The Ashlanders - Chapter 6: The Blind Man's Last Gambit (Closed, Started)

Dec 14, 2009
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"It means any past experiences. Like seeing Aesop getting his ass stuck in a moldy wooden crate, reading a book to himself."

"Wait, what?" Lilith grinned.


"Or how you got your scar."

Lilith's grin quickly turned too a frown. The scar was a pathetic reminder, the remnants of a child who no longer existed, not her proudest moment.

"If you go first, I'll tell you one of mine."

However, her curiosity outweighed her pride. "Happened a long time ago, before I joined the Maiden. Back in my home town. Remember why they call me 'Casino'? Well, my gambling days started loooooong before that." She perked up slightly, this isn't a big deal, don't act like it's a big deal, pretend you don't still have nightmares about it. "I was waiting for a ship out of town, and some guy, a bloke I destroyed at cards earlier that night. Must have won a months pay off the guy." She furrowed her brow, pausing to think for a moment. "Anyway, this guy is absolutely wasted, so drunk you could smell him a mile away. He recognises me, and pulls a gun on me. I was 15 at the time, I mean, sure I'd been threatened before, but that was the first time anyone ever pulled a gun on me." She decided to leave out the part where she begged for her life. "He pulls the trigger, the bullet grazes my cheek and hits the wall behind me. Next thing I know, the guy hits the dirt, stone dead. A bullet fragment hit him square between the eyes." Lilith smiled weakly, "And that's when I met Meredith, the Maiden was the ship I booked passage on, back when they did some 'honest' work. Funny how the world works sometimes, eh?"

She stretched put her arms, cracking her fingers. "Anyway, enough about my boring story, I'm sure yours is much more interesting."
 

Fappy

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"Aye. Thou has a deal."

"That's what I like ta' here."

"Captain, may I ask about the other captive? The one thou would'st kill before on the train? Has he caused you or your men any more grief?"

Pixie put her hands on her hips and grinned, "Bart? Naw, I reckon the ol' chrome-dome, Cranston's been keepn' 'im company. I'll be pay'n the man a visit here in a lil' bit."

Elizabeth's eyes narrowed, "Are you to finish the job you started yesterday?"

"I wish," Pixie remarked with a shrug. "But ya' know, he's worth a lot more ta' me alive than dead. I'm nothin' if not a shrewd businesswoman." Tired of standing, Pixie took her seat next to Florian once more. After hesitating for moment Elizabeth followed suit.

Reaching into her back pocket, Pixie produced a metal flask and took a swig. The smell of bourbon escaped her lips as she spoke, "Anyway, now that I can trust lil' miss Tigereye with yer safety I can sleep easy. Yer in good hands, Goldilocks."

Goldilocks?! If she is to treat us as proper guests the least she could do is use our proper names!

Elizabeth shook off Pixie's disrespectful demeanor and replied, "You still haven't told us why you want to 'help' me. I don't care what form of fabricated documentation your crew presents us with. Nothing that comes from you will convince me he's what you say he is! What reason have I to trust you after all this?"

"Fabricated documents?" Pixie questioned with a confused expression. She looked to Florian and then to Josephine. "What the hell'r y'all on about? Did Gents say somethin'?"

***********************************************************************************************************************************************************

"I did not tell you my name, and I sure as hell didn't give you permission to use my first.... But you're allowed to come along, so long as you don't slow me down."

Bennie sensed the anger in Kayneth as he presented himself. It was always fun to ruffle a noble's jimmies. If there was one thing he'd loved Pixie for it was her knack for doing just that. However, perhaps he'd taken it too far? The nobleman may have agreed to his terms, but it wasn't without an urge to kill Bennie. He grinned, "Pardon my manners, Lord Vance, but I'm known around here for my... cautious nature. How was I to know you're who I thought you may be if I hadn't busted your chops a bit to provoke that noble rage of yours? Relax."

Bennie threw his arm up and signaled to the bartender. Still shaking in fear, the bartender slowly rose from behind the bar, "Two cold ones. Both on me." The bartender nodded slowly and turned to retrieved the requested drinks. "So, I'm sure you're wondering how I can help you? Well, I know people who know things about the Maiden. Given my history, however, asking them myself ain't an option."

The bartender stepped over the motionless corpse in the center of the room and placed two beers on the table, "Thanks," Bennie said as he placed far more carbon on the table than was necessary for such drinks. No doubt to cover the cost of the mess he'd made. He took a swig and sighed in ecstasy. "I tell you who to talk to. You talk. We follow the leads until they lead us to the Maiden and we take it out. I take the ship, you take the bounty and we go our separate ways. That sound about right to you, sir?"
 

Ruedyn

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Warren

"Anyway, enough about my boring story, I'm sure yours is much more interesting."

"You... are an entirely new type of lucky." Warren laughed, noticing slightly how uncomfortable it made her. He felt a bit sorry, but wouldn't say it. "My turn now, eh? Well, scar story for scar story..." He went with, instead.

Warren had told the story of his scars 4 times, each time before was a lie. Now, he decided to tell the truth, for whatever reason. He liked to keep people guessing, throw in the truth in a vat of lies and no one would tell the difference. Still, they all started out the same...

"It was about, I'll say 10 at night, half past at the latest. I was still a little tyke, a teenager of about 14 with a duster a size too big with two bullet holes in the back, and my sword, that was too big for me. I hung around a city everyone called the Split, cause of it had two big ass towers in the middle, and a huge crack splitting the town. A bunch of bridges connected the sides, I lived on the west side.

"I was just some punk who called himself a bounty hunter, no one really hired me for much. Except this one gal, kept giving me money for doing chores around her parents hotel. I hadn't ever really been treated kindly, so I just did the jobs and took off with the money... but I liked her. She was normal, except her looks I suppose. She had a birthmark, covered about half her face, kinda like one of those masks nobles wear at fancy parties. Rest of her face was covered in freckles. Masquerades or something. One day, I saw her arguing with some guy, big rough looking type. Bandit. I snuck on him, threw him on to the ground and started stomping on his face. She pulled me off after a bit, guy was missing a bit of his head.

"I was breathing so hard, didn't hear his buddies come in, both toting pretty big guns. One of em noticed us, and fired. Poor girl turned, bullet hit her in the head, took out her eye but not much else. The other guy missed me but clubbed me with his rifle. I pretty much crumpled, too shocked to do much else... idiot."

Smiles drifted into silence for a moment.

"They clubbed me for a bit, mostly the back, a few in the head. I was bleeding pretty heavy when one of em picked me up, wanting to do some trick he learned from a friend of a friend. He busted open a window, and took a bit of glass from it. Bout as big as my middle finger, and made two cuts. Not too big, kinda felt like a cakewalk, compared. Then the beatings began again. Turns out, muscles in the mouth or something start contracting, made the scar bigger. I can't begin to describe the feeling, that ripping. When it was done, I was bleeding more blood than I thought was even in me, and they left when the girls dad came in. Shot him in the head, straight on, leaving him without a face. They ran after that, scared cause he brought guests.

"The guests were the ones who took care of me, made sure I didn't bleed out. The Girl lived too, had a bad speech impediment, got bullied for her scars and her birth mark. Didn't talk to me again, lord knows I tried though. I guess I was her only reminder of the day her dad died... I moved on from the city a bit later, a couple months maybe? I dunno.

Warren shrugged, not letting any emotion into his gruff monotone voice, and his eyes remained dry as ever. "That got a bit depressing, didn't it? Your turn. Nowhere to go but up at least."
______________________________________________________________________________________________
Kayneth

"Pardon my manners, Lord Vance, but I'm known around here for my... cautious nature. How was I to know you're who I thought you may be if I hadn't busted your chops a bit to provoke that noble rage of yours? Relax."

"How many people with my accent do you think's in this city?" He asked, though Bennie had turned around, to fetch drinks. He even offered to buy, flattery and charity. Kayneth couldn't help but be a bit annoyed, but he'd get over it. For now, proposals.

"So, I'm sure you're wondering how I can help you? Well, I know people who know things about the Maiden. Given my history, however, asking them myself ain't an option."

'So far so useless...' The drinks arrived, though Kayneth held off on drinking for now. Bennie tipped, generously, and went back to business.

"I tell you who to talk to. You talk. We follow the leads until they lead us to the Maiden and we take it out. I take the ship, you take the bounty and we go our separate ways. That sound about right to you, sir?"

"... Eh, fine." Kayneth finally agreed, taking a large swig of his drink.
 

Evrant-Knight

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"Unless said proposition involves you and I getting heinous in the restroom of this shit hole, you're going to have to work very hard to interest me." The gangster said with a rather smug look on his face as he carried on drinking.

"What kind of woman do you take me for? I'm not some common floozie, I have standards, and I'm going to adhere to them. And as if I'd ever do it with a toady like you, anyway, you?re not even remotely my type." Viola said nonchalantly with a short, sharp laugh as she took another sip.

"No, the proposition I have in mind, is related to that rather unpleasant incident that's been news for the last couple of days now. Whereby along with a large shipment of Carbon was taken, the Iron Maidens took several hostages as well, some of them having connections in high places. I've been hired by one of the families to see the safe return of their particular hostage."

"The reason I have come to you, is I've heard that your family is in contact with a mercenary that is due to oversee the trade between the Maidens and another of the families whose member is taken. I'd like you to set me up with a meeting with her. I'm sure if you were to help me, I could see to it that a good word gets passed along to my employer, he might even pay you."
 
Dec 14, 2009
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"You... are an entirely new type of lucky."

"So I've heard." Her voice straining slightly as she stretched.

Lilith listened to Warren's story in silence, her eyes scanning the horizon. She glanced at him as he finished his story, a sympathetic smile on he face. "Man, that sucks." Her eyes returned to the ashlands. "That poor girl." She said softly.


"That got a bit depressing, didn't it? Your turn. Nowhere to go but up at least."

"Another one?" She rubbed the back of her head, "Prying into a girl's past, it's not right I tell ya." She grinned. "Okay, okay, I got one, you'll like this one, much happier." She resisted the urge to light up another cigarette.

"So anyway, I'm pretty sure Pixie saw that whole situation go down, she looks at me with her one good eye, and she smiles, asks me if I am who I am, with that ridiculous Southern drawl." Lilith smiled fondly, "I get on the Maiden, at this time there were maybe a handful of crew members? There was this guy, before your time, Bennie 'Rocksteady' Carmine." She hadn't said the name in a very long time. "Anyway, I was still kind of in shock, and hadn't noticed the blood running down the side of my face from the gunshot wound. He looks at Pixie, who just sort of nods her head." Lilith's eyes glazed over slightly. "Absolutely huge man, built like a bull. He offers me his arm, like they do at them fancy noble parties, and he says 'Right this way, Miss Valentine.'"

"I grab his arm, and he takes me to the med-bay, stitches my cheek up. I still don't know how he did it. I mean his hands were bloody huge, but he stitched me up with no problems. I mean, look at how clean this scar is." Lilith raised a hand to her cheek. "Anyway, I'm on the ship for a few days, and I start to really like the place, and the crew all treated me great, y'know? I didn't want to leave. So I stowed away in the engine room. Big mistake, as I'm sure you know. Ruffles was younger than I am now, about 20, and would you believe he was slightly more neurotic then, than he is now? Yeah, crazy I know. And he had this ridiculous afro like you wouldn't believe." She chuckled softly to herself. "He finds me straight away, like you would expect, and I could tell he was fighting every part of himself to not throw me out then and there, his temples were pulsating, eye twitching, it was crazy."

"At the orphanage, you learn really fast to claim what's yours, and to make sure everyone knows it's yours. So I did what any self respecting orphan did. I claimed the engine room as my own. That didn't end well. I'm pretty sure Ruffles had an aneurysm that day. I swore at him, threw tools at him, crawled into the spaces he couldn't reach. Back then, My hair was longer, tied up into a ponytail. Well he manages to grab my hair, after hours of chasing me around the engine room, and he just pulls me outta there, kicking and screaming, locks me in a closet and feeds me this bullshit story about what Pixie does to stowaways. And I believed him."

Lilith glanced at Warren, a small smile on her face. "That's as much as you're getting, until you tell me more."
 

The Funslinger

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"What kind of woman do you take me for? I'm not some common floozie, I have standards, and I'm going to adhere to them. And as if I'd ever do it with a toady like you, anyway, you're not even remotely my type." The bounty hunter chuckled to herself in the sort of way Raymond thought was usually reserved for when a witty remark had been made. He supposed she must be making an exception.

"The reason I have come to you, is I've heard that your family is in contact with a mercenary that is due to oversee the trade between the Maidens and another of the families whose member is taken. I'd like you to set me up with a meeting with her. I'm sure if you were to help me, I could see to it that a good word gets passed along to my employer, he might even pay you."

"So, you want me to point you to Whiskey Fifer, so that Basilio fella can get his broad back? That's right, I know. I do read the papers, and hostage taking doesn't happen every day, girly." He finished the drink. "Now, it might be that I got given the location of Whiskey's Feroxi penthouse, but... for the life of me, I just can't remember. Memory's a funny thing, y'know?" He grinned broadly.
 

Dogmatic99

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"You still haven't told us why you want to 'help' me. I don't care what form of fabricated documentation your crew presents us with. Nothing that comes from you will convince me he's what you say he is! What reason have I to trust you after all this?"

"Fabricated documents?" Pixie questioned with a confused expression. She looked to Florian and then to Josephine. "What the hell'r y'all on about? Did Gents say somethin'?"


Florian shared the same look with Pixie. "The man speaks a lot, it would not be surprising." He said before turning back to the two nobles, the two of them were doing a great job of keeping their dignity despite all that had happened, he had to give them that. "But if you would like a reason to trust us then what about this?" He motioned to the room in general.

"Here we are, we put you up in a room, offer you food and drink, we even try and let one of you go with no hassle at all. True we did not meet under the best of situations but looking at everything, we've treated you better than most outlaws would." Which Florian could attest was a massive understatement.
*****​

[Note: The following dialogue is spoken in the native language/dialect of Frostfall. Translations have been provided for the sake of ease.]

The gunshot rang out through the square and a duelist hit the ground. A cheer went up from most of the crowd as the man they all had their bets on raised his arms in triumph, his bright red scarf billowing in the wind. He basked in his victory for a while and plugged his prone opponent in the head to finish him off, apparently he'd only been wounded before. This really pleased his supporters in the crowd.

Vasa stood far apart from everything and watched the proceedings with a clinical gaze.

"Remember when men used to save this kind of thing for stuff that mattered?" Said the man standing beside him. It was one of his lieutenants, the solider of the group. His name was Erik and he towered over Vasa like an oak. Erik's cold grey eyes watched the duel and the gloating winner with badly hidden disapproval, it was clear he wasn't enjoying himself.

"The man's pride was offended, it was his right to give a challenge." Vasa remarked matter of factly. "It is his own fault if he can't win."

"I doubt it helps that Sergei wears body armor to a fight." Erik growled.

Vasa simply nodded. Whatever his opinion on the matter was he didn't care to share it. Though it was unlikely that he didn't approve of it a little. Sergei was his third highest ranking officer and he had a natural talent for violence and he had a way of attracting the young, the wild and countless others who could make serviceable bandits. Sergei and this like had helped swell the Hussar's numbers, something that was more than welcome in these times of war.

Besides, it was good for moral. They had won a major victory and the nobles would be retreating back into their holes to lick their wounds. This was a time to consolidate the new territory they had gained and display signs of strength. It would show people who was really in control and attract more folk who were looking for action or glory.

Vasa ushered Sergei over and took his leave. His two subordinates followed without question, Vasa walked on, faster than his cane and bad leg would suggest he was able of. The trio made their way back to one of the many buildings the Hussars had claimed for themselves. It was a large hotel. Vasa preferred to keep an ever changing temporary HQ these days. He took a seat, groaning as he eased himself down in front of a large table covered in maps and papers covered in all kinds of things.

"We getting back to business?" Sergei asked, still high off of his win.

"Irena and her men are keeping order in the recently acquired areas but they're still coming across pockets of resistance." Vasa pointed out neighborhoods guilty of causing trouble. "They've managed to take some alive, mercenaries by the looks of them. You are to interrogate them, find out what they know of the Noble plans. Send any you deem worth it to Angel row."

"So, all of them." Sergei smirked. He might have gone on to make a joke but Vasa looked at him, clearly not amused and Sergei fell quiet and looked at his feet, feeling embarrassed despite himself.

"They are being held in the basement. You may leave." Vasa said flatly and Sergei quickly did as he was told. There was a short silence in the room, a common risk when you put a pair of men of few words in the same place. "He has his uses." Vasa said.

"What are me and my men to do?" Erik asked, never one for small talk.

"Have you heard about what's going on down south? The nobles there are kicking up a storm, seems like thy might his the same kind of fair we're having soon."

"What do we care about the milk drinkers down in the heat? Our concerns are here." Erik wasn't following.

"We care because a lot of carbon is about to start flying around and twice as many bullets. This could be a chance for us to turn a handsome profit. Let us not forget our first calling. I want you to ready your men and prepare your sergeants, Erik. I may need you to travel soon. For now though, we keep our options open."

Name: Vasa Bejic

Age: 62

Sex: Male

Profession: Bandit (Family Head)

Appearance: A pale, thin man that holds himself like a crane looking over everything he sees. Vasa dresses in the best suits available and his grey hair is perfectly groomed. While those that work under him might be content to look like a militia army and wandering around covered in woolly clothes and body armor Vasa seems to aim to look like a business man among thieves. Though he still dresses in his Family colors of red and black to show solidarity with his underlings.

On top of all his fancy dress Vasa also carries a cane. He doesn't need it that badly though it helps him if he has to stand in one place for a while or if his 'War wound' is acting up. (His war wound being a bullet wound to his right leg).

Personality: Vasa is the kind of person that quietly unnerves people. Giving off that aura that he expected more from you and you have failed to live up to those expectations. He's a little angry about it but more than anything he's disappointed. And somehow it works! Though they may not understand it or even realise it; his subordinates are always working to gain his approval. Well a little bit, mostly they're still working for cash, respect and plunder. They are bandits after all. But it says something that Vasa can make a room full of hardened killers feel like school children waiting outside the head teacher's office.

Deep down he is business first and everything else second. There are people that Vasa might claim to love and in his own way maybe he does. But push him far enough and they can be sacrificed. His ambition drives everything Vasa does and those that are a part of his bandit family are tools first and foremost. There have been times when this can weigh heavy on him but mourning is useless, he's come too far to stop now and lost too many things and people that he "loves" to turn back now.

Bio: The city of Frostfall was nothing special for a long time. It had its place in the cold north of the continent. People mined for carbon while the nobility took the lion's share and the various bandit groups all fought over whatever slice of the place they could get. Occasionally they'd spark into a bit of extra violent activity but it came and went like the tides. Crime and gunfights were like any other part of the bizarre ecosystem of the continent.

The Bejic Family wasn't anything special either, lost in the shuffle of ever changing bandit groups as it was. Serving mostly as muscle mercs to the nobles when they wanted something done on the sly. The last head of the family was a modest man with simple plans and dreams, a thug more than a leader. But his son had other ideas.

Vasa had dreams and the ambition and intelligence to back them up. Upon his father's death Vasa took command of the family, having served as an enforcer and lieutenant during his youth and proved himself capable. He burned his father's body and erased his name from the family history. He destroyed the old symbol and banned any mention of it or his father. He was done with Living in the shadow of the ivory towers. He didn't just envy the nobles, he planned to take everything they had as his own.

He changed the family in a matter of months. Setting them up as gun runners and weapon dealers, making sure to keep the best for himself and to set up trade bonds with the other families under false identities.

That way he could sell them sub-par tech and fill his pocket while undermining his rivals. He kept this up for a while until the time to make his move came. Vasa set the criminal underworld of Frostfall alight in a war the city had never seen. He openly attacked those he could and sabotaged or assassinated those he couldn't, getting them to turn on each other so his family could pick off the survivors. It lasted a good long time but in the end he was left the victor, with only a few shattered remnants of the other families clinging on to life. Those he didn't kill were usually smart enough to join him and suddenly Frostfall was swarming with hoodlums wearing bright red scarves with black wings.

With a monopoly on everything illegal assured, Vasa set to planning against the nobility. Though he was getting old for a bandit and the brunt of the task would fall to his heir.

But one day Vasa got news of a bombing in one of the lower districts where his boy was patrolling. The scene was a burnt out crater scattered with bodies. Most of them were beyond identifying but the few that were were wearing the uniforms of the local noble guards far from home. This loss smothered whatever was left of Vasa's warmth and he stepped up his half finished plans, declaring open war on the nobility. Frostfall has been in a state of civil war for the last 3 years between the local nobility and the Bejic's.

Notes: Vasa's cane, with its fancy complex handle just screams ?I am secretly a sword!? It's not. It actually holds a long barreled pistol that despite his age Vasa is still more than skilled at using.

The Symbol of his Family is a red scarf with a pair of disembodies black wings on it. Bandits of the family are frequently called Hussars.

Since the war with the nobility began Vasa's methods have only become more cruel and sadistic and he's attracted a new breed of bandit to his family. One that fits this new doctrine. Their most famous method of torture/example making is to ?Make an angel out of someone?. The victim is tortured before being stripped naked and crucified in the open air (Something inspired by Frostfall's religious past). The Hussars have since claimed a patch of land outside the dome's south entrance where they pitch up the crucifixes which they're affectionately named "Angel Row". This new breed of family member, however effective, has also created a schism in the family between the new and the old guard.
 

Fappy

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"... Eh, fine."

Bennie grinned wildly and drank about half his beer in one gulp, "Great. The first contact we're gonna want to hit up is an old spook they call 'Shakes'. He used to be part of the Maiden's support network until Pixie found out he was double-dealing under the table." The light from outside shined on his leather shoe as he placed it on the table. He leaned back in his seat as if he hadn't a care in the world. "I warned her. He was an information broker. Whatever he knew he'd sell. He made it out alive though... a little worse for ware, but he hasn't croaked yet."

Though it was impossible to see behind his sunglasses, Bennie always closed his eyes when recalling tales from his past. It helped his imagination when there were gaps to be filled, "Despite what I might say to him I don't imagine he'll bite. Me and Pixie were just too damn close back then, I mean... I was the one who broke his legs." He finished his drink and looked out the window. "Want to head out now? Time's money, after all."

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"Here we are, we put you up in a room, offer you food and drink, we even try and let one of you go with no hassle at all. True we did not meet under the best of situations but looking at everything, we've treated you better than most outlaws would."

As Florian finished his speech their eyes fell upon each other causing Elizabeth to wince and look away from the priest. She bit her lip and thought for a moment. None of this made any sense at all. A few seconds later she met his gaze once more, "I mean no disrespect, Father, but this is... bullshit." She could hardly believe herself capable of such profanity, but couldn't allow herself to be distracted by such trivialities. "What kind of bandit crew is this? I'm sorry, but I can't help noticing the pool of hypocrisy your crew has been wading through since we'd come aboard."

In his peripheral vision, Florian noticed Pixie's grip had begun tightening around her flask. She knew where this was going and she knew where it might end. It was a dangerous tightrope to walk. Pixie bowed her head, her eye shrouded by the shadow of her bangs, "Listen here, lil' girl: I don' reckon you wanna continue this train a' thought..."

Elizabeth held her hand up to her chest. She was terrified, but something inside her... some fire burned within her, driving her forward. The same fire that she'd harnessed when she confronted the Gentleman on the train. The same fire Pixie saw in her eyes when they first met, "No, I'm sorry Captain, but I must! I may just be an entitled and sheltered noble to you, but I'm not as stupid as you think. I know the way the world works! I know that you couldn't have come this far without sacrificing your ideals along the way! Your name wouldn't carry so much weight otherwise and we both know it! Criminals don't make exceptions!"

"I'm telln' you, kid: don' bite the hand that feeds---"

"I've seen the rest of your crew! How they treat prisoners and how they operate in the field! They operate like any bandit crew would! They're cold, relentless and thorough. But you..."

Florian couldn't be certain but it looked as if the flask in Pixie's hand was beginning to... bend, "I'm what?"

"Why me?! Why now?! What makes me different from the other people you've left to die in the ashlands, choking on their own vomit?! How many families have you torn apart!? How many people have suffered from the work you do!? The deals you've made?! How many fathers have you sent to their deaths in the name of money and infamy!?" Now standing, Elizabeth shut her eyes and shouted down to Pixie. "How many of your own have you stabbed in the back to get where you are to---"

Before her words had left Elizabeth's mouth, Pixie had crushed the flask in her hand, lunged from her seat and pinned the small girl up against the wall, "THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW ABOUT ME, *****!? HUH?! HUH?!" The stench of alcohol on Pixie's breath was overwhelming coupled with the power of her shouting. She closed her eyes and turned her head in a vein attempt to will her away. "THE FUCK DO YOU THINK, YER DOIN'?!" Pixie questioned as she slammed the girl against the wall once more. "LOOK AT ME!! LOOK AT ME, YOU COCK SUCK'N *****!!!"

Slowly, Elizabeth tuned her head to look upon her assailant once more. A shiver ran down her spine as she locked eyes with the beast who held her captive. The look she gave her... her eye... it couldn't have been human, "GOOD! YER FUCKN' SCARED! I'D SURE AS FUCK HOPE SO! NOW LISTEN, *****! YER GONNA DO EXACTLY WHAT I SAY, YA GOT THAT!? 'CAUSE IF YOU DON'T..." Pixie hesitated for a moment in an attempt to quell her rage. Alas, it was too powerful. "IF YOU DON' LISTEN YER GONNA END UP CARVED UP LIKE A FUCKN' PIG, BLEEDN' IN THE SHIT-FILLED GUTTER LIKE YER SISTER!!!"

Completely overtaken by terror, Elizabeth began shivering uncontrollably. Her eyes wide and drowning in tears, "Wha-what....?"

Pixie screamed in frustration, dropped the girl to her knees, kicked the metal chair against the wall as hard as she could and slammed the door behind her loud enough for the whole ship to hear. At this rate Bart surviving to see tomorrow wasn't a likely prospect.

Elizabeth remained on the floor holding her palms out as if she was about to bury her face in them, "Wha-what... what did she mean b-by that?" The desire for an answer was the only thing holding her together at this point.
 

roushutsu

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"What the hell'r y'all on about? Did Gents say somethin'?"

"I should say so!" Josephine exclaimed. "Thy 'special guest' speaks ill of Lady Maribel's betrothed, that he would callously dispatch even his own family. N'er have I heard such slander!"

"What kind of bandit crew is this? I'm sorry, but I can't help noticing the pool of hypocrisy your crew has been wading through since we'd come aboard." The courage that Elizabeth showed on the train was starting to come out again, but this time Pixie would have none of it. In a flash, she had the young maiden pinned to the wall.

"MARRY!" Josephine cried, immediately darting towards the two. Before she could rip them apart though, she got a glimpse of Elizabeth's face. She saw a look that said "Don't come any closer." It took every fiber in her being for her not to jump on the captain's back as she continuously slammed and screamed in Elizabeth's face.

"GOOD! YER FUCKN' SCARED! I'D SURE AS FUCK HOPE SO! NOW LISTEN, *****! YER GONNA DO EXACTLY WHAT I SAY, YA GOT THAT!? 'CAUSE IF YOU DON'T... IF YOU DON' LISTEN YER GONNA END UP CARVED UP LIKE A FUCKN' PIG, BLEEDN' IN THE SHIT-FILLED GUTTER LIKE YER SISTER!!!"

Right then, Elizabeth went silent. Pixie eventually released the poor girl and stormed out. "Wha-what... what did she mean b-by that?"

"Dear lady!" Josephine exclaimed as she raced to her side, holding out her arms when she saw how shocked and frightened the girl was. "Come hither. Thou art safe now."
 

Ruedyn

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Warren

"Prying into a girl's past, it's not right I tell ya. Okay, okay, I got one, you'll like this one, much happier."

"I'm usually much more of a gentleman. The roles been filled for now, though." Warren replied, and went silent as she told her story. He'd never heard of the big dude, or of Ruffles afro. He wondered if Ruffles kept tools in it... She ended the story with the simple line;

"That's as much as you're getting, until you tell me more."

"A challenge-" He heard a scream, and grabbed his rifle quickly. Sounded.... rage-y. "Prisoners must've done something stupid, c'mon."

Warren lifted the hatch, sliding down the ladder and heading off towards the noise, forgetting to grab his katana. Didn't take long, it was right around the corner. He stacked up on the door, letting Lilith go first.
________________________________________________________________________________________________
Kayneth

"Great. The first contact we're gonna want to hit up is an old spook they call 'Shakes'. He used to be part of the Maiden's support network until Pixie found out he was double-dealing under the table."

"A good first start." Kayneth muttered, glaring at his new business partners drink. More than a Vance on the first drink? That would need to be fixed, he thought getting the bartenders attention.

"I warned her. He was an information broker. Whatever he knew he'd sell. He made it out alive though... a little worse for ware, but he hasn't croaked yet."

"Mmm." he managed, draining most his drink in a single go. Kayneth flipped the mug upside down on the table, "Dangerous?"

"Despite what I might say to him I don't imagine he'll bite. Me and Pixie were just too damn close back then, I mean... I was the one who broke his legs."

'History remains boring.'

"Want to head out now? Time's money, after all."

"Yes, thank god, let's go." The Duelist sprung out of his seat, starting towards the door as he tucked away his revolver. He was vaguely disappointed he didn't get a chance to use it.... Maybe later.
 
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A scream echoed throughout the ship, a scream Lilith knew all too well.

Bollocks.

"Prisoners must've done something stupid, c'mon."

Lilith nodded and followed Warren down the ladder. "Shit, shit, shit, shit, this isn't good, this isn't good at all." She turned the corner to the makeshift 'guest room', smiling nervously at Warren as he let her by. Lilith bolted through the door, seeing the scene before her, both of the women were on the ground, one of them holding the other, who looked very dishevelled, and Florian, trying his best to console them.

"Where the hell is Pi-"

A wave of realisation washed over her face and she slowly began to back out of the room, "Oh no." She whispered quietly, "Oh no no no no no no!" She quickly turned and ran out of the room, dashing down the hallway and towards the hangar, "Warren, Warren, go find help, get Ruffles, or Aesop, or Cranston, [sub]Pixie's gonna waste[/sub][sub][sub]the other noble!"[/sub][/sub]

Lilith hit the stairwell, jumping down several steps at a time, breaking out into the hallway, she caught a glimpse of Pixie as she stormed around a corner.

Lilith cupped her hands around the side of her mouth "MEREDITH! GET YOUR FAT FUCKING ARSE BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!"
 

Fappy

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"Come hither. Thou art safe now."

Elizabeth resisted Josephine at first in hopes that someone would answer her question, but when it became apparent that wouldn't happen she gave in. Clutching her sleeves as she had on the train, Elizabeth bawled her eyes out on Josephine's shoulder. Whether it was to vent her fear or done as a means to cope with what she had seen, she wasn't sure. It sounded like someone had approached the room from the hall, but Elizabeth was too hysterical to notice.

Eventually she pulled herself away and looked up at Josephine, "M-milady, the look in her eye. I... it was... I can't even describe it. She-she looked like a normal woman when she came in here at first but.... What is she?!" She began sobbing once more.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************

Pixie made for the soon-to-be-late Lord Bartholomew's holding cell, pain and rage being the only two things on her mind. Her fists were balled so tight she was on the verge of cutting straight into her palms. The echoes of frantic footsteps sounded behind her, but she ignored them. That was until someone made a really poor decision...

"MEREDITH! GET YOUR FAT FUCKING ARSE BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!"

Pixie stopped dead in her tracks and didn't make a sound for several moments. Even from all the way down the hall Lilith could see the rise and fall of Pixie's shoulders as her anger circulated through her lungs. After a solid minute of silence Pixie spoke. She didn't bother turning around, "Lilith. I'm gonna continue tow'rds the good noble's cell and I'm gonna make him beg fer his no-good life before I finish what I started. I reckon you'll let me go without a fuss, won't ya'?"

Pixie turned her head ever so slightly, enough to stare Lilith down with her one good eye. Truth be told, Lilith had seen her this mad before, but she'd never been on the receiving end of the death-stare, "'Cause if you don', I swear to the pig-fuckn' God in heaven I'll cut yer throat and toss yer stupid ass in the incinerator. This ain't gonna be one of yer 'stories', sweetheart. Now, back the fuck off."

Pixie turned back ahead and began walking towards the stairs.
 
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Pixie stopped, her shoulders heaving, Lilith slowed to a walk as she closed the gap.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...

"Lilith. I'm gonna continue tow'rds the good noble's cell and I'm gonna make him beg fer his no-good life before I finish what I started. I reckon you'll let me go without a fuss, won't ya'?"

Lilith remind silent as she got closer to Pixie, she was within a couple of meters until she froze in her tracks, Pixie's stare drilling into her eyes.

"'Cause if you don', I swear to the pig-fuckn' God in heaven I'll cut yer throat and toss yer stupid ass in the incinerator. This ain't gonna be one of yer 'stories', sweetheart. Now, back the fuck off."

Fear gripped Lilith's chest. She's fucking serious. She's goddamned fucking serious.

Lilith couldn't let her do this, she couldn't just stand by and let her do this. She couldn't stop this raging inferno.

But she could redirect it.

Lilith slowly drew a breath, her hands shaking anxiously, she began to feel sick to her stomach, she closed her eyes for a moment, regaining her composure.

Lilith put her hands behind her back, as if standing to attention, "If Bennie were still here, you wouldn't be doing any of this." She furrowed her brow, forcing a smirk onto her face.

I will fear no evil.
 

Ruedyn

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"Warren, Warren, go find help, get Ruffles, or Aesop, or Cranston-"

"Got it." Warren dashed off, towards the closest room he knew someone would be. In this case, engine, domain of Ruffles the afro-ed. He found Ruffles, of course, with Sprout. Surprisingly the two people most likely to calm down Pixie during a rage episode. Or at least Warren thought, didn't seem her killing was lessened by the two but Warren got the feeling Pixie was

"In case you didn't hear the scream, pretty sure Pixie is going to kill someone, likely the other prisoner. Go stop her or something!" He backed out of the doorway, heading off towards storage. Aesop was probably there, though how he could HELP was yet to be seen. Maybe his bloody ass could calm everyone down through laughter.

"Aesop? Bit of a situation." Warren called in, hoping he wasn't too late. Though, he thought he could no longer hear yelling, likely Liliths attempt to stop her failed.
 

Fappy

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"If Bennie were still here, you wouldn't be doing any of this."

Pixie stopped her exit once more. She could taste Lilith's dread on her tongue. It made the air so thick she wanted to puke. Instead, she grinned, "What's that, Lilith?" And she chuckled. "'The fuck'd you just say?" Then she started laughing out loud.

Things weren't looking good for poor ol' Lilith. Not one bit.

"You've always been one ta' tempt fate, darln', but I never knew you ta' be this stupid." She turned to face Lilith, though she'd suspected as much it wasn't until now that she saw the terrifying grin Pixie wore. She slowly started her approach towards Lilith, who remained standing her ground. "You think I don' know what yer up to, you fuckn' dense, limp-dick piece of shit? You wanna save that fuckn' cock sucker so bad you'd put yer own ass on the line?"

She was close now, "This some kinda fuckn' game to you, you dumb fuck?!" Lilith closed her eyes in preparation for the storm to come. "DO I LOOK LIKE I'M PLAYN' A FUCKN' GAME TO YOU?!"

Lilith had never been punched that hard in her entire life. The sound of bone-on-bone pierced through the air and echoed through the hull like an atom bomb. Truth be told, Lilith lost the time between the initial strike and falling limp on the floor. All she knew as that her face felt like it was on fire. And that it wouldn't end there.

Pixie leaped on top of her and began wailing on her face, "HOW THE FUCK 'M I 'SPOSE TO TRUST THE SAFETY OF MY SON TO A DUMB-SHIT LIKE YOU!? IT'S KILL OR BE KILLED IN THIS LIFE!"

Lilith cried out in agony as the beating continued. By the time her knuckles were red, Pixie figured she'd had enough. After the initial punch she tried her best to hold back. She didn't want to do any permanent damage. Still, it was likely this beating had left a mark she'd always remember. Whether physical or otherwise.

Pixie took a few steps back, planted her back against the wall and slid down into a sitting position. She sighed deeply before speaking. The adrenalin was still seeping out of her system, "What the fuck, Lilith? What the fuck are you an' Ruffles doin' here? Y'all keep up this attitude and yer gonna both wind up dead'n this line 'o work."

She bowed her head, "Truth is, sweetheart, if Bennie were here he'd be sayn' the same thin'. The reason he left was 'cause of attitudes like yers."

Just then Cranston rounded the corner, "Fucking Christ, Meredith!" He ran to Lilith's side to check on her. Considering she was still conscious it was clear Pixie had held back. Still, there was nothing Lilith could have said to justify such a beating. He looked back to Pixie from his place at Lilith's side. "You've gone too far. What the fuck did she say to deserve this?!"

Pixie pulled a small box of matches out of her back pocket and lit a small cigar she kept inside it. She took a drag and looked up at the smoke, "She didn't say shit."

Cranston rubbed his hand across his face in frustration, "So you just... felt like kicking the shit out of her?"

Pixie glanced down at the pathetic heap on the ground, "Felt like kickn' the shit outta someone. I reckon 'ar guest downstairs has Lilith ta' thank fer takin' a bullet fer him."

Cranston carefully picked Lilith up in his arms and looked down at her, "It's going to be okay, Lily." Cranston glared at Pixie once more. "I thought we were done with this shit, Meredith! Think of your fucking son!"

If anyone else had said that to her she'd have made them a dead man. Cranston, however, she just took another drag and refused to look him in the eye, "She'll need ta' be looked at, I reckon. You better go."

Cranston scowled and left down the hall without another word.

Pixie watched the smoke accumulate and dissolve in the air as she exhaled over and over. The mission in Feroxi was still on.

Poor Lilith.
 
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Lilith roused slightly, her entire body was racked in pain. She could hear Cranston, he was mumbling under his breath. Or at least she thought he was mumbling, maybe her head got pounded so much that the sound couldn't find a way through the agony that pierced her skull.

She coughed, groaning slightly.

"Cranston..." She croaked, a small smile on her bloodied face "Cranston, did I win?"

She didn't wait for a response before passing out.
 

The Funslinger

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"Cranston, did I win?"

Ruffles rounded the corner first, just in time to take in the bloodied mess that was Lilith. "Holy--" then he remembered who was behind him and swept his foot out, catching Sprout in the nuts. The boy crumpled and Ruffles shoved him backwards up the corridor a ways before he could come around the corner and see. "Stay," he whispered and moved towards the group.

Firstly, he crouched beside Lilith, and patted a relatively unmarked shoulder gingerly. "Guess your luck ran out, huh?" he whispered to her with forced cheer. "Bet she couldn't grab that weave like I could though." Glancing at Cranston, he said, "I'll help you carry her."

Straightening up, Ruffles turned to his captain. Glancing to make sure Sprout wasn't peeking round, he spoke so low he was barely more than mouthing the words, although he stood so close to Pixie there was no way she wouldn't hear. "What. The. Fuck." He shook his head violently and continued, "you crazy *****, I got your god damn kid right around the corner 'cause we heard shit was going down and... this?! If you weren't blatantly menopausal, I'd think you were PMSing like a *****!" He was vaguely aware of a voice in the back of his head yelling that Pixie was the captain, and that put some reason back into his voice. He nodded roughly in the direction of where he'd left Sprout. "He sees this, his head'll explode. Just... go round there, take him somewhere and let us get her outta here." Then he added, "is a suggestion from my purely advisory standpoint, captain."
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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For once, The Gentleman and Ruffles were in complete agreement.

The Gentleman had been in his cabin halfway across the ship when he'd first heard the noises, and assumed that another one of the ship's amusing tiffs had broken out. He was still not entirely certain how to place all of the new faces on the Maiden yet, so he thought he might gain some useful perspective from watching the show. He had been smiling when he left his bunk, but now his mouth was a line so thin it was barely distinguishable on his face.

"She should have known better than to provoke you." he said, his tone deadpan. "However, she was not entirely wrong. If you do not wish to tell me what it is exactly about Dio Basilio that has caused you to lose control, then I will not demand it. I have never been a shoulder to cry on, I know. Your history is none of my business, up to the point that it interferes with My Business. The job I offered you is an opportunity neither of us are likely to see again in our lives, and it requires a steady hand. Do not make me wish I had taken this offer to somebody else; because, to answer your question, I for one do not think that this is a game."

Unlike Lilith, The Gentleman was not so much of a fool as to stick around for the reprisal. He had an important call to make.
 

Fappy

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The nut-check hurt, but it wouldn't keep Sprout down. Ruffles may have thought he was acting in the boy's best interests but the unfortunate truth was that Sprout had grown used to this sort of thing. He had known his mother longer than any of them did, after all. Cranston slowed down as he rounded the corner, Lilith limp in his arms, "She'll be okay, son. She just needs to rest."

Sprout nodded and watched Cranston disappear up the stairs.

"... He sees this, his head'll explode. Just... go round there, take him somewhere and let us get her outta here... is a suggestion from my purely advisory standpoint, captain."

"... Do not make me wish I had taken this offer to somebody else; because, to answer your question, I for one do not think that this is a game."

Sprout paid him no mind as the Gentleman brushed by. A sense of urgency clearly written on his face. Ruffles, still tense and frightened after having called out his superior, went still as Sprout placed a hand on his shoulder. It wasn't until that point that he was given a clear view of his mother. Sitting on the floor, smoking a cigar, refusing to look at those questioning her... those that she hurt.

This was a sight he'd grown far too accustomed to, though it had been awhile since he'd seen her like this. Anyone else on the ship would look at her and think she was about to snap. Fly into a rage and break someone's neck. Sprout knew her better than they did. He knew this look. There wasn't an ounce of anger in her that she wasn't directing at herself, "Ruffles," Sprout said softly. "Go check on Lilith. I reckon I can handle Ma'."

He stood there in silence, staring longingly at his mother. Eventually she put her cigar out and her eye found his. He could see right through her. He knew what she was thinking. What she was feeling. A few staggered steps later, Sprout dropped to his knees and embraced his mother. Without a moment's hesitation she clutched the back of his shirt and buried her face in his chest, sobbing uncontrollably.

Where most children would be scared, confused and disturbed, Sprout had always been at peace when consoling his mother. Seeing your caretaker so utterly defeated would be scarring to most, but Sprout understood its importance. She'd spent the past decade forming a thick callus around her soul, so it was nice to be reminded she was still capable of empathy. Sadly, supporting his mother like this was about the only thing "normal" he'd come to expect growing up.

She said nothing as she continued to soak his shirt with her tears. Nor did he. They understood each other well enough that no words were necessary. He just needed to be there. He'd learned this at a very young age, before the Iron Maiden, as part of his earliest memories. Some would say its not healthy to cry yourself to sleep every night with your toddler in your arms, but Pixie hadn't much of a choice in that regard.

As far back as he could remember the two of them had been on the run. Before the Maiden, Sprout spent a lot of his time in the care of Susan, an old friend of Pixie's from before Sprout was born. They would play together night and day while Pixie went out into town to steal just enough to feed the three of them. There were nights she'd come home empty handed and when Sprout would complain he was hungry Pixie would tear up and rock him to sleep, whispering all the while. Those were the good nights.

Some of Sprout's earliest memories are of the times Pixie staggered home, bloodied and beaten. When Sprout would worry or cry, Pixie would assure him all was well and Susan would take her away to clean her up. Later those same nights she'd hold Sprout close and cry herself to sleep. There was always someone after her, whether she'd provoked them or not. Nobles, bounty hunters, bandits, sheriffs... they were all the same to Pixie. They were all enemies. One night in particular she'd crossed the wrong bandits and wound up returning home in the wee-hours of the morning, completely naked with a swollen face and a broken arm.

Those men... the men who'd done that to her, got their's eventually just like so many others had these past ten years. Sprout didn't know what it was that drove his mother to purify this rotten world, but if it had kept her going all this time, through all this shit, it must have been something important. Something powerful.

After several minutes Pixie withdrew and wiped the tears away. She looked at Sprout like a wounded doe, her hands planted firmly on his shoulders, "We're gonna have supper soon an' I'm gonna hand out orders while we eat. Stay at the girl's side fer tonight an' I'll bring you yer supper once we're done. That okay?"

Sprout nodded and smiled, "Yeah, Ma'. She's in good hands."
 

The Funslinger

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"Ruffles," Sprout said softly. "Go check on Lilith. I reckon I can handle Ma'."

Ruffles hesitated, then turned and followed after Cranston. When he caught up to the man, he helped shoulder Lilith as they headed to the ship's med bay, such as it was. Barely stocked, and rarely used. but it had one of those reclining medical chairs in it, and that was where they deposited Lilith.

Ruffles set about filling a plastic sack with ice, and screwed on its lid. "Hey Cranston, I got this. The engine's squared away and you probably have shit to do."

"No, it's--"

"Cranston, it's fine I got it. Let me? I gotta feel like I'm doing... something, y'know?"

Cranston nodded and took his leave. Ruffles carried on rooting out long untouched odds and ends, lost in thought. Fixing people, fixing engines. Same thing at the end of the day. He dug out a tiny bottle of bourbon he had hidden in a cupboard here, put on one of those plastic medical gloves and dribbled some of the liquor on a finger. Gently, he began dabbing it on the cuts inside Lilith's mouth where the clobbering had mashed her mouth's flesh against her teeth. After that, he put rolls of medical cotton up her bloodied nose. Then he started pressing the ice pack on her bruises as gently as he could. Her breathing seemed regular, and her pulse was strong enough. Unless Pixie had rattled something inside the girl's noggin, it was a waiting game.

After a few minutes, he stopped pressing and left the ice pack against the worst of the bruising and sat occupying a metal stool. A waiting game. He waited, with his fists clenching and unclenching on the legs of his jumpsuit. He'd fallen out of touch with his actual siblings for the most part, when he'd run away. Even more after signing onto the Maiden. And he'd always been the youngest. Sprout and Lilith were very much his little brother and sister as far as Ruffles was concerned. Even if they were white as eggshells. You had to care for younger siblings.

After a while, he realized he was rocking back and forth on the stool, and made himself stop.