Mospaeda Posted May 31, 2010 Report Share Posted May 31, 2010 (edited) This Child of Malifaux Perdita felt a hand slip into hers and she could just feel the magia, tingling up her arm, dancing towards her heart. She looked back at the girl seated behind her, shivering under her roughspun scarf, and pulled her a little closer in the saddle. Everything in this world had a touch of magic, but she had never felt anything quite this strong. She had a lot in common with this little girl - this child of Malifaux – so much that sometimes she wondered just how much of this world had seeped into her bones as well. **************************** Her name was Miette, or at least that’s what she told them – much prettier than the names the townsfolk whispered behind her back. She was ten, maybe eleven, and spoke with a thick-but-flowing French accent, like some of the debt-contractors the Guild sometimes scrapes up. Her skin was clear and pale, odd in those sun-baked lands, and she was forever fiddling with her hair – a short and choppy bob that jutted out in all directions. Cuervo pequeña, Francisco would tease her as he mussed the raven-black mess. Corbin, she would correct him. Miette de Corbin. They’d come across the girl north of Wrung-Neck Flats, hot on the trail of some demonio that were terrorizing the small pioneer town. She was huddled inside a tumble-down farmhouse next to a bloody mess that no little girl had a right to be huddled next. They almost didn’t even know she was there, curled up behind a splintered armoire, until Papa sniffed her out. No wailing, no crying – not even a tear. Just a scrap of her mother’s nightgown in one hand, a bloodied muleskinner in the other. On the trail back to town, she'd rode behind Perdita in the saddle, hugging her so hard the gunslinger almost couldn’t breath. But she didn’t mind. It reminded her of when she was a little nina and of the nights she had held her own mami just as tightly. What they didn’t expect was Wrung-Neck Flat’s reaction when they rode back into town. They claimed not to know her, nor her family, but the looks of fear and wary-recognition were clear enough. Perdita didn't need to be a fortune teller to know what would come next. The girl would be stoned as soon as they turned their backs, chased off back to the badlands by these fire-and-brimstone paleto’s and their backwards superstitions. So they brought her with them. She made the horses nervous but could cook a meal well enough, cleaned up after the boy’s drinking and even helped sew up a nasty gash over Papa’s eye after an unfortunate spat with a hoar cat. But most importantly, as Perdita could tell, she had La Visiõn – the Sight. **************************** “¡Piñata! ¡Piñata!” Papa’s voice sang out across the bones of Chastity. “We found him.” chirped Nino, his bowler-covered head popping up from around a corner of the building. Perdita led Miette forward along the front of the burnt-out saloon, the ting of her spurs chiming in cadence with the heavy thump of her boots. They rounded the corner just in time to see the sun sinking below the horizon, its' brilliant death throes lighting up the ghost town one last time before abandoning it to another cold badland’s night. Papa’s silhouette danced beneath that of a crooked black tree, the unmistakable shape of a lynched-man swaying from its branches. “¡Piñata!” Papa cried out again, beating the corpse with a stick. Santiago’s silhouette walked slowly toward him, placed a heavy hand on his shoulder and lead Papa gently away. Perdita considered covering the child’s eyes, but she had already seen worse. Much worse. Must have been the Death Marshall’s doing, she thought to herself. Certainly too civilized for the nephilim and their particularly vicious brand of justice. “They’ll be coming soon,” she told the girl, wrapping her coat a little tighter, “so remember what I taught you. Stay close and do exactly as I tell you. ¿Comprenda?” “Oui, understood.” Miette nodded. “Bueno. Now, you only have six shots. Don’t waste any of them.” Perdita slipped an aging revolver into the girl’s hands. Miette frowned a little, she was hoping for a Peacebringer, but she knew well enough that the legendary gun’s recoil would likely break her arm. “Wait until they’re in range – close enough that you can taste them.” The gunslinger caught herself licking her lips in anticipation. "I'll be next to you the whole time." “They’re coming.” Miette said after a few moments, her gaze drifting towards a distant copse of knotwoods, barely a smudge on the horizon. Perdita peered into the dusk. Seeing nothing, she pulled the brim of her hat even lower and reached out with la visiõn. Sure enough, she could sense them too - miles off, hurtling down from the rocky mesas and driving the night before them. How did she see them from so far off? “Ortegas! It is time!” Like well-trained soldiers, the family set into motion, each member hurrying to their places. Nino scrambled up the side of a crumbling mercantile, positioning himself behind the clapboard so that he could duck down in the shadows while still covering the edge of town. Papa led the horses away before stationing himself just inside the doorway of an old assayer’s office, cackling to himself and licking a stick of dynamite as if he had just rolled a cigarette. “How many have you had?” scowled Perdita as she came across Francisco leaning against the dusty bar in the saloon. Her boot kicked at the bottles laying empty at his feet. “Two.” he replied. She counted four. “Well, I'm counting them as two. They're pequeno.” “Get out there!” barked Perdita, shoving her older brother out the saloon's scorched doorway. “And sober up!” “¡Nina! Come here and help me with the bait.” growled Santiago, dragging a heavy cage behind him. Its’ contents, a whipped and bloody nephilim, hissed and spat from behind the bars. “Grab the stakes first.” No, Perdita thought reflexively, one hand pulling Miette closer like protective mother-hen. But the girl quickly shrugged her off and marched with determination towards the enslaved nephilim. She stopped to grab a mallet and stake from Santiago’s pack before joining him at his side. Impressed with the girl’s bravery, Perdita reached out with her mind as her brother worked, dousing the nephilim’s fury long enough for him to reach inside the cage. Garbled curses still bubbled up from the slave's throat as it struggled against the heavy chains – she hoped that Miette wouldn’t pick up any new words. Dragging it to the center of the square, Santiago threw it down roughly before pinning it under one knee. “Hobble it.” he told the girl, motioning towards the iron rings of the heavy ball-and-chain. Miette crept forward, gingerly holding the stake ready. “¡Puta!” cursed the gunman as the beast kicked out behind him, catching Miette square in the chest. Her thin form tumbled backward and landed squarely in the dust. The Mexican rained subduing blows down on the nephilim as it cackled in delight. The sharp ring of hammerfalls told Santiago that Miette had returned to her task. Howling in agony with each blow, the nephilim twisted violently under his bulk. Only when he heard the girl’s soft voice say “Done.” did he release his grip. “¿Que?” he asked, turning to inspect her work. The nephilim was curled up in the dust, grasping at the stake driven cleanly through its’ calf. Miette stood off to the side, wiping the blackish blood from the mallet with her scarf. Brushing away her unruly hair, she handed the mallet nonchalantly back to Santiago. “¡Mierda! “ he said under his breath. “Wrap it up!” barked Francisco, flexing his fingers in anticipation. Behind him, Papa danced around, muttering something about spiders tickling his feet. Miette hurried back to Perdita’s side and the two hid themselves behind the smashed remains of a stagecoach. It wasn’t long before darkness fell and the family waited. The wind stopped blowing, the bones of Chastity stopped creaking and even the crickets had stopped their serenade - the whole world seemed to be holding its’ breath. Only the pitiful moans of the nephilim broke the silence, floating up to the moon and the encroaching darkness. Waiting was the worse part of every trap and thankfully it wasn’t long. Perdita, her brim pulled low, could feel them coming closer and, looking down into Miette’s face, she knew the girl could sense them too. She nodded slightly and her student rose into position. “Calm yourself… deep breaths.” Miette’s hands shook noticeably and the revolver flashed like a hooked fish in the moonlight. Would she be able to do it? Shooting at gin bottles and crows was one thing, but this was for real… Perdita frowned. Had she pushed her too soon? “Paciencia…wait for it.” she whispered, sensing the nephilim as they burst from the distant tree line. Tiny shapes raced across the plain, scampering on clawed feet and hands. Terror tots thought Perdita, perfect. Suddenly, a sharp smell filled her nostrils – urine? Had the girl wet herself? Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! ¡Maldiga! she cursed herself. Wide-eyed, Miette had unloaded the entire clip before the demons were even in range. How stupid she was to have thought she was ready! Too young, too scared. This had gone too far. But her self-beratement was cut short. Santiago had risen from his hiding place at the sound of the girl’s gunshots and was looking in their direction. He failed to see the trees creeping towards him and certainly didn’t see the giant bat-winged form swoop down upon him. Like a snake, Perdita drew and fired, the muzzle-flash lighting up her angry face. But her bullet screamed off harmlessly into the night and the demon pounced near her brother, knocking him to the ground with a mighty buffet from his wings. “Gah!” Santiago hit the ground hard in a pale cloud of dust. Both Peacebringers found their way into his hands as he rolled onto his back, firing doggedly at the form looming over him. The demon was quick though, and deftly leapt to the side, once again dodging Ortega fury. “¡Maldita sea al infernio!” shouted Francisco, plunging his dueling sword into the beast. Ignoring the black spray that scorched him, Francisco followed with a slash from his Peacebringer, cutting an angry little grin across the demon’s throat. With a choked cry, the demon lashed back, pushing the eldest brother away before he could strike again. Francisco teetered backwards, his arms wind-milling frantically to keep his balance. Suddenly, a shadowy form leapt towards him, scything with a mighty blade like Death himself. The blow knocked Francisco clear off his feet and sent him crashing hard into the dust. Santiago tried to rise but was caught in the backswing – bones crunching as the blade bit deep. With both brothers writhing at her feet, Lilith familiar form stepped into the moonlight. Admiring her work, she placed a boot on Francisco’s prone form and gave a theatrical bow. Nino stood in ovation, Boomer roared its’ applause. Hammers clapped furiously as the well-oiled barrels spun, filling the night with a deadly storm of lead. Bullet casings flew from the weapon, buzzing past the youngest Ortega like angry bees before clattering noisily down the roof. Lilith shook under the assault, bullet-sized holes blossoming across her body and throwing her into the arms of her demonic son. Spreading his wings, the giant nephilim leapt into the night, spiriting him and his mother back into its' safety. “Ha ha!” cried out Nino. “Where are you going, bruja? I’m not finished yet!” “Stay here!” barked Perdita, pushing Miette down behind the stagecoach. She rushed out into the square where her brothers lay, firing off rounds into the darkness. Santiago had lifted himself to an elbow as she reached him, the other hand trying to stem the fountain of blood pouring down his shoulder. “You good?” she asked. “That’s twice I’ve been knocked on my ass.” he replied, rising to his feet. “Now I’m cabreado.” But Perdita didn’t hear him as she was already off, her attention turned towards Francisco. She pressed her hand to his throat, feeling for a pulse. Her brother winced under the ministrations, blood rattling around in his lungs. “Tell me the truth hermana,” he managed to say between waves of pain, “She ruined my shirt, didn’t she?” But before Perdita had time to smile, Hell opened up and swallowed them all. The square lit up bright as day and a tremendous force lifted her into the air and sent her sprawling. Dirt, leaves and splinters rained down upon her as she was thrown into the far wall of the saloon. Ears ringing, eyes filled with blinding motes, Perdita struggled just to breath. She could feel the blood dripping from her ears, her nose – but she didn’t care. There were more important things. Miette, Miette! She willed her arms to move, dragging her useless body behind them. Slowly, she made her way through the pandemonium and back towards the stagecoach– crawling over burning wood, scorched weeds and charred limbs. “Damn short fuses…” she heard Papa cough, followed by several more blasts. Black smoke filled her lungs and burned her eyes. Miette! she cried - the girl was nowhere to be seen. With bloodied and raw hands, Perdita reached out desperately into the flames. A small hand slip into hers and she could feel the magia. Elation swept over her, followed by exhaustion. Smiling, she pulled the little girl closer and wrapped her raw arms around her tightly before slipping into unconsciousness. **************************** Daylight broke and Chastity breathed again – a cold badlands wind that rattled the shutters and roused a dancing troupe of stale tumbleweeds and empty bullet casings. Perdita touched her brow gingerly, testing the bandages wrapped around her head. A steaming cup of black coffee waited patiently for her along with a flask of soul gin. In the distance, she saw her family standing out on the plains, pointing at various places on the ground. Despite the protests of every inch of her body, Perdita managed to pull on her boots and hat before limping out to join them. As she drew near, Nino whistled in amazement. “Perdita! You’ve got to see this!” Scattered amongst the stinkweed were six little corpses, nude terror tot bodies frozen into crooked little poses. Each one had been shot dead – not only at distance far beyond the reach of Miette’s revolver, but each one cleanly through the eye. Perdita looked at each of her brothers, who responded back with raised brows, and then over at Miette standing a short distance away. The girl was busy scratching at her gun before noticing the family’s attention. Wiping a lock of hair from her eyes, she held up her handiwork for all to see. Fresh hash marks shown white on the revolver's soot-black handle. “I only counted them as three.” she said, grinning. “They were pequeno.” Edited June 9, 2010 by Mospaeda Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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