Dust kicked up with the swinging of the doors into the tavern. Along with the swirling sand, cigar smoke, stale whiskey and unclean men formed a sort of thick miasma that seeped into the very creaky wood that made up the place. Tonight was no different than any other night, the place was filled to the brim with people playing cards, drinking their aches both mental and physically, and trying to scrounge up enough coinage to have a night of some sort of physical intimacy even if it was under the visage of a monetary transaction.
The kicked up sand began to settle, revealing two gentlemen at a staggering height standing firm. Their clothing was caked in dust and ash, a series of tight fitting leather armor bound to their body was stained with a variety of dark reds and black. Their cold eyes shifted around the room, looking for something or someone. The cacophony of laughter and arguing didn’t recede when these men entered the room. A single gambler caught wind of them, looking towards them, scanning them up and down with a small grin beginning to erupt at the end of his mouth. Once his gaze met the dead eyes of one of the men, and below that, a bloodstained tomahawk at the hilt, the smirk was wiped off the gambler’s face, turning and scrambling to begin to count the two chips on his table.
One of the two hulking men shined a set of mangled, greasily stained teeth, and reached his gauntleted hand towards the bar area, finger outstretched claw-like.
At the other end of the greasy finger rested a dirty man with his back towards the door. A dirty, ragged cloak clung to his back, it’s tiny threads struggling against each other to not come apart at every gust of wind. One arm was outstretched from this thin rail of a man, hand clasped against a dirty glass of muddy, foul whiskey.
Stomps of heavy boots were muffled by the roar of the night life and the sound ended as they stood behind the man at the bar. A mountain of muscle tightened and stretched as one of the two giant men smacked a hand down on the thin, frail figure sitting at the bar. The body winced from the shock of the impact, and slowly turned its head towards the mountainous men, revealing a scarred face with a single working eye, tinged with shades of pink and red. There was a struggle upon the skin of this weak man, a struggle between the scars that ever so slowly tried to turn a young person’s face into that of an old man, and between the innocent youthful skin.
A belch erupted from the giant that placed his hand on him, followed by a grunt of a sentence. “Oi, ain’t you Abel? Member of the Redlegs gang? Man, you are as weak as the rumors say. Guess after that run in with a Death Mantis, surprise yer even a live.”
Abel gritted his teeth, biting down on his tongue. Through a clenched jaw, he responded. “I am. I’m going to assume the two of you are murderers who masquerade as bounty hunters. This’ll be fun.”
The first bounty hunter let out a giant guffaw. “We’re the MacMillan brothers, unstoppable. Killers? Nah, but we sure do enjoy hunting down wanna be outlaws like you and --.”
The gravelly voice was interrupted by a scream of agonizing pain, followed by spray of blood into the air, casting an iron stench in with the rest of the smells. A knife was firmly planted in the first MacMillan brother’s hand that gripped Abel’s shoulder. Deep enough to cause immense bleeding and pain, but not enough to pin his hand to the shoulder permanently.
Following this, Abel stood up quickly, taking a chance to smash his leather holey boot into the knee of the first MacMillan brother, pushing it back into the body with a sickening crunch, sending splintering bone back out the other side. The brother fell down, causing a further twisting of the bone and sinew to cause a surge of vital fluid to leak all over the ground.
A deafening silence fell upon the bar as this fight began. All eyes were on the fight. It was only a matter of time before one of the gambler patrons attempted to reach and grab some chips off the table. Another at the table noticed this, quickly drawing a sharpened sword, plunging it into the man’s eye, a squelching noise followed by a crunchy pop as the sword came out the other side. It was on this precipice of violence that all of hell broke loose within the tavern. The familiar scratching of metal upon scabbards echoed, before a variety of screaming, shouting and clanking followed, creating a storm of violence.
Abel attempted to take advantage of the bar fight by taking his hand, bringing it up into the jaw of the second MacMillan brother. A snap rocketed through his hand, with searing pain rushing up through his hand into his elbow and arm. The bones of his hand met cold hard steel. A grin flashed from the second bounty hunter, showing a row of metal shark teeth, with a variety of pins and screws holding his metal jaw together.
“Aww, poor baby. Now you have no hands. Got this little modification here thanks to the war. So desperate to get us back on the front, they started letting the docs do whatever experiments they wanted to make it work.” The second MacMillan brother grunted out.
Fear stretched across Abel’s face as he looked down at his hand. There were purple spots of bruising already beginning to form, and fingers were twisting in directions that they probably shouldn’t have. Feeling began to fade from the hand, and he knew in his mind he had to do something. “Can’t get captured now. So much more to go. Our dream.” He thought.
The second MacMillan brother let out a massive laugh before clasping two of his hands together in a fist, bringing it down swiftly, faster than a man of his size should be able to, onto Abel’s face. The leather gauntlets were ripped and torn, causing a whipping effect as they connected. Recent scars on Abel’s face began to open, weeping blood all over, mixing with the fresh wounds.
Following up, a boot came crashing down at an alarming rate, colliding with Abel’s face. The pain echoed through his body as it landed. The second MacMillan brother began to then smush his boot deep into Abel’s face, sending all of the dirt, grime and sand into the open wounds.
“You ruined my brother’s leg, you mongrel. Now I’m going to make sure that face looks even more gruesome. They did say dead or alive, was gonna’ do ’ya a favor by taking you in alive. They’re gonna have to bury you with a closed pinebox.” The second MacMillan brother roared.
Abel desperately reached his hand towards his left leg, his fingertips barely touching over the metal in that leg, desperately trying to find the release mechanism. If he could only get it loose, and smash this sunuva bitch right in the leg, there may be an edge in the fight. At this thought, he felt a tooth pop in somewhere as the boot that was planted firmly on his face began to apply pressure yet again. There was only a matter of seconds before the brother followed up with something. Right now, he was taking too much pleasure in pure violence towards Abel’s face.
Abel gritted his teeth, waiting for the finishing blow. However, it never came. Instead, he saw a body hurl towards the MacMillan brother, crashing into him and releasing the pressure off of his face.
Blood and sweat had begun to leak into Abel’s eyes, limiting his vision, but he could make out a tall, well-built figure with long blonde hair. His eyes began to widen with excitement.
“Sheridan!” Abel blurted out, blood spurting from the damage done to his mouth.
Sheridan looked down, clad in similar garb to Abel, though there were very clear attempts to make it as clean as possible, and mends to the cloak to make sure it did not fray, and smiled. “You know Abel. You could have said something. I just thought this was a normal brawl until I saw you fighting these two goons.”
A lunging strike came out from the struggle storm towards Sheridan, which he grasped in his hand, deflecting to his right and delivering a counter punch directly to the guy’s jaw, sending him flying backwards. Sheridan then reached his hand down towards Abel’s, outstretched.
Abel reached up with a bruised arm towards him before a rumbling growl came from near them, as the second MacMillan brother had shaken off his blow before coming charging towards Sheridan with a massive battleaxe.
“Sloppy.” Sheridan thought to himself. “Well as they say, the bigger they are..”
Sheridan then ducked out of the way as the hulking weapon came crashing down past him, sending shards of splintered wood out as the large blade became stuck in the remnants of a table. The MacMillan brother attempted to pull it from the chunk, and was eventually able to get it free, but this small window of time was the only few seconds he needed to take advantage of the situation. Withdrawing a small block of wood with a barrel fastened on top, along with a tiny black iron trigger to match, it was leveled directly at the MacMillan brothers. Abel’s eyes widened as they came into view with the rugged crimson crystal jutting on top of the supposed weapon.
“Hursag.” Whispered Sheridan as a ray of azure flame rocketed out of the iron barrel of the weapon towards the brother, crashing into him like a stagecoach out of control. The sound of the fire soaring through the fire rocketed off the walls of the tavern in a deafening roar, followed by the sizzling and crackling of flesh slowly eroded away by the intense heat.
Burning flesh now overtook as the dominant smell, and cries of agony as the MacMillan brother collapsed to the ground, flesh hanging off his face like a bad mask, smoke rising off of it.
Silence ending the concert of violence as it’s crescendo, and Sheridan began walking out of the tavern towards the front door, raising his hand in a beckoning motion. Abel struggled to stand up, creaks of metal as his foot rose, and slowly walked towards the door as everyone stared at them.
Pushing the tavern door aside to step outside, Abel witnessed Sheridan standing before a group of soldiers clad in pure alabaster leather and chain armor. A symbol unified them all, the symbol of the Empire, a blazing phoenix. The soldiers were shouting a series of dull, but powerful commands such as ‘YOU THERE’ and ‘STOP RIGHT THERE.’
Sheridan was unfazed by the whole situation. A smile crept across his lips and he simply dropped his gun to the ground along with his sword, a beautifully crafted scimitar. A few of the soldiers began to creep up towards him, armed with a set of pikes, behind them a row of more soldiers with fire sticks similar to the one Sheridan had wielded, however a bit longer, more accurate, deadlier.
Abel followed Sheridan’s act of dropping his sword to the ground, gazing in awe at the crowd of soldiers that surrounded them. It was only a matter of time before Sheridan began to open his mouth smugly, turning his head slowly to Abel, saying in a voice that relayed extreme calm. “We quite possibly should have picked a much less populated settlement. That was my blunder of course.” Followed by a quick chuckle.
The set of soldiers began to approach even more rapidly now that the two had disarmed themselves, pulling Sheridan’s arms back tightly, slapping heavy iron cuffs on them. The self-satisfied look didn’t leave his face. The soldier that was cuffing Sheridan had noticed not only this, but the brooch covering his silky grey cloak, a smudged copper rose. A snarl came across his face, and drew his gauntleted hand back, smacking it clear across Sheridan’s face, causing an immediate bruise.
“You’re lucky that there was an amnesty for you lot of heretics and traitors.” The soldier gruffly said. “However, that won’t save you from being a criminal and being hanged. Should have stayed on the right side.”
Sheridan made a throaty noise and spit out at the ground towards the soldier, a foul mixture of tobacco, saliva and blood. Smiling, showing a set of blood-tinged teeth.
“Are you sure about that?” Sheridan stated bluntly.
The guard that attempted to cuff Abel looked at his arms briefly, before attaching one cuff to his right arm and the other his belt loops on his mottled pants.
The guard flashed a toothy grin, saying “A robber can’t even afford a Mechanika arm?”
Small surges of anger coursed through Abel before he responded through gritted teeth. “Sometimes you need a reminder of what was lost.”
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