'Souls RPG

Full Version: Son I'm the gun that won that old Wild West
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They did open, at least for a little while. It was for two whole weeks, and then the cracks began to really show.

Marlowe had noticed it too late, but he was in no position to stop what was already in motion. The fissures were small at first: Calrian dropped a bottle. Malik struck a sour chord. Adrianna stopped making her rounds. They got larger over time. First Salem refused to see customers, and made claims about “death being too close”. The card games got sloppy. Jethro picked a fight with a wolf and didn't get him out of the door fast enough. All the customers who were used to Cook asked about him, and each time they did Marlowe could see the way the rest of the Troupe flinched or frowned.

Then one day, they said it out loud, and there was no taking it back.

We're done.

He didn't argue, even though a part of him wanted to. What prevented him from doing so was a cold, calculating thought process which made the truth clear – they would sink what remained.

In order to save the ship, Marlowe did nothing to stop its crew from abandoning her.

They left together, with their horses and the wagon. Jethro knew his way over the mountain, and enough time had passed that Portland wouldn't remember the trouble the twins had caused. Where they would go after Marlowe did not know, but he imagined they had made it to the city by now.

Another two weeks had passed.

He was forced to trap and hunt again. The plants Cook had raised were growing well enough, but tending to them was a long process. Sometimes, when Marlowe came back, he could see that pieces of them had been cut off or dug up. Several times he found strangers in the building, and once he had pulled a knife on one who refused to leave when politely asked. Mostly, though, there hadn't been any trouble. Mostly, he was alone.

Well, in a way – Maya remained. The wildcat was a steadfast companion, and seemed content with their lonely days. He and Marlowe returned to speaking the language of Yuraw, and the tongue of the southern lands. They entertained themselves as best they could.

Time moved strangely. Peacetime always did, Marlowe thought. Without a purpose, he had no one to answer to and nothing to manage beyond his own needs, which had become simplistic. The horse and the cat did not really need him, though he made their lives easier. (The reverse was true as well, of course.) Each evening he watched the direction of the sun and measured the turning of the days like he had in Yuraw, and Inferni, and even all the way back to Zion. Some days he went to the cairn where they had buried Cook and talked to the old man's grave. He didn't know if the old man had believed in God and the Spirit, or in heaven, but imagined his soul had departed from these parts quickly. Even so, Marlowe felt it was right to do so – they hadn't been friends, not really, but he had liked the dog well enough.

The morning after a particularly hard rain, when it was still cool but too muddy for him to want to go out, Marlowe set up a target and took one of the bows out into the yard. He was an excellent marksman – an expert, in fact – and with each shot his accuracy improved. It was mindless repetition, and served no purpose beyond keeping his skills sharp, but it was a task that could whittle away the hours until baser needs drove him away from the building.
They thought they'd finally found something when they saw the smoke trail and the horse in the pasture.

La Estrella Roja, as it turned out, was a far cry from the promised oasis. Slumped against a cheerful sky, the empty Schoolhouse looked less like a thriving business and more like an overgrown tombstone. Word of mouth was that some tragedy had occurred: a gruesome murder by a jilted ex-lover, perhaps, or a plague had wiped them out. It was bound to happen, they said, for the land was cursed. But there were plants growing, and there was a horse, and it remained a truth that there was always someone desperate enough to make a life in someone else's ruins.

Landon had been disappointed to find someone had gotten there first, though he could not discount his own luck. Their group had managed to find their way through the mountains and the spate of summer thunderstorms with minimal injury and hunger, as if they were finally getting the hang of all this wandering.

He was never in a rush but especially not these days, not while the light stretched long over their world, and it was Enlil who found him at the camp after breakfast while the others had gone off. Overcome by his own agitations, the cat resigned to complain to Landon about the presence of another cat. At the end of this rant, he finally made mention of the man who was living in the schoolhouse. All alone, he said. Sad.

Mosie had a soft spot for that kind of thing. Would've been down the hill and knocking on his door with a bowl of leftovers, pushing her way into his life regardless of whether he deserved it or not.

Watching the marksman now, Landon debated interruption. Enlil had painted the picture of someone like Simo, and this was no old hunched farmer.

The wind was on his side and there was still a distance between them, but the feathered target suggested that even these factors wouldn't be enough to save him. Any other time and Landon might leave it be, but he knew that all the good the summer afforded them was on loan. They couldn't skip any opportunities, rare as they were in this world.

Enlil prowled along at his heel, and he got the sense the cat thought he'd come to confront La Roja's new landlord about his pet, even though he couldn't care less about the territories of felines.

There was little preamble to his approach. He tossed his chin in greeting when he was close enough to be struck by something other than an arrow, figuring that if he made it this far, the man was at least curious about what he had to offer. Breakfast, was one of the answers. He still stunk of whatever Hershel had roasted on the spit.

"Hey," he said. He looked at Marlowe, and then to the Schoolhouse. A beat. "You got any smokes to trade?"

The question was innocuous enough, and it satisfied those immediate concerns of wary travelers. When a desire was stated plainly at the outset, people relaxed. Landon liked it better that way.
(—) | NPCs: Enlil
he's got one opener and he's sticking to it
The interruption came not from a single source, as Marlowe had first suspected, but two. One was a dog: long-eared and tri-colored, scruffy looking. His affinity for clothing, which was dark and looked ill-suited for travel, suggested urban roots. The local packs had distinctive looks – colorful, if they were from the north, cloaks from the south. When they saw coyotes from the Gang they all dressed in similar fashion. Salsolans, Marlowe knew, would hide who they were. It was likely many had come through their doors without anyone ever realizing it.

By and large, most travelers either wore very little or garments which informed others as to their purpose. The same was true for Marlowe, whose simple shorts and belt were worn and utilitarian. They had been among the only items Adina not stolen from him. He had gone through the loss of all his material goods in the past, however, and was less affected by starting over than others might be. Besides, this time he had The Troupe to fall back on.

Alone now, he had less options.

So the boy and the cat, like the one before them, seemed all the more serendipitous. Marlowe, certain he was trapped in an ineluctable cycle of repetition, smiled balefully at the thought.

“Yeah,” he answered plainly. As he lowered the bow, he looked over the wildcat – for it looked wild to him, with it's long legs and tell-tale markings – with obvious suspicion. The coyote had learned that all cats were unique, like people, and some more inclined towards violence than others. With Maya's scent permeating the area, and without Flea to back him up, the Geoffory's cat would be at a disadvantage when it came to a confrontation with the larger feline.

“What are you looking for?” Marlowe asked. “I got a little bit of tobacco and some grass.”
Landon was the tail end of his yearling year, but that was just enough time to get a sense for the cyclical nature of their world. Round and round their lives went, repeating the same lessons with different faces until they got it right. What happened after that was anyone's guess. Different whirlpools, maybe. At some point, any sign became a welcome one.

Lowering a weapon was a good sign. Landon's posture shifted at Marlowe's affirmation, and he became a little more like he looked - a boy, out of his depths, who had found a piece of driftwood.

Enlil watched, and Landon knew the cat found no reprieve in the transactions of luperci. What governed his loyalty was a mystery greater than the ouroboros of their lives.

"Tobacco," He answered, casting another glance at the empty building. "Maybe the grass, since you've got it. Are you growing it?"

That's what he'd heard — some old man at La Estrella Roja was growing good leaf here. Had been, anyway.
(—) | NPCs:
sorry for the wait!
“Tobacco will cost you,” the coyote said plainly. It was not something he grew, though he imagined he could. The seeds were harder to come by, and thus far, no one who traded the raw plant material provided such a boon. Beyond that, it seemed to be favorable with many travelers – lacking the effects of the marijuana made it more appealing to those desiring to keep a clear head. Taste mattered, he thought, but often not enough for people to notice when he cut the leaves with other material. This was an old dealer's trick, and one Marlowe had learned from Campion.

He eyed the young man and tried to assess what worth he might have. He looked skinny, but not unwell. Someone was helping feed him, Marlowe thought, though whether or not it was the cat or a companion was unclear. The fact he was here looking for goods beyond those required for his own survival suggested he had at least some wealth. He certainly didn't look like a strong-arm bandit, though he might have been a thief.

“I can spare you a joint, though,” Marlowe went on. This too was an old trick: the first one's free. “Growing and processing it, yeah,” he went on. “Used to have more when I had more help, but times being what they are...”

It wasn't quite a lie, but it wasn't the truth either. It no longer mattered, with the rest of the Troupe gone to who-knows-where and the old dog dead and buried.

“I'm Marlowe, by the way.”

"Sure," he agreed. Cost was a good sign; Landon wouldn't trust anything that came free, although he'd made an exception once. If he was pedantic, he might say the pack he'd gotten that night from the girl of Charmingtown hadn't been free. Something had been exchanged, albeit intangibly.

Landon wouldn't refuse a free thing either (or a free joint, in this case), times being what they were...time itself being what it was, too short and sure to end - and quickly, if they weren't smart. It was be hard to be judicious when the world was summer and all was in abundance, but he could hawk a moment of relief and get something useful for it.

"Landon," he replied, briefly debating the pointed look of the cat at his feet. He couldn't decide if it would be more or less annoying to humor him. "This is Enlil. You want anything in particular for the smokes, or is fresh meat good?" Back at camp he had hides too - when they'd been staying on that peninsula, Hershel had spent his days tanning the pelts of what he caught. It was amazing to see what the survivalist could do with just a wink of stability, what they all could manage with proper sleep and food in their bellies.

As for what he had on him right then and there, Landon could work like the dog he was, could help with harvests and laying nets in rivers. But that was the kind of thing he kept on reserve, after the last time. "What happened to them, the help?"
(—) | NPCs:
Marlowe glanced down at the cat. “Hello, Enlil,” he said.

While it was a minor detail, he thought it important not to overlook the animal. Maya was not a normal cat – he had not been a normal cat when he was with that witch, and he had not changed since leaving her behind. Neither of them would have survived in Yuraw, the coyote thought. The things which were happening there were beyond their control, and without the protection afforded by the Sullkachaña, there was no respite from the danger. By the time the Umaki struck, there was only one option for them.

Death followed Marlowe, but she had not come for him yet. He wanted to live as long as he could. Spite and cigarettes could not keep him alive forever. As always, though, the will of God worked in mysterious ways.

“Meats fine if its fresh.” It would save him the trouble of hunting, at least for a few days.

The coyote glanced at the building and sighed. “Ah well, the old man who used to live here died. Once he was gone the spirit kind of went out of the lot of them. Before we settled here they were people of the road, so they went back to it looking for that spark. If I'm lucky they'll come back sooner than later, but Lady Luck does as she wills.”

The bullshit was easy enough to sell. Marlowe had been running cons longer than Landon had been alive.

“Hold on,” he said. “I'll go get your stuff.”

Abruptly, he took his bow and arrows and headed into the building. Once inside, he took his time – he did this intentionally, wanting to stall and see how long the dog would linger. After what certainly was too long, Marlowe returned: making a point to exaggerate his limp, as if this might excuse his delay.

“You a traveler yourself?” He asked.
Landon wasn’t inclined to overlook creatures by default, no more than he was inclined to blind himself in one eye. There was use in a bird or a horse, but they - like people - had their individual wants and needs and shortcomings. In Enlil’s case, he knew these far too well.

The self-important Enlil had outstayed his welcome. He could not fill Mosie’s vacancy, and he had been no help in searching for her, sometimes outright antagonistic to their efforts. Landon still begrudged the cat for withholding the fact he’d found Mosie’s pearl hairband, and he was convinced Enlil would’ve never told them had he not found him playing with it one night.

But he could not be rid of him. If the road hammered in any lessons, it was to pick one’s battles, and it would cost him more energy to chase him off continuously than to let him float in and out of their camp, nibbling on scraps and sheltering under Ness’ protection. And it was true, on occasion, that the cat was useful.

Why he remained was no great mystery either - Landon did not know secrets of the feline world, but he couldn’t imagine his personality was welcome even among their kind. No one liked an asshole. He knew this from experience.

And maybe that was where he found the patience to tolerate Enlil. After all, if it wasn’t for Landon, they wouldn’t be looking for Mosie.

The cat stared up at this transaction without indication that he was listening at all, save for the occasional flick of his ear. Introductions were over, and Landon had not raised up the issue of the other cat, whatever Enlil meant to do with that.

“Caught this morning,” he confirmed. The turkeys had been caught in an old trap that he and Hershel had fixed up - someone must’ve forgotten to take it down, or else abandoned it there.

As for the matter of help, Marlowe’s explanation on its face was innocuous enough, and it put to rest all the rumor and speculation they’d heard about the closure. From the sound of it, the old man had been a sort of linchpin; Landon knew too well how things could unravel when a person like that was lost.

He wouldn’t bet against nature either - if something led this group to stray, it would lead them astray again. If Marlowe was lucky, something else would come his way.

“Sorry to hear that.” He said, not insincerely.

The man limped off to fetch his end of the deal, and Landon watched him disappear into the schoolhouse. He moved into the shade of a nearby tree.

It was a small thing, but he’d noticed the way Marlowe didn’t seem to include himself in whatever this group had been. They were people of the road, but not him. The spirit left them, though he remained. It might’ve meant nothing.

Enlil, who had not stopped staring after the old man, made a quiet chirp when he was on his way back. Landon came to meet him, looking no worse for waiting.

“Not like your friends,” He answered. “We heard about this place, thought we might visit for a while.” Hope that Mosie wandered in one night, if she was still alive. “Shame that it's gone, I was looking forward to playing a few games.”

Out of habit he waited for Marlowe to initiate the exchange before bringing around the satchel, which was in truth a worn repurposed saddle bag. It wasn’t something he carried around with any regularity, and the large turkey was more than what the trade called for; he was no better than Mosie sometimes, but at least it was only Enlil who would witness this moment of softness.
(—) | NPCs: Enlil
could probably wrap up!