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Chapter 1. Priest

Dave looked up from the road just in time to see the silhouette break the sky, just in time to see the figure crest the high ridge ahead and trip over his own feet. For one long second, Dave could see him sprawled against the sky, describing an almost graceful arc with his hands spread out before him, braced to catch himself on the ground. His bad luck was that there wasn’t really any ground. The poor bastard fell ass-over-teakettle through a couple of fathoms of air before hitting the steep slope down the side of the ridge. Dave winced in sympathy as the man rolled, slid, scrambled, and finally slammed into an outcropping of rock about forty feet from the top. He hit so hard he bounced. He did not get up.

Come on,” Dave told Jeremy, his traveling companion, and he started for the ridge.

What?”

Dave picked up speed without looking back to see if Jeremy had listened. Either that good soldierin’ discipline of his would kick in or it wouldn’t. Might have helped if Dave were actually in the army, but Jeremy seemed like the order-taking type.

He looked up at the ridge again. The fallen guy still hadn’t got up. He was probably hurt bad, then. Maybe dead.

Dave slowed when he reached the base of the ridge. The ground here was buried under loose yellowish rocks, perfect for an exciting afternoon of ankle-twisting, snake-finding fun. The malformed vipers that lived this close to the Borderlands were hellishly lethal, and if that weren’t bad enough, there were freakish scorpions out here, too. Nasty didn’t describe those things. Dave knew a guy once who got stung to death through the sole of his boot, half an inch of hard leather.

He scanned the ground at each step, creeping forward. Nervous sweat dripped into his eyes.

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