A/N: I'm practicing my writing with TvTropes generated stories. Most are completely disposable but I felt like this one had a little bit more personality. Feedback is always appreciated.
I was a young man when they struck gold in Halcyon springs. The year would have been 1952. I was still in school when the stories reached the city of Honorhall. People were going out there, working a single day, and going back where they came from filthy rich. I didn't care much about money, my family was well enough off farming. I don't remember ever being more than a few hours away from a good meal and I never got very cold in the winter. What I cared about was the was adventure out there, there were bandits and loose women and everybody carried a gun. That was what I wanted, a story of my own.
I had a hard time getting the money together, I've never been good with money, and it seemed that whenever I had a little collection built up there would be something I wanted to buy or something the family needed. I tried to get a job once but it was awful, I just stocked shelves all day and it didn't seem like the start of an adventure to me. Eventually though graduation rolled around and my grandparents and my aunts and my uncles all sent me a little bit of money on account of me being the first of my family to finish their schooling and my parents saw fit to get me an old beat up car. I saw the chance and I took it.
I hopped in the car and I took my money and I left behind a note explaining why I'd gone but not where.I didn't want anybody coming to look for me but I didn't want to worry anyone neither. My parents never expected I'd stay on the farm but I think they assumed I'd go on to work in the city. I never liked disappointing them but I was off to Halcyon Springs to make my fortune and start a new life as a man of adventure. I figured I'd work for a month at most, I'd probably be able to find enough gold to buy a house in less time but I wanted to find wife while I was out there too. I'd go back home to introduce her to my parents and I'd buy a house there too. Then I'd go adventuring again, I thought it would be really smart to buy a house first so if I had to stop adventuring all of a sudden I wouldn't have to worry about it.
Well my plan hit it's first snag about 100 miles from home and about 2200 miles from Halcyon Springs. I thought I might get caught so I started driving late at night and sometime before the sun came up I must have nodded off and went off the road. The car was real messed up after that and I didn't make very good time. It broke down somewhere along the way so I had to hitchhike the rest of the way to Halcyon Springs.
When I got there it wasn't much to look at. It was very hot and very dry and there were very few buildings. I decided the saloon would be the best place to start and I saw a building with a big wooden sign that said "The Shaky Wastrel" and I walked on in. There was an older woman manning the bar and pouring a drink to a big fellow in suit.
I figured the bar tender would probably know the lay of the land so I pulled up a seat and said;
"I've come to mine gold!"
"Well you're a little late," she said giving me a confused look. "There was never that much metal here and most of it's gone anyway. Even if it weren't most of the land has been claimed by big mining operations, most indepedents are struggling to get by now. There's not any gold left in Halcyon springs"
My heart sank a little when she said it. I was a long way from home and it was too late to realize my dream I couldn't live with myself if I went back a failure.
"Now there's no need to crush the boys spirits!" The big man in the suit said. I took a minute to look him over. He was real tall and real wide and he had a big square jaw and a short scruffy beard. His suit was awful dusty and had a few little holes and frays in it. He spoke in a deep, crisp, and educated voice when he addressed me. "There's still plenty of gold out there, just that most people aren't tough enough to get at it. It takes a real hard worker to mine gold right"
"Well I'm a hard worker!" I said. "I can work just as hard as I have to."
"Well then," he said. "There's no reason you can't still get rich out here. Hey Mags," he said addressing the bartender. "Why don't you pour another for my new friend here."
She rolled her eyes a bit and poured some whiskey into a glass for me. I decided she must be a little cynical.
"Name's Garland friend, and I furnish the good people of Halcyon Springs with all the tools and knowledge they need to get rich."
"Well my name's Flint, Flint Mayfield." I replied
"Did you bring any equipment with you Flint?" He asked.
"No," I replied.
"Well that's no problem," He said. "I have a real limited stock with all the intrepid miners about but I'm sure I've got something I can part with."
"Great!" I said. "I have some money right here."
"Dandy!" He said. "But it's bad luck to talk about such things without a fresh drink, Mags would you pour my friend here another?"
I drank the rest of my drink down quick and the bartender refilled it. "What do I need to get started mining?"
"Well not so fast," he said. "First things first you need to learn how to find a good spot." He explained all the different types of rocks. Sedimentary, metamorphic, nostalgic, polypeptic, hydrophobic, and rheumetic. He told me how gold gets pushed up from the center of the earth by volcanoes and hot water and how it could really be anywhere. He said if you found some wet rocks next to some dry rocks and there wasn't a river around that meant there was an upwelling of water from underground and that meant there was sure to be gold right there. It was all really technical and I couldn't keep it all straight. He must have really liked talking about rocks and stuff because by the time he was done I'd finished three more free whiskeys.
He decided then that I knew enough about rocks and started talking about the kind of equipment I'd need. He said I needed a set of good picks, a pan, a shaker, a popper, and a locker and that was all on top of stuff like maps and compasses and a few canteens.("Speaking of, Mags why don't you pour the boy another?") He convinced me of the importance of clothes too, I couldn't really be a miner and I couldn't really find a wife if I didn't have the right look. He told me I should have four or five sets of basic mining clothes three pairs of good boots, and I definitely wanted a helmet and a few replacements in case the light went out in one. I also needed some rations and some good clean drinking water and a few bottles of whiskey to celebrate a good haul. ("Mags, I spoke of the devil but he has not yet appeared another whiskey for my friend.") I needed some vitamins and supplements too if I was ever going to keep up with the old veterans. Said it was important to stay healthy and if I was ever going to get in the right kind of shape to mine I needed something he called "Holisti-Cleanse" to purge the toxins ("On the subject of toxins let's give the cleanse something to work with, another round Mags.") out of my body. I don't recall much after that but I know he made a good case for my needing all this equipment and I was all for it and though I was in no shape to sign my name he wasn't much put out by signing it for me.
The next morning I woke up in a bed that Garland was nice enough to buy me with an awful dirty looking woman cleaning some sick off the floor near me. One of Garland's friends , a big scraggly guy with some of the most awful teeth I ever saw, told me about the details of our arrangement. Turns out I musn't have had all that much money left because it didn't even nearly cover what I owed. I thought there might be trouble but he said that we agreed I'd give him 90% of my daily earnings till the difference was paid. It sounded a bit steep but he said I was very adamant that I wanted to be out of debt as soon as possible and that this was the best way to do it. I was real disappointed when he told me that most of the things I bought had gotten stolen because I hadn't taken measures to lock them up anywhere. I was real mad about that but the man told me it wasn't right to be upset at Garland because I got too drunk to be mindful. I still had the pick and shovel and one canteen left and I decided that was all I really needed.
I spent that day mining but I couldn't find a spot where the ground was wet so I didn't have much luck. I worked all day in the hot sun digging a big hole but there wasn't anything in it but rocks. I finally found a good wet spot on what I think might have been polypeptic rocks but I never really understood Garland's whole lesson. Just as I started to dig someone got really angry with me for coming across it. There was a fat little angry man waving his arms and yelling at me from a little cave in a hillside and warned that if I didn't leave he'd kill me dead. These rocks smelled off and I suspected they may only be wet on account of he urinated on them so I didn't bother fighting him.
I came back with nothing and I was real hungry. Mags was nice enough to let me work around the bar for a little money to buy a meal with. She was nice enough and told me all sorts of stories about her younger days. Said she was a private eye in the city and a migrant worker in the low country and became a mercenary somewhere in between. She used to be an adventurer, she said. She fought pirates sailing on a merchant ship and protected a caravan from bandits with a shotgun. She bushwhacked her way through the jungle serving as an escort to a couple of scientist types and said she'd been to every country on the planet. I was too polite to say so but I think she was lying about some of her stories. She said, for example, that she spoke five languages even though there's just the four and I didn't think a woman would have much business on a merchant ship. She kept telling stories and I kept listening until Garland came in the bar.
That night Garland came into the bar and I explained my rough predicament. I asked him how to find wet rocks and he looked at me for a spell before I reminded him what he said about finding gold. It all came back to him then and he told me that I just had to look real hard and I might have to wait until the sun was just right in the sky. That made good sense, I said, because if the sun was too high the water might dry up before I could see it. He agreed that that was just what he meant. He asked me why I was tending bar and I told him I was working for Mags to supplement my wages and he replied that he'd half to take ninety cents on the dollar.
Our contract said, he interpreted it I still hadn't seen it sober, that he got 90% of my earnings not necessarily just 90% of my gold until the debt was repaid. I aksed if he could just wait till the mining got better and he told me that if he did that we'd be in breach of contract and the law may take issue with it. and went to leave but just as he was about to go it was like his jacket got caught on somehting and he stopped real fast.
"Say," he said. "Have you seen a fellow with wild red hair and a great big nose today?"
"No," I said- because it was the truth.
"No," Mags said.
Something about the way he looked at Mags made me think he suspected Mags and I said No for different reasons. He went out the door but Mags wouldn't look away from him until he was gone.
"You be real careful about Garland," She warned. "There's a scar on his neck where somebody tried to hang him and he ain't convinced me he didn't have it coming."
I felt kind of torn because Garland was real fair with me but Mags was too and they didn't seem to get along. I went to bed that night a little worried that Mags and Garland didn't like each other and that I couldn't find any wet rocks. Just as I was about to go off to sleep I realized that I might be able to solve one of my problems. That little man in the cave had red hair and he may have had a big nose though I couldn't see without getting near him. I figured if I could straighten that out maybe Garland wouldn't be so suspicious of Mags and maybe she'd soften on him in kind.
I went out to find Garland but he was nowhere to be seen so I decided to hunt down some wet rocks instead. I searched all morning and come noontime I decided to take a break. The water would dry up around then anyway so I went to a cliffside and looked around. The second it cooled off enough for the water to well up again I'd see it and I'd know where to dig. I felt pretty smart for thinking that up.
Well I sat around for a while and I didn't see any water spots. It was real quiet and warm up there and I napped for a spell and didn't really wake up until I heard a commotion.
"Victor!" I recognized the voice as belonging to Garland.
"I-I-I well I was just coming to find you Garland." He sounded more scared than mad but I knew it was the man from the cave.
"Funny." Garland said, but he didn't say it like he found it awful funny. "I've been looking for you for three days now."
"Must have missed each other is all." The cave man said.
Garland said "Yeah" but he said it like he didn't mean it. "Say Victor, if I were a man without character and I owed someone a good deal of money and I were to find myself suddenly with a good deal of money I figure I just may try to walk away from my debts and keep that money for myself."
"I suppose a man could do such a thing." Victor replied.
"You know Brad Fletcher lost a sum of gold from his site, well about three days back I suppose." Garland said.
"I ain't heard of that." Victor replied.
"Well Victor," Garland said. "I'll make this real simple for you. You're gonna take me to that gold or I'm gonna shoot you and I'm not gonna stop until you quit twitching."
I didn't hear much for a little while but then all of a sudden Garland warned him to stop messing around and then there were two gunshots. I got real still and when I peeked over the hill I saw Garland and his friend standing there with their guns out and the cave man was dead on the ground. Garland walked over to him and put a bullet in his head.
I sat there and I didn't move for hours. I had plenty of time to think and I came around to the conclusion that Victor was a thief pure and simple and he owed Garland a sum of money. Still, Garland didn't seem too much like a hero when he shot a shot man in the head. It was dark when I felt safe enough to leave and I went right back to the bar and worked till Mags felt I'd earned another night in a bed. I didn't mention anything I saw, I figured she already knew Garland was a bad man and telling her more might just worry her and it's no good to worry a woman.
I made up my mind to leave the next morning. It was real hard to sleep after what I saw but I was real tired to and eventually it balanced out. I woke up early and I left my pickaxe maps and compass and struck out for the road. I was just about to come upon them when I got an Idea. Victor didn't want to chase me off if it meant leaving that little cave he was in. There was a chance that was where he left Brad Fletcher's gold. I figured I could tell Garland and that would square up my debt but I also figured if he knew I knew he killed a man he might kill me just the same. No, I decided that if anybody was going to have Brad Fletcher's gold it ought to be Brad Fletcher but if anybody else was going to have it it may as well be me.
It wasn't easy finding my way back to the cave, particularly without my maps but I made do. I eventually came to recognize the rocks, they went Polypeptic on top of Sedimentary on top of Nostalgic and knew I was heading the right way. I came upon the cave and found Victor's treasure sitting inside. He had a some water and some dried meat, a pistol, and as much gold as you ever saw! There were some fat bags full of gold dust that looked like big meaty sausages and some lumpy bags of gold nuggets, and there was even a box with a glass top that had a great big piece of gold the size of my fist. I was real hungry on account of not eating last night so I ate the jerky and drank the water till I was full then slipped the gold into the bag with the meat and threw the canteen in there with it. I went to set out and a bullet whizzed right past my head.
"Flint!" Garland called. "I saw you up there boy! I know what you've got up there and it doesn't belong to you!"
I reached around in the bag and pulled out the pistol. I didn't dare poke my head out but I tried to shoot towards the sound. The gun didn't work and after a little bit of looking over I worked out that I had to I pull back the hammer piece first and after that it did. There was a commotion down there and a loud curse. I popped out and got ready to shoot again but I forgot to redo the hammer. I saw Garland and two other men scrambling behind some big Nostalgic rocks.
"Ain't yours either!" I yelled.
He didn't have anything to say to that. There was some whispering and the sound of someone walking off. I still didn't dare pop my head out but I through a rock out of the cave and it bounced down the cliffside. Nothing happened so I popped my head out to look and I barely caught a glimpse of Garland standing there with his gun pointed right at me before I tucked back in and a bullet bounced around the cave. I knew his game then and I sat real still. I didn't move at all and I swear more than an hour went by before I heard footsteps again.
"I got Mags here Flint!" Garland yelled. "You throw out your gun right this instant or I'll kill her!"
"If you throw out your gun he'll kill us both!"
"Shut up you miserable woman! Flint, I swear to god I'll kill her then I'll kill you if you don't get rid of that gun and come down here right now!"
"He'll do it either way Flint you stay right where you are!"
"Woman I will-!" There was a gunshot and some cursing and a scuffle all at once and by the time I screwed my courage to jump out there was another gunshot. I looked out to see Mags tucked behind a rock, Garland tucked behind another with one of his friends and the man with the bad teeth was crawling across the ground. I tried to shoot at Garland but I missed real bad and both of em shot up at me. One of the bullets bounced around and hit me in the back, it didn't go real deep but it hurt pretty bad and it made me think twice about trying that again.
"Let's settle down here!" Mags yelled. "Here's what's going to happen. You're going to back off and walk around to the other side of the hill. The kid and me are going to walk away. You can take your damn gold after we're gone and your hurt friend can tell you whether or not we took any."
"Sounds agreeable." Garland said back.
"And you're gonna leave and stay left?"
"I'm not wasting another bullet on either of you," he said. "Besides, there's no gold left in Halcyon Springs."
After Garland signaled that he found the arrangement just fine and a little time went past Mags assured me twice that it was okay to leave. I came down from the cave and went with her back to the bar. We set up in there and sat all morning with our guns aimed right at the door waiting for Garland to go back on his word. He never came through for us and we went ahead and opened up for the day. I got so wrapped up in the drama of the day I never got around to leaving. I figured since I helped with the bar I earned another night's sleep anyway.
The next day I helped some more and Mags told me a few stories and I told her about Garland shooting Victor ,I didn't have many stories but I thought that one was pretty good. She talked mostly though and she always had plenty to say. I thought it was strange that there were so many languages or that a woman could do so many things but the more she said the more I tended to believe her. I never got around to leaving then or the next day and for a while I just kept sleeping in that bed till she invited me into hers and we came to be married.
After some time Halcyon Springs dried the rest of the way up and we pulled up stakes. We went to Alaska ,which she said was America but seemed very far away, and they had gold up there too. I had better luck with gold in Alaska but we never got rich and wound up going on to Canada then Mexico then Africa and we just kept going around to places when we decided we'd seen enough of where we was. We did get back to Honorhall three times, the first time to spend a Christmas season with my family and the second and third to bury my parents but mostly we just lived wherever we happened to be.
I went to Halcyon springs to find riches, adventure, and a wife and I suppose I did well enough. It's not much of a story I guess, a con man shot at me a few times then let me go, but I always try to punch it up in the retelling and our children seem to enjoy it. If I learned anything I suppose it's that the right kind of woman can do just about anything and the worst kind of bandit doesn't wear a bandana.