Dogs in Almighty God's Vineyard

Dogs in Almighty God's Vineyard

The King of Life has called upon you to be God's Watchdog, a defender of The Faith, the hammer upon which you beat men until they are purified. Can you answer the call, and do your best to defend and promote The Faith?

3,346 readers have visited this universe since Magus1108 created it.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/dogs_in_the_vineyard

Introduction

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This is the west that never quite was.

It's an alternate version of history, loosely based on Mormon life in the 1800's. I say loosely, because this religion, that I shall call "The Faith," is not really the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon preachers don't shoot sinners in the street. But you might.

You see, imagine a rocky desert like Utah, Nevada, and the like, with snaking rivers and impressive cliffs. Imagine indigenous mountain peoples ("Indians," if you will) living on the plains. Imagine a mighty city of zealots flanked by four huge waterfalls. Imagine a religious group that the United States territorial authority butts heads with often. Imagine cowboys armed with "The Book of Life" dragging out a whore by her hair and forcing her to repent or face the wrath of God.

Can you kind of see the picture here? Are you interested? Let me be more clear:

Who are you: The watchdogs of God. Your character is a cross between an inquisitor, a missionary, an exorcist, and a monk. You carry both scriptures and bullets, you bring both blessings and judgment.

What's going on: A lot. Mountain folk don't like white man encroaching upon their turf. Sinners don't like repenting. Towns don't like their dirt being pulled up for all to see. The Territorial Authority doesn't like the Faith's habit of foregoing standard trials for confession and repentance.

Where are you?: A beautiful rocky desert with a couple forests to the north and more than a few natural wonders. Lots of dust. Lots of grime and grit. Lots of blood, and lots of frontier justice.

When is all this?: 1800's. Think cowboys and westerns, complete with big hats, horses, six-shooters and Clint Eastwood.

Why are you doing what you're doing?: Because the King of Life or one of his counselors called you to be God's Watchdog, a defender of the Faith, the hammer upon which you beat men until they are purified. Maybe your character is a convert from the East and it's industrial worldliness and filth. Maybe you were raised by the Mountain people and are the token ethnic bad@$$ Native American "Aragorn" of the group. Maybe you were raised in the Faith. Whatever the case is, you are a Dog, and you work in God's Vineyard.

How do you do it?: Prayer. Faith. Exhortation. Blessing babies. Shooting sinners. It's difficult, but straightforward. What nobody tells you is that the hardest part of being a Dog is to keep believing you are really what you think you are. When bullets bounce off your coat and when you are calling the dead by name to draw breath once more, you might think you're preaching the truth. When you're bleeding on the ground, when farmer Jeremiah kills his wife, when you saw humanity in that sinner's eyes, you might lose your faith. Just remember, I'm not telling you if The Faith your character belongs to is true or not. I'll leave it to you.

THEMES

Redemption. Forgiveness. Fair enough.

Death, loss, grief, doubt. Dramatic.

Shooting, brawling, chasing on horseback. Good fun.

Is the Faith true? I don't know. Just don't be obvious, like have glowing miracles occur or demons appear or something. Play it straight. Pretend the world is like real life; as long as I'm talking about it, remember, no Rambo stunts, please.

Otherwise, just remember that I want this game to be DRAMATIC. I want tragedy. I want angsty characters (but if more than one person pulls the "my parents died" card I'm gonna be peeved). Your characters can be male or female, of any able age and marital status. The only tie that binds is your status as a Dog. This means you can declare doctrine. Yes you heard me, you can make up the religion's rules on the spot. Just keep it real, alright? No "sacrifice a donkey," let's play it like a psuedo-christian cult.

The Faith doesn't take kindly to loners; the Dogs work as a group. All Dogs have a long, patch-work coat worn at all times as an emblem of their position, a sturdy horse, a Book of Life, a jar of consecrated earth (holy dirt to sprinkle during rituals or something), and some form of gun.

Game System

You will post what your character does, and you can go ahead and describe whatever you want, so long as you don't resolve the action wholesale. Make sure you leave room for everyone to contribute meaningfully to a situation. Don't be a butt-hole; I know RPers are mature and courteous, so I have very high expectations.

I will adjudicate only FINAL RESOLUTION, that is, you can describe anything short of obviously ending the conflict. I'll decide the final outcome after the dust settles. Note that the more your character sacrifices, the more likely he is to win (getting hit with bullets or taking insults to heart is sure to win my sympathy).

Other Stuff

The Faith moved to the west to escape persecution. The Territorial Authority, although not at war with the Faith, is often at odds with it, as their goals are usually the same but their means differ vastly. The Mountain Folk don't like the Faith, but the Faithful like them enough to try converting them, with limited success. It is said that the ancestors of the Mountain Folk were once Faithful, but they fell away long before the white man came.

Your characters are expected to travel from town to town, bless babies, officiate at weddings and such, and purge sinners. The adventure style will be episodic, with each town having it's own "episode."

At the moment we require a minimum of three Dogs to play the game; so we'll need at least two other players, as I'll be taking a Dog myself, of course, and I'm only allowing one character per person. I might allow the creation of characters that aren't Dogs, and perhaps let people have more than 1 character, but that's for later. I'm not too sure how many people will be interested here, so for now, I'm just limiting character creation to Dogs only.

At maximum, having at least five players/Dogs (myself included) altogether would be wonderful, but the last two slots are optional, so it can just be the three of us to do things, really.

List of characters:

Dog #1: Magus1108 (Horatio)
Dog #2:
Dog #3:
(Optional) Dog #4: Nekriist (Otto)
(Optional) Dog #5: Hyperewok (Anna)

Character Creation Sheet:

Code: Select all
[font="century gothic"][center][size=200]CHARACTER NAME[/size]

[img]Insert Image URL here.[/img][/center]

[b]Age:[/b]
[b]Gender:[/b]
[b]Ethnicity/Race:[/b] (What race are they? Black, white, hispanic, Native American, etc etc)
[b]Level of Faith:[/b] (How Faithful is your Dog? Are they true Believers? Are they having doubts or a crisis of Faith? Have they lost their Faith? Or do they just pretend to believe, for one reason or another?)
[b]Years of Service:[/b] (How long have they been a Dog? A couple of decades? Five to ten years? Or are they quite green in their experience, with less than a year or two under their belt? Perhaps they're even fresh out of the academy?)
[b]Weapons/Equipment:[/b] (What sort of equipment or items do you carry, aside from the obligatory gun, the Book of Life, and jar of consecrated earth? And please have any items you have be period specific. No cell phones or other modern technology allowed.)

[b]Personality[/b]
   
This should be at least one paragraph.

[b]History[/b]
   
This does not have to be extensive, but at least one to two paragraphs.

[b]Goals[/b]

What are some of your characters goals in life? What do they aspire to be, or what do they aspire to do?

[b]Likes[/b][list]
   
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[b]Dislikes[/b][list]
   
[*]
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Toggle Rules

Da Rulez:

1. No god-moding Or thou shalt be smited
2. The GM will have the final say in conflict resolutions Big Brother Is Watching
3. Obey the Roleplay Gateway rules Don’t fight the man
4. Stick to the Character Sheet Can’t live without a skeleton
5. Minimum post length of 200 words. No one-liners, give your fellow RPers something to work with. And please keep the grammatical/spelling errors to a minimum.
6. Stay Active Life happens, but the roleplay needs to keep moving. If you know you won’t be able to post at least every other day for some reason or another, let us know in OOC and write yourself to somewhere where you won’t hold up other posters.
7. If you are abducted by aliens and Disappear… I reserve the right to GM your character out of the way if you disappear and your last action is holding up other players. I will try to interfere as minimally as possible in such a situation, but depending on who your character is/what they are doing I may have to make major decisions for you. You have been warned…
8. PM or OOC plot suggestions, things you think would be neat or would otherwise like to see. No promises, but I’m open to input and good ideas
9:There is a limit At the moment, I am imposing a limit of 1 character per person. That could change in the near future, but for now, it stays.
10: Interest Dwindling? Be Honest If you're losing interest in this RP, please, just be honest and upfront with me, and tell me you wanna drop out. I can't count the number of times people just stopped posting, and didn't respond to my PMs when I prodded them. It's so annoying, and I just wanna cut through that bullshit.
11: Have fun! Having a good and enjoyable time RPing is what this game is most about. So make sure to have a blast!

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 4 authors

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Charles let out an appreciate whistle at the room's opulence. He was certainly being reminded of the luxury he'd left behind in Richmond, with a twinge of longing for such creature comforts even if he knew well enough that he didn't truly need such things. A night or two enjoying the hotel owner's hospitality would be a harmless indulgence of such feelings, of course.

He slowly stepped further inside behind Sonia, carefully looking around the room. The carpet covered his first thought, when he'd hidden letters and tobacco in his own childhood room years and years ago, and so he continued onwards, peering underneath the dresser and then looking around the porcelain and plumbing of the water closet.

As he stepped back into the room, he blinked with surprise as Sonia produced the book from underneath the mattress, silently thanking the Lord for their good fortune at having suspicions proven right. "If'n they'd made it out of the town, we very well might not've been sight after 'em." He said as he stepped up to her, peering over her shoulder to the book's pages. "Any word on what was in the poor woman's thoughts?"

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"That's a good question. Unfortunately, the entire thing is written in code." Sonia declared, holding the pages open for Charles to see. Sure enough, the pages seemed to be written in gibberish, making no sense whatsoever. "I recognize it though. It's a cipher they taught us back in the Academy. I should be able to decode it given some time, but that's gonna take awhile. Certainly won't have any answers right away."

That was annoying to no end. A potential source of answers, right here in their hands, and it was all written in code. The Lord sure was testing them here. Still, she wouldn't hesitate to rise up to the challenge.

"We can probably speed things up by just decoding the last few pages. I doubt she had enough time to write thoroughly about her stay in Abernathy." Sonia reasoned, closing the book. "Although, it does make me wonder. Why did Eliza Ford write her, presumed, journal all in code? It stinks of paranoia. I mean, it takes time to translate sentences into code. It must have taken her twice as long to write it all down in this journal. Was she just that paranoid?"

It was possible. A lot of Dogs, especially the older they got, tended to get rather paranoid and suspicious of those around them. Still, going this far for secrecy and privacy struck Sonia as a bit much.

"If you think we've got time, I could try my hand at decoding the last couple pages while we're here." Sonia offered a moment later, glancing at Charles. "We got another room to search, but it wouldn't hurt to try and get a head start on this. It might be beneficial to decode the whole thing, eventually, but just doing the last few pages should suffice. Granted, it's been awhile since I used this cipher, but I should remember it well enough."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Anna's gaze turned sharply back to Mycroft spoke of the boy that had been perhaps foolish enough to run into the center of the fire, but had survived nonetheless. Surely there was no clearer sign of the hand of the Lord than that. Of course, the sheriff surely would have questioned the boy with her own suspicions, and presumably shared them with the pack earlier. But Anna had certainly seen in the past that a Dog's presence could elicit a truth where others, even lawmen, could not. She committed the addresses to memory before nodding to Margaret with a subtle gesture to the door. For the moment, there was nothing else to as of the preacher.

She headed outwards, pausing at the doorway to incline her head respectfully to Mycroft. "Thank you, Father, you have been of great help. We will be sure to return for prayer when we are able to."

Once she and Margaret were outside and in relatively privacy, she walked down the street in the direction of the hospital, leaning in close as she spoke quietly to Margaret. "We can start with the boy and see if our missing comrades already spoke to him. If not him, then the other families. If the two of them were investigating the fires, there's only so many apparent people to speak with. We should find that trail swiftly."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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"Indeed. Lord willing, we shall find the right path to the truth soon enough." Margaret agreed, nodding her head to Anna.

Some time later, they arrived at the hospital where the boy was waylaid. A flash of their badges got the staff to guide them to his room. By the time they were led there, a doctor was already waiting for them.

"Good afternoon, ladies. I'm Doctor Herbert Walker. It is good to meet you," Doctor Walker proclaimed, greeting them politely. He looked a little nervous, but perhaps that was to be expected, when Dogs of the Lord unexpectedly visited your establishment. "I'm not sure what you need to talk to poor Richard for, but I am happy to be of assistance to you. However, I must warn you...the poor boy is still quite hurt. Though the fire was weeks ago, the burns he suffered still ail his body. I've needed to give him liberal doses of opium to help him manage the pain and calm down. I'm afraid I don't know how lucid he may be to answer any intense questioning."

Margaret couldn't help but grimace at that. The boy was addled with opium? They would be lucky indeed to get much out of him in that case. Still, it was curious that he was in such pain, all this time later, to still need doses of opium. Had he been that severely injured in the fire?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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"Reckon she was right to be paranoid, eh?" Charles started to grin before he composed herself, lowering his head briefly in respect. "Lord bless her poor soul. But Lord willing, she might've left that for someone else to find. Like us, yeah? Dog code, after all. Awfully helpful, that." He was certainly thankful Sonia was familiar with it, ciphers being the farthest from his intellectual pursuits.

"Might be wise to take a hint from her, stick together." He said with a final look over the hotel room before heading for the door. "Plenty of time tonight to decode that, I reckon. Best we keep both sets of eyes on the next room, given that." He pointed to the book in Sonia's hands. "Maybe if we're really lucky, our other comrade left us a clue as well." He stepped out into the hall and reached for the door of the next room, other hand resting on his pistol, just in case. Eliza Ford had been right to be paranoid, after all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Sonia nodded, following Charles out of the room. The door opened up for them easily, however, they ended up walking in on someone. Sonia's hand instinctively reached for her gun, but she calmed down once she realized it was just someone from house keeping. It was an older woman, clearly dressed as one of the staff, who looked rather startled as they barged in on her.

"Oh, terribly sorry! I was just doing a bit of tidying up, per the manager's orders. I didn't realize someone had rented the room out already," she declared, giving them a brief nod.

It made enough sense, she supposed, and Sonia was ready enough to accept that explanation. Before she dismissed the woman, or sought to question her, though...something came to her mind. She frowned, taking another look at the woman. Hadn't the hotel clerk said that the rooms had been sealed off to staff once word had been sent of their impending arrival?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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"We would like to speak with the boy." Anna said, then adding more quickly. "Rest assured we will not tax him unduly" She eyed the doctor intently, trying to gauge if his nervousness was reasonable deference to her and Margaret, or trying to conceal something more sinister. Unfortunately, medicine was far from her expertise, to tell how much pain one would be in to need such strong medicines weeks after the injury. Her father certainly still carried a limp from his decades-old injury, and the boy seemed to have been through far worse. But nonetheless, it was another complication upon complications, and that suspicion gnawed at Anna.

She glanced briefly to Margaret, seeing the same concerns in her eyes, before returning her attention to the doctor. "The preacher told us of the boy's bravery. We would like to thank him for it and pay our respects. I imagine he's not met a Watchdog of the Lord before, yes?" She asked with a tilt of her head. If the missing Dogs had been here as well... She eyed the doctor all the more intently, watching every hint of his reaction to the leading question.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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“Actually, this wouldn’t be the first time. Those two Dogs that went missing came by to pay their respects. I wasn’t on duty at the time, but my nurses told me of their visit,” Doctor Walker proclaimed, shrugging slightly. “I couldn’t tell you what they said or asked of him, but it was a short visit by all indications.”

Well now, that was interesting. So Meyer and Ford had been by to see the boy. It was a good clue, though Margaret herself wasn’t entirely sure what else they might be able to get from here. After all, Richard’s mental state would no doubt by hampered by the opium. Still, it was worth a try.

She nodded at the Doctor a moment later, and after exchanging a look with Anna, went to open the door. It creaked open, revealing a somewhat frail looking figure covered up with blankets, on a bed. What they could see of his body largely seemed to be covered up with bandages: and what was visible had noticeable burn marks. Richard seemed to be awake though, and after a moment he turned his head to look at them, his eyes carrying a rather vacant and glassy stare.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Charles tensed alongside Sonia at the first flicker of movement inside the room. Reasons for paranoia indeed. He mused silently, relaxing as he saw it was only a maidservant, though his hand still rested calmly on his belt, fingers brushing idly across his holster as he eyed the woman.

He glanced to Sonia out of the corner of his eye, noting the lingering tension still with her. "Beggin' your pardon, ma'am, but we are investigating a matter related to the Lord's Watchdogs who were stayin' here not long ago. You wouldn't have happened to see anything while you were cleaning, would you?" His gaze flicked back to Sonia, suddenly quite thankful that a woman had been paired along with him for this part of the search, if only for the sake of decorum. "Reckon it would be wise if my comrade here searched you. To assuage our worries, m'sure you've got nothing to fear."

He flashed a calm smile to the maid as he stepped into the room, watching her cautiously for that initial moment. "I'll give you two a moment while I check the water closet, yeah?" He asked, looking to Sonia for confirmation, content to turn his back to the woman only once she'd stepped up to see to her.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Sonia nodded at Charles, glancing at the maid as she stepped over to her. As he checked out the water closet, Sonia smiled at her apologetically, and started patting her down, making sure she had no weapons on her first. "Sorry about this, but we have to be careful, you see. What was your name again, Miss--?"

Sonia had a sudden flash of insight, a split-second, guttural feeling that something was wrong. It was all the warning she got, but it was enough to help her suddenly jump backwards, as the maid swiped at her with a previously hidden knife. A knife that would have sliced open her belly, if her instincts hadn't warned her.

Her eyes widened, and Sonia fumbled to pull out her gun, but the maid was already rushing at her, knocking her off balance with surprising strength, as she bolted towards the door in order to escape!

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Anna only feigned a calm smile to the doctor at his admission of the other Dogs' prior visit. Bit by bit, the trail was becoming clearer. Their comrades had thought the boy was of interest, the question was if they'd gleaned anything of use from his addled state.

She grimaced faintly at what she could see of the boy's injuries, the extensive bandaging both hiding and showing how grievous it was. Perhaps it was not some manner of deception, to keep the boy addled by opium for such a length of time, she mused as she examined his body. Anna had seen grave injuries before, to be sure, men and women crippled in the line of duty. Her own father for one, slow and limping, but at least he had not had his whole life ahead of him when he had been near-crippled.

"Hello, Richard. My name is Anna. This is Margaret. We are Watchdogs of the Lord." Anna said quietly, trying to feign another smile to reassured the boy. She glanced up quietly towards the door, wary of the doctor eavesdropping. "I need to ask you something very important, do you understand? I need you to tell me what happened when the other Dogs, Meyer and Ford, came to see you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Richard continued to stare at them vacantly, perhaps not registering what Anna had said. Before she could repeat her question though, Richard spoke up, his voice rather strained and hoarse. "...The other...Dogs. I...remember them. It was...the woman that spoke to me mostly. But...it's hard to remember...what she asked me..."

He trailed off, looking vaguely frustrated. Margaret wasn't too surprised: even if the opium helped dull his pain, it also no doubt helped to dull his mind. Getting concrete answers out of Richard might be harder than they'd anticipated. Still, it was their duty to see this through to the end.

"This might be hard, but we need you to remember, Richard. Can you do that for us?" she asked softly.

He nodded after a moment. "I...think I can try. They...yes...I think...she asked me about...the night of the...fire..."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Charles was about to give his full attention to a necessarily protracted search of the water closet when he heard the sudden scrape of feet across the floor and the barest hint of an all too familiar sound of metal slicing through the air. He hurriedly stepped back out into the room to see Sonia stumbling back with her hand reaching for the gun, while the maid fled for the door, a glint of light across the knife bringing attention to what had happened.

His hand swept back for his revolver in one swift movement as the maid was nearing the doorway. There was no time to shout a warning, no time to risk losing her in a hotel she knew far better than he and Sonia. The blade in her hand was proof enough of her intent, and her guilt. He stamped down on the split second of reluctance as his pistol flicked out from the holster with familiar instinct.

God forgive me. The thought crossed his mind in another half instant, with no time left to aim precisely as his pistol was raised up at the maid, and he fired a single shot at her back.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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The shot hit its mark, and with a strangled cry the maid collapsed to the floor outside the room, landing on her back. It was hard to tell where he’d hit her, but she was still alive for the moment, gasping and groaning in pain as the floor beneath her was soaked with her blood, a crimson ring starting to spread from beneath her fallen body.

“Shit...” Sonia murmured to herself, giving a grimace. She withdrew her gun, though at this point she doubted she’d need it.

She turned her attention to Charles, giving him a thankful nod. “Come on, we’d best question her while we can. There’s no telling if she’ll survive her wound.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Anna pursed her lips tightly as she eyed the boy's drugged state. "Breathe, Richard, just breathe, and focus." She drew in a tight breath of her own, reining in her impatience. Reaching down, she squeezed lightly at his hand as she stared down at him. "What did you tell the other Dog?"

Her gaze flicked back to the doorway they'd came through, watching for the doctor, listening for any sign that he might be lurking nearby. It would be so easy for him to burst in and interrupt the boy, if he was a part of any plot to obscure the truth... The unknowns nagged insistently at her thoughts, risking a treacherous path of paranoia. She had a God-given authority to compel the truth by any means necessary, but such drastic action could not be taken on vague suspicion. She looked back to the boy, biting worriedly at the edge of her lip. "I know this is hard, Richard, but this is of great importance. You will do the Church a great service in aiding us. The Lord smiled on you for your bravery and I am sure he will once more on this day."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Richard remained silent for a long moment, before slowly opening his mouth to speak. "I don't remember...much of that night. It's all a...hazy blur. But...I remember trying to find...her. I tried to find Melissa Watson, I truly did. But I couldn't. She was...already gone when I went inside. At least...I think she was. All I found were the bodies of her brother and parents. They...were already dead by that point. I tried looking for...Melissa elsewhere....but...I never found her. By the time the smoke forced me out...a piece of timber fell on me. After that I....well, I don't...remember much else. That's...what I told the other Dogs."

Margaret felt her heart start to quicken, as she took in what Richard said. She shared a glance with Anna, silently pondering just what that had meant. The Sheriff had already mentioned that they hadn't found the Watson girl...this Melissa. Still...the rest of her family had already been dead when Richard had gone into the house? Could they have died of smoke inhalation that quickly? It was highly unlikely they'd burned to death that first, most people died of the smoke before the fire ever got to them.

Considering the fire had been limited to just the block of the Watson residence...it can't have taken too long for the fire brigade to show up, and put out the flames. Not to mention, no one outside the Watson family had died...

Strange. This mission was getting curiouser and curiouser by the moment.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Charles had the decency not to swear, if only because the habit had been thoroughly scolded from by his Dog elders. With the briefest of glances to Sonia and the revolver in her hand, he quickly holstered his own and hurried to the other woman's side. Kneeling down on the floor, he reached to grasp at her hand, as much to pin the arm that had been trying to swing a blade into Sonia as to comfort the woman he'd shot. Part of him wanted to shout to fetch a doctor, but the pooling blood on the floor was sign enough of the inevitable.

He spoke with a quiet intensity, without hesitation. He had watched far, far too many men die before him, some by his his hand, some not. Women, more rarely, but regardless it was these moments where he did not share the same grizzled judgement of his comrades. "Do you believe in the Lord, our God, who's grace is eternal and who's power is beyond measure? Do you believe in his love and judgement?" He said hurriedly, as he squeezed tighter at her hand and stared into her eyes. "Confess and go before him with your soul laid bare of your sins."

In the end, every man and woman was a sinner, and every sinner was equal as they were about to face the Lord. Charles knew that more than he wanted to admit, at times. He let out a tight breath through gritted teeth as he watched the woman's life bleed out. "Confess and I will beseech the Lord to forgive you of your sins. Tell us what happened here. What happened to the Dogs?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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The dying woman paused...and spit out her blood-stained saliva onto Charles' face. She grimaced in pain, but nonetheless tried to speak. "Fuck you and fuck your god. The False Prophet and the False Lord are nothing compared to He Who Walks the Desert Night. I work in the name of the True God and his Herald!"

She paused, breaking out into a wet coughing fit, trickles of blood pouring out from her open mouth. She took in a shaky breath, and with one final act of defiance she declared, "The missing Dogs are...dead. And so...will you be too."

With that, she let out a strangled gasp, and became all too still: her hand growing limp in Charles' grasp.

A long moment of silence passed. When she finally found her voice, a noticeably pale Sonia bent down to put a hand on Charles' shoulder.

"Well. Shit. I think this just got a lot more complicated. If what she said means what I think it means...this could be really, really bad Charles."

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Anna fought back the urge to grip at the boy's arm, to shake him into clarity, as if that might give her better answers. But even what little he recollected raised questions. How large could the building have been, for him to not find the girl? How had the rest of her family died so swiftly, if the smoke was not so thick to kill the boy himself when he entered the building? But if the girl had not been home during the fire, surely she would have appeared...

But why had the Dogs questioned him in the first place? What had spurred them to investigate the fire? Anna could see suspicions in the event, but the further question was what had driven them to judge it more worthy than the mission they had already been given, even in passing if they'd only intended to spend a short time in town before continuing on. And if so, what had stolen them away so swiftly?

"Richard, do you remember how long the fire was burning before you went inside?" She asked with a feigned smile to the boy, before her gaze flicked up to Margaret, for her to ask any lingering questions of him.

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"Maybe...I'm not sure...ten, fifteen minutes...?" he slowly guessed, pausing briefly as he erupted into a sudden coughing fit. "Long enough that...I noticed the Watsons...weren't anywhere to be found. That was....when I went into their house...to find them."

Margaret closed her eyes in thought, her mind awhirl with thoughts as she tried to make sense of things. More and more it felt like some sort of conspiracy was afoot with this fire, though she knew not what it could be. Some monstrous arson was clearly at work here, but for what end? And what had happened to the Watsons, for them to die when no one else did? And where was their daughter, if she hadn't been among them in the house?

"Is there anything else, Richard? Anything you might remember from that night besides the fire, that struck you as unusual or strange?" she finally asked.

Richard was silent for a long moment, and Margaret wondered if he'd fallen asleep, when he suddenly spoke up. "...Voices. There were...voices in the flames. Whispers. I...I do not know what they said, but I heard them....when I was in their home, I....heard whispers from...the flames..."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Charles flinched reflexively at the splatter of blood across his face, but he didn't lash out, simply staring down hard at the woman and her spite, until the last light faded from her eyes.

He sighed heavily as he felt her go still, brows furrowed with intent thought. An ominous invocation indeed... not that it made a lick of sense to him. Nonetheless, he released her hand, and reached up to gently close her eyes. "Go to your judgment in peace." He murmured, eyeing the body for a lingering moment. Then he stood quiet a slow breath out, wiping the dripping blood from his beard.

"Dying folk don't tend to lie." He'd seen that more than enough. Begging, crying, spite on rarer occasions such as these... If she believed the missing Dogs were dead, they most likely were. "We know there's something here, for sure now. Just need to find the trail. Could show the hotel owner this to start, that should make him chatty." He paused with a look to Sonia, eyeing her shaken expression. "What d'you reckon?"

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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"...I think we just opened up a can of worms that we weren't ready for," Sonia replied, scowling slightly as she glared down at the woman's corpse. "Maybe I'm wrong...hell, I'm hoping I'm wrong...but the phrases she used had meaning, Charles. He Who Walks The Desert Night...that's a term I haven't heard in awhile."

She paused, looking around briefly to make sure no one else was nearby. So far no one had shown up to investigate the sound of the gunshot, but undoubtedly someone would, and soon. "We don't have much time, so I'll make this quick. Have you ever heard of the Black Deseret? It's a heretical group, a bastard offshoot of the Prophet's teachings. They sprung up maybe a decade ago, or thereabouts. Long story short, they're a dangerous cult. And we might have just walked right into a whole nest of 'em."

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Character Portrait: Anna Ward Character Portrait: Charles Carver Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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#, as written by Hyperewok
Could the Watsons have been murdered? Could Melissa Watson have been kidnapped? If someone had come into the house, fifteen minutes was more than enough time to abscond into the night. But fleeing the city itself without notice would have been far more difficult, surely.

The thought gnawed at Anna. The boy had found the bodies of most of the family, already dead, but the smoke had clearly not be so thick as to kill him so swiftly. No one else had perished in the fire. The girl's body hadn't been found. There was enough, to be sure, more than enough to catch a Dog's attention. Even perhaps to pull them away, if only intentionally briefly, from a prior assignment. Just enough for them to stumble onto a genuine conspiracy, for what else could have left them missing, likely dead?

But why Melissa Watson?

Anna stifled a sigh as the boy rambled further. Whispers in the flames indeed. But she would be thankful enough that the boy was as lucid as he was, with what the doctor had given him for his pain. "Thank you, Richard. You've been very brave. I will pray for your swift recovery." She said with another feigned smile, stepping back with a nod and turning away, not letting him see the worried grimaced that she looked to Margaret with.

"We are still missing a piece." She muttered to Margaret. "Someone must have seen the girl. Our comrades must have found some better trail to follow."

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