Parley

It had been important that Roland make the train to Three Forks. Maybe the word important was understating things a little. It as actually imperative that he make the train to Three Forks and specifically the one he was on right at the moment. That was what the old stranger had told him. Be on the ten thirty to Three Forks and the meeting would take place at the appointed time. The seat Roland found faced another set of seats. Roland sat next to the window so he could see the scrubland drift by outside.

Roland remembered being excited by the train when he was a kid. The sounds and sights of a steam train were way more impressive back then. Watching those behemoths pulling into the station with an ear-splitting whistle and a belly-rumbling chug-a-chug was pretty much life changing. That had been back in the Carolinas where the scenery had been greener and arguably more beautiful. Roland knew, however, that many found the endless plains of Texas plenty beautiful. Roland just missed the green.

The tall thin woman was sitting opposite Roland before he could register that there had been any movement in the train car. Needless to say, he was startled. He was not used to these sorts of dealings and it showed on his face with half a dozen nervous tics. He fought to make his face neutral but he also knew it was too late for that. His shaky, bumbling fingers grabbed the strange coin from his pocket. He slapped the coin down on the seat next to him a little too hard.

“I invoke a truce for a uh,” Roland began, “So we can parley.” The word parley returning to his memory just in time for him to say it.

The woman or the thing masquerading as a woman smiled. Her thin lips moved in a parody of human emotion. “I accept your truce. For parley.” She said, putting a mocking emphasis on the word parley.

“Good. That’s good,” Roland said. It sounded like he had convinced himself that this was true.

“What was it that you wanted to discuss? I don’t particularly want to talk to you. We don’t particularly need to talk to you. So talk and maybe it will amuse us to listen.” The things said.

“I have been sent here to see if anything can be done for Three Forks,” Roland said.

“Our people are fairly confident we can get the job done. No interference will stop us,” The thing said. It sipped from a teacup that had definitely not been there before.

“So you’ll burn it to the ground and you won’t even care,” Roland said.

“If that were a question, the answer would be yes,” It said with another parody smile.

“And what if you don’t make it to Three Forks?” Roland asked. He pulled the pistol from its holster behind his back and placed it on the seat beside him where the coin had been earlier. The gun was made of strange looking metal and oak wood. The barrel and handle had both been carved with strangely beautiful symbols that somebody had poured silver into. The thing across from Roland hissed and for a moment, it looked less like a human woman.

“Where did you get that?” The thing demanded urgently.

“Oh this? Some guy sold it to me through the window two stations back. He took my last five dollars.” Roland said. He studied the thing, interested in its suddenly unsettled reaction.

“How did somebody get hold of one of the Six? This cannot be. This will do.” The thing said, more to itself than Roland. Since Roland did not understand the question, he did not know the answer and, therefore he remained silent.

“You have not seen the last of me. I will see you in Three Forks. We will see what happens there.” It said.

Roland grabbed the gun and fired. The thing’s belly exploded and black ichor splashed all over the seat and window. The thing looked shocked, its eyes impossibly wide and its mouth soundlessly moving like a fish. Roland grinned and leaned in closer and fired again, point blank in the thing’s face and evenĀ more black fluid splashed everywhere. Roland jerked back to avoid getting any on him.

Three Forks was approaching on the horizon. Roland had been sure that its fate had hinged on this meeting. The thing was dead and Roland hoped that would tip the scales in their favor. However, maybe that was not the mission he was actually sent on. Maybe that strange old man had meant for Roland to fight for Three Forks himself. He checked the half full box of bullets in his coat pocket. As long as there was a single bullet left and breath in his lungs, those things would not get Three Forks.

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