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Back Alive or Maybe Dead [Quest]

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  • Ash stepped up to the coach and peered in, careful not to get too close to the bars. The ambient light inside didn't reveal much, but she could make out a little of the figure inside.

    She imagined Bighorn Bone would be huge, but the man in the coach wasn't much taller than Ash was. He was definitely muscular though - as he continued to thrash inside the coach, brief glimpses of his shoulders revealed rough, thick sinew without an ounce of fat. He had white hair that caught the light, tied back in a crude ponytail, and a few days' growth of beard. Tattoos - no, ritual scars of some kind - marked his face and arms. He wore a vest that appeared to be leather, ribbed with animal bones.

    After a moments, Bone stopped flailing around and took note of Ash. He stared at her in silence for a while. Finally, he spoke, and gave Ash a glimpse of sharpened teeth in the process. "Buenos dias, señora," he said, with an unfriendly growl. "What do you want?"

    Ash put a hand on her hip. "I wanted to see a mass-murdering cannibal up close."

    "Well, here I am. But you would get a better look, if you came a bit closer." He beckoned her forward with a gesture. "El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo."

    Ash didn't move. "I heard you killed ten people. Is that true?"

    "No," said Bighorn Bone with a cruel smile. "I killed many more. But they only counted ten, because that's all they could find."

    "How's that?"

    "I have ways. Open this cage, and I'll tell you all about them."

    "That'll be the day," Ash answered flatly, deciding then and there that she wasn't going to get any useful information from him. She shook her head and began walking away.

    "Que te jodan, puta!" Bone screamed at her back. "Me cago en la madre que te parió!" Then he started kicking the coach door again. The racket seemed to irritate Dune, who kept trying to pull away from his hitch to turn around. Ash took a few moments to give him a snack and settle him down before she went back inside.

    As Ash stepped back into the hotel parlor, she noticed two things right away. The first was Jehn, standing at the top of the stairs with two men wearing the dark cloaks and robes of the Delzahn. One of them pointed at a door on the top level of the hotel. Then Jehn nodded, and all three began walking towards it.

    The second thing was a rotund man walking out of the restaurant with a wooden case in his hand. He wore a fine suit that barely contained his girth, a tall round hat, and a pair of glass lenses over his nose. As he moved, he held a hushed conversation with a skinny woman in a long black dress that seemed to emphases her comparative slenderness. Both of them had the complexion and facial features of Isle-folk. It seemed they were on their way out.

    Ash pursed her lips, then...
    • ...jogged up the stairs in pursuit of Jehn.
    • ...stayed where she was, heading off the magnate.
    • ...did an about-face, walked out, unhitched King, and went on her way.
    • Something else?
    OOC commentary
    Bighorn Bone is based on the model I had for the Wild Beast. He probably works better as a villain in any case, but I conceptualized these characters before we'd pinned down what Ash was like or what she'd look for in an ally.

    Also, here's something silly I found while looking for reference material. -

    Also, if anyone wanted know where King is right now, he's... ummm... hitched outside? I kinda moved him off-camera when I started thinking about exploring the hotel, and I realized as I was writing this post that I failed to account for where he'd gone. But I retroactively fixed that a few posts back, so all is well.
    Last edited by semicasual; 01-17-2017, 05:00 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


    • I would like to talk to the Magnate, but I think Ash would follow Jehn.

      ((I had so many problems remembering Mei Mei in my own quest. I have that problem with most animal character, so I refer to it as the "Blackwing Problem". I really needed to give her some sort of useful talent. Ah well, I'm sure she is having fun tearing up Kejak's room while everyone else is busy))

      I write things.


      • Yeah let's follow Jehn.

        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


        • ...jogged up the stairs in pursuit of Jehn.

          She caught up to them just as they were approaching a set of double-doors on the upper level. They turned to look as she came, their faces a mix of confusion and surprise.

          Jehn spoke first - "Ash? What-"

          But before Jehn could finish, one of the guards spoke up. "These are prince Orzan's chambers. No one may enter without permission."

          Ash glanced at him, then looked at Jehn. Jehn raised an eyebrow. Ash raised her left hand with her first two fingers extended.

          Jehn frowned. "She's with me," she said to the guard. "We work together. Anything your prince ash to say to me, he can say to us both."

          The guards looked at Jehn, then at Ash, then at each other. Then the one who spoke first nodded. "Very well."

          Ash fell into step beside Jehn, who looked at Ash with a clear question in her eyes. Ash just shrugged. Jehn's frown deepened.

          The guards opened the doors, revealing a chamber decked out with rich carpets and plush pillows. The prince lounged on a divan against the far wall, below windows overlooking the city. Two more guards flanked the nobleman while he lay on his side and looked over the newcomers with a bored expression.

          "Welcome, huntresses," said Orzan. He waved his hand vaguely in their direction. "I fear you have me at a disadvantage - I expected but one of you. Pray tell, who is your companion, Coyote Jehn?"

          "This here's Swifthand Ash," said Jehn, without looking at her. "Now, what can we do for ya, Highness?"

          The prince sat up and stretched languorously. "Merely satisfy my curiousity - and perhaps, engage in a trade. I wish to learn more of this barbarous country. So, tell me - is it a custom for women to hunt and fight as you do?"

          Ash kept silent and listened. She thought there was something odd about the way the prince talked. On further consideration, she wondered why this entire exchange wasn't being held in flametongue.

          "Not a custom, really. Not much about bounty-huntin' is 'customary.'" Jehn answered the prince's question with no sign of offense. "This work attracts all kinds. Ash and I ain't exactly regular people."

          "Fascinating." The prince stroked his chin. "And you take upon yourselves the responsibility of upholding the law, meting out punishment, though you are not retained by any family nor given the privilige by one such?"

          Ash looked long at the prince's chin. Suddenly, something clicked in her head. Prince Orzan was the same man that Stitch-Eyes had called "Hark."

          Jehn shrugged. "When a bounty goes out, anyone can take it. Sometimes the only difference is who gets there first." Then she smirked. "Marshals work for 'the law.' Folks like me work for pay."

          "What a novel idea," said the prince, as if nothing of the sort had ever occurred to him before. The more Ash looked at him, the more convinced she became that this was indeed Stitch-Eyes' lieutenant. Orzan, or Hark, did not seem to recognize Ash. Or, if he did, he gave no sign. "Do you normally work alone, or with a troupe of some sort?"

          "I prefer to work alone. I reckon the pay's better that way," replied Jehn. "But, sometimes, for particularly dangerous marks, a partner or two is helpful. Ash and I have worked together a few times, for example."

          The prince pursed his lips. "Lone women, independently keeping order for pay... I find it remarkable that your people do not descend wholly into chaos. But I digress." He stood up and gestured out the window. "That man in the coach... is he your... quarry?"

          Jehn walked over to the prince, and Ash followed. From here, they all could see into the street below. The footman was driving the coach away, presumably to be stabled. "Yep, I caught that one the other day," said Jehn. "The next step is to turn him over to be hanged."

          "Why do you not merely kill him yourself?"

          "He's worth more alive than dead," she answered simply.

          "Is he now? Of what crime is he accused?"

          Jehn, naturally, knew the list by heart, and started recitiing it almost before 'Prince Orzan' had finished the question. "Murder, rape, cannibalism, arson, destruction, theft." She sniffed. "Multiple counts of each. Probably more that we don't know about. They don't get much worse than him, Highness."

          "Most interesting!" the prince stared after the coach for a while, then appeared to come to a decision. He abruptly turned to face Jehn and Ash. "I wish to purchase him from you."

          "What?" said Ash and Jehn in unison.

          "Come now. By your own admission, your first concern is money. What matter is it if that money comes from the hangman, or from me?" Orzan smiled and gestured expansively. "One hundred and fifty dinars, today, to turn him over to me."

          Ash had to fight an urge to interject. Fortunately, Jehn spoke up quickly. "Your offer's generous, Highness, but I'm afraid the answer is no," she said, calmly.

          A cloud passed over the prince's face. "If you will not sell him to me..." he began ominously, raising his hand. The hairs on Ash's neck stood up, and she noticed the prince's guards tensing up too. The prince paused, sizing up both Ash and Jehn. Then he let out a breath and turned away. "...then I suppose what will be, will be." Everyone relaxed. Orzan waved them away with his raised hand. "You may go."

          Ash and Jehn walked out together, once again flanked by guards. They left their escort behind at the door and headed downstairs.

          "What was that about?" hissed Jehn, once they were out of earshot. "For a bit there, I swore they were gonna jump us."

          Ash frowned.
          • "That wasn't any Delzahn prince. That was Hark, from the Lost Souls gang, all dressed up." Ash figured her old partner deserved to know the truth, although she wasn't sure Jehn would take it well.
          • "Damn if I know." Ash lied, figuring that ignorance was bliss where the bounty hunter was concerned. Mostly, she was worried that if Jehn smelled another bounty, she'd chase right after it. Ash still didn't know what Hark's plan was, and she didn't want to let the cat out of the bag just yet.
          • Something else?

          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


          • "That wasn't any Delzahn prince. That was Hark, from the Lost Souls gang, all dressed up. "

            If Jehn wishes to go after Hark, then that is her decision. She's a big girl who can take care of herself. But if Ash doesn't tell Jehn and she dies.... Well, Ignorance can get you killed out here. Ash doesn't need Jehn's life on her conscious.

            I write things.


            • Yeah, truth it up. No harm in honesty here and informed people are more effective when it hits the fan.


              • "That wasn't any Delzahn prince. That was Hark, from the Lost Souls gang, all dressed up." Ash figured her old partner deserved to know the truth, although she wasn't sure Jehn would take it well.

                Jenn deserves honesty.


                • "That wasn't any Delzahn prince. That was Hark, from the Lost Souls gang, all dressed up." Ash figured her old partner deserved to know the truth, although she wasn't sure Jehn would take it well.

                  And, sure enough, she didn't. She stopped in her tracks, staring at Ash in disbelief.

                  "'Dapper' Hark? Murder, theft, fraud, fifty dinars?"

                  "I reckon so."

                  "...You're sure?"

                  "Dead sure. I saw 'em before, without the costume." Jehn got a black look on her face. She was already starting to turn around, reaching into her coat. "Now wait. Don't do anythin' rash. Let's talk about this outside..."

                  "Don't hafta talk, Ash. Gotta strike while the iron's hot." Jehn pulled a small, spherical ceramic bottle out of her pocket and tossed it from her right hand to her left. She started to walk back to the prince's suite, drawing the attention of the guards standing outside. Before Ash could stop her, she lobbed the bottle overhand at the guard nearest her.

                  That man had the presence of mind to dodge out of the way, but the other guard behind him wasn't as swift. The bottle hit him in the chest and broke, releasing a small cloud of pale blue-grey smoke. He gasped, swore, and took a few steps forward. Then he wobbled, struggling to hold his balance. His eyes rolled up in his head and he fell forward, senseless, onto the polished wood floor.

                  The first guard, heedless, screamed and charged. "ATTAAACK!" Ash couldn't tell if it was a command or a warning, but it didn't matter. She reached for her belt, looking for Ol' Smokey, before she remembered she no longer had it.

                  Fortunately, Jehn had things well in hand. When the guard lunged with his spear, Jehn danced out of the way. With a tiny bit of room to breath, she reached into her coat again and pulled out a short, double-barreled firewand. She gripped the wand with both hands, like a club. Jehn dodged another lunge, then stepped in and swung. The butt of the wand cracked into the guard's skull, sending him reeling back. Despite his feeble attempts to ward Jehn off, she closed in on him and hit him again. Then a third time.

                  On the third blow, the guard dropped to the the floor and lay there, groaning.

                  "You better stay down," remarked Jehn. She turned to face the door to the prince's suite. Without looking away from the door, she reached into her coat once again and pulled out a couple of small, round packets. She stuffed a packet down each barrel of her wand. "You were a mite slow there, Ash," Jehn commented as she finished loading. "Gettin' sluggish in your old age?"

                  Ash grimaced and changed the subject. "Have you lost your mind!? You think you can just open up inside a hotel and walk out with a bounty?" she hissed, looking towards the stairs. The lobby had gone quiet - anyone down there had to be on alert.

                  "If I'm quick, yeah. You in or out, Ash?" Jehn raised her firewand and moved to one side of the suite doors.

                  "Damn you... in!" Ash followed suit.

                  "Alright. On three. One... two... THREE!"

                  Together, Ash and Jehn kicked open the suite doors. Jehn immediately leveled her firewand and fired a blast of sparks at the guards waiting on the other side. One man fell down, screaming. Another man, wielding a short curved sword, rushed through the flames while shielding his face with one arm. Ash tackled him, taking him to the ground while Jehn pushed ahead. They wrestled, and rolled on the floor, him trying to bring his blade to bear while Ash tried to simultaneously pin his arm and slam his head into the carpet. When she'd finally pummeled him into submission, Ash got to her feet and looked around.

                  The suite was full of smoke. She could hear Jehn cursing further inside. Hark was nowhere to be seen.

                  Ash subconsciously willed the tiny fires all around her not to grow as she walked along, diligently stamping on the smouldering carpet and beating out sparks on the furniture. She found Jehn with her head stuck out a wide, open window. It was the same window Hark had been standing in front of moments before. A thick black cloud fill the room, and it didn't smell like anything burning.

                  "Bastard jumped and ran for it." said Jehn, without turning her head. Ash opened her mouth to answer and immediately started coughing. The black smog was choking in a way that wood or dust smoke was not. "He had some kind of smokebomb. By the time I got through it, he was gone already."

                  Ash joined Jehn by the window, stuck her head out, and took in a deep breath. "Well, great. So, to sum up, you went off half-cocked and the bounty got away. And we've got to explain what we were doin' to the owners of this fine establishment, besides setting it on fire. Damn it, Jehn, why didn't you listen!?"

                  Jehn turned her head and gave Ash a dirty look. "You want an apology? Forget it. We had surprise on our side. Maybe if you'd been faster, he wouldn't have gotten away." She looked away, then spat down into the street below. "Hell's bells. Well, they ain't gonna let me stay here now, that's for sure."

                  "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS!?" came a shrill scream from the direction of the front doors. "IF YOU RUFFIANS DON'T SURRENDER YOURSELVES AT ONCE, I'M CALLING THE SHERIFF! SEE IF I DON'T!"
                  • Ash sighed. "Come on, let's get this over with." She grabbed Jehn by the arm, and together they reluctantly went to meet the hotel's owner.
                  • Ash hopped over the windowsill, let herself hang by one hand for just a moment, then dropped to the road below. She rolled, got up, dusted herself up, and glared up at Jehn. "You're on you're own! You made this bed, now lie in it!"
                  • Something else?
                  Last edited by semicasual; 01-31-2017, 03:20 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


                  • "Come on, let's get this over with. Oi, barkeep you bloody well better get the sheriff 'cause one of the Lost Souls just hightailed it outta here."
                    In for a penny...

                    Thoughts ripple out, birthing others


                    • OOC commentary

                      I'm not boring you all, am I? Oh well, might as well go all in. Have some more headcanon!

                      "Sheriff" is the title commonly given to local law enforcers in townships on the frontier. Where a Marshal nominally acts with the Empress' blessing and can operate wherever they wish, a sheriff's jurisdiction only extends as far as the county they come from - if that. Sheriffs are usually appointed by whoever is reponsible for governing a township, and they usually have a broad, informal set of powers to incarcerate people, collect fines, and make use of force in the execution of their duties. Being locally appointed as they are, sheriffs usually reflect the community they come from - diligent or lazy, honest or corrupt, hard or soft, depending on the people they interact with. That said, it's not unheard of for a sheriff to put together a "gang" of deputies and rule their township with force and fear. It's also not unheard of for a sheriff to die at the hands of a lynch mob. Without any overarching authority over them, a sheriff must rely on their own ability to coerce or inspire people to follow them.

                      The sheriff of Santa Mela is known to be a company man for Tylos-Yvana. He is vigorous in enforcing contracts and punishing those whose activities are bad for business, while turning a blind eye to minor crimes and infractions that have no impact on city commerce. His modus operandi with regards to troublemaking travelers is simply to kick them out of town (perhaps literally), with the explicit threat of violence if they should ever return.

                      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


                      • Let's take care of this without involving the sheriff

                        I write things.


                        • hmm, from how Jehn has been acting, I'd half expect her to jump out the window on her own if we say we're going to go face the music, although facing the music is exactly what I'd tend to vote for.

                          I guess this is a Let's get this over with..." vote but with a trigger for OOC discussion on whether we trust Jehn's actions at this point?

                          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


                          • ...ok, let us not ask for the Sheriff then. Still, we got talk down the 'caller'.
                            And let us remember to keep Jehn with us. She is not getting away from this.

                            Thoughts ripple out, birthing others


                            • Ash sighed. "Come on, let's get this over with." She grabbed Jehn by the arm, and together they reluctantly went to meet the hotel's owner.

                              The owner was standing outside the smoke-filled apartment. He was a stout man, about a head shorter than Ash, dressed in a fashionable buttoned shirt and trousers. Curly brown hair covered most of his face, witha thick beard and mustache growing around to meet an equally thick crown of hair atop his head. He was redfaced, fuming, hands clenched at his sides. He was looking over one of the guards left on the floor as Ash and Jehn approached, but turned to give them a vicious glare are they approached.

                              "You!" he said, thrusting a finger in their direction. "You think you can walk into my hotel, attack my guests! You'd better have the world's greatest explanation, or I'll have you flogged!"

                              Jehn stepped up, pushing Ash aside as she did so. "Mister Argent, you were hostin' an infamous outlaw. Were you aware that 'Dapper' Hark, of the Lost Souls gang, was stayin' here?"

                              Mister Argent's lips twisted. "This room was rented by one Prince Orzahn, and none other! What proof do you have otherwise!?"

                              "Forget it Jehn, he's not gonna believe you," said Ash, before Jehn could answer. "We can either tell it to the sheriff, or pay damages and cut our losses." She figured there wasn't much chance the man would take Ash at her word, which was all the proof Jehn had.

                              "The hell we will," responded Jehn, automatically. Then she paused, taking in the scene of the enraged owner, the people on the floor, and the smoldering hall behind her, and finally simmered down. "...Ugh. Shit. Fine!" She glowered at Argent. "What's this gonna cost us?"

                              Argent glowered back. "We'll do an assessment," he said, curtly. "In the meantime, I want you out of here. Take your things and go - consider yourself banned, Mistress Jehn." He looked at Ash and sniffed. "And you too... whoever you are. Come back tomorrow, and don't you dare leave town before then."

                              "I paid in advance -" Jehn began to protest before Argent cut her off.

                              "The cost of your room only begins your payment! Now go on, get out!"

                              Jehn looked down at the unconscious flunkies. "But what about-"

                              Ash took Jehn by the arm again. "Those are losses, Jehn. Let's go."

                              Jehn simmered with disagreement as she was led down to the lobby. She stayed in sullen silence until they were outside. "Hunnnnh... Hark will go to ground, or try to slip out of town. And his people will go free if no one knows they did anythin'. Shit. It's all gone to shit..."

                              Ash held back an urge to rebuke Jehn again for being rash. "That's how it goes, sometimes," she said eventually. "At least they're letting us walk." She looked up at the windows of the hotel above. Smoke was still flowing from one of them.

                              "Tch... fine. Alright..." said Jehn, to herself. "Alright. I better check on Bone, then I got to find another place to stay... damn. I liked the beds here..."

                              Ash sighed and pulled away. "And I better find my people. Will you still be at the auction tomorrow?"

                              "Most likely." Jehn snorted. "Unless Argent robs me blind."

                              "Fine, then. I'll see you around, Jehn." Ash walked to the hitching post and untied King, who had been patiently biding his time. And then she rode away, leaving Jehn to her own devices.

                              Ash sighed heavily when she was sure she was out of Jehn's earshot. Some people never changed. She mulled over this thought for some time, reflecting on her and Jehn's past escapades.

                              The cawing of crows penetrated her reverie. Ash looked up and saw a flock of them circling around a roof a few blocks away, not too far from the train station. Something about them seemed striking.

                              Then, movement in the street ahead of her. A scruffy-looking young man in farmers' overalls walked out of a pub and slammed the door behind him. He wore a furious expression as he walked past Ash without even giving a glance to King. A girl in similar attire, maybe a little younger, came out of the pub shortly after and hurried after the young man. The two of them looked similar enough to be brother and sister. A short while after that, someone else poked their head out the door. It was the thin woman Ash had seen with the magnate earlier. She looked down the street after the retreating pair, but did not come out after them. Ash was close enough to see her disappointed frown before she stepped back inside and shut the door.
                              • Ash stopped and dismounted a little ways from the pub. She hitched up King and walked inside to see what the fuss was about.
                              • Ash ignored the scene and focused on the birds. She nudged King in their direction.
                              • Watching the boy and girl reminded Ash of the group that had left her behind. She resolved to put all distractions aside until she'd caught up with them.
                              • Something else?

                              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


                              • Follow the crows.

                                I write things.