Jebediah and Nicodemus were both vying for control of the operation. It should have been simple, but because of their petty bickering, it had taken nearly an hour just to get started. They had finally dug out an old trunk of Mordecai's that had mostly survived the fire. Each of them wanted to be the first to open it and claim any prizes within.
The trunk had been one Mordecai kept in his library; it was seemingly lined with lead so that the items within could survive long after any disaster. During the dig, Nebuchadnezzar had uncovered a few other items of interest, but this was, without a doubt, the most intriguing. Nicodemus stepped forward and swung the lid open. Several ancient looking books were haphazardly tossed in and there were many sheets of paper placed wherever they would fit. Most of the pages were loose; some had been clipped or stitched together.
One of the groups of clipped pages stuck out among the rest: "Ashlar Mayfair" It announced on what appeared to be a cover page. Nicodemus picked it up to examine it. Jebediah moved next to Nicodemus to see what he had found. The clip held together, the cover, some half-size pages and some regular pages. Nicodemus began reading the half-size pages.
Well today I found one, a black magic user. He goes by the name "Morty Whatts" But I assume it's an alias. He won 7 of 9 hands of poker (of course I won the other 2), all 7 hands were high stakes, and just before hands were revealed something felt...wrong.
It didn't feel like he had cast a spell, not one of Hoyle's at least. I was filled with a chill. And then, it seemed as though the cards, changed. As if they were somehow different. He never actually cheated as far as I could tell. So I assume it was some kind of black magic. My grandfather hasn't "visited" me yet, so I can't know for sure. But, I have learned to follow my gut feeling.
I followed Morty to his home on the edge of town. There I met a woman who is supposedly Morty's sister, Jane Whatts. Folks say her son, who is kept in the basement, is some sort of monster, but when I asked to see the boy, they refused, saying it went against the orders of the town council.
About that time, the local law enforcement showed up. Sheriff Albert Tucker and 3 of his deputies ordered me out of the house at gunpoint. I complied hesitantly. Once outdoors, I explained to Sheriff Tucker that I was concerned with the fact that there was a child supposedly locked in the basement.
The sheriff explained that the town had a "You leave us alone, we leave you alone" deal with the Whatts. I told the sheriff a half truth, I told him that Morty had cheated at cards.
The Sheriff's response shocked me: "Then you shouldn't have played against him."
I was awakened this morning to the sound of an Autogyro landing. It seems two men in long black dusters, the names Roberts and Quentin sound right, arrived in town. They showed the sheriff papers demanding the arrest of one Mordecai Whateley, A.K.A Morty Whatts.
My traveling partner, Jim Alexander and I went to investigate. The two men had a union order for Mordecai's capture. At this time, I was informed by Sheriff Tucker that a long time friend of mine, "Sparks" Williams, was found murdered in his bed this morning. I immediately went to Sparks' room to investigate.
It was gone. And Sparks had died for it. Sparks had owned a copy of Hoyle's Book of Games, 1769 ED. He knew it was a valuable old book, but he had no idea it's true value. And he had died due to that ignorance. My intention had been to win it from him in a game of poker, maybe not the most honest thing I've ever considered, but at least the sheets would still have been usable.
Sparks was dead, and I was down fifty bucks. I decided to offer the Union officers some help. Whoever this man was; Mordecai, Morty, Bill, no matter what he called himself, I wanted a piece of him. The Union men and the local sheriff's office were preparing to go up to the Watts estate. When I offered my help, Sheriff Tucker was quick to accept. I also noticed that Mr. Alexander had made friends with one of the Union men, Quentin I believe it was.
Our posse went up to the estate and entered. The house was seemingly abandoned. There were faint noises in the basement, but it proved impossible to get into. The door had been sealed shut magically, so I knew it would take magic to get it open. I needed to cause a distraction. I rapped on the door and pretended to find the "sweet spot" I told everyone to aim for the spot and wait for my signal.
The Manitou gave me an expectant look; I smiled as I showed him my full house. "Fire" I yelled, pulling my trigger. Shots rang out from all around me, and the door blew off its hinges.
Then "Jane Whatts" came flying out of the doorway at us. Faster than I could react, a spray of bullets erupted from Mr. Alexander's gatling shotgun. Jane was no longer a problem.
The Union men searched the entire house, but found nothing. Mordecai got away clean. During his visit earlier tonight, Grandfather told me that Mordecai would get what's coming to him. I want to deliver it.
Mr. Alexander left last night with the Union men. New recruit. Sad part is, at this point, no matter who wins the war, we all lose. I wonder is Jim Alexander brilliant or mad? Probably both.
Well brother, I'm leaving town soon, I've arranged to meet up with Edward Jefferson, The bank owner, and the Chinaman, Chun Lee, I think, before they hit Colorado.
Nicodemus looked at Jebediah. Both men, previously unaware of any of this, were curious to learn more. They moved on to the next pages, recognizing Mordecai's handwriting.
Nothing is sacred Ashlar Mayfair. Not even your private thoughts.
The attached pages were stolen from a Pony Express Office. They are from Ashlar Mayfair's Journal of Events. Ashlar writes the pages and whenever he arrives in or leaves a town, he uses the Pony Express to send the pages to his brother, Xavier. Xavier Mayfair is the protector of the Mayfair home in New Orleans, and is the keeper of the family history.
My goal is to acquire that history. Based on Ashlar's journal entries, he is going to be looking for me. I wish to be ready for him, to do that I should know more about him, than he knows about me. Of course for now, that is already true. The information I have gathered thus far has proven to be very interesting. Ashlar's Mother, Clara, is the great-grandniece of Edmund Hoyle. His father, Jason, comes from a long and prestigious line of hucksters.
As for his "visiting" Grandfather, I have come to the conclusion that this is in reference to his grandfather, Blaine Mayfair, who died when Ashlar was but a boy. Local rumor had it that the Black Circle was involved.
Xavier is attempting (unsuccessfully so far) to form a secret society: HABMU - Hucksters Against Black Magic Users. It seems that the Mayfair family has declared war on Black Magic and the misuse of Hoyle's Hexes.
As for Ashlar, since our encounter, he went on to become a hero of Pawnee Rock and just about every other place he passed through. He did meet up with the Chinaman, Chin Li Ten-do, trained under Kung Fu Master Ten Do. Ten Do came to the US, and Chin Li has come to seek his master. What Chin Li doesn't know is that Sun Shu-Jen killed his master nearly three months ago in the maze.
The two of them and Ashlar's horse, Twitchy, have become well known where ever they have traveled, and their present path will lead them straight to Deseret.
I believe Ashlar's weakest point to be his ties to his family. In order to exploit that weakness and gain much needed information, I have arranged an attack on the Mayfair home. While the attack happens, I have also arranged for a thief to sneak into the home and search the library for books of interest.
With luck I will acquire some useful books and slow or halt Ashlar's progress. As for Ashlar's account of the events, it shows how eager and unprepared he truly is.
The night we met, Ashlar, "Sparks" and 2 other men were engaged in a game of poker. I joined the game and was using my "Red Spade" spell. Of course I was winning. Ashlar seemed to pick up on the use of the spell so I took my leave. His descriptions of the events with Jacina are accurate to the best of my knowledge. The "child in the basement" was Malrog.
When I heard the Autogyro early Friday morning, I decided that it was best if Malrog and I take our leave and Jacina stay behind to cover our tracks and buy us time. I sent Malrog to kill "Sparks" and recover the book. He complied and we were soon on our way. I left Malrog with some of our trustworthy cousins and continued here to Gomorra, that completes my side of the story.
Hopefully, my plans for Ashlar will slow and/or stop him, buying the master plenty of time to conquer this place before this "Heroic" huckster arrives.
Nicodemus set the Papers back in the trunk. "I wonder if his plan worked?"
"Well if Mordecai was right, we may get a chance to ask Ashlar ourselves." Jebediah said, a bit sarcastically.
"We should head back to safety - Nebuchadnezzar, grab that trunk." Nicodemus commanded.
As Nebuchadnezzar did as he was told, a small scrap of paper drifted slowly to the floor. Jebediah picked it up and squinted at it. Apparently Mordecai had traced someone's sloppy handwriting, but Jebediah could barely read it.
"Klattu Barrata Nickto." Jebediah read aloud.
"What do you think it means?" Nicodemus asked.
"I wouldn't even venture a guess", said Jebediah, stuffing the piece of paper into the pocket of his trousers.