As usual, here is your warning that this story has cursing, sex (not graphic), innuendo, and violence. It’s my Rated-R action adventure called Derailing Bedlam. This is the fourth outing (third official) for Cassidy and Lloyd, so feel free to click on one of the two covers to see how it started. Each one is 99 cents!
Ragnar Johnson sits at the head of the wooden table, his large chair placed beneath a fake boar head. As the leader of the Norsemen faction, he does whatever he can to look the part, which includes maintaining a lustrous beard. The dark red hair matches the circlet that remains on his head while the rest of his scalp has been polished to a ridiculous shine. His clothing is a bizarre mix of modern and ancient styles, the sleeveless shirt and black jeans standing in contrast to his bearskin cape and bronze bracers. A sheathed broadsword hangs from the top of his chair, but the handle is covered in thin cobwebs. Ragnar’s preferred weapon is a large machinegun that has been placed on the long table next to a large bowl of ribs that he refuses to share with his guests. Taking a long drink from a flagon of mead, the Norseman is about to belch when he thinks better of it and covers his mouth to muffle the noise.
Sitting at the other end of the table, the leader of the Egyptians tries her best to ignore her counterpart’s terrible manners. The pale-skinned woman nibbles at a date and settles for ice water, the idea of drinking with strangers making her queasy. Held in place by a scarab tiara, her brown hair falls to her shoulders where it naturally curls up. A serpent-shaped armband is tight on her bicep, the skin around it a slight green due to the tarnished metal. Uneasy with the surprise meeting, she repeatedly fixes her white dress and slips the back of her right foot out of her sandal. Like Ragnar, the tall and slender woman has her weapons on the table, the pistol carefully aimed at a stuffed bear in the corner.
“This is Ragnar Johnson of the Norsemen and Hatshepsut of the Egyptians,” Tyler says after several minutes of silence. He picks at his ribs and pretends to drink his mead, the tension killing his appetite. “I like what you’ve done with your home. Although, I can’t tell if that trophy is a grizzly or polar bear. I’m surprised you could have anything like this with those Guardians running around. So . . . Is it possible for me to have access to the supplies I left here? The Holly Sage Express is in need of repairs.”
“You don’t look Egyptian,” Katie bluntly states, her attention more on the other woman than their burly host. Patting her shotgun, she grins at Hatshepsut and silently dares her to make a move for the pistol. “Sorry, but we can tell that something is wrong here. People are in hiding and you two are obviously uncomfortable. Just wondering if it has anything to do with you claiming to lead a people that you don’t resemble in the least.”
“If you must know, my great-great-grandmother was Egyptian, but everyone on my father’s side was British. Do you wish to continue having a problem with my appearance?” Hatshepsut asks with an edge to her voice. She is taken aback by the warlord’s friendly nod, the local leader unsure of what has happened. “People call me Hat since they have trouble with the full name. I don’t see why I’m here though. Neither of us are in charge of Alexandria and it’s been that way for a year. You two are wasting your time asking us for anything. Would you say something, you hairy eyesore?”
“Good to hear that your train is up and running, Tyler,” Ragnar declares before reaching toward the businessman. Remembering that the man hates to be touched, he turns the movement into gentle pound of his fist against the table. “Sorry about that. It’s been a while since you were here and things have changed. Partially because of our deal too. People didn’t like the idea of outsiders passing through so often. Next thing I know, the ghostly witch over there challenges me for early leadership. So much for the great educator of Alexandria. Your touted intelligence and perfect memory didn’t help prevent the takeover.”
“I will admit to my mistake.”
“You damn well better.”
“As if you’re innocent in all of this.”
“What did I do wrong besides losing the fight?”
“You passed out because there was too much blood on the ground.”
“I have a condition!”
“Many, which include being cowardly and braindead.”
A shotgun blast puts a hole in the ceiling and draws all attention to Katie, who is carefully sipping at her hot tea. Impressed by how the Norseman got the drink exactly as she requested, she holds the cup up to Ragnar before nodding at Tyler. Unprepared to speak, the businessman still has a juicy rib against his lips. He takes his companion’s cue to put the food down and goes about cleaning his fingers while considering the situation. He opens his mouth to speak, but Katie stops him with a stern shake of her head. Confused by her reaction, he tries again and receives a look of derision that makes him sink into the chair. Reaching into his pocket, Tyler rubs his pocket watch and lets the silence linger for a few more minutes.
“You can’t give a suggestion since you don’t know the real problem,” Ragnar interjects with a chuckle. Finishing his drink, the large man stands and is about to draw his broadsword when he spots a fairly large spider on the hilt. “We don’t need a physical demonstration. As I said, Hat challenged me since she disagreed with you building a station here. It was supposed to be a battle of wits, which gave her the advantage. Before we could begin, a third party invoked his right to challenge for faction leadership. His name is Erik Bomani and he claims to be the perfect hybrid of Egyptian and Norwegian blood. We confirmed his paperwork with the local Librarians and he entered the contest, but he made it a physical one. Hat and I lost, which means Erik is the new mayor. He allowed us to retain our positions as faction leaders, but we have no power or influence. Did I miss anything?”
“Only the fact that Erik is a Neanderthal with the social skills of a rabid skunk,” the Egyptian leader snaps, her words dripping with venom. Drawing a knife, she grinds the weapon into the arm of her chair to calm her rising temper. “He has no interest in upholding the traditions or promoting education. Teaching anything other than combat has been outlawed. Worst of all, he refuses to stand down because he claims he is Egyptian and Norwegian. Why change the leader to the other group when the current one is a member of both? This means we haven’t had a new mayor for the last year. Alexandria is losing its cultures and turning into something ugly and scared.”
“In that case, we might be able to help each other,” Tyler says while leaning back in his chair. He calmly steeples his fingers, which stick together because of a thin layer of barbeque sauce. “My people need access to my stockpile, but I can only get access if the mayor gives me permission. Ideally, I would like for Ragnar to be in charge, but I’d like to think Ms. Hatshepsut would be willing to help me as well. What if my friend and I went to Erik Bomani and talked him into standing down?”
“You were doing so well until the bloody end,” Katie groans with her head in her hands.
“Don’t speak when you know nothing about local politics,” Hat replies as she walks around the table. Taking a seat on the edge of the table near Tyler, she does her best to smile, but the expression lingers on the verge of collapsing. “I get the feeling that your friend prefers to use violence and intimidation, but that won’t fix anything. Not unless it happens on Erik’s terms, which is not beneficial to us. If you assassinate him then the locals will assume we hired you, which means Ragnar and I lose our standing as well. Utter chaos will ensue and Alexandria could burn to the ground. So, I will gladly write you a letter of introduction to see if you can get anywhere. Would you do the same, you spineless wolf cub?”
“That didn’t make any sense, Hat,” Ragnar mentions, his mouth full of meat. Cleaning his hands on his cape, the Norseman pulls out two pieces of paper and pens that have been made out of gnarled wood. “I’ll do the same and I’m sure your people solving our problem will go a long way. Our citizens are scared because they feel like Erik is planning to start a war with our neighbors. All he promotes is violence, fear, and hate. I’m surprised we made it a year without him causing an incident with our trade partners. Return Alexandria to its true form and we will owe you, my friend. Are you still willing to undertake this quest?”
Realizing that he may have stepped into a bigger problem than he expected, Tyler looks at Katie, who can only roll her eyes and say, “This is going to go to bloody Hell faster than we can blink. I’ll get Cassidy and Lloyd.”