The Mauler: Part 2-Weak Necks
Dance awoke with a cough, the searing smell lingering on the walls of his nostrils as he sat up in the sand. The big fingered hand that held the smelling salts retracted, and he met the face of his reviver.
Dance knew better than to feel elated at the possibility of a rescuer. The Wilds was not a place where fortune often followed misfortune. And the creature that sat before him on the sands couldn’t have proven that reality any better.
He, and the creature breathed male with every rise and fall in his broad and sturdy-muscled chest, was not human. His red pupiled eyes seemed afloat in shadow, the sockets and skin around them were so dark. The face, big and thick-boned, crested with those three curving bone spurs, and the sharp, almost tapered but wide angle to his facial structure, filled with absolute resolution, stern knowledge and unshakeable drive, mixed with an embedded fury. Though the eyes were even more alien than Hawthorn’s, Dance recognized the look in them. The look one gave to a captured prey.
The lips, black and moist, were closed shut into a grim and stony frown. After he put the salts away, the attacker sat still, just watching him, studying him, his hands resting on his lap.
Dance swallowed hard. “And what would your name be?” The words had come out dryly, but still audible. Yet the attacker did not make a sound or move. He simply sat there, still looking at Dance, intensely and unblinkingly, his grey skin giving him the semblance of a statue.
Dance swallowed again. “Some water would be nice.”
The attacker took a canteen from his belt, where dangled a strange looking weapon. It resembled a firearm, with its clearly structured pistol grip and elongated barrel, and what looked like a cylinder inhabiting its midsection. The barrel was long and triangular, with a sharp prong jutting out from each apex. It was made of black metal, and looked heavy and unwieldly. But deadly all the same.
Dance eyed it with curiosity as he took the canteen. The water was cool and powerfully invigorating as it cascaded down his parched throat. He took a good long swig before giving it back to the attacker. The attacker latched it back onto his belt.
They looked at each other for a few long moments. Dance started to feel uneasy. For a bounty hunter, and that’s undoubtedly what he was, he possessed an unusual and disquieting nature. He was so composed, so relaxed, for such an imposing and alienating build. Dance had heard of men, creatures, like that. Who sit and look at something that meant so little to them, that was so easy to crush and kill like it was just another pebble lying in the earth, with all the studiousness of a scholar, of a doctor examining a patient. And he got that feeling from this one. The quiet grew to be too much. Not even the wind dared penetrate the silence, as if it had become afraid.
“Oh, I see. Your reputation must be such that your mere presence speaks with greater volume than any words can muster. But you must tell me your name, so I can at least address and thank my liberator.” he said, trying to keep the hint of irony out of his voice.
The attacker grunted. The first audible sound he had made. “I am Revik.” The voice was deep, sharp and gravelly. It reminded Dance of the sound of boulders as they stampeded down the side of a cliff in an avalanche. First the low and gathering rumble, then the eventual and catastrophically deafening thunder of the monstrous rocks falling down the steep cliffs, breaking and bashing as they went. He felt the same potential in Revik’s voice, and through that, his nature. Violence and destruction were bred in him.
Dance went on. “And where are you from?”
Gavroka. An island nestled in the Gold Sea just of the southern coast of Southsky. Dance had read of them, studied pictures just to pass the time, but never once had he met one up close. And now that he had, he couldn’t help but feel he would’ve rather liked to have missed the opportunity. Now all the stories of constant war, of such brutal and bloody slaughter literally turning the surrounding seawaters to murky crimson suddenly became real and undeniable. A land of pure-boned killers, savage to the core, that lived in constant cycles of war and death.
Revik embodied that existence perfectly.
But Dance pressed the conversation on. The Gavrokans may have possessed a reputation for ruthlessness and bloodshed, but he had not heard once of their cleverness. Perhaps he could make a clue spill out. Something that would get him out of this mess.
“A Gavrokan. I believe I’ve heard of you. Your name is Revik. You caught that cattle rustler Edward Brass at the border of Nova Aurora. Went well, from what I heard.”
“And your killing of the Cutler Gang. A meritorious achievement, indeed. Tell me, how did you do it?”
Suddenly a knife was stuck in the sand between Dance’s legs. The Gavrokan growled. Dance eyed the knife. It was a big one, the handle curved and made of bleached bone, the pommel a deep brown wood engraved with strange symbols and what looked like a horned skull.
“I don’t prattle.” came that gravelly voice.
Dance smirked. “No. Of course not.”
“I woke you for a reason.”
“Really? Pity. I was enjoying the nap.”
Then a hand grabbed his throat. Dance’s face and throat burned with the instant loss of breath. The Gavrokan pulled him close, right to those crimson, black-rimmed eyes.
“Dance. You are a thief. A deceiver. A coward. You have avoided the hands of the law, the reach of hunters. But no longer. You are in my grip, now.”
“I can tell.” Dance said, darkness slithering across the borders of his vision. His head felt light.
“Resist, and feel my wrath. Obey, and you reach Redemption. Alive.”
Dance felt afloat. The world started to fade. Nearly all breath gone, he managed, chokingly, breathlessly, two words. “I-I-u-understand”
And with that, the Gavrokan released Dance’s throat.