Quick Silver Creek, just another boom town on the dusty edge of a dry river bed…
Not even a big one at that.
But, As Ezrah knew all too well, that’s where bad days and sleepless night were born. The trouble with life on the Borderlands is that they border on crazy. You never know what sort of beast or man you’ll find there. To a few that’s the joy, seeing giant spiders scurry across the plains, or play host to the few wild elves left for a night. To the rest it’s a nightmare, full of ghost and ghouls and other beast much worse, all gnashing teeth and angry eyes. It’s a wonder the Hex-guns can keep up. Yet, that’s what stoked the fire deep inside making Ezrah shine bright and true; a beacon of light in these unforgiving lands. Well it didn’t hurt that Tesla asked a favor of him.
As the settlement grew closer the ground changed from grey featureless rock and cracked earth to something that felt like crushed limestone, yet red as dried blood and soft enough to crumble to dust at the slightest touch. As the vermillion sand fell from his hands a gust of wind carried the specks away.
“Looks like a storms acomin’.” grunted Ezrah to the darkening west.
Ahead was the river bed from which the place got its name sake. A handful men, women, and children were gathered round the trickle that ran out of the mine, bottling the liquid metal in cast-iron flask to be shipped to Tesla and used on all kinds of odd experiments.
“Why’ve you gone and chawed up the land here you crazy old coot? I’d bet ol’ Isabella here that that’s where your trouble’s from.” muttered Ezrah, caressing his revolver as he tightened the strap, smiling. “No need for hostilities just yet, m’lady. I’m sure before it’s all over you’ll have some fun.”
Through the red dust came a shadow of a boy running from person to person, pointing to the coming squall. With that the lazy pace changed to a fever pitch; everyone chucking bottles in crates and crates on wagons almost as if the storm itself is the problem.
“Hey, you there,” a voice calls from behind the open gate, now only about an acre away, “You better hurry up and get on in here. Thingis ‘bout to get rough…”
“What ya mean by “rough”?” asked Ezrah, hiding his surprise at being called out from so far away.
“No time! Just get in here Hex-gunner”
“That easy to spot are we?” asked Ezrah, adjusting his belt so his coat hid Isabella better.
“Naw, not usually, but we knew you was coming ‘Gunner, and your hand cannon’s marked. Makes it easier to tell you apart from the rest of us. Now hurry up and get in here, we need to close the valves holdin’ the door open, unless you’re volunteerin’ to clean them when the storm passes.”
“No, no I’m not at that.”
As the distance closed the body behind the voice showed itself. He was a portly man, weathered by time and trials unknown; and they didn’t leave the man unmarred. Where his left eye should be was a glowing orb of electricity, crackling out at the edges singing what hair was left on the wizened man.
“Name’s Jed. Thank you for coming ‘Gunner.”
“Ezrah.” Replies the Hex-Gunner shaking Jed’s outstretched hand. “Now, why the panic here over such a small dustup figured you guys’d be used to it out here on the Border Lands”
“Oh, it ain’t the storm, my friend, it’s those little buggers that come out of the mine when it hits.” Declared the overweight gentleman, his enchanted blue orb staring off in the distance as the gate slammed to. “Gremlins, things used to just muck up our gears, nothing new there, right? Well, that the men and I could handle ‘till they started draggin’ ‘em off. Like nothin’ I’ve ever seen.” Pausing to look at his pocket watch, “Well, friend, lets head on over yonder I’d like a rest before the cow patty plops down.”
As the large brass valves swung the gate shut Ezrah finally saw what a ghost town the ‘Creek was. Not a soul in sight down the lane of shacks, most of which look to have seen better days with windows boarded up and roofs caved in from disrepair.
“Used to be so nice out here…”Sighing and scratching his eye-socket. “…Damn thing ain’t, never gonna heal, works a sight better though. Ha! Sometimes I even surprise myself with my wit.”
“I’m sure you do Jed,” Grumbled Ezrah,looking west “but that storm ain’t gonna wait till your done slack jawing. I thought we was in a hurry now”
“Right, right. Sorry.” Stifling his laugh, and opening the door to his little hovel. “Here we are good sir. Back to point: That’s got my men spooked, most of the ones that weren’t taken off have scattered to the four winds. I’ve even overheard the old wives’ tales of dragons in the earth waitin’ to pop up again and eat us all. That this mercury Tesla is having us get is the blood coming back to the source, awaking one.” Propping his feet up on two rackety chairs the veteran continues. “ Hogwash, but the men buy it. Just don’t see how they go from these little snots to a dragon.”
“I’ve heard tell of then taking lesser creatures at thralls, if you take the stories to heart. Something has these things acting out or sorts. So, what do you need me to do?”
“Well, first off get your gun ready. By my reckoning we got ‘bout five minutes till they pop their ugly little heads outta that cave.” Declared Jed, nodding at the red shadow moving closer.