I’ve been writing off and on about Elan the gunmancer for a few months now. I thought it would be interesting to show just what happened to get him into a certain tricky situation that I wrote about previously.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
The sound of the tent flap rustling caught Elan’s attention. By the time his gaze shifted from his half-polished pistol to the entrance of his borrowed tent, the uninvited guest was already inside.
Before he managed to ask just what she was doing in his tent without an escort, the kharren woman knelt at as respectable a distance as could be managed in the cramped tent and folded her paws in her lap. Most of her body was covered by robes, but he could see her cream-colored fur around her wide emerald eyes and on her paws.
Her gaze met his for an instant before falling to the ground. She wrung her paws and rocked a bit before she spoke. “You are shooter of troubled things, yes?”
Elan smiled, though the corners of his lips twitched. Kharren females were never allowed to be alone with men who weren’t their husbands or kin. He was neither, and this kitten was probably either of marrying age or just about to be. The longer she stayed, the more dangerous it would be for either of them. Still, he wasn’t about to be uncivil. “Something like that.”
She bowed down and touched her forehead to the floor. “Kind man, I have troubles that I beg you to shoot.”
He set his pistol aside. “I’m not looking to get involved. Now, I appreciate that you all didn’t leave me to die out in the sand, but I don’t want some kharren clawdancer to get the wrong idea and think I’m making time with someone who ain’t mine. If you got troubles, it’s best that you deal with them in the tribe.”
She rocked harder and tensed her paws over and over. The tips of her claws scraped against each other as they slid in and out of their sheaths. “I am not yet married, but the warrior my father made chosen for me is not kind. He lets none see, but he makes hurting on all his women. I need to go, before I am his to make the same.”
As she rocked, Elan could see bare patches over her wrists where the fur had been rubbed away, and he was sure he saw what looked like claw marks along the back of her left arm. This wasn’t part of the plan. He was just going to travel with the kharren for a few days, get his strength back, catch a sandskimmer at the next trading post, and head back to the City. Running off with some scared kitten with an angry fiancé on their collective tails was not part of the plan. No. There was no way. He was absolutely, positively not going to get involved.
Scorch it. Sand scorch her, him, and everything else. He knew that he was going to regret this later, but that never stopped him before. He always did have a weakness for damsels in distress, and if he didn’t learn to set that aside, it was going to get him killed. “All right. Come full dark, you meet me at the paola tree at the east side of the oasis. I’ll take you to the City, and you can make your way from th-”
She was on him before he even finished agreeing to help her. She threw her arms around his neck and thanked him with a hug of such impact that the two of them fell back onto his bedroll. This fact was not lost on Elan, and the sensation of an all too feminine body on top of him made for some uncomfortable confinement in a tent already too small for one.
She let out a rumbling giggle that was half-purr as she started to draw back from him. Her veil came loose, and he saw for the first time just how young she was. The fact that she was probably on the lee side of her mid-teens flavored his physical discomfort with a heavy dash of guilt and more than a little shame.
She lowered her gaze, though the corners of her eyes crinkled as she gave him a trembling smile. “Please forgive me, kind man. I was not in my manners.”
He tried to dissolve the tension with one of his winning smiles, though even the best smile he could muster seemed on the edge of collapse. Sands, the tent was small. “Quite alright. Maybe now’d be a good time for us to introduce ourselves. What’s your name?”
Her lips parted to speak, but she was cut off by a roar from just outside the tent. “Ketair!”
A massive paw tore away the tent flap. Sunlight strained to push into the tent, but none could squeeze past the hulk standing in its path. Now, Elan wasn’t the sort to panic under any circumstances, but the look on the kharren warrior’s face when he saw the object of his search half-sprawled across Elan on the bedroll sure made it look like a good time to do just that.
The whole desert seemed to quake with each step as the warrior pushed into the tent.
Elan swallowed, his gaze locked on those claws as Ketair buried her face against his chest, her whole body trembling against his as he tried to raise his hands in what he already knew was going to be a futile gesture of peace. “Now, Re’shad, before you go and do something everyone involved will come to regret, I suggest we all take a minute and lay out just what exactly was going on here.”
The warrior Re’shad roared and pounced. Somewhere in the mists of pain that followed, Elan thought he heard Ketair apologize. Then the darkness took him.
So, what did you think? Are you interested in reading more about Elan, his adventures, and his world of sand and steam? Please share your comments below and feel free to share this story on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever flavor of social media you prefer.
Thanks for reading!