Stranger of Mercy Dale

Thanks Tony for help

People say that everyone has a tear of mercy in them. They lie. A man is merciful with lovers only. How can you forgive the stranger, when you can't even forgive yourself?

Worn out after crossing through the mountain pass, I fell to the ground on my knees. It was a cold April. Once this had been my land. And there was a time that these hands had been the hands of a farmer, hands that had caressed the grasses and had plowed the gray sod.

Now these hands were strangers to the plow, the pickax, and the spade. Now they were the hands of a gunfighter, the hands of a killer. Not even mud would cover up the blood they had shed. These hands had forsaken the farmer's world. Nonetheless, I had returned to my land, to my home.

The valley where I lived before the war hadn't changed at all. Mercy Dale.... It was still the same rocky slopes surrounding a dusty plain with several farm holds around it. Nobody would have changed a thing, except for living in a hellish frying pan that grilled without water. We had earnestly believed we could stand up to the wizards, but their beastly magic had shattered the mountains and dried up the rivers. Magicians had put a flame under our Dale's frying pan.

You see the Creek disappearing, but you are unable to do anything. You feel overwhelmed. Your feelings boil into passion like teardrops exploding in hot oil. There were 30 men who fought to keep Mercy Dale from being blasted with hate fire. I was one of them, and I came back alone. I looked at the precious farm, knowing that the farmer I had been was dead.

Wiping my nose with a sleeve, I stood up and walked toward the house that overlooked the hill. I felt glad that the fence had been painted in white. It meant that my wife was waiting for me and keeping up the house as before. I thought that, from now on, I could be the man of the house, and I wanted to fly there as if I had wings. Instead, I ran, but with an unsteady stagger, disturbing the cool air with warm words of love.

When I got to the granary, I hid behind it. Something had happened that I didn't understand. My wife, my sweetheart, Darra, stepped down from the porch. She was wearing a snow white apron over her dress. A breeze came around the corner of the house and messed up her blond hair. Darra was carrying a bucket, and, when she got to the water pump, she pressed the pump handle several times, and water rushed into the bucket.

A man came from the stable in a dirty shirt with turned up sleeves, and, at first, I thought that he was just helping her to do the work around the house. However, when he embraced her, and she kissed him in return, my world turned upside down.

"I'm going to town," I heard him say.

"On your way back, sweet one, don't forget that cloth we saw. Tomorrow I'd like to seam the pillows."

"As you wish..."

I saw that I no longer had a home in Mercy Dale. But, still, I was going to stay. How could this be possible! Did she love him, or did she just pretend? Was he courting my wife? Or was he ravishing her in a harsh bed? It would be the bed that I remembered. Darra and I had carried it from Ror-Sailit on the North Coast.

It was like I was hung over. After making it into town, I staggered over to the side of the Bew-Yarque saloon. I was shaking, and I vomited, but, at the same time I was seriously sober. I had to struggle to keep the iron at my hip. The revolver seemed to know what was best to do, but I was feeble and desolate.

"Get lost, you bum!" It was the new owner of my land, screaming at me.

My rival, who had gone to town ahead of me, spotted me and caught up several stones and began throwing them at me. I covered my face with my hands and ran away, but I was battered by shame. At a signpost, my legs gave way. The stones had knocked me down, causing me to roll over in pain. The yelling was loud. It seemed to me that the whole Dale must know my wife was cheating on me!

In the Bew-Yarque, old familiar faces looked at me but didn't know me. They avoided me, as if I were a leper or sick.

The bar was open, and cabaret damsels were rehearsing their evening shows. One of them was crying in the corner. Not noticing her, card players sat at tables, hiding out from the afternoon sun that made it feel like you were in a tallow-pot. I asked the barman for a glass of beer, took it, and sat where I could watch the main street. When my rival drove past, I inquired about him.

"You mean that one?" The barman gestured toward him.

"Well, he's our mayor. He's a despot, of course, but he's kept the city well. There's not been a gunfight here for two years. There's a rumor he was magicweaver. Someone said they saw the gunmagic crystals."

"What's his name?"

"Have you a private matter, stranger?"

"Just say his name."

"Well, Snydgar duhor Vigrah."

"You are as ever useful, Fyollit."

"Wait... wait! I think I've seen you before. You... You..."

"So, call my name."

"But you're dead. They all died! No one survived! And nobody crosses the mountain pass alone.... You must be dead!"

"This dead man pays by gold or by leaden death. Which do you choose?"

"Gold, of course. Hmm.... It's closer to my heart"

I weeded a coin out of my pocket and slapped it on the bar. I'd headed to the exit, when the barman called me, the stranger. He came close to me and whispered that he would wait for me behind his house. There was an old shack, he told me, where I might spend as much time as I needed. I accepted, though he didn't look at me as his old friend, not with tears of gladness, that is, but as someone strange and new, and without mercy.

That evening inside the hovel, there were nine men and two hairmanenian. Once, I had employed them to turn the soil. We sat in a circle, but no one spoke; we just passed a bottle of whiskey around. They all stared at me, seeming to believe that I was unreal. The sheriff came in, and that made us a total of thirteen. He started the ball rolling:

"What do you wanna do?"

"I shall kill him!"

"Mind now, this is a peaceful city with its own laws. I can't allow murder."

"He said that our troops were dead, didn't he?"

"Yep."

"That complete liar, don't you see, told my wife that I was dead, didn't he?"

"Uh-huh."

"And is he a magicweaver?"

"That's the rumor."

"He disrupted the calm of our peaceful city. He brought his own magicians and laws! What else did he do?"

"He took away our guns and ammo. However, magicians aren't hammering us. Our river is flowing, and it's like it was in old times."

"I see that it's not like it was once. I returned, and what did I see? My wife was stolen by some... magician! Nobody knew me on the street! Fyollit called me a deadman. That's reason enough for me to rise from the dead and to knock him out of our beloved world for ever!"

"No, you can't do that. You don't have the right... and my gun likes to keep things quiet."

"I need you! All of you! Understand me! We can restore our old laws; we can fight for the freedom we had before the war. Don't you want that?"

"No!" The sheriff shook his head.

"Do you all agree with him?"

Even the hairmanenian betrayed me, but I could forgive them and not the others. Those men turned me down when I really needed help.

"At least you are still honest with me."

I stood up and left. The sky was covered with blood red clouds. It darkened, and I felt like tears of blood were dropping onto the ground.

The sheriff laid a hand on my shoulder.

"Maybe if you'll show us what you can do, you'll be able to persuade us."

"Let's go to Black Grove. I suppose it's not against the law to shoot at dead trees. Am I right?"

"Yeah, you're right."

He was pondering something over. I watched his hard face.

"It'll be cold tomorrow." He watched the clouds around the setting sun. "To dig graves is too hard with the sod frozen."

"Digging graves is always too hard, especially for those who died, trying to free our Dale. And it's impossibly hard to dig them when you see that they died vainly!"

"You want to know why nobody knows you? You're very different from the way you were four years ago. Your hair has lost its color; your face is scarred. You've become hard."

"My heart was still beating when I arrived home, and my heart could still feel. But, now you're right. My heart has turned to stone. Stone, but I still love my wife, my Darra!"

"So? Let her go! Let her be happy."

"I cannot."

"For the name of Gorma, why? Have a little mercy for her! How can I get it into your head that she's already lost you? Tomorrow, she'll lose him also. Darra isn't the same woman you used to know!"

"Never! She will lose the man she never had by law, and she will return to the man she must have by law. Me! And there's nothing you can say that will stop me. I have decided to kill him, and I shall do it!"

"Well, okay..."

"I've got the feeling, when I speak with you, that you're not really going to go to Black Grove. You're going to ride to my farm and warn him, aren't you?"

"I see a change in the very core of your soul. You're no longer the calm farmer I used to know. I've seen these cold narrow eyes many times in my life. For me, it's clear. You're a gunfighter."

"So get out of my way, Sheriff! Otherwise..."

"Otherwise you'll shoot me? That's a boy. Keep talking like that, and you'll lose all your friends. Look, I'm applauding you."

"I don't think you were ever my friends."

"Take my horse, but don't come back. You're not wanted here."

After saying those words, he left the shed, and the others followed him. All of them left me. People need farmers, not killers. Only a few gunfighters become farmers, but there are those in the world who like to single them out with a finger, who like to call out, "look, a wolf."

I went down the main street in a crazy calm. I felt like a mangy dog, dirty and without a home. Mercy Dale had become a strange place, a town that was dead to me, a town of hate.

A pale horse was tied near the sheriff's office. I saw the light from his windows. He knew I would take the horse. He had given it to me, after all, but I knew what he was up to. He was waiting for me to ride out, and then he was going to announce a bounty on me.

I spat at him. All I wanted was to get back my wife and my land. It really didn't matter whether I freed the town of the magician's power or not. I really didn't care. If the people didn't want to restore the old laws, then they could live however they wanted to. I was going to kill the one who was responsible for causing me to lose everything, just one man, the one who bore the name, Snydgar duhor Vigrah.

Once in the saddle, I rode to the farm. My farm met me with the humming of a cicada. The windows on the ground floor were lit up. I figured they were still having supper.

I jumped off the horse and approached the wooden steps to the door. I had made them out of fence planks. My hand reached for the grip of the revolver. I got to the door, and touched the doorknob. I could see the dark shadow my figure made on the porch. I looked back to the door, when I heard it opening. It was Darra. The moment she saw me, she gasped and started to run away.

Snydgar caught and held her. He didn't seem to have any trouble. He wasn't very large, but he had the lean strong muscles of a farmer, the way I used to be. Now, I'm soft. The life a gunfighter leads requires different skills, not plowing. Just the same, I found him ready to fight. The gunmagic crystals were inserted in the notches on his gloves.

I armed the firing hammer with my left hand. Snydgar moved Darra aside.

"Stop meddling!" he said to her.

"But he'll kill you!" She cried, falling down on her knees.

"I shall kill him the way he killed your husband, woman."

She looked at me tearfully. "Who are you?"

"Just a stranger now!"

Snydgar cast the red magic fibers to shear me. I anticipated him and was ready. Evey magicweaver has his own method of sending his magic fibers. Yes, sometimes it's hard to dodge them -- the scars on my face were proof of that.

But a bullet flies faster...

Darra stood, blocking the view of my rival.

"You've got the wrong man! No! You're mistaken!"

"No, he made the mistake, when he married you!"

"I don't understand; that doesn't make sense! Why does this stranger want to kill you, dear one?"

She looked at me, pleading.

"Please, if you're an honest man, tell me why you want to kill my husband? Why?"

"Justice!"

"But my husband is a kind man, a good man..."

"Sweetheart, Darra!" I cried. "Get out of my shooting line!"

"It's you?..." She stood there paralyzed.

It was then that somebody came upon me from behind and grabbed my arms. My hand reacted, and the revolver spit out my hate. The bullet hit Darra. As she fell, I noticed a dark red spot forming like a tear on her snow white apron.

"You got here in time, Fyollit." Snydgar thanked him.

"The sheriff will be here soon." The barman tied my hands. I couldn't speak. I was watching Darra's blood.

"Where is the mercy in Mercy Dale? Why did you kill your own wife? For what? I don't understand it. And you, Fyollit?"

"No, sir."

"We'll hang this bum with a sign that says murderer! He doesn't deserve a name.

People say there's a tear mercy in the world, but they lie. There is law in this world, and only law.