No Place Like Home

Chapter 1: Homecoming

It hasn’t been a good year. Athens’ storms can make life difficult at the best of times, but the magnitude of the destruction laid out on either side of the road means that some families are going to be a mite hungry this winter. Rufus is a couple of miles out from Limestone, but these are still people he knows.

Just up the road, Rufus can make out a figure repairing the fence along the property line. He’s too far away to make out features, but he can make a good guess as to who it is. Karl Long is too cheap to hire hands to do this sort of work for him. Could be he actually can’t afford to what with the tab he runs up at the bar every week. That kind of dedication to drink is usually bad for a man’s health, but it can also make him a font of information. A conversation with Karl has made Rufus’s job quite a bit easier on more than one occasion.

(I’m not entirely happy with the name of your hometown. It sits next to what’s more of a creek than a river in limestone country. It’s not really in a canyon, but the surrounding terrain isn’t exactly flat either. Suggestions are welcome.)

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Prologue

“You never learn, do you, Rufus? Every time you leave home, it leads to nothin’ but ma fuhn. And what good does it do you? Now you’re gorram talkin’ to yourself.” Rufus Teague shook his head in disgust and pulled his prize from his pack, reassuring himself that some good had come from it all.

It had all started with the sort of request that tugged at your heartstrings somethin’ awful. The Bensons had never had an easy time of it anyway, so when they asked Rufus to track down their runaway son and at least get the family Bible back from him, he’d gone to Sheriff Hu straight off to put in for some leave time. The sheriff didn’t have it in him to deny them either, makin’ assurances that he could handle the town for a couple of weeks by his lonesome. A couple of weeks. He ought to have known it wouldn’t be so easy.

He’d found the boy quick enough, to be sure. He was most likely still stinkin’ up that jail cell on Persephone even now. ‘Course, he hadn’t had the Bible with him anymore. Turned out, he’d hawked it ‘fore he ever left Athens. So it was back home to pick up the trail again.

In hindsight, Rufus probably should have let the matter lie at that point. A whole passel of things are clearer in hindsight, though. It didn’t seem like no bie woo lohng at the time. He found the pawn shop where the Bible had been, which led to the collector from Sihnon, which led to the private retreat on Jiangyin, which finally led to the antiques dealer on Triumph. And that didn’t count all the time and effort it took to raise the fare for all them trips.

Even once he’d tracked down the Bible, Rufus’s troubles weren’t over by a long sight. That antiques dealer’d been no fool: he knew the price of a 200 year old book, and he wasn’t about to be bargained down to anythin’ affordable. In the end, though, he’d allowed Rufus to just take the Bible once he’d acted as a go-between for him with a rival dealer who’d had a dagger that was supposed to hail from Earth-That-Was.

All told, Rufus couldn’t have been happier about finally gettin’ to go back home. The captain’s voice cracklin’ over the transport ship’s intercom to announce their imminent landin’ at the Rockingham Docks drew a long sigh of relief from his lips. He stuffed the Bible back in with his other possessions and made ready to disembark.

(Since all of this is essentially character bio, I’ll wait to post Chapter 1 until you’re happy with the contents of the Prologue.)

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