(Soundtrack: Anything by Ennio Morricone)
On the border of the Lesser Aian, the West never died. Lonely, dusty border towns are arranged against the terrible spellstorms that stir the desert every few weeks. Not to mention the bandits- outside the reach of magic, there aren't a lot of options for self-defense. Everyone carries a gun or three.
And still, it isn't enough. A lone traveler saddles his horse, throws his cigarette on the sand, and then climbs astride in one smooth motion, one hand on the pommel of a blade. A Desert Ranger, and a Champion.
Five miles away, a young man is picking up milk for his mother, rifle on his back, chambered. Today is payday, and the town doesn't have anything to pay. The townsfolk listen in fear for the distant sound of hooves, and sure enough, they come. The young man places the milk back on the counter, nodding to the clerk. He unslings his rifle, and climbs to the roof of the short building.
The Champion rides furiously, his horse already lathering. In the distance, he sees the wavering outline of the town, baking in the heat. From inside, a gunshot.
The bandit strolls into town, pistol holstered.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are!" He chuckles at his dumb joke.
"We don't have nothin' to pay!" shouts an elderly woman from the other side of her tightly locked door.
"Aw, don't give me that shit, granny."
"She's right. We don't have any more money." shouts the boy from the roof, rifle sighted on the man's head.
"Well that's a damn shame. You so young and all."
The boy fires, and his aim is true- center forehead. The bandit laughs, and ignores the scratch. "You got some balls, kid. Well." The bandit returns fire, and the boy slumps, falling to the dirt street below. "Had some balls."
Nearby, a woman weeps for her son. A child screams in fear. A few doors open, sacks of college funds and car funds and medical payments and whatever the residents can get to are thrown onto porches.
"Now that's what I like to see! Cooperation!" The bandit laughs, again, and spits. He wipes the tiny trickle of blood from the gunshot scratch away. Faintly, he hears the sound of hooves. The Ranger has arrived.
The Ranger dismounts easily, thirty feet out from the bandit. He slaps his horse, sending it running. He registers the situation quickly, then stares down the bandit, who laughs once more, and spits towards the Ranger.
"Aw shit, the cavalry's here. You shoulda stayed home, Ranger."
"Think you're scary just 'cuz you're a Champion?"
In a flash, the bandit draws and fires, center mass. In a quicker flash, the Ranger draws his blade, and slices the bullet out of the air. The bandit tenses. The Ranger looks determined.
The next few seconds, though difficult to follow, will be recorded in the town's history forever. The bright flashes of gunfire, the sound of metal deflecting metal, the shouts of men in combat…
When the dust settled, the Ranger's blade impaled the bandit through the chest. The Ranger clutched at deep chest bullet wounds. They stared at each other. The bandit weakly raised his gun one final time…
A young man, bleeding from a shoulder wound, steps heavily on his wrist. "Die, you sumbitch." Leveling his rifle, he fires again, a Champion himself now for his courage in face of death, and slays the wretch once and for all.
The Ranger tumbles to the ground. "I'm just gonna… Take a nap…"