A Candle in the Wind – Chapter Three

Previous Chapter

The sheriff led the two strangers out of town, the shorter of the two still protesting. “I know you don’t want our help, Warwick,” he was saying. “But van der Klein is your last, best hope to sort things out before it goes sour. The three of us are the only ones coming to help you. It’s not like the Knights of Stonehenge are going to show up unbidden.”

“That’s fine, Harper,” Warwick replied in a more normal tone. “You just tell your friend there to get back on the train and light out to other parts.”

“I’ll be back if we learn anything about that lighthouse of yours,” Harper replied.

“Just send a note.”

The sheriff watched as the two men approached a third, a tall but thin fellow with a very pale face and hair. They argued for several moments but by that point they were far enough away that their voices didn’t carry to the statue. Neither sheriff nor the three he watched paid any attention to the other two passengers who got off the train.

But Jonathan Riker’s statue noticed. They were young, a man and a woman. They had very similar faces and blonde, curling hair and they moved with determination and purpose, though the man favored his right leg. As they passed the first buildings in town the man paused just long enough to look back and watched Harper and his friends climb on the train. Then they vanished into the heart of the Cove.

Johan van der Klein fiddled with the sides of the small black box that sat between him and his old friend. Roy was gnawing on a roast chicken leg while Proud Elk explained why the sheriff of Riker’s Cove threw them out of town. Every so often Harper would add a bit of context or fill in a detail. Johan thought the most interesting bit was the fact that Sheriff Warwick was a master of candles of revealing. Even among the druids such people were rare.

“Did you ever work out what the first candle he burned was?” Johan asked when the story was done.

“I was assuming it was a single instance of the candles he used in his office,” Roy said.

“Did he light it with the others when he showed you the house?”

Roy thought about it for several seconds. “No, now that you mention it I don’t believe he did. Any reason he wouldn’t? The others were a lot more burned down than the one he greeted me with.”

“Harmon’s Sons don’t have very many records of encounters with druidic magic techniques,” Johan said, pulling one side of his box so it slid an inch out along the grooves it sat in. The dull gleam of a mirror inside it caught the light from the afternoon sun. “Candles in particular are a tricky business to work out. Most druids give form to magic using plants as their medium of choice. They awaken trees that are too small to have minds of their own, they exist symbiotically with plants like the yew or ivy, they burn incense to release power from herbs and the like. Very few mesh directly with magic like you, Roy.”

Roy tossed his chicken bones down on his plate and looked warily around the hotel restaurant they sat in. They weren’t the only guests there but few seemed interested approaching the table where the three sat. There was a ring of empty tables all around them, as if Roy’s hostile attitude and reputation as a bounty hunter and monster killer repelled the peaceful people of Loewenburg. Satisfied he wouldn’t be overheard, Roy asked, “So what about the candles? Do you have a guess as to what they do?”

“Hard to say.” Johan carefully shifted the sides of the lightbox so the mirrors caught the light and focused it so it created the illusion of a flickering flame. “Druidic incenses do many different things and candles are similar in their approach. A lot of powerful magic herbs are toxic on some level and druids build up a resistance to them during their training. However the toxins in some herbs are so concentrated that the dose in normal incense is still too high enough to kill. Other herbs release magic so powerful it’s impossible to control except in the smallest amounts. So druids weave a few threads from the plants into candle wicks. That produces smaller, more manageable doses of magic – or toxins – that make the plants a usable lens to shape the magic.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that,” Roy said. “I knew a Harwick once. He could use a candle to turn to smoke and pass through gaps in walls and the like.”

“That’s not one I’ve heard of before.” Johan continued to tweak the shape of the light from his box to create more and more illusory candles. “Sadly, it doesn’t help us figure out what Warwick’s candles might do. The reasons druids chose candles as a medium for magic are secondary to the actual function of the magic they are creating. The candle is just a way to regulate it safely. There are potentially as many different kinds of magic candles as there are fibrous herbs to put in their wicks. If it wasn’t one of his candles of revealing I can’t guess what it is from what you’ve told me.”

Roy shook his head. “Those revealing candles work very fast and very obviously. Whatever that other candle did it was much more subtle.”

“Were the flames of the revealing candles silent like the one he brought to your first meeting?”

“Couldn’t tell.” Roy sketched the bars of a prison cell with his hands. “Iron in the bars, remember? That tends to dampen out the voices from an open flame unless the fire in question is much larger than the intervening iron. That’s one reason I carried an iron weapon for years. Helped me sleep with a campfire nearby.”

“Well, given the kinds of magic they tended to put in candles we can assume it’s a very powerful working we’ll have to be cautious of.”

Proud Elk studied the flame illusion intently. “It has been many years since I have seen such craft, Silver Glass. It seems much more impressive than a bit of candle wax.”

“Well, the First Son of Harmon was a true genius. But whether he was an equal to the First and Forever King of Avalon is very much an open question and one we’ll likely never see answered. What is certain is they created very different kinds of workings. The magic of light is much more ephemeral than that of the great, growing things of the earth.” Johan collapsed the lightbox down to its base form, closing up the many mirrors and leaving only the black lacquered exterior showing. “I would have liked to see this lighthouse. Changing the bend of space is a very difficult thing to achieve.”

“Ever seen anything like that before?” Roy asked.

“Problem is, like a druid’s candle, it could be any number of things,” Johan mused. “Illusion, actual bending of space or just creating a link between the top of the tower and distant place. But there’s no way to narrow it down without testing things.”

“Does it matter?” Proud Elk asked. “I did not see much of that man’s town but I did notice that every house and shop with a window had a candle behind the glass. Based on what you’ve said I do not think this can be coincidence.”

Roy nodded. “I saw them at the inn, too. I suspect our good Sheriff Warwick passed them out after von Nighburg came to town. Usually his lot are stingier with magic than that.”

“What about your friends?”

Proud Elk gave Johan a questioning look. “I thought all of us who signed the Pact were accounted for.”

“We are. But I met two travelers from Avalon on the train and learned they were coming to meet Roy as well.” Johan ran a finger along the edge of this lightbox. “They got off at the Cove but the sheriff clearly wasn’t expecting them. The girl seemed to know what was going on somehow.”

“Very sharp ears on that one,” Roy said. From the faint smile he had when he said it, Johan guessed that was all the explanation they were going to get. He’d been tight lipped even as a kid in the Regulars. “Her brother is a fully fledged Knight of the Stone Circle, straight from Stonehenge itself. They’ll stay ahead of Warwick pretty easily. Hopefully they can figure out a few things for us before we get back there.”

“You’ve got a lot of faith in those two,” Johan said. “I suppose it’s yours to give.”

“I was kind of winging it, to be fair, but we got as good an outcome as any of us could hope for,” Roy said. “I was thinking we’d give them a day to look around and then sneak back up on the Cove and whistle for the Fairchilds.”

“A serviceable plan given the circumstances,” Proud Elk said. “There is one question – no, two, that it leaves unanswered.”

Roy quirked an eyebrow and said, “What’s bothering you, Proud Elk?”

“First, we do not know why Heinrich von Nighburg chose this lighthouse building in that man’s village.” The Sanna man ticked off the possibilities on his fingers. “Is it a place of power? Is it the tides and ocean? Was it simply a convenient thing he found?”

“You’re an expert at dousing and the other river magics of the Sanna,” Johan said. “Do you have an opinion?”

“Like you, I would have to go there and examine it to make any kind of guess. That brings me to the second issue. What will we do if breaching the lighthouse requires some kind of talisman or special ritual that we do not know? The sheriff was unable to divine a way in. If we try and fail we will have revealed ourselves to von Nighburg and the sheriff.”

“A moment, gentleman.” Johan turned and motioned for one of the hotel’s waiters.

The man hurried over, smoothing the front of his suit. “Can I help you, sir?”

“Does the hotel have an almanac available?”

“Of course, sir. Would you like to see it?”

“Please.” Johan ignored his friend’s questioning looks.

It took only a moment for the waiter to return with a thick book in hand. He passed it to Johan, who quickly began flipping through it. “Is there anything else?”

“This will only take a moment.” Johan found the entry he wanted and skimmed over it, making a note of the timing of the situation, then handed it back to the waiter. “Thank you, that will be all.”

Once they were alone again he continued, saying, “We can solve the second issue by waiting another day to return to the cove.”

“Why’s that?” Roy asked.

“Low Noon is in two days. It’s a time of portent when the barriers between what’s seen and unseen are very thin and many forms of magic become more powerful. I believe we can create a new entrance to the unseen portion of the lighthouse – or perhaps drag it into our world – with the added power of the lunar eclipse on our side.”

Proud Elk frowned. “I have not heard of this Low Noon before. Lunar means the moon, but the what is eclipse? Why do you name it like you do the highest moment of the day?”

“Is that important?” Johan asked.

“It is a time of portent,” Proud Elk said in disapproval. “Shouldn’t the name have portent as well?”

“A lunar eclipse is when the moon is overshadowed by the earth,” Roy answered. “I believe the Sanna call it inil’anawak? The moon is full then turns dark for several hours.”

The Sanna man nodded. “I suspected as much but I also wish to understand why you’ve chosen this name.”

“Well, as I understand it the name came about because a lunar eclipse is the opposite of High Noon. Night versus day, happening rarely instead of daily, moon and sun.” Roy shrugged. “I don’t know the exact origin of the phrase. You know we’re not as particular about these things in Columbia as you folks are, Proud Elk.”

“On the contrary, Bright Coals, even in this I feel there is much to learn about your people. Now, I have a third question.” He turned to Johan and said, “Given the nature of this time won’t that make your magics difficult to work, Silver Glass? I recall you needed light to work them.”

“Not to worry. It’s been eight years since we went down to Tyson’s Run. I’ve picked up a trick or two that let me work my arts even if there’s no light at all.”

“Then we’ll leave in two days.” Roy got up, straightening the front of his vest with a sharp tug. “Until then we’ll make preparations as needed. I’ll arrange for a boat or skiff, I don’t think the sheriff will expect us by sea. Meet here this evening to check in.”

“Who will pilot the boat?” Johan asked.

“I have stood at the rear of many a canoe,” Proud Elk assured him. “I may need to spend some time outdoors tonight. Look for me tomorrow evening.”

“We may need you for that Proud Elk, although I’m going to be looking for something very specific. I’ve used them before working with Books. It’ll depend on what’s available out here, though, so if I can’t find it we may need your expertise after all. I’ll let you know for sure when you get back.” Roy stood up and gave them a sharp nod. “Get to it boys.”

Johan picked up his lightbox and got to his feet. A house outside of the world as they knew it would be a real challenge. The First Son of Harmon created the lightbox as a versatile and easily transported tool for the working of his arts. But a lot of sacrifices were made to achieve that versatility and portability. For a challenge like von Nighburg he was going to need more mirrors.


A Candle in the Wind – Chapter Two

Previous Chapter

Most visitors to Riker’s Cove came by skytrain, validating Jonathan’s long push to build a formal station for them in town. However Riker himself and many of the first settlers arrived by boat. Indeed, the docks still accepted many newcomers to town in the present day. While popular, these large forms of transport were didn’t always fit the needs or wants of a man traveling alone. The trains in particular weren’t welcome in lands controlled by the League of the Sanna, either.

So it was no surprise that the Sanna man who came to Riker’s Cove the day after Roy Harper arrived on horseback, rather than by train. He rode in about late morning, old buckskin pants and worn linen shirt hidden under a long, brightly beaded coat. He gave the graveyard a wide berth. Jonathan Riker’s statue was not slighted by this as the customs of the Sanna and the Columbians were very different in regards to death. As they were in many ways.

However, when searching for someone the basics are much the same from one culture to another. So the stranger went to the hotel first. Then he crisscossed the public square a few times, visiting the pub, the smithy and the general store. Finally he went to the jail. But Sheriff Warwick was out at the moment so he sat down on the doorstep and waited.

Avery didn’t know any Sanna men, so when one turned up outside the jail he was more than a litle surprised. The dark skinned man regarded him with impassive stoicism as he approached. Avery returned the sentiment. Before the Lakeshire War druids primarily drilled with the expectation that they would be called up to fight the Sanna when hostilities broke out between their nations again.

Ultimately that never happened but that didn’t mean there was no low level violence between the Sanna and the Columbians. Out in the west it was actually pretty common. But it was rare for them to come so far south.

Avery tipped the brim of his hat to the stranger. “G’morning. Can I help you?”

“Good morning.” The Sanna man stood with an effortless grace and spoke with the precise diction his people were famous for. “You are the sheriff of this town?”

“That’s right. I’m Avery Warwick, and you are?”

“You may call me Proud Elk.”

That was an awkward name and no mistake. Avery was tempted to ask how he’d say that in Proud Elk’s native tongue but he knew some Sanna tribes really hated revealing things like that. “Okay, Proud Elk, what brings you to my jail.”

“I came to this town to meet Bright Coals, the man you call Roy Harper.” Proud Elk tilted his head and pursed his lips oddly, seeming to indicate the jailhouse. “I am told he is here.”

Avery reassessed the Sanna man. He’d never heard of their people sending out firespinners or bounty hunters but there was a first time for everything. Problem was, he wasn’t sure how Proud Elk would react if placed under arrest. “Well you were told correctly. You’ll have to leave any weapons outside so as to ensure there’s no jailbreaks.”

Proud Elk nodded and extracted a whip club from his jacket. It was a heavy stick of hexwood with an equally heavy sulfurite crystal embedded at one end and a long, fifteen foot vine extending from the other. Sanna braves were supposed to be deadly with them. Avery took the weapon and found it to be very unwieldy in the hand. “You will allow me to speak to him now?”

“Sure. Come on in.” Avery unlocked the door and ushered Proud Elk into the jail.

“What crime did Bright Coals commit that you were forced to jail him? I have heard he’s quite scrupulous.”

“I am.” Roy got up from the bench where he’d been sitting and approached the bars of his cell. “Hello, Proud Elk, good to see you. Did you bring Many Herons with you?”

“The Elder was recently injured and is unable to travel. Your Thaddeus Heller now serves as mayor of a town and his obligations prevent his travel right now. They have had a difficult time.” Proud Elk looked uncomfortable crossing over to the empty cell, conspicuously avoiding meeting Harper’s eyes.

“I know Sam Jenkins is dead,” Harper mused, drumming his fingers on the bars. For some reason that was enough for Proud Elk to relax. “Add in you and me and that’s five accounted for.”

“Many Herons sent a message to Lost Crow but he returned to the north and we do not know where he lives now. It may take weeks to reach him.” Proud Elk finally met Roy’s gaze. “That’s six. Do you have any news of the other two?”

“Ty Hutch went prospecting from what I heard. It may take even longer to reach him than it does Lost Crow and we have semaphore towers to work with.” Roy sat back down on his bench. “Van der Klein is on his way. Not the greatest response we could hope for. Three out of eight.”

“No one thought only eight would live, much less that they would be such as us.” Proud Elk frowned his disapproval. “So why are you here in jail, Bright Coals? We gave our word to that man that we should defend his family and home yet you are unable to do so. Such a mistake is unlike you.”

Avery cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to interrupt, Proud Elk, but is it possible you’re also here to hunt down Heinrich von Nighburg?”

“Yes. As a brave of the Sanna I must uphold the promises we made to the founder of this town.”

He said it with the kind of grave certainty that suggested he thought everyone present understood him. Most Sanna spoke that way. In fairness, the Sanna prided themselves on learning languages and clearly speaking them. From the amused expression on Harper’s face he knew Avery was lost. He didn’t leave the sheriff in the dark long.

“Did you ever meet Jonathan Riker, Sheriff Warwick?” Harper asked.

“No, I came here about six years ago. He was dead and buried by that point.”

“You ever ask how he died?”

“I heard he went off to sort out some kind of problem up north before it got to the Cove but he never came back.” Avery frowned. “I always got the impression the townsfolk didn’t approve of him doing that so I never pushed to hard on the topic.”

“Yeah, I heard that, too.” Harper gave Proud Elk a look but it seemed to go right past the Sanna man. “Well, have you ever heard of the Summer of Snow?”

“Couldn’t hear about anything else back when I was coming out this way.” Avery raised his eyebrows. “Why? Is that the trouble he went to deal with?”

“One and the same.”

“Wait.” Avery massaged his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. “Why wouldn’t people want him doing that? The Summer of Snow wiped out crops all over the West, nearly caused a famine over thirty counties. Stopping that was heroism on par with Arthur and the Founders. Why not talk about it?”

“Because he died doing it and it was his connections that brought half the ships here each year,” Roy said. “At least, that’s what I heard at the dedication ceremony for his statue.”

“Okay, I can somewhat understand that,” Avery conceded. “So historical facts aside, what does this have to do with you two?”

“When the snow was at its worst, sixty men from the northern Sanna tribes and the Western Columbian counties gathered in Leondale,” Proud Elk said. “We agreed that the cold must be broken, no matter the cost. If it remained it would cost us family and home and ultimately our lives.”

“But some folks weren’t keen on chasing down hunger incarnate,” Roy added. “If they died they couldn’t do much for hearth and home later, after all. So we made a pact. Anyone who survived would take on the obligations of those who died. We didn’t expect the numbers would be so lopsided at the time.”

“Nine all told, wasn’t it?” Avery rummaged through his memories and came up with half a verse of half forgotten song. “Sixty one men went down to Tyson’s Run and nine emerged when battle was done.”

Harper visibly flinched but Proud Elk didn’t seem to notice. “Not entirely correct,” the Sanna man said. “As I said, there were sixty of us in Leondale, the last man was someone we met at the sawmill by the river.”

“This is important because?”

“That latecomer was one of us who survived,” Harper said. “But he wasn’t a part of the Leondale Pact.”

Avery quirked an eyebrow. “You didn’t invite him, then?”

“I didn’t.” Harper shot Proud Elk a sideways look. “Did you?”

“The Sanna have learned it is better not to request help from him.” Proud Elk shrugged. “I don’t expect him, either way. Chipped Ax spoke as if he had contract with him recently.”

“No wonder he didn’t come,” Roy muttered. “Old man Heller must really be in a bad way if he cut another deal with him.”

“So that’s all very interesting,” Avery said. “But it’s not relevant to my main point. Proud Elk, I’ve arrested Mr. Harper because I don’t want him or anyone else tinkering with Heinrich von Nighburg. He’s a very dangerous man and the threat to the people of this town if you go and fight him, then lose, is very real. You’re not Columbian, so I’d prefer not to arrest you, too. But I will if I have to.”

Proud Elk scowled. “The pledge to that man is a matter of the Sanna’s word, not Columbian law, Sheriff Warwick.”

“Well we both know Sanna words can be pretty flexible. Ever heard of the Diamondback River massacre?”

Roy hurried to interrupt before Proud Elk could let loose the indignant retort building behind his stormy eyes. “Sheriff, do you really think you can keep things going like this?”

“What do you mean?”

“Black magic isn’t a spell or a crime, it’s a way of life. Once you start killing for power its hard to stop.” Harper braced both feet on the floor and leaned forward until his nose almost touched the bars. “Von Nighburg is going to kill again.”

“Mr. Harper, that’s a remarkably astute observation. My concern isn’t maintaining the status quo indefinitely. I just need to stay the course until I can find a way into that coalstoking lighthouse of his. Since you didn’t even know it existed when you got to town I presume you didn’t come with a solution in hand.” Avery gestured at the pile of loose paper Harper had squirreled in the corner of his cell. “Unless you’ve worked it out over the last day?”

Harper absently ran a thumb over the spine of the book that sat on top of his messy scribbling. “I’m afraid not. However, Johan van der Klein is a Son of Harmon, one of the deepest theoretical magic traditions on the continent. He may be able to tell us something when he arrives.”

“He coming on that L&K train this afternoon?”

Avery’s question was rewarded with a chagrined look from Harper. “Yeah, I suppose he is.”

“Well the three of you can get back on it and leave, thank you very much.” Avery sat down at his desk and picked up his candle holder. “I respect your dedication to an old promise. Most men wouldn’t go so far for someone who died six months ago, let alone eight years. But I have access to many sharp magical minds from the old days. If you want to protect Riker’s home and family you’re much better off leaving this in my hands. ”

Proud Elk stirred. “Our oath-”

“One of von Nighburg’s hostages is Jennifer Riker, Jonathan’s granddaughter. Please. I’m begging you, leave this in the hands of someone who knows the town and who they’ll trust.”

For a moment the Sanna man looked crestfallen. Then he rallied, turning stubborn and saying, “The word of the Sanna is not-”

“Sheriff,” Harper interrupted. “May I have a moment alone with Proud Elk?”

Avery nodded and got to his feet. As he walked out of the jail he lit his candle and sat down on the doorstep. He’d give them all the time they needed so long as they finally agreed to leave in the end. In the mean time he trimmed up his candle, lit it and waited.

A Candle in the Wind – Prologue

Sometimes the best stuff you come up with is a surprise. The adventures of Roy Harper, Firespinner, is just one such example in my own body of work. Roy wasn’t intended as a major character he was just someone I thought up when plotting out an entirely different series. I spent a lot of time thinking about him as I organized that story and inevitably writing about Roy as well. Ideas for stories about a roving mercenary, armed with magic and the chip on his shoulder, just kept occurring to me, far outstripping the initial idea I had for a tin star sheriff with a magic sword.

I often pitch the basic concept of Roy Harper’s adventures as “Have Spell, Will Travel.” To me, his story has always been much more complicated than that, deeply tied to ideas I have developed about chivalry and its importance to understanding the modern age. Such philosophical concepts are interesting to discuss among friends but rarely get a lot of attention from strangers. Why is that? Well, mostly because a philosophy doesn’t count for squat until we begin to live it out.

Stories are about living things out. If you really want to explore ideas about philosophy, morality or politics you’ll get much further, and interest far more people, if you present those ideas through stories and not just through idealized stories about how your philosophy will play out under ideal circumstances but stories where those ideas are challenged in the most extreme fashion. Roy is a man who tried to live out a very important part of his philosophy – his patriotism. He went and he fought in a war and what he saw in that war challenged him greatly. He’s still struggling against those challenges.

If you’ve read Roy’s pervious stories you know that his past has played a big part in how he looks at situations and this one is no exception. There will be talk about the virtues of chivalry in Roy’s world. But for the most part this story is culmination. We’ve seen Roy in every aspect of his life – honoring his connections from the past, dealing with trouble as he finds it and actively hunting down evil throughout the West. In this story he’ll do all three and deal with them in ways only he could.

This story was a surprise to me. It occurred to me during a brainstorming session and quickly jumped ahead of several other Roy Harper stories I was developing. It’s the perfect capstone to introducing the character. It’s exciting, it’s fun and it lets Roy do what he does best – hit far above his weight class because he sees through to the truth of the matter. I’m very delighted to present it to you, starting today.

But before we get started I do have one thing to bring to your attention. While I always intend to put all my fiction published on the Internet on this blog this will no longer be the long term home for my fiction. All chapters of A Candle in the Wind will be available here while the story is being published and for six weeks after the story wraps up. Then all chapters of that story, as well as all Roy Harper stories previously published here, will be removed and only available through the archive of my newly established Substack. Reading the archive will require a paid subscription.

While I believe the Internet is a fantastic way to attract an audience the fact is if I want to make a living at this, and I do, then sooner or later I have to sweettalk someone into paying for the stories I write. It’s my hope that a Substack that allows me to paywall all my older work while still offering my current projects for free will be a good way to do this. Don’t worry, this blog won’t be going anywhere. All of the content that has appeared here in the past will continue to appear here. I don’t plan to move anything outside of the Roy Harper archives to Substack any time soon and before I move other fiction there in the future I plan to give at least two months notice. My generalized posts on writing, philosophy and the like will continue to appear here and will never be paywalled.

If you’re interested in supporting me on Substack you can find me there by following this link:


However if you chose not to join as a paid subscriber I fully understand. If you’re reading this here you’re some of my oldest and most faithful readers and I have always appreciated you for just reading. I hope you’ll stick with me through this latest installment. Now, after all that housekeeping, we bring you to the prologue of Roy’s latest outing. Thanks as always, and enjoy the show!

The sandstone statue of Jonathan Riker was quite new in monumental terms. The citizens of Riker’s Cove commissioned it the year after he was killed fighting Wendigoes during the Summer of Snow. They collected the money and hired a somewhat famous sculptor from the capitol in Hancock. The artisan was given a painting of the town’s founder that depicted him dressed in his sailor’s pea coat, carrying his ship’s log and sextant and then left to his work. Two years later it was unloaded from the skytrain and put in place overlooking the town graveyard after the rainy season.

Due to the problems of tide and storm surge the graveyard sat on top of a grassy bluff that shadowed the northern side of the cove. Now Riker’s likeness looked down from the highest point, keeping vigil over both the family crypt and the town that bore his name.

At the moment said crypt was visited by a lone man. He was a head shorter than the norm and dressed in a simple but well tailored brown suit with a red waistcoat. A crisp, new derby hat was currently held over his heart as he contemplated the grave. He wore a sword belt with a long, wickedly bladed falcata strapped to his side. The beginnings of crows feet wrinkled the corners of his eyes and light brown hair swept across his skull in short, neat lines.

The man came to town on the evening sky train. He hadn’t been impressed with the bare field where the weekly train landed. The absence of platform and station was something old Riker had always intended to remedy but never gotten to so the statue was not offended on the town’s behalf. It silently watched as the stranger made his way into town, stopped at the only inn for a few minutes and finally made his way back out of town and up the bluff to the graveyard. He’d stopped at Jonathan’s crypt for five minutes or so. Then, having lingered as long as was appropriate for an acquaintance rather than an old friend, he put his hat back on and was turning to leave when the second man entered the graveyard.

He wore a battered slouch hat over wavy blonde hair, a long leather duster and denim pants and shirt. A tin disk with a five pointed star engraved on it was pinned to his coat. An archaic straight bladed sword with a simple crossguard was strapped to his side and he carried a candle in a flat, silver holder by a ring shaped handle.

The graveyard wasn’t large and the stranger spotted the sheriff right away. He paused, hand still on the brim of his hat, looking a bit surprised. That was a fitting reaction. The statue had never seen the town’s current sheriff visit the graveyard before. Then again, he’d only moved to town some two years ago and it was possible he didn’t know any of the town’s deceased.

The stranger finally lowered his hand to his side and moved to meet the sheriff in front of the crypt. The sheriff looked him up and down then said, “Are you Roy Harper?”

“That’s me. You seem to have the advantage on me.”

“Avery Warwick,” the blond man said, “and I’m the sheriff of Riker’s Cove. Can I ask what brings a professional mercenary to my town?”

The candle in the sheriff’s hand suddenly popped, sputtered and coughed then burned normally again. Both men stared at it in surprise. Once it was clear the candle was back to normal Roy said, “My business is actually related to yours, sheriff. I’ve learned that a wanted man is laying low here in Riker’s Cove and I’ve come to take the matter in hand.”

“You’re here for a bounty, then?”

“I’m here because I made a promise to an old friend. Bringing in a wanted man just so happens to be a part of that.” Roy made an indifferent gesture. “I don’t have to collect the bounty myself, although I won’t complain if I do get it.”

“I see.” Avery gestured back to town. “Would you mind moving this discussion into someplace more private? If you’re after a fugitive then you don’t want to tip your hand.”

As the two men moved back through the graveyard their voices grew distant. “Can you tell me who this fugitive is?” Avery asked as they went.

“Heinrich,” Roy answered. “Heinrich von Nighburg.”

Then they were out of earshot and the statue was alone again, keeping silent vigil over the Cove once more.