Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter 5: Spruce Run

The sun clipped the peak of the Great Mountain. For some people it was the limit of their world. The Gunslinger was from an ancient race, one of legends and glory. Long ago the Gunslingers took MountainTop in a great war. Since then they have ruled the entire mountain and selected all who lived along the road to be subjects of their kingdom. After the war the Gunslinger's entered a golden age. Times have now settled down completely, and this young Gunslinger tries to demonstrate his clan's superiority through completing a common coming-of-age ritual.

The mountain reflected the sun and dragged the shadow out from under Charlie's dreams, waking him up. He looked around at their small campsite just off the road. The Gunslinger was nowhere to be found. Charlie was not worried. He must be out hunting through mists; the dissipating dew of the dawn.

The Gunslinger was out on the hillside tracking a horse. Along the hunt he came across these fresh tracks, and something in his head made the decision for him. He caught up to the horse. It was not alone.

The horse was on its side, being pinned down by a dark rider. The dark beast above him is a conglomerate or black horse and stranger. His hat casts a unnatural shadow over his face. The Gunslinger gets out the rifle from Porter's Lake and pressed it against his shoulder, resting his elbow on the ground. He loaded and the click gave away his surprise attack. The dark rider turns towards him.

Charlie hears a gunshot in the distance.

The Gunslinger reloads and before he can fire again the horseman has vanished. The Gunslinger turns back around and there he is up close, face to face. The Gunslinger is startled and looks down. He is saddle on the horse that was pinned down on the ground. Both riders wait at the starting line. It is clear to the Gunslinger now.

This was Spruce Run.

A gunshot sounded off in the distance. Later the Gunslinger could only conclude that it was the long echo of his rifle. It broke the horses into dashing strides. He feared the race. For one... he was roped into it by a cloaked stranger. But mainly, he had no idea what was at stake, who knows what could be waiting for him at the finish line.

Charlie abandons their camp and makes a run for the direction in which he heard the gunshot. It was unsettling, the boy did not know why. Something in the air, something about this place... did not sit well with him. He knew it, the Gunslinger knew it. In all the time Charlie has spent lost on this road, he has never gone through Spruce Run. In fact, he had no idea what it was, and thus could not even see it. Charlie could only see the swift pounding of dirt riding the horizon; and the Gunslinger, emerging forth on horseback.

Now the Gunslinger had an inch on his opponent's stride as they crossed the ridge back down towards the road. That is when he realized what the finish line would be. Suddenly, he saw Charlie standing about twenty paces from their camp, directly in the path of the final stretch of the race.

The dark rider crossed his path, swooping in, and snatching Charlie unsuspectingly off the ground by his neck. The Gunslinger pulled his revolver and fired it at the rider. The bullets hit him in the back, but they did not slow him down. They seemed to have not affected him at all. The Gunslinger finished the chambers in the revolver, all six hit the rider and did no harm. He put the revolver away instead of reloading it. He tried his rifle, but to no avail.

Charlie felt the cold grasp of death upon him. It was only then could he see, when reality made no sense, the rider carrying him by the throat. His hood cast over his face and his gloved hand felt of the stone beneath the earth; the foundation of life.

The Gunslinger dashed past the dying fire of their campsite and pulled the log with the biggest flame. He pulled his knife and stabbed his horse in the hide to get it to run its fastest. He killed the horse to save the boy.

As they crossed the finish line the Gunslinger pushed the horse to its last breath and passed the dark rider. He clubbed him over the head with the log, releasing Charlie. Charlie's shoulder took the brunt of the force when he collided with the gravel of the road. He tumbled with his momentum and his flesh scraped and scratched as he came to a halt.

There the Gunslinger stood on the road. With the fire club in his hand, two horses broken on the ground around him, and the dark rider mysteriously vanished. He had won the race, but what was his prize?

The road moved and absorbed the horses as a cloud lowered around them and spun into a cyclone. The storm was only in essence amongst them. It turned the road back to normal and with it, two brand new horses. One was white with brown patches and the other completely brown except for a black tail and mane.

"What was all that?"

"One of the five gauntlets."

"But what about that man?"

"That was no man..."

"What was it then?"

The Gunslinger did not answer the boy as they mounted their new horses.

"I'll tell you what I think it was..."

The boy went on even though he was sure that the Gunslinger did not care.


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