Tyler held out his hand, opened his fingers, and held the tiny object in the palm of his hand. "What's this?" he asked.
Usagi took the little object and turned it over in her hand. She closely examined it, then looked up into Tyler's face. "It's a primer key."
"And what does it do?"
"It makes the explosive ready to explode."
"And why is that important?"
"Because if you don't prime the load, it won't explode."
Tyler took the pin from her hand and tucked it into his palm. He then held out his two fists, tapped them together, then smiled at the little bunny-girl. "OK," he said smiling broadly. "Pick one."
Usagi tapped his left hand. His palm opened, and he held another piece in his hand. "What's this?" he asked.
Little Usagi looked at the object almost taking it from his hand. She recognized it centimeters before her hand came to a stop. Her face went motionless, and blank as she stared at the object in Tyler's hand. "It's a cap." she said.
"And what does it do?"
"It would blow my fingers off, and that's all I need to know."
"Very good little one. You learned your lessons well."
Usagi smiled at the burley face of her friend the blacksmith. Tyler reached out and picked up the little girl, and swung her around, making her laugh as two friends at play. She reacted with a very merry giggle before he pulled her close and hugged her to his chest. Usagi liked the way Tyler hugged. He sure liked kids.
They walked back across the wide meadow, and soon found a big shady tree to have a bite to eat under. Tyler produced from a knapsack a bunch of carrots and handed them to Usagi. He then pulled a turkey leg from the knapsack and took a big contented bite. Usagi watched the blacksmith display his voracious appetite, and curled her lip a little bit, then sat on a root under the tree and nibbled on a carrot. The two sat quietly for a few moments before Usagi broke the silence.
"Tyler, how long have you known Coulter?"
Tyler scratched his head with the end of the turkey leg, peering upwards, and biting his greasy lip. "Here now, That's a question." He rubbed his chin. "Lessee now."
"That long?" Tyler looked up at her smiling. "Well I might have been your age when that glorious event happened."
"What was he like?"
"Coulter was not what you would call a happy child. He was an only child, and he didn't have many friends. I met him when I caught him red handed trying to destroy Baltazar's privy."
"He was going to blow up a privy?"
"Indeed, and who better to do it?" Tyler chuckled. "That kid had a knack for blowing things to perdition. Seems that I was doing something wrong. No never mind that I don't remember what it was, but I had made Baltazar steaming mad with rage. He took me right off the meadow by the ear, and took me into the shed. Wailed the tar out of me, making sure I would never forget what I forgot in the first place." Tyler's gaze drifted into the distance for a moment. Then he seemed to snap back. "There was not a soul on earth that could lash the tar out of you like Baltazar could. "So there I was Baltazar blazing away on me, and me screaming like a banshee."
"Wait a second!" Usagi shouted. "Who was Baltazar?"
"Now didn't I tell ya? Baltazar was me uncle!" Tyler chuckled.
"Ya, me Uncle. And a powerful man he was!"
"So why did Coulter try to destroy his privy?"
"Didn't I tell you my Uncle was in it at the time?"
"Get outa here." Usagi chuckled.
"Cross my heart and hope to kick me Aunt Matilda, I pledge the truth!" Tyler stood stock straight at this comment, and Usage knew he meant what he said. "Coulter tried to blow up that privy because he watched Baltazar take me out behind the woodshed. He watched him wail the hyde offn me, and Coulter, God Bless him, decided to not let him get away with it.
"Later, I watched me uncle climb into the privy, and not less than a second later, there was Coulter setting a small grenade, and light it with a cigar he stole from his daddy. I stopped him, and he disarmed it."
"So he didn't blow it up while your Uncle was in it?"
"No, but I talked him into tipping it over while me uncle was in it."
Usagi and Tyler laughed in the noon day sun, enjoying Usagi's little visit. The day had been easy, so Tyler decided to pack a small lunch, and get acquainted with the little girl by taking her on a picnic. The day was perfect for it, and besides, Coulter was in the back of the stable sleeping off the effects of the late night he had dropped off a generous contribution from Dirk at the WildRose tavern.
Usagi liked talking to Tyler. He was a friendly sort, full of wise words, advice, and a ready laugh. It was through Tyler that Usagi was learning some of the tricks of the trade. He was teaching her some of the things that Coulter and he had made over the years, and why their friendship spanned the ages. She in turn helped him clean up the stable, arrange his tools, and sometimes made meals for him. They were best friends.
The sun shone down into the little meadow next to the shop, and the strains of Tyler's growly voice carried all the way across the grass. Sometimes you could hear Usagi's giggling. The wind blew gently. This was what awoke Coulter from his rest. He sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes. A peaceful morning.
Ten minutes later, Usagi, and Tyler looked up to see Coulter come staggering out of the stable, barefoot, wearing a loose white shirt, unbuttoned, and black pants, holding a tankard of coffee in his right hand, and scrubbing his left eye with the other. He walked up to the tree as both Usagi and Tyler kept their eyes glued to Coulter's face. They're faces were expressionless.
Coulter stopped short. He looked at his friends. "What..?" he croaked.
Usagi answered him. "Good Afternoon."
A look of cold fear swept over Coulter's face. Afternoon. Christ, it was afternoon already. He froze with his palm dug deep into his eye. He reached up and ran his fingers through his hair. "Aw Tyler, why didn't you wake me?"
"And disturb that Symphony of sawing wood? Not on your life. I know you have weapons."
Coulter took the tankard to his lips when Tyler stopped him. "And I don't think you'll find that very warm either."
Coulter looked down into the container. Sure enough, cold coffee. He put the tankard down, and chuckled to himself while he rubbed the back of his neck. 'I've KILLED for less than this.' He thought as he smiled at Usagi and Tyler sitting on the beautiful green grass, and acting as if the entire world was their oyster. He just turned on one heel, and went back into the stable.
"Gee he looks so tired." Usagi commented.
'Aye, that may be so, but he has a plan for next month. He already took the tribute taken from Antione. He has another 30 days to think up a new plan."
"Plan? Oh, you mean robbing Prince Dirk?"
"SHHHHHH!" Tyler hissed. "Keep your mouth quiet. It's best not to know about things." They watched as Coulter disappeared into the stable. "But I can say this, I've never been prouder of being part of a band of outlaws as I am with the three of us."
"What do you mean, Band of Outlaws. We're not outlaws, are we?"
Tyler looked into Usagi's young and inexperienced eyes. In them he could read tenderness, innocence, and purity. He also saw the eyes of a little girl who wanted to help out, and to be part of the big picture. He knew about Usagi's lineage, and remembered the goodness General Claire and his followers. He reached down and took Usagi in his arms, looking carefully into her face. "Little bunny, I don't know how to tell you this, but Coulter is breaking the law."
"Breaking the law? How could he do that?"
Tyler scratched his chin. "He's taking what is not his. The money is supposed to be going to Prince Blackpool, and Coulter doesn't want him to get a cent of it."
"The prince did something to Coulter a long time ago. It broke his heart, and took all the fight out of him. But he swore that one day, he would make the prince pay. The beauty of it is that Coulter has hidden himself so much, the prince doesn't even know he exists.
"Do you know what it was?"
"No dear," Tyler shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't."
"So what is Coulter's intention?"
"His intention is to deprive Prince Blackpool of his riches through whatever means at his disposal. And if we get caught with him, then we'll go to the gallows along with him."
"So why are you helping him? Aren't you risking your life too?"
"Aye, Indeed I did. But I did it for my friend. He's a true friend, and he came to me for help. A true friend never turns his best friend away, no matter what the circumstances. You never let your friends down."
"So you mean." Usagi asked. "That I was risking my life too?"
"Yes you were."
Usagi sat wide eyed. She gently ran her finger along the scar on her chin. She had a million thoughts screaming through her head. Outwardly she appeared calm. Inside, the questions were flying everywhere. Then she found a quiet spot.
"You know what? I'm glad I could help out Coulter. And if he asked me to again, I would do it all over again for him."
"Because he's your friend?"
"No!" Usagi grinned. "Because it was fun!"
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