Hidden 12 mos ago 12 mos ago Post by Fading Memory
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Fading Memory The Final Flame of a Fiery Bird

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The Red Bandit - Three Weeks Ago

Striking a match, John rolled the flaming stick between his fingers for a few seconds before tossing it forward onto the pile of wooden splinters and corpses. He watched as the spark of fire took hold, then blossomed. Soon the entirety of the bonfire was engulfed from within, the fire growing to a staggering height.

The acrid taste of burnt flesh filled the man's mouth, the smoke billowing under the iconic blood-red kerchief he was known for wearing around his face. The heat seared the hairs on his arms as he hefted a heavy waggon wheel and threw it atop the blaze, crushing it down to keep the fire from rising any higher and creating a beacon across the entire plain, even as he fed it to ensure everything'd burn to cinders and ash.

At his back he could hear the whispers. Quiet voices, mistrust, confusion, but from the only voice that mattered he could feel, rather than understand, he'd gained trust. That's what he'd set out to do here- gain their trust. Backing from the fire, John turned and wiped sweat from his brow as his eyes adjusted from the light of the fire to the darkness of night. Standing at the edge of the blaze was a scene that would cause most white men to soil their breeches; a Comanche Warband sorting through a cache of army supplies. The feared tribal warriors checking cases of munitions, shouldering rifles, looking revolvers over in their hands...

John Redmond wanted to spit on the ground, but the taste of burnt flesh and the drive of greater purpose sealed his lips.

His gaze silenced the murmurs, and within moments he had the attention of the full band of warriors. The silence dragged on. The outlaw stared down more than a dozen men he half expected to scalp him. It was the leader of the natives who broke the silence; a spear embedding itself at the foot of the red bandit. John didn't budge, and in the same instance the spear's tip dug into the earth at his feet his revolver was in hand and aimed at the Comanche's leader. The tribal laughed in a song-like voice, spreading his arms as if to dare the gun to fire.

"We accept. You've done enough to convince me. I don't understand your motives, but I trust your actions."

John's gun never wavered off the Comanche's chest, and his fingers found the accursed Jack of Diamonds in them. He relaxed steadily as the tribal's slow words settled on his mind. Within moments he holstered the pistol as he threw the playing card over his shoulder and into the blaze.

"Then you'll do as we discussed. Arms for warriors, warriors for a cause. That's what the--"

"Do not speak of him." The tribal's words carried such authority that even John Redmond silenced himself to hear them. "Naming calls. We will strangle this... Ulysses. Our end of the bargain will be kept. If you fail to keep yours..."

"Yeah, I know. You'll track me down and make me regret ever crossing Howling-Wolf." John finally regained his insolence and interjected, taking the spear in hand as he moved forward- roughly driving his shoulder into Howling-Wolf's and pushing past the larger native man. The tribal grinned at the exchange, and let John go past.

As John rode away and into the night, he cast one backwards glance as a ghostly howl rose into the air from more than a dozen different voices. What he saw dancing in the smoke of the bonfire made him pull his hat down over his eyes and spur the horse into a gallop. John Redmond raced west, yet another task already forming in his mind.

Howling-Wolf - Two Weeks Ago

The weight of a rifle was something Howling-Wolf had become used to in the past several days, though when danger was near his every reflex was still to draw the war axe at his hip. Even now, as he lay low against the neck of his horse, his hand migrated towards the handle of his axe and removed it from its loop, until the weight of the weapon was comfortably in his hand.

A hoot sounded from his left, and he returned the call with the twittering of a bird; a light dancing whistle slipping between barely opened lips. A subtle cascade of animal calls echoed to either side of Howling-Wolf, and soon a grin split his face like lightning splits the sky. The man urged the horse forward, risking the entire raid in his eagerness to begin-

but the feeling of the hunt gripped him like a straight jacket and he reeled his recklessness in, a by-now familiar shift coming over him. Without them needing to even call out, Howling-Wolf could sense every member of his warband. Sense their movements, sense their positions, sense their intended targets. And he knew they could feel his presence just as he felt all theirs, that they needed him to guide them and say when the hunt was on.

Howling-Wolf's grin sharpened, his grip on the axe tightened, and he reared back in the saddle and let out a monstrous howl. A howl that exploded into the air louder and more encompassing than any horn or rifle could ever compete with. His horse leapt forward with all the grace and speed that a Comanche warhorse is known for, and Howling-Wolf's axe caught its first victim across the jaw, the man's face twisting into horrible disfigurement from the blow. Howling-Wolf didn't stop, his horse's charge carrying him nimbly between wagons that had formed a perimeter around the camp his call had just ordered the assault of.

Yet another camp of supplies headed west to Ulysses, yet another attack on the behalf of the Red-Face and his Master.

Gunfire and native war-calls echoed in the air around him as Howling-Wolf raced through the camp's interior, his axe rising and falling- the revolver and rifle he carried long forgotten in his frenzy- faster than any could resist. For every man he struck, another seemed to fall as if he, too, had been struck. For every man that raised a rifle against Howling-Wolf, that same man appeared to be raked by great claws from the shadows. For every wound the warrior seemed to suffer, his frenzy grew greater and greater.

Until, at last, there were none left standing save the other warriors of his warband. howling-Wolf let out another ferocious howl into the air, his warriors echoing the call as they danced through the carnage, taking what they wanted and piling the rest. The horses were scattered, the corpses hauled, the supplies destroyed or stolen, and what was left was burned.

The Wolf stalked the outskirts of the raid as the bonfire rose into the air. The wolf was an aged creature, its fur grey, scars wracking its body, blood staining its muzzle, age making its limbs shake with every step. The aged warrior was clinging to youth through the vigor of this man- the man who's name was his own.

Howling-Wolf. Such a prideful man, but a spiritual and dedicated one. The Wolf had taken to him quickly, seeing much of himself in the native warrior. A natural leader of men, a warrior of great skill, and one who did not shy away from great dangers such as the white man. Watching Howling-Wolf made The Wolf feel young again, and Howling-Wolf's strength fed The Wolf's.

Tonight, however, The Wolf felt its fur rise. Felt danger in the air. And its senses alerted Howling-Wolf to the same. As quickly as the dancing had begun, it was ended. As swiftly as the raid had killed the wagoneers, the blaze grew. Within moments Howling-Wolf and his warriors were riding west, away from the supply train and into the night. The Wolf turned its gaze away from the pack of young warriors and towards the danger at the edge of its senses. The light of the moon fell down upon the plain with more than enough light for such a creature as The Wolf to see by, and what it saw made its fur rise fully.

Anger shook its limbs rather than age as it dug its claws into the dirt.

"Tivaci, I've no quarrel with you."

The Wolf snarled in response as its golden eyes locked upon the fiery eyes of the shadowed rider, eyes burning with so much evil it made The Wolf yearn for the strength of its youth, so it could extinguish that flame like its instincts told it to. The glowing eyed rider, astride a mustang that more closely resembled a mountain than a horse, gazed down at The Wolf- who could faintly make out the grin within the shadows.

"Your pack's goals align with that of mine-"

The Wolf's second snarl was accompanied by a step forward, and a descent into a lunging stance.

"...You're old, Tivaci. Don't start a fight you can't finish. I've got more than enough aces up my sleeve to put you down, but I figured I'd try to make amends. Keep your pack strangling that city, and your brother will turn up. I'm willing to bet on it, if you're a betting wolf."

The Wolf's fur settled. It didn't trust the glowing-eyed-one, but it knew the man didn't tell lies. Gambles, half truths- but never a lie. In silence, The Wolf turned and felt the rage's initial power drain from its limbs. Tiredness seeped back into its bones. Without another sound to the glowing-eyed-one, The Wolf conceded to the task at hand.

Strangle Ulysses. Find its brother. Purpose enough for an old wolf.

Ulysses - A Few Days Ago

A lone rider appeared in Ulysses, coming in from the East, bloodied and unconscious. The remnants of a military uniform clung to his body, sticky with blood. He reeked of death and sweat, and when people approached the man he was roused long enough to say a simple phrase;

"Hostiles...Stealing supplies..."

Following those words, the man perished before the people of Ulysses even had a chance to ask him his name or get him to the 'doc. He was buried in a nameless grave outside the city.

What followed his hoarse whisper was a shadow of doubt across all of Ulysses.

Why is it always me.

Clyde sucked in a deep breath as he steadied himself. His deputy sheriff's badge was smudged from how often he wiped at it to try to make it shine, and he repeated the gesture in futility. Next he adjusts his belt, then vest, then pistol, and finally his hat.

Always always always me. 'Clyde, go put up the bounty notices. Clyde, go put up the mayor's statements. Clyde, go to the saloon and break up that fight'. It's never 'hey clyde, let's go together, as deputy and sheriff, you know, the team we're supposed to be, and do something together! Or, perhaps, you take the day off, Clyde, and I'll do it myself since I'm such a good lawman and all that.

He mused himself on his thoughts as he looked down at the stack of papers in his hands. 'Stack' was a generous noun, he supposed, seeing as he'd toss half of them to the wind, and the other ones only needed to be tacked up at the saloon and church. Two most frequented buildings in Ulysses, after all...

But still Clyde hesitated. People were running low on supplies. Food and medicine, namely. Water wasn't a problem, what, with the river so close by, but with the hostilities in the east hunting was a dangerous task, and nobody in Ulysses had the means to produce some of the things they usually received in those caravans in terms of medicine and tools. The stores surpluses had held for a while, but once prices started to jump the Mayor had seized supplies and rationed them out amongst the people.

Which meant the Mayor, and by proxy, the Sheriff was receiving the blame for the caravan raids.

Which meant that Clyde, by proxy of proxy, was receiving that blame.

Which meant that as soon as Clyde stepped outside, he was liable to be punched by the nearest drunk for 'being responsible' for their wife's fever, or their son's infection, or some other idiotic claim.

Why do I always gotta be the lamb to the slaughter? he groaned to himself one last time, before stepping out into the city, making his way to the saloon and church...

Father George grimaced as he stared at the doors to his church. More notices from the Mayor. More warnings from the Sheriff. More cautionary gestures. Words. Fluff. No action. The tall, stiff-necked, broad shouldered, man reached his hands out and pulled two of the notices down off the door. One he crumbled and discarded, the other he read with a quirked brow.

The one he discarded was yet another bounty notice for one 'Red Bandit'- the man had plagued Ulysses for years, everyone knew of him. The Sheriff's practice in redundancy was legendary.

The other was a less specific bounty;

Jefferson homestead found burned. Entire family of six hanged. Unknown perpetrators. Information that leads to the capture or killing of those responsible will be rewarded.

The Jeffersons were a family that Father George saw once a week, every Sunday sermon. He'd seen them just three days ago, and had been invited to have dinner with them later in the week. The man's shoulders tightened, and his hands trembled as he pushed open the heavy doors to his sanctuary of faith. His eyes never left the photograph of the burnt farmstead.

"...Left the livestock..." he muttered to himself, the cattle visible, unharmed, in the background of the ranch. "...Murder for the sake of murder..." he continued, slamming his heavy hands into the podium which he spoke from, planting the paper notice prominently upon its surface to be scrutinized by himself and God alike. Anger surged through the holy man and he slammed his hands into the podium once more.

"I've enough of the Sheriff's double-talk. I'm going to look into this myself."

And thus the preacher uttered his Hail Mary's, and rushed from the church. God help any man who stood in his way on this day...

...And when Father George returned in the afternoon, his robes filthy from the rushed ride to the homestead, his eyes were dark and hollow. Already a congregation had formed at the church, people who'd heard of his rush that morning and were awaiting his return. The man pushed through gently, and guided the people of Ulysses into his church. Silently he took the Podium and let his head hang for, perhaps, the first time anyone in the city had ever seen. Father George always held his head high, looking down at everyone around him, but right now he seemed...haggard, weighed down.

"People of Ulysses, good faithful flock, I'll tell you what I've told you always. The damned walk the Earth beside us, good, faithful, church-going folk have had sin visited upon them and their very lives stolen from them!. I went to the Jefferson's stead today. The Sheriff has said nothing in his notices about the motives of such a crime that was committed to such a beautiful family, but I tell you this: Not a cow was taken. Not a single one was slaughtered. The Jefferson family was murdered for the sake of murder, by men who forsake the light of God, and men who would do the same to you. That is what I learned by laying my own eyes upon the scene. I impose upon you, people of Ulysses, to do as I have done; Keep your eyes open. Do not be lulled into security by Lucas Ulysses. Do not lose your fear to the evil that walks amongst us. Do not become blind to it."

His fervor rose, the anger at what he had witnessed surging through the sorrow he felt at the loss of a family of six, and his passionate words cascaded upon those who listened like a torrential downpour of fury. As usual, Ulysses was split...

Lucas Ulysses was a...rotund man. Money and position had afforded him healthy meals, to put it lightly, and his size was a quietly joked about part of Ulysses' society. And he was aware of it, as much as he disliked it, but could do nothing about it. Some of the older members of Ulysses' society could recall a time when the Mayor was a bear of a man, strong and as thick as an ox- but now most of those descriptors fell on men like the Sheriff, and upon Father George, while snide remarks about cattle befell the mayor.

And at this moment in time, the rotund figure of Lucas Ulysses was dabbing at a wave of sweat that had descended upon the back of his neck in the process of him waiting for the sheriff to arrive. The mayor had to stop and ponder for a moment-- so many people simply referred to the sheriff as 'The Sheriff' that even Lucas Ulysses sometimes forgot the man's name. By the time he'd considered, and dismissed, the third name he could think of, The Sheriff stepped into the office and wordlessly offered Lucas a partial bow, and a respectful tip of the hat he wore. Lucas swore to himself as he composed his thoughts and sat up, rocking his weight forward in his chair to leverage himself to his feet.

"Sheriff, wonderful." he drawled on, "I've been told that-"

"Father George visited the Jefferson farm himself. He's got the people riled up already. I've done what I can to keep the quiet, but George has been filling their heads with fire and brimstone."

The interjection wasn't rude, so much as to the point. Lucas let it slide. He 'harrumphed' in his throat and sat back down before speaking;

"I'll handle George and the people. You find the bastards who did this and lock them up, or bury them. I don't care which, Sheriff. Quincy can have civility, I will have order in my town!" The large man's words became a bellow by the end of the sentence, and The Sheriff merely nodded in response.

"I'll round up a posse. I'll put the word out now, and set out once folks are ready. That should calm the people down, and satisfy George and his evangelism."

Lucas expressed his satisfaction by waving a hand at the sheriff and dismissing him...

Later that evening, however, when he read the notice that the Sheriff had put out, he'd wished he'd asked for clarification on what a 'posse' meant...

Sheriff requesting assistance. Official survey of the Jefferson homestead on behalf of the mayor's authority. Those who assist will be paid a sum of twenty-five dollars should they prove useful to the efforts.

This initial script was written in Clyde's formal writing, and it was apparent the last message was written by the Sheriff himself in barely legible scrawl;

Perpetrators wanted dead or alive

Lucas Ulysses sighed and wiped at the sweat on his neck again.

"...Damn Sheriff, what does he think I am-- made of money?"
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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Cleverbird
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Cleverbird Bird on a keyboard

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L i l y "R E D" O a k l e y

"Find him, bind him
Tie him to a pole and break
His fingers to splinters
Drag him to a hole until he
Wakes up, naked
Clawing at the ceiling
Of his grave"

It was a verse Lily had repeated ad nauseam and one she hummed to herself as she rode into the town of Ulysses. The sky was already turning a muddled orange as the sun was setting down across the horizon, casting her twisted shadow across the road. The few people still out and about warily eyed the stranger, but she paid them no heed. In another lifetime, she probably would've been more excited coming to a place like this and seeing so many people; nowadays they were more trouble than worth.

Still, Ulysses was different. Ever since the... Event, she had felt a pull in this direction and only now that she had set foot in the well trodden streets of the town, did she know that this was her final destination. You could feel it in the air, like a building tension just waiting to snap and burst open; pouring its vile intentions all over whoever just happened to be around. Whether she was here to stop it, or help it along was another question all together.

The brown horse neighed in relieve as he finally came to a stop in front of the saloon, happy to finally get some rest after the many days of traveling the desert. Lily slapped the beasts's neck, wishing she could still feel the sense of familiarity; after all, it had been her father's favorite steed. But no amount of wishing could wash away the feeling of the creature simply being another beast of burden among many others.

Irked with herself, Lily turned and headed towards the door; but not before stopping to read the various notes plastered across the wall. Some were old and weathered, the poor printing no longer legible. There were a few fresh ones though, with the first one catching Lily's interest. It was about a farmstead coming under attack. While it lacked any details, she couldn't help but feel a tinge of similarity to what happened at her home. Had the gang of twelve really set up shop around Ulysses?

The second poster was of equal interest. It seemed like the sheriff was rounding up a posse to investigate the farmstead. Tearing the poster from the wall, Lily stuffed the piece of paper into her duster. If the sheriff was this desperate to hire on outsiders and riff-raff, it meant it was beyond him and his deputy's control.

Pushing into the saloon, Lily felt more wary eyes gaze upon her. The town was on edge, that much was obvious. Ignoring the patrons, Lily made her way up towards the bar and caught the bartender's attention.

"A whiskey." She simply stated.

The bartender carefully examined the woman before him, she was a stranger in town after all; and with all the bad stuff happening around the place, who knew what she was here for?

Lily felt the man's gaze sizing her up before lingering around her throat, where the rather obscene scar was hard to miss. Pulling up her red scarf to cover it up, she glared at the man. "Whiskey." She less said and more commanded.

The man silently nodded before fetching her a dirtied glass of liquor. Taking a quick sip while slamming some coins onto the counter told Lily that the swill was watered down to the point where it was barely even whiskey anymore. Still, alcohol was alcohol.

"Where might I find the sheriff?" She asked. "I'd like to inquire about the Jefferson farmstead."
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Hidden 12 mos ago 12 mos ago Post by Hour Error
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Hour Error A Visitor of Strange Hours

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Doc Wallace

Death hung over the town of Ulysses and conspired to fill it with bodies rather than citizens. It was an undertaker's dream, but Sophia was far from happy. The occasional death due to a tavern brawl that got out of hand, less often a duel, or even a bandit robbery were hardly causes for notice or alarm. These were wild parts after all, the beginnings of Terra incognita, the very edge of the maps where monsters still dwelled unannounced, and darkness rested in the hearts of every man.

However, nine bodies in less than a week...

Well, that was something.

It had been a long while since she'd had a morgue full of bodies on her hands. Her supply of arcane ingredients was plentiful, overflowing even, and she had all the necromantic ingredients she could have desired. However, with the lack of supplies, she was running out of wood, and thick canvas bags would have to do as coffins if things did not improve soon. She preferred working with living patients. The recently murdered were a sorrowful and often angry. She assumed it was the dying violently part. Few people died peacefully or willingly, but unnatural deaths were another matter entirely. Dealing with the unhappily dead required extra precautions...

A couple of travelers, carts stripped, horses stolen, and bodies left to rot.

She'd buried them quickly, and without ceremony, the Sheriff had paid her the standard fee. Paupers and unnamed strangers were never profitable to bury, even when they were buried in their own grave.

The Jefferson family, strung up, and left swaying in the wind.

She'd buried them in a nice plot at a generous discount, it was the least she could do, the townsfolk had scrounged together to pay for the service. Normally, she'd have excused herself from any religious event, but it was hard to find an excuse for the undertaker to miss a public funeral, so she politely listened to Father George's sorrowful sermon over the coffins and awaiting graves. Life was cruel, especially in the badlands. Senseless murder, murder for the sake of murder was however rare, and it left the undertaker with a bad taste in her mouth.

And the nameless rider, the wounded man who died before Sophia even had a chance to try and treat him.

She'd buried him on the outskirts of the town with only a date on this tombstone, the Sheriff had paid her, once again. Something about the dead man dressed in the tatters of a uniform was off. Something wasn't quite right. Magic. Sophia had felt it—

"You felt it too," Balthazar piped in, interrupting the undertakers tired musings. She'd barely had a chance to sleep. Few people recognized or appreciated how much work it took to prepare almost ten bodies for a burial, especially once the decomposition had begun to set in. Everyone was a critique at a funeral.

"Yes," Sophia said out loud. In the privacy of her own practice she didn't have to worry about being overheard conversing with a ghost. "I did. Magic. Not more than the faintest trace, but it was there."

"It wasn't proper magic, not our sort of studied magic," Balthazar continued, sounding like a professor lecturing from his podium. "It was wilder, rustic even. You know, it tasted like the red-earthed magic of this continent. Perhaps, there is a shaman active in these territories again?"

"It wouldn't be the first time," Sophia agreed.

She heard the loud thud of the solid oak door, the only piece of good wood to be found in the building was the front door. Susanne, the neighborhood girl that Sophia paid to sweep the floors and to do the cleaning, burst through the door to nercomancer's study in a whirlwind of motion that threatened at least one empty vase that decorated the room. A reoccurring danger that the necromancer had long ago accepted as unavoidable. The young girl, no, almost woman, seemed to be excited by the most mundane of things, and like a puppy powered by coffee she was impossible to calm for very long. Still, she kept the place clean enough, and she didn't ask for much in the way of wages. Chief concerns for the entrepreneurial wizard.

Clearly excited, alarmingly so, the young girl excitedly waved her hands, the flicker of a smile on her thin lips. Sophia suspected gossip, idle town gossip was the cause of her animation...as it usually was. Sometimes she regretted not simply being able to summon a bone golem to do maintain her practice. It would have been so much quieter.


Sophia could feel Balthazar recoil with anger in her mind, returning to wherever it was he resided when he didn't want to interact with the natural world. He always said that she was too soft on the young woman, he disliked teenagers, and he hated loud teenagers.

"The Sheriff is organizing a posse!"

"To do what?"

"To go to the Jefferson's place. To find and capture the bad guys!"

"I see. And what business is this of mine? I'm a doctor...not a bounty hunter."

"Well, someone might get hurt! And there will probably be more bodies! Besides, Sooophiaaaa! You're a hero right? You help people! Doctors can't turn down heroic quests. It's the Hippocratic Oath!"

"The girl is right. The townsfolk can manage few things without someone getting shot," Balthazar interjected with a palatable irritation. "Besides, there is something wonderfully wrong with that place. Magical, perhaps not. But there is a mystery to solve, and these simple fools will need guidance if anything is to be accomplished."

Closing her eyes, Sophia slowly massaged her temples in a feeble attempt to drive the long dead wizard away. Susanne was a lost cause. The young woman read too many fantasy novels, and her head was full of heroic notions that Sophia did her best to dispel. "Suzie, how many times do I have to tell you—"

"I know, I know, real life isn't a dime novel...but you'll do it right?"

Sophia opened her eyes, anger flashing across her azure eyes for a fraction of a moment.

"...It pays twenty-five dollars."

Sophia hated to admit it, but Balthazar was right. She felt a morbid curiosity to see the homestead of the late Jefferson family. And given her particular talents, arcane as well as medical, she'd likely be of use to the Sheriff, and his rag tag posse. It was better than just sitting around in town and waiting for the bodies to continue to pile up. She had no desire for more work as long as it meant more bodies to bury.

At the end of the day, twenty-five dollars was still twenty-five dollars.

She'd be able to afford something good to drink, for once.
Hidden 12 mos ago Post by May96
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As her boots stepped out onto the station, Uzume scanned the sign hanging overhead. Quincy Station. The girl's gaze then began to look out towards the town as she looked for a place that this area does postings. Once her eyes fell upon several sheets of paper tacked to a wall, she made her way over towards it, ignoring the glances she would receive from her attire. She was used to them at this point.

The first thing to catch her eye seemed to be a recent posting, relative to the rest, Warning to all travelers: Ulysses and the area surrounding it is dangerous. Avoid passing through it if possible.

With a brief hum, Uzume's hand glided along the familiar blade handles. The people of this Ulysses seemed to require some assistance from a warrior. Someone capable of clearing out these dangers.

As she pondered her next destination, some activity in the corner of her eye caught her attention. Glancing over, she spotted a wagon being loaded up with crates. The labels stamped on them indicated that they were supplies. Perhaps...

Approaching the wagon, the swordswoman gave the workers a bow before she spoke, "Hello. Where is this wagon going?"

One of the men turned towards the ronin and raised an eyebrow at her oriental appearance and dress.

"Uh...We're headin' towards Ulysses."

A smile crept upon Uzume's face, "I would like to join you. I am a capable and equipped warrior."

"Riiight. Look, ma'am. This is a dangerous job, and I ain't too sure you're exactly up to it."

"I promise you, I am prepared to risk my life for the safety of this wagon and those staffing it."

At this, the worker just sighed. He wasn't too sure about hiring a lady for this, but help is help. Giving her a nod, he motioned to the front of the wagon and she climbed to her spot.

Before long, the wagon departed and the caravan made its way towards Ulysses. Days passed with relative peace, save for the many questions that Uzume seemed to endlessly ask those around her.

"Where are you from?"

"Why do your boots have spiked wheels?"

"What is that plant over there called?"

At least her curious energy kept the trip from being hours of nothing.

On the fifth night, however, the rumored dangers struck. Uzume sat turned away from the fire, as she had done the nights before, to ensure her sight was well-adjusted to the darkness. But it was not her sight that would warn her of their approach, instead it was her hearing.

At first, it was just a single bird. Then two. Then three. The pages of literature she read about fictitious shinobi using animal calls to signal one another came to mind, followed by remembering what her job is. An attack was coming.

Leaping to her feet, Uzume reached to her obi and pulled her revolver from it before firing off three shots into the air to awaken and alert the others. Shortly after she raised the alarm, a deafening howl filled the air.

The camp became engulfed in combat as cavalry rushed in. Her signal bought the defenders a few precious seconds to arm themselves, preventing a total slaughter. Though she tried to fire a few normal shots off, the bullets all went wide. Her aim was poor enough even during practice, let alone during the chaos a cavalry charge brought.

Spotting a native with an axe drawn, charging straight for their formation, she knew the damage that he could inflict on her exclusively ranged alies. Flipping the small lever on the revolver's hammer, she took aim not at the rider, but his mount, and fired a shotgun blast straight into it.

The horse fell, launching the man forwards. Much to her surprise, however, the attacker rolled as he hit the ground and continued his charge on foot. Putting the gun away, Uzume unsheathed both of her blades and intercepted his charge as she swung her katana low and her wakizashi overhead. The man blocked her low swing and stopped her overhead by grabbing her forearm. Though she had no doubts she could overpower most untrained people, her opponent was a man built for close combat as she was. Each of them struggled against one another, and Uzume could feel her control slipping to her powerful opponent.

So, before he could completely take over, the fighter yanked her katana out of the lock and struck him in the jaw with the pommel, forcing him to release her arm. With a quick step back, she kicked the sand beneath her up into his face, creating a brief smokescreen for her to retreat back to the wagon. Her allies all scrambled with her retreat, everyone either climbing into the wagon or on a horse and fled the camp.

Looking back in case the attackers gave chase, Uzume's eyes locked with the warrior she had fought, and the two stared at one another until the wagon dissipated around a bend.

She succeeded in her mission, but only because they did not give chase.

The remaining days were quiet, and before long, the caravan arrived at Ulysses. The people seemed to be exhilarated at their appearance, and it was hard for the girl to maintain her composure when she felt like something of a hero. Beaming with the feelings of a job well done, she accepted pay for the job and hopped off the wagon. The memory of her near-defeat feeling almost distant now as she watched people hurriedly unload the cargo they had brought to this place.
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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by ElRey814
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ElRey814 Simulated Consciousness

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Meru & Gilead

Chihuahuan Desert - Two Weeks Ago

Sleep conjured broiling chaos ripped across the cosmos. A swirling rift of carnage tearing through mind’s eye, gore and viscera splattering the quiet desert canvas. Peaceful stillness ruptured as it descended upon a small spark of flame in the night. Angry spirits, torn from their vessel weaved forth a vision, cryptic and horrible. Screams of agony. The gnashing of teeth. Rending flesh. Billowing cascades of flint and ash streaking the night. A heavy scent of blood and fear hanging in the air like a fog over the somber workings of faceless silhouettes hidden in inky darkness. Above in the night sky, two stars the color of blind heat bore down upon the scene, burning in the canopy like the eyes of a wrathful god.

Meru woke to the howl.

His muzzle turned skyward, half expecting to behold the eyes from his dream casting down upon him. The coyote’s ears twitched at attention, straining to hear another familiar call, but none came. Nearby, sleeping as a dead man might, his companion lay unawares.

Slowly, the subtle sounds of the desert returned. The canid exhaled roughly, sending a twirl of dust dancing into the wind. Even as his eyelids fell and sleep reclaimed him, the voice of the wilds seemed to whisper the name. “Tivaci.”

Ulysses - Present Day

The batwing doors of The Leaky Pitcher swung open with a grating croak, heralding the arrival of a stranger. Only the most devote patrons of the saloon were there to greet her with foul, unwelcoming sneers. Unlike most nights, recent events had kept many inside their homes, or praying away in Father George’s sanctuary.
Amongst the few left, a solitary gargoyle of a man perched on a stool at the far end of the bar had been given a wide berth. His skeletal frame hunched, grizzled chin cupped in his hand, ratty old hat pulled down above his milky eyes. He watched the woman enter with quiet intensity, gaze lingering long after most had returned to their cups, cards or whores.

Across the room, cobwebs gently bounced and waved. In the shadow of an abandoned piano, Samuel Gilead sensed the coyote stir.

The woman he beheld was oddly beautiful, in the way a mountain might be before a storm rolled in. And likely just as deadly, if the guns on her hip were any indication. Her tightly drawn features spoke of a haunted past which spurred countless sleepless nights and her gait suggested a long, hastily-made and poorly planned journey. She had come to Ulysses purposefully. A purpose visibly mysterious to even herself, even as it carried her toward the bar.

Another doomed soul lured by the siren song of this dusty little speck of a town.

The woman sipped the provided libation from a dingy glass, clearly tasting the signature ingredient of The Leaky Pitcher - rusted water from the depths of the local well. Nonetheless, the liquor seemed to steady her, even as she fingered the scarf affixed to her neck.

“Where might I find the Sheriff?” A few scoffs erupted from the room, a fit of forced coughing. “I’d like to inquire about the Jefferson farmstead.”

“Y'er ain’t no law, sure as shit o’ that." Samuel chirped, cocking an eyebrow. "Seem an awful long ways ta travel fer a measly fistful o’ dollars….”

Gilead trailed off, his vision briefly darted to the piano, catching the telltale golden glimmer of the coyote’s eyes in the shadows. Samuel’s face turned solemn, his tone almost apologetic. “Reckon I could take ya out there. Bu'cha best know, that darkness yur chasin’ ain’t the only thing lingering here, missy.”
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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Clever Hans
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Jack Tatum

He was a tall man with a spare frame that sported just enough muscle to let you know he wasn't afraid of hard work. His clothes were plain but rugged. A battered old hat shaded his long nose and innocuous face. When the wind flapped his clothes around it wasn't hard to see why some folks called him Scarecrow Jack.

Jack ambled along the dusty trail, leading the docile brown mare the folks in Hannibal had recommended he get for the trek west. Jack was an indifferent rider, and used to traveling on foot; most of the time, the animal served as a pack horse.

Another man may have been more leery of the wilderness or the things that sometimes lurked in the deep shadows of the earth, and especially of the Indians said to be prowling about, but Jack had his faith and his wisdom, and was more concerned with the little tune he was composing as he walked:

With the sun and the mountains
And my pack at my back
I pointed my boots
Down the long dusty track
No comforts I'm wantin'
No courage I lack
With the sun and the mountains
And my pack at my back

"Whaddya think, Killer?" he asked the mare, who snorted in reply. Jack smiled his broad smile and hummed the tune to his song, watching the sun race him to the horizon.

* * * * * * *

When Jack had his hat pulled low to block the glare from the reddening sun, they chanced across a small stream running through a little dip in the land, surrounded by a few trees. It seemed as good a spot as any to camp, and Jack let the horse forage for herself while he set things up.

He managed to scrape enough deadwood together for a tidy little fire, and he strummed a few tunes on his silver-stringed guitar while the beans were boiling with a little fatback in the pot.

As Jack ate, the emerging night bugs were just warming up their nightly chorus – and then a bunch of them stopped, all at once. Jack heard a few uncertain footfalls just outside the range of the firelight.

"Why don'tcha step on over and share my fire, friend?" Jack called out, setting aside his guitar.

Jack did his best to keep the surprise off his face when an Indian loomed into the circle of light. He wondered for a moment how it was the man had made so much noise, since Indians had that reputation as silent hunters, but the wounds on the man's arm and leg quickly made that apparent. The gash along his arm was especially cruel-looking, and blood still dripped from it. The Indian caught the drops in his hand as they fell, but he held a knife in the other.

Jack smiled and nodded. "You speak my language?"

The man made no response.

"Well, even so, you have a weapon and I don't – " Jack held up his hands to emphasize the fact – "but it looks like you could use some help. Would you like somethin' to eat?"

He held his plate, slowly. The Indian's eyes shifted towards it, wanting it, not wanting it. With a quick move, he jerked the plate out of Jack's hands and sniffed it, then took a tentative bite, keeping Jack pinned with his eyes.

"Now, while you're eatin', I might could help you with that arm." Jack pointed to his own arm and pantomimed cleaning and dressing the wound as best he could. The man narrowed is eyes.

"So, I'm a-gonna stand up and get my bag so I can put together a poultice and bandages for you." Jack started to get to his feet, but the man stood up, brandishing his knife.

"Alrighty then," said Jack mildly and sat back down. The Indian put down the bowl and slowly backed away until he was hidden in the darkness.

Jack sat still for a few minutes, then blew out a long breath between his lips. He glanced over at his passive horse. "Well, Killer, that weren't the most friendliest conversation I ever had. Think I might keep the fire stoked for a while yet." He threw a branch on the flames and retrieved his guitar, turning over the words to a new song as he absently strummed.

* * * * * * *

The Indian sat a ways away from Jack's fire in a shallow depression, watching the firelight while he knotted a rag around his arm. He listened to the faint chords slipping through the night air from Jack's guitar. Once he finished with his arm, he stayed for a while before nodding to himself and slipping away into the night.

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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by TitusCaecilius

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Guilhartz is jolted awake into a cold sweat. His pupils dilated while his heart races, he poses a simple question that he suspects he already knows the answer to "will I be able to run far enough?"

Now on the other side of the world in a country where nobody knew his name but, for the most part, he could blend in rather well, he definitely considers himself better off than back home. There is a long pause while the man blankly stares at a small black scorpion shining in the light that peeks through the window. It meanders back and forth while drawing his gaze, but he never once truly registers the event as occurring. Within moments, the traveling deserter rubs his eyes and stands up.

It is not much here. This, 'land of the free, home of the brave,' was exactly that. He found himself spinning in circles with so many places to go and so many things that need to be done, but Guilhartz never had a skillset beyond his fondness for reading and his linguistic skills. Maybe someday he could change the world, but if he were to even take the first step on that journey, it would be prudent to come into some money. That could not be done renting himself out as indentured for a place to stay.

He would tie his hair up and struggle to view his reflection in the dusty, murky glass panes on the slightly leaning window frame and sigh. There were numerous issues with his appearance, in his opinion, but he was sure he would at least blend in with the rest of the settlers out here.

The door opens as he sidles his way out onto the walk above the saloon where he would look down to the patrons he had been residing alongside for the past couple days and then to his empty pockets. He would sigh, and feel a great unease at a few immodest women with no concerns for their dress. Some spoke to men nearby, and others would eye the Bavarian like he was a piece of exotic luxury that they had to get their hands on. This would shame him into lowering the brim of his cap as he walked past. A man must never indulge without reason.

Patrons weren't roaring between one another today like they usually had been. After descending into the saloon itself, Guilhartz would soon hear hushed words about the Jefferson massacre. The idea that this land is still just as brutal as the one he had fled horrifies him and he begins to reminisce about the escalating European conflicts... but not for too long. Within moments, the man was sitting alone in the furthest corner of the room so that he could keep an eye on all around him. It was a challenge for him to be able to read English but with its similarities to German, he manages to survive. Strange American words, however, consistently catch him off-guard. He is not familiar with the standards and customs of the saloon, much less any people in North America, so he surveys his pool of options until he can find something to his liking.

However, when a woman with the striking visage of a cardinal bursts through the doors, he watches.

Even more peculiar, a man who appeared quite beleaguered approaches her to gossip, he can read the room. The two draw more looks and interest than any of the other brown or gray coats in here. With one glance towards the piano adjacent to him, Guilhartz freezes for a moment then plays it safe. He rises from the corner and wanders his way towards the bar. However, with no money, he wouldn't be able to make an order. Even worse, he was aware that if no destination was found on his way up there that he would not be able to remain incognito. Regardless, he would move to the front of the establishment and endeavor to peer through the window into the street with the hope of learning something new in spite of his communicative shortcomings.
Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Fading Memory
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The Sheriff and Deputy Clyde Winters
- @May96

A flurry of shaking hands, jumbled thanks, sideways glares, mumbled threats, quiet insults, and confused glances are what welcomed Uzume as she stepped off the wagon. She would soon find herself pressed by a growing crowd of people out of the way, until she was left forgotten in the street as people streamed past to unload and organize what few supplies the wagon had. Anything was welcome these days...

Though soon a fight began to break out. People scrambling to try and disrupt the order so as to sneak off with a can of food, or a bottle of rum, or some other item they thought worth a struggle for. This fight ended before it even began, however, as a gunshot rang over the crowd.

"You idiots better drop what you're grabbing before I put you in a bed behind bars for breaking the ration rules." A voice carrying immense authority called over the ensuing silence. The voice belonged to a man in a wide brimmed hat, with a dull and faded badge on his vest, cocking the lever of a repeating rifle as he stepped past Uzume as if she didn't exist. Several people shamefully returned themselves to order and set about re-organizing the supplies, even as others grumbled and slinked away with askew glances at the sheriff. Ambulating behind him, nearly a dozen or so paces behind due to the Sheriff's rapid pace, was none other than the awkwardly shifting, young, deputy called Clyde.

The Sheriff's presence itself seemed to bring a calm over the tension in the air, and within the next few moments the wagon owners and the Sheriff were speaking in quiet voices. The Sheriff lifted his head and seemed to acknowledge Uzume for the first time, before he just flicked a hand towards Clyde.

"Thank her." he said without looking at Clyde, the sheriff's gaze returning to the supplies and listening to the waggoneer's story about the trip. Clyde seemed to rub his badge several times before walking back towards Uzume- nearly tripping and falling over his own feet as he approached her, causing him to awkwardly rush the last few steps and nearly bowl her over. He seemed to realize at the final moment the impact about to occur, and threw himself to the ground and slammed into it at her feet rather than bumble into her.

Ever a gentleman, our Clyde.

The Sheriff shook his head at the spectacle.- laughter erupting from the nearby saloon. He then lifted up a case out of the wagon himself and began to lead other folks in carrying them into the town. Clyde groaned and picked himself up, dusting his vest off and rubbing his badge once again. He then sucked in a breath and spoke at Uzume;

"Nǐ hǎo! Xièxiè nín de bāngzhù! Nǐ de zhàngfū zài nǎ?" He said in fluent chinese without a beat in his strangely paced tempo, extending his hand to her with a goofy smile. "Rúguǒ nǐ xiàng tāmen shuō dì nàyàng shúliàn, rúguǒ nǐ de zhàngfū yuànyì, wǒmen kěnéng huì gùyòng nǐ." he laughed as if he said something silly and oh-so hilarious.

The Leaky Pitcher
- @ElRey814@TitusCaecilius@Cleverbird

In the heat of the day, the saloon was relatively populated. New faces such as Lily's received much scrutiny as they entered. Those who had spent even a week longer in Ulysses than them seemed to act as if they belonged and newcomers didn't, as if they were glued to their seats and the glasses of murky mixture in their hands were a part of their bodies.

But none batted an eyelash at Samuel Gilead- a man whom, to the rest of the town, was no different than a rusty nail sticking out of the board work of the building. He simply belonged.

Hushed whispers--

Red necktie- that's damn disrespectful. Don't she know about Redmond?

She some vagrant, copying the bandit? If she is we might be able to get a reward for 'er.

She carries them pistols like she knows how to use 'em- interested in sheriff's work. Not from here, wonder if she'll stick around

I betcha a nickel she's a whore by the end of the week

ooo boy, gilead's talkin' to 'er. This'll be good.

God I hate this town.

And similar other mumbles and mutters of little consequence. The mumbles were cut short, however, by a gunshot from the street- and those who turned to look out the window of the saloon soon bore witness to a scene of some despair; a wagon of supplies being heckled, just for the sheriff to come and put an end to the shenanigans. Once the conflict was cleared up, a few patrons of the saloon donned hats and coats and stepped out to lend a hand to the sheriff in handling the supplies- the more good natured of the folk, that is. Others grumbled more about the gunfire and disruption as if it was orchestrated specifically to bother them.

Then, finally, a round of uproarious laughter exploded from many of the patrons at the sight of the deputy tripping over his own feet towards the strange woman with the swords.

The bartender gruffly laughed out to Lily in response to her question;

"That there's the sheriff, in the big hat with the rifle."

but as soon as the laughter started, a round of coughing fits and the clinking of glasses returned to being the norm in terms of the saloon's auditory nature. And as the quiet returned, the strangeness of Gilead and Lily seemed to have lost the interest of the patrons, and that left Guilhartz as the object of the mumbling and gossip- his foreign features and well kempt manner making him of particular interest to the working women of the upper floor, one of which who whistled to him to try and get him to look up at her so she could try to woo him with a provocative gesture.

A few of the men guffawed at the scene, but all in all the saloon returned to its usual, tense, gossip-filled, loosely alcoholic, stature.

- @Clever Hans

She rubbed her eyes. She was tired. Why did she have to be up? Why did papa keep her moving like this? She looked ahead up her, up at the man she called father, and stumbled over a small shrubbery in her drowsy state. As she stumbled the man moved back in a blur to catch her, a slight wince of pain clear even to Onawa in his breath. She looked up at him worriedly, but the calm in his eyes settled her own restlessness.

Soon, little one, you may rest. Soon. A kind man is close. You will stay with him for a time. Until I am able to return to you.

his words filtered into her mind through a fog, their meaning barely registering as she felt herself lifted into his arms. She felt the warm wetness of blood down one of his arms, but was too tired to do more than wriggle away from its grossness as best she could.

Papa, why? she asked, finally, as she turned her head to the side and saw the light of a campfire ahead of them. Not that far, but far enough she didn't want to make the walk herself. She relaxed in her father's arms and let him bear her weight.

The wolf hunts me. Because of the dreams. Because of your dreams. Remember the howl, my child? remember it always, and fear it. If you dream the howl, run when you wake. Promise me this, Onawa, and I promise that one day I'll return to you.

I promise, papa. she said as her eyes fell shut. Why is the wolf hunting us?

Because Tivaci is old. He has lost much, and I fear something evil has...

She drifted to sleep as he spoke, his words lulling her to slumber even as he tried to warn her...

Jack Tatum soon witnessed something eerie. Eerie indeed.

The native man from before- the one who'd eaten at his fire, the one with the gash on his arm- reappeared in the firelight, a girl in his arms. By his reckoning, the girl couldn't be more than ten, but she could also just be a tall and lean girl for her age given the native upbringing.

The man stared at Jack for a few moments, before laying the girl down beside the fire and placing the handle of his knife into her palm. He held onto her hand for a few moments, lingering and gazing at her, before returning his eyes to Jack.

In a thick voice, slow and slurred, he spoke;

"...Protect... Onawa. Wolf. The Wolf hunts. Evil. Evil land. Evil men."

He gazes down at her and begins to weep.

"Good. Onawa Good. You good. I feel it. Protect. I lead Wolf away. Farewell, Onawa."

And without another moment's hesitation the man broke into a frenzied sprint from the fire, staggering as he ran into the night.
Hidden 11 mos ago Post by May96
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With a gunshot restoring order, the gleam reflecting off a half-unsheathed blade vanished as the weapon slid back into its scabbard. Peace was returned, but it was obvious just how much this place was suffering. Such frantic behavior for mere scraps is the behavior of desperate people. The lawlessness she heard of the frontier seemed to be more true than she expected. She was right to leave home and come here. The people needed warriors to protect them against those who would do such evils.

Then, as the deputy at least made an attempt to fulfill his order and found himself face-first in the dirt, Uzume thoughts were pulled away from her somewhat overblown and theatrical thoughts. Staring down at him as the young man got back up onto his feet, the girl couldn't help but smile as he started to clean himself off.

Once he began speaking at length to her in Chinese, however, the smile grew to a giggle. She recognized the language, at least parts of it, but the attempt to impress with what he thought might be her native tongue was adorable in a way. Responding first with a quick bow, Uzume smiled as she spoke back in an accented English. Her time around native speakers helped her shake off much of the more egregious quirks her native tongue would instill, but it still came off as overly formal and a bit alien.

"My name is Date Uzume. I am from Japan. I also can speak English. I appreciate the effort, but the language is not correct."
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Cleverbird
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L i l y "R E D" O a k l e y

The hushed whispers of the saloon didn't fall upon deaf ears. Most were just the banal paranoia of the townsfolk taking shape, uninteresting and certainly not worth her time to react to. The only whisper that caught her attention was the remark on her scarf. Had one of the twelve members wore a red scarf? Lily couldn't remember, most of that night was an agonizing blur of savagery. The only one she could remember so clearly it felt like he was burned into her skull, was Him. The giant. A towering man, who if someone had told her was over 7 feet tall, she wouldn't have even questioned. His skin, bronzed and marred with so many scars it looked like someone had taken a cheese grater across his body. Long, messy brown hair pulled back in a tight ponytail; stretching his face. And his eyes, those cold, blue eyes. But no red scarf...

“Y'er ain’t no law, sure as shit o’ that."

Lily's thoughts were cut short as one of the locals apparently grew enough balls to approach her.

"Seem an awful long ways ta travel fer a measly fistful o’ dollars. Reckon I could take ya out there. Bu'cha best know, that darkness yur chasin’ ain’t the only thing lingering here, missy.”

Chasing the remainder of her awful drink down her throat, she slammed the glass down onto the counter. Just the way the man talked and smelled was enough to paint a very vivid picture in Lily's mind.

"My business is with the Sheriff and Sheriff only..." She replied, giving the man a quick one-over. Younger than he looked... Before returning her gaze back to her dirtied glass. "As is what I'm chasing." She said far more solemnly.

Thankfully, a loud gunshot from outside, signalling the location of the Sheriff loud and clear, gave her enough reason to pull way from the man and the stifling saloon. Yet as she turned away from the bar and the of alcohol reeking man, she paused as her eyes fell upon the glinting eyes of a coyote. Had it always been there? It was a curious sight, to be sure; though she couldn't quite pin down what made her pause. She stared into the shimmering eyes for what felt like an eternity, before finally shaking her head. She had no time to play with someone's pet.

Making her way back into the dry heat of the outside, Lily approached the mob with a wary hand resting on her hips. Rudely and impatiently, she pushed the people to the side, much to the chagrin of those in front of her. No time to waste, not when she could feel she was this close.

"Sheriff!" She called out in a surprisingly loud voice as she pushed someone to the side rather roughly in order to catch up to the man. "I heard you're looking for bodies to help with the Jefferson farmstead." She said as she caught up to the man. Was her long journey finally going to pay off?
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by ElRey814
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ElRey814 Simulated Consciousness

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Meru & Gilead

The woman’s nose crinkled in disgust as she replied, flatly shutting the conversation, or what little there had been, down. Seemed she thought the Sheriff was the man to talk to. Though Gilead had his reasons to suspect it wouldn’t be wise to share many secrets with the lawman, rarely was, let alone in a town like Ulysses. Gilead’s flat, dull eyes bore into Lily, mentally willing her to reconsider. His focus was so absolute that the tumult and following gunshot outside didn’t draw so much as a flinch from the slumped husk of Samuel Gilead.

The same could not be said for her, pausing only for a breath as she noticed the animal peering out at her from the darkness. Time seemed to slow and distort as Lily gazed into those golden, sparkling orbs, suddenly zipping reality back into proper speed as she broke the gaze.
As she stood, Gilead could swear he noticed a fleeting wash of hope and expectation stealing across her features. In a flash, she wheeled herself outside, calling after the man with the tarnished star and the rifle.

Gilead side-eyed at the Coyote, still cloaked in shadow. Meru responded by trotting leisurely out of The Leaky Pitcher. Groaning, Gilead slid from his stool, following the coyote as a child might in the throws of a silent tantrum.

Meru perched himself on the edge of the tavern’s porch, paws stopping just short of the sun’s touch, breeze ruffling his ashen fur. Gilead, quietly took up position next to the animal.

“Y’er sure?” Samuel croaked bitterly.

Meru turned his chin upwards to meet Gilead’s reluctant gaze.

Gilead threw his hands up in defeat, shaking his head. “Bah. Fine! Oughtta geyt movin’ den.”

Without another word, Samuel, still brimming with visible apprehension in the gentle din of supply distribution, mounted his horse. The mare, Plum, was still greedily munching on the contents of her feed bag, but begrudgingly allowed herself to be steered out of town. Gilead mounted swiftly, Meru weaving gracefully between the horses legs as they ambled out of town.

“C’mon Girl. Hyah!”

Dust clouded the air as Plum tore at the ground, accelerating in the direction of the Jefferson farmstead.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Clever Hans
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Scarecrow Jack Tatum

"Hey, I –" Jack barely got a word out before the Indian had disappeared into the darkness.

He looked at Owana. She looked back at him, eyes large and round. Jack held still, fearing that if he moved suddenly, the girl would panic and run.

"Owana?" He said softly. She may have nodded slightly. He noticed she gripped that knife just like her daddy did. Capably.

"Nice to meet you, Owana. I'm Jack. I’m not sure how much you can understand me, but your daddy kind of put us in a pickle here. Can you tell me something about this 'wolf'? Or the evil men your daddy talked about?"

The girl stared back silently.

"Hm." Jack scratched his head and thought. Jack liked youngsters well enough, but he wasn't much a one for taking care of them. He considered for a moment trying to find out where the girl lived and getting her back home, but the man had said "protect" in a way that had some force behind it. It probably wasn't a geas, but it was important. He'd have to keep the girl with her, at least for now.

"Well, maybe that's a discussion best left for the morning. Tell you what: let's take care of the basics of life first, and then when the sun is up we can see how things look. Chances are, things won't look so bad when she's over the horizon."

He got up slowly and pulled his blanket off the ground. She watched, eyes large and inscrutable.

"Here's a blanket if you’d like to use it. I'm fine with my coat." He walked partway around the fire, dropped the blanket, and returned to where he'd been sitting. He got his canteen and a spare hunk of bread and set them over there, too.

"And some food and water for you." Owana didn't move. She just sat and stared. Jack smiled and gestured at the stash. "Even the bravest of the brave need to eat and drink. Tell you what: while you figger out what you want to do, I'll sing us a song…"
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by TitusCaecilius

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Guilhartz becomes painfully aware that he has become not a token of interest but rather a splash of difference among the sepia-toned wilds that this place otherwise had been colored. He couldn't exactly understand half of what was being said during the conversation anyway. Try as he might, thick accents and the hushed whispers a language he couldn't call his native tongue was a bit overwhelming all the same. The Bavarian's eyes darted back and forth as he made futile attempts to focus in on what each person was saying but this speech was nothing like the British, nothing like those city folk on the coast. This was a different culture and, to him, a different world entirely.

The gunshot disrupts his focus and breaks him out of the cold sweat before it really became apparent he was consumed by his surroundings. People seem a bit more agitated than they appear to harbor authentic interest in the scene. Realizing he was likely not to be able to understand anything further beyond that she was looking for the sheriff and that he spoke some strange variation of what Guilhartz himself assumes to be an American form of Cockney, he moves to file out of the saloon with the rest.

Witnessing Clyde climb back up from his stumble made him feel pity if not a sense of elation like the townsfolk around him. Guilhartz broke away from the exodus instead to move around the periphery. Here, he would stop cold to get a lay of the land. All the voices around him begin once again to usher into a single cacophony. One thing managed to stand out above the rest and that would be Clyde's attempt to speak a language he had not yet become familiar with. It was now that he was able to see Uzume greeting the young deputy. A woman of the East? He had never seen such a thing back home.

One thing from this whole experience brings him a great deal of comfort. Upon hearing her speak to Clyde, he could hear that the samurai was speaking perhaps just awkwardly as he is sure he sounds to those around him. Until now, he'd been afraid to stand out far too much. If a deserter from Prussia were to speak, others would notice. Ulysses was a town different than the rest he had passed through before. People here are different. It now begins to settle on his mind, and while he stands watching the supplies be tossed about and filtered through, he only thinks of the rumbling at the core of his stomach urging him to eat.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Hour Error
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Hour Error A Visitor of Strange Hours

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Doc Wallace


"Whoa, there, Mr. Gilead," Sophia shouted, waving the simple brown hat that had replaced her formal top hat. Even through the growing dust she could recognize the decaying figure she knew as Samuel Gilead atop his horse and the scarred coyote that always seemed to accompany him. It was oddly fortuitous to run into Samuel Gilead. All the more when he was heading in the same direction that she was for once. And it wasn't towards the Leaky Pitcher.

The young necromancer had intended to head to the Jefferson Homestead by herself. She was no stranger to traveling dangerous territory on her own. Still, in the in the wilderness, two guns were better than one, even if one of those guns was a rusted piece of scrap metal. At the very least the resident town drunk would be another target for any roving bandits. Sophia wasn't sure there'd be trouble, but she wasn't going to take any chances. That was the fastest way to end up dead. Her black physician's bag was packed with freshly cleaned medical instruments and a collection of useful arcane ingredients. Secured to her saddle and within easy reach was the loaded coach gun that Sophia favored. The badlands were no place for modesty, least of all in regards to firearms.

She'd had no plans of wasting time trying to find the Sheriff. The man had a gift for being busy and the townspeople were jumpy enough without the local undertaker asking questions. Besides, she was hoping for another look at the homestead before the posse removed whatever shred of evidence remained. If she'd hadn't been so busy with the bodies and under the watchful eye of the Reverend the first time, she might have done some proper investigating the first time. She knew that the Sheriff would keep his word. For all his flaws, and they were many, he was a reliable man.

Her trust in Samuel Gilead, however, only went so far.

He was a curious man, cursed with a ghastly appearance, and a man who's luck she could only assume had run out long before his birth. Less generously, she thought he was rather strange. Which was saying something...she was a necromancer used to conversing with the dead after all.

She had not known Samuel Gilead before his unexpected and unwelcome return to Ulysses. She recalled that the stories that followed him were less than flattering. Past indiscretions aside, he'd always been polite to her and for a purported drunk, he had never caused her much trouble. A fact that she had to reluctantly admit, was not the case for most of the denizens of Ulysses.

However, all the same, there was something about him that felt wrong. There was a scent of rot to the man, that was almost familiar, and dark promises danced at the very edges of his existence. It gave the young necromancer goosebumps. His perennial shadow, the coyote, was just as aberrant as it's master, and Sophia had always felt that some deeper intelligence lurked within the lupine creature. It's yellow eyes were somehow dreadfully beautiful, and more often than not the coyote seemed to be the intellectual superior of his master. At any rate, even without his enigmatic side-kick, something about Mr. Gilead was off. Sophia could not tell what was wrong. And she'd had little reasons to examine the man medically. But she could feel it.

"There is of course something very wrong with Mr. Gilead. Something hides him. Something protects him. Something obfuscates his true nature and his motives," the long-dead necromancer that traveled with her lazily intoned.

"Something more powerful than you?" Sophia thought back with a sly grin.

"No," Balthazar spat back. Sophia happily noted that she had struck a nerve.

"Be wary of him, girl. The man is either a fool...or he chooses to act like a fool—"

"And a man that acts like a fool is planning something," Sophia finished wordlessly. "Balthazar, I know, you say that every time I'm around him. How about you speak up when you've actually figured out what is wrong with Mr. Gilead."

The silence in her mind that followed was a small victory.

Waiting until the man and his pet coyote stood next to her, Sophia nodded in the direction of the Jefferson homestead. "I take it you're heading to the Jefferson homestead? I am as well. Although, I must admit Mr. Gilead, I never took you for much of a law dog."

Adjusting the brown poncho she wore, Sophia smiled. There was a certain thrill associated with the beginnings of a proper adventure. No matter how poor the company might be.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Fading Memory
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Fading Memory The Final Flame of a Fiery Bird

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The Sheriff and Deputy Clyde Winters

- @May96 @Cleverbird @TitusCaecilius

"....Well shucks, I just made a right fool of myself didn't I?" Clyde stuck his hands into the pockets of his vest and let his arms hang loose, shaking his head in self-derision. "Both feet straight into m' mouth. This always happens around the pretty ones, so don't feel special now." He covered up his embarrassment at the mistake with a flippant bit of flirtation, before pulling his hands out and gesticulating thoroughly as he spoke.

"Well, er, as I was sayin'... Japanese, not Chinese...Need to make a note of that..." As if beholden to his words, the man produced a pencil and a small notebook where he did indeed seem to make a swift note before continuing to speak. "The folks in charge of the wagon told us the story, said how instrumental you were in making it here. As deputy of this town, I'd like to formally request that you join the Sheriff on an excursion to the adjoining Jefferson farmstead. Some...Right foul business has taken place, and considering your usefulness to the caravanners, it'd be a shame if I let the opportunity slip past to ask you along."

Then, as if an afterthought, the young man snapped the fingers of his right hand and pointed at Uzume.

"There's money in it for ya, prove yourself useful and you'll get a whole twenty five dollars!"

The Sheriff halted in his step at the unfamiliar voice yelling his name, and the tall man swiveled where he stood as he heard the rest of Red's words. With a sigh the man hefted the case of supplies he was holding over to another man and spoke some quiet words, directing him where to go. The Sheriff then lifted a hand and pulled his hat off, his other hand running through the thin, greying, hair upon his head as the supply distribution carried on past him and his sudden conversation. His eyes settled upon Red with immense weight, though he didn't look her over like most men would a woman. His eyes rested on hers and he seemed to find something within them, because he nodded and put his hat back on.

"We set out in an hour. I don't normally like workin' with womenfolk, makes me uneasy, but you've seen some shit. I won't need to hold your hand. From the looks of 'em, they're married to those pistols you got anyhow."

The man's words weren't playful or accusatory, he simply spoke as if what he said was truth and there wasn't any two ways about it.

"Welcome to Ulysses, stranger. We ain't got much, but what we do have is good solid folks. Do anything to mess with those folks or the town and you'll reckon with me and Clyde."

At those words the man leaned to the side and glanced past Lily towards the aforementioned deputy, before shaking his head.

"....God almighty, looks like I'm gonna be riding to that farm with womenfolk and drunks today. Foreigners to boot." He stifled a sigh of exasperation, seeming to find the idea of working with a foreign woman was somehow the crossroads of two different evils. His exasperation carried his attention to the lurking Guilhartz, however, and his demeanor grew stern and authoritative once more. He cleared his throat and whistled at Guilhartz, before gesturing him closer.

"If I'm working with a foreign woman, might as well put this foreign bastard to work too." he grumbled quietly, as if Lily were not present. "Good man, you've been holed up in that saloon for days now. Barely said a word to anyone. Now you're standing there with idle hands and no work to put them towards- in an hour you'll be riding out with the rest of us to go and get a look a that farm."


- @Clever Hans

The girl stared at Jack, in utter silence, for quite a while. It wasn't until he started to sing that she crept forward and looted the pile of goods he offered to her. She gnawed at the bread ravenously, then drank the water sparingly. She stared at him as he sang, her eyes steadily softening. At last, seeming satisfied, the girl nodded at Jack, then curled up by the fire in the blanket as if Jack were a companion of years rather than minutes. She drifted to sleep in an instant.

Firelight. Stretching far. Casting its heat across the plains. The kiss of fire licking at the grass, kissing the sparse trees, dancing upon the dirt, and reaching towards the sky. Fire that filled Onawa's mouth with a salty tang, the roiling scent of gunpowder and blood carried by the smoke on the winds that flowed through her body.

She followed the fire, danced through its touch, laughed as her feet created puddles of coolness in its wake, only for it to be consumed by the flames once more as she leapt away. She rode the smoke, soaring through the air on unseen wings as she leapt higher and higher through the air, feeling the wondrous heat of the blaze beneath her.

And as she rose into the air, spiraling so high as to look down and see the entirety of the place she called home, she saw that it was all aflame. The fires spreading so far and wide as if to swallow all of the plains, then the forests, then the oceans. Her eyes widened at the sight, and the giddiness she felt at dancing through the red glow was replaced by a gut wrenching fear.

But soon she calmed. Just as her father had taught her, she closed her eyes and let the sensations roll through her as she fell back towards the ground. Much of the flame was ghost. Not alive. But it was spreading. Spreading from...

She opened her eyes as she fell, and soon let her unseen wings guide her descent towards the heart of the blaze. The fear that gripped her stomach twisted and gnawed at her, and soon she found the heat to be unbearable rather than enjoyable as she plunged into the heart of the raging inferno.

When her feet hit the ground, she lifted her head and looked into the white heat.

When morning came, Onawa jerked awake and leapt to her feet with a yell. The knife she had was suddenly in hand and the girl thrashed around, waving the blade frantically in all directions. As swiftly as the panic came upon her, it dissolved however- and a fatigue seemed to fill the young girl's body and she visibly drooped as if she had spent the whole night in a wild sprint.

She spoke quietly, in the queer tongue of her people, but in a grave tone. Something strange to hear from one so young. The girl hugged the blankets to herself and looked to Jack.

she silently lifted a hand and pointed west, though she seemed to sway from a sudden lack of strength and her hand shook and shifted north. She seemed to indicate either towards Ulysses, a frontier town, or the Mountains and the apache people's therein. Her weakness obscured her intentions.

"Safe." She said this word with some struggle, as if forming the language took considerable effort. The girl then swooned and seemed to fall asleep- the onset of slumber like a curtain being pulled over her eyes- her body falling heavily to the ground.
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by May96
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Member Seen 8 mos ago

Maintaining her smile, Uzume listened to the deputy's offer and waited for him to finish.

(Do all American men so casually compliment women? And the note-taking is...interesting. Perhaps it is how he remembers things?)

First responding with a nod, she continued to speak in her somewhat rough English, as she said, "I am here because I read that there are problems in area. I wish to help. If the cavalrymen were indication, I believe I will be of use. I am best with blade, which their leader also used."

After a brief pause to collect her thoughts and attempting to translate them, she continued, "What is happening at this farm? Are the attackers based there? Do you anticipate ambush? Also..."

Turning her attention towards the town, Uzume said, "Is there more work available once we return? I would prefer it not involve fighting, so that I might study other walks of life and improve."
Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by ElRey814
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ElRey814 Simulated Consciousness

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Meru & Gilead

As the huddled buildings and voices of Ulysses fell away behind him, the beautiful desolation of the American West opened up, seemingly endless stretches of inhospitable desert and untarnished blue sky. Plum rocked gently beneath Gilead’s feet, sinewed pistons rippling beneath her shimmering pale coat as they tore across the horizon. Samuel was at his best here; perched expertly upon the saddle, legs absorbing the shock, body focused and balanced upon the mare as if they were the same entity.

The frontiersman turned his visage downward, meeting the wild eyes of Meru, the smaller beast keeping an uncannily natural pace with the powerful quarter horse. The mad grin plastered on the creature’s muzzle sent a cold trickle of sweat run down Gilead’s spine, the taste of copper filling his mouth, swirls of disjointed images cascading through mind’s eye. Strange clouds threatened in the distance, as apprehension wriggled about in Gilead’s mind, but it was not born of fear. It came from somewhere else. A place he could not reach. A place perhaps no one was meant to.

It seemed Ulysses was attracting the misplaced and the bold from every walk of life, like moths to flame. He stole another glance at Meru. Or were they lambs to the slaughter?

So enraptured by thought, he scarcely noticed the woman calling out to him before he was nearly on top of her. Plum skidded to a stop, whinnying bitterly at their abrupt change of pace. The mare was a demoness of speed trapped in an equine form, Gilead had often mused. Idly he stroked Plum’s neck, fingers running over the punctuated circular scarring which ran down its length, cooing in the mare’s ear as he circled the undertaker.

Gilead cast an ugly grin at the woman, tipping the edge of his hat and coming to a halt just far enough from her vision to force her gaze to follow him away from the town. Though the significance of this was as amorphous as the intentions of the Coyote which coolly considered Sophia from his spot, planted firmly at the opposite outskirts of her peripheral.

“Izzat so?" Samuel squawked, "Must be yer lucky day, as it be just as ya say, Ms. Wallace.”

He craned across Plum’s neck toward the undertaker, cupping his hand to his mouth. Gilead’s voice slithered out in a ragged whisper. “Between yew and m’self, all money be green, but Meru & I 'ave suspicions yer got little interest in what ol’ Johnny Law has ta think bout dem poor Jefferson Farm, eh?”

He tapped his hawkish nose with a finger, silver eyes twinkling keenly.

Meru took a few cautious steps forward, wordlessly scrutinizing her features for a moment before trotting further down the road, stopping several paces ahead to look back at them.

Gilead squirmed in his saddle, “Says company’ll crash our party afore long.”

Another moment hung in the air, the ghoulish man staring towards the town as if it was no longer there, a look that seemed to reach beyond realms, before snapping back to attend Sophia.

“Can ye ride?” He didn’t wait for a response, rearing Plum in a tight circle, the trio virtually disappearing in the cloud kicked up.

From the billowing folds his chalky voice erupted “Then show me!”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Cleverbird
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Cleverbird Bird on a keyboard

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L i l y "R E D" O a k l e y

Lily's eyes locked with the sheriff's as he looked her down. He seemed like the decent, honorable kind of man. His eyes showed experience. "I dont care how you feel about me, sheriff... I'm not here for you or your town." Lily spoke bluntly. "The farmstead, I want details. How many bodies? What condition were they in? Was anything stolen? What about the farm animals?" She fired off her questions in rapid succession, making it abundantly clear that she was had a potential link to this case.

If the assault on the farmstead was any similar to hers, the carnage probably wasn't much different. The gang that had raided her farmstead had left a bloody carnage, both in human and animal blood; yet hadn't bothered to actually steal anything. Not exactly typical behavior for a band of outlaws. it wasn't exactly the kind of scene one walked away from without losing a bit of themselves in the process.

For the first time in months, she felt an excitement rising. An itch running down her arms and into her trigger fingers. With any luck, her hunt for revenge would soon be sated.
Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Hour Error
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Hour Error A Visitor of Strange Hours

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Doc Wallace


"Hey!" Sophia shouted, cursing loudly as she brought her horse into a cantor. With a loud shout, she pushed her legs against the powerful frame of her spotted horse, holding on for dear life as the Appaloosa horse exploded into a gallop. In the time since she headed out West she had learned to ride, she'd had not other choice, but if truth be told, she was much more comfortable riding in a wagon.

Her predecessor, Francois Dumont, and his untimely death in a tragic wagon accident some months before her arrival to Ulysses had convinced her to favor riding atop a saddle. The ornate and far more comfortable carriage that she had inherited with her funeral home remained safely secured in the small barn she rented. At least when she wasn't acting in her capacity as an undertaker, ferrying caskets in style to the graveyard.

The young necromancer coughed from the cloud of dust that Samuel had left in his wake, her eyes were full of water, and she could have sworn her teeth were rattling against her skull as the hooves of her horse thundered against the uneven dirt road, a most generous classification in her humble opinion, that lead to the Jefferson Farmstead.

"Foolish girl!" Balthazar shouted. "You are going to get us both killed!"

"Probably," Sophia shot back voicelessly, desperately holding onto the reins of her horse. She had gained on Samuel, and had she the inclination she might have almost been able to touch him. But he had cheated. He had started the race with an advantage, and she no longer held any hope of winning. Sophia smiled, it was a dishonest, and brilliant tactic all at once. She'd have to watch Samuel even closer in the future. He was smarter than he'd seemed.

Lost in trying to keep up with the Samuel and more importantly trying not to fall off her own horse, Sophia paid no attention to the distance they crossed nor the time that passed. Instead, in what felt like a series of increasingly tired breaths, she found herself approaching the Jefferson Farmstead a horse length or two behind Samuel.

Reigning in her horse, Sophia offered an exasperated exclamation in Samuel's direction, "Was it really necessary to ride so damn fast?"
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