He looked down. The picture trembled in his hand. They matched, the theatre in the picture, it was the same one. He flipped it over, the film on the front stuck briefly to his sweaty fingertips.
‘157’ was scribbled on the back. Nothing else.
Tohm had told him he would find it here. Twelve years he had been searching.
A low wind blew through the deserted city. He glanced down at his arm, where the tattoo was. A name only he could read. Actually, he wasn’t sure it was a name, but he could read it sure as…
A sharp sound cut through the quiet, early morning air. Grimwood tensed. The theatre looked deserted. The trash piled on the entryway in two untended piles. That was expected out here in the Dusted Lands, where water had fled. It had been years since any rain had fallen.
The sound had come from inside the building.
“Great.” He muttered.
It was fully possible Tohm had sent him to a trap. Dusters roamed out here. Real original name, he mused. They were basically dirt-poor bandits that thought quite highly of themselves.
A hand drifted to the hilt of the sword that rested on his hip. He did have an eviscerator, but only one charge was left on it.
It was funny how even as society trembled and qualled, weapons continued to evolve. He preferred sword, hand, and head.
He tucked the picture away, stepped by the kiosk, and over the trash. His nerves spiked. Hand on the door, he felt the pin-pricks of anticipation, fear, excitement. Grimwood flung the door open. It swung wide, creaking disastrously loud. He cringed but recovered quickly.
A nearby tree had fallen through the roof and sunlight fell in bright, illuminating rays, into the darkened room.
Grimwood froze. It had been a trap alright, there was Tohm. But, sometimes traps have a way of springing themselves. Blood, he guessed as much, the floor glistened with it, was everywhere. Tohm lay unmoving, eyes wide, on the ground. Six other bodies, what was left of them, sprawled out around the room. Things got twisted out here. He was deep in the Dusted Lands, things…changed.
His grip tightened, white-knuckled he drew his sword. The hiss it called out was quiet, but in the silence of the deathly theatre, it was resounding.
Grimwood waited, poised, sword pointed down, nearly touching the ground. A slight movement grappled his attention. A slow shuffle permeated from a dark corner of the room, followed by a grumble, or a growl.
Out of the darkness, a massive creature stepped. Each step seemed to drip an oil-slick shadow. Like it infected the ground it walked on. Its form seemed cloaked in shadow, just out of the reach of definition.
Grimwood leaped back out of the entrance and slammed the door shut.
“Shit, shit, shit.” He reached for his eviscerator.
Sometimes, at the moment, when something is really needed, it can fumble and run right out of grasp. Well, that happened. The door flew open as his weapon bounced out of reach. It flew right off the hinges and clattered onto the dusty path.
The shadower emerged, its shape seemed to constantly fall in on itself, like the light wicked away from it or avoided its edges. Some things were beyond definition.
He could see its bloodied maw though. A miss-shapen, cruel thing, that was always hungry.
Gods, he hated the Dusted Lands.
Grimwood drew his sword in front of himself. It was an Ezrano sword, keen and made of ever-sharp silver.
This trip was another dead end. Twelve years on the hunt…
The greatest swordsman in the world felt his tattoo burn. It always did on the edge of death. The shadower roared a grotesque sound that rankled his ears. Grimwood shouted a primal call. His tattoo seared and he rushed forward. Sword against shadow.