Cantabrian Gunsliger on the run from his past
The Wolf of Cantabria
Part 1The gunfighter known as Ryder was born around 25 years ago. The exact date and place is not known. He grew up most of his life believing that the ruthless bounty hunter and pistolero Diablo Cortez was his father. The truth is, however, Cortez was hired by a local landlord to dispose of Ryder’s family… Ruiz Alcara was a tomato farmer on a small plot of land in Cantabria just east of Ibiza. His wife Carmen was a seamstress who got most of her work hemming the clothes of the townspeople of the area. They kept to themselves mostly and stayed out of the local politics, they also faithfully worshipped Lathander the Morning Lord. The Alcaras also had two children, 4 year old Hector and new born Ryderio. They lived a quiet and happy life. One fateful day, Carmen Alcara was delivering hemmed tapestries to the house of local landlord Don Primo Porcosa, a fat, rat-like man, and as morally corrupt as the plague. She took her goods to the back of the manor (where she usually met with a servant for handoff and payment) where she noticed a strange light emanating from the door. Curiosity overcame her and she opened the door. She could not understand what she was seeing, but it involved the Don and others participating in some vile, arcane act. Even though she had not be seen she left in a panic dropping the tapestries to the floor and running to her house. She feafully told Ruiz what she had seen and he in turn told her that no one must hear of what she saw. They began to plan a move away from there land as a precaution. But they began to let their guard down as the days passed by uneventfully. After a bountiful harvest and a local festival promising a lot of work for Carmen, they decided to stay. Until one night. A storm bashed the country side that night. Lightning crashed and thunder boomed. The Alcara family was settling down for the night, with Ryderio fast asleep and Hector already tucked into his bed. Carmen was putting dishes from the night’s meal into a basket to be washed in the morning while Ruiz sat next to there modest fire place, reading a book on the teachings of Lathander. He noticed his wife dutifully working away in the kitchen area. With a smile he put his book down on the table next to his chair and walked into the kitchen to her. “Who knew in a storm such as this I could find such a beautiful rose,” he told her. Carmen smiled at him, “Did you come in here just to interrupt a woman hard at work? There is much to be done you know.” “Leave it for the morning my love, you have done too much already. Tomorrow in the light of Lathander we can finish it together.” Ruiz smiled at her. A low, raspy voice sounded behind them, “Strive always to aid, to foster new hope, new ideas, and new prosperity for all…” Startled the couple turned to see a tall man in a black wide brimmed hat and black cloak sitting in the chair Ruiz just rose from, reading a passage out of the same book. He rose from the chair, book still in hand, “Wherever you go, plant the seeds of hope, new ideas, and plans for a rosy future in the minds of all.” His cloak parted as he stood, bandoleers crisscrossed his torso and hips and held various pistols and knives. All of the buckles were metal skulls. With a black gloved hand he turned a page, his gray eyes rose to meet Ruiz’s. “Do you really believe all of this?” Ruiz pushed his wife behind himself and pulled a long sword off the wall. By the time he turned around the dark stranger already had a strange, skull-motiffed pistol leveled. “Who are you?? Why have you come to my house?” Ruiz said fearfully. “It appears your family, has stumbled upon something not meant to be seen.” He brought the book up again and read another passage, “Watch each sunrise.” Again he looked at Ruiz, “Neither you or your family will see another sunrise.” Ruiz let out a roar, raised his sword and charged the stranger. With a thunderous boom and a flash of what looked like blue fire, Carmen watched in silent horror as her husband flew through the air like he had been shot by a cannon. He crumpled against the far wall, bloodied and lifeless. With a twirl of his pistol using a weird handle there was a click, the stranger lowered the gun at Carmen. It’s barrel was the open mouth of a skull, it’s spine twirled down the barrel. “P-please, don’t hurt my babies.” She whispered through tears and trying to hold back vomit. “I am sorry lady Alcara,” the stranger said. “My name is Diablo Cortez, and I have come to kill you all.” Her scream was stopped short as the gun spewed forth it’s blue fire. Hector huddled against the wall in he and Ryderio’s room, trying to silence his crying. Ryderio made no sound. The door to his room slowly opened, a silhouette appeared in the doorway of a tall man in a wide brimmed hat. Thunder sounded and lightening lit up the room revealing Diablo’s narrowed eyes. Diablo twirled his gun again using the strange handle and pointed it at the child. Hector started to scream, which awoke the baby Ryderio. Diablo Cortez paused. He turned and made his way towards the cradle the crying was coming from. “No!” shouted Hector as he ran and covered his brother, “Stay away from him!” Diablo grabbed the boy by the nape of his neck and flung him across the room into the wall where he slumped, motionless. He then lowered his pistol to the crying baby’s face, his finger tight against the trigger. The baby opened his blue eyes and stared straight at Diablo, his crying died down. Diablo sat motionless and eased his finger on the trigger. After a long moment of motionless and silence he slipped his pistol back in it’s holster and grabbed baby Ryderio out of the cradle, he then turned and moved towards the door. Hector regained consciousness and ran after the tall pistoleer who turned and shut the bedroom door throwing a cabinet from the kitchen in front of it. Hector screamed and pounded on the door trying to get it open. In the main room, the bloodied book Ruiz Alcara was reading, laid open on the floor where Diablo dropped it. The pistoleer looked down and saw the last phrase on the torn page and whispered it aloud, “for from death comes life, and there is always another morning…” He looked down at Ryderio and turned towards the door. Before exiting the small house he turned, and with the sound of Hector’s cries and little fists pounding on the bedroom door he pulled a bomb from his cloak, lit the fuse, and tossed it into the kitchen. Diablo placed Ryderio in a large saddle bag on his raven-black horse, looked back at the house one last time, and mounted. He spurred his horse into action and rode off into the thunderstorm. Moments later the countryside erupted in light and the sound of explosion that wasn’t from the thunder.
Some years passed and Ryderio Alcara, now named Ryder Cortez, was a young boy. He traveled with Diablo across the continent, always made to ‘watch the horses’ when Diablo was off ‘doing his job’. Ryder grew up familiar with murder and death. And had seen the ungodly gunfighter shoot down countless man and monster alike. They traveled the world as well, either hunting or escaping something. When doing so, Diablo paid for their passage by offering young Ryder to work for the ship as part of the crew. Diablo was harsh and unemotional towards the young boy. But Ryder still felt a close connection and affection for his ‘father’. When he asked about his mother Diablo always had a different story, she either was killed by a plague, kidnapped by orcs, eaten by a dragon, etc. Diablo never told Ryder that he wasn’t his father and that he murdered his family. And although a harsh father Diablo taught Ryder the Way of the Gun. Diablo tirelessly drilled Ryder on the techniques of gun fighting. Methods and philosophies were taught to him constantly. Ryder absorbed as much as he could, to him this was his father’s way of showing him affection. Diablo seemed pleased that Ryder had a knack for it. Ryder killed his first man when he was 13. He and Diablo were chased into a ravine and cornered by a number of bandits. The huddled behind some boulders as bullets and bolts whizzed by overhead. Diablo smiled at Ryderio and tossed one of his pistols to him, with a wink to the boy he popped up two pistols in hand and unleashed hell. He would shoot and twirl shoot and twirl, his rapid fire shots echoed throughout the ravine. Around the side of the boulder Ryder could see a bandit reloading his rifle, he leveled Diablo’s pistol, aimed, and pulled the trigger. The man’s head exploded. Ryder felt no sorrow or remorse, just like his father had taught him.
More years pass by, Ryder turns into a young man. He eventually joined Diablo in his ‘bounty hunting’. The first job was at a small village, east of Ibiza at the manor of a local landlord. They snuck into the house under the cover of night as a thunderstorm bellowed outside. The house was emptied and dark. “Feels like a trap,” Diablo whispered back to Ryder. They brought their guns to the ready. Finally, they made it to the landlord’s room, there was a faint glow of candle light coming from the room. The dark duo flew into the room prepared to battle. But they were too late, the Don had been strung up between his bedposts, skinned, and gutted. The word ‘HEATHEN’ was drawn in blood above the bed. “We need to leave…now,” Diablo harshly whispered. The two men escaped the house and rode off into the storm. The men took contracts at every chance. They hunted people wanted dead or alive and brought them back dead most of the time. Diablo taught Ryder that this was a tough world, and to live in it you had to be tough. Hard of body, mind, and spirit. They acted as mercenaries, hunters, and nomads, never staying in one place. Ryder saw Diablo as a tortured soul and not as a bad man. He was able to justify to himself about every man they shot or ran through. However, they never spoke much about religion or life, just about killing and death. Sometimes Diablo would disappear for days on end only to come back with a larger shadow in his eyes. He would never speak of what he did or where he went. Being such proficient hunters, they were in turn hunted themselves. Sometimes by other bounty hunters, bandit lords bent on revenge, and sometimes members of the military (from whatever land they were in). Ryder never felt in danger with his father by his side. They would always set up elaborate traps and ambushes, always making it out unscathed. Diablo would say, “It’s a wolf eat wolf world, you just have to be the smartest and meanest wolf.” Diablo was a genius, when they weren’t riding or killing he was constantly tinkering with his pistols. He never mentioned where he got the skull-motif weapons and he kept them by his side, even his long spyglass musket. He made adjustments to his weapons, a normal weapon took a long time to reload, but Diablo came up with a way using a contraption around the wheel lock that held packages of blasting powder and shot, a handle that he could put his other 3 fingers into laid against the handle of the gun. When it was time to reload, he would only twirl the gun in his hand cranking the handle and putting another package in the barrel. He promised Ryder that he would craft him guns too, but he wanted to perfect them first. When he asked Ryder if he wanted skull barrels like him Ryder responded with a wry grin, “No, I want wolves.”
On Ryder’s 23rd year he and Diablo set sail from Cantabria to fulfill a contract in Edessa. Ryder no longer was made to work on ships, as he was able to pay his own way. The gunman’s apprentice didn’t know much about the contract, he never really did. He just knew only what Diablo told him, and he was ok with that. Then, on clear day their ship was attacked by what appeared to be pirates. However Diablo seemed alarmed and ordered Ryder into a row boat. He thought it was just another escape but Diablo kicked the boat away from the ship, “Just keep rowing boy,” he spat. “This is where we part ways.” “What? What are you doing?” Ryder asked, confused. “Row and don’t stop until you reach land,” Diablo answered. He looked Ryder in the eye and said, “There are times in my life that I’ve been a monster, I want to enter the gates of Hell with a clear conscious. If I was any type of a good father to you I would tell you that I was proud to have you as my son.” With that Diablo jumped back on the deck, guns blazing. Ryder watched in confusion as he rowed away. As he got farther away he watched the ship his father was on explode in a great fire ball.
Part 2Ryder was adrift for days, he had no food or water, and the sun beat down on him from high above and he had lost his oars in a storm. He slipped in and out of consciousness as the days turned into weeks. He was rattled from his sleep by the rowboat hitting against some rocks. It was Cantabria, he could tell those shores from any other. But there he was, his father was gone, and he was alone. After a few weeks camping out in the forest he decided to head to Ibiza. There would be work there he was sure, something to do until he could figure out what his next step was. He found life in Ibiza difficult at first. He and Diablo were constantly on the move, and here in the city it seemed like everything moved around him. He found different jobs, mostly protection, and he made some contacts. He was still unsure of his next move though, Diablo always had that answer.
It wasn’t long until he caught the eye of a local magistrate; Ryder had been delivering contracts to him, nothing big, just street hoods and the occasional heathen magic user. He offered Ryder a chance to join a secret “force” dedicated to wiping out the scourge of magic users who fouled the name of the gods. This peaked Ryder’s interest, it sounded like a good job, better than what he was doing now. Before training started, Ryder had to swear an oath to Cantabria and his god. Ryder had never really thought about religion, didn’t have any gods. But this was a good job, he looked the part and felt like he needed to act the part. He picked Tyr, the god of justice. It felt like he should pick the one that made the most sense. Training was easy to him, he had been a pistoleer his whole life. Where the uneasiness came in was the psychological training. The trainees were having philosophies put into their heads nonstop, several of them never made it past this. But Ryder could, and strangely enough the only place he could find solace was the temple of Tyr. Day after day he would go to the temple and clear his head, he would read the teachings of Tyr and even found himself beginning to attend services. Eventually the philosophical teachings in his training started to affect him more.
One fateful night he found out that as part of his training he and some of the other recruits were to find a heathen magic user they had been investigating and dispose of him. The teachings of Tyr reverberated in his head, he couldn’t quite understand why. But the men disappeared into the shadows and stalked their prey. They silently followed him down the winding back alleys of Ibiza until the man came to his house. Two small children met him at his door. Ryder’s heart stopped, he looked at his fellow trainees, they intently watched the man before them. And then he saw it, the hand signal that meant they were going to kill them all. Again the teachings of Tyr thundered through his head. He started to sweat and for the first time in a long time, he felt fear. Ryder sprang into action, he unloaded his weapons on his fellow trainees to the screams of the family he was trying to protect. Ryder stood there, surrounded by the bodies of his fellow trainees and looked at the man, “Take your family and leave Ibiza.” He ran off into the night. He headed for the shore, he knew he didn’t have much time before they would come for him too. At the shore he quickly boarded the first boat he could and was on his way to sail as far away from Ibiza as he could get….