody over to him. 1856 to 1875 (a. 33 - 52) 1858 (a. 35): Frank Mercer dies in duel. As Harriet grew to adulthood, eventually taking on the care of her younger half-sister, Fang was a constant presence in her life. He loves H.G. as much as he would a daughter of his own and is quite proud of her accomplishments. In 1858, he received a telegram begging him to come to New Orleans to once again help Frank who was in trouble. He arrives too late to stop the duel. As it was a fair fight, if over questionable reasons, Fang returns to Georgia to give Harriet the news. Fang carries a secret with him when he returns to Georgia. On his deathbed, Frank confessed to killing his wife, Winnifred. He excused by saying she was going to die anyway. Winnifred Mercer had been struck by a freight wagon and seriously injured. Frank had used a pillow and leaned on the injured areas, exasperating her injuries and causing her death. Fang was disgusted and left before Frank expired. From things Frank Mercer said as he was dying, Fang suspects he had been poisoning her gradually during his brief visits back to Boston. However, there was no definitive evidence to support his suspicions. Fang serves as H.G.'s most trusted business associate, mentor, and sometime bodyguard.
  9. Quentin Cantrell

    Quentin Cantrell

  10. Quentin Cantrell

    Quentin Cantrell

    May 7, 1839 (a. 0) Quentin Aloysius Cantrell born to Claire and Charles Cantrell. April 5, 1845 (a. 6) Regina Beth Cantrell (younger sister) born. 1845 to 1856 (a. 6-17) Attends Charleston's Philips' Academy (private school) Quentin had a childhood typical of a young man born into the upper echelons of Southern society. He learned the etiquette required of all young gentlemen. Quentin attended one of Charleston's premier private schools for young men where he was a good student but easily bored when studying subjects that he had no interest in. 1856 to 1860 (a. 17-21) West Point (4 years) September 1860: Regina sent to live with Thorntons. Upon graduating from high school, Quentin spent a few months kicking around, trying to decide what he wanted to do. He had no interest in the family's shipping business, prompting his father to put a time limit on him for finding something he wanted to do and making his own way. It was almost by accident that he wound up at West Point when a family friend nominated him. Although the military was not his first choice, Quentin did surprisingly well, excelling at the challenging curriculum. He graduated in the top one-percent in his class. With the deterioration of relations between the northern and southern states, Quentin's parents decided to send their daughter to live with family friends in Montana, well out of harm's way. 1861 to 1865 (a. 22-26) The Civil War. Cantrell heard about a unit being formed called Hampton's Legion. He traveled to Charleston to enlist and due to his West Point Education was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Cavalry that made up part of the Legion. In 1862 the Cavalry was combined with other small units and designated the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry where they served with Hampton for the rest of the war. The Battalion saw action in most of the major actions of the Army of Northern Virginia from Second Manassas through the end of the war. Cantrell showed skill despite his age and ended the war as a Major. June 5, 1862 (a. 23) Regina marries Chance Thornton (Kalispell, Montana). May 5, 1865 (a. 26) William Grant Thornton (nephew) born. 1865 (a. 26) Civil War ends, Quentin moves west. At the end of the Civil War, with his home destroyed and no family left except for Regina, Quentin moves west and settles in San Francisco. California allowed him to be within a respectable distance of Montana for visits home with his sister and her growing family, but still in a city that was a hub of society and culture. Except for modest sums of money ensconced in hidden accounts, the Cantrells had lost everything. One of Quentin's goals was to rebuild the family fortunes. 1866 to 1875 (a. 27-36) March 1, 1867 (a. 28): Lilah Beth Thornton (niece) born. February 11, 1870 (a. 31): William Cody Thornton (nephew) born. Shortly after settling in San Francisco, Quentin met up with an old friend who had pulled out of the South right before hostilities broke out. He offered Cantrell a generous finder's fee to locate his former partner who had absconded with the bulk of his fortune. Quentin discovered a talent for locating people and things. The military had taught him tactics and persistence. He was also quite skilled with firearms, another major business asset in the West. Over the next several years, Quentin's reputation for getting jobs done grew. He billed himself as a Troubleshooter. Cantrell's work ranged from prisoner escort to bodyguard. June 2, 1875 (a. 36) Regina, Chance, Grant, and Beth are allegedly massacred by Indians. Only Cody survives. Quentin receives word that his sister was killed while returning with her family from Missoula, Montana. She, her husband and their two older children were allegedly killed by Indians. Quentin heads for Montana where he learns that Chance and Regina had named Chance's younger brother, Shade, as the children's guardian in their will, as well as the trustee of their estate. However, the family's attorney was moving for custody of young Cody, citing Shade as not suitable, if even still alive. Quentin manages to get a temporary injunction on the proceedings but has a finite amount of time in which to locate Shade Thornton.
  11. Quentin Cantrell

    The Gauntlet

    A commotion by the entrance to the dining room caught Shade's attention and interrupted what he was about to say to Harriet. A man and a woman entered the room, putting Shade on instant alert. Few people in the west would fail to recognize the man. He was tall with well-groomed dark hair that was beginning to show gray at the temples. He was probably eight to ten years older than Shade and was neither remarkable looking or nondescript. In fact, Shade guessed that many women would find him relatively attractive. The woman on his arm was another matter entirely. She was tall, elegantly slender and simply stunning. Dark gold hair hung in curls and waves to her waist. Large eyes, set aslant like a cat's proclaimed her kinship to the man for they were a light golden brown in color. Her features were delicate with high cheekbones and a small, almost pointed chin which again reminded Shade of a feline. Shade was not terribly surprised when they stopped next to where he and Harriet were sitting. He politely rose to his feet, regarding both the man and the woman steadily. "My younger sister, Leah," the man said in a deep, oddly accented voice. He obviously assumed that he needed no introduction. Twin pairs of golden brown eyes, both devoid of warmth, gazed first at Harriet and then at Shade. The man continued, drawing his words out, "Welcome back, Thornton...sorry you won't be here long." Harriet's eyebrows rose, and she stared at their retreating back in consternation. She looked at Shade, "What was that about?" "You just met Case Steelgrave and his baby sister, Leah Steelgrave," Shade said dryly. He kept his eyes on the man and woman until they left the room. He had no doubt about the purpose behind Steelgrave's appearance in the dining room. It just surprised him that there weren't more Steelgraves putting in an appearance. Quentin was finishing putting some sugar in his tea while the confrontation was happening at the table. He turned from the bar, leaving his tea sitting as the Steelgraves had headed for the entry of the restaurant. Case's eyes met Quentin's as they passed, too far apart for words but none were needed in the short interaction. Quentin kept walking and returned to the table as Harriet and Shade watched the Steelgraves' exit. "So what was that all about?" "That was...." Shade started to answer but was cut off by an obviously angry Harriet. Straightening in her seat, Harriet's gray eyes flashed at Quentin, "That man just threatened Shade!" She fairly spit out the sentence. "...Case Steelgrave," Shade finished, an almost amused note to his voice. Quentin glanced back at the now empty doorway. "So that's the man himself...first time I ever saw him in person. He's not like those other idiots in his family..." Quentin looked back around at Shade. "...there any more like him back at their ranch?" "Depends on what you mean by like him," Shade answered. "I never knew any of them well. Old Elias and Elinor Steelgrave have molded the lot of them in their own image. From what I gathered from Chance's letters, Benjamin, the eldest, just wants to run the ranch and the businesses. The problem is, Elias and Elinor still manage the manager." He leaned back in his chair and pushed the tumbler of whiskey away. Suddenly, Shade did not feel much like celebrating. "I will report this to Marshal Cory," Harriet said, her eyes still flashing, storm clouds in their gray depths. "Miss Harriet," Shade's voice was quiet and slightly amused, "just what are you going to report? That Mr. Case Steelgrave stopped by our lunch table in a public dining room to say hello and expressed his regrets that I would not be remaining in the area long?" Quentin glanced back at the door as he resumed his seat. "You know what he meant...I know what he meant....Shade knows what he meant...but it won't carry any weight with the Law." Quentin sat staring off into space, fingers idly drumming on the tabletop. "I have the distinct feeling Case, and I will have an unpleasant encounter very soon." Harriet remained quiet, obviously still concerned and trying to figure out a legal option for dealing with Case Steelgrave. Shade narrowed his eyes a bit and looked at Quentin. He kept his voice neutral as he rose to his feet, "It's not your fight, Quentin." He pushed his chair back under the table. "I need to go check on the horses." Quentin moved closer and rested a hand on Shade's shoulder. "You're wrong there. Maybe because of his brother, you and Case have some kind of personal thing going on, but that whole family has their sights on our whole family, that includes the children, us, and anyone else who is on our side. There's too much at stake for personal vendettas." Shade straightened his shoulders a bit more and gave Quentin a fleeting smile, "You're right there, Quentin. Where it involves the family, the ranch, and the businesses - it's our fight. If it wasn't Case, it'd be another of the Steelgrave brood or they'd hire someone. Just...where it does get personal between me and Case because of Calvin, it's my fight. I don't want someone hurt or killed for something I did." His blue eyes searched Quentin's face for understanding. Quentin looked into Shade's face, the two men's eyes met and stayed steady for several seconds. "You're right...what's between you and Case is personal because of Calvin. I understand that..." The older man dropped his hand from Shade's shoulder. "...I'm just not so sure Case will play it straight with you. If you ask him, I am sure he will admit his dead brother was an idiot, so is this revenge or just an excuse to go for you?" "Who knows? Reputation says he won't kill anyone he doesn't get paid for. Whether or not that extends to someone who killed a member of his family is debatable," Shade answered, dredging up the information he'd heard regarding Case Steelgrave. "Don't worry, Quentin. I know his methods and I now know he and his family intend to kill me or drive me off. I'm not gonna make either one easy for 'em. Won't let Case goad me into drawing on him. If it comes down to a gunfight, I'll play it right." Quentin's mouth was still fixed in a grim line. "That's easy to say but a lot harder to put into practice..." Cantrell exhaled and finally nodded. "Okay, we'll play it your way, but just don't go around being alone too much when you are in town. I don't trust the Steelgraves any farther than I can throw them...fair enough?" "Fair enough," Shade replied affably. "After I check on the horses, I'll stick close to the hotel. No straying since we know they're in town." He smiled and tipped his hat at Harriet before sauntering toward the exit.
  12. Quentin Cantrell

    The Eyes of Justice

    Judge Mandrell made a slight noise that sounded like a harumph. He turned his attention to Quentin. He held up two folders. "This is Mr. Thornton's dossier," he said, holding the thick folder in his left hand and lifting it slightly higher. He then raised his right hand. A much thinner folder rested on it. "This is your dossier, Mr. Cantrell. Quite a difference wouldn't you say?" Mandrell laid both folders back on his desk and opened the smaller one. "You had a brilliant military career, received numerous commendations and awards, excellent service record, ended the war as a major. Quite an accomplishment despite the circumstances of the war itself. From there, it gets rather murky. In fact, you seem to disappear from more than a year before eventually resurfacing in San Francisco. Your employment is listed as Troubleshooter. Miss Mercer has done her best to explain that, but I would like to hear from you exactly what a troubleshooter does." Quentin inhaled a moment, letting the breath wash back out slowly as he considered the judge's question. He then seemed to stir inside, his eyes moving up to meet the judge's eyes. "Your Honor, When the war ended, I went home. Honestly, I am not sure why, but it seemed the only place I had left..." Cantrell sat up straighter. "...I am sure you have heard about how things were back then...Charleston was under occupation by the Union army. My father's business fortunes had fallen with the Confederate government and the city was not friendly to anyone who had been on the losing side." His face flushed as he continued with the part he was not enjoying. "I admit I crawled into a bottle...too many nights not sleeping, or when I did sleep I saw too many dead friends. Why was I alive and home and they weren't?...and to be honest, after what I saw when I got home...it would have been easier if I hadn't." Quentin then gave a small, quirky smile. "Suddenly one night, there was Chance. He said he was there with orders to bring me home to Regina. I admit I was not at my best right then, but he persisted, and I finally went with him. It took awhile, but I came out the other side at the ranch. I was me again...well, as much me as I was ever going to get back, I suppose..." Cantrell took a drink of water from a glass on the table. "Anyway, I was asked by an old friend to come to San Francisco and help him find someone who owed him money. I went, and as it turns out, I had some skill, both at finding them and taking care of myself...seems it's the only useful skills I learned in those four years." Cantrell took another breath. "And so that's what I began doing...people would come to me with problems...I would listen to their story and if I believed in what they needed or felt they really needed help...I would help them. Yes, people died at my hand, Judge, so don't bother asking, but I'm no bounty hunter. I never hired myself out to someone who did not need help. I was never just another gunhand or gang member. I killed my share of men in the war, either in battle or sending them to what ended up being their death. I figure any person who lived because I helped them balances each one who did not deserve to die in the war."
  13. Quentin Cantrell

    All Nice and Legal

    The sun had warmed the morning air considerably by the time Harriet reached the eastern end of the Chogun Valley. She reined Stone in long enough to pull out a small lady's pocket watch. The hour on the dial assured her that she had plenty of time to reach the town. Not only did she need to meet with Judge Mandrell and hand over the documents, but she also wanted to find Fang and see what he had heard and observed since reaching Kalispell. She patted the horse's neck and set him moving forward in a slow but ground-eating lope. Slowing the horse to a trot, Harriet stared in consternation at the ranch's gated entrance. The big golden buckskin horse could not be mistaken which meant the man astride the animal's back was likely the last person Harriet wanted to see. She pulled the Arabian to a stop at the gate, a scowl crossing her face as she stared at the tall, dark-clad man that had sidled his horse around to face her. "What, may I ask, are you doing here?" Harriet inquired with asperity. Quentin smiled and reached a hand up, lightly tugging on the front of his hat brim without actually moving it. "And good morning to you also, Harriet..." He let his hands drop down to rest on his saddle pommel, lightly holding the reins. "...I am getting ready to ride into town...I have some things I need to do there." Harriet regarded Quentin with a stare from her smoke-colored eyes that would rival that of the mythical basilisk. "I guess that your sudden need to ride into Kalispell occurred after breakfast? And Mr. Thornton just happened to forget that you had ridden out ahead of me? Then, you had this inexplicable urge to let your horse rest here at the gate while you contemplated the trees or something?" Quentin leaned back in his saddle and visibly recoiled from the barrage of questions. He composed himself and then leaned back into position. "Well, if you want to know so badly...It did...he did...and I did. Does that cover your interrogation?" Quentin started to turn his horse back in the direction of town but stopped and glanced back. "Oh, and contemplating trees in the middle of nowhere isn't illegal. I am enough of a lawyer to know that...now shall we?" Feeling her ire rise, Harriet took a deep breath. To distract herself while she got control of her emotions, she began working a braid into the Arabian's long mane. It took two rounds of mane braiding before she could trust herself to speak. "I am capable of taking care of myself," Harriet finally said, proud of the fact that her voice was calm and cool. Quentin sat serenely and watched her fingers braid. He could see them shaking with her effort to control her obvious anger...a fact that did not bother Quentin one bit. "I don't doubt your ability to defend yourself against any man, but out here it could be way more than one, and also out here you have as much or more a chance of getting eaten by a bear..." Cantrell's mouth curled up into a slight smile, "...Although I would never want to wish that on any poor bear." Harriet made herself stop fiddling with the horse's mane and stilled her hands. This was nothing more than an open-air courtroom and Cantrell was her opponent. Storm clouds gathered and faded in her twilight-colored eyes. Taking a deep breath, she smiled sweetly at Quentin, "Neither would I wish such a fate on one of God's poor dumb creatures." She would let Quentin decide who she had labeled as a dumb creature. Harriet patted the stock of the Winchester tucked in its scabbard, "I am well prepared for any eventuality." Quentin's eyes narrowed as he tugged rein, moving his horse around with a sound as he used a bit more force than necessary. "Complain all you want, but you have a riding companion for going into town. You can like it, you can dislike it...you can do whatever you want. Either way...here I am. I have a vested interest in keeping you alive, and I intend to do that very thing." Pleased that her barb had found a mark, Harriet smiled sweetly and set her heels to the Arabian's flank, moving him out at a steady walk. "I could say the same thing." Quentin glanced back over his shoulder as they rode along. "Can't have that, can we? Your precious legal reputation would be in tatters if I ended up dead...that simply will not do." Harriet moved her horse alongside Quentin's. She gazed at the road ahead as if seriously thinking about his comment. Maintaining the innocent expression was difficult, especially since she was starting to enjoy the verbal sparring session, she said, "My professional reputation has survived worse. But, your demise would be a stain although I'd still have Thornton." Harriet paused, then said dryly, "Never mind. Don't get yourself killed until the day after tomorrow." Quentin stared ahead for a moment, then he smiled. "You know...it would almost be worth it to get myself killed to force you and Shade to have to work together..." "I would rather share a bar stool with a rattler," Harriet stated dryly and then she smiled, "Peace? Between the two of you, I may be proved wrong about the strength of my professional reputation." Quentin nodded with a smile in return. "Fair enough. I figure between me trying to keep all of us alive and you trying to keep us at the ranch, we both have enough work to keep us busy without sniping at each other." "At least for now," Harriet said and smiled.
  14. Quentin Cantrell

    Echo of Another Day

    Quentin muttered to himself. "Well, that's just great. The Steelgraves get legitimacy, a town to call their own, and their own legal tricks department if needed..." Quentin exhaled. "And that new 'ranch' helps them flank us...it keeps us looking in more than one direction all the time now." "And I killed Case's baby brother," Shade said dryly. In his heart, he knew that he had not started the feud with the Steelgraves. That did not change the fact that his actions had escalated it. Harriet leaned forward and placed her teacup on the coffee table which was apparently the signal needed for Josephine to politely excuse herself, pleading exhaustion from the trip. The men all rose to their feet, and Kate made sure the younger woman did not need anything. This gave Harriet the opportunity to get her thoughts in order while they settled themselves again. Her voice was crisp and clear when she began speaking, the one she used in the courtroom. "When Chance and Regina Thornton chose to make the long-absent Shade Thornton the guardian to their children and to leave him half of this ranch, my associate, Alistair Fang, and I undertook an exhaustive investigation into Shade Thorntons life. In the process, we also investigated anyone and anything that could have a future impact on those responsibilities. This included the Steelgrave family who was already a concern due to Carson Tyndall's involvement with them and their antipathy for anything and everything Thornton." Fixing her gray eyes on Quentin and Shade, Harriet continued speaking, "Case is a gun-for-hire. He's fast enough to be considered a legend. To date, there are no records of anyone surviving a gunfight with him. Case Steelgrave has never been tied to murder because he's far too clever. Prospective employers take out a personal ad in the El Paso Chronicle that lists a city or town. Once there, he picks up a letter via general delivery, and presumably, his fee. Case then spends as much time as it takes to goad the walking dead man into a fight." Harriet leaned back into the sofa cushions, fixed her eyes on Shade and said in a steely-toned voice, "Mr. Thornton, you have not been a target because Case does not pick fights with anyone that he has not been paid to kill. He has never been motivated by revenge. Now that you live in relative proximity to him, family honor is at stake, so this is likely to change. You have too much to lose to let him goad you into a fight. Sticks and stones, Mr. Thornton." Shade's lips twitched into a smile. He read equal amounts of dislike and disgust in Harriet's voice. Her personal opinion of him did not bother him overmuch. He wasn't too fond of her either. Shade was confident that once they were in the courtroom, she would do her best to ensure that Chance's and Regina's wishes were carried out. "Miss Harriet, Case Steelgrave isn't the first gunfighter to use bullying tactics to push a showdown, and he won't be the last," Shade allowed the same steely note of disdain to creep into his deep voice. The fact that she had returned to referring him as Mr. Thornton indicated to him that the truce was ending. Still, two women could answer to Miss Mercer, so he chose to use the first name in a formal mode of address. Truth be told since she was somewhat older than he was, it was more comfortable for him. Quentin sat up from his position on the sofa and turned to look at the lawyer. "Harriet, I have tangled with those 'professional victims' before. They make an art of making normally sober, calm men lose their tempers. Real life isn't about turning the other cheek, but you can trust Shade to know when he is being goaded compared to someone who really has a quarrel with him. Start judging Shade by what you've seen instead of what you've read about him." Harriet's gray eyes turned stormy, and her lips thinned as she glared at Quentin. "And what have I seen of him, Quentin?" His name came out sharper than she intended. A little voice in her head tried to caution her against engaging a client in a verbal battle. At the same time, a rather dispassionate side of Harriet tried to analyze why Quentin Cantrell grated on her nerves. But, it was far too late. Demon Harriet was taking charge. "Yes, Mr. Thornton has proven a reliable scout, leading us safely from Missoula to Kalispell where he almost got into a shootout with Deputy Marshal Cory. Before that, on the train, he drew his gun on me, my associate, and my sister. Although the gunfight in Missoula was technically self-defense, he still settled the situation with a shooting. I have not seen anything that would actually render my opinions and observations invalid." Shade muttered softly under his breath, "Here we go." There was little else he could add at the moment. He was far too tired to take on a character debate with Harriet Mercer, even if the character being debated was his. Hoping he'd derail the impending storm by leaving, he rose to his feet. "Kate," he crossed over and leaned down to kiss her cheek, "thank you for dinner. Ezra, I'll talk to you tomorrow. I'm about beat tonight. Miss Harriet, Quentin, goodnight." Ezra also rose to his feet, pulling Kate with him, "We should retire as well. Good night to you both." Kate gave her husband a look that said she wasn't quite ready to leave the room, but the gentle tightening of his fingers on her hand dissuaded her from comment. "It is getting late. I'll clean everything up before Mary gets here in the morning." She leaned down to kiss first Harriet and then Quentin on the cheek before heading for the stairs with Ezra. Harriet remained quiet until the sound of the Hales' footsteps faded away, meaning they were well out of earshot. On the night before, Harriet had offered a truce with Quentin until after the trial. With the dangers of the trail behind them, she was less inclined to honor the temporary treaty. Oh, she would still do her job to the best of her ability, but she was less sanguine about her clients' pasts now that the immediate danger over. There was no longer the need to cooperate to ensure survival. Admittedly, a small part of her liked being able to needle the cool, debonair Cantrell. "At least the majority of Mr. Thornton misdeeds and brushes with the law are well documented and easy to uncover," Harriet pinned Quentin with her cool gray eyes, "You, on the other hand, have buried your skeletons far deeper. You have left nothing on the surface for others to easily find. On the trail, you told me that your job entailed doing whatever it took to fix other people's problems. What did it take to fix those problems, Quentin? Where are those bodies buried, hmmm?" She almost purred the last question at him. Quentin's eyes blazed, and his nostrils flared as he stood. "We all have skeletons...even you, Counselor..." Quentin moved around to the fireplace and rested his hands on the mantle, head dropping forward a moment as he stared into the fire. "...Am I proud of everything I have done in my life? No. Am I able to live with the choices I have made after a certain point? Absolutely." Quentin pushed up straight from the mantle and turned around to face Harriet. "Perhaps if someone prepared to do whatever it took to help you had found you back before whatever damaged you happened, you might not be the person sitting in front of me today." It took more will than Harriet realized she had to not reveal her alarm at his words. The pounding of her heart subsided as she occupied herself by primly folding her hands in her lap. Her personal skeleton was well and truly buried. Quentin Cantrell could not know about it. He had not even known of her connection to his sister and brother-in-law until they met on the train. No, she was safe for now. Harriet had long ago stopped concerning herself with other skeletons. Frank Mercer's skeletons were not her responsibility. But that damned insufferable man's last statement had hit the center ring on the target. She allowed a touch of frost to enter her voice, "Are all women who manage to have a successful career in a male-dominated profession considered damaged by your standards, Quentin?" She felt satisfied with her response. Deflection was, after all, one of a lawyer's stock tools of his - or her - trade. Quentin smiled. "Harriet, I may be a gentleman, but don't mistake me for the typical vacuous southern gentleman you're used to destroying with your looks and brain. I have been sliced to ribbons by some of the best and have learned my lessons..." Quentin paced in front of the fireplace now. "...You don't wish to talk about your previous problems, fine...but don't go digging for mine." "If I have previous problems, they will not influence the outcome of the hearing. If Carson Tyndall's research was more profitable than mine, despite what I feel is a lack of legal substance, it could see you both lose everything. Worse, it could lose the children's inheritance," Harriet said, watching Quentin pace to and fro, likening his movements to that of a caged lion she had seen at a wildlife exhibit many years ago. "Think about it," Harriet advised in a far milder voice as she rose to her feet. "For now, it is very late, and I have business in town tomorrow." She looked at the coffee and tea service and the soiled dessert dishes and cups, "I simply cannot leave this for Kate to deal with in the morning. Will you help me take the dishes through to the kitchen?" Quentin readily agreed, seemingly ready to let their discussion end for the night. She assumed he felt as she did, tired and worried about the upcoming hearing on Tuesday. Harriet could not help feeling as if Chance's and Regina's ghosts hovered just outside her view. If she felt that way, surely Quentin did too. A good night's sleep was needed by all. She bade Quentin goodnight at the bottom of the stairs, pausing on the first landing to look back and saw him watching her, but his face was in shadow. What his thoughts were had been hidden by the darkness.
  15. Quentin Cantrell

    Spirits

    Shade remained quiet for several moments after Josephine walked away. Talking to her had been somewhat cathartic, perhaps because she was more of a stranger to him than Quentin. He and the older man had quickly become friends due to their familial connects and shared hardships on the trail. They had shared some of their memories of Chance and Regina and Quentin had told Shade a bit about the older children. In time, they'd probably share more about their late loved ones but, for now, it was rather strange for either man to confide in others. The wind was blowing from the north and, as if thoughts of the man had conjured up his presence, Shade once again caught the distinct aroma of the cheroots Quentin smoked. Shade usually avoided cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoke if he could, usually finding the smell unpleasant. Quentin used a mild tobacco that carried undernotes of cherry, sage and other spices which toned down the usual pungent scents Shade associated with most tobacco products. Unusual, but not unpleasant. Walking around the wagon, Shade followed the smell of the cheroot into the rocks of the Devil's Watchtower. The trail into the formation was often hard to see as the larger boulders blocked the moonlight. He'd climbed several feet above the meadow when he spotted the glow of the tip of Quentin's cheroot. It disappeared briefly as the path wound through rocks that had been jumbled together forming a tunnel. Shade exited from that to find himself in a flat area, almost like a small plateau. There, he spotted Quentin seated on a large boulder with another one at his back that he was leaning against. Shade made sure the other man saw him before he approached although it was likely Quentin had heard him climbing up the trail. He'd made no effort to disguise his progress. From this vantage point, one could see the expanse of the meadow, the road off to the west, and the darker shadows of Wadi's Wells to the south. It was hard to see the wagon in the dark, but in the light of day, it would be visible from the edge of the miniature plateau. The wind blowing from the north had brought the scent of the cheroot down to where Shade stood, the elevation keeping it from becoming lost in the tangled rocks of the formation. "Couldn't sleep either?" Shade asked as he dropped to the rock not far from Quentin. He realized the question was redundant considering they were both sitting there with dawn only two or three hours away. Quentin sat still another moment, chewing the cheroot around in a circle as he gathered his thoughts. "Yep..." The sound came out around the cheroot. "Never realized how much actually being here would affect me." Quentin plucked the cheroot from his mouth and held it with finger and thumb in front of him, eyes drawn to the glowing tip. "Seeing the wagon makes it more real for me than the funeral, to be honest..." Quentin's head turned slowly to regard Shade. "Was that Josephine you were talking to?. I only caught a word here and there between the rocks and the breeze." Shade nodded, "Yeah, she had a notion of paying her respects," he said, answering Quentin's question while he thought about the older man's comments about the effects of finding the wagon. Shade understood. He had at first put his inability to sleep down to being anxious about the final leg of the journey. In the end, he'd had to admit that it was finding the wagon. Like Quentin said, it made it all real. "Maybe I should have pushed us on a few miles before making camp," Shade admitted at last. "But, there were things I had to know. I guess I'm lookin' for answers that don't exist 'cuz I'm not even sure of the questions." He gestured toward the meadow where the wagon rested, "That burned out husk brought it all home - not the guilt I was wallowing in on the train ride up here - just the reality of it all. Chance, Regina, and two of their children are dead," Shade's voice caught a bit on the last word before he continued, "and that can't be undone. I gotta do right by the two little'uns that are left. The grievin' ain't done, but it'll have to wait." At a loss for words, Shade stopped speaking for a few seconds. He shook his head, and when he spoke again, there was still a faint hitch in his gravelly voice, "Ain't never felt like this before, not even when Father and Mother passed." Quentin listened to Shade and smiled to himself as he heard the younger man speak. "Your father and mother died...my father and mother died...It's sad, but you and I also understand it's a part of life. People live, and then they die. It helps to handle the loss to understand it's all a part of life..." Quentin waved an arm out in the direction of the wagon. "This isn't life...it's murder. It was the killing of four people who did not ask for or deserve what happened to them. Hell, even in the War, you could come to terms with someone that you knew dying because we all volunteered to be where we were. We might not have deserved to die, but you knew where you were going when you enlisted or got drafted." Quentin stuck the cheroot back into his mouth and sat up straighter. "Do not blame yourself for not being here in the first place or for stopping here now. If you had been here you would have died...don't try and convince yourself otherwise. You saw the numbers, and you have seen the shell cases. You and I are good with a gun but sometimes good isn't enough." Shade stared out into the night for several minutes after Quentin fell silent. He'd told him the same thing about not feeling guilty for not being there for Chance and Reggie back on the train. The older man was right, of course, but it had taken seeing it all to convince Shade of the fact. Second guessing himself, dwelling on the what ifs, and wallowing in self-recrimination served nothing. "I don't feel guilty so much as just regrettin' not comin' home back when Chance asked me to, at least to visit," Shade said, his voice almost a sigh, "but I can't change that either. Made the best decision that I could at the time." He shifted on the rock so he could see the other man although the rocks partially shadowed his features. This time, Shade's voice was stronger, and there was an undercurrent of anger in it, "Quentin, I don't believe for a second that this was done by some band of Indians who just happened to be in the area and itchin' to attack some white folks. That makes no sense. Someone planned and organized the killin'. I want the killers, but more'n that, I want the man or woman behind it. I wanna know why and I want them to pay for it." Quentin nodded. "I agree...and even if we killed everyone who was here, we wouldn't get who was responsible..." His head became wreathed in smoke as he exhaled softly. "...No, this will take some digging...and when we figure out who it is, or they are...they'll pay." Shade looked at Quentin again. He felt they had just made a pact of some sort and it felt right. The red-hot knot of rage in the pit of his stomach subsided to a cold burn. He nodded his head although he wasn't entirely sure Quentin could see that gesture of affirmation. "And if one of us can't finish it, the other one will." Quentin looked at Shade. "They cost us almost everything we had left to care about in this world, Shade...there's no doubt about what's going to happen here. They're not ready for or able to deal with what's coming..." Quentin smiled around the cheroot. "I'm not a religious man, but I suspect it will be Biblical." Shade's answering smile was menacing, and his deep blue eyes were cold. For a moment, he looked every bit as dangerous as his reputation made him out to be. Shade actually preferred walking on the right side of the law. This was one of the rare instances where he felt the situation superseded what law and order could accomplish. The fact that they might be facing off against the United States Army was not lost on him. The wind suddenly rose and howled through the cracks and crevices of the rock formation where the two men sat. In its wake was other sounds, whispers and cries barely heard. Shade sat up straighter, his brow wrinkled as he turned his eyes toward the meadow. Old, half-remembered superstitions surfaced, making him shiver despite his thick jacket. Deciding that they could not leave until the spirits in this place had been set free, Shade said, "Do you have another of those?" He gestured at Quentin's cheroot. It wasn't perfect for what he had in mind, but he thought he'd smelled sage earlier so it would have to suffice. Quentin's eyebrows went up together as his hand went to his jacket to tug out the small leather case he used to keep a half dozen at the ready beside the ones packed in his saddlebag. "I didn't think you smoked..." Quentin tugged a fresh cheroot out and the small round metal container he carried his Lucifers in, handing the cheroot and matches to Shade. Shade took the items and stared down at the cheroot. It was more slender than the more popular expensive cigars and did not taper at the ends, making them somewhat less expensive to roll. This one was a little longer than the average cigarette, leading Shade to believe they were custom-made and cut to Quentin's preferences. Not the most expensive of items, but still a pricey one. The actual ratio of tobacco to other herbals appeared to be a little less too, indicating that the other man used the cheroots for a reason other than a habit he couldn't put away. "I don't," Shade said in answer to Quentin's comment. "Tried it when I first lit out from home 'cuz it was forbidden and because I thought it'd make me look older, more experienced." He'd thought that appearing to have a man's vices would offset the fact he was nothing more than a tanglefoot kid with a really, really fast gun hand. He'd quickly learned that only time and experience would garner him the respect he needed to stay alive. "I smelled sage, cherry, and a couple of other herbs along with the tobacco. In many red-stick cultures, burning sage and other herbs is a way to spiritually cleanse a place. They'll burn it in the tipis and wigwams of the dead. Tobacco is also used in certain cleansing and purification ceremonies," Shade explained to Quentin as he looked around for a clump of grass that he could use to wrap around the cheroot. He found what he was looking for and laid the cheroot and matches down on the rock near Quentin. Shade carefully pulled up the long grass so that it remained intact, he deftly wove it into a slender mesh that he then wrapped around the cheroot. "I was raised Catholic, but those rituals don't seem right in this place 'cuz it's sacred to the Indians." Quentin nodded. "Those cigars are a form of...payment, I guess you could say. I once lent a hand to a man who was running a tobacco shop. Some local toughs had been taking a large amount of his profits as part of a protection racket. He was a retired British Colour Sergeant who came here to enjoy his retirement. I was in his shop one day when they stopped by for their 'tax'..." Quentin smiled in the dark. "...That was a bit of fun. None of them died, but I expect a few will be eating mighty careful for a long time...or limping...or both. I refused any money from him. Hell, That's the whole point of what I did. So, he offered me a trade. He would make me a special blend and have it sent to wherever I wished for free. I agreed since it was from stock he normally kept on hand and was not an imposition." Shade stopped what he was doing and looked at Quentin, shrugging expressively while adding to his mental notes and impressions of the older man's integrity, "I need to do something for them here where they died." He reached into his pocket and pulled out Chance's rosary that Josephine had found beside the wagon earlier. It had become tangled with his, so he handed both to Quentin. "The one made with the blue gems is Chance's. Miss Josephine found it a little bit ago when we were talkin'. He must have dropped it during the attack." Quentin took the tangled chains and held them. The moonlight did not reveal all the details, but he appreciated the weight and sturdiness of the rosaries. "Your mother was right to make them tougher and stronger for the two of you. A regular rosary would never stand up to the normal days both of you have...she was a smart woman." Shade looked at the tangled rosaries, "When Mother gave me mine, Chance said she'd gathered the stones on the ranch. Mine's river rock, Chance's are rough sapphires. The silver came from candlesticks in her dowery. He said she wanted our faith to connect us to the land, to each other, and our heritage. Didn't really take for me, I guess." He finished fastening the woven grass around the cheroot. Taking the rosaries back from Quentin, he entwined them through the fingers of the hand carrying the makeshift smudge stick. He led the way back down to the wagon, hearing Quentin's sure steps in his wake. Shade fumbled a bit as he tried to light the cheroot, and murmured a quiet thank-you when Quentin took it and lit it with practiced ease before handing it back. Shade blew out the active embers, leaving it smoking. He didn't have a feather which was the normal item used to fan the smoke so he would use the back of his free hand to fan the smoke outward. Glancing at Quentin, he shrugged again, "I don't know the proper words, but hoping the spirits of this place understand the intent." Quentin stood quietly as Shade began to speak, then suddenly reached up and yanked his hat off his head with a soft curse for having forgotten. He held it in both hands in front of him as Shade continued with the ritual. One hand came up and pulled the cheroot out to drop it beside his right boot, and he ground it out quietly. "Great Spirit, look upon the spirits of your children, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet. This is my prayer' hear me," Shade said the words with a humble note in his voice, using the back of his hand to direct the smoke in all four compass directions and out over the wrecked wagon. After he finished speaking, he lay the remainder of the smudge-stick in the bed of the wagon, and pulled off his hat, holding it in one hand and the entwined rosaries in the other. Shade bowed his head and spoke again, "Lord, those who die still live in Your presence. Their lives change but do not end. I pray in hope for our family, and for all the dead known to You alone. Amen." It might have been Shade's imagination, but he felt as if the atmosphere lightened considerably. The shadows of the night appeared to visibly retreat and the tension he'd felt ever since spotting the wagon from the road eased. He was still angry, still determined to find and destroy those that had murdered Chance, Regina, and their children, but now he felt as if he could approach it with logic and even patience. Shade raised his head and looked over at Quentin. He had not wanted to force his beliefs on the other man but was glad for his presence. He smiled and said quietly, "We've done all we can here. Ready to go home, partner?" Quentin nodded as he placed his hat back on his head. "Seems strange to call it home even though I have spent a lot of time there, but I guess we both need to get used to calling it that." Shade turned slightly so that he could look out over the night-shadowed landscape, his eyes seeking the direction of which he knew the ranch lay. He'd used the word home on several occasions since starting the journey from Laramie but realized that this was the first time he'd said in that context. It was also the first time that Shade had thought about the fact that Quentin's life was likely changing completely as well. "Yeah, guess we both need to get used to that and a lot of other things too." He tucked the rosaries back into his pocket, placed his hat back on his head, then gave Quentin a gentle, companionable slap on the shoulder. "Let's go...home."

About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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