A rumble rattled the wagon and the bones of the prisoners inside. A thunder that shook hard as a blasting canon, igniting the sky blue as pulsing veins.
Jostice's eyes lit, void of fear. "The silence before the roar could drive a condemned man mad," he chuckled, aware that a sudden strike could be their demise.
"How much longer is this shit gonna last?" Morgan Dale asked, his mutters barely carried over the rail of rain.
"When the mountain's had her fill."
The wagon illuminated once more. Jostice looked upon the man at the opposite end of the chains; a pale, saggy skin man whose hair was as thin as his patience. One could mistake him for an aging man, but his sunken eyes and frail frame told of his years behind bars, too many to count on his thick fingers and toes. Morgan pulled his pancho tighter, battling the chill. Darkness swept back into the wagon.
"Hard rain," Jostice said. "I reckon the storm has only just begun."
He leaned back, yanking his cuffed wrists, peering through the iron-barred windows at an angered horizon. The chains screeched, metal on metal, sliding through the cylinder hitched into the coach's floorboard. Morgan Dale groaned, resiting. "Take it easy, Ace." He had the southerners tongue, found only in the far southern city of Dhurago. "Or you'll rip my hands clean off!"
"That's what I intended," Jostice smirked in the shadows. "How else am I getting free of this birdcage?"
Morgan snickered, glaring up at the brutish man whose silhouette dwarfed him. A flicker of light poured through the bars gliding over Jostice's rugged face and haunting gaze, one that'd leave a man cold and a woman wet below the hips.
"Escape? What fer?" Morgan hissed as he laughed. "I reckon we'll be free men after we've won our next duel—"
A clash above drowned his words.
The wagon glowed like smokey sapphires, painting Jostice's brimmed hat, long-tailed coat, and trousers dark as the reapers cloak. He tasted his torn lips, "you can't trust the Mayor's words. His promises are as clean as soiled rags. Hear 'em once and throw 'em out."
Morgan Daled hissed once more, slapping his knee. "You don't trust nobody, do ya?"
"Not for a long time now …"
The wagon shook with the earth, and Jostice jerked, lifting himself from the benches vibrating bite.
Outside the sky ignited into brilliant blues and vivid purples as though the regiment Gods were at war, testing their battery's in a final barrage. Jostice traced a whip of lightning over primepin mountains to the north and his ears caught the clap.
"It's bad, Pa ... Real bad!" Mason said from behind the reins.
"Got to find us some cover. No sense in dying with these scum," Mitch replied, bunkered down beside him. Rifle in hand.
A gust crept through the wagon like a banshee of the night. There to drain the warmth. Cold as winter, silent as night, whispering as it passed. It glided against Jostice skin making his muscles contract and skin stretch like paper.
He turned towards Morgan Dale; the man's eyes white as cream like he'd seen the banshee that brought the chill. "Too damn cold," Morgan muttered, jaw clattering as he pulled his twigged legs towards his chest, wrapping his arms around to salvage heat. "How many duels we've had these past three years? Thirty?" Morgan didn't wait for a nod. "And we're gonna die like this?"
"We've had worse."
"Can't recall when…"
Jostice smirked, unphased by the exploding skies and whispering banshees. "You get used to it…"
"Used to it? I know you're from these parts, but no right man could get used to a northerner's winter."
"Just wait until the regiment God's show their true fury." Jostice laughed, shifting with the pull of the horses.
Rain droplets found their way inside, running down the inner walls and pooling beneath his boots, trickling off corners until their garments were drenched and stuck to their skin like syrup.
Jostice closed his eyes allowing his mind to wander. Images of firy strands and olive flesh warmed his head. Leslie, he thought, if only you were here—
The wagon shuddered with a rumble. Jostice jerked, body slamming against the wall as the chains screeched. Morgan hit the floor and groaned. Outside the horses neighed while their pace quickened, galloping away from grounded lightning.
Jostice turned his head, following streaked silhouettes as they rushed past the window.
Morgan pulled himself to his feet, "You pricks forget how to ride!?" He plopped down on the puddled bench.
"Keep shut back there," Mitch yelled, "Don't need your squabble at a time like this."
Jostice repositioned himself upright. His wrist throbbing and bruised from locked irons. He looked outward towards a tower wrapped in shadows. "Mitch, listen up!" He said. "There's a saloon around the next bend. You'll miss it if you keep a narrow eye. Best we stop there, less you prefer being buried and not paid."
Mitch's head swiveled, "You certain?"
"More certain than I am about our chances."
Suddenly the air fell quiet and the rain ceased. Above them the sky spun in brilliant blues and vivid purple flashes, lighting the land for as far as the horizon: Only here did God's paint with a marvel of colors and fury. And only here did they execute their wrath.
"This ain't good," Jostice said, eyes watchful. "Hold on!"
In an instant the wagon illuminated. Jostice's ears rung like church bells, deafening the beat of his heart.
"I can't see shit!" Mason yelled.
The wagon whipped. Jostice leaned against the unseen force until his body gave into it. He slammed against the wall, shoulder shifted and popped. He groaned. For a moment he was weightless while the wagon tilted to the right. Chains rattled, bones shook, and the carriage crashed as the man hit the ground, head against the bench.
Jostice eyes flashed: Firy strands and olive skin danced around him, the smell of the prairie in his, then, suddenly, darkness swept over him blackening his world.