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Way of the Wolf

Modified on 2011/10/18 12:06 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Deathlands

Song of the Wolf

Silent, sleek, savagely swift
on the watchful hunt.
Locking eyes with the chosen one
to see who yields to the final call.
While the stars wheel on their course
we are at one with that primal force.

O Pure Brothers, a sacrifice
to the gods of survival.

   As the book begins, we find Ryan and Doc in a forest clearing with a couple dozen coldhearts; their friends are hidden in the trees nearby. Doc has taken the role of trader, and Ryan is his guard - they recently jumped into a redoubt with enough supplies left behind that they could scavenge a bunch of stuff for trading.
   The men facing them are the sec force for Hazard, though they're little more than bandits themselves. They try to claim a tax on the "traders" (i.e., they get all the goods and Doc and Ryan get to keep their lives), but the companions already know what's coming. When the leader tries to shoot Ryan, the situation devolves into a firefight. The companions, predictably, win, since they've already stacked the deck in their favor.
   The sole survivor of the group is a dwarf named Albert, whom the bandit leader kept around for amusement. He tells the companions that they won't get into Hazard without an escort, and that he can provide them safe passage in return for his life. Krysty says he's telling the truth, so Ryan lets him live. He and Doc hit it off, and he offers to buy Doc a drink once they get to town.
   Once they hit the main street, they're stopped and questioned by Hazard's sheriff, Dodge. They say they have goods to trade, and Mildred pulls out some topical anesthetic. The ville's healer, Kirkland, appears and checks it out. When he finds that it's the real thing, he tells them that anything they want (within reason) is theirs for the asking. Dodge tells them that they can have rooms at the local inn, but he also assigns some deputies to keep watch on them.
   Once they're settled in the inn, Dean and Jak take off for a looksee around town; Doc and Albert head off to the tavern; and JB goes to see the gunsmith. Ryan and Krysty get an invite to have dinner with the innkeeper, so they head down.
   The boys, meanwhile, find themselves outside a gaudy house, so they go in. The bouncer initially refuses them entry, but Kirkland (who is inside) overrides him. They chat briefly with Kirkland, then he leaves with one of the dancers. The boys head for the bathroom in the back, then slip out through the window to shake the men following them. Unfortunately, they pick up several more, these ones on horseback. They lead the men out into the woods and kill all but one, only to find that the men are carrying compressed air guns, not real guns - they intended to infect the boys with a "plague" via darts.
   Meanwhile, Doc and Albert get to Cobb's, whereupon it's revealed that Doc and his friends are walking dead men for having killed the sec men. Cobb disarms Doc and Albert escorts him inside, whereupon Albert tells him about the plague.
   After setting up a shotgun to blast anyone breaking into his and Mildred's room, JB makes a beeline for the gunsmith's shop. Once he gets in and convinces the man and his family (who are extremely paranoid) that he's no threat, they tell him about the "plague". He's taken to the back area, where he and the family start making rounds for all their weapons.
   Ryan and Krysty go down to dinner, and Aunt Maim, the innkeeper, tells them how things are in the ville. She offers them a huge bounty to kill Kirkland, but Ryan is more interested in simply leaving; they return to their room and get some sleep.
   Mildred, who is sleeping alone, is awakened and kidnapped by some of Dodge's men. Doc and Albert, who are heading back to the inn from Cobb's, spot the wagon rolling by with her in the back; Doc sends Albert back to inform Ryan and follows the wagon. Dean and Jak beat the dwarf back by a few minutes, so everyone knows what's going on at this point. Ryan goes out alone to find JB and Mildred.
   Mildred is awakened to find herself a prisoner of Kirkland's - she's in a small stone room underground used for storing preserves. Kirkland tells her that she's being used as bait to draw Ryan out (of course), then leaves her alone. She immediately takes the opportunity to scoot her chair over next to the jars - the liquid inside can lubricate her wrists, which will enable her to slip free from the rawhide binding them.
   Once the men leave the barn, Doc slips inside and searches the place. He eventually finds a trapdoor, but he's barely gotten into the room where Mildred is being held when two of Kirkland's men come back - they're looking to have a little fun with her. Doc and Mildred (who has gotten herself free by now) kill them and escape on a pair of horses, but the sound of gunfire has alerted everyone. They barely make it back to the inn ahead of Kirkland's men.
   Ryan and JB make it back to the inn as well, but they're trapped inside. A firefight breaks out; Kirkland has the upper hand in numbers, but the companions have a good defensive position and better training. Kirkland himself appears, standing inside a bulletproof glass box mounted on a wagon, and offers Ryan the position of sec chief. Ryan, of course, refuses, and shouts out that the plague is a fake. None of the townsfolk are visible, but he knows they're all listening.
   Long about this time, a train of gaily painted vehicles rides into town - it's a travelling circus, led by a man named Handsome Wyatt. Wyatt used to run with Trader, until he was caught siphoning gas and selling it; Trader had Ryan cut off his thumb and kicked him out. Ryan and JB immediately start shooting at Wyatt's men, which starts a three-way firefight. JB wires the hotel with all the plas-ex they have, along with detonators - when Kirkland's men come inside, he blows it, partially collapsing the building. Ryan has Jak take a rope and jump across to the next building, then everyone slides down and jacks one of Kirkland's jeeps.
   They drive back to the redoubt, which is only a few miles away, chased by Kirkland and Wyatt and their crews. Once the trail turns impassible to vehicles, they set off on foot, making it inside and jumping away before their pursuers can catch them.
   They end up someplace very, very cold. The chamber door is frozen shut - Ryan has to force it open - and the companions' arrival has fried some of the components, so they can't jump out. The passage out of the control room is filled with ice, so they spend several hours cutting through it while JB removes the circuit boards from the mat-trans.
   Eventually, they get through; they find the redoubt is encased in a huge ice floe. They climb over the hill beyond the redoubt and find a group of natives (Inuit) being attacked by other men in flying machines. They help the Inuits, since they look like the best choice. The natives' leader speaks English - a group of Brits in a research station were caught up there at skydark and were assimilated into the local tribes. He tells them that the other men were Russians from a freighter frozen in the ice, and that the ice floe is sinking.
   The companions decide to throw in with the Inuits - there are only 20-30 Russians (and those badly inbred), and chances are they can find the parts they need to repair the circuit boards on the ship. They assault the ship and liberate some Inuit women who were captured to expand the gene pool; JB uses the electrical shop to repair the boards, then the ice floe starts to break up and the ship sinks. They hurry back to the redoubt as the ice floe sinks as well, barely making it back to the gate before a wave of water pours inside. Albert is too slow, however, and he's caught and drowns as the others jump away.

DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of Gold Eagle / Worldwide Library, and are used here strictly under Fair Use guidelines.
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