Several months later:
“Well, there it is, Mr. Giles. Sunnydale.”
Gil Favor delivered that statement in an hoarse croak, with his voice cracking at that last word, in a combined tone of bitter relief and pure exhaustion. Even the constant tic under his left eye that had persisted for the last few weeks lessened, with his facial muscle twitch beginning to relax in the man’s realization that the complete weirdness of the wagon train’s entire trip was finally over.
Rupert Giles ignored his guide’s sour mood, preoccupied in his own happiness over arriving at their destination at last. The Englishman spurred his horse forward a few steps, leaving behind his companions, as he stared down into the valley from his position at the top of the ridge.
Before his eyes was a beautiful vista of a broad dale in the green, gold, and brown tones of a late California summer, interspersed with darker green regions of forested areas in the valley and more trees running up the hills surrounding the location. Mr. Giles approvingly noted the gleam of plentiful water in the form of several creeks and lakes, and further to the west, the sparkle of what could be nothing less than the Pacific Ocean itself.
The wilderness was virtually unbroken, with only humanity’s minor presence shown by a few small shacks and tents directly in the middle of the valley. Thin trails of smoke came from these structures, showing that people were there and cooking their meals, though nobody could currently be seen moving around. The man looking at his new abode unconsciously touched his suit’s breast pocket, feeling paper crinkle under his touch, and heaved a contented sigh. Everything promised in the letter there, sent to him so many months ago, was clearly factual, and only a last trek of a few miles would finally complete the wagon train’s journey.
Still beaming at the panorama below him, Mr. Giles heard, from behind him and coming closer, the creak and jangle of the wagons of those who had steadfastedly followed him all this distance, and who had now accomplished their purpose. The sounds of the wagons moving abruptly stopped, as virtually every driver shouted, “Whoa!” at the same time.
Turning his horse around, the Englishman had a rare expression of a wide grin stretching from ear to ear, as he watched the wagon drivers toss their reins away, set the wagon brakes, scramble down from their seats, and sprint to the ridgeline, only to skid to a stop and stare disbelievingly at what was before them. Several seconds later, everyone riding the wagons joined them in their own rush from their carts, to cluster together at the crest of the hill, as all and sundry there at once understood something.
They were home.
A wild cheer promptly broke loose, as the wagon train citizens uproariously celebrated their achievement with hats and bonnets joyously thrown up into the air, hugs and kisses bestowed by people among everyone regardless of family relationship, previous aversion, or serious bad breath, and sheer high spirits spontaneously causing a square dance to form, with the celebrants stepping, spinning, and whooping with glee, as those who were just watching cheerfully clapped their hands in accompaniment, shouting encouragement at the dancers.
In all the merriment, only two people remained subdued.
Mr. Giles brought his mount closer to the pair that had successfully brought them all to their goal, with these men now slumped in their seats on their own horses on the ridgeline, and his smile faded a bit in sudden puzzlement, at seeing their weary expressions at his approach. Gil Favor tiredly eyed the Englishman, and the guide cleared his throat. “Well, Mr. Giles, we’re here. I figger our agreement, that we’d get paid the other half of our money when the trip was finished, can be settled right now.”
The wagonmaster looked taken a little aback at this abrupt change into strictly business at this happy moment. “Er-- Are you quite sure you wish to be remunerated at this specific moment?”
“Damn straight,” growled Rowdy Yates, swaying slightly in his saddle, as a somewhat unfocused glower was bestowed onto the bemused Englishman, who blinked at the cowhand that had changed over the last month from having a lean body to one that was actually gaunt, with hollowed cheeks, dark circles under his eyes, and shaking hands that clutched hard his mount’s reins in an effort to stop his fingers’ trembling.
Gil nodded in total concurrence with his partner. The trail boss husked, “Now’s the best time, anyway, since we’re gonna head right back east, and we ain’t gonna stop until we find another trail drive. It’ll be a relief to just look at a coupla thousand cattle butts for weeks on end, taking them to market, with only the possibility of Injuns, stampedes, bad food and water, lightning storms, and anything else that we’ll consider a goddamn sight better than what we’ve been through with this goddamn crazy train--!”
Cutting himself off at seeing the British native’s bewildered look at the other man’s outburst, Gil doggedly went on in a more subdued tone that was just as determined. “Listen, just pay us, okay? Then we’ll get out of your hair, and you can all start building your new homes down there.” At that, the American waved a hand at the valley below them, and then he gave Mr. Giles a hard look that indicated Gil’s mind was made up. Plus, the tic was back again on the trail boss’ face, much more faster and deeper than before, giving him a somewhat crazed expression.
An alarmed Rupert Giles leaned a little away from the other man clearly at his breaking point, and nervously murmured, “Well…. If you’re so definite in this, I see no reason why we can’t conclude our business at the present.” Warily watching the pair brighten up at these words, and carefully making no sudden moves, Mr. Giles reached into a lower coat pocket, and pulled out a packet of papers. Going through these, the Englishman chose a thick envelope, and handed this over to Gil, who snatched it away with a definite lack of courtesy, and that man quickly examined the money inside the envelope.
Feeling a little irritated by this, Mr. Giles dropped his gaze to the other papers in his hand, and deciding to change the topic of conversation in the hopes of improving the others’ mood, he spoke, without looking up, “Ah, I was meaning to address a few remarks to the others upon the successful completion of our journey. Perhaps you’d care to join me and then make your farewells--?”
The Englishman had to stop then to cough a few times, until the dust cloud cleared away, and the sounds of thundering hooves decreased a bit, all caused by the speedy departure like a bat out of hell by Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates in a beeline straight east.
Shrugging in offended wonderment over this, Mr. Giles trotted his mount back over to the wagon folk, who had stopped their dance and other celebrations, to stare at the two men on their galloping horses dwindling into the distance. On the way, the Englishman went past two girls standing next to each other, one a blonde and the other a brunette, both identically shaking their fists towards a rider and having the same betrayed glare on their faces as they watched a disappearing Texan getting every bit of possible speed from his mount. A few seconds later, these girls suddenly realized what the other was doing, and they hastily dropped their hands to their sides, trading upset looks that slowly turned into furious suspicion the longer they eyed each other….
Ignoring this as the other members of the wagon train gathered in front of his horse, Mr. Giles cleared his throat, and spoke to the crowd. “I’m afraid that our guides decided to take their leave of us. They probably have their proper reasons, and we’ll just have to accept that.” Mutters of perplexed acknowledgment came from the crowd, easily drowning out the snarls of feminine ire coming from behind the Englishman taking no notice of this, who instead raised his voice to continue, as he brandished his handful of pages. “Nevertheless, since we’re all here, I would like to say a few brief remarks concerning our journey, if you’d be so kind?”
A good-natured whoop came from the crowd, who expectantly watched their wagonmaster smile at them all and then look at the thick wad of paper he was holding in his right hand.
Forty-seven hot and sweaty minutes later, the words that the entire throng was now praying for were finally heard.
“And, in conclusion--”
This time, the cheer was a frenzied roar that went on and on, this sound changing from relief to an actually dangerous baying that showed the crowd’s patience was clearly at an end. Rupert Giles was quite capable of missing things most people would have paid attention to, but he wasn’t stupid. Quickly making a decision, he shouted over the uproar. “I WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME YOU ALL TO THE TOWN OF SUNNYDALE!”
The cheering caused by that was the loudest of them all, being heard all the way to the several structures in the middle of the valley that were the first dwellings of that named settlement. A man’s head now poked out from a small tent there, looking around for the noise that had disturbed him. Finally, he glanced up towards the ridgeline of the eastern hills surrounding the valley, to stare with astonishment at the group of people and their wagons. An evil smirk appeared on the face of the first mayor of Sunnydale, as that man stepped out of his tent and stared with delight at his new constituents.
“My people,” whispered Richard Wilkins, whose eyes momentarily glowed bright red.
Author's Note: I couldn't come up with anything more at present about the wagon train's trip, so I decided to finish off this story with this rather abrupt ending. Maybe in the future I'll start again, if I can come up with more Western cliches, about what else happened. Thanks for reading and reviewing!