The terrain quickly shifted from green grass to patches of yellow grass to flat, trampled dirt as I approached the path leading to the camp entrance. My eyes darted around the surrounding area, but found no sign of followers. The dense, scattered clusters of trees nearby could have easily concealed anyone tracking me, but I was too close to Avernus for them to want to follow, even if there were. I’m not worth pursuing into hell.
The road bottlenecked into a mountain pass, flanked on my left and right by a flat rock wall as though the path was carved right into the mountain side. For all I knew, it was. Avernus was known to have a host of spellslingers, and spells can do some pretty remarkable things. Though that’s why they’re called spells, I suppose.
After a mile or so of continuing down the narrow path, the walls to my side lowered to ground level and were soon replaced by crude wooden structures some might be kind enough to call buildings. Very few of them had windows, and some were little more than walled tents, but mining camps weren’t known for their architecture.
I slowed my horse to a halt and examined my surroundings. There was a rickety sign sticking out of the dirt that proudly displayed the words “Welcome to Avernus” and just below that, in small white paint, was written “next stop hell.” Charming.
In the distance I could see dozens of men in dirty, ragged clothing, many carrying picks and shovels and sifters and numerous other mining and prospecting tools, all leaving their tents to get an early start earning that fortune they think they’re guaranteed. Clearly this side of camp is reserved for the hopeful prospectors that haven’t managed to earn more than enough to pay for their tools, or have been successful but felt the need to piss away their earnings on whores and spirits and games of chance whenever fortune smiled on them long enough to leave them some shiny black pebbles among the mud and rocks. Dinner scraps left from real claim holders, of course, but even a scrap can be worth thousands if you find the right one.
Clucking twice, I got my horse to start moving again, casually making my way through the center of camp, careful not to trample any tired prospectors. The men looked up at me, their greedy eyes appraising my fine bone-white leather coat and my polished saddle and my healthy horse, before falling on the twin pistols hanging from the criss-crossing belt about my waist. They then looked at my face from beneath their ragged hats and their long, unwashed hair, and immediately diverted their attention elsewhere.
The guns inspired fear—as they did anywhere—but Avernus was one of the few places where they brought respect as well. Any city or town or civilized settlement and I’d have had a marshal or even a Nethersole on my ass in minutes. Not here. Here, the guns were a resource. An asset. A power. Not simply a dangerous illegal object, though they were that as well to be sure. The guns told you what I was. Anywhere else, I’d be hauled to prison—or even the noose—for simply being what I am. I would be caught, and you could go to bed all safe and secure knowing that I could not harm you.
But in Avernus, there was no law to protect you from people like me.
Day 231’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Cowboy wizards,” “Detailed setting,” and, “Hanged man.”
I love the old comic book cheese on these cowboy wizards stories.