|Ashur|| Far on the outskirts of El Dorado, long past the western gates, the green thumb of its overseers fades into wasteland. All burns for the daystar! The earth lies parched and cracked; even the weeds lack water to weep. The hills rise like the teeth of an old man, surrounding a weathered scrap shack with fetid yellow gums that vile-dribble in rocky streams. When the old man coughs, the wind is harsh; when he breathes, it's a whistling howl, and his phlegm is the endless dust.
A great clamor has risen around the shack, set securely in the shallowest valley grooves between the crags. There's a whoopin' and a hollerin' and the barking of two dogs, interspersed with the thunderous report of a pipe gun, and a chorus of animal chitter. They're all engaged in some group mania that swells the sound -- a battle most dire!
Behold the shack of retired militiaman and frontiersman William Tecumseh, who all the local children know to avoid.
Off in the distance, away from it all, trudges golden Ashur upon blasted blacktop, a husky German Shepherd by his side, head wrapped in a cowl for the wind and dust.
|Aris||She starts off as a little speck on the horizon, a large and peculiar smudge where the sky and sand meet, there and gone depending on which way the wind blew. As she draws closer, though, it's apparent that the peculiar smudge is in fact a dark haired woman on a white horse, riding hell for leather away from El Dorado proper. She's dressed in all browns and denim, a suede cowboy hat that somehow defies the wind perched securely on her head.
If she'd just heard shouting and animal ruckus, she might've just kept riding past. Nothing exciting about that. But the sound of gunfire, startling yet familiar, piques her less-than-healthy curiosity and draws her towards the aforementioned shack. She ain't got the benefit of knowledge the local children seem to have.
|Ashur|| "Git off mah property, you damn rats!" bellows the smoke-lunged William, stomping to the side of his porch and aiming over the railing. He's got an old mean face and two sprouts of white hair sticking around his ears, and chews enough spit to leave what few teeth he has rancid. And that cauliflower left ear damn near mirrors the peculiar lumps of the hills.
Stay long enough in one place, and a bit of it becomes you.
Another shot blasts the ground and sends a plump, rabid-eyed molerat scurrying back underground. The ground's pockmarked and riddled with splatters of blood, dog fur, and bullets -- however long this war's been going, it's seen casualties, bless their mole hearts.
William hobbles down the stairs and waves his gun, pointing with his free hand as his dogs take off running. They're old mutts. "Damn rats! I tell you a hunnerd times, get gone! You ain't taking me again! Biter, Barker, kill!"
The dumb dogs are having a grand ol' time, apathetic to Aris' arrival. But bitter William, oh, he has a fifth sense for trespassers -- used to be sixth, til his hearing started to go. He whips around and hefts the rifle up.
"What you want?"
Ashur and his fierce pet turn off the highway, broken as it is, and crunch dry grass underfoot. The hills up ahead will be a fine place to break for lunch.
|Aris||The dark haired woman approaches the shack slowly, still on horseback at this point, just as those two dogs come barreling out. Must be a good horse, she doesn't spook. Neither does her rider, not even when Old Man Time comes out pointing his firearm. Her hand shifts to rest on her shotgun, but she makes no move to draw.
"'Lotta things," Aris calls out over the ruckus. "First of which is not gettin' shot." Her gray eyes slide back towards the sounds of violence out back. "Need a hand?"
|Ashur||"Ain't payin' no more taxes til you lazy sons of handle the problems I toldja bout," the old man gripes, assuming Aris is a representative of the local militia. She did ride in on a horse, armed, and offer to help, after all. "So it's about damn time!" He hefts up his ramshackle rifle -- in some places literally taped together -- and aims with his good eye down the crooked sights. "Just you watch," he commands, heh heh heh'ing all the while. There's a rustle. A bark. And around the shack's corners, in some thick bushes, burst free two molerats herded by the dogs. They waddle forth on fat stub-legs and beeline directly for the two humans, teeth gnashing and glittering danger in the afternoon light!|
|Ashur|| One of the molerats leaps up toward Aris, scrambling on her horse with its little mole-feet and digging into the skin, snapping at her side with its oversized teeth. It slices through the fabric of her top and leaves painful marks on the skin, but, fortunately, there is no serious injury; after all, she pried it off with her gun before it could really go to town.
Old man William isn't so lucky. The other rat avoids his misaimed shot and gnaws on his ankle, tearing it to the quick; he screams and shakes his leg, but the hellion refuses to let go, teeth like a bear trap laying claim to the old man of the wasteland. "Git it off me, git it offa me!" he cries, waving his limbs, and his dogs pounce, tearing the molerat to pieces and ungently ripping it off his now-shredded ankle.
William topples, and loses balance, clutching onto Aris' horse lest he fall over and hurt his hip again.
And, coming down a hill, is Ashur and his dog, shining like the summer sun for all the gold upon them. How fierce a pair they make -- the grand, spike-collared hound, and its titanic master, in a cage of power armor black and gold, with a white-gold cape that drags along the ground behind him, and a helmet shaped to look like the face of Mars, bearded, golden-horned, with a crest of red and black feathers.
"Ave," he greets, looking over the carnage.
|Aris||The look on the woman's face plainly expresses her distaste for having been mistaken for someone of authority, but it's clear she's above arguing with this old geezer. Besides, over his shoulder she spots those rats coming, one faster than the other. Urging her mare back a bit, she reaches for her shotgun tied to the back of her saddle, only just managing to pull it free as one of the smelly rodents jumps up and takes a large bite out of her dusty shirt. It draws a bit of blood, bright red against her drab attire.
"Ah! Gorydamn rodents," Aristide mutters, shaking it off and shouldering her shotgun. Kablammo. This isn't missy's first gunfight, apparently. She watches as the dogs lay waste to the other rat, nose wrinkling at the mess they make.
"I die of the plague, old man, my ghost's gonna come haunt your ass." Wiping a bit of molerat blood out of her hair, the woman hops off her horse and looks at the old man's wound. Looks like she's about to comment on it, too, but the man approaching in power armor is hard to miss. Shotgun still in hand, she doesn't respond, letting Old Man Cauliflower handle the talking.
|Ashur|| The three dogs are a familiar sight: within moments, they're hopping around and sniffing each other, play-biting and nuzzling, though the golden-collared one is larger and inclined to bully them; after a few moments, the other two have rolled to show tummy, and are getting kissed.
"My fierce beast," the armored behemoth intones, glaring down at the display with a stone mask; even the tone of his voice is difficult to parse through the metallic taint of his rebreather and fitted helm. He pivots, lifts his hands, unhooks his helm, and pries it from his head -- there now is his face revealed, seeming small against the oversized angles of the Hellfire, his hair buzzed short and his beard a thick and bristling thing.
The old man sags against the horse. "'ey there, Ashur," he remarks, politer than he was with the not-quite-militia girl. "You give them Enclave bastards the what for?" He flashes a crooked-toothed grin, and shadowboxes the air with one hand.
"We slaughtered them at the Hoover Dam, Billy," he confirms, tucking his helmet underarm.
A few sparse clouds, stretched like butter, obstruct the sun. The heat relents and the shadows lengthen. Ashur eyeballs the wounded ankle. "The molerats still troubling you? Tsk; I'll find their nest soon, and strangle the matriarch. But first, grandfather, your ankle. Come."
He hunches down, lets the grumpy old man grasp his arm, and helps him hobble to the porch.
As for Aris? She's given a blatantly ungentlemanly look head-to-toe. "Woman. Go out back and get some well water, bring me some. Then boil the rest inside."
|Aris||Aris's expression is even more disturbed than it had been when the old man had mistaken her for militia. She blinks once up at the man in power armor. "Won't be fetching nothin' for you, cabrón," she muses evenly, finally letting her shotgun point at the ground as she realizes they know eachother. Shifting her weight to the other foot, it looks like she weighs the pros and cons of sticking around after Mole Rat Massacre. After a long moment, though, she digs into her saddlebag for a large canteen of water, which she tosses up onto the porch. Metal clanks against wood. It sounds full.|
|Ashur|| Settling the old man down, Ashur retrieves the rattling flask. He weighs it in hand and sloshes it back and forth to get a feel, then sets it back down -- only for a moment, that he might pull up William's pant leg, and expose the gouges of molerat teeth that tore into the meat of him. Then he twists the canteen open and pours it out over the wound, rinsing out the little bits of fabric or dirt that clung with a lover's possessiveness. Death has wanted this old fuck for a long while.
When it's cleaned, he reaches into his own satchel, held beneath his cloak, and withdraws a rather fancy-looking box with a medical cross upon it. With that done, he sets to work bandaging the wound.
"You're frail as a baby these days, old man," the Legionnaire chides. "Old age comes for us all, doesn't it? At least your cock still works."
William snorts. "Fuck you."
The giant male turns after, fixing Aris with a look. "Come here, woman. You'll need to get it looked at later, but I can clean and bandage you. Consider it a reward for valor in the field."
Flies are already buzzing on the molerat guts.
|Aris||The dark haired girl hangs back off the porch, watching the display at hand. The large man's second 'Woman' command earns him a barking laugh, more dangerous than funny. At most she'll take a proferred bandage from him, though she looks reluctant to even do that. She moves closer to take it, gray eyes meeting gold squarely. "Legion fuck, huh?" Pressing the bandage to her side and sopping up a bit of blood, she snorts softly. "Bet you're fun at parties." Satisfied that she's not bleeding anymore, Aris tips her Stetson a bit in the old man's direction. "Nice to meet ya, Billy," she says, heading back toward her horse. Funny, seeing as she didn't offer her name. "Leave you two assholes to it." Stealing a quick pat from each of the good dogs that'll let her, Aris mounts up with a grunt and a wince.|
|Ashur|| The insults Aris peppers him with seem to roll off the man's back like rainwater; he barely blinks at them, focused as he is on bandaging her wound. When she turns to march off, though, one gauntleted hand will smack her ass with chastising sharpness and a strength expected from men his size. Whip-crack! He's even got a little flourish with his wrist to add a nice snap to the impact. "Watch your tone, woman," he warns her, clasping old William on the arm and rising to his feet. He scoops up her flask and hurls it on the ground by her horse where it splutters in the dirt and dust. "Or I'll bloody your lip."
His helmet returns to its rightful place, and the gold-collared dog happily barks and runs to his master's side.
Mean ol' William just laughs and slaps his bum knee. Ow.