Thread: Bounty Hunter

  1. #1
    awakeneddragon
    Guest

    Bounty Hunter

    Osiris disassembled her gun onto an oiled and greese stained rag. Around her, the starving children of the village watched in fascination, all the various bits of metal shining in the sun.

    "Did you know there was a name for all this stuff once? Yup, every part," she was saying.

    Behind her an old, toothless man nodded sagely, his wrinkled smile smacking in the dry air.

    "Found a book once with all kinds of words," Osiris said wistfully, gazing up to the skittish clouds even as her hands expertly cleaned.

    She winked at the children, bending forward to whisper, "Real nice pictures."

    Some of the people in the village laughed, an occurance so rare that the sound was ugly. One emaciated woman, hugging her swollen belly, put a hand to her smiling mouth, tears of happiness running down the tracks of old sorrow.

    Osiris had found too many of such places lately, another settlement built on dreams, about to be lost to the waste for lack of planning, lack of food, lack of weapons. It was madness, and it made her angry.

    In the blinking of an eye her weapon was put back together, and the village sighed.

    There was strength here, in their dreams, and Osiris thought about her own madness. She rose, feeling like a giant around so many starving dreamers.

    "I promise to do what I can," Osiris said, and she set off for the waste.

    ...

    Five days of tracking, but she had found a Sussurus large enough to keep the village fed for weeks. It took two more to drag it back, fighting off predators. One Grim had been too anxious, and so Osiris added the scavenger to the sling.

    She looked at one that wheeled above her, her constant companion. He was a much smarter one than these others, practically a pet now.

    "We are a pair, aren't we?" she asked him gently, and then looked north.

    She saw the thin smoke in the distance, and dropped the carcasses to run. But she was too late.

    The village was dead.

    Osiris made herself walk among the ruined houses, forced herself to find every villager and imagine their last moments. She buried all of them with the meal they would never have.

    Long into the night she stood over them, her own dreams, her own promises, her own madness tearing at her soul.

    She unlocked her gun and cast a prayer with it over the mass grave.

    "You were strong, though you did not believe it," she said. "You have more strength than any of us who kill."

    She walked to the edge of the village, already being swallowed by the waste.

    "I am a Huntress," Osiris called out to the wind, which stopped to listen to this child of the wilds. "Now I hunt murderers."

    She set off for the east, already counting the number of dead she wouldn't bury. Far above her the Grim cried out a mournful song, the Cry of the Grim, the music of deserved death.

  2. #2
    Excellent again! You have a knack for invoking vision. Wonderful piece.

    ...maybe a little over the top with the emaciated woman crying, but that's a minor point...and I am a cynicist.

  3. #3
    awakeneddragon
    Guest
    "Eh? What? You want me to ride you?" the old man shouted incredulously, making a cup at his ear and leaning towards Osiris.

    He revealed a startlingly beautiful set of teeth as he smiled in approval.

    Osiris smiled and that was as good as a laugh. "No, old-timer, I asked you if some riders had been though here recently."

    "Ooowee," the old man said, collapsing back into his broken chair as if exhausted. "Well, for another one of those smiles I'll tell ya and even give you lunch."

    Osiris smiled. "You're on!"

    The town was a little more established, complete with a set of water towers, their catch basins like supplicant hands, begging the indifferent sky. The trail had ended miles away from here, but this was the only place the murderers could have gone.

    Osiris took a chair opposite the man and looked around the little saloon doubtfully. She doubted that there would be a great meal, or, indeed, any meal at all, but she needed the information. If there was any, it would probably be here.

    The old man pointed. "That yours?"

    Osiris looked. The Grim had flown in though a portion of collapsed ceiling and roosted in the shade. Unblinking eyes shone from the darkness there.

    "Yes," she said, turning back to see the old man admiring her chest.

    "Well," he said leisurely, "I suppose that someone in your line of living would attract odd company."

    Osiris marveled at the old coot, but couldn't help but feel like laughing at him. A younger man she might have already walked away from, but there was something about the old man that itched at a memory.

    "Lunch!" the old man proclaimed, rising with such speed that Osiris leapt to her feet. He was moving away from her though, towards the patch of sand that had been revealed when the floor had been torn away in the corner under the collapsed roof. The old man began to dig and soon drew out a clay jar.

    He labored with it and Osiris ran to help. It was heavy. The pair of them managed to heft it out, and the old man even got away with a grope or two. Osiris shook her head, mostly at herself. Anyone else would be dead already.

    "What do you have in here, old-timer?"

    "Chip," the old man corrected. "Or, Chippy, if you like. The ladies all call me that." He winked.

    Osiris laughed then. "Alright, what's in the pot, Chippy?"

    Chip grinned his perfect smile. "Heaven. So, dining with an angel, that means I can die a happy man."

    ...

    The lunch was good, and the conversation and company better, and Osiris left the town heading east.

    She had descriptions now.

    "We should never make promises, should we?" she asked the Grim, wheeling languidly overhead.

    It burped a lazy response.

    Osiris began to trot. "First dad, then the damn priest, then the dead people, and now the old man," she grumbled.

    She smiled though. She hoped she would live to keep her promise to Chip.

  4. #4
    Ah! Foreshadowing is a wonderful technique. Good plan.

  5. #5
    DA_Magpie's Avatar
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    Good story

  6. #6
    Upon re-reading, I have to admit, I don't understand this bit...unless it's more foreshadowing.

    already counting the number of dead she wouldn't bury.

    She did bury everyone from the village, so is this in reference to those she's hunting? Does this mean she has an idea of how many she's hunting then?

    Curious minds want to know.

  7. #7
    awakeneddragon's Avatar
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    Sand and rock. Clay and salt. Osiris reached the lip of a valley, ducking to one side. She kept her hood and mantle about her, the heat and the shadow settled about her, filling her nose with her scent.

    "Too sweet," she muttered, remembering the hot breath of her man, his cries and his hands tracking pleasure over her flesh. Swearing, Osiris swept off her hood and cape to run them carefully over the ground. The sun bore down on her instantly, like the eyes of all other men. It was a relief to cover herself again, her smell gone and the past no more on her mind than her track through the waste.

    The grim cawed overhead, as if approving. It was answered from the shadows of the ravine, first with one voice and then others. The scavenger dipped and swept ahead, welcomed by its kind. If they were generous, there could only be one reason.

    Death feast.

    Osiris sniffed the air. It smelled of roaches and vomit, but it was the oily tang of burned flesh that upset her stomach. She wet her lips with the last of her water, and then covered her face again.

    "Blood and water," she whispered, she prayed. Memory threatened again, but she was already moving.

    ...

    She slipped into the shadowy ravine. It mingled with the heat she carried, pouring in around her scanning eyes, rising up from the floors. The caressing cool quickly became an invader, sapping at the warmth of her flesh and blood. But was the site of carnage that stopped her cold.

    She'd found the raider camp.

    Osiris settled back against the ravine walls. Thorny bush and claw stick grew heavily here, ready to scratch and tug at her, but she siddled to one side slowly, so slowly.

    The killers were gone, but she had to make sure of the count. It was tricky, as the raveners had been torn apart, their innards and limps splayed open for the dancing mass of grims. Osiris patiently counted heads. All accounted for.

    "I told you that I wouldn't bury you," she said.

    Osiris pushed through a break in the underbrush, so fast that her cloak hardly snagged. The grims, all mostly gorged now, took flight, screaming lazy murder as they leapt up to the sides and lip of the ravine. Only her grim remained, contenting itself on a long chain of grey intestine, swallowing between contented breaths.

    The smell of roasted men filled her head with pain and her stomach with a bloated feeling. Osiris adjusted her mask, as if facing a dust storm. It didn't help much.

    The mystery occupied her mind. Osiris blinked at the wounds.

    The bodies had been sawn through bone and burned--with searing hot blades that caused spurts and sprays of grease and oil to catch fire. She eyed a torso severed from shoulder to hip and shuddered.

    "What could do that?" she asked the sudden wind that swept through the ravine.

    The wind died, and the cawing of the grims was stilled. Her own grim ducked, biting off its meal. Sewer stink rose from the body.

    Presence behind her.

    Not a raider.

    Not their killers.

    But something else.

    Osiris spun, gun and blade up, already knowing that she was dead.

    The Dragyri was the leanest specimin that she'd ever seen, but by far the most vascular. Ropy veined arms and legs unfolded as it rose from its seat, its great spear impossibly tall.

    Osiris lowered the gun, but not the blade.

    "Umish," the Dragyri said.

    "Osiris."

    The Dragyri shook it's head, eyeing the severed men. It slowly lifted its free hand, huge palm up, cupped, with its graceful fingers suddenly becoming claws.

    "Umish killed them," Osiris confirmed.

    The Dragyri nodded. "Track," it said, sweeping its spear along the ravine floor, cutting the air. The wind seemed to pick up, and Osiris began to breath easier.

    She'd come across Dragyri before. A lone one, like this one. It hadn't killed her. It was after something else, something that had killed her quarry.

    Osiris squinted down the ravine, noting for the first time that the curious pockmarks that had been all over the ground among the slain raiders became a track, coming and going down the ravine. Some of those tracks followed the walls.

    "Umish," she said. "Bugs."

    The Dragyri nodded, planting its spear and regarding her. Evaluating. Judging. Its eyes never changed in their unwavering intensity. Like the Dragyri Osiris had met before, she knew it was deciding if it should kill her.

    Osiris turned her back on the giant to root for water and other supplies. The Dragyri didn't usually kill women, so she'd heard. She was quick, her mind automatically snatching and pocketing. No threat. Purposeful. She worked methodically, pausing only once.

    A doll.

    Tears came to her eyes.

    "Okok," the Dragyri stated, tearing up the great knot of thorn stick without flinching. There was a fresh mound of earth there, earth that matched the Dragyri's hands.

    "You buried her," Osiris said. "The one they took."

    The Dragyri settled the plants, scrubbing them across the grave. Their roots would find the girl eventually, and the thorn stick would bloom. "Grave-seed," her people called the plant.

    "I'll go with you," Osiris said, finding herself at the side of the towering male.

    The Dragyri nodded solemnly, and they were off.

    Behind them came a single indignant cry and the scramble of wings. Most of the grims resumed their feast, but one followed them.

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