Now listen here, I can talk my way out of any situation. All thanks to a penchant for abusing silver tongue magic and a lot of practice on account of poorly thought out plans of a . . . nefarious nature. But this was the first time I had to talk my way out of getting shot while I still had a noose gripping my neck.
I should recap, because honestly, I am a bit confused myself.
I had been caught steeling one too many potions of an . . . illicit nature . . . and the authorities knew of my charms, so rightfully organised all of the legal proceedings with me out of earshot of anyone but a deaf sheriff.
I wasn’t too worried none then though, like I said, I could talk my way out of any situation, given the chance—all I had to do was wait. The fools hadn’t thought to gag me for all their plans and they had to cart me past someone who could hear eventually, right? That’s what aggravated me most as they tightened the noose around my neck, because who had a chance to speak—even though my current company could hear—when being executed next to the Bandit King himself?
The crowds were out in droves, here to watch the fabled outlaw meet his end. They chanted, “The Bandit King is dead! Long live the bandit king!” They were fans of his work, really, but that didn’t stop them from coming in the masses to watch him dance the gallows jig.
The poor clerk was reading out the list of executees and their crimes, necessary official proceedings lost to the din of the crowds. They got to my name and read out my charge without much thought. As the executioner placed the hood over my head she asked for any last words—as was my right—but they too were lost in the din.
So much for talking my way out of that one, who would have thought my greatest weakness was a cheering crowd?
The Bandit King came next, and the crowds quieted to listen to his final musings. I didn’t really care for it, I would have said something much more useful.
The drums started and I sighed, grating my neck against the coarse bite of the rope. Soon, I could leave this embarrassment behind me. The dreadful beat reached its morbid crescendo, but instead of the click of the floor falling out from under me, there was a gunshot, then a scream that rippled throughout the crowds and then there was a fight all around me. The executioner cried out, someone cut my rope and carted me away.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for this, honest I was. But I still had a noose squeezing my neck as well as a hood over my head. The world was translated to me through the pinpoints of light that made it through the cloth weave, and all I could smell was my own bad breath. I was thrown over a horse like a dead deer and then was the unwilling participant of a daring chase out of town.
It was some hours before I was finally lifted off the horse and plonked down by a fire. Someone removed my hood and swore, “That ain’t our Bandit King! We got the wrong lad!”
So here I was, with a gun pointed at my head, the noose still tied around my neck. It was quiet, out in the wilderness by the crackling fire, so I had a chance to work my magic.
“Gentlemen,” I said with a smile, the stars that spilled out over the deep velvet sky trembled as my magic did its thing, “I might just be the Bandit King you need.”
“And how’s that?” Their apparent leader in the absence of the King stepped forward, pulling the hammer back on his six-shooter for effect. “Our lad is now dead on account of these nitwits, not thinking to check under the hood ‘before’ the daring escape.”
“That’s exactly how’s that.” I chuckled, concentrated my magic – this one needed a bit of work and I was tired – ignoring the bitter taste of chalky silver in my mouth, “Your band has a reputation for its smarts, I’m guessing that was the King’s doing. Well how would it look if word got out that the band rescued the wrong man? You would be the laughing stock of the criminal world. Best avoid that methinks.”
“How can we avoid it?”
“By claiming you succeeded, and letting me take on the role.”
“But he’s dead, the Bandit King is dead.”
“Yes, yes,” I stood and the band stepped back uneasily, “But no one else knows that, you killed the executioner I heard, the only one close enough in the confusion to know who was who. I can be your new leader. The Bandit King is dead,” I lifted my hands for them to cut my binds. They eyed each other, lowering their weapons as the magic silver did its thing.
The acting leader pulled out his knife and cut my binds, “Long live the Bandit King.”
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