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The Spell Slinger

by Lucas Rivera

Small puffs of smoke rose from the ground in the wake of the walking horse. The sun beat down on a lone figure riding through the barren wastes of the Blasted Lands. A lone figure but not lonely, he played his guitar in time to the trotting of his horse, and the wind sang with him, a tavern song of a woman waiting at home for him. His voice was a fair one, perhaps in another life he would have sung at a saloon, but not in this lifetime. In the distance, he spied a small town, no more than 40 houses, but enough for cool ale to wash the dust from his mouth and a hot meal to settle his stomach. Controlling his mount with just his knees he drove his horse to a gallop and played to the faster rhythm.

As the Ranger stepped into the saloon he was met with a mean sight, with ramshackle tables and dilapidated chairs filled with men somehow rougher than their surroundings. He crossed the sandy floor and waved the barkeep over for a beer. Nursing a mug, the Ranger found a table with a cards game and sat at the only empty chair. The dealer dealt him in without so much as a word. The man dispassionately looked over his cards, a Wizard and Mage, both with the suite of fire, a good hand, in fact about as good a hand as any honest man could ask for. The Ranger pulled out a cigar and his slinger and pulsed out a slight flame from its muzzle. Lighting the cigar he puffed on it as he returned his slinger to his hip.

"Raise," the man said as he threw in three silver pieces. One of the men threw in his cards with a scoff, the other three threw in the money. Out came the flop, dealing out another Wizard, a Knight and a five. The Ranger took another long drag of his cigar and knocked on the table, taking it to another man who raised by two silver. Each of the men but one put in the money, leaving only three left. Suddenly the man who raised, an ugly and fat specimen, started speaking.

"So stranger," referring to the Ranger, "you any good at these here cards?"

"I get by," the Ranger retorted, "Else I wouldn't have jumped in."

Now the bend and out came a seven.

"Well it seems like it seeing how you are still in it", the man said as he threw in another four silvers.

The last man folded mumbling how he wasn't paid enough to be gambling like this and left the tavern in a hurry. The Ranger slowly looked around the table and saw the rest of the men wished they could follow.

He shifted his cloak to cover his left hand and answered, "I like to play it to the end. I'm afraid I play for keeps," as he threw his four silvers in to keep playing. The stocky man smiled as he flipped the last card, an ugly sight, and saw another Warlock.

"Oh yeah?", said the boisterous man, "and why's that?"

He slammed a gold piece onto the table and looked up at the Ranger, daring him to continue. The Ranger took a long drag on his cigar and looked deep into the man's eyes, and carefully placed another gold piece to match the man's.

"Cause I might not make it back," the Ranger said carefully as he slowly leaned back in his chair.

The man was none too pleased to see the man still in the game and snarled, "Show 'em!" throwing his own cards onto the table, a Knight and a Warlock, making a two pair. A pretty hand in most other circumstances, but the man's face turned bright red as the Ranger threw out his own cards from his right hand.

"Wizard, Warlock two pair beats Knight, Warlock I'm afraid friend."

"You cheated!", the man howled, "ain't nobody getting that hand so soon into a game!"

"'Fraid that I did buddy", the Ranger said chuckling, "but I'll be here a while yet, you could very well get your money back if we play a few more rounds."

"No siree I don't play with dirty cheats! Show your bleeding cards right now! I know yer hidin' 'em!"

The man stood and pulled a slinger from his belt and aimed it at his chest, cocking back the hammer.

The Ranger slowly pulled the cigar out of his mouth with his right hand and looked up at the man carefully, "You sure you wanna do this? A gold piece and some silver ain't a lot to die over."

As he said this he looked around the table again, and again the men looked as though they would leave if they could. He looked around the tavern as a whole and found most people had either not heard the commotion or didn't care. Strangely there was no sheriff on his way as there usually was in small town such as this one. Either way, it was clear the Ranger was on his own.

The fat man leaned back as he laughed, and the Ranger took this opportunity to move his left hand to his slinger under his cloak.

"The way I sees it, yer the one dying." the man said after he was done chuckling, "After all I have the slinger here. Now hand over the burning cards before I blast your hide."

The Ranger hung his head and sighed, he really didn't want to have to deal with a body right now, but the man gave him no choice. He looked back up at the man and dropped the cigar to fish around in his pocket.

"Knew it, you's a flaming cheat", the man said grinning an ugly grin, "Now be a good boy, and ha-" his triumphant gloating was cut off by the blast of the Ranger's slinger sending an ice spell directly into the man's heart. He fell backward with an icicle the length of a sword impaling his huge midsection.

A hush fell over the saloon as all the men turned to see what had happened. Several already had hands-on slingers, but most took them off when they realized who had been shot, if reluctantly. Most, but not all. One man stood with his slinger in hand, but not pointed at the Ranger, staring at the body.

"He was drunk," the man said softly.

The man walked over to the body and gently closed the eyes before looking up at the Ranger, who still sat silently.

"He was drunk!", the man yelled, "and you had no cause to kill him!"

"The way I sees it", the Ranger replied evenly, "He was threatening to kill me, friend, and there wasn't no sheriff acoming to stop him, so I had to take drastic measures. I apologize if he was family or friend. Truly."

The man suddenly shouted, "I am the sheriff you bleedin' fool, and you just killed my brother. I'll see you outside in no less than two minutes with your slinger drawn or I swear I will round a hangin' party and hunt you to the ends of the Earth. Burn you to the deepest pits of Hell!".

With that, the man kicked open the door and walked out into the street. The rest of the men in the saloon slowly turned back to their conversations and drinks, but not quite as excitedly as before. The Ranger sat there for a few more minutes, finished his drink, crushed out his cigar, and adjusted his hat as he followed the sheriff.

He saw him at the end of the street, already in position, hand twitching above his slinger. The Ranger moved to the other end of the street and hovered his hand over his own slinger, and called out.

"We don't have to do this, I'd much rather we both walk away warm and breathing."

The man called back, "That was no longer a possibility when you murdered my bleedin' brother in cold blood you coward! I'll see you burn in hell!".

"He does say that a lot doesn't he," the Ranger murmured under his breath, and called again in a louder voice, "Very well friend, I'm sorry it came to this. On your mark."

After all it was always polite to let the challenger call the draw. The Sheriff licked his lips and shuffled his feet, before finally yelling out, "DRAW!", and in the same moment pulling out his slinger and unleashing a huge torrent of flame covering the entire street up until where the Ranger had been standing. The Sheriff heard a shot at the moment he had fired, but as the flames died he saw no sign of the Ranger.

"Probably just ashes now, and good riddance to the bleedin' fool." the Sheriff said. He heard a voice behind him say, "Y'know I didn't want to kill nobody today", before a shot rang out and the Sheriff collapsed, dead with a small hole in the back of his head. "But if y'all keep pokin' the bear," the Ranger continued as if nothing had happened, "Eventually yer gonna get bit.".

He checked his ammo bag, only six shots left. He had wasted a decent Ice and Earth shot on the two louts and even a flamin' nice wind spell to avoid that sheriff's fire shot. He'd better leave this town before any more relatives came outta the woodworks lookin' for revenge. With that, the Ranger strode over to his horse and mounted quickly, driving the beast into a gallop out of the town. This ride he didn't play his guitar.

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1 commentaire

Juan-Pablo Pina
Juan-Pablo Pina
30 nov. 2023

Amazing work! Fantastic job on creating this fantasy/western scene. Keep it up, man!

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