[P] The sun always rises
Rafaela
#1
(+###)
Optime | Borderlands | Foredated: Nov 3rd; late morning | cNPC: Wesson; NPCs: Bluegrass, Glory, Nellie, & Maribelle

Location is where St. John’s Chokehold and River meet.
The land seemed to go on forever. They’d passed forest after plains after mountains after forest again, and they had yet to find this “Portland” that Wesson’s father had been leading them towards. The few Luperci that they’d dared to try to communicate with either had no idea where the city of trade was, or, gave poor directions of how to get there. If anything, the patchwork of directions they’d been given had gotten them even more lost. It’d been a week since they’d seen another Luperci though, or, at least, one that looked harmless enough to approach.

Things were not looking good for the two friends, and that was not even to consider how they would even be able to make it back home. The smell of winter was on the breeze, and it wouldn’t be long before the land became covered in snow. The ambush had delayed them by weeks, and had put them into the dangerous situation of traveling when the weather was at its worst. Whatever they managed to trade for in Portland would have to be considered with the trip home in mind.

It was something Kubota had been trying to not think about.

“What are you thinkin’ about now?” Wesson asked as she came astride with Bluegrass. The cattle were ahead of them, moseying slowly through the tall grasses.

Kubota sighed as his turquoise gaze shifted over the flat terrain around them. “I’m thinkin’ that we’re fuckin’ lost.”

Wesson grunted in agreement. “It’ll be winter here soon. I can feel it beneath my paws.”

“I’ve been feelin’ it in my balls every mornin’ for the past week,” he scoffed, causing her to let out a bark of laughter.

“Wish you were a woman yet?”

He looked down at her, spying the smirk at the edges of her lips. “Ask me when we see first snow.” Her side-glance and flash of teeth assured that she would certainly do so. Kubota let out a rumbled chuckle before his mirth died away into a serious expression. “Back t’ what we were talkin’ about though, if we don’t find that city soon, we might end up losin’ the cattle.”

For a beat, Wesson was silent. “How long d’ya’ think we have?”

His eyes continued to scan the horizon. “I don’t know,” he answered her honestly. In the distance, he spotted what looked like water. “Looks like there’s a river or stream up ahead. Let’s give the cattle a drink. Head ‘em in that direction, Wes.” He pointed, and the coydog nodded sharply.

She took off like an arrow, and a few barks and a nip got the cattle turned in the direction that Kubota had wanted. He urged Bluegrass forward, making the mare walk beside the herd to help guide them while Wesson kept them from straying. They hadn’t gone far though before Kubota spotted something else. “Woah,” he called out.

Wesson darted around the cattle to make them stop. “What is it, Kubota?!” She barked as she got the cattle to halt and form up in a huddle.

“Looks like Luperci,” he answered, not letting his eyes leave the strangers.

Trotting over to him, she strained to see over the waving grasses. “Well? What’d’you wanna do about it?”

“Stay with the cattle. I’ll see if they know anything. Be ready t’ move ‘em if I give the signal though.”

Wesson let out a snort and shook out her fur. “Are ya’ sure?”

“They ain’t skulkin’ around, so, hopefully they ain’t trouble. Maybe they’re locals. It’s better than wanderin’ aimlessly out here for another two weeks,” he grunted as he dug his heels sharply in his horse’s sides. “Hah!”

Tugging on the reins, he steered Bluegrass towards the group at a trot. When he came close enough, he let out a sharp yap in greeting. “Mornin’!” He nodded to them respectfully as he slowed his mare down to a halt from a safe conversational distance. “Could I trouble y’all a moment for some directions?”

Some distance behind him, one of the cattle let out a moo.

Kubota Mossberg
— The Cowboy —
#2
Location: The Borderlands || NPCs: Amadahy (horse), Boots Mckenzie with Foley (mule), and Holly Mckenzie with Wynona (horse) || Form: Optime



The little posse had taken the trade route south from Charmingtown, their saddlebags filled with supplies enough to see them complete their circuit, plus some in case something unforeseen befell them. They were following no rumors or confirmed sightings of wild horses this time. They were solely on a scouting mission, looking to see for themselves what might be out around the neutral territories surrounding the Del Cenere Gang.

They had carried on south after the trail turned east around the foot of the Burnt Church Mountains, intending to ford the river beyond Moosehead Lake before heading west and north again back up towards the Ganglands, all the while keeping their senses alert for any evidence of anything curious or worthwhile. Horses, of course, were their primary focus, but there were a great many other valuable things to be found out in these lawless lands. It didn't do to be picky.

"So, d'ya reckon them folks is all worm food?" Holly asked conversationally as they began to prepare for the day's travel.

They were west of the river now, having forded it the day before, and had made camp a short distance from its shoreline. On their way south from the trade route, between where Moosehead Lake rested and a pair of smaller, unnamed lakes congregated, they had passed by a ruins that had left the entire posse feeling more than a little unsettled.

"More like worm shit," Boots answered with thin lips. "Ain't none of that happened in our lifetime."

"You don't think?" Rafa asked doubtfully.

"Yeah, how d'ya reckon that?" Holly narrowed his eyes at her. "You ain't scared, are ya?"

"You wanna say that agin," Boots growled deeply, facing her brother with a dangerous glint in her eye.

But Holly squared his shoulders and seemed entirely unfazed.

"I said," he began dramatically, stepping up to his sister. "Are you sca-"

"Rider!" Rafaela yapped sharply, clicking her teeth. "We got a rider comin'!"

Their horses were only half tacked and Rafa felt exceptionally uncomfortable about it. But she kept her eyes on the approaching rider and watched him carefully as he stopped a distance away.

"Good observation," Holly woofed back impassively. Their feud forgotten, Boots stood side-by-side her brother and snorted agreeably at his remark.

Rafa, though, kept quiet and still, holding onto Amadahy's halter with her lithe fingers looped around the smooth leather.

"Maybe," she said noncommittally. "Whereabouts you lookin' to go?"

They all three turned their ears in the direction of the moo and, in unison, looked at the lone rider with surprise and newfound interest.

"That a friend o' yours?" Boots asked of the cow.



[WC -- 450]

#3
(+###)
cNPC: Wesson; NPCs: Bluegrass, Glory, Nellie, & Maribelle

Sorry for the turnaround reply Dx Had a muse spike for this.
The group was an interesting mix that was not unlike his own company; a coyote with two doggish companions. As his eyes roved over the group, he noticed two horses and a mule, as well as what looked like a makeshift camp. From the looks of things and their state of gear, the group had been resting, and from the rather cold reception the coyote woman gave him, Kubota wondered if thieves were just as bad in these parts as they’d been further southwest.

“A trade city called Portland,” he answered the brunette. “Was told t’ head northeast, can’t miss it.” He chuckled and clicked his teeth. “And I’m pretty sure I either missed it or got fed a damn lie.”

It didn’t escape him the way the coyote woman had talked, nor the way the trio looked at him when one of the cattle mooed. One of the dogs asked after it, and it was Kubota’s turn to regard the group of strangers with a critical eye. They didn’t seem dangerous, or, at the very least, they didn’t give off the energy of someone nefarious. While they didn’t exactly exude friendliness, they didn’t strike him as thieves either. Just in case though, he used his feet to nudge Bluegrass to back up a little lest they try to pull a fast one on him.

“What’s left of ‘em,” he answered, hoping that his open honesty would give him a better read on whether the Luperci before him were merely innocently curious or interested for selfish reasons. “We had fifteen head before we got ambushed on our way to Portland. I was hopin’ t’ get there an’ trade ‘em, an’ get back home b’fore the first snow, but it ain’t lookin’ too promisin’ with how things have been headin’ lately.”

His turquoise eyes flicked over the group. “I was hopin’ you folks might know where Portland’s at, and I’m prayin’ that it ain’t more than a few day’s walk.” Winter was fast approaching, he knew, and the first snow could arrive the next day or in two weeks’ time. It was dangerous to drive cattle over long distances in the snow, especially when one didn’t know the lay of the land. And neither Kubota or Wesson had any such knowledge. They were young, carrying on out of stubbornness and not knowing what else to do other than finish what they’d started.

Kubota Mossberg
— The Cowboy —
#4
Location: The Borderlands || NPCs: Amadahy (horse), Boots Mckenzie with Foley (mule), and Holly Mckenzie with Wynona (horse) || Form: Optime




Boots and Holly shared a silent, sidelong look, their facial expressions hard and critical. And then the pair burst into wheezing chortles that had them doubling over before too long. Rafaela swiveled an ear in their direction but kept her sharp eyes on the rider and his mount.

"Yeah," she confirmed with a degree of regret that, in light of her companions' ruckus guffaws, sounded indubitably dispassionate and insincere. "You missed it awright."

"Shit, son!" Holly barked, managing, with effort, to compose himself. "You ain't jest missed it, you gone an' left it in th' dust!"

Boots gave a final boisterous, jolly hoot before she reeled herself in as well. "Could be you make it before th' worst o' Ol' Man Winter's frozen farts hit ya, but who's t' say you ain't gonna miss it a second time?"

"An' there ain't no way you make it t' Portland shy of 6 days, anyhow, not with grazin' cattle an' such," Holly added soberly, to which Boots bobbed her head in agreement.

Rafaela let this information hang in the air and analyzed the rider more carefully. He had a certain look about him that reminded her a great deal of home. Now that he'd been in their company a bit longer, she could smell the cattle and the horse on him and, despite his status as un desconocido, it was oddly comforting.

"Might be there's an alternative, though," the Caballista alluded, curling a finger under her nose in thought.

She fell quiet again, considering him with narrowed eyes and thin lips. Amadahy shifted her weight and Rafa adjusted her posture along with her. The mare was growing restless at being made to stand still for so long and the Tejada woman knew that she was intensely curious about he unfamiliar horse. If she were being honest, so was she, but she was better able to conceal it.

"You drivin' them cattle all on your own?" Rafaela asked suddenly, jerking her chin vaguely in the direction she thought the cow's moo had come.



[WC -- 348]
OOC: Ha, no problem at all! <333
#5
Even before the doggish pair had finally resorted to their loud guffaws and fits of mirth, Kubota knew that he and Wesson had made a critical error in their navigation. The edge of his lips twisted into a thin line at the unfortunate realization. It had not been news he’d wanted to hear, not after facing trial after trial since they’d left home. What was done was done though, and the best he could do was figure out by just how far they’d missed the trade city by.

It’d been the coyote woman who’d confirmed the mistake, and her companions offered their own commentary after their laughter had died off some. When the male mentioned a timeframe, Kubota clicked his teeth in frustration. “Damn,” he hissed.

Six days? Even with their small group of cattle, with the large stretches of forested land and obstacles he and Wesson had had to drive the livestock through and around thus far, such a trek was probably closer to a week and a half, if not closer to two. And that was even if they managed to firmly stay on course.

He was tired, and he knew Wesson was too, and if the dogs’ words were true, Kubota had his doubts that they would be able to make it to Portland before the first snow, and, even if they did, they’d likely be stuck there until spring. They didn’t have any means of trade aside from the cattle they’d stubbornly refused to leave, and, while he and Wesson could certainly survive on their own, they’d likely loose all their cattle over the winter, if not Kubota’s own horse too in these foreign lands.

When it rained, it poured, and he and Wesson were stuck in the middle of a long thunderstorm, it seemed.

“…Thank, y’all,” he sighed, his voice a rough rumble and obviously displeased with the news they’d imparted on him with. “I guess I’ll be takin’ my leave now.” He nudged Bluegrass with his knee, turning her so that they could make their way back to Wesson and the cattle. Before he could urge the horse into motion though, the coyote woman spoke up with a vague comment.

Turning in his saddle, Kubota turned his mare back around to face the trio once more. “Mmm?” He hummed in wordless indication that she continue. Her jade eyes scrutinized him in her silence in a way that someone might when considering whether or not they wanted to reveal something. After a beat, she gestured to the cattle in the distance, bringing their conversation about the livestock once more.

Without turning his head, he asked with a bit of forced humor, “Y’all gonna relieve me of ‘em if I say yes?” Despite his attempt to keep the conversation neutral and light, there was a suspicious and guarded undertone to his words. As much as the trio didn’t look like thieves, they were still strangers in the end, and could have very well been good at deception. If they were the nefarious types, the last thing he wanted was to tell them about Wesson and be the cause for the coydog being hurt.

His companion had her own opinions, however.

I’m with him,” came a protective bark from behind him. Wesson’s voice made Kubota close his eyes and let out a sigh.

The long grasses rattled and shifted as the blue-ticked coydog made her way onto the scene. In Lupus, she was hardly an intimidating sight, but she was there to support Kubota nonetheless. Her dark amber eyes fixed the group with a firm stare like she might have given to a stubborn cow or wayward sheep.

“We’re all that’s left of a group of five.” Kubota rumbled as he pinched the bridge of his nose, silently cursing Wesson for not staying with the cattle as they’d discussed. He let his hand fall to his lap as he turned his gaze down onto his companion. “They say it’s a six-day trek to Portland from here,” he revealed, catching her up to speed.

Wesson’s ears fell as she turned sharply to look up at him. “Six?!” Lowering her voice, she hissed rapidly in Spanish, “<With the cattle or without?!>”

“<Without.>”

“<There’s no way we make it before the first snow! And if we have to trek through more forest, the cattle sure as hell won’t make it!>”

“<We’ll discuss this later, Wesson.>” He growled softly before clearing his throat and turning his attention onto the group. He offered them small, forced smile in apology. “You mentioned a few moments ago that there might be an alternative, Miss?” He prodded as his gaze shifted to the brunette.

Kubota Mossberg
— The Cowboy —
#6
Location: The Borderlands || NPCs: Amadahy (horse), Boots Mckenzie with Foley (mule), and Holly Mckenzie with Wynona (horse) || Form: Optime



All of Rafaela's young life had been lived under the considerable security and relative stability of the Gang. When winter fell, there were more among them to hunt for the group, and when danger struck, there were many to keep everyone safe. They were safe and strong in numbers, which was why she was not here alone. It was the Ashen way to form posses outside of the Ganglands.

But that was hardly an antidote to misfortune.

Wild grasses waggled and waved in a way that went against the wind and, before any of them knew it, another voice answered for the rider. Rafa narrowed her eyes at the mottled cur that eyed them back with intensity. Holly lifted his brows and Boots sucked a tooth.

"Well shit," she said dryly, sarcasm plain in her tone. "Best we ain't try nothin', then."

Five. They had been a posse of five and only two (unless the man was a damn liar) were left. Two, and whatever was left of their herd. That was a damn shame and Rafa pursed her lips together at the thought of herself or her sisters in their position. But before she could navigate that discomforting path for long, the thread of a familiar tongue wove itself through her ears. With a twitch of her sharp eyes, she focused intensely on the words.

When the rider addressed her again, the Caballista flicked her eyes to her companions and gave offered them a questioning glance. Boots shrugged and Holly scratched his chin, both of them ambivalent toward Rafaela's silent inquiry, and she looked back at los desconocidos with other sharp flick of jade.

"Charmingtown," she said, allowing the name to settle in around them before continuing. "Smaller settlement than Portland, but it got folks as might be interested in relievin' you of yer cattle."

Holly was nodding. "An' catch some rest at th' inn while you're at it," he continued.

"You folks could do with some 'shine at th' saloon, too," Boots added.

"Took us little under a day to get from there t' here, but I ain't rightly sure what you're lookin' at with them cattle. Gotta ford th' river here." She gestured behind her. "Elsewise alls you gotta do is foller our scents."



[WC -- 383]

#7
(+###)
cNPC: Wesson; NPCs: Bluegrass, Glory, Nellie, & Maribelle

We can wrap this up here or with your next post, I think? :O
The female dog let out a sarcastic remark, and her opinion seemed to be more or less echoed by her two companions. Kubota prayed that Wesson didn’t find it in her to make the confrontation take an aggressive turn somehow. The tension between them and the trio of strangers had remained largely neutral thus far, and the Kubota had no intention to rock the boat. When it came to numbers, they were at a disadvantage, as well, too many nights of restless sleep and meager meals had started to wear down on the two southerners. If things came to a fight, they would have lost or come out worse than they had after the ambush.

Thankfully, Wesson either understood their circumstances, or was too concerned with other matters to care. She sat down, watching the group of strangers with a critical stare while keeping an ear out for the cattle in the distance.

Meanwhile, Kubota’s request was met with hesitation and silence as the trio wordlessly communicated with one another with their eyes. It had him curious just as much as it made him wary of whatever answer he might receive. After a beat, a name was produced, as well as a probability of the duo being able to trade off their cattle like they’d intended to from the start of their long journey.

The idea was promising; it wasn’t too far off, and they could rest and recuperate. The challenge only remained on what they could get for the cattle, as well as if they could make it home with their goods before the snow grew impassable in the mountains. He glanced over to Wesson, who seemed more concerned about whether the trio were speaking truthfully or luring them into a trap.

“Wes?” He asked, causing her to flick an ear at him.

“Thank y’all for the information,” she said after a beat, making it clear that it would be a subject that she and Kubota would need to speak more on first. She dipped her nose sharply to the coyote female before letting her eyes shift to her companions. Rose to her feet, she excused herself. “We got cattle to herd.” Not waiting for a reply, the coydog turned and darted off through the grasses.

Kubota watched her go before turning his attention back to the trio. Reaching up, he tipped his hat to them to express his gratitude. “Mighty thanks. Wish y’all the best on your travels from here.”

He waited a beat to allow them to speak, turning Bluegrass with his knees when it became clear that the brief conversation had come to a natural conclusion. He urged the horse into an easy trot to follow after his friend.

Kubota Mossberg
— The Cowboy —
#8
Location: The Borderlands || NPCs: Amadahy (horse), Boots Mckenzie with Foley (mule), and Holly Mckenzie with Wynona (horse) || Form: Optime



Rather than the rider sitting tall upon his fine mare, it was the mottled cur at the horse's hooves who replied. Three pairs of eyes shifted down to consider the herder's response, none of them betraying their surprise at the supposed commander of their small and unfortunate band. Without so much as a backwards glance, let alone a goodbye, the Lupus-shaped dog darted off again through the grasses.

Rafaela watched a moment as the waving, swaying movement of the grasses betrayed the dog's location before looking at the horseman again. When he tipped his hat, the coyote bobbed her head in response.

"Sure thing," she said impassively. "Hope you folks get on all right, now."

And, in spite of herself, she meant it. It wasn't often that they came across folks whose values aligned so closely to theirs. Granted, that was a gross presumption. For all Rafa knew, they were the bandits who had disintegrated the posse and stolen their cattle. Words went only so far, after all, and there had been nothing of substance to prove their claims.

Still, Rafa found that she didn't have a strong opinion of them one way or the other. Even if they were bandits, so what? As long as they did no harm to any Ashen, the cattle would trade off the same as if they were honest folk. It meant little to her.

After offering the rider a final nod of departure, she watched as he turned his horse and disappeared after his companion before returning to her own posse and their task at hand.



[WC -- 269]
OOC: And scene!


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