Kicking back two Mericans and a Solestros sit quietly in the caravan, the only sounds being the rumble of their ride’s engine and the creaking protests of the rusty frame as they head away from Hell Dorado. The caravan is uncomfortably quiet for much of the journey. Shifting constantly, one of the Mericans is overcome and leans forward.
“Okay, ya know ya think we made the right decision?” she asks.
“Yes,” snaps back her Merican companion. “No question. We needed to get the fuck out of there before Aurelia sinks her claws in. Everything’s about to get much, much worse.”
The first Merican hesitates. “I…I guess you’re right,” she replies. “I just--”
She never got to finish the sentence. The click of the mine, unheard over the din of the motor, signals the upcoming explosion.
The Solestros woke sometime later, thrown clear by the force of the explosion. As he searched the shattered debris of the caravan, he found a badly damaged, nigh illegible book. He worked until just before sunset, preparing for the long walk alone. As he shouldered his pack with one arm, and a piece of the frame to use as a walking stick in the other, he took one last look at the wreckage and froze. The twisted wreckage had taken on an odd shape at that moment, and the dying light gleaming off of rusted metal with a reddish hue, slowly revealed the enormous shape. The last rays of the sun danced like fire on the image before the darkness deepened and swallowed it whole. The shape of two numbers side by side… 33.
The Private Investigator walked up to the group of Natural Ones preparing their freshly caught fish over a blazing fire. “Excuse me sirs, but have you heard anything about a local Saltwise and Rover fighting, and perhaps one murdering the other? I can pay for good information”, he asked.
One of the Natural Ones looked up slowly and replies, “Leave us or we kill you.” In no need to be told twice the PI spins on his heel and takes off before the Natural One could make good on their threat.
“Thank you for your time gentlemen!”, he replied, his voice carrying over the increasing distance between them.
A well dressed man stood over a desk looking at a map of Vegasia. As he pondered it his secretary walked in and hands him a piece of paper. “It seems the land owners accepted our offer sir”, she said. The man smiles and nods happily. He replied, “Very good let’s start sending some relief supplies there immediately… you know how I feel about first impressions.” The secretary nods but pauses to leave.
“Um… sir the Lineage League wants to see documentation on all servants salaries.” Scowling the suited man scoffs and says, “Tell them I’ll get to it in the next few days, I’m a VERY busy man.” The assistant nods and leaves closing the door behind him. Smiling he glances down and opens a drawer, carefully pulling out a large plaque. He then replaces the one on his desk, ceremoniously dumping the old plaque into the waste basket of his well-appointed office. Pouring himself a glass of expensive alcohol he walks to the window and looks out to the streets below. Grinning with mirth he mouths the new title of his desk, “Emperor”.
“I was riding what looked like a Dolphini, but it had black and white stripes and big floppy ears. And it was kind of furry,” explained the first twin.
“So it looked nothing like a Dolphini at all then?” asked the second twin.
“Shut up! You know how dreams are. I just knew it was a Dolphini! I could like read its thoughts kind of”, the first retorted.
“Mmmmhm. And what was it thinking?”, asked the second twin as he rolled his eyes.
“It was hungry!”, the first said urgently.
“Well I’m hungry”, said the second twin. “Maybe you’re onto something. Pass me some more of that veggie soup. This is probably the last meal we’ll get before the ritual. We’ll see even stranger things then, in our waking dream, but at least those messages will mean something more than a rumbling tummy.”
“Your face means something,” the dolphini-dreaming twin quipped with a frown.
“Your mom means something!” said his sibling through clenched teeth.
The twins paused for a beat before their deadpan facades crumbled into uncontrollable laughter.
The intoxicated Merican saw the Genjin at the bar, and excitement grew in his eyes. He said, “Hey…. hey you!!! I heard them Final Knights are killing yer green veined folk, and usin’ ‘em as weapons! Pretty cool, huh!?”
“You talk to much…” replied the Genjin in a monotone voice. FFFPPPTTT.
The Merican tottered drunkenly, then looked down at the floor where his arm lay, still spasming.
“Uhhhh, my bad.”
The Saltwise walked up to the soldier cleaning his wicked-looking revolver, by all looks getting ready for a mission. “What the hell do you want, guppie?” barked the soldier, already annoyed with his presence.
“Nothin’ much...” said the Saltwise in a jolly tone, “...just thought you might wanna know where the Final Knights are setting up their morgues… and I can tell you… if the price is right...”
Raising an eyebrow, the soldier started loading his gun, “How about six bullets? Sound fair?”
“You're not in the least bit concerned?” One Rover shot at the other as they trotted down the road.
Shrugging off the concern the second chirped back, “Not really, he can handle himself.”
Exasperated the first scanned the horizon as if to find the one they lost, “But he hasn’t been seen in weeks!”
“Keep your head up, when we get to El Dorado I’m sure someone there will be able to explain what's happened. Besides, he was gone awhile the first time and came back just fine.”
A ‘Merican came upon her friend hiding in the shade of a tree. “Why the hell you got red shit growing on your face?!” The shy Lascarian muttered nothing, pulling at their rags to cover what little gave their condition away. “Have you had anyone, you know look you over?”, asked the Merican, a little less loudly. The Lascarian nodded a slow yes. “Well….are you going to be ok?”, she said cautiously, concern seeping into the typical tough Merican demeanor. A small tear escaped the Lascarians goggles. Not knowing what to do the Merican tried to reach over and comfort her friend, but in her rush her foot gave way to the wet ground, and she fell forward. Their bodies connected with an audible thump and the two fell to the ground, the Lascarian yelping in surprise.