Chapter OneMature

One Bullet Left is a hybrid genre series focusing on reimagining the events and cultures that made the Wild West such a fascination all over the world. In this particular story, we follow the tale of Issac and Marshal. Issac is a pilgrim, just trying to make his way through the world and Marshal is a harsh ex-mercenary who doesn't care about salvation.

  Sunlight burned harshly on the dusty street. It wasn't uncommon for days to be so overwhelmingly warm, but it still made Issac uncomfortable. At least on the coast, you could get a little bit of wind. Here, even the occasional breeze felt like it came from a furnace.


“Don't you dare bring those cheap-ass Bits here!” A gunshot rang out into the street. Two men, boys really, scrabbled in the dust, rolling as they took off running.


Behind them was a rather large man. It seemed every part of him was soaked and dripping with sweat. Issac doubted it was the heat that had him winded. Judging from the man's sheer size, it could have easily been decades since he had last had to do any sort of physical activity.


The man watched the boys run, then turned back into the building he had come from. The heavy wood door slammed with a bang that was audible over the fairly busy street.


As Issac surveyed the crowd, he shuddered. The part that disturbed him the most wasn't the heat. No, it was the mass of lawless savages that could treat gunfire as if it was nothing more than the cawing of a crow. Sighing, he started walking down the street.


Issac strained his eyes against the glare. Selker Ridge was a moderately sized town for the Outlands. Little more than a rest stop, it really didn't have the resources or trade to to really be of interest to any of the Northern Factions. Even the small amount of scrap to be found in the nearby wastes was little better than scrap components.


Issac was jolted from his thoughts when he collided with someone else. He let out a grunt and started to apologize when he realized that everyone was standing still. A crowd seemed to be gathering, and Issac strained to see what was going on.


Three men stood in the middle of the street. One held a rifle slung against his shoulder while the other rested his hands on a large pistol on his belt. The third towered over the other two, and stared at the crowd with tiny, angry eyes.


“We're looking for Marhsal! Santiago's Orders!” The man with the rifle yelled. As he surveyed the crowd, it felt like he was looking right at Issac.


“Silence. Keep quiet if you don't wish to die.” A gruff voice behind Issac commanded. The mystery man gripped his shoulders with iron-like fingers. The grip was painful, and Issac had to fight the urge to call out.


The man guided Issac into a nearby saloon. With a forceful shove, he pushed Issac into a chair and released his grip. Outside, there was shouting as a man rode up on a horse, but Issac couldn't make out the words being said.


“Sorry 'bout that, kid. Santiago and his goons get a little trigger happy, and I'd hate to see a kid get caught up in a firefight.” The man plopped into a nearby chair, staring at Issac from under the brim of his hat. Sharp, piercing eyes caused Issac to break into a sweat that had nothing to do with the heat. The man exuded an aura of danger, from the knives and pistols he wore openly to the way he seemed ready to lunge at any moment, the man seemed ready to kill at any moment.


The man smiled and motioned to the barkeep. Issac risked looking away from his captor. The barkeep, a shrewish, middle-aged man seemed to be even more nervous than Issac himself was. A quick glance revealed that they were the only people in the slightly musty saloon.


The stranger didn't seem phased. In fact, he propped his feet on the scarred wooden table, dropping a heavy silvered pistol with a clang. Issac thought the barkeep's were going to pop right out of his skull.


“Can I do anything for you, sir?” the barkeep asked.


The stranger offered a smile full of yellowed teeth. He reached into his jacket, seeming to savor the barkeep's expression of fear as he did so. Several pieces of metal clinked together in the stranger's palm. Some square, others round, it seemed to Issac that no pieces had the same stamping.


“Bring me some whiskey. Oh, some for the kid, too.” The stranger dropped the Bits into the suddenly eager barkeeps palm.


“Oh, I can't-” Issac's protest was cut short as the stranger met his gaze. Ice blue eyes seemed to pierce right through Issac's skull into his brain.


“Look, I sort of got you involved in my affairs. That means one of two things. One, you may very possibly die today. Two, no man should face death without having at least a shot of whiskey. Name's Wilson, but most folks just call me Marshal.” The man slapped his chest. Glinting in the sunlight were a dozen or so lawkeeper badges, all of which had at least one bullet hole in them.


Issac paled. The barkeep dropped a tumbler of amber liquid in front of him, and he stared into its depths. The face of a scared thirteen-year old boy stared back at him. His curly brown hair weighed down by dust and grime. Outside, there were gunshots, and the crowd started to disperse hastily.


“I-I think I should go.” Issac stood. He tried to surpress the trembling as he walked around the table, but it felt as if his legs were going to fail at any moment.


Marshal acted faster than Issac could see. Cool metal bit against Issac's throat and he fought the urge to swallow.


“Its rude to leave without at least thanking me for the drink. Besides, I went and told you my name, yet you aren't even going to return the favor? I'm hurt.” from this angle, Issac could get a clear look at the man's face. Scars crisscrossed the worn skin, and the symbol of a grey-white wolf glared menacingly from under the man's left eye. Scraggly remains of a blonde beard coated his lower jaw.


“It's Issac, sir.” Issac's tone was flat.


Marshal grimaced, the reaction surprising Issac. “Don't call me Sir!” He knocked back his drink and held the tumbler aloft for the barkeep to see. The pressure on the knife never eased up. Issac glanced away from Marshal. Out the window, the larger of the men in the street, the one with the pistol, was talking to someone. The elderly man he was speaking too shook his head at something, and pointed at the saloon Marshal and himself were currently in.


“Sit down, Issac. Unless you think you can take on three armed men who are very pissed off. Look at you, you don't even have a loaded iron.” Marshal paused, offering Issac a smile, “Then again, maybe your God can do something for you.” He pointed the knife at Issac's chest. There, hanging by a slender chain was a simple wooden cross.


Issac swallowed. In a daze, he stumbled back to his chair and fell into it. Marshal offered him another smile. With trembling hands, Issac reached for his tumbler and took a drink. He immediately started coughing, much to Marshal's delight. Marshal didn't seem to notice the figure walking towards the saloon.


A gunshot ripped through the mostly-empty bar. Marshal seemed unphased, slowly finishing his second tumbler of whiskey. He dropped one foot off the table as the saloon door swung open with a loud crash.


“Marshal!” The heavyset man bellowed, looking around the main hall with beady eyes. He shouted in triumph, leveling his large, dull grey revolver. The man was obscured by a cloud of smoke as fire erupted from the barrel.


Marshal said nothing as the glass in his hand exploded. He remained expressionless as he flicked away a bloody piece of glass from his finger. Carefully, he picked up the pistol from the table, turning deliberately.


A red line pierced the smoke, and the last thing the attacker saw before the bullet crashed through his skull was Marshal's smiling face.

The End

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