Chapter 1 – Chero By Lamplight The orange of day was fading as lilacs crept into the horizon and cut the sky to purple, turning the jagged shadows and alleyways into a seething darkness. There was no wind and the town was still warm from the days blistering sun despite the drawing of the night. Pinpricks of light stabbed out of worn wooden shutters, saloons and whore houses. “Chero by lamplight” Arlan said whimsically, and with a note of what sounded suspiciously like irony. His lips twitched as a few dusty memories fluttered by, and then twisted into something all too much like a grimmace as a few bad ones surfaced. Known to those that had been there and made it back as 'Chero', Cherokee peak is the last major settlement before the Injin Expanse; an enormous plain of dry wasteland, bleak nothingness and a seemingly endless labyrinth of sun-blasted rock. The plain was rumored to be sanctuary for groups of warring Indians turned crazy and cannibal by the heat and lack of food, and other such nonsense told over a few whiskeys and a game of cards. There was probably some truth to it, considering the last settlers adventurous (or stupid) enough to attempt to travel through it never came back, or so the story goes. It looked much like any other desert to Arlan, and Arlan has seen quite a few. Chero itself used to be a coal mining town until a major collapse killed almost one hundred people, funding was cut and nobody was interested in re-opening the buried shaft. It was a ghost town for years until some desperate fools opened a shaft of their own and found gold. Rumors spread with frightening speed, clear across the country and swept up a whole manner of greedy and hopeful fools. As the gold gradually dried up, the sane gradually trickled out, and then began to leave in a torrent. What was left was a distillation of criminals, whores, crooks, con-men, pimps and those delusional or desperate enough to believe that there was still gold in this cheerless, backwater, human waste dump. There was some, but it usually found its way into back into a brothel or pissed into a gutter. Arlan made his way into Jingo's saloon, eyes scanning for danger amongst the sea of crooks ahead of him, with an expression of somber nostalgia. It was the same as any saloon in any crook town, but this one had a certain... stink to it. Laughter rattled around in Arlan's throat like a dime in a tin can as he reached the counter.