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  • The Ranger is armor that Ash wears to protect herself. This gentleman is definitely the sort who demands it. The Ranger stood where she was and stared him down.


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    • The Ranger stood where she was and stared him down. A fire blazed in her eyes to match the emptiness in his. She found herself wearing her old, familiar, punctured red poncho and mask, although she did not remember going to sleep with them on.

      The gentleman looked back at her for several moments without wavering. Then he laughed. "The strong, silent type, are we? Well, that's alright." He returned his attention to the cards on the table but continued talking in a bemused tone. "I can carry on the conversation for us both. I'm partial to the sound of my own voice, anyway."

      The Ranger said nothing.

      He gathered up his cards and started shuffling the deck. "If you were curious, yes, I am what your people call the Promising God," he said as he splayed the cards over the table before them. He scrambled their places and then neatly swept them into a new stack. "It's not my real name, naturally. That name is lost to time. But I've gathered a fair few titles, and you're welcome to use whatever you like." Once he'd finished shuffling, he smacked the deck down on the table. "My personal favorite is, 'The Elegant Gentleman Attending the Tragedy.'"

      The Ranger's only response was to continue glaring.

      He picked two cards off the top of the deck and set in the center of the table. "The tragedy in question is, of course, your precious frontier. So much effort, so many hopes, so much blood spilt to achieve a dream of prosperity and freedom... it's very sad," he said, not sounding at all upset. "They don't yet know that this part of the world is where dreams come to die."

      The Ranger looked at the cards on the table. The Gentleman had laid down a queen and an ace of spades, face-up.

      He pulled another card from the deck, looked at it askance, and held it close to his chest. "Stitchy? I suppose you could call him my agent. An agent of chaos, so to speak. But to be fair, I haven't ordered him to do anything in particular. He'll murder and pillage as he pleases. He knows it, I know it. I knew when I chose him where his inclinations lay, and I'm content to watch him follow them." He drew another card and sniffed. "The best kinds of tragedy, in my opinion, are the kind that perpetuate themselves over many generations. For example, when a member of one family kills a member of another, creating a feud that feeds animosity for hundreds of years. Stitchy was the product of such a feud, and practically everything he does spreads further pain."


      The gentleman drew his last card and smiled. "You though... you could add some spice to this entertainment. The desperate struggle of the frontier's last misfit champions, fighting to save a world that doesn't know it needs them... Yes." His smile grew wider, and toothier. "Delightful."

      He reached out with both arms and started laying his cards on the table, one at a time. For each card he laid down, Ash heard the tolling of a bell. First an eight of spades, than an ace of clubs, then an eight of clubs.

      The Ranger grimaced involuntarily. Black aces and eights, again...

      The Gentleman spread his arms and beamed down at his revealed hand. "Do continue your hunt. I want to see you do your very best." He chuckled to himself and gave the Ranger a sinister grin. "That'll make it all the more beautiful when you fail."

      He clapped his hands twice, and the light of the chandelier suddenly snuffed out. The Ranger was left in darkness, which transitioned swiftly into real unconsciousness.

      The next morning, Ash was very sick and couldn't keep breakfast down. But she told the others not to worry and didn't share what she'd seen in her dreams with any of them. She had the feeling that Gaze somehow knew, even so.

      As it turned out, gathering folks together was the easiest part of the journey. From there on out, there were all kinds of challenges - some of which Ash needed her new friends' help to face. The first of these was the seemingly simple task of traveling to a modest frontier town and buying a firearm - I say seemingly, because in the end it wasn't simple at all.

      OOC commentary
      And that concludes chapter 2! While I figure out what I'm doing with chapter 3, feel free to post any questions you've got or comments on how the story is going.
      Last edited by semicasual; 12-21-2016, 11:39 AM.


      On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

      Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz

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      • Only commentary I have to give is "Bravo!" Love your stories!


        I post Artifacts in this thread. How I make them is in this thread.
        I have made many tools and other things for 3rd Edition. I now host all of my creations on my Google site: The Vault of the Unsung Hero

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          • The next week or so of travel passed uneventfully. The posse went west, making good time across the open landscape.

            Each member of the group gradually got used to the others. Seres tended to hang close to Lans, always eager to hear war stories and history. Lans eventually warmed up started sharing his experiences. The old man had something to say about almost every landmark they passed, and the kid drank in every word.

            Bo and Serge also formed a partnership of sorts. At first, it appeared that the staid healer was disgusted by the unkempt soldier, but he would keep trying to talk to her until she gave in. Before too long they started having lengthy, animated conversations in Riverspeak - a language Ash only knew a few words of. These conversations would almost always end with Bo making a face and Serge laughing uproariously.

            Gaze confounded everyone. Every dawn, she would vanish - turning into a flock of ravens like she did. And every dusk, she would reappear wherever the group made camp. Sometimes she would tell them about the weather or the path ahead, but otherwise she spoke very little. The rest of the group responded in kind, but nobody seemed inclined to fight. It seemed like distrust was giving way to tolerance, but friendship wasn't in the cards.

            Ash kept a respectful distance from them all. She'd step in and talk with anyone who seemed to be having problems, but during this time she mostly kept to herself. She had a lot on her mind, and didn't feel ready to open up to any of the others, yet.

            The group reached the Pan river and followed it upstream. They reached Santa Mela early in the morning, when the sun was low and the way by the river was cool.
            Santa Mela was a transport hub between the firedust mines of the south, the timberlands further west, and the richer cities of the the north. It boasted a collection of riverside docks, a train station, and a dust refinery. Santa Mela was a large town - it didn't boast as many resident as Roca Roja, but its commercial sprawl made up for that. The town was constructed mainly of long, wide buildings, built from heavy timbers caulked with river mud, better suited for storing goods than people.

            The posse, sans Gaze-of-the-Sun, rode in beside the water. They passed groups of longshoremen unloading logs from boats onto carts and hand-caddies, to be rolled over to the station and then shipped to anywhere. The commotion of business only increased as Ash and company moved further into Santa Mela. On the edges, people moving wagons of goods too and from the refinery dominated the traffic. Nearer the middle, there were great open markets where merchants and wholesalers dickered over prices and organized shipping. And in the center, residences mixed with business offices and shops of all sorts to make a hive of activity. Even this early, Santa Mela was a place of commotion.

            Ash signaled a stop outside of a dry goods store, and they all grouped up to make plans.

            "I recall staying in a reasonably priced inn, down that way," said Lans, pointing down a sidestreet. "Granted, that was... oh, must be seventeen, eighteen years ago, so I cannot guarantee that it's still there. Or still reasonable."

            Seres frowned. "We're just here for the auction, ain't we? So why not just go there, buy what we need, and leave?"

            Bo shook her head. "The auction is tomorrow, Mistress Seres," she said, gently. "We will need a place to sleep before then."

            "Hold up," said Ash. "We ain't gonna be the only ones here for the auction, and we haven't got money to spare. Might be a good idea to spend to day studyin' our competition, and camp outside."

            Serge hunched over in his saddle. "It doesn't matter to me where we sleep," he grumbled, "But I need a drink."

            The group argued for a little while, until it was decided...
            • Ash would go to the town hall while the others found a place to stay. She hoped to meet the people who were hosting the auction, and see what she could learn about the goods on offer.
            • Ash would go with the others to an inn and rest. Privately, she wanted a bed as much as anyone, and so it didn't take much to overcome her objections.
            • They all would spend the day browsing through hostels, inns, and other places of temporary residence. Besides finding the cheapest stay possible, Ash hoped to locate other auction-goers and see who else was interesed in the late Silikes Dilatro's possessions.
            • Something else?
            OOC Commentary


            For this post, as well as some future ones (probably), not making Ash do anything gives her time to socialize with her posse-mates. So, picking the second option is the "I'd rather talk with characters than advance the plot" choice.

            Also, keep in mind that with a posse, you can divide and conquer. If there's something you'd like one or more members of the group to do that I haven't listed, feel free to use the "Something else?" option.

            And now, further headcanon:
            Raw, just-pulled-from-the-earth firedust is flammable, but it doesn't explode the way you'd expect from watching a firewand go off. For that, it needs to undergo a refining process that extracts the unnecessary minerals (iron and carbon, for the most part) and adds oxidizing agents (usually charcoal). Different refinements of dust may be more or less explosive, more or less combustible. Firewand afficionados learn to distinguish between the different refineries, and even the place the dust was originally mined.

            Dust refined in Santa Mela, by the Tylos-Yvana Company, has a reputation for being more explosive than most (leading to more incidents of burst barrels) and also for being unusually water resistant. Dust that will reliably burn even when wet has more value in lands north of the frontier.
            Last edited by semicasual; 12-21-2016, 04:05 PM.


            On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

            Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz

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            • Other

              Ash will go to the townhall. The others will scatter and browse the hostels, inns, and other places of temporary residence to find a place to stay and check out the other Auction buyers. Everyone will meet back at that conveniently located tea house for dinner. *points at tea house the characters just noticed*
              Last edited by wonderandawe; 12-22-2016, 11:32 AM.


              I write things.

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              • OOC Commentary
                Hey all. I'm going on vacation at the end of this week, so there will most likely not be any more updates this year. See you all again in 2017!


                On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

                Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz

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                • Ash needs more information.

                  They all would spend the day browsing through hostels, inns, and other places of temporary residence. Besides finding the cheapest stay possible, Ash hoped to locate other auction-goers and see who else was interesed in the late Silikes Dilatro's possessions.

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                  • Ash would go with the others to an inn and rest.

                    Going for the socialising option, because a posse needs a certain amount of glue to stick together and otherwise it kind of feels like Ash is exclusively pushing people (which, well, she is, but she can be long term about it).

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                    • ...they all would spend the day browsing through hostels, inns, and other places of temporary residence. Besides finding the cheapest stay possible, Ash hoped to locate other auction-goers and see who else was interested in the late Silikes Dilatro's possessions.

                      They first tried Damon Lans' suggestion of the Rose Crown - which, as it turns out, wasn't "reasonably priced" at all. It had grown into a fancy hotel in the years since he'd last visited, the most expensive in Santa Mela. They catered to well-to-do travelers in town for a short stay or a long one. It was a relatively tall wooden building with soft red wood siding and gilt trimmings, welcoming newcomers with an expansive antechamber full of cushy furniture. They had their own restaurant, with a long bar and even a small stage for musicians.

                      Serge gawked, Bo and Seres looked around approvingly, and Lans quietly resigned himself to a changing world. But they all moved on, seeking more affordable pastures. Only Ash stayed behind, leaving King hitched outside while she explored the interior. She figured that this would be the place to look for auction-shoppers with class.

                      A friendly chat with the front desk clerk and a footman in the restaurant showed she was right on the money. There were already two people at the Rose Crown who had expressed interest in tomorrow's proceedings. One was Tei Leng, a dust magnate and regular visitor who often came to do business at the refinery. Another was a Delzahn prince, newly arrived in Santa Mela, who liked to make outrageous demands for food and wine through his subordinates while he stayed holed up in his suite.

                      The footman was expounding at length about the prince's tastes when they both heard the loud rattle of a wagon team outside. He excused himself to go welcome what he assumed was a new guest, while Ash looked out the window. She saw an unusual carriage out in the street, pulled by a four-horse steam. The cab covered over with iron panels, the door was held shut with a bolt and a heavy lock, and the windows were barred. Ash thought she recognized the woman riding atop the carriage. The carriage rattled and shook even after it had come to a stop, and Ash could hear indistinct shouting through the window. She pursed her lips, thinking.
                      • Ash walked outside to inspect the new arrival.
                      • Ash turned away and headed to a back corner, where Tei Leng, the magnate, was sitting.
                      • Ash left the restaurant and headed upstairs, to the prince's suite.
                      • Something else?
                      OOC commentary
                      ...and we're back. Happy new year!

                      Last edited by semicasual; 01-10-2017, 11:39 AM.


                      On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

                      Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz

                      Comment


                      • Let's go have a look see at the new arrival.


                        I write things.

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                        • Check out the new arrival!


                          I post Artifacts in this thread. How I make them is in this thread.
                          I have made many tools and other things for 3rd Edition. I now host all of my creations on my Google site: The Vault of the Unsung Hero

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                          • Ash walked outside to inspect the new arrival. On closer inspection, the reason why the carriage shook was because of someone banging around on the inside, yelling invectives while they kicked at the door. Without putting her head up to the bars Ash could not see inside. But, by the sound of it, they had to be someone very big and strong,

                            The woman driving the carriage was someone Ash thought she recognized. Imagine a woman pushing forty, in good shape. Her skin is very dark, and her hair is solid black, thick, wavy, and loose down her neck. Inscrutable brown eyes hang over a mouth that seems locked into a permanent smirk. She has a thick figure wrapped in a high-quality linen shirt, trousers, and coat with polished leather boots. That coat looks brand new, but it hangs a little strangely - this is because it's full of things stashed in hidden pockets.

                            The driver swung herself down off the driver's seat, ignoring the footman, and banged on the door of the carriage. "Shut up in there!" she screamed back at the occupant. "Don't make me gas you again!" The fellow inside the carriage let out a few more curses, then quieted down and stopped kicking the door.

                            Ash took advantage of the momentary pause to step in and speak up. "Jehn the Coyote. Is that you?"

                            The driver turned around and smiled. Two of her teeth were jade. "Why, if it isn't 'Swifthand' Ash! You old fox, I thought you were dead!"

                            Ash smiled back. "Not hardly."

                            "How have you been?"

                            Jehn stretched out a hand, and Ash gave it a firm shake. "I'm doin' alright. Work is dangerous, fun is moreso. You?"

                            Jehn made an exaggerated shrug. "Mostly the same. I see you're still ridin' that lizard. You write any more books?"

                            "Nah. My publisher ran off with all the profits from the first one. I should've known somethin' was up when he put it in a trust account instead of givin' me cash."

                            "Yup, that's how they'll get ya. Stick to bounty huntin', Ash - they pay up front, and if they don't you can still sell the quarry off."

                            Ash had known Jehn for a long time, although they weren't close. They first met while tracking down the same bounty over ten years ago, and maintained a loose working acquaintance since. Jehn was someone who Ash knew to be competent, someone with whom she could work well. But their partnerships were always fleeting, due to differences in opinion and... let's call them 'personal habits.'

                            "You look like you're doin' well," Ash commented, looking at the reinforced carriage. "That jail-coach looks new."

                            Jehn gave a short chuckle. "Yup. It wasn't cheap, but it's payin' off now. Guess who I've got in there."

                            "Sounds like you caught one of those great demon apes."

                            "Nope, but you're not far off. It's Bighorn Bone."

                            "No foolin'?" Ash raised an eyebrow. "Seven-and-a-half feet of solid muscle, Bighorn Bone?"

                            "Yup."

                            "Killed ten people and then ate them, Bighorn Bone?"

                            "Yup."

                            "Lost Souls gang, Bighorn Bone?"

                            "Nobody else."

                            "You got him all on your lonesome?"

                            "You better believe it."

                            "How in the hell did you do that?"

                            "The same way I get all of them, Ash - I wait 'till they're on the shitter, then hit them with a gas bomb." Jehn nodded in satisfaction. "Gettin' him in the coach was the hard part, honestly."

                            Ash was genuinely impressed. "So, you takin' him to Roca Roja?"

                            Jehn got a smug look on her face as she stuck her hands into her coat pockets. "Actually, no. I'm bringin' him to the auction."

                            Ash was genuinely confused. "Huh?"

                            "He's collateral, Ash. The man's worth two hundred dinars. Between him and the cash I have on me, I figure I can buy somethin' nice from the late Marshal Dolh's estate."

                            "Huh." Ash looked over the carriage again. "Now there's an idea. But what do you want from an old dead marshal?"

                            Jehn got a wistful look in her eye. "You'll laugh at this one, but... way back, last time I was in Santa Mela, I saw a portrait of old Dolh. And he had the grandest hat I ever saw."

                            Ash did laugh, mostly from disbelief. "You'll trade two hundred dinars... for a hat?"

                            "It's an amazin' hat. But it's not just that, Ash. I figure old Dolh and his boy had to have had a collection of fine fashions. Dynasts usually do. And I can pick them up for a song."

                            Ash shook her head. "Well, so much for that early retirement."

                            Jehn put a hand on her hip and raised one eyebrow. "What's the good of retirin' if you can't do it in style?"

                            "Whatever you say, Jehn," Ash conceded, raising her hands. Then something occured to her. "Wait, hold up. How long have you had Bone in that box?"

                            "Oh, not long. Three, four days."

                            "And you never let him out?"

                            "Oh, no. I ain't wranglin' him back in. I pass food and water through the bars, and there's a little hatch for him to dump out the piss bucket. It's no worse than prison."

                            "But in prison you're not supposed to cook alive. It's got to be like an oven in there."

                            "Not always. At night it's more of an icebox. But you let me and Bone worry about that, Ash. What brings you to Santa Mela?"

                            "The auction," Ash answered honestly. "I'm told Marshal Dolh had a pair of old flamepieces that are really something to see."

                            "Relics?"

                            "Likely."

                            Jehn whistled through her jade teeth. "Those're gonna be expensive. You come into a lot of money, recently?"

                            Ash grimaced and shook her head.

                            "Well, you'd better come up with somethin', then. Or get used to doin' without." Jehn turned to the footman, who had been standing there the whole time with practiced patience. "Yes, you may take my bags. Ash, I'm goin' to move in. I'll see you at the auction tomorrow, right?"

                            "Yup. See you 'round, Jehn."

                            Jehn went off with the footman and her luggage. This left the carriage momentarily unattended. Bighorn Bone evidently took this as an opportunity, because he started kicking the door again. Loud banging and swearing followed.
                            • Ash stepped up to the coach and peered inside, careful not to get too close to the bars.
                            • Ash wandered back inside and to the restaurant, leaving a poor man on his way to a hanging for a rich man on his way to greater fortunes.
                            • Ash wandered back inside and upstairs, leaving the incarerated man on his way to a hanging for a free man on his way to who-knows-what.
                            • Ash left the Rose Crown behind and caught up with her posse.

                            OOC commentary
                            Yes, Jehn is the Opportunist. Hey, I took the time to design these characters, might as well use them somewhere.

                            Last edited by semicasual; 01-10-2017, 11:40 AM.


                            On the frontier of the Wild South, there's only one woman with the grit to take on its most dangerous outlaws and bring them Back Alive, or Maybe Dead.

                            Avatar by K.S. Brenowitz

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                            • Let's take a look see at the cannibal.


                              I write things.

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                              • Bighorn Bone? Lost Souls Gang? Yep let's have a gander.

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