Those That Remain

The first thing Ade does when he comes to is groan. He doesn’t open his eyes. He just lets out a vocalisation of the pain he can feel in his head. Right after that he winces and screws his already closed eyes closed even tighter. Then he feels a twist of his arm that elicits a massive jolt of pain. It isn’t the twisting of his arm that is the source of his pain but the bullet wound through his shoulder. Because of the jolt his eyes spring open as he growls angrily. His vision is blurred but begins to clear as he looks around to see where he now is. To his surprise he finds that he is still out in the Basin. He expected he’d have been carted off to wherever this clan calls home, but it seems he was wrong to assume such things. He smirks and lets out a half-laugh. For that he is rewarded with a kick to his gut. Ade leans forward against whatever, or whoever, is restraining him as he lets out another groan because of the pain that is throbbing in his abdomen. The shot quickly subsides to little more than a dull ache and in no way can be compared to the agony he felt from his shoulder. He marks that as a positive. If it was equal then he’d know he’s in real trouble, likely suffering internal bleeding. That is a slow and agonising death for anyone to have to suffer through.

“Foolish traveller tried to cross our domain.” A crazed voice says from somewhere Ade cannot pinpoint now that his head has been pushed forward so that it is bowed while he is down on his knees before whomever it is that is present.

How the clansmen came to have religious undertones in their fanaticism he hasn’t a clue. It makes no sense seeing as such things are long gone. Though, apparently not as lost as you might wish in a world drenched in violence. Yet, the comparisons between religious extremism and the clans are impossible to miss. Well at least they are for a man like Ade. He’s very much a rarity among those that remain in this world however.

“Look at me when I speak.” The voice spits.

On cue Ade’s head is wrenched back violently, by his hair, so that his head is raised and he can gaze at the ugly sight of the clansman before him. The face is closer than the traveller would like, much closer.

“I’d rather not.” Ade replies as his amber eyes briefly flit to the paint covered face of the clansman who has crooked yellow teeth, almost black eyes, a harshly angled left pointing nose with a notch, deeply cracked lips and a gawping open mouthed smile that is wider than it looks as though it should be.

“Ha you’re a funny one. You think you’re funny. Like to make others laugh I bet. Ahhhhhh.” The sudden release of air at the end of the mutterings suggests the clansman has a lung problem. It’s pretty common among the dregs of humanity that choose to live out in the Basin feasting on whatever they come across. Most of it isn’t the sort of thing that it compatible for human consumption.

Though, Ade says nothing in reply. Rather he snarls and sneers at the clansman who leans back much to the relief of the brown haired man with the shoulder injury who was starting to feel sick because of the stench coming from the clansman’s mouth. If he were to describe it he’d say it smelled like a mixture of rotten eggs, decaying flesh and sewage. Not the sort of stench you want filling your mouth for long. In fact, it’s revolting and be to honest Ade would rather they just kill him and get this over with opposed to him have to get a whiff of that smell again. That is not to say that he wants to die. In some ways he is like the clansmen, he wants to kill. The only difference is he wants to kill them for all the brutality and violence they insist on continuing to pour into this dying world. A world that has more than earned its right to live out whatever final days it still possesses in peace. That is why he’s snarling and sneering and why he always insists on travelling alone.

Except on the odd occasions he takes a job and does some courier work. It’s the only way he can pay, and that is acceptable to him, for the information he so desperately seeks. Like the location of the oasis that is almost certainly either imagined or completely destroyed by short-sighted minds.

“Oh, cat got your tongue? We can loosen it.” The crazed clansman finishes just before a much bigger brute of a clansman comes in and barges his foul-breathed brother aside.

“What’s the big idea Fol?” The crazed clansman spits in protest as he leaps from one foot to the other, licking his lips but keeping his hand close to a blade that hangs off his waist.

The brute of a clansman flicks his tongue at a loose tooth he’s had for years along his bottom jaw and off to the left. The tooth rocks back and forth as his tongue jabs at it playfully. The clansman, Fol, isn’t trying to dislodge the tooth; he just fidgets with it as he snarls. His brow deeply wrinkled as he glares menacingly at his fellow clan member whom he shunted away.

“This is not your prize Bif.” Fol replies finally. Each word is spoken as though it is a separate statement even though each one is a word within a single statement. Ade has heard speech like this before. It marks Fol as a younger clansman seeing as it is only they who have devolved to a point that speech is becoming difficult because of a lack of proper mental stimulation.

“That’s Hunter Bif to you!” The crazed clansman spits loudly while continuing to dance about on the spot.

It seems Fol is unaware that Bif’s motions are supposed to be a challenge. That might be for the best as it is unlikely that Bif, with his spindly limbs and substantial deficit in height and width, would serve as much of a challenge against the beefcake that Fol is. Perhaps they should stop feeding him and give some of whatever he has been eating to Bif.

Ade keeps quiet though. He has no reason to get involved in this internal confrontation. It might even play out to his advantage. It wouldn’t be the first time if it did. Clansmen aren’t the most forward thinking. However, Bif has claimed to be a Hunter, a rank above Clansman similar to a lieutenant, and that surprises Ade. If it’s true that is. Clansmen aren’t known for their honesty and often boast about a position higher than the one they truly hold claim over.

“Bif, Fol; both of you quit your childish bickering.” A clansman roughly half-way between the heights of the other two, and around the same as Ade, says from their position off to the left. They are leant against Ade’s car, his baby. He can see its ruined tyre from where he is now, as well as other vehicles, clan junkers, encircling them.

Clan junkers are just as the name suggests, vehicles owned by clans that have had their original bodies replaced by a patchwork of uneven and malformed pieces of rusting metal scraps that have been salvaged. In many instances it’s done because the original bodies have since suffered such damage and decay that they needed to be repaired with the patchwork shell that now covers the only properly maintained part of the vehicles, the engine. Still, like most vehicles out in the Basin they run on fuel, which means their days of roving across the dust are limited. That is almost certainly why they have attacked Ade. They want his fuel, and that means Ade needs to get out of here. Not just so he can keep his life but also so he can keep his baby out of the hands of the clansmen. Especially, because if they learn what he’s running, a modification that means he isn’t dependent on fuel. That alone could be enough to spark a war. It would be the last war and would be fought between the clans and places like Freetown. Because there is no doubt that the clans would raid what passes as civilization if it means the ability to keep roaming the Basin; raping, pillaging, feasting, killing. And if they were able to do that then no one and nowhere would ever be safe. Ade can’t allow that to happen. He won’t be the man who seals the fate of those that remain. That he swears on pain of death.

“What is it you want?” Ade asks begrudgingly after a period of silence.

There has to be something they’re after, other than his car that is. Clansmen always are after something, so they might as well get down to business.

“Ah, he finds his tongue again.” Bif exclaims with joy as the now ignored Fol continues to glare at him.

“Of course he talks. He’s not a fool like the pair of you.” The clansman with a shaved head and blue eyes says as he wanders lackadaisically toward Ade, who realises he is not only a similar height but also build to his own.

This third clansman, there are nearly nine of them in total but the others have not spoken and so Ade concludes they must be of a lower standing, stops a few metres away and drops into a squat.

For a clansman Ade has to admit that he is pretty. His face is straight, not fat or bloated or crooked unlike Fol and Bif who are now on either side of the squatting fellow. Like all clansman he is covered in war paint, but like Bif and Fol his chest is not bare and uncovered. Rather, all three of them are fitted with armour. In truth it is little more than chunks of metal that have been fashioned together to create pauldrons, a chest plate and greaves. Poorly constructed ones at that which leave much of their bodies unprotected. Seeing as they are so drastically different in their attire from the other six around them Ade can only assume that they are not Hunters but the leaders of this clan. It’s the first time Ade has heard of a trio governing a clan and having downplayed their standings.

Often a clan leader is the most devious, strong or violent of the bunch. Because of that clan leaders change often and last seldom more than months at best before meeting gruesome and bloody ends. Where they get all the bodies to achieve such a frequent rotation Ade has never managed to ascertain. Not that it matters right now.

Still, he isn’t completely unarmed. It seems though the clansmen stripped him of his revolver and flare gun they did not notice, or check, for the short machete concealed up his right sleeve. He resists the urge to smirk at that discovery. He doesn’t want to give anything away that he doesn’t have to. And with his vision back to almost normal he might actually have a chance. So long as an opening is presented to him. Well, in reality Ade will create the opening if none naturally presents itself. Again, it wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, he’s become quite a dab hand at it seeing as being out in the Basin means you will, whether you like it or not, end up captured by clans, sects, cults or factions at some time or another. It’s inevitable, sad to say.

“So, who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? Why are you out here?” The squatting clansman asks without as much as a pause between each of the volley of questions he issues.

“Pel, keep it simple you’re confusing the traveller.” Bif roars angrily.

In reality it is Bif who is confused by the litany of rapid-fire questions. Though, he would never admit that. Not that he needs to. One glimpse at his busily shifting eyes is enough to see it is he who is struggling here.

“Silence Bif! This soul is not confused by my questions, are you?” The squatting clansman, Pel, queries in response. His blue eyes are glued to Ade as he waits for a reply.

“I am not.” Ade confirms calmly.

The confirmation draws a smirk to Pel’s lips before he urges, “Then answer me.”

“I’m no one. I hail from nowhere. I’m just a simple traveller who roams the Basin.” Ade says half telling the truth.

“A simple traveller without name or origin, I doubt it.” Pel fires back after a very short period of consideration.

“Pel, he said he no one.” Fol interjects unhelpfully as he repeats what Ade has uttered.

“Silence you oversized meatbag.” Pel says with venom as he draws a blade from around his waist.

Ade can imagine what will come next and is proven right when moments later when Pel explains, “You will answer me, truthfully. Or I will slice you until there is no skin left. Then leave you so the dust can tear at your raw insides.”

Pel’s tone is cruel, menacing but sure. He isn’t bluffing, Ade can tell this man means business.

“Fine. I’m on a job.” Ade says with a sort of shrug that doesn’t quite work seeing as his arms are being held by clansmen somewhere behind him.

“For?” Pel questions impatiently as the blade in his hand dances in circles and patterns seemingly without the attention of its wielder.

“Era Randle.” Ade declares convincingly.

Ade is lying. He isn’t doing a job at all for Era. Though, he has done jobs for her before. She’s based out of Freetown. It’s where he’s just come from. This clan probably know that. They’ve likely been tracking him since he departed. Maybe they even started their stalk back in Freetown, shortly before he departed. Or perhaps they overheard that he was leaving. Ade doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter when or where he got this tail. He fell into their trap. The only piece he doesn’t have is who might have made that shot on him. As far as Ade can see there are no rifles present. He doubts it would be a third party. Though, in the Basin anything is possible, so he doesn’t entirely discount it as he waits for one of the hunters to say something now he’s given his answer.

“Is that it? You’re doing a job for Era?” Bif says with a shrug of his shoulders before he continues.

“Everyone does jobs for Era. That doesn’t make you special. Think that will save you?” Bif’s tone is incredulous. He expected more from this traveller, this nomad.

“Will you zip it, Bif!” Pel explodes, spittle flying from his teeth as the words are screamed from his wide open mouth.

Bif physically shrinks and retreats in response. Ade has never seen a clansman, let alone a hunter, react in such a way before. That makes him inclined to put Pel as the clan leader, though if he is it would have been more suitable for Pel to kill Bif where he stands instead of simply chastise him. Chastisement isn’t the way clans operate.

Ade would have to admit that it clearly had the desired effect and caught Bif so utterly off-guard that he decided to withdraw however. So maybe he’s wrong. Maybe Pel has found a better way, one which keeps those under his banner in line, docile and compliant. If that is true then he’s smart, for a clan member and must not be underestimated.

Pel says nothing else on the matter. Rather, he takes a moment, in silence, seemingly to gather himself. Once he is done he turns his attention back to Ade and demands, “While I did not agree with Bif’s outburst I have to concur with his point. Era has a lot of people. She won’t miss you.”

“I’m a special case. She’ll miss me.” Ade replies confidently.

He has to hope they don’t know Era well enough to know that what he has said has absolutely no shred of truth.

“Era has no special souls.” Fol interjects bluntly and much to the surprise of Ade who never would have thought it would be the beefcake who would call him out. Not that he allows his surprise to register on his face. No need in letting it be known that he knows that they know he is lying.

“Search his wheels.” Pel orders a few seconds prior to two of the clansmen striding over toward the muscle car.

Neither of the pair has spoken as far as Ade is aware. There’s a good chance they can’t. They look like younger clansmen, unlike Pel and Bif who are older. In truth, they look even younger than Fol, so it’s possible.

Ade ignores all of that however and keeps his eyes locked on Pel who hasn’t blinked in a good while. The traveller knows better than to break eye contact with a clan member who is staring him down. If he does Pel will know he is lying and kill him where he kneels. Ade cannot allow that. Yet, he’s still working on his opening. For that reason alone he has to stay resolute until he can spring an attack. He just hopes that he’ll be quicker than Pel, Bif and especially Fol when that time comes.

Minutes pass as the two clansmen search Ade’s baby. To Ade’s relief they haven’t found anything yet. But they will. The traveller, nomad, whatever you wish to call him, knows they will. Clansmen aren’t smart but neither are they blind. They will notice the changes. Especially if they make it to the trunk and discover his bullet making apparatus and the fuel cans filled with alcohol.

The brown haired traveller hasn’t broken his deadlock with Pel though and then suddenly one of the clansmen blurts, “Hunters, we have something.”

With that Pel breaks the stare and looks in the direction of the two clansmen and Ade’s car.

The cry from one of the searchers does tell Ade one thing however, that Pel, Fol and Bif are not the clan leaders he considered one or all of them might be. And for once a hunter, Bif in this case, had been telling the truth. It’s surprising but Ade pushes that aside after briefly considering and getting nowhere with how the clans dream the idiotic titles they do. Instead, he ponders the questions as to how and where the clan leader is. It could be they’re a large clan and that this is only a small scavenger group. Or it could be that this is the bulk of their numbers. Ade has no way of knowing which, if either is true, as Pel strides rapidly over to the muscle car.

“What have you found?” Pel queries with a commanding tone.

Ade tries to turn to look but one of the clansmen keeping him in position grabs a hold of his head and forcibly turns it to face front before shoving it forward so that it is bowed like it was early on in this interrogation.

“How very interesting this is.” Ade hears Pel say before footsteps can be heard crunching back in Ade’s direction.

“Raise his head.” Pel demands a breath after the footsteps come to an abrupt halt.

“What is this?” Pel says pointing to a box filled with make-shift shells for Ade’s confiscated and modified flare gun.

“They’re shells.” Ade answers simply and without offering any useful information.

A second later Pel is on his knees with the blade in his hand to Ade’s throat ready to slit it and let the traveller bleed out where he is knelt.

“I will spill your blood upon the dust if you do not say more.” Pel promises with a snarl across his thin pale lips.

“What is going on here?” A female voice calls.

At the sound of it Pel’s back goes rigid, his face pale and then he gulps. Ade hears the gulp but with Pel in his face he cannot see who it is that has issued the query. He might be able to if his head wasn’t being held in position, like it is.

“Well Pel?” The female voice angry and seething asks following a short pause of impatience during which no response was given by the clan hunter.

Having no other option, Pel withdraws from Ade, spins around and rises to his full height. His change in position permits Ade a view of the owner of the voice. A woman clad is an outfit fashioned from scraps of metal and shreds of leather. It in no way looks comfortable but that seemingly goes unnoticed by the woman who stands there with tanned skin, the left side of her head shaved while the right side is brown, long and flows down to about her shoulder.

“Clan Queen. I was just interrogating our prisoner.” Pel says with a tone of reverence and submission. His head bowed and gaze averted as he speaks to her.

“You mean my prisoner Pel. I lead this clan. So he is my prisoner. Not ours, not yours. Mine. Do I make myself clear?” The Clan Queen says, her green eyes flashing violently in the light of the still cool early morning sun. Her voice on the other hand is cool, perhaps even cold.

“Yes Clan Queen Mirabelle. I meant no disrespect.” Pel quickly answers before glancing to his right to see Bif stood there giggling like a child.

Pel has to suppress a snarl but swears he will repay Bif for running to the clan leader and gaining favour that was not his in the first instance to steal.

“What has been captured?” Clan Queen Mirabelle queries following a judging glare she focused intently on Pel to better convey her anger and disappointment at his actions thus far.

“He’s no one from nowhere who travels the Basin.” Fol offers simply. Every two to three words manage to be a statement this time, which is progress, of a sort.

“A no one you say Fol. He doesn’t look like a no one.” Mirabelle says as she strides toward Ade with confidence. Her shoulders are wide, her back straight, her head level. She exudes pride and violence all at once.

Ade has to admit that his original opening is gone. Pel has moved aside. It’s regrettable but might present him with a new opening, if he’s patient. In fact it might be better than the one this Mirabelle ruined. Still, he’ll need to be quick when it comes. If he isn’t he’ll die here, today and his death will spark the final war once this clan have their grubby cannibalistic mitts on his car.

“Those were his words Clan Queen.” Bif explains as Pel gives him a hate filled stare. Bif ignores the stare and adds, “Claims he works for Era as a special case.”

“A special case you say? Curious. I know Era well. She doesn’t do special cases. Not her style.” Mirabelle says without getting too close to Ade.

That tells the traveller she is smarter than her hunters and clansmen, or perhaps not so arrogant to believe that a prisoner is harmless unless they’re dead.

“He has a box of shells, most curious.” Pel chimes in with a snap of his fingers and a gesture to call the clansman holding the box of custom shells to step up to show their Clan Queen.

Mirabelle looks down just as the clansman peels back the lid of the box to show the contents inside. The expression that ripples across her face is one that shows she is impressed.

“Quite remarkable.” Mirabelle utters soon after and in conjunction with a wave of her hand to dismiss the clansman. Without hesitation the clansman steps back and away from her so that her space is her own once more.

Mirabelle takes a deep breath, as though she didn’t like the stench coming from one of her minions, and then folds her arms across her chest. The unmistakable sound of metal clashing with metal soon follows as a result of her folding arms as sections of her outfit meet one another.

Her green eyes meanwhile scan Ade from top to toe and back to top again. Without question she is studying Ade but for what he cannot guess. Then he spots that she only has use of one of her arms, her right. The other is fixed in place. He tries to understand why but before he can reach a conclusion Mirabelle nods and a thumb is pressed into the wound in his shoulder. Ade’s head explodes with pain as a short whelp leaps from between his lips. The end of the whelp is suppressed, harshly and prematurely cut off, but draws a cackle from the trio of hunters nonetheless.

Right after Ade snarls, ready to bark in defiance but stops when he notes that unlike the hunters and clansmen, the Clan Queen is not smiling. Her expression is blank. Then it hits him as the pieces fall into place. The Clan Queen, Mirabelle, is a partial prisoner herself. Sure she is in-charge of this clan, whatever it might be that they call themselves, but at the same time she is in the position against her will. That’s why she cannot move her left arm more than they will it. It’s a reminder, or something similar that Ade can’t quite be sure to the exact purpose of. Again, this is something he has never come across before. If not for the danger he, and by extension the rest of the world, is in he’d be curious to study this and know more.

“Where did you get these?” Mirabelle demands to know shortly after going into a meandering walk about her trio of hunters. Her tone is calm, even and soft. There is still a coolness there but so less than when she berated Pel and she weaves between her three hunters before circumnavigating them. Her actions give Ade a full view of the back of her outfit and how precisely her left arm is being forcibly paralysed.

However, the injured traveller down on his knees says nothing and makes no attempt to answer her query. Rather, he keeps his mouth firmly shut. Unsurprisingly less than thirty seconds later he is met with a second stab of a thumb into the wound in his shoulder. This time however he doesn’t let out a howl of pain. He’d been expecting the torturous act and so all they get out of him is a snarl.

“Ha. Is that all I’m going to get, the silent treatment?” Mirabelle says with a roll of her eyes. They’re filled with anger and rage. It could be because of something Ade has done but something tells him it’s the fault of her hunters and clansmen. He can’t be sure, though what he does know is that this woman is in no way a damsel in distress. She is clearly a vicious and violent being. It’s the only way she would have got to be the Clan Queen. Perhaps Ade can use that to his advantage.

“Maybe if your goons weren’t present I might be a little more compliant.” Ade suggests with a smile.

“Oh really?” Mirabelle says as she wanders close. A few steps behind her is Pel. It seems the hunter doesn’t like this interaction. Ade marks it as jealousy but it could also be opportunity on his part. Whichever it is might benefit Ade, though he doesn’t acknowledge that he is aware of the hunter’s presence as Mirabelle comes in close.

“I’m not foolish. I know you plan to escape. No doubt some plan formulated in your head. But it isn’t going to work. You’re unarmed and outnumbered. So you will die here, in the dust.” Mirabelle whispers in his ear before her tongue emerges from her mouth and runs along its ridged surface. The sensation is disgusting but elicits a giggle from Mirabelle’s lips before she straightens back to her full height. Ade pegs her at a good ten centimetres shorter than his own roughly one hundred and ninety one centimetres.

She slinks off, each step crossing the path of the previous one to make an exaggerated sway of her hips. Ade doesn’t react even as she orders, “Disarm him.”

Pel smiles broadly. The order was clearly directed toward him and he pulls a blade from about his waist. It’s bigger than the last he held, and he makes a bee-line for Ade, who relaxes his shoulders much to the confusion of the pair of clansmen holding him in place.

Out of nowhere Ade throws his shoulders back. The sudden movement catches the clansmen off-guard and allows the brown haired man with the shoulder injury to break the holds upon him. Pel’s eyes go wide and he leaps forward frantically. As he flies forward Ade grabs hold of the clansmen on his left and hauls him across his front. The clansman serves his purpose and acts as a human shield that Pel’s blade sinks deep into. The clansman lets out a scream giving Ade enough time to throw his wrist back as far as it will go and eject the concealed machete from his sleeve. All eyes around Ade go wide in shock at the revelation that he is still armed, and then they attack.

Immediately after the reveal Ade fells the other clansman that had been restraining him with a simple slash of a short section of the machete in his hands across the attackers’ throat. The clansman’s immediate response is for his hands to shoot up to his neck in a vain effort to stem the expulsion of blood from the wound. It’s futile, his life is already doomed but he’ll learn that soon enough.

Pel meanwhile casts the mortally wounded clansman he impaled aside and goes for Ade. However, the injured traveller is ready and following a quick trio of blocks unleashes his own brutality attacks that see Pel sliced along an inner thigh, underarm and then finally across the left side of his neck. Each cut renders the hunters ability to stand, fight and then live obsolete with each respective swipe. As a result Pel is left flopping about in the dust struggling and fighting to survive against certain death as fear fills his heart hastening his end.

In that moment Pel wishes they had never come across this traveller, who he does not know the name of and never will.

Ade however does not stay in place. Rather, he rushes for the clansman who is adorned with his guns. Before he reaches him Bif leaps in the way to block Ade’s path. The crazed and foul-breathed man grins from ear to ear as an odd almost strangled cackle chitters from between his yellow crooked teeth. Ade stares back but does not wait. If he does Fol might be on him and the brown haired man is in no way inclined to fight the two remaining hunters in tandem. So Ade leads with his fist. The attack catches Bif by surprise. It is clear the hunter expected Ade to lead with the machete, but doesn’t back away from the incoming fight as he raises his club and roars. Just before they are about to connect Ade spins to the side which causes Bif to miss. At the end of the spin Ade lashes out with his machete. The blade slashes at Bif’s arm severing tendons in a similar fashion to how he rendered Pel defenceless. However, Bif does not relent. Instead, he quickly scoops up his club with his remaining working arm and begins to flail it wildly. Ade is forced to retreat as he analyse his attacker. Several dodges and sidesteps later he spots a gap in Bif’s frantic swings. A smile splits across Ade’s face and then he leaps forward. Bif expects it and goes to swing, but Ade is quicker and ducks past the incoming swipe that would have put him down and in a daze. With the traveller past Bif’s defences he drives the tip of his machete into the hunters’ chest.

Bif stops, a ragged breath expelled from his mouth in a half-cough, before his grip on the club fails and the weapon drops to the dust. Following his disarmament Bif laughs once and then finds himself spun around to act as a shield against the clansman Ade had been aiming for prior to the distraction, the one who has his guns. The clansman stabs and thrusts into the still dying flesh of Bif who lets out a strange burbled cough in reply. Ade ignores the sounds as he shoves the body of the near death hunter at this target. It has the desired effect and sends the clansman and Bif tumbling back into the dust.

Ade flicks the blade of his weapon to remove the excess blood that it was slick with and then delivers an overhead strike which he brings down onto the still fumbling clansman who says his guns. The strike ends the thugs’ life instantly. The blade having chopped two thirds of the way through the clansman’s neck causing blood to spurt from the wound as a result.

Still, Ade is short on time. He can hear the roars and screams of the remaining clansmen and Fol as they rush toward his position. Fol is closer than the other clansmen by the sounds of things.

Ade manages to grab a hold of his flare gun and stow it, unloaded, into its holster on his thigh. Before he can retrieve his revolver though, Fol barrels into him.

Ade is sent spinning through the air and then along the ground once he returns to it. How many revolutions he makes he cannot say but when he finally stops rolling he finds his vision once again blurred and his balance, as he attempts to scramble to his feet, unsteady. For that reason alone he cannot get off all fours and doesn’t see Fol come whirling round with a solid swing that spins Ade about on the spot. But the large hunter doesn’t stop there and bats the attempted stab from Ade away, disarming the traveller with little effort.

Unlike the other hunters, Fol does not laugh. Instead his brow is furrowed deeply with anger as he bellows and thunders at the top of his lungs. The sounds that leak from his wide mouth are guttural and in no way actual words, as far as Ade can tell. They are gibberish but at no point do they cease, even as Fol hauls Ade into the air and then hurls him at the bodywork of one of the clan junkers.

Ade slams into the junker hard, wincing and groaning as pain bursts and rushes through his body and toward his head. The world is very much now double with almost a third of his vision lost to darkness. Ade knows this is bad. If he had his weapons he might be able to fell Fol, but all he has on him now is the unloaded modified flare gun. That won’t help him. It’s harmless like that. He needs to get his revolver. It’s still loaded, save for one chamber which is empty. Five bullets should be enough to bring the large hunter down, if only he knew where the weapon was, or to be more accurate where he is in comparison to it.

At that moment Fol is on Ade again and delivers a swift kick to the brown haired man’s chest that sends him hurtling through the air yet again. The resulting impact is hard and painful but somehow manages to revert some of the haze that had been growing in his amber coloured eyes. Ade takes that as a positive, even if it does feel like he’s been hit by a truck at top speed. And in truth Fol is built like one with the mixture of muscle and fat that makes up his solid mass. But it will take Fol a short while to lumber over to where Ade is now. He isn’t a quick man because of his size, not that Ade is aware of that. Still, seeing as a fresh assault has not come his way he takes the risk of surveying his surroundings.

Three overly fast sweeps later Ade spots the clansman who had his revolver. Then Ade spots who is between him and that body, Fol. Ade exhales deeply wondering if he will ever catch a break while Fol barrels, shoulder lowered, right for him. It isn’t quite a charge, but is close enough. If Fol had horns they’d certainly impale Ade, so he’s thankful he doesn’t.

Ade leaps to his feet. He feels unsteady but ignores the sensation of feeling off-balance as he prepares for the impact. He could avoid it but that wouldn’t benefit him much, other than to only anger the beast of a man further than he already is. That is why as Fol reaches Ade the traveller braces himself.

Fol slams into Ade with an upward swing, not of his fist but of his whole body upper half. Because of that Ade is thrown high into the air. It’s as if the traveller is as light as air. Though, Ade would be lying if he didn’t admit that the force with which the impact came almost caused him to blackout with how badly it winds him.

Somehow, Ade manages to hold on and stay conscious which he regrets seconds later when his body slams to the dust with a painful bang. A groan spills from his lips and his vision is well and truly doubled again, yet as he lifts his head and scans his amber eyes around he finds that he has landed exactly where he needed to. Because of that he allows himself to smile. It lasts only briefly before he remembers Fol and shifts his gaze to find the beast of a man barrelling toward him once more with rage in his eyes. Ade concludes Fol intends this to be the final blow but as he bears down on Ade about to flatten him, the traveller dives into a roll. Fol stumbles past where Ade had been as a result and almost looses balance before suddenly an enormous boom fills the air. Almost immediately Fol feels something and looks down. In his chest, to the left, is a hole. It’s not large but spilling from it is copious amounts of dark crimson. Fol cannot believe or comprehend what is going on or how this happened. Then the beefcake of a man lifts his head and finds Ade on the ground with his arms outstretched, clasping a gun.

Seconds pass as Fol tries to work out what has happened and then it finally dawns on him what has transpired. The large hunter does not relent as might be expected however. Instead, somehow he manages to trudge forward. He cannot rush now. His movements are simple shuffling steps. Death will take him soon. He is using impulse, anger and determination to keep going but it won’t last for long enough. It’s why he’s shuffling his feet instead of picking them up.

Fol manages seven steps before his legs fail and crumple beneath the weight of his body. With that he topples forward. His face slamming into the ground full force, where it will remain until he is picked clean by whoever or whatever might wish to feast upon him.

Unfortunately, Ade’s ordeal is not over as the last three clansmen rush him now that the last of the hunters are dispatched. They scream and swear as they approach.

The traveller as tired and injured as he is is ready for them. However, that does not mean he intends to fight them. That is why he fires three times at a point a little ahead of their feet. In response the three men come to a grinding halt. At first they are confused and then humoured by what they take as being a pointless warning. One even blurts mockingly, “What a waste of ammo!”

Then the trio take two more steps prior to a load cracking sound filling the air. The trio of clansmen stop, exchange confused looks and then as if on cue the ground beneath their feet explodes into shards. Gravity does the trick right after and hauls the clansmen kicking and screaming to their demise some unknown distance below in what is the pitch-black darkness of the old world beneath their feet.

With that Ade lets out a sigh of relief. His body is battered and wounded and he is exhausted, but it’s over. This is the toughest battle he’s fought in a while but like all those before it he’s prevailed and will live to see another day. Or at least that is what he thinks until he hears, “I couldn’t have done better myself.”

In that moment Ade remembers that one more person remains. He spins round to see Clan Queen Mirabelle stood there with a rifle in her hands. Right then he realises that this was all a setup, a part of her plan to gain freedom and independence from the clan. Her exact reason for wanting such a thing he cannot say, but what he can is that she is stood between him and survival, like he is for her. Neither will relent in this standoff, of that they can both he sure, and so he utters, “You’re too close to use that thing. It’ll only end poorly.”

“That is for you to believe and for me to prove to the contrary.” Mirabelle replies confidently and with an arrogant smile.

“You really want to do this? You’ve got your freedom. Why not just disappear?” Ade says attempting to reason with the green eyed woman before him.

“We both know that isn’t an option. We can’t go our separate ways. That isn’t how it works in the Basin. You’ve been out here long enough. You know it to be true. And now is my time. I’ve served as their Clan Queen long enough. And by looks of things you’re long in the tooth. So I fancy my chances.” Mirabelle says sure of her herself and with a smirk on her lips.

“Then…” Ade begins but never finishes as Mirabelle fires a shot from the rifle in her hands.

Unfortunately, for her Ade had been right as the bullet she shoots goes through the wound already in his shoulder. Ade feels it and on instinct alone replies with the last shot of his revolver. The bullet hits its mark. Seconds later Mirabelle’s body goes crashing to the dust covered ground like a sack of potatoes.

Ade’s shoulders drop as he lets out a heavy sigh and returns his revolver to its holster on his waist and near his back. He knows it’s a waste but Mirabelle chose her path and paid for her over-confidence with her life as a result.

Several minutes pass during which Ade makes no attempt to move. Instead he just stands there, motionless. When he does finally move he shuffles painfully over to his machete, retrieves it, and then shuffles to his baby, his V10 powered muscle car. He examines the damage which he is relieved to find is only the shredded rear left tyre. Thankfully he has a spare in the trunk. Before he’ll be able to attempt a repair however he’ll need to tend to his wounds. He pops the cars’ trunk and reveals the canisters of ethanol, bullet fabrication tools, a host of extra weapons and a clearly marked first aid box.

Once he’s fixed up Ade will need to scavenge whatever he can from the bandit clans vehicles and corpses and then return to the road. He won’t bury their bodies. They will be left to the Basin and whatever fate awaits them. Though, he will mark the newly created void into the old world below his feet that saved his life.

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