Update – Remember Clayton?

Hey guys, here’s another update for the fantasy western, the end of which we get back to good old Clayton. He hasn’t been having a very good time.


“Goyles?” Lonesome repeated. At first he was afraid, but that feeling was quickly joined by confusion. “Wait… they captured us? Took us alive?” It wasn’t what he expected of the goyles, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility. And if the two of them were still alive there was still hope for him talking their way out.

“You could call it that. And they did more than just take us in, Lonesome. They put you back together, had the Spirits heal you.”

“Well, that explains the porcupine,” he muttered. “But Kat-”

“I know, I know,” she forestalled as his eyebrows wrinkled together in a frown. “Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Thing is, it does. I had a good long chat with our new friends, and they explained everything.”

“You had a chat?” Lonesome couldn’t help but sound skeptical.

“That’s right. One of their… speakers, I think it called itself. One of their speakers made it so I could understand what it was saying. Had to be Spirit Talking, but I’ve never heard of anything like it before. Anyway,” she took a deep breath and let it out. “Things are complicated, Lonesome.”

“Do tell,” he invited. And she did, explaining everything she’d been told during her conversation with the goyle.

“So Clem’s got a box of evil she’s fixin’ to open,” he muttered when Kat had finished. He shook his head slowly. “Lovely. I’m glad you waited for me to wake up before you went tearing off after her.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Kat told him. “Besides, you and Clem have a history. Might be something there we can use.”

“I don’t know, Kat. It’s been a long time since Clem and I… well, it’s been a long time. I’d feel a lot better if it was more than just the two of us.”

“Oh, we won’t be completely alone.” A small smile lifted the corners of her mouth. “Hawkins and Deputy Walsh are here, along with one of the men we hired back in Red River. It’s not near as many as I’d like, but with all of us together I figure we’ve at least got a fighting chance.”

They set out with an escort of what Kat had started calling the Good Goyles, Gravik among them. They had to double up on horses since Kat and Lonesome had lost theirs, but the goyles leading them set a pace that was easy to keep up with. Occasionally there would be a sudden change in direction. Gravik explained through Lonesome that it was to avoid bands of other goyles, the kind who would not take kindly to human presence.

Carter complained the entire time. It wasn’t very loudly, but it was near constant. He’d been given the opportunity to stay with the goyles in the butte or head back on his own, and had refused both. After a while, Katherine decided Carter was just the sort of man that reveled in his own misery and decided to leave him to it. Walsh, on the other hand, seemed to get some twisted entertainment from it, and would often helpfully find new things for Carter to despair over. Hawkins seemed strangely aloof, but then near death experiences could do a lot to change a man’s outlook on life, so Katherine left him be. And so they passed the days, slowly but surely getting closer to their quarry.




Clayton soon found that the supplies he’d scrounged were nowhere near enough to get him through the Badlands on foot. Especially not weighed down with a bag full of gold. His back ached and spasmed with every step. His feet were blistered so badly he didn’t dare look at them, and their arches felt like they were being crushed with sledgehammers. Dirt and dust caked onto the sweat that poured from every inch of his skin. Still, he refused to drop the gold. If his corpse was ever found it would still be clutching that bag, because if he let it go it would all have been for nothing. The train robbery, his killing a man, the death of his friends at Clem’s betrayal – all of it for nothing.

But he wasn’t dead. Not yet. Somehow there was always just what he needed to keep going, if only for a little longer.. A pool of water to drink from, a bush with berries he could eat, or a shaded rock outcropping where he could lay and rest for a spell. And somehow, miraculously, no goyles. That seemed the strangest thing of all to him, but after a day or two of constantly watching his back exhaustion had seen to it that he no longer cared. If the goyles were going to find him they’d find him. Until then, it was one foot in front of the other, over and over again.

He must’ve blacked out while performing that mechanical march, his conscious mind retreating into itself while his body carried out its orders, because one moment he was trudging along and the next he was tumbling chaotically down a hillside. When he came to a rest at the bottom, gold strewn around him, all he could do was swallow dryly and stare at the bright, unforgiving sun above. His body wouldn’t even entertain the thought of getting up again – it had, at last, given up. And so, with one last heavy, shuddering breath, Clayton closed his eyes and embraced the dark blanket of oblivion that descended.

Only, it wasn’t all as permanent as he thought it would be. Some time later he slowly woke with a vicious ringing in his ears. It was darker than when he’d blacked out, but still light enough that it could have been either dusk or dawn. His throat felt swollen and on fire, and his lips were cracked and bleeding. He found he was a bit disappointed in his body’s refusal to just give up and quit. It would have made things so much easier.

A cool breeze rustled his damp clothes. His body had just enough energy left to shiver a little. The sudden cold was enough to prompt him to try and sit. As he did the world wobbled dangerously around him, the ground itself seeming to tilting crazily. But the vertigo passed, and the ringing in his ears began to fade. He wiped at his lips and was surprised to see that what he’d thought was blood was really something else. Something that looked suspiciously like water. What else could it be? He sure as hell hadn’t been drooling.

Puzzled, he looked around for some sign of where it had come from. He found it perching on a nearby boulder. The goyle was an interesting umber color, and it watched him with a casual curiosity that came from knowing it could easily kill him if it needed to. In one hand it held a dried gourd which Clayton guessed held water. A moment later he heard voices approaching. Human voices, a woman and a couple of men. Clayton expected the goyle to react to their approach, to prepare to fight or perhaps run, but it simply sat relaxedly on its boulder and waited.

At last the source of the voices came into sight. There were five of them, all armed, and strangely still accompanied by goyles. This did not seem to be cause for alarm to any of them, but it certainly was for Clayton. Were they allied with Clementine? Were they some other group of patsies bringing a prize for Dorean? And more importantly, would the take his gold?

Adrenaline spiking, Clayton grabbed handfuls of yellow nuggets and dirt and pushed to his feet. He had intended to run, but the world began wobbling again, and before he knew it he was crashing back to the ground in a heap. Shouts of alarm sounded from the approaching group. Clayton pushed up again, trying to launch himself in the appropriate direction in the vain hope that momentum would keep him upright. He stumbled forward for a step then faltered, falling face first into the dirt.

It was then he remembered his knife. Pulling it clumsily from its sheath he rolled over and prepared to defend himself. The action came too late. As soon as he was on his back a booted foot came down hard on his wrist, pinning his hand and the knife it held harmlessly to the ground. Eyes wide, Clayton stared up at a man whose sun darkened face was strangely sympathetic.

“Easy, son,” the man said, numerous trinkets swaying from pieces of string on his coat and from his hat. “We don’t aim to hurt you. And those goyles over there won’t, either, so don’t you worry none about them.”

“Who?” Clayton croaked.

“Name’s Lonesome,” the man introduced himself and lifted lifted his foot from Clayton’s wrist at the same time. “Now why don’t you settle a bit and tell me a bit about yourself.”

He didn’t give them any more than his name, and in return they gave him a canteen full of water. After days in the Badlands with only enough to get by, a whole canteen’s worth seemed sinfully decadent. He downed it all like only a man half dead from thirst could.



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