Death Stories for Those Who Stayed Behind - Muldoon
Most good and bad things start and end at a tavern. His father used to tell him and his sister Saoirse the tale of how he decided to become a sea captain after a particularly rough and tumble bar fight with his employer. Saoirse used to sing the barsongs she learned in taverns to the crew on Captain Forsythe’s Saltmore when they were particularly downtrodden, and she became the voice of their hope. Hope, bravery, and valor were long dead to Muldoon and very little had brought a smile to lips since he last set eyes on them. The decision to come to Steel Horse Crossing had been made after a rowdy night of drinking and storytelling amongst the fishermen of a shithole port town. It was a foolhardy decision, but he had nothing to lose anymore.
It's a strange feeling, walking into a new town where you don’t know anybody. You don’t know if folks are going to be kind, if the pay is going to be good, or if you’re even safe being there. It didn’t really matter to him anymore, ‘cept making a few bucks where he could. He didn’t know a soul here and didn’t care to. As long as he got some work and got paid a decent rate, it was worth sticking around.
And what a strange little town he happened to find! Not only were folks decent and kind, but they were openly welcoming of a strange, lonely fella who smelled like the sea. They had plenty of food and drink, and they told stories that would rival those of old codger fishermen down in the warf taverns. It was like being in a friendlier version of a port town, except a lot more rovers. Muldoon wasn’t sure what to make of the place when a rover with long braids and a fiddle started to play a song one quiet morning. He thought it strange that this girl felt it safe enough to intentionally make some serious noise. But it wasn’t noise at all. She pulled her bow across the strings quickly, creating an instrumental version of a tune he knew well. It was one of the drinking songs Saoirse used to sing to the crew, and even continued to hum while they were scouring the wastes, long after all of the crew were lost. In the still silence of that morning, with that fiddle singing the songs he held close, he knew this place was where he belonged.
It was surprising to him that he somehow, unknowingly became invested in this weird little town. He helped out where he could, and started to feel like he may have even made a few friends. For somebody who swore off having any attachments to people again, he sure did care about this place. So when folks started talking about the town possibly being overrun by raiders, he didn’t even hesitate to jump in and offer assistance. After all, what else did he have to lose? This place had quickly welcomed him and it snuck it’s way into somehow making him care about something again. He wasn’t going to let it go down without a fight!
He didn’t have a strong enough knowledge of the layout of the town to help much with planning or tactics, but one thing he did know was how those bastards moved across the water. Offering to be the lookout at the water’s edge, he quickly explained how the sea-faring raider tribes moved through the water and set up camps once they hit land. He didn’t know about their land tactics, but it seemed like a number of the townsfolk had some good ideas as to how things may go down. As soon as plans were made to get the town evacuated, Muldoon snatched up only the necessities and headed out with a scouting party. As soon as he could smell the water a click East, he parted ways with Olivia and headed quietly towards the shore. He found one of those sand embankments covered in tall grass to lay down in so that they wouldn’t see him when they came near the shore. He knew some of them were landbound already, but word came to Steel Horse from the Navy that a bunch more were on their way from the water. Muldoon was going inform the townsfolk as soon as the big push was about to dock so that they knew it was the last call to evacuate.
Exactly as he remembered them, the waterfaring raiders sailed up on their scrap metal pontoons and quickly docked a half-click from where he was hiding. He crept up to the edge of the embankment so that he could observe which way they were planning to move first. As soon as he saw the hand gestures pointing towards Steel Horse Crossing, he slid down the backside of the grassy sandhill and ran back to town as quickly as his sea-legs would carry him.
As soon as he got near Steel Horse via the back trail he was instructed to take, he could smell the burning. He knew that most of the townsfolk had already made their way out of town, and by this time at least some of the area farmers and homesteaders may have gotten out as well. He got to the edge of where he was supposed to report in and he didn’t see anyone around. He didn’t even get the words out of his mouth before he heard a loud “THWAP - TWANG” and felt an excruciating pain in his chest. He looked down and saw an enormous harpoon-like spear coming out of his chest and he immediately coughed out a bloody laugh. Just like old Forsythe, he thought, and it couldn’t have made more sense to him. He saw one of the normal folks off in the distance, but couldn’t make out who it was. The pain was blinding him and he knew he didn’t have long to complete his mission. Muldoon yelled, “BIG PUSH IS COMING. GO! GO! GO!” before the harpoon yanked him back sharply to face an enormous, horrifyingly scarred beast-like man. It smiled widely at him and he noticed it was missing most of it’s teeth, just like that old codger fisherman who he used to work for. Muldoon tried to look up at the sky, but the smoke from the burning in the distance blackened out the blue he was searching for. As his head lolled onto his shoulder, he noticed the dark wood of the Roadhouse. “Of course, I’m at the tavern”, he thought before everything went black.