“When I first laid eyes on him, I knew that men would not only follow him into hell, they would go ahead to announce his coming.” – The Coming of the Gun of Dawn by Counsel Scribe Sara Brezal.
The God’s Gun
Grey Robak sat at table by himself in the corner of a poorly lit bar sipping his whiskey. Whiskey, he had never had the drink until now, and he found that he didn’t much care for it. The beverage was warm, bit the tongue, and did nothing for his thirst – which was becoming quite powerful. They had nothing like whiskey on his home planet, nothing like it in the entire Emperiom. Wines and juices were common, but not this devilish drink.
This was his first time away from Emperiom space, and the farthest any Mage had come into Guild territory. This might have been a honor to some but not to Robak. “Blast them,” he thought to himself. “I’m a scholar, not a field man.” And the ridiculous orders they gave. “Go to the planet Trinight and look for anything unusual.”
Everything was unusual on this space forsaken planet. He looked up from his drink and surveyed the saloon around him. The first thing that struck him as unusual was the amount of wood used to build this place. Other than the spaceport, which was Guild constructed of course, he had seen no sign of steel, plastic, or gold of any kind. Tables, chairs – even the sorry excuse for a door – were made of wood. The only trace of metal he could see was the gold coins stacked in front of each man at the bar to pay for their drinks. That was another oddity. “They trade in gold,” Robak thought to himself. Not Space Guild credits but gold. The last thing he couldn’t get used to was how these people dressed. Blue denim and light shirts that button down the front with dark leather boots and wide brimmed hats, not the flowing robes or tight tunics of the royal houses. Robak felt very out of place in his apprentice robe with counsel emblem embroidered on the breast.
He was considering a change in garb when suddenly an obviously drunken man stumbled into the saloon and shouted, “Morris, you get me a drink, and not that horse spit you normally serve. You get me the good stuff!”
The bartender stopped polishing the bar and grabbed the same bottle he had used to pour every other drink. He looked at the young man and quietly asked, “Brooks, ain’t you think you’ve had enough already?”
“Hell, I’ll have enough when I had enough!” Brooks shouted.
Morris poured the drink and responded, “All right, all right, I ain’t your momma. Just don’t need to be carrying you home tonight is all.”
“Ain’t goin’ home tonight,” Brooks shouted, “Ain’t ever goin’ home again! I’m hitting all the stops, then I’m heading to New Pump city and catching me a smuggler ship off planet!”
If the news of the man’s plan to leave shocked anyone, there was no sign of it. The bartender just spat into a glass and wiped it with a dirty rag.
“What are you going to do off planet?” Morris asked with an inflection that showed he didn’t much care what the answer was.
“Beats me” Brooks replied, “Maybe I’ll join the smugglers or see the inner worlds, you ever been to the inner worlds, Morris?”
Morris looked up, “With spacer guild prices what they are, I ain’t never even been off planet. Likely never will.”
“That much is at least true,” thought Robak. The price the Mage Counsel had paid to ship him to this world was staggering, several times his year allowance for certain.
“Besides, why would you want to leave Trinight?” Brooks said softly.
“There’s a bounty hunter comin’ to town.”
“Well, that ain’t nothing new.”
“Not just any bounty hunter, they say it’s the God’s Gun.”
At that, the few men sitting at the bar erupted into laughter. Brooks looked savagely at the men mocking him and downed his drink.
“Ain’t no such man as the God’s Gun,” laughed Morris.
“There’s thems that laugh, and then there’s thems that know better,” Brooks replied. “I talked to a smuggler last night who says he saw him. They say he destroys whole towns looking for his bounty, leaves no man alive.”
“Well,” said Morris, wiping tears from his eyes. “It ain’t like you got a price on your head.”
“Still,” Brooks replied. “You darsn’t stand in front of a bull when he’s chargin’.” Brooks, who was now visibly having trouble standing up, looked around the bar and shouted, “But there’s no way he’s here today so let’s celebrate! Who wants to buy their old pal Brooks a drink?”
The men at the bar retreated to their glasses not seeming to want to provide any more whiskey for Brooks. Undismayed, Brooks stumbled in to a man at the corner of the bar that Robak had not noticed before. That, in and of itself, was a surprise as Robak prided himself on being observant. After all, that was why he was chosen for this mission. The Strange Man was finely dressed in a dark wool jacket and white pressed shirt with sliver cufflinks glittering at his wrists. A black, wide brimmed hat hid is face from Robak. Despite his appearance, he seemed to stay in the shadows and go relativity unnoticed until now.
Brooks looked drunkenly at the strange man and said, “I don’t know you. Why don’t we get acquainted over a drink?”
The man did not respond, only looked at his own drink in his hand, not even showing any sign of hearing the drunkard.
Brooks grew impatient, “Come on! A man in such fancy duds as you could buy the whole town a drink, I’m just looking for one.”
Still no response.
Brooks’s face grew dark. “Too good to drink with me, eh? I see, maybe I should cut you up a bit and take your fine duds. Leave this planet looking like a gentleman.”
With that, Brooks produced a small blade from a sheath at this hip, brandishing it toward the stranger.
At that moment, the stranger – moving faster then Robak would have thought possible – grabbed Brooks’s arm and wrenched it behind his back.
Brooks started to yell, “Hey mister, I was only fooling around, let me go!”
The man, still holding his drink with his right hand sighed, saying to everyone and no one at once, “All I wanted was a simple drink.” He pulled up harder on Brooks’s arm forcing him to drop the knife. Brooks started screaming, “He’s breaking my arm!”
The bartender, who had dropped to the floor thinking to avoid any gunfire, now emerged from the bar with a shotgun aimed at the stranger. “Just put that old alky down now. We don’t want no trouble.”
The stranger turned to look at the bartender and slowly consumed his drink in one long sip, then placed it on the table. “Then you will have no trouble.”
The stranger stood up quickly dislocating Brooks’s shoulder from it socket, causing him to collapse unconscious from pain. Dropping Brooks to the floor the man pulled a single gold piece from a vest pocket and placed it on the bar. Touching the front of his hat brim in a departing gesture, he strode slowly out of the saloon.
Grey Robak sat dumbfounded. Never in his years had he seen anything like this, never heard of anything like this. In a world of curiosities, this man was the most curious thing he had ever witnessed. The other bar patrons must have felt the same as they all started to get up and follow the stranger out in to the street. The stranger was walking calmly to the other side of the dirt lane when suddenly a voice bellowed out, “Eli Warren!”
The stranger stopped mid stride.
A man stood about 25 yards down the road, his leather duster pulled back at the hips, revealing two crisscrossed gun belts and two silver gun handles shining in the sunlight.
“Eli Warren!” The man shouted again, causing the stranger face him and for the first time, Robak could see his face clearly. He saw an older man of some 40 years, his features hard and unforgiving. His face was clean shaven except for a dark heavy mustache. The hair that stuck out from below his hat was black with hints of gray at the temples, but the most striking thing about him was his eyes, dark, almost red. His eyes were fierce, as if they missed nothing.
Again the man called, “Eli Warren! Three times, I call your name, now you must answer!”
The stranger called Eli said in a low automatic tone, “Who calls me?”
“My name is Demon’s Hand, and I am the third God’s Gun. I have come to end your life.”
Eli stood in the street making no movement, no attempt to ready himself for a fight, arms held loosely at his sides.
Demon’s Hand suddenly shouted, “Fill your hands old man, Death comes a reapin’!” With that, the Demon’s Hand pulled his guns and let loose a furry of bullets toward Eli. Eli dove, rolling behind a rain barrel and produced his own gun, a black revolver. There he waited till the gun fire stopped and calmly shouted back, “There’s still time to walk away.” A shot landing near his boot was the only answer. “Then that’s how it will be,” he said. Eli pulled back on the hammer of his pistol and brought it ceremoniously to his forehead. He muttered something inaudible and sprang from cover.
He was met with a barrage of gunfire as he ran but not a single shot seemed to find its place. He rolled, turned, came to one knee and fired. The shot landed in the chest just above the target’s heart. The Demon’s Hand went to his knees, dropping the guns at his side, and slumped backward. Eli stood, placed his hat back on his head, and walked over to his fallen foe.
Grey Robak watched in awe as Demon’s Hand motioned Eli down to him. Eli knelt, listened to the man as he lay dying. After only a moment Eli stood, holstered his gun, dropped two gold pieces on the dead mans chest, and began walking out of town.