Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
Location: The Iron Buffalo, Harling Pass
Behind a cloud of tobacco smoke sat two figures. It helped conceal them from onlookers, and the whiskey was supposed to help them forget their troubles.
Ashrieda and Colton hadn't met each other before today, but their problems had some similarities: Their lives were in danger, and they were keen to get out of the Pass as soon as possible.
“...and everything was going just fine,” Ashrieda declared, nursing her fourth glass of whiskey. “I mean, you can’t just show back up like nothin’ ever even happened and that’s s’posed to be all right ‘cept that now everything’s ruined. You know what I mean?” she added, looking to Colton for confirmation. “Shot all to hell. Who does that?”
Colton had no idea what the girl was trying to say. "I know what you're trying to say" reassured Colton. He reached over with the bottle of whiskey and topped up Ashrieda's glass, sloshing just as much over her hands. "Sometimes it just feels like th'worlds against you, an' sometimes it really is." He took a hard drag on his cigarette.
Ashrieda stared at Colton as if he'd just uttered the most profound statement imaginable. "You damn straight," she replied, banging her fist on the table and making whiskey splash everywhere. "We should just start kickin' the world's ass, right now. You hold it down, and I'll beat the everlovin' tar out of it. Or somethin'. Shit, I dunno." Except now she wasn't even making sense to herself, either. Somehing wasn't adding up, something important she was supposed to remember.
Ah well, more booze was in order. She picked up her glass and downed the contents in one go. "You'd help, right?"
"I got my own problems, girl. Aint nothing I can do, aint nowhere I can go. I got a bullet waiting for me, or else worse. I'm a marked man" The ash of Colton's cigarette fell into his glass as he slurped down the rotgut. "I'm going straight to hell. Want to come along?"
Ashrieda waved her hand dismissively. Or tried to, at least. “Naw, sir, I hear the weather there’s terrible.” She whipped her head around quickly to see what was going on in the rest of the saloon. Seeing nothing of concern, she grabbed the bottle of whiskey and, with some effort, refilled her own glass.
“Now heaven, on the other hand...” She leaned in conspiratorially, a waggish grin on her face. “You been on a sky ship? I dunno much about heaven but it’s as close to heaven as you can get up there with the clouds and the stars and the birds and whatever else up there.”
Colton blew puffs of smoke at Ashrieda as he replied. "After the scuffle right here, 'Nelia asked me to join her crew. But I've made that mistake before." He downed his glass. "I'll not make it again." He ground his spent cigarette into the wooden floor with the heel of his boot. "Can't be filling our glasses with this empty bottle. 'Nother?"
“She d--” Ashrieda started, but was interrupted by a fit of coughing. “Pass,” she managed, as another bottle of whiskey materialized out of nowhere. She glared at the bottle, and then looked around once more to see if they had attracted any unwanted attention. No one seemed to be paying them any mind. But she wasn’t taking any chances.
“I gotta be going. World’s gotta asswhippin’ comin’, and I don’t wanna keep it waiting.” She hopped off her barstool, landing awkwardly. “I’d get out of here if I were you,” she muttered. And with that, she staggered out of the saloon.