A creak drew their eyes towards the corner. Several circular, grooved slabs of wood turned while knotted ropes hoisted and pulled in a pattern. The large, wooden barricade shifted and shook, then lifted. Jostice ears caught the raucous of tens of thousands of screamers than his eyes found the light that crawled beneath the door, sweeping into the room to chase the shadows down the corridor. He tilted his hat to shield his eyes; they drew to focus on a table layered with irons and lead, glistening, asking him to do their dirty deed...
He was ready to answer their call.
A waft of cool air slapped his face as he stepped out of the corridor into the arena. Jostice stood by the table and allowed the blockade door to slam shut behind him before examining the goods. Everything seems to be here. He first grabbed his belt; thick, heavy leather that had seen better days. He pulled it from the table and strapped it beneath his coat, yanking it tighter than last he remembered. "Hell, I've lost a bit of flesh." Next he grabbed his revolvers, felt their weight, and spun them. He nodded. They'd not been tampered with; their weight evenly distributed from barrel tip to handle butt. They were a fine pair; one he acquired from his father; both put to good use, with markings to show for it, and barrels that'd been seasoned and well maintained. They had ebony, black wooden grips, that were chipped from excessive bludgeon use. While the rest shone silver from barrel, trigger, frame, to hammer. He brought the pistols to his ears and flicked the cylinders. Six smooth clicks later he smirked. "Just as I left them." He gave the revolvers a quick spin then slid them into the holsters, a perfect fit.
With that out of the way, he acquired a few additional items. A second leather belt, that he crossed over the first, attached with a holstered blade the size of his forearms. And a third leather belt fitted with bullets that he wrapped around his chest. The last item on the table was a small, oiled wooden box. A gift? He thought, snatching it from the table. He hesitated thinking it might've been strapped with alchme poison or a triggered explosive. Na, that'd be too easy...the Mayor prefers me suffer. He flipped the lid; his eyes met an orange and red swirling light. Brilliant as the morning sun. He pronged two fingers and extracted a metal case, fitted with a glass tip filled with an orangey-red liquid. "An achellet?" He brought it to his eyes. "That sick son-of-a-bitch."
Achellets weren't simple gunpowder bullets. They were made with powder and alchemy properties; to be used by duel slingers and the elite-illegal in the hands of the common folk-though that didn't stop outlaws from obtaining them from shady merchants looking to turn a profit. "This was what the Mayor had in mind all along...To send us off in a spectacle of blood." Jostice slammed his fist on the table then slid the achellet in-between loose leather on his bullet belt.
Fully equipped, he walked towards the core of the arena, feeling the weight of the crowd on his shoulders. Their cheers loud as a drum, beating against his chest like a heavy gust of wind. He looked north; the crowd was on their feet waving like a swarm of ants around a disturbed nest. And to the south he found a black mass sprinkled with white specks and an arched moon. Beneath it, Crockernad statue stood valiantly and weathered, hung over the perch lip surrounded by batteries that sat on the wall unchained and unmoved since the War of Nations.
He faced eastward and walked while he peered across the arena; beyond stacked barrels, flipped over wagons, and box shaped buildings, stood a man taking short strides towards him. He was surrounded by a greenish-yellow light that illuminated from his chest. As vibrant as field-grass on a fine day. Poison? Jostice shook, unconvinced. "No...Grassfire." His eyes trailed down to his chest; it gleamed reddish-orange,l as though his heart had burst into fire and surrounded him with a burning aura, realizing the achellets were not only weapons, but their markers.
Ten paces in and his attention was drawn to his surroundings. "Tombtown," he spoke, reading a wooden slab that hung off a bent beam bore into the ground. That's what they'd called the mock town; built inside the arena to serve one purpose...to be the backdrop of their duel and the resting grounds for one of them. Who? He didn't know quite yet.
With each step further in his boots sunk into the dirt while a chill worked its way beneath his bandana, and fresh, icy air bit at his nose and lips on every breath. It was like walking into a ghost town. His eyes shifted between sides. The wood that erected the town was as battered as the walls. Built from torn slabs off of it; the mock town was made of thick, dark wood, chipped and riddled with bullet holes. No good to reside in but there to act as cover.
Jostice got to the edge of town and stopped. He stared down the road between the buildings, where oiled lamps hung on post on both sides, giving light to the arena and a promise to the spectators...that they would not miss a thing. On the opposite side, forty paces away, his advisory stood in his bull beaten pancho, and large, round hat. Hands at his hips. Grim eyes focused though Jostice could see the fear. He had it too, he imagined. No matter how tough a man you were, staring death in the face will make you find a God to pray to, and faith if only for that moment.
The crowd went silent...
With one quick push, Jostice whipped his coat back and it hung in the air long enough for his hands to fall to his revolvers. He tilted his head and rose an ear. Good luck, old friend. May you find your way to the prairie lands if you're to be saddled...That is, if the shit exists. Jostice was uncertain if Morgan Dale would say a prayer for him, but it didn't matter, he'd lived long enough to know prayers were never answered on his behalf.
Jostice was hit by a blaring sound that made his eyelids stretch and his feet vibrate inside his boots. The sound of cannon fire. He pivoted, sliding a foot back while lifting the irons to his hips. Two cracks from his barrels and two clear misses. His foe stood unscathed. Jostice knew a vicious smile rose on the old man's face. "No harm in trying to get lucky," he whispered.
Morgan Dale made the next move, instead of popping off a lucky shot of his own, he slid out his revolver, removed his achellet, and placed it in the cylinder. No longer glowing green as summer grass, he took to the shadows, whipped southward and disappeared behind a building on the edge of town. Jostice searched with a ready hand. The road was paved with tipped wagons and stacked barrels. He could make his way up slowly or he could wait. Bunker down until the old man grew weary and began his pursuit. Jostice took a step forward. He was never much for waiting on others. Bring the fight to them, his pa always told him. Give em too much time and they'll out think ya...You've got grit, boy, but not sense of wit. His pa hadn't taught him much but those words always stuck to him like syrup.
Jostice moved to a stack of barrels and dropped to a knee. He knew his advisory well. As duel partners Morgan Dale did all their thinking, which saved his life more than once; he'd have to do his own thinking now. Jostice whipped his revolvers open, reloaded, and flicked them shut. He then starred outward. The old man can't shoot for shit but he'll catch me with my fingers between my toes if I let him. He kept low as he shuffled across the road, pressing towards a wagon-
There came a wail; something zipped by his right ear. Jostice rolled. The crowd gasped. A second wail and a crack; His body moved behind the wagon as it shook from the bullets force. He could hear the cheers and whistles from the crowd. Their uproar shaking the ground. He pressed himself up against the wagon and peered from behind the box board while a third wail and a flash came eastward from the corner of the last building; the bullet hit the dirt by his boot, kicking up dust. A fourth, fifth, and sixth followed like there'd been a firing brigade. Flashes appeared from different positions: one near the saloon, another by the grocery, and the final by the post office. Like the old man had become three. This was Morgan Dales trickery, Jostice knew, to confuse him until he could get a clean kill...But The Ace wouldn't wait for that.
He pressed forward, moving low, with his revolvers raised until he'd found himself on the porch of the post office: fourth building from the edge of town. Jostice took his time as he moved across the porch, pivoting and pointing his revolver barrels down the breach between buildings; a black space swallowed by shadows ten paces deep. Jostice did this several times. The saloon next then the grocery thereafter. Certain he wouldn't see the old man first, nor get the first shot off, but hopeful he'd get the last.
At the end of the porch and town stood the gun shop and Morgan Dale's starting position, but there was only darkness where the tips of the candlelight couldn't touch. Jostice holstered his revolvers and trotted into the street, eyes eastward, staring up the wall that fortified him inside. The light blinded him from the darkness. It kept his eyes from the details, but he could make out the fort wall that rose and rose and rose nearly endlessly up into the black night sky. As though the wall and the sky had become one. Hell... he thought. Can't climb my way out-
The crowds voices rose viciously. Hails and hollers. Screams and whines. Moans and groans...There was something queer about it, he knew.
Morgan Dale stood at his back, twenty paces away, taking aim...Jostice could feel the man's eyes bearing down on him...