Review: Star Trek goes back to basics with Strange New Worlds and it looks beautiful

Character poster for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds on the Paramount + network.

I have not been been a big fan of all the new Star Trek series on the Paramount + network. Discovery was a time travel flip-flop that didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up while Picard gave a beloved character another chance by rehashing old storylines. Sorry, boring.

But then, I started watching the new series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God, they found a way to hack into Gene Roddenberry’s brain and pulled out a winner. THIS is what Star Trek was meant to be.

I think the biggest complaint from nerds like me is that writers don’t stick to the source material. They stray from the storyline that we, as the experts (nerds, geeks, fanboys) know is supposed to be (or should be) canon. They try too hard to incorporate modern issues into science fiction storytelling, and to do that, they stray into multiple tangents that ruin the source material. That’s been the problem with every reboot, upgrade, and reimagining done in TV and movies over the past 20 years.

But I digress . . .

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is everything I want in a Star Trek series rolled up into a neatly packaged weekly episode. No drawn out storylines, no complex back story to deal with. This is what Gene Roddenberry envisioned when he first started his trek more than sixty years ago (God, that makes me feel old) and its what’s been missing from these new series.

The casting is absolutely brilliant. Anson Mount is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. I loved him as Black Bolt in the very, very bad Inhumans TV series AND WAS ECSTATIC to see him reprise the role in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. His portrayal of Christopher Pike is spot on, on par with—if not better than—Jeffery Hunter (original Trek) and Bruce Greenwood (reboot J.J. Abrams movies). Watching him is like Kirk and Picard had a baby and it grew up to be the best captain in Star Fleet. Add Rebecca Romijin, Ethan Peck, and a host of others that fill out one of the most diverse crews in the Star Trek universe. The little twists of adding new characters like the blind, telepathic alien Hemmer and La’an Noonien-Singh (a descendant of KHAN, no shit!) with early reveals at how Uhura and Nurse Chapel came aboard Enterprise makes for a complete, well-rounded cast.

Then there’s the writing. First and foremost, they have updated things to modern standards by bringing in more sexual banter and uncomfortable situations, along with diversity and social justice issues, BUT the writers are not force-feeding it to the viewers (think Chris Chibnal and Doctor Who) rather integrating it in a way reminiscent of Roddenberry’s original storytelling. It’s woven into the storyline like a maestro conducting a symphony of science fiction. These stories are poignant and yet heartfelt and uplifting in the simplest of ways. Plus, they are telling us stories where we know the characters but never got to know who they truly are. I mean, we had an entire episode on the Gorn and it was better than the original introduction of the alien race in TOS (The Original Series for any noobs out there reading this).

USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Sailors of the Year for the Year meet cast members of the “Star Trek: Enterprise” television series. Pictured here on the set of the series are (from left) Conner Trinneer, who plays Chief Engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker, III; Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Robert S. Pickering, Sailor of the Year; Personnelman 3rd Class Sarah E. Pizzo, Blue Jacket of the Year; Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Timothy J. Whittington, Junior Sailor of the Year; and Scott Bakula, who plays Capt. Jonathan Archer.

I have had an ongoing love affair with the Star Trek universe, especially since the last ship I served on was the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and I got to meet the cast of Star Trek: Enterprise and see actual production of the series. Here’s a hint: Watch the episodes “Desert Crossing” and “First Flight” to see U.S. Navy Sailors of the Year as background characters. It was fun to watch the multiple takes necessary for just one scene in an episode. Plus I got to sit in the captain’s chair, bonus for me! That’s why I don’t get into the “Star Wars is better than Star Trek” BS argument. Not just because I love them both, but to me, Star Trek will always be the original OG. Roddenberry created a universe based on the human race, with all our flaws but also highlighting the best things about us. From broaching cultural boundaries (the kiss between Kirk and Uhura) to hidden commentary on the Vietnam War and the Cold War (i.e. the episode “The Omega Glory” where Kirk recites the Pledge of Allegiance and reads the U.S. Constitution. In 2015, Entertainment Weekly highlighted the scene where Kirk reads the United States Constitution as one of the most important moments in that character’s life.) I see the same spark in watching Strange New Worlds.

We know where this is heading. From episode one, and from the original series, we know what Captain Pike’s fate is (watch “The Menagerie” if you don’t know what I’m talking about). It’s enticing to see how this will progress as the series moves on. But I can say, without a doubt, that if your a “Trekkie” then you need to be watching Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It’s the series we’ve been waiting for.

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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 River of Souls fantasy novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid Publishing along with the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky PiratesThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of his current fantasy book series, coming soon.

Something happened on the way to publishing…

So, got some bad news last week, something entirely unexpected. I was excited at the prospect of my first full-on steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, being published this year by Revolutionary Press. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anymore. In an email I received, Revolutionary Press decided, “Our previous focus has been more oriented towards for-profit purposes, and this is a goal that we no longer find sustainable. Effectively, we are shuttering all for-profit operations. Unfortunately, we cannot continue work on your book concerning the previous contract.”

The original cover of Forever Avalon from 2009, published by James A. Rock Publishing.

So, what’s an independent author to do now? This is not the first time this has happened to me. In 2009, I signed with James A. Rock Publishing to publish my first book, Forever Avalon. It was a small publishing house, originally from Rockville, Md., until they moved to Florence, S.C. It was a “vanity publisher,” but I didn’t know any better as a new author. Things were fine until, unfortunately, the publisher passed away. His wife tried to continue with the business but to no avail. They closed down, and my book was no longer available for sale. So, I took my manuscript, reformatted it, got a new cover and interior art, and republished it via Amazon. It was easy to do and get it back on the market. It even allowed me to keep the ISBN and reviews from the first publication. I still have James A. Rock listed as the publisher on the inside page of the book to honor his memory and remind me of who gave me my first chance at being a published author. That’s something I learned from my time in the U.S. Navy . . . Remember where you came from!

So the question is, now what? What do I do? Do I try to get another publisher to pick up Corsair, or do I go it alone and self-publish? Fortunately, to quote the great John “Hannibal” King of the A-Team . . . “I love it when a plan comes together!” And by a plan, I mean a murder of crows circling overhead, picking at the carcass of my former publisher to feast on the bones and bring the dead back to life.

Sorry for that graphic description, but you’ll soon understand the reason for my over-the-top metaphor. My current publisher, Curious Corvid Publishing, is a gothic press based in Ohio. They took me under their wing (literally) after picking up a novella I wrote, The River of Souls, that will be published in August 2022. And, as our CEO and publisher Ravven White said at our first meeting, “I am your publisher now.” There was no doubt what I would do, and when I talked to them about it, Ravven never hesitated. She said they would gladly add it to their calendar for publication.

That’s what I love about finally being with a publisher. I still consider myself an independent author, and I always will be. The difference is that, even though Curious Corvid is a small publisher, they are still a publisher. My books will be available in everything from online bookstores to “brick-and-mortar” stores. They are just getting their footing and having tons of success to build on with many talented authors and poets. I am grateful to be a part of that future. I will build on it with novels like Corsair and the Sky Pirates, the next installment of The Last Magus series, Dragonfire and Steel, and the fourth book in the Forever Avalon series, The Prometheus Engine. These, along with any other crazy stories that pop into my head, will be coming your way through Curious Corvid Publishing.

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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 River of Souls fantasy novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid Publishing along with the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky PiratesThe 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.

I love being back with readers and fans alike!

I first wanted to send a big THANK YOU shoutout to the Watch City Steampunk Festival! It was my first time both at a steampunk festival and with my books in Massachusetts. Steampunk fans are, without a doubt, brilliant, imaginative, and a lot of fun. The creative spark generated by everyone at this event kept back the rain and cold all day long. I met a wonderful, eclectic group of fellow authors and readers at this festival. It was so exciting to mix it up with people again. This festival had been postponed for two years, and it felt so good to be out surrounded by people with similar interests as your own. I made a few connections for future events that I will definitely be posting more about in the days to come. I can say, without a doubt, I will be back next year!

For now, I have another event coming up next weekend in Washington, D.C. The Imaginarium Fantasy Book Festival will be held at the National Press Club in our nation’s capital on Saturday, May 21, from 11am to 4pm. This event is FREE, and tickets are available at www.imaginariumbookfestival.com.

Founded in 2018, the Imaginarium Book Festival was the idea of two authors who sought to spotlight books and writers in the science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and paranormal genres — all realms and genres of escapism. The Imaginarium Book Festival welcomes readers of all kinds to join in celebrating fantastical storytelling. Again, it has been a long two years, but we can finally have a LIVE event in such a prestigious place as the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. I am blown away by the fact that a self-published, independent author like me can be in such esteem company and talk about my fantasy books with fans of my genre. It will be a great day, right in my own backyard. I encourage any avid bookworm (or book dragon in this case) to come out for the festival.

I’ll also add here that I’ve added another book signing event for the summer. I will be returning to the historic Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA, on Sunday, July 17, from 1pm to 3pm. I love the opportunity to visit the Lehigh Valley, the area I consider part of my hometown growing up. The Moravian Book Shop is the oldest bookstore in America, the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the world and home to the Moravian University student bookstore. For nearly three centuries, booklovers near and far have looked to the Moravian Book Shop for its curated selection of books and iconic Moravian- and Bethlehem-themed gifts.

For any self-published, independent author, events like these help with recognition and reaching out to people who appreciate finding new reads. So please, whenever you find yourself at a convention, festival, or any event where authors have a table set up, support them. Think of us as small businesses looking to grow. Every book sale and review (especially the reviews) helps!

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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 fantasy 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 7 OF A TALE OF LOG HORIZON-THE GUNSLINGER VS. THE WARLORD

Before heading out to the Watch City Steampunk Festival, I wanted to post the next installment in my Log Horizon fan fiction project. This is the duel with the warlord general Mizufa Trude and its implications for Gideon Hawkmoon’s future on the Crescent Islands of Yamato. I love Mizufa as a character because she is one of the People of the Land, and she can fight on the same level as any adventurer. There’s also a crazy side to her that, as a writer, is fun to play with. That really says something about her as a character. In any case, Gideon has his hands full in Part Seven of A Tale of Log Horizon—The Gunslinger vs. The Warlord.

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Part Six 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 was given his first mission to see if a proposed peace conference between Westlande and Eastal was possible. With Henrietta by his side, the two set off for the Palace of Eternal Ice to get the approval of Duke Sergiot Cowhen before heading to Minami. Once there, Princess Nureha made a proposal to Gideon . . . Defeat one of the Ten Seat Council or join Plant Hwyaden. It was Mizufa Trude who stepped up to challenge the sorcerer gunslinger.

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The word spread like wildfire through Minami—a duel between Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, and Mizufa Trude, the warlord general of Westlande. Both adventurers and the People of the Land were excited to see this one-on-one contest. They poured into the amphitheater, built on the remains of an old baseball stadium, to witness the match.

While the stadium slowly filled to capacity, Henrietta repeatedly scolded her husband for even accepting this match. It wasn’t that she doubted Gideon’s ability to beat the warlord general in a PvP match. Instead, she didn’t like the overwhelming advantage Plant Hwyaden had in their favor. Her argument, however, went on deaf ears.

“Gideon, this is ridiculous! You can’t trust this to be anything other than a fair fight,” Henrietta argued as they walked into the amphitheater. “You are walking into a trap!”

“Actually, Henrietta, I see this as a level playing field,” Gideon explained as he carefully loaded his weapons. “I know everything about Mizufa’s fighting style from my conversations with Chief Nyanta. I’m sure she’s been told everything there is to know about me from Indix. So, the way I see, this here’s about as flat as Kansas wheatfield.”

“But how can you be sure Kazuhiko will referee this fairly. He . . .” she questioned before Gideon stopped her rambling. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close.

“Darlin’, I know you’re looking out for me, and I love you for it, but I picked Kazuhiko because I knew he’d be the only one I could trust to call this fight fair. So, don’t worry about these little variables and put all your faith in me. Now, give me a kiss for luck before I kick her ass.”

Henrietta loved the uncanny way her husband waltzed through her worries and pushed them aside. She kissed him passionately before taking his hand and whistled a tune into it—a bard giving him her strength and power before the battle.

Gideon walked out into the stadium to a chorus of cheers and boos from the assembled crowd. He saw Princess Nureha sitting in her royal box, surrounded by other members of the Ten Seat Council. Gideon glanced up around, tipping his hat politely to the audience. He paused and bowed politely to her, showing his respect to her royal highness. She nodded and smiled back, earning the princess a sly wink from the cowboy. Then Gideon turned his attention to Mizufa.

She grinned from ear to ear, exuding confidence. Gideon knew she was far more powerful and skilled than her level 68 dictated. His attitude may appear overconfident, but the sorcerer gunslinger took this duel seriously. Mizufa may be one of the toughest challenges he’d ever faced.

Kazuhiko stood between the two competitors to explain the rules of the PvP. “This is not a fight to the death, understand Mizufa?” he started, knowing how out reckless the warlord gets in a fight. “The first one to knock the other below fifty percent of their hit points wins. Is that clear?”

“Yeah, I know the rules, adventurer,” Mizufa retorted.

“You know me, Kazuhiko, I’m always a straight shooter,” Gideon added.

“Alright, then step back into position and prepare to fight!” Both competitors moved away to give room before the PvP duel commenced. Gideon, however, had a gnawing question eating away at him that he just had to ask.

“Before we begin, Kazuhiko, I’ve got a question for the general,” he began. “Tell me, Mizufa, why did you volunteer for this little gunfight at the OK corral? I heard you were a fighter, but this seems a little out of character. Did Indix talk you into it?”

“No one talks me into anything, adventurer. I’m bored with the local talent and looking for a challenge, that’s all. When I take you down, all of Yamato will hail the General Warlord of Westlande, Mizufa Trude, as the greatest in the land!”

“Don’t count your chickens until the fox is out of the henhouse, Mizufa. You haven’t won anything yet,” Gideon said as he flipped back his coat, itching to draw his weapons. Mizufa drew her weapons—a cutlass in one hand and a thorn whip in the other. Both of them took a defensive stance, ready for a fight.

Kazuhiko looked over at both of them one last time before raising his hand. “And fight!” he shouted, dropping his hand. Gideon took the first move, reaching into his saddlebag and throwing a few of his foxfire grenades at Mizufa. However, the warlord was ready for this ploy. She swung her cutlass, slicing them all at once to render them harmless. Indix warned her about this little trick, and she was ready for it. Unfortunately for Mizufa, Gideon counted on that.

“Inferno Strike!” he chanted, firing off a volley of fireballs from his six-shooter. With the foxfire billowing in the air around Mizufa, his spell ignited the powder as she became engulfed in flames. She jumped back, avoiding some of the blast damage, as Gideon fired off his next attack. “Sinking Sand!” He squeezed the trigger and fired off his next spell, causing the earth beneath her feet to liquify as the warlord began to sink into the ground.

Mizufa used her whip to wrap about Gideon’s gun hand. As he tried to break free, she used the momentum to escape the quicksand and lunged at her opponent. She slashed at him repeatedly, cutting into his hands and face. He had no choice but to drop his weapon. Mizufa saw this as an opportunity to end this duel, and she thrust her sword at Gideon, only to be blocked by rather a large bowie knife.

Gideon reached inside his coat and drew a foot-long blade to parry her thrust. Once he pushed her back, he drew a second blade in his other hand. Mizufa was both angry and confused at seeing a sorcerer duel-wielding a pair of bladed weapons.

“Indix was right; you are a cheater!” she shouted. “How can a sorcerer be wielding blades like a fighter?”

“You really don’t know anything about our sub-classes, do you? I am a blacksmith, armorer, bladesmith, and weaponsmith. I rose through the ranks, mastering each of those sub-classes before moving on to the next one. Because of that, I get a bonus skill to master any bladed weapon of my choosing. After all, what good is being a weaponsmith if you can’t test your work, and I have a rather fond appreciation for the Bowie knife.”

He twirled the blades around in his hands to show off his skills with them. “You see, Jim Bowie was a hero of mine growing up,” Gideon continued. “He died, sick in bed, fighting off Mexican soldiers with only this knife in his hand. He was one of the reasons we have the great state of Texas today.”

“I never heard of this country of Texas you speak of, but if you think a dead man’s knife will help you against me, you’re sadly mistaken!” Mizufa screamed as she launched another assault, swinging viciously at Gideon. To the surprise of many, he held off her attack with those two knives, only taking minimal damage.

“Icicle Blade! Dread Weapon!” Gideon chanted, putting a spell on the edge of each of his knives, making them inflict more damage with each strike. Mizufa realized that his abilities as both a sorcerer and a fighter made him even more formidable than she thought. A change of tactics was the only way to ensure her victory.

Mizufa changed her attack, wrapping up Gideon in her thorn whip to pin his arms down. “It’s over, cowboy!” she shouted in glee as she lunged for a final blow, but Gideon turned to mist and freed himself from her clutches. She spun around quickly to see the gas reform into the sorcerer gunslinger. He used his oral art to initiate the spell, Gaseous Form, to escape her attack. He thrust his knives into her before beginning his incantation.

“Lightning Nebula!” he chanted as he used his blades as a conduit for the electrical attack. It penetrated deep into Mizufa, shocking to the core. Then, without warning, a second lightning nebula rang out and struck Mizufa again until her hit points dropped below 50 percent. Gideon released her, and the warlord general fell to the ground. The match was over.

“Winner, Gideon Hawkmoon!” Kazuhiko declared, raising his hand toward Gideon. The sorcerer gunslinger sheathed his knives and picked up his revolvers from the arena floor before he acknowledged the adulations of the audience. Even though he was an outsider, they appreciated the incredible performance. Gideon tipped his hat to Kazuhiko, earning him a smile and a nod from the ordinarily quiet assassin.

Henrietta rushed out to be with her husband, but their celebration was interrupted by Indix. “Just one damn minute!” she screamed, storming onto the arena floor with the rest of the Ten Seat Council. “How did you cast two Lightning Nebula spells in a row? That spell has a 90-second cool downtime. You shouldn’t have been able to launch another attack so quickly. I see you’re back to your cheating ways, Gideon.”

The crowd mumbled amongst themselves as they listened to Indix’s argument, reasoning the possibility that the sorcerer gunslinger cheated his way to victory. Gideon just laughed at her assertion. “I swear, Indix, you are about as thick as peanut butter in a snowstorm at the north pole at Christmas.” His insult caused a few chuckles in the crowd, but her glare quickly quieted them down. “I didn’t do anything but use a magic item to fire off that second Lightning Nebula.”

He held out his hand and showed her his gold wedding band, inscribed with magical notes around it. Indix looked at the ring, just as confused as before. “Your wedding band? What does that have to do with this?”

“This is a magic item and a gift from my darling wife, Henrietta, who happens to be a bard. She had my wedding ring enchanted with the bard attack spell ‘Maestro’s Echo,’ allowing me to fire off a second magical attack after I cast my original spell. It’s not as powerful as the original but effective enough. It’s how a husband and wife work together to protect one another.”

Indix grew incensed, looking over to Kazuhiko for a ruling on it. He simply shrugged his shoulders. “The use of magic items is not prohibited in a duel. Gideon did nothing wrong, and my decision stands.”

Before she could say anything, Mizufa slowly got to her feet, laughing at the situation. “Damn, cowboy, you sure know how to show a lady a good time,” she exclaimed as she struggled to walk over to Gideon. “You’re not like the other adventurers. You’re not afraid to take a life, even one of the People of the Land, are you?”

Before Gideon could answer, Mizufa wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. As much as he struggled against her, Gideon couldn’t make her release him. Henrietta was outraged by her behavior, while Indix was disgusted. Finally, Mizufa let him go.

“I like you, Gideon. We’re going to do this again . . . and again, and again.” She dragged her finger across his lips before she walked away, laughing aloud. She may have lost the duel, but it seemed Mizufa found a kindred spirit in Gideon . . . one that enjoyed fighting as much as she did. It didn’t matter that he was married. Eventually, Gideon would belong to her.

 The sorcerer gunslinger wiped the spittle off his lips. “That woman’s as crazy as popcorn on a hot stove,” he said before Henrietta came over and took out her handkerchief to wipe his face clean of that disgusting woman. Gideon then turned his attention to Princess Nureha. “Well, Your Highness, I hope you’re not going to call a foul ball on our duel, are you?”

“Of course not, Master Gideon. I will abide by Kazuhiko’s ruling in this matter. It was a spectacular demonstration of why you are the number one PvP in the world.”

“And, the matter of this conference between Eastal and Westlande?”

“I will coordinate a date and time with the Senate and Prince Saiguu,” she replied. “I’m sure we can have something established within the next month that will accommodate both sides.”

“Well then, if you don’t mind, we’ll be on our way. We’ve got a long flight back to Akiba,” Gideon said with a tip of his hat. Nureha bowed her head politely as Gideon and Henrietta said their goodbyes to KR and Kazuhiko before Gideon called his giant golden eagle to pick them up. Soon, they were flying off toward Akiba.

Nureha watched them leave before she spoke. “Did you get all the information you needed, Jered Gan?”

“Why yes, Princess Nureha. Luring that fool into a duel was a stroke of genius on your part. It was a simple task for me to hide my scanners under the arena floor and around the stadium itself. My equipment took detailed readings from his Fairy Ring Chronometer. Still, it will take me some time to interpret the information and build our own facsimile.”

“You have until this conference begins, Jered Gan. They wanted to show us their resolve. Now we will show them ours.”

* * *

The flight back to Akiba was quiet as Gideon and Henrietta were content to return home as soon as possible. Henrietta had a wedding to plan, and her mind raced with dresses, flowers, and other potential excitement. For Gideon, he contemplated his encounter with Plant Hwyaden repeatedly in his head—the run-in at the gate, the conflict with Indix, and the duel with Mizufa. As tricky as that fight was, everything went too easy. He felt like he had walked into a trap, but he couldn’t place his finger on how or why.

Maybe Shiroe can shed some light on it after he chews me out for fighting a PvP duel like I did. I’m sure to get an earful about that, Gideon thought as he prepared himself for the scolding he was about to get.

“You did what?” Shiroe shouted. Gideon sat there quietly, taking his tongue lashing like he should once he got back to Akiba and reported into Log Horizon. The rest of Log Horizon was there, along with Marielle, Serara, and Major from the Crescent Moon Alliance and Soujiro and Nazuna from the West Wind Brigade. They listened intently to the rundown of everything that happened in Minami. Some of them laughed, knowing that this was precisely how Gideon acted, while others worried about his reckless behavior.

“Come on, Shiroe, it all worked out in the end! No need to get a burr in your saddle,” Gideon retorted.

“That’s not the point, Gideon! You could have lost that duel. You can’t take chances like that,” Shiroe shot back, frustrated that the sorcerer gunslinger failed to comprehend the severity of the situation.

“But they didn’t want me to lose. The princess wanted me to fight in that arena,” he replied. “If they wanted to beat me, Nureha would have sent in Kazuhiko or even Indix. Hell, KR would’ve given me a better fight than Mizufa. Don’t get me wrong, that firecracker is a helluva fighter, but that whole duel was staged for my benefit. I just can’t figure out why.”

“It seemed strange how quickly they orchestrated the match when Princess Nureha just proposed it,” Henrietta interjected.

“So, this wasn’t a ploy to get Gideon to join Plant Hwyaden? Then why do it?” Naotsugu asked.

Shiroe thought about it for a minute, but he needed more information. “Did you sense anything out of the ordinary while in the arena?”

“You mean besides Mizufa sticking her tongue down my throat,” Gideon replied, much to the chagrin of Henrietta.

“Woah, really? Tell me more about it! Did she . . .” Naotsugu started to say, but both Akatsuki and Henrietta kicked him for his lewd inquiry.

“That being said, I can’t say any shenanigans were going on, Shiroe. It’s just a gut feeling.”

“Well, I’ve never been one to question anyone’s instinct, but until we get more information, we’ll have to leave it as an open-ended question until the conference.”

“Good, then in the meantime, Gideon and I have some wonderful news!” Henrietta announced, stepping up behind her husband. “We’re going to get married!”

There was silence in the room. “Ah, hello, you’re already married!” Akatsuki countered.

“I mean, we are going to get married here in Akiba. Gideon promised me a big wedding that we never got around to having, so we’re finally going to have it here. And, Marielle, I want you . . .”

Yes, yes, I’ll be your maid of honor!” Marielle screamed as she jumped to her feet and ran over to Henrietta. “Oh my God, this is so exciting!” As the two friends started exchanging ideas, Akatsuki realized how this would affect her and the other girls.

“Oh no!” she exclaimed.

“What’s wrong, Akatsuki?” Minori asked.

“A wedding means bridesmaids, and that means . . .”

“Bridesmaid dresses!” Akatsuki, Minori, Serara, and Isuzu all said the same thing.

“Frilly, gaudy dresses . . .” Akatsuki screeched.

“With ruffles and bows . . .” Minori added.

“Hideously ugly!” Isuzu concluded, but Henrietta wrapped her arms around all of them before they could run away.

“Oh yes, my little cuties, I have the perfect dresses in mind for you! Pale pink for a spring wedding! You will look so adorable!” She crushed them in a tight bear hug, squeezing their faces with hers. The four girls succumbed to their fate, much to the amusement of the men, until Gideon burst their bubble.

“Don’t think ya’ll getting off so easily,” he admonished them. “I’m gonna need some groomsmen to escort these lovely ladies.” That announcement quickly shut down all the snickers from the men in the room as they realized their fate. “First things first . . . Chief Nyanta, Henrietta, and I would like you to officiate our ceremony again if you don’t mind.”

“Mew would be honored to preside over your marriage vows one more time,” Nyanta said with a bow.

“Naotsugu, old buddy, I would be honored to have you as my best man,” Gideon said, placing his hand on the guardian’s shoulder. “What do you say?”

“Oh yeah, we will have an awesome bachelor party!” Naotsugu shouted before a wayward glance from both Henrietta and Marielle brought him to his senses. “I mean, yeah, sure, you got it, hoss.”

“Now then, Henrietta darlin’, you only have four bridesmaids, five if you include Marielle. Seven is my lucky number, so how about we add a couple more to the mix.”

“Well, I suppose so,” Henrietta replied before she started looking around the room for additional candidates for bridesmaids.

“Not me, uh-uh, no way. A rising galaxy starlet like me wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those frilly, poofy dresses. I have my reputation to think of!” Tetora announced, waving off any chance of being picked for the lineup.

“Well, since we have three from Log Horizon, maybe one more from Crescent Moon,” Marielle interjected.

“Wonderful idea, Marielle. I’ll ask Liliana since she’s been with us the longest. So, we just need one more . . .” Henrietta and Marielle glared at the only other eligible female in the room, and Nazuna grew nervous from their overt stares.

“No, no way, I love you, Henrietta, but no frickin’ way!” she complained until Gideon said something to change her mind.

“Look at it this way, Nazuna. I’ll have Soujiro be one of my groomsmen, and he’ll be the one to escort you down the aisle. That’s something you can laud over your girls in the West Wind Brigade,” Gideon whispered to her, which made her fox ears perk up. His idea caught Soujiro off guard, but he couldn’t say no when he saw how happy it made Nazuna.

“Okay, Gideon, you win. If Nazuna wants to be in the wedding party, then who am I to say no,” Soujiro reluctantly agreed, bringing a massive smile to Nazuna’s face.

“Well, okay then, I’d like to have Shiroe, Touya, Rudy, and Major for the rest of my groomsmen. If Miss Liliana says yes, we’ll add Shouryuu to even things out to lucky seven. There’s only one thing left . . .”

“Oh, what’s that?” Marielle asked before Henrietta walked over to Doc.

“Doc, in the absence of my father, I would like to ask you if you would stand in his place. You did so much in bringing Gideon back to me. I would be grateful if you would give me away.”

The Inuit medicine man was brought to tears again by the love and affection shown to him by these people he had just met months ago. He was so overwhelmed with emotion that he couldn’t speak. Doc just nodded his head before Henrietta hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Even a few others in the room were brought to tears by the monumental gesture, even the men who wiped them away quickly to avoid any sign of unmanliness.

“Well, alright then, let’s turn this wedding into a full-blown Akiba celebration!” Gideon proclaimed, drawing cheers from everyone.

* * *

I have a lot going on in the month of May so I will probably get back to my fan fiction in June. In the meantime, you can catch up on the story in my Fan Fiction archive and get ready for Part 8 of A Tale of Log Horizon: The Wedding of the Gunslinger and the Bard!

Two more book signing events added to my calendar for 2022

I am geared up for the Watch City Steampunk Festival next weekend (May 7 at Waltham Commons, Waltham, Mass.) but I have a couple more book signing events on my calendar I wanted to mention.

First off is the Imaginarium Book Festival on Saturday, May 21, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. This is a local event for me and to be in such a prestigious building is an honor. The Imaginarium Book Festival was founded in 2018 “by two authors who seek to spotlight books and writers in the SFF, speculative fiction, and paranormal genres — realms of escapism. We welcome readers of all kinds to join us in the celebration of fantastical storytelling.” I have been waiting to be a part of this festival for two years, but due to the COVID pandemic, it was postponed as a “live, in-person” event. My wait is finally over! Tickets are FREE but you must register online to get them.

Next, I’ve just signed up for the Williamsburg Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Stryker Center in Williamsburg, Va. The Williamsburg Book Festival’s mission is “to promote and support the art of literary composition in the Williamsburg area and expose writers to the reading public. Our free event includes authors from various genres, speakers, illustrators, and publishers from Virginia and beyond.” I was supposed to attend this event last year, but due to scheduling conflicts with a previously rescheduled event in Fredericksburg, I was unable to attend. That won’t be happening this year. I’ll be there, and by that time, with my new book from Curious Corvid Publishing, The River of Souls.

I am looking to add some more over the summer, specifically the 2nd Sundays Williamsburg Music and Arts Festival (which happens every 2nd Sunday of the month) and hopefully some other book signings. Keep it tuned here or across my social media and I’ll keep you posted.

# # #

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 6 OF A TALE OF LOG HORIZON-THE GUNSLINGER, A DUKE, AND A PRINCESS

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.

Part 4 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger and Eagle Mountain

Thanks for your continued support on my pet project. To be honest, it’s fun to write because I’ve already watched all three seasons multiple times so this keeps me hyped for more. Plus, they walk about all the servers in the Log Horizon Fan Wiki so my story gives me “creative license” about guilds on the North America server. This week, I introduce you to the Eagle Mountain guild. Here is Part 4 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger and Eagle Moutain.

* * *

Part Three Recap: Part Three 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. After introductions around to members of the Round Table Conference, including a PvP duel with Isaac of the Black Sword Knights, Gideon began to settle into life in Akiba.

* * *

Weeks passed since Gideon’s arrival in Akiba, and he found himself overwhelmed with work. The young adventurers looked to him for guidance and training on everything from different combinations of spells to strategy in a fight. He didn’t mind lending his experience to help them survive in this new world and get their levels up. He even tore Henrietta away from her bookkeeping and other administrative duties to help demonstrate the power of a unified sorcerer and bard in a party. They utilized their many hours of hunting, raids, and quests together to synchronize their actions in a fight. Being together, fighting as a team, was fluid and seamless, like muscle memory as it all came back to them.

At the same time, there were still those who wanted a chance to take on the number one PvP. Gideon kept his record strong against challengers, including Demikas and Silver Sword. He only agreed to fight Demikas if the monk promised to apologize to Serara for mistreating her once Gideon defeated him. When it was over, it humbled the former guildmaster to have to bow down and apologize to the little druid. Of course, her big brother, Major, was right there with her to make sure Demikas followed through on his promise. He tempered his anger, desperate to continue the beatdown Gideon had started. Still, Serara made him swear not to do anything to Demikas. She wanted that episode of her life on Yamato left in the past.

While it seemed that his days rambled together in constant battle, Gideon’s nights were for love. There was more than a year that both he and Henrietta needed to make up for, and they didn’t waste a single moment. From dinner dates to dancing the night away or just a quiet walk, they spent their time living, laughing, and loving each other. It was as if their time apart only strengthened the bond between them.

The other project that kept Gideon’s attention was about to become a reality. As a highly skilled weaponsmith, Gideon needed a place to make and repair weapons for the adventurers and People of the Land. With the help of Michitaka—a fellow blacksmith—and the Marine Agency, his forge was finally up and running. As one of the largest production and crafting guilds in Akiba, Marine Agency was able to covert a building next to the Log Horizon guild into a fully functioning blacksmith shop. The front of the building had fallen into disrepair—the bricks crumbled down, and the second floor was completely missing. Gideon had them turn the first floor into an open-air forge, so people could look in and watch him work. He was a showman at heart, so he didn’t mind all the attention. The second floor was rebuilt into a store to sell his weapons and armor. Gideon knew that people would want to buy what they saw being made right in front of them.

Gideon and Michitaka watched the work along with Tatara, a dwarf samurai-swordsmith, as the workmen were putting on the final touch—a large shield with a hawk flying over a crescent moon. It was a coat of arms for Gideon, symbolizing his name in Elder Tales. He was no knight by any means, but he earned a reputation for quality armaments as a weaponsmith.

“Looks good, Michitaka! I can’t thank you enough, partner,” Gideon said, patting the brawny guildmaster on the back.

“It was no problem. I’ve been meaning to refurbish this building, and your idea for it was perfect. Besides, I’m not about to turn away a fellow blacksmith. You know what it means to work with your hands, and you need just the right place to do your work.”

“You got that right, hoss. I’ve been itchin’ to get started. Once we get the coal bins filled and the forge heated up, I’ll be rarin’ to go.”

“As much as I want to see your work, Gideon, I hope it doesn’t cause me to lose business,” Tatara said.

“Now, Tatara, you know that a little competition is good for everyone,” Gideon explained. “If my prices are too high for someone, they’ll come runnin’ to you instead. It’s good as gold, darlin’!”

“Perhaps, but I’ll reserve judgment for now.”

“By the way, Gideon, that was a great idea about using the salamander,” Michitaka complimented as the workers brought in a rather peculiar-looking monster. It was a flame-red lizard and burned with searing heat, so much so that the men had to use protective gloves and poles to maneuver the creature under the firepit. “Just feed him the coal, and he’ll keep your forge nice and hot.”

“Yeah, I just gotta find me an apprentice to help out, but there ain’t too many in these parts with the blacksmith sub-class.” Gideon looked over at Tatara with a sly grin, hoping she would catch his drift.

“No way, I have my own shop to run!” she exclaimed, backing away from the conversation.

“Well, I can loan you a couple of my blacksmiths from Marine Agency for a few days to help you get started,” Michitaka offered. “I’m sure they would love to learn from a world-class weaponsmith like you.”

“I appreciate that hoss, but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from your work. I know you got your hands full these days, getting ready for a possible fight with Plant Hwyaden.”

“Once you get your shop up to full steam, we’ll be more than ready for anything those bastards throw at us.”

“Excuse me, Master Gideon,” Touya shouted, running over from the Log Horizon guildhall, interrupting their conversation. “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure, Touya, watcha need, little man?” Touya paused for a minute as if he was embarrassed to ask his question.

“Well, I wondered if you might consider taking me on as an apprentice blacksmith,” he asked. “I have the accountant sub-class, but it’s not useful as a samurai. I’ve learned a lot about it from Miss Henrietta, but I’d like to change my sub-class to a blacksmith and work my way to being a bladesmith. I promise to work really hard and do whatever you ask. Please, Master Gideon!” He bowed politely as Gideon’s eye lit up, as his prayer had been answered from heaven above. He looked over at Michitaka and Tatara for their opinion, and they gave him a thumbs up and a simple head nod. They both knew Touya better than Gideon, so he valued their opinion.

“Alright, greenhorn, you’ve got a deal,” Gideon agreed. “Go talk to Shiroe about changing your sub-class. Once that’s done, you need to pick up some basic supplies to start off. He can get those from you, right Michitaka?”

“Sure, come by the Marine Agency, and I’ll get you hooked up, Touya.”

“Then, get back here pronto. We’ve got a lotta work to do to get this forge up to speed,” the gunslinger added. Touya was thrilled that Gideon accepted him as an apprentice. He took off to talk to Shiroe without even saying goodbye.

“Well, I’ll let my men finish the work here. I’ve got some things to do, and I’ll tell one of my guys to get some supplies together for your new apprentice,” Michitaka said. “Plus, I’ll keep an eye out for that other side project.”

“Thanks, Michitaka!”

“And I’ve got a shop to run before you put me out of business,” Tatara added as they left with a wave. Gideon tipped his hat before he turned his attention back to his forge. He shivered with excitement at the ideas for weapons and armor he wanted to make rambled through his thoughts until something caught his attention.

A large snow owl landed on the brick wall. The bird flapped its wings and hooted loudly at Gideon. The owl had a rather large pocket watch hanging from a chain around its neck and a scrolled-up parchment in its claws. Gideon couldn’t believe his eyes as he recognized the bird immediately.

“Archimedes? Is that you? How in tarnation did you get here?” he asked, expecting the owl to answer. The owl’s head spun around, shaking its feathers to attract attention to the watch around its neck.

Gideon went over and pulled it off his head, and popped it open. The blue glow from inside the watch shined as Gideon looked over the interior intently. “Well, I’ll be a tumbleweed in a tornado,” he exclaimed. “Einstein did it . . . I can’t believe that little scallywag did it!”

The owl sounded off loudly at Gideon as if arguing with him. Gideon could see he offended the owl’s master in its eyes. “Dagnabbit, Archimedes, you are fit to be tied. Alright, alright, I apologize!” The owl accepted his apology and held out the scroll to Gideon. He took the scroll and opened it up, reading it through.

“Well, I’ll be a Rocky Mountain Canary. Sis, you are one helluva miracle worker!” He rolled up the scroll and tucked it into his pocket. “Archie, you tell Celeste I’ll see her at the next lunar cycle. Now, go on, git, before your way home closes.”

The snow owl loudly hooted one last time before taking off and flying out of the city until it disappeared from sight. Gideon couldn’t believe his luck as he looked at the watch one more time before tucking it into his pocket and attaching the chain to his vest. “Thunderation, things are about to get interestin’ around Akiba. Guess who’s coming for dinner, ya’ll?”

* * *

The work in a forge is hot, demanding concentration and precision. Gideon spent the first week giving Touya his first lesson being a blacksmith . . . managing the fire. Touya was responsible for maintaining the temperature in the forge basin, from pumping the bellows to fueling the furnace.

“You’re not color blind, are you Touya?” His question confused his new apprentice.

“No, Master Gideon, why?”

“You need to know the color of fire—the red, blue, yellow, and orange. That lets you know when to wait and when to work. You especially need to keep an eye on that salamander,” Gideon continued. “If he starts to turn a dark red, the little fella’s losing his heat. Give him a shovelful of coal to keep the varmint warm and toasty. The forge will do the rest.”

Gideon hammered out a myriad of weapons in a short period. In the year he traveled to Akiba, he only had the chance to make slight repairs to equipment. Finally, Gideon was able to put his heart and soul into new weapons. As a sorcerer-weaponsmith, he could make magic weapons, enchanted and forged by his own hand. It’s what made his work unique.

After giving Gideon a few days to get started, Henrietta and Marielle made their way to see how the forge was doing. Henrietta was so proud of her husband, not only for taking Touya under his wing but for getting it operational in such a short amount of time. He used all the gold he earned on the trip here to pay for the construction and supplies. Because of the illegal feedback loop, Gideon couldn’t deposit any of his gold in the bank on the way to Akiba. He had plenty of coins on hand, which Henrietta made him deposit immediately. Her frugal side always kept him in line.

“I can’t believe how quick Gideon got his business up and running,” Marielle commented. “It seems like all of Akiba is talking about it.”

“Gideon is a talented weaponsmith, one of the best, so it’s no surprise that everyone wants one of his products,” Henrietta added with pride.

“I thought you two would have bought a home first instead of building his forge,” Marielle queried.

“We talked about that, and we agreed that the forge was necessary,” Henrietta explained. “For now, we’ll just continue splitting our time between the two guildhalls, now that the access protocols have been properly updated.”

Marielle swallowed hard and chuckled under her breath as Henrietta reminded her of the minor indiscretion when Gideon first arrived. She knew Henrietta wasn’t one to hold a grudge, but that doesn’t mean she’ll forget it either.

As the two women approached the forge, a flurry of activity caught their attention as a crowd gathered to watch the master weaponsmith at work. What shocked Henrietta was that most of the bustling crowd was female, and when she approached the open forge, she realized why.

Gideon sharpened a forked spear on the spinning stone wheel, grinding it down to a perfect edge. He was shirtless, wearing only a heavy leather apron to protect his chest with his bandana wrapped around his head, holding back his sweat. His body dripped with sweat from the heat of the forge. Henrietta couldn’t take her eyes off him as he worked, watching his muscles flex with every move against the wheel. She understood why all the women were there, but it didn’t matter. Gideon belonged to her.

Gideon stopped and checked out the spear’s edge when satisfied with the work. He turned to Isuzu, who waited patiently off to the side with Rudy. Gideon made one last check on the straightness of the blade to the shaft of the spear before he handed it to Isuzu.

“There you go, Miss Isuzu; it’s ready for you!” Isuzu took the spear and smiled as she felt the weight of it.

“Wow, Master Gideon, this is amazing! But you didn’t have to do this. My howling spear worked just fine for me.”

“The howling spear is a weapon for an up-and-coming bard. You need something to go with your increased abilities,” he explained. “Here . . . tap the tip of the spear against the anvil.”

Isuzu reached out and the forked spear clanged against the top of the anvil. The spear resonated in a perfect pitch as the sound echoed off the walls. “It’s like a tuning fork. It will amplify your bard skills and abilities incrementally with each use. I call it the Song of Amarigin.

“An appropriate weapon for a graceful bard like yourself, Miss Isuzu. With that spear, we’ll be an unstoppable team!” Rudy exclaimed, flipping his hair back and flashing a smile at Isuzu.

Isuzu rolled her eyes at Rudy, seeing his puppy dog demeanor, before realizing that she probably couldn’t afford such a weapon from a craftsman of Gideon’s caliber. “Master Gideon, thank you so much, but I can’t afford a weapon like this.”

Gideon leaned in close to Isuzu as he whispered something to her. “It’s a gift for my guild members, darlin’, but act like I’m giving you a great deal. That’ll make the people out there want to buy something.”

Isuzu understood as she played it up for the crowd. “Oh wow, I can’t believe I got this great weapon for a bargain price! Thank you, Master Gideon!” She bowed politely before rushing out with her new spear, desperate to show it off to Minori.

“Another satisfied customer for the Hawkmoon Forge!” Gideon shouted, ringing a bell hung on the wall. It was all part of the show, and he was center stage at the moment, soaking it in.

“Vanity is not a good look on you, darling,” came a familiar voice. Gideon spun around to see Henrietta and Marielle, watching his antics with a sour disdain on their faces. “Besides, how will you make any money if you keep giving away your weapons for free? That’s the third one since you opened!”

“It’s called marketing through free advertising, honey, something Naotsugu taught me,” Gideon explained. “I’m giving away a few select weapons to people in different guilds to help spread the word and get people interested in my work.”

“Yes, we heard about the sword you gave Kyouko from West Wind Brigade. She was so excited to try it out that she immediately formed a party and headed out to the hunting ground,” Marielle interjected. “But what about the Crescent Moon Alliance, hmmm?”

“Funny you should mention that . . . Touya, bring me the gift for Henrietta!” Touya stopped working on the firepit and raced over with a compound bow and quiver of arrows. The bow mechanics were interlaced with intricate scrollwork like a musical clef. The arrowheads and feathered tips all resembled musical notes of various forms.

Touya happily handed the bow and quiver to Henrietta. “Here you go, Henrietta, ma’am. Master Gideon made these, especially for you.” She took them and gazed at the workmanship with wonder.

“You did it . . .” she stammered. “You actually made them!”

“But what are they?” Marielle asked as she looked over the bow.

“It’s a Symphonic Bow with Acoustic Arrows,” Gideon remarked. “Henrietta said there weren’t a lot of magical items for bards who used a bow and arrow as a primary weapon. It gave me a challenge, so I designed these specifically for her.

“The bow will increase the range of her AOE spells,” he continued, referring to the area of effect. “And the arrows will add to a spell’s overall effectiveness and bolster her abilities. I know you don’t go in the field much anymore, darlin’, but I want you to have the best when you do.”

Henrietta blushed a bright red as her emotions got the best of her. She handed the bow and quiver to Marielle before she wrapped her arms around Gideon and kissed him passionately, earning a few “ooh’s and aah’s” from the crowd, but she didn’t care. Gideon was a little taken aback, knowing that Henrietta didn’t really go for public displays of affection. She had to thank him properly for thinking of her as he forged these weapons.

“Well, Hell’s bells, honey, if you like it that much, I’ll have to make gifts like that more often,” he joked.

“How about you just focus on making weapons to sell in your shop,” she said, putting her finger on his lips to shut him up before he could offer a rebuttal. “And I’ll really show you my appreciation tonight.”

“Oh geez, get a room, you two!” Marielle commented as she looked away. Before Henrietta could say something to her friend and guildmaster, they were interrupted by a cry for help.

“Help, please, someone, help us!” a voice cried out. Everyone turned to see Dolce, a bard from the West Wind Brigade, carrying her friend and fellow guild member, Isami. The samurai was lifeless in her arms as the muscular woman hobbled down the street with her.

Dolce dropped to the ground and gently laid Isami down. They rushed over to help her and find out what had happened. Marielle dropped everything to summon her Morning Aqua staff to start healing their injuries. “Dolce, honey, your ankle is twisted badly. How on Earth did you manage to carry Isami here?”

“I had to get here as quick as I could to protect my girl, Isami!” she cried. “I couldn’t let her be taken as the others.”

“Taken? What do you mean, Dolce?” Gideon interrupted.

“It was assassins from Minami!” she exclaimed. “They hit our party with those darts, just like poor little Minori.”

“You got hit with one too?” Touya asked.

“I did, Touya baby, but it wasn’t enough to bring down a big, strong girl like me!” Dolce said, flexing her muscle. “Kyouko told me to take Isami and get back to Akiba to get some help. She was fighting off some nightshades then going after the ones that took Kurinon, Fragrant Olive, and Kawara!”

“Nightshades? Like we fought in Saphir!” Touya added.

“Where were they headed, Dolce? Did they say how they were getting back to Minami?” Gideon pressed, trying to get more information.

“One of them said something about getting the girls to a train,” she remembered.

“That must be that magic train they used in Operation Red Night,” Henrietta recalled from the briefing on the incident. “Of all the days for Shiroe and the Round Table to be in Suskino, meeting with the Ezzo Empire.”

Gideon considered all the options before he pulled out his pocket watch and looked at it intently. He closed it before tucking it back in his pocket, more determined than ever. “Dolce, are you alright to walk?”

“You bet I can, sweet cheeks. Marielle, honey, fixed me up good!”

“Then I need you to skedaddle through the transport gate to Suskino and get Shiroe, Souji, and the others back here ASAP.”

“Will do! Be back with Souji-poo in a jiff!” Dolce shouted as she took off for the inter-city transport gate. These gates allowed players to travel between the major cities but malfunctioned after the Apocalypse. They only recently started working again.

“Gideon, Isami isn’t waking up,” Marielle worried. “My magic can’t help her.”

“Go get Doc, Marielle. He’s got the antidote for that drug.” Marielle took off toward the Log Horizon guild hall to find the Inuit Medicine Man. “Touya, go get my stuff from the forge!”

As Touya took off, Gideon turned toward the guild and shouted, “Akatsuki!” With that, the little ninja suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Her eyes widened, stunned at seeing a friend of hers lying in the street.

“What happened to Isami?” she asked.

“There’s no time to explain,” Gideon interrupted her. “Plant Hwyaden wrangled some of the girls from West Wind Brigade. They’re headed for a magic train to vamoose back to Minami.” Touya showed up with his hat, coat, gun belt, and saddlebag as soon as he said that. Gideon reached into his bag and pulled out a handful of foxfire grenades, handing them to Akatsuki. “You track down that train and help Kyouko rescue those girls. Use these to stop the train from leaving! You head’m off at the pass, and I’ll be right behind you!”

Akatsuki understood what he asked, putting the grenades in her own magic sack before disappearing to use her tracker sub-class skills to find these marauders. As soon as she took off, Marielle returned with Doc and Chief Nyanta, along with the other junior members of Log Horizon.

“Chief, can you fortify the city’s defenses until Dolce returns with Shiroe and the others? We need to be sure this isn’t an ambush!”

“Mew sure can; consider it done, my friend. And what are you going to do?” Nyanta inquired.

“Henrietta, get your bow, darlin’ you’re coming with me . . . We’re going to get us some back-up!” Gideon exclaimed.

* * *

Miles away from Akiba, the three sleeping captives were carefully loaded into coffin-like chambers to both contain them and keep them drugged during the trip back to Minami. All this was being done under the watchful gaze of Jered Gan, the Eighth Seat of the Ten Seat Council. The white-haired, big head elf looked more like a researcher than an archmage, and as the former Sage of Miral Lake, he preferred that role. The money and independence given to him by Indix helped him in his quest to make the People of the Land equal to adventurers.

Those experiments included the nightshades surrounding the train—People of the Land spiritually tapped into monsters’ bodies, forcing them to level up without hurting themselves. After the previous failures to recover any specimens for examination, Jered Gan took no chances. Along with his personal guard, the Fūma Demons added to the overwhelming force protecting the train.

Rezor Ginta, the leader of the Fūma Demons, kept a close eye on the adventurers. The nearly seven-foot giant, draped in a red and black yukata with his belly pushing it to its limits, looked more like a sumo wrestler than an assassin. Although he was only level 60, his power and presence were quite formidable. He leaned on a kanabō, a giant metal club with spikes, as he kept watch.

Jered Gan appreciated the work of the Fūma Demons, especially Rezor, for his loyalty to him and Indix. Gan knew that Kazuhiko and his Wolves of Mibu only feigned loyalty to their ideas. Still, he knew better than to tangle with an assassin like Kazuhiko. Gan would welcome the chance to put Rezor on the council instead. For now, he accepted the intense caution he brought to this mission.

“You are on edge, Rezor, and for a good reason. The sooner we leave with our prizes, the better it will be,” Gan admitted.

“I wouldn’t be this apprehensive, master if those two hadn’t gotten away. I don’t want to be caught off guard by the sudden appearance of a raiding party from Akiba.”

“Our spies in Suskino told us that the majority of Round Table would be there today,” Gan explained. “I expect you can handle most low-level adventurers waiting behind in Akiba. They are no threat to us.”

“That guardian, the one that fought off the nightshades single-handedly while we escaped to the train with our captives . . . She’ll be here soon. We need to hurry things along, master.”

“I cannot rush this process, Rezor. If they are not properly sedated, they could easily break out of the containers,” he explained, frustrated as he banged his cane off Rezor’s ample belly. “All of these adventurers are over level 90, which would cause a problem for you and the Fūma Demons. I trust you and the nightshades can handle one guardian.”

“Think again, old man!” Kyouko surprised them. She looked menacing, dressed in full plate armor, except for the dainty plaid scarf tied around her neck. She was ready to strike with a massive shield in one hand and a broad sword in the other. “Time Slash!” she shouted, slicing her blade through the air, until suddenly, all the nightshades were cut down, their anima dispersing all at once.

This was the power of the sword Gideon made for her—The Chronos Blade. If you waited one minute, the sword calculated where your enemies moved in the previous moment in time. Kyouko cut down all the nightshades in the past with a single slash, thereby killing them in the present. This was the perfect weapon for a guardian, giving them time to defend while the sword calculated their next move.

“Ack, my nightshades! How did she do that?” Gan queried.

“It doesn’t matter . . . Fūma Demons attack!” Rezor commanded as his assassin leaped down to swarm on top of her. Without warning, Akatsuki activates her overkill or oral art, Shadow Lurk, and dozens of clones of Akatsuki attacked the assassins, cutting them down. Over half their force was cut down by these two adventurers. They were left lying on the ground, injured, or incapacitated.

 “Thanks, Akatsuki! I’m glad Dolce made it back to Akiba. Is Isami okay?” Kyouko asked.

“She’s in good hands with Doc and Marielle, but let’s focus on these jerks until help arrives,” she said. “Can you take on fatso? I need to stop this train from leaving.”

“You got it!” Kyouko shouted as she charged right toward the massive man. If I can hold off his attacks for another thirty seconds, I’ll be able to do another time slash and take him down. I won’t disappoint Master Soujiro or my guild.

Rezor lifted his club with ease. Before Kyouko reached him, he slammed it into the ground, sending a shockwave across the land. It threw Kyouko back, but she noticed that it broke the timer on her sword, resetting it back to the original minute.

“I don’t know your sword’s ability, but it doesn’t matter anymore,” Rezor said, keeping his club at the ready. “My kanabō is called Monolith Breaker. Not only can it shatter attacks, but it also breaks through any magical buffs, debuffs, protections, and spells. With this, I have a level playing field with you God-like adventurers.”

Kyouko got to her feet, back to the ready. “You’re gonna need more than that to equal any adventurer, especially those from the West Wind Brigade!” She charged again, watching his movements as she anticipated his next swing. Rezor brought his kanabō down, but this time Kyouko leaped over the shockwave, using its momentum to lift her into the air. She planted her feet on the side of the train before pushing off and catapulting her into Rezor.

“Shield Smash!” she screamed, swinging her shield into the big man and knocking him down. She backflipped off her attack, quite nimbly for a woman in full plate armor, landing on her feet. “If you’re gonna swing that monstrosity, I suggest you learn more than just one attack.”

Rezor wiped the blood dripping from his lip, angry that this woman got the best of him. He quickly got back to his feet, ready to continue the fight, while Jered Gan had his hands full dealing with Akatsuki. The archmage threw lightning bolts, icicles, and flaming arrows, but the nimble ninja was too fast for the inexperienced combatant. For all his bravado, Jered Gan researched magic more than he wielded it in combat.

“Damn you, cursed brat, hold still!” he shouted, throwing another volley at her. To her credit, Akatsuki could outmaneuver him while using the remaining members of his personal guard as shields. As she moved around the top of the train, she made sure to get in line with one of the assassins so they could bear the brunt of the attack. For all his bravado, all Jered Gan was doing was picking off his own men. All the while, Akatsuki was moving closer and closer toward the engine.

The giant spinning gears between the cars powered the train through the magic circles generated by the engine. It was a marvel of magical and mechanical engineering, brought together by utilizing engineering skills from the other world with the magic of this one.

Akatsuki knew she had to disable the spinning gears to stop the train from leaving with her friends. She had the bombs from Gideon but no way to light them without stopping her defensive moves, but then it hit her. “Come on, grandpa, I’ve seen better magic at a child’s birthday party!” she teased.

“Grandpa? Grandpa? Now, you will face the wrath of Jered Gan! Inferno Strike!” He called down a flurry of fireballs that followed Akatsuki as she danced across the train roof. Before reaching the spinning engine gear, she tossed Gideon’s bombs behind her before leaping up and over the engine. The fireballs ignited the bomblets as they exploded on the gear structure, causing immense damage to the two sections of the train.

Gan was beside himself at the destruction caused, further impeding their escape back to Minami. He had only one thing left to try and facilitate their departure. “Rezor, unleash the demon! Infinity Force!” he channeled a powerful magic spell into his protector. It broke through his limiters and increased his strength and power. Once he charged up, Rezor slammed the tip of his club on the ground, unleashing a cascading wave of force, like a thousand tiny earthquakes in this one small area. It radiated up through the club and into the air, pressing down from above.

Akatsuki was thrown off the train into Kyouko as the two felt crushed beneath the force emanating from his club. They could barely move under its crushing weight. “What is this? I can’t move?” Kyouko stammered.

“I don’t know. I never felt anything like this before,” Akatsuki replied in an equally paralyzed response.

“It’s appropriate that women should be on their knees before their superiors,” Rezor laughed at the helpless nature of the two adventurers. “This is the power of the Shuten Dōji Monolith. When Master Jered unleashes my full potential with Infinity Force, I can summon the power of Shuten Dōji, the most powerful demon in all of Yamato.”

He strolled over to them and raised his club to strike. “Don’t worry; we’ll let you return to Akiba once Master Jered finishes with you!”

“Arpeggio!” a voice cried out as an arrow plunged into Rezor’s shoulder. Musical notes began swirling around him. After being hit with a sudden weakness throughout his body, he dropped his club.

“Singularity!” another voice chanted as a gunshot rang out, striking the ground beneath him. A gravitational singularity formed at his feet, pulling Rezor to the ground. He could barely keep himself on one knee as he looked up and saw Henrietta and Gideon rushing toward him. Henrietta kept an arrow nocked in her bow while Gideon leveled his six-shooters at the helpless man. “How’s it feel to be brought to your knees, you cold-blooded sidewinder?”

“Dispel Magic!” Jered Gan chanted as he quickly dispelled the magic, forcing Rezor to the ground. Gideon knew that he could access a wide range of spells as an archmage. Rezor pulled the arrow out of his shoulder and raised his club. Suddenly, a slew of nightshades appeared along with the remaining members of the Fūma Demons, healed and ready to fight. Rezor grinned at the overwhelming odds in his favor.

“It looks like you didn’t bring enough people with you, adventurer?” Rezor mocked. Now it was Gideon’s turn to grin at the behemoth.

“You sure about that hoss?” Gideon remarked when multiple arrows shot out from behind him, knocking the club out of Rezor’s hand and the staff from Jered Gan. The surprise attack came from a large group emerging through the trees.

“Eagle Mountain, attack!” Celeste Hawkmoon shouted as she fired another volley of arrows, this time aimed at the other members of the Fūma Demons. The deadly accuracy of this assassin was matched only by her beauty. Her long black hair flowed out from under a feathered headdress resembling an eagle. The flowing dress of dragonweave chainmail, slit up to her thighs, seemed out of place in battle, but she nimbly moved in it. “Veronika, you and Tom take care of those nightshades! King, support them with a Resonance Beat!”

“Uh-huh, you got it, boss, uh-huh uh-huh!” he replied. King—dressed as Elvis Presley in a rhinestone jumpsuit, dark glasses, and a pompadour—started to play his guitar like a virtuoso. His bard song echoed across the battlefield with a rock n’ roll beat, affecting the weapons of his guildmates.

“Shiver me timbers, let’s sink these scallywags to Davy Jones Locker!” shouted Veronika Red, swinging two cutlasses wildly. She sliced her way through the nightshades with ease, even with one eye, thanks to King’s enchantment. She embodied the spirit of a true pirate swashbuckler.

“Tiger Echo Fist!” cried Tom Redwood as he slammed his fist at the remaining nightshades, blowing them apart. The Cherokee monk towered over his opponents like his namesake, taking them down with the power added to his massive gauntlets.

“Brother Tate, see if those two women need healing!” Celeste commanded. “Gideon, Henrietta, you’re with me!”

They moved alongside Celeste, charging toward Jered Gan and Rezor. At the same time, a muscular dark-skinned man went to check on Akatsuki and Kyouko. He wore a simple tank top and jeans with some leather bucklers for protection. He glistened in the sunlight with all the gold chains and pendants hanging around his neck. He wore massive brass knuckles on his hands, etched with “peace” and “love” in big, bold letters.

“Hey there, ladies, you look like you could use Brother Tate’s good vibrations and wonderous healing powers!” he said before casting a healing glow over them. Tate could see the two were shocked at seeing his guild in action, especially Akatsuki.

“Is that . . . that . . . Celeste Hawkmoon? The Arclight Assassin?” she stammered.

“The one and only ninja girl, guildmaster for Eagle Mountain!”

“Eagle Mountain? But you’re from the North America server. How did you get to Yamato?” Kyouko asked.

“It’s quite easy, actually,” someone interrupted. Stepping through the trees were the last two members of Eagle Mountain. The woman was a Ritian, apparent by the tattooed runes on her face and hands. She wore an elaborate set of multi-functional goggles over her eyes as she operated a complex pocket watch, similar to Gideon’s. Next to her was a guardian dressed in black armor, from head to toe, emblazoned with a bat emblem on his chest plate, sword, and shield.

“With my lunar chronometer, we were able to navigate the transport portals to bring us directly from our home outside Angels to Yamato in an instant. Although, sadly, this little excursion of ours will mean we will have to wait two weeks, three days, ten hours, and forty-five minutes until the next proper alignment to return home.”

The intelligent banter confused the two women until Tate sorted it out. “She used her gizmo, and we jumped through some fairy rings until we made it here,” Tate explained. “This is Einstein, our resident genius, and her bodyguard, Sir Wayne.”

“Hi-ya,” Wayne said in a deep, gruff voice.

“Thaddeus, I asked you not to call me by that ridiculous nickname. Please introduce me as Dr. Roberta Copernicus,” Einstein countered.

Tate looked at her with slight contempt, knowing she hated Einstein’s nickname as much as he hated her calling him Thaddeus. “Sure, Bobbi!” he retorted, earning him another glare from Einstein before Tate finished his healing. “Okay, ladies, you’re all set.”

“Thank you so much,” Akatsuki said as she got to her feet, giving him a polite bow.

“Yes, thank you very much!” Kyouko added. “We’re so grateful for your help in rescuing our friends.”

“Think nothing of it, little lady. It’s just what we do, right Wayne?” Tate said, looking over to his companion, who just nodded.

“Justice must prevail,” was all he said in response. As soon as he said that, the battle was over. The nightshades were destroyed, the remaining members of the Fūma Demons were either unconscious or severely injured, and both Jered Gan and Rezor were forced to surrender.

“Roberta, see if you can get those containers open and free the adventurers from West Wind,” Celeste added. “Brother Tate, you and Sir Wayne help her.”

“I’ll help too,” Kyouko added, trotting off to help her guildmates while Akatsuki stepped up next to Gideon. They gave each other a fist bump, happy at how things worked out. Jered Gan, on the other hand, shook his head violently. He was vehemently upset at how things transpired.

“No, no, no, you have no right to interfere in my experiments, no right!” Gan protested.

“Experiments? These are people, not lab rats!” Henrietta screamed in his face. “We will not allow you to kidnap and abuse our family and friends!”

“Someone done stole your rudder, partner,” Gideon remarked. “Now, unless Plant Hwyaden wants an all-out war across Yamato, you’d better back off with these shenanigans, or you’ll last as long as a pint of whiskey in a five-handed poker game.”

“You don’t scare me, cowboy,” Rezor spat back at him. “We have ten times your numbers. We will march across Eastel and crush you beneath our boots.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” someone said behind them. Shiroe and the rest of the Round Table Conference leaders walked through the forest with Dolce following close behind.

“See, Gideon sweetie, I told you I’d get them here in a jiffy!” Dolce shouted with a wave.

“You did real good, Dolce! You’re aces high in my book!” Gideon replied with a tip of his hat, causing the masculine woman to blush. Shiroe and the others ignored Jered Gan and approached Celeste, bowing politely as he spoke.

“It’s an honor to finally meet you, Celeste Hawkmoon of Eagle Mountain. We welcome you to Yamato, although I am curious about how you got here?” Shiroe asked. Celeste bowed her head politely before she answered.

“The honor is mine, Shiroe of Log Horizon. We can explain things in detail later. For now, I thank you for taking my wayward brother into your guild. I hope he’s not too much of a nuisance for you.”

“No, not at all. He’s starting to grow on us, even with his little pranks of drowning people in the water,” Shiroe answered sarcastically.

“Oh yes, his little Rainmaker spell. I see he’s still acting like the petulant child he is . . .” Celeste remarked back.

“Uh, Ya’ll know I’m standing right her?”

“Yes, we know you are, brother dear. We’re just ignoring you,” Celeste joked. “Now, please be quiet and let the adults speak.” Gideon hated when his little sister got smart with him. He was about to snap his fingers, dunking his sister with water, but she swiftly pulled a long dagger and aimed for his throat. He immediately blocked it with his own bowie knife. The two locked in, pressing back against the other’s blade.

She stared at him with what Gideon called her “scary eyes,” and he stopped in his tracks. “Don’t even think about it, Jedidiah!” she warned, using his real name.

“Now I wouldn’t dream of it, Dorothy,” he shot back, using her real name too, which made some of the members of Eagle Mountain chuckle under their breath. “How about we hold off on our little family squabbles until this is over, okay?”

Celeste pulled back her blade, as did Gideon, but not before Celeste pinched him on the cheek. “Oh, you’re so cute when your angry!” she joked before Henrietta pulled him away from her. She didn’t want him to start another fight with his sister.

On the other hand, Akatsuki was star-struck and in love with her idol even more. “She is so awesome!” she whispered quietly.

Soujiro and Nazuna ignored all the misadventures and went to check on their girls. Brother Tate and Kyouko helped them out of the containers, laying them on the ground. They were still under the effects of the powerful narcotic.

“They seem alright but still unconscious,” Brother Tate told Soujiro. “Gideon said that his medicine man friend has an antidote for the drug. I’m sure they’ll wake up once we get them back to Akiba.”

Soujiro fumed, and his fury turned to Jered Gan and Rezor. The fire in his eyes burned with a hatred Soujiro reserved for anyone who messed with his girls. In the blink of an eye, he had both of his swords drawn, bearing down their throats.

“You deserve death for what you put my girls through,” he spoke with unwavering passion. “I am sick and tired of following the rules while Plant Hwyaden gets to do what they want.”

Jered Gan cringed as the samurai blade scratched his throat, but Rezor Ginta smiled and laughed at him. “Go ahead, little man, kill me. Make me a martyr, and I will live forever to the people of Westlande. All you’ll do is embolden our forces to crush Eastel. We will enslave you and your girls to work for the glory of the Holy Empire of Westlande.”

His threats infuriated Soujiro even more, but a comforting hand touched his shoulder. Nazuna leaned into her guildmaster, wrapping her arm around him. “He’s not worthy of your blade, Souji. Don’t taint it with the blood of this Yatsu.”

Soujiro understood what she meant and lowered his blades before stepping back. Jered Gan breathed a sigh of relief while Rezor just continued his taunt. “That’s what makes you weak, samurai, bending to the whims of your woma . . .” Before finishing his sentence, Soujiro brought his blade down across Rezor’s face, leaving a deep diagonal gash. The brute screamed in pain but not before Nazuna raised her hand to his face.

“Holy Curse of the Sword!” she said, casting her prayer spell as the wound seared close, creating a wicked scar. “That scar will never heal, no matter what any healer might try. That will remind you NEVER to mess with the West Wind Brigade again.”

“And if you do, I won’t hesitate to take your life,” Soujiro added. “Don’t even think about setting foot in Akiba unless you want a quick death.”

Rezor became enraged at the insult leveled at him. “You think this changes anything? All of Westlande will destroy you in one fell swoop.”

“I doubt that very seriously,” Shiroe interrupted. “Unless you want to take on the Ezzo Empire along with the Freedom Cities of Eastal.” Both Jered Gan and Rezor were stunned into silence. “You can tell Indix and Princess Nureha that the Round Table Conference signed a mutual defense accord with the Ezzo Empire. If Westlande invades again, the Ezzo Empire will support us militarily, and we will support them in return.”

“As will Eagle Mountain,” Celeste interjected, surprising everyone. “We will not stand by and let our family be overrun. Should you invade and attempt to conquer this land, I will bring the full weight of twenty thousand adventurers to Yamato to stop your plans.”

She paused for a moment before turning to Shiroe. “I realize there is no formal agreement between our guilds, Master Shiroe, but consider this a mutual understanding between guild masters.”

Her sudden announcement shocked Shiroe and the others. Still, he realized that this could be beneficial in stopping an all-out war across Yamato. He looked around at the other members of the Round Table Conference—Soujiro of West Wind, William Massachusetts of Silver Sword, Reize and Misa of the D3 Hub, Michitaka of Marine Agency, and Akaneya of Radio Market. They all nodded their heads, agreeing with the alliance with Eagle Mountain.

Shiroe offered his hand to Celeste, and she hardily took it. “The Round Table Conference welcomes an alliance with Eagle Mountain. From this day forward, we will support you just as you helped us today,” he announced, and then he turned his attention back to their captives. “I suggest you pick up your wounded and get back on your train to Minami. When Plant Hwyaden and Westlande are ready to talk peace, we’ll listen.”

Everyone backed away to allow Jered Gan and Rezor to leave. The rest of the Fūma Demons helped their wounded board the magic train. They disconnected from the damaged cars and headed south, “With their tail between their legs,” Gideon commented.

While they prepared some stretchers for the drugged members of West Wind, everyone got a chance to gather around and meet their new friends from Eagle Mountain. It made for exciting conversation as new friendships were made that spanned an ocean and two servers.

Henrietta finally received a proper introduction to her sister-in-law as the two embraced. Celeste never had a chance to meet her in the real world. She heard all about Henrietta from her brother, thrilled to see that she lived up to all his praise. As those two talked, Akatsuki nudged Gideon repeatedly to urge him to keep his promise and introduce the tiny ninja to his sister. He finally took the hint and interrupted the two women in his life.

“Excuse me, Celeste, but there’s someone I’d like you to meet,” he said before motioning to Akatsuki. “This is Akatsuki, our ninja in Log Horizon. She was the one who stopped the train from leaving with those petticoats from West Wind.”

Akatsuki nervously bowed to her in-game idol. “It’s an honor to meet you, Lady Celeste. I am Akatsuki, Master Shiroe’s shinobi and personal bodyguard. I have long admired your career in Elder Tales.”

While she remained prostrate, Celeste was quiet. She didn’t say a word; she didn’t move a muscle except for the occasional twitch in her eyes and lips. She stared intensely at the little ninja, which unnerved Akatsuki until . . . “Oh my God, you are the cutest little thing I’ve ever seen!” Celeste screamed as she crushed Akatsuki in a death grip hug around her head. “Isn’t she just adorable!”

“I know, right! My little Akatsuki is such a cutie-patootie!” Henrietta added as the two women assaulted her repeatedly with love and affection. Gideon sighed audibly at the sight of these two uncontrollable women. That’s why he didn’t want to introduce Akatsuki to his sister like this, but now it was too late. He could deal with Henrietta, but he needed some help with Celeste.

“Tom, can you . . .” he asked the towering monk.

“Yeah, I got it,” he said as he walked up to Celeste, picked her up with one hand, and pulled her off Akatsuki. He was the only one who could get away with manhandling Celeste as she continued to struggle to reach Akatsuki. Gideon did the same with Henrietta, leaving the little ninja in shambles. Her hair was a mess, her clothes all crumpled as she stood there in silence. Shiroe walked over to his companion, but she held a finger to shut him up before saying a word.

“Don’t say anything!” she warned as he waved it off and walked away. But then, she just smiled and sighed. Deep down, it thrilled her that she was mauled by her idol. “Totally worth it!”

* * *

Stay tuned for Part 5 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger’s First Mission. Check out my fan fiction page if you want to catch up on the whole story.

Part 3 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger in Akiba Fan Fiction

Thanks for your continued support on this little pet project of mine. To be honest, it’s fun to write because I’ve already watched all three seasons multiple times so this keeps me hyped for more. Plus, they walk about all the servers in the Log Horizon Fan Wiki but the only one they’ve done anything with is the China server. My story gives me some “creative license” about life on the North America server, the guilds there, and some of the people there. Without further adieu, Here is Part 3 of my Log Horizon anime fan fiction, A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger in Akiba.

* * *

Part Two 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. Gideon Hawkmoon, the sorcerer gunslinger from America, and Major, a guardian from the Bearclaw clan, along with Doc, an Inuit medicine man, traveled across four servers and an ocean to arrive in Akiba. Gideon was reunited with his wife, Henrietta, and Major with his little sister, Serara. With the help of Shiroe of Log Horizon, they were able to break the illegal entry feedback loop they were stuck in and stay in Yamato. After a night of celebration, the wayward adventurers finally had a place to call home.

***

The morning light crept through the window until it fell across Henrietta’s face. She slowly opened her eyes, and what she saw made her smile. Gideon lay next to her, still sleeping soundly. She remembered that he once told her he grew up near railroad tracks in Texas, so it took a lot to wake him up. She didn’t mind it at all as she stared at him. For the first time in more than a year, Henrietta felt at ease living in Akiba.

She had an epiphany and quickly opened her heads-up display, going into her voice mail. She found the message Gideon left for her right before the Apocalypse and finally deleted it. Henrietta would no longer need a reminder of him. He was here with her.

Suddenly, the handle to her bedroom door jiggled. Someone tried to come into her room without knocking. Henrietta was cautious when they arrived, setting the locks so only she could open the door. The only one who could override her permissions was . . . the guildmaster.

“Good morning!” Marielle shouted as she burst through the door, all smiles and cheerful, but her rosy demeanor disappeared when she saw Henrietta and Gideon in bed. As Marielle became embarrassed, Henrietta, in turn, became angry.

“Marielle!” she screamed through gritted teeth. “Learn to knock!” Henrietta threw a pillow at her best friend, hitting her in the face. Marielle took the hint and quickly left the room, closing the door behind her.

Still fuming from the interruption, Henrietta never noticed that Gideon was finally awake. He opened his eyes and became curious at the angry woman next to him. “Is everything okay, Henrietta? You look like someone put a rattlesnake in your hamper.”

Henrietta took a deep breath before she laid down against Gideon’s chest. “No, everything’s fine. I just have to make some adjustments to the access controls for the guildhall.” She finally looked up at him and smiled. “Good morning!”

“Morning, darlin’. . . Did you sleep well?”

“The best sleep I’ve had since I arrived in this world. How about you?”

“Oh heck, I preferred the waking parts to the sleeping,” Gideon joked, causing her to blush with embarrassment. “But yeah, best sleep I’ve had in the past year. That Major could snore up a thunderstorm. I’ll take your snoring over his any day!”

Henrietta smacked him with a pillow, not amused with his poor attempt at humor. Gideon brushed it off as he pulled her close and rolled over on her. The two embraced in a passionate kiss, realizing this was the first day of the rest of their lives together in Akiba.

***

Marielle walked downstairs in the guildhall with a glazed look over her eyes. After consuming too much alcohol last night, she treated today like any other day in all her confusion. When she saw that Henrietta wasn’t up yet, Marielle did as she always did and went up to her room to wake her up. She just didn’t expect to see what she saw in there. Marielle was actually more afraid of what Henrietta would do to her for barging in.

Everyone in the Crescent Moon Alliance was busy enjoying their breakfast, talking about gossip around Akiba, and getting their assignments for the day. Liliana looked over and saw the guildmaster enter the room, looking quite vexed. The little elf rushed over to her with some tea to hopefully calm her nerves. “Marielle, is everything alright?” she asked, pouring a cup of tea and setting it in front of her.

“Huh? Oh yes, I’m fine, Liliana. Thank you,” she said, picking up her teacup, slightly shaking in her hand.

“Is Henrietta up yet? I haven’t seen her yet this morning.”

“Yes! Yes, she’s awake. She’s just taking her time getting dressed and all. I’m sure she’ll be down momentarily.”

“Mornin’ everyone!” The guild members looked up the stairs as Gideon strutted down with that announcement. Everyone in the guild liked Gideon, especially since they could see how happy he made Henrietta. The guild members scattered about the hall all waved, shouted hello, or a simple good morning to him. Gideon walked through the throngs of people, chatting it up and saying hello before he walked over and sat directly across from Marielle.

“Good morning, Master Gideon. Would you like some tea?” Liliana asked.

“Yes, please, thank you kindly darlin’. . .” he said with a wink. As Liliana poured his tea, Girov rushed over to see Gideon. As the head chef for the Crescent Moon Alliance, the elf was keen on preparing the best food for his guildmates.

“Master Gideon, would you like some breakfast? I can make you anything you’d like!”

“Well, I’m much obliged, Girov. Have you ever made a western omelet before?” The name confused the chef a little. He knew what an omelet was, but he had never heard of a western omelet before. “It’s straightforward, hoss. Just throw some peppers, onions, ham, and cheese into the eggs. Any cookie worth their toast can make one. You’ll do fine.”

His little pep talk encouraged the head chef, who took off to try making his first western omelet. Gideon picked up his teacup, gave a slight nod to Liliana, and took a sip before turning his attention to Marielle. He could tell she was a little unsettled.

“Are you alright, Marielle? You look a little flush.”

“No . . . No, I’m fine, wonderful, no worries here!”

“Look, I’m sorry if I saddle-bagged you with the bourbon last night,” Gideon apologized. “I promised Henrietta that I wouldn’t do it again.”

“Oh no, that’s fine. I should know better than to drink too much,” she assured him with a polite wave. Gideon could see that Marielle continued to be jittery as they sat there together. He thought of a story that might help her calm down.

“You know, this reminds me of a story my mee-maw told me,” he began. “There was a girl who loved to party. She spent her time, drinking all night, hoopin’ and hollerin’, dancing the night away. Her momma warned her that she would dance with the devil one night, all the way to hell.”

His story caught Marielle’s attention as she listened intently. “So, one night, she went out to the local gin joint and did like always. She was drinking every man under the table, having her choice of partners to dance with, just having a good ole time. That gal was livin’ large and havin’ fun like there was no tomorrow.”

“So, what happened?” Marielle asked.

“Well, suddenly, the music stopped, and a stranger with jet black hair walked up to the little lady. She was mesmerized by his handsome face and fancy clothes. He asked her to dance, and she couldn’t refuse him for some reason. They were like fire out on the dance floor. They spun faster and faster as the floor melted seemingly beneath their feet, whipping up a cloud of dust. When the dust settled, the man and the girl were gone.

“Just like her momma warned her, she danced with the devil that night, and he took her straight to hell,” Gideon concluded. Marielle reflected on the message behind the story as Girov rushed over and presented Gideon with his omelet.

“I hope this is to your liking, Master Gideon,” he chattered, nervously setting it down in front of him. Gideon took one bite, savoring its taste and flavor.

“That’s darn tasty, Girov. You are one heckuva cookie, partner!” Gideon’s compliment thrilled Girov, who bowed profusely in gratitude. “You can cook me a western omelet anytime.”

“Thank you so much, Master Gideon. If you have any other recipes you’d like me to try, please let me know!” Girov exclaimed.

“Well, you need to talk to Major then, Girov. He has the chef sub-class and was our cookie on the way here. He knows everything from Texas chili to sausage gravy and biscuits.”

“Thank you so much, Master Gideon! I will!” Girov said as he bowed again before taking off to track down his new guildmember. Shouryuu, the Wolf-Fang swashbuckler and combat leader for the guild, saw his opening. He was always eager to impress the guildmaster. Gideon continued to eat his breakfast before Shouryuu popped over to ask a question.

“Excuse me, Master Gideon, but some of our sorcerers and enchanters would like to know if you’d be available to give them some one-on-one instruction, our combat teams too. We would really benefit from someone with your experience and knowledge.”

“We can set that up for another time, Shouryuu,” Henrietta interrupted as she walked down the stairs. Hearing her voice chilled Marielle as she knew she would have to account for storming into her room earlier. “I will be taking Gideon around Akiba today, introducing him to the various guilds and leaders of the Round Table conference. We can set up a training session for another time, okay?”

Shouryuu nodded his head before he bowed and left. He knew better than to argue with Henrietta. Gideon did too, as he finished his breakfast and took one last sip of tea before getting up to leave. “Well now, on that, I’ll be skedaddling over to Log Horizon to check in with Shiroe,” Gideon said as he put his hat on before walking over to Henrietta. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours, darlin’!”

Gideon gave her a peck on the lips before waving goodbye to the guild. There were a few oohs and aahs, but that quickly passed after a stern look from Henrietta. The usually subdued lady didn’t mind showing her affection toward her husband. Gideon was here with her now, making her happier than anytime before.

But then, she turned her attention to Marielle, placing her hand firmly on her shoulder. “Now then, Marielle, I think we need to discuss privacy and access restrictions within the guildhall. Don’t you agree?” Marielle shuddered, knowing she was about to get an earful.

***

Gideon stepped outside the guildhall and got his first glimpse of the heart of Akiba in the daylight. He wandered around, trying to get his bearings. Last night, he was focused on Henrietta on their walk from Log Horizon to the guildhall, so he didn’t know exactly which way to go.

Most of the people in Akiba, both adventurers and the People of the Land, stared at him with curiosity. He was a stranger to this city, and his clothes and mannerisms were peculiar. Some of the more experienced players recognized him, but his reputation made them keep their distance.

Soon, Gideon found himself staring at the White Tree, the heart of Akiba. The magnificent tree with silver leaves glittering in the sunlight was a meeting and gathering place for adventurers. It looked beautiful in-game and even more breathtaking in person. In fact, it was where Gideon was supposed to meet Henrietta on the day of the Apocalypse.

Gideon was about to use the telepathic link to call Shiroe, but then he heard a familiar voice behind. “Well, hey there, cowboy! Are you lost?” Gideon spun around and spied two friends from his brief time with the Debauchery Tea Party.

Soujiro Seta and Nazuna of the West Wind Brigade surprised him. Soujiro broadly smiled with his hair pulled back into an Edo-style ponytail. He carried two katanas tucked into his obi under a white kimono decorated with a red dragon, indicating his status as a samurai and master swordsman. Nazuna, a Fox Tail shrine maiden, towered behind Soujiro, giving Gideon a simple wave. These two were the leaders and founders of the West Wind Brigade, a guild of women adventurers entirely devoted to Soujiro.

“Nazuna, Soujiro! Dang, are you two a sight for sore eyes!” Gideon exclaimed, rushing over to them. He surprised Nazuna with a hug before reaching out to Soujiro. “You two look exactly as I remember . . . Standing toe-to-toe, ready to make an ordinary fight look like a prayer meeting! What are you doing makin’ hay before the sun shines?”

“Well, one of our guild members said she saw a cowboy walking through Akiba with Shiroe, and we knew it could only be you,” Soujiro explained. “What are you doing here, Gideon?”

“Yeah, and just how did you get here from America?” Nazuna added.

“Well, that’s a long story. If y’all could show me the way to Log Horizon, I’ll spin you a yarn on the way.” They started off toward the Log Horizon guild. At the same time, Gideon told them his story: his marriage to Henrietta, the fairy ring incident, traveling across the Aleutians and down the coast, his arrival in Akiba, and the encounter with Plant Hwyaden. After all that, both Soujiro and Nazuna were astounded by his tale, but Nazuna couldn’t get one thing off her mind.

“You’re married to Henrietta? I can’t believe it! Oh, the girls will freak when I tell them this!”

“I’m amazed that you made it the entire way without dying once,” Soujiro added. “You are one of a kind, Gideon!”

“That’s just how I like it, Souji,” Gideon joked. “Although from what Naotsugu tells me, you’re the one living life on the farm. I can’t believe you have a harem of girls all to yourself. I thought you and Nazuna would’ve gotten hitched by now.”

Gideon’s sudden proclamation made the two of them turn red with embarrassment. It was never something they talked about openly. Soujiro, however, quickly brushed it off with a chuckle. “I have too many of my girls in the guild to worry about,” Soujiro explained. “I don’t know if I could ever settle down with just one. Besides, Nazuna and I are practically married already if you think about it. She’s always by my side, and I depend on her for everything.”

Nazuna was happy to hear Soujiro admit how he felt and how much he needed her, although she genuinely wished for something more deep down. Gideon knew just how these two felt. It’s the same way he was toward Henrietta. “Well, in any case, it’s nice to know I’ve got friends and allies with me in Akiba, especially for the fight ahead.”

“I don’t think Shiroe would get us into a war between Westlande and Eastel, even if Plant Hwyaden is involved,” Nazuna said.

“We might not have a choice, Naz,” Gideon interrupted. “Indix sent her varmints to test out a drug that stops adventurers cold. That woman’s crazy as a hog in the hip pocket of a bathing suit.”

Neither of them really understood Gideon’s western vernacular, but they understood his meaning. “Look, Gideon, I know you and Indix never got along, but I don’t think she would risk an all-out war across Yamato,” Soujiro commented.

Gideon stopped for a moment and thought before he answered his question with a question. “What if that was one of your girls, drugged up and taken away to Minami instead of Minori? What would you do?”

The two looked at each other and never hesitated. “Yeah, your right; she’s dead meat!” Nazuna stated as she cracked her knuckles. Gideon laughed, knowing that Nazuna meant every word she said.

“Good morning, Master Gideon.” A voice next to him startled the gunslinger as Akatsuki appeared out of nowhere.

“Dagnabbit, Akatsuki! You scared the dickens out of me! What in tarnation are you doing here?” Gideon shouted, jumping off to the side. Akatsuki ignored his question, happy that, like Shiroe and many others, she could one-up them with her ninja skills.

“Henrietta asked me to look out for you,” she explained. “She thought you might get lost finding your way to our guildhall. She also wanted me to remind you to pick up milk and eggs on your way home.”

“What? Milk and eggs?” Akatsuki laughed that her little married joke flew right over his head. Soujiro and Nazuna snickered as Akatsuki turned her attention and nodded politely.

“Good morning, Master Soujiro, Nazuna. I’ll take our wayward cowboy from here.”

“Thanks, Akatsuki. See you later, Gideon!” Soujiro said with a wave as he turned to leave.

“Don’t forget to tell Henrietta to bring you by our guildhall. The girls will be dying to meet you!” Nazuna added as the two-headed on their way.

Gideon tipped his hat before turning his attention back to Akatsuki. She stood there smiling as she enjoyed her moment of glory. “You’re grinnin’ like a baked possum, little lady.”

“I’m just enjoying the moment!” she replied, happy with herself and the little joke she pulled.

“Well, as my paw-paw used to say, if you make the bed, be prepared to sleep under the sheets. That means ‘watch your six’ Akatsuki.” His little saying confused her even more than usual, but then Gideon snapped his fingers and a deluge of water poured down, right on top of the little ninja, soaking her head to toe.

Akatsuki looked like a drowned rat, shocked by the sudden downpour that fell on her. She looked at Gideon, who now had a sly grin. “How . . . How did you do that?” she asked.

“Come on, Akatsuki, a good magician never reveals his secret,” Gideon replied with a tip of his hat as he continued to walk, leaving the soggy ninja behind.

***

Mornings in Log Horizon were the same as it was in other guilds. Everyone gathered for breakfast, performed chores, discussed the day’s assignments and tasks, and talked about the goings-on in Akiba. Today’s topic centered around the arrival of Gideon and friends and the party last night. They all wondered about the whereabouts of the sorcerer gunslinger.

“I wonder where Master Gideon got to. He didn’t even sleep in his room last night,” Touya wondered.

“I’m sure Gideon was continuing his reunion with Lady Henrietta,” Doc interjected. “During our trip here, all he talked about was his longing to be reunited with her.”

“Oh, that’s so romantic!” Minori squealed. “But what about you, Doc?”

“Yes, you haven’t told us much about you, what happened to your village, and why you’re here?” Rudy inquired. Doc smiled before his face grew sad as he sipped his tea.

“That is a story for another time, little ones. For now, let’s focus on the present. Besides, I see that Gideon has finally returned.” Everyone looked over to the door as Gideon walked in with Akatsuki close behind, leaving puddles of water with every step.

“Mornin’ everyone!” Gideon greeted with a tip of his hat. Tetora, mop in hand, noticed the mess Akatsuki left in her wake.

“Akatsuki! I just mopped the floor!” she screamed as she followed behind her, cleaning up the mess. “What happened? Did you fall in the river?”

“Not quite . . .” she said through gritted teeth as she glared up at Gideon. Chief and Naotsugu knew what happened to her and couldn’t help but laugh.

“Looks like Akatsuki fell victim to Gideon’s ‘Rainmaker’ spell,” Chief surmised. “You must have done something to get under his skin to earn that distinction.”

“What’s Rainmaker, Master Gideon? I never heard of that spell before,” Rudy inquired.

“It’s a spell specific for sorcerers on the North America server. Because of the vast deserts of the American southwest, sorcerers were given this spell to create water in an instant to ensure parties don’t suffer from dehydration.”

“But Gideon uses it for something totally different,” Naotsugu added. “He likes to cause a downpour on a single spot, soaking someone through and through. Damn squirt, what’d you do?”

Akatsuki said nothing as she turned away and walked up the stairs toward her room to change. She walked by Shiroe, not even looking up at him, leaving a water trail as Tetora followed with her mop. Shiroe immediately knew what had happened.

“Gideon, please, could you refrain from drowning our guild members?”

“Alright, Shiroe, I promise not to do it again!” Gideon said, raising his hand and crossing his heart. “I just wanted to teach the little lady that sometimes it’s not smart to step on a rattlesnake.”

Shiroe shook his head in disbelief while Naotsugu and Chief Nyanta laughed it off. “Can I interest you in some breakfast, Gideon?” Nyanta asked.

“No, thank you kindly, Chief, but I already had a delicious omelet over at Crescent Moon. However, I could go for a hot cup of joe!”

“Sorry, Gideon, but we don’t have a lot of coffee drinkers in our little guild, meow. So, I don’t have any in stock, you dig?”

“That’s okay, Chief; I always carry some with me,” Gideon said before reaching into his saddlebag, his version of Dazaneg’s Magic Bag. The relatively inconspicuous satchel could carry many items with relative ease. Gideon pulled out a fifty-pound bag of coffee beans and a coffee grinder from inside his bag. He handed both over to Chief Nyanta.

“This should keep you stocked for a while, Chief!” Gideon added. The swashbuckler was impressed with Gideon’s forethought.

“Well, this is a welcome sight indeed. I’ll go brew us a pot, nya,” Nyanta replied as he took his prize back to the kitchen.

“Excuse me, Master Gideon, but why do you have coffee with you?” Isuzu asked.

“There are four things a cowboy is never without, Miss Isuzu,” Gideon said, holding up four fingers. “Bullets, beans, whiskey, and coffee . . . These are essential items for any gunslinger to survive out on the range.”

Everyone laughed at Gideon’s explanation, but soon they realized that he was serious. He reached in and pulled out another large sack from his saddlebag, one marked pinto beans, and dropped it on the floor.

“So, how was your first night back with Henrietta?” Tetora inquired, blowing Gideon as she looked for some juicy gossip.

“Now, Tetora, a gentleman does not kiss and tell, especially about one’s married life,” Gideon replied smartly.

“Yeah, I bet there was a lot of kissing and . . .” Naotsugu started to insinuate before Akatsuki suddenly appeared, kicking Naotsugu in the face, sending him flying across the room. She dropped into his chair and took his seat, dressed in new clothes, and dried off.

“Thank you kindly for correcting Naotsugu, Miss Akatsuki,” Gideon said, tipping his hat to her, “I apologize for the dunking I gave you earlier. Sometimes old habits are hard to break.”

“It’s alright, Master Gideon, all is forgiven,” she said calmly and quietly. It seemed odd and unnerved everyone, including Shiroe.

“This isn’t like you, Akatsuki. What did you do?”

“I don’t know what you mean, my lord. This is exactly like me,” she stated, sitting there quietly. Suddenly, a loud rumbling came from outside, like a stampede of wild animals. That unnerved everyone, especially Gideon.

“What’s that noise?” Touya asked until Gideon finally realized what the little ninja did.

“Oh no, you didn’t?” he asked Akatsuki, who just continued to sit and smile.

“You make the bed, be prepared to sleep under the sheets . . . I believe that’s what you said, right, Master Gideon?” she replied as the door to Log Horizon burst open, and Henrietta rushed into the room, darting over to Akatsuki.

“Oh, my precious little Akatsuki, what did my mean husband do to you?” she cooed, hugging tightly around her head. Usually brisque to her advances, Akatsuki didn’t seem to mind it before Henrietta turned her attention to Gideon. She got right into his face, wagging her finger at him. “Are you crazy? Using that ridiculous ‘Rainmaker’ spell to douse my Akatsuki?” 

“Now, darlin’, it was just a little joke between friends, nothing to get all worked up about!” Gideon replied, holding his hands up in innocence. Henrietta grabbed him by the ear and started dragging him away.

“Outside, mister, now!” As hard as Gideon struggled against her, Henrietta kept a death grip on his ear as she dragged him outside. He continued to try to dissuade her but to no avail. Akatsuki smiled as everyone looked at her in awe.

“Akatsuki, did you . . .” Naotsugu started to ask before he stopped and stared. Tetora hovered behind him, afraid of the little ninja’s newfound confidence.

“Oh no, she’s learned ‘Dark Karami’ mode from Shiroe!” Tetora exclaimed as a dark presence fell across Akatsuki. It was akin to what people saw around Shiroe when his ‘villain in glasses’ persona came out.

The junior members were a little terrified of this side of their guildmate. “Remind me never to get Miss Akatsuki mad at me,” Rudy said. The other three nodded in agreement.

***

After the mischievous events of the morning, Henrietta began escorting Gideon around Akiba, introducing him to the various guild leaders and members of the Round Table Conference. The word of his arrival spread around Akiba, making them curious, even excited to see the sorcerer gunslinger. With Henrietta leading him around, they were pleasantly inviting and welcoming. Of course, it surprised people when they found out Henrietta was married to Gideon.

The reception was completely different as the duo arrived at the West Wind Brigade guildhall. Soujiro was shocked to see how infatuated some members in his guild were with the wayward cowboy from America. For the first time, his girls were fascinated by the charm and persona of someone besides him. It was pretty unnerving for the samurai guildmaster. Plus, Nazuna had to hold back a jealous Henrietta to keep things from getting out of hand.

At the Seifu Mansion, Princess Lenessia Erharte Cowen became enthralled with meeting someone from America but was equally interested to hear about Henrietta’s marriage to Gideon. As a representative of the Eastal League of Freedom Cities and a member of the Round Table Conference, the beautiful, pale blue-haired Lenessia had always worked closely with the adventurers in Akiba, especially the women. She was an integral part of the Akiba Raid Party to eliminate the rouge Royal Guard Enbart Nelles.

While her elf maid, Elissa, served tea and cakes, Lenessia interrogated Henrietta about her relationship while Gideon sat there quietly. He didn’t have much experience around royalty, so he was nervous sitting in front of a real-life princess.

“I can’t believe you’re married, Henrietta! How did you keep this a secret from everyone, including your best friend, Marielle?”

“Well, it was a matter of privacy and peace of mind,” Henrietta explained. “I didn’t know what was happening with Gideon, so I thought it best to focus on the situation here in Akiba. Besides, it all turned out for the best.”

“And you, Master Gideon, I must commend you on your devotion to Henrietta to travel across the ocean to be with her. That’s an amazing feat,” she said before she paused, turning her thoughts to the D.D.D. guildmaster, Krusty, someone she’s been enamored with since they met. “I know certain monsters who don’t care how long it takes to return to their duties and responsibilities.”

“Well, thank you, Princess . . . I mean, Your Highness, Majesty . . .” he stuttered, something out of character for the gunslinger. “Sorry, Highness, but I don’t have much experience being so informal with royalty. I’m used to dealing with Tribal Chiefs or Town Marshals, not a real princess.”

“Oh please, there’s no need to apologize or be so formal,” Lenessia argued. “You can ask Henrietta, I’m the least bit informal around adventurers like yourself. But I would love to hear more about North America and the People of the Land who live there.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I would love to introduce you to Doc. He’s an Inuit medicine man from the People of the Land in Alaska,” Gideon replied. “I’m sure he would be happier than a pup with two tails to tell you about his tribe.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful, thank you!” Lenessia exclaimed before a knock rang on the door, and one of the other maids—a small felinoid—walked in.

“Excuse me, Pr-Pr-Princess, but Miss M-M-Misa and R-R-Rieze are here to see you!” she announced with a cat-like slur to her words as the two co-leaders of D.D.D. battle guild walked in. After the disappearance of their guildmaster, Krusty, the guild split into several smaller guilds and formed a D3 guild union. A Wolf Fang bard, Misa was the only other master swordsman in Akiba next to Soujiro. Rieze, a Half-Alf Sorcerer, was a strategist up there with Shiroe. The beauty of these two women was on par with their strength and intelligence in leading the D3 hubs in Krusty’s absence.

“Sorry for the intrusion, Princess, but we . . .” Misa started to say until she saw Gideon sitting with Her Royal Highness. “You!” Without warning, Misa summoned her death scythe, Disaster, and Rieze her magical staff, Pride of Queen, as the two lunged to attack Gideon. He reacted as fast as they did, jumping to his feet and drawing his six-shooters, pointing them squarely at both ladies, triggers cocked but waiting for them to strike first.

Everyone stood in silence for a moment, stunned at the sudden attack. “Now, ladies, I don’t believe this is the proper place for us to be havin’ a tussle, doncha think?” Gideon asked.

“Misa! Rieze! What’s gotten into you?” Lenessia exclaimed.

“It’s all my fault, Your Highness. The ladies have a grudge with me over a match I had with Krusty,” Gideon explained.

“You know Sir Krusty?” Lenessia asked.

“When did you fight Krusty?” Henrietta queried.

“It was before we met, Henrietta. On my first visit to Japan, Krusty and I had a PvP battle, and he lost.”

“You mean you cheated!” Misa interrupted.

“Cheated is a strong word, Misa darlin’, and I never cheat.”

“You took advantage of a loophole in the system to assure your victory!” Reize exclaimed.

“That’s not cheatin’, Miss Reize. That’s using every tool in the game to win. Besides, Krusty didn’t see it that way. He took his ass-whupping like a gentleman, said it was the best fight he’d ever had.”

“Yeah, that sounds like Krusty,” Lenessia lamented.

“My lord only did that because you were a foreigner,” Rieze added. “Your match dishonored his reputation in Yamato.”

“And how in tarnation did I do that? Seems to me you two are dishonoring him by continuing to hold a grudge. Did he ever bring it up again after our little contest? Did he sulk or cry like a baby? No, he didn’t because he and I saw things as clear as morning dew on a cactus flower.” Both ladies thought about it and realized that Krusty never did complain about his duel, so maybe he did put it aside. They both slowly lowered their weapons, and Gideon holstered his six-shooters.

“We’re going to be seeing a lot more of each other, ladies, so I suggest we let bygones be bygones,” Gideon added. “I’ll be more than happy to give Krusty his rematch when he gets back.”

The two women looked at each other confused. “What do you mean seeing a lot of us? Are you staying in Akiba?” Rieze asked.

Henrietta stood up and took Gideon by the arm. “Gideon is my husband,” she announced, startling the two women into silence.

“Oh, wonderful!” Misa cajoled.

“Well, that complicates things,” Rieze added as the two women dismissed their weapons.

“Alright, because of everything that Henrietta has done for us, we’ll make amends,” Misa said before stepping forward and getting right in Gideon’s face. “But call me ‘darling’ again, and I’ll be more than happy to cut off your hand and any other appendage!”

Gideon just smiled and tipped his hat. “Point taken, Miss Misa!”

***

“Is there anyone you haven’t met that doesn’t want to kill you?” Henrietta asked as she walked with Gideon by the stalls alongside the Production Guild District.

“Sorry, darlin’, but it comes with the territory of being the number one PvP,” Gideon explained. “Besides, those two would do anything for Krusty. They are as loyal to him as those girls in West Wind all love Soujiro.”

“Yes, I know. It seems most of the women here in Akiba have the want for romance but never act on it. I think they’re too busy living our day-to-day lives in this new world that they don’t take advantage of a relationship.”

“Well, not that you have to worry about that anymore,” Gideon said before rubbing his ear, still feeling the pain from this morning. “Dang it all, Henrietta, did you have to go and pull my ear off? It still hurts like the dickens.”

“Oh, quit complaining, you big baby. Serves you right for hurting my dear, precious Akatsuki.”

“I did not hurt her, darlin’, and besides, she . . .”

“Hey! Gideon Hawkmoon!” a voice shouted at him from behind, interrupting the conversation. Gideon and Henrietta turned to see a wall of people from the Black Sword Knights staring them down. Standing out in front was their guildmaster, Isaac, a guardian knight commander, clad in spike plate mail armor with his Black Sword of Pain slung across his shoulder. He grinned like the cat that ate the canary looking across at his next opponent.

“I have been waiting for my chance to battle the number one PvP,” Isaac proclaimed. “Let’s see if you’re as good as your reputation, gunslinger. Get ready to feel the Black Sword of Pain!”

“Really, Isaac, this is not the time for such frivolities,” Henrietta chastised.

“Look, Henrietta, I don’t know why you got stuck showing this loser around Akiba, but I’m not about to let a chance like this slip by. So, step aside!” Henrietta became infuriated by Isaac’s callous attitude toward her, seemingly brushing her aside. She glanced up at Gideon with a determined look in her eyes.

“Kick his ass,” was all she said before slowly moving aside. Gideon winked at her before he took out a cigar and lit it—something he always did before a fight. The people in the street backed away to give the two men plenty of room. Many started taking side bets on who would win.

“Rezarick, you can referee the match,” Isaac ordered one of his reliable subordinates. Rezarick stepped out to take the position, but Gideon had none of it.

“Sorry, Isaac, but I don’t like the idea of stacking the deck in your favor by having someone from your guild call this match . . . No offense, hoss, but I don’t know you.”

“None taken, Master Gideon,” Rezarick said. Gideon looked around and saw a young girl standing in her stall. She was selling her hand-made jewelry and looking rather shy in her dark-rimmed glasses and pink beret.

“Excuse me, little lady, but what’s your name?” Gideon asked politely with a tip of his hat.

“Me? It’s Nemimi, sir.”

“Well, Nemimi, would you mind refereeing our little contest here?”

“Uh, sure, but I’ve never done that before,” Nemimi said, stepping out behind her booth.

“Oh, it’s real easy, darlin’. You simply keep an eye on both our health bars. The first one to knock the other below fifty percent of their hit points wins. That alight with you, Isaac?”

“Yeah, yeah, we don’t want anyone unnecessarily going to the cathedral,” Isaac concurred as his guild spread out to keep the crowd back. Gideon pulled back his coat to expose his guns, like a true gunslinger, ready for the fight to begin.

“Anytime your ready, Nemimi, you can start this little showdown.” Gideon gave her a boost of confidence with a nod. She raised her hand and looked at both men to see that they were ready.  

“Competitors ready! And go!” Nemimi shouted, and with a thrust of her hand, the competition was underway. Isaac charged in, but Gideon just stood there until he snapped his fingers. Thanks to his Rainmaker spell, Isaac found himself in a deluge, soaked to the skin.

“What the . . . Are you trying to drown me?” Isaac laughed, but Gideon kept his cool, finally drew his six-shooters, and aimed for Isaac.

“Lightning Nebula!” he chanted, firing his weapons as an orb of lightning cascaded around him, shocking Isaac repeatedly and, thanks to the water, dealing him extra damage. But Isaac quickly countered.

“Scarlet Thrust!” he shouted as he brought his sword down. The wave of crimson energy hit Gideon, draining his H.P. and replenishing Isaac’s. But Gideon was not fazed by this.

“Frost Spear! Blizzard!” Gideon shouted, firing his next two shots as frozen lances streaked towards Isaac, but they barely hurt him.

“You gotta do better than that, cowboy. My ‘Iron Bounce’ skill is more than enough to deflect that pathetic attempt at . . .” Isaac stopped his rant when he realized the Frost Spear was a distraction. Gideon’s second spell created a blizzard effect around him. Thanks to the water-soaked thoroughly about, the swirling snow and ice started to freeze the Black Knight in place.

“Counter Break!” Isaac countered with a swing of his sword, shattering Gideon’s spell and freeing him from the ice. The knight hated that a lowly sorcerer quickly put him on the defensive, so he decided to end this. “Onslaught!” he screamed, unleashing his most powerful attack. A cascading wave of destruction hurled at Gideon with one stroke of his sword.

Isaac was sure that did it, but Gideon was nowhere to be seen when the smoke cleared. “Huh?” was all Isaac got out when he looked up and saw the gunslinger leaping over him. Gideon reached into his saddlebag and pulled out a handful of tiny bomblets, scattering them on the ground around Isaac. The confused knight looked at the small, round grenades with short fuses on the top. Each one had a little fox face painted on it.

 “Burning Strike!” Gideon shouted as he used his other hand to fire off a spell. It struck the ground under Isaac’s feet and spread out, igniting all the bomblets simultaneously. The explosion pounded Isaac mercilessly from all sides. Gideon landed as the smoke cleared, and everyone could see that the attack reduced Isaac’s hit points below fifty percent.

“That’s it! Winner, Master Gideon!” Nemimi declared as the crowd broke out in applause for the newcomer, enthralled by the thrilling contest they witnessed. Gideon tipped his hat to Nemimi as he holstered his weapon. Henrietta couldn’t contain herself as she ran over and wrapped her arms around Gideon, showing her appreciation for his performance.

They walked over to Isaac, still sitting on the ground while Rezarick, a cleric, healed his injuries. “You okay there, Isaac?” Gideon asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. What the Hell were those bombs you threw?”

“Yes, and how did you make them?” Rezarick asked. “They are clearly not part of the game.”

“They are if you know how to make them,” Gideon interrupted. “I take you never met a full-fledged weaponsmith before.” Weaponsmith was one of the sub-classes in Elder Tales. It was the top tier of the blacksmith rankings—blacksmith, armorer, bladesmith, and weaponsmith. Gideon earned that distinction by topping out on all four sub-classes and moving up.

“If you’re a top-tier weaponsmith and know a good alchemist who can make foxfire, grenades like these are easy as pie.” Everyone grew even more impressed with the gunslinger and his prowess within the game.

“Damn, you are as feisty as they said you would be,” Isaac retorted.

“They? Who’s they?” Henrietta queried.

“Rieze and Misa,” he explained. “They told me Gideon Hawkmoon was in Akiba and thought it would be a great opportunity for me to challenge his number one PvP status.”

Henrietta fumed at the thought that those two friends of hers set Gideon up like that, but the gunslinger laughed it off. “Those two gals are a pair of firecrackers,” he chuckled, confusing Isaac. “Don’t you worry none, Isaac, you got caught in a little feud between me and D.D.D.”

Gideon reached down and offered his hand to his competitor. Isaac took it as Gideon helped him to his feet, shaking his hand in appreciation for the match before Gideon pulled him in close. “But next time you speak to my wife that way, I won’t pull in your horns and stop at fifty percent. I’ll send you to the bone orchard via the cathedral, of that I’m pure as prairie dust.”

Isaac stared at him with a blank expression, unsure of the cowboy jargon Gideon rambled at him, but one thing he did catch. “Wait, your wife? You mean . . .” Henrietta took Gideon by the arm and led him away from the Black Sword Knight and his guild, smiling wickedly and leaving them speechless.

“Mister Isaac, I think it would be best not to do that again, at least for now,” Rezarick advised. “I would hate to see him fight you when he’s irate.” All Isaac could do was nod his head, still trying to comprehend everything.

“Rezarick, I need a drink and a lot of it!”

# # #

Stay tuned for Part 4 of A Tale of Log Horizon-The Gunslinger and Eagle Mountain. Check out my fan fiction page if you want to catch up on the whole story.