Paulette Noble
Crafter & Tale Weaver

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An excerpt from

A Virtual Reality
Part Four: Thwarted Intentions

“In the morning, you and I shall go to this shop and acquire the key,” he stated. “On horseback, we will easily catch up to the rest after we have completed our errand.”

“What if he still refuses to sell?” Suzanne asked.

“We will not allow him that option.” Joshua then bid us a good night and left.

Early the next morning, I met Joshua, Jonas Relovan, and Sergeant Linius Barnell in the stable, the horses already saddled and ready to go. “Shall we, my lady?” Jonas gave a half bow and an exaggerated wave of his arm toward our steeds.

“Good morning, gentlemen,” I said as I approached Carson’s mare. I assumed he had assumed my usual position of driving one of the wagons until we returned. “Shall we go shopping? I have a quaint little shop in mind.”

As it was early, traffic was light and we crossed town in short order. When we arrived, the shop door was locked and the drapes were pulled. The sergeant and I waited in the front of the building while Joshua and Jonas reconnoitered the rear. It wasn’t long before the front door opened. We dismounted and found the shopkeeper in a robe behind the counter with Jonas next to him. Joshua had opened the door for us.

I looked around quickly then settled my eyes on the obstacle to our mission. “Are you ready to sell?” I dispensed with pleasantries.

To all our surprise, he laughed. “You cannot intimidate me into selling you that carving.”

“You will be well rewarded, more than you deserve, but when I leave here, it will be in my possession.”

He cackled harder. “No, madam, it will not.”

Jonas pushed the much smaller man against the door jam and held him there. “Quit laughing, fool!” he growled. “Sell her the trinket she desires.” With a small shove, he released him.

The small man reached up and wiped his eyes. “I can’t, even if I wanted to.”

Suspicious, I asked, “Why?”

“Someone else paid the price I set,” he chuckled. “I don’t have it anymore.”

My stomach lurched. I hadn’t double checked that the key was even still there. I checked then—it was gone. In fact, it was moving away from the town, fortunately, in the same direction we were headed.

“Who did you sell it to?” Joshua asked.

“I don’t know,” the small man grinned. “It was dark.” He burst out laughing again, laughing so hard he leaned over to catch his breath. “The door is that way.” He waved his arm toward the front of the shop. “Kindly see yourself out.”

“I hope your underhanded humor keeps your belly full, sir.” I nodded my head to the men. “Be aware that you just threw away one thousand gold.”

The laughter died immediately. “You don’t have that kind of money,” he stammered.

Jonas laughed. “Yes, she does.” He slapped the small man on the shoulder and walked around the counter and then toward the front of the shop. “See those saddle bags out there? All four horses have four bags each of which is full of gold coins to fund our journey. A thousand coins is nothing to her.”

We left the devastated man sobbing alone in his shop. Barnell and I waited at the end of the block while Joshua and Jonas retrieved their horses and met us there.

“Jonas Relovan, you are cruel,” I laughed.

“He deserved it.”

“I just hope he doesn’t pass along your lie and some desperate fool tries to rob us,” Barnell commented.

Jonas sobered immediately. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“That’s why he’s the sergeant, Jonas,” I said, riding close enough to lean a little and pat him on the arm. “He thinks of those things.” Even Joshua smiled.


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