Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Mercenary and the Gloaming Ghouls

The gloaming ghouls still haunt me, and I know why.

Mercenary is the only job I’ve ever had, even back when I ran with the Gunrunners. For the first few months, I was the powerhouse of our little gang. The gunslinger was the muscle, sure, but I was the firepower. The preacher may have healed us, but I kept us alive. And the schoolgirl was smart, but I was the brains.

As the movement grew and more countrymen joined our ranks, it was my brains that ended up making me the most gold. I routed hidden trails the magistrate couldn’t find. I gave our troops intel about hidden supply stashes. And I knew underhanded tactics that made the veteran gunslinger blush. And eventually, I was paid to plan the biggest operation we’d ever done.

The gunslinger wanted to take the magistrate’s armory. I told him we could take the magistrate’s army. When he asked me how, I just smiled and held out my hand.

It took weeks of planning and prep. Our guns were loud and bright, so darkness didn’t help us much. But we attacked by night. They outnumbered us 10 to 1, so we made sure they had a full house. We knew the magistrate overvalued the armory, even though our guns were better. So that’s where we struck.

Because I had made something new; something they hadn’t seen before. Special ammo made from scrap metal that could shred through armor. What’s an unarmored man in a gunfight? Dead.

The plan was to make it look like a last desperate assault. We staged weaker and weaker attacks against the armory. We drew the guards in from the surrounding villages and camps. And during the midnight shift change, in the mists of the gloaming, I fired off my special shred rounds, and the countrymen began their barrage.

It was a massacre. All told, we killed hundreds of them and lost only a dozen ourselves. I looked around at what I had done, and something happened to me, though I didn’t notice right away.

I stayed to finish the fight. When we killed the magistrate, the gunslinger said there was still more to do. But I was done. I was broken. So I left. I went to one of the colonies. I joined the Watchmen’s guild. Now I only kill the dead.

Sometimes I try to forgive myself. After all, I wasn’t the only gun in the fight. Certainly there was another that night with more blood on their barrel; another soul the ghouls should be after.

But then I remember the dark truth of that night. The reason the gloaming ghouls still haunt me, all these years later.

The countrymen were fighting for freedom. I was fighting for coin.