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

The Funslinger

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"Pixie said Sprout is to stay here and look after her. Come on, lets go."

Ruffles sighed. "Alright then." Turning back to Sprout and Lilith, he grinned. "You two have fun, now. I hear these medical chairs are nice and sturdy." Turning, he followed after Cranston, out the door.
 

Fappy

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"You two have fun, now. I hear these medical chairs are nice and sturdy."

Sprout blushed and shot back, "I don' reckon Casino's in any shape fer' ugly bumpn' tonight!" Once the door closed only Sprout and Lilith remained. His laughter slowly faded and he placed a hand on Lilith's wrist. "You need anythin'?" He was no longer trying to hide his concern. It was now painted quite clearly on his face.

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As the three men approached the dining hall Cranston put and arm around Ruffles' shoulder, "Not to spoil anything, but Pixie's planning to send two teams to Boomhower for an extremely sensitive assignment. You're in one of those teams. You'll be sent into the heart of bandito territory... are you prepared for that?"
 

Evrant-Knight

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"Alright, hon. Lemme press your button." Whiskey said in a somewhat flirty manner. "Come on up." Viola tested the door, and found that now the door opened fairly easy and soon entered, the doors must have used magnetic catches or something. Entering the foyer, the building looked to be rather clean, tidy and presentable. There were a couple of doormen nearby, and with a quick glance Viola could tell they were armed.

"Well, Miss Fifer sounded pleasant enough; though that might be a façade to lure me in. Best keep myself on my toes in case she is suspecting something. Shan't go in guns blazing though, that would create the wrong impression, and would no doubt get me killed." Viola said to herself as she entered the elevator, and pressed the button for the penthouse suite. As the glass doors closed, the elevator began its steady ascent, which gave Viola time to get a better view of her surroundings, and like the foyer, it too was respectable looking.

It took a few minutes, but eventually the elevator came to a slow stop outside the penthouse floor, which consisted of a corridor that split off into two. Taking a moment to adjust her attire and generally making herself look presentable, Viola stepped out and knocked on the door.

"Miss Fifer? It's Greaves, is it okay to come in now?"
 

Dogmatic99

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"Hello, I am well."

"I'd expect nothing less." said Florian, managing to hide his total relief. Not that he didn't expect it a little, Lilith had always proven more resilient than most. Except she shouldn't have to be, not for something like this.

Sure, break them down to their core and the maidens were a gang of bandits, their was no denying that. But the captain had attracted each of them to her cause under the promise that they would be different from other groups. That they would fight for a higher cause, that they wouldn't let the life do to them what it had done to so many others. It may have been naive but Florian had begun to think of parts of the crew as something akin to family in his relatively short time with the crew. At least they were closer to it than his biological family had ever been. Seeing what had been done to Lilith, that wasn't what people as close as the maiden seemed to be did to each other, was it?

"Dinner's about to start, guys." As he spoke he looked to Ruffles as well. "Pixie said Sprout is to stay here and look after her. Come on, lets go."

"Aye, the captain will be wanting a meeting in the hall as well." Florian chimed in. The others quickly made to leave and Florian turned to join them.

["Stay strong Comrade."] He said back to Lilith before he left. She'd at least get the last word.

Most of the crew gathered in the canteen. The majority went about finding seats and talking among themselves like usual, all except for the "Valkyries" who had seen the aftermath of Pixie's wrath. To their credit they did a good job of hiding it from onlookers. For now Florian stood by Ruffles and the others, waiting for the coming briefing.
 
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"Pixie said Sprout is to stay here and look after her. Come on, lets go."

Lilith glanced at Axel. Godammit Meredith.

"You two have fun, now. I hear these medical chairs are nice and sturdy."

Lilith frowned, wiggling her left hand at Ruffles in a masturbatory motion.

I don' reckon Casino's in any shape fer' ugly bumpn' tonight!"

"Oh my god, you guys, what the fuck!?" Exasperated, she shook her head. Thankfully, her face was already red, so the blush in her cheeks was unnoticeable.



["Stay strong Comrade."]

Lilith nodded her head, leaning back as everyone left, closing her eyes. She raised the bottle of bourbon to her lips and polished off what was left, placing the empty bottle on a surgical table beside the chair, she took a moment to herself. Truth was, she wasn't doing as well as she was letting on, but she couldn't let them see that. Couldn't let the others see.

She had almost forgot Sprout was in the room with her, until she felt his hand on her wrist.

"You need anythin'?"

She opened her good eye and turned her head to look at the boy. The kid was worried sick, it was written all over his face. She noted the cut on his lip. Did she hit him too?! Her mind then went back to the canteen. No... No, that was me. She raised her arm, Sprout's hand still on her wrist, and she touched her thumb against his lip. "I'm sorry." She said softly, a small smile on her face. "I guess I had this coming, huh?"
 

Fappy

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"I'm sorry... I guess I had this coming, huh?"

Anger flashed across Sprout's face as he squeezed her wrist tighter, shaking his head in protest, "No! Don' you fer a second start thinkn' like that! I don' know what happened down there between you an' Ma', but I know this ain't yer fault and it sure as hell ain't karma fer knockn' me on my ass!"

Surprisingly unafraid, Sprout held her hand up to his chest and touched her forehead gently with the other, running his fingers through her hair, "Ma's just in a lotta pain right now, Lily. Ever since that lil' blonde noble came on ta' the ship she's been all bent outta shape. I don' know what's bothern' her, but I promise you she's sorry fer what she did."

Sprout withdrew his hand from her head and pointed out the smeared mascara on his shirt. Normally Sprout wouldn't say anything about it, but Lilith was different from the rest of the crew. She wouldn't judge her captain for crying every now and then, "She loves you like 'er own, you know that." He said with a weak smile.
 
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Sprout's hand was surprisingly cool against her forehead, for which she was thankful, her entire face was on fire.

"Ma's just in a lotta pain right now, Lily. Ever since that lil' blonde noble came on ta' the ship she's been all bent outta shape. I don' know what's bothern' her, but I promise you she's sorry fer what she did."

I noticed that too. When I get outta here, I'm going to find out just what the hell is going on. As Sprout pointed to the stain on his shirt, she felt a pang of sympathy for the woman.

That did not excuse what she almost did, though.


"She loves you like 'er own, you know that."

Lilith thought for a moment, her expression hardened as she looked in the boy's eyes.

"Do you want to know why she did... this, to me?" Her stare was piercing, "Because this was the only way I could stop Meredith from murdering that fat sack of crap we have down near the hangar. There was no way I could talk her out of it, I couldn't stop her from putting a bullet in our reputation, from killing an innocent, albeit shitty, man, just because she had a 'bad' fucking day" The statement rang with uncharacteristic bluntness. "So I took the bullet. She threatened to kill me, someone she supposedly loves, because she had a 'bad' day." Lilith's voice began to waver slightly, a mixture of the alcohol and being just plain old upset. "I had to ruin my favourite fucking scarf!" She ripped the remnants of the bloodstained clothing from around her neck angrily, balling it up and throwing it across the room, "Because she had a fucking. Bad. Day. She slouched in the chair, throwing an arm across her eyes.

"I need a goddamn smoke."
 

Fappy

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Sprout sat there, twiddling his thumbs nervously as Lilith went on her tirade.

"I had to ruin my favourite fucking scarf!"

The torn up, bloody rag smacked against the door and crumpled into a pathetic heap on the ground. He stared longingly at it for a few moments.

"I need a goddamn smoke."

Without a word Sprout got up and started sifting through the cabinets nearby. Only with a bandit crew would you find such a thing among medical supplies. It didn't take him long to find what he was looking for. Her sight still concealed by her arm, Sprout placed the cigarette between her lips and lit it.

Sitting back down in his seat, he rested his chin in the palms of his hand and stared across the room at nothing in particular, "I'm sorry, Lily, I don' mean to make excuses fer Ma'. I just... I don' know. I reckon it's just hard fer me to accept she could do this fer no good reason."

He looked at her with a wounded expression, "I don' know what to say... I'm sorry, Lily."
 
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Lilith silently thanked the boy as she took a long drag of the cigarette.

"I'm sorry, Lily, I don' mean yo make excuses fer Ma'. I just... I don' know. I reckon it's just hard fer me to accept she could do this fer no good reason."


"Hah!" She laughed derisively. No good fucking reason, that's all she seems to be doing lately. Wrecking shit for no good reason.

"I don' know what to say... I'm sorry, Lily."

Lilith felt a twang in her chest. She knew exactly what expression he had on his face, she didn't need to see him.

"Why are you fuckin' sorry? You didn't do this, it wasn't your fault, so don't ever apologise for shit you didn't do." She raised her arm slightly, meeting his eyes.

"Ever."

She lowered her arm. She hated that she was taking out her frustration on Axel, but it's all she could do to stop herself from curling up and sobbing. The alcohol wasn't working very well, and she was in a ridiculous amount of pain.

"If she were so damn sorry, she'd be here now, instead of at that damn hall, pretending like none of this had ever happened."

Ash crumbled onto her chest.

"My favourite scarf. I've had that since I was 5 years old. FIVE!" She really liked that scarf.
 

ProtoChimp

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Aesop had barely read another paragraph and had to snub out the cigar again as a knock on the door came.

"Dinner time"

"Thanks Hoxton," Aesop replied before whispering to himself, "well, lets see how much it hurts to sit down." Getting up from off of his belly he stood up and made his way out of his room. Other times he would bring a book to read at dinner if he wasn't feeling particularly chatty, but today was bad and clearly he needed to be chatty. Thankfully a thorn in his side had made it so it wasn't pointless small talk.

And it wan't a thorn.

And it wasn't his side.

The crew would have fun with this one.

Sneaking up behind Florian and Ruffles he tapped them both on the shoulder. Time again to put on the ol' repression mask, Aesop's speciality. "So who wants to hear a funny story that'll make you wonder why the fuck I'm allowed to carry a gun?"
 

The Funslinger

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"You'll be sent into the heart of bandito territory... are you prepared for that?"

"I guess I'll do whatever I'm told to do, so long as whoever I'm with listens to me. But to be honest, she's crazy if she's separating me from the ship when she intends to take it and do fuck knows what."



Ruffles nodded to a couple of the others, and took his place. Time to see why he was being sent into such a hot zone.

"So who wants to hear a funny story that'll make you wonder why the fuck I'm allowed to carry a gun?"

"Maybe later, buddy," Ruffles replied. "I think we're about to have a big group moment."

=======================================

"Miss Fifer? It's Greaves, is it okay to come in now?"

"It's open," replied Whiskey, taking another drag on her cigarette.
 

ProtoChimp

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"Maybe later, buddy, I think we're about to have a big group moment."

Smiling Aesop winked and made a clicking sound along with making a gun shape with his hands. "Gotcha." Slowly Aesop went over to a seat and begin sitting down, wincing as he did and whispering, "fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfcufkcukfcukfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck-okay its not so bad."
 

Evrant-Knight

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"It's open." Spoke Whiskey on the other side of the door which prompted Viola to enter. She was greeted with a rather exquisite looking room, so much more than what she had seen from the rest of the building. The main room had a window large enough that it went from top to bottom, with the curtains pulled halfway down.

Everything in the room was of high quality; the large wooden desk, marble worktops in a room that Viola assumed was the kitchen, a small but well cared for looking piano, several suede couches and a glass topped coffee table with some board games underneath. This place looked more like a palace than anything else.

And sitting behind the desk was the woman herself, Whiskey Fifer, small trails of cigarette smoke escaped from her lips. On the desk there appeared to be a disassembled pistol; though Viola would need a closer look to identify.

"Ah, thank you for agreeing to see me on such short notice Miss Fifer; I realise that you must have a busy schedule ahead of you, which is actually the reason why I wanted to speak with you. Don't ask me how I know, but I know that your next job involves a trade between the Iron Maidens and a Noble family in return for one of the hostages that the Maidens took during their train heist a few days ago, Bartholomew I think his name is." Viola said as she approached a seat opposite Whiskey and sat down in it.

"The reason that I have come calling, is that I've been hired by Lord Dio Basilio to rescue his betrothed, Lady Elizabeth from the Iron Maidens. Thing is, hard intel on the Maidens is a little hard to come by, so I'll need to question one of the two Maidens that is handling the trade on their end for the information I need. If your willing to help me with my problem, I'm willing to help you with yours."
 

Fappy

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"Why are you fuckin' sorry? You didn't do this, it wasn't your fault, so don't ever apologise for shit you didn't do. Ever."

Sprout shrugged as if trying to hide his head in a theoretical shell.

"My favourite scarf. I've had that since I was 5 years old. FIVE!"

It was one thing to support someone going through physical anguish, but this was more than that. His mother had wounded Lilith's heart more than her face. Looking at her now, it was clear she was trying her best to keep it together. No doubt she was more upset at Pixie's actions for Pixie sake than she was for her own.

She tried to make sense of Pixie's actions and failed. The fact that she'd done what she'd done for such a stupid reason is what likely hurt the most. In a sense, Sprout knew exactly how Lilith felt for he was feeling it too. Seeing his mother in pain was one thing, but when she brought that same pain down upon others... well, she wasn't any better than the people who hurt her.

Again, Sprout grabbed Lilith wrist and squeezed. He had no clue what to say, however. He just sat there trembling, trying to imagine his mother wasn't the monster she appeared to be.

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Cranston sat at the table next to where Pixie would sit, waiting for her arrival. Once most the crew had arrived the food started making it's way around. Steak! Actual steak! There was a lot of it in the haul they'd just brought in, so why not indulge? Tonight was just as much a celebration as it was an official briefing.

The room was roaring as everyone fought over booze and salt, that was until Pixie appeared. The room went dead silent the moment she stepped into the dining hall. Cranston watched her approach. With everything that had happened today... what would she bring to the dinner table tonight? A few seconds later, when he noticed the grin on her face, he let out a sigh of relief. He'd forgotten one important thing about the woman: she could be whatever her maidens needed her to be.

"CAN YOU FUCKERS BELIEVE THIS SHIT? FUCKN' STEAK?! FER REAL!?" Pixie shouted, laughing all the while. The Maidens jeered in response, cooked blood sloshing in every direction as her men ripped into their meals. Pixie sat down at the head of the largest table in the room, taking a swig of her beer before speaking. "I reckon y'all'r tired a' here'n me praise you fer yesterday's haul, so I won' bore ya' ta' tears doin' it again!"

Another wave of chanting washed over the room before she continued, "Yesterday we made a' few mistakes, most a' which can be traced back ta' one important thing. Intelligence." Pixie glanced at Cranston who nodded in return. "Now, I know what y'all'r think'n, but it ain't ol' Chromy's fault. There's a leak in'r support network hat needs pluggn' an' if we don' do it before ar' next major score we're gonna have a lot more than a few banditos crawln' up ar' asses! So here's what's gonna happen: I'm assemble'n two teams to head over ta' Boomhower to find the piggy who's squeel'n and stick a cork n' his dick!"

After a few savage bites of her steak, she washed it down with her beer and continued, "Fenrir Squad's gonna be comprised of: Smiles, Aesop, Silo, Cameron, Barrot and Ruffles." She grinned and continued. "Sleipnir Squad includes Remmington Thunderknife, Omaha Nightblade, Havercamp Shatterdome, Gabe Haliburton, and Rodriguo Bloodharvist." Cranston rolled his eyes at what she believed to be some creative renaming. The rest of the crew must have thought it was funny too, because the whole room erupted with laughter. Cranston just hoped those she named knew she was talking about them.

"As fer our special guests... Sprout n' Casino'r gonna bring Bart to Feroxi to sell him off ta' his 'loving' family. The other two er' stay'n with us fer now. I'm sure y'all have heard by now, but one of 'em is ta' be Dio Basilio's bride! Well ya' know what?! I say fuck that!"

Her men laughed and cheered in response, "We're gonna hang on ta' her a bit just to spite the sonuvabitch! An' we're gonna keep er' friend too, considern' she was his weddn' guest when we took er' it's gonna make him look mighty stupid when the rest'a the nobles catch on! An' y'all know where my priorities lie!"

Her men shouted several different versions of the phrase, "FUCK THE NOBLEPIGS!" in response. Cranston laughed along with them.

"As fer me an' the rest of the crew," She looked to the Gentleman seated across the room. "We're gonna work with Gents over there on a new score. I won' lie to y'all, it's a BIG score, but I reckon we're gonna go a more subtle route. Anyway, see'n as how we're all on the same page now. Any questions?"

Cranston watched her as she began devouring her meal once more. For a "celebration" like this she wasn't eating her meal with nearly enough barbaric ferocity. Her heart wasn't in it at all. It didn't even look like she was enjoying her meal.

Cranston whipped his mouth with a napkin and left the table, dirty dishes in-hand.
 

roushutsu

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"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?!"

"I do not know. She is no common cutpurse."

Josephine turned her head towards the door when she heard someone barge in--the only other woman she had seen on the train. "Oh no no no no no no!" It didn't take long for her to ascertain the situation and she raced out as soon as she entered. Jo didn't even want to think about what was going on out there; all she could hear was screaming and the sounds of flesh being beaten. Fortunately the priest broke the silence.

"I know you can't believe me but you are safe, no one here will let any harm come to you. Either of you." He too took his leave, locking the door behind him. She felt Elizabeth trying to calm herself.

"Th-this isn't right... This needs to stop..."

"Hush, poppet. Hush..." Josephine's eyes sharpened. "I promise, I won't let that happen again. An she wishes to simply discourse with you, she must first discourse with me."
 
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As Sprout grabbed her wrist, Lilith almost broke down then and there. She held the tears back and lowered her arm, holding her hand out in front of her. It was splotched with blood, and shaking slightly, she had hit it on the ground pretty hard. Her right eyelid began to quiver as she struggled not to cry, her bottom lip quivering. She clenched her hand into a fist, squeezing tightly, causing the pain in her chest and shoulder to flare up, she focused on the pain let it overwhelm her senses for a few moments.

Her face hardened "And I'd do it all again. I'd do it again right now if I had to, because this ship means more to me than anything, and I won't let anyone jeopardise what we have here. Not even the captain."

She relaxed her hand, red marks were on her palm where her nails had almost broken the skin. She turned her head towards Sprout, a look of weariness in her eyes.

"Axel, can I ask you for a favour?" Her expression softened noticeably, a small smile on her face. "Do you think you could maybe give me a hug?" She didn't move, her hand still held in front of her, quivering slightly.
 

Fappy

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"I promise, I won't let that happen again. An she wishes to simply discourse with you, she must first discourse with me."

Several minutes passed before the commotion outside died down. Eventually Elizabeth's nerves calmed and she allowed herself a moment of respite. She smiled weakly at Josephine, stood up and helped her friend get to her feet. The two of them sat in silence for awhile, trying in vein to figure out what was going on here.

It sounded like some kind of meal was being served by the time Elizabeth chose to break the silence, "She didn't know the assassin had shown us that recording." She looked to Josephine with a look of confusion. "What of Lord Basilio, Milady? Do you really think him capable of what they claim? Be honest, please. I have only met him a number of times and I never got the impression that he had a vile bone in his body."

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Sprout watched her there helplessly as she struggled with her pain. He'd never seen Lilith like this before. He knew how to console his mother, but he didn't know where to start with Lilith.

"Axel, can I ask you for a favour? Do you think you could maybe give me a hug?"

Sprout nodded silently and came in slowly as not to injure her further. He gave her a firm squeeze, his jaw resting right on her shoulder, "I'll stay here's long as ya' need me to, Lily..."

It was the first hug they'd ever shared where Sprout hadn't considered doing something devious.
 
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Lilith didn't move as he grabbed her, only noting how gently he did so. I wonder how many times he's had to hold Meredith like this...


"I'll stay here's long as ya' need me to, Lily..."


A few moments passed, before she raised her arms and rested them on his back.


"Thank you." She said, with barely a whisper.
 

The Funslinger

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"Fenrir Squad's gonna be comprised of: Smiles, Aesop, Silo, Cameron, Barrot and Ruffles."

Ruffles nodded to himself. It was hard to be surprised after what Cranston had told him. He supposed he was about to see where Pixie had come from. Fantastic.

=======================================

"The reason that I have come calling, is that I've been hired by Lord Dio Basilio to rescue his betrothed, Lady Elizabeth from the Iron Maidens. Thing is, hard intel on the Maidens is a little hard to come by, so I'll need to question one of the two Maidens that is handling the trade on their end for the information I need. If your willing to help me with my problem, I'm willing to help you with yours."

Whiskey smirked and blew a smoke ring at her sudden guest. "I wasn't aware I had a problem in the first place. And I definitely never thought I'd need help with it. But honestly sugar tits, I don't give a shit what happens between you and the maidens. I've heard about their work, and it sounds like good shit. Shit I approve of, but I don't know them. So you do what'cha gotta do. But you wait. You wait until my exchange is done and they're outta my sight. Because I got a reputation to uphold, honey. We're going to be meeting in this dome's grove several hours from now. If you're gonna bag 'em and tag 'em, you wait until they're a ways away from there, and I'm not around to see it. Or else I really will have a problem."
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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"Any questions?"

Standing at the back of the room, The Gentleman simply nodded. There was nothing to be gained telling the whole crew the specifics of the plan now. Things would come into sharper focus along the way. A faint smile was returning to the corners of his lips though. Pixie's act may well have been transparent to him, but as long as she was still convincing enough to keep her crew in line, she was still dependable.