Chapter 35:

Chapter 35 - Enter: The Gunsmiths


“You didn’t have to be so rough about it…” Morgan complained as Roulette led him back to the pressure plate room. “Ask yourself: how would you feel, lyin’ bound up in the dark for an hour only to have some maniac come and start spinnin’ you like a bingo tumbler? A man’s not a damn merry-go-round, Roulette!”

As was her custom where Morgan was concerned, Roulette rolled her eyes. She was starting to regret having sprung the man from his pseudo-cocoon. “My mistake,” she replied. “Here I was, thinkin’ that you might’ve actually appreciated some help. Now I see what a fool-headed idea that was.”

“C’mon now, don’t get it twisted,” he said, hustling to catch up with the girl as she picked up the pace. “I’m appreciative! Mighty appreciative! I just…”

She whipped her head back to regard him and saw his eyes tracing the patterns of her nasty burns. The arcanlight exuding from the wall made them plain to see, and he seemed properly cowed by their severity.

Her eyebrows lifted pointedly, daring him to go on.

“...Y’know what, I’m just goin’ to leave it there.”

They continued down the hallway in silence with Lady Luck leading the way. It wasn’t long before the sight of light spilling from an upcoming passage reassured her of their proximity to Marka, who had, as far as she knew, been waiting patiently just where she’d left him. Roulette had hated to leave him behind again so soon after benefiting from his kind and comforting presence, but at least he wasn’t sitting around in the dark this time; she’d made sure of that.

She strode into the well-lit trap room with Morgan in tow. The girl had activated each of the arcan lamps on her way out, which had set most of the floor glyphs alight so that she could navigate the trapped floor with ease. She could hear Morgan behind her, following closely in her footsteps. Apparently, the outline of the “safe” path hadn’t taken root in his mind the way it had hers.

“Ah, you are back!” Marka greeted, looking up from his examination of the scion’s corpse. “And with Morgan, I see.”

“Yep,” she replied. She was glad of her success, but she could tell it wasn’t coming through in her voice–the relentless stinging of her burns made sure of that. “He was bundled up down the hall a ways. A little breathless when I first unwrapped him, but he’s fit enough to talk now... Unfortunately.”

Morgan hardly seemed to register the jibe. He was too busy leaning out from behind her, eyes fixated on the mangled body of her former enemy. “Goddamn, Roulette. Is all that your handiwork? Remind me not to get on your bad side.”

That got a chuckle out of her. “Oh, Morgan. It’s cute how you assume you’ve ever been anywhere else.”

“So, what is our next move?” Marka asked, perhaps sensing the threat of an oncoming quarrel. “It shames me to admit it, but walking remains a challenge for me. I will not be able to make it up the stairs, much less across the desert, without help.”

“I think I saw somethin’ you can use for support in the wizardling’s sleepin’ chamber,” she recalled. Her memory told her that the pile of treasures she’d seen behind the dead man’s sarcophagus had definitely hosted a long, pole-like piece or two. “Morgan and I will go fetch it. You just settle in here, and–”

“No.” The big man spoke forcefully, surprising her with the sudden show of obstinacy. “After what has happened to you both, I will not leave your side. I am coming along, and that is final.”

Roulette blinked, then shrugged her shoulders. “Have it your way…”

Then they both turned their eyes on Morgan.

“Huh?” Caught in the midst of scanning the fallen scion’s body, he looked between them absentmindedly…Until a look of reluctant recognition dawned on his face. “...Oh. Oh no. Not again! My shoulder’s still sore from last time!”


Morgan grunted in exertion–a little louder than was probably warranted, Roulette reckoned–as he supported the larger man through the selfsame corridor he’d been snatched from an hour ago. She concentrated on leading them by arcanlight, and was pleased to hear the distinctive sound of blades whirring up ahead as they came up on the room she’d almost died in.

“Slow down,” she advised, seeking along the wall for the deactivation node. “There’s trouble ahead, but I can get us through if you give me a second.”

“Doubt I could go any slower if I wanted to…” Morgan grumbled from behind. Being that she was now so well-accustomed to his griping, though, the comment failed to detract from her concentration any. The girl located the node and held her gun within an inch of its surface, bringing the blade-towers in the room beyond to a grinding halt.

“After you.”

Morgan and Marka brushed past her, stepping warily between the rows of stationary blades nearest them. The node’s glow revealed just under half of the chamber, which meant they’d have to walk the last ten feet or so in darkness–a feat made all the more difficult by Morgan’s insistence on gawking at the bloodied blades that extended from the room’s centermost tower.

The man issued a low whistle. “That dead fella had quite the time of it.”

“Nothin’ he didn’t deserve,” Roulette replied coolly. In truth, though, she still felt awful about the events of the last half-hour… And the bartender she’d had to put down in Port Pistola too, for that matter. She was still musing about it when she stepped away from the node to follow the two men across the room (which Marka simplified by holding his own gun to the wall to light her path, bless his soul). What a fool I was… Thinking I’d take down a Czar without getting anyone else’s blood on my hands. I should know better.

I, of all people, should know…

The girl walked past her companions without a word, settling back into the rhythm of strolling along with her gun-hand extended. She wasn’t at it for long, though; this corridor was much shorter than the last, and the trio ended up arriving at the “burial” chamber in short order.

Marka moved immediately to hold Voidthrower to the arcan in the sarcophagus’ nook, no doubt thinking to aid in her and Morgan’s walking stick search by acting as a static light source. This worked to illuminate the alcove’s assorted treasures just fine… But, much to Roulette’s dismay, it also drew everyone’s attention to a bandage-bound humanoid wriggling a few feet from the base of the dais.

“What’s that?” Morgan asked, pointing.

“Nothin’. Don’t worry about it,” Roulette answered. She teetered back on her heels and looked off to the side with a look of palpable nonchalance on her face. “Say, you see any staffs or scepters back behind the coffin there, Morgan? We’ve really gotta get goin’.”

He quirked a brow and lowered himself to the ground beside the scion’s victim, his hands working at the mess of cloth strips that ensnared her. “I don’t rightly understand you, woman. Quiet one minute, chatty as all get-out the next. Good-hearted one minute, meaner’n a mob boss the next… No offense, Marka.”

“None taken.”

Morgan worked his jaw, putting all of his effort into the act of freeing the “poor” soul. “You’ve got no consistency, you know? When you meet folks, they like to know what they’re gettin’. It’s no good if you’re always throwin’ them for a loop,” he said. “That’s why I make a point of bein’ as unpleasant as possible right from the jump. That way, people are never confused or disappointed later: they know it’s just how I am.”

Roulette smirked at that. “Oh? So is it safe to say you wouldn’t mind bein’ on the receivin’ end of that kind of attitude if you met another ‘unpleasant’ person?”

“Not at all,” he declared, loosening up the last of the bandages encircling the bound woman’s face. “In fact, I expect me and a person like that would get on like a house on fire.”

Just then, his rescuee reached up to rip the remaining bandages from her face. “ABOUT TIME!” she shrieked, shoving Morgan away from her before succumbing to an exaggeratedly violent coughing fit. “Do you have ANY idea how hard it was to BREATHE in there? What were you doing all this time, range-rat? Picking at the caked-on grit between your toes? I sincerely hope you aren’t expecting any form of thanks from me, because if so, you are sorely–”

Only then did Mimi appear to notice there were others present besides Roulette. “Oh… You brought a man,” she observed, her gaze flicking to Marka. Then her eyes fell upon Morgan.

“You brought men~...

Morgan looked down at her as he would a grievous leg injury. “...I take it back. Help me roll her back up, Roulette.”

“Wait,” Marka said, leaning to peer behind the sarcophagus. “There is something here. It looks like…

“...Like another person.”

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