Twilight was falling upon the Western Expanse.
It was that mystical hour where it seems as if the entire sky is but a thin window into the unknown. Vast mesas stood guard like black sentinels at the sun’s back, while strange constellations of stars swirled endlessly overhead. It was that time when the sureties of day’s reality give way to the wild imaginations of the night.
The moon had begun its slow journey across the sky, emerging from hiding in the east, casting its strengthening glow across the hardpan valley, as the sun’s weakening rays retreated ever further toward the opposite horizon. Somewhere, a lone wolvar howled a mournful tone.
It wasn’t long before the sun had finally fled behind the hills, abandoning the valley to the growing darkness, as if absolving itself of any terrible deeds that were to be committed this night.
At the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley, a dark silhouette stood watching, as if overseeing the motions of the encroaching night. A small glow appeared as the figure lit a cigarette, its weak light reflecting briefly in the man’s eyes. Those eyes, belonging to a hunter of men, watched as the cigarette’s thin smoke drifted lazily into the night sky, eventually dissipating into the still air. The eyes returned their watchful regard to the valley below.
The sun finally disappeared behind the mesas with a final flash, allowing the encroaching darkness its nightly victory. The last glint of natural light reflected briefly against the longrifle leaning against a nearby boulder. As if on cue, the man finished his cigarette and firmly stepped it out with one boot. He reached over without looking and took the longrifle into his grasp. The weapon came up, and then once again the man was still.
Moments stretched while the man stood there. The stars brightened and the moon took over the sun’s watchful guard of the world below. A gun shot shattered the tranquility, a deafening thunderclap in the vast stillness of the valley. And for a long instant, all was silent. The man lowered his rifle, eventually letting it go entirely. The sound of footsteps approached, but the man paid them no heed. He dropped to his knees, one hand reaching up to his chest, before coming away glistening with blood. A shadow separated itself from the nearby darkness and loomed behind the kneeling man. The shadow raised one hand, the light of the moon shining across a large revolver.
A second shot echoed through the valley. The shadow slipped away into the night. And once more, all was silent in the Western Expanse.