Greer the gunslinger paused at the switchback and checked his weapon for the fifth time in as many minutes. An impressive, if odd-looking, object that Greer had poured countless hours crafting into its current incarnation. It had served him well and was a source of justifiable pride. Even if, he admitted wryly, the sound of it firing DID seem to draw undead attention like a flies to honey. He looked about at his new traveling companions, battered but nowhere near broken, and was very glad they’d been there when that second group of undead broke cover. He hadn’t always been as glad of others company…
Journeyman alchemist Greer studied the directed bomb formula in front of him and shook his head in disgust. Despite multiple attempts, the iron trigger continued to fail in actually directing the bomb as desired. Standard explosions, every one. He’d varied every component, tried different shapes for the directional trigger, nothing he did resulted in the discovery that would mean he was worthy of advancement.
In fact, he was pretty sure his master the research alchemist was going to cut him loose soon, since he really was more interested in the mechanical devices they used in test and development than in working with formulas, or people. Even though his hand catapult for launching bombs had worked much better when he’d developed a shoulder rest (and healed from his broken wrist), it still took too long to reload to be an effective delivery system. Despite his innovative hinged reload system that allowed one man (with a proper brace handy) to operate it.
Maybe an entirely different trigger substance… Iron. No. Rust Monster Iron. No. Blessed Iron. No. Steel. No. Adamantine. No. Variant after variant after variant. No. No. No. In frustration, he grabbed his iron-lovers-stone pendant, an apprentice day gift from his mother. Perhaps? Why not, she had said it would bring him luck. With that, he removed his necklace and cut a slug from the back, replacing his latest bad idea……acid etched steel. Here goes nothing, he thought. No agai..oh holy shit!!!
Greer took his leave of his master without complaint, taking only his clothes, his journeyman pay, and a secret that could shake the world.
Greer the gunslinger paused near the top of the cliff to check his weapon again, nervously eyeing the area of shaking trees showing obvious movement towards their earlier battleground. When Helmon had launched two spectacular arrow strikes against the owlbear skeleton, dropping it before the undead loitering in the road had even noticed them, Greer had assumed the group he found himself with would find no challenge in this encounter. Initially it seemed he was right.
With the owlbear out of the way, and facing only a handful of ramshackle skeletons and a family of black bear zombies from a distance, Greer and Helmon picked them apart. Helmon with multiple punishing arrow strikes, silent and still. Greer, with belching tongues of alchemic fire and retorts that were sharp and crisp in the winter air. The ranger guide, Merena, and her leopard raced forward and began tearing into the undead, up close and personal. Hiriko, by contrast, seemed to almost slide up the road with a smooth and silky movement revealing her ninja training from a house allied with Helmon’s master.
The bears got in a couple of strikes; gods did they stink up close. Helmon stuck a pair of the cubs to the ground from sixty feet away and through a busy combat zone. Merena and Hiriko continued to wade through the slow moving undead without any apparent effort. In no time, the road was quiet. But not for long.
Perhaps it was echoing ears unaccustomed to blasts considered minor in the alchemist handbook, perhaps it was simply the heat and focus of combat, for whatever reason the three groups of new undead broke from the trees without advance warning. This encounter would prove to be much more frustrating and damaging.
Separated by the dance of the prior combat, Helmon found himself sent upon by half a dozen zombie wolves. He stood his ground, firing arrow after arrow into the advancing pack, even as they enveloped him. Meanwhile, a pair of zombie farm horses, still in pieces of rotting leather harness and accompanied by skeletons, appeared further up the road and advanced on Merena, attempting to overwhelm her with sheer mass. This was aided by a third group of zombie and skeletons appearing from the other side of the road, catching her between their pincers.
Hiriko was torn between assisting an embattled Merena, a fierce close fighter with dual weapons and a particular hatred for the undead, and Helmon, a calm and focused student of the ranged arts, also under heavy attack. Moving artfully among the foe, leaving them no opportunity to strike by her actions, she came upon the closest wolf and began tearing her way down the pack.
Greer found himself alternatingly firing and cursing his beloved weapon. After all the time and effort and work to produce such a masterpiece of craftsmanship, the damn thing kept jamming up on one side! Even as he fumed and fiddled to get it back in true and ready to fire, one part of his mind was turning over how he might be able to improve the ejection system to better remove the unconsumed tail ends of his iron-lovers bolts.
Despite a much harder time of it the second go round, they soon found themselves again the only standing bodies in the road. Well, most of them did so. With a cry, Merena threw herself at her leopard, lying on the ground being bound by Hiriko. Flanked by zombies, it had fallen and was on the way to being food. Hiriko had come to the great cats aid as Helmon placed an arrow carefully in the eye socket of the last remaining wolf. Using one of their carefully husbanded healing potions, they got the cat to its feet in time to hear something in the trees. Something big. Something headed their way.
Greer, the world’s one and only gunslinger, stood at the edge of another Broken Lands plate and watched the trees churn below. He checked his weapon one last time…maybe something spring based… and followed his companions down the gently inclined road. He was looking forward to Giant’s Toe, heart of the iron-lovers fields. Perhaps they’d have a restful time, waiting for the ice to break and the boats to run again. While he’d never dreamed of a life like this, he knew he’d get by with a combination of luck, drive, grit….and maybe companions.
From the Unofficial Biography “Gunslinger for Glory”