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Preston

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  1. Fortner spoke up. "I see you have a protector," he said quietly to the lanky lout. With the derringer in his right hand, he took his left and placed it on Arabella's shoulder and encouraged her to move. "Step aside, little lady, I'm not going to hurt your hero, at least if he listens to good advice." There was an impressive silence that was finally broken when Priest eased back the hammer of his gun. CA-CLICK. "You should take his advice and listen to the gentleman. It would be a crime if such a pretty piano player got caught-up in any potential gunfire." That settled, Fortner calmly asked the cowpoke, "I have strange habit. Do you have any habits?"
  2. Give me a whiskey, and don't be cheap." "I take you mean the whiskey," Ralph replied dryly then reached for a more expensive bottle of the stuff, "Irish whiskey, genuine article, that work for ya?" "Sure. That's what I meant," said Fortner with a smile. He poured a shotglass up to the brim, "Price comes dear though, that'll be a dollar." Frank kept his eyes on Ralph, and kept the smile, too, as he reached in his pocket and put a dollar on the bar. "Thanks, friend," he said without any sarcasm. Ralph Flandry had to be nice to all the paying customers, of course - at least those who didn't cause trouble. Those rules didn't apply to the handful of loafers, thumb-twiddlers and general miscreants who were hanging around the bar at this time of day instead of doing an honest day's work. One of them had wolf-whistled and uttered a derisive cry of "Say fellers, get a load of this city slicker!" when the well dressed Fortner had walked in. Frank didn't rattle. Every town had a saloon, and every saloon had someone who thought they were as tough as a nickle steak. With the unerring attraction of a bully to a weaker looking person, this same scruffy individual now approached and spoke, making sure that the other men, that he was showing off to, could hear him clearly, of course. "Well, well, buyin' the good stuff, eh, Mr Fancy Pants? Must be more money than I thought in being a perfume salesman!" This got a laugh from the other roughs. "Or mayhaps you're one o' them French Dancing Masters like they got back East" (Grimes himself was actually from Cincinnati, hardly the Wild West) "Why don't you give us a demonstration of that there fancy dancin' Mister? And if The Reb's pianna playin' ain't music enough, I can add a little percussion of my own!" The businessman didn't move a muscle. Perhaps he had an ace or two up his sleeve. He went for his six-shooter, obviously intending to play the oldest Western trick in the book, shooting up the floor at the rube's feet, making him dance a dangerous and humiliating jig. "Loudmouth! Stop before I shoot you ----- in the back." It was Hiram Priest, sitting comfortably at his table, a revolver in his hand aimed straight at the trouble maker. In the confusion caused by the former judge, Frank was able to swiftly and deftly slip a derringer from an inner pocket.
  3. Highly varnished black boots hit the saloon floor for three steps, then halted. Their owner stood straight and confident, each hand clutching a side of his open suit coat. It was all there: silk vest of brocade, watch chain, diamond stick pin, and neat creases to his pant legs. Frank Fortner had arrived. He stood and surveyed the interior, looking from one side to the other, and with a look on his face that seemed to ask, What wonderful things are any of you going to do for me? Some girl was hammering away at the piano, playing to a non-existent crowd except for a table where an older man sat with someone who looked like she could put him in his grave if she bothered to offer him any of her charms. Fortner strode to the bar and asked the barkeep, "Give me a whiskey, and don't be cheap."
  4. "Oh we are much busier in the evenin' especially on weekends when we get more cowpokes. Miss Devereau has even considered being open on Sundays but the town folks would probably frown on disturbing the day of the Lord so so far we don't," Caroline was happy to talk about the place, it was her world afterall. Hiram nodded sagely. He'd been in many cow towns and many watering holes. This one was like so many and, because of that, he felt at home. "But yeah, this is the only saloon. Kalispell is a small town and a new place opening up would have a hard time making much money. Besides they wouldn't have me for entertainment," she beamed. "Seems I need to stick around a spell and hear you warble. I bet you'd outshine any of the nightingales prancing around on stage anywhere in this territory. "You want another round, hon? I could use one, all this chatting makes my mouth dry." Mr. Priest reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a shiny silver dollar and slapped it on the table next to Caroline. "I suspect that'll cover one for me and one for you too, and maybe one for our sarsaparilla girl." Arabella stopped to stare at the keyboard and span her hand across a lengthy cord. It was not a long pause, just long enough for Hiram to hear foot falls from a new arrival.
  5. "I only been in town a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue, reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass for a toast. "A Mayor's fitness for duty is every citizen's business," Judge Priest lectured through a wad of tobacco. "You didn't say 'fitness' you said 'virtue' and frankly, hon, the jasper can go fuck goats for all I care if he can do his mayor job properly," Caroline countered. "The Mayor" did wish to get dragged into a verbal dual with Caroline. She was entitled to her opinion and, also, why alienate a potential voter? Of course Arabella, being Arabella, had a whole lot more to say on the subject. Caroline listened...well, she did lose the train of thought about halfway thru. Vast majority was nonsense no doubt anyway. "I stroll thru town on the boardwalk all the time, quite interestin' it can be too. Don't need a square," Caroline seemed unimpressed. Chicago was a bigger city by far than this place and she found much about that place she had not cared for. Priest barely shrugged. She was a contrarian, he determined. "What you need is the right kind of Mayor." "Ya mean like one who folks actually see on occasion?" Caroline chuckled. "Absolutely, Miss Caroline," Hiram agreed in his most cordial way. Arabella laughed, too. "See, that's funny cause nobody ever sees him!" she explained to Hiram, just in case he didn't get it. She figured that Caroline might want to be left with the old man to work her drink-encouraging routine on him, so she jumped up with a cry of "Hey, I'll play a tune on the pianna fer you! What's your favourite tune Mr Priest? Oh, never mind, I'll do The Bonny Blue Flag!" she yelped running over to the piano and tinkling out the tune with some gusto. Priest laced his fingers together, ready to listen to some music instead of her persistent, inane chatter. "I play this to drag the Southerners in from the street when it's quiet!" she shouted across the room "And then I do the Battle Hymn of the Republic to drag in the Northerners. And then I do Dixie and they all have a fight!" she beamed, pounding the ivories. She played, and Hiram had to admit that the girl had talent. If only she'd think what she was saying before saying it. And, as she played, he leaned toward Caroline so she could hear him over the piano. "This saloon seems like the center of social life in this town. " He looked around. "I mean, this time of day things can be slow, but I've seen it pretty crowded most times. Do you have any competition or is this the only game in town?" While he waited for her answer, he eyed the doors. Where the Hell was he? he wondered, and checked his pocket watch.
  6. Hiram noted the stubborn barkeep. "Hmmm," he said, but not discouraged. Miss Mudd prattled on. "My friend Jemima really hates him." chipped in the Mudd girl, not to be outdone "You should hear her talk about him, she uses words that'd even shock you Mr. Priest, and you look like a feller what's been round the mountain a few times!" Priest chuckled good naturedly. There was no disguising age. Once he'd put some bootblack in his hair but it made his face appear even more lined that it usually presented itself. So, he abandoned that remedy. Caroline up and fetched the drinks, which was nice of her. "Bottoms up!" Arabella chuckled. "What do you girls know about the current Mayor? Is he loose virtued?" Getting the lay of the land was important to Hiram. "I only been in town a few months and I never saw the man much less met him. As fer his virtue, reckon that is none of my business," Caroline dismissed the question with a raising of her glass for a toast. "A Mayor's fitness for duty is every citizen's business," Judge Priest lectured through a wad of tobacco. Arabella, on the other hand, never let a lack of first hand knowledge about a subject stop her presenting herself as Miss Know-it-all: "Well I never met him neither, but Hector Wigfall growed up here and he told me all about him: He was onct a gaunt steely eyed lawman, his blue grey eyes strikin' terror in every ornery outlaw around ('cept Thomas Gage Love o' Course, he's my favourite!) Marshall Scott Cory, terror of the West! Then some Serpent of Temptation whispered in his shell-like ear... perhaps it was tricky Dicky Orr himself... and this serpent said 'say Marshall, know what would be even more splendid than bein' a lawman? Bein' a Mayor! So he stood for Mayor and it was all downhill from then on in: his teeth fell out, he went bald, and knock kneed, too! In the end he went totally insane and made his daughter ... teenage daughter mind ya... Deputy Marshall!!! And now he's on his last legs." She sat back, arms folded to assess the effect of this story on her audience. "Course, I never met the feller myself, and Hector's always playing tricks on me and tellin' tall stories: but who knows? Might be true!" Caroline erased this whole ridiculous story with a toast. "To lawyers, mayors, and loose virtue!" she grinned. "And Hooray for the Old Dominion!" added Arabella, downing her drink in one. "Here's to all of that and prosperity for all!" Hiram recited from many of his speeches. "You know, ladies," the old sinner settled in. "Golden days are ahead fer all folks out West here. You can take a town like this and turn it into a ... a....,." He searched for the right word. "Into a Metropolis." Indeed, Hiram was a visionary. "Why I see a public library, and a decent City Hall, and rotten old boardwalks replaced by regular sidewalks of concrete. And how's about a town square? You know! A park where folks can stroll through." He took a sip of liquor and then laid his hands flat on the table. "What you need is the right kind of Mayor." He figured it wouldn't hurt to try out his stump speech on the ladies. Maybe they'll spread the word?
  7. " Oh, and by the way, I'm Hiram S. Priest Esq.. I'm a lawyer, former Mayor and Judge. Haven't been in town long but it looks like a place where I might hang up my shingle. Courthouse you say?" "Hey!" jumped in Arabella, excitedly "My friend Jemima says that her brother Hector says that Mr Jolly says that the Mayor's 'on his last legs' an' there's like to be a election soon fer a new one. Maybe if you're some form o' Mayor, you could get that job. Second best, our Post Master Mr Orr's just been burned to a crisp, so that job'll be up fer grabs too. Problem is, there ain't really a Post Office any more, it sorta got burned to a crisp too, at the same time." Hiram removed his hat and waved it, causing the barkeep to look his way. He pointed to his drink and then pointed to the silent Caroline. Then he pointed to Arabella and barked, "Sarsaparilla." After that, the hat went back on. What Arabella just said couldn't have interested the wily Mr. Priest more. It was exactly what he was hoping for but so surprised that the subject landed so quickly at his table. He slowly nodded his head and tugged at his chin, affecting a sage and cautious demeanor. "Mayor, you say? Well,.." He picked up his drink and took a sip. "A Mayor should provide a town's citizens with moral leadership and help carve a path to future development." In a sense, he was already making a campaign speech. "There are railroad companies itchin' to lay down tracks and it's our job to make certain they lay those tracks right through Kalispell. Just think of the business that'll bring to a place like this. The saloon owner'll have to hire more ladies like you to help with the overflow." What the "Mayor" proposed was true, and there were many town's on the frontier making overtures to the powers-that-be at the railroads to look their way. But there was a more sinister reason that Mr. Hiram Priest was interested in landing on the Mayoral throne, and it didn't have much to do with the prosperity of the town and its citizens as much as lining his own pockets and filling his own coffers. "Please," he continued. "What do you girls know about the current Mayor? Is he loose virtued?
  8. "Actually she is the piano player and does a fine job of it too. I appreciate her very much. And on occasion she does join in on choruses and such," she answered. "You might wanna be around in the evenin' sometime and catch our act, it's a good one if I do say so myself." Hiram nodded. "Sounds like something I don't want to miss. I'm certain you two nightingales bring refinement to this wide-open town." He swept his cards into one pile and expertly formed them into a single deck. Game over. He sipped his drink. Caroline noticed he had made no offer to buy her one or even invite her to have a seat while she stood there. Not as much a gentleman as his outward appearance would indicate. "Is there any office space in this town that needs fillin'? He asked them. " I'm lookin' to set up shop." Caroline shrugged, "Real estate ain't my area of expertise. Might wanna go to the courthouse, there's a land office in there." "What kinda shop?" she figured she might as well ask. "Just a minute," the old codger said. "Can I offer you too damsels a drink? That is, unless you're not allowed to. Every place is different. Some saloon owners don't like the help to fraternize with the customers, and other places encourage it. I'm buyin'. " Oh, and by the way, I'm Hiram S. Priest Esq.. I'm a lawyer, former Mayor and Judge. Haven't been in town long but it looks like a place where I might hang up my shingle. Courthouse you say?"
  9. Hiram took out his watch and checked the time. It was earlier than he thought, so he gathered up his cards and reshuffled them for another game. His bony fingers were surprisingly adroit, almost like a professional dealer. In short order he'd set himself up for another game of solitaire. The game required some level of concentration, but it was broken again by the flighty young girl who'd just returned with the femme fatale. "Here we are Mr Priest." she smiled when they finally got there and gave Hiram his drink. "Caroline, this here is Mr Hiram Priest. Mr Priest, this is Miss Caroline Mundee, the Chicago Nightingale" (she put out of her mind that the last time she had introduced her friend that way, the gent in question had asked 'And who are you, the Kalispell Cuckoo?!') He issued a flat, "Hmmm," and continued playing the game as he spoke. "Glad to meet you, young Miss. "Mundee" you say? Related to the Mundee's of upper Missouri?" The name was familiar to him. In one of his first trial cases as a lawyer, he defended a man was accused of setting fire to his neighbor's barn.. name of Thaddeus Mundee. Unfortunately, the man was knifed in jail while awaiting his verdict. "You two ought to do some duets around this place. Have you ever thought of that?" The "Mayor" was always trying to work out a deal or help someone else work out a deal. He sipped his drink. "Is there any office space in this town that needs fillin'? He asked them. I'm lookin' to set up shop."
  10. Preston was no stranger to "strange". When she hopped up and staggered over to the bar, he shrugged and gathered up his cards. "9 of clubs on 10 of diamonds." he muttered.
  11. It seemed to Hiram Priest that little Miss Arabella Mudd was sure enough coming up with every reason not to sing at the saloon. "Lemme tell you something," he began with a bearing and dignity fit for King Solomon. "If you think the competition is going to be less in New York City than here in Kalispell, you got another think comin. So what I'm saying is if you can't step around some hot number like Caroline, you'll be wasting your time and money taking off for the big City .. New York City, Chicago, Saint Louis ..., cause there'll be dozen's of Caroline's just waiting to give you the bums rush. You'll be left a poor waif a'sellin' matchsticks on the street corner." "Why there's opportunities right here in this cattle town to make some gelt." He concluded. "I am savin' up like mad, though, I also work another job, helpin' this feller what takes photygraphs of dead folk what's passed over: I help make 'em look all nice and alive and prop 'em up next to their relatives fer family portraits. Or sometimes we keep the dearly departed party in their coffin, and I dress up like an angel and sort of stand over it lookin', well, angelic, you know. And Mr Crabbe, he... that's the feller, Mr Crabbe, he does this real clever thing called a double exposure what makes me look all sorta ghostly on the picture!" she added. "Sometimes he takes pictures of alive folk, too. But he don't like that - he says they do fidget so, compared to the dead uns." It was clear to Hiram that Annabella knew how to hustle. That beneath that bucolic innocence, was someone willing to take chances. "Would you be interested in earning some extra money?" he asked her. Arabella's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but not enough to hide the dollar signs lighting up inside them. "That depends" she replied "What kinda business are you in anyway, old man?" Despite his respectable outward appearance, there was some thing about Priest that made her think that it might be monkey business. Hiram moved the wad of tobacco from his left cheek to his right cheek. He eyed her over the rim of his spectacles but for a pause, remained silent. Finally he asked her, "Can you keep your mouth shut?" And as he waited for an answer, his baggy eyes spotted what looked like 5 1/2 feet of danger slink over the bar. This was Caroline, from what he'd gathered from previous short visits to the saloon. Caroline, Annabella's nemesis.
  12. "Oh, I ain't from round here, I'm from Virginia. And I'm no greenhorn when it comes to big cities, no Siree, I been right into Tannersville twice and I was actually born'd in Monroe!" she told him impressively. Priest sighed then finished his play; 4-of-Clubs atop the 5-of-Diamonds. Then, very precisely, he slid his draw pile toward the middle of the table and resigned himself to a "visit". She went on. "And besides, I ain't as green as I'm cabbage-looking. Why, this feller told me yesterday that I wasn't half as stupid as I look. 'Sides, I'm gonna take my friend with me and she's from New York, so she'll know what to do and, oh, and guess what?..." The girl looked around the empty saloon as if to make sure no one was listening and then told him in a loud stage whisper "SHE'S JEWISH!!" She stood back, to see how shocked the old gent might be that she was friends with a member of the Hebrew race. Hiram Priest, his mouth awash in tobacco juice, quietly uttered, "Christ killers." It wasn't said in condemnation, just matter of factly. Nothing she'd said shocked him but, to be nice, he raised his brows above this spectacles in a gesture that signaled that he was mildly impressed. Then, using his long leg, he placed his foot on the wrung of an empty chair and pushed it away from the table. "Why don't you sit down, so long as your boss don't mind?" he suggested. Now it was HIS turn. "You know, young lady, a move to New York is goin' cost you a lot of floor scrubbin' and window washin', and what for? To be singin' on stage? Well why don't you start here in Kalispell? Maybe I can talk to the owner of this place into giving you a chance to sing right here? A pretty girl like you, a girl who knows the Bible and understands all that begettin' and our Lord's promise of redemption, can make a life right here. Maybe your friend too." As with everything, the "Mayor", as people sometimes called him although years had passed since he was one, had use for the girl. She was a pursuer, she had dreams, and it seemed as though she loved gossip or, better, chitchat. "Would you be interested in earning some extra money?" he asked her.
  13. The old geezer was The Honorable Hiram Priest, former mayor of a gulchy town in Dakota Country. Hiram wasn't full of himself, however. Not at all. He knew exactly who and what he was. So the "Honorable" was dropped. All that was in the past, though he did have a hankering to once again hang out his Lawyer shingle .. maybe wield his political prowess, run for Mayor or be appointed once again to the bench. "Howdy Mister!" Hiram's hand paused before placing the Seven or Spades under the Eight of Hearts, but he didn't look up. The voice persisted but he continued his game. "Red Jack on Black Queen," he muttered through a mouth filled with chaw. "This 'n dead? Can I get you another drink? Waitress service's free, by the way, though I do accept tips! See, I'm savin' up to go to New York City and the good book sayeth 'Ask, and it shall be given you' Matthew, Chapter Seven!" she said chirpily. Hiram made his play then looked up. It was that young'n' he'd seen scooting around the saloon doing menial work. She was pleasant enough, and pretty too. He appraised her with eyes that looked over the top of his spectacles. "What do you know about the Bible? " Then he chuckled. "I guess a lot of folks know the Bible, chapter and verse, out here on the frontier. Faith in the Good Book is all that keeps some folks pushing ahead in a place like this." Priest pointed at the glass. "Sure," he said, indicating with this finger an imaginary line high on the side of the glass, a "fill line". But he was intrigued. "Why New York City? It's full of city slickers who take advantage of young girls like you, and it's far away from cow country" @Arabella Mudd

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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