Chapter 6: Porter's Revenge
The trees were not as pale and baron at their current new altitude. The forests were alive. Spring was upon them, and the solstice would soon be here. A hooded hunter stalks them from the forest canopy over the road, too stealth for even the Gunslinger's keen senses. It was getting late, deep into the twilight hours of the day, the oncoming night was so clear. Charlie looked up at the stars.
"Full moon, tonight..."
The Gunslinger looked up at him from lighting the fire. He approached the boy with his hand over his gun. "What did you say?" he grabbed him earnestly looking up.
"The moon....its a full moon...that's all..."
The Gunslinger threw down Charlie and took his gun out. He stared down the moon up above but to no avail.
This was not what he expected, this was never supposed to be a part of the trials. His new found awareness of the change shifted his gravitational balance. He stumbled back and dropped his pistol. Charlie got back up as the Gunslinger fell. Disoriented, he did not see the rock on the floor that collided with his head.
Rifle shots blast the trees to pieces overhead. They are being fired upon. Charlie panicked. The Gunslinger was out cold. Charlie was not strong enough to move him, and he could not leave him, especially after such a fit. So Charlie grabbed the rifle and headed towards the direction where the gunfire came from.
* * *
The Gunslinger wakes up and feels the rock-steady pillow damp with his own blood. He gets around to his knees and vomits. The Gunslinger hears gunshots and wastes no more time at his surrounding irreversible predicament. He runs into the treeline and can see the crossfire ignitions. Charlie is pinned down by two unknown gunmen. The Gunslinger sneaks around and jumps out behind them.
"Where'd you boys come from?" the Gunslinger guesses, both his pistols drawn and aiming at their guts. One tries to pull on him and the Gunslinger blasts him away. The other uses the distraction of his partner's execution to tackle the Gunslinger. They grapple with each other on the ground for control over the two scattered pistols. Charlie walks up on them and points his rifle at the surviving gunman.
The gunman looks up, "You..."
"I don't know you, stranger." Charlie declares.
He looks up at the rifle Charlie was holding. "You will pay for what you've done."
Charlie cannot make sense of what this guy means, but before he can ask him why he keeps staring at the rifle, the Gunslinger shoots him in the back of his head with both of his revolvers.
"Why did you do that!" Charlie screams in frustration.
"He was going to kill us."
"I wanted to know what he was talking about..."
"No you don't. I know already," the Gunslinger rambled, "It's not very important anymore."
"It's important to me? What could be more important!?"
"...the moon..." The Gunslinger stared up at the night sky again.
"What about it?"
"Where I come from there is no moon..."
"How could there be no moon?"
"...Because we live on the moon."
"What're you saying... that you're an... alien?"
"I'm saying that I don't think I'm on Endari Four anymore..."
"That's a joke. You're joking. Oh God, is that even a real thing? ....I think that rock did more damage than we thought," but upon saying that Charlie realized he was acting weird about the sky before he hit his head. "This is crazy..."
The Gunslinger looked back down at the kid, "Hence the falling and vomiting.."
"Oh, you weren't there for that...there was also vomiting."
"How could you be from another planet if everything is the same? We've talked about the Gunslingers and MountainTop, the five trials, the road...What about the road being exactly the same..."
"...Two worlds...exactly the same in every way...except their place in the universe..."
"...This is crazy..."
"You said that already."
Charlie let the rifle hang in his hand to the point where the barrel's tip was resting on the ground. How could this possibly be? There was no such thing as space travel or aliens...One thing was certain though, after they returned to the road they would take their horses and go their separate ways. Charlie assumed that the Gunslinger would give up his plight to achieve the Rite of Passage and return north.
The Gunslinger pulled his guns back out and swung around like he heard something.
"What is it?" Charlie lifted up the rifle and cocked it.
Two horses broke out of the treeline holding a net. The Gunslinger shot twice before jumping out of the way. The bullets missed and the net swooped up Charlie, and they carried him away. The Gunslinger whistled and ran after them. Before long they began to get away, The Gunslinger was winded and about to give up when his horse came to get him. Without breaking stride he mounted it. They chased after Charlie and the horsemen, furiously catching up to them, back to the road. Except it was not where they had set up camp, but farther down. A place called, "Porter Township Hall."
The Gunslinger got off his horse and slapped their asses to go back into the woods and wait. There were ten horses hitched to the posts outside of the building. One of the horsemen tied Charlie up outside and the other carried the rifle into the hall. The Gunslinger got around the hall without being seen and got the jump on the man tying up Charlie. He slit his throat with his knife and caught him, quietly laying him down. "We're getting outta here," the Gunslinger reassured Charlie as he untied him.
"What do they want with me?"
"It's the rifle. They've been tracking the rifle." He finishes untying Charlie. The Gunslinger puts his fingers in his mouth to whistle for the horses. But before he can they are reprimanded and dragged into the hall.
* * *
The Gunslinger was clean knocked out by one of the guards who struck him right on his wounded head. A hood was thrown over Charlie's face as they were both dragged inside. The Hall was but one room, very small; nowhere special. Charlie could feel himself being tied around a stake, first his ankles, then his wrists. He could hear multiple footsteps around him and people going up and down steps. The Gunslinger still made no noise.
The hood was taken off and Charlie got a look around. The Gunslinger was coming-to beside him, tied to a stake as well. Three man stood in front of them with seven others on the bleachers behind them. The fist one was fat and tall, he looked like a grizzly in outlaw skins. The second one was slender and wore fancy clothes, as if he was never meant for the wild west. The third one who stood before Charlie and the Gunslinger was a perfect combination of the two. He held the bolt action rifle and had a gold fang cap on his tooth.
"We are the Porters." Gold Fang told them.
"..." The Gunslinger could barely open his right eye it was so swollen.
"Our father is dead...." the Griz spoke out, and Gold Fang finished the thought, "You were caught with his rifle..."
The Gunslinger said nothing. He didn't even look up at them.
"Fine..." Slick laughed as he walked up between his brothers Griz and Gold Fang, "We know you are a Gunslinger...and you gave the rifle to this boy as a decoy..."
Charlie looked over at the Gunslinger. He could not believe that to be true. He had faith in the Gunslinger, that he was looking out for his best interest, not setting him up. The Gunslinger lifted his head up, looking them dead in the eyes....and still did not speak.
"Then we will just have to kill you both."
The Gunslinger spat on Slick's shiny boots. He slapped the Gunslinger in the face with the back of his gloved hand. Griz came over to him next and beat his face in with his fists. Charlie screamed and tried to get free of the bonds.
"Enough, brother." Gold Fang insisted.
Griz backed up and Gold Fang issued an order to set the stakes on fire. The guards that brought them in both lit torches and descended the stairs.
"This is Porter Hall, and now you pay for the atrocities of our family."
"The Gunslinger told me about you people, filthy cannibals don't know the meaning of the word 'atrocity'."
"We are not cannibals." Gold Fang is insulted by the insinuation.
"We only hunt man." Griz added.
"After all, they are the world's most dangerous game." Slick concluded sinisterly.
The guards both try to scream before they fall down the stairs. Two arrows run through their lungs and heart each. A hooded figure perched on the windowsill up above them releases two more arrows at once, taking down two more guards, and jumps into the bowels of the bleachers. Slick grabs the torch and lights the Gunslinger's duster on fire.
Charlie grinds the ropes against the wooden stake. He can feel it, they are about to break.
Gold Fang shoots at the mysterious intruder. "This is my father's hall!"
Griz pulls a tomahawk from his satchel and launches into the shadows, pinning the cloaked figure to the wall. He is too big to go down their and get her, so Slick goes instead. The ropes snap and the cloak is left pinned to the wall. Two gunshots rain down from the rafters. It is the intruder. Griz and Gold Fang open fire.
Now free from his bonds, Charlie unties the Gunslinger and holds his blazing duster as his limp body falls out of it. Charlie drags him from harm, grabbing the attention of Griz. He turns his guns on them, but before he can fire, Charlie has the Gunslinger's pistol pointed at him. He shoots him twice in the shoulder before catching his third shot right in between his eyes.
Slick climbs out of the bleachers and watches his brother get murdered. Gold Fang turns around at the sound of the shots. Charlie fires three more shots, landing two into Gold Fang's chest. And Slick picks up the bolt action rifle as his other brother drops, running out of the hall.
Charlie drags the Gunslinger out of the building just in time as the fire catches the walls. Slick rides back up the road, back towards Porter Lake. Griz's fallen corpse burns in the hall. Unseen by anyone, Gold Fang crawls out of the hall before it is engulfed in flames. Charlie gets the Gunslinger to the horses before he drops down, winded. The remaining posse members crash down on Charlie. Charlie fires the pistol, but its chambers are empty. Another volley of arrows bring them to their end.
The stranger walks out of the doors as they crumble and burn. The sun reveals their savior.
With a bow slung over her shoulder and a gun on her hip, it was a little easier for Charlie to accept the fact that they were just saved by a woman. She picks up a hat off a dead man and puts it on. She already has a gun-belt on her hip like them, but she is not like them. She is beautiful and lethal. Her sun-kissed blond hair caresses her fallen prey as she gratuitously removes her arrows from their flesh.
Charlie is astonished. He struggles to find words.
She looks around at the empty road and the nine riderless horses still hitched on the post. She kneels down next to them on the ground. "Don't worry, he's going to be okay."
"Why did you save us?"
"Most people ask me who I am first."
The girl stood up in a knee-jerk reaction. She looked at Charlie's face like she couldn't understand him. The Gunslinger stirred awake. When Charlie looked back up, she was running into the inferno. "NO WAIT!" he yelled as he chased her to the doorway. "DON'T!" A sign that once read, "Porter Township Hall" breaks and falls to flames between him and the doorway.
Charlie turns back. The Gunslinger gets himself up onto his horse. He is still badly injured. Charlie watches as the Gunslinger walks the horse out to the road. He watches to see which path he will take: the road north to figure out what has happened to him, or the road south to continue his Rite of Passage.
Charlie mounts his horse and heads south. Fact is, the question was never answered whether or not the Gunslinger was setting Charlie up as a decoy, but in light of all that he still trusted the Gunslinger with his life and continued riding down the road.
Their blond heroine watches them head towards her clan's territory, the last ridge of the mountain before its final descent. They will find no sanctuary there...
She no longer has the dead man's hat on, it is replaced by her cloak. She slides the hood up over her golden locks while holding Griz's tomahawk in her other hand.
...Not without her ...