Dogs in Almighty God's Vineyard

Dogs in Almighty God's Vineyard

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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?

4,948 readers have visited Dogs in Almighty God's Vineyard 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 [email protected]$$ 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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[/list]

[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: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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The bandit looked over at Anna, a grimace spread across his dirtied face. He looked between her gun, and her knife, clearly weighing his options. The man had very few avenues of escape open, and at this point, it seemed all he could do was decide just how he was going to die. A fate he begrudgingly accepted, as he began to speak.

That, or he was looking to buy himself some time to plan out an escape.

"I...." the sinner swallowed hard, giving the female Dog a nervous look. "I don't know much. The kids were...taken back East, I guess. That's where they said they were going....Azrael said he had some buyers in the East that were interested in 'em. And I don't know nothing about any Sheriff...he get himself killed? Well, we had nothin' to do with that."

The man paused a moment, collecting his thoughts as he went on. "Don't know who Azrael is. He just....found us one day, and made the Boss an offer. We'd raid some local ranches and homesteads, kill all the adults, and take the children over to him, in exchange for some cash and some gold. He promised his backers back East would pay us all handsomely...for those brats. So we did it. Kids got taken this morning by some men in carriages, and Azrael gave the Boss our payment."
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Meanwhile, across the fort, Horatio led Elizabeth over to Doc Cottle's wagon. The physician tended to her quickly, whisking her away to the back of his wagon as he started treating her wounds.

Horatio leaned against the side of the side of the wagon, sighing as he closed his eyes. His reflections were interrupted, however, as Brother Samuel spoke to him.

"I've heard that all but one of the children were already gone. Is it true?" Horatio opened his eyes, looking over at the priest. Brother Samuel's desperate, haunted face stared back at him.

Poor bastard. If he and Anna felt guilty about this whole mess...it probably didn't compare to the guilt Samuel felt. He was right there, with all the children....and his efforts to rescue them all were now in vain. The man was probably consumed with guilt and regret. Not that there was anything he could have done, really. It was unlikely the children would have survived a trek though the desert, malnourished and weak as they would have been. He doubted the Brother was considering that, however.

"Yes....I'm sorry, Brother." Horatio gave a little nod, even as Brother Samuel became more crestfallen, an ashen look overcoming his features.

"I should have taken them with me..." Samuel looked away, muttering words of regret. "If I had stayed, then maybe..."

Horatio was more than familiar with that sort of guilt. If he and his family had taken a different trail that night...or if he hadn't insisted they make the trip at all...

That type of guilt would consume a person, if left unchecked. It probably would have consumed him, quite honestly, if the burning desire of revenge hadn't overpowered the elder Dog's sense of guilt.

"There was nothing you could have done, Brother. You had no way of knowing the children would be taken away so soon...and besides, could they really have made it all the way back to Red Road, walking in that blistering sun?" Horatio pointed out, giving the guilty priest a knowing and sympathetic look. "Besides....we have saved one child tonight. If nothing else, Elizabeth Daniels will be reunited with her brother, and taken away from these savage sinners."

Brother Samuel nodded, apparently taking a little comfort in those words. "Yes...you have a point, Watchdog. I....she is in the wagon with the doctor, yes? I'll...stay with her. My presence would comfort her, I think. And...me, as well. Go, I'll stay with her."

Horatio nodded, straightening himself as he leaned off of the wagon. Brother Samuel ventured inside of it a moment later, and the Dog walked away....heading over to the edge of the fort, where he was fairly sure Anna would be interrogating the last surviving bandit.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Greedy, soulless, wretched creature. Anna fumed silently, gritting her teeth as she forced herself to keep a calm expression. She couldn't afford to lash out at him if there was still answers that could be pried from him. There was still too many unanswered questions. She couldn't be sure if Chesterfield was the only culprit in Red Road. The mayor likely had the capability for murder, but such prideful men often had their own thugs to sully their hands with the gruesome work of murder. Too many questions and the devil that called himself Azrael In the end, it only was a small consolation that Anna knew the man before her would face the appropriately slow justice of the noose.

"Is your boss still here?" She hissed, gesturing to the fort and the corpses spread across it. "And which way did the carriages ride out? How many did they bring? How many men were with them?"

Anna would have preferred to spend more time searching Red Road, especially the mayor's residence, but the carriage wasn't more than a day ahead. The tracks would still be fresh. And a heavy carriage and its escort would never be able to outpace two of the Lord's hounds on the hunt. Or at least that was what Anna prayed for.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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"Boss is...I saw him get shot right in front of me. He's dead now, I guess." the bandit answered, the man grimacing as he said that. "There were three carriages all together, a-and nine men that came with 'em, counting the drivers. Three men drove the carriages, three man got into a carriage each, and the last three were all on horseback. They....went out east, I think. Azrael said they were going to Jefferson City."

Jefferson City....it was a fairly modest town, much bigger than Red Road of course, but not quite on the same level as New Life was. Indeed, it's only claim to fame was that the Transcontinental Railroad had a stop in the town. Which meant that the men and the children they took were likely long gone. Jefferson City was half a day's travel from Red Road, and once the men purchased tickets for the train....yes, they would be long gone by now. If they were indeed taking the children out East, they would no doubt be hundreds of miles away.

The Transcontinental Express, after all, could travel from New York City, all the way to San Francisco, in just 83 hours. There was no way Anna and Horatio could hope to catch up to the vile sinners that had taken away the other children on horseback. And even if they were to try and follow them on the railroad itself...even if they could find out what train they had taken, they could just as easily get off at a stopping point down the line, and use other means of transportation to get to their destination.

There was no escaping the fact, then...in lieu of a miracle, the other children taken from the fort would likely never be found. If just by Anna and Horatio themselves.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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The rage came roaring back in Anna's chest. Again and again they had found answers, but only for their enemy to be five steps ahead of them. And to think that Eastern debauchery was the likely culprit made her rage burn even hotter. For all of the mystery of the man who called himself Azrael of all things, it was only greed and depravity at the root of these crimes, purely human sin. It would have almost been a small comfort to know that Azrael was ultimately no different than the petty thug before her, if not for the fact that it all meant nothing to the children that could be anywhere in the nation by the time she and Horatio could even reach Jefferson City.

Anna's heart was thudding madly as she aimed her revolver at the sinner's head, her finger slowly pressing against the trigger. But she stopped at the last moment, turning the gun in her hand and gripping it by the barrel. She swung out, striking the man across the head with the grip of her revolver. The man flopped to the side, grasping at his head as he cried out.

Slowly holstering her weapon, Anna paid no mind to the man's groans as she let out a slow breath. They would just have to go back to Red Road and find the root of it all. The dead mayor had not become corrupt overnight, and Anna would tear up every last floorboard of the town's meager houses to find whatever secrets he took to his grave.

Grabbing the sinner by his shoulder, Anna hauled him up to his feet and shoved him forward, sending him stumbling on his way back to Thompson and Horatio. "He'll hang for his crimes and sins once we return to town. There's nothing else to be gained from him." She said to the two of them, her scowl evident despite her best effort to conceal it. "Azrael's men took the children to Jefferson City, intending to sell them in the East. All we can do now is resume the search in Red Road for evidence of who this monster is. The mayor must have left something worthwhile in his home or office."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Horatio nodded, looking down at the groaning bandit briefly, before returning his attention to Anna. It seemed as if it was one step forward, and two steps back throughout this whole investigation. Horatio had the nagging feeling he was missing something...some vital clue that would blow this whole thing wide open. Whatever that clue was though, it eluded him.

"Excuse me," a voice spoke up, getting their attention. Brother Samuel had approached the group, a piece of paper clutched in one hand. "One of the men found something while the doctor was tending to Elizabeth, and I volunteered to bring it over to you. It seems to be a document of some sort...a letter, I suppose. It...I admit I read it on the way over here, it's not that long a read. It's a rather...disturbing, if enlightening, read."

Brother Samuel handed the piece of paper over, passing it over to Horatio. The older Dog took it, and skimmed it, his eyes moving across the page. After a moment he scowled, handing the sheet over to Thompson. The black lawman read the paper as well, and a similarly troubled expression soon spread across his face. After a moment he handed the sheet over to Anna next, to let her read it:

My Dear Uriel,

All proceeds according to plan. We have a new child under our care, a lovely girl named Elizabeth. She shall make a fine addition to the ones we have all ready cultivated, I suspect. And now, with this last child under lock and key, I am wrapping up the operation in Red Road. I've heard word that a group of Watchdogs are being sent to investigate, and thus we must make haste to get the children away before the Soldiers of the Lord make their presence known. The bandits shall be paid off well for their cooperation and future silence, as agreed, so they shall not be a problem.

There is a more immediate situation, however. The Sheriff knows too much. He must either be brought into the fold, or silenced, and unfortunately I believe the latter will be necessary. Cobbs is a righteous and just man, but his curiosity shall be his undoing. I will have my agent in Red Road take care of him. Mayor Chesterfield will loathe getting his hands dirty, but he knows the consequences of disobeying my direct order. It shall be a simple affair, I think. The Sheriff is known to enjoy a good whiskey, after all.

Truly yours,

A.


A moment of silence reigned among the group, before Horatio finally spoke up.

"Sheriff...was there a bottle of whiskey at Cobbs' desk, when you found him?"

Clarence grimaced, but gave a nod all the same. The gears clearly shifting in his own head as well. He trembled a little, clearly trying to hold back his growing anger as the pieces fell into place. "Goddamn. Yes, there was. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but....goddamn."

By all indications, it seemed that the dead Mayor had been the one to murder Sheriff Jacob Cobbs....and with poisoned whiskey no less, much as all the dead families in Red Road had been done in. Cobbs may have been found with a slit throat, but the older Dog was willing to wager an entire month's salary that the man had been dead well before any blood of his was spilled.

"How much you wanna bet we find out the Mayor has a whole cellar of whiskey like the kind I found at the Daniels ranch?" Horatio questioned, giving Anna a knowing look.

It wasn't the break he had hoped for, but the pieces were starting to come together now. There were gaps in the explanation, of course. They still had no damned idea who Azrael was....and likely, never would find out who he was. If Azrael and his compatriots had been as careful and thorough as they were in slaying all these families and stealing the children away, Horatio was doubtful they'd find any evidence as to who that vile man really was.

But now, a clear picture was starting to form in his head. Chesterfield had clearly been the inside man at Red Road, though Horatio had suspected as much before. Now they merely had proof confirming this suspicion...as well as new evidence that shined a light on the Mayor's role in Cobbs' murder.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna scowled as she read the letter. Cobbs' murderer was all but confirmed, but it was all too little, too late. With Chesterfield as their agent in the town, it was no wonder they could act with impunity. They had known the Dogs would come days before they'd rode into town. Now there was little left to do but search everywhere Chesterfield had been. With how cautious the sinners had been, they had been fortunate enough to find this letter at all. Anything else seemed like the dimmest of hopes.

"Brother, you may wish to keep silent of what you read here. For your own safety." She said as she folded the letter and pocketed. Too many lives had been snuffed out already to conceal the truth. It was certainly clear that they would not hesitate to kill a man of Faith.

"Sheriff, if you could bind the sinner and see him back to Red Road. We'll hang him swiftly." Anna said, and then looked to Horatio, and leaned closer to whisper to him. "Once we've finished searching Chesterfield's belongings and hung this wretch, we should return to New Life with all haste. If Cobbs' friend Howard Franklin is still alive, we must find him."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Thompson nodded, dragging the last remaining bandit away to bind him. Brother Samuel gave a nod of understanding as well, apparently taking Anna's words to heart. He may not have known the entire story, as the Dogs did, but he clearly placed value on the words of a Soldier of the Lord.

The rest of the search of the fort proceeded rather uneventfully. No more letters were found, and it was confirmed that the rest of the sinners were dead, leaving their prisoner as the last remaining member of this sordid gang. They did, however, find the blood money paid to the bandits for their services. After some indecision, Anna and Horatio decided to leave it, not wanting to associate themselves or Red Road with money so soaked in sin.

Of course, that didn't stop the more...enterprising members of the posse from stealing a few stacks of dollars and some gold. Horatio wasn't entirely pleased with that, but he himself turned a blind eye. He didn't want to touch the money that had been used to practically buy the stolen children, but at the same time, the people in Red Road, and in other such settlements, lived a very hard life. Any bit of money would probably go a long way toward easing their life, which Horatio wasn't against at all.

The sun was rising up by the time they left the fort, Horatio and Anna riding out in Doc Cottle's wagon with Brother Samuel, Sheriff Thompson, and Elizabeth (their prisoner, it was decided, ended up being strapped to one of the horses as the best way to transport him). The Dogs had ridden out their own horses to the fort, but they'd decided to let other members of the posse ride them back to town, in favor of staying with Elizabeth in the wagon. Horatio himself felt a rather powerful urge to protect the child...the only remaining survivor, for all intents and purposes, of all those kidnapped kids. She'd be safe enough in the wagon with Brother Samuel, of course, but Horatio (and Anna and Clarence, as it seemed) felt more comfortable being there with her, to protect her.

Horatio was starting to feel the effects of an entire day without sleep, of course. It was hard to believe the entire events at Red Road had transpired over the course of a single day...hell, the whole thing felt like it had taken months. As such, he was more than a bit tired in the wagon, and while no one would fault him for catching a bit of sleep on the way back to town (like the good Sheriff was doing at the moment), Horatio still struggled to keep his eyes open, more out of pride and duty than anything else.

"You came back for me." Elizabeth spoke up, her voice quiet, but it caught the older Dog's attention all the same.

She had since exchanged Anna's coat for a small blanket, the fabric wrapped around her small body to hide her nudity. The girl was resting in Brother Samuel's lap, her back resting against his chest as the wagon surged forward. She hadn't spoken much since they made their way back to Red Road...which was understandable. It would probably take the poor girl a long, long time to adjust to the trauma she had experienced with the bandits.

Of course, there was a small silver lining in everything...the rest of her family may not have been as guilty, but as he and Anna had found out, Elizabeth's father was one of the worst scum out there. Horatio hadn't had the heart to ask Elizabeth about it, but he had no doubt, based on what her brother had told them, that her father raped her almost every night, or had been, for who knows how long. At the very least, that vile man was out of her life now.

"You came back for me." she spoke up again, head craned to look up at the priest in question. "I...I wasn't sure if you'd actually come back..."

Samuel smiled down kindly at her, gently caressing the girl's head, stroking her hair. "Of course, my child. A promise is a promise, and...if possible, I do not break promises. I always would have come back for you, no matter what."

Elizabeth seemed content to hear those words, a soft smile gracing her lips for the first time since they'd found her. She sank back against Samuel's chest, visibly comforted by the Brother's words and presence.

Horatio couldn't help but smile himself, the display bringing a bit of warmth to his normally cold heart. Despite the failure and setback they'd faced at Fort Jefferson...they could at least be content that they had saved Elizabeth. And because of that, this whole venture hadn't been in vain.
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Horatio must have dozed off at some point, for he found himself suddenly jolted awake, the carriage shaking slightly as it continued on. He looked around, a bit bleary-eyed, but breathed a sigh of relief when the wagon came to a stop. They'd arrived back at Red Road, it seemed.

When the older Dog and his companions stepped out of the wagon, they found themselves parked in the town square. A sizable crowd had been drawn already by their entrance, many no doubt wishing to welcome home the 'victorious' posse. Word had already started to spread through the crowd though, of their findings, by the departing members of the posse, as dismayed cries and furious looks started to overtake the crowd.

What followed next...happened very quickly. The town already had a hanging platform constructed, built many decades ago, so it was a quick matter to arrange the hanging of the last bandit, and the overall scapegoat for the vile deeds done in and around Red Road.

Despite pleas of mercy from the sinner, none was shown to him, as the noose was tied around his neck. A chair was placed under his feet, Horatio watching the whole setup with overall approval.

The chair wasn't kicked out from under him straight away, however, as deference was shown to the Dogs. This was frontier justice, but they were Soldiers of the Lord, Watchdogs of the Faithful, so any punishment of sinners naturally fell to them to carry out, if they so wished.

And Horatio was more than happy to be the man to send that bastard to hell (or wherever they did end up when they died), but he was surprised when Brother Samuel, of all people, made a request of him and Anna.

"May I be the one to do the honors, Dog Horatio?" Samuel inquired, his arms folded, as he stared over coldly at sinner, who was standing still as he possible could, not wanting to lose his balance and prematurely carry out his death sentence. "The both of you have the right to carry out his eternal punishment, however...I would like to do it myself, if possible. Such a vile sinner deserves to burn in the deepest depths of hell, and ensuring that I was the one who sent him there would be...satisfying."

Horatio was surprised by the request, but didn't see any reason to object to it, offhand. He could see why Brother Samuel would want to carry out the execution himself. He had spent days in captivity amongst the bandits, after all. Not to mention how hard he had taken the disappearance of the other children...

When Anna raised no objection, Horatio gave an assenting nod. Samuel smiled a little at that, a vindictive sort of smile that couldn't help but send a little chill down the older Dog's spine, and he walked up the steps on the hanging platform.

The bandit looked over at him, breathing heavily, even as he resigned himself to his fate. His eyes widened, though...recognizing Samuel, the light of the sun illuminating his face better than the stars and moon had several hours ago. "Y-You?! You're here?!"

Brother Samuel smiled coldly at the vile sinner, a soft chuckle escaping his lips. "Ah...I bet you didn't expect to see me again, did you? Thought I died out in the desert, hm? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret before you die, vile wretch. I was the one that led them there. I led the Dogs and the posse straight to your camp. I'm the reason why all of your wretched, vile compatriots are dead. The Lord rendered justice upon all of you sinful monsters, and I will carry out His will in sending you straight to hell, along with the rest of your comrades."

Samuel grinned viciously at the scapegoat, even as the last bandit gaped at him, floored by this revelation. He didn't have long to ponder it, however.

With a roar of approval from the crowd, Samuel kicked out the chair from under the bandit, leaving him to gasp and flail in the air as he was choked to death by the hangman's noose.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna wrapped herself up in her coat and curled up in the corner of the wagon, and tried to let the rhythmic thumping of the wheels lull her into a few hours of rest as it did for Horatio. But her mind would not let her rest as she dwelled on the letter. The sinner they had caught said that Azrael's men were selling the children in the East. It was hardly an impossible scenario, to think that debauchery and wealth could lead to the cruelest of evils. The industrialists and bankers and politicians built monuments to their vanity and depravity in the East. A few butchered families meant nothing to them. But there were just as many families in the East, masses of immigrants with no law that would protect a few missing children among thousands. Why target western homesteads when there were hundreds, thousands more in rotting cities like New York?

And then there was Azrael, Uriel, and the letter. The bandits were nothing but petty thugs, paid in blood money to do the work of something far beyond their understanding. And now...dead to the last man, or about to me. Their leader may have known the truth, but he was dead for it, just like Cobbs. It was all so neat. Even the work of snuffing out the girls' sinful father had been done. It was too neat.

Despite her worried mind, exhaustion from a night of riding and killing eventually caught up with her and lulled her into a fitful sleep, until the cart shuddered to a stop and woke her. Anna bit back a yawn, content to let the posse shove and prod the sinner on his way to the noose. She slowly followed the posse, watching the townsfolk clamor for blood. She had seen such a sight plenty of times, encouraged it herself on more than one occasion as she and her fellow Dogs had dragged a sinner back to town to face the Lord's justice. It should have been a good feeling, to see this again.

Anna was glad they had a chair and noose instead of a proper gallows. She wanted the sinner to die slowly, knowing that his actions had all led to this moment. But it was Horatio's right as the pack leader to end him, if Samuel had not interrupted. She eyed the brother, remaining silent in deference to Horatio. Who stuck the blow in the end mattered little to her.

She didn't blink as the chair clattered away and the rope snapped faintly as it grew taunt, nor when the crowd roared and the sinner gasped and wheezed for breath. She had wanted to see the man die slowly for his crimes, but now it only felt like a hollow victory. Red Road would mourn, but a child had been saved, justice had been paid in blood, and the posse even earned pay for their bravery. Everything had come to an end.

But the look on Samuel's face sickened her. It was not as if the macabre joy of seeing such a sinner die was unlikely, or even against the tenets of the Faith. The snuffing out of such a sinful wretch was to be celebrated. There were plenty of Dogs who did. Anna herself had enjoyed the rush of enacting the Lord's justice in gunpowder and lead on more than one occasion. It was a slippery slope, but ultimately the righteous acts of violence were necessary, and thus to deny the joy of doing the Lord's work was counterproductive. But there was no righteous fury in Samuel, only a cold, calculating malice, and his cruel mockery to the bandit.

A sinking thought crept into Anna's mind. The look of shocked recognition in the bandit's eyes as Samuel had sneered at him. The man who had ensured that every one of the bandits would die, after the children had been taken away, all but a token victim. And so eager to ensure the last sinner's end.

It was not as if member of the clergy were immune to corruption. They were still human, flawed and capable of any evil, if they so chose to. But it was not an accusation to be make lightly for the slightest of infringements, much less this...and yet, who else would know each and every child in Red Road and the surrounding homesteads? Who else would children reveal the sins of their fathers to? Who else was close enough to give orders directly to Chesterfield, but still not a local?

But the question that remained was why such a man would give the Dogs a letter that revealed far more of a nefarious plot than an ignorant bandit. There were too many questions, too much at stake, and she could not be sure where her speculation could be swirling together with fear and paranoia. Could the brother truly have gone through such an ordeal to convince the doctor of his suffering, all to ensure his deception went through?

"Uncle..." Anna whispered to Horatio as they watched the sinner gurgle and kick at the air. "We must find a moment to speak with the girl, alone. Samuel...he sets me ill at ease."

She then cleared her throat, speaking more clearly to the archdeon over the din of the crowd cheering at the last wheezing croaks of the sinner. "Brother, what do you think should be done with the children? Do you know if the girl and her brother have any other family they can go to? Or should we take them to an orphanage in New Life, perhaps?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Horatio looked over at Anna, eyebrow raised at her surprising declaration. Unlike her, he wasn't as suspicious of Brother Samuel. The Archdeon's words had contained a good deal of malice and mockery, sure, but...

Well, suffice to say, Horatio was more than familiar with displaying such things himself. He had displayed those emotions, and then some, when hunting down the six members of Marston's gang he'd taken out so far (with one other member, and Marston himself, as the last two holdouts). So while Anna might have her suspicions, Horatio didn't have any on his end.

Samuel had spent days in captivity among the bandits, nearly died in the trek back to Red Road, and after all that...all but one of the children were gone? Yes...he'd have plenty of pent up malice and aggression against those monsters. From Horatio's perspective, it only felt natural for Samuel to act the way he did.

Of course, perhaps his view on the matter was biased. Horatio wasn't afraid to admit he might be projecting too much of himself on Brother Samuel and his actions. Adding to that, Anna wouldn't be mentioning this at all if something wasn't nagging at her, and the older Dog trusted his surrogate daughter. Perhaps it was a matter they should look into...

"Far as I am aware, Elizabeth and her brother do not have any other relatives in Red Road." Brother Samuel replied, speaking a little louder so Anna could hear him over the din of the crowd. All the while, the now dead bandit swung in the air, the life choked out of him.

"I have a friend in New Life who runs an orphanage...I think it would be best if the children were taken there." Samuel continued on, giving a little nod. "Jeremiah would be well taken care of there, I think. He's looked after children with certain...needs before, and I think that would be the best place for him. His sister as well, of course. In fact...if you and your partner had no objections, it was my intention to take the children with me, out to Jefferson City. We could take the train to New Life, and from there it wouldn't take long to get them....situated into their new home."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Horatio's reaction did not encourage her. Anna knew well enough that he could be a wrathful man, even more so than other Dogs of his experience. Righteous anger was only a natural response from righteous men witnessing evil. It was sensible enough. But the brother's response was enough to validate her suspicions.

The train from Jefferson City... It was too much, too much to be a coincidence. It was not unreasonable for the brother to suggest that he escort the children to an orphanage. And Jefferson City was closest train station. It was reasonable enough, Samuel had the experience with children, and someone in New Life to take them to, leaving the Dogs to return to their duties elsewhere. It was all so neat, as everything here had been.

The calm smile on Anna's face was a careful facsimile, although she could not feign any hint of warmth in her eyes. "Perhaps Dog Horatio and I could accompany you to New Life. We searched and fought for the children, it would only be right to see them safely to their new home. After all, they have been through such an ordeal. Even in your company, traveling a long way to a strange new home will be difficult for them. I would hope that the presence of the Lord's hounds might help set them at ease."

Despite the outward calm, Anna's mind was steadily becoming frantic. To press the issue would raise Samuel's suspicions, and he would never be so easily caught off guard as Chesterfield had been. There would not be nearly enough time to question the girl before they left. But she could not just sit idly and let him whisk away the children. Not if there was the slightest chance that they could still fall into the hands of sinners. Everything rested on the suspicions of a man that could be a monster.

Anna kept up her calm smile as she let out a slow breath. Lord, please...

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Brother Samuel raised an eyebrow, but he didn't object to the idea outright, instead giving them both a small smile. "Well, if that is what you wish, who am I to deny your request? You and your partner are more than welcome to accompany me and the children to New Life, Anna. I'll let you know when I'm ready to leave town. For the moment, there are some affairs I need to settle, and I'd like to give Elizabeth and her brother some time to reunite, before we leave. That, and I will need to get her some clothes to wear for the journey as well."

That said, Samuel took his leave, giving the both of them a small nod. He walked back into the slowly dispersing crowd, reunited with Elizabeth, and lead her away and over to the church. Where, if he hadn't been moved, her brother Jeremiah should still be waiting.

Horatio watched as the Brother walked away, a contemplative look on his face, as he glanced over at Anna. "What do you want to do now, Anna?"

At this point, protocol dictated that they were supposed to send in a telegram informing their superiors in New Life of their 'success' at Red Road, as well as a brief summary of the events that had gone down. From there, they'd wait for a response, and proceed from there. Usually that meant they would be ordered back to New Life for a new assignment, though sometimes they might just be ordered to take care of another mission then and there. It really depended on what the Watchdogs in New Life wanted them to do.

Of course, if they did send in a message, they would run the aforementioned risk of being ordered away to a new mission straight away. And without good explanation, they couldn't really disobey a direct order from the Pack Leaders in New Life. Not without facing severe punishment for their crimes, at least.

And really, how could they justify disobeying an order, if that's what it came down to? Despite whatever he or Anna might suspect about Brother Samuel, they had next to no evidence to back up their suspicions. And without hard evidence, Horatio didn't feel comfortable making any accusations against Brother Samuel. Priestfolk could be corrupted too, of course. Indeed, they could be some of the most vile, monstrous sinners around if Men of the Cloth let their baser urges get the best of them. But at the same time, what proof did they have of any wrongdoing?

Of course, there was always the chance they'd just be ordered back to New Life, in which case, they could accompany Brother Samuel without a problem.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna grimaced as soon as Samuel had turned and left. He had not balked at all, but he was clearly clever. Or her instincts were wrong. The uncertainty gnawed at her until she fumed, letting out a huffed breath. There had to be something left in Red Road that would give them answers.

"We still have time. We'll search the mayor's office now, and then his house. Then one of us can search Samuel's lodgings while the other keeps him occupied." She said quietly to Horatio. "Before we leave for the train at Jefferson, we'll send a telegraph to New Life to tell them we'll be escorting the children there. With everything that has happened, I am sure the Pack Leaders will understand. It would be best if we reached New Life with all haste regardless, while there still might be something left in the city to lead us to Howard Franklin."

It was easy enough to sound confidant, but as Anna made her way towards Chesterfield's former office, the doubt still gnawed at her. Azrael, whether or not he truly was Samuel, was careful. But Chesterfield's sins had been so easily flushed out. He had to have left something behind, that he could not hide or destroy before his untimely death. There had to be something.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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And yet, there was nothing.

Anna and Horatio searched Chesterfield's office and personal home, and despite the time and effort their put into their search, they found nothing of substance. Nothing related to what they were seeking, at least. From Chesterfield's personal letters and writings, they did find further evidence that he had, in fact, murdered both of his wives, but in comparison to rooting out the conspiracy that had taken place in Red Road, that fact mattered little. A few correspondences between Chesterfield and an anonymous individual were unearthed, that alluded to him turning a 'blind eye' to some matter in exchange for money, but these letters were frustratingly vague, and offered little new knowledge.

So, either Chesterfield had been more cunning in hiding his more overt complicity in the murders around Red Road, which was entirely plausible considering he had successfully hidden the fact he had murdered both of his wives, or someone had gone through his letters and belongings after his death, and after the Dogs had left to rescue the children. Either one seemed like a good possibility.

That avenue exhausted, Horatio went into the Church to keep an eye on Samuel, distracting him while Anna searched his lodgings near the edge of town. But again, nothing was found. Anna found nothing to implicate Samuel in the sinful deeds committed against the townspeople of Red Road, or anything that implied he was anyone but who he said he was.

To be fair to Anna, however...Samuel's lodgings were sparse. His home was very spartan in nature. He had a bed, a dresser, a nightstand that contained a worn copy of the Book of Life, and a few, innocuous letters for Samuel from friends in New Life and elsewhere. There honestly hadn't been much to find and look at when Anna was inside.

After all their searching, Horatio and Anna had nothing all that good to show for it. And certainly nothing that pointed to the idea Samuel had been involved in the wretched business at Fort Jefferson.

It was getting close to noon now, and Anna and Horatio had now reconvened just outside the Church. They would need to leave soon if they were to arrive at Jefferson City before it got too late, as the city itself was perhaps five or six hours away on horseback. Brother Samuel and the children were ready to leave, and now were just waiting on the Dogs to give the go ahead for them all to leave as a group.

"We haven't found much of anything, Anna." Horatio grumbled, leaning against the wall of the church.

He looked over at his apprentice, a grimace gracing his features. He still wasn't sold on Samuel being guilty...certainly, there was circumstantial evidence that might point to his guilt. But, considering the fact that neither of them had found anything, both in searching the residencies of Chesterfield and Samuel, Horatio was becoming increasingly doubtful of the whole idea.

He wasn't about to suggest dropping the idea entirely though. After all, if there was something to Anna's theory, then they needed to bring Samuel to justice. The trouble, of course, was the fact that they had next to nothing to implicate the Brother in any wrongdoing.

"I suppose we'll go with them now, to Jefferson City?" Horatio questioned, looking over at his junior partner. Anna had been the one to first suspect something was wrong with Samuel, after all. So Horatio wanted her to take point on this venture.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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God and Prophet. Anna swore silently after they had exhausted the most obvious places to search, when it was clear they could justify nothing more to her hunch. There was enough to hang Chesterfield twice over for his crimes, but that meant nothing for the dead man. And while bribery and murder were dark enough from a public servant of the Faith, they still paled in comparison to the grand, monstrous schemes of Uriel and Azrael, whoever they might be. Whoever still be the most difficult of questions, with nothing more than Anna’s gut warning her of Samuel.

But it was not as if a Dog was infallible. Dogs far more experienced than her had been wrong, after so many years of seeking out the darkness in men they sometimes saw it where it was not. It tore at Anna to think she could be completely wrong in all of this, but there was nothing left to show her otherwise.

“Yes, I suppose we shall,” Anna answered quietly, crossing her arms to keep her restless hands still. The feeling of unease lingered within her, more so after they had found nothing at all left in Red Road. Part of Anna wanted to tear up the floorboards of every house in the town, but that was far, far more than she could justify, even if two Dogs could search the entire town swiftly enough.

“We should send word to the Pack Leaders, let them know we will be back in New Life soon with the children. Then we can pick up the trail of Howard Franklin.” If nothing else, they should see the children back safely, and find Cobbs' contact in the city.

If there is any trail left by then. The thought gnawed at Anna. Everything had been obscured so cleanly. The question was whether such dark forces could work so easily in the heart of the Faith, and Anna could not bear to consider such implications.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Horatio nodded, and accompanied Anna over to the telegram station in Red Road. The operator looked up from his desk, casting a somewhat nervous glance at Anna, before focusing his gaze on Horatio. Clearly a bit relieved to be dealing with Anna's superior, instead of the woman herself.

"Message from New Life came in, Sir, for you." the operator proclaimed, speaking to Horatio. He lifted a telegram from his desk and handed it over to the Dog. "Came in almost an hour ago."

Horatio raised an eyebrow, taking the telegram. He scanned its contents...a grimace soon spreading across his face. He looked over at Anna, knowing at once she wasn't going to like this.

"...Here." Horatio gave a little sigh, handing his junior partner the telegram.

This is Dog Anthony Winchester STOP Have update with regards to Howard Franklin STOP Franklin found dead in hotel STOP Gunshot to temple and revolver in hand suggest suicide STOP No letter was found STOP New Life police dropping investigation STOP Also am dropping investigation STOP Case has come to a close END

"It seems that all loose ends are being...cut in this case." Horatio proclaimed, once Anna had finished the letter. He frowned deeply, quite disturbed by this news.

It was incredibly possible Howard Franklin had committed suicide. If he had really murdered the telegram operator in New Life...well, the guilt of that violent act would drive any normal man to...drastic action. Still, like Anna, it felt all too...convenient for him. He wasn't sure about anything anymore, but certainly...this all was starting to feel too wrapped up. All loose ends were being conveniently cut, and it was increasingly clear that also meant they had no more sources to investigate this case further.

Howard Franklin was dead. The Mayor was dead. The other children were gone. And they'd found no evidence of Brother Samuel being guilty at all...

Horatio had a bad feeling about all of this, but even then...what could they do? The two of them could only do so much with pure speculation. The Pack Leaders in New Life would probably just say they were being paranoid about all this...and, well, Horatio wouldn't really blame them for that. If someone came to him with a story like this...he'd probably think the guy was starting to see shadows where there weren't.

Red Road...it was just one disaster after another, in the end. Or it just felt like it. At this rate, Horatio was ready to just...push this entire godforsaken town out of his mind, goddamnit!

God and Prophet...it'd been years since he'd been rendered so...powerless and frustrated by a case. He felt so helpless about it all...! Hell, at this point, Horatio was very much looking forward to a good bottle of whiskey in New Life. If only for a brief time, it'd help him forget entirely about this maddening town and the mysteries surrounding it.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna's heart sunk the moment she saw it in Horatio's eyes. She didn't need to read the telegram to know something had gotten worse, horribly worse. Reading the message only twisted her dread into fury.

"God damn it all!" The paper crumpled between her fingers as Anna slammed her fist into the wall.

They had nothing. If they could so easily kill Franklin, there was no chance they would leave any other evidence to find, even if she and Horatio had the faintest inclination of where to search. And without evidence, there was nothing to present to the Pack Leaders to pursue these monsters. Even at the heart of the Faith, they could strike with impunity.

It was only after a moment of heaving breaths that Anna caught herself from her outburst, her cheeks flushing as she remembered that Horatio was standing beside her, much less the operator still in the office. She turned back to Horatio as she forced the scowl from her expression, her gaze cast down at the floor. To keep her hands from lashing out again, she stuffed them into the pockets of her coat, and one hand brushed against the small book that she had stowed away and nearly forgotten in the chaos of the fort attack.

“We...we still have this.” Anna said quietly as she produced Cobbs’ journal with his notes on the investigation and the newspaper reports of the past attacks he had connected to Red Road. Even with the missing pages that must have detailed his most damning findings, the truth that had led to his death, he had still tied too many incidents together for anyone to deny it as coincidence. “We can present this to the Pack Leaders. With the Lord as our witness, it will have to be enough. They are in New Life and we must find them.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Horatio took a look at the journal, then gave a slow, somber nod. "Yes...it will have to be enough. God willing, the Pack Leaders will at least listen to us."

That said...they couldn't linger in the town much longer. Their plan settled, Horatio turned to the telegram operator and had him relay a message to New Life, to the Dog Headquarters. That done, he left the building with Anna to go collect Brother Samuel and the children to go to New Life.

They were hardly out the door, however, before the two were interrupted. Abigail Cobbs approached them just as they left the telegram office, waving them down to talk with them.

The pregnant widow held a hand to her belly, a small smile on her face. "I'm terribly sorry to interrupt you, but...I felt the need to talk with you both before you left town. You particularly, Miss Anna. I just...wanted to thank you both. The other children may be gone already, poor souls, but....my husband did not die completely in vain. Little Elizabeth is back with her brother, and they're both safe. Jacob would be very happy about that...and I'm quite happy you killed his murderers."

Of course, the Widow Cobbs knew nothing of the surrounding, vast conspiracy about the whole matter. Far as she knew, her husband's true killers had been brought to justice. Only Horatio, Anna, and Thompson had a wider clue about the more sinister going ons. Even then though....Horatio wasn't about to tell her all this. Better to let the widow be content, and believe the matter had been purely solved.

"We were just doing our job, ma'am." Horatio demurred, tipping his hat to the lady.

Abigail gave a soft laugh, a kind, gentle smile on her face. "Be that as it may, I would still like to thank the both of you. And...well, I had a request of young Anna here."

The widow focused her attention on the female Dog, taking a moment to gather her thoughts before speaking. "I don't know if I'll have a boy or a girl...if it's a boy, I've decided to name him Jacob, after his father. But Prophet willing....if I do have a daughter...I would like to name her after you, Miss Anna. If you wouldn't mind?"

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna let out a slow breath as she stepped out of the office, a sense of calm slowly starting to return to her. With the journal as a reassuring weight in her coat, simply having the faintest notion was enough to hold off despair. There were still dark forces at work, but they had their next step in mind and that was enough for now.

She paused alongside Horatio as Abigail interrupted her thoughts, feigning a smile and polite nod to the woman. But her smile grew genuine as she listened to the woman. Anna would be the last person to doubt the strength of a Faithful woman, even a simple housewife like Abigail, but it still surprised her to see the widow's resilience after such a loss. Even if there was still a grander conspiracy in the heart of the Faith's lands, there was at least one woman who had found peace after suffering from their crimes.

"I...that is very kind of you, Missus Cobbs. Of course I would not mind." Anna tipped her hat to Abigail as well. "I am sure the Prophet will keep watch over you and your child, after the services and sacrifices of your husband. And we will make sure Elizabeth and her brother are taken care of. God bless, Missus Cobbs."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Abigail Cobbs nodded, giving the Dogs one last smile before letting the two of them off. That farewell completed, Anna and Horatio made their way back over to the Church, where they met with Brother Samuel.

It took little time to get the children ready to leave, and soon enough, they were off; the five of them bundled together inside a carriage, while their driver led them away over to Jefferson City. The ride over to the city itself was rather uneventful, and Horatio himself used the time to catch up on more sleep.

Close to five hours later, they arrived at Jefferson City, and were taken over to the train station. The train ticket to New Life was purchased, and soon enough they were speeding their way over to the capital of the Faith, the two Dogs, Brother Samuel, and the children all in a compartment together.

The train surged through the countryside, the gentle lull of the tracks have an almost calming effect on the children it seemed, for Jeremiah and Elizabeth soon fell asleep, the siblings on either side of Brother Samuel pressing against him for warmth and comfort.

"The children will like their new homes, I think." Brother Samuel spoke up, halfway through the train ride. The older priest looked over at the Dogs, a small, content smile on his face. "As I said before, I know the person who runs this particular orphanage. They will be well taken care of, and one day, they shall become fine Agents of the Lord. I grew up in that orphanage myself, so I would know. Prophet willing, they shall enjoy a much more purer and holy life after the terrible, vile events at Red Road."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna would not admit it, but she was thankful they had the rare opportunity to return to New Life by train rather than horseback. Normally Anna preferred the open road, but her time in Red Road had been far more trying than any other assignment she had completed, and the simple pleasure of a solid roof and the chance to do nothing but relax was something she could not deny.

Or at least, to relax as much as she could when her lingering suspicions of Samuel remained. She made sure that Horatio was awake during the times she nodded off, even when it was obvious that the brother would not simply disappear with the children while she slept. If he was at all a sinner.

And so even with the train compartment's comforts, Anna slept fitfully, her mind too focused on the murders and the dark forces behind them. In between the restless naps, she spent most of her time gazing out the window and considering how she would bring her case to the Pack Leaders. There would only be one opportunity to pursue this further and she could not risk anything but a perfect approach.

But her thoughts were interrupted as the brother spoke. Anna feigned a smile, nodding to him. "I am glad that they will have the opportunity to find peace, after everything that has happened. Although, what orphanage do you intend to bring them to? Perhaps Horatio and I will return to check on them in a few months time, or whenever we find ourselves in New Life again."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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"Ah, of course. The orphanage is called the Delacroix Home for Lost Souls. And you'd both be more than welcome to visit the children anytime; I'm sure they'd appreciate it." Samuel declared, giving Anna a small smile of his own.

Horatio leaned back into his chair, considering things. He remembered, vaguely, an orphanage of that name in New Life. Founded back in the sixties, if he recalled. The first privately funded orphanage in New Life too, if he was right; it was part of the reason why he remembered the name. There'd been much talk about such an historic event. In fact, hadn't a Minister been behind the whole thing?

He looked over at Anna, giving her a little nod; confirming to her that, yes, this was a real place, far as he knew.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Anna met Horatio's look with a slight nod in return, then looked back to the brother and feigned another calm smile. "Thank you, Brother Samuel, for all your help. We will be sure to come by when we return from our next assignment."

She slouched back in her seat, careful not to let her brooding show on her face. An orphanage that must have been sponsored by a minister himself could hardly be tied to any nefarious intent. She had every intention of visiting the children at a later date to be sure, but there was truly nothing to implicate Samuel in wrongdoing. It burned at her to think her instincts had been wrong, but everything indicated that the children would be perfectly safe. There was nothing left to do but focus on what she would present to the Pack Leaders.

Drawing in a slow breath, Anna closed her eyes and tried to will herself to rest just awhile longer, while she still had the opprotunity.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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The rest of the train ride proceeded peacefully, nothing of note taking place during the long trek to New Life. Close to four and a half hours passed in the train, but finally they made it to the capital of the Deseret, New Life.

The sun had set by then, and it was close to pitch black in the bustling and prosperous town of New Life. The city was lit up mostly by gaslight, but here and there incandescent light bulbs illuminating the streets; a relatively recent invention, from that Thomas Edison fella (and some other guys, not that Mister Edison wanted the American people to know that). Such a glamorous invention had made its way out West after some time, leading to its use, however light, in the streets of New Life.

With the light provided by the gaslights and incandescent light bulbs, Brother Samuel led the children and the Dogs to the Delacroix Orphanage, which was centered toward the middle of the city.

Getting in was easy enough, and after Samuel had a brief discussion with a robe-clad priest at the entrance of the Home, he came back over to Anna, Horatio, and the children.

"Father Michael will see the children to their new quarters." Brother Samuel declared, giving the kids a reassuring smile. "Normally they divide the wings of the orphanage by gender, but given Jeremiah's...disability, they shall allow him to stay with his sister in the Girls Dormitory."

Elizabeth and Jeremiah seemed quite enthused by this, wide, grateful smiles on their faces. Horatio, for his part, gave a little nod. He idly looked around the Home, taking in the sights. There wasn't much to see...the entrance opened up to a wide entry hall, with a door at one end of the room, and two sets of staircases on the right and left sides of the room. Presumably, the door at the end led to some other area...a dining hall, no doubt. While the staircases probably led to the dorms the orphans stayed in.

The place seemed like it was in good condition, too. Some orphanages were underfunded, and it showed upon a close inspection...but this building seemed to be in perfect shape. No signs of decay or rot, no cracks or muck on the floor, no stench from unwashed children. Overall, the Home seemed to be quite nice.

It seemed the children would be safe here. Which begged the question then....had they been wrong? Had Anna misjudged Brother Samuel, back in Red Road?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Between the chance to rest on the train and seeing the lights of New Life, Anna should have felt more at ease with her return to New Life. But the he fact that someone had framed and murdered Howard Franklin in the heart of the Faith was something she could not forget even for the briefest of moments. The gaslights that once had seemed like bright beacons now only flickered in a vain attempt to ward off the darkness and whatever was lurking within it.

She only paid the interior of the orphanage a passing glance after she saw the priest and the clearly well run building, as if a minister would attach his name to anything less. The children would be safe and well cared for, as happy an ending as they could ever have prayed to have after everything they had suffered. The question of whether or not her instincts had been wrong about Samuel still gnawed at her, but she pressed the concerns aside to focus on the next task at hand.

"Thank you for all of your help, Brother Samuel. It is good to see that the children will be well taken care of. I hope we will have the chance to visit sometime soon." Anna tipped her hat to him, then looked to Horatio. "We should return to the Pack Leaders with all due haste. There is still much to do."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale Character Portrait: Anna Ward

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Horatio nodded, and the two of them soon left the orphanage, headed over toward the Dogs headquarters in New Life. However, neither of them noticed something rather...interested, on the sign of the orphanage, hanging over the main entryway. For just above the name of the orphanage was an emblem...of a snake.

Beware the serpent, for they will whisper sweet lies into your ears. The serpent is the corrupter of Men, and cannot be trusted. The serpent is devious and its venom reaches far. Nothing is safe from its grasp
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"I have a feeling the two of them will be a problem in the future. We should have just eliminated them here and now, Azrael."

Azrael cocked his head, staring over in bemusement at his colleague. The two of them were seated in a small sitting room in the Delacroix Orphanage, the two of them sharing a bottle of wine over the conclusion of his mission. Despite a few bumps in the road, it had been an overall success. Most loose ends had been tied up nicely, all the children were within their grasp, and the Dogs were none the wiser of what had truly gone on. They had their suspicions, of course, but nothing concrete. Especially since their would be investigation was dead on arrival.

Uriel gestured to the burning remains of Sheriff Cobbs' investigative journal in the fireplace, a displeased look on his face. "You were lucky you arrived so late at night...as it was, most of the other Pack Leaders had retired for the evening, so I was able to see in Anna and Horatio alone. The girl told me the whole story, and I played my part. I promised to look into the matter...taking in her concerns seriously enough so she would not suspect. It was all too easy to acquire Cobbs' journal from there, and to gather a vow of silence from the both of them afterward. They think I shall share the rest of this with the other Pack Leaders, and we will investigate this as a whole entity. Foolish child...all her talk of conspiracy, and yet she remained aloof of the conspirator right in front of her. Still, I have a bad feeling about her. It may prove prudent to arrange her...disappearance, soon enough. Her partner as well, for good measure."

Azrael merely chuckled in reply, taking a sip of his wine. He smirked outright, taking a moment to muse on the situation before giving a proper response. "No...I don't think that will be necessary. If need be, we can throw dear Anna a bone, for the whole matter. Make up some Eastern conspiracy to satisfy her suspicions. She is far more useful to us alive. Unlike the old Hound, she is still very much full of fire and vigor. A true Soldier of God. With the right direction, I have a feeling she'd be a prime candidate for our organization. No, I think it is important that she lives."

And Azrael truly believed that. Having witnessed Anna in person, he was quite impressed by her devotion and duty to the One True God and His Prophet. And the fact that she'd started to suspect him near the end, spoke highly of her perception and investigative capability. Yes...were Anna to join them, she would be a boon to their organization! Or so Azrael mused.

Uriel raised an eyebrow, clearly skeptical of such lofty statements, but let it slide. He mulled it over, taking a drink himself. Finally, he nodded, conceding to his senior partner's decision. Who was he to question someone as dedicated to the cause as Azrael was?

"Speaking of problems however..." Azrael spoke up after a moment, a grimace crossing his features. "I do hope the agent in charge of eliminating Howard Franklin was duly punished. Letting that rat escape from our grasp was simply unacceptable. It is fortunate Anna thinks him to be dead, but we will need to devote resources to make sure that actually happens."

Uriel gave a glum nod, a similar grimace overtaking his face. "Yes...it is unfortunate. How such a man discovered so many secrets is a mystery to be. We have eyes and ears all over New Life, so when he resurfaces, we shall know of it. Rest assured, Howard Franklin will be hunted down like the animal he is, and put out of his misery."

That assurance given, Azrael nodded, seemingly mollified by the declaration. A moment of silence passed between the two, as they contemplated matters.

"And what of the girl and her brother? It will be too risky to move them to our primary training facility, given your dear Anna will want to visit them, to ensure their safety. Do you intend them to join the other children here for the Leadership Program?" Uriel finally inquired, raising an eyebrow over at Azrael.

Azrael gave a nod, the youthful man outright grinning. "Yes...I have a special feeling about these two. The brother will have his limitations due to his lack of sight, but I have an idea for him. As for Elizabeth...my my, she is a special little girl! I have no doubt she more than qualifies for the Leadership Program. In fact...I may well take her as my personal apprentice. She has the Spark within her, I'd say. The makings of a fine Soldier of God."

Uriell appeared rather curious by this admission. He leaned forward, quite keen to hear more. "Oh? And what makes her so special? You aren't one to be easily impressed, my friend."

"The moment we met, I just knew she was something special." Azrael declared, firm conviction in his voice. He closed his eyes, recalling a moment from the past. "And...when I went to gather her and her brother...I was met with a delightful surprise. You see, my dear Uriel...her family was all ready dead by the time I arrived. All of them, poisoned by a tampered bottle of whisky. Suffice to say...I think Elizabeth Daniels will have a bright future within the hallowed halls of the Soul Guard."

Uriel laughed outright at that, amused by that revelation. Brother Samuel and his companion continued to talk late into the night, discussing plans for the future. All the while, the fireplace burned, Jacob Cobbs' journal having long since been reduced to ashes.

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Character Portrait: Horatio Morale
Character Portrait: Anna Ward
Character Portrait: Charles Carver
Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne
Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood

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Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
Sonia Redwood

"There is no time to regret the past. You can only look forward, and strive to make a better future."

Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne
Margaret Thorne

"I will avenge those who have fallen, no matter the cost!"

Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
Ira Murphy

"You will profess your love for the One True God, or die by the flame. It is your choice."

Character Portrait: Charles Carver
Charles Carver

"Wise man once told me, 'If I save but one soul, then all my suffering has been justified.'"

Character Portrait: Anna Ward
Anna Ward

"The wicked have no place in the vineyard we have wrought. So sayeth the King of Life."

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale
Horatio Morale

"Sometimes all you can do is just live day by day."

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Character Portrait: Horatio Morale
Horatio Morale

"Sometimes all you can do is just live day by day."

Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
Sonia Redwood

"There is no time to regret the past. You can only look forward, and strive to make a better future."

Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
Ira Murphy

"You will profess your love for the One True God, or die by the flame. It is your choice."

Character Portrait: Charles Carver
Charles Carver

"Wise man once told me, 'If I save but one soul, then all my suffering has been justified.'"

Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne
Margaret Thorne

"I will avenge those who have fallen, no matter the cost!"

Character Portrait: Anna Ward
Anna Ward

"The wicked have no place in the vineyard we have wrought. So sayeth the King of Life."

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Character Portrait: Margaret Thorne
Margaret Thorne

"I will avenge those who have fallen, no matter the cost!"

Character Portrait: Horatio Morale
Horatio Morale

"Sometimes all you can do is just live day by day."

Character Portrait: Charles Carver
Charles Carver

"Wise man once told me, 'If I save but one soul, then all my suffering has been justified.'"

Character Portrait: Ira Murphy
Ira Murphy

"You will profess your love for the One True God, or die by the flame. It is your choice."

Character Portrait: Sonia Redwood
Sonia Redwood

"There is no time to regret the past. You can only look forward, and strive to make a better future."

Character Portrait: Anna Ward
Anna Ward

"The wicked have no place in the vineyard we have wrought. So sayeth the King of Life."


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