[P] [m] The Hangman’s Noose
P. Crown of Tines plot
#1

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

Specifically, this thread is marked mature because of: .

Quote:Following the lead as to where the sisters Maive and Beverly had directed, the small posse starts their search outside the southern border of Del Cenere's Deadwood. Cold has set in, stifling scents, and a fresh layer of snow has certainly made things more difficult. The group searches for about an hour, and is ready to turn in, when something is found.

It had only been a few days since she and her young daughter were taken in some sort of power play… yet, the femme fatale was ready with bows in waiting. She had been waiting near the southernmost territory.

Her bow, bestowed upon her by her dear friend Fredrick, was strapped across her back. Her quiver strapped securely as well. Wearing a furred jacket, acpale shirt underneath, and buckskin pants, she cinched it down to her petite body with leather bindings, and let out a gentle call. The call was answered by Jimena, Rafaela, Cent and Morris. A dynamic group, perhaps, but they could use a little spiffing up in her opinion. Regardless of what her personal opinion said silently in her mind, at least they had La Carne and La Oreja on their side. Jimena, too, and her feisty personality. How could she forget her and the rescue she provided? 

She began as the familiar faces filled in, pacing in front from the wild rumors. 

As some of you may or may not know, we have had another disturbance.” Peony tightened her coat a little too tight, and stood up straighter. Lavender orbs narrowed then slackened on each individual pair of eyes she met.

Rafaela and I met with two sisters who claim there’s a monstrous disturbance right outside our Southern Borders, near Deadwood.” Yet again, it felt too familiar, too close to home. Please let it be nothing. Peony clicked her teeth.

I have asked you here so that we may start a posse, check it out, if it is nothing, then nothing but time will have been wasted. If it is not, then…we will deal with it as it comes.

Peony finished by leading their small group towards the area where the sisters mentioned this, disturbance. With fresh snow littering the ground, it would be difficult, and the Braithwaite former-heiress began to lead them outside the southern borders. Stopping just short to address the group again, Peony looked at each individual. 

We can split up, cover more ground that way, keep your eyes and ears open.”
WORD COUNT -
#2
Quote:- A desiccated carcass of a caribou; it doesn't look as though it's been scavenged, but it looks impressively mangled. It has been decapitated, seemingly by brute force.

wc – 576

I ASKED THE MOON IN IT'S F U L L N E S S,



With freshly fallen snow blanketing the landscape around them, their posse would have a more difficult time tracking whatever mysterious thing roamed through the forest. A tense mood was thick in the air, and it wasn’t difficult to understand why that was. Jimena nodded absently at Peony’s speech, thoughts within turbulent and difficult to nail down. There was a hollow in her chest, and a slight shake to her hands.

Her eyes did not meet Rafaelas, she had chosen to avoid Calhoun as well after the events proceeding this disturbance. It was much too hard to pretend to be okay in any fashion, and so she didn’t speak and was glad for the opportunity to be alone. Running a hand through the dark grey tresses that looked more unkept then usual, Jimena sighed quietly and picked a direction before starting off. With no horse, her pace may be slower then the other Ashen who were mounted – but the lithe female was quick and even bipedal could cover lots of ground.

So far, there was a lot of nothing. The lack of evidence was comforting really, she didn’t want to find anything worse than what the quartet of loners had left behind. After some time, boredom quickly fell and with each passing moment of nothing standing out her irritation grew. Stopping here and there to sniff trees or suspicious looking disturbances in the snow, the result was the same with each small investigation. Blowing out a frustrated breath, Jimena heard a snap of twigs off to her right. A flutter of wings announced a bird, though it was too fast in its ascent to be identified properly.

The forest had grown eerily silent, and all Jimena could hear was the sound of her heart beating away. She noticed her breaths coming quicker, and a clammy sweat sprang to the females paw pads. Taking another long sniff, something foul finally made an appearance. “ What’s this? “ Came her voice, spoken softer than usual. Out of instinct, each pale hand drifted to the twin daggers sheathed on either hip, unbuckling the straps slowly as she lightly moved across the snow. With the bone handle snugly fit into her palms, Jimena loosed a breath as she drifted deeper into the wood.

The smell became more apparent the closer she got, and it was within a small stand of trees that the fiery coyote came upon it. At first her eyes didn’t really understand what she beheld. Furrowing silver eyebrows in confusion, the El Elegido dared to venture closer to the strange mass. It became clear very quickly what she was looking at and after a moment a shrill, sharp scream rang out from her location.

Pieces of fur and crispy flesh littered the clearing, mangled and terrible in it's appearance. the putrid scent of rotting flesh hadn't gone as far with the cold weather and the fresh blanket of snow, but it was all Jimmy could smell right now. Instead of a bloody mess like one would expect from a predator kill, this was something else entirely. It was a dried out husk that was torn and rendered limb from limb. Truly shaking now, her eyes couldn’t be torn away from the destruction and force of it all. “ C-Come quick! “ She managed to say to the air around her, backing away slowly. There was no head to be seen, and that perhaps was the worst of all.



HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE W H O L E AGAIN?


• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 
I've got a heart like a silver dollar
I may be s m a r t but I'll never change
And I might sparkle in the right light
But I'm always worth the s-a-m-e
#3
Crown of Tines Wrote:From here, a trail can be spotted heading towards Del Cenere - patches and tufts of caribou fur snagged in bark or hanging from brambles

Location: Outside the southeastern border, near Deadwood || NPCs: Amadahy (horse) || Form: Optime



She rode in silence, her mind occupied by stories and her heart heavy with worry. Were the hounds to be believed, there was a mysterious threat afoot that made her uneasy. She didn't want to believe them. Like her mother, she thought them nothing more than tall tales regurgitated from the lips of drunks. But unlike her mother, she was among the Ashen Ring now and she bore a greater responsibility to the denizens of Del Cenere.

Having reached their destination, Rafaela dismounted from the beautiful saddle Bennett had gifted her and allowed Amadahy to pick at what edible vegetation she could find beneath the freshly fallen snow. While Peony spoke, La Carne scanned the surrounding woods and scented the frozen air, searching for any evidence of something unusual.

If the stories were true and there was some massive beast wearing a halo of sprawling thorns skulking about, it should be recognizable enough to the eyes. But the sisters had not been agreeable, or even certain, about what the creature had smelled like. Not that it mattered much, she supposed. Without having smelled the thing for herself, a description of the smell was hardly of much use to them. Maybe it could have helped, but it wasn't something they would be able to rely on anyway, not when none of them had knowledge of the beast's scent locked away in their memories.

Twisting her head back around, Rafaela gave La Oreja an acquiescent nod before retrieving Ama's reins and choosing her own direction to search in. The fresh snow was a detriment to their search, but it also allowed made recent animal activity more obvious. Aside from some steaming piles of deer droppings, more than a little jeering from a band of blue jays, and the startled scurrying of a snowshoe hare, Rafa found very little in her exhaustive search. And, perhaps most telling of all, nothing out of the ordinary.

The longer she searched her extremities growing numb and her muscles starting to ache against the blankets of snow, the more certain she began to feel that the hounds were a couple of damn liars.

And then she heard her sister's cry.

Quickly mounting Amadahy again, Rafaela urged her in the direction of Jimena's call and slowed as they approached.

"Jimmy? What-"

But as she looked from her sister's face to the thing in the clearing, she understood well enough what had caused Jimena's alarm.

Rafa dismounted again and tried to draw Ama with her to inspect the mangled, decapitated caribou, but the mare adamantly refused and the Caballista didn't push her. She inched nearer on her own, sniffing and eyeing the thing with her hackles raised.

"Ain't even scavenged," she said to herself or to the gathering Ashen or to nobody at all. But it needed to be said, because a caribou made for a prized meal and it looked as though none of its flesh, let alone its nutrient-rich offal, had been touched. "What happened to its head?"

Looking about her for the head, she began to see clumps of caribou fur waving weakly in a mild winter breeze. The fur was caught on tree branches and thorny brush and it was all leading in one direction away from the body.

"Del Cenere," she breathed, her eyes tracking the trail of fur headed in the direction of the Gang's territory. "Looks t' be a trail here," she said more loudly, pointing at the patches of fur and casting her eyes upon the posse. "And I reckon it's leadin' home."





[WC -- 605]
OOC: Crown of Tines micro-event!
#4
Quote:Within Deadwood, the trail consists snapped branches and impressions of some sort of footprints in frozen mud, though they are difficult to discern  what they once were. The route taken seems ambling, clumsy, as though left by a drunkard.
NPCs: Unnamed mule (cNPC)


The winter winds bit and nipped at her, but her thick fur, which would have been a nuisance back home, protected her well enough. To add to it, she wore her sheepskin jacket over a rough work shirt, and two skirts to cover her legs, although the downside was that her already broad bottom was only thickened by added fabric. For today only she wore a headscarf to protect her head and hair, thus fully insulating herself from the chill. 

She rode in on her still nameless steed (which had begun to respond to certain cusswords in Serbian), a gold champagne mule, and was the last to arrive. The portly dog woman certainly stood out among this posse of thin coyotes, but she gave every other woman and the single man present an encouraging grin and nod of acknowledgment. A much more serious countenance was adopted as Mrs. Braithwaite spoke of this new, unknown threat upon the ganglands which had them summoned there as previously planned. When time came for them to split up and look for clues about the presence or nature of this disturbance, Cent picked a direction at random - mostly because she still lacked fine control over her mount.

"Aah'll bark if ah find sumthin'!" She called out as her steed carried her into the woods.

[...]

As she distanced herself from the rest of the group, Cent's elated mood faded away, for it was forced by herself upon herself, and proved difficult to maintain. Frustration had begun to build, annoyance at the fact that she accepted to be part of this party in the first place. Every other member of it was far more skilled than she - a quartermaster who had been severely slacking in her duties. Not to mention that she had no skill in combat, having even forgotten the knife that was supposed to be her only protection. 

So down and glum, focused on her thoughts, Cent almost missed the shrill scream coming from deeper within the Deadwood. She would have assumed to have imagined it, if it wasn't for a small flock of winter birds than flew up into the sky from its direction.

It took a long minute to turn the mule the right way and force it into a gallop in the desired direction, but eventually the foreigner managed just that.

[...]

"What's happenin'?!" She arrived, but somehow the mule overshot the spot where its rider wanted it to stop and galloped past the scene, Cent only managing to glimpse the gore the Tejada girls were gathered around. Cent tugged and pulled and gripped the equine with her thighs, but only after she leaned forward and barked a "Đubre nepitomo!!" right into its ears did the animal suddenly halt, in such a way than Cent was sent forward and out the saddle, one foot caught in the stirrups as she fell into the snow in a most ungraceful manner.

The dog ferociously fought to free herself from her restrains, but she was hopeless when the mule trotted on, dragging its mistress a few additional feet forward, rumpling her skirts up to her belly and filling her shirt and jacket with snow. "Jada, e jada..." The Slav whimpered, feeling winter itself violate her body. Thankfully, the beast had stopped, so Cent managed to get up on her elbows and attempt to reach and free her trapped foot.

It was then that she saw the tracks.

"He- Hey!" Her call went out to the other Ashen. "Over here! We got tracks over here!"


592 //
[Image: ver_11.png]
#5
Quote:The trail goes cold as they edge the mountain trails near Irving, and at about waist-height, one of the barren trees has a dark, ugly smear. Closer investigation, it looks to be blood.


Morris was a bit surprised that he was the only male on this venture, though he wouldn't voice any complaints. There was no problem with the group being made up of mostly females. Not to him in any case. No, he was just surprised that more males had not volunteered their services was all. Even more surprising was that he knew each member of the group, though he could guess that he only knew Cent well enough to consider her a friend. Perhaps he needed to be a bit more social... Pushing that away he nodded as Peony gave out instructions and had chosen not to ride some mount since he felt that he could track better on his own two feet. The group separated a little to cover more ground, though the merle male tried to keep the others at least within earshot.

Seemed he didn't truly need to, since he was sure that Jimena's scream could be heard for quite some distance. He wouldn't be surprised if it had been heard back in the pack lands. It was an easy enough call to answer, though the sight to greet him there was grim. He scanned it thoughtfully, at first thinking that perhaps it was just a bear that had done such violence. Yet...what sort of bear hunted and didn't eat any of the prey? When Cent came into the area on her disobedient mount, he turned his attention to her and winced in sympathy as she was thrown. Then the poor lass was dragged, and he finally went to help her in her plight. He actually felt a bit bad for not going to aid her right away. The sight had been a bit unexpected though. As he reached her, she called out about a trail, and he eyed it with a nod before helping her the best that he could. "That's a good eye ya got lass" he said gently and then turned to follow the signs after Cent was freed from her saddle and set to rights. 

It weaved and wandered, vanishing in some spots and growing fainter the closer that they got to Irving and the mountains. Even the scent has died down, which is surprising, considering how strong it was back at the carcass. Even he wants to give up by the time they get closer to the mountains. So, he almost missed the mark on a tree. A smear of some sort at waist height. Drawing closer and sniffing it, he could guess that it might be blood. Was this from the body back down the trail? Or had it come from a different source?? He lifted his eyes and gave a whistle before just calling out to the group "Oi! Anothah sign here!!" It was too close to their home for his comfort, and he only hoped whatever beast that they were tracking had veered off towards the peaks so easily seen now. 

498 words
#6
Quote: Given how quick the darkness settles in, it seems appropriate to set up a little camp to get warm and settle down to start fresh come morning. This could prove a good opportunity to discuss theories as to what on earth the hounds saw.
OOC: PP of Cent approved by Bees :>

______________________
Heaven forbid that things actually look up for the Gang.

It wasn’t as if she wasn’t optimistic, or that she didn’t believe the gang deserved it, because most certainly they did. But by the Lord, and only by the Lord, was He testing her patience. Rafaela, Morris, Jimena, Cent, and herself, a gang all in one, comfortable with one another, had gathered around to make sense of the mess presented. Why there weren’t more men in their midst she didn’t know, but to be honest— to hell with the men anyways.

Rafaela, Morrigan, Peony and Freddy were the only Ashen members of high ranking as it stood, so it fitted to have a pack run by them, did it not? After all, in her own experience, Women were more superior, but she’s be damned if she ever told her husband that, at least not to his face.

Yet— even as she walked— there was some otherworldly presence made known. For the first, thing that happened was a hoot and a holler from Jimena, only for her to rush to the scene and Rafaela already leaving following a trail towards their Ganglands.

Oh heavens.” Peony murmured suddenly wishing she hadn’t taken off her rosary, a paid hand clutched to her chest as she followed Rafaela and the rest of the things that persisted from here… chaos. All of it! And to what extent would it ever stop? Suspicious were high. Who would do this? Decapitating a caribou?

Next things next Cent’s mule overshot the landing and Cent wound up with her for caught in the stirrup, she faltered, paused, and then winced whenever the woman was finally at a standstill. Once everyone was finally safe, and finally back on their two feet, Peony gave a once over to the whole group and followed Morris. Once upon the scene, it appeared as though there was a substance on a tree, smeared and left… she admired it, then stepped forwards to inspect it. Was it blood? She didn’t dare to lick it, nor did she find it necessary to get closer than she already did.

Good job everyone, seems as though it’s gettin’ dark though.” A pause, as she looked over Morris, Cent, Jimena and Rafaela. Then pale eyes went to the skies, it was growing dark early, as usual, but they’d be of no use in the dark. “I think we should make camp. If the trails here, certainly with some better light tomorrow we can pick it up again.

Cent seemed to agree, and shuffled a little closer. The woman was quick, it would seem, for Peo didn’t even notice her until those familiar doggish features turned to her face. Hiding the sudden fright she felt for this large woman’s silent feet, Peony offered a gentle smile.

Right, well, I suggest we start by figurin’ things out too, maybe we can start a fire,” she paused remembering the fires in the Gang just recently, due to her own kidnapping, and shuddered from not only the cold but from the memory, “Let’s discuss things, get some real theories in the air. Maybe we can shed some light onto it, hmm?” It wasn’t as if she waited for anyone else to answer, as Cent was already buddying up with Peony. “Let’s stay together folks, we don’t need anyone else goin’ missin’.

Once the members had gathered the essentials, Peony began by building a tee-pee shaped hut, with the wood, and drew some bark and some fabric from her own sack, before using her fire-starting material. The first strike, nothing happens, after a few more tries, she began to blow on the little ember and soon, there was a large expanse of flames, and the forest didn’t seem as eerie.

Right then, shall we begin?
WORD COUNT -
#7
Location: Outside the southeastern border, near Deadwood || NPCs: Amadahy (horse) || Form: Optime



Their discoveries progressed from there, with only a single moment of extraneous chaos when the mule overshot the group and the large dog riding it became entrapped in the tack. Rafaela knew the woman's name but they had not been formally acquainted. After a show like that, however, the Caballista thought that she would check in with her and perhaps offer some riding advice or help training the mule. But only once this mystery had been buried six feet under, of course.

Following along with the rest of the group, Rafa lead Amadahy along the trail and sniffed at the tracks. The sun was aging quickly now and daylight was fading fast. They were well within Del Cenere's territory, uncomfortably close to Irving, when when Morris made his own discovery: a smear of dark, congealed blood.

Rafaela wrinkled her nose at it and cast a frown around her, searching, sniffing, listening. But there was nothing more to find and night was enveloping them in darkness. Cheerlessly, La Carne agreed with Peony's suggestion to set up camp for the night and, finding a place to park Amadahy, she set out for firewood. It didn't take long before La Oreja had a warm and lively fire going and Rafaela situated herself around it with the others.

"Someone's aimin' t' scare us, I reckon," she said, the firelight licking at her face and eyes. "Comin' this far into the Ganglands, though... Nah, this is a threat. Ain't no animal else as would make a kill, hack of its head, and leave good meat t' rot. 'Specially not in the cold season. That's deliberate."

She fell silent then, her thoughts still swirling in her head while she listened for others to chime in with their own theories.



[WC -- 300]
OOC: Crown of Tines micro-event!
#8
Location: Northern Tides, Burnt Church Mountains -> DCG, Trailside Date: 11th December Time: Evening NPCs: Unnamed mule WC: 601

"Oh, oh thank ye, thank ye greatly Mistah Morris!" Cent whimpered as she was freed from her bondage and helped up, which was no small feat on the coyblood's part, considering the brown woman's weight and size. Snow had gotten all the way to her unmentionables and as the others went ahead to check the tracks she discovered, the dog positioned herself behind her traitorous mule - praying for a scrap of understanding and loyalty from the equine - and hid herself from view as to rummage for invading ice in relative privacy the meat wall of half-donkey provided.

She was frigid cold, but she'd be frigid cold and miserable if it wasn't for Mr. Morris's words - that's a good eye ya got lass, as he put it - that sparked within her a candleflame of pride, which someone knocked over and was now setting the drapery on fire.

Once the snow had been dug and shaken out, leaving behind one wet and shivering luperci, Cent hurried along to join her party, this time leading her mule by the reins.

[...]

The great shame of having lost control over her mount faced off against the pride of finding the tracks, and their ongoing, colossal battle placed Cent's mind in a state of pleased equilibrium, which rendered her oblivious to the subtle, building dread and the sheer grimness of the scene and clues they had uncovered thus far. To her, this was little more than an interesting outing and public service, made in the company of wholly agreeable and well-respected individuals, who surely did not believe in the outrageous stories of some passing traders. Monsters in the woods? Not on God's green Earth!

Her mood did not, however, make her more resilient against the cold which had bundled into the folds of her clothes, and once the decision was made to make camp, Cent was quick to gather firewood (perhaps an excess of it, just to be sure) and place herself as near the firepit as possible. The concept of stripping herself free of her wet, cold clothes in front of everyone crossed her mind but once - and was smothered at birth because of its sheer hideousness. Even if they weren't in mixed company, the foreigner was far too self-conscious about her surplus of mass in some and severe lack of it in other areas of her body, and would not ever subject her packmates to such a repulsive sight. No, she'd rather risk waking up with a cold than show another inch of her thick-fur-covered skin, thank you very much!

And then night fell, the fire crackled, and the Ashen shared their theories. 

Cent had cleared a spot of snow and sat hunched, knees gathered and pulled up to her chin. Her eyelids grew heavy; beneath them her rose-rimmed pupils were focused on the fire and the dancing of flames. When the older Tejada sister provided her theory, the jobless El Elegido gave only a soft nod to show agreement with it.

The ensuing silence she found pleasing, so it surprised her when it was her own voice that broke it.

"Must be some weaklin's, or some pranksters. The Gang's strong, numerous. They must'a be..." She yawned. "...Pardon. They must'a be more scared o' us than we are o' them 'n' their weird lil' art projects."

The dog woman shifted as to more comfortably grasp her legs and rest her chin.

"They ain't gon be a big deal, y' can quote me on that."

OOC: -
[Image: ver_11.png]
#9
Morris was glad for the fire once it was well established, the warmth brought some comfort on such a chilled day. Though it did not thaw a worry that had grown since they had seen the carcass earlier. Both Rafaela and Cent thought it was canines tricking them or even trying to threaten them all. Morris could see how they could come to that conclusion and had thought the same after seeing the body left behind. No animal he knew of simply hunted for sport. Also, there was still the missing head to think of. Yet...he had also seen the tracks and had caught the scent enough to start to feel that it wasn't any canine. Sure, the smell of rot had been rather strong, but he could still smell each member of their small group and hadn't caught anything foreign to that. 

The merle male looked at the fire thought fully, then slowly looked to Peony. Of all of them she was likely the one to call their leader. She had lived in the pack the longest as far as he knew and had the most experience. Yes, a few of them were hunters, but she had not said anything about other canines, just that they should discuss their theories. "I don' think it's outsiders" he finally said, looking as serious as he sounded. "I can understand why a large group such as those pirates woul' try somethin' stupid...but those tracks aren't from a big group as muddled as they are." He made a motion to the path they had just trekked and then swept his hands towards the pack lands. "Our effigy's are intact, as are the markers for our trails as far as I can tell. A low number of canines would be very foolish indeed to try and do somethin'." He shook his head and crossed his arms "Besides, there is no scent of any canine besides our own. Somethin' isn't righ' about this whole thing." 

338 words
#10
They all pitched a camp, mumbling and grumbling— her not them— about how things were done, and what had happened, caused her to realize everyone was already beginning to gather around the flames. Pale hues danced against the fire, sparkling with golds and reds.

Was this a planned attack? Was this a warning? Or had they truly upset the balance of the Ashen lands, and needed to pray harder? A single hand went to clutch onto her necklace as, one by one, they all began to speak. First, it was Rafaela, talking about someone aiming to scare them, Cent had basically backed that up with her speech. Peony didn’t smile, but didn’t frown, somewhere set in between them both. A grimace perhaps?

Leaning back against the furred roll on the ground, the woman pulled out jerky and ate it, before turning those purple hues finally from the fire, and to Morris. How logical, and Peony couldn’t help but agree, nodding a head.

I think Morris is right, if this was a planned attack, the borders would be scented differently, and I do not smell anything but us.” She licked her lips, briefly and then returned her gaze to each of them separately, holding their eyes for a few seconds. “Who knows, if it is outsiders, or if it’s something else. We need to be prepared regardless.” With the voice of reason, or maybe that of a chief commander in line, she clapped her hands and stood up, shuffling to her satchel and horse, pulling out several blankets.

It’s gonna be a cold one y’all, best get some sleep if we can.” And as she Kay there, next to the horse, her brain began to pick apart each clue they had found so far. Eyelids closed and instead of sleep, she recalled each event, mulling it over and over again.
WORD COUNT - 309 


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