A fantasy/western experiment that I'm not sure works entirely well. But #*#$ it.
Ten Moarn felt the wind kick up in the empty town square. It wasn’t usually empty, and to be perfectly honest it wasn’t exactly square, though today was an especially auspicious day for this sort of thing, or auspicious enough to warrant the shithole‘s population to scramble for the latches to their open doors and windows.. Since the double collapse of the Empires, Ten had always assumed that this sort of thing seemed to happen a lot, his rather hindsightedly cynical geopolitics teacher having told him the one thing that followed the fall of order was violence. And if this wasn’t violence incarnate, there was little he could imagine could be. Well, that existed anyway. Old great-gran Moarn’s wheezed tales of the old Empires’ wars, fought in ditches with irons dragons long and magik to break the moon itself had to be fiction. After all, great-gran had said tens-of-tens had been called by the piper for those wars. And who in their right mind would start a war to kill so many?
This particular train of thought, however, was like most that one thinks in a situation where a joyful disposition (what Ten’s mother had always called it) was completely out of context in that it was not one he should have been following. Reality crashed through the cobwebs of his mind to bring him to face what was about to happen here.
Ten’s normally warm if rather young eyes turned flinty as he watched the man across the square-that-wasn’t-really-a-square from him. Flinty so that grans would have their hearts broken to see one so young hate so much. A terrible waste, they’d mutter with old fashioned inflections on their r‘s and a‘s, a terrible waste in times so dark. They’d shake their heads at hearing what had been done to him, and even the jolly disposition that had kept him from crying over his family’s rotten and cold corpses so far seemed to crash around his ears for the hundredth time when he remembered the utter futility that had caused him so much grief. That had led him to hunt the man in the scarlet jacket for so long, only to find out the truth was even simpler than he thought it had been.
Sitting in a dark corner of the nameless town’s tavern and watching the shaggy-bearded man in black, Ten had almost jumped out of skin when his near-slumber was broken by the man in the scarlet jacket bursting through door. With the city man’s accent that had burned it’s way into Ten’s mind, the man had called to the shaggy-bearded one in black. Asked him to step outside, like real gentlemen. A rage had burned up in Ten then. He’d chased this man for so long. He’d sailed and ridden the world over, only to find him here of all places. In the arse end of nowhere.
And the bastard hadn’t even looked at him twice. Who was he to not notice his death? What had slowly become vengeance incarnate? What had so gnawed and eaten away at Ten’s mind, so that it seethed under the fabric of his skin?
There had been a tenseness. A long silence. The shaggy man in black had slowly put his spoon back into the stew he’d tucked into so heartily and so silently. A stew that had smelled of great-grain Moarn’s cooking, Tyrean bless her answering the piper‘s call. Had sighed heavily, patted down his thick black duster with gloved hands and had silently walked out the door, past the man in the scarlet jacket to the sound of creaking wood that whipped out like ironworks in the silence. Ten himself had stood in the silence, rage warring with slight embarrassment as all eyes turned to him, though he kept his on the man in the scarlet jacket. Had walked up to face the murdering son of a bitch, only to be so casually accepted as a part of the events with a single excuse.
‘’You’d all been in the way.’’ he’d said. It had almost made Ten cry, really. He’d watched the Tern roundhouse in the acre over burn when routiers had come for food. Remembered not being so overwhelmed, the Tern’s having never been so close to him, though the knowledge that somewhere someone had profited seem to make it somehow sensible in Ten’s mind. The urge to eat was one that had made sense to Ten’s mind. Or it did now, leastways, in the face of so cold and calculated and pointless a waste. They’d been in the way of the man in the scarlet jacket, and so his entire roundhouse save him had had to die.
The wind kicked harder as he faced the man in the scarlet jacket. Little of everything mattered now. He’d waited and worked for a two-year to be able to kill this man.
He’d burned a roundhouse for this man.
He watched the burning of his roundhouse through the pages of his mind, as he’d watched it from so far away so very long ago. The scarlet man across from him reached his hand down to his thigh and pulled back his scarlet jacket to reflect a bright glint of the sun. A single shot had gone through the mind of his sister as it had burst through his father’s back. Ten felt his own hand feel the coarse oak grip of his own iron. A single hastily lit match had been blown with vile magik to engulf the roof. The man in the scarlet jacket locked his eyes onto Ten’s own and frowned slightly, as if he couldn’t understand why the ten-year old boy was here. Oh but he would. He would.
Three shots had bursts the minds of his mother and great-grans.
The air was tight.
The ironworks had been loud.
Ten had felt an explosion in his shoulder before he’d even reached his iron. Something warm splashed across his face as a dull ache that seemed to grow ever sharper rang through his body, starting in said exploded shoulder. Hitting the ground, he felt the wind whoosh out of him as shock, more than anything, seemed to keep him from breaking his fall. Lifting his head, he saw the man in the scarlet jacket propped up against an empty market stand, eyes vacant and corpse unmoving.
‘’Sorry about that lad.’’ said a gruff voice somewhere above Ten. Feeling that something warm pump out of his shoulder while the ache grew sharp enough to feel clearly now, an intense pain kept him from rage or sorrow. Thinking…was becoming hard.
‘’Realize you probably would have wanted to kill him. Or not get shot, for that matter, but it can’t be helped.’’ the gruff voice of the shaggy man in black went on. Rolling his head, Ten managed to see the two smoking barrels of the heaviest pair of irons he’d ever seen.
‘’Can’t say I spared your innocence, seeing as how it looks as if you’ve killed already. For him. Damn waste, then. My bad, really. Sorry for the shot as well. Can only keep yourself from sending people to the piper so much when you’ve done it as long as I have. Mind, not like I’ve done too well by you. Not looks like you’ll last the hour.’’
Somewhere in Ten’s fast fading mind, he agreed. Thinking…and…now breathing…was hard. Soon…
Ten lifted his head slightly to see the shaggy man in black’s face. With the sun behind the man’s head, Ten couldn’t see much, though he thought he could almost make out the contours of regret on a face covered in hair so only the upper part that wasn’t obscured by shaggy locks was visible. Then, somewhere from deep underwater he heard the bang of ironworks and all was black.
The shaggy man in black holstered his irons. Without another thought he turned back to the tavern to finish his stew. He’d think no more of this for the rest of the day, though halfway through his meal he’d realize that the boy made the third that week, along with those two girl-knaves.