In a world conquered by demons, a gunslinger bound by a demonic Oath must choose between the search for his lost love and the life of a boy he encounters hidden in a small, isolated chapel.
A gunshot echoed across the dark desert plain, splintering the silence. An inhuman wail answered, the wraith swirling away with the plume of Cloyd’s convulsive breath.
He grimaced, rubbing his eyes. Must have drifted off. Thane lay heavy in his hand, its coal-black metal gleaming dully in the ashen moonlight. He lowered the weapon, trembling, drawing quick icy breaths. A once-steady hand, reduced to gelworms.
Demons can have that effect on a man.
With so little sleep over the past two weeks, he was losing his edge. Some sound—or instinct—had awakened him in time, thank Ohm. No, too late for that sort of talk. Redemption was for other, stronger men. The Great Healer would never forgive him… nor should he.
Just one task remained.
Cloyd’s eyes scoured the desolate prairie. Twin moons shone down, grim orbs slashed by streamers of creeping mist. Hazy blue sand drifted across the sighing dunes, whispers taunting him with promises of absolution. Patches of frost crept like skeletal fingers over the cracked terrain, the withered grasses… the true fate that awaited him.
The Gar’Chai still hunted him, would not excuse his… disobedience. Cloyd raised a hand to the cold metal encircling his neck, a collar emblazoned with a black crescent—a symbol of his Oath with the demons. A symbol of his hope, and his shame.
He slapped the dust from his wide-brimmed hat. A cheerless campfire smoldered nearby, offering a meager shell of warmth. Soon the snows would begin, hampering his travel, sending everyone to ground. And there was still much ground to cover.
Alanna, where in this Ohm-forsaken world have they hidden you away? Hold on, my love, and it will all have been for something.
Cloyd leaned against a stunted cycalia tree; the wind rattled its brittle leaves like a wind chime of bones. He checked his gun.
Only one bullet left.
He drew a shaky pinch of alba leafe from a pouch—the last of his stash. His ma always said it wasn’t good for him. Since the demons arrived, there’d been a damned lot worse. Some folks whispered the Gar’Chai had come from Tartarus, others Gehenna. Either way, the sadistic bastards had been all too eager to step through—scythes first.
Cloyd stared into the fire, thinking back to when his flight from the demons began, a fortnight ago.
* Story is pending publication in Fantasy-Faction’s 2013 Anthology.