28 Female Human Brunette Hexslinger
Edge: Tradesmark weapon: Sharpshooting
Hindrance: Overconfident (major)
Hindrance: Phobia – shadowy figures (minor)
Hindrance: People out to get her
– Throwing knives
– Bodice knife
– Colt Peacemaker
– Gun (special – pistol)
The Lucas boys were making more of a mess than ever at the main table of the tavern. She’d lost count of the number of drinks she had already served them. No matter how often she went over to clear the table, they would wind up having more crap littered everywhere … glasses on the floor, chairs overturned, guns and other various items sprawled everywhere. The mud and shit from their boots, now smeared all over every nearby surface. Any potential customer or casual observer who walked by the main door could easily see and hear these two. The scoundrels were getting more annoying by the second.
“Ezzzzzzzie!” Esmerelda sighed and turned from the bar to look toward the two brothers. Davy Lucas was looking at her from his seat at the table about ten feet away. His brother Dylan was leaning back in his chair, grinning at her. Damn it to hell they were sloshed. Davy had a full glass of liquor in one hand and his hat in the other and was leaning off-center in his chair. “I lost my whiskey. Where is my whiskey?” Davy bent over toward her and put his head about knee level, still looking at her. “Come here lass. I thinks I lefts it in your skirts. Bends over so I can have a nice big slurp.” At that, he tumbled forward from his chair and fell flat on his face. His glass of whiskey and his hat dropped from his grasp. “Owwwwww! God damnit!!!!” At that his brother Dylan erupted in laughter and fell backward, hitting his head on a nearby chair sending it sprawling. Both brothers, drunk out of their minds and unable to get up off the floor were snickering at each other and rubbing their injuries.
She hated waiting on those beasts. Mr. Fletcher, the owner of the Inn, insisted that these boys be treated well as they always paid for their booze, their broads, and came back with regular frequency. That was Esmerelda’s problem. Maybe they should find somewhere else to go.
Esmerelda turned back toward the bar. “No skin off your nose, Icie” the barkeep said with a grin. He was smiling teasingly at her. He knew she was frustrated, but also knew she could handle anything. “The last time they seriously tested your disposition, you about sliced Dylan’s fingers clean off. And Davy won’t ever lose that little limp ya gave him, even though he tries to conceal it. He’s still scared as hell you took away his ability to create Lucas-spawn. They know to keep their distance.” He winked at her and walked toward the drunkards to help get them off the floor.
She watched the barkeep stroll off to help the Lucas losers back on their feet. Johnny Hunter was twelve years her senior. A full head of russet curls and a trimmed reddish-brown beard, he fit into this town as if he had been here all his life. He had started working for Mr. Fletcher about 6 years ago, and the townsfolk welcomed him as one of their own. Even the Lucas brothers would bend to Johnny’s will, and eventually he would have those fools cleaned up and on their way. He just had a way with people. Townsfolk seemed to feel at ease in his presence, trust his advice, and enjoy his company. And she trusted him above all others. Esmerelda chuckled quietly to herself as she realized she was probably the one most bewitched by Johnny’s charm.
The barkeep had helped her family when he first arrived in town, and Johnny continued to do odd jobs for her father when needed. Over the years, Johnny had also encouraged Esmerelda with reading and writing, and taught her how to defend herself. What she loved most … what she had excelled in … was their practice with certain weapons. They started with knives. Hand to hand combat was all well and good, but she had a particular gift with sharpshooting.
From the first moment she gripped Johnny’s throwing knives, it was if she was meant to hold them. The metal felt as if it had been specifically contoured to her palm. Each time she took aim and threw, the edge of the blade kissed her skin as it left her hand. Perhaps she imagined it, but at times she could hear the weapon whisper to her as she released it, freeing it to fly toward her chosen target. Johnny was impressed with her abilities to hit from a distance, but also dumbfounded when she snuffed out the flames of six burning candles with a flurry of quickly released knife launches from 20 paces away. “Even fire should fear your aim, Esmerelda. You and that icy focus of yours. That’s what you are. Simply and exquisitely Icie.”
Johnny had just recently started teaching her to use a pistol. Again, she had proven an incredible ability to hit her mark. He had told her that he was prepping her to use a very specific gun, but wasn’t sure if it would work for her. She needed to work on her quickdraw speed and continue her studies. And that’s all he would say about it.
And for all of his supportive words and continued attention, Johnny seemed the shy type. She had hoped for something more than a student-teacher relationship. There were times when they would share a drink or two that she saw a gleam of something else back there in those sapphire blue eyes. A twinkle that hinted at both desire and reservation. She was hungry for something to happen. Maybe it was time for her to take that initiative and stop waiting.
She looked over at Johnny who was now helping both brothers stagger toward the door. He clapped Dylan on the back and shoved Davy’s hat back on his head before the brothers, who were now singing some horribly off-tune love song, walked out of the front door and into the street. Esmerelda grimaced as the sounds were hardly muffled by the closed door. Several high pitched screeches threatened to shatter the windows as the boys continued singing at the entrance to the tavern. Damn idiots were probably standing still just to try and find their footing.
Johnny had already started walking toward the table the Lucas boys had destroyed. He started cleaning up. Esmerelda shook her head and smiled.
“You have a way with all of them, Johnny, you know that?” Esmerelda said with a grin.
Johnny picked up the overturned chairs and set them around the center table of the room. “Yea, but that’s just ‘cause they know where the booze is!”
Esmerelda picked up some of the glasses from the table. “Yes, well you have a way with me too. And it isn’t the liquor talkin’ in my case.” The singing outside had stopped.
Johnny grinned. “Well, you just want me for my knives,” he scoffed teasingly. “I have seen the love affair you have with those things. Don’t care how much you beg me; you can’t have ‘em!”
With a huge grin, Esmerelda put the items back down on the table and reached over to touch Johnny’s right forearm. “They are already my knives. Nothing you can do about it. And you wouldn’t have it any other way.” Johnny stopped arranging chairs and grinned back at her. “Besides, I want a lot more than that,” Esmerelda continued. She took a step closer to him and put her other hand on his chest. Johnny smiled in pleasant surprise. “I’m not waiting anymore to get what I want.”
An explosion of force shook them as one of the windows of the tavern shattered and a very large form flew into the room. It slammed into the edge of the bar nearly 20 feet from the door. The wood from the bar cracked and split apart as the flying thing impacted it and fell to the floor. Johnny and Esmerelda were nearly thrown to their feet, but managed to stay somewhat upright. In shock, they turned to look at the source of the uproar. What they saw caused them both to gasp in horror.
Dylan Lucas was lying on the floor against the bar. He had been nearly severed in two. Blood splatter decorated the back wall and floor of the room. Esmerelda stood still, looking at Dylan’s insides spilling out onto the floor. She gulped as she realized it was his body that had just flown through the air and hit the wood. His eyes were already lifeless and seemed to be smoking. Smoke? Oh my god, his eyes were smoking.
“Icie. Icie!” Johnny had regained some composure, had gripped her shoulders and was trying to get her to look at him. “ICIE!!” Esmerelda stopped staring at Dylan’s eyes and refocused on Johnny’s face. “Icie, come with me. Now. You have to get out of here.” Johnny drug her behind the bar and forced her to duck down behind it. He opened a couple of cabinets and threw most of the contents onto the floor.
How could a body fly through the air like that? Smoke? His eyes. Lifeless. Smoke. Dylan flying. Dylan was flying. Now he wasn’t flying anymore. Vacant smoking eyes. Smoke. Smoke.
Johnny was trying to put something in her hand. “Icie! Pay attention!”
“There’s smoke over there. I don’t understand why there is smoke. Why. He’s not on fire. Why.” Esmerelda was mumbling to herself but stopped when she heard Davy’s voice from outside.
“Oh for the love of Pete, who the hell is that?!” Davy Lucas’ muttered shout could be heard from beyond the tavern door. “Dylan, where’d ya go, shithead? Did ya hear that? Man, ya’ll gotta see this! Dylan, you drunk ass, you go inside for another damn drink?” The door creaked open and Davy staggered backwards into the tavern. Johnny and Esmerelda looked from around a low corner of the bar towards the door to see Davy backing up and staring outside. “I dunno who that is, but they look thirsty. Hey Johnny! Give me and my new friends here a round!”
A bolt of white light sizzled from outside and hit Davy in the face. His body instantly went into a contorted spasm, and he was momentarily suspended about a foot off the ground. Then, without a gust of wind or force of any kind that could be sensed, Davy was flung into the back wall of the room and fell limp near where Johnny and Esmerelda were huddled behind the bar. Davy’s head was emitting heat, and the smell of burnt hair and flesh was starting to permeate the air. Smoke emerged from Davy’s ears, nose, mouth, and lifeless eyes.
Before she could make a sound, Johnny had clasped his hand over Esmerelda’s mouth and shoved her into a cabinet that he had cleared out. “Take this and be quiet! Do you hear me, Icie?”
“What?” She was holding a bundle of something he had handed her, but was staring at Johnny in disbelief.
“Stay in here. Do not move. Do not make a single noise. Do not breathe if you can help it. You stay hidden, do you understand?” Johnny was grabbing items from another cabinet and trying to get her to pay attention. “Icie, you have better focus than anyone in this town, I need your focus RIGHT NOW!”. Esmerelda shook herself and looked straight at Johnny. “Icie, listen. No gunshots. There were no gunshots. No one is shooting.”
“What does that mean?” Esmerelda whispered back to Johnny as she awoke from her shock and stupor. She heard movement near the door.
“I think it means that there probably isn’t anyone left out there to do the shooting.” Johnny whispered back. “You stay here. No matter what happens.” Johnny closed the cabinet door. She didn’t think to protest. She didn’t know how to argue with him.
It was roomy in the cabinet, meant for big jars and casks. But it was dark. She could see out of one tiny opening in the slats of the wood. She could see Johnny pulling together some items … and a gun she had never seen before. She could see Davy and Dylan’s bodies, crumpled and broken. She could see the shattered window and the open door. And that’s when she first saw the shadows.
They didn’t seem real. Like tattered dirty sheets flowing in the wind. But diffuse. Like black smoke from a steam engine that has the form of a man that glides rather than walks. They made no sound as they entered the room. Esmerelda counted them. Two. Three. Four. Five. How many were out there? Six. Seven. Esmerelda couldn’t make out any facial features or details of any kind. Just shadows in the shape of men. They had limbs … arms and legs, but ethereal. Wispy. Ghostly.
To be continued …