Last Stand at Tombstone
"What'll it be, stranger?" The barkeeper asks. It's a lonely little saloon in downtown Philadelphia, a little too early for business. With only one customer, she had the barkeeper's full attention. A twenty-two year old lady walked in and sat at the counter. A certain short-haired, well-dressed young woman with a mangled face - a bandage over one eye and a mess of scarred flesh that made her look like she was grinning at all hours. The barkeep couldn't help from doing a double take, but adjusted to the stranger's odd appearance quickly enough.
The young woman makes an expression the barkeep can't interpret anymore than a smile. "Whiskey, please."
"All right then, got a shot for you coming up." The barkeep prepares the shot of whiskey on the counter, setting down the glass and pouring from the bottle. "So where you come from?" he asks in curiosity.
"Tombstone," the woman replies dryly, before downing the whole shot.
The barkeeper frowns. He sets the whiskey bottle on the bar within the woman's reach and continues to make conversation, "I heard that town got completely destroyed about a month ago. They're saying a bunch of those Cards were involved in a huge shoot-out. Hear anything about that?"
A soft chuckle escapes the young woman's lips, "I was there. Do ya really wanna know what happened?" she asks.
"Heh, why not? Tell me everything that happened there," the barkeeper confirms.
"I'll tell ya how it all ended," the woman says, then pulls out her Card - a large gun bearing the Spade and a 9. She sets the gun on the counter and begins her story, while the barkeeper's brow raises at the Gun.
Couple months ago, everyone with a Card was in Tombstone. Like one of those celestial events you only see once in a thousand years, the a man in black used trickery an' schemes, luring in everyone. He called it the 'Fifty-Two Card Pick-up, an' that set the stage for the biggest shoot-out of my life. Lots of people died that day, lots of innocent people not involved too. We figured out his scheme eventually, but by then there was only a few of us left. Reuben, a school teacher with the Six of Diamonds. Solemn John, a colored man with the Eight of Clubs. Jake, a wannabe lawman with the Ten of Spades. An' then myself, with my Nine of Spades - we were the last ones alive or so it seemed. He took out all the guys with Face Cards first, then turned on the rest of us, executing us one by one.
He had the Black Joker. And y'know what the Black Joker's power is? 'Cause all I know is that you can't kill the man holding it in a fight. When it was down to just the four of us, that man was hunting us down, already shot down the guys with the Ace of Hearts, Ace of Clubs an' the Ace of Spades. I shot at the man slaughtering all of us, an' even though I hit 'im, it only slowed him down a bit I think. But no one could hit 'im during his panic anyway, so we ran our butts off. It was enough time to take up solace in the remains of the ol' inn. Reuben showed us the way inside. An' once he gets us inside, he puts us in a circle and starts babblin', and we're all so desperate we listen.
"L-listen," the teacher stuttered at first, "I know a way we can beat that fella."
Buzzin' with hope, Jake asked the obvious, "what do we need to do?"
"I-I know there's one more alive. You two," Reuben pointed at Solemn John and Jake, "When that man in black comes here, do everything you can to hold him off!" The two looked kinda stunned at the order, but Solemn John just nodded quietly an' that was that.
"What 'bout me?" I spoke up.
"You... y-you gonna help me," Reuben continued, "It's better if you just come with me!"
Reuben grabbed my hand and began to drag me from the lobby, around the desk an' into a back room there. Before we go, Solemn John brings his Gun to waist level an' aims it at the entrance to the inn, an' then commands Jake to take position, barkin', "Guard the window!" 'Course, Jake obediently rushes to the window an' reloads his Gun, watchin' for that man in black.
In the back room, Reuben showed me a corner where there was a lot of debris piled up, almost like a li'l hideout. The two of us start pulling back pieces of debris, an' I didn't even know why yet. 'Least, not until we were done, an' exposed the shivering form of a li'l girl. Well, she was 'bout seventeen years old an' with a lost, pitiful look in her eyes... clutchin' a silver six-shooter with an ivory handle an' a dove engraved on the barrel to her chest, but I think she was too far out of it to notice us. I don't know why I did what I did, but I moved closer an' tried to snap the girl out of it. It wouldn't be unlike any other li'l girl in Tombstone if not for the Gun, which had a Heart an' 7 on the butt of it. Come to think of it, I saw this girl a li'l while ago tryin' to usher people away from the violence, but I didn't know she had a Card then. "Wake up, wake up!" I nudged her, but it was no use.
Reuben an' I here are tryin' everythin' to snap her out of it, but nothing works for 'bout a whole minute. By now, Solemn John's Cannon goes off with a tremendous bang, an' so does Jake's shotgun, several times.
"L-listen, I'm gonna help the others," Reuben sits up, brandishin' his ol' beat up gun an' headin' out the door back to the lobby, "Just try anything!"
"Easier said than done," I muttered, shakin' the poor girl. I can hear multiple gunshots of all kinds now, an' here I am tryin' to wake the girl. Don't even know what's gonna happen when she snaps out of it, but I keep tryin'. Frustrated, I yell to the li'l girl, "We're gonna die here! Don't you have somethin' you need to do, somewhere you gotta go? I'm not quite done on this Earth, that's for sure!"
Finally, the girl's still shiverin', but she looks up at me, respondin' for the first time, "I'm scared. E-everyone's... everyone's..." Tears were wellin' up in her eyes, an' instinctively I hugged the poor girl.
"No, we're still alive. You got somethin' to do, though. No one else can beat that man in black, an' I guess he thinks you can," I explained to her.
The girl starts wipin' tears out of her eyes an' nods slowly, sayin', "I can't kill him... I can't kill anyone, the 'Peacemaker' won't do it."
"That's fine, that's just fine... he can't be killed by any gun," I assured her. She didn't say anything to that, she just nodded to me. She got to business fast, loadin' the barrel of her Gun with bullets. When she was done she cocked it an' together we stood up. 'Bout that time, Solemn John's gun fired again an' knocked the whole buildin' off of its foundation this time. I took the li'l girl by the hand an' dragged her out the back door with me, as the inn began to collapse from the damage.
The two of us, we escaped just in time but I lost the girl in the smoke. I couldn't see much 'til it cleared, an' by that time it was a li'l too late for me to do anythin'. Solemn John an' Reuben hid behind a few crates across the street, but Jake an' that man in black were in the inn when the ceiling fell in. Only one man came out of the wreckage, an' that was the Black Joker who'd been chasin' us. It was a little surreal at this point, 'cause now that killer is out in the street with that li'l girl, who's standin' there. I could still see a few tears, but she wasn't sobbin' an' didn't seem to be all that afraid anymore. The three of us watched in awe at the two.
See, this man an' li'l girl were pretty unique themselves. Old Scratch, as I've heard him called, was a tall man in a black hat an' long coat. He had hisself a simple but powerful all black gun in his hand an' a menacing smile. Must'a been about sixty years old, an' was showin' the signs of agin', with dead eyes locked on the girl. That girl, on the other hand, was just a li'l thing, 'bout seventeen years old. She had an odd appearance about her too - white hair an' pinkish-red eyes, like some kind of angel walkin' on Earth. I think I didn't even notice it 'til they faced off against each other.
"You killed everyone!" the girl cried out. I could hear some anger in her voice, an' her eyes were all indignant. "What kind of monster are you!?" she asked 'im.
The man in black grinned, "Did I kill your poor family, little girl?"
"W-why," the li'l girl stammered, "did you do this?"
"What does it matter? You're all gonna die anyway, little girl," the man said coldly as he tipped his hat down. "That is, of course, except for me. Didja know? I cheated death itself. So no matter what you do, little girl, I ain't dyin'. And I don't give a shit 'bout you enough to tell ya all 'bout what I'm doin' here." The man raised his Gun at the girl an' cocked it, grinnin' this sickenin' smile of his. "Just lay down like a good bitch an' die."
The girl herself sighed. "No one's dying anymore," she muttered, an' raised her own gun.
The first two shots fired, one bullet from each gun. But neither gets shot, the bullets hit each other dead on an' by then the two are takin' cover. The old man in black can tell she's got a Heart I'm sure, an' she's not stupid. I decide to help her out though, divin' in behind the wreckage she's using as a shield as he's shootin' at her. The two are raising over their covers, exchangin' shots every few seconds, an' even with a Heart she ain't hittin' him. Not surprisin', 'cause even the Ace of Hearts itself was helpless to hit 'im, that's how tough he was. While she's reloadin', I decided to help her out by firin' my Terror, but this time when I shoot 'im it doesn't phase 'im this time. The girl beside me then reaches out, holdin' my free hand with hers an' smilin' sweetly, tryin' to assure me an' sayin', "No one else is going to die today, I promise."
The girl then rised up over the wreckage again, firin' off four repeated shots almost like a Diamond, then divin' back down. From the wreckage, it looked like she was firin' randomly into the buildin' over Old Scratch, but then I see why. The four shots are one in a million each, hittin' the roof just enough to cause a rain of debris on the 'im. Predictably, he jumps out of the way an' out into the open. An' that li'l girl with the Seven of Hearts jumps right out, firin' her last two shots. that man in black ain't givin' her an inch though, but only shoots once.
The li'l girl hits the ground an' slides, screamin'. Old Scratch's Gun is shot right outta his hand, an' the second bullet hits it again to knock it away. 'Course, the man starts to freak out, searching for where the it went, but it's too late for that. Solemn John finally comes out from hidin' an' jumps at the opportunity, firing not on the man hisself, but the Gun. The Cannon fires that last bullet of Solemn John's an' it blasts the Dead Man's Gun into a million pieces, an' here all I can do is breathe a sigh of relief. That is, 'til I realize that li'l girl ain't gettin' up, an' is layin' in a pool of red. Me an' Reuben both ran to her while Solemn John steps in for the girl, but he ain't got no more bullets. So he starts usin' his cannon to beat Old Scratch, 'cept John can't even hit him, still.
'Bout this time, an injured Jake comes runnin' out of the debris an' rushes at Old Scratch, firin' three shots at 'im. But the man, even preoccupied with Solemn John's attempt to use his cannon as a true club, ain't hit at all. Dodgin' every bullet like he's the devil hisself, he strikes Solemn John so hard he falls an' even breaks some bones. Ignorin' Jake, who's reloading now, the man grabs John by the neck an' starts to choke him. Meanwhile, Reuben presses a cloth down on the li'l girl's chest, where she got shot, an' here I am holdin' her hands, tryin' to comfort her.
What came next is a li'l hazy to me. See, we all saw a man we couldn't remember a single thing about later. Couldn't tell you anythin' about him except for that blood red rifle of his, bearin' the mark of the Red Joker. The barrel was pointed straight at the Old Scratch's head, an' everythin' after that is a li'l fuzzy. All I can tell ya is that it scared Old Scratch shitless, an' he lets go of Solemn John an' starts backin' up, an' eventually backs over some debris, trippin' him. That's when it happens - the fangs of a rattler punched into that man's neck, an' the next thing we know he's writhin' on the ground, dyin' quick.
I know the man with the red rifle turned to us after that, walkin' to the li'l girl an' kneeling beside her. Pretty sure he stroked her hair an' said somethin', but I don't even remember what it was. Just that it made the li'l girl, in her delirium, smile so peacefully.
The man we remember nothin' about left us behind an' we managed to take the girl to another part of town, one not completely destroyed. We get ourselves to a doctor there, who's able to patch up John an' Jake well enough, but that girl... well, he did her best for her. Reuben an' I all stayed at her bed-side, occasionally checkin' on John an' Jake but mostly watchin' the poor girl die. An' the last thing she said to us was... "I'm scared. I don't want to die... I have to get to Philadelphia, so..."
An' all I could do was hold her hand an' assure her she'd get there, even though we all knew what was gonna happen. The poor girl didn't even make it to dawn, an' that was that. When they got better, we all parted ways, 'cept the teacher, an' we were the last to leave. We've been travelin' ever since, y'know, since we wanted to respect her final wishes. Reuben's compassion for her I understand, bein' a teacher, but me... I don't know why I felt the need to. S'pose I'm still soft somewhere.
The scarred woman frowned, downing a last shot of whiskey. "Since then, 'bout a month now, we've been carryin' this coffin all the way here, an' that's how I got here. Today, we just buried her in the Old Mason Cemetery, next to her mother," she explained to the barkeeper. By now, the barkeeper had a concerned look on his face and was speechless from the story just told to him. The gunslinger took her Nine of Spades, Terror, and returned it to its holster before reaching reaching for a second one, and another item.
On the bar counter now laid a silver heart locket and the Seven of Hearts, the Gun used to defeat the Black Joker. The barkeeper stared down at the pair of items, and eventually picked up the locket by its chain, muttering in disbelief, "This is..."
The young woman nodded solemnly, sliding off the stool and heading out of the Saloon. Stopping short of her exit, she turned back to him and gave him a sad smile, though it was hard to make out any expression on account of the mess of scars on her face. "Your daughter went really brave, an' she saved us all," she added, "You should be proud of her."
And then the woman left the Saloon, as the barkeeper clutched both the Gun and the locket, dropping to his knees and sobbing.
Back to Wild Cards: Stories of the World
|Spades:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Hearts:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Clubs:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Diamonds:||2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - J - Q - K - A|
|Jokers:||Red Joker - Black Joker|
|Introduction - The World - Gameplay - Stories of the world |
On the Attainment, Ownership and Passing of The Cards
Variant Rule: Hands