I had a little extra time to finish up the next installment in my Log Horizon fan fiction project. This is starting to take me a little more time. There are things in the light novels and manga that were not in the anime, so I am trying to represent things as accurately as possible. There is not a lot written or represented on Plant Hwyaden or its members in Minami. This means a lot more research and a little speculation on my part. In any case, the adventures of Gideon Hawkmoon continues on his first mission in Yamato. Here’s Part Six of A Tale of Log Horizon—The Gunslinger, a Duke and a Princess.

* * *

Part Five Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintains the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. After a year-long journey across the ocean and four continents, Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, reunited with his wife, Henrietta of the Crescent Moon Alliance. Plant Hwyaden took advantage of the Round Table’s absence to once again attempt to kidnap high-level adventurers for Jered Gan’s experiment. Luckily, Gideon stepped in to stop them with the help of his sister, Celeste, and the Eagle Mountain Guild from North America. Using a new invention called a Fairy Ring Chronometer, they navigated the teleportation circles to arrive in Yamato. Now, as a new alliance was forged between the Round Table and Eagle Mountain, Plant Hwyaden decided to negotiate for peace while continuing their dark schemes behind the scenes. Gideon was given his first mission to see if this conference between Westlande and Eastal was possible.

* * *

Gideon and Henrietta flew through the air on the wings of the giant golden eagle. It took them an hour to reach the Palace of Eternal Ice at Maihama. They continued to discuss the mission ahead of their arrival during the flight.

“So, what kind of resistance can we expect from the nobles, darlin’?”

“Well, Lord Cowen has always been straightforward and honest in our negotiations,” Henrietta explained, raising her voice over the howling wind. “Some of the other nobles have a higher degree of self-interest, so they will only act if it’s to their benefit.”

“I see, yellow-bellied cowards worried about their own pocketbooks, am I right?” Henrietta sighed at his lack of manners when it came to nobility.

“Gideon, dear, please refrain from calling the nobility names like that while we’re negotiating with them. To quote your sister, ‘you attract more bees with honey than vinegar’ or something like that.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Celeste. Alright, Henrietta, I get what you’re laying down. I’ll behave like a tamed pony while we’re here. Besides, I wouldn’t want to start a tussle on our honeymoon.”

“Honeymoon? What makes you think this is our honeymoon?” Henrietta asked, shocked by his absurd assumption. “If you’re going to take me on a honeymoon, it’ll be something more romantic, not a near-death experience.”

“Well, darlin’, I think this is romantic,” Gideon explained. “I can’t think of anything more like a paperback romance novel than being with the one you love, fighting side by side for the benefit of our family and friends. I’ll be spending tonight in the Palace of Eternal Ice with my wife. You can’t get any better than that!”

Henrietta couldn’t fault his logic, as misguided as it was. She held on tight and leaned her head against him, comforted that they were together and that was all that mattered. “I guess you’re right.” She cooed. “But still, I would prefer a honeymoon somewhere private and out of the way.”

“Oh, you mean like that weekend we spent at the spa resort on Yakushima Island. That was a helluva weekend, honeybell. I never realized how flexible you can be.”

Henrietta blushed bright red before smacking Gideon for his comment. “Just when I think you’ve grown up, you slip back into your old self. No wonder you and Naotsugu are friends.”

“Now, Henrietta, I am nowhere near the level of repressed panty perversion that is Naotsugu. I merely affirmed my appreciation for your many mental and physical talents,” he teased, earning him another smack from Henrietta. They both suddenly broke out in laughter. It was silly little moments like this that brought them closer together.

Soon, the duo arrived at the Maihama and the Palace of Eternal Ice. It was an enormous castle built by the ancient Alvs on a lakebed of magical ice that never melted. It glittered like a jewel in the sunlight as the massive structure was surrounded by mystical ice pillars.

Gideon couldn’t believe it when he saw the palace. It was different seeing this in person than it was in the game. He circled around the castle, causing a bit of a stir at the sight of a giant eagle circling overhead. Soon, he spotted Isaac waiting on a small platform near the main entrance.

The guildmaster of the Black Sword Knights was a regular in Maihama, assigned to protect Prince Itherus, the next heir of the Cowen family. After a failed assassination attempt, the Black Sword Knights relocated to Maihama to safeguard Itherus and train the Knights of Maihama.

Gideon landed his giant eagle on the open area with a furious downdraft. While other knights braced from the gust of wind, Isaac stood there unfazed. He walked over as Gideon helped Henrietta down from the saddle.

“So, this is the famous giant eagle you get from the Treasure of the Sierra Madre raid. Damn, that’s one helluva prize you got there, Gideon. I would love to take on that raid with the Black Sword Knights.”

“Well, you can always take a raiding party over to the North American server, Isaac, whenever the fairy rings are aligned. I’m sure my sister would be honored to host you for that event.”

“Yeah, maybe when the kid is older. I can’t take any chances with Prince Itherus right now,” the guildmaster explained. “Anyway, let’s get you two settled in before I take you to see the old man.”

Gideon removed the saddle and sent his golden eagle off before the group headed into the palace. The sheer size and opulence of the castle intimidated the American cowboy. There was nothing like it on the North American server that could compare. Yet, despite all the pomp and circumstances surrounding their arrival, Gideon hated the clothes most.

He wore the traditional uniform of the Round Table Conference, a long blue coat with an ascot emblazoned with the symbol of the Round Table—a crossed sword and a wrench over a circle. It was pretty fancy and tight around the collar for someone like Gideon, but he put up with it for Henrietta’s sake.

As they walked through the palace to their meeting with Lord Cowen, Gideon fussed with his collar to no end, tugging at it to give him some breathing room. “Dang nabbit, this thing is tighter than a girdle before church on Sunday,” he remarked before Henrietta smacked his hand.

“Quit fidgeting, Gideon. There’s no need to be nervous. Lord Cowen isn’t going to roast you alive. He’s just going to ask you some questions. So, be polite and be yourself . . . Well, not completely yourself, but a more dignified version.”

“Thanks, darlin’, that makes me feel much better,” Gideon sassed. “How do you do this, Isaac? Meeting with the Duke of Maihama all the time?”

 “I drink a lot. That’s what gets me through these little sessions,” Isaac remarked. “I don’t let it bother me.” Henrietta stepped in before Gideon could reply, wagging her finger in his face.

“No, you will not be drinking anything except tea during these negotiations,” she warned. “All I need is a little alcohol loosening your tongue and watching as you open upon an unsuspecting audience.”

Gideon laughed when he realized how right she was. That’s one of the reasons he loved her so much . . . They knew each other inside and out, so much so that they kept one another in check. He hated these backroom politics, but he always did what he set out to do, so there was no backing down.

Isaac knocked on the door and opened it, stepping aside to let Henrietta and Gideon go in first. He stood there like a towering monument to freedom. His white hair and beard showed age but did not diminish his strength. He wore regal robes with adornments and a crown signifying his station as the Duke of Maihama and Lord of the Freedom Cities of Eastal—High Lord Sergiad Cowen. Surprisingly, waiting with him was his eldest daughter, Lady Saraliya Tsuleu-Arte Cowen, Lenessia’s mother and a regular advisor to her father. She appeared just like her daughter to Gideon but older and more refined like a vintage wine. Her beauty and intelligence were unmatched amongst the nobles of Maihama, who knew better than to cross swords or wit with her.

However, her presence in this meeting did concern Henrietta. Well, this just got complicated, she thought. If Lady Saraliya is here, we’re in for some serious negotiations. I hope Gideon is up for this.

After introductions and a flurry of opening questions, Gideon regaled the two about life on the North American server. He spoke at length about the essential guilds, the People of the Land, how the regions are governed, and what royalty existed. The sorcerer gunslinger followed Henrietta’s instructions to the letter. He was clear, concise, and used very little of his western vocabulary. Gideon even gave them a slight overview of life in Russia, China, and Korean servers from his travels.

Lord Cowen listened intently while Lady Saraliya seemed only mildly interested as she drank her tea. Henrietta didn’t know what to make of her ignorance. It was totally out of character for the woman she heard so much about from Lenessia. Gideon, however, saw right through her act. He knew a “snake in the grass” when he saw one. She was just waiting for her chance to strike.

“So, if I understand you correctly, this Fairy Ring Chronometer of yours has its limits. Your sister’s guild can’t be here at a moment’s notice if Westlande decided to invade,” Lady Saraliya queried.

“Yes, ma’am, your right, but the chronometer was only a temporary solution. Einstein is already working on a more permanent method of transportation,” Gideon said. His response caught everyone off-guard, but none more than Isaac and Henrietta.

“And what is that?” Saraliya asked, fixing her gaze at Gideon.

“While they were in Akiba, Einstein conferred with the bigwigs in Roderick’s Merchant and the other crafting guilds. They discussed the possibility that a fairy ring could be used as the basis for a permanent gate between servers, like our intercity transport gates across Yamato. It’s just a theory right now, but they are working toward a practical application.”

“So, it seems the issue still remains. The Freedom Cities of Eastal cannot rely on this alliance between the Round Table Conference and Eagle Mountain for security concerns, can we? Without those assurances, why would we even consider entering a peace accord that can’t be supported by our allies from Akiba?”

“With all due respect, Lady Saraliya, that’s about as crazy as a rattlesnake at a square dance,” Gideon replied, causing Isaac to spit out his drink. Henrietta started to apologize for Gideon’s remark. However, the cowboy held up his hand to stop her as he continued to speak. “You’ll never gonna have that perfect scenario where Westlande doesn’t get an opportunity to backstab the Freedom Cities. Those tin hustlers are as crooked as a dog’s hind legs.”

“I understand what you’re trying to convey, even with your own unique way of saying it, but that doesn’t convince me to support this conference.”

“And no one here is saying you should,” Gideon interrupted. “Hell, I wouldn’t trust them either. They’re about as reliable as a freight train on a dirt road. But . . . I have to wonder why they’re asking for this little hoedown? Neither me nor Eagle Mountain alone didn’t get their panties in a bunch . . .” He paused before realizing his improper way of communicating his point. “Pardon my French, Lady Saraliya . . . I meant to say it caused them to swallow their pride and sue for peace. There’s some ulterior motive behind this, and the only way to find out is to play along.”

“You mean to accept the invitation and use it to get more information and see where it leads us,” Lord Cowen interjected, nodding his head to the idea. “That’s a promising concept, but I doubt the nobles would support letting adventurers negotiate for them.”

“The Round Table Conference would leave the negotiations up to the representatives of the Freedom Cities of Eastal,” Henrietta finally spoke up. “We would only take part in areas where adventurers are concerned.”

“We’ve already established a mutual security and trade partnership,” Isaac said. “All we’re trying to do is prevent future attempts on Itherus’ life or attacks on cities like Saphir from happening again.”

“Besides, what will you do if they perfect this deep sleep drug?” Gideon concluded. “If they can take out adventurers that easily, then you’ll have to rely on your own forces to battle both Westlande’s army and the adventurers of Plant Hwyaden. Are you willing to take that chance?”

Lady Saraliya nodded her head in approval, agreeing with the uncharacteristic logic coming from the western cowboy. “I must say, Master Gideon, even with your peculiar backward way of speaking, you are quite capable of giving a compelling argument.”

“Well, thank you, ma’am. My mama says I can be slow as molasses in winter at times, but I always tell the truth, straight from the heart. We need to make this little conference happen if only to find out what shenanigans those rascals are planning.”

Lady Saraliya finished her tea before she stood up to leave. All the men rose to their feet politely to see her out. “Hang onto your husband tightly, Henrietta; marry him again if you have to. He’s definitely one of the good ones,” she said. Henrietta smiled and nodded in agreement. “I’ll let you explain things to the nobles, father, but you can tell them that I approve of this plan. We need to find out exactly what Westlande is planning, and this conference may be the best way to do that.”

After Lady Saraliya left, Lord Cowen personally thanked everyone before the party broke up. “It may take a day or two to get the consensus of the nobles,” he began. “In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy your time in Maihama.”

“Thank you kindly, Lord Cowen, sir. I genuinely appreciate the hospitality,” Gideon said. “It’s my first time at the Palace of Eternal Ice, so I intend to make the most of it.”

Lord Cowen gave a silent nod before leaving the room. He was not one for many words. While some may see it as rude, it was simply his way. On the other hand, Isaac just took the opportunity to pour himself another drink.

“Well, that went as well as expected,” Isaac said before gulping down the liquid. “I thought your little sass of Lady Saraliya put a kibosh on the whole thing.”

“Yes, so did I,” Henrietta interjected. “You pulled out of that quite masterfully, Gideon.”

“Well, shucks, darlin’, it was easier than tracking an elephant in the snow,” he laughed it off. “Sometimes, you need to show people what will happen if they don’t act rather than if they do act. Attending these negotiations is no skin off their backs, but ignoring them could cost a lot of intel. They just needed to see that.”

“Yes, but now it’s up to Lord Cowen to get the nobles on board. All we can do is sit and wait,” Henrietta fumed. “I’ll contact Master Shiroe and tell him how things went.”

“If you got time, Gideon, I’d like you to come down to the training field and teach the Knights of Maihama about combat against sorcerers,” Isaac asked. “My Black Sword Knights have been focusing on their fighting skills, so a little training with a magic caster like you would help.”

“Sure, Isaac, I’d be happy to show them a few tricks to look out for,” Gideon happily exclaimed. He was itching for a chance to get out of these fancy Round Table clothes and into his leathers.

“Just don’t overdo it too much, Gideon. We still have a lot more ‘honeymoon’ left . . .” Henrietta left with a sly grin on her face. Gideon laughed at her little joke, but it confused Isaac.

* * *

Henrietta woke up from her slumber, reaching across the bed to curl up next to her husband to take away the chill of the night air, but he wasn’t there. His absence startled her awake as she sat up and looked around for him. She spied him across the room, sitting on the windowsill as he stared out across Maihama. The moonlight illuminated his muscular frame, deep in thought, sitting there in simple pajama pants. She got out of bed and pulled on her robe before saying anything.

“Gideon, are you alright?”

“Yeah, darlin’, sorry if I woke you,” he replied as he stared out the window.

“It’s fine, can’t you sleep? What time is it?”

“Oh, about two in the morning. Naw, I’m fine, just a lot on my mind.”

Henrietta sat down across from him, curious about what he was looking at. The palace and all of Maihama glowed in the moonlight. The eternal ice scattered around the castle, and the warm lights from the various buildings added to the sparkle. You could hear sounds of song and drink as the taverns were still active with customers.

“I know you’re worried about heading out to Minami, confronting Plant Hwyaden, but we’ll be alright. Even Westlande has to abide by the honors and courtesies concerning messengers.”

“Aw, that crazy bunch of wahoos doesn’t bother me, Henrietta,” Gideon answered, brushing off her concern. “To be honest, something happened today to make me see this world differently.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I was working with Isaac in training the knights of Maihama, I couldn’t believe how dedicated and driven those greenhorns were. This was just a game to us, and we were having fun, living it out; but for the People of the Land, it’s life or death. They aspire to be what we are, but to be honest, I would love to live the simple life that they do.

“Then I look out at this Palace of Eternal Ice,” he continued. “I’ve seen some amazing things since the Apocalypse . . . The Cathedral of Czar Romanov in Russia, The Gates of the Golden Dragons in Korea, and the Steps of Heaven’s Blessing in China. This world is so beautiful, seeing it here rather than through a computer monitor. I don’t think we realize how lucky we are to be here.”

His eloquent heartfelt words impressed Henrietta. She rarely heard Gideon speak this way. He was indeed coming into his own. The men of both worlds—the two she fell in love with—merged into one.

“Henrietta, let’s get married!” Gideon announced. His question surprised her as both peculiar and unnecessary.

“Gideon, darling, we are married, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“No, I mean to get married in this world. I never gave you the big wedding I promised you, and I think it would show everyone our commitment to each other and our life together in this world. I love you, darlin’, and I want to give you everything you deserve. Besides, it would be a first in Akiba.”

Henrietta considered everything he was saying. It would be nice to have the big wedding she’s always wanted, but it was also a lot of work and money, limiting things. Gideon could see her trepidations on the subject, so he appealed to her other side.

“Let me put it to you this way, darlin’. . . A big outdoor wedding under the White Tree. Now, picture Akatsuki and all the other cuties in Akiba lined up wearing bridesmaid’s dresses of your choosing!” That’s all he had to say, and Henrietta went crazy, thinking about all the adorable girls in ruffled dresses. In all the excitement, she nearly passed out. She hugged and kissed Gideon repeatedly, agreeing to his wedding proposal.

“Absolutely, yes, I will marry you! Anything to see my adorable little Akatsuki, Serara, and Minori in cute bridesmaid’s dresses. Oh, and Marielle as my maid of honor, will absolutely be thrilled. You could make Naotsugu your best man, oh, Marielle would love that too, and . . .”

“Whoa, hold your horses, darlin’. . . Let’s postpone planning things until we get back to Akiba,” Gideon said, bringing her back to her senses. “We can surprise everyone with our announcement once we return. For now, let’s focus on our mission.”

Henrietta saw the truth in his words and calmed down. She caressed his face as if she was falling in love with him again. “And here I thought you were just a prairie dog from Texas,” she joked. “You have such a kind heart, husband of mine. I am so glad you came back to me.”

She kissed him, a tender, loving kiss that flowed with the passion they shared for life, love, and each other. Gideon pulled her close and held onto her tightly, laying her head against his chest. “So am I, darlin’. . . so am I!”

* * *

It didn’t take long for the nobles to agree to the peace conference with Westlande. Knowing that Lady Saraliya was behind this meeting convinced them to support the proposal to hopefully hash out the differences between the two feuding territories within Yamato. Gideon and Henrietta took off on his giant eagle with the signed agreement in hand. They headed south, past the Titan Arsenal and around Mountain Kurama, to the adventurer’s city of Minami. Gideon landed far enough outside the city to not announce their arrival too soon. Plus, he didn’t want to give Indix and others in Plant Hwyaden a chance to prepare.

They walked a couple of miles until they reached the north gate into Minami. Both adventurers from Plant Hwyaden and Westlande knights manned the checkpoint, keeping tight security on both adventurers and People of the Land entering and leaving the city. Gideon looked around and didn’t see KR waiting for them like Shiroe said he would.

“Well, ain’t this is some bad juju,” Gideon remarked. “That rustler KR is nowhere to be seen. This could get a little dicey, Henrietta darlin’.”

“Well, let’s try simple diplomacy first,” she advised. “If that doesn’t work, we can always use the ‘call to home’ spell to take us back to Maihama.”

“Yeah, but that would extend our trip even longer. We could use the inter-city transport gate to enter Minami, but . . .”

“But they could be waiting for us there too,” Henrietta replied. “Like you say, Gideon, ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t.'”

“Hell’s Bells, darlin’, it’s unlike you to swear like a sailor on liberty,” Gideon joked.

“Well, that just shows you how serious this is,” Henrietta said. “Now, let me do the talking, okay?”

“I always do, honeybell. Remember to whistle up those bard incantations once we enter the city, just like I showed you.”

“You don’t need to repeat your instructions with me, Gideon, darling. You should know that I’m always one step ahead of you.”

Gideon tipped his hat, acknowledging her superior intuition, as they moved toward the checkpoint. The adventurers around the gate consisted of a guardian, assassin, a druid, and a summoner, overall level 60 or higher. The guardian, a wolf-fang in heavy plate armor smoking a cigar, held up his hand to stop them as they approached.

“And just who the hell are you people? I’ve never seen you here before,” he growled.

“We’re representatives of the Round Table Conference from Akiba with a message from the Freedom Cities of Eastal for Princess Nureha. If you please, we would like to . . .”

“Look, sweet cheeks, I don’t care who you are, but you don’t just waltz up here and demand to see Princess Nureha,” he interrupted, blowing smoke. “Now, why don’t you and your little cowboy get outa my face before I. . .”

Before he could say another word, the guardian was impaled with icicles on his feet, causing him to fall backward, grasping his bleeding extremities in pain. Gideon used his silent casting oral art to fire off his Icicle Impale spell before bringing his foot on the armored guardian’s chest and drawing one of his six-shooters. He made sure the wolf-fang saw the threat before he spoke.

“First off, hoss, you need to learn some manners. So, I expect you to apologize to my wife for blowing your nasty cigar smoke in her face and insulting her like you did,” Gideon began. “If you don’t, I will send your fat ass to the cathedral seven ways from Sunday and twice on Tuesday, understand?”

Henrietta shook her head in her hand. She appreciated her husband standing up for her, but not at the cost of this mission. The other adventurers at the gate got ready to fight until one of them finally recognized who they were dealing with. “Holy cow, that’s Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America! He’s here in Minami?”

Upon hearing his name, the other adventurers quaked with fear, but the wolf-fang guardian laughed at it. “I’d put away that peashooter, cowboy, unless you think you can take all of Plant Hwyaden yourself?” Gideon didn’t say a word. He just cocked the hammer on his gun and stuck it right between the eyes of the knight. His sly grin quickly disappeared.

“Do I look like I’m afraid of you? I ain’t afraid of a bunch of lily-livered cowards, especially with a bard as talented and beautiful as my wife by my side. On my way to Yamato, I took on 200 gnolls crossing the Mountain of the Monkey King on the China server with only a guardian and a healer in my party.”

Henrietta perked up when she heard Gideon say that, but she felt more relieved when she saw KR walking toward them. “If I were you, I wouldn’t even think about attacking Gideon,” KR said, interrupting the fiasco. “He has an itchy trigger finger and an oral art that can’t be beaten.”

“Well, looky here . . . If it ain’t my number five favorite summoner,” Gideon remarked, holstering his weapon and stepping off the massive guardian. “How you doin’, KR?”

“Much better than you, it seems. Not very smart attacking our gate guards as soon as you arrive in Minami,” KR replied. “And when did I drop to number five? I thought I was a solid number two?”

“You were, but I haven’t seen you since our Tea Party days, so things change,” Gideon explained. “And I didn’t start this little bunkhouse brawl. Your gate guards insulted Henrietta and weren’t expecting our arrival.”

KR glared at the wolf-fang guardian when he heard that revelation, but it was his dragon companion, Ga-Tan, who reacted. She looked like a little girl with flowing red hair, and dragon-fin ears, wearing a simple white dress. However, she was an ancient Garnet Dragon who liked to lash out at humans.

“Didn’t you idiots get the warning to be on the lookout for messengers from Akiba?” she screamed, kicking the wolf-fang guardian in the shin. It nearly broke his leg as he hopped around on one foot in pain. The other gate guards cowered behind him, afraid of KR’s tiny companion.

“We’re sorry! Please don’t hurt us!” they all shouted in unison, bowing their heads while begging for forgiveness.

“Now apologize!” Ga-Tan shouted, threatening to kick out his good leg.

“Sorry! I’m sorry, please forgive me!” the wolf-fang guardian said, hoping to avoid another assault from the little dragon girl.

“Sorry about that. Things can get jumbled in situations like this,” KR apologized. “It’s good to see you again, Gideon, although I must be losing my touch on information gathering. I had no idea you were married.” KR politely bowed to Henrietta.

“Well, we kept that out of the game until the Apocalypse happened. Henrietta, this is KR, one of my friends from the Debauchery Tea Party days. And you must be Ga-Tan. Nice to meet you, little lady!”

Ga-Tan smiled at Gideon as KR held out his hand to Henrietta, but she completely ignored him. She was instantly enamored with Ga-Tan as her cute and cuddly quirk quickly kicked in.

“Oh my God, you are the most adorable little dragon girl I have ever seen!” she screamed. Unlike some of the girls in Akiba, Ga-Tan smiled brightly. She appreciated and reveled in the adulation being heaped upon her. “What is this rag you’re wearing? It’s absolutely unbecoming for someone like you to be wearing a plain white dress!”

“That’s what I keep telling ‘Mr. Cheapskate’ over here, but he won’t get me anything else to wear!” Ga-Tan said, pointing to KR.

“You’re a dragon. What more do you need?” he countered before Henrietta pulled out an assortment of frilly, ruffled dresses from her magic bag. She always carried a few with her, just for emergencies like this.

“Oh, that will not do! Here, try one of these on for size. They will look absolutely stunning on you!” Ga-Tan loved the dresses as Henrietta helped her try them on. KR looked befuddled at Gideon over what was transpiring with his dragon companion.

“Gideon, what’s going on? What is your wife doing to Ga-Tan?”

“I wouldn’t fret over it if I were you, KR. It’s times like this that I just let Henrietta do her thing. You know the old saying . . . ‘Happy wife, happy life!'”

Ga-Tan finished changing, and Henrietta showed her off, now wearing a pink princess-style dress with white ruffles, complete with a big bow in her hair. The other adventurers gathered about “oohed and ahhed” at the new and improved Ga-Tan. KR just hung his head in shame, embarrassed by his frilly dragon companion. Gideon chuckled under his breath before patting his friend on the shoulder.

“Why don’t we head in now, KR, before this gets worse,” Gideon said sarcastically. KR simply nodded his head before leading them inside the city walls. As the group made their way through the city, they definitely turned some heads—both Gideon in all his western regalia and Ga-Tan in her poofy pink dress. KR could only groan in embarrassment at the comments about his dragon companion looking like a miniature pageant queen. Gideon could see his friend suffering, and he enjoyed it a little bit, but the sights around Minami disturbed him even more.

It seemed like a military state rather than an adventurer’s city to Gideon. The fun and laughter that filled Akiba were not present here as if the joy of life had been removed for order and discipline. It was not what Gideon expected of people like KR and Kazuhiko to be involved with this place.

“I can’t believe you’re wrapped up in these shenanigans, KR. It’s not like you to go over to the dark side,” Gideon remarked.

“It’s not as bad as you think,” KR responded. “We maintain order and ask for a little obedience and cooperation. Is that bad?”

“It is when you sacrifice freedom for security. Look, partner, I’m from the place where freedom is a guaranteed right, endowed by our creator, for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Sorry, but I just don’t buy it.”

“Then why are you here, agreeing to these peace negotiations?” KR asked with a sly grin. He was trying to get under Gideon’s skin and doing an excellent job. Still, the sorcerer gunslinger was having none of it.

“I declare, KR, you wouldn’t have enough power to blow your nose if your brains were dynamite,” Gideon lashed out. “To quote the great John Lennon, I’m here to ‘give peace a chance, but if I find out your little Ten Seat Council is up to no good . . .”

He drew one of his guns and cocked it. “Well then, to quote the legendary John Wayne, ‘a gun that’s unloaded and cocked ain’t good for nothing.'” He lowered the hammer before twirling the gun and slung it back into his holster. KR swallowed hard once he realized why Shiroe sent Gideon on this mission. In many respects, he was a lot like Shiroe—bright, looked at the big picture, and not easily manipulated—but Gideon had the firepower to back that up.

“Unless you want the Royal Guard sending your sorry ass to the cathedral, I suggest you keep your weapons holstered, cowboy,” Kazuhiko said. He slowly approached Gideon with two other members of the Wolves of Mibu.

“Well, look who’s got a bee in his bonnet, airin’ his lungs like a flannel mouth hazin’ a tenderfoot,” Gideon insulted. He walked over and got right in Kazuhiko’s face. The assassin stared at him in the eye, not intimidated by the sorcerer gunslinger. Everyone held their breath at this confrontation on the streets of Minami.

“I hope you didn’t come here empty-handed,” Kazuhiko warned. “That would be seriously detrimental to your well-being.”

“Come on, Kazuhiko, you know I am never empty-handed,” Gideon replied before he pulled out a bottle of whiskey from his saddlebag. Kazuhiko looked at the bottle carefully.

“Kentucky Bourbon?”

“Is there any better?” Gideon handed the bottle to Kazuhiko before the assassin took his hand in friendship and smiled. “It’s good to see you, Kazuhiko!”

“You too, Gideon, you too . . .” Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as the two friends started laughing and exchanging pleasantries, especially Henrietta, who feared the worst. Kazuhiko looked over at her and gave a polite bow. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Henrietta. Gideon’s told me a lot about you, and you are definitely everything I expected and more.”

Henrietta smiled at the courteous respect coming from the elite assassin of Plant Hwyaden. “Thank you, Master Kazuhiko,” she replied, bowing politely. “Unfortunately, Gideon has told me very little about you or your friendship.”

“There’s not much to tell, darlin’. . . It involves an appreciation for fine whiskey and baseball,” Gideon replied with a pat on the back. “Last time Kazuhiko and I ran into each other was when the Texas Rangers were playing the Hanshin Tigers in an exhibition game.”

“And if I remember correctly, the Tigers beat them handily 6-to-3,” Kazuhiko reminded Gideon.

“You know as well as I do that exhibition games are stage follies for the fans,” Gideon snapped back. Gideon seemed closer to Kazuhiko than he was toward Naotsugu. As the two argued semantics, Henrietta could see why these two men were such good friends.

“I hate to break up the reunion, but we’re expected upstairs,” KR reminded them. The two finished their squabble to move back toward their destination, but not before Kazuhiko noticed Ga-Tan in a frilly new dress. He wanted to laugh but was reserved.

“Nice dress, Ga-Tan. KR must be going all out to keep you happy.” Kazuhiko’s comments made the little dragon girl smile as she twirled about in her new dress. On the other hand, KR hung his head in shame at the continued humiliation.

* * *

The members of the Ten Seat Council waited patiently for the arrival of their guests from Akiba, but their patience grew thin. They gathered in the council chamber as soon as KR informed them the messengers had arrived thirty minutes ago. They even sent Kazuhiko to find out what was delaying them, but he had yet to return.

Indix impatiently looked at the tiny watch that hung from a chain around her neck. She wanted to get this over as quickly as possible, but their lack of punctuality earned them her ire. Indix would make sure they understood that before they left Minami.

It also irked her that KR didn’t tell them who these messengers were. Was it Shiroe or someone else from the Round Table Conference? The lack of information was troublesome for the second seat on the Ten Seat Council.

“What is taking them so long?” Mizufa Trude complained. The red-haired warlord strummed her fingers impatiently across the arm of her chair. She was itching for a fight, and these messengers would soon face her wrath if they kept her waiting any longer. “I don’t give a damn about these negotiations. It’s a waste of time.”

“Calm down, Mizufa. The princess and the senate agreed to broach these negotiations with Eastal. We will follow her orders,” Roreil Dawn said in his soft-spoken voice. The cleric was the Captain of the Royal Guard in Minami and one of the few nobles from the People of the Land in Plant Hwyadenn. He was loyal as the day was long, but solely to Princess Nureha.

“I agree with Mizufa on this. It does seem like a waste of our time,” Nakarunado exclaimed. The large wolf-fang guardian and former guildmaster of Howling commanded Plant Hwyaden’s army. In contrast, Mizufa Trude commanded the Army of Westlande. Both of them preferred fighting over talking. “Let’s fight it out and let the battle decide the ruler of Yamato.”

“It’s not that simple, Nakarunado,” Indix interjected. “There are too many variables for a simple fight. We must apply caution for the time being. These ‘talks’ will allow us to gain further insight into the relationship between the Round Table Alliance and Eastal. I doubt it runs as deep as the bond between Westlande and Plant Hwyaden.”

“You can be sure of that,” Zeldys proclaimed. The Ritian cleric was fond of strategy and saw the upcoming conference as a bold move by Princess Nureha. “Still, one has to wonder what, if these representatives of the Round Table will be up to our standards in Plant Hwyaden.”

“I assure you, Zeldys, that these low-life adventurers from Akiba are no match for anyone on the Ten Seat Council or Plant Hwyaden,” Indix replied.

“Oh, I beg to differ, Indix. From where I’m standin’, you’re just a mudsill dragging a yellowbelly into the daylight,” Gideon interrupted as he stepped into the room. The council chamber went quiet except for the click of spurs on the floor as the sorcerer gunslinger walked in with Henrietta. His presence quickly enraged Indix, his southern twang like nails on a chalkboard to the usually reserved second seat of the Ten Seat Council.

Indix rushed Gideon, drawing one of her silver knives as she aimed for his throat. Her advance halted when Henrietta stepped in front of her husband with an arrow nocked in her compound bow. Indix stopped in her tracks as she stared down the length of the shaft as a perturbed Henrietta glared back at her.

“Now, Indix, is that any way to greet an old friend?” Gideon joked, which angered her even more. Henrietta, on the other hand, was more diplomatic about the situation.

“Is this how the Ten Seat Council treats royal messengers, or would you rather we go over your heads directly to the Westlande Senate?” Henrietta questioned, keeping the draw tight on her bowstring. Indix snarled, realizing she had no choice but to back off. As she stepped away, Henrietta lowered her bow. Gideon stood there and smiled through the entire exchange.

“Hiding behind women will not enhance your already deplorable reputation, Gideon,” Indix remarked. Gideon scoffed at the insinuation.

“First off, Indix, my reputation is as clean as a Baptist preacher at revival,” he began. “Second, I am not hiding behind anyone. Henrietta is just a little overprotective of me. Wives are funny that way.”

“Wife? Really?” Indix replied, shocked like some of the others in the chamber. “I’m surprised that you found someone to put up with your outrageous behavior. Still, I guess even cheaters need love.”

“Gideon is not a cheater!” Henrietta insisted. “He understood the system and used it to his advantage as a player, nothing more.”

“Exactly, a cheater . . .”

“See, there you go again with your rambling balderdash about me cheating,” Gideon retorted. “Why don’t you ask Quon there about it. He officiated many of those disputes you refer to as ‘cheatin’ in my favor when he was a gamemaster. Ain’t that right, Quon?”

Quon slowly stirred from his peaceful rest to the stares of the entire room bearing down on him. “Look, don’t drag me into this. That was long ago, and my bosses approved all my decisions.”

“Look, I’m not here to be a hellion in the stew. Indix has had a burr up her girdle about me since our Tea Party days . . .” Gideon began until Indix abruptly interrupted him.

“You were never part of the Debauchery Tea Party!” she shouted.

“No, I was not an ‘official’ member,” Gideon replied using air quotes. “But I remember someone needing my help on the Island of Sleeping Times.”

“Kanami asked you to join in that raid when Yuko couldn’t make it, not me,” Indix interjected.

“Do you really want to keep rehashing the past, Indix?” Kazuhiko inquired. “Gideon is here for a reason, so let’s get on with it.”

“I actually have a couple of questions for Gideon Hawkmoon,” Princess Nureha said as she finally entered the chamber. She sauntered up to Gideon, swaying seductively as she stepped into him. Henrietta didn’t appreciate how close and intimate Nureha was to her husband. Still, she tolerated it for the sake of this mission. Indix gruffed at the situation but relented, just to Gideon out of Minami as quickly as possible.

“First, why did Shiroe choose you to deliver this message? Intimidation, perhaps?”

“Not really. I doubt anyone here would find themselves intimidated by little ole me,” Gideon confessed. “It was more of a mutual understanding to clear any doubts about the true intent of this conference.”

“So, you have your doubts, or does Shiroe?” Nureha queried as she continued to circle Gideon.

“Well, you see, princess, my pappy always told me to keep skunks, lawyers, and bankers at a distance,” Gideon said, confusing and insulting some of those in the room. “But honestly, I wanted to see things for myself . . . what’s going on in Minami. I mean, ya’ll be actin’ like someone stole your rudder. I’m curious as to whether that’s intentional or plain reckless.”

“I see . . . And have you reached a conclusion?”

“Not yet, but from what I’ve seen so far, you can keep your little paradise to yourselves. This place is creepier than a buzzard on a hearse,” Gideon extolled. “I’m a firm believer in freedom, which people in Minami seem to have very little of.”

“People are free to do whatever they want, as long as it benefits the rest of Plant Hwyaden,” Nureha added. “Perhaps I can change your mind with a little wager.”

“Oh, what do you have in mind, princess?”

“You’re the number one PvP in all of Elder Tales, so let’s see if you live up to your reputation,” Nureha said. “I want to see you fight one of the Ten Seat Council. If you win the match, I’ll accept these negotiations without any reservations or conditions.”

“And if your person beats me?”

Nureha laughed as she leaned into Gideon, dragging her delicate fingers across his lips. “Then you will agree to join Plant Hwyaden,” she said. Her proposal shocked everyone, especially Indix and Henrietta, who both shouted simultaneously.

“Absolutely not!”

It was Gideon’s turn to laugh under his breath at the leader of Plant Hwyaden. “I’ve got to say, Nureha, you’re a pistol-packin’ petticoat, ain’tcha?”

“How dare you speak to the princess that way!” Roreil Dawn angrily shouted as he leaped to his feet to defend his guildmaster.

“Cool your jets, hoss. That was a compliment to the princess,” Gideon explained. “She’s not the pampered priss I thought her to be. You’ve got fire water running through your veins, Your Highness.”

“So, do you accept my challenge?” Gideon thought about it for a moment. He knew it was a ploy to trap him into joining Plant Hwyaden, and Shiroe would have his head if he lost. So, Gideon knew he couldn’t lose.

“Alright, Princess Nureha, I accept. So, who will it be? Indix? Kazuhiko?”

“No,” Mizufa Trude said confidently as she stood up. “That task is mine, adventurer!” Gideon sized her up, remembering what Chief Nyanta told him about his fight with the warlord general during Operation Red Night. For one of the People of the Land, she was a formidable fighter, capable of holding her own against any adventurer. Gideon smiled at the challenge.

“Okay, Red, I accept!”

* * *

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Log Horizon fan fiction, The Gunslinger vs. The Warlord, to see the Gideon Hawkmoon’s fate in Yamato. And you can catch up on the entire story on my Fan Fiction page.

Watch City Steampunk Festival will turn gears and heads in Waltham, Massachusetts, May 7

With the Easter holiday weekend, I’m postponing the next installment of my Log Horizon fan fiction to let you know about an upcoming book signing event. I’ll be in Waltham, Mass., for the Watch City Steampunk Festival on Saturday, May 7, from 10am to 5pm on Waltham Commons, next to Waltham City Hall at 610 Main Street. The event is FREE and open to the public, rain or shine.

“Steampunk” is a literary and artistic movement that combines elements of Industrial-Revolution-era history and fashion with modern technology, science fiction, and whimsy. “What did the Victorians think the future would look like, and what if that’s the future that happened? What if everything that H.G Wells and Jules Verne wrote about came true?” said the Festival’s lead organizer, Melissa Honig.

This year’s event will feature multiple stages with music and performances; childrens’ activities; historical presentations; food trucks; and over 60 vendors bringing unique wares to Waltham the day before Mother’s Day. The Festival’s finale will feature rock band Celtica Nova. Just listen to them—bagpipes, violins, and rock n’ roll—they are amazing!

I’ll be there with my 2021 Firebird Book Award winner for Steampunk, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart, as well as my books in the Forever Avalon fantasy book series. If you’re in the New England area, please stop by and say hello, buy a book, and be transported to a world of magic and machines. It’ll be a great time for all!

And just a little programming note, I will have the next chapter of my Log Horizon fan fiction next week. In the meantime, you can catch up on the story in its entirety on my fan fiction page!

# # #

Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.

Part 5 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger’s First Mission

Thanks for your continued support on my pet project. I had one thought to clear up . . . Where does this story take place in the Log Horizon chronology. Well, it’s definitely after Season 3, The Destruction of the Round Table Arc, since we don’t know what happens next. As an author, this is what’s called “creative license” with a storyline. I didn’t want to try and rewrite what has already been done as that muddies the water too much. In any case, I’m about halfway through this story, and its growing on me. Without further adieu, here is Part 5 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger’s First Mission.

* * *

Part Four Recap: In the world of Elder Tales, more than 70,000 Japanese players found themselves trapped inside the world of their favorite MMORPG. In the adventurer’s town of Akiba, the Round Table Conference maintains the peace amongst the guilds calling this city home. After a year-long journey across the ocean and four continents, Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, reunited with his wife, Henrietta of the Crescent Moon Alliance. Gideon settled in Akiba, including opening his own forge so her could start making weapons again. But all that was interrupted when Dolce of the West Wind Brigade rushed in with a cry for help. They were ambushed by Plant Hwyaden, with three members drugged and kidnapped. With the Round Table in Suskino, it was up to Gideon to formulate a rescue. Akatsuki rushed off to stop them from leaving while Gideon went to get some help from an unlikely source . . . The Eagle Mountain guild from North America.

** * *

The mood inside the Ten Seat Council chamber soured with every word spoken by Jered Gan and Rezor Ginta. Indix sat quietly at her desk, strumming her fingers together as she absorbed the detailed report. Her silence added to the rage emanating from Indix as her eyes bulged and turned blood red while she stared down at the two. Rezor felt the pain of failure coming from Indix and the others in the room.

“This Gideon Hawkmoon was the cause of all these problems,” Jered Gan concluded. “He is as bothersome as you indicated, Indix.”

“Which was why I recommended you cease your experiments, for the time being, Jered Gan,” Kazuhiko interjected. “Once Gideon came into the picture, and the purpose of your deep sleep drug discovered, any aggression toward Akiba and the Round Table would be met with force.”

“Which is why I needed the Wolves of Mibu with me!” Gan countered. “If you wouldn’t have neglected your duties . . .” Before finishing his sentence, Kazuhiko had his blade drawn and under the elderly elf’s rather pronounced chin.

“You do not tell me what to do, old man!” Kazuhiko warned.

“That’s enough; sheath your blade, Kazuhiko!” Indix ordered. He glanced over at her before stepping back and sheathing his katana. “As for you, Jered Gan, I thought I gave you specific instructions to stay away from the guilds in Akiba. You could have gone after those idiot Odyssey Knights or some other traveling adventurers. Yet, you specifically chose to disobey my orders and go to Akiba.”

“I told you, Indix, that I need high-level adventurers to perfect my elixir. Only level 90 or higher will suffice, and the best supply outside of Minami is in Akiba.”

“And while that cheating dime store cowboy is there, you will stay away from Akiba! He will interject himself into our affairs at every opportunity. Now, we have the Ezzo Empire AND his pageant queen sister and her guild to contend with!”

“Lady Indix, you mustn’t blame Master Gan, he . . .” Rezor started to say, defending his master, but he was quickly silenced when Indix threw one of her silver knives into his throat. He grabbed his wound, gasping for air and unable to speak.

“You are not part of the Ten Seat Council, nor did I ask for your opinion, Rezor. Now get out of here before my next blade silences you for good!” Rezor pulled out the blade, dropping it on the floor as he grasped his wound tightly before he rushed out to find a healer to aid him.

“That was uncalled for, Indix! You cannot assault my personal guard with . . .” Gan ranted before she cut him off, pulling another blade out to threaten him.

“Would you like the next one between your beady little eyes?”

Gan shut up immediately, knowing her threat was real. “That’s enough, Indix!” Princess Nureha shouted as she walked down the broken escalator steps into the room. “We cannot focus on what happened; rather, we must deal with things as they are.”

Indix huffed at the puppet princess, interrupting her and taking over the council meeting. She used Nureha and her popularity to maintain control of the masses, but she grew in power. The nobles of Westlande split their support between Indix and Nureha, which infuriated her. Still, she knew when to fight back and keep quiet, which was one of those times for the latter.

“I told you to keep your research to a minimum distraction, Jered Gan. We want to win over the rest of Yamato through subterfuge, not outright attacks. If we win their hearts and minds, we win the war,” Nureha explained.

“Yes, but Princess Nureha, I . . .”

“Your deep sleep drug was never meant to be a permanent solution to the adventurers of Akiba, only a precaution against those who refuse to side with us.” Her logic and rule over Plant Hwyaden were absolute, so Jered Gan bowed politely as he backed away, realizing his argument was over.

“She sure told you, old man,” Quon smartly snapped but not before Jered Gan repeatedly whacked him on the head with his cane. The sixth seat of the council took his beating, too tired to fight back, apparent by his lackluster appearance and bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. All he wanted to hear was a call from a GM that never came.

“I, for one, would like to know how the Eagle Mountain guild arrived in Yamato from the North America server?” Nureha asked. The silence in the room showed their ignorance until KR finally spoke up.

“They used a device known as a Fairy Ring Chronometer to calculate the exact coordinates for a jump through a series of fairy rings from South Angel to Akiba,” he explained. “Apparently, one of their guild members developed it shortly after the Apocalypse.”

This revelation shocked everyone, mainly the adventurers in the council. “That’s impossible. The timing of fairy rings was controlled through detailed cheat sheets and changed with every lunar cycle,” Indix retorted. “How could one person put all that information into a single device?”

“Well, we are talking about Dr. Roberta Copernicus, the one they call Einstein. She’s a genuine rocket scientist from NASA. She was one of the smartest people ever to play Elder Tales, even before the Apocalypse. Imagine what someone like her is capable of doing in this world?”

“And how can we get our hands on one of these chronometers, KR?” Nureha asked.

“As far I can tell, she only made four: one for herself, her guildmaster, the deputy guildmaster, and one for Gideon,” KR answered. “Celeste Hawkmoon likes to keep tabs on her big brother.” His information-gathering skills were impeccable, so they knew it to be accurate.

“That would benefit us if we could get our hands on one,” General Mizufa Trudy noted. “It would make it even easier to invade territories across Yamato and beyond.” As a warlord and commander of Westlande’s army, she was always itching for a fight.

“So then, the best way to get a look at one is through Gideon Hawkmoon,” Nureha surmised.

“And how would you do that, Your Majesty? Hmmm? Invite him to Minami?” Indix rebutted sarcastically. Nureha smiled slyly at Indix. Her second seat in the guild really didn’t know how devious and cunning Nureha could be at times.

“That’s exactly what we’ll do . . .”

* * *

Following the incident with Plant Hwyaden, the Eagle Mountain guild members were treated to a heroes’ welcome in Akiba. The People of the Land and the adventurers were highly interested in the guild from North America. The West Wind Brigade offered to play host to the members of Eagle Mountain to show their appreciation for saving their guild members. The Round Table Conference even gave them their own private space in the guild hall to accommodate them whenever their guild members visited Akiba in the future.

Since they had time to kill before the proper alignment allowed them to return to South Angel, they spread out amongst the people of Akiba to give them a little southwest flair. King took to the stage in various restaurants and taverns around Akiba, letting his style of music speak for itself. On occasion, even Isuzu and the other bards joined in, adding some new music for the People of the Land while bringing down the house every night. Even Rudy tried to get in on the act as he admired and replicated King’s style into his wardrobe, much to Isuzu’s chagrin.

Veronika was right there with King, but not for support. Instead, she tried to outdrink, outmuscle and intimidate every man in Akiba. Veronika always enjoyed showing off her prowess with the sword. Still, she also loved to demonstrate her feminine wiles by seducing every man possible to satisfy her voracious appetites. Her ample assets, held up in a revealing corset, kept many men’s attention. The single men of Akiba appreciate her seductive ways. At the same time, the women did everything possible to keep their boyfriends and husbands away from her. Even Marielle attempted to hide Naotsugu to keep him out of her grasp.

Einstein kept busy at the crafting guilds—Roderick’s Merchant Guild, Marine Agency, and Commerce Street 8—by aiding them in the research and development, from improvements on their ships and engines to reworking the flavor texts and working to improve the defenses around Akiba. She also made sure to teach Gideon how to read his chronometer so he could navigate them without any hiccups. Sir Wayne was always right by her side as her guardian and protector. It was evident by his choice of armor who inspired his avatar. Many of the younger kids, like Touya, tried to get him to say famous catchphrases just for fun.

Brother Tate took his time in Akiba to spread the message of peace, love, and the power of positivity. He preached to anyone who would listen and gained a small following of clerics and even a few Kannagi to continue his message in Akiba after he left. Shiroe feared a “cult-like” atmosphere around Brother Tate. Still, Gideon assured him that the cleric was merely taking his professional life into his gaming one. Tate was a motivational speaker in the real world, helping people from all walks of life change their mindsets to achieve their goals. In this new world, he had even more challenges with people living with depression and the fear of being stuck here forever.

Celeste found herself torn between her official duties as a guildmaster and her hobby as a lover of all things cute and adorable. She found Akiba crowded with an abundance of cute and cuddly individuals—from Akatsuki and Serara to Ashlynn and Mikakage—so much that she felt impaired by the level of cuteness all around her. Even Princess Lenessia found herself a target of Celeste’s overactive affection. Without the help of Tom Redwood, who constantly reminded her about her duties as the guildmaster, she never would have gotten anything done. It took a whisper from Tom to keep her focused on the tasks at hand, from getting things situated in their new guild space to formalizing agreements with the Round Table Conference.

Gideon took the time to get caught up on things from his friends in Eagle Mountain about everything that happened back in the states. It also gave Henrietta a chance to know her sister-in-law and make new family bonds. She really didn’t have any close family to speak of outside of Gideon, Marielle, and the rest of her guild. Getting to know Celeste was a new experience for her, and she wanted to take advantage of every moment possible.

By the end of two weeks, various members of the Round Table Conferences and their guilds escorted Eagle Mountain to a fairy ring near the outskirts of Akiba to begin their journey home. They were parting ways with new friendships, insights, and relationships.

Celeste had quite a difficult time letting Akatsuki go. She even tried to put her into her own magic bag. Sister-in-law or no sister-in-law, Henrietta was not about to Celeste leave with her Akatsuki. For her part, Akatsuki was actually hanging on to Celeste by her leg. “You know, Akatsuki, I’m a little hurt. You put up more of a fuss with my affections than you do with Celeste,” Henrietta remarked.

“That’s because you’re not the number one assassin in Elder Tales,” she remarked. “You’re only married to her idiot brother.”

“You know, Akatsuki, you’re slowly moving down from my number four assassin right out of my top ten with remarks like that,” Gideon replied.

“Oh, don’t listen to him, my adorable little Akatsuki. His rating system is so skewed and one-sided, it isn’t really a good judge of character,” Celeste added as she hugged Akatsuki again.

“Keep talking, sis, and you’ll lose your number one spot to Leonardo.” Gideon’s remark caused his sister to huff at him.

“You would pick that frog over your darling sister? How rude, Jedidiah!” Before Gideon could snap back at her, Einstein interrupted their little quarrel.

“Guildmaster, it’s time to go!” she shouted, closing her chronometer and tucking it away before heading through the fairy ring. Celeste gave one last hug to Akatsuki before turning to Henrietta.

“It was great to finally meet you, Henrietta. Do your best to keep my big brother in check,” she sassed one last time at Gideon. “And I’ll bring some adorable outfits for you next time we come through, sweet little Akatsuki!” she said as she turned to leave. Before entering the fairy ring, a deluge of water dropped out of nowhere, smacking her squarely on the head. She spun about and glared at Gideon, who smiled and tipped his hat as Celeste slipped and fell backward into the fairy ring. As usual, he got the last laugh on his sister.

Everyone looked at Gideon, mouth agape, wondering how he pulled that off. There was no incantation or action on his part. He didn’t even snap his fingers like usual. It was a mystery indeed.

“Gideon!” Henrietta exclaimed.

“Dude, how did you . . .” Naotsugu started to ask, but Gideon simply smiled and walked away. Everyone stood there, scratching their heads, wondering how he pulled that off.

“My lord, how did he do that?” Akatsuki asked Shiroe, who only laughed at the situation.

“Man, he’s good . . . scary good.”

“What do you mean?” Akatsuki queried.

“Gideon was always someone who could manipulate the system to his advantage,” Shiroe explained. “That’s why so many players don’t like him. They called him a cheater.”

“But he doesn’t cheat, does he?” Marielle asked.

“No, he finds ways in the system to turn things to his advantage through countless hours of research and trial and error, like the foxfire bombs he created,” Shiroe continued. “He may act like a backwoods cowboy, but he’s actually quite clever.”

“So then, how did he douse Celeste with his Rainmaker spell?” Tetora inquired.

“If ya’ll need to be up to snuff, I’ll tell you. It’s my oral art,” Gideon interrupted. He’d been listening to their conversation the whole time and decided to let them in on his little secret. “My overskill is called ‘Silent Casting’. . . A little wrinkle-bob lets me cast my spells without an audible chant or activation sequence.”

Oral Arts, or Overskills, were unique to each individual, depending on their class and skills. Something like Silent Casting was an efficient and powerful tool for a sorcerer. Everyone was impressed with his ability.

“That’s amazing, Gideon,” Shiroe exclaimed.

“Yes, but as impressive as it is, husband, to douse your sister like that is completely uncalled for!” Henrietta admonished.

“Hey now, I’m just paying back that little wag-tail for the prank she pulled on me in high school,” Gideon recalled. “That little hussy put skunk oil in my cologne right before my senior prom. She completely ruined my date with Cynthia Parks. I smelled like a skunk for weeks. No girl would come near me for the rest of my senior year.”

While some of them felt sorry for Gideon and understood his predicament, others couldn’t help but chuckle under their breath. On the other hand, Henrietta walked over and touched him lovingly. “Well, I, for one, am happy she did that,” she said. “If it weren’t for Celeste and her little prank, you might be married to Cynthia Parks instead of me.”

Gideon appreciated her sentiment and realized she was right. Then, Henrietta grabbed his ear out of nowhere and gripped it tightly. “But from now on, darling, let’s reserve your oral art to combat and not stupid pranks, shall we?” she said, twisting his ear hard. He screamed in pain and immediately acquiesced to her demands.

“Okay! Okay! Whatever you say, darlin’!” he cried before she finally let go. Gideon may be a total badass with his reputation as a sorcerer gunslinger and the number one PvP in Elder Tales. His wife, however, had complete control over him with a simple twist of his ear.

“Master Shiroe!” The sudden appearance of Misa and Reize interrupted their amusement.

“Misa, Reize, what’s wrong?” Shiroe asked.

“Princess Lenessia needs to see you right away,” Misa explained, huffing.

“She received a message from His Royal Highness, Prince Utena Touri Saiguu of Westlande,” Reize added. “The Holy Empire of Westlande wants to hold negotiations with the Freedom Cities of Eastal to bring an end to the hostilities. Prince Touri offered to host the negotiations in Kyo.”

“For real?” Naotsugo questioned.

“But why would Westlande reach out for peace negotiations?” Tetora added.

“It sounds like their tryin’ to saw a tumbleweed with that yarn,” Gideon interjected. “Do you believe them, Shiroe?”

“I don’t know. It may be a trap, but we have to take a chance if it means peace between Westlande and Eastal. Besides, I trust Prince Touri.”

In the wake of the House of Saiguu’s dwindling political power in Westlande, Prince Touri thought of a way to unify Yamato and bring peace to the warring nations. He offered a title of nobility to Ains, the guildmaster of Honesty and founding member of the Round Table Conference, and his hand in marriage to Princess Lenessia. This would solidify his power in Eastal peacefully, forcing the Senate to stop their advances and power struggles to restore the Holy Empire of Westlande to glory. Fortunately, the Princess decided against marriage and sided with the Round Table, so an election was held to determine control of Akiba. The Round Table prevailed, and both Ains and Prince Touri departed for the Lake of Nio in Westlande, gracious even in defeat.

“Let’s see what Lenessia has to say before deciding,” Shiroe added as the group headed back to Akiba. “Plus, we’ll need assurances from her father, Lord Sergiatte Cowen, and the other nobles of Eastal before we can proceed. It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.”

“That’s why I leave all the politics to you, Shiroe,” Gideon replied. “Give me a straight-on fight any day over these backroom shenanigans.”

“Same here, pal, same here,” Shiroe said as they all laughed about it on their way back to Akiba.

* * *

Gideon pressed on in his work at the forge while at the same time training his apprentice. Touya was working on his first weapon, hammering away at the anvil. It was a simple kunai—a small throwing dagger with a circular pommel—but it was his first attempt at forging a blade. Touya tried not to rush it, precisely as his master instructed, so he carefully took his time.

“Watch your angle, Touya. You don’t want to flatten out the bevel you just made on the other side of the blade,” Gideon instructed as he pumped the bellows for his apprentice. He wanted to make sure the firepit was nice and hot when he needed it.

“I will, Master Gideon. This is not as easy as watching you forge a blade.”

“Time and patience are the keys to being a good bladesmith. You’ll learn that the more you work in the forge.” Gideon liked being able to pass on his knowledge to the next generation. In the past, others were too intimidated by him to even approach him for a question or help. It was much easier in this world than when it was a game.

“Hey, Touya, looking good!” Naotsugu remarked as he walked into the forge.

“Thanks, Master Naotsugu. I’m really trying!”

“What can I do for you, Naotsugu ole buddy?” Gideon asked. “Do you need something repaired?”

“Nah, I just came by to remind Touya of our training this afternoon with the rest of the guild,” he reminded the junior member of Log Horizon.

“I didn’t forget, Master Naotsugu. I just wanted to finish this kunai before we headed out.”

“No worries, little man, I know it’s hard to please two masters in two different disciplines,” Naotsugu smiled with a wink and a thumbs up.

“Remember what I said, Touya; time and patience run the forge,” Gideon added. “If you rush one for the other, you might have a bad blade. Now, go cool your metal and start grinding your edge.”

Touya ran off to do as Gideon instructed him while the two friends caught up. “So, what’s the word on this peace conference? Is it actually legit?”

“Seems so. Shiroe heard directly from Ains that Princess Nureha and the Westlande Senate are pushing for this to happen,” Naotsugu explained. “I think your little stunt bringing Eagle Mountain to Yamato put the fear of losing everything in them.”

“Yeah, but I don’t trust Nureha, Indix, or any rascals in Plant Hwyaden, even if KR and Kazuhiko are with them.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot how close you and Kazuhiko were,” Naotsugu recalled, thinking back to their days in the Debauchery Tea Party.

“Not close, Naotsugu, just drinkin’ buddies like you and me,” Gideon explained. “Kazuhiko has a thing for American bourbon, so we got to know each other over a tasting tour of the old South. Besides, he’s got a bit of a crush on my sister.”

“What? Kazuhiko? In love?”

“Not in love, but an overwhelming appreciation for her talents, both in and out of the game. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but Celeste was a successful businesswoman in her own rights. My sis operated a chain of high class ‘chi-chi’ pet grooming salons across the U.S. of A.”

“Pet grooming salons? Really?”

“Oh yeah, that’s where that little ‘cutie pie’ quirk of hers comes into play,” Gideon continued. “She loves turning ugly pets into adorable walking works of art.”

“Wow, you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. I mean, she’s one of the deadliest assassins to play the game, and she’s a dog groomer?” Naotsugu added.

“Yeah, that’s what makes my little sis such a firecracker, which I gander you got wind of while she was here.”

“All done, Master Gideon!” Touya interrupted, running up to proudly present his blade to Gideon. The weaponsmith took the kunai, carefully examining the weapon’s balance, weight, and edge. He spun it around in his hand, wielding it like an expert.

“Not bad for your first blade, Touya, not bad at all, except . . .” Gideon took the blade and slammed it against the anvil, which caused the tip of the blade to break off. Both Touya and Naotsugu were shocked until Gideon showed the inside of the metal to his apprentice.

“Look at the grain structure of the metal. What does that tell you?” Touya looked carefully at the striations in the metal and remembered what Gideon had taught him.

“It didn’t harden correctly because I overheated it and didn’t let it normalize before I quenched it. That made the metal soft and brittle.” Gideon gave his apprentice a pat on the head for recognizing his mistake.

“Don’t worry, hoss. I broke plenty of blades before I got it right. You’ll get there, partner. Just wait and see. Like I said, time and patience . . .”

Touya stepped back before he bowed to his master. “Thank you, Master Gideon. I will strive to improve my skills,” he said.

“Good on ya . . . I’ll take care of things here. Let’s call it a day in the forge. You go get ready for your training with Naotsugu, okay?” Touya nodded his head with a stern grin on his face, grateful for the lesson in the forge. He took off to the Log Horizon guild building to prepare for his afternoon training session.

“Wow, your damn good with the kid, Gideon. I’m impressed as to how you handled that,” Naotsugu complimented.

“Well, it’s like we’ve said, Naotsugu ole buddy. These kids are the next generation, and we have to teach them as we were shown. We’re no longer the newbies anymore. We’re veterans now, and those kids would be lost, confused, or hurt without us. As the great John Wayne once said, ‘Ya don’t get lard less’n you boil a hog!'”

“Yeah, you got that right,” Naotsugu agreed with a slightly confused look. “You know, sometimes your cowboy logic makes sense.”

“That’s because I only quote the best!” Gideon smirked, but then a ping went off in his ear as a call came through the telepathic link from Henrietta. “Well, hey, darlin’. . . Whatcha need?”

Gideon, I need you to come to the Luquenje Hall right away. Shiroe and the Round Table have a mission for you! They won’t tell me anything more until you get here, so hurry, please . . . Her communication seemed urgent, so he needed to recruit some help with the forge.

“Naotsugu, can you get Touya and the other kids to help shut down the forge? Shiroe wants me over at the Luquenje Hall. Henrietta said something about a mission.”

“Sounds like fun. You go ahead, Gideon, we got this!” Gideon gave his friend a pat on the shoulder before running of change. He’d never been in the Luquenje Hall before, but he knew it was where the Round Table had all their big meetings. If he was going to meet them there, something needed his attention and unique skills.

* * *

On the top floor of the Akiba guild building sat the Luquenje Hall. It was a meeting room with massive statues of the “Six Scrapped Princesses” surrounding the table where the Round Table Conference met. They held hands as they leaned over them as if their very presence intimidated the negotiations held there.

The legend of the Luquenje stated that around 300 years ago, after the war which destroyed the Alv Kingdom, these six descendants of the Alvs masterminded the long, terrible conflict between humans, dwarves, and elves for revenge. When defeat was imminent, the six princesses caused the First “World Fraction” spell—like the one that caused the Apocalypse—and the rise of the demi-human races as their final vengeance. This led to the deaths of over half the world’s population at the time.

Henrietta waited for Gideon outside the entrance. She was not part of the Round Table Conference, so she only entered or stayed inside the Luquenje Hall when asked. Henrietta looked at her watch, impatiently tapping her toes, wondering what took Gideon so long. She messaged him more than twenty minutes ago.

“Hey darlin’, been waiting long? Sorry, but I had to get Naotsugu to shut down the forge for me and clean up before I headed over here.” Gideon said as he rounded the corner.

Henrietta sighed audibly. She understood why he was delayed but wished Gideon would be more considerate sometimes. “It’s alright, my love, but try to be more prompt when I call.”

“You know me, Henrietta, I’m never late for dinner or love, but I don’t mind being late for my own hanging.”

“Hanging? Why do you say that?” Henrietta curiously asked.

“If the Round Table has been talking about this conference with Westlande, and they suddenly have a mission for me, I can only guess what that might be.” Henrietta realized what he meant and hoped that wasn’t the case. The last thing she wanted was to see Gideon put in danger.

“Well, let’s see what they have to say and go from there,” she said, opening the door to the Luquenje Hall. Gideon leaned down and gave her a peck on the cheek before he walked into the room, with Henrietta following close behind.

The seats around the table were occupied by the guild leader of the Round Table Conference: Shiroe of Log Horizon, Issac of the Black Sword Knights, Mishitaka of the Marine Agency, Marielle of the Crescent Moon Alliance, Soujiro of West Wind Brigade, Akaneya of Radio Market, Roderick of the Roderick Merchant Guild, William Massachusetts of Silver Sword, and Karashin of Commerce District 8. They were also joined by the People of the Land, including Princess Lenessia and Kinjo of the Kunie Tribe. Many of the guild deputies were standing behind them around the room.

“My apologies for dickerin’ about, everyone. I promise I wasn’t tangle-footed or taking French leave, but it took a bit of a spell to waltz into a Texas Cakewalk.”

Everyone started at Gideon as his unique vernacular still confused them from time to time. “You have a strange way of making excuses, cowboy,” Issac retorted, causing a few snickers.

“It’s alright, Gideon. I’m sure you’re wondering why we asked you here,” Shiroe began. “We’ve written up the final agreement for the conference with Westlande. Once we get the approval of the Freedom Cities of Eastal, it needs to be delivered to Minami. That’s where you come in.”

“I see, so you want me to be your Pony Express rider, am I right?” Gideon surmised.

“Yes, we’d like you to take it to Maihama to get Duke Sergiot Cowen’s approval before taking it to Minami,” Shiroe concluded. Henrietta was taken aback by their request, but Gideon took it in stride.

“My grandfather also wanted to meet you and learn more about the Eagle Mountain guild,” Princess Lenessia explained. “That might help sway the nobles to agree to this conference.”

“So, you’re sayin’ that they’re not behind this little monkey shines yet, are they?”

“Unfortunately, the nobles have not been convinced yet,” Karashin added. “They don’t trust the Senate . . .”

“And rightly so,” Gideon interjected. “Sorry, but this seems as dull as dishwater. This mugwump makes as much sense as a ten-dollar Stetson on a five-cent head.”

“I understand your misgivings, Gideon, but we’ve gotten assurances from our contacts in Westlande that this is legitimate,” Shiroe interrupted.

“Information out of all the major cities in Westlande—Minami, Ikoma, and Kyo—is that they want to pursue a peace accord,” Karashin concluded. “I think the idea of the biggest guild in North America coming to Yamato put fear in the Senate. They could lose everything if they keep pursuing a war footing.”

“That makes sense. After the failed attempt on Prince Itherus’ life, their little operations have had setback upon setback,” Issac mused.

“But sending in Gideon alone is a big risk, Master Shiroe,” Soujiro said. “He’s already got a big target on his back as the number one PvP.”

“Look, normally, I wouldn’t send anyone into the snake pit alone to use your own terminology,” Shiroe said, “But you can take care of yourself. I know you have your misgivings about this conference, so maybe you can gauge whether or not this is real. We trust you to carry out this mission.”

Gideon looked around the room and saw what he needed to see . . . a look of confidence in all their faces. They only knew Gideon by his reputation for a few short months, some longer. Still, many were new friends and acquaintances, except for Henrietta. It gave him a strong sense of pride and purpose with the Round Table.

“Well, to quote the famous Doc Holiday . . . I’m your huckleberry,” Gideon replied, tipping his hat. “I accept this quest from the Round Table.”

“And I’m going with you . . .” Henrietta spoke up, stepping forward next to her husband. Her announcement shocked everyone, none more than Gideon.

“What? No, you’re not!” he insisted.

“Oh yes, I am. If you think I’m going to let you go off by yourself into that den of vipers, you’ve got another thing coming. Besides, you’ve never dealt with the nobles in Mihama; I have. You need me there to help you navigate the honors and courtesies that your American sensibilities seem to have trouble with.”

“This is not like a simple hunting party, darlin’. We are going into the belly of the beast here!” he argued. “I am not about to put you in danger.”

“Oh, but you’ll gladly put yourself in the line of fire! Face it, husband, you’ve lost this argument. I’m coming with you!”

Gideon knew he couldn’t convince her otherwise, so he asked the others for help. “Shiroe, Marielle, Souji, make her listen to reason,” he asked. Everyone around the table turned away, not making eye contact, ignoring his request completely. “Ain’t you a bunch of lily-livered cowards!” he said. No one wanted to get into an argument between a husband and a wife.

Gideon realized he had no choice but to take Henrietta with him. “Alright, honeybell, you win, but understand this . . . You’ll do exactly what I say out there for once in our lives, especially if we get into a tussle. We’re skedaddling out of Minami at the first sign of trouble, no questions asked. Deal?” He held out his hand, but Henrietta ignored it and gave him a peck on the lips.

“Deal!” she said. Gideon knew she outsmarted and got the best of him. One of these days, he would have to find a better way to counter that.

* * *

At first light, the two adventurers headed out of Akiba, ready for their first quest together since Gideon arrived on Yamato. They walked out of town with Log Horizon and the Crescent Moon Alliance members to see them off. The once-bustling freeway overpass, now covered in grassy overgrowth with abandoned automobiles, was a reminder of the forgotten past of this world.

Once they reached a safe distance from Akiba, the two adventurers turned to say goodbye. Henrietta, not accustomed to leaving on quests, hugged her guild members—especially the cute ones—as they all shed a little tear. They were scared for her, and to be honest, so was Henrietta; but she couldn’t show that. She had faith in her husband that they would get through this together.

“You better make it back,” Marielle stressed as a wave of concern fluctuated in her voice. “I can’t run this guild all by myself.”

“Now, Marielle, darling, don’t worry. Eisel will help you while I’m gone,” she assured her friend with a hug. “I left detailed instructions on everything.”

“Don’t worry, Miss Marielle, we’ll be just fine,” Eisel added. The lanky half-Alv sorcerer towered over her guildmaster, but his calming presence reassured her. Meanwhile, Gideon received last-minute instructions from Shiroe.

“KR should meet you at the north end of Minami when you get there. That should get you into the city without any problem,” Shiroe advised.

“Sounds good, Shiroe. That two-timing hornswoggler better be there, or I’ll pin his ears back,” Gideon remarked.

“Don’t mew worry about KR. He’s always been the reliable sort,” Nyanta commented. “But keep an eye on Kazuhiko; mew don’t know what he’s going to do.”

“Well, I’ve got something that’ll settle that rascal down,” Gideon replied, patting his saddlebag. “Ready to go, Henrietta?” With one last hug to her guild members, she walked over to be with Gideon as he pulled out a whistle from his saddlebag. This was unique from other summoning whistles, carved with an elaborate eagle head.

“Master Gideon, are you going to summon a griffon like Masters Shiroe, Naotsugu, and Nyanta can?” Minori asked.

“Griffons? Minori, sweetheart, we don’t fly griffons in the U.S. of A.,” Gideon said sarcastically before blowing the whistle. It sounded similar to the griffon whistles Shiroe and the others used, but with a deeper resonance, like an eagle’s scream, and for a good reason. Suddenly, a golden eagle appeared in the sky before it soared down, landing near the ensemble. The beauty and majesty of this giant eagle shocked everyone except for Henrietta. She’d met Gideon’s eagle before as she walked over to it unafraid and gently stroked its feathers.

“Hello, Goldie! It’s been too long,” she said as the golden eagle nuzzled her back. 

 “It’s beautiful!” Marielle exclaimed. “Did you get that whistle for beating the Helios raid?”

“Naw, on the North American server, you get the eagle summoning whistle when you beat the Treasure of the Sierra Madre raid,” Gideon explained. “Without Goldie here, we wouldn’t have been able to cross the Aleutians Islands or the Bering Sea to Russia. She’s a real lifesaver.”

Gideon pulled out a saddle and, with Naotsugu’s help, strapped it on the giant eagle. Once he saddled up, Gideon helped Henrietta behind him on the eagle. “I’d step back, ya’ll. Goldie kicks up a helluva downdraft when she takes off.”

Everyone did as he instructed before Goldie spread its wings to take off. “Let us know how things go in Mihama before you head to Minami, Gideon!” Shiroe shouted his last-minute instructions.

“Hell’s Bells, guildmaster, keep your britches on,” Gideon replied sarcastically. “You keep worrying like that, and your face will be puckered like a wet sheepskin before a hot fire.” Shiroe didn’t know what to say until he looked down at Akatsuki, pointing to her forehead. She constantly reminded Shiroe not to worry so much because it gave him what she called “old man wrinkles” on his forehead.

Goldie beat its wings before letting out a loud screech as they took off into the air. “Next stop, the Palace of Eternal Ice!” Gideon shouted as they flew off toward their first stop on this dangerous mission.

* * *

Stay tuned for Part 6 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger, a Duke, and a Princess. Check out my fan fiction page if you want to catch up on the whole story.