Lee walked through the shady alleys of downtown Valhalla, carrying a large sack on his back. Dim streetlights flickered as the sunset was almost complete. Lee couldn’t help but have a grin on his face. “It feels so good to be back in town,” he thought to himself. He walked into a small shot at the end of one of the alleys. The lighted sign overhead said “Higston’s Tackle Shop.” The store owner, a big burly, bald man with a scraggly, unkempt beard was busy cleaning the counter. He didn’t bother to look up when the bell rang as Lee walked in.
“Welcome to Higston’s Tackle Shop,” he said in a monotone. “The best gear in Valhalla is right here. How can I help you this evening?” Lee tried his hardest not to laugh.
“I came for a great deal on ‘foreign toys’. Think you can cut me a good price?” he asked innocently. The man’s head whipped up sharply. His eyes widened.
“Shavanza!” he said breaking into a grin. “Buddy, it’s been ages! Welcome back to Valhalla!” He came around the counter and gave Lee a bear hug. “How’s the great Salamander doing?”
“I’ve been alright Higston. You’re looking the same as always.” Lee returned the hug.
“Well I can’t complain, you know. I take it you’re here for the usual?” Lee nodded. “Alright, let me get it.” Higston went into the back of his shop to retrieve the wares he only showed to the special customers he had. “So where’d you go this time Shavanza?” he asked.
“I was wandering around in the western half of the country. Gotta say, I forgot how much rocks and stuff was on the ground over there. I had to make several detours on my bike to get to some of my jobs.”
“I hear ya. It’s a lot easier when you’re on an airship,” Higston commented. “Speaking of jobs, do any interesting ones?” Lee had to suppress a grimace as he thought of the particular job he’d done that had caused a lot of trouble.
“Well I saved a noble’s daughter from some weak-ass bandits…and I may have helped cause a rebellion to start in that old Foreman’s mining empire in the mountains while taking out a pack of dire wolves that was harassing one of his mines.”
“You messed with that miser?” Higston yelled incredulously. He had heard about the resistance movement that had risen up as of late, but didn’t know Shavanza had gotten involved. “How the hell did you get caught up in that?”
“Bad placement and a desire to get back at the guy. He clearly misinformed me about the size of the pack; it was only because I got bailed out by one of the resistance leaders that I got through that. So I helped them out by conveniently breaking one of the chains for some of the slaves.” Higston brought a black metal case and a sack with him, shaking his head.
“Man he is going to be pissed if he finds out you had a hand in that. You’d better watch your back from now on.”
“No need to tell me twice,” Lee agreed, thinking back to the bandit ambush he’d taken care of. While those bandits had been weak, if the bounty on his head was to be believed, it would only be a matter of time before some more skilled contenders came for it. He brought his focus back on Higston. “Thanks for the advice though, man.”
“Anytime Shavanza. Anyway, here you go. Got a shipment of a dozen vials of salamander oil for you as well as the combustible gel you always ask for. Still don’t know how you manage to mix it together like you do.”
“Trade secrets, Higston,” Lee replied with a grin. “Can’t just give those away, can I? I’ll take all the salamander oil and gel you have.” Higston raised an eyebrow.
“Alright then, that’ll be 120,000 coin.” Lee swung the bag of coin he had onto the counter. He normally wouldn’t buy this much, but he had a feeling he’d need it in the days to come. It was enough to last for a few months if he used his shots well.
“That’s 180 grand there. More than enough to cover that. Keep the rest on my tab for the next time I come in.” He took the case and bag and began to walk out the door. “Good seeing you man.”
“Hold up Shavanza,” Higston called out. Lee stopped and turned around. “I’ve got something else for you, and I think you’re going to need it.” He held up a second black case and put it on the counter. “Take a look.” Lee walked back and opened the case. It was three mid-size vials of a dark murky crimson liquid, similar in appearance to the red-orange salamander oil. “That’s dragon maw oil you’re looking at,” Higston said proudly. “I went through hell to get that amount. It’ll make your salamander oil shots look like fire crackers. Should be enough to make a few rounds.” Lee looked up at Higston.
“I can only imagine what it took to snag these. And you’re offering them to me?”
“Hey, I’ve got to look out for my customers, don’t I?” Higston replied. “30,000 coin for a vial though. I’ll let you take em’ all and put the difference on your tab.” Lee nodded and took the case as well.
“Thanks man, I owe ya one.”
“You owe me 30,000 coin the next time you come into town you mean. Take care of yourself Shavanza.”
“Will do.” Lee made to turn around and the stopped. “Hey Higston, one more thing I wanna ask. Anything interesting going on here in town?”
“Well the carnival has begun tonight I think,” Higston replied. Lee grinned.
“Sounds like I’m going to have some fun.”
Lee gave back the flabbergasted man his pellet gun and collected his prize from him. He waived to his astonished audience. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week,” he said with a bow. Out of the corner of his vision, he noticed a dark haired man, and a blonde young woman standing farther off, watching him and whispering. He decided to strike first and walked over to them, winking at one of the fair gypsy ladies. He stopped in front of the two. “Hey there, I couldn’t help but notice you looking at me.” He stuck out his gloved hand. “Lee Shavanza, gun for hire and marksman extraordinaire.” The black-haired man looked at it for a bit and then shook it with a surprisingly strong grip.
"That was definitely an impressive performance. I would like to talk to you in a more private setting about a possible use for those skills." Lee's face became serious. He wasn't looking for a job at the moment, but something about this intrigued him. He couldn't ignore that this could be a trap by some headhunters from the Foreman.
"And what kind of job are we talking out?" he asked. The man smirked.
"Follow me, and you'll find out." With that, he and the girl walked towards the edge of town. Lee shrugged.
"Why the hell not?" he said to himself, following behind them. "What's your name?"
The man guided them through the throng of commoners enjoying the festivities, a reprieve from their usually benign lives. The further from the main square they move, the quieter the evening became, until the chatters and shouts became a simple buzz in the background. "Davrou, and the job fit right down your ally, Marksmen."
"It took you long enough to answer Davrou. And I'll be the judge of that." Lee Looked at Davrou's companion. And how may I address my fair lady?" He grinned.
Davrou gives the girl a sideways glance, "Lady? She far from but you can address her as you wish, she prefers Ray." The girl elbows Davrou in his side at the comment. He stifles a groan "Rayna works as well." Lee saw the female's scowl.
"Well I'd been asking the lady, not you. But it appears she's spoken for herself just now."
"She’s somewhat antisocial, and easily aggravated, ignore her for now." Davrou explains. "Back to acquiring your services."
"Hold on a sec, pal," Lee said. By this point they'd left Valhalla and entered the forest on the outskirts of the city. "Just how far are you taking me?"
"To my, I mean his ship. Isn't that right, Captain? It's not too much further." She grins.
"As she said, I'm looking for a few good hands," Davrou nodded, ignoring the whining as he continues to walk.
"I see, and what made you think I'd be a good hand?" Lee asked. He'd noticed the slip of Rayna's tongue but decided to hold his own. "So the girl’s the one in charge huh?" he thought to himself. "This is getting more interesting by the minute."
"Good aim and fast hands make for a reliable man regardless of anything else." Davrou stated.
"Fair enough. I'm definitely a good shot. The best you'll find around. But you still haven't told me what you need a good shot for."
"And we won't." Rayna rushed before Davrou could respond. "Not until we fully trust you. Though I promise it will be worth your time."
"In general, this woman lacks much skill, especially combative talents, and you can never have too many blades or gunners on hand," he added.
Rayna shot Davrou a dark look to silence him as she waited for Lee’s response. Lee thought for a while.
"So they have an airship? This sounds cool enough. And they don't seem to be headhunters at least." "Alright," he said finally. "I'll bite. What do I have to do in order to gain your trust?"
"You'll get an advance pay, but you'll have to trade something of value for safe keeping." Davrou explained returning Rayna’s dark stare in kind.
Rayna nodded in agreement. "He speaks the truth. Don't give me something you don't truly love, I'll detect the difference in your eyes."
"So you'll see the truth in my eyes Rayna? Awful assuming for someone who's not the captain." Mischief glinted in Lee's eyes.
Rayna blanched as she realized her slip of words. "Of course. Sometimes, it's like we're of one mind. The captain and I."
"So you want me to give up something I value in order to even hear the details of the job, huh."
"Essentially, yes it that much of a thrill, However an exception can be made for a hired gun,” Davrou said.
Rayna cleared her throat. "I don't think that's your policy captain. Nor is it wise..."
"No, I'll follow the rules of the ship." He took out both of his revolvers, but only gave Rayna the gun in his right hand. "This is a two way street my lady. I'm only giving you one of these until I hear you two out. Then I'll decide whether to pledge this gun as well." He held up his other gun. "I expect that one back then if I do. Can't very well be a good marksman with only one of my guns, can I?" Rayna nearly dropped the fire arm. Her eyes widened at the rush of cold metal against her palm. Her fingers hesitantly touched it before passing it on.
"Here captain, you should take this."
"I'd be surprised if it slowed you down much," Davrou admitted taking the gun and admiring its design and fanning the man’s ego, "We'll be working as a Bounty ship, You'll be paid based on how much you contribute...." Davrou sniffs lightly at the weapon, catching a familiar scent. "Salamander oil?"
"That's right. I use it in my ammo. I'm known as the Spitfire Salamander on the mercenary circuit. But enough talk about me, let's see this ship of yours, Captain." He emphasized the word Captain, and saw Rayna flinch a bit.
"A spitting lizard. Really?" Davrou slips off the safety shooting into boulder about of curiosity. The explosion was impressive. “Regardless of the name, your weapon has definite promise, this way."
"You obviously don't know what the word 'spitfire' means, but you'll soon find out. Lead the way." Lee followed Davrou and Rayna as they dodged the thick brush of the forest until it backed into a cave. Rayna eagerly dropped to the ground and dug her fingers in the dirt until they met with the latch. Rayna took a small witch light off of the chain concealed within her blouse.
"Watch your step Shavanza,” she said. The metallic scent of blood, greeted them as they entered. Davrou slipped a knife from his new bracers ready to throw, taking the dagger in the other.
"You may have to give your answer sooner than expected." Lee cocked his remaining gun.
"I'll let this do the talking for me." Davrou rolled his eyes.
"After you then, Spittliar."
Lee narrowed his eyes. "Call me Lee Davrou, since you seem unable to get my nickname right." He walked ahead through the catacombs, every sense on full alert, all the while thinking, “Just what have you gotten yourself into Lee?”
Rayna cautiously gauged Lee's reaction. When she saw how he stood his ground, she averted her attention back to the bodies. Her stomach churned as she studied the malicious manner in which they were slaughtered. It was the work of an expert swordsman, no doubt.
"Simon!!" The name detached from her lungs.
Davrou, recognized the city liveries under the crimson stain.
"We're out of time marksman," he carefully moved to pilfer the dead men's belongings. That's our ship, and our crew, full or not is going to be leaving very soon." He walked into the cave to assess the situation. Rayna turned around to face Lee.
“We can pay you 100 coin a day. What say you, gunslinger.” Lee had to grin a bit.
“We’re probably going to have to negotiate on some larger numbers. But I think we can manage that…Captain Rayna." He added with a smirk.