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Cosmeric Tales: The Duststalker


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Authors Note: Happy Birthday, to me! This is a reverse birthday gift, from me to all of you!

In case you've forgotten or just haven't seen it around half a year ago, I set up a thread for snippets and dropped a bunch of idea titles for stores I want to write. Unfortunately, my poor writing skills and constant ideas for other stuff kept me from ever truly being able to just sit down and write a real story. That ends today!

My hopes for the Cosmeric Tales is, while Brandon is typing out his doorstoppers with his feet, I'll try to tide you over with smaller stories, mostly separate from Brandon's, that could 'plausibly' have or will happen in the Cosmere. By god it's been a while but thanks to this experience, It'll be a much smoother ride for me to give this site the stories it deserves, or needs. Either one.

So without further ado! I give you the first of the Cosmeric Tales!

The Duststalker

Prologue

The gunshots echoed throughout the town. Dek couldn’t help but flinch at every single one, he’d never heard so many in a single night in all his life. The only impulse flashing through his mind was to get himself and his younger brother Nid as far away from those horrible sounds as fast as he could. Unfortunately for him, his brother had other ideas.

 

“Dek, lemme go! I can help!” Nid pleaded with his brother. But the young adult wouldn’t hear it, “No, nonono, rust that, we’re not going near that at all! We’re getting to town hall and praying that the conners can deal with this.” Dek fired back, while pulling his brother along.

 

“B-but it’s never been this bad before! What if they can’t?!” Nid yelled back.

 

“If they can’t, then we stay right bloody quiet till this all blows over.” Dek’s frazzled reply did nothing to assuage the younger boy.

 

Nid stopped walking, then Dek jerked to a stop, unable to pull his brother along anymore. He turned to glare at Nid. “This is not the time for this Nid! Stop showing off and let’s go!” He barked.

 

Nid returned the glare and ripped his hand out of his brother’s grip, “You go! I’m gonna try and do something instead of just hiding!” He yelled. Dek balked at this, “Are you out of your rusted mind?! You’ll be killed!”

 

“I can help! I’m metalborn aren’t I, I can do this!” Nid was adamant. Why? Why did his brother have to have these damn thoughts, acting like he could do anything? Why couldn’t the brat see that Dek was just trying to keep him safe.

 

“No! You’re not a lawman Nid! You’re just a kid! Now come on!” He tried to pull his younger brother’s arm, trying to drag him to safety by force if he had to. The boy still didn’t budge. Nid glared at his brother, then tore out of Dek’s grip once more, “I’ll show you I can do it, I’ll prove it!” He yelled at his older brother as he started to sprint away, appearing to skim across the ground as he did so, like a skipping stone.

 

Dek froze in place, he knew he couldn’t stop Nid, not really. If he tried to go after him, he’d be risking his own life. If he didn’t go, his idiot of a brother would probably get himself killed. He wasn’t bulletproof for god’s sake! Nid was still moving and was starting to leave his sight. He bit his lip so hard it almost bled. “Harmony’s lost balls!” Dek bit out as he turned and sprinted towards the gun fight.

 

Dek kept to the edges of walls as he ran, doing his best to avoid where the gunshots were frequent while following his brother. He turned a corner in pursuit and saw his brother running towards a much larger man, dressed in a vest with a wild mane of black hair. He was pointing a gun towards a cowering woman, a hearty and cruel laughing echoing from him. It ended when his gun ripped its way out of his hand, flying in the air towards Nid. The boy dashed to the side to avoid it slamming into him.

 

The outlaw turned towards the boy with shock plastered on his face “What the hel-”. Nid yelled as he sped up to the man and leapt, slamming into him shoulder first. The former gunman gasped as Nid tackled him straight into the dirt. Nid climbed to his feet and watched as the frightened woman fled away further into town. The boy winced as he rubbed his shoulder, while Dek was left stunned upon witnessing what had just happened, he’d never admit it to his brother but what had just happened was incredible, he’d just taken down an armed man nearly twice his size in seconds.

 

Nid stood above the man and looked back at Dek with surprise written on his face, “Dek? You came-” He was interrupted by the bandit quickly rising and punching him in the chest, sending Nid to the ground. Nid let out a pained gasp as he fell and grasped his chest, gasping for air he no longer had.

 

Dek was shocked as the bandit started to stand up, he knew that the kind of tackles Nid gave were the kind a normal man didn’t just get up and walk away from. Not so easily at least. A fearful thought flashed in his mind, ‘Metalborn’. “Ya little rustin’ bastard!” The bandit snarled as he stood up and stood over Nid, preparing to stomp down on his head. Dek rushed the man, then pushed him away from his downed brother as hard as he could, the outlaw barely stumbled and caught Dek by the face, then shoved him back with brutal force. Dek felt as though his neck had nearly snapped in two. He fell and landed harshly on his back, the furious man stomping towards him, “You shoulda waited for yer turn boy!” he growled out. Dek trembled at the threat, was he about to die? Was Nid going to die? He saw a glint next to him. A revolver, the bandit’s gun. The one Nid had torn from the man’s hands earlier.

 

He frantically reached for it, wrapping his hands around its handle as he pointed at the outlaw. The bandit’s eyes widened as he tried to reach for Dek. Trying to stop him. But it was too late, Dek’s finger twitched on the trigger and the gun fired. A bang echoed through the night as the bandit stumbled to a stop. He brought his hands to his neck where the bullet had gouged through. The man who had just tried to murder the boys gave a weak gurgle, then collapsed to the dirt, blood pooling around his head.

 

Dek sat there in shock. He’d just shot and killed a man. The man had tried to kill him and his brother, he was protecting them! He was in trouble for this, he must have been. You couldn’t just shoot someone, right? It all felt wrong, he’d taken a life and now he felt as though he was going to throw up. A pained cough broke past his spiraling thoughts. Nid still laid on the ground, curled up around his chest.

 

Dek dropped the gun and stumbled over to his brother, kneeling beside him as he spoke, “Nid, Nid look at me!” He urged desperately.

 

Nid lifted his head, gasping all the while, “Can’t. Breathe.” He gasped out. Did that man break Nid’s ribs? Had they punctured through his lungs? Was Nid going to die anyway? Dek shook his head, “Nono, you can. Deep breathes okay, in and out Nid. In and out.”

 

Nid’s breathing slowly calmed from erratic to deep. Dek lifted Nid’s black shirt and saw a large bruise right on the center of his chest. He tried to feel around it, Nid gave a groan as he did but Dek didn’t feel anything wrong, at least he was pretty sure. Harmony help him, he wasn’t a rusting doctor! “Okay, we need to go. Lose some weight and I’ll carry you.” Nid gave a nod as Dek began to lift him. He struggled at first, then it was almost like he was holding a sack of flour instead of a mid-teen boy. A neat trick Nid had been lucky enough to be born with, they called it Feruchemy. Dek rushed back the way they came. “Still think it was a good idea to play lawman?” Dek couldn’t help but jab at Nid. “Shut it” he mumbled out. Well, all Dek could do was hope he learned from this.

 

The town hall was nearly in sight, they were so close to safety. A terrified squeal rang out from behind as Dek turned his head towards it. He nearly tripped when he saw an enormous shirtless man wearing shredded pants, metal lining its buckle, standing almost taller than a house and his dark skin seemed too tight around such a mountain of muscle. With his hands above his head he carried a horse, it struggled and squirmed in the man’s giant grip. The man grunted then with a yell of effort, took a step forward and threw the horse. It sailed above the boys’ heads, the sight had them frozen as the horse sailed through the air, screeching as it did.

 

It smashed through the wall of the town hall, the building shook and the sounds of screaming echoed from the building. Dek just stood there, holding his brother as his mind struggled to understand what had just happened. The thundering footsteps behind shook him back to reality as he remembered the Koloss of a man that was now beginning to step towards them.

 

Dek could say nothing, he simply gave a frightened scream as he sprinted away with his brother in his arms. Giving into fear as he ran, his heart thumping in his ears. They needed to leave, get out of town, hide in the rusting bush for a week for all he cared. Just be anywhere besides right in front of a bandit that could chuck a horse like a brick!

 

He could feel his brother’s breathing becoming shallow and uneven as he struggled to breathe once again. His rhythm startled by the chaos that seemed to follow them.

 

Dek couldn’t pay attention to it, not when every part of his mind screamed at him to run, not when he himself started to struggle for breath as his legs protested the strain of such a long sprint. The enormous man was lumbering behind them, but he seemed too slow, they were quickly losing him. Dek sprinted through the town, he went behind buildings and across streets to evade the man. The starry sky giving just enough light to see where he was, among the gunfire there was a shrill laughter in the air, Dek looked around, then in the distance where the gunshots were most frequent, saw a shadow flying through the air in the distance, visible only through the stars they blocked with their passing. Was that a person? He didn’t know and didn’t care. He kept running.

 

Dek paused as they rounded past another house, catching his breath. He didn’t hear the footsteps anymore, they must have lost him. He looked at his brother, whose eyes were fluttering as he tried to steady his breathing, he was doing poorly. Dek shook him “C’mon Nid, don’t go to sleep, it is not a good time for that!”. Nid tried to focus through the pain, he looked at Dek, his eyes glistening, “Sorry…” he gasped out. Dek shook his head, “Be sorry later, just stay awake and I’ll get us out of here”. He tried to say with more confidence than he felt.

 

Any confidence he had was shattered as a loud voice shouted not far from them,” This way! He’s going this way!”. Dek cursed, they were being followed! How did they know where they were? Was that giant some kind of tracker? He rushed between houses and made it to a larger area with stands and carts full of amenities, the markets. They were near the edge of town. So close. Dek tripped as his brother’s weight returned to normal. Dek checked his brother, and to his horror, Nid was unconscious. “Of all the bloody times! Damn it Nid wake up!” He tapped as he tapped his brother’s face, but there was no response, he was out cold.

 

Dek felt the sweat fall down his pale face and into his red scarf, he was already tired just from running but he couldn’t carry his brother’s actual weight, he wasn’t used to it. He looked around frantically, he could hear the shouting of bandits coming closer, the gunshots that had once been far had gotten closer, too close. The sounds of the gunfight had moved towards them, why? Were the outlaws pushing towards the markets? Had the constables fallen back? As he spotted a mostly empty crate next to a stand selling some kind of black sand, an idea struck him. He dragged Nid towards it and struggled to stuff him in it, his brother was thankfully a bit smaller than most other kids his age. Thank Harmony for that. After putting the lid over the crate, hiding Nid’s unconscious body from sight, he crouched behind the stand itself. He’d done it, he’d hidden his brother, now what about himself?

 

Dek froze as he realized he hadn’t thought that far ahead. It was too late, he could hear the bandits enter the markets, he heard a loud, graveled voice call out “Lost him, damn. Alright boys, Hezen and Dashei have got the conner’s on the ropes. Spread out, grab all the supplies that aren’t tied down! I want you all to grab food, water, and any metal we need by the armful. Bring them back to the carriages within the hour!” Dek heard their footsteps scatter. He stayed still, hoping he was unseen. He could hear a heavy set of footsteps near the stand he was hidden under. He heard a dark chuckle, full of mirth and malice. It sent a chill down his spine to hear it, but the next words spoken made his heart stop.

 

“Ya fingers are pokin’ out.”

 

The stand was lifted and thrown over Dek’s head, the jars of black sand smashing on the ground Dek whirled his head back at the monster that now loomed over him. Dark blue skin, with patches of gray, was stretched tightly over muscle, the skin of his face was pulled into a horrid, tooth-filled grin. Dark red eyes stared back into his hazel ones, Dek couldn’t muster the will to run, scream or even breathe as the beast stood over him.

 

A rough pair of hands grabbed him by the arms and lifted him up with inhuman strength, a laugh full of unbridled sadism came from the one holding him up. “Thought ya could hide, huh? Not a bloody chance, now let’s have some fun!” The beast began to squeeze him by the shoulders, Dek screamed as he felt his arms being slowly crushed.

 

“That’s enough Kev, drop him.” The gravelly voice from before ordered, the hands loosened and Dek fell back to the ground. The one who tried to crush him, Kev, turned with an annoyed groan, “Come on, Thev! I’m just doin’ my thing!” He whined.

 

Dek turned his head to see them. Two men, with mottled blue skin. Koloss-blooded. Kev was dressed in ragged, torn clothing, his black hair a wild mess. The other, Thev, dressed in a more intact suit with a vest, seeming much cleaner than Kev. Dek looked beside himself without turning his head, the crate wasn’t knocked over.

 

Thev rolled his eyes to Kev, “Yes, your ‘thing’, turning people into red smears on the ground with your bare hands.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Do try to remember we need some alive.” The descendant of Koloss looked at Dek with discerning eyes, “And this one looks worth keeping alive.”

 

Kev turned back to look at Dek’s frightened face, then leered. “Yeah, he does.” He walked back to Dek and grabbed his face as he continued, “He’s gonna scream well, I think.” Then slammed Dek’s head into the ground, then Dek saw no more. The last thought on his mind was a prayer to Harmony, praying for his brother’s safety.

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