haron was holding the dueling pistol that had been discovered in the false floor of Talberts locker.  She had checked to see if it was loaded and it was not.  She upended it and peered at the end of the barrel.  While it looked kind of funny to her, she noticed it was very small in diameter, too small in fact to be a cap and ball type pistol.

There was a very small edge of steel just in front of the trigger guard which looked unusual to her.  It was solid and wouldn't move.  For some reason, she retrieved a pair of wire-pliers and pulled on it.  It moved a very short distance forward and and the pistol broke at a point just behind the trigger exposing the breech.  This made for loading much more quickly.

It didn't break very far, but it was plenty enough to allow it to be breech loaded.  William saw it break then received the gun as she offered it to him.  William upended the gun and looked at the rear throat of the barrel.  Sure enough, a smaller diameter barrel with rifling had been pressed inside the original .40 caliber barrel.  The new barrel was for .22 ammo.

William laid the pistol on the table and retrieved the remaining pistol of the similar set.  He began a very thorough inspection of it and soon realized it had been tampered with and in his mind wondered if it had been made unsafe.  No doubt it would fire, but he didn't trust it.  He knew the duel pistol thing was merely a complicated plot by which to 'legally' kill him.  He would meet the challenger of the the duel but he sure wasn't going to use that pistol.

As a matter of curiosity, he asked Jesse if we had a small arms smith.  Jesse responded "yes sir", picked up the box containing the remaining pistol and walked out.  The smith at the shooting range checked it out.  Within an hour the man returned the pistol to William.  The pistol had a few more stories to tell.

First, the job had been done by a non-professional, the sight had been deliberately maligned to the left and the striker filed so close to the edge that it would barely mark the rim.  For rimfire ammunition to work properly, it must cover a substantial portion.  And, there was enough room in the handle and the bulk of the firearm to put in a sleeve in which several more rounds could be stored.

William asked the man how long to do the repairs and modifications on the item.  "Within the week."

"Good" responded William.  "Put a rush on it and keep it quiet."

Sharon had gone back to their quarters and did not hear the report of the firearm, nor the instructions to repair it.  Neither did she realize at that time William intended to meet the challenge.  He was still quite sick and he had no business fighting duels in his physically weakened status.

Two days later the smith came by with the pistol.  He showed him how to load the gun with seven shots which included one in the chamber.  By pulling the rear portion of the trigger guard, the bolt would slide out ejecting the casing.  It then could push another round from the magazine into battery by pushing the lever forward quite similar to a bolt action.

At the range William loaded the pistol and fired it.  He hit his target three times out of seven.  He considered the difference between this pistol and his XD.  It sure wasn't his XD!  Within the time he'd went through three boxes he'd mastered the little gun.  It was clumsy to rack another round into battery, but it was a sight more convenient than the original ball and cap.

He practiced with the pistol until it was well past time to retire for the evening.  Sharon knew nothing of the rebuild of the pistol, nor of his practice with it.  William was determined in his decision to meet Raul Lyons in the fight.  That bit of info was kept from her and she would not accompany them when the meet was set up.  This was a vulnerability she must accept and prepare for.

That evening during his slumber he dreamed of a time in the past, about an ancestor, one who had survived attacks from a bear as well as a mountain lion.  He was sitting around a campfire which was ringed by several old big, red bearded men.  He studied each face, and though he knew none of them, there was an odd familiarity about them.

One rose from his stump on which he had been sitting, walked over near to him and sat down on the stump that was just a little to the right of the fire.  William wondered why the man had come over.  It was obvious he had something to say because his eyes were fixed on William.  William just calmly sat looking directly back at the man not knowing what to expect.

Finally, the big man opened his mouth and began to speak.  "William, you've done well during your life time.  Your honesty, your integrity, your love for what's right, your consistent fight against all that's wrong, your complete willingness to help those around you and even put them first has come up as a memorial and a testimony to us; your ancestors in Valhalla.

While it is not time for you to expire and leave your work, it is time to began readying yourself for your final battle.  You will not fight with your dueling barrel.  You will learn to fight with the short sword and the okse.  The enemy against which you will war has no scruples or morals.  He will kill you with anything ready to hand.  He is not looking for honor.  He's looking for revenge.  He cares nothing about reputation or integrity, or who else is hurt.

William's confab with his ancestors suddenly dimmed, the mists seemingly swirling in.  Lost from view he was left in darkness when he felt a hand rest on his shoulder.  Nothing was spoken until he opened his eyes.  Sung Wu stood there and the look in his eyes told William it was time.  William eased off the bed, grabbed his trousers and shirt then went into another room in which to dress, hopefully not waking Sharon.

William picked up his XD and placed it in his holster after he checked for a round in the chamber.  He slipped the mag and checked the load.  Sung Wu held out a short-sword, a knife with a slim blade, and an ax resembling the picture of a Viking drawing he'd seen some time or other.

He then strode out of the room, lightly closing the door behind him.  Sung Wu walked quietly into the kitchen and brewed a cup of coffee.  He set two cups on the table, then the sugar and a spoon.  After pouring two cups he sat down.  Less than a minute later Sharon padded into the room, sat down and put some sugar in her coffee..

"Will he do well in the duel?" she asked Sung Wu.

Sung Wu was surprised that Sharon knew of the duel.  Somehow she'd gotten the information but had not attempted to intervene.  To her, this was akin to bucks fighting over the rights to mate and propagate their seed.  It was simply a natural survival of the fittest.

"He will do well, and he will subdue his enemy.  But he will be wounded quite severely.  Doc Adams will be there standing by and General Sherman is to moderate.  All will be heeled and all will fight if need be to allow these two men the same rules, a level playing field and keep others from joining the fight.  They will bring him home alive, but Loping Wolf will clean the infection and stop the fever.  Only his aid will keep him alive."

This is not just a fight between two men.  This is a fight against evil, and William is from a long list of Viking and Cherokee men who stood for right.  His bloodline is his integrity and he will fight to keep the honor of the family.

Sharon asked "so, you saw the wolf?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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Chapter XI