Prudence and circumspection, tell to yourself. You’re not a brawny barbarian who kills before talk, but you don’t get knocked up like the last time: you give the traveler a chance to face it in a peaceful way, and if he decides to look for pest, well … he found the wrong bastard.
tighten your iron tube hard and start slowly approaching the body lying on the ground. Close by, you can distinguish his clothes: a long green water drawer makes him a tunic, his head is completely shaved, and his face is … smiling? Damn Is awake! You cry to getting up, and in response he laughed. A laugh of heart, nothing like the horrible horrors of the Family.
– Quiet, my friend! I get up, I get up … I’ve been eyeing you for a while, what do you think? Now … how about lowering that tube?
The individual, always with his smile in the face, stands up and shows the Shocker he holds in his hand, covered with the cloth: a Mantis, no less. A flush in your face and you would be screaming at the ground. But he doesn’t seem to have bad intentions … even, put the weapon while is approaching, continuing to look you straight in your eyes.
– I knew it. You’re not a bad person. I’m glad, friend … it would have been unpleasant to shoot you, don’t you think? Here, you’ll be hungry. Eat with me. We share some human warmth in this horrible world, mh?
No. You can’t believe it. It’s too much. Too much kindness. Too generous, That man is trying to cheat on you, it’s sure. Strengthen your improvised weapon even further, preparing to use it with the slightest sign of danger.
As if he had just read your mind, the little puffy man changes his expression, frowning.
– Okay … you don’t trust me. It seems right, on the other hand, who would do it? Let’s do this: I’m presenting myself. My name is Saul, okay? I’m an Adept of the Iris. Second Circle. Do you know us? No, no, no, you will have spoken to the worst of the cult of Saint Curie, or to a fool of Rhapsody. To us, no one pay attention … Anyway, to put it short: I’m not a supporter of violence. I believe that this world survives better together. And looking into your eyes, I’m convinced that you also think it the same way. Have you already trusted other times to stay scared then, huh?
You can’t avoid your head nodding.
– I imagined. All right, it’s okay. “Trust separates man from the beast, but the suspect separates the living from the dead.” A phrase from my teacher. Now … to prove I’m not a bad person … take it!
His hand runs to the Shocker in his waist. Immediately raise the tube as a threat, preparing for a fight, but Saul takes it very gently … and give it to you.
-You will not go very far with that rusty tube, friend. Come on, get it. I have others in the bike. It’s a trip I can’t deal alone, so … you choose. Or accept my food or my weapons and proceed together, or try to take it from my corpse … but if you wanted attack me, you would already have done it.
Take your decision.
Two cans of meat under salt after, Saul has finished telling you about his story. It comes from Mandala, which describes it as the most beautiful city in the world, full of colors and fragrant foods. He went to Rad City to look for something called “Illumination,” and you don’t understand. Apparently it has to do with some sort of spiritual journey or similar stuff. You have no idea, but right now you’re just too happy for your food and your new weapon to worry about something.
Put the bike back on its feet after repairing it: laughing stuff. A humped rubber and the folded handlebar, when you were with the family you saw much worse damage. Since it’s been night, you decide to spend it in the trees before leave, and that’s when you see it. When your young friend takes off his clothes, you see something strange on his back. At first, you believe it’s a tattoo, a sort of red serpentine … then look better. It’s not a tattoo. It’s skin. Or rather … lack of skin. The back of your new friend is almost scorned.
You let a cry of anguish escape, asking to Saul who could have done such a thing. Initiate’s response makes you astonished.
– Oh, this one? I did it. Among the brothers we call it the Fallen Dragon. Every day, with a hot knife, I remove a piece of leather. The idea is to make it look like a dragon, but being on the back is difficult to be precise. You have to be guided by your spirit … understand? I think he is not coming too bad either.
You look at him with stubborn eyes, asking him if it doesn’t….hurt.
– Sure. Constantly. I get infected at once and sometimes I can’t even move ‘cause of the pain. What did you think I was doing on the ground when did you find me? But you know how it is: no pain no revelation, or not?
You do not know what to answer. What seemed to be the first person of this world has just turned out to be a crazy self-harmer. Sure, it seems to turn his own violence on himself, but what could he does to you if he … missing?
Tormented by this thought, spend a night of hell with the tight shocker in your fist. When you finally get some sleep, it’s dawn and your buddy is already standing. In your sleep, you clearly hear the knife working on his skin: The Fallen Dragon is expanding.
After a quick breakfast, you decide to leave. The bike brings two people safely, and Saul is a good pilot. Cover a good stretch of road without any problem or see anyone until a curve passes before a horrible show.
Cadavers. Tens. All full of wounds, all bearing a symbol on their body bruised. Each of them was tied with a barbed wire to a different iron pole, marking the road ahead of you as a macabre luminary. Your companion lets you escape an improvisation, but your anxiety almost panic when you recognize one of the bodies: under the wounds and dirt, Dommie’s body fixes you with empty and lifeless orbits. From his mouth open dangle the stolen tapes: anyone who killed him, didn’t recognize the value of those relics, or deliberately ignored it.
Poor Dommie, he was a coward and an opportunist, but he was just doing what he could … to survive. Like you. And now, who could have reduced him in that way?
– Shit – Saul said – we have entered into their domain. I didn’t … I didn’t notice. I thought I had leave behind them, but they were always in front of me.
Ask who he is talking about while you begin to arm the Shocker by pretending the worst.
– The Lords of the Slaves. The Yang of this world. The Beasts of Vastness …The Children of Hyena
Almost to respond to this horrible description, rumbling bikes come to life from the trees around you; five motorcyclists, dressed entirely in black and with full face helmets, emerge from the safety of the wood: all wear on the clothes the same symbol that you see embossed on the hanging corpses, and sew chains and spiked mace. The one you think is their boss, who wears a kind of armor on the motorcycle suit and a plush on the helmet, pulls a microphone out of the saddle.
-We’re meet up again, monk. You have a lot to answer. Boy! Yes, I say to you. I have no idea who you are, but I have no reason to hurt you. You’re traveling with a man who has caused damage to the Peace of hyena, causing great pain and great losses. Get down from that bike, deliver us our enemy, and we save your life. So swears Dieter Bluntz, Starosta of the Hyena.
Saul turn tail and run and the motorcycle flipped forward to one of the motorcycles. In response, the Hyena Childe accelerates throwing himself against you by brandishing his weapon. At the last instant, the Initiate of Iris turns left, leaving you a unique opportunity you can’t waste: your Mantis sack and send two shots of Shocker to the pilot, who is stunned and loses control of the bike, falling to land. Mumbled, with a little bit of luck, his neck is broken.
You go faster than you can while the other four hyenas are on the heels: try to shot somebody else, but they are skillful pilots and shoot in the race is something you’re not used to. Fortunately, they seem to have no Shocker, but despite Saul’s ability is just a matter of time before they reach you.
The crazy race lasts for more than ten minutes: start thinking that the bike could also end the gasoline, or that sooner or later a pipe in your head will mark your end.
– Never give up … I try to throw myself in the middle of the trees, maybe we plant them!
You’re not convinced of Saul’s plan at all, you’ve found it right on the ground a hole … maybe you’re still in time to deliver it. Starosta said he had nothing against you. Of course, you’ve laid out one of them, but it was legitimate defense …
While you’re immersed in these thoughts, you see in front of you a small concrete structure, solid and protected by a sturdy metal door, definitely a great defensive site. However, it’s not uninhabited: park in front of the bunker see a dozen bikes. Friends or enemies? Other hyenas, maybe? Or maybe someone worse still?
TO THE NEXT CHAPTER