Black Powder Magic- Chapter 1

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“You’d be hard pressed to find someone in Lone Horn who didn’t see that gunslinger ride through the town a month ago.  Came in on a horse taller and skinnier than he was, looking half dead and half buried with all the dust he was covered in.  Not that anyone could tell you what he looked like, covered head to toe so’s not an inch of skin showed, even in the middle of the day.  No, the only thing you could say for certain about him was the painted wooden sign on either side of that skinny nag, read ‘Will Hunt Dragons For Food.’

He stopped outside my saloon and near fell out of his saddle, so I went out to see whether he’d need a doctor or an undertaker.  I was leaning towards undertaker til he grabbed my arm and nearly dislocated it with the force.  I took him inside and poured him a beer, never saw him drink it though, I turned away a second and when I looked back he’d finished it.  Not so much as a burp neither.

I told him it was on the house, but he insisted on paying.  He said he had no money, but he gave me a bullet, with a rune on the casing.  Told me whatever I fired that bullet at, it wouldn’t miss.

He asked me if there was work to be had.  I told him there hadn’t been any dragons in these parts since my grandfather homesteaded here.  But I told him about the bandits and the witch they worked for, up on the ridge about ten miles northeast of town.  How they’d killed the sheriff and scared off most of the cowboys from coming through on their cattle runs.  Terrorizing folk with that witch of theirs coming into town, freezing windows til glass shattered, lighting fires and causing lightning and acid to fall from the sky.  He asked me who was in charge round here and I sent him to Father Mulcahy and that’s the last I saw of him.  Gods’ honest truth Marshal.”

“Thank you for your insight.”  The Marshal replied.  “I’ll go talk to Father Mulcahy then.”

Inside the small wooden church, the marshal sat down with Father Mulcahey.

“Yes, I know the gunman you’re asking about.  He came to me to ask about the bandits, the… Goodall Gang I think they were.  I told him about how they’d harassed the townsfolk and driven away most of our business.  He offered to drive off the bandits, but he didn’t seem too interested in them.  He kept asking about the witch.  Who she was, how old, if anyone knew her at all.  I couldn’t say, no one knew anything about her.  He asked stranger questions too.  Was she really a witch?  Were there legends of powerful ghosts or spirits around?  Had anyone in the town or nearby consorted with demons or dragons or even angels.  Obviously I’d heard of such things in my religious studies but, well, it was ridiculous.  And I told him so.  He told me he’d return at sunset and to have two horses ready for him, with two weeks rations as payment.  It seemed cheap all things considered.  He didn’t wait for me to agree, just left.  I watched him ride out of town.  He came back for the horses like he said he would and we haven’t heard from the Goodall Gang since.”

“Can you tell me how to get to the Goodall Gang’s hideout?”  The Marshal asked.

Inside the former Goodall Gang’s hideout, a small cave with a few poorly nailed together boards serving as a roof.  One dead body and a trail of dried blood marked the entrance to the cave.  As the marshall walked through the carnage, he could see the evidence of fire, acid and electricity in the walls of the cave and on the bodies of the poor men who had faced down this demon gunslinger.

The Marshal reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out a small crystal the size of his thumb.  It glowed faintly in the dim light of the cave.  He also reached underneath his shirt and removed an amulet, depicting a pentagram sealed behind a set of iron bars.  The Marshal closed his eyes and waved the amulet over the glowing stone.  Around him, he could see the events of the past unfold.

The gunslinger walked up the hill towards the mouth of the cave.  Two of the Goodall Gang were sitting outside the entrance, keeping watch.  Without so much as a word, the gunslinger fired two shots from his revolver.  The first hit one of the gangsters in the chest, the second took the other gangster in the leg.  The gangster dropped to the ground immediately, his gun sliding from his grip.  The gangster crawled into the cave, shouting for help.  Two more members of the Goodall Gang ran to the entrance of the cave, rifles in hand.

They opened fire at the gunslinger, but a dark shroud dropped around him and their aim went wide.  The gunslinger returned fire, the bullet hit the gang member on the right and a cone of shattered glass erupted from his body, slicing through the other gangster. Both of them fell back into the cave, but they couldn’t retreat as the gunslinger was already inside.  He fired two more shots, one in each of the gangsters, killing both.

He proceeded through the cave, firing at each Goodall Gang member as they appeared.  Some bullets exploded into balls of fire, others streams of acid or lightning.  Swirls of magical energy danced around the gunslinger, some protecting him from harm, others flaring brightly when his gun fired.

The end of the cave was walled off by planks of wood fashioned in a crude prison.  Standing before the bars was one last gangster.

“You ain’t welcome here, stranger.  Rest assured once I’m through filling you with holes, I’ll find your family, your friends and everyone who ever said a kind word to you and I’ll do to them what you done to my boys.  Only I’ll do it slow.”

“You’re in charge here?  You’re the one keeping that poor girl, using her like she’s some kind of tool.”

“It’s better than she’d get anywheres else.  We feed her, we clothe her, we ain’t handed her over to the church so she can burn like a proper witch ought.  An’ when she’s good and grown, she’ll make herself a fine mother for my gang, assumin’ she don’t pass on that witchin’ to her brood.”  Behind the bandit, quiet sobbing could be heard, and pulsing energy could be felt moving in time with the sound.

The gunslinger fired six shots in an instant.  Each one glowed bright white with arcane energy and exploded into the gangster, lifting him off his feet and leaving his chest a bloody hole.  The gunslinger walked past the dead body and up to the wooden bars.  A small, dark haired girl in a filthy white dress cried to herself, curled up tightly in a ball.

“They’re dead.”  The gunslinger said.  “You have parents?”

The girl shook her head.

“Do you want to stay here and starve to death or come with me?”  The girl looked at the gunslinger with big, black eyes wide with fear.  Slowly, she nodded.  “Stand back, as far back as you can.”

The girl pressed herself against the back wall of the cave and the gunslinger drew his revolver.  He fired one shot, but a mass of glowing projectiles appeared in the air around the wooden planks.  The swarm of projectiles battered the wood, splintering it and leaving little more than a few broken planks lying on the ground.  The gunslinger extended his hand to the girl and she stepped forward and took it.  The gunslinger led her out of the cave, past the corpses of her captors.  Outside, she blinked at the light of the sun, but stopped at the entrance to the cave.

“Daddy Goodall says I’m not supposed to leave the cave during the day.”  She said.  She started shaking, more tears welled up in her eyes.  “I’m not supposed to leave the cave, I’m not supposed to leave the cave.  I’m not supposed to leave the cave!”

Tears streamed down her face, and the very air rippled as she shook and cried.  The earth trembled and sparks of fire and lightning flashed around her.  The gunslinger ran over to the girl and grabbed her by the shoulders.

“You can do this.  Everything is alright.  You need to control yourself, don’t let your power rule you.  You can do this Mary.”  The gunslinger folded the girl in a hug.  She sobbed into his chest and the flames died down, the sparks ceased and the air stilled.

When she stopped crying, the girl looked up at the gunslinger.   “My name isn’t Mary.  It’s Elisabeth.”

“Of course.  Mary was… someone else.  I’m sorry Elisabeth.”  The gunslinger said.  “Do you know how to ride a horse?”

Elisabeth nodded.

“I have horses tied up down the road.  We should get moving.”

The vision ended as the stone’s power faded away.  The Marshal placed the stone back in his pocket and walked out of the cave.

By | 2015-09-27T16:15:22+00:00 September 27th, 2015|Categories: Fiction, Pathfinder|Tags: , |0 Comments

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