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       Hilfords Chronicles: The Black Powder Incident, p.1

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Hilfords Chronicles: The Black Powder Incident

  Hilfords Chronicles

  The Black Powder Incident

  V. M. Sapone

  All Rights Reserved © 2017 Vincent M. Sapone

  Map and cover art and design © Vincent M. Sapone

  Hilfords Chronicles, The Black Powder Incident, Pelgra, its places, and characters are Trademark of Vincent M. Sapone. No replication or use without the author’s written consent.

  First Edition, 2017

  Hilfords Chronicles: The Black Powder Incident is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Thank you for downloading this ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends.

  This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form. If you enjoyed this book, please return to your favorite ebook retailer to discover other works by this author. Thank you for your support.

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  The Hilfords Chronicles series:

  The Black Powder Incident (short)

  The Hunters from Grey Hills

  Coming soon:

  The Witches of Blackthorn

  The Black Powder Incident is an account of events

  occurring prior to

  The Hunters from Grey Hills.

  Table of Contents

  The Black Carriage

  Out of the Forest

  The Lost Girl

  Two Cases in One

  Things Left Behind

  A Long Day Grows Longer

  Fire and Whisky

  The Day After

  The Black Carriage

  Gerdie pretended to sleep on the bench of the rocking, bouncing carriage. She fought the urge to open her eyes and spy on her captors. The two men inside the small, dark space dozed and woke, over and over. She waited, patiently. Her hands were tied with rope, but she could still grab the latch when the time came. If they thought that she was going quietly, they had another thing coming. The tall one knew that already. She clocked him good, right in the eye, when they grabbed her. Four men against one girl wasn’t fair, but it was the only way they could get her into the carriage.

  As they passed beneath tall trees along the road, moonlight blinked out behind the canopy. The carriage crawled along. Would they stop, Gerdie wondered? If she kept pretending to be asleep they’d let their guard down. She felt the carriage turn and heard the mounted riders pass the carriage. They were turning off the road. The ride got bumpier. Gerdie realized the men were searching for a place out of sight to stop for the night.

  The carriage slowed and came to a stop in the dark forest between Overhill and Mirinol. Gerdie knew directions. She knew which way they were going. She heard voices outside. The two men inside moved. She didn’t open her eyes, but she could hear them moving. Someone opened one of the small doors and spoke a foreign language. One of the men got out of the carriage. More talking. A hand suddenly gripped Gerdie’s arm.

  “Let’s go,” a harsh voice said.

  Gerdie opened her eyes halfway. Her plan was thwarted. She needed a new one. She got up and carefully stepped out of the carriage. The tall one came from the shadows with a length of rope. Did they expect her to sleep all tied up? Bastards.

  The tall man walked her a short distance from the carriage. The shorter man who’d watched her the whole ride, stood a few paces back with his flintlock cocked. Gerdie heard it click. She wasn’t sure how those things worked, but she knew enough to be afraid.

  With all the locks she saw on the carriage compartments, Gerdie could tell they were guarding something. She knew if she got free they’d hunt her down. She’d be a loose end that needed trimming.

  The tall man tied the rope to her wrists, through and around the ropes that were already binding her hands together. Then he wound the rope around a tree and around Gerdie.

  “Sit,” he told her. “Sit, sit.”

  The tall one looked foreign, but where was he from? It was too dark to tell. Even when they grabbed her, back in Overhill, the sun had just set. The men all wore clothes that didn’t fit right. Gerdie had seen how fancy people dressed. These men had the clothes but not the fit. Something was off, like they were playing dress up with their daddy’s clothes.

  She sat down in the dirt and leaves. The man wrapped the rope around her and the tree, together. Her hands were in front of her. At least she could work on wiggling a hand free.

  The man walked off, looking confident that Gerdie wasn’t going anywhere.

  Gerdie sat in silence. She thought about screaming and calling out. Would anyone hear her? She wasn’t even sure where they’d stopped. Definitely closer to the city than to Overhill. No, screaming and yelling was no use. She’d have to get loose and make a break for it first chance she got.

  Something rumbled on the far side of the carriage. In the dark, in the forest, with the moons blocked out by the trees, it was hard to see anything. Gerdie thought she knew the sound. It was a deep, guttural rumble like an animal would make.

  Was it the horses? No, horses didn’t sound like that.

  Something tugged Gerdie’s ropes. She tried to turn and look, but even if she could see around the tree, it was too dark. The ropes tugged again.

  The low grumble sounded once more, in the dark beyond the small clearing where the carriage was stopped. Was that two animals? The sound came from the other side of the carriage, but it sounded a little higher.

  The men noticed, this time. They were building a small fire ten paces from the horses, at the edge of the clearing. A twig snapped and each man was on his feet, looking this way and that. Something was out there. The men moved to the far side of the carriage. Gerdie couldn’t see where they’d gone.

  Thumping, rushing sounds emerged—twigs snapping, feet rustling in the leaves and weeds. The men shouted. Something growled and roared. Sounded like a bear. Plenty of bears in these parts, Gerdie thought. One of the men screamed. The firearm discharged, a loud explosion that echoed in the night. Smoke drifted through the air among the shouts.

  Gerdie felt the ropes that bound her tug and slacken. She leaned forward. It was a perfect time to run. The ropes dropped away. Only her wrists were bound, now. She moved to stand up, but something small stood in front of her.

  “Hold on,” said the fox.

  Gerdie shut her eyes tight and slowly opened them. “What?” she asked. It was just like the old story about the mages and the hawks and foxes. But that wasn’t true, was it?

  The fox stepped closer. Gerdie flinched. “It’s okay,” said the fox. It sounded like a little boy with missing teeth. The fox nosed at Gerdie’s ropes and slowly opened its mouth.

  Gerdie flinched and drew her hands back, again.

  “I won’t bite,” said the fox.

  Gerdie fought the urge to chuckle. It sounded like the fox said ‘I woe bye’. Gerdie slowly extended her wrists and the rope that bound her. She waited, hoping she wasn’t losing her mind. What the heck was going on?

  Another roar. More shouting. Gerdie couldn’t see them. She could only hear the movement and the yelling and the roars.

  The fox made quick work of the ropes.

  Gerdie stood up and pushed the last of the rope off her wrists. She smoothed the front of her simple, brown smock and looked down. The fox sat in the leaves and dirt looking up.

  “Thanks,” said

  The fox winked. At least it looked like it winked. Hard to tell in the dark.

  Another roar and more shouting. A man’s scream was cut short with a gurgling sound that made Gerdie feel sick.

  Gerdie looked up. She still couldn’t see whatever was happening on the other side of the big black carriage.

  The fox was off, running.

  Gerdie turned and ran after the ruddy-orange fox.

  One of the men called out to another. Gerdie wasn’t sure if it was about her or whatever they were fighting on the other side of the carriage. Gerdie didn’t care. She ran. She ran west, hoping she wasn’t turned around. She ran through the dark forest, silently thanking the fox and the roaring bears she never saw.

  Out of the Forest

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