The Complete Doc Stovepipe’s Medicine Show
Renaissance was smack in the middle of nowhere, as far as Lil felt. She was tired of being run out-of-town after town, them taking unkindly to Doc Stovepipe’s Medicine show rolling in and fleecing the rubes out of their money. Renaissance looked like more of the same. They had passed through a sparse forest (Doc called it The Culdees), but she just wanted to keep on passing through. Home was north, past the mountain range, and for the first time in years all she wanted to do was go home.
“…and now, the paragon of deliciousness, the temptress of all men’s dreams-ladies, watch your husbands!-the cream of feminine beauty, our very own…MISSISSIPPI LIL!” Doc waved his trademark stovepipe hat with a flourish and Lil came out from behind the draped sheet to a cacophony of applause and whistles (the men) and gasps of outrage (the women). She couldn’t blame the women: she wasn’t comfortable, really, with what little she wore. Calf high laced boots, stockings, a too short flounce black skirt and a red trimmed bustier that had seen better days. Her shawl of a feathered boa protected her chest only so much. Tall feathers also adorned her hat. They gave her some shade and a prop to use, especially if there was a problem with her costume during the dance. There always was one.
Lil danced to the percussive tapping of Doc’s feet and his banjo picking fingers. He was gifted, the bastard, she’d give him that. It had just been a long time since she had loved him enough to run away with him. Lil sang, she acted in his little skits, she was flirty. All things “good” Medicine Show acts needed to be. She looked for diversion while she forced the smile that would help sell his piss water elixir. She had to if they wanted to eat tonight. Lil had other plans besides eating dinner as well.
“Not that one. Nope. OK…kinda cute… nope…she’s clinging too tight and oh, the language. Nope. Nope. Hummm...” Lil thought all along, as she scanned the men. One stood out. “Not too tall, not short at all, a worker, by the looks of him. Not one to be in a store. Good.”
While hawking, Lil sidled up to the young man-younger than she was by a good ten years, she figured-and found out his name was Gid. Gid Jacobs, farmer’s son, farmer’s hands and back and arms. But clean, no dirt under his nails, and fairly well-groomed. His mama did a good job with him. Lil approved. She felt the strength of his arm, grasping it when she “accidentally” stumbled into him. “Meet me behind the wagon after the show,” she whispered to Gid. He nodded, transfixed, as she had brushed her breast against him before passing the hat around the crowd.
Doc’s routine to seek out a saloon after a show served her well. Lil seduced the farm boy, letting him take her against the buckboard. She promised him more of the same, much more, if Gid would just do one little thing for her. Gid said he would, that he had never in his life seen anyone as pretty or as wonderful as she was. He told her he loved her.
Mississippi Lil smiled as she folded her arms around Gid, pulling him against her as he shuddered. His head drooped onto her shoulder and both of them closed their eyes, panting.
Doc saw the whole thing, out of plain sight, hiding behind a shed. The magics sparked off of his clenched fist.
Doc watched Lil and the farm boy go at it. The magics sparked off of Doc Stovepipe’s clenched fists. “Damn her!” he scowled deep inside. “Damn this Renaissance!” he said out loud, but, not too loud. He fought the urge to lash out. Now was not the time. “Soon. Very soon.“
Life on the road was getting harder. Breathable air was getting worse; domes were going up; the major roadways were closing down. Traveling in a steam powered Medicine Show was not going to last much longer. There was a chance for him to retire well off. He had a plan, but Lil was supposed to “entice” the patsy, not screw him. “Did she know? She aint stupid. Hell, I should have killed her already.”
Doc made his way into Renaissance proper. He passed by The Barking Cat and Heriot’s Pass saloons. They were both too busy, too noisy. His show drew a large crown, and he had bilked enough suckers out of the entertainment and “Magical Elixir”, and now most of that crowd was in the bars, trying out his wares.
He closed his eyes and concentrated. “HERE!” came that soft tickling throughout his head. “Here.” Doc followed the mental invite and wound up at of The Last Stinkin’ Battalion. A rat hole of rat holes. A quiet hole, and just what the doctor ordered.
He laughed at his own stupid joke as he entered, drawing the attention of the bartender. She drew Doc’s attention, and took away his breath at the same time. Long, curly red hair, green eyes, and pale smooth skin.
“You going to gawk or you going to order?” she said, folding her arms across her chest.
“Beer, whatever you have that you’ll drink yourself.”
She poured him a dark brew with a heavy head. “Renascence Brown,” she answered to his raised eyebrow question.
“Stop drooling and turn around; I’m sitting by the staircase,” came the mental tickling, much clearer this time. Doc did as told, grabbed his beer, turned, walked over, and sat down. He locked eyes with another redhead, but this one was not jaw dropping sexy. A scraggy bearded, scared and craggy mien faced him. “Doc,” Digger said out loud, tipping his head.
Doc asked, “How did you contact me ‘that’ way? The magics were forbidden out here. I thought ‘long sending’ was a lost practice.”
“Obviously, it’s not lost. Just few can hear it now. You can. That’s why I called out.”
Doc was meeting fewer and fewer of those with the knacks. “You sent me the info. We set up camp near the Gauche. I dowsed the deposits the idiots here missed in the mines. Lil is getting the male sacrifice right now.”
Digger just stared at Doc. “As one of those idiots, I might take exception to that remark. I’ll let it pass, as I know reaching out to you was the right thing to do.” Digger closed his eyes, then opened them abruptly. “Drink up. They’re almost here.”
They weren’t long in waiting. The door opened. Mississippi Lil held onto Gid, arms entwined. Gid was stealing glances at her, smiling. Lil saw Doc and dragged Gid over.
“Here’s the love of my life,” Doc said out loud, leaning over to kiss Lil on the cheek.
“Liar,” thought back Digger, smiling.
Gid looked at both men, and did not like the way they felt. Something was very wrong here. Lil held onto his arm in a bear hug way. He liked the way her body pressed into his, bringing back instant tactile memory of their recent coupling, but he did not like that she brought him to Doc Stovepipe. He especially did not like Digger, who all in Renaissance knew as trouble, and Gid had stayed out of his way.
Gid invoked a silent protection chant. He saw Lil look at him just then. “Huh?,” he thought. “She felt that. Lil’s more than she lets on.” Gid tried to put some space between him and Mississippi Lil, but she was not letting him. Physically she held onto his arm. Magically, she had bound him. Gid felt it, deep.
She whispered in his ear: “When you came, you came to me completely. Don’t doubt that for a second.” Out loud, she said to Doc and Digger: “He’s mine, so let’s get this over with.”
Digger laughed a dry dirty guffaw and got up. Doc glared at Gid, then rose and put on his Stovepipe hat. He picked up his mug of Renaissance Brown Ale and downed it in one swig, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his coat. Gid noticed this, disgusted, hating the man even more, which he thought would have been impossible.
Lil had told him of the sexual degradations Doc had imposed on her. Gid took great affront to all she told him. He knew she wasn’t chaste, and Gid wasn’t a choir boy himself, but he never once forced himself on anyone, never beat a woman, never treated one like a slave.
When he looked at her, first on that stage, and then later, he thought he felt what love at first sight must be like. Lil was nothing like the girls he knew in Renaissance. There weren’t that many his age, and he hadn’t felt much of anything about any one of them. Lil was different, and he had hoped…
Gid was compelled to follow along, side by side with Lil, behind Digger and Doc. He tried to yell out to Amy, the bartender, or any of the other few patrons he knew in The Last Stinkin’ Battalion, but his mouth would not work. “Shhh, lover…don’t get all worked up. Remember, Lil has a plan all of her own,” she said into his ear, as the group made their way through the darkened town streets.
The foursome make their way out of the town limits and wound up at the base of the Main Gauche mining hills. The opening to Heriot’s Pass had been boarded up; Doc and Digger were undoing that now, removing a few planks. Enough for all of them to squeeze into. Gid noticed Digger had a lantern which he had not noticed before; they must have had this here already, and planned out, he thought alongside the inner chants he hoped would give him some chance of escape. Gid was kicking himself for skipping out on too much of his trainings.
They came to an opening, where four tunnels branched off, and Gid noticed the chalk markings on the rocky ground. “Damnation, Doc’s a Schiavonaist,” he wailed inside, finally finding a fear he held off. Digger came and extracted Gid from Lil’s deathlike embrace, putting him dead center of the markings…but not before she had passed him something cold and hard into his hand.
Lil caught Gid’s eye and nodded, mouthing to him “Use it well!”
Heriot’s Pass smelled like rotten eggs, and Gid was nauseous. Fear roiled in his guts. “Schiavonaist bastards” he thought, trying to move, to no avail. Whatever was magicked was done well. Gid saw that Doc had taken off his hat and coat and handed them to Digger (who tossed them on the ground). He was advancing on Gid, rolling up his shirt sleeves. Doc was mumbling, and it was hurting Gid. For salvation sake, he looked at his hand, which was clutching whatever Lil had given him. “A compass?“
Doc smiled; a very disturbing one. His intelligible murmuring became a series of yelps, yowls and ancient foul sounding language. The air started to whip around the cavern, all feeling the growing thrusts, but none more so than Gid. Doc closed his eyes, feeling the pleasure of letting himself go, his magics free. He was forcing the farm boy to his knees, and Doc was taking extra pleasure after what he saw…”Now, Digger!” he thought-sent. “NOW!”
Lil had her eyes glued on Gid and did not see Digger come upon her. He hosted her off the ground, picked her up over his head, and was getting ready to toss Lil. She had no time to compensate and free herself, but she had something already in her hand: an open Capsule of Dragon Scale Dust. She flung it in Digger’s face just as he hurled her towards Gid. She landed hard, and the magics swirling hurt more, but she got satisfaction in hearing Digger scream a death wail.
An awful humming filled the cave crossroad. Lil was sprawled at Gid’s feet, both unable to move. Both beginning to feel their insides churning.
Lil croaked: “Open the damned compass, Gid. Open the back cover.”
A small glass dagger was lodged in the back. “Talisman of the Triad! Huh! ..what do I…”
“Palm it,” Lil said, tears startng to stream. She felt herself being crushed, a hot liquid running down her legs, and she saw blood on her legs. “Palm it, damn you! How did you know?”
“Later,” Gid had trouble saying. He palmed the 2″ blade into his open hand. It started to grow as it landed. Growing to its full length, it began to glow and emit a sound that was the counterpoint to the noise growing from beneath them. The sword levitated and circled the pair three times, twirling its tip into the ground, breaking up the chalk outlines.
“GO!” whispered Lil, forcing her focus onto the compass and its once hidden weapon. The blade shot forward and found its sheath in Doc Stovepipe’s chest. Surprised, he clutched the handle and screamed.
“Close your eyes, Gid.”
They both did, and the glass dagger lit up like twelve years of fireworks. Gid felt heat, and he ducked down, covering Lil with his body. It died down as quick as it started, and with the pressure off, they were able to stand. Gid was amazed they were whole. Doc Stovepipe was gone, Digger’s body was a charred husk, and all the chalk markings…like nothing was ever there.
“What did they want?” Gid asked, once they were free from The Pass.
Lil looked up at the sky. “The Moondust Stone is way down below. Powerful magic, worth a lot in money and for power. He betrayed me, just as I was gonna do the same to him. You stood up well, farm boy,” the last said, with a smile.
“Huh! Thought it was just folklore, nothing more. You betrayed me,” he said with some menace.
“I gave you the compass. I knew you’d do well. Knew it,” and she flung herself, this time, to Gid, kissing him hard and with real meaning. Down they went, in a fumble and tearing of clothes, and they yelped and yowled accordingly, together, and sometimes in harmony.
Gid woke alone that morning; Mississippi Lil gone and Doc Stovepipe’s steam driven Medicine Show Wagon with her. He tended to his studies after that, learning what he needed to protect the Moondust Stone. His father was surprised he knew where it was hidden, as only the Waykeeper (his dad) was supposed to know. Gid trained hard, ready to take on the mantle, when the time came.
A bit more than nine months after “the incident”, Gid’s mother found a baby girl outside their door. There was a note: “Gid, meet your daughter, Chrystal. Lil (no longer Mississippi)”.
Gid loved his girl to pieces, and as she grew she returned it. She met her mother one time…but that’s a tale for another day.
Cough. “Daddy, I’m not tired. I want a story. PLeeeeeaaazzzeeeee,” George wheezed, looking up at his father.
“Shhh little one. You know they are lowering the air volume for the night. It’s late, Georgie, it’s late. Can I tell you one tomorrow?”
Looking as miserable as he felt, George signed “No.”
Pauldyne shook his head and sighed at the insistence of his only son. He looked over at the sleeping/living area where Bethel was already asleep, cradling Sara. Why did we have another child in this horrible world, he thought. Because we love her, as we love George, he answered his own question. As hard as it was to live in Renaissance Dome 7, it was made better by his family. Tolerable.
I’m tired. We’re all so tired, he wanted to say out loud, but, Georgie wouldn’t understand it, and Bethel understood it all too well.
He nodded OK to his son, and using DSL he signed a tale of the past…
Before the domes, before The Great Devastation, there was the town of Renaissance, and it lived in the open air. Yes,little one, open, clean fresh and, most importantly, free air. There were real trees, grass, fresh flowing water, things that FLEW in the skies…yes, no domes! Sky. My great great grandfather told me about this just before he passed on. He told me he had had a great adventure-well, one among many-shhh..I’m getting to it. Shtill, remain shtill.
There used to be three main roads leading into Renaissance; now we only have the balloon drops from dome to dome. Gid…his name was Gid. One day, along the Kris trade route, came an entertainment drawn by an engine of steam. It was led by a Doctor and, from what Gid said, the most beautiful, but wicked, woman in the whole world.
Soon after meeting her, this woman (no, I don’t know her name; he would not tell me her name. He said it was like a curse, now) brought Gid to the top of Minor Gauche, which is Dome 3 area now. She taught him some little magics there, and through that night and a day Gid learned, and learned well. Then, she told him why she taught him this. Gid said he was angry, to be used in such a way, but this woman, this beautiful horrible woman…he loved her.
Gid said there was a great fight soon after, with magic sparking off this way and that, causing not a small amount of damage…
“Georgie?” he said, even though he knew his son was asleep. He had been drifting to begin with, and with the air pressure lowered, it had only been a matter of time.
Pauldyne lay down, between his son, wife and daughter, and closed his eyes. The evening dome lights flickered over his skin like a caressing dance of light. The warmth they gave off felt good, and he slowed his breathing rate for maximum rest, as he had practiced for too long a time.
He sighed, coughed twice, and knew Georgie would want the whole story when he woke in the morning. In the morning, he thought, as he shut down for sleep.
For those of you tuning in for the first time, or who don’t follow me religiously (why not? I’m a nice guy and I won’t bite…unless you want me to ;) ): This posting puts all of my The Rule of Three Blogfest (#REN3) stories together. Well, the Doc Stovepipe tales. There are a few more, and I need to finish that thread. Soon. Real soon. You might also notice that in the postscript, Pauldyne tells his son a story that is not wholly reflected in the main part of the DSMS tale. Shhhh…spoilers. ;)
As a co-host of the writers challenge, I just had a blast not only playing in my own world (see Amlokiblog: Writing n A Shared World) but reading over 60 others playing alongside of me. So many different takes, and it was good.
This was such a success. We (Damyanti Biswas, Lisa Vooght and JC Martin) have decided to run the next phase of this blogfest again in May 21012. There is now a brand spanking new dedicated blogpage, Welcome To Renaissance, for all things #REN3 (and yes, we are on Twitter AND have a #REN3 paper.li published daily).
AND….we will be working on at least one volume of a Renaissance eBook. All proceeds will go to charity. News on that will be coming, soon.
Speaking of eBooks…have you purchased my very first eStory (short story category) from Trestle Press? Flash Over, only $ .99!! The story is available on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.. You can read Flash Over on your PC, MAC or other device. They have plenty of options beyond owning a Kindle or Nook. If you go, rate it, tag it, read it (first, natch).